• Book Reviews

    Last Day: Blog Tour

    Today is my stop on the Last Day blog tour! Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are unbiased and my own.

    SYNOPSIS: From celebrated New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice comes a riveting story of a seaside community shaken by a violent crime and a tragic loss.

    Years ago, Beth Lathrop and her sister Kate suffered what they thought would be the worst tragedy of their lives the night both the famous painting Moonlight and their mother were taken. The detective assigned to the case, Conor Reid, swore to protect the sisters from then on.

    Beth moved on, throwing herself fully into the art world, running the family gallery, and raising a beautiful daughter with her husband Pete. Kate, instead, retreated into herself and took to the skies as a pilot, always on the run. When Beth is found strangled in her home, and Moonlight goes missing again, Detective Reid can’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu.

    Reid immediately suspects Beth’s husband, whose affair is a poorly kept secret. He has an airtight alibi—but he also has a motive, and the evidence seems to point to him. Kate and Reid, along with the sisters’ closest childhood friends, struggle to make sense of Beth’s death, but they only find more questions: Who else would have wanted Beth dead? What’s the significance of Moonlight?

    Twenty years ago, Reid vowed to protect Beth and Kate—and he’s failed. Now solving the case is turning into an obsession . . .

    My thoughts:

    The opening of this book was captivating. It began on Beth Lathrop’s last day. While the rest of the people in her life were starting a new day, she was already dead. Beth was also six months pregnant which added yet another layer of complexity to an already tragic situation when she was found by her sister, Kate.

    My mind instantly went to – it’s always the husband – but this family, they are not strangers to tragedy and it became obvious that more was amiss when the painting stolen during the first crime years before, had once again gone missing.

    This book was a page-turner as it moved between two tragic plot lines. I really liked that the author used the same detective; it made the story more cohesive for me. And while the easy out would have been the husband, Beth had her own secrets that she kept from her sister which kept me second guessing everything.

    I enjoyed the writing and character development. And even though the story was a devastating one, the author kept the plot moving without getting stuck in the tragedies of the characters’ lives – had this not been the case, I probably would have struggled more with violence and loss of life.

    I didn’t guess the ending, which I actually prefer with a plot like this one. This was my first book by Luanne Rice and will definitely not be my last. This was a compelling book which will make the reader reflect on family relationships, the bonds of siblings, and secrets kept.

    Purchase Links:

    Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

    About The Author:

    Luanne Rice is the New York Times bestselling author of 34 novels, which have been translated into 24 languages. The author of Last Day, Dream Country, Beach Girls, Pretend She’s Here and others, Rice often writes about love, family, nature, and the sea. She received the 2014 Connecticut Governor’s Arts Award for excellence and lifetime achievement in the Literary Arts category.

    Several of Rice’s novels have been adapted for television, including Crazy in Love for TNT, Blue Moon for CBS, Follow the Stars Home and Silver Bells for the Hallmark Hall of Fame, and Beach Girls for Lifetime. Rice’s four cats are her muses, and she speaks their language. She lives in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

     

     

     

  • Book Reviews

    The Last Sister: Blog Tour

    Welcome to my stop on The Last Sister blog tour! This book is a page-turner and I’m excited to be sharing it with you today. Many thanks to Over The River PR and Montlake for a gifted copy to read and their generous offer of a copy to give away to one lucky reader… look for the giveaway information at the end of this post.

    Synopsis:

    Twenty years ago, Emily Mills’ father was murdered, and she found his body hanging in the backyard. Her younger sister, Madison, claims she was asleep in her room. Her older sister, Tara, claims she was out with friends. The tragedy drove their mother to suicide and Tara to leave town forever. The killer was caught. The case closed.

    Ever since, Emily and Madison have tried to forget what happened that night – until an eerily similar murder brings it all back. It also brings FBI special agent Zander Wells to the Oregon logging town. As eager as he is to solve the brutal double slaying, he is just as intrigued with the mystery of Emily’s and her sisters’ past.

    When more blood is shed, Zander suspects there’s a secret buried in this town that no one wants unearthed. Is it something Emily and Madison don’t know? Or aren’t telling? And Tara? Maybe Emily can’t bear to find her. Because when Tara disappeared, she took a secret of her own with her.

    My thoughts:

    The Last Sister is the first book in a new romantic suspense/mystery series by Kendra Elliot. If you read her Callahan & McLane series, you will see a few familiar faces but you won’t be lost reading this first book as a stand alone.

    I love books set in small towns where you can feel the atmosphere in the words. And just like large towns, small towns have their fair share of secrets too. So when a double-murder draws in Emily, she is forced to face her own past, a town full of dark secrets, and a link that forces old wounds open in order to solve the case.

    The past and present plot threads were masterfully woven together and the characters were well developed and engaging. The writing is well done and I can easily see room for the next book in the series – which isn’t always evident. This book will leave you wanting more.

    While this is classified as romantic suspense, there was a small romantic undercurrent but no full blown romantic plot line. I appreciated this because I personally would have found that distracting with the secrets, murders, and racial complexities at the forefront of the story.

    The drawbacks: this book is dark at times. If suicide, violence, murder, and/or dark family secrets bother you, these are all things to be aware of going into this book. With that being said, nothing was gratuitous or over-done for shock value.

    I couldn’t put this book down and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

    The Last Sister is available now at your favorite bookseller!

    Or for a chance to win your own copy, please visit my Instagram to enter the giveaway. Sorry, US entrants only. Good luck!

    About the author:

    Kendra Elliot has landed on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list
    multiple times and is the award-winning author of the Bone Secrets
    and Callahan & McLane series, as well as the Mercy Kilpatrick
    novels. Kendra is a three-time winner of the Daphne du Maurier
    Award, an International Thriller Writers Award finalist, and an RT
    Award finalist. She has always been a voracious reader, cutting her
    teeth on classic female heroines such as Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden,
    and Laura Ingalls. She was born, raised, and still lives in the rainy
    Pacific Northwest with her family, but she looks forward to the day
    she can live in flip-flops. Visit her here to learn more about her and her work.

  • 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.

  • Book Reviews,  Bookish,  mental health,  Writing

    Wednesday Words: trigger warnings

    Can we all take a moment to agree that saying “I am triggered” as a joke is actually not something that is funny?

    We don’t do this with physical illness and if you do well…. that’s not funny either.

    Because this is something I am intimately familiar with, let me explain what it’s like as someone who can be triggered; as well as a caregiver of someone of the like.

    You are going about your day. Maybe you are in Anthropologie, your favorite store. Or maybe you’re in the library. 

    A person walks past and you catch a whiff of their cologne that most love.

    You break out into a cold sweat. Tunnel vision sets in and the exits disappear. You are transported back to “that place” where the worst thing happened to you. Your heart is racing and you can’t breathe. 

    Now you’re making a self-perceived spectacle of yourself in one of your favorite stores or places. 

    If you are lucky you have someone with you who can remind you to breathe. They see what is happening. There’s the five-finger trick where you have something associated with each finger that grounds you. You use your hands to feel the floor, the chair, the person you are with and you are slowly transported out of your worst nightmare and back to current reality.

    But you still feel like shit and the public embarrassment isn’t even part of that. A surge of adrenaline does incredible and also devastating things to your entire body. An occurrence like this can render one worthless for the rest of the day.

    But what happens when you are alone, reading a book at home that everyone has raved about – or even worse, a public place?

    The same thing.

    There are movies and TV shows my family and I avoid because they have content warnings. We know the triggers and take the warnings seriously. Some rated R movies are fine while others are not because the details for the rating are listed below the “R”.

    Ninth House is a wildly popular book that is shown all over Instagram. I saw it in countless top lists of 2019 – which is fine – but I never saw a single mention of a warning about the content that quite frankly, would have upset people who don’t even have PTSD. Instagram is huge so it is always possible I missed a mention of this but it’s not just this book.

    I don’t know why books don’t carry warnings. It would take up so little space to include: child r@pe, extreme hazing, violence against women including drugging and assault… you get the point. And all of these and a few more should have been included in a blurb for Ninth House. Not to mention, the author of Ninth House is a popular young adult author. She has made it clear that this book does not fit that genre but I have seen this very book in the young adult section at multiple bookstores.

    Back to ratings: it’s not that difficult. But that may mean that a group of people don’t buy a particular book. I would hope the publishing industry isn’t as calculating as this seems but one has to wonder when all other forms of media carry warnings.

    With a warning, some may skip the book entirely. However, I would argue that a simple trigger warning would allow a reader to chose to buy the book and then come back to it when they are in a good mental place. Everyone wins – the reader is respected and the author is read.

    The last thing I will mention is context. Because as a writer that is something to be considered. Does the graphic description do something to advance the plot? Is it integral to the character and their personality? Is it being used as a message to be shared? I will still argue that graphic content may not be necessary – we leave readers to their own imaginations all the time with far more innocent plot lines.

    I don’t know what the answer is and I don’t know how this changes unless more readers speak up. But until then, my reviews will include trigger warnings. Because I know from personal experience that a praised book can take me to a dark place fast and that is certainly not the point of reading and I never want to be responsible for transporting a fellow book lover back to their worst moment.

    The world is scary enough already.

  • 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. 

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