Saturday, September 4, 2010

Lost Lakes and Lost Souls

Growing up in New York City was a wonderful experience. When I was old enough to go places on my own, like the library or other neighborhood spots that were further afield, I took full advantage. I explored the blocks around my apartment building, the Aqueduct, the Hall of Fame on the NYU campus and generally had a ball.

But the idea of the country was a unique novelty to me, so stories that focused around rural adventures were especially appealing.

Gone-Away Lake tells about cousins Portia and Julian, who are spending the summer in the country. While exploring, they discover an abandoned Victorian summer colony. The lake the houses were built around disappeared when a local dam was created years before, so the homes were rendered worthless and no one returned. Portia and Julian soon find that the structures are not completely empty however, when they meet an elderly brother and sister who grew up there and have returned to live.

The book was written in 1957, so the long ago past at that time was long ago indeed, the turn of the previous century. I was fascinated by the historical references and the link in the story between the past and the present. My own parents had no interest in anything old or antique, they were firmly planted in contemporary times, which I think made anything old fashioned especially attractive to me. Gone-Away Lake is full of exploits that were extraordinary to a city kid of the 1960’s and I followed Portia and Julian’s summer with envy. I was sorry when it was over.

But luckily for me, there was Return to Gone-Away! This book has more involvement with grown-ups who were on the periphery of the first story. The best part involves the purchase of the grandest home at Gone-Away Lake by Portia’s parents. Discovery after exciting discovery unfolds as the house is explored and renovated. Improbable stuff, but such fun to imagine!


***First, don't miss my Give Away!!! Leave a comment on any post until 9/14/10 and you will be entered to win a copy of Robert Goddard's Past Caring. See my 8/31/10 post for more details about this faboo book!!***

Denise Mina
The Garnethill Series




Maureen O’Donnell is my kind of heroine. Fresh out of the looney bin, she smokes, drinks and sleeps too much. She is emotionally fragile and totally believable as she makes incredibly bad, self destructive decisions, just like I would. She is involved with an emotionally unavailable man. Her family is a lethal concoction of dysfunction: incest, alcoholism, drug dealing. But most of all Maureen is brave, funny and fundamentally virtuous in all the ways that matter.

Unfortunately for Maureen, as if she didn’t have enough to deal with, her married boyfriend is tied to a chair, murdered and mutilated in her flat. The general consensus is that she did it and we hold our breath as she desperately searches for the real killer. Her investigation turns up all kinds of ugly goings on at the psychiatric hospital she left only months before. And as she gets closer to the truth, she gets closer to being in mortal danger herself.

Denise Mina creates a dark, funny, bleak and powerful version of Glasgow and its grittiest residents. Her dialogue is so true to life, it was as though I could hear the characters speaking out loud. And her descriptions showed she is a girl after my own heart. On a friend:

“Unlike Liz, Leslie was great to talk to. Whatever had happened, she unconditionally took her pal’s side, happily bad mouthed the opposition and then never mentioned it again…”

That’s what I like in my friends, don’t you? Who needs mature and self aware?

After her success in Garnethill, Maureen travels to London to solve another mystery in Exile. She makes more really bad judgment calls and endangers not just herself but people she loves. Resolution returns to the plot of Garnethill, where the prosecution of the real murderer has gone horribly wrong.

These stories are completely original and utterly believable. The writing is evocative and heartbreaking and moves the plots forward effortlessly. You know Maureen is going to make a mess of things because of her brutal history, but her heart is so good you understand and forgive her and endlessly root for her.

This is a riveting series.

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cube said...

Thanks for the heads up on Denise Mina's books. The heroine sounds like someone who appeals to me too.

Marie said...

Thanks so much for stopping by and for leaving a comment! Mina is a great, creative author. She's written another series as well that I will feature in an upcoming post. More flawed, utterly believable characters. Just like me. :)

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