Dorothy M. Place and The Heart to Kill

I have a guest blog post to share with you today, from author Dorothy M. Place. Her new book, The Heart to Kill, was released late last year. Be sure to read the excerpt at the bottom of this page.

NEW:

As of June 30, 2017, SFA Press is offering a thirty percent discount on the novel, THE HEART TO KILL, by Dorothy M. Place. This story, about a horrible crime and an enduring friendship, was awarded gold by the Literary Titan book reviewers and Sarah, the protagonist, was nominated as one of the five best characters (2016) reviewed by “My Train of Thoughts.” To read about the book, how it came to be written and to take a virtual tour of Eight Mile Junction, the town in which the story takes place, please visit the author’s website, www.dorothymplace.com.

To order the book and obtain the discount, visit  http://www.tamupress.com/product/Heart-to-Kill,8673.aspx and enter the code 3B in the appropriate box.

 

The Heart to Kill, by Dorothy Place

 

“Dorothy M. Place lives and works in Davis, California. Since submitting her first short story in 2008, she has had eleven stories accepted for publication in literary journals; three have been awarded prizes and one, a fellowship. Her debut, literary fiction novel, The Heart to Kill, was published by SFA Press (2016). A collection of fifteen short stories is being prepared for marketing to agents/publishers this spring. Her second novel, The Search for Yetta, is in process.

“The Heart to Kill is a story of a horrible crime, an enduring friendship, and personal illumination. Sarah Wasser, a student at Northwestern University Law School, returns to her apartment one evening to find two telephone messages. The first is that she has not been chosen for a coveted internship for which her father has arranged an interview; the second is that Sarah’s best friend in high school, JoBeth Ruland, has murdered her two children.

“To mislead her father about her failure to obtain the internship, Sarah secures a position on JoBeth’s defense team and, against her father’s wishes, returns to her family home in Eight Mile Junction, South Carolina. She sets out to become a vital member of her friend’s team and regain favor with her father, only to find that she is not well-prepared for working in a community rife with chauvinism, malice, duplicity, and betrayal. Her efforts are met with the benevolent amusement of the senior law partner, the resentment of the expert trial attorney, the rush to judgement by the folks of Eight Mile Junction, and the discovery of the role of several individuals in the degradation of JoBeth. The Hungry Monster Book Reviews awarded The Heart to Kill its gold award (February 2017).

“The story was influenced by Euripides’ play, Medea (a barbarian princess of Colchis), who gave up everything to help Jason, who married her, find the Golden Fleece. When they return to Greece with the prize, Jason leaves Medea for a Grecian princess. In revenge, she murders their two sons and his intended bride. That play, as well as the stories of several women who murdered their children, inspired Sarah’s journey. The book’s title comes directly from Euripides, where he has the Greek chorus ask, ‘How does she have the heart to kill her flesh and blood?’”

EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK:

“She looked to the sky, searching for the moon. Now a small sliver, it seemed to be hanging precariously from the branch of a nearby tree, like an ornament, belonging more to the tree than the sky. Then, after taking a few steps back, Sarah watched the moon fall off the branch and return to its proper place among the evening stars. Funny thing about perspective, how a small change in one direction can dramatically affect everything else.” – The Heart to Kill, by Dorothy M. Place.

Book Review: A Fierce and Subtle Poison

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What do you wish for?

In author Samantha Mabry’s debut novel, A Fierce and Subtle Poison, seventeen-year-old Lucas is drawn irresistibly to a mysterious house, said to be cursed, that sits at the end of a street in Old San Juan. Locals scribble their wishes on notes and toss them into the courtyard, which is filled with poisonous plants, and it’s rumored that a girl with green skin and hair like grass lives behind its walls.

While Lucas spends the summer with his father, a hotel developer, idling away his time and partying with friends, several girls from town go missing. One of them is pretty Marisol, whom he’s been seeing.

As Lucas starts to look for answers to the disappearances, he meets Isabel Ford, who lives in the cursed house. Isabel’s touch, he discovers, is poisonous. Worse, when Marisol’s body washes up on the shore, and her little sister also vanishes, Lucas becomes a suspect in the crimes.

Isabel’s poison affects Lucas, but it’s also slowly killing her, so the two join forces to find a way to end the curse.

Her book, Mabry says, was inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” She re-told the story, adding elements of magical realism like those used by Latino author Isabel Allende, and moved the tale to Puerto Rico. The result is a haunting novel that’s so rich with atmosphere, the reader can feel the humid, tropical air, and the cold sting of the sea that took Marisol’s life—and may have taken her sister’s.

The book is filled with romance and suspense, sacrifice and longing, and myth and mystery. Eventually, Lucas becomes the keeper of the written wishes, even as he spins a wish of his own. When the book ends, some readers will still feel a need for closure, but Mabry has crafted a haunting, exciting novel – with a stunningly beautiful cover – that will resonate with readers.

(Jacket image courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers)

Book Review: In Wilderness

In Wilderness

I don’t like to post reviews for books that I’m not crazy about, especially when the book was a free copy from the publisher.

That’s the case with In Wilderness, a novel I received from a LibraryThing giveaway. While author Diane Thomas’ book is extremely well-written, suspenseful, and even lyrical, with finely-drawn, heartfelt characters–I must confess, the subject matter is just not for me.

Set in 1966, In Wilderness is the story of Katherine, a successful, 30-something businesswoman who loses both her baby and her health after she’s exposed to an environmental poison. Soon her husband abandons her, and when her doctors tell her she’ll die within months, she leaves work and home behind, and retreats to an isolated cabin in the Appalachian Mountains, where she intends to live out her remaining days alone.

But fate has a different plan. She encounters Danny, a twenty-year-old Vietnam veteran who’s living off the land and suffering from PTSD. While I don’t want to spoil the story, as it unfolds, we realize that these two terribly damaged people are helping each other while surrounded by the healing powers of nature.

But if that description makes this sound like a lighthearted read–well, it isn’t. I shouldn’t even use the word “healing,” because this is no fairy tale, dark woods notwithstanding, and neither character experiences anything like true redemption.

I found this book disturbing, primarily because Katherine takes so much abusive treatment from Danny (although he’s kind and attentive at times, he’s also violent, dangerous and unpredictable). At one point, I couldn’t understand why Katherine didn’t head back to civilization for help (by then, she has a compelling reason to get away from him).

Other critics have said this book testifies to the healing powers of nature, too. But in the end, I think “therapeutic” might be a better word to use. That’s because while the natural world comforts these characters, it doesn’t or can’t restore them, either to the people they used to be, or to society at large. While these two broken, sorrow-filled people find some balm in the wilderness, I was left feeling sad and disturbed.

This isn’t to say this isn’t a worthy book. Most critics have given it high praise, calling it “gripping,” “powerful,” “haunting” and “harsh and beautiful.” It’s just too dark for me.