Posted in book reviews

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonaldThe Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald
Published by Gallery Books on February 5, 2019
ISBN: 1501184008
Genres: General (Adult) Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 368
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

In the vein of Big Little Lies and Reconstructing Amelia comes an emotionally charged domestic suspense novel about a mother unraveling the truth behind how her daughter became brain dead. And pregnant.

A search for the truth. A lifetime of lies.

In the small hours of the morning, Abi Knight is startled awake by the phone call no mother ever wants to get: her teenage daughter Olivia has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. And then Abi sees the angry bruises circling Olivia’s wrists.

When the police unexpectedly rule Olivia’s fall an accident, Abi decides to find out what really happened that night. Heartbroken and grieving, she unravels the threads of her daughter’s life. Was Olivia’s fall an accident? Or something far more sinister?

Christina McDonald weaves a suspenseful and heartwrenching tale of hidden relationships, devastating lies, and the power of a mother’s love. With flashbacks of Olivia’s own resolve to uncover family secrets, this taut and emotional novel asks: how well do you know your children? And how well do they know you?

I received this book for free from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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My Thoughts on The Night Olivia Fell:

The love I have for my daughters exceeds anything else found on this earth. If you ask Thing 1, she’d tell you I love my children more than most other parents love theirs… to the point that it gets annoying and suffocating at times!

Thing 1 and I are especially close and she knows my biggest fear is to get “the call.” Even if you’re the type of parent that spends 20 hours of your 24 hour day complaining about your teenager, you know and fear “the call.” It’s the one that causes your stomach to drop before you even pick up the line, the one that changes your life forever, the one where a complete stranger tells you your child is seriously injured — or dead.

It’s every parent’s worst fear.

Thanks to some past events in my life, I suffer from PTSD. My particular trauma involves harm to my children and so this fear is even more magnified for me (probably why I get all suffocate-y sometimes).

It’s probably also why The Night Olivia Fell was such an emotionally gut-wrenching, roller-coaster ride of a story for me!

Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of it… But it was hard to get through. I saw so many similarities between Olivia and Abi’s relationship to my relationship with Thing 1 that it all felt way too personal and real!

Abi and her daughter are obviously super close and Abi loves Olivia fiercely. But then comes the night Olivia falls… suddenly, Abi has to come to terms with the fact that maybe she didn’t really know her daughter at all.

Not only does she have to keep processing that bit of life-altering, earth-shattering news, but her daughter’s pregnant, the police refuse to believe the fall wasn’t an accident, and Abi’s life is just all around spinning out of control! She’s built her entire adult life around Olivia and now she’s gone. Even if she does find out what happened that night, how does she go on???

Final Thoughts:

I’ve got to tell you, this book gave me chills! (And nightmares.) I definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a good suspense novel featuring relatable characters and a totally believable plot!

What do you think? Have you read The Night Olivia Fell? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

four-half-stars
Posted in book reviews

A Light in the Desert by Anne Montgomery

A Light in the Desert by Anne MontgomeryA Light in the Desert by Anne Montgomery
Published by Treehouse Publishing/Amphorae Publishing Group on November 6, 2018
ISBN: 1732139113
Genres: General (Adult) Fiction
Pages: 286
Source: the author
Goodreads
three-half-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

A Light in the Desert traces the story of a lonely pregnant teenager, a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper who, as he descends into the throes of mental illness, latches onto the girl, and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. The Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst’s, a deadly act of sabotage. Their lives are thrown into turmoil when local and state police, FBI investigators, and a horde of reporters make camp by the twisted wreckage of the Sunset Limited. As the search for the saboteurs continues, the authorities find more questions than answers. The girl mysteriously vanishes, the assassin struggles to maintain his sanity, and a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.

I received this book for free from the author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Buy on AmazonBuy on Book Depository

My Thoughts on A Light in the Desert:

I have some very conflicting/mixed emotions about A Light in the Desert by Anne Montgomery. It isn’t that the book was necessarily bad or that I didn’t enjoy it, but I can’t say it was one of the best books I’ve read lately either.

The beginning started out a little too slow for my taste, yet at the same time it introduced way too many people, circumstances, and information too fast. The result was that I became confused on what was going on, who was who, and how all the different characters fit together.

Eventually, I did figure out what was happening. Eventually it all made sense how all the different people were linked, but it caused me to have a really hard time sticking with the book.

That being said, once I got over my initial confusion, I did really start to enjoy the story…. which is where all my mixed emotions come from.

Another strange thing that happens in this book is that it almost reads as two separate stories.

There are multiple main characters – Kelly Kelly/Kelly Garcia, Jason Ramm, Billy, and a couple of members from a cult-type group which call themselves “the Children of the Light.” At one point, it seems like the main story that draws them all together is over, but then it picks back up again with a completely new central issue. I was literally halfway through the book and things had been pretty much all worked out and I thought “do I even need to read the rest of the book?” That’s never happened to me before and I still don’t know how I feel about it.

Like I said, I still ended up enjoying the book. And actually the second half turned out to be my favorite… it was just a different experience than I’m used to.

Final Thoughts:

I know this has been a really vague post, but this a book where I feel my reactions and feelings about it are probably more helpful than actually talking about what happens in the book itself. Especially since telling the characters stories would probably give away a lot of the “surprise” about how they all fit together.

Overall, I think it’s worth the read. There are some trigger warnings that you should be aware of before picking it up. They include: incest, rape/attempted rape, violence, PTSD, and sexual abuse of a minor.

three-half-stars
Posted in book reviews

After the Green Withered – Blog Tour Review

It’s Day 7 of The Write Reads‘ Ultimate Blog Tour! That means it’s FINALLY my turn to talk about After the Green Withered by Kristin Ward!!!

About the Book:

After the Green Withered by Kristin Ward
on May 18, 2018
ISBN: 9781982900731
Genres: General (Adult) Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult
Pages: 283
Source: the author
Goodreads
four-half-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

They tell me the country looked different back then.

They talk of open borders and flowing rivers.

They say the world was green.

But drought swept across the globe and the United States of the past disappeared under a burning sky.

Enora Byrnes lives in the aftermath, a barren world where water has become the global currency. In a life dominated by duty to family and community, Enora is offered a role within an entity that controls everything from water credits to borders. But it becomes clear that not all is as it seems. From the wasted confines of her small town to the bowels of a hidden city, Enora will uncover buried secrets that hide an unthinkable reality.

As truth reveals the brutal face of what she has become, she must ask herself: how far will she go to retain her humanity?

I received this book for free from the author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Buy on AmazonBuy on Book Depository

My Thoughts on After the Green Withered:

I was hooked on this book from the very beginning!

It starts with a description of the world Enora has grown up in, and the little bit she’s aware of how it got to be this way. The way everything played out was so believable it gave me chills! I could totally see this happening in real life and it terrified me.

The Story:

Basically, we’ve destroyed the planet and now there’s not enough water or other basic resources for us to survive on. Years go by without a drop of rain. Water credits are now the world currency and most families are given barely enough to survive on.

Enora is 17 and is about to graduate from school. Upon graduating, she must choose a job from her limited options (none sound appealing to her) and start working – probably in the mill like her parents. At least, that’s what she expected to happen…

Instead, Enora is recruited by the DMC, the organization that “saved” the world from it’s population of destructive humans. The DMC is a global powerhouse that started out small, but now governs the entire world. Enora doesn’t want to work from them. It’s the thing she never saw as a possibility and thought of as the worst possible outcome for her future.

But no one really cares what she wants.

And no one says no to being recruited by the DMC.

So she’s thrust into a whole new world as she begins preparing for her new life. She loses touch with her only friend and starts a path to becoming someone she doesn’t recognize. But her parents are much better off and she does make some new friends, although she still feels like an outsider.

Even though things aren’t all bad, Enora continues to be plagued by a feeling that things aren’t right. However, she rationalizes all her doubts away, ignoring the warning signs until she can’t ignore them anymore.

Themes:

There are a couple of different themes that run throughout the book and I feel like I could write a whole series of posts on them! But I’ll spare you from my ramblings and just break them down real simply here.

Enora, like many others, want to resist the pull of the DMC, but can’t see a way out. The consequences of resistance are just too severe. The phrase “resistance is futile,” while never actually used in After the Green Withered, ran through my head continually during my reading.

This is the bleak reality that I need to face. Beyond the fence of every community is nothing. No water, no food, no chance of survival. The Company knows this, depends on it. I suppose that there are some who live beyond the borders. God knows not everyone was rounded up as the Company swept through, but where those people live and how they live is beyond my imagining.

Enora, After the Green Withered

There’s also a major theme of the haves vs. the have nots. I won’t expound on that since it’s a pretty simple concept.

Of course, the underlying message throughout the entire book is basically “take care of the earth now before it’s too late.”

Also, don’t allow a single entity to become so powerful that it dictates everything for every person in the entire world!!!

The Writing:

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this story. After reading the synopsis, I was excited about getting to read it for the Ultimate Blog Tour, but the writing style wasn’t what I expected – or what I normally enjoy.

My preferred reading experience is heavy on the dialogue. But After the Green Withered actually has little of that.

Somehow, I found myself pulled more into the story than I ever have with a book written in this way. I wanted to point this out because I think it shows what amazing skill the author has in spinning a tale!

There was only one negative thing I could find in the whole book that bothered me… It happened pretty far in and so I was already hooked and fully immersed in the world and then suddenly I was thrown back into reality like I’d rode in on lightening!

About halfway through the book, there’s a place where Enora and her partner, Springer, have parked and are walking through a parking garage type structure. They’re far away from their vehicle when suddenly I read “He parks the jeep outside a large building…” It took me a good 10 minutes to get past that point and be able to jump back into the story. This isn’t something that may have bothered anyone else as much as it did me. This is the only time that happens, so it’s not a reason to ditch the book,
but if this is one of your reading pet peeves… you’ve been warned!

Final Thoughts:

I loved reading After the Green Withered and I recommend it for just about anyone! It’s thought-provoking and entertaining and I just loved it!!! I will say though, it’s caused me to feel some guilt about how much water I use!

What do you think? Have you read “After the Green Withered?” Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Kristin Ward has loved writing since middle school but took thirty years to do something serious about it. The result is her Best Indie Book Award-winning novel, After the Green Withered, followed by the sequel, Burden of Truth. She lives in a small town in Connecticut with her husband, three sons, and many furry and feathered friends. A SciFi geek to the core, she is fueled by dark chocolate and coffee and can be heard quoting eighties movies on a regular basis.

four-half-stars
Posted in book reviews

The Balance of Heaven and Earth by Laurence Westwood

The Balance of Heaven and Earth by Laurence WestwoodThe Balance of Heaven and Earth by Laurence Westwood
Published by Shikra Press Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 277
Source: the author
Goodreads
four-half-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

I have been unable to write a judgement that does not seem to offend my conscience, or indeed Heaven, in some manner. Because I do not wish to influence your thinking unduly, I have destroyed all my personal papers and notes in regard to this dispute, preferring you to start afresh. Forgive me for this. All I ask is that you consider and examine Jade Moon most carefully before coming to a decision. I find her fascinating and unsettling in equal measure, and fear the consequences of a wrongful judgement. I will say no more.

My sincerest best wishes to you and your family,

Magistrate Qian
Fifth District, Chengdu Prefecture
1st day of the 2nd Moon, 1085

So ends the letter of welcome (and of warning) to Magistrate Zhu, newly arrived in the remote border town of Tranquil Mountain. He has travelled far from his extensive family estates on the outskirts of Kaifeng – the glorious Song Dynasty capital – hoping to find atonement for past mistakes.

Yet he quickly discovers that Tranquil Mountain is anything but tranquil. The town is beset with simmering tensions since the death of his predecessor. Before Magistrate Zhu even has time to accustom himself to his inexperienced and wayward constabulary and the lowliness of his new surroundings, there is a mysterious murder, rumours of ghosts and blood-thirsty bandits out on the streets, and a disturbing kidnapping to solve – as well as the tragic and tangled legal circumstances of the local heroine Jade Moon to unravel.

For the balance of Heaven and Earth to be maintained, and to prevent catastrophe coming to Tranquil Mountain, Magistrate Zhu is well aware that not a single injustice can be allowed to stand. As he struggles to reach the correct judgements, he realises he has no choice but to offer up his career and perhaps even his own life for the greater good. And, in so doing, he discovers that as Jade Moon’s fate rests in his hands, so his fate ultimately rests in hers.

I received this book for free from the author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Buy on AmazonBuy on Book Depository

My Thoughts on The Balance of Heaven and Earth:

Where do I begin???

I had no idea what to expect when I began reading this book. I know little about the time period in China during which The Balance of Heaven and Earth takes place, but part of what I LOVE about historical fiction is getting to learn about different places and times through fictionalized accounts of the past.

There was so much that I loved about this book, but the characters are what really pulled me in and had me both laughing and crying! Even the names of people and places made me happy – Jade Moon, Horse, Always Smiling Orphanage – I just loved them!!

The story begins with Jade Moon saving a merchant during an attack by bandits in the marketplace. Jade Moon, normally quiet and mild-mannered, was transformed that day.

But while she may have saved a life, her own life and future is at risk thanks to a deal made by her mother before the time of the marketplace incident. Now, the new magistrate, Magistrate Zhu, must decide the fate of Jade Moon…

Magistrate Zhu was born into wealth and power, when you first meet him it seems as if he doesn’t want to do actual work and is unhappy with his new position as magistrate of Tranquil Mountain. But as his story is revealed and he interacts with all the inhabitants of the town, the Magistrate’s attitudes and actions begin to make sense and he really grows on the people in the town (and the reader of the story, as well)!

And poor Magistrate Zhu! He arrives in what he believes will be a boring town where he’ll be required to do very little. But upon arriving, he finds many demands put upon him other than maintaining the tea trade — there’s been a murder AND the matter of what to do about Jade Moon must be decided!

The Patriarchs, who used to run Tranquil Mountain and provide for the economic stability of the town, fear Magistrate Zhu has come to steal their land and the little authority they have left.

Jade Moon’s situation is made more complicated (at least in the magistrate’s eyes) by the fact that she’s not fully Chinese. Her father was a barbarian, whom she loved fiercely even though her mother despised him. There are those who believe her to be supernatural – a reincarnation of a warrior from long ago!

No one in Tranquil Mountain knows what to think of Magistrate Zhu. They find him odd, though smart, but uncaring about them. Tea is the most important thing to the citizens of the town, but Zhu seems only to care about catching a murderer!

As the story unfolds, Jade Moon’s story is tied up in the Magistrate’s, though it’s not quite clear how, and they don’t even see it themselves. Then there’s a moment near the end of the book where it all comes together and I cried it was so perfect!

I love the theme throughout the book of balance. No one is perfect. All make mistakes, but they don’t have to ruin everything… Still, all decisions have lasting consequences, and every character in The Balance of Heaven and Earth has to deal with their own.

You should know that I have come to believe that injustice is the primary cause of any imbalance between Heaven and Earth. It takes just one innocent man to be punished for a crime he did not commit, or for one guilty man to go undiscovered and to walk abroad in this land unpunished, for suffering to be brought down upon all of us. This is the moral responsibility that has been laid upon our heads, we who have chosen to enforce the law.

Magistrate Zhu, The Balance of Heaven and Earth

You would think that this would be a story with a more serious tone, considering it’s a mystery dealing with a murder and a legal mess left behind by the former magistrate. But The Balance of Heaven and Earth is much more on the humorous side than the serious!

The ending was nothing like what I expected! Normally, when I’m caught off guard by an ending I hate it, but I was pleasantly surprised this time. It was SO much better than I had anticipated it being!

Actually, the ending wasn’t the only thing that surprised me about this book… I’m always a little wary of any story that has so many characters it includes a helpful guide at the beginning. I find that even with the guide, I tend to get confused. (I think Dark Queen Rising was the last story to do that to me.) But I actually never had that problem in The Balance of Heaven and Earth. The characters all have unique personalities and there was never so many characters in one scene together that I couldn’t keep up with who was who, and who was saying what. (I probably wouldn’t even have noticed there were so many characters in the book if the list wasn’t there.)

This is one of those books that isn’t going to be everyone’s favorite cup of tea, but it’s worth reading even if you don’t absolutely love it like I did!!! I definitely recommend this book for anyone that enjoys historical fiction and historical mysteries (especially those set during the time of the Song Dynasty).

What do you think of The Balance of Heaven and Earth? Do you know of similar story I might enjoy? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks and happy reading!!

four-half-stars
Posted in book reviews

Star Bright by Anne Richmond Wakefield

Star Bright by Anne Richmond Wakefieldstar bright by Anne Richmond Wakefield
ISBN: 1732565015
Genres: General (Adult) Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 231
Source: the author
Goodreads
four-half-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Bright runs to stay alive. Her dad left before she was born, her mom died of cancer, and she’s spent years trying to numb her pain. She’s on the road to recovery when she decides to run an ultra-relay race in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It doesn’t hurt that Levi, gorgeous and nineteen, is on her team.

One terrible decision during the race changes everything. Soon, Bright must call upon strength she’s not sure she has and decide she is worth fighting for. To survive the wilds of the Blue Ridge, she’ll have to rely on the one person she's spent her entire life battling: herself.

I received this book for free from the author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Buy on Amazon

My Thoughts on Star Bright:

I LOVED this book!!! But before I go on to talk about why, there are some triggers associated with the content. While I’ll do my best to not touch on them much in this review, Star Bright does contain the following triggers and, therefore, may not be suitable for everyone: cutting, self-harm, attempted suicide, depression, severe trauma.

The Story:

Guys, this story is crazy amazing!!!

Actually, my biggest issue with the entire book is that the synopsis does not do it credit. The pages of Star Bright contain this fierce story about a teen who’s kidnapped during an ultra marathon race. The kidnapping might not be enough to make the story amazing, but add in all the stuff Bright’s been dealing with before the race: the loss of her mother, her inability to connect with her step-father, bullying at school, depression, self-harming, etc. and you’ve got to wonder – is she even prepared to want to escape??

The thriller aspect of the book has so many different levels to it! You’re not just wrapped up in the kidnapping… Because the story flashes back and forth between “before” and “after” you find yourself panicked for Bright in the past both before, during and after the kidnapping! And just when you think she’s safe…

Well, you’re just gonna have to read the book!!!

The Characters

I was immediately connected to Bright. The first chapter is only 3 pages long and by the end of those 3 pages, I knew I was fully into this story with her!

There are some books you just can’t put down because you don’t want to leave the characters alone and Star Bright was one of those for me. I drove my husband crazy for two days because I was literally feeling bad for setting the book down and leaving Bright alone.

Something I didn’t expect, was how I felt about Bright’s captor. When she’s kidnapped, you don’t feel sorry for the person who kidnaps her at first, but after a while I really felt pity for her, even though she was doing some pretty awful things!

So the characters are well-written and relatable!

Final Thoughts

I wish I could say more about Star Bright, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I’m just going to wrap up here by saying PLEASE go read this book and then e-mail me so we can talk about it!

If you’ve already read it, let me know what you thought in the comments below (and then e-mail me so we can talk about it without ruining it for everyone else!).

Thanks for visiting and happy reading! If you’ve got a book suggestion, leave me a link below!

four-half-stars
Posted in book reviews

The Sound of Holding Your Breath by Natalie Sypolt

The Sound of Holding Your Breath by Natalie SypoltThe Sound of Holding Your Breath: Stories by Natalie Sypolt
Published by West Virginia University Press on October 1, 2018
ISBN: 1946684570
Genres: Short Stories
Pages: 156
Source: WVU Press
Goodreads
five-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

The residents of The Sound of Holding Your Breath could be neighbors, sharing the same familiar landscapes of twenty-first-century Appalachia—lake and forest, bridge and church, cemetery and garden, diner and hair salon. They could be your neighbors—average, workaday, each struggling with secrets and losses, entrenched in navigating the complex requirements of family in all its forms.

Yet tragedy and violence challenge these unassuming lives: A teenage boy is drawn to his sister’s husband, an EMT searching the lake for a body. A brother, a family, and a community fail to confront the implications of a missing girl. A pregnant widow spends Thanksgiving with her deceased husband’s family. Siblings grapple with the death of their sister-in-law at the hands of their brother. And in the title story, the shame of rape ruptures more than a decade later.

Accidents and deaths, cons and cover-ups, abuse and returning veterans—Natalie Sypolt’s characters wrestle with who they are during the most trying situations of their lives.

I received this book for free from WVU Press. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Buy on AmazonBuy on Book Depository

My Thoughts:

I’m going to try my best, but I’m not sure that I can actually put into words how much I enjoyed this collection of short stories.

First, I need to make a confession… I don’t normally bother with anthologies or short story collections. I generally prefer a novella or full-length novel because most short stories just feel too… well, short. But, the description of The Sound of Holding Your Breath made me feel compelled to read it. I’m super glad I did!

Every story caused me to stop and think about what I’d just read. The characters are so “real” that I felt connected to them, as if I knew them and their pain, joy, heartache, and reflections were my own.

These aren’t exactly feel good stories, but they aren’t necessarily dark and twisty either (although some could be described that way). My favorites were definitely “Flaming Jesus,” “My Brothers and Me” and “The Sound of Holding Your Breath.” Every story is complicated and sucks you in to the small town Appalachia families they portray. Every family is different, but somehow the same. With struggles, hopes, dreams, failures, and fears.

The characters are all so complex that even they seem to be struggling with who they are and who they’re going to be. I found myself asking at the end of more than one story, was that character good or bad? Would I go that far in the same situation?

I read Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio” for the first time not too long ago. To be honest (and I realize this is a very unpopular opinion), but I wasn’t impressed. I had a hard time connecting with the characters, the stories were at times dull and lost my attention. Basically, it was as far away from what I’d been told to expect as it could possibly get.

But Natalie Sypolt’s The Sound of Holding Your Breath was everything I wanted Winesburg, Ohio to be. While there isn’t a central character in The Sound of Holding Your Breath, and the stories all take place in different towns, they could have easily all taken place in the same community. Where Winesburg left me depressed, TSOHYB left me with hope and a feeling that things could still get better.

I know I didn’t do justice to how much I loved these stories and how insightful they are, but I tried… some feelings are just beyond I words, I guess.

Needless to say, I definitely recommend picking this book up!! Let me know what you think in the comments below!

five-stars