Thursday, 15 December 2016

TLC Book Tours Review: I'll Take You There by Wally Lamb


About I'll Take You There

• Hardcover: 272 pages
• Publisher: Harper; First Printing edition (November 22, 2016)

In this radiant homage to the resiliency, strength, and power of women, Wally Lamb—author of numerous New York Times bestselling novels including She’s Come Undone, I Know This Much is True, and We Are Water—weaves an evocative, deeply affecting tapestry of one Baby Boomer's life and the trio of unforgettable women who have changed it.

I’ll Take You There centers on Felix, a film scholar who runs a Monday night movie club in what was once a vaudeville theater. One evening, while setting up a film in the projectionist booth, he’s confronted by the ghost of Lois Weber, a trailblazing motion picture director from Hollywood’s silent film era. Lois invites Felix to revisit—and in some cases relive—scenes from his past as they are projected onto the cinema’s big screen.

In these magical movies, the medium of film becomes the lens for Felix to reflect on the women who profoundly impacted his life. There’s his daughter Aliza, a Gen Y writer for New York Magazine who is trying to align her post-modern feminist beliefs with her lofty career ambitions; his sister, Frances, with whom he once shared a complicated bond of kindness and cruelty; and Verna, a fiery would-be contender for the 1951 Miss Rheingold competition, a beauty contest sponsored by a Brooklyn-based beer manufacturer that became a marketing phenomenon for two decades. At first unnerved by these ethereal apparitions, Felix comes to look forward to his encounters with Lois, who is later joined by the spirits of other celluloid muses.

Against the backdrop of a kaleidoscopic convergence of politics and pop culture, family secrets, and Hollywood iconography, Felix gains an enlightened understanding of the pressures and trials of the women closest to him, and of the feminine ideals and feminist realities that all women, of every era, must face.

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My Thoughts:
Ok first of all I just want to clarify that I am a fan of Wally Lamb and absolutely loved 'She's Come Undone', 'I Know This Much Is True', and 'The Hour I First Believed'. 

So, what to say about 'I'll Take You There'...All I can say is that it wasn't what I expected, with less pages than I'm used to with his previous novels, and sparser descriptions or depth of characterisation, I have to say it's not one I particularly liked or felt compelled to finish.

It's an easy read, with light inoffensive material about women, family and feminism. To me though it lacked depth and character build up, resulting in bland uninteresting characters and plot.

However, I do think it would be a perfect, uncomplicated quick 'holiday' read, and has huge potential and appeal for the commercial market reader, more so than the literary fiction fan. In fact I can see it doing very well in this market, and that's a good thing especially if it brings a wider audience to Lamb's books.

Ideal for book club reads for potential discussion about women's roles in society, and family, and feminism in general.

These are only my thoughts on the book and in no way would I wish to dissuade anyone from reading the book. In fact, my view is in the minority and therefore I hope that you take a look at what the other reviewers on this tour have had to say about it.

Disclaimer: I received a complementary advance reading copy of 'I'll Take You There' from the publisher and TLC Book Tours to take part in the blog tour.

Photo credit Chris Hetzer 
Photo credit Chris Hetzer

About Wally Lamb

Wally Lamb is the author of four previous novels, including the New York Times and national bestseller The Hour I First Believed and Wishin' and Hopin', a bestselling novella. His first two works of fiction, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, were both number-one New York Times bestsellers and Oprah's Book Club selections. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Christine. The Lambs are the parents of three sons.

Find out more about Wally at his website, and connect with him on Facebook.

Tour Stops

Tuesday, November 22nd: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Wednesday, November 23rd: Dolce Bellezza
Monday, November 28th: Turn the Page
Tuesday, November 29th: West Metro Mommy
Wednesday, November 30th: Lit and Life
Thursday, December 1st: The Well-Read Redhead
Monday, December 5th: bookchickdi
Tuesday, December 6th: What Will She Read Next
Wednesday, December 7th: Bibliophiliac
Thursday, December 8th: A Bookish Way of Life
Friday, December 9th: Booksie’s Blog
Monday, December 12th: Girl Who Reads
Wednesday, December 14th: Mother’s Circle
Thursday, December 15th: SJ2B House Of Books

Wednesday, 14 December 2016


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The Silver Baron's Wife by Donna Baier Stein

Publication Date: September 15, 2016

Serving House Books
Paperback 224 Pages
ISBN-13: 978-0997101065
Genre: Historical Fiction


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The Silver Baron's Wife traces the rags-to-riches-to-rags life of Colorado's Baby Doe Tabor (Lizzie). This fascinating heroine worked in the silver mines and had two scandalous marriages, one to a philandering opium addict and one to a Senator and silver baron worth $24 million in the late 19th century. A divorcee shunned by Denver society, Lizzie raised two daughters in a villa where 100 peacocks roamed the lawns, entertained Sarah Bernhardt when the actress performed at Tabor's Opera House, and after her second husband's death, moved to a one-room shack at the Matchless Mine in Leadville. She lived the last 35 years of her life there, writing down thousands of her dreams and noting visitations of spirits on her calendar. Hers is the tale of a fiercely independent woman who bucked all social expectations by working where 19thcentury women didn't work, becoming the key figure in one of the West's most scandalous love triangles, and, after a devastating stock market crash destroyed Tabor's vast fortune, living in eccentric isolation at the Matchless Mine. An earlier version of this novel won the PEN/New England Discovery Award in Fiction."

My Thoughts:
Told in the first person narrative,  'The Silver Baron's Wife' flows effortlessly and with short chapters was a quick but satisfying read. Baier Stein, encompassing entries from 'Baby Doe's' diaries; using engaging prose and imaginative settings, weaves a compelling and engrossing, 'rags to riches, to rags', tragic love story.

 'The Silver Baron's Wife' is a fascinating fictionalised account of the infamous Elizabeth 'Baby Doe' Tabor, a fiercely independent and determined woman who, after divorcing her first husband, a scandalous affair with a married man, and financial ruin, still manages to survive and remain true to her own convictions.  A huge scandal of its time, the Tabor's were ostracised by society for their affair and subsequent marriage, and Baier Stein has written a heartbreaking but fascinating account about a truly amazing woman, and of the harsh realities of the mining lifestyle and consequences of her actions.

Fervently religious and increasing in mental instability in her ageing years, she loses sense of reality, has visions, and speaks to the ghosts of her dead husband, her mother and daughters. 'Baby Doe' dies during the freezing winter of 1935, alone in her cabin where she'd lived in poverty for 30 years. Such a tragic ending for a courageous, pioneering woman, a selfless mother and wife, who's only failing was to fall in love with a married man.

I would definitely recommend 'The Silver Baron's Wife' to fans of American historical fiction, and anyone interested in reading about the Colorado gold and silver mining era of the 1800's.

Totally compelling, and insightful read that held my interest throughout.

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of 'The Silver Baron's Wife' was provided by the publisher via HF Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest unbiased review.


"At long last we get to hear Baby Doe’s compelling side of the hurtful tale that made her the most hated woman in the West. Donna Baier Stein has captured young Lizzie’s Doe’s agency in her first marriage, as well as older Lizzie’s Tabor’s deep spiritual resilience during her decades of isolation. Through Stein’s artistry, Baby Doe’s story makes the heart ache." —Judy Nolte Temple, author of Baby Doe Tabor: The Madwoman in the Cabin

"Explosive, gripping and romantic, The Silver Baron’s Wife is a story that exposes not only the scandalous marriage and perplexing life of a woman starred in the wealthy 19th century social circles while being shunned from them. It also opens a fascinating window into 19th century American social mores and Washington DC’s politics.

An absorbing read about a fiercely independent woman who charted her own course only to find herself paying the price." —Talia Carner, author of Hotel Moscow, Jerusalem Maiden, China Doll, and Puppet Child

"The Silver Baron’s Wife is a beautiful and absorbing novel, rich in history and vivid period detail. In exquisite prose, Donna Baier Stein captures the extraordinary and tumultuous life of Lizzie “Baby Doe” Tabor, with all of its longings, joys, and tragedies. This is a moving and memorable book." —Ronna Wineberg, author of Seven Facts That Can Change Your Life, On Bittersweet Place, and Second Language, "With The Silver Baron’s Wife, Donna Baer Stein pulls off that most difficult of novelistic feats: breathing fictional life into historic characters and situations. From the dark, unpropitious, and dismal depths of Baby Doe Tabor’s biography, she mines a vein of pure silver." —Peter Selgin, author of The Inventors, Drowning Lessons, and Life Goes To The Movies

"Donna Baier Stein paints a heartfelt, poignant picture filled with loving details of Baby Doe’s celebrated life that lingers long after the last page is turned." —Ann Parker, author of The Silver Rush Mystery Series

"Donna Baier Stein reveals the deeper levels of Baby Doe Tabor, the fascinating 19th century woman who caught silver mining fever, and whose fortune vacillated again and again between stunning riches and hardscrabble dearth. Having lost children, spouses, and wealth Lizzie is drawn more than ever to the invisible world, yearning to know if the dreams and visitations which have guided her life are real. With sumptuous, tactile prose, rich historical detail, and an evocative recreation of the American West, The Silver Baron’s Wife excavates the legend of Elizabeth McCourt Tabor to expose a character’s humanity and soul." —Diane Bonavist, author of Purged by Fire: The Cathar Heresy

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About the Author

Donna Baier Stein is the author of The Silver Baron's Wife (PEN/New England Discovery Award), Sympathetic People (Iowa Fiction Award Finalist and 2015 IndieBook Awards Finalist), and Sometimes You Sense the Difference. She founded and publishes Tiferet Journal. She has received a Scholarship from Bread Loaf, a Fellowship from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars, three Pushcart nominations, and prizes from the Allen Ginsberg Awards and elsewhere. Her writing has appeared in Ascent, Beloit Poetry Journal, Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner, Virginia Quarterly Review, Puerto del Sol, Writer’s Digest, as well as in anthologies from Simon & Schuster and The Spirit That Moves Us Press. She is currently completing a new collection of stories based on Thomas Hart Benton lithographs.
Donna was also an award-winning copywriter whose clients include Smithsonian, World Wildlife Fund, Citrix, and other non-profit and for-profit organizations. Her website is You can also follow Donna on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Monday, 21 November 2016

TLC BOOK TOUR Review: Forever Painless by Miranda Esmonde-White

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Forever Painless: End Chronic Pain and Reclaim Your Life in 30 Minutes a Day
by Miranda Esmonde-White

Genre: Non Fiction
Publisher: Harper Wave (15, November 2016)
Source: Publisher/TLC Book Tours
Pages: 320

Chronic pain is the most common cause of long-term disability in the United States. Twenty percent of American adults accept back spasms, throbbing joints, arthritis aches, and other physical pain as an inevitable consequence of aging, illness, or injury. But the human body is not meant to endure chronic pain. Miranda Esmonde-White has spent decades helping professional athletes, ballet dancers, and Olympians overcome potentially career-ending injuries and guiding MS patients and cancer survivors toward pain-free mobility. Now, in Forever Painless, she shows everyone how to heal their aching bodies and live pain free.
The root of nearly all pain is movement—or lack thereof. We need to move our bodies to refresh, nourish, and revitalize our cells. Without physical activity, our cells become stagnant and decay, accelerating the aging process and causing pain. People who suffer chronic pain often become sedentary, afraid that movement and activity will make things worse, when just the opposite is true: movement is essential to healing. In Forever Painless, Miranda provides detailed instructions for gentle exercise designed to ease discomfort in the feet and ankles, knees, hips, back, and neck—allowing anyone to live happier, healthier, and pain-free no matter their age.
My Thoughts:
In my 20's my exercise regime would consist of an hour aerobics class (usually high impact-this was the 80's !), followed by 30 minutes weights then a final 30 minutes swimming...five times a week!

I kept this going for 13 years but I always felt something wasn't quite right, but couldn't put my finger on it...I felt tired most of the time, always has a cold and felt pain in my back. Eventually I was diagnosed with systemic lupus. During my first pregnancy everything fell apart I could no longer exercise due to severe exhaustion, sickness and pain.  Ever since It's been a constant battle to lose weight as I'd alternate between, strenuous spinning sessions that would inevitably lead to inflammation of the joints causing excruciating pain, and regular rest periods to recover. I'd then start the cycle all over again.

In part one of Forever Painless, Esmonde-White explains in an informative and most interesting way, the mechanics of chronic pain and although what she says is pretty much common sense, some of us still need to be reminded of what we should or shouldn't be doing in order to help ourselves overcome the pain, frustration and many other symptoms that accompany being in constant pain.

In part two of the book exercise programs are covered in separate chapters as follows:
The Basic Warm-up
The Foot and Ankle Workout
The Knee Workout
The Hip Workout
The Back Workout
The Upper Back and Shoulder Workout
The Connective Tissue Workout
The Immune System Workout
The Arthritis Workout
The Stress Workout

As a sufferer of an autoimmune disease I found the Immune System and Arthritis workouts of particular interest and felt confident in performing the exercises recommended. There is to be a video to compliment the book at a future date.  (See link for details.

Forever Painless is in my honest opinion an invaluable resource for sufferers of persistent pain like me, and anyone going through the ageing then, everyone is going to find this book helpful at some time or other to maybe become pain-free again.

What I personally took from the book is that I am no longer able, nor should I expect my body to perform in the same way it used to. I will leave behind the punishing exercise regimes of my youth as causing more pain from soreness, and inflammation irritating the arthritis is detrimental to my health and wellbeing.

I will still do 'spinning' but at a much gentler pace and continue with the exercises Edmond-White has given me in this book.

A 'self help' book I would have no hesitation to recommend for customers to read.

Disclaimer: I am extremely grateful to have been given an opportunity to receive an advanced digital copy of Forever Painless to review as part of the TLC Book Tours.

See what other reviewers have to say on the TLC Book Tour
by clicking on the button below!
tlc tour host

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

HF Virtual Book Tours (October/November 2016): The Popish Midwife by Annelisa Christensen

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The Popish Midwife, Elizabeth Cellier
by Annelisa Christensen

Publisher: The Conrad Press (July 14, 2016)
Source: Author/HF Virtual Book Tours (digital)
Genre: Historical Fiction

In seventeenth-century London, thirteen years after the plague and twelve years after the Great Fire, the restoration of King Charles II has dulled the memory of Cromwell’s puritan rule, yet fear and suspicion are rife. Religious turmoil is rarely far from tipping the scales into hysteria.
Elizabeth Cellier, a bold and outspoken midwife, regularly visits Newgate Prison to distribute alms to victims of religious persecution. There she falls in with the charming Captain Willoughby, a debtor, whom she enlists to gather information about crimes against prisoners, so she might involve herself in petitioning the king in their name.
‘Tis a plot, Madam, of the direst sort.’ With these whispered words Willoughby draws Elizabeth unwittingly into the infamous Popish Plot and soon not even the fearful warnings of her husband, Pierre, can loosen her bond with it.
This is the incredible true story of one woman ahead of her time and her fight against prejudice and injustice.

My Thoughts:
We first encounter Elizabeth as she takes over from, who can only be described as a butcher midwife attending to an unfortunate woman in labour.  This startling scene is a shocking and horrifying lead into the brutal, frightening times of 17th Century England.  Being a midwife wasn't the respectable vocation it is today. The only qualification required was to have been present at other births, and then, not all midwives had the best interests of their charges at heart.  They often had poor regard for hygiene standards and were more intent on receiving payment for their services in order to purchase their next drink. A trusted experienced midwife could make a decent living from midwifery with the written, or 'word of mouth', testimonials from women who had been birthed by them. These midwives would be given access to places many other women would not, as with Elizabeth Cellier and her prison visits to give alms to the suffering, or gain entrance to gentle women's residences to assist in their birthing hours.  All midwives were however, open to abuse from misogynistic men, and to accusations of being whores and witches.

Elizabeth Cellier is a woman with an unwavering confidence and belief in herself to do what she believes is right and will defend those who have been unjustly accused. She is also a midwife, a Catholic, and married to a Frenchman, all of which mark her out as a target for ill wishers seeking potential benefit from her downfall in such superstitious, and political conspiratorial, religious times of upheaval. Highly intelligent and articulate, after witnessing a prejudiced courtroom hearing, she uses the experience of the proceedings to her advantage when she is herself charged with treason.

Told in first person narrative with authentic dialogue, Christensen has written a fascinating, brutally honest, above all entertaining debut novel.  With characters so vividly drawn, and scenes rich in atmospheric historical detail, I could almost imagine being there smelling the fear, and decaying bodies of the poor sufferers, I wanted so much to reach out to the unfortunates from within Elizabeth's imagined body.  Christensen came upon the 'real life' Elizabeth Cellier’s story by accident when she won some pages recording Elizabeth's trial in an auction. She felt that her story should be told and 'The Popish Midwife' is her story, and one which I highly recommend.  She is currently working on an historical novel about Marie Desormeaux, another 17th Century midwife, who murdered her husband, cut him up and distributed the body parts around London.  Definitely looking forward to another entertaining and gruesome, oh and educational tale from this author.

Disclaimer: I am extremely grateful to have been given an opportunity to receive an advanced digital copy of 'The Popish Midwife' by the author to review as part of HF Virtual Book Tours.

About the Author:
03_Annelisa Christensen
Annelisa Christensen was born in Sussex, took a psychology degree at the University of Stirling in Scotland, then returned to the south to partner in a fashion design company with her childhood friend, Julia. They had fun selling to shops and in street markets all over London, but dissolved the business when children came along, both believing in putting their families first. Delighted to be offered the job of laboratory technician in the local secondary school, in which she had herself been Head Girl twenty years earlier, Annelisa simultaneously wrote a magical realism series (as yet unpublished). She wrote The Popish Midwife after falling in love with Elizabeth Cellier in some 300-year-old loose pages of a trial she bought on the internet. The more she discovered about Elizabeth Cellier, the more Annelisa wanted to share this amazing woman’s story. The Popish Midwife is the result of years of research and writing.

For more information, please visit Annelisa Christensen's website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads. Sign up for her Newsletter.

Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, October 19
Spotlight at The Book Connection
Spotlight at Blogarama

Friday, October 22

Monday, October 24

Tuesday, October 25
Spotlight at Broken Teepee

Friday, October 26
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, October 27
Guest Post at Books, Dreams, Life

Friday, October 28
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, November 1
Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, November 2
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, November 4
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Monday, November 7

Wednesday, November 9
Interview at The Book Connection
Guest Post and Review at Historical Fiction Obsession

Friday, November 11


Wednesday, 19 October 2016


Halloween Book Group

Monday October 31st, 530-7pm

Join us... to discuss, 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children' and the classic horror story, 'The Turn Of the Screw'.

Yummy cakes and drinks will be available from CafeW to fuel the spooky discussions.

You don't have to have read both books, but it would definitely help if you've read one of them for discussing at the meeting.

For further information please see our Facebook page or visit us on Twitter @pompeybooks

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

They Were Like Family To Me by Helen Maryles Shankman

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The stunningly beautiful and heartbreaking novel 'In the Land of Armadillos' by Helen Maryles Shankman has been republished under the new title 'They Were Like Family To Me'

One of my 'absolute favourites' this year you can read my original review here:

Unfortunately not yet published in the U.K.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

TLC Book Tours Review of Beulah's House of Prayer by Cynthia A Graham

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Beulah's House of Prayer by Cynthia A Graham
Pages: 224 pages
Publisher: Brick Mantel Books (July 12, 2016)
Source: Publisher/TLC Book Tours


Disclaimer: A complimentary digital copy of 'Beulah's House Of Prayer' was provided by the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest unbiased review.

Read in August 2016
Some storms bring destruction. Others bring salvation.
In 1934 the tiny town of Barmy, Oklahoma, is in desperate need of a miracle. The cows are hungry, the rain won’t fall, most of Main Street is boarded up. Young aspiring trapeze artist Sugar Watson is dumped unceremoniously into this bleak setting with little money and only one thing on her mind—escape. Beulah Clinton, a Holy Ghost preacher, has dedicated herself to helping the distressed in this ragged little wasteland, and Sugar soon finds herself thrown in with Marigold Lawford, the simple-minded widow of the richest man in town, and Homer Guppy, a boy trouble follows like dust after a wind.
Despite Sugar’s immediate distaste of Barmy, Beulah’s patience, Marigold’s kindness, and Homer’s unconditional love make her reconsider the meaning of home.
On Black Sunday, the worst dust storm in history brings with it a choice: Sugar must decide whether or not to return home, leaving the hospitality—and love—of Barmy’s inhabitants. A stunning Depression-era literary novel with a touch of magical realism, Beulah’s House of Prayer captivates until the very end.

My Thoughts:
I read ''Beneath Still Waters' by Cynthia A Graham back in March of this year and was very impressed with her debut historical crime novel so when 'Beulah's House of Prayer' popped up for review with the 'TLC Book Tours', I jumped at the chance to be a tour host.

Beulah Clinton, a kindly but fierce lay preacher, surprisingly isn't the main character of this story however she is the pivital character that the townsfolk's lives revolve around in this desolate dusty town.  She arrives in Barmy with just her wagon drawn by two mules and sets up a boarding house where anyone in need of sustenance or comfort is always welcome.

Sugar Watson, the narrator's mother finds herself stranded in town with little more than her fathers trunk and a coffin with his body inside. Self centred, with a tendency towards spitefulness when things do not go her way, Sugar is not a likeable young girl.  With nowhere to go she reluctantly accepts Beulah's offer to stay for as long as she needs at the boarding house with her and another homeless boarder, Marigold Lawford a sweet natured, put upon young widow.

Several of the chapters begin with an event reminiscent in the narrators mind which gently blend into the narration of the past to continue the storyline.

Barmy is a 'godforsaken' place frequented by huge, violent dust storms which bring bad health and life threatening ailments in its wake. It tirelessly seeps in through every tiny crack or crevice and into homes to be inhaled and ingested by everyone. Dust tirelessly coats household surfaces no matter how many times it is cleaned away. There is no escape even from within the safety of their homes. The storms appear to foretell the arrival of bad news, upheavals, and crisis points for the townsfolk, with one almighty storm towards the end of the book bringing with it devastation and revelation in biblical proportions.

At times it is an immensely touching tale with scenes so tender and heartbreaking that I was moved to tears. One such scene is of Homer Guppy, the towns 'bad boy' who doesn't want to leave the side of the dying Sugar because she would be afraid to be alone in the dark. (It's okay, no spoilers given.) The characters were utterly believable and I felt fully invested in them, I watched them grow, learn about love, sacrifice, and to care for, and be cared about, it genuinely hurt to feel their pain.

Moments of humour are also evident as shown in a scene where Homer and Sugar are busy digging hole after hole in the yard, trying to find Beulah's buried mason jars full of money, unaware that they are being watched by an amused Beulah through the kitchen window.

Beulah's House of Prayer is set during the depression era of the 1930's in the 'Dust Bowl' days of the Oklahoma Panhandle and is written with such depth of character, a light touch of southern gothic, and accompanied by a twist of magical realism. It was an absolute delight to read.

Ultimately it is a tale of coming to terms with what you have and who you are, taking a long hard look at yourself and making amends. It is also about patience, friendship, hope, healing, redemption and forgiveness, and above all the power of love.

I highly recommend this quick, heartwarming tale.

About Cynthia A. Graham
Cynthia A. Graham is the winner of several writing awards, including a Gold IPPY and a Midwest Book Award for Beneath Still Waters, and her short stories have appeared in both university and national literary publications. She attained a B.A. in English from the Pierre Laclede Honors College at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. Cynthia is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the St. Louis Writers’ Guild, the Missouri Writers’ Guild, and Sisters in Crime. She is the author of two works of historical mystery: Beneath Still Waters and Behind Every Door. Beulah’s House of Prayer is her first foray in the land of magical realism.

Praise for Beulah's House of Prayer:
“Cynthia A. Graham’s novel, Beulah’s House of Prayer, is chock-full of what Flannery O’Connor called ‘large and startling figures.’ But these are not caricatures; they are people with whom you will fall in love and think you know in real life. You will care about their travails and want to turn to that last page to see what becomes of them—but with Dust Bowl descriptions reminiscent of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, a break-neck speed conclusion, and a fascinating love story in the mix, you’ll be conflicted about how fast you want to get there.” —David Armand, author, The Gorge, Harlow, and The Pugilist s Wife

“Beulah’s House of Prayer blends the stark reality of Steinbeck and the grace and imagery of Willa Cather into a beautifully-rendered story of struggle and faith in Depression and Dust Bowl era Oklahoma a place where ‘communion is the wheat I grow and the blood I sweat.’  Steeped in metaphor, this moving novel is at once compelling and poetic. It is the kind of story that often finds its way onto the big screen. One heck of a good read!” —Dixon Hearne, author, From Tickfaw to Shongaloo and Delta Flats: Stories in the Key of Blues and Hope.

Cynthia A. Graham’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Tuesday, September 6th: Bewitched Bookworms
Wednesday, September 7th: SJ2B House of Books
Friday, September 9th: Buried Under Books
Monday, September 12th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Thursday, September 15th: Kahakai Kitchen
Monday, September 19th: FictionZeal
Wednesday, September 21st: Write Read Life

Friday, 26 August 2016

HF Virtual Book Tours Review & Giveaway: The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

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The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War
By Phyllis Edgerly Ring
Publisher: Whole Sky Books (November 2015)
Source: Author/Historical Fiction Virtual Tour Books
Pages: 356


Disclaimer: I would like to thank Phyllis Edgerly Ring for gifting me a copy of her book and HF Virtual Book Tours for allowing me to take part in this book tour.

"Anna Dahlberg grew up eating dinner under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun. Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother and Hitler’s mistress were friends. The secret surfaces with a mysterious monogrammed handkerchief, and a man, Hannes Ritter, whose Third Reich family history is entwined with Anna’s. Plunged into the world of the “ordinary” Munich girl who was her mother’s confidante—and a tyrant’s lover—Anna finds her every belief about right and wrong challenged. With Hannes’s help, she retraces the path of two women who met as teenagers, shared a friendship that spanned the years that Eva Braun was Hitler’s mistress, yet never knew that the men they loved had opposing ambitions. Eva’s story reveals that she never joined the Nazi party, had Jewish friends, and was credited at the Nuremberg Trials with saving 35,000 Allied lives. As Anna's journey leads back through the treacherous years in wartime Germany, it uncovers long-buried secrets and unknown reaches of her heart to reveal the enduring power of love in the legacies that always outlast war."

My Thoughts:
The Munich Girl is primarily a story of self discovery and the importance of being true to ourselves told through the narratives of three women from present day and 1940's timelines.

In part, it tells the story of Anna Dahlberg, and her journey of uncovering the story behind her mother's portrait of an enigmatic pretty young woman.

It is through her diaries that Peggy, (Anna's mother) tells of how she comes into possession of the painting and becomes the unlikely friend of Ava, (Eva Braun).  It gives us a fascinating imagined glimpse of the world of Hitler's secret mistress.

I loved the writing style, the pace was perfectly timed with scenes flowing effortlessly through each timeframe. Yes, it's beautifully written with meticulously drawn characters, I truly believed in them, and that's where my problem with it lies. It bothered me that the lines between fact and fiction were so exquisitely blurred that I believed in the premise that Eva was an innocent in her naivety and worship of her abuser. I was confused and didn't feel comfortable with it.

Eva Braun was the 'highly kept secret' mistress of Adolf Hitler and yes she was a woman in her own right who under different circumstances may have been all the book portrays of her. She is not to be blamed for the evil acts this man was responsible for, however she did love him and chose to stay with him with the full knowledge of his monstrous beliefs and actions.  No, we shouldn't demonise her, but nor too can I accept a romanticised fairytale version of her. I tried but I failed. Had this been a work of pure fiction I would not fault it.

This isn't a negative review but I do have an opinion that could be perceived as such so I hope it won't dissuade anyone from reading it as Phyllis Edgerly Ring has written an exemplary piece of historical fiction which I truly enjoyed reading. It was just the portrayal of the little known about, factual character I found hard to come to terms with.

Perfect for fans of historical fiction that address history in some form and book groups as I think it could generate some lively debate.

“I was drawn in by Phyllis Ring’s economical and expressive language. Then the story took over! Protagonist Anna Dahlberg must face the emotional fallout from a traumatic plane crash, while simultaneously uncovering the first clues in a shocking generational mystery involving key players in the Third Reich. Everything’s complicated by a new romance that may help her overcome the past and find her true inner strength. But is it real? Love can manifest itself in enigmatic–and unexpected–ways.” -Elizabeth Sims, author and contributing editor at Writer’s Digest magazine
“… fresh perspective of German women at opposing ends of the warring spectrum … a beautiful story of enduring friendship and the lengths people will go to for love.” -The Stellar Review
“So persuasive is this novel that, before I could believe it was in fact a piece of fiction, I contacted the author and asked where she did her research and where she came up with the idea.” -Leslie Handler, The Philadelphia Inquirer

About the Author
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Author Phyllis Edgerly Ring writes fiction and non-fiction. She left a part of her heart in her childhood home of Germany, which she visits as often as she can.
Her newest release, The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War, follows the lives of three women there before, during, and after the Second World War. The novel’s protagonist begins a journey that links past and present when she discovers that her mother shared a secret friendship with Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun.
The New Hampshire author loves writing, travel, and the noblest possibilities in the human heart and is always curious to discover how history, culture, relationship, spirituality, and the natural world influence us and guide the human family on its shared journey.

For more information, please visit Phyllis Edgerly Ring’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Giveaway - Open Internationally
To enter the giveaway for a paperback copy of 'The Munich Girl', please click here:
Two copies are up for grabs!

Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, August 1
 Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Tuesday, August 2
 Review at Creating Herstory
Thursday, August 4
 Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Friday, August 5
 Interview at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog
Monday, August 8
 Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Tuesday, August 9
 Review at First Impression Reviews
Wednesday, August 10
 Guest Post at Let Them Read Books
Friday, August 12
 Spotlight at Just One More Chapter
Monday, August 15
 Guest Post & Excerpt at The Silver Dagger Scriptorium
Wednesday, August 17
 Review at A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, August 18
 Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Friday, August 19
 Review at Book Nerd
Monday, August 22
 Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Friday, August 26
 Review at SJ2B House of Books

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

NUDGE NB Newbooks Review: The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock

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The Heavenly Table
Donald Ray Pollock
Pages: 384
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Souce: NUDGE, NB Newbooks
Genre: Historical Western Noir


Disclaimer: I received a complementary copy of The Heavenly Table
from NUDGE NB Newbooks in exchange for my honest review.

A classically written western with a contemporary noir twist
Read in July 2016
Cane, Cob and Chimney Jewett are young Georgia sharecroppers held under the thumb of their domineering, God-struck father Pearl. When he dies unexpectedly, they set out on horseback to rob and loot their way to wealth and infamy, inspired by a lurid dime novel that only one of them can read. But little goes as planned and soon they're pursued by both the authorities and by stories that make them out to be the most fearsome trio of bank robbers and murderers around. The truth, though, is far more complex than the legend. And the heaven they've imagined may in fact be worse than the hell they sought to escape. The Heavenly Table is gritty, electrifying and weirdly funny. It cements Donald Ray Pollock's place among America's best contemporary novelists.

My Thoughts:
My first encounter with Donald Ray Pollock was with 'Kockemstiff' and 'The Devil All The Time'. I just love the gritty hillbilly, redneck storylines. I just love his twisted, cruel sense of humour. Peppered throughout with the worst acts of human kind, moral angst and a just a sprinkling of goodness or innocence, Pollock does not write comfortable easy reading material. So then, with 'The Heavenly Table' I knew what I was likely to be getting and was not disappointed.

Set against the backdrop of Alabama and Meade in 1917 and the beginning of America's involvement in WWI, 'The Heavenly Table' is an epic family saga with the Jewett family at the heart of the story, with Pearl a fanatically religious hardworking farmer and his sons, Cane the oldest, wisest and literate, Cob the 'dummy' and Chimney the rebellious youngest and least moral of the three sons.

We also hear about the Fiddler's; Ellsworth who has lost the family's life savings to a travelling con artist, Eula his long suffering, all forgiving wife, and Eddie their good for nothing drunk of a son.

Initial chapters give alternating perspectives of the families with a build up of characters adding their own distinctive points of view along the way. These seemingly unrelated storylines will eventually converge with an exciting explosive climax.

The Heavenly Table's titular phrase comes from a mystical drifter Pearl encounters one day, who tells him to, “welcome all the suffering that comes your way” and preaches that if he does so, one day he will “eat at the heavenly table.”  Well darn it if Pearl and those boys haven't suffered enough already, but Pearl believes they can and must suffer more to do whatever it takes to be worthy of sitting at that table some day.  Fortunately for Pearl his suffering is soon over and the boys decide that they've had enough and want something better while they're still alive.  With the influence of an old dime novel and its violent tales of 'Bloody Bill Bucket', a hero they will aspire to more and more, the boys set off on their adventurous, often disastrous, road to to seek their fortunes.

This is gritty western noir at its best with impeccably placed humour with gruesome graphic scenes, one such as a parasitic worm vacating the dead body of the Jewett boys' mother.

Pollock writes with such fluidity and emotive intensity about his deprived and often depraved characters, about the hardship and savagery in their lives, and of their grit and determination to better themselves.  So fabulously drawn that at times it feels as if the Jewett boys could just ride off the pages in a blaze of dust and played out for me like a Cohen Brother's movie.  Surface to say, it's deliciously dark, mean and cruel with a smattering of good old religious comeuppance and plenty of brutal black humour.

Perfect for fans of Bill Frank, Joe R Lansdale, Patrick de Witt, and because I don't think it has quite the same level of violence as in his previous books, it would make an excellent introduction for newcomers to the world of Mr Pollock who is in my opinion a cracker of a story teller.

Favourite Character/Scene: I loved all the characters and far too many scenes were memorable so I'll go with...the image of a drunken Eddie Fiddler accidentally blasting his mom's cat Pickles to Kingdom Come.

Least liked character: ohh it’s got to be the big 'Bad Bob' psycho killer.

Friday, 12 August 2016

TLC BOOK TOURS REVIEW: The Ninja's Daughter by Susan Spann

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The Ninja's Daughter : A Hiro Hattori Novel
by Susan Spann
Publisher : Seventh Street Books (August 2, 2016)
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours
Genre: Crime Mystery set in 16th Century Japan


Disclaimer: Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for my complementary digital copy of the book in exchange for an honest review and to take part in this book blog tour.

Read in July, 2016
Autumn, 1565: When an actor’s daughter is murdered on the banks of Kyoto’s Kamo River, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo are the victim’s only hope for justice.
As political tensions rise in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, and rival warlords threaten war, the Kyoto police forbid an investigation of the killing, to keep the peace–but Hiro has a personal connection to the girl, and must avenge her. The secret investigation leads Hiro and Father Mateo deep into the exclusive world of Kyoto’s theater guilds, where they quickly learn that nothing, and no one, is as it seems. With only a mysterious golden coin to guide them, the investigators uncover a forbidden love affair, a missing mask, and a dangerous link to corruption within the Kyoto police department that leaves Hiro and Father Mateo running for their lives.

My Thoughts:
The Ninja's Daughter by Susan Spann is the latest novel in the Hiro Hattori detective mystery series set during 16th century Japan.  Having not read any of the other books in the series, I don't think this detracted any from my enjoyment or understanding of the characters or their history together, as Susan supplies the pertinent information without going overboard to understand what is going on within the context of current storyline.

The case the duo are investigating is that of a young girl who shows definite signs of having been murdered. However, being from the low born status of an actress she is classed as 'a nobody' and therefore 'nobody' has been killed and no crime committed. To complicate matters further the victim happens to be the niece of Father Mateo's bodyguard.  The formidable duo, Father Mateo and Hiro Hattori his bodyguard and translator certainly have their work cut out for them in solving this mystery.

An enjoyable quick satisfying read with a little Japanese cultural history to boot, 'The Ninja's Daughter' is an engaging story with a likeable and quirky cast of characters from the main duo, to Ana the very cranky landlady, and Gato the adopted cat. I really liked this one and will definitely look at the previous books in the series.

Highly recommended for fans of the cosy crime genre and wanting or maybe willing to try something a little different, and exotic blended into the mix.  Fabulous fun, great for book group reads too.

A glossary of the cast of characters and Japanese words are included to enrich the readers experience and understanding.
About Susan Spann
Susan Spann is a transactional publishing attorney and the author of the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. Susan has a degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University, where she studied Chinese and Japanese language, history, and culture. Her hobbies include cooking, traditional archery, martial arts, and horseback riding. She lives in northern California with her husband, son, two cats, and an aquarium full of seahorses.

Here's a link to the schedule of reviewers participating in the TLC tour for THE NINJA’S DAUGHTER by Susan Spann: TLC BOOK TOUR schedule

Susan Spann’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS
Monday, July 25th: Buried Under Books
Tuesday, July 26th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, July 26th:Book Dilettante
Wednesday, July 27th: In Bed With Books
Thursday, July 28th: Worth Getting in Bed For
Friday, July 29th: Wordsmithonia
Friday, July 29th: Write Read Life
Sunday, July 31st: Write Read Life – author interview
Monday, August 1st: Hoser’s Blook
Wednesday, August 3rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, August 4th: A Holland Reads
Thursday, August 4th: Book Dilettante – author guest post “Swords & Crosses: Jesuit Missionaries in Japan”
Sunday, August 7th: Buried Under Books – author guest post, “How I Decided to Murder The Ninja’s Daughter”
Monday, August 8th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Tuesday, August 9th: Open Book Society
Thursday, August 11th: Luxury Reading
Friday, August 12th: SJ2B House of Books
Monday, August 15th: Books and Tea
Monday, August 15th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Tuesday, August 16th: A Fantastical Librarian
Wednesday, August 17th: Broken Teepee
TBD: Lavish Bookshelf
TBD: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Thursday, 4 August 2016

The Atomic Weight Of Love by Elizabeth J Church

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Title: The Atomic Weight of Love
Author: Elizabeth J. Church
Publisher: Algonquin Books (3 May 2016)
Pages: 320 pages
Source: ARC via NetGalley
Genre: historical fiction, womens fiction, WWII, Vietnam War, women's studies


Disclaimer: A complementary copy of The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J Church was provided by the Publisher for an unbiased honest review.

Read in July, 2016
In her sweeping debut novel, Elizabeth J. Church takes us from the World War II years in Chicago to the vast sun-parched canyons of New Mexico in the 1970s as we follow the journey of a driven, spirited young woman, Meridian Wallace, whose scientific ambitions are subverted by the expectations of her era.

In 1941, at seventeen years old, Meridian begins her ornithology studies at the University of Chicago. She is soon drawn to Alden Whetstone, a brilliant, complicated physics professor who opens her eyes to the fundamentals and poetry of his field, the beauty of motion, space and time, the delicate balance of force and energy that allows a bird to fly.

Entranced and in love, Meridian defers her own career path and follows Alden west to Los Alamos, where he is engaged in a secret government project (later known to be the atomic bomb). In married life, though, she feels lost and left behind. She channels her academic ambitions into studying a particular family of crows, whose free life and companionship are the very things that seem beyond her reach. There in her canyons, years later at the dawn of the 1970s, with counterculture youth filling the streets and protests against the war rupturing college campuses across the country, Meridian meets Clay, a young geologist and veteran of the Vietnam War, and together they seek ways to mend what the world has broken.

Exquisitely capturing the claustrophobic eras of 1940s and 1950s America, The Atomic Weight of Love also examines the changing roles of women during the decades that followed. And in Meridian Wallace we find an unforgettable heroine whose metamorphosis shows how the women’s movement opened up the world for a whole generation.

My Thoughts:
On Meri's 10th birthday her father gives her a book, 'The Burgess Bird Book for Children'.  For her 11th birthday he gives her, Darwin's 'On The Origin of the Species'. Six months later her father dies leaving both Meri and her mother utterly devastated.
At 17 years old Meri leaves her hometown of Pennsylvania and attends Chicago University with a fierce ambition to earn an advanced degree in ornithology.  She sits in on one of Professor Whetstone's physics lectures and is completely smitten by this man old enough to be her father. This is what she says about seeing him at that first lecture, ' I was in awe of Alden. I could only sense the very fringes of concepts that his intellect grasped with such easy, ready fingers. I worshipped his knowledge, his aloof independence and greater world experience. He was my teacher; he led me, and I followed gladly.'  They embark on an affair fuelled, not by passion or lustful recklessness, but of joint admiration of intellectual minds. They marry and Alden takes her away to Los Alamos, New Mexico.

At the commencement of each chapter there are ornithological terms of reference which cleverly shadow Meri's experiences within the chapter they refer to.
The writing style is gently paced, and intelligent, with beautifully constructed sentences and phrases such as,"I watched the first snowfall begin as a light, dry powder and morph into those luscious, fat, lazy flakes that sashay downward and accumulate into weighty drifts." I fell immediately under the authors spell of words and eagerly devoured the pages of the book. In another poignantly beautifully written scene where the crows say farewell to one of their own, I cried as the loss and feeling of loneliness was utterly palpable and I truly believed I understood how Meri was feeling at that particular stage of her life.

The Atomic Weight of Love is primarily a love story written and voiced by Meri about the ever changing, evolving love she feels for Alden, and then in her 40's of her love for a much younger man.  I found it in turns to be heartbreaking, and infuriating due to the out dated attitudes of the times, but above all an uplifting read.  There is a bittersweet quality to the story and at times it simply broke my heart.

Elizabeth Church’s debut novel is an exquisite poignant tale of loyalty, trust and knowing when to let go. I truly hope there's a lot more to come from her as a writer.  I'd recommend it for readers who love beautifully written literary historical fiction that will make them question their own sacrifices and accomplishments.  I would also suggest it for book group readers as the multitude of topics raised throughout the book could generate some lively discussion.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

The Far Empty by J Todd Scott

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The Far Empty, J Todd Scott
Publisher: G P Putnam's Sons (9 June 2016)
Pages: 448

Source: Publisher/Edelweiss
Genre: Contemporary Western Crime Noir, Fact Based Fiction

Themes: Mexican Drug Gangs, Graphic scenes of violence, Abuse of every kind...


Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of The Far Empty was provided by G P Putnam's Sons via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest unbiased review.

Todd Scott s "The Far Empty" is so good I wish I d written it. The poetic and bloody ground of west Texas has given birth to a powerful new voice in contemporary western crime fiction. Craig Johnson, "New York Times" bestselling author of the Walt Longmire series
In this gritty crime debut set in the stark Texas borderlands, an unearthed skeleton will throw a small town into violent turmoil.
Seventeen-year-old Caleb Ross is adrift in the wake of the sudden disappearance of his mother more than a year ago, and is struggling to find his way out of the small Texas border town of Murfee. Chris Cherry is a newly minted sheriff s deputy, a high school football hero who has reluctantly returned to his hometown. When skeletal remains are discovered in the surrounding badlands, the two are inexorably drawn together as their efforts to uncover Murfee s darkest secrets lead them to the same terrifying suspect: Caleb s father and Chris s boss, the charismatic and feared Sheriff Standford Judge Ross. Dark, elegiac, and violent, "The Far Empty" is a modern Western, a story of loss and escape set along the sharp edge of the Texas border. Told by a longtime federal agent who knows the region, it s a debut novel you won t soon forget."

My Thoughts:
So much time and effort goes into getting a book cover right so when one catches my eye I think it deserves a mention. The cover has to convey something about the book, as well as making sure it appeals to a potential reader, because if it's not right it can be the death of a book. I always tell customers (especially if they're looking at a book with a spectacular cover) that, you can tell a publisher believes in the author from the quality of the cover... So to The Far Empty... I love the cover artwork for this gritty, crime debut.  It certainly gives a clue as to what the book is about...Mexican border gun culture, drug cartels with a murder or two.

If you find scenes of graphic violence abhorrent then move away from this one and if the cover is right I think you'll have done that anyway.

The Far Empty is a fictional piece based on actual violent drug related incidents and on a corrupt local sheriff from a drugs task force in Texas.
J Todd Scott, a federal agent with the DEA for many years has drawn on his experience to pen this gritty, brutal debut and with twenty years experience in the force investigating smuggling, domestic meth lads and Mexican cartels, he knows what he's writing about.

Ok so Caleb Ross, he's 17 and his father is the charismatic, influential Sheriff Stanford 'Judge' Ross and in Celeb's own voice he says this of him, 'My father has killed three men. My father . . . that f*****g monster . . . also killed my mother'.
So Caleb doesn't like his father...He even feels uneasy turning his back on him. Why would he feel such hatred for, and fear of his own father, unless of course he has reason. Caleb 'knows', that his mother wouldn't have run out on him with no word for the last thirteen months, and that his father killed her. He just cannot prove it.

Chris Cherry, after a knee injury ends his promising football career, returns to Murfee taking on the role of sheriff's deputy.  His girlfriend Melissa is not so sure that its such a good move when they arrive.

When skeletal remains are unearthed out in the 'badlands' Cherry wants to do everything he can to put a name to this poor soul. However it's not going to be easy with the apathetic, unwillingness to investigate on the part of Sheriff Ross and his psychotic chief deputy Duane Dupree. After all it's probably just another dead Mexican in the desert so who cares.  Well, Cherry does and so too does Caleb who's convinced it's his mum that's been lying out there all this time.

Into the mix we have, another missing person Rudy Ray a border patrol officer; the arrival of Anne the mysterious new teacher at Caleb's school; América Reynosa Caleb's Mexican friend whose brother Rudy Ray has gone missing, and Maximo a young teen 'hired Killer' for one of the drug cartels.

Each character gets their own chapter to tell us about their history and their thought process throughout the story, but its only Caleb's narrative which is in the first person, lending his voice focus and impact.

The Far Empty is dark, brutal, menacing and exceedingly violent with all of the unsavoury characters you'd expect to find involved in Mexican border gun culture, and some ignorant or down trodden towns folk living within an environment where the law is just as feared as the drug run cartels. There are some shocking and unexpected surprises along the way with one big shocker I didn't see coming.

If you read to escape reality and whats really going on in the world then steer very clear, this one really is not for you.  However, I really enjoyed The Far Empty and fully believed in the depraved characters and the world within which they resided. I'm so looking forward to reading his next offering.

Perfect for fans of James Ellroy, Donald Ray Pollock, Frank Bill and Don Winslow.

Most memorable character:  Maximo, frighteningly all too real, desperately unsettling as it is an all too real scenario and inescapable reality for many kids like him.

Characters disliked: The callous cruel remorseless and calculating Sheriff 'Judge' Ross; his sidekick Deputy Dupree and most of the seedy darn right despicable townsfolk.