If you follow my book reviews and blog, you probably already know that I participated in the Booksparks Summer Reading Challenge. In exchange for reviews, I received advanced copies of several books during the summer. Booksparks also did a Fall Reading Challenge, but due to my heavy school schedule, I had to decline participating. However, I did join in for one book, the latest from Steena Holmes, Stillwater Rising.
Honestly, I'd never heard of Steena Holmes, but Booksparks was so excited over Stillwater Rising, that I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Stillwater Rising is Holmes' second book in her Stillwater series, which revolves around the citizens of a lakeside resort town.
The second book finds the citizens of Stillwater attempting to patch their lives back together, after a teenage gunman has killed several children and teachers at the local elementary school. The story is told through the eyes of a mother who lost her son, the mayor (who is also the wife of the elementary school principal) and a female reporter who although liked, is not a resident of Stillwater. The mother of the shooter still lives in town and Stillwater is divided as to whether they should run her out or treat her with compassion. Everyone is experiencing grief in their own way and it is ripping apart this once tight knit community.
It was fairly easy to follow the plot without having read the first book in the series, however, I urge you not to do this. This series is very much about the characters and their development. You will short change yourself if you skip the first book. I plan on going back and reading the first in the series. Holmes' ended the second book with a chapter for the third, which is a huge tease for what is coming next in the series.
What I really enjoyed about Stillwater Rising is the way that Holmes managed to write a story filled with genuine emotions and human drama without resorting to gratuitous violence or nastiness. There is a sweetness to her story without coming across as false. The characters have honest faults, but at the end of the day, it seems that the inherent good in people is what triumphs. In the midst of such a tragic circumstance, this is a feel good story.
As a selling point for Steena Holmes, when I was in the middle of Stillwater Rising, I noticed that another one of her novels was on sale through Amazon and I went ahead and bought it. It didn't take me a whole book to know that I like her style and that I'm eager to read her other stories.
On another note of personal interest, my husband and I recently bought a vacation home in a lake resort much like Stillwater. In Stillwater Rising, Holmes writes a lot about the distinction between those who live there full time and those that come for a season. This rang very true. As much as we want to insert ourselves into our new community, not living there full time always makes us feel like outsiders. I totally get the dynamic that Holmes writes about in her story.
Stillwater Rising is a very compelling drama that I highly recommend.
Here are some of the promotional pictures that Booksparks to sent to me. Reach out to them if you're interesting in reviewing their books. In addition to free books, they run tons of fun contests.
And here is a pretty press-picture of author Steena Holmes.