Book Club Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

Kim Michele Richardson spins an emotional tale about the book women of Appalachia adding an interesting twist.

Cussy Mary is a “Kentucky Blue,” born from a family whose skin is literally blue. Already Book-Woman-Troublesome-Creek-Kim-Michele-Richardsonstruggling in poor Appalachia in the 1930s, being colored is just another hurdle Cussy has to get around. Called Bluet by the majority of the population, she overcomes her stigma by becoming a Book Woman, one of the programs set up to help the poor area by providing books to the local population. Bluet must content with racist town folk, murderous preachers, and the creatures of the Appalachian wilderness. Each day, she rises above this because providing books, knowledge to her patrons gives her a sense of purpose.

I’ll be honest; I was intrigued because I had never heard of the Blues. And honestly, I feel like my education has let me down. While it was only in small, confined areas, it happened to many other populations and not just Kentucky. There is, in fact, an answer and diagnosis in regards to this and I’ve never heard about it. I loved learning about the illness and it broke my heart that these people were treated so shamelessly. I will make sure my children know their story.

I really enjoyed learning about the life of those in Appalachia. My heart ached for each patron on her route. In fact, I had sympathy for everyone but her supervisors at the Center; they were horrible people. I was frustrated with their fights from the coal miners to the chicken stealers. I do think that these stories were too strung along. There were so many it was hard to truly get into these stories as deeply as was called for. There were times when they slowed down the narrative dragging the story along as slowly as the mule on the rocky path.

That being said, I like how the author didn’t play all her cards upfront. We didn’t meet each patron at the beginning adding freshness to the story and Cussy Mary’s route. But at points, these stories started to drown out the Book Woman’s story.

My biggest issue with the novel is the ending. It is thrown in at the last minute and is a huge twist in the tale. The author handles it in one chapter and an epilogue when it is a clear turning point for the story that needed more time to deal with and understand. A “poof” and its gone answer belittled the event and the story.

Overall, this would be a great book to discuss in your book club. Engaging and educational, your group will enjoy a trip to Appalachia.

 

Bonus Review: The Giver of Stars

The Giver of Stars is another book to read if you are interested in the Book Women.

In 1937, women in Baileyville, Kentucky go against the wishes of many a man when they take part in the federal program that pays them to make sure even the most remote people had a chance to read. Alice, Margery, and a few others ignore the gossip of the thtown that women shouldn’t be working at something like that because all the people need is the Bible. The women face many trails culminating in one of the women being accused of murder.

Jojo Moyes presents characters that you can really feel for. This one, in particular, shines lights on the “outcasts” and how they can make a difference if someone just let them. Your group can discuss each women’s story, how they intertwine and how you can see parallels to today.

I really enjoyed how Moyes branched out with this work. While she often works with historic fiction, this one took her out of her comfort zone and showed how well she can understand and empathize with an area outside her continent.

These two books are great stories of strong women in a world where they weren’t usually allowed to be.

 

Before He Vanished

I was taken in by the story presented in Before He Vanished

Halle has moved home after leaving Nashville and her mistakes behind. She settles in at the local newspaper and sees her chance to prove her mettle: it’s the 25 Anniversary of cover image_Before He Vanished by Debra Webb (Intrigue) (1)The Lost Boy. Andy was Halle’s best friend and she knew his mom would talk to her. This story was more just business–it was truly personal. When a man arrives in town looking just like Andy, Halle must figure out what’s really going in this town and if this mysterious strange is who she thinks he is.

This is taking place in a series of books about Winchester Tennessee. I haven’t read anything before them, but it was not needed as the author Debra Webb mentions past cases. She also makes sure the story stands on its own apart from the others. This makes it easy for new reads to join in this series.

I really like the story created here. There are several levels at work, and I enjoyed the twist (I almost didn’t see it coming; so that’s some good work by the author). This wasn’t just some love story with a mysterious background. it is the mystery that moves the story forward. The set up even made the whirlwind romance fitting for the story. I have to say this is one of the best Harlequin books I have ever read whether Intrigue or not.

The book is written simply, nothing overly complex. This works well for the intended target audience and keeps the story moving.

Overall, I mostly enjoyed Before He Vanished even if this isn’t usually the type of books I typically read.

 

Publication Date: March 7

I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

You Are Not Alone

Shay is about to learn that one simple lie can snowball into an absolute mess–especially when dealing with strangers.

Shay is in a rut. She just lost her job and her roommate is asking her to move out. These events are stressful enough without adding trauma. Shay is standing at the subway the 45046742._SY475_same moment a woman throws herself in front of the train. The dead woman haunts her and she begins to research the woman. Why did she jump? Shay comes across the woman’s friends who welcome her into the circle after Shay lies about how she knew the dead woman. It will take her some time to realize that the lie will put her life in danger.

This book moves quickly switching between the various characters. The authors include the history of each woman as well as where they are now in their life. This fleshes out each character making them complex and rounded. This also lets readers see how miscommunication and misinformation can cause major trouble.

The twist isn’t mind-altering but it is solid and makes you look at the characters a different light.

This book doesn’t quite reach the perfection of The Wife Between Us but it’s much better than An Anonymous Girl. You Are Not Alone keeps the taught tension the authors are so good at. This book takes women’s normal everyday issues and blowing them up into a story that is twisting, exciting and downright creepy.

 

Publication Date: March 3

I received an ARC from The Publisher; all opinions are my own.

 

The Vanishing Deep

The Vanishing Deep is a post-apocalyptic world covered by water. This adds new dimensions to typical dystopian fiction that I was intrigued with.

Tempest lives in the world after the Great Waves where actual land is scarce and people struggle to survive. Tempest makes her Notes by diving, finding any last treasure of the vanishing deepold world.  She saves each Note because she wants to revive her sister. That’s the magic of this world; the dead can be brought to life for 24 hours. But Tempest didn’t imagine to bring back her sister would be so dramatic and turn her world upside down.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book. It breaks from the stereotypical YA love triangle. Instead, The Vanishing Deep focuses on family. Each character has a motive and a detailed past. I never once wondered why a character said or did a thing; they were well fleshed out.

I also loved the world created. I wanted to see so much of it! The book takes us to a few places and my imagination loved the places and just wanted to peek in every nook and cranny. I never got bored reading the world’s history.

My four-star rating is because Astrid Scholte doesn’t go quite deep enough. While the basics of revival technical are explained, it’s never told truly how it works.  The author also doesn’t follow through with some of the connections she has made. Without spoiling the book, I will say as a reader, I was confused why certain characters weren’t affected earlier in the book when biological aspects changed as they did later. I needed a bit more about the world, about the revival connection, about the science of it.

The ending stretches and doesn’t add. The truth of death is hidden. No one truly suffers from a twist that makes little sense overall and changes nothing about the story already told.

The Vanishing Deep is an atypical dystopian story with a hint so science fiction. I truly enjoyed being submerged into this world even if I wasn’t completely satisfied.

 

Publication Date: March 3

I received an arc from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

A Beginning at the End

Mike Chen shows life after the end of the world in A Beginning at the End, a refreshing change from many dystopian stories.
Six years ago, a pandemic of the flu killed of the majority of the world’s population. People have already begun to rebuild even though they are still haunted by the past. Brought together by serendipity, a pop star in hiding, a single dad and a wedding planner find themselves entangled as their lives move forward. But it seems the virus may be making a comeback. How these three newfound friends handle a new global scare?
mediumI have always wanted to read a book set after people escape the apocalypse and start new lives. Most books end at some plateau where they can live without much danger. But what does that look like? I was excited to see that Mike Chen had thought ahead to that and gave us a world somewhat close to ours but also so very different. In fact, I was less interested in the back stories of the characters. While they were needed to truly understand the characters, I was focused on the survivability of now. I needed to see the characters let go of the past and look to the future.
Chen’s work is easy to read. It’s not fluff but is relatable to everyday readers in both writing structure and the characters. Readers will see something about themselves in the four main characters that will encourage them to find out how they handle the post-world and threat of further virus outbreaks. Chen creates wonderfully fulfilling characters even though most of the character’s relationships could be called way before the ending.
A Beginning at the End is a story about what happens after the apocalypse but doesn’t land on the troupes of zombies or supernatural aspects. This focuses on each human and their own choices. As a reader, now I want to read his other works!

 

Publication Date: January 21
I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Keeping Lucy

Keeping Lucy is a beautiful tale full of heartbreak and love.

Ginny gives birth to a daughter with Down’s Syndrome but since it is 1969 and those with disabilities are treated less than human. Ginny is unaware that her daughter is sent 41150385away to school until it is too late. Her husband and his powerful lawyer father brush it all aside saying it is what is best or everyone. Two years later, a series of articles exposes what is going on at the school: horrible conditions, suicides, and uncared for children. Ginny is compelled to go to the hospital and sees her daughter for the first time. Even though her husband disagrees, she takes Lucy for the weekend. What she found horrifies her and she knows she cannot take Lucy back to the school. Ginny finds herself at war with her husband and his family while trying to take care of her precious daughter.

T. Greenwood brings the same humanity to these characters that she did with Rust & Stardust. Ginny’s reactions to what was done to her child were mine; I felt her heartbreak and determination and cheered her own.
Others charters moved me as well. Ginny’s friend Marsha was amazing, and I was so glad Ginny had Marsha in her life. These characters were so real to me. Especially little Lucy who couldn’t walk because she was neglected in that “school.”
Because of this, the ending brought tears to my eyes. This journey had gutted me. Greenwood never held back giving the book heart and real emotion. The topic would have been too sugary without any depth in any other writer’s hands.

I will recommend this anyone who loves a good tale but isn’t afraid to see the ugly side of the world and feel despair. I know there will be those who this is too much for and there will be people who understand the struggle from experience. To them, I let them decide on their own.

Publication Date: August 6

 

Bonus Review

Engaging and griping, Rust and Stardust is the fictionalized story of Sally Horner, the inspiration for the infamous Lolita.

Sally Horner is caught trying to steal a cheap composition notebook in New Jersey in 1948. The “FBI agent” tells her she must go with him to face trail over her crime. So begins the years long capture of an eleven year old girl by a 50-sometyhing pervert. While the novel is the fictionalized version of these events, the majority of the story’s rust-stardust-book-covercomponents are factual.

I finished this book in two days because the book was engaging and the chapters short enough to spur the reader to want to know what happens next. The story follows the point of view of a variety of characters including Sally, her mother, and those she meets along the way.

As both a novel lover and a true crime buff, I loved Rust & Stardust; I was entranced on page 1.

Publication Date: August 7, 2018

I received ARCs from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Daughter of Moloka’i

molokai

I give Daughter of Moloka’i 3.5 stars. The novel starts with a strong story but loses its footing mid-book.

Ruth is given to a convent as a baby to help foster an adoption. But Ruth is like no other girl: she is hapa, half Japanese and half Hawaiian. If that wasn’t enough, her parents live in Moloka’i and have been forced to give up their daughter because they have leprosy. Ruth is luckily to grow up in a stable Japanese home, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed, Ruth must go to the internment camps and give up every part of her life she has fought for.

I vaguely understood this was a sequel to another, much older novel. That being said, the book sets itself up with a great story about Ruth, and I didn’t feel like I was lost without reading the first one. This intoxicating story gives readers a look into what it was like in the camps and was emotionally moving. But suddenly the book takes a sharp turn, and it becomes about the original novel. I suddenly found myself not understanding what was going on. I felt sorry for the character of Ruth because this book is used to finish that character’s tale from the first novel putting Ruth on the backburner. Since I had not read the original, I was not invested in Rachel, and I wanted to see more in-depth what Ruth’s family would do after the internment camps.

The book is lush and beautiful. I loved reading the descriptions of Hawaii and learning more about not just Hawaiian culture but also and Japanese. I am personally very fond of learning about the Oriental cultures and how those who follow those cultures adapt to life in America. So the first portion of the book was just my style.

Unfortunately, Alana Brennert lost Ruth along the way and lost my interest. I highly suggest you read the original novel Moloka’i first.

 

Publication Date February  19

I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Widows’ Revenge

I have not had the pleasure of reading the first book nor have I seen the ‘80s TV show. But the plot was so exciting that I went to see the movie. I have followed Lynda La Plante’s Tennison series and really enjoy it. So I knew enough to clearly see where the plot followed the original novel and what was added by the two screen writers (I didn’t like the movie. The story was twisted into a whole separate racial story that really had nothing to do with the widow’s taking the focus off the badass women). But I was really excited to receive an ARC of the sequel.

Unlike the movie, Harry is still alive and unaware that Dolly has cleaned him out. Dolly and the girls are hiding out in Rio while the heat dies down. But when Harry learns he has no money, he goes after his wife. The women flee back to England and make a deal with Harry. They will give him $60,000 and he leaves them alone. But nothing is that easy.

While I should have read the first one to truly understand what was going on, it didn’t help that the author doesn’t bother to catch us up. Good novelist knows how to make sure new readers know what’s going on while not boring the new readers. I didn’t understand why Bella kept yelling about who she used to be. Heck, I

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didn’t even know what time period it was set in.  I assuming with the lack of cell phone and the mention of cassette tapes, we were in the 80’s. What frustrates me so much is that she manages this issue well in the Tennison series. The time period was always clear and if I read them out of order I understood what was going on.

The biggest issue is that it is written like a TV show. It makes sense since that is what it is was originally but this isn’t a TV show;  it’s a novel. The pacing is horrible and jarring. In the most exciting parts, the writing jumps from character to character in flashes. It was hard to get emotional about the characters’ actions. The only character we really understand is Dolly and Shirley. They have side stories that do delve into their emotions. I was glad for these moments as I really wanted to sink my teeth into the revenge plot.

Honestly, I am not sure why there will be another Widows book as the Afterword states. The tale has been told and lives and deaths have been resolved.  If the firsts book is written the same way as this one, I’m not very interested in back tracking nor reading something past this. From now on, I’m just going to stick to the Tennison novels.

 

Publication Date:  February 19

I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

An Anonymous Girl

 

An Anonymous Girl is a decent addition to the shock drama genre of today.

39863515Jess is barely making it in New York working with an online make-up service company. When she hears about a study that takes a short period of time and makes money, she decides to sneak in. There she is presented with ethical questions and asked to bare her soul on a variety of topics. What Jess doesn’t realize as this will lead her into a world of obsession, lies, and murder.

The biggest problem is that this is a shallow comparison to Greer Hendrix and Sarah Pekkanen’s first work The Wife Between Us. That novel was well written and you felt for each narrator and their place in their life struggle. The twist was amazing and you thought about the book a whole different way prompting you to reread the novel.

An Anonymous Girl is the not like that. While it has twists and turns, none of them is Earth shattering. The reader has been waiting for those missing puzzle pieces and then everything easily clicks with little fanfare. While this not a usually an issue (this keeps the book going and enticing), I was expecting something like the first book only to be disappointed.

There are true criticisms of the book. The second narrator is unlikable and in writing a matter of fact and boring way.  I assume this was meant to show she was a character of details, but I didn’t care to read a chapter that she picked out a nightgown. I was tired of her lack of emotional content seeing that she was a person who made that her business. These passages were taciturn with 10 dollar words to make her sound intelligent (uncharacteristically she repeated her words a lot; if I read “engendered” again I was going to scream.). I realize it wasn’t really supposed to like the character but these passages didn’t make me want to read more; it was Jess’ view and story that kept me going.

I was also alarmed about the ongoing craziness. At one point, I wanted to put down the book because really? You are pushing too much. From a girl that becomes obsessed with her psychiatrist to a cheating husband to sister deaths to hidden cameras, I had a hard time suspending reality.

An Anonymous Girl sets up an intriguing premise but never really flesh out its ideas on ethics. I enjoyed the epilogue which the only time the story truly surprised me. But overall this is a typical thriller is a genre where everyone is looking to be surprised and want things to be over the top.

 

Publication Date: January 8

I received an ARC for review; all opinions are my own.