2015 Book 129: PLEASANT DAY Review and Excerpt

Pleasant Day by Vera Jane Cook
ISBN: 9781937327613 (paperback)
ISBN: 9783958306691 (ebook)
ASIN: B00TUALPS2 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: February 19, 2015
Publisher: Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC


WITH MURDER IN COMMON FRIENDSHIP IS INEVITABLE. 

In the town of Hollow Creek, South Carolina, two separate murders, fifteen years apart, unite fifteen-year-old Pleasant Day and sixty-year-old Clarissa Blackwell. As Pleasant Day struggles with her mother’s distance, her father’s infidelity and the death of her best friend, she draws closer to Clarissa, an older woman with the secrets to heal her. But Clarissa has struggles of her own as she faces betrayal and seeks to come to terms with old wounds. With her unpredictable psychic ability to ‘read people’ Clarissa uncovers the answers to a deadly crime and to Pleasant’s true identity. In the end, both Pleasant and Clarissa’s worlds are transformed by the truths they’re forced to accept, and both find solace and strength in the histories that have shaped them. 



Pleasant Day is an atypical teenage girl living in a somewhat atypical family in rural South Carolina. Pleasant is an intelligent and well-read girl with a penchant for profanity when speaking. Her father is her idol, but he likes to go out drinking and he’s having an affair. Pleasant is a witness to both as her father generally takes her along on his evening “drives” to the bar and rendezvous with his lover. Her mother comes across as a kind and gentle woman that is emotionally distant from Pleasant. Pleasant’s brother, Sawyer, more concerned about his appearance than anything else, feels that Pleasant may be spending too much time reading. Pleasant’s life is turned upside down one summer when she learns that one of her best friends has been found dead in unusual circumstances and her other best friend is implicated in that death. Pleasant’s summer is about to spiral completely out of control with a chance encounter with Clarissa Blackwell.

I found Pleasant Day to be a fast-paced read. I did have some difficulty getting into this story because my inner prude kept rearing its head with the mild profanity spouted by Pleasant. The more I read, the better I understood Pleasant and began to see her usage of profanity as a shield. Pleasant’s family life isn’t abusive nor does she live in abject poverty, but her family life is sorely strained by her father’s habitual adultery, her brother’s “effeminate” qualities, and the passive-aggressive behavior of her mother. Struggling to deal with the impact of learning of one friend’s death by murder, she literally runs into a woman that will bring the devastating effects of another murder into her life. This story is told in the alternating voices of Pleasant and Clarissa. As Pleasant and Clarissa become better acquainted, secrets are revealed that may have devastating results (no, I won’t tell you what the secret is . . . read the book!). I thought Pleasant Day was part coming-of-age, part family drama (trust me, there’s plenty of drama), and part mystery. If you’re looking for a unique read for this spring or summer, you’ll want to put Pleasant Day on your TBR list.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the author via Virtual Author Book Tours. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



Excerpt

Chapter Three Clarissa Blackwell 

Everything had to be put in its perfect place. Everything had a perfect place, forks to the left of the spoons, brooms to the right of the vacuum cleaner and toothpaste always hidden away in the medicine chest, not bludgeoned to death with all of its exposed white blood. Clarissa thought that was the problem with toothpaste, it always wound up looking like it had a drunken binge the night before and was spitting up all over itself. Whenever possible, she purchased toothpaste powder. Life had to have order. Wayward toothpaste and shapeless tubes did not belong in a perfect world. In a perfect world, days had purpose and toothpaste tubes had spines. Clarissa Blackwell was the creator of purpose. Life had a driver’s seat and she was in it. Turmoil was unbearable and caused her too many visions she couldn’t explain. 

Her house was her pride and joy. Nice expression, pride and joy. It didn’t matter who entered her lovely Victorian home, it only mattered that she could read on their faces how they envied her. How perfectly comfortable everything looked. That’s the thing about fine things, they couldn’t alienate, they had to invite, as hers did. Her garage sale finds had to whisper their desire to be picked up. Her paintings had to demand pleasing stares and the cushions on her chairs had to long for a derrière to deflate their puff. Nothing could utter pretension or scream ‘Go Away.’ 

Clarissa Blackwell was very much like her house. She demanded notice, as well. Though she was soft spoken and never did anything out of the ordinary, people stared at her. They assumed she must be somebody, like a movie star or surely someone they’d seen on television, like a famous female sports figure. Maybe something or other to the president? A newscaster? They were always a bit distressed to learn that she was no one, no one famous that is. 

Clarissa had the look of a woman who grew up well, the look of confidence, poise, flair, even though the way she felt inside was often a contradiction to her external presence. She was grateful that her intelligent face made her appear worldly and wise. She would have preferred being beautiful to looking as if she were perpetually sucking on sour drops. She would have welcomed a very straight aquiline nose to the one she had, it naturally turned up, nothing she could do about it. But it gave her a condescending demeanor as if she were constantly sniffing something foul. But when Clarissa smiled, she became approachable, like her house and all things in it. Clarissa made a point to smile often. 

She was approaching sixty-six, a little secret she kept from others. Well, why shouldn’t she? She believed that the body was a temple one should treat with respect. She looked much younger, she was sure, because her temple of a body had not been abused for years. She ate foods that did not oink or go moo, and she power walked the distance between Summerford and Edgefield two or three times a week, a good mile and a half. Well, she power walked in between stopping at garage sales, visiting a friend or two, and lunching at her favorite coffee shop in Edgefield. 

Clarissa rarely ever went into Hollow Creek. It was another half mile or more out of the way but she’d read about a new health food store opening over there called The Fine Fettle. She assumed she could get almond milk and fish oil and other absolutely fabulous things like pure goat soap and organic face creams. As wonderful as the Edgefield Café was, it was just a café and it was more prone to BLTs and burgers than soy milk shakes and protein bars. 

The Fine Fettle did not disappoint. Clarissa was quite content sitting there in a nice, large comfortable booth with the sun streaming in the window. She’d treated herself to the whole wheat spiced pumpkin pancakes and organic coffee all the way from Maine. She was thinking, as she stared out the window at the picturesque town, that it was worth walking the extra half mile to get into Hollow Creek more often. She’d definitely want to return to The Fine Fettle. As she took a napkin to her mouth to wipe off the remaining homemade maple syrup, she happened to look out the window. A scream immediately caught in her throat and she held her breath—to her absolute horror, there was a girl on a bicycle riding straight toward the little café looking like a demon on fire. She was maybe fifteen or sixteen years old, old enough to know better, Clarissa thought. The girl made a sharp left at the curb and Clarissa breathed a sigh of relief. If she hadn’t made that sudden turn she might have gone through the plate glass window and landed right in her lap. 

It was only for a second that Clarissa had gotten a glimpse of the girl’s face. In the glare of the sun the girl had looked just like Chloe Rappaport. It had to be an apparition because Chloe Rappaport had been dead for years, but Clarissa could have sworn she’d just seen her on a blue bicycle racing down the main street of Hollow Creek like a wild savage. Of course, Chloe had died at twenty-three, not at fifteen. But Clarissa had known Chloe at the age of fifteen and this girl could have been her double. 

Clarissa’s body shook, as if cold, as if she’d been frightened by something. The girl on the bike had startled her so much. It was like seeing Chloe again. It wasn’t the familiarity in the girl’s face altogether but something about the attitude of that girl, nothing cautious about her, no sensitivity to the speed at which she was going. She appeared so cocky, just like Chloe had been at that age. How close had she been to the girl, at least twenty feet away? It must have been the glare from the sun. It had made some remote resemblance appear familiar, chillingly familiar.


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Book Excerpt: LIES A RIVER DEEP by Vera Jane Cook





Lies A River Deep by Maggie Thom
ISBN:  9781619371262 (ebook)
ASIN:  B007G4KHT2 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Publication Date: March 2, 2012


Sometimes, when lies unravel, and enemies are revealed, vengeance and fate embrace.

In the summer of 1962, at a high school graduation party, Bessie Day Hardy is brutally raped. Fifty years later, the consequences of that horrific night will transition into unforeseen events that will shatter her serene and uncomplicated life.




Excerpt:

It was a day like any other. Days have a sameness, even new, they offer little beyond weather changes and sudden deaths.

“And how are you today?” Bessie asked, showing a smile that age had not yet dulled. She’d always been cute because of it. Sixty years ago, or more, she was the little girl whose cheeks you pinched, and though she was old now, she still wore her hair in curls; silver grey undulations that framed her face and brought out a blithe desire in others to pinch where her dimples dipped, even to kiss her there unabashedly.

Grey looked up and nodded. “Same,” he said.

The air was damp with April moisture as Bessie Day Hardy wrapped her scarf closer to her neck and shivered. Air that hung heavy like wet clothes caught flapping in the rain made it hard to breathe. The scarf had been a gift in a white torn box, under red Santa Claus wrapping, from the Episcopal Church of Saint John the Apostle Christmas party, just last year. The lime green and caramel colored wool that she loved to feel against her lips, an anonymous kindness from someone who had written: Bless you and have a very Merry Christmas. Someone, she imagined with fresh white skin, pearl teeth and eyes that sparkled blue in daylight, light as the sea, but darkened with the night, turning cenereal behind the shadows of dusk.

“We ever going to see the sun again?” She sighed. A wind kicked around the corner and her body felt the chill, enemy winds that carried the threat of sodden attacks to bones too brittle to fight. Later, she would feel the ache and she would rub her muscles more for the distraction than the release of pain.

“If we live long enough,” Grey said.

Bessie chuckled. Living long wasn’t the blessing it used to be. Aging was in the way. Couldn’t leave a person alone, had to show up and make her breath short, expose every damn vein in her body and give her the unsightly imprint of impending death. Nobody wants to look at mortality too closely and aging people carry its threat, vulnerably apparent; the weight of its nearness is a monster in the wings where heaven is a nebulous and cracked mirror; don’t look into it, the young whisper: don’t look yet.

But the old were once young. Bessie Day Hardy still carried the traces of adolescent giddiness in the creases of her lips and her middle-aged ardor for Chauncey Hardy still glinted in her eyes at the memory of his smooth hands in hers, and his fine soft hair against her breast. His step was lively. She could hear it, sometimes, when the house was quiet. Chauncey’s step on the stairs, in the kitchen, on the bedroom floor.

Damn house was quiet now, even her cat walked too softly to hear.



Meet the author:

Pharaoh’s Star is Vera Jane Cook’s most recent release. The Story of Sassy Sweetwater was Vera Jane’s second southern fiction novel and was a finalist in the ForeWord book of the Year Awards for 2012 and received a five star ForeWord Clarion review, as well as an Eric Hoffer honorable mention award for ebook fiction in 2013. Dancing Backward in Paradise also received a 5 Star Clarion ForeWord review and an Eric Hoffer notable new fiction award in 2006, as well as the Indie Excellence Award in 2006. Also by Vera Jane Cook: Lies a River Deep, Where the Wildflowers Grow, Marybeth, Hollister & Jane and Annabel Horton, Lost Witch of Salem. Her next novel, Pleasant Day will be published in 2015 by Moonshine Cove Press.


Connect with the author:  

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