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Contemplative Photography Companion for the Journey Home at City Lights Bookstore

June 6, 2015 from 3pm to 4:30pm
Asheville author Tina FireWolf will visit City Lights Bookstore on Saturday, June 6th at 3 p.m. to present her book, Beneath the Chatter.  Tina FireWolf will ignite your fire! Join her to hear how a 3 ft. tall corn plant was the sign to go on an adventure to write her book! She will share her personal story and tales from her book that illuminate  life lessons and help ignite us into Everyday Enlightenment. You will leave with a light heart and wider eyes to the world around you. Beneath the…See More
Saturday
Jenny Bowen replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Battle of Asheville, Apr. 6, 1865
"The 4-5 prisoners taken at the tanyard were colored union soldiers under Gen. Davis Tillson.  They were drum-court-martialed for assaulting an old man and woman and raping a young white woman who was the niece of the couple down near Flat…"
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Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon at Montreat College Gaither Fellowship Hall

June 13, 2015 from 12pm to 2pm
"When Real People Become Real Characters" presented by Novelist Mark de Castrique at the Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon on June 13, 2015.Book signing follows the presentation.  Public is invited.  Reservations are required.See More
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2015 Author Luncheon at Mars Hill University

May 28, 2015 from 11am to 2pm
Mary Alice Monroe, New York Times best-selling author, will be the keynote speaker at the Friends of Madison County Library’s 10th Annual Author Luncheon where she will share her newest release, The Summer’s End. The luncheon will be held at Pittman Dining Hall on the campus of Mars Hill University on Thursday, May 28 beginning at 11 am. Tickets are $35 each, and proceeds will benefit programs and services for both children and adults at Madison County Public libraries. The cost of a ticket…See More
May 19
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Julia Nunnally Duncan Book Signing at The Orchard at Altapass

May 23, 2015 from 12pm to 3pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will sign her books at The Orchard at Altapass Bookstore on Saturday, May 23 from noon until 3 p.m.See More
May 19
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Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon at Montreat College Gaither Fellowship hall

June 20, 2015 from 12pm to 2pm
"When Real People Become Real Characters" presented by Novelist Mark de Castrique at the Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon on June 13, 2015.Book signing follows the presentation.  Public is invited.  Reservations are required.See More
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BookFest in Sparta at Sparta, NC

June 27, 2015 from 11am to 2pm
Twice a year, we invite local and regional authors to downtown Sparta, NC, for our BookFest event.At BookFest, fans have an opportunity to meet the authors and authors are able to market their books, in person. Host sites benefit from the additional foot traffic the event generates. The lineup will be posted soon - if you'd like to be a part, contact us.See More
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A Book to Help All Touched by Cancer at City Lights Bookstore

May 16, 2015 from 3pm to 4:30pm
On Saturday, May 16th at 3 p.m. Diana Kenney will present her book, How Cancer Transformed Our Lives.   Founder of Good Grief Ministry, Diana runs workshops on grief work, leads support groups, teaches online classes and does pastoral counseling. She has a Doctorate of Ministry in Shamanic Psychospiritual Studies from Venus Rising University in Whittier, NC and is certified in Death and Grief Studies from The Center for Loss and Life Transition in Ft. Collins, CO. She is also certified as a…See More
May 2

How to look at two of many new local books

by Rob Neufeld

 

            The number of books published by small, independent, and regional presses is increasing; and the number of reviewers, decreasing.

            Readers are forced to trust blogs, tweets, online comments, and flyleafs in order to make reading choices that are not ratified by best-seller lists.

            Hence the need for another book selection method—sampling.

 

Hook, look, and book

 

            Start with the hook.

            Let’s take the thriller “The Moroni Deception,” written by local author Jack Brody, and just published in e-book format. 

            The hook: A reporter discovers that two ritual murders relate to a coveted Mormon relic and the rise of a Mormon presidential candidate.

            Does the hook interest you?   If so, you’ll want to get answers to questions that arise from the teaser.

            Is the novel going to be like “The Da Vinci Code,” and be as much fun? 

            Given the hook and the title (Moroni is the angel who’d directed Joseph Smith to the golden plates), is the book going to delve into Mormon history in satisfying ways?

 

Sit for a spell

 

            Read the first 30 to 50 pages to get a feel for the book’s style.

            This is what I found in “The Moroni Deception”:

            Stock character types, featuring Michael Chenault, a rumpled, handsome journalist, keen on solving puzzles and flip in the face of danger.  If you’re interested in more ambiguity in characters, stop here.  If fun is what you crave, continue.

            Snappy suspense.  Chapters are short; the action jumps around between a few parallel plot lines; and there’s never a dull moment.

            A good amount of smooth writing.  When police detectives want to know why Chenault had been the last person that a relic-seeking man had called before being murdered, Chenault admits to having penned a tongue-in-cheek story for a tabloid newspaper early in his career.

            “A certain segment of his readership,” Brody notes, “had taken his story a bit too literally about a half-man, half-insect, rumored to be living and breeding with several of the local women in rural southeastern Pennsylvania,” and Chenault became the fringe element’s favorite point man.

 

The righteous brothers

 

            One-sixth through “The Moroni Deception,” it’s clear that we’re dealing with an expose of a Mormon plot.  Two sociopathic Mormon brothers (I saw a Mexican cartel version of them in “Breaking Bad” on TV) are admitted by “the Prophet” into the secret Danite society of assassins, and informed of their divine mission.

            “Since the United States, which had been once a great nation, was not only in great moral decline,” the assassins learn, “but on the brink of a massive financial collapse, it first had to be saved…Now, with one of their (the Mormons’) own running for…President, the time had finally arrived for the plan to be set in motion.”

            This is where I stop reading, though I realize that fiction best-seller lists are dominated by books that wed contemporary fears to ticking time bomb plots.  It’s just that, when it comes to political facts, I’m a teetotaler—no stimulants.

            Those of you all who can loosen up for such rides might still have questions.  For instance, does the plot deliver?  Are there some revelations you might want to hold onto and perhaps investigate?  Might you want to make the book a cause célèbre, pro or con?

            To aid the sampling method of book selection, the best thing for me to do, I think, is put this review on the website, “The Read on WNC,” and get reader and author comments.

 

Meet the family

 

            Susan Snowden’s new novel, “Southern Fried Lies” is a thoroughly involving novel about an Atlanta family whose members adjust in off-balance ways to a dominating, mentally ill mother.

            The title’s not exactly right.  “Southern fried” connotes a humorous treatment.  Although there is humor, the main mood is a sense of peril within periods of safety.

            The cover art is excellent—striking and artistic, promising more than genre writing.

            So that leads us to the hook.  Snowden has chosen to place a four-page prologue before the first chapter.  The prologue is a glimpse of the plot four-fifths through the book, and establishes the voice of the narrator, 13-year-old Sarah Claiborne, whom we come to love for her combination of naiveté about the world and courageous engagement with her narrow circle.

            Chapter 1 begins: “My best friend, Wendy, referred to our house on Valley View Road as the Atlanta Museum.”  We learn about Mrs. Claiborne’s mania for manners and neatness, the father’s laissez faire attitude, and the four children’s ways of rebelling—and then receive the first clear note that the Claiborne’s fussiness is underlaid by craziness.

            “It seemed like the dinner hour at the Claibornes’ had two main characters: Mother and Ben,” Sarah relates.  “The rest of us were there just to watch the play.”

            In short order, some disturbing things begin to happen.  An uncle and aunt make a surprise visit on the way to Sarah’s grandma’s beach house, to which Sarah’s family hadn’t been invited.  The visitors catch Sarah’s mom in an unguarded disheveled moment.  Sarah fears being blamed for letting them in the house, and rides off on her bike.

            When she returns, she eavesdrops on Mother slamming things and screaming at Dad.

“I’m sick of all this, Edward,” she shrieks.  “Sick, sick, sick.  Sick of pretending everything’s just fine…when it’s falling apart (thump) like a house of cards.”

            The beauty of Snowden’s novel is the orchestration between the driving plot—how dangerous is Mrs. Claiborne going to get, and what’s going to happen with Ben and Sarah?—and the incidental progress of Sarah’s first year of young womanhood.

            “Southern Fried Lies” delivers because it is not solely tied to the thriller element; and the thriller element is as murky and swampy as a Tennessee Williams play.

THE BOOKS

The Moroni Deception by Jack Brody (Visigoth Press, sold by Amazon Digital Services, July 31, 2012, 242 pages, $8.99).

Southern Fried Lies by Susan Snowden (Archer Hill Publishing, Columbia SC, trade paper, Aug. 2012, 266 pages, $16.95).

 

LEARN MORE

Visit themoronideception,com.

Visit “The Read on WNC: at TheReadonWNC.ning.com for comments.

Susan Snowden is an Asheville area writer.  Visit her publisher at www.archerhillpublishing.com; and her editorial services website at www.snowdeneditorial,com.

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Hey Rob,  Thanks for the kind review, although I would remind you with regards to the latter portion, that in a conspiracy thriller, things (and characters) aren't always the the way and who they seem.  Below I've included a short "inside jacket" synopsis and I would remind any interested readers they can read the first 13 chapters for free on the website at http://www.themoronideception.com/   (There's a link on there for my blog as well.)

Michael Chenault, award-winning investigative journalist with the New York Times, is rousted in the middle of the night by NYPD detectives and accused of the bizarre murder of a complete stranger.  After clearing himself, Chenault finds that Martin Koplanski, the retired history professor he’d been accused of murdering, was likely killed for a mysterious Mormon relic long thought to be just a myth.  Twenty-four hours later, Chenault receives an email with a photo of the recently murdered wife of Presidential candidate, Brockston Ratchford.  She too appears to have been ritually killed in the exact manner as Koplanski, right down to having the same cryptic character scrawled in blood across her forehead.  With way more than just a hunch to now go on, Chenault heads out to Salt Lake City, the site of the Ratchford murder investigation, to find out what, if any, connection there is between the murders.

With the help of a beautiful young reporter he meets along the way, Chenault comes to learn the dark family secrets of a rising political star, along with the rather strange but true history of the Mormon church.  As he pieces the story together of what appears to be an ever-growing conspiracy, Chenault is pursued by The Brothers, two murderous zealots who will stop at nothing to retrieve the Mormon relic Chenault is also trying to find.  What Chenault eventually discovers is that what he’s uncovered may not only affect the outcome of the next Presidential election, but decide the fate of an entire religion–if he can manage to stay alive.

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