• ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Writing

    The Hollows: a book review

    Jess Montgomery showcases her skills as a storyteller in The Hollows: a powerful, big-hearted and exquisitely written follow-up to her highly acclaimed debut The Widows.

    Synopsis – Ohio, 1926: For many years, the railroad track in Moonvale Tunnel has been used as a shortcut through the Appalachian hills. When an elderly woman is killed walking along the tracks, the brakeman tells tales of seeing a ghostly female figure dressed all in white.

    Newly elected Sheriff Lily Ross is called on to the case to dispel the myths. With the help of her friends Marvena Whitcomb and Hildy Cooper, Lily follows the woman’s trail to The Hollows―a notorious asylum―and they begin to expose dark secrets long-hidden by time and the mountains.

    Review – Strong female characters are my favorite and weaving the history of Ohio’s first elected sheriff into the story showcases a piece of history many may not know. But with that comes the uphill battle of sexism against Sheriff Lily Ross that she and her friends handle quite well.

    The other piece of history is much more troubling and dark, the WKKK – the female counterpart of the KKK. With that comes the mystery of who killed Thea, race relations, the Underground Railroad, the treatment of the mentally ill in asylums, and more issues around women’s rights.

    The author expertly navigates these tough topics with both balance and depth. She is never pulled into using the language of the times in her own writing – a pet peeve of mine in historical fiction.

    The characters are well-written but I do recommend reading the first book, The Widows, first. This could be a stand alone but you will lose a lot of background which only makes the women in this book more interesting.

    Drawbacks: I found the first quarter of the book to be a bit slow. But once the book got going, I could not put it down. The only other issue is that some readers could find some of the secrets discovered to be disturbing.

    If you enjoyed The Woman of Troublesome Creek, This Tender Land, and of course The Widows, add The Hollows to your list ASAP. This book is available in stores now!

    Purchase Links

    Amazon Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

    About Jess Montgomery

    JESS MONTGOMERY is the Literary Life columnist for the Dayton Daily News and Executive Director of the renowned Antioch Writers’ Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Based on early chapters of The Widows, Jess was awarded an Ohio Arts Council individual artist’s grant for literary arts and the John E. Nance Writer-in-Residence at Thurber House in Columbus. She lives in her native state of Ohio.

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Minotaur Books for a free copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Writing

    The Heap: a book review

    As intellectually playful as the best of Thomas Pynchon and as sardonically warm as the best of Kurt Vonnegut, The Heap is both a hilarious send-up of life under late capitalism and a moving exploration of the peculiar loneliness of the early 21st century. A masterful and humane gem of a novel.” —Shaun Hamill, author of A Cosmology of Monsters

    You had me at Pynchon and Vonnegut. But this also left huge shoes to fill for a debut novel. I inhaled this book in a day so it’s safe to say, those shoes were a perfect fit.

    Synopsis:

    Standing nearly five hundred stories tall, Los Verticalés once bustled with life and excitement. Now this marvel of modern architecture and nontraditional urban planning has collapsed into a pile of rubble known as the Heap. In exchange for digging gear, a rehabilitated bicycle, and a small living stipend, a vast community of Dig Hands removes debris, trash, and bodies from the building’s mountainous remains, which span twenty acres of unincorporated desert land.

    Orville Anders burrows into the bowels of the Heap to find his brother Bernard, the beloved radio DJ of Los Verticalés, who is alive and miraculously broadcasting somewhere under the massive rubble. For months, Orville has lived in a sea of campers that surrounds the Heap, working tirelessly to free Bernard—the only known survivor of the imploded city—whom he speaks to every evening, calling into his radio show.

    The brothers’ conversations are a ratings bonanza, and the station’s parent company, Sundial Media, wants to boost its profits by having Orville slyly drop brand names into his nightly talks with Bernard. When Orville refuses, his access to Bernard is suddenly cut off, but strangely, he continues to hear his own voice over the airwaves, casually shilling products as “he” converses with Bernard.

    What follows is an imaginative and darkly hilarious story of conspiracy, revenge, and the strange life and death of Los Verticalés that both captures the wonderful weirdness of community and the bonds that tie us together.

    Review:

    A smartly written and original dysptopian novel for adults is not an easy book to find. Because we are adults, we have already sussed out every worst case scenario.

    Or at least I have because I worry about everything. But one thing I did not have to worry about in this book was the trope of hurting children found in so many dystopian plots.

    However, I now have something new to worry about because I never imagined living in a 500 story condominium-type building that would collapse. Where, not even a class system of outer units (with a view) and inner units (no view) could prevent the ultimate collapse of this 500 story society.

    Or that it would be the middle class – the Dig Hands – that literally pulled the upper class out of a heap of trash.

    The plot was sharp, the characters darkly witty, and each time I thought the author would take the easy allegorical way out, he leaned on satire instead; like The Making of The Mole People newsletter. This was published, prior to the collapse, when two much hated time zones were created to cut down on hallway and elevator traffic.

    We all made it clear that we expected a reverse of the policy as quickly as possible. Instead, Mitner doubled down. He began to isolate groups of inner units throughout the Vert, reversing some delays, adding to others. Soon, the outer units – there were fewer of them than the inner units – all ran on “true time” while an inner unit might be in any number of different time zones. The result was not a population divided in half; rather, Mitner, whether he meant to or not, had developed and entirely unique twenty-four-hour culture.

    I think that’s actually called Facebook.

    But eventually, like us, the characters in the book liked these time changes and the 24 hour access to an impersonal life, right outside their doors.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the glimpses into a prior life – provided by residents called “displaced travelers” who were away when the building collapsed. I would love to see a second book just on life prior to the collapse. And the survival, connection and disconnection between the two brothers would make a fantastic follow-up as well.

    Or perhaps we are already all too familiar with that disconnected life – we just don’t live in a 500 story building with residents divided by the haves – the 1% – and the have nots.

    Either way, it was fascinating to watch a society on the brink.

    In addition to the societal and economic paralells, there were little points for the reader to pick up on, the veiled Tower of Babel reference in particular, that truly made this book unique. And please do not forget about the snakes: can they go backwards?

    Can they?

    My few issues: the author built an incredible world in a relatively low number of pages. I wished there had been a bit more detail and a few more characters developed. However, this did not detract from the overall experience and is my personal opinion.

    If you are a fan of Kurt Vonnegut and/or Thomas Pynchon, then this book is for you. If you enjoy satire and dark humor, you will also enjoy this book. And if you are up for a truly unique dystopian book then give this gem of a book a go.

    This was a fantastic debut novel and I cannot wait to read more from Sean Adams. This book is available in stores today!

    Thank you to the publisher, William Morrow, and TLC Book tours for providing me a copy of this book to promote. This review is made up of purely my own thoughts, observations, and opinions. 

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Recommendations,  Writing

    Zapata: a book review

    Synopsis: When engineer Avery McAndrews is offered a last-minute assignment to the rough and tumble border town of Zapata, Texas, she doesn’t think twice. Used to pushing past stereotypes, she’s sure this project will earn the long-awaited promotion. 

    Instead, she’s thrown in the crossfire between warring drug cartels and soon discovers that her captor, Javier Ramos, is more than just a power hungry drug lord. He’s crazy. 

    As lead attorney for the cartel, it’s Alejandro DeLeon’s job to manage Javier. But this time, Javier’s cruelty reaches epic proportions, and Alejandro finds himself wanting to risk everything to save Avery.

    Running for their lives with Mexico’s underworld at their heels, Avery and Alejandro discover unintended and intensifying emotions, feelings neither sought and neither seem prepared to control… 

    Review: Drug cartels, drug lords, a kidnapping, and a romance – that’s I where expected the story to get weird. But it never did. Avery is tough and there was never an unlikely scene created by her making a silly decision just so he could rescue her.

    Living in Texas, I was intrigued by this book but also curious about how accurate it would be. The short answer: the author did her research and nailed it. The setting and characters were believable, as well as their relationships.

    This was a quick and immersive read. I enjoyed watching Alejandro and Avery’s relationship unfold in a realistic manner.

    I am a bit of an El Chapo, Pablo Escobar, Narcos, etc junkie and this book filled the paperback void I have had. There was plenty of action but none of it was too disturbing or over the top – just real.

    I asked on Instagram if you’ve ever wanted to make up a new genre. This book is one of those and I would classify it as “realistic romance.” If that’s already a thing, please let me know because I would love to read more books where kisses are not shared while bullets are flying and bombs are exploding.

    The one thing I wished more for was more character development. But apparently this book is the first in a series (yay!) so I understand why an author would hold back and some details.

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review and promotion!

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews

    The Dead Girls Club: Blog Tour

    Red Lady, Red Lady, show us your face…

    In 1991, Heather Cole and her friends were members of the Dead Girls Club. Obsessed with the macabre, the girls exchanged stories about serial killers and imaginary monsters, like the Red Lady, the spirit of a vengeful witch killed centuries before. Heather knew the stories were just that, until her best friend Becca began insisting the Red Lady was real–and she could prove it.

    That belief got Becca killed.

    It’s been nearly thirty years, but Heather has never told anyone what really happened that night–that Becca was right and the Red Lady was real. She’s done her best to put that fateful summer, Becca, and the Red Lady, behind her. Until a familiar necklace arrives in the mail, a necklace Heather hasn’t seen since the night Becca died.

    The night Heather killed her.

    Now, someone else knows what she did…and they’re determined to make Heather pay.

    Welcome to my stop on The Dead Girls blog tour!

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was the perfect mix of creepy, scary, and with a supernatural twist – all without being gory or check all your doors three times scary.

    It felt like a trip down memory lane – slumber parties with friends full of scary stories that we tried to make each other believe were real. Fortunately for us, none of the stories came true and no one ended up dead.

    Told in a shifting timeline, it was an interesting way to unfold the story and the characters. I read this book in a day because I had to know what was next and what really happened to Becca.

    The writing was done well. The author wrote a suspenseful story without trying to add too many twists or leaving the reader confused with extra characters. The four main characters were as well developed as you would expect for a mystery. The only possible drawback would be the campy feel of the book. But if you knew that going into the story, it probably won’t be that big of an issue.

    All in all, this was a well-written thriller that was fun to read on a dreary fall afternoon.

    This book by Damien Angelica Walters is for sale on 12/10/19. Look for it in your local bookstores then!

    Thank you to Crooked Lane Books for a free advance readers copy in exchange for my honest opinion. 

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews

    The Painted Castle: a blog tour & review

     

    Synopsis:

    A lost painting of Queen Victoria. A library bricked off from the world. Three women, separated by time, whose lives are irrevocably changed.

    When art historian Keira Foley is hired to authenticate a painting at a centuries-old East Suffolk manor, she hopes this is just the thing to get her career and life back on track. But from the time she arrives at Parham Hill Estate and begins working alongside rumored art thief Emory Scott, she’s left with far more questions than answers. Could this lost painting of Queen Victoria be a duplicate of the original Winterhalter masterpiece, and if so, who is the artist?

    As Keira begins to unravel the mystery behind the portrait of the queen, two women emerge from the estate’s forgotten past. In Victorian England, talented sketch artist Elizabeth Meade is engaged to Viscount Huxley, then owner of Parham Hill. While there, master portrait artist Franz Winterhalter takes her under his wing, but Elizabeth’s real motive for being at Parham Hill has nothing to do with art. She’s determined to avenge her father’s brutal murder—even if it means feigning an engagement to the very man she believes committed the crime.

    A century later, Amelia Woods—a WWII widow who has turned Parham Hill Estate and its beloved library into a boarding school for refugee children—receives military orders to house a troop of American pilots. She is determined that the children in her care remain untouched by the war, but it’s proving difficult with officers taking up every square inch of their world… and one in particular vying for a space in her long shut up heart.

    Set in three time periods—the rapid change of Victorian England, the peak of England’s home front tensions at the end of World War II, and modern day—The Painted Castle unfolds a story of heartache and hope and unlocks secrets lost for generations, just waiting to be found.

    The Painted Castle is a sweet romance, the third in the Lost Castle series. It can be read as a stand-alone but is better if read with The Lost Castle and Castle on the Rise.

    My Thoughts:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, the character development, and the scenery descriptions. I have not read the other two books in the series but it didn’t hurt my experience reading The Painted Castle. I think that says a lot about an author’s writing when a book in a series can stand alone.

    I loved that the story spanned centuries. Time-shifting stories are some of my favorites. And three heroines to root for? This added an extra layer of engagement for me. It’s not often that you are captivated by three strong female characters written so well.

    I read this book in one sitting and the other two books are already ordered and on their way. I can’t wait to read more by this talented author, Kristy Cambron.

    Purchase at your local bookstore or visit one of these online stores!

    Thomas Nelson | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

    Connect with Kristy

    Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

    Thanks to TLC Book Tours, Thomas Nelson, and Kristy Cambron for a copy of this beautiful book in exchange for my honest opinion.

     

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