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Thursday, December 6, 2012

"Valley of Ashes" by Cornelia Read ~ Rolicking Read!

Madeline Dare trades New York's gritty streets for the tree-lined avenues of Boulder, Colorado when her husband Dean lands a promising job. Madeline, now a full-time homemaker and mother to beautiful toddler twin girls, has achieved everything she thought she always wanted, but with her husband constantly on the road, she's fighting a losing battle against the Betty Friedan riptide of suburban/maternal exhaustion, angst, and sheer loneliness. A new freelance newspaper gig helps her get her mojo back, but Boulder isn't nearly as tranquil as it seems: there's a serial arsonist at large in the city. As Madeline closes in on the culprit, the fires turn deadly-and the stakes tragically personal. She'll need every ounce of strength and courage she has to keep the flames from reaching her own doorstep, threatening all she holds most dear.

Publisher:  Grand Central Publishing/Hachette
Pages:  368
Genre:  Fiction/Thriller


The short version:

Disorganized mother of twins by day, crime fiction writer by... um... day.

The first-person version:

I have circumnavigated the globe, throwing up in many of the world's airports as I hate to fly. I was born in Manhattan, and spent my childhood racketing around from New York to California to Oahu.

I am the world's worst housewife, nicknamed by my intrepid spouse "a lighting rod for entropy in the universe."

I like to read a lot, being especially fond of the backs of cereal boxes and badly garbled assembly instructions written by persons for whom English is not the language of choice (although my all-time favorite bit of writing was contained in the song list on a bootleg Dylan tape in Hong Kong, which claimed "Bowling in the Wind" was the first cut on side A).

For the last several generations, my family's motto has been "Never a Dull Moment." None of us know how you would say this in Latin. I subscribe to my sister's gustatory philosophy, which is that "there are two kinds of food in the world: food that's good, and food that needs more salt."

My two favorite songs are Patsy Cline's "Sweet Dreams" and that little bit of Bach Glenn Gould plays right when the Tralfamadorians are coming out of the stars to kidnap Billy Pilgrim and his old dog Spot in the movie version of Slaughterhouse Five. The Rolling Stones doing "King Bee" gets an honorable mention, as does this really cool punk-cover version of "Surfin' USA" that I have an MP3 of but no clue who the band doing it is.

I would like to be Winston Churchill when I grow up. Or maybe Batman.

The third-person version:

Cornelia Read knows old-school WASP culture firsthand, having been born into the tenth (and last) generation of her mother's family to live on Oyster Bay's Centre Island. She was subsequently raised near Big Sur by divorced hippie-renegade parents. Her childhood mentors included Sufis, surfers, single moms, Black Panthers, Ansel Adams, draft dodgers, striking farmworkers, and Henry Miller's toughest ping-pong rival.

At fifteen, Read returned east, attending boarding school and college on full scholarship. While in New York, she did time as a debutante at the Junior Assemblies, worming her way back into the Social Register following her expulsion when a regrettable tantrum on the part of her mother's boyfriend's wife landed them all on "Page Six" of the New York Post.

Today, her Bostonian Great-Grandmother Fabyan's Society of Mayflower Descendants membership parchment is proudly displayed at the back of Read's tiny linen closet in Berkeley, California. She continues to rebel against familial tradition by staying married to a lovely sane man who is gainfully employed. They have twin daughters, the younger of whom has severe autism.

Most of all:

Thank you, gentle reader, for the honor of your kind interest in my work. It means the world to me.
There's a large dose of Nora Ephron in Cornelia Read, I think.  I was hard pressed not to spend the whole first and second chapters wiping my eyes from laughing out loud. (Not to mention the entire book!)   She's a gut-punching writer, so on the mark that you'll be reminded of everything you did and thought as a young mother who wondered why on earth you were caught up in the Twilight Zone of motherhood.  Especially when you'd been educated to do something else with your life!
Ms Read's protagonist, Madeline Dare, is the kind of woman you'd just like to trail around behind so you can listen to her one liners and see the world through her eyes.  This novel is so entertaining, it beats anything in the genre I've read for many weeks.  I can't wait to read more of the Madeline Dare books.  Someone please tell me there are more, soon!!!
Not only is this a witty book with a world of likable characters to keep pace with Ms Dare, but it's one to keep us guessing in the thriller arena.  A good plot and a mystery make this one a stand out winner.
I see awards on the horizon for Cornelia Read.
I can only encourage you to purchase "Valley of Ashes" asap.  You will simply love it!!
5 stars           Deborah/TheBookishDame


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