Sunday, January 9, 2011

Guest Post: Bonnie J. Doerr

Today, I'm happy to welcome Bonnie J. Doerr, author of Island Sting to The Serpentine Library.  Ms. Doerr is here talking about some of the books she enjoyed reading in 2010

Bonnie J. Doerr has always played with words, ideas, and nature. To be separated from nature—to be containerized—would slowly suck the breath from her. For years this therapeutic pursuit manifested itself in poetry. In recent years her play resulted in stories and novels for young adults. A lifetime educator, she has taught students from kindergarten to college in eight states. Degrees in reading education, combined with a brief post as a science teacher, led her to write ecological mysteries. Years of teaching and living in the Florida Keys provided irresistible material. Her novels celebrate caring, involved, “green” teens who take action with attitude and a touch of romance. Her work has been honored by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) with a grant for its use in environmental education and has been included in Milkweed Editions literary field guides. When not nurturing her muse in the Florida Keys, she lives in a log cabin in North Carolina.

These novels represent my three favorite genres: southern lit, humor, and mystery. All of these loves have informed my own series of eco-mysteries. 

The Last Child by John Hart 
I read this NY Times best selling author’s novel so I’d be familiar with the latest release by a fellow mystery author panelist. We were on a panel of three for Bookmarks Festival of the Book in Winston-Salem this fall. I was certain I’d enjoy The Last Child, since John is also a fellow NC author, but I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much. I found it unique in the sense that it was mainly told through two voices. Those of a thirteen year old boy and an adult detective, both investigating the same crime. The characters’ were absorbing as were the twists and turns of the plot and I especially enjoyed the surprise turn of events at the end. Since then I’ve also read Hart’s Down River which was also enjoyable.

Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani
I love everything Trigiani writes. She sucks me into her extensive, expressive family, and I feel like I know every member. I laugh and cry with them, and sometimes, quite frankly, I want to gently smack a character or two, then invite him or her for a plate of pasta and a glass of wine. Mostly, I want to buy a pair of her family’s soft, gorgeous shoes. After meeting her at the American Library Association conference this year, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her latest. I’m looking forward to Big Stone Gap, the movie, also. You have to love someone who holds out until Hollywood agrees to shoot a movie in her own small hometown setting.

South of Broad by Pat Conroy 
No one writes quirkier, flawed, heart-breaking southern characters better than Conroy. South of Broad is a deep, rich, tangled tale of true and lasting friendship that endures tragic circumstances. Readers explore a densely layered Charleston that tourists never see. Long ago Pat, I, and two friends sat at a SC kitchen table discussing how the novel he was writing (The Great Santini) would further wreck his relationship with his father. I was already crazy about his work, the young teacher in me loved The Water is Wide (later the movieConrack), but little did I know what a literary giant he would become or that one day I would meet his daughter, Melissa Conroy, a children’s author (Poppy’s Pants) when she and I would both be speakers at a literary conference. Pat Conroy’s novels are worth the wait for him to lay his next story down in longhand.
Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich 
I get a kick out of anything Evanovich writes. I love mysteries, and what could be better than one that makes me laugh out loud. Eleven on Top is not her most recent in the Stephanie Plum series, but whenever I find one I haven’t read I jump on it. I love the ridiculous situations bounty hunters Stephanie and Lula get into while trailing the bad dudes. Stephanie is like a human Roadrunner. Continually getting battered by a Wile E. Coyote in every imaginable form and shaking it off every time. I adore Ranger and his frequent say-it-all-with-a-word vocabulary: “Babe.” What a range of emotions the man in black attaches to one syllable. Then there’s Morelli, the tough Trenton, NJ cop. Stephanie has two guys to run to when she’s in trouble. Both hot in more ways than one. Evanovich is Plum amazing. 

Blacklist by Sara Paretsky 
Yep, another female crime fighter. This time a Chicago PI named V. I. Full name, Victoria Iphigenia Warshawski.  Goes by V. I. or “Vic.”  She’s tough. She’s smart. She always gets the bad dude or dudette in this case. Blacklist is a complicated mystery fueled by privilege, politics, and history (McCarthyite anti-communism and the activities of HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Committee). It’s also a treatise on the danger of societal fear and the Patriot Act which has changed the way the USA looks at personal privacy. One of the reasons I enjoyed Blacklist is because it contains a passionate teen character, Catherine Bayard, who stands up for her beliefs. In this case, to the detriment of her own safety. She’s not afraid to stand against the norm. To be different from most of her high school classmates. To fight fear or her family. She’s rich, but not jaded. An entitled child who feels a responsibility for others. Paretsky writes novels for the thoughtful mystery lover. This is one of her best. 

For more information on Ms. Doerr or Island Sting visit her website, blog or Facebook page.

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