First The Thunder by Randall Silvis

It’s Publication day for First the Thunder by Randall Silvis!

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I absolutely love Silvis’ Ryan DeMarco series perhaps because I also adore Ryan DeMarco as a character. I was certain that a novel by Silvis, rather than a thriller, would be equally as good especially considering that Silvis is an award winning writer – books, plays and more. Sadly, First the Thunder fell short of my expectations.

Set in mining country Pennsylvania, this is the story of three brothers whose lives have not quite gone according to plan. Harvey drives a truck, Stevie does odd jobs here and there after he was in an accident that made him a bit “slow,” and Will owns a bar that is struggling after a new highway came through on the other side of town. His wife, Laci, is a crime scene photographer who is struggling to keep her life together for the betterment of her daughter. It is, however, the Rust Belt and there is not a lot of hope to be found. The situation worsens when Harvey, believing he has been “slighted” by his brother-in-law, convinces his brothers to help him get revenge. Matters go from bad to worse for this trio and a secret, long buried, threatens them all.

I really do like reading stories set in the new America – the nation with a southern region steeped in poverty and racism, a Rust Belt that is decaying and/or dying and overflowing with too much machismo and running rampant with drugs and a west that is slowly running out of water and heating up too fast for its people to combat the issue. This is America today and the authors who are addressing these issues should be commended for tackling ugly, depressing topics that no one really wants to think about much less read. But they do write about them and, generally, weave tales that are mesmerizing, if not utterly depressing and hopeless.

Silvis captures all of those feelings and more. He nails the characterization of the white male whose pride is gone, whose dreams are shattered and who turn instead to being the testosterone laden bully that many of us have come to know far too well. So why did the book fall short for me? It was, simply put, too dark, too depressing and too full of idiotic men doing incredibly inane things just because they are men. When we, as women, have to live with this type of stupidity day in and day out, when it is the fabric of our country right now, reading more of it is a strain; finding any redeemable quality on which to grasp and resonate was simply asking too much. I’m sick to death of these people in real life and I was sick of them in this book too. I honestly did not care one whit what happened to these three brothers and, when that is the case for any book character, there really is no point reading. I don’t expect happy endings, but I do expect to have some thread, regardless of how tenuous it may be, that will keep me involved. With First the Thunder, I never found that thread. For the record, I just finished Bone on Bone by Julia Keller that also is about the failing rust belt and mining towns gone bust. I highly recommend that book to those looking for books in this genre.

*I received an advanced ebook from the publisher via Netgalley. A review was expected in return.

 

 

 

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Walk A Crooked Line by Susan McBride

It has been a long while since a police procedural has rocked my boat, kept me on the edge of my seat and made me say, “Wow.” Walk A Crooked Line did all of those things a more!

TBR Thursdays

#TBRThursdays is the day that I reach back to my To-Be-Read list, read a book and review it. Then, hurrah, it’s not on my ever growing list any longer!

Why I waited so long to read Walk a Crooked Line is a puzzle to me. If I had known how great it was going to be, I wouldn’t have waited! This is the second installment in the Jo Larsen series. Normally second books are not as good as the first and I’ve come to expect that. This one, however, is even better than the first!

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Jo Larsen is an amazing detective who once had a very bright future ahead of her. She made some critical errors in judgement and had to pay the price for them. Now, she trying to rectify her mistakes and continue with a job she loves and is good at but in a much smaller town. Much. Smaller. When she is called out to the scene of what appears to be the suicide of a 15 year old girl, she cannot let things go until she knows “why” the girl would take her own life. Was it willingly, did someone push her or did someone bully her into doing so. These are the questions that Jo wants answers to and she will investigate until she finds that answer – unless someone stops her first.

McBride has created a very sympathetic protagonist in Jo Larsen. She is smart, capable but flawed with a gambling addiction and a sister who always has been a thorn in her side. As we explore the reasons why this girl might have killed herself, we also unravel more of Jo’s back story and the more we learn, the more wonderful and brave she becomes.

There are multiple story arcs throughout the book: the suicide, Jo’s sister who has returned to town, dog-nappings and subsequent abuse but never does the book get muddled or confusing. Each story line is handled deftly and thoroughly as the book roars toward its climactic conclusion. In the genre of police procedurals/suspense, Walk A Crooked Line stands out as a winner.

Thank you to #Netgalley, @SuzMcBrideBooks and #Thomas&Mercer for my copy of this well written tale.

The Witch Elm #tanafrench

Love LOVE and more LOVE for #TheWitchElm by the amazing Tana French!!

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Amicable Toby is a happy-go-lucky guy who fancies himself as one the “The Lucky Ones.” He has a great job, although he did create a major mess there  – but he sorted out his mess so it’s all good. He has an amazing girlfriend to whom he is faithful, except for a bit of a roving eye. And he has two terrific mates who love him, at least he thinks they do. But Toby’s luck is about to change when he is brutally beaten and robbed in his own apartment. Left for dead, in and out of consciousness for weeks, Toby is trying to put his life back together again while recuperating at his uncle’s home, The Ivy House, where he and his two cousins summered throughout their childhood and teens. That is, until a human skull is found in the Wych Elm, yes a cute play on words there, isn’t it? Poor Toby – is anything that he thought true and real actually what it had seemed?

Let me be frank with you, I only dabble in Tana French’s series, The Dublin Murder Squad. There are those that I absolutely adore and then there are those that I barely make it through. French does such an incredible, amazing job at developing her characters that if I don’t connect with them, I don’t enjoy the book. The Witch Elm, however, is a stand-alone and I love – have I already used the word love – Toby! My son’s name is Toby and, ironically, my Toby and this Toby are very, VERY similar. It’s not hard to see why I connected with the book, is it?

More importantly, though, French creates a supporting cast of characters that are quirky, irritating, affable, hilarious and oh so very flawed. Through them, as they either look for the killer or attempt to cover up for the killer, we learn about family, forgiveness, love, mistakes, second-chances and, sadly, death. While there is definitely mystery and suspense here, this is not a “thriller.” It is a slow simmering, beautifully written examination of family, particularly a family in crisis.

Interestingly, as I have read other reviews and previews of the book, they seem to be divided into die-hard fans of the DMS and the rest of us and the ratings reflect that division. This is a book that stands on its own as a marvelously written, creative work that is well worth reading by die-hard fans as well as those of us who simply appreciate a well told tale. Well done Ms. French!

FIVE emerald green Irish Stars for The Witch Elm.

I could not be more appreciative to #TanaFrench, #Edelweiss and @Viking for my advanced copy of #TheWitchElm. It will be available at your usual book outlets on October 9, 2018.

Virgil Wander – Midwest Saturday

We have waited a decade for more beautiful, heart-wrenching tales from the incredible Leif Enger but the wait was worth it to have the astounding story of Virgil Wander 

“He had a hundred merry crinkles at his eyes and a long-haul sadness in his shoulders.”

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Virgil Wander is a sad tale about a declining rust-belt town; a town that has seen much better days as has it people. Yet the perspective changes when Virgil’s car plunges off a cliff into the icy waters below. His survival, subsequent “spidery” thoughts due to a concussion and the arrival of a mystical Swede named Rune, will offer hope and perhaps a small bit of redemption for all they meet.

Enger has given us a book of imagery, a parable of sorts, with characters that resonate and amuse the reader. They are quirky Midwesterners who have a way of making even the worst of times appear to be humorous. The book personifies goodness and evil, hope and despair in a way that only a extremely gifted writer can accomplish – and Enger is, indeed, that gifted writer.

Rarely have I loved a book as much as I have this one but then rarely does an author create a place as marvelous as Greenstone, MN or with characters who steal your heart the way that Greenstone’s residents have stolen mine. You will laugh with them, cry and hurt and, yes, rejoice with them. This is a book that will stay in your heart and mind for a very long time. My only regret is that I have only FIVE STARS to offer this book – it deserves far greater.

Thank you to the author for this enrapturing tale; to the publisher, #GroveAtlantic, and to #Edelweiss for my advanced copy of #VirgilWander.

 

The Myth of Perpetual Summer @SusanCrandall

There are times when a book reaches out, grabs your heart and doesn’t let it go. The Myth of Perpetual Summer is that book! 

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Susan Crandall, author of the best-selling novel Whistling Past the Graveyard, captures the very essence of southern literature in her new tale, The Myth of Perpetual Summer.

Tallulah James – how typically southern is that name – was the glue that held her crumbling and decaying family together. Raised primarily by her grandmother, her parents a very dysfunctional pair who couldn’t be bothered with their kids, Tallulah attempts to shield her siblings, and the town, from the very worst of the secrets being kept inside her family’s home. When she has had enough and is at her breaking point, Tallulah flees her small Mississippi town, going as far west as she is able – California -where she desperately tries to re-create herself and bury her past. But the past won’t let her go. Her youngest brother has been charged with murder and Tallulah knows that she has to return “home” to help him.

Although Crandall has lived her entire life in Indiana, she very clearly has a feel for the southern way of life. The heartache and heartbreak that covers the south like a dusty, ever present film, is vividly portrayed in The Myth of Perpetual Summer. Having grown up in a small town in Arkansas, every word on these pages felt like home to me. These were people that I knew, these were my neighbors, my own family, my friends. The south, particularly the “deep south,” has a way of keeping secrets, burying them deep, only to bring them to light when you least expect or want to see them. Crandall understands this and gives words to the feelings of being trapped, judged, and lonely in a room full of people or in small town where all eyes are on you.

The story covers a broad range of topics: the 60s, war, religion, cults and, ultimately, family secrets. The lengths that families will go to in order to protect their “name,” their reputation is the at the very core of this novel. It is those secrets that have torn this family apart. Crandall’s writing examines the question that far too many families must ask themselves – are the secrets and lies more important than being healthy and whole?

This is a beautifully written, woeful tale that will break your heart and leave you shattered but it also is a book about hope, families and the bonds that tie them together.

Thank you to Goodreads Giveaway and #SusanCrandall for my copy of this fascinating book. A fun note – Susan Crandall lives in the next town over from mine here in Indiana and I am huge of this fellow Hoosier’s work.

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Tell Me You’re Mine by #ElisabethNoreback

It’s publication day for this riviting suspense tale!

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Tell Me You’re Mine is a slow simmering suspenseful tale of three women: Stella, a psychologist, wife and mother to a 13 year old boy and to a child that was presumed dead twenty years ago. Isabelle, who is seeking answers about her own very confusing life after she was harshly told that the father who recently died was not her biological father and Kirsten, Isabelle’s mother, who is desperately trying to hold on to her daughter while her life is crumbling to pieces around her. As the lives of these three women merge, we see how very fine the line can be between sanity and the brink of madness.

This is a debut novel for Noreback who does an incredible job of pulling you into the lives of these women. She craftfully creates a web of lies, deception, fear and insanity. As Stella becomes more convinced that Isabelle is her “dead” daughter, those around her fear she is on a brink of a breakdown. Stella has done this before, seen her daughter where she did not exist, and she is currently being investigated for having an unhealthy relationship with a patient. Perhaps she is losing her mind. As Isabelle looks for more answers, the questions she is asking and the independence she is seeking causes her own mother to crumble. As readers we, too, are forced to ask questions – who is sane, who isn’t, where should loyalties lie in situations like this and who is telling the truth.

I found the story very engaging and suspenseful. I felt Stella’s terror as she questions her sanity and wanted so badly for her to be correct about Isabelle being her daughter. I became enraged with her husband who questioned Stella’s version of the truth. I desperately wanted him to be stronger and believe her. Noreback does a terrific job creating these very dynamic, sympathetic characters. Ultimately, however, this is a suspense tale and the action packed ending will leave you breathless.

Admittedly, there were times that I felt the book dragged, or perhaps it was just that I was engrossed in the story that I wanted to know how it ended – who was telling the truth. Regardless, I read it in a day because I could not put it down. For me, that alone makes a book at least 3.5 to 4 stars. If I am that engaged with the characters then it’s a good tale – and this is.

I highly recommend it for mystery/suspense lovers and I look forward to reading more from this new author in the future. The book is on sale today at Amazon and your local book sellers. I’d love to hear from you if read it or have read it. Drop me a comment below.

Thanks to #Edelweiss, #ElisabethNoreback and #ThePenguinPublishingGroup for me advanced copy of this terrific book.

 

The Roadrunner Cafe

Jamie Zerndt has crafted a solid, domestic noir saga that deals with a family who experienced loss and whose grief touches everyone in the small, intertwined town. The Roadrunner Café is dark, at times overwhelming but, ultimately, a story of hope for us all.

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Carson Long’s father has committed suicide. The grief over his loss and the unanswered questions permeate their home which Carson describes as a “two-story coffin.” His mother, Judith, is both sad and bitter. His sister, Georgie, is depressed and angry often acting out in ways that teens do when they cannot get a handle on their intense emotions. Their neighbors and former customers are affected by their own sense of loss and grief. And then there are the trees planted outside the café to represent each member of the family. They become symbolic of this family’s life, their choices and ultimately their future.

There were times that I felt as though I was chasing a roadrunner as the book weaved and dodged from one member of the large ensemble cast. We are introduced to the family first, the neighbors and then members of the community. To say that I was incredulous that Zerndt could tie all of these characters together in any logical way is an understatement. I finally let go of my expectations for the characters as well my insatiable need to know what their role would be and simply flowed with each ones unique story. And yes, they all do fit together in the end.

Parts of the story are very depressing, others are incredibly graphic. I’m not sure that I would want a young teen to read this story but it is one that needs to be told, has an excellent message and could be read by older young adults. It is perfect for those of us who love noir writing and strong, well formed characters.

This book is not going to be for everyone; it is not a fast paced book but rather a story of love, compassion, forgiveness and, simply, a people’s need to grieve. I highly recommend The Roadrunner Café but with a warning to take the book slowly, get to know the characters and allow them to grow as you read along. You will be glad that you did.

Thank you to Goodreads Giveaways and Amazon Kindle for my copy of this book.