Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ashes to Water - Irene Ziegler


Back in early May, I forced myself to look in the mirror and admit I had painted myself into a corner with reading commitments. Review copies, challenges, I have them coming out of my ears. I hate to fail at anything, so right then and there, I pledged that I would get caught up, and would not accept any review copies until I'd accomplished my task.

Then here comes Ms. Irene Ziegler, who sends me an e-mail "pitching a platypus". A what? Her latest book, she tells me, is a mysterary. A little of this a little of that, like a platypus. She tells me she grew up in Florida (in Deland actually, which is just north of Orlando), has Polish ancestry, and her books have very little in common with Nicholas Sparks. So obviously she did her homework, and has a hilarious sense of humor. This wasn't the half of it...you should check out her blog! Not only does she have a resume that includes novels, voiceovers and acting, this lady is a piece of work! How could I say no? You're right, I couldn't. Irene did mention she was out of actual ARCs, but still I did a double-take when her package arrived, all 400 pages on copy paper! Ack! But it didn't even matter. It was all good.

The story centers on Annie Bartlett, a girl forever damaged by her mother's suicide when Annie was a little girl. So damaged, in fact, that even as an adult, she still "sees" her mother and has two-way conversations with her. Despite this little wrinkle in her mental health, she has moved away from home, met a wonderful man, and has established a successful photography career. But when she receives word that her estranged father has been murdered, she must return to her childhood home to face a few demons, maybe at the expense of her comfortable life.

The childhood home being Deleon Florida, which, for all intents and purposes, is Ziegler's Deland. It is your typical small town full of personalities, all of them in each other's business and carrying around grudges and hidden agendas. Annie soon discovers that her father's accused murderer, his girlfriend, may actually be innocent, but nobody seems to care, including the town judge and the accused's lawyer (Annie's high school sweetheart). Add to that little pot of trouble a series of suspicious fires, Annie's older drug-addicted sex-addicted sister, unresolved guilt over Annie's feud with her father, and a growing body count.

There is something very atmospheric about small towns in Florida. If you have spent any amount of time in them, you know what I mean. They are maddening, they are charming, you hate them when you are in them, but miss them when you are not. I find myself generally smitten with authors that effectively integrate this atmosphere into their stories (which Ziegler does). Does this mean it wouldn't have the same impact if you live in Wisconsin? I don't know...I always loved stories set in New Orleans, and I don't live there. But with novels that utilize this atmosphere properly, you feel like you've been there. Ticket to anywhere. It's cool.

Ziegler has constructed a platypus, for sure. The writing is respectable, with a touch of humor that you would expect from the author, knowing what you know. There are relationship issues going in ten different directions, the protagonist is likable, there is a mystery or two, and some skulduggery. The ultimate evil-doer was impossible to guess, although the big reveal felt a little hokey. The pages turn quickly, even if they are unbound (ha!). I might have liked it if an important character had been thrown under the bus (I like that kind of moxie), but the plots weren't completely buttoned up either, which is a bonus. Do I smell a series here?

I did discover that Ziegler wrote a prequel to Ashes to Water, called Rules of the Lake. (I hate it when this happens!) However, I never felt like I was missing out on anything by not having read it. There is ample background provided on Annie and her family, enough to allow us to appreciate the nuances of the interrelationships. But I guess I know what MY next purchase is going to be...

4 out of 5 stars





20 comments:

Julie P. said...

So neat that you discovered this treasure....

I need to take your advice on not accepting books until I get caught up -- which would be never.

diaryofaneccentric said...

I'm behind as well, and while I've drastically reduce the number of books I accept, sometimes they sound too good to say no. I really need to follow your lead, though.

I'm glad you had such a wonderful experience with this book. I'll keep it in mind.

Beth F said...

You have to keep an open mind about review copies because if you don't, you'll miss the gems. This sounds like a winner.

Kaye said...

This one does sound really good with a tangled bunch of plot threads. Thanks for the excellent review.
Gawd, another one for the list!

bermudaonion said...

I can't imagine reading a book printed on copy paper - was it bound together in any way. I could see me scattering the pages all over the place.

The book does sound really good though and your review is fantastic!

Irishcoda said...

Thanks for taking on this book and taking the trouble to review it. I'm always looking for more to read ... even though I have a bazillion on my TBR as it is ... and this one's definitely going on the list!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Books like these are such a great way to learn about the culture in different parts of this country and that is so much fun. I never cease to be amazed at the cultural differences from coast to coast.

The Bumbles said...

Wow - that sounds like a whole lot of stuff crammed in to one book. Kind of like all the tangents that I cram into a blog post on a regular basis ;0) I admire an author who has so much to tell - as long as the plot doesn't lose its way because of it.

Zibilee said...

Very cool to find an author writing about an area so close to us! I am glad that you liked the book and will have to look out for it. It sounds mighty entertaining.

I also know what you mean about being overwhelmed right now. I always think I can handle it, then more and more is piled on until I want to run and hide. I hope you manage it a bit better than I have!

Kathleen said...

Sounds like it paid off for you to break your vow to not accept anything else for review!

heidenkind said...

One of my friends recently got married and moved out of a very small town in Florida. I'm going to have to ask her if she misses it now. :)

Iliana said...

I love the way she approached you! Definitely knew her audience. I sometimes get offered ARCs that I'm thinking now why would you think I'd be interested in that?! So funny.

Glad to hear you enjoyed it!

Melissa M said...

I love when you get pitches that are perfect for you. Even when you don't need any more books! I'll be adding this one to my list!

Trisha said...

Small towns in Florida, especially the more central areas, definitely have a unique atmosphere. I'm glad you took a chance with this one.

Nymeth said...

Saying no is so hard, isn't it? Fortunately there are books like this to make us glad we have no will-power :P

Belle said...

This sounds like an interesting read - I love the "platypus" description. And the Sparks comment :)

Jenners said...

I totally see why you couldn't resist that sales pitch ... it sounded tailor-made to suck you in!!!

But wow ... reading it all on unbound copy paper! That is something else!

Susan said...

Boy, do I know Florida small town culture! When hubby and I got married we lived in Groveland (I had family there) and it just doesn't get more FST than that. My in-laws lived in Apopka. One sister lived in Cross Creek and my other sister lives in Hawthorne. Uh-huh.

Irene sounds delightful and I'm going to check out her blog!

Darlene said...

This sounds like a good book. I always like to read books in order though- which is sometimes bad because I end up buying a whole series of books instead of one.

I haven't been taking in too many review copies anymore. I really got too crazy for a while and it kind of took the fun out of things.

Glad this one worked out for you!

Irene Ziegler said...

I'm very grateful to you, Sandy, and to all your readers who responded so positively to your review. Thanks for all you do for books, writers and readers. Best wishes to you and your important work. Irene Ziegler