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For decades, the small town of Carpe Diem, Illinois has quietly unschooled its children, eschewing tests and classrooms for real-life experiences. Now, long-smoldering political feuds and deep personal secrets threaten to explode. When her mother is hospitalized in Carpe Diem after an auto accident, teenager Tali Shaw, the daughter of a powerful state senator, finds herself at the heart of a vicious conspiracy to bring Carpe Diem down. Can prize-winning Chicago Examiner reporter Leo Townsend overcome his own demons and expose those behind the scheme before it's too late? And when the truth is finally revealed, can Carpe Diem ever be the same? Carpe Diem, Illinois is the winner of the 2014 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award for non-traditionally published fiction.
With the ring of authenticity throughout, Carpe Diem, Illinois proves an impressively compelling read from the start with Oakley delivering a first-rate narrative that values the intelligence of her readers and the complexity of her characters. Far too many novels in this genre suffer from a transient sameness, brought on by a lack of personality development and too few characters that readers can relate to, but Oakley has a gift for nuance and here they wholly personify their roles in a plot that is both propulsive and involving. In fact, there's enough plot to fill a much longer book, but Oakley never loses sight of the human drama and on this level, it’s so engaging that it almost feels too short as Leo's personal and professional worlds collide. Another author might have lost the intimacy of her story in the hustle and bustle of a large urban setting, but in Carpe Diem, Illinois, Oakley keeps her multiple plot strands straight and in doing so delivers an enthralling novel that entertains to the very last page.
A powerful and intelligent debut Carpe Diem, Illinois sure to find favour with fans of this ever popular genre whilst raising high expectations of future releases in the Leo Townsend series. It is recommended without reservation.
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Kristin A. Oakley’s debut novel, Carpe Diem, Illinois, is the winner of the 2014 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award for non-traditionally published fiction and a finalist in the Independent Author Network 2015 Book of the Year. The sequel, God on Mayhem Street, was released in September of 2016. Kristin is the president and co-founder of the professional writers’ organization In Print, a board member of the Chicago Writers Association, and the managing editor of The Write City Magazine. As a writing instructor at the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies, Kristin critiques manuscripts and offers an online course on cliffhangers. She has a B.A. in psychology and a J.D., both from UW-Madison.