Posted in WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday – June 5, 2019

Wow! It’s been a super long time since I’ve done one of these posts! Excited to get back into the swing of things though.

So… Happy Wednesday!!! 🎉 It’s time once again for WWW Wednesday ! WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.
Don’t know what WWW Wendesday is or how to participate??? All you need to do is answer the following three questions and link back to Taking on a World of Words, or you can put your answers in the comments on her blog! (You can also leave your link in my comments to be sure I don’t miss your post!)

The three WWW questions are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What I’m currently reading:

WWW Wednesday – June 5, 2019The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
Published by Chartwell Books on November 26, 2015
ISBN: 0785833501
Pages: 202
Goodreads
Synopsis

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is the unfinished record of Benjamin Franklinâ??s life written by Franklin himself and is one of the most influential examples of an autobiography ever written. Franklinâ??s account of his life is divided into four parts, reflecting the different periods at which he wrote them.

The first publication of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Part One, was published in Paris, in French in 1791. It wasn't until 1818 that the full version of Franklinâ??s autobiography was published by his grandson, William Temple Franklin, who did not include Part Four because he has previously traded away the original holograph of the Autobiography for a copy that contained only the first three parts. In addition, Franklinâ??s grandson felt free to make stylistic revisions to his grandfatherâ??s autobiography. W.T. Franklin's text was the standard version of the Autobiography for half a century, until John Bigelow purchased the original manuscript in France and in 1868 published the most reliable text that had yet appeared, including the first English publication of Part Four.

This edition of Autobiography of Ben Franklin comes from the original manuscript of Ben Franklinâ??s Memoirs and is presented in its entirety for enjoyment by all English speakers.

I’ve finally started reading through the Harvard Classics, which was a part of my 2019 reading goals. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is the first book on the list. I’ve actually read this one a few times now, but taking the opportunity to read it again 1) because I love it so much and 2) because I feel like not reading it is cheating on my personal challenge to read all the Harvard Classics.

WWW Wednesday – June 5, 2019Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
Published by Harper on June 28, 2016
ISBN: 0062300547
Pages: 257
Goodreads
Synopsis

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.

I received an ARC of Appalachian Reckoning from WVU Press, but I’ve never read Hillbilly Elegy before. I figured to be fair, I should read this first. So far, I have very mixed feelings about it.

What I recently finished reading:

Reviews will be posted soon for most of these so I won’t be saying much here.

WWW Wednesday – June 5, 2019Healer (Truth Seer Trilogy) by Kay L Moody
on January 7, 2019
ISBN: 1792918283
Goodreads
Synopsis

Cairo 2121. The city is failing.

To save it, all they need is a list.

A list that has the names needed to take down the slave cartel that targets orphans. A list that’s impossible to find.

In an unfamiliar city, Imara attempts to secure the list, but her efforts are thwarted again and again by a man who grips Cairo with terror and control.

She joins a security team, hoping to save Cairo and her new boyfriend’s business all at the same time. With the team’s numbers dwindling more each day, they prepare for an upcoming event to attract new recruits to help them hunt down the list and stop the terror for good.

But then, their efforts get hijacked by an old threat and their problems multiply. Now, Imara faces a man who enslaves orphans and a woman who craves revenge. As the fight progresses, she’s forced to make an impossible choice:

Fix the mistakes of her past… or save the city?

Healer is the 2nd book in the Truth Seer Trilogy.

WWW Wednesday – June 5, 2019Breakthrough: The Miraculous True Story of a Mother's Faith and Her Child's Resurrection by Joyce Smith, Ginger Kolbaba
Published by FaithWords on March 12, 2019
ISBN: 1546010602
Pages: 256
Goodreads
Synopsis

The impossible true story about the powerful impact of prayer that inspired the major motion picture starring Chrissy Metz, Topher Grace, Dennis Haysbert, and Josh Lucas.
Through the years and the struggles, when life seemed more about hurt and loss than hope and mercy, God was positioning the Smiths for something extraordinary--the death and resurrection of their son.

When Joyce Smith's fourteen-year-old son John fell through an icy Missouri lake one winter morning, she and her family had seemingly lost everything. At the hospital, John lay lifeless for more than sixty minutes. But Joyce was not ready to give up on her son. She mustered all her faith and strength into one force and cried out to God in a loud voice to save him.

Miraculously, her son's heart immediately started beating again.

In the coming days, John would defy every expert, every case history, and every scientific prediction. Sixteen days after falling through the ice and being clinically dead for an hour, he walked out of the hospital under his own power, completely healed.

Breakthrough is about a profound truth: prayer really does work. God uses it to remind us that He is always with us, and when we combine it with unshakable faith, nothing is impossible.

Previously published as The Impossible.

WWW Wednesday – June 5, 2019Blood on Fire (Blood Arcana #1) by Monica P. DePaul
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on July 22, 2012
ISBN: 1478277416
Pages: 260
Goodreads
Synopsis

My name is Amy Able. I used to be just a scrawny geek...until that morning. I was in a daze, with no memory of recent events. Sunlight burned, I had fangs, and I hungered for blood. What happened? Why did I turn into a vampire?Then I got that call from my worried friends and the invite to go see the Lupia concert with them. I cautiously accepted, but it turned sour when I uncontrollably bit my best friend and a strange enemy, representing a group under the command of someone called "The Fool," attacked Lupia.By mastering my newfound strength and power over fire, I can fight back. I also have my uniquely talented friends-modern warlock Will Jadis and lovely sharpshooter Amelia Valentine-and together we can defend Lupia and our hometown from these vicious vampires, one of whom is that hulking beast from my past.To complicate matters further, mom and dad are missing, those jerk journalists won't leave me alone, and I still have to survive school, where I must now brave deadly sunlight and the continued stares of my classmates. What did I do to deserve this?

Because Blood on Fire is a book I’m currently working on for audiobook, I’ll be talking about it more later but won’t be writing an actual review. (However, if you’re interested in receiving a review copy of the audiobook, once available, then please contact me.)

WWW Wednesday – June 5, 2019The Rose Diary by Curtis Maynard
on March 26, 2019
Pages: 201
Goodreads
Synopsis

A young girl dies mysteriously from what can only be explained as a rare illness. Her younger sister finds a diary in her room that has never been written in. Day by day the book reveals a new writing that urges the young girl to investigate the death. From encounters to the writings, there is a story to be heard, a mystery to be solved.

Because The Rose Diary is a book I’m currently working on for audiobook, I’ll be talking about it more later but won’t be writing an actual review. (However, if you’re interested in receiving a review copy of the audiobook, once available, then please contact me.)

What I’m reading next:

WWW Wednesday – June 5, 2019Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy by Anthony Harkins, Meredith McCarroll
Published by West Virginia University Press on February 13, 2019
ISBN: 1946684791
Pages: 432
Goodreads
Synopsis

With hundreds of thousands of copies sold, a Ron Howard movie in the works, and the rise of its author as a media personality, J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis has defined Appalachia for much of the nation. What about Hillbilly Elegy accounts for this explosion of interest during this period of political turmoil? Why have its ideas raised so much controversy? And how can debates about the book catalyze new, more inclusive political agendas for the region’s future?

Appalachian Reckoning is a retort, at turns rigorous, critical, angry, and hopeful, to the long shadow Hillbilly Elegy has cast over the region and its imagining. But it also moves beyond Hillbilly Elegy to allow Appalachians from varied backgrounds to tell their own diverse and complex stories through an imaginative blend of scholarship, prose, poetry, and photography. The essays and creative work collected in Appalachian Reckoning provide a deeply personal portrait of a place that is at once culturally rich and economically distressed, unique and typically American. Complicating simplistic visions that associate the region almost exclusively with death and decay, Appalachian Reckoning makes clear Appalachia’s intellectual vitality, spiritual richness, and progressive possibilities.

WWW Wednesday – June 5, 2019Half Finished by Lauraine Snelling
Published by FaithWords on March 26, 2019
ISBN: 1478920076
Pages: 324
Goodreads
Synopsis

In bestselling author Lauraine Snelling's new novel, a group of women realize that life is full of half-finished relationships and projects. However, they discover that the outcome is not as important as the journey.

Recognizing how common it is for crafters to start many projects and finish few, a group of women join together to form a guild--Unfinished Projects Anonymous to keep each other on track and accountable. Three friends are tasked with the job of home visits for their guild. They are laughingly called the Cartel as they do visits to snoop around craft rooms and knitting baskets to report on progress for the members. The guild has even expanded to checking on half-trained dogs and half-weeded gardens.

Over the course of the story, this ensemble of women discover that much of life is half-finished--relationships, the raising of children, even our very relationship with the Lord. And that may be perfectly fine.

WWW Wednesday – June 5, 2019The Lunatics Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on April 17, 2012
ISBN: 1475183399
Pages: 234
Goodreads
Synopsis

Another blackout night...Myla drank too much. Again.Then she notices the bloody scratches on her leg.Panic sets in as scattered memories from the evening surface. The Persian guy, the Junkie girl. The streets of San Francisco are not friendly to teens with fake ID's. And especially harsh to arrogant girls like Myla, whose pastime consists of chasing complete abandon.Instantly, she knows something is wrong. Fatally, and irreversibly wrong. Nothing would ever be the same again....not after the wrath of The Lunatics.You'll love this Magic Realism adventure novel because everyone loves the freedom of breaking all the rules.Get it now.Seven N Blue is the winner of the Paris Book Festival for the Young Adult Fiction category. The Lunatics is book one of the series.Amazon Verified 5 Star ReviewHere's the deal with me... I buy a lot of books, read the first few chapters, ... and that's about it. To put it plain and simply, I get bored, really bored, really fast. Twilight, Hunger Games, The Notebook, to name a few. I truly thought I just didn't like reading.The Lunatics proved that to be wrong!!! I could not put it down!! I am a mother and wife, ... so that makes me pretty busy, but every "free" moment I had, I was reading The Lunatics on my little iPhone!!It is exciting from BEGINNING TO END!!! Otherwise, I wouldn't have finished it!!!!!Amazon Verified 5 Star Review: This is a world I wish I could inhabit. Myla is a free spirit with a highly creative imagination. I was totally taken with her in the first five pages when she "went off" at Christian Luna when he appeared to becoming on to her while a supposed girlfriend was standing nearby. Love the spunk.At the same time, there is a deep humanity of Myla that was very real. Her life was complicated, but you hang in with her and root for her to succeed, and triumph. A refreshing talent and a great read. Will look forward to more work from Seven N Blue.Amazon Verified 5 Star Review: While other YA books deliver a heaping serving of vampires, witches and warlocks - Blue has given us the answer to the age old question "how do crazy people lose their mind" Bravo! A page turning novel with characters that will leave you wanting for more. A little dark, sexy, w/ a side order of the SURREAL. Does anyone know if this is a series?Amazon Verified 5 Star Review: Vertigo spirals, alternate lives, a touch of magic, characters you wish you could meet in person! I've read a lot of YA, and i have to say that this is a fresh outlook on the "villan." Forget vampires, witches and warlocks. The grim reaper's got competition. Hooray for the Lunatics

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
Posted in book reviews

Their Houses by Meredith Sue Willis – BOOK REVIEW

willis_des_cov_print_final_r01.inddTitle: Their Houses
Author: Meredith Sue Willis
Publication Date & Publisher: August 2018, WVU Press
Genre(s): General (Adult) Fiction
Length: 243 pages
ISBN: 13:978-1-946684-34-9
My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Description (from WVU Press):

As children, two sisters make homes for their toys out of matchboxes and shoeboxes, trying to create safe places after the loss of their mother to psychosis.
Grace, now a schoolteacher married to a doctor, appears to have a conventional life but has a breakdown during an undesired move from her beloved cottage to another house. Dinah has married a self-ordained preacher with a troubled past and tries to keep her children safely separate from the world. Meanwhile, a childhood friend is linked to a militia’s abortive attempt to blow up the FBI’s fingerprint records facility in West Virginia, and later builds an isolated survivalist compound in the mountains.
These three adults, closely bonded in childhood, are reunited on this acreage once owned by a white supremacist group, where they discover in various ways that there is no final protection, no matter how hard they strive to find it or make it.

My review: 

Their Houses has one of the best openings I think I’ve read all year. By the end of the first page, I already had so many questions that needed answered I knew I’d be finishing it quickly!
The novel follows six different characters, but it really revolves around the main three – Richie and two sisters, Dinah and Grace. As children, Dinah and Grace’s father moved them into Richie’s parents’ carriage house in West Virginia, after the girls’ mother was put in a mental hospital for trying to kill them. We’re taken back and forth between the present and the past to discover how they all ended up where they are now – somehow all back in West Virginia together.
But it’s not coincidence that they scattered only to be reconnected…
Richie grew up with rich parents and  became a rich, power hungry man. Picked on as a child, he feels the need to exert his power and control over everyone around him – whether they work for him or not. He sees himself as a sort of puppet master, masterminding not only his own life, but guiding others into positions that benefit him.
Dinah became pregnant with her daughter, Aleda, when she was still young. She’s now married to Raymond, a preacher seeking his new flock. Dinah fears Aleda will make all the same mistakes she did as a young girl and so she keeps her on a tight leash, not even allowing her to learn about her biological father.
Grace and her husband, David, are back in West Virginia because David wanted to practice medicine somewhere where he was truly needed. Grace should be the happiest of the three, but she’s suffering from depression and the constant paranoid fear that she’s actually just as psychotic as their mother was.
David and Raymond don’t see eye to eye on anything, and David’s need to prove Raymond’s faith is nothing more than childish belief in fairy tales, just about pushes him over the edge into the same level of crazy he fears his wife has crossed over to.
Personally, I think Dinah and Raymond said it best when it comes to the mental health of the characters in this novel:

“Maybe everyone is crazy if you scratch down half an inch. Me, Richie, Aleda. Everyone but you.”
He laughed. “Because I was crazy all the way through for a long time.”

There really isn’t a single “sane” character in the whole book and I love the way it kind of forces you to wrestle with your own version of sanity/acceptable behavior.
Their Houses is a thought provoking novel examining what it means to each of us to feel safe, and what we’re willing to do in order to get there. I definitely recommend picking up a copy!

I received a copy of this book from WVU Press. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think of Their Houses? Have you read it or are you planning on reading it in the future? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!
Buy Their Houses from Amazon.
Buy Their Houses from Book Depository.