Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Notes in Review

Stealing Home

by Allison Pittman

It’s 1905 in a sleepy, one-horse town in Missouri, where all has remained the same for a good long while. But everything changes with the arrival of Donald “Duke” Dennison, the Chicago Cubs’ star player, who’s hiding out in Picksville while he sobers up.

Ellie Jane Voyant is the sheriff’s eccentric daughter. She’s tucked herself away behind the train station’s ticket window and buried the crushing pain of childhood taunts and adult snobbery. Ned Clovis, the deaf feed store clerk, has loved Ellie Jane for years, but keeps his feelings to himself and simply watches her from a distance. Morris Bennett, a twelve-year-old Negro boy with a burning desire to shake the dust of Picksville off his shoes, winds in and out of the lives of Picksville residents – young and old, rich and poor, black and white.

The actions of the little town’s celebrity guest start a ripple effect that will impact every resident. Duke’s a known womanizer, boarding in Ellie Jane’s home. Ned, who greatly admires the newcomer and harbors a lifelong passion for baseball, must either step up to the plate or concede the play for the girl. On a more public level, Duke discovers Morris’ natural-born skill with a baseball, and determines to give the boy a chance at success, despite daunting barriers of racial discrimination and family dysfunction.

Duke. Ellie Jane. Ned. Morris. Four isolated hearts, four hidden passions. Just when it seems there might be a happy ending for them all, tragedy strikes hard and fast. Can love and faith bring them through?

Allison Pittman hits one out of the park with Stealing Home. Absolutely stunning imagery, characters that live and breathe, and incredible internalization. A powerful, touching tale. Though baseball plays a large part in the storyline, this book is not about that sport. It’s about sin and redemption. It’s an example of love and faith, secrets and lies, weakness and strength. It’s finding the “sweet spot” - standing alone at the batter’s plate while the crowd roars in the background, every eye is fixed on you, and a whole team of opponents is out to bring you down.

Stealing Home throws some unexpected curve balls, and keeps the bases loaded at all times.

Great job, Ms. Pittman!

Candy-Coated Secrets

by Cynthia Hickey

Summer Meadows doesn’t seek out trouble, but it seems to find her at every turn.

It’s not Summer’s fault when a carnival train crashes in front of her house. And what Christian-minded, kind-hearted young woman wouldn’t agree to help out in the midst of the chaos? But only Summer is likely to take on single-handedly escorting a cantankerous elephant to the fairgrounds. A full mile. On foot.

The elephant’s trainer is nowhere to be found when Summer finally arrives, towing her over-sized charge. By now, having been sprayed with the contents of the animal’s nose and repeatedly pushed and shoved by its massive trunk, our heroine is more than a little ill-tempered. She sets off in search of the missing woman, but finds instead a dead body hanging in a shower. It’s plainly murder, and the feisty candy-store owner can’t be persuaded to stay out of it.

What follows is a carnival house of fun and folly when wanna-be sleuth Summer, Aunt Eunice, and even boyfriend Ethan – to the extreme frustration of Summer’s cousin, the chief of police – poke into shadowy corners of a third-rate carnival/circus seeking answers that become more elusive with every clue.

Candy-Coated Secrets is number two in the Summer Meadows Mystery collection from Heartsong Presents Mysteries. Author Cynthia Hickey delivers a well-written tale packed plumb full of family fun, quirky humor, a few moments of truly scary suspense, and even some porch swing romancin’. Truly enjoyable. Y’all won’t wanta miss this little candy-coated confection!

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