Saturday, January 20, 2018

Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown


In Gods of Howl Mountain, award-winning author Taylor Brown explores a world of folk healers, whiskey-runners, and dark family secrets in the high country of 1950s North Carolina.
Bootlegger Rory Docherty has returned home to the fabled mountain of his childhood - a misty wilderness that holds its secrets close and keeps the outside world at gunpoint. Slowed by a wooden leg and haunted by memories of the Korean War, Rory runs bootleg whiskey for a powerful mountain clan in a retro-fitted '40 Ford coupe. Between deliveries to roadhouses, brothels, and private clients, he lives with his formidable grandmother, evades federal agents, and stokes the wrath of a rival runner.
In the mill town at the foot of the mountains - a hotbed of violence, moonshine, and the burgeoning sport of stock-car racing - Rory is bewitched by the mysterious daughter of a snake-handling preacher. His grandmother, Maybelline “Granny May” Docherty, opposes this match for her own reasons, believing that "some things are best left buried." A folk healer whose powers are rumored to rival those of a wood witch, she concocts potions and cures for the people of the mountains while harboring an explosive secret about Rory’s mother - the truth behind her long confinement in a mental hospital, during which time she has not spoken one word. When Rory's life is threatened, Granny must decide whether to reveal what she knows...or protect her only grandson from the past.

With gritty and atmospheric prose, Taylor Brown brings to life a perilous mountain and the family who rules it.

There is a large cast of characters here but the story is mainly focused on Korean war vet Rory who has come home to the mountain with part of his leg missing, and his Granny May who is a force to be reckoned with. There's not a lot of jobs in 1950s North Carolina, especially for someone like Rory, but moonshining is a booming business and there's money to be made delivering it provided you don't get caught. The mountain holds a lot of secrets, and so does Granny May but sooner or later things have a way of bubbling to the surface. This was a mesmerizing work of historical fiction.
4 out of 5 stars.

I received an advance copy for review

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

A gripping domestic page-turner full of shocking reveals, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty, Amanda Prowse and Kerry Fisher.
The small suburb of Pleasant Court lives up to its name. It's the kind of place where everyone knows their neighbors, and children play in the street.
Isabelle Heatherington doesn't fit into this picture of family paradise. Husbandless and childless, she soon catches the attention of three Pleasant Court mothers.
But Ange, Fran and Essie have their own secrets to hide. Like the reason behind Ange's compulsion to control every aspect of her life. Or why Fran won't let her sweet, gentle husband near her new baby. Or why, three years ago, Essie took her daughter to the park - and returned home without her.
As their obsession with their new neighbor grows, the secrets of these three women begin to spread - and they'll soon find out that when you look at something too closely, you see things you never wanted to see.

If you ever get to missing the ladies of Wisteria Lane, this may be the book for you. Pleasant Court is a quiet, peaceful area, where people are neighborly though not necessarily friends. They certainly don't share their secrets, of which there are many. Some are hiding their secrets not only from the world, but also from themselves.
This was a quick read and a real page turner, with more juicy secrets than any prime time soap.
4 out of 5 stars

I received an advance copy for review.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Beloveds by Maureen Lindley

An exploration of domestic derangement, as sinister as Daphne Du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, that plumbs the depths of sibling rivalry with wit and menace.
Oh, to be a Beloved—one of those lucky people for whom nothing ever goes wrong. Everything falls into their laps without effort: happiness, beauty, good fortune, allure.

Betty Stash is not a Beloved—but her little sister, the delightful Gloria, is. She’s the one with the golden curls and sunny disposition and captivating smile, the one whose best friend used to be Betty’s, the one whose husband should have been Betty’s. And then, to everyone’s surprise, Gloria inherits the family manse—a vast, gorgeous pile of ancient stone, imposing timbers, and lush gardens—that was never meant to be hers.

Losing what Betty considers her rightful inheritance is the final indignity. As she single-mindedly pursues her plan to see the estate returned to her in all its glory, her determined and increasingly unhinged behavior—aided by poisonous mushrooms, talking walls, and a phantom dog—escalates to the point of no return. The Beloveds will have you wondering if there’s a length to which an envious sister won’t go.

Betty Stash has never much cared for anyone or anything other than her parents house, which she expected to inherit on her mother's death. She appears to have been in a state of quiet jealous rage ever since her beautiful and "beloved" sister was born. Much of the action in this story takes place in Betty's mind for at least the first half of the book, which made it a little slow and draggy in my opinion, until at last Betty seemed to make the switch from petty, whining, narcissist to full on evil psycho.

I received an advance copy for review.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff


With extraordinary access to the Trump White House, Michael Wolff tells the inside story of the most controversial presidency of our time

The first nine months of Donald Trump's term were stormy, outrageous—and absolutely mesmerizing. Now, thanks to his deep access to the West Wing, bestselling author Michael Wolff tells the riveting story of how Trump launched a tenure as volatile and fiery as the man himself.

In this explosive book, Wolff provides a wealth of new details about the chaos in the Oval Office. Among the revelations:

— What President Trump's staff really thinks of him
— What inspired Trump to claim he was wire-tapped by President Obama
— Why FBI director James Comey was really fired
— Why chief strategist Steve Bannon and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner couldn't be in the same room
— Who is really directing the Trump administration's strategy in the wake of Bannon's firing
— What the secret to communicating with Trump is
— What the Trump administration has in common with the movie The Producers

Never before has a presidency so divided the American people. Brilliantly reported and astoundingly fresh, Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury shows us how and why Donald Trump has become the king of discord and disunion.

Other than a few typos, which I found a bit distracting, this was a sobering look at what many of us feared was going on in the White House. Told in a quite matter of fact way that did not seem to be going for shock value or sensationalism made it all the more believable. Combined with quotes from those he interviewed are the author's own impressions. If given a choice to believe a president who has lied every single day about easily fact checked events, and an author who was seen with a visitor pass on a nearly constant basis by white house reporters, I am more inclined to believe the author than a president who claims he wasn't there. There are a few descriptions of events that have been disputed as inaccurate but I don't think an honest mistake here and there (such as similar names being confused) negate the facts. Perhaps these were due in part to a rush to publish a week or so early in response to an attempt from the president to block the publication.
 Considering the president's desperate attempt to block this publication, and considering the author's statement that some of his interviews are recorded. combined with the fact that nobody is disputing the actual quotes, I find it to be believable.