The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

STILLWATER RISING (Stillwater Bay #1) By Steena Holmes

Stillwater Rising (Stillwater Bay, #1)Publisher:  Lake Union Publishing
Expected Release Date:  November 11, 2014
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

About the Book:  After losing her son in an elementary school shooting that devastates the tight-knit community of Stillwater Bay, Jennifer Crowne finds herself unable to settle back into her role of perfect stay-at-home mom and committee organizer. Meanwhile, her best friend, Mayor Charlotte Stone, struggles to keep the town together, and Charlotte's husband, the school principal, may not be the hero everyone thinks him to be.

As they try to heal from this irrevocable trauma, Jenn and Charlotte find themselves at a crossroads?within the town and within their friendship. For Jenn, broken and grieving, there is no going back, and she demands that the school be closed so that she can bury the past. Yet Charlotte is equally desperate to hold the town together, fighting the school closure and helping the shooter's mother regain her place in the community. Jenn and Charlotte's relationship is put to the ultimate test as each weighs her own interests against the bonds of their friendship.

Wanda's Thoughts:  Stillwater was an obscure and quaint little town, with beautiful Victorian houses, surrounded by white picket fences. The population was just under 3,000, but when summer arrived the numbers doubled or tripled because of its proximity to the bay. It was hard to believe that something so horrific as a school shooting could happen in this picturesque town of Stillwater. There had been twelve deaths, twelve lives snuffed out in a tragic way. The children’s innocence had been taken away at an early age in a terrifying way. 

Jennifer’s ten-year-old son was one of the last children to be found that day. The mere mention of her son’s name brought images that would haunt her for the rest of her life. She was expected to move on with her life, but she just wanted to bury herself in her grief. Jen believed it was horrible and unfair to the children and parents of Stillwater to be exposed to a place where so many lives were lost, forcing them to face the horrors of their past. She wanted them to tear down the school and relocate it. She truly believed the town needed time to grieve. 

Robert is the husband of Jennifer, but disagreed with her reasoning. He wanted to pretend the tragedy never happened and didn’t allow or take time to grieve for their loss. 

Charity is the rather disrespectful daughter of Robert and Jennifer. The sweet and charming daughter her parents once knew was gone, and she became a thirteen-year-old with mood swings.

Jordan Stone served as principal at Stillwater Public School. He had been praised for his heroic acts, saving countless lives at the shooting. He was the perfect principal and perfect partner and husband during the aftermath of this shooting. And he was the perfect hero to the children in the school. 

Charlotte Stone was the mayor and wife of Principle Jordan Stone. Charlotte took her job as mayor seriously, and believed the children and their families were resilient and would heal. She believed the children and town needed to face what had happened and move on. She didn’t want the evil that had happened to win, but wanted them to become victors, not victims. Was she trying to push everyone past the grieving before they were ready? 

Julia Berry was the mother of the 16-year-old shooter. Her son was the boy who always seemed to be in trouble. From early on, in his childhood, everyone knew Gabriel Berry had bad blood in him. She wasn’t the murderer or the monster that committed this horrific act, but she’d given birth to him. Julia had become a victim, and many of the town citizens were caught up in tearing her apart and doing hatred acts. 

Samantha Hill was a reporter from UCN. There was a story here, and it was her goal to help the readers become invested in the news. She was one of the first reporters on the scene, and still had nightmares of that horrible day. There was something about this town that made her want to stay on. And she had a feeling the principal was hiding something. 

If the school closed, what would happen to the 200 students who attended there? Most of the families with small children would most likely move to another area. Also they had to consider the teachers and support staff – they would be without jobs, and teaching positions were not easy to find. And the story unfolds ---

I was drawn into this book early on with its interesting premise – it had the potential to be a good story. Unfortunately the story just lost something, and I started to lose interest – it just didn’t touch me. I never connected to most of the characters, not finding them to have much depth. And there was an over abundance of characters – a bit difficult to keep them all straight.

On a positive note – There were some scenes that really touched me – poignant circumstances of grief that were emotional and intense. The school-shooting topic evoked many questions in my mind. If I were living in that town, how would I have reacted?

Steena Holmes is one of my favorites. I’m assuming there will be a second book in this series and I’m sure I’ll be reading it. But this one is just lukewarm. My rating is 3.5 stars. 
I received a complimentary copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions shared are my own.

Steena HolmesAbout the Author:  NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author - Steena is the author of the heart wrenching Finding Emma series and the upcoming novel Stillwater Rising.

Steena Holmes grew up in a small town in Canada and holds a Bachelors degree in Theology.

In 2012 she received the Indie Excellence Award. Holmes was inspired to write Finding Emma after experiencing a brief moment of horror when she’d thought her youngest daughter was missing. 

She currently lives in Calgary with her husband and three daughters and loves to wake up to the Rocky Mountains each morning.
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Novels in her Finding Emma series:
Finding Emma
Dear Jack
Emma's Secret
Dottie's Memories

The Memory Child

Stillwater Bay Series:
Before the Storm
Stillwater Rising