Review | Good Husbandry

Good Husbandry: A Memoir by Kristin Kimball

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I read Kristin Kimball’s first memoir, The Dirty Life, back in 2016 when my husband and I were in our third year of homesteading.  Her writing was so lovely and while she shared the good and the bad, it was written in such a way that I had hope for the future and could see our own struggles as an adventure.
Kimball was a thirtysomething writer living in NYC when she met her future husband Mark, a farmer passionate about growing and providing food for his community.  Together the couple moved to the five hundred acre Essex Farm and Kimball chronicled their first year from planting to harvesting to their barn wedding.
Romantic, ambitious, and eye-opening, I loved reading Kimball’s adventures so I was thrilled to learn about her upcoming memoir, Good Husbandry.

Kimball’s second memoir, Good Husbandry, chronicles several years on Essex Farm.  Once again her writing shines with savory descriptions and most importantly: honesty.
Through the birth of their two daughters, harsh seasons, financial pressures, injuries as well as aging; Kristin and Mark’s marriage suffered under the strain.  Kimball does not hold back when explaining both the beauty and the darkness that followed them as their lives changed in profound ways.
I loved Kimball’s reflections on motherhood and how it changed her role on the farm and shifted her perspective about Mark and their home.
Her insight into caring and providing for a community is powerful.  I appreciate her passion and mission and am thrilled to see their story continue through her evocative writing.

Thanks to Scribner for providing me with an advanced reader’s copy.  Good Husbandry: A Memoir is scheduled for release on October 15, 2019.

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Review | Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia

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Tuesday Mooney is good at her job as a prospect researcher.

“A prospect researcher is one part private detective, one part property assessor, one part gossip columnist, and one part witch.” *

She works for a hospital finding wealthy people willing to part with some of their money for charitable causes.  She’s a loner who prefers to be on the outside where she can notice what others cannot and would rather stay home and watch X-Files reruns than socialize with her best friend of ten years, Dex, who has never even been to her apartment.

When the eccentric billionaire Vincent Pryce collapses and dies at a charity event, Pryce’s death is overshadowed by his final request:  an epic treasure hunt through Boston with clues inspired by Edgar Allan Poe that will lead to a share of his wealth!

Tuesday’s curiosity and skills lead her and her oddball crew (BFF Dex, teen next door neighbor Dorry, and handsome heir Archie) through a mysterious game that requires them all to face their pasts in hopes of finding Pryce’s fortune.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts was a fun mystery that will certainly be compared to The Westing Game.  I enjoyed the twists, the secrets revealed, and the pop culture references that added some humor.
The pace began to drag in the middle but overall this was an intriguing read that kept me guessing the entire time.

I recommend this book to readers who love games, mysteries, word play, and family drama!

Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts is scheduled for release on October 8, 2019.

*Quote included is from a digital advanced reader’s copy and is subject to change upon final publication.

Review | The Giver of Stars

The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes

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“Kentucky, huh. Most beautiful place on earth, and the most brutal. Sometimes I think God wanted to show us all his ways at once.” *

Alice Wright hopes by marrying the handsome American Bennett Van Cleve she will escape her suffocating life in England and begin a true adventure.  Unfortunately she finds that while location and circumstances have changed, life as a newlywed is hardly romantic with an overbearing father-in-law under the same roof.

Alice is quick to sign up to deliver books for the new traveling library in Baileyville, Kentucky and immediately finds a friend in leader Margery O’Hare, known to be tough as nails and unafraid to speak her mind.

Through the program, Alice meets a truly diverse group of people in the hollers of Appalachia and begins to understand the culture and the pride her patrons have, most refusing to accept free books without giving something in return.
Alice, Margery, and the other women running the library must overcome obstacles including prejudice and physical limitations while also contending with Alice’s wealthy father-in-law who is intent on shutting down the library.

This was a fascinating group of women and I loved each of their stories which were all full of strength and resiliency.  There is some romance in this novel but instead of overpowering the plot it enhanced the story, which most of you long-time subscribers know I rarely ever say!

The WPA’s Horseback Librarian program did exist from 1936-1943 thanks to a stellar group of women (and some men!) willing to travel through all weather and terrain to provide books to the most isolated hollers in the mountains.  It’s an interesting part of U.S. history and Moyes has created an incredible story around it.

I highly recommend this novel to readers who enjoy historical fiction, Appalachian settings, and strong female characters.

Thanks to Pamela Dorman Books and Edelweiss for providing me with a DRC in exchange for my honest review.  The Giver of Stars is scheduled for release on October 8, 2019.

*Quote included is from a digital advanced reader’s copy and is subject to change upon final publication.

Review | The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl

The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss

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You all may remember that I adored a recent read, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (read my review here) and was excited to continue with the series.  I was thrilled to receive an ARC of the final book in the trilogy and quickly checked out book two, European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman (read that review here), but unfortunately it fell short for me.  While I devoured book one, book two felt like a chore because it lacked some serious editing.

That said, I was still looking forward to the conclusion of The Athena Club series which picks up immediately after European Travel with the group searching for Mary’s kidnapped maid Alice.  They also find it alarming that Sherlock Holmes still hasn’t returned from a mysterious errand and now Dr. Watson cannot be located either.

While searching for their friends, The Athena Club uncovers a plot against the Queen that is connected to the kidnappings. Can they save their friends and the British Empire before it’s too late?

I’m very disappointed to say this was not the exciting finale I hoped for.  Instead, I began skimming before I even reached the half way point in the story.  The snappy dialogue/banter in the middle of the narrative was charming in book one, tedious in book two, and completely unnecessary in book three.
The pace is inconsistent and the plot is weighed down in unnecessary details (which was also my major issue with book two) that make the adventure greatly lag. While I adored the introduction to the extensive cast of characters in book one, there was little to no character growth over the course of the series causing some to go from charming to annoying.  This trilogy takes place over the course of a few short months but the action is always saved for the very end to tie up loose ends quickly.

I’d definitely advise readers who enjoy sci-fi/fantasy and retellings to give the first book a try but I hesitate to recommend the final two.

Thanks to Gallery/Saga Press and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl is scheduled for release on October 1, 2019.

Review | A Dream So Dark

A Dream So Dark by L.L. McKinney

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I read and adored the first book in The Nightmare-Verse series, A Blade So Black (read my review here), an urban fantasy retelling of Alice in Wonderland set in modern day Atlanta.
It was an original take with teen Alice Kingston training with Addison Hatta to battle Nightmares in the realm called Wonderland.  Readers were given an interesting history of the three Queens and then a dangerous foe arrived:  the Black Knight.

A Dream So Dark brings readers back to the action as Alice struggles to keep her two lives separate.  This quickly crumbles when the Black Knight arrives at her home with her feisty mom present.
Alice must travel to the deepest places in Wonderland to find out who the Black Knight is and who it is that he’s serving while also worrying about the fates of both Hatta and Chess.

There’s so much at stake and some shocking history revealed but this book moved at an uneven pace for me.  I love that we spent so much time in Wonderland and there were new characters and creatures introduced but none of it was fully realized as it tried to compete with the sense of urgency to find and defeat the Black Knight.
That sense of urgency fizzled out for me with a rushed ending.  We had been building to this major face-off with fates hanging in the balance and then … the climax unfolds in basically a paragraph.

Overall, this book just didn’t hold up to the first in the series and I doubt I’ll continue on with the series.  I still recommend checked out the series for readers who enjoy YA fantasy and modern retellings.

Thanks to Imprint and Edelweiss for providing me with a DRC in exchange for my honest review.  A Dream So Dark is scheduled for release on September 24, 2019.

Review | Sean Brock’s South

Sean Brock’s South by Sean Brock

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Sean Brock’s South is an exciting collection of traditional Southern recipes with a twist. I loved the in-depth introduction from Brock explaining his life-long deep appreciation and exploration of Southern food and culture.

“Eating in the moment was the way we ate when I was growing up in the mountains of Southern Appalachia, although we were doing so because it was natural and made sense. This concept continues to be my guiding light when creating and cooking food for my guests.” *

Striking photos by Peter Frank Edwards create a mood and atmosphere reflective of the recipes.

South is divided into nine sections and include many Southern staples like grilled/fried okra, fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese, and hot water cornbread. Brock offers some great tips in his recipes and also provides ingredient sources (compiled into a helpful list at the end of the book).

I eat seasonally so receiving an advance copy of this book in the summer has made for an incredible experience. So far I’ve tested the fried okra,  cheeseburgers with special sauce, and fried green tomatoes.

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Fried okra.  This was seriously the quickest batch I’ve ever made! The five ingredients are mixed together in one bowl, which saves so much time and made me wonder why I’ve never thought to do it this way before.

 

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Fried green tomatoes.  Placing the battered slices in the fridge for about 30 minutes before frying was a helpful tip to eliminate the egg wash typically used.

 

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Cheeseburger (with special sauce). I tweaked this recipe a bit. Brock grinds chuck roast & flank steak for his burgers but I used our tried & true grassfed ground beef from our fave farm, Tink’s.  I added bacon (also from Tink’s), lettuce, onion, and a fried green tomato to top it off.  The special sauce was perfect!

I’m looking forward to chilled summer squash soup with buttermilk and sunflower seeds, pit cooked chicken sandwiches, and peanut butter chess pie in the near future!

Many of the recipes are time intensive and require planning ahead. Some ingredients will require more than a quick trip to the grocery store or to your garden.
For beginners, a lot of these recipes could look intimidating with long ingredient lists, and frustrating to many for items not commonly stocked in the average pantry (even in the South).
While South will not be used often for quick weeknight meals, it will offer some unique dishes when you have time to devote to cooking.

Thanks to Artisan Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Sean Brock’s South is scheduled for release on October 15, 2019.

*Quote included is from a digital advanced reader’s copy and is subject to change upon final publication.

Review | Heaven, My Home

Heaven, My Home (Highway 59 #2) by Attica Locke

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Heaven, My Home picks up a short time after the conclusion of Bluebird, Bluebird (read my review here) with Texas Ranger Darren Mathews back to work after his suspension is lifted — but this time behind a desk.  He’s trying to make things right with his wife and has chosen to stay off the road while working to put together a federal case against the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.

It’s not just the desk job and his fragile marriage stressing Mathews out these days.  His own mother is now blackmailing him after finding a damning piece of evidence in the case that had him on suspension in Bluebird, Bluebird.

In the midst of his personal drama, Mathews is called to investigate the disapperance of nine-year-old Levi King in the small lakeside town of Jefferson.  Levi’s father is a key player in the Aryan Brotherhood and he’s currently serving hard time.  It’s possible someone has taken his boy to get to him but when Mathews arrives in town, he finds more than a few complicated layers to peel back and local history that has impacted several generations on Caddo Lake.

Locke has crafted yet another intricate and compelling crime novel in the Highway 59 series!  The country noir vibe is still strong, there are multiple plot points that are creating higher stakes, and I’m just as invested in Mathews’ personal life as I am in his current case!  Locke skillfully describes racial tension and attitudes in Texas and how it drives Mathews personally and professionally.

This is a series you definitely need to read from the beginning to understand the characters and ongoing plot.  I recommend it to readers who enjoy country noir, mystery, and crime.

Huge thanks to Mulholland Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  Heaven, My Home is scheduled for release on September 17, 2019.

Review | The Grace Year

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

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Oooh I can always depend on Wednesday Books to release heart-pounding mature YA thrillers tackling intense subjects!

The Grace Year can easily be compared to The Handmaid’s Tale, Lord of the Flies, The Power, and Hunger Games but this is a solid novel that holds its own!

In Garner County, females are believed to have magic, especially girls on the edge of womanhood.  Each year the County banishes the sixteen year olds to a remote gated location to dispel their magic so they may return pure, obedient, and fit for marriage.   But not every girl returns home.

Those who return do not speak of the grace year because it’s forbidden.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James has no desire to be a wife.  She understands that she will become property and all she wants is to be free of the strange superstitions and burdens the women must bear for their human nature.  Her father has taught her many skills that are usually only taught to sons in hopes she will survive her grace year.

The grace year girls must survive the harsh elements, the poachers (men waiting in the woods in hopes of grabbing a girl for horrific purposes), and each other.

“Look around. We are the only Gods here.” *

Alone for the first time in their lives, some of the girls are more willing to embrace the magic they’ve been told that they have and shun others.  A twisted society forms within the gates and readers examine the relationships and motivations of the girls while realizing there’s much more wrong than we were initially told.

“But isn’t that how every horrible  thing begins? Slow. Insipid. A twisting of the screw.” *

Atmospheric and chilling, The Grace Year is a dystopian novel that explores the power women have and how it’s abused in male-dominated societies, how religion is used to keep people in line, and how women are systematically divided against one another.

“We hurt each other because it’s the only way we’re permitted to show our anger. When our choices are taken from us, the fire builds within. Sometimes I feel like we might burn down the world to cindery bits, with our love, our rage, and everything in between.” *

Overall, this is a top-notch YA dystopian/horror novel that focuses on female empowerment.  There’s some romance but thankfully it doesn’t overshadow the strong plot.  I loved some of the unexpected twists that Liggett threw in to make this even more of a page turner.  And the ending.  Oh my.  Such an amazing ending!

“My eyes are wide open, and I see everything now.” *

I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy YA, horror, dystopia, and speculative fiction/thrillers.

Thanks to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  The Grace Year is scheduled for release on October 8, 2019.

*Quotes included are from a digital advanced reader’s copy and are subject to change upon final publication.

Review | Imaginary Friend

Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

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Okay dear readers, gather around for a segment called “Unpopular Opinion Time”.

Imaginary Friend was THE most highly anticipated novel of 2019 for me.  I have waited t w e n t y years for a new novel from Stephen Chbosky!  His debut novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower is my favorite book of all time so of course I’ve been looking forward to what he would write next.  I was thrilled to learn last year that Chbosky had penned an epic 700 page horror story.

I finished Imaginary Friend yesterday and … I didn’t love it.
*hangs head in shame as everyone gasps dramatically*

Christopher Reese and his mom Kate haven’t had an easy life since Christopher’s father’s suicide.  They’re in debt and now Kate has gathered up her son and a few belongings to escape an abusive relationship.
They stop in a small town called Mill Grove, Pennsylvania and Kate feels she’s found a safe place for her and her son where they won’t be found.

Chistopher’s never been a great student due to a reading disability, he worries about his mom a lot, and he’s bullied regularly.
Christopher vanishes for six days before emerging from the woods, seemingly unharmed.  Suddenly life takes an unexpected turn for Christopher and his mom.  They win the lottery and are able to purchase their own home and climb out of debt.  Christopher begins doing well in school and even has a small group of friends.

But then there’s the nice man who wants to protect him from the hissing lady in his nightmares and the voice telling him he has to build a treehouse in the woods by Christmas.

As the holiday looms large, everyone in Mill Grove seems to be losing their minds.  Voices are telling everyone to prepare for a war and Christopher knows it’s up to him to win the war and save the town from the nightmare.

My main issues with this book:  Christopher is seven-years-old.  This is a horror novel, obviously I’m going to suspend my disbelief for entertainment purposes, but I have a six-year-old of my own and couldn’t wrap my mind around this kid and his friends being only seven.  Christopher’s thoughts and actions (even before he vanished) made me imagine him to be older so that when childish thoughts or activities were mentioned, it felt awkward and out of place.
Then there’s the repetition.  There are several descriptive phrases used multiple times, from the appearance of the treehouse steps being called baby teeth to the cloud that hangs around town being an all-seeing eye.  I mean, I get it, it’s symbolic, let’s keep this story moving forward.
I didn’t feel like this book came together until the last quarter, which makes it a bit underwhelming.

What I liked about this book:  Chbosky carefully crafts his story by following several characters whose fates are all linked.  It’s the tried and true formula for master of horror Stephen King and it was successful here, switching perspectives to advance the story.
I loved the relationship between Christopher and Kate; it was so genuine and I certainly identified with Kate as a mother!
The creep-factor on this book was a slow burn.  There wasn’t much in the beginning but by the end I had serious goosebumps.

Overall, I liked this story.  It tackles the heavy subject of good vs. evil with Biblical symbolism and looks at the way people deal with personal sin.  It’s obvious Chbosky took great care in every detail of the plot and the relationships between characters with definite inspiration from Stephen King.

It was a loooong set up to get to the heart of the book.  Page count doesn’t intimidate me and never factors in to my decision to read a book but in my opinion there were several scenes/chapters that could’ve been removed or edited down to the benefit the story.

If you love stories about kids fighting evil with sinister creepy old school Stephen King horror vibes, Imaginary Friend is worth checking out.

Huge thanks to Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  Imaginary Friend is scheduled for release on October 1, 2019.

 

Review | Kopp Sisters on the March

Kopp Sisters on the March (Kopp Sisters #5) by Amy Stewart

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It’s the spring of 1917 and the United States is preparing for war.

It has been a rough six months for Constance Kopp since we last saw her in book four, Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit (read my review here).
Now, Constance and her sisters Norma and Fleurette are joining the war effort by attending Camp Chevy Chase, a National Service School that acts as a training camp for women.  While the women in attendance will rise at dawn to perform the same exercises, drills, and marches as soldiers, they’ll spend the day “learning the skills most suited for women who wish to be intelligently useful in times of national stress.”

Basically, there’s a lot of first aid/nursing, cooking, sewing, and scientific bedmaking (oh yeah, that was apparently an actual thing) going on in camp — and no self defense skills or combat training with actual guns.

When the the camp matron breaks her leg in an accident, Constance agrees to step in and oversee the camp until Miss Miner (who offered her a job in book four) can find a replacement.  However, Miss Miner has bigger fish to fry in D.C. and isn’t trying to hard since she knows the women are in the capable hands of someone who can appreciate her goal.

“My aim is to plant the idea in the minds of the generals and the congressmen and the president that women are capable of military service. Right now there aren’t very many women who would join the Army, regardless. But herhaps we’re putting the ideas in women’s minds, too.” *

Meanwhile, the Kopp sisters have no idea that their tent mate is the notorious Beulah Binford, a woman running from a scandalous past under the false name Roxie Collins.  In alternating chapters we learn Beulah’s life story and the scandal that turned the public against her.

Kopp Sisters on the March is a much slower pace than the first four books in the series and it also focuses more closely on Beulah’s story than it does on Constance.  Once again, I applaud Amy Stewart for piecing together a brilliant cozy read loosely based on real  people and events from a handful of newspaper articles.  The historical notes are always fun to read so definitely don’t skip these at the end.
I would’ve loved more spotlight on Constance but the ending gives us an idea of what to expect from her next and I forsee the action picking back up and major changes in book six!

Huge thanks to HMH for sending me an ARC to review!  Kopp Sisters on the March is scheduled for release on September 17, 2019.

*Quote included is from an advanced reader’s copy and is subject to change upon final publication.