• 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.

    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 our family and I avoid because they have content warnings. We know the triggers and take the warnings seriously.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    So, I don’t know how this changes unless more readers speak up. 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.

     

  • Book Reviews,  Writing

    Lake Season: a book review

    Lake essentials: Chacos sandals, a blanket, coffee & a good book

    𝑨 𝒍𝒐𝒔𝒕 𝒍𝒆𝒕𝒕𝒆𝒓, 𝒂 𝒏𝒆𝒘 𝒍𝒐𝒗𝒆, 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒐𝒍𝒅 𝒔𝒆𝒄𝒓𝒆𝒕𝒔 𝒃𝒆𝒄𝒌𝒐𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒔𝒖𝒎𝒎𝒆𝒓 𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑩𝒍𝒖𝒆𝒃𝒆𝒍𝒍 𝑰𝒏𝒏.

    Synopsis: In a new series by Denise Hunter, when their parents die in a tragic accident, Molly Bennett and her siblings pull together to fulfill their parents’ dream: turning their historic Bluebell, North Carolina home back into an inn. The situation would just be temporary—three years at the most—then they would sell the inn and Molly could get back to chasing her own dreams.

    Adam Bradford (aka bestselling author Nathanial Grey) is a reclusive novelist with a bad case of writer’s block. Desperate for inspiration as his deadline approaches, he travels to the setting of his next book, a North Carolina lake town. There he immediately meets his muse, a young innkeeper who fancies herself in love with his alter ego.

    Molly and Adam strike up an instant friendship. When Molly finds a long-lost letter in the walls of her inn she embarks on a mission with Adam to find the star-crossed lovers and bring them the closure they deserve. But Adam has secrets of his own. Past and present collide as truths are revealed, and Molly and Adam will have to decide if love is worth trusting.

    Review: I paused for a moment before accepting this review opportunity. I am typically not a big romance reader but there were enough other moving parts to intrigue me. By the second chapter, I was hooked because it’s not your typical romance.

    Complex grief – when there is more than one loss at the same time – is incredibly difficult in real life and the author was able to capture and write about it perfectly. I appreciated that the siblings were actually siblings – they had issues, differences in grief, and different lives yet they still managed to work together in a realistic way.

    This is the second book this year that I have read where an old house a previous post office. I don’t know why but I love this premise. Maybe because mail is falling by the wayside in favor of emails or perhaps it’s because of the art of letter writing is becoming a thing of the past.

    Without giving any spoilers, I liked the relationship between Molly and Adam much better than I expected to. Add that to the fact that Adam is a writer and you had me hooked – I enjoy a good plot involving writers written by a writer.

    Last but not least, the characters were surprisingly well-developed for the first book in a series – another typical drawback for me with a series.

    This was a pleasant book to read on a rainy afternoon and I’m looking forward to loaning out this book while waiting for the second book. If you’ve read my reviews in the past, a big sticking point for me is who I can recommend a book to and for this book – the answer is anyone who enjoys romance with complex characters and multiple storylines that don’t always revolve around romance.

    Thanks to TLC Book Tours and TNZ Fiction for a free copy of this book in exchange for promotion and my honest review.

    Purchase Links

    Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

    Connect with Denise

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

  • Book Reviews,  Writing

    Book Review: Gold Digger – The Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    I am thrilled to be featuring this book in partnership with @tlcbooktours 

    𝐅𝐮𝐧 𝐟𝐚𝐜𝐭: there used to be a fancy restaurant named “Baby Doe’s” that looked like a real mine, perched above downtown Dallas. I grew up fascinated by Baby Doe so I thoroughly enjoyed this work of historical fiction featuring the gritty heroine, Lizzy “Baby Doe” Tabor.

    𝐒𝐲𝐧𝐨𝐩𝐬𝐢𝐬: 1878, Colorado. When Lizzie Doe’s family loses everything in a fire, the twenty-year-old is forced to marry and go west to prospect a gold mine in Colorado, in hopes of sending money home to her parents. Miners, unaccustomed to such delicate beauty, nickname her Baby Doe, after a newborn deer.

    But Baby Doe proves herself tougher than they imagined when she finds herself abandoned, pregnant and running the mine alone. Her pluck gains the admiration of Silver King Horace Tabor, married and twice her age, and running for U.S. Senator. In Tabor, Baby Doe finds devotion and true passion. When scandal and economic ruin threatens Tabor’s life, Baby Doe must make a painful choice. Baby Doe Tabor was a real-life, deeply complex heroine, rising and falling and rising again with beguiling grit and stubborn spirit.

    𝐑𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰: Historical fiction can be be hit or miss for me because some of the same stories are told over and over. That’s not the case with 𝑮𝒐𝒍𝒅 𝑫𝒊𝒈𝒈𝒆𝒓. Perfectly capturing the grit of the mining west and the larger than life characters, I was drawn in immediately and finished the book in an afternoon.

    A strong female lead character written in a way that highlights both her imperfections as well as her strengths – without making the reader dislike the character isn’t easy to do. Rebecca Rosenberg was able to accomplish this and I finished the book liking Baby Doe even more than I did when I started reading.

    The appearance of other historical figures like Doc Holliday made the book even more enjoyable and lent credibility to the story.

    The writing was excellent and the characters were well developed and realistic. Historical novels about the west in the late 1800’s can be tough to read at times because life was hard and circumstances were often bleak. This book was no exception but the strong characters balanced out the desperation often felt in plots from this time period.

    My one drawback was that I wished the story was drawn out a bit more. This novel was fast-paced for historical fiction but this was more of a personal preference than anything else.

    I’m looking forward to reading more from this author. Thank you to TLC Book Tours, the author Rebecca Rosenberg, and Lion Heart Publishing for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion and feature.

    To enter to win this fantastic Gold Digger giveaway please visit this link. Good luck!

  • 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!

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