Thursday, February 14, 2019

Empowering Middle Grade Novel Urges Kids to Embrace Their Own Unique Voice

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Being deaf has always made 12-year-old Iris Bailey feel like an outsider.  Even in her own family, where some members have made the effort to learn American Sign Language (ASL) and others haven't.  As the only deaf student at her school, it can be tough for Iris to understand what's going on around her, make friends, and communicate everything that's going on inside her head.  She wants her voice to be heard, but that's difficult when you're a deaf kid in a hearing world.

When Iris learns about Blue 55, a whale who has to swim alone because he can't communicate with other whales, she feels immediate empathy for the lonely creature.  She longs to find a way to tell him he is not alone.  A whiz with radios and other tech, Iris sets about creating a welcoming song just for Blue 55.  Even though he's a long way from her home in Texas, she will find a way to reach him.  It will take all her smarts, all her courage, and all her determination to achieve her goal.  Then, maybe, both she and Blue 55 will finally be able to connect to their peers in a world where neither one of them feels understood ... 

Song for a Whale is the second novel by Lynne Kelly, who has worked as a sign language interpreter for over 25 years.  It tells a gentle, sympathetic story about a lonely young lady who finds her purpose while trying to help an unusual whale (you can read about the real whale that inspired Blue 55 here).  As she puts her heart and soul into the project, Iris is finally able to make herself heard.  Although the tale gets bogged down with science/tech talk, it's still an interesting and unique story.  Young readers may find Song for a Whale overly detailed and a little long (as did I), but if they hang in there, they'll find the novel pays off in the end with empowering, uplifting messages about family, belonging, and embracing your own special voice.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of El Deafo by Cece Bell)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Song for a Whale from the generous folks at Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Fascinating Family History Memoir Asks Thought-Provoking Questions About Family, Identity, Heritage, and More

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"All my life I had known there was a secret.  What I hadn't known—that secret was me."

For her entire life, Dani Shapiro has watched people puzzle over her looks.  Unlike the rest of her family, she has blonde hair and blue eyes.  More than one person has observed that she looks more Aryan than Jewish.  This stings a little because although she is not observant, Shapiro has always felt a strong connection to her Jewish past.  Of her stalwart forbears, she says:
These ancestors are the foundation upon which I have built my life.  I have dreamt of them, wrestled with them, longed for them.  I have tried to understand them.  In my writing, they have been my territory—my obsession, you might even say.  They are the tangled roots—thick, rich, and dark—that bind me to the turning earth.  During younger years when I was lost—particularly after my dad's death—I used them as my inner compass.  I would ask what to do, which way to turn.  I would listen intently, and hear them answer ... I can say with certainty that I've felt the presence of this long-gone crowd whenever I've sought them. (12)
It was with great shock, then, that Shapiro received startling results after taking a DNA test on a whim.  At 54 years old, she stumbled upon a stunning truth—her beloved dad was not, in fact, her biological father.  The more she dug into her own beginning, the more incredulous she became.  Her discoveries launched her on a quest—one that would prove frustrating, disturbing, enlightening, and ultimately, reassuring—to discover her truest self in all its bewildering complexity.

Inheritance, Shapiro's newest book, tells the story of the journey she undertook to find herself.  Again.  Despite its deep, thought-provoking subject matter, the volume is actually very readable.  It's quick but fascinating.  Throughout, Shapiro asks sharp, impactful questions about family, identity, medical ethics, and the sometimes huge effects that can come from small, "inconsequential" acts.  I found her story absorbing, her questions compelling, and her observations on point.  Inheritance gets high marks from me as I found it to be an enjoyable read on many different levels.

(Readalikes:  Hm, nothing is coming to mind.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (2 F-bombs, plus occasional, milder expletives), and non-graphic references to sex

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Entertaining Cozy a Fun, Light Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for Murder Made to Order, it may inadvertently spoil plot surprises from its predecessor, Scone Cold Killer.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

Gia Morelli, the newest resident of Boggy Creek, Florida, and owner of the popular All-Day Breakfast Cafe is still reeling from finding her ex-husband's body in the dumpster behind her restaurant.  The last thing she needs is another shock. Gia just wants to run her business in peace, but the forceful president of the town council has other ideas.  A forgotten city ordinance is being trumped up by the council in an effort to close Gia down.  Truth is, it might be just the motivation Gia needs to leave all of Florida's quirks behind and head back to New York, where she really belongs. 

While Gia is debating whether to stay or go, she comes across a shocking sight while out on a walk with her dog.  It's not a dreaded gator, but the dead body of Marcia Steers, the very woman who was trying so hard to shut down the All-Day Breakfast Cafe.  Although Marcia had plenty of enemies in town, suspicion immediately falls on Gia.  There's only one way to clear her name and that's to find the killer herself.  Hunt Quinn, aka Detective Tall, Dark, and Gorgeous, will frown on Gia's do-it-herself sleuthing, but when has that ever stopped the intrepid chef?

Murder Made to Order, the second installment in Lena Gregory's All-Day Breakfast Cafe series, is another fun cozy mystery.  Not gonna lie—these books require a big suspension of disbelief, but once you're past that, they're great for a bit of light entertainment.  I enjoy the Boggy Creek setting, the likable townspeople, and Gia's friends.  I'm hoping the characters get more developed as the series goes on.  Even with that, though, I enjoy this series.  It's nothing shout-it-from-the-rooftops amazing, but the books make me smile and they don't give me nightmares, so I'll for sure keep reading them.

(Readalikes:  Scone Cold Killer by Lena Gregory.  Also reminds me of cozy mysteries by Ellie Alexander.)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and innuendo/non-graphic references to sex

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Friday, February 08, 2019

Military Romance a Solid, if Unoriginal, Series Opener

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It's been five years since Noah Wilcox, a Navy SEAL serving in North Africa, was killed during a skirmish with local insurgents.  Still not quite sure how to move on after her husband's death, Harper is biding her time in her hometown of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  A freelance bookkeeper and mom to 5-year-old Ben, she's living with her mother and feeling stuck.  When Allison Teague—the wife of one of Noah's former SEAL brothers—reaches out for help in dealing with her husband's paralyzing PTSD, Harper jumps at the chance to not only aid a friend but also to do something meaningful for other military spouses.  As she comforts Allison, the women hatch a plan to open a string of coffee shops near military bases around the country.  

In the meantime, Harper's quest for purpose brings her face-to-face with Bennett Caldwell, another of Noah's SEAL brothers and the one he considered his best friend.  She's never met the man before, but her attraction to the brusque outdoorsman is almost instant.  Though shocked by her own interest, Harper can't suppress the urge to get to know Bennett better, even if their burgeoning relationship makes them both feel disloyal to Noah.  Can the two of them find their way together, despite past sorrows? 

With its plain Jane title, it's probably not surprising that The Military Wife by Laura Trentham is not the most original or memorable novel in the world.  It does, however, offer an empathetic look at military life as well as a sweet, second-chance romance between two sympathetic, likable characters.  Although the plot is predictable, there's enough going on in the story to keep it interesting.  As I mentioned, there's nothing terribly unique or surprising here, but The Military Wife is a solid, readable novel that's a little deeper than your typical romance.  I didn't love this series opener, but I liked it well enough.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Robyn Carr's small-town romance series [especially Virgin River] starring ex-military men and the women who love them.) 

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, sexual content, and some disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-copy of The Military Wife from the generous folks at St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
   

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Female Civil War Soldiers Novel a Good (Enough) Read

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When her young husband joins the Confederate Army, Libby Beale Tanner knows he may never come home.  Still, she's not at all prepared to be a widow almost before she's had a chance to be a bride.  Haunted by the loss, Libby's overwhelming grief takes on a disturbing singlemindedness.  Obsessed with avenging her husband by killing one Union soldier to represent each of the dead man's twenty years of life, she disguises herself as a man and joins the Army herself.  

Although Josephine Beale never liked her sister's cocky husband, she's devastated to see her beloved Libby so overtaken by sadness.  When she discovers Libby's cockamamie plan to enlist, Josephine begs her sister not to be so foolhardy.  When Libby refuses to back down, Josephine does the only thing she can to protect her—she enlists, too.  

Rechristened Thomas and Joseph Holden, the women join a big, bloody war that will rock them to their cores in ways they could never have predicted.  Tormented nightly by her husband's angry ghost, Libby slowly descends into madness.  Struck by Cupid's arrow, Josephine is going crazy in a different way.  Desperate to keep their identities both concealed and intact, the sisters struggle to remain sane in a world gone utterly mad.

I find the subject of women disguising themselves as men to serve in the Civil War endlessly fascinating.  These based-on-a-true-story accounts showcase the courage and devotion that drove real women to join the cause, whether it was in an effort to stay close to a loved one, earn money for their families, or simply to prove themselves in a time when they were limited by the constraints of being a "lady".  Sisters of Shiloh, penned by sisters Kathy and Becky Hepinstall, is an interesting depiction of what two Southern women may have experienced while serving as Confederate soldiers.  Although the characters are not well developed, the sisters are both sympathetic story people.  Their tale is one of survival; as such, it's episodic, meandering, and even a little dull at times.  Despite this, a plodding pace, and some overdone prose, though, I liked Sisters of Shiloh well enough to finish it.   


Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Sisters of Shiloh with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Unnecessarily Gory and Graphic, No Exit Leaves a Lot to Be Desired

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

College student Darby Thorne had no intention of going home for Christmas.  Until a diagnosis of late-stage pancreatic cancer changed everything.  Now the UC-Boulder art major is racing through a snowstorm to get to her mother's side.  As the weather worsens dramatically, she knows she can't risk her own life trying to drive through it.  Darby will have to wait it out.  She finds refuge at a remote rest stop with electricity, a coffee machine, and four strangers.  While she frantically searches for a cell signal so she can at least check in on her mom, Darby makes a shocking discovery in the frigid parking lot—a small child is locked in an animal cage in the back of a van.  There's no explanation for it except that one of the people inside the rest stop is a kidnapper.  With no safe way off the mountain, no cell phone service, and only a vague idea who the villain might be, it's up to Darby to save the child.

As the snow piles up outside, the stranded art major must think her way out of a desperate situation.  Which of the strangers can she trust to help her?  If she chooses incorrectly, it could mean danger for a helpless child and for herself.  Darby can't leave the captive to freeze to death or worse.  What can she possibly do to save them both from a situation that's growing more deadly with each passing minute?

No Exit, a new thriller by Taylor Adams, is getting all kinds of buzz right now.  Based on its intriguing premise, I can understand why.  I picked it up hoping for a taut psychological thriller—what I got was more thriller thriller.  The novel lacks the subtlety of the former, relying more on the kind of propulsive action most associated with the latter.  In fact, the story gets so unnecessarily graphic and violent that it feels far-fetched and, really, just kind of ridiculous.  Add in a cast of mostly unlikable characters, a "What's the point?" kind of vibe, and a nauseating blood-bath of a story and, in my opinion at least, you've got a stomach-turning thriller without a lot of redeeming qualities.  I still think No Exit's premise is chock-full of fascinating potential; its execution, though, leaves a lot to be desired.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of No Exit from the generous folks at BookTrib in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Monday, February 04, 2019

Carpenter's Newest a Gritty, Nail-Biting Thrill Ride

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When her computer engineer husband dies in a car crash, 48-year-old Erin Gaines finds herself completely unmoored.  She's not sure how to proceed with day-to-day living, let alone how to manage her role as CEO of Jax, the lucrative startup tech company the Gaines' own with several of their friends.  Erin knows that, after five months, her paralyzing, zombie-like grief is wearing thin.  Everyone—her friends, family, and co-workers—have expressed grave concern about her ability to function at all, especially as the head of a powerful company at the peak of its performance.  After a particularly telling incident, Erin's loved ones stage an intervention, gently forcing her to enroll in a program at a luxurious "restoration" facility on a remote Caribbean island.  Reluctant though she is to admit it, Erin knows a few weeks at Hidden Sands might be exactly what she needs to come back to herself.

Shorie Gaines, Erin's 18-year-old daughter, is thrilled her mother's finally getting some help.  She's worried about Erin's emotional state, but she's also concerned over some weird error messages on Jax's operating system.  Something isn't quite right and with the company's CEO conveniently out of the way, it's up to Shorie to figure out what.  The more she digs, however, the more distressed she becomes.  When she receives a cryptic S.O.S. from her mother, Shorie realizes what Erin's already discovered—Erin has been sent to Hidden Sands not to heal, but to disappear ...

I discovered Emily Carpenter's mesmerizing thrillers last year and was absolutely thrilled to discover she'd be releasing a new one in 2019.  The premise and setting of her newest, Until the Day I Die (available March 12), is a bit different from her others.  It's got a less Gothic, more modern spin, which I ended up liking even though I wasn't sure I would.  Like Carpenter's previous novels, this one features a sympathetic heroine who becomes entangled in a unique, intriguing situation.  As the story stakes rise, the action ramps up until the reader is frantically whipping through pages to find out what will happen next.  Although the climax does come to a confusingly abrupt end (at least in the ARC), Until the Day I Die remains a propulsive, engrossing thriller from which you will not be able to look away.  It's far-fetched, sure, but who cares?  This is the kind of tense, nail-biting suspense that will leave fans thirsty for more.  I thoroughly enjoyed Until the Day I Die and can't wait to see what the incomparable Emily Carpenter will do next.


Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, violence, mild sexual content, and references to illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Until the Day I Die from the generous folks at Lake Union Publishing via those at NetGalley.  Thank you!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: My Latest and Greatest


It's Tuesday and you know what that means—it's time for another edition of Top Ten Tuesday, my favorite bookish meme.  If you want to join in the fun (and you really do), click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl, read a few instructions, make your own list, then spend some happy hours hopping around the book blogosphere.  It's a great way to spread some love in our community, discover new blogs, and, of course, get more recommendations for your TBR pile mountain mountain chain.

This week's topic is Top Ten Most Recent Additions to My TBR List.  Since I add books constantly to my TBR list on Goodreads, I can't remember which titles are the literal last ten I added.  So, I'm just going to talk about ten I've added recently that I'm really excited about.  Sound good?  Here we go:

Top Ten Most Recent Additions to My TBR List:


1.  The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber—I'm in the middle of Weisgarber's newest historical novel, The Glovemaker (available February 5, 2019), which I'm enjoying.  Weisbarger's written a couple of other books, but this is the one I most want to read.  It's about a black family trying to survive on South Dakota's drought-dry plains in 1917.


2.  The Night Visitors by Carol Goodman—I'm a big fan of Goodman's Gothic thrillers and her newest sounds like another intriguing read.  It concerns an abused woman and her son who are stranded in the middle of a snowstorm in New York.  A stranger takes them in for the night.  As the blizzard worsens outside, shocking secrets are being revealed inside ... 


3.  The Hidden by Mary Chamberlain (available February 7, 2019)—I can't resist a dual-timeline novel that features WWII, so I'm drawn to this one about a young German woman trying to find a mysterious woman who appears in an old photograph of her mother's.


4.  Home for Erring and Outcast Girls by Julie Kibler (available July 30, 2019)—I loved Kibler's 2012 debut, Calling Me Home, and I've been waiting anxiously for her to publish something else.  This one, her sophomore novel, is a dual-timeline novel about a woman in the present who's seeking to uncover the history of a home that once offered "ruined" girls hope and help.  


5.  The Orphan of Salt Winds by Elizabeth Brooks—A newly-adopted orphan arrives at her mysterious new home on the edge of a marsh. She soon discovers that her adoptive parents have a house full of secrets and lies.  While trying to make sense of her new world, her life is rocked again when a German airman crashes in the marsh.  What happens next will haunt her for the rest of her life.  Sounds good, no?


6.  The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman (available February 5, 2019)—This middle grade novel is about a group of children trying to survive on the streets of India.  Sounds heartbreaking, but intriguing.



7.  The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA by Brenda Woods—Another middle grade novel, this one revolves around a young boy who's saved from a car accident by a black WWII veteran.  As a thank you, the boy gets his rescuer a job at his dad's auto shop.  This is the Jim Crow South, however, so there's tension, even as the boy discovers just how much of a hero the vet really is.


8.  Where Dandelions Bloom by Tara Johnson (available July 1, 2019)—I'm fascinated by true stories of women who disguised themselves as men in order to serve in the Civil War.  This novel is about a young woman looking for a way to escape an abusive home and finding herself—and true love—on the battlefield.


9.  The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Johns (available May 28, 2019)—Another dual-timeline novel (my favorite!), this one concerns a Japanese woman who is cast out when her traditional family discovers that she's pregnant with the child of an American sailor.  


10.  Apple of My Eye by Claire Allan—This psychological thriller about a pregnant woman who's receiving threatening notes that call into question her husband's loyalty and her own ability to be a mother, sounds intriguing.

So, there you have it, ten of the most recent additions to my TBR mountain chain.  What do you think of my selections?  Have you read any of these?  What titles have you added to your TBR list lately?  I'm truly interested to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Plotless Historical Novel a Long, Meandering Slog

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When the Givens Family immigrates from Ireland to the United States in 1819, it's to escape poverty, not embrace it.  In doing so, however, they've lost everything.  With their mother dead and their father gone for good, the three Givens teenagers are left to fend for themselves.  James vows to make a decent life for himself with his thriving candle-making business.  Flighty Erasmus, who seems destined for a different sort of existence, finally finds his calling as an itinerant preacher.  Olivia, who refuses to embrace social mores, is likely headed straight for spinsterhood.  While the three of them head in their separate directions, they will all become caught up in the crises and chaos of a booming Cincinnati. 

None of the Givens' could have foreseen their involvement in the most divisive and dangerous cause of all—slavery.  While James refuses to risk his position in society by embracing abolition, his siblings become actively engaged in helping slaves escape their cruel masters.  The unforeseen consequences of their perilous work will have an especially heavy impact on Olivia.  None of the Givens', in fact, will escape unscathed as the situation with a certain slave family escalates and finally explodes.

It's tough to describe the plot of The Eulogist, a historical novel by Terry Gamble, because, really, it doesn't have one.  The tale is episodic instead of focused, making for a read that is slow, meandering, and dull.  It's not uninteresting; it's just not very exciting.  The characters are likable, the setting is atmospheric, and Gamble's prose is capable.  Overall, though, The Eulogist feels like a long, anticlimactic slog.  If I hadn't committing to read the novel for this blog tour, I likely wouldn't have gotten beyond its second chapter.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, and sexual innuendo/content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Eulogist from the generous folks at HarperCollins via those at TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

--

Want more opinions on The Eulogist?  Follow along on the book's blog tour by clicking the links below:

Tour Stops

Tuesday, January 22nd: Into the Hall of Books
Wednesday, January 23rd: Instagram: @dropandgivemenerdy
Friday, January 25th: Instagram: @giuliland
Monday, January 28th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Tuesday, January 29th: Instagram: @lifebetweenwords
Thursday, January 31st: Peppermint PhD
Friday, February 1st: Broken Teepee
Monday, February 4th: Instagram: @readvoraciously
Tuesday, February 5th: Instagram: @wellreadmama
Wednesday, February 6th: What Is That Book About

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Scone Cold Killer a Fun Start to Southern Cozy Mystery Series

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Little Boggy Creek, Florida, is a far cry from New York City, but it may be just what Gia Morelli needs.  In the wake of her ex-husband's betrayal—not only of his clients, but also of their marriage—she's looking for a place to start over, a refuge where she can lick her wounds and start rebuilding her shattered life.  Opening the All-Day Breakfast Café is a brave first step.  Despite a few hiccups, things are going well for Gia—until she discovers a dead body in the dumpster behind the restaurant.  She recognizes the corpse's manicured hands and a distinctive ring.  It's her ex-husband, Bradley Remington, but what is he doing in Florida?  And how did he end up dead in a dumpster?

Suspicion for the murder naturally falls on Gia.  Despite his gentle questioning, even handsome Detective Hunter "Hunt" Quinn seems to think she had something to do with Bradley's death.  Although she's warned against sticking her nose into police business, Gia knows the only way to clear her name is to find the real killer.  Can she get to the bottom of the puzzling case?  Or will Gia's dead body be the next one stuffed into a dumpster?

I'm not a huge fan of cozy mysteries, but occasionally I stumble across a series that I enjoy.  Katherine over at I Wish I Lived in a Library mentioned Lena Gregory, so I decided to give her All-Day Breakfast Café books a whirl.  Scone Cold Killer, the first installment, introduces Gia and her cozy new hometown of Boggy Creek.  Although the townsfolk are not as colorful as I would have liked, there are some fun and abrasive personalities who should make for entertaining reading throughout the series.  Mystery-wise, the plot is pretty straightforward.  Nothing too surprising or original.  As in most cozies, there's a lot of improbable action going on in Scone Cold Killer, but the willing suspension of disbelief is a requirement going into any book in this genre, so that didn't bother me.  Much.  All in all, I enjoyed this light, fun read.  It's quick, entertaining, and written well enough that I want to continue reading about Gia's adventures.  I've already read the second installment, checked the third out of the library, and bought the first book in Gregory's Bay Island Psychic series, if that tells you anything!

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other books in the All-Day Breakfast Café series [Murder Made to Order and A Cold Brew Killing] by Lena Gregory as well as of cozy mysteries by Ellie Alexander)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Scone Cold Killer from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Absorbing Appalachian Mystery An Intriguing Start to New Series

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Kinship, Ohio, is a hardscrabble Appalachian town where coal is king.  Despite a recent collapse that killed a number of people, the Bronwyn mine is still functioning under the same unsafe conditions.  Talk of unionizing simmers below Kinship's surface, despite the mine owner's efforts to quash it with Pinkerton muscle.  Trying to keep the peace is Daniel Ross, the town's much-respected sheriff.  When Daniel dies while transporting a prisoner, dissolving his careful control of Kindred, it's like putting a match to a tinderbox.  It's only a matter of time before the place erupts in violence with Pinkertons and unionizers battling for supremacy. 

Until a replacement sheriff can be hired, Daniel's widow—26-year-old Lily Ross—is made his official stand-in.  Her appointment may be a joke to everyone else, but Lily refuses to be anyone's puppet.  Her first act as sheriff is to open an investigation into her husband's death, the details of which have never added up to her.  Another case lands in her lap when Marvena Whitcomb, a moonshiner and secret union organizer, comes to Lily, pleading for help to find her missing teen daughter.  From what Marvena says, it's obvious she and Daniel knew each other well, even cared for one another.  Why has Lily never heard of the woman?  The more the two widows interact, the more clear it becomes—Daniel kept secrets from both of them.  What was he hiding?  Did he know something that got him killed?  Lily won't stop until she finds out the truth, no matter how unsavory it might be.

Inspired by Maude Collins, Ohio's first female sheriff, The Widows is an intriguing, atmospheric tale by Jess Montgomery.  Under the author's assured hand, Kinship comes alive as a place brimming with a unique landscape, history, culture, and people.  Its two heroines—each from a very different walk of life—are formidable women, but also compassionate and brave.  Plotwise, The Widows remains compelling and engrossing throughout.  I thoroughly enjoyed this absorbing novel, the first in a planned series.  I'm already waiting anxiously for the next installment.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of novels by Julia Keller and Jennifer Haigh)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, sexual innuendo, and references to prostitution

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Widows from the generous folks at St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Quirky and Compelling, Jackson's Novels Are Always Winners in My Book

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Despite my tendency to overwrite and overshare when I craft them, I generally like to write my own plot summaries for the books I review.  In some instances, however, the professional version is done so well that I don't even bother.  Case in point: Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson.  This says everything you need to know about the novel in one succinct, but intriguing paragraph:


Nonny Frett understands the meaning of the phrase "in

between a rock and a hard place" better than any woman
alive. She's got two mothers, "one deaf-blind and the
other four baby steps from flat crazy." She's got two
men: a husband who's easing out the back door; and a
best friend, who's laying siege to her heart in her front
yard. And she has two families: the Fretts, who stole her
and raised her right; and the Crabtrees, who won't forget
how they were done wrong. Now, in Between,
Georgia, a feud that began the night Nonny was born
is escalating and threatening to expose family secrets.
Ironically, it might be just what the town needs...if only

Nonny weren't stuck in between. 

I've enjoyed every book I've read by Jackson and Between, Georgia is no exception.  It tells a poignant story, but one that's filled with humor, heart, and hope.  Like Jackson's other novels, this one is filled with unique, interesting characters doing unique, interesting things in a quirky, atmospheric Southern town.  The plot skips along at a steady pace, making Between, Georgia a hard-to-put down saga.  In traditional Jackson style, this story hits on themes like identity, tradition vs. new ideas, and the true meaning of home and family.  Although this one isn't my favorite of Jackson's (that would be The Almost Sisters), I really enjoyed it.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other books by Joshilyn Jackson, including Someone Else's Love Story; A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty; and The Almost Sisters.  Although sassier, Jackson's novels also remind me of those by Karen White and Anne Rivers Siddons)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, violence, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Between, Georgia with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Spotlight On: The Accidental Further Adventures of the 100-Year-Old Man by Jonas Jonasson

I wasn't able to get The Accidental Further Adventures of the 100-Year-Old Man by Jonas Jonasson read and reviewed in time for my stop on its blog tour, so you're getting a spotlight today instead.

I haven't read anything by Jonasson, but his books certainly sound delightful.  Have you read them?  What did you think?

The hysterical, clever, and unforgettable sequel to Jonas Jonasson’s international bestseller The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.

He's back. Even older. Even funnier.

It all begins with a hot air balloon trip and three bottles of champagne. Allan and Julius are ready for some spectacular views, but they’re not expecting to land in the sea and be rescued by a North Korean ship, and they could never have imagined that the captain of the ship would be harboring a suitcase full of contraband uranium, on a nuclear weapons mission for Kim Jong-un. Yikes!

Soon Allan and Julius are at the center of a complex diplomatic crisis involving world figures from the Swedish foreign minister to Angela Merkel and President Trump. Needless to say, things are about to get very, very complicated.

Another hilarious, witty, and entertaining novel from bestselling author Jonas Jonasson that will have readers howling out-loud at the escapades and misfortunes of its beloved hundred-year-old hero Allan Karlsson and his irresistible sidekick Julius.

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Want to see what other bloggers/Instagrammers thought of The Accidental Further Adventures of the 100-Year-Old Man?  Follow along on the book's blog tour by clicking on the links below:

Instagram Features

Tuesday, January 15th: Instagram: @wellreadmama
Tuesday, January 15th: Instagram: @basicbsguide
Wednesday, January 16th: Instagram: @readingbetweenthe__wines
Thursday, January 17th: Instagram: @girlwithnoselfie
Friday, January 18th: Instagram: @megabunnyreads
Saturday, January 19th: Instagram: @wherethereadergrows
Sunday, January 20th: Instagram: @sjwonderlandz
Monday, January 21st: Instagram: @createexploreread

Review Stops

Tuesday, January 15th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, January 16th: Instagram: @rendezvous_with_reading
Thursday, January 17th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog
Friday, January 18th: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Monday, January 21st: Dwell in Possibility
Tuesday, January 22nd: Instagram: @mrsmurphyreads
Tuesday, January 22nd: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Wednesday, January 23rd: What Is That Book About
Thursday, January 24th: 5 Minutes For Books
Monday, January 28th: Laura’s Reviews
Tuesday, January 29th: Based on a True Story
Wednesday, January 30th: Helen’s Book Blog
Thursday, January 31st: Man of La Book
Monday, February 4th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Tuesday, February 5th: Instagram: @theunreadshelf
Wednesday, February 6th: Write – Read – Life
Thursday, February 7th: Stacy’s Books
Friday, February 8th: Read Till Dawn
Friday, February 8th: Lit and Life
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