Review of “Bull Mountain” by Brian Panowich

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Thanks to PGI Putnam books, via Shelf Awareness and Netgalley, for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

The Burroughs family have been outlaws on their Georgia mountain for many years. They have adapted their enterprise  to suit the times – from making moonshine and growing marijuana to running a meth factory. They are hardcore criminals who will stop at nothing to protect their way of life. Only one of the Burroughs boys has been able to turn his back on the life of crime they were born into. Clayton Burroughs has become a local sheriff. Though he’s had something of a drinking problem, he’s now a responsible husband and lawman. When he’s visited by an ATF agent who warns of an impending large-scale intervention by several local and federal law enforcement agencies, Clayton reluctantly agrees to try to convince his estranged, ring-leader brother to change his ways.

My thoughts:

I really liked the plot of this book and all of the connections and back story that were so carefully woven into it. There were times when I found the chronology somewhat difficult to follow as time periods changed from chapter to chapter but that could certainly be just me… At first I was a little taken aback by the level of violence in the book. Though not as extreme as it could have been, when I first started reading I had a picture of the “hillbillies” as some long-bearded, banjo strumming, good ‘ole boys. I quickly discovered they were not! I’m sure the way they were portrayed in the book is much more realistic considering their chosen vocation!

Overall, this book was a great debut novel and I look forward to reading this author’s future works.

My rating:

4 stars

Review of “The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs: A Novel” by Matthew Dicks

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Thanks to St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley for providing me with a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

Caroline Jacobs is a responsible wife and mother. She avoids conflict and suffers in silence. Until the day that she doesn’t. When the snarky, self-rightous PTO President makes a hurtful remark to a struggling mom at a PTO meeting, Caroline loses it (just a little) and tells her “F you” setting off a series of events that change everything. It begins when she is called in to the school office to learn that her daughter has been in a physical altercation with the daughter of the PTO President. Knowing her daughter will likely be facing suspension, she tells her daughter to get in the car and they start heading out of town leaving the dad/husband behind. At first daughter Polly is quite confused but Caroline explains that they are heading to Caroline’s mother’s house where she plans to confront her former best friend (she still lives in the same small town) who turned against her in high school shortly after Caroline’s family had major changes to their socioeconomic status. Along the way she shares the details of the hurt she still bears with her daughter who begins to see her mother in a new light. When she reunites with her old friend, things don’t turn out exactly as Caroline had planned but they do turn out exactly as they were meant to.

My thoughts:

This was a very quick read but lacked a little something in terms of complexity. While I wouldn’t have wanted to see this book turned into something too heavy, I do think some of Caroline and Polly’s feelings could have been explored on a slightly deeper level. I wish I had felt that Caroline had become as strong as her daughter Polly already was but perhaps that wasn’t the author’s intention. I really liked many of the characters including the grandmother, her client, and her boyfriend. This is the first book I’ve read by Matthew Dicks and I would look forward to reading books by this author in the future.

My rating:

3.5 stars

Review of “The Gates of Evangeline” by Hester Young

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Thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons for providing with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

Charlie is a magazine writer living in Stamford, Ct. She’s recently lost her toddler son to a brain aneurysm and is, understandably, having difficulty coping. She begins to have disturbing visions of events involving children in great peril which she does not understand. When a former employer from Cold Crimes Magazine calls and offers her a job writing about the disappearance of a 4-year-old boy in Louisiana some 30 years ago, things begin to make sense. She agrees to try to help the family uncover the truth about the disappearance. She travels to meet the Deveau family at their antebellum mansion, Evangeline where she immediately falls for the (concealed gun-toting) landscaper who may or may not (the physic warned her!) be who seems to be. But through her determination, she uncovers the truth about the Deveau family and what happened to little Gabriel 30 years ago.

My thoughts:

Though I do love a good mystery/suspense novel, I didn’t find this book to be on par with the writing of Gillian Flynn and Alice Sebold as suggested in the book’s descprition on Goodreads. I found most of the characters to be underdeveloped, unlikable, or predictable. The story itself was good enough but there were some things, such as Charlie’s virtually unrestricted access to the police investigation (due to her vision of the investigator’s ill daughter), that were just not as believable as they needed to be for me. (When your story is based on someone having dreams and visions of the past and present, I think it’s important to keep the details somewhere within the realm of possibility.) The romantic aspect of the story was just a bit to predictable and sappy for me as well but I realize there are plenty of readers out there that love that sort of thing. I guess I’m just to cynical to fully appreciate it. All that being said, it wasn’t all bad. It was a very quick read and, despite all of the above, I will readily admit I had difficulty putting it down. I liked the author’s writing style. This book is the first in a trilogy though I didn’t get the impression at the end of this book that I should expect more to this particular story. I would read the next book as I’m curious to see where the author will take Charlie and her visions.

My rating:

3.25 stars