Thursday, September 28, 2017

Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson


     For 10 years Arlene has kept her promises, and God has kept His end of the bargain. Until now. When an old schoolmate from Possett turns up at Arlene's door in Chicago asking questions about Jim Beverly, former quarterback and god of Possett High, Arlene's break with her former hometown is forced to an end. At the same time, Burr, her long-time boyfriend, has raised an ultimatum: introduce him to her family or consider him gone. Arlene loves him dearly but knows her lily white (not to mention deeply racist) Southern Baptist family will not understand her relationship with an African American boyfriend. Reluctantly, Arlene bows to the pressure, and she and Burr embark on the long-avoided road trip back home. As Arlene digs through guilt and deception, her patched-together alibi begins to unravel, and she discovers how far she will go for love and a chance at redemption. 

My Thoughts:

  Gods in Alabama was the book I picked for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge for this month.  The challenge was to read a book from the backlist of new favorite author and having recently discovered Joshilyn Jackson I decided to go with another one of her books.  I read The Almost Sisters in August and loved it so I felt in the mood for more southern fiction.
     GIA gave me feels that were very Fried Green Tomatoes.  Very Southern, at times relatable and definitely quirky-funny, but it is also dark and full of sinister secrets.  I liked Arlene and most of the characters for that matter, but everyone is messed up.  I don’t just mean your everyday messed up but semi-normal, I mean girl has got some issues!  You know she’s hiding a secret from everyone and you will take guesses throughout most of the book but you will more than likely be wrong. 
  This book is full of twists, which I don’t mind, but I was occasionally confused and had to re-read a paragraph or two just to resituate myself.  There were times I felt like there were too many issues being bandied about to deal with all at once but overall this was still a really good fictional novel.  If you enjoy a bit of southern quirkiness with a side of dark secrets, Gods in Alabama is for you. 4/5 stars

Favorite quotes:

“You’re plenty pretty enough to be my trophy bitch.”-Burr

“Hail to thee, Alabama, thou Verdant Trollop!”-Burr

What can I say? Burr amused me!

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Woods by Christopher Viceconte


David Barnes returns home from boarding school, only to find that the life he left behind is completely different. Lost in a town he no longer knows, David falls into a downward spiral until awakened by a reality he never anticipated.
The first novel by Christopher F. Viceconte, The Woods is a contemporary coming-of-age story about struggling to find one’s place in the world.

My Thoughts:

     David's father, James, doesn't quite know what to do with his son after his grades start falling but once he gets in trouble with the law something must be done.  He decides that, as a last resort, he will send him off to a wilderness retreat to see if nature, survival skills, and therapy will help.  The problem is the organization running the camp is really only looking for money and not really interested in bettering anyone's child.
     I will admit that this story at first was a little choppy and slow for me but once David is sent away things picked up a bit.  I feel that a little less time spent on the details of David's fall from grace and a little more time on getting to know him and his growth during his camp experience would have improved the flow and my enjoyment a bit.
     I think that David is a fairly relate-able character as we have all been confused teens at some point even if we didn't all become drug dealers! By the end of the story we have seen some growth and changes in David but the ending just...well, stopped.  I don't know if there is going to be another book or not but the ending felt cut short and I would have liked more.  Overall, a pretty good coming of age story. 3/5 stars

Thursday, September 21, 2017

At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider


     In her late thirties and as a mom to three kids under age ten, Tsh Oxenreider and her husband decided to spend a rather ordinary nine months in an extraordinary way: traveling the corners of the earth to see, together, the places they’ve always wanted to explore. This book chronicles their global journey from China to Thailand to Australia, Sri Lanka, Uganda, France, Croatia, and beyond, as they fill their days with train schedules, world-schooling the kids, and working from anywhere. Told with wit and candor, Oxenreider invites us on a worldwide adventure without the cost of a ticket; to discover people, places, and stories worth knowing about; to find peace in the places we call home; and to learn that, as the Thai say, in the end, we are all “same same but different.”

My Thoughts:

     Earlier in the summer I took Modern Mrs. Darcy’s “What’s your reading personality?” quiz ( Turns out I am an Explorer-whodathunkit? I thought for sure I would be an Escapist so I was pleasantly surprised.  Early this year read All Over the Place by Geraldine DeRuiter (link) and loved it so it looks like Anne Bogel was right again! From the list of recommendations for Explorers, I had read two of the five books. Of the three I hadn’t read, At Home was the one that intrigued me the most.
      I am a totally homebody but have always wanted to travel. I have a list of places I want to go and things I want to see, mostly in the UK because I am an Anglophile. Unfortunately, I have never left the United States, I have no passport, and I have only been on airplane once. There is nothing wrong with this but I do hope to one day remedy all of those things! Tsh takes her family of five on a nine month trip around the world and many people thought she was crazy to do this with small children.  It is a daunting and scary thought but I cannot imagine how amazing the education it would be for kids and adults alike.
         At Home gives me Eat, Pray, Love vibes (another loved book-how did I not realize?) in that it is a See the World journey but also a bit of a find yourself/Spiritual journey for Tsh and I think we all need this. Finding home and finding our place in the world are, to me, the same thing and I love how Tsh found that balance between experiencing everything the world has to offer but still knowing she must have a place to lay her head.  There are many funny moments that made me chuckle but there were also a lot of thoughtful and even teary-eyed moments that I completely related to as a wife, mother, and woman.  I highly recommend you take the MMD reading personality quiz and if you’re an Explorer like me start with At Home in the World and if you are not and Explorer? I say read it anyway, it is that good! 4/5 stars


Favorite Quotes:

"I wasn't looking for him, but when you find that special someone swimming with Albanian teenage boys in a lake potentially swirling with all strains of hepatitis and you're still attracted to him, you don't walk away."
"Hard doesn't mean wrong. You're on the right path."
"Never put things down your gullet that could slash it in final vengeance on the way down..."

Author’s sites:



Monday, September 18, 2017

The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall


What if someone you trusted was accused of the unthinkable?

     George Woodbury, an affable teacher and beloved husband and father, is arrested for sexual impropriety at a prestigious prep school. His wife, Joan, vaults between denial and rage as the community she loved turns on her. Their daughter, Sadie, a popular over-achieving high school senior, becomes a social pariah. Their son, Andrew, assists in his father’s defense, while wrestling with his own unhappy memories of his teen years. A local author tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist attempts to get Sadie onside their cause. With George locked up, how do the members of his family pick up the pieces and keep living their lives? How do they defend someone they love while wrestling with the possibility of his guilt?

My Thoughts:

     First off, let me start by saying that I thought this was going to be a suspense-type book and it is not.  I think this through me off a little but that is my bad for not reading the full description but I don't think that it affected my overall feelings for this story.
     How would you feel if one of the people you knew, trusted and looked up to the most was accused of something horrible? How would you react?  It is easy to answer that from this side of things but how would that answer differ if you were actually in that moment? Out of love and your knowledge you would stand by that person and fight for them but how would you feel?
      This story delves into the Woodbury family and how they deal with the accusations and arrest of their beloved husband and father.  It also deals with how they are treated as the family of the accused and how our society reacts to such crimes and those they deem as the ones who "should have known".  It is a rather dark and deep look into how families of accused criminals are mistreated and shunned by those around them.
     I think that Ms. Whittall does a great job of looking at things from the families perspective but I feel that we never really got a chance to get to know any of them very well as there was a lot of jumping around in perspective.  I also never really liked any of the characters so I had a hard time "rooting" for any of them.  Don't get me wrong, I had plenty of sympathy for them but they all came off very self-involved and were never truly there for each or seemed to have a great relationship to begin with.  I wanted to enjoy this and see them all grow and learn from these experiences but none of them really seemed to change at all-disappointing.  2/5 stars

Author's site:

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ugh, September...

Life lately:

     See that picture up there? That should have been me over the last two weekends as both were three day weekends for me. But alas, there was no time. 
      I was doing good staying ahead on my reading but then September hit.  Oy, this month is one of the busiest months of the year for our family! Added on top of the usual craziness we also had our last MLB game of the year (Go Royals!) and a college visit with the daughter that we decided to turn into an overnight trip.  This was to squeeze in some touristy stuff and avoid six hours of drive time in one day and well...I'm behind...again.  
     So short story long, no reviews this week.  I am writing this to help alleviate some of my guilt but I doubt it works.  I am going to try to be back in the swing of things next week but I can't guarantee anything as this weekend is another busy one.  I promise to try and that's something, right?

     Hope everyone is having a good month so far full of great reads? If you have anything that you've read lately that is amazing, please comment below!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

White Bars by David Dagley


     White Bars is the comical tale of two myna birds trapped in neighboring cages in a pet shop, and their plot to escape. Soren, a young myna plucked from his nest as an egg, has never known what it means to be free. But Fife, an older, worldly bird does, and he longs to fly home to the tropical forests across the Pacific Ocean. Every evening after the pet shop closes, the store becomes a stock market where the caged animals trade what they have for what they want: seed, sand, plants and bugs. Will Soren and Fife be able to barter for their freedom? Or will their wings stay clipped?

My Thoughts:

     This is a rather short story (barely over 100 pages) about friendship and freedoms.  White Bars is a very heavily metaphorical story told through lives of two myna birds trapped in cages in a pet store.  One has been there his entire life and the other was newly caged in order to help the other escape and taste freedom for the first time.     
     This was meant to be a heartwarming and funny tale to make you think about life and independence.  My issue is that from the start you are just thrown right into the action and never really given the chance to make a connection to the main characters.  The only character I had any feeling toward was Juliet, a recently widowed love bird, and even that aspect of the story was minor and short.  
     I am not much for deeply metaphorical stories but I feel that if a few more pages would have made a big difference in this tale.  White Bars is an interesting take on social issues but fell flat for me because there was no chance to get to know any of the characters. 
Interesting idea and concept but just wasn't for me: 2/5 stars

 About the author: 

David Dagley has been working in the Bering Sea for the last 10 years and traveling through South East Asia in his off time. He resides in Seward, Alaska. He is currently working on his next book, Cale Dixon and the Women of Cho, a sequel project to Cale Dixon and the Moguk Murders, which was recently released in paperback by Strategic Book Publishing. 

Author's site:

Monday, September 4, 2017

Brewing Up Murder by Neila Young


As the owner of Mystery Cup CafĂ© in Wilton, Missouri, a town made famous by a string of long-ago murders, Blake Harper is used to the mysterious. When her barista is found strangled in a mound of coffee beans, Blake vows to find the killer, even though her sister, the town’s lead police detective, tells her to stay out of it.

Blake finds plenty of suspects, like the owners of a rival coffee shop and the handsome new bookstore owner. But when new threats are made, she soon realizes the danger is centered around Mystery Cup and someone is targeting her personally.

Will Blake be able to solve the murder, find a new barista, and perfect her recipe for espresso brownies before she becomes the next victim?

My Thoughts:

     I use to be an avid Cozy Mystery reader several years ago but got burnt out when it seemed like every other book was identical.  I was intrigued when Brewing Up Murder was offered to me for an honest review! When the book showed up in my mailbox and I saw that the author was local to me? YAY! I have always wanted to find local authors to read and support.  It was also fun to read about places that I have actually been!
     Blake and family were fun and a joy to read about and get to know.  I love the setting of the little town of Wilton, Missouri, that is only famous because it was the backdrop to a serial killer's rampage over fifty years ago.  The coffee shop, Mystery Cup, sounds like a great place to go to and the locals were funny, nosy and realistically written as anyone who lives in a small town can attest to!
     I did not figure out "who dunnit" ahead of time (always a bonus) and Ms. Young did a good job of throwing suspicion out everywhere so you were never sure who to trust. 
      I have a small list of complaints and really two are a bit nit-picky:
1) Even in a small town, I don't think that Blake's sister would be allowed to question her in a murder investigation.
2) It seemed like every character had dead parents!? A bit depressing and worrisome!
3) I am looking forward to more in this series as long as the plotline involving the love life of Blake is not drawn out painfully in several books.  This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine stemming from an old cozy series I used to read.

     If you are looking for a new cozy mystery series to read I think this new series show great promise: 4/5 stars

Author's Facebook page: