Bourke's Bookshelf: 'Is it easy? No it ain't'
This week's reads include "The Search for the Homestead Treasure" by Ann Treacy, "Run, Rose, Run" by Dolly Parton and James Patterson and "Crave" by Tracy Wolff.
Buckle up for a lot of mystery in this week’s reads.
Unintentionally, everything I happened to read for this column had a good amount of mystery and intrigue, and all had me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out how things were going to turn out.
‘The Search for the Homestead Treasure’ by Ann Treacy
This week’s Minnesota author takes us to Goodhue County in the early 1900s. When 14-year-old Martin Gunnarsson’s family moves from Stillwater back to his family’s original homestead in 1903, the teen wants nothing more than to go back to his friends and life in the city.
He spends a lot of time in the barn, sleeping out there to escape his energetic little sister and his Ma, who is still sick with grief over the death of her oldest son a year before. In an old trunk in the barn, Martin finds the diary of his Aunt Cora, who died of diptheria at 13, just hours after her widowed mother, leaving Martin’s father an orphaned baby in the 1860s. The diary entries allude to the truth of a rumor throughout the country, that Martin’s grandmother came from Sweden to Minnesota with a valuable dowry. Martin turns the property upside down looking for the treasure that might just be the ticket to save his struggling family from having to sell their homestead for a fraction of what it’s worth.
Ann Treacy, who grew up in St. Paul and now lives in Duluth, loosely based the story on her own relatives, like her great-aunt Annie Koehnen, who died of diptheria at 8 years old in 1893. While writing, Treacy took some historical facts and added in an element of “what if” to create an engaging story with an interesting glimpse into early life in Minnesota.
‘Run, Rose, Run’ by Dolly Parton and James Patterson
This might be the most excited I’ve ever been about a book that I knew nothing about.
With James Patterson as the giant he is in the mystery and suspense novel world, and Dolly Parton the country music superstar (and all-around amazing person) she is, I knew right away I had to read this collaboration, which became a bestseller almost immediately after its release in March.
And it didn’t disappoint.
The story opens with 25-year-old AnnieLee Keyes hitchhiking her way from Texas to Nashville, with nothing more than her backpack in tow. It’s clear she’s running away from something dark and traumatic as she aims for fame and stardom in the country music world. But as her disturbing past catches up with her in Nashville, her vow to keep it a secret is threatened.
Enter country music superstar Ruthanna Ryder and sweet, hunky Ethan Blake, with his tight jeans, worn boots and captivating voice. The more Ethan tries to break through AnnieLee’s shell, the harder she works to keep him out.
The desire to know more about AnnieLee’s background and what drove her to run away propelled me through this book quickly, while the Nashville backdrop, with its glitz and glamor and excitement, made my country music-loving heart happy.
This book is more than just a written story, though. AnnieLee sings her original songs throughout the novel — songs written and recorded by Dolly Parton herself, on the album of the same name. She partnered with country artists Ben Haggard, Joe Nichols and Richard Dennison on three of the tracks, bringing AnnieLee’s duets with Ethan to life. Being able to hear the songs, and not just read the lyrics, brought a whole new dimension to the book and made the story feel so real.
A film adaptation of the book is already in the works as well. Sony Pictures has committed to work on the project alongside James Patterson Entertainment and Reese Witherspoon’s media company Hello Sunshine. Dolly herself will star in the movie. A release date for the movie has not yet been announced.
‘Crave’ by Tracy Wolff
I’m going to start this review by saying that I wouldn’t normally choose to read a young adult vampire romance novel, but it came so highly recommended by a friend that I couldn’t resist. I’ll also add that I have not read the famed “Twilight” series but have heard Tracy Wolff’s “Crave” series bears similarities.
When 17-year-old Grace’s parents die, she moves from sunny San Diego to rural Alaska to be with the only family members she has left. Her uncle runs a boarding school, where Grace becomes roommates with her cousin Macy. As Grace tries to acclimate herself to a new climate, new school and life without her parents, she slowly comes to realize Katmere Academy is not like a normal high school and is nothing like the boarding schools she has read about or seen on TV. There’s something off about the students, something she can’t quite put her finger on. Jaxon Vega — the most popular boy in school — has fair skin and an angular jaw. Dark, attractive Flint seems to have fire gleaming in his eyes. Her cousin Macy has the most beautiful multi-colored hair and a flawless face of makeup that seems to take only seconds. Two boys who pick on Grace were out in the Alaskan night without jackets, talking about the full moon.
As the students’ true selves become apparent, so does Grace’s lack of safety at the school. Is it just a coincidence that she has had more than one near-death experience in her first few days at Katmere, or that there have been more earthquakes in her one week there than there typically are in a whole year? Once she figures out those answers, it might be too late for her.
While I enjoyed the storyline in “Crave,” I struggled with the writing style. I understand the story is told from a teenager’s point of view, but the use of texting shorthand like “af” and “WTF” in sentences made me cringe. I have to commend the author, though, for making the last hundred pages or so of the book so action-packed and ending the novel on such a cliffhanger that I’m not sure I have much of a choice but to start book 2 and make my way through the series.
THERESA BOURKE may be reached at
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