Saturday, December 31, 2016

ARC Review: Two Days Gone by Randall Silvis

Release Date: January 10, 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Format: Kindle
Pages: 400 pages
Genre: Mystery
Buy: Paperback | Kindle 


The perfect family. The perfect house. The perfect life. All gone now.

What could cause a man, when all the stars of fortune are shining upon him, to suddenly snap and destroy everything he has built? This is the question that haunts Sergeant Ryan DeMarco after the wife and children of beloved college professor and bestselling author Thomas Huston are found slaughtered in their home. Huston himself has disappeared and so is immediately cast as the prime suspect.

DeMarco knows-or thinks he knows-that Huston couldn't have been capable of murdering his family. But if Huston is innocent, why is he on the run? And does the half-finished manuscript he left behind contain clues to the mystery of his family's killer?


This is a book that keeps you guessing, just when you think you have it figured out you find out more information that leads you down a different path.  I can usually always figure out movies or books but this one had me guessing.  This is a dark book but the ending left me satisfied.

This book is told by Ryan DeMarco the cop trying to find his friend and discover if he was the one who killed his entire family and Thomas Huston the author and professor whose wonderful life has been destroyed in one night.  His wife and children brutally murdered.  Huston is missing, did he kill his family or is he searching for his familys killer? DeMarco can relate to Huston's sense of despair since he lost his young son in a car accident DeMarco's life has been put on hold.  He hasn't done anything to finish the projects he was working on, he is still tracking his grieving wife and is really stuck in place even years later.

Both of these broken men take us on a very dark and brilliantly written path toward answers, though the answers for each may be different they both find their own sense of peace in the end.

Wonderfully done, and apparently the beginning of a new series.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Book Review: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family & Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

Release Date: June 28, 2016
Publisher: Harper
Format: Hardcover
Pages:272 pages
Genre: memoir
Buy: Hardcover | Kindle 


The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.


I fell in love with Vance's Mamaw from the first time she was introduced.  She was the backbone of the family, foul mouthed, no nonsense with a heart of gold and a 45 tucked in her waistband. This book is truly a testament to her love of family and her hope that she could help change her family's fortune. She may not have known what she was doing some of the time but the wisdom she shared with her grandson and granddaughter really changed their lives.

Vance's inside view of the poor white working class is invaluable.  He is able to share with us an unflinching look at this subsection of America, and how they are slowing failing without glossing over facts or making it too judgmental.  These are his people, his family and most of them he cares a great deal about which can be seen through the way he talks about them.  I think it hurts him to see what laziness, fear of outsiders, rampant alcoholism, and lack of responsibility is doing to people. You can see how these things effected him as he grew up and how he still carries the lasting effects of much of it around his neck.  If his Mamaw hadn't been the woman she was he may very well have fallen into the same trap as so many of the people he grew up with.  Her strength and encouragement carried him through.

This book is incredibly timely given the results of our most recent presidential election. I believe Trump really spoke to this failing culture, he is not a politician and while elite he does not appear polished and well spoken like many other political figures. He speaks their language of fear and conspiracy, after all Trump lead the fight in the Birther movement (those who believe Obama wasn't born in the US). I think this is a brilliantly written book not only for its examination of a struggling culture so often forgotten but also for its message of hope for those that can find the strength to not only survive but thrive.

Monday, December 12, 2016

ARC Review: How Will I Know You by Jessica Treadway

Release Date: December 6, 2016
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Format: Kindle
Pages: 416
Genre: Mystery / Crime
Buy: Hardcover | Kindle


On a cold December day in northern upstate New York, the body of high school senior Joy Enright is discovered in the woods at the edge of a pond. She had been presumed drowned, but an autopsy shows that she was, in fact, strangled. As the investigation unfolds, four characters tell the story from widely divergent perspectives: Susanne, Joy's mother and a professor at the local art college; Martin, a black graduate student suspected of the murder; Harper, Joy's best friend and a potential eyewitness; and Tom, a rescue diver and son-in-law of the town's police chief. As a web of small-town secrets comes to light, a dramatic conclusion reveals the truth about Joy's death.


This book is told from 4 different perspectives, and from a time before the murder and the time after the murder.  It was interesting reading from different points of view, showing how different people's realities can be regarding the same situations.

The Chief of Police is trying to make his position permanent and desperately wants a conviction on this case but instead of actually investigating he interviews a few people and then has his man. Martin a black graduate student in a predominately white town seems talented but way too trusting.  Even after he is arrested he still seems to be swimming in a delusional bubble of everything will work out.

And that is just the tip of these flawed characters who hide secrets at every turn.  The two best characters were Tom, the rescue diver who is also the son-in-law of the Chief of Police and Joy who is definitely going through some difficult stuff but seems smart and savvy in her own way. The rest of the characters were almost caricatures, there wasn't much depth to them.  They wove around Tom and Joy who really carried the story along for me.  Wanting to know who killed Joy and what she was doing that may have lead to her death and Tom who is really caught between a rock and a hard place within his marriage and his family.

The ending was a bit of a let down.  I had figured out who I thought killed Joy but I also had some other theories floating in my head about the killer that didn't pan out. As for the police force I felt that they were just lazy, it was a bit of a leap for me to think that they would just jump on the first suspect to cross their desk no matter how desperately someone wants the case solved.  In fact I would think that they would be pretty diligent to make sure that the case sticks.

Overall this was a decent read, with a few really well done characters that carried the book along.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Audio Book: Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Release Date: August 6, 2016
Publisher: Random House Audio
Format: Audible
Length: 10 hours 11 minutes
Narrator: Bahni Turpin
Genre: Historical Fiction
Buy: Audible | Kindle | Paperback 


Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

 In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.


This is a very detailed book of the depravity, inhumane treatment and atrocities that were done to the African people who were stolen from their homes in Africa brought to the United States like cattle and bought and sold as possessions. How their children were ripped from their families and sold to pay off their Masters debts.  This book is brutally honest and may come as a shock and surprise to some who may have only learned whitewashed history in school.

While I really wanted to love this book from the start I did find the beginning a bit slow.  I wandered off a bit here and there but I'm not sure if that was due to the writing or the droning voice of the narrator. When Cora and Caesar ran away the book picked up.

The description of the hunters sent out to find runaway slaves, the different stations along the underground railroad etc were well done and interesting.  The medical experiments and mass sterilization projects on free men and women of color acting as if they were helping humanity, is despicable.  They may have been free but they were just as much in bondage. Terrifying and sad.

Well researched and full of the terrible truths of how people of color were treated in the United States. The sad thing is that many of these terrible practices didn't stop when slavery ended, they continued. As White people desperately tried to hold onto the idea that people of color were not equal to White people.

Bahni's narration was okay.  It was a bit droning and I did find myself drifting off a time or two but I wonder if it was the narration or the actual writing. Before Cora runs away I felt there were a lot of details that could really have been left out.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Audio Book: Winter (Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer

Release Date: November 10, 2015
Publisher: MacMillan Audio
Format: Audio
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Length: 23 hours 30 minutes
Genre: Fantasy
Buy: Audible | Kindle | Paperback 


Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won't approve of her feelings for her childhood friend--the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn't as weak as Levana believes her to be and she's been undermining her stepmother's wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that's been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?


This was an amazing ending to the Lunar Chronicles.  All of the story lines get wrapped up in a satisfactory way and yet the story kept you on the edge of your seat.  Meyer has an uncanny way of featuring the main character yet also giving all the other characters satisfactory time in which to evolve their story.

I am utterly enamored by these reinvented fairy tales. While many may see Winter as weak I saw her as a very strong character.  She denied her Lunar gift realizing that it would slowly drive her insane. She holds on to her sanity with the help of her guard Jacin. Despite her insanity Winter is very likeable and has a knack for getting people to like and trust her.  Maybe its because of her insanity that some feel sorry for her, or her beauty which is unmatched but I think it is more that they recognize the inner strength within her, the strength to survive being the Queen's step daughter, the strength to be kind to all despite that she grew up in the palace and the strength to not use her gift for even the littlest of glamours.

Being able to "see" Luna was also a big plus of this book.  All the other books take place on earth and finally we get to see Luna.  It was helpful to see the outside sectors and what Levana had done to her people to understand how much Cinder needed to win the rebellion.

Scarlet, Cress, Wolf,  Kai, Thorne, Iko and Cinder all have their own struggles in this book but they all come together, this band of misfits into some kind of family.  They look out for each other despite their differences.

This is a great book to listen to, Rebecca Soler does a great job of changing her voice to make each character unique.  She brings you into the story so you get lost in the narrative. Very well done.

Monday, December 5, 2016

ARC Review: Cover Me In Darkness by Eileen Rendahl

Release Date: December 8, 2016
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Format: Kindle
Pages: 288 pages
Genre: Mystery
Buy: Kindle | Paperback


Amanda Sinclair has to fight harder than most for everything she has after fleeing the cult that left her brother dead at her mother’s hand. Amanda works a quiet job in quality control for a small cosmetics company, trying to leave her past behind her—until she learns that her mother has committed suicide in the mental ward where she’s been locked away for the past ten years.

At first, Amanda believes that her mother killed herself, but when she looks through the personal belongings left behind, it seems her death may be related to the upcoming parole hearing for cult leader Patrick Collier. Teaming up with her mother’s psychologist, Amanda starts to peel away the layers of secrets that she’s built between herself and her own past, and what she finds is a truth that’s almost too big to believe.


Amanda still struggles with the death of her baby brother at her mothers hands.  She sees him in dreams, blames herself for not saving him.  She has built a wall around herself to protect herself from the outside world, finding it hard to trust anyone after what her mother did.  She also blames the cult her mother was a part of, COGG, and now their leader is being paroled.

Just as Amanda starts to try to breach her walls and interact with people outside of work she gets a call that her mother committed suicide.  After that a series of weird events start leading her down a path of mystery.  Who would want to hurt her, how can she get them to believe her? The bodies start piling up and the lines between what is in her head and what is happened start to blur.

This is a frustrating mystery, where everyone seems like a suspect.  Who can you trust? Just when you think you have it pegged a new twist emerges.  This was a quick read because I couldn't put it down.  I needed to figure it out.  I really liked this book right up to the end when I felt like the conclusion was rushed. Had there been a little more substance to the ending I think it would have earned another star from me.

The writing is simplistic making it an easy read and one that even younger readers may enjoy.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through in exchange for an honest review. 
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