Tag Archives: mystery

Book Opinion: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

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When I was a teenager, my Mom and Dad and I went to Florida several times on vacation. We always drove and we always stopped at the Quality Inn in Valdosta, Georgia on the way down. This hotel screamed “The South” to me; plantation shutters, beautiful gardens, a pool that I loved and a small-ish, original to the property house all graced the place. We ALWAYS ate dinner at the Ho-Jo’s across the street then came back and my Mom and I would wander the grounds before my solo swimming sessions at the pool. Mom would sit there and watch me swim “in case something happened” but she would’ve not been much help if something HAD happened because she couldn’t swim. My Dad would usually stay in the room smoking and watching t.v.

Even though we always only stayed there one night because we were just passing through, I loved that place. I entertained some of my most vivid Gone With the Wind fantasies inside my head as my Mom and I walked the grounds. I kept waiting for Rhett Butler to come around a bend and fall in love with me, and beautiful girls in hoop skirts to be flirting with handsome boys at a barbeque on the lawn. I loved it so much that when I grew up, I wanted to stop there with MY family, so one year when my daughter was little, we got off the highway and went to the hotel. It was some other chain by then, but the plantation shutters, gardens, pool and house were still there. They were shabbier than they had been and I realized that the property was literally RIGHT next to the highway. When I was a child, the grounds had been so lush that you couldn’t SEE the highway, so I had no idea. It was a little chilly, so we couldn’t get in the pool, which was disappointing, and if it had been warm, I would never have let my baby in it anyway because it wasn’t really clean and THAT was disappointing. The Ho-Jo’s was gone as were Rhett and the rest of the gang and THAT was disappointing. The whole experience left me feeling let down and I was glad to leave the next morning. The only way I’ll ever go back is if I win the Power Ball and go buy it and return it to it’s former glory, so when I heard about Sarah Addison Allen’s new book Lost Lake, I felt that I might be able to relate.

Sarah Addison Allen is one of my favorite authors. I have all of her books and I love them all. They are all lyrical, and a little magical. One of her books has a protagonist who enchants with her baked goods, another book has mysterious lights in a garden. They are lovely, beautiful stories, and Lost Lake is no different.

Kate is a young widow with a daughter named Devin, and a mother-in-law named Cricket. After the loss of her husband, Kate “goes to sleep” for a year. When she finally snaps out of it just as she is about to take her daughter and move in with Cricket, she finds a postcard from her great-aunt Eby who owns a lake resort in southern Georgia. Eby is the last relative Kate has, and on a whim, Kate decides to load Devin into the car and drive down to visit Eby who she had only met once, when as a child, she and her family had spent several weeks at Lost Lake.

When Kate arrives at the lake, it is obvious that time has taken it’s toll. The property has fallen into disrepair, the guests who summered there for years are aging out of coming back, and Eby has decided to sell and retire. During the course of her visit, Kate reconnects with people she met before as well as meets a whole new cast of characters. Without giving too much away, there is a mute French woman, a ghost in a chair, a ghost alligator, a mystery, and a lovely man to occupy her time.

Lost Lake is a beautiful story about families, new beginnings, endings, tying up loose ends, grief in many of it’s forms, forgiveness, understanding, letting go of the past and embracing the future. You can’t go home again, but you CAN use your past to make your life move forward. Sometimes ghosts can help you learn how to go on. I enjoyed reading this book in the middle of winter, because it transported me to summer; to cool drinks by the water, lanterns in the trees and dancing in the moonlight. Thank you Sarah Addison Allen for giving me another beautiful story to think about and another book to add to my stack. It’s a keeper.

Have a great day and read a great book 🙂

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Book Opinion: Bellman & Black

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I finished Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield, a couple of days ago, and felt like I needed to let it percolate a bit before I wrote about it.

The story opens with a group of early Victorian era, English boys playing in a field. The action of the scene as well as the book focuses on William Bellman, a ten year old with a fantastic slingshot, unless you are British, and then, it’s a catapult. William uses his catapult to shoot a young rook (crow) off a branch at an incredibly long distance. The other boys are impressed, but William feels bad about the entire incident, falls ill, and when he is better, has forgotten all about it.

The rest of the book tells us William’s tale. We learn that he lives with his mother in a little cottage because his father abandoned them. William is handsome, has a beautiful singing voice, and the girls love him, but it seems that he is never going to amount to much. The girl that he has been seeing, that he seems to care for, tells him that she has her heart set on his friend Fred, the baker, because he is steady and she doesn’t want to struggle. William then works his way into the mill with his uncle and embarks on a very successful career as a mill owner. His life is a good one, until tragedy takes almost everything from him.

At the last moment before the final crisis that will completely destroy the life he has made for himself, he speaks with a mysterious man dressed in black that always seems to be lurking whenever something bad happens in William’s life. They strike a deal of sorts, and the last remaining thing in his life is restored to him. Following this miracle, Bellman and Black, an emporium catering to the Victorian obsession with death, funerals and mourning is born.

The reason I had to digest this book a bit is because I had a really hard time pinning it down. At first, I thought it was going to be a horror story. But it wasn’t. Then, I thought it was going to be a good old-fashioned Gothic mystery. I wasn’t, but it was. I thought that the rooks were going to terrorize him for killing one of their own. They kind of did, but they didn’t. Then, I thought it was a cautionary tale about becoming too self-involved, which it actually was, but at the same time it was not. I kept waiting to dislike William, I kept waiting for him to do something heinous, but I liked him and he didn’t. I kept waiting to find out who the hell gave a crap about the rooks and what their purpose was, and finally at the end, I found that out, and the book once again teetered on horror/gothic mystery. SO, it was a little bit confusing, a little bit literary (which means it forces you to think about the story and not just blindly enjoy it), a little bit spooky, and a whole lot entertaining.

If you are in any way into Victorian era death, or just good life stories, I think you’ll enjoy this book. Although it will try to force you to think about it, don’t think about it too much. Just read it, enjoy it, and don’t try to figure it out. It is very well written, so it’s easy to read. It has just the right amount of artistry about it to make it interesting without being pretentious, and some of her descriptions are downright poetic, which when done properly, as they are here, add to reading enjoyment. So while you are shivering in the cold that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, download it on your NOOK, or hop out to the bookstore and grab a copy, get a cozy blanket, a warm drink and maybe a cat for your lap and enjoy.

Have a great day and spend part of it with a great book 🙂