Tag: #bookreview

“Hill Women” by Cassie Chambers

“Hill Women” by Cassie Chambers

Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains

Nestled in the Appalachian mountains, Owsley County is one of the poorest counties in both Kentucky and the country. Buildings are crumbling and fields sit vacant, as tobacco farming and coal mining decline. But strong women are finding creative ways to subsist in their hollers in the hills.

Cassie Chambers grew up in these hollers and, through the women who raised her, she traces her own path out of and back into the Kentucky mountains. Chambers’s Granny was a child bride who rose before dawn every morning to raise seven children. Despite her poverty, she wouldn’t hesitate to give the last bite of pie or vegetables from her garden to a struggling neighbor. Her two daughters took very different paths: strong-willed Ruth—the hardest-working tobacco farmer in the county—stayed on the family farm, while spirited Wilma—the sixth child—became the first in the family to graduate from high school, then moved an hour away for college. Married at nineteen and pregnant with Cassie a few months later, Wilma beat the odds to finish school. She raised her daughter to think she could move mountains, like the ones that kept her safe but also isolated her from the larger world.

Cassie would spend much of her childhood with Granny and Ruth in the hills of Owsley County, both while Wilma was in college and after. With her “hill women” values guiding her, Cassie went on to graduate from Harvard Law. But while the Ivy League gave her knowledge and opportunities, its privileged world felt far from her reality, and she moved back home to help her fellow rural Kentucky women by providing free legal services.

Appalachian women face issues that are all too common: domestic violence, the opioid crisis, a world that seems more divided by the day. But they are also community leaders, keeping their towns together in the face of a system that continually fails them. With nuance and heart, Chambers uses these women’s stories paired with her own journey to break down the myth of the hillbilly and illuminate a region whose poor communities, especially women, can lead it into the future.


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Another great Appalachia book:

“Fell Murder” by E.C.R. Lorac

“Fell Murder” by E.C.R. Lorac

First published in 1944 Fell Murder sees E.C.R. Lorac at the height of her considerable powers as a purveyor of well-made, traditional and emphatic detective fiction. The book presents a fascinating ‘return of the prodigal’ mystery set in the later stages of the Second World War amidst the close-knit farmerfolk community of Lancashire s lovely Lune valley.

The Garths had farmed their fertile acres for generations and fine land it was with the towering hills of the Lake Country on the far horizon. Garthmere Hall itself was old before Flodden Field, and here hot-tempered Robert Garth, still hale and hearty at eighty-two, ruled his household with a rod of iron. The peaceful dales and fells of the north country provide the setting for this grim story of a murder, a setting in fact which is one of the attractive features of an unusual and distinctive tale of evil passions and murderous hate in a small rural community.

I loved this mystery! This is the second classic crime that I’ve read from this author and the writing is just so rich and descriptive that I just feel like I’m there on the farm with the characters. And the Garth family is a fascinating group of personalities. This is a shorter book than the mysteries we get today but it really packs a punch and lacks not at all in twists and turns. The villain is not immediately obvious and the means of murder are vicious. This story has everything a good mystery should have and I highly recommend it. If you’ve never tried a classic crime novel E.C.R. Lorac is a great place to start.

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Other books by this author:


“Give the Devil His Due” by Sulari Gentill

“Give the Devil His Due” by Sulari Gentill

Rowland Sinclair Mystery Series #7

Wealthy Rowland Sinclair, an artist with leftist friends and a free-wheeling lifestyle, reluctantly agrees to a charity race. He’ll drive his beloved yellow Mercedes on the Maroubra Speedway, renamed the Killer Track for the lives it has claimed. His teammates are a young Errol Flynn and the well-known driver Joan Richmond. It’s all good fun. But then people start to die…

The body of a journalist covering the race is found murdered in a House of Horrors. An English blueblood with Blackshirt affiliations dies in a Maroubra crash. Reporters stalk Rowly for dirt while bookmakers are after an edge. When someone takes a shot at him—it could be anyone. Then the police arrest one of Rowly’s housemates for murder.

This is the second book I’ve read from this series and I have to say that the character of Rowland Sinclair and his various companions continue to grow on me. Ms. Gentill has crafted some incredible personalities for the lead characters which all work together to keep the reader engaged and at times on the edge of their seat. While this book is not a thriller it does contain some harrowing moments, this time centered around a racetrack which by its very nature is a threat to life and limb. There’s also a coven of witches coming out to play and complicate the mystery, and a quirky young lady trying get break in to the art world. Although I was never a big fan of the actor Errol Flynn, his appearance in this story helps to draw you into the time period. Overall, I found this to be a fun romp through Australia in the years between the wars and look forward to more installments in this series.

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Other books in this series:



“Tripwire” by Lee Child – Audiobook

“Tripwire” by Lee Child – Audiobook

Narrated by Johnathan McClain

Jack Reacher, ex-military policeman relaxed in Key West until Costello turned up dead. The amiable PI was hired in New York by the daughter of Reacher’s mentor and former commanding officer, General Garber. Garber’s investigation into a Vietnam MIA sets Reacher on collision with hand-less “Hook” Hobie, hours away from his biggest score.

Jack Reacher is quickly becoming my newest hero. Parts of this story were very gruesome and hard to listen too, but that was definitely outweighed by the complexity of the story. Reacher starts to develop a personal life which I enjoyed and adds additional dimension to him as a character. The Vietnam War connection in the plot really points out Jack Reacher’s former years in the military and the death of his former mentor will have a completely unexpected outcome on his life. Reacher continues to be a loner, for the most part, and someone who wants to live by his own code, which I have to admit is an archetype that I relate well too. The ultimate resolution of this mystery took me by surprise by seemed very appropriate to the events that had taken place. This story represents to me another way in which war can destroy lives, and that’s something that I think we should all be reminded of frequently. There are multiple lives at stake in this story and the action is riveting. I think this story translated well to audio and the narrator did a great job of bringing the characters to life.

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Other books in this series:



“The Course of all Treasons” by Suzanne Wolfe

“The Course of all Treasons” by Suzanne Wolfe

Blurb:

England, 1586. Tensions rise as threats to the realm abound. Traitors are plotting for Mary Queen of Scots to depose Elizabeth I and take the throne. Rumors of a Spanish invasion by sea mount daily. And the body of one of Sir Francis Walsingham’s agents is found floating in the Thames as other agents face enemies armed with crossbows and vials of poison.

Nicholas Holt, a spy in Walsingham’s employ, narrowly averts the same fate while setting off in pursuit of the killer–or killers. And when he surprises a suspect in the company of a Spanish agent, he believes he’s close not only to solving the case but preventing an act of high treason.

But soon, the attacks begin to threaten Nick’s circle of friends. As those he loves face mortal peril, Nick must unravel the tangled plot, all the while steering a careful path through the fierce rivalry between Walsingham’s agents and those of the Queen’s favorite, the upstart Earl of Essex. Now it’s a race to the breathless conclusion as Nick desperately searches for the answers that can save the day–and a vestige of loyalty that can save his own life.

My Thoughts:

When I picked up this book, I was honestly shocked to find myself in Medieval England. I had completely forgotten why I originally selected this one and I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy it. It turns out that this story took me on a rollicking adventure across London. And the tour was guided by the handsome Nicholas Holt. This is a different kind of investigation because it’s in medieval times and Nicholas doesn’t have all the fancy tools that we have today but it forces you to pay more attention to the characters and their motives. My favorites were Nicholas and Rivkah. I also really enjoyed Annie as a counterpoint to Nick. The author did an excellent job of bringing Nicholas’s part of London alive and incorporating the differences between wealthy parts of the city and the impoverished parts. I found the politics of the time that influence the events to be really interesting too. This story is very much driven by the characters themselves, no gun fights or high speed chases, but that’s why it was such a good read.

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“Music Macabre” by Sarah Rayne

“Music Macabre” by Sarah Rayne

Blurb:

Music researcher Phineas Fox has been enjoying his latest commission, gathering background material for a biography of Franz Liszt. But although he has – as anticipated – uncovered plenty of scandal in the 19th century composer’s past, matters take a decidedly unexpected turn when his investigations lead to Linklighters, a newly-opened Soho restaurant built on the site of an old Victorian music hall, and unearth evidence of a possible murder involving the notorious music hall performer known as Scaramel.

Just what was Liszt’s connection to Scaramel … and, through her, to the infamous Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper? As he delves further, Phin’s enquiries uncover clues to a fascinating and extraordinary story – and plunge his own life into jeopardy.

My Thoughts:

This is the 4th book in this series, but the first one I have read. I found Phineas Fox to be a delightful character. The story here I thought was very unique, with 3 different story lines taking place but they all come together in the end. I’m not sure how much of the story is historically accurate but the historical parts felt real to me. There’s a supporting cast of great characters. The movement between the 3 stories keeps you engaged in trying to figure out the mystery. There are some thrills also to keep you on the edge of your seat and a good dose of London fog to give you that little chill down the spine. This was a great read and I hope to have a chance to read more from this series.

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“Front Page Fatality” by LynDee Walker

“Front Page Fatality” by LynDee Walker

Narrated by Therese Plummer

Blurb:

When two rookie cops are killed in a fiery crash near Richmond, Virginia, crime reporter Nichelle Clarke is sent in to investigate.

But as Nichelle digs deeper into the case, she discovers this was no ordinary accident.

People and evidence soon begin to disappear. Someone is one step ahead of her. A master criminal with a deadly secret, covering their tracks with ruthless efficiency.

The killer will stop at nothing to keep the truth hidden. But as she draws closer to unraveling the mystery of two dead cops, Nichelle realizes that she’s become the next target.

My Thoughts:

This one had a little different feel for me because the main character is an investigative reporter, not a detective. That being said, I really liked Nichelle. She’s still figuring out her job to some extent, but she is eager and ready to learn. What she doesn’t know is what she’s getting herself into when there is an explosion and two cops are dead. As the case heats up, she begins to wonder who she can trust. I really enjoyed the pacing of the story and the secondary characters who added drama and interest. I think the plotline is well crafted and executed. Overall, I found the story to be engaging from beginning to end. The narration was excellent if you prefer audiobooks.

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“Creating Hitler’s Germany” by Tim Heath

“Creating Hitler’s Germany” by Tim Heath

Blurb:

Germany’s defeat in the First World War and the Treaty of Versailles that followed were national disasters, with far-reaching consequences not just for the country but for the world itself.

Weaving the stories of three German families from the beginning of Germany’s territorial aspirations of the First World War to the shattered dream of a thousand-year Reich in the Second World War, Tim Heath’s rich narrative explores a multitude of rare and untapped resources to explore the darkest recesses of German social and military history.

Creating Hitler’s Germany presents a nation’s journey not only through everyday life and war, but through its own conscience, pain and inevitable search for some form of absolution from its past. It is real, painful and incredibly human – an essential history to further understand the mind-set of Germany during the most tumultuous years of the nation’s history.

My Thoughts:
Given the current political climate in many countries, I was very interested in reading this book. In the back of my mind I have always wondered how Germany got to the point of being Nazis. Maybe I’m too naive, but I can’t conceive of ever getting to the point in my head where I just hate a group of people so much I want to eradicate them completely. This book focuses less on Hitler himself and more on what was going on in the German society of the time. The book begins with the story of a young, newly-married couple just after World War I and traces their history through to the end of World War II, concluding with their son who was a staunch Nazi and alienated from his mother because of it. The author then intertwines with the historical facts excerpts from interviews and writings of German citizens of the time. Some of them were appalled by the actions of the Nazi regime, while others felt they were just carrying out their patriotic duty. The author also exposes how the political pressures from the “winners” of WWI affected the lives of everyday German citizens and how Hitler’s initial actions improved those lives, lulling them into believing that he was a good guy. It wasn’t until he had solidified his political power that his true colors begin to show. I take 2 things away from this book. First, a better understanding of how a government and it’s people can become corrupted. Second, a warning that as a citizen of a democratic country I need to be very careful when evaluating my leaders because it may not take much to tip the scales towards evil. Finally, I want to acknowledge the resilience and determination that Germany has demonstrated in turning around their country after WWII.
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“The Long Call” by Ann Cleeves

“The Long Call” by Ann Cleeves

Blurb:

In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his estranged father’s funeral takes place. On the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

The case calls Matthew back to the people and places of his past, as deadly secrets hidden at their hearts are revealed, and his new life is forced into a collision course with the world he thought he’d left behind.

My Thoughts:

This is book 1 in the new Two River Series and I was so excited to receive and ARC from NetGalley for this one. I’m familiar with her stories from seeing the TV adaptations but this is my first time actually reading one of her books. This story more than lived up to the hype. The setting is North Devon, which I have never been to, but the author’s descriptions painted a wonderful picture of the place from the beaches to the little villages to the way the two rivers come together. Add to this the characters, a murder and two kidnappings and you have a great read. Matthew is not the typical police detective stereotype. He is full of insecurities and self-doubt, but his partners, both in life and in work, keep him pressing on. This story brings him into contact with family that he has not seen in years and re-opens some wounds he thought long healed. This story deals with issues of religion, homosexuality and disabilities, and does an excellent job of weaving them into the overall storyline. I found this book to be rich in detail, it moved at a good pace, it kept my attention and twisted my brain. I can’t wait for more in this series. This book release tomorrow, Sept. 3, in the U.S. so if your interested click the Amazon link below and pick up your copy.

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“Home for Erring and Outcast Girls” by Julie Kibler

“Home for Erring and Outcast Girls” by Julie Kibler

Blurb:

In turn-of-the-20th century Texas, the Berachah Home for the Redemption and Protection of Erring Girls is an unprecedented beacon of hope for young women consigned to the dangerous poverty of the streets by birth, circumstance, or personal tragedy. Built in 1903 on the dusty outskirts of Arlington, a remote dot between Dallas and Fort Worth’s red-light districts, the progressive home bucks public opinion by offering faith, training, and rehabilitation to prostitutes, addicts, unwed mothers, and “ruined” girls without forcibly separating mothers from children. When Lizzie Bates and Mattie McBride meet there—one sick and abused, but desperately clinging to her young daughter, the other jilted by the beau who fathered her ailing son—they form a friendship that will see them through unbearable loss, heartbreak, difficult choices, and ultimately, diverging paths.

A century later, Cate Sutton, a reclusive university librarian, uncovers the hidden histories of the two troubled women as she stumbles upon the cemetery on the home’s former grounds and begins to comb through its archives in her library. Pulled by an indescribable connection, what Cate discovers about their stories leads her to confront her own heartbreaking past, and to reclaim the life she thought she’d let go forever. With great pathos and powerful emotional resonance, Home for Erring and Outcast Girls explores the dark roads that lead us to ruin, and the paths we take to return to ourselves.

My Thoughts:

This is a very moving story and beautifully written. The narrative moves back and forth between Cate in the present, and Lizzie and Mattie in the early 1900’s. Mattie and Lizzie immediately appealed to me as characters. As the story opens, both are in desperate situations with no resources to draw on. Cate took me a little more time to warm up to because she has closed herself off from people so completely. In the end, I think I enjoyed her part of the story the most because of the depth of the transformation her research leads her to. Having lived a stone’s throw from Arlington, TX, where the Berachah home was located, I was very drawn to the historical aspect of the story. In the historical records there is mention of a Lizzie and a Mattie and the author has incorporated what is actually known about their lives into the this fictional account. I loved everything about this book, the setting, the characters, the historical setting and recommend it to anybody who wants a good story.

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Links:   Amazon   |   Goodreads   |   Author’s website