Category Archives: Books

Life, and Textbook Amy Krause Rosenthal

Life’s short.

Sure, that’s really not a unique, insightful, or even a pithy thought.  But it’s a thought that means something completely different to me than it used to.  It doesn’t have anything to do with time – it’s not a countdown to a total we all hope will exceed 100 years on this planet.  Because none of us have the slightest clue just how long we’ll last around here.  My mom passed away at 43.  My best friend died at 11.  My physics partner died while driving to work when he was only 18 while my grandmother just kept going and going ’till she was 93.  Kurt Cobain chose to leave us at 27 and Tom Petty somehow managed to surprise us by leaving when he was 66.  It’s like a random number generator and we’re all just hoping to have the highest number on our ticket when death comes along to punch it.

But, if I may pull away from such morbid thoughts, I believe that the true shortness of life is simply a relation to our individual perspectives on life.  And that perspective changes in ways that don’t have anything to do with the ticking of the clock.  In my life, I’ve seen my life flash before my eyes on three separate occasions. You know that slow-motion moment where life completely stops and reminds you of all that you’ve done and everywhere you’ve been just as you resign yourself to the idea that you’re seriously about to die?

Or maybe, if you’re fortunate, you haven’t actually experienced one of those crazy, life-changing moments yet.  They can be terrifying.  But even so, there’s also a certain peace to it, even in that split second moment when all you can  think is, “Oh &#+$.  This is it.”

Once that moment passes you by, it makes you think about how much your life has changed since the days when you were a kid, about all of the choices that you’ve made, and those that life made for you.  It’s about perspective.  There are the choices you can see in the rear-view that led you along different paths than the child in you ever expected you to take.  And there are the days that surprise you as you wonder how did I get here and what in the world am I doing?

So just what does all of this have to do with a book…?  I’ll explain…

I’ve really been slacking on my review writing lately. There’s no doubt about that.  But what’s really bad about that is that I’ve really been finding out just how small the world is these days…

Though people don’t really seem to like leaving comments on here (hint hint), this site has led to me hearing from many different people across the country – including some of the authors that I’ve reviewed. So I do feel a different sense of responsibility now to do more to promote books and the authors who have put in so much work to create them…

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal was published in 2016 so it’s not exactly new, but it’s not that old either.  But, in the time that’s gone by between publication and now, a lot has happened.  You may have heard of the author, even if you don’t recognize her name.  She became famous for writing her “Modern Love” essay through the New York Times that was written in the form of a dating profile for her husband, to assist him with the crazy possibility of him remarrying after her death.  She had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and passed away ten days after the essay was published.  But, as she rushed toward the end, she’d been worried more about his happiness going forward than she was about her own untimely death.  Her number was only 51 by the way…

But it was the attitude she carried with her all the way to the end of her life that meant more than any number.  Her perspective.

In the beginning notes of the book, Amy wrote this:

Existence is akin to a 300,000-hours-long game of whack-a-mole where the grand prize dangling in the back row is your inevitable death.  But I’ll tell you what:  On any given day, you sure can find a nice array of free, tasty samples at the grocery store

That’s the attitude of someone I really wish I knew.

At one point, this is the only comment written across 2 white pages:

Just look at us, all of us, quietly doing our thing and trying to matter.  The earnestness is inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time.

And I completely agree.  I’d like to believe that the fairy tale still exists if we’re not too scared – too cowardly –  to pursue it.  That the Cubs winning the World Series was far more than a sporting event.  That we’re all capable of being the best versions of ourselves when tragedies strike around us.  That we all just want to make a difference before the door closes behind us.

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal is one of those books that you need to read.  And re-read.  Because in just few words, spread across a number of different subjects we can all relate to, it teaches us that we’re all more the same than we take time to realize.  And that we’re far from being as complex as we like to think.  We all want lives that are special, we all want to be loved, and we all want someone to pick us up when we trip over our own metaphorical feet.  It’s not that complicated.  But sometimes we need that kick in the back side to remind us to make the most of the small number of years we’re allowed to orbit around that sun.  To remind us that when life flashes in front of our eyes, it moves fast, especially if we haven’t taken the time to fill it up with only the best.  Though I’m okay if I don’t have any more of those flashes for a long time.  If you do it right, life can be exciting enough without going to that extreme…

Who is Rich?

As a blogger who reviews novels when I’m not commenting on the craziness of Fayette County and random Walmart visits, I’ve received a large number of books through Goodreads to review.  A seriously large number.  I now need at least two more bookshelves as the man cave is full of stacks and stacks that are threatening to topple over.  And, I hate to admit it, but there are even a few boxes of books out in the garage where my car should be.  I love it, but it is getting a little out of control…

Out of all of the books I’ve received, some are okay, some are slightly below average, some are pretty good and some are downright awful.  But, occasionally, I’ll receive one that truly, thoroughly impresses me.  And it’s a great feeling to find a new author who’s every other work you then feel the need to check out.  And Matthew Klam’s Who is Rich? Is one of those novels.

Here’s what it’s about:

Every summer, a once-sort-of-famous cartoonist named Rich Fischer leaves his wife and two kids behind to teach a class at a weeklong arts conference in a charming New England beachside town. It’s a place where, every year, students—nature poets and driftwood sculptors, widowed seniors, teenagers away from home for the first time—show up to study with an esteemed faculty made up of prizewinning playwrights, actors, and historians; drunkards and perverts; members of the cultural elite; unknown nobodies, midlist somebodies, and legitimate stars—a place where drum circles happen on the beach at midnight, clothing optional.

One of the attendees is a forty-one-year-old painting student named Amy O’Donnell. Amy is a mother of three, unhappily married to a brutish Wall Street titan who runs a multibillion-dollar investment fund and commutes to work via helicopter. Rich and Amy met at the conference a year ago, shared a moment of passion, then spent the winter exchanging inappropriate texts and emails and counting the days until they could see each other again. Now they’re back.

Klam writes about marriage and parenthood through the lens of a character who is going through so much more than a midlife crisis.  It’s about the struggles of an artist who’s lost faith in himself and his creative ability, but it’s still more than that.  It’s about the struggles of a man, trying to find his way through all of life’s challenges, personal, financial, romantic, and intellectual.  And, in a book that deals with so many issues, Klam fills it with amazing humor.  Sometimes watching someone else continually stumble and fall can really put a smile on your face and make you feel better about yourself…

The breakdown of such a flawed character in an environment shared with so many other flawed characters allows you the reader to take a wild ride that’s worth the lack of sleep as you continue to read “just one more chapter” to see what happens next.  This is a book that will leave you satisfied, happy, and completely enjoying how a talented writer can tell a story and create characters you truly care about.

Who is Rich? just came out July 4th, and…now that Amazon is advertising through my site, it’s a perfect time to buy an excellent book like this, right?  So click on the link above and go support an excellent writer and lose yourself in an excellent story…  Or to purchase anything else you think you might need.  Is that a shameless enough advertising plug? 😀

My Life as a Bench

When I have the hard copy of a book, of course I judge it by its cover.  I’m pretty darn petty that way.  But…when it’s the kindle version, I go by what I’ve heard.  And Jaq Hazell’s My Life As a Bench is one that I’ve been hearing about a lot lately.  So, when Netgalley let me have a copy for a review, I bumped that book to,the top of my list.

It quickly became obvious that I don’t download many books because, when it didn’t seem to be working correctly, I accidently ended up downloading it an additional seven times.  Whoops!  But…out of those eight downloads, I picked one and quickly read it.  And came away considerably impressed.

First, in case you haven’t heard of this one, here’s a quick description for you:

Ren Miller has died aged seventeen and yet her consciousness lives on, inhabiting her memorial bench by the River Thames in London.

Ren longs to be reunited with her boyfriend Gabe, but soon discovers why he has failed to visit. Devastated, she must learn to break through and talk to the living so she can reveal the truth about her tragic end.

Unique, haunting and compelling, this is a story about love, friendship, a passion for music and what, if anything, remains after we’ve gone

I’m a sucker for modern British writing.  And, of course I’m a huge music fan.  So there are a couple of things that just jump out to like right away.  As has been the case with a number of the books I’ve received – and read – lately, this one I guess fits in the ‘Young Adult’ category, but good writing is good writing.

My mother died when I was a a kid and there’s a bench that was put up in her honor near the lake in my old home town.  It was even in a picture used on the cover of one of the local phone books (remember those?) years later. So I can relate to that form of remembering someone.  Though the idea of someone’s consciousness residing there is a bit worrisome (a.k.a. creepy).  But it still ends up being a fairly light read without the darkness that could be there with a main character that has already died.

But the story is written so well, the pacing so smooth and timed out perfectly that it sucks you along and takes you away throughout.  The ending is fairly predictable and gets dragged out a bit over the final chapters, but I won’t take too much away from it for that.  It was entertaining, well constructed and completely worth the read.  So no complaints.  I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5 and, though I may never read this novel again, I’m curious enough to check out the author’s other work to see what they’re like.

But for now, I probably need to get away from Young Adult reading to something else for a bit.  Maybe like watching some hockey…

Practical Applications for Multiverse Theory

When I receive a book in the mail with a blurb on the back stating “Practical Applications is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets Red Dwarf.”, I’m curious.  Sure, I had doubts that anyone other than me had ever watched an episode of Red Dwarf, let alone remembered it, but that combination sounded like a good one and it led to me putting that book next on my list.  Even if the strange title didn’t say “novel” or even “interesting” to me, I was willing to overlook that.  Don’t judge a book by its cover and all, ya know…

But okay…first lets do our thing where I let you know what the overall premise of the book is…

Carson High School seniors Scott and Davey don’t have much common ground—that is, until all universes begin collapsing into their school. Soon, the avowed loner and the mean-girl cheerleader realize that something is very wrong, and they’re the only two who are aware of what’s happening. Demon versions of their teachers roam the halls, a cowboy sloth appears sporadically, and some students randomly burst into flames, while angry interdimensional counterparts of other students destroy everything in sight.

Now it’s up to two seniors from opposite sides of the social spectrum to defeat this scourge and save not only their high school but also the world. Armed with little more than school supplies and Scott’s trusty copy of The NEW Multiverse Theory, can these unlikely heroes put their differences aside and stop the total chaos? If they can’t, the end of the world may just be beginning.

Sure, that tells you that it’s a bit YA, but that can still be okay…

The first two things that really jumped out at me about this book were 1) there are two authors who wrote it, and 2) the chapters bounce back and forth between the perspectives of the two main characters.  I don’t know how the authors worked together – if they each had a main character they wrote, or if they worked on all of it together, but I have to say that the pattern was a bit distracting.  I’m okay with that overall approach to writing if it’s done right (Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down used multiple characters in this way and I thought that was an excellent book – and one that I’ve re-read multiple times).

However… Here in this book, as you bounce back and forth between Scott and Davey’s perspectives, it slows down the process and before you know it, you’re half way through the book, still waiting for the overall point to get going.  Sure, it’s not overly deep – even for a story involving multiple universes, the potential end of everything we know, and plenty of high school angst – but there’s still a majority of time when the proverbial tires of the story are stuck in the mud.

It’s unique, it’s fairly interesting, it’s pretty well-written, and it was a quick read.  So I’d give it a positive review.  I don’t know if I’ll read it again, but that can be the case with a lot of books.  I just need to find room for it on the bookshelf.  Somewhere.  Somehow…  Or maybe in the closet.  The man cave is getting cluttered…

Phoenix Rising

Okay, so I haven’t yet picked up the huge horror/suspense novel that’s sitting on my bed stand.  Probably because it’s not 700 pages but is actually 1,100!  And it’s not going to be a relaxing read before going to sleep when it’s a two-pound hardcover.  Well…that’s my excuse anyway.

So…instead I grabbed another new arrival, a steam-punk novel (a genre that I’d never tried before) that looked fairly interesting from the cover.  I know…judging by the cover and all…  But sometimes it works.  Maybe not so much this time, but usually…

But let’s start with the standard description to let you know what Phoenix Rising is about:

In a future world where fossil fuels have run out and democracy has collapsed, an outlawed pirate crew fight for survival on their ship, the Phoenix, kept afloat by whatever they can salvage or scavenge on the debris-filled seas. Toby has never known anything other than life onboard the Phoenix and he’s desperate for adventure. But when trouble comes hunting the Phoenix down, Toby realizes that what you wish for isn’t always what you want.

So there I went with the futuristic, dystopian pirate story and found myself finishing it in just a couple of days.  I guess I didn’t expect it to be a YA kind of book, but that’s really what it is.  Toby turns out to be a naive kid, the pirate crew is completely forgettable (toward the end of the book Toby mentions that there are about 40 crew members but, based on the story I hadn’t thought there were more than a dozen), and there’s not really a story that sucks you in.

i guess I just expected more.  It’s definitely a set up for a series (so much so that the book just kind of ended.  When I reached the end, I turned the page and was surprised to find the Acknowledgments rather than another chapter.  So I can’t say that I’d recommend it to anyone.  It’s okay enough that I finished it, but I wouldn’t search for the next one in the series.  And I think it’s motivated me to read something I’ve already read before and know will be great (again).  Just to get some strong writing back into my system.  I need the inspiration and motivation.  Especially since I just came up with another idea for a novel I need to write.  This means that I’ve fallen behind by five now and have a lot of writing to do to catch up with the ideas…

And not one of those ideas are steam-punk or YA.  Hmmm…

Multiple Listings

I think I just read the book equivalent of a chick flick…

Well, sort of.  But it was a quick read and wasn’t that bad at all (am I sounding a little defensive here?).  But anyway…here’s the standard, quick description for you:

From Tracy McMillan, an author who counts both Oprah Winfrey and Tina Fey as fans, Multiple Listings is a comedic family drama focusing on a single mother whose ex-con father is released from prison after seventeen years and unexpectedly moves in with her, her son, and her much younger boyfriend.

I could give you more, but that gives you enough the overall idea.  It’s more cute than complicated.  As it was written by someone who wrote for AMC’s Mad Men (which I’ve honestly never watched) and for Showtime’s United States of Tara (umm…ditto) the history of her writing it had me intrigued.  So, when a free copy of the book arrived (thank you Goodreads), balanced in its cardboard packaging on top of the mailbox just as it began to rain (thank you fill-in mail carrier), I decided to check it out (ya know…once it had completely dried out of course).

Multiple Listings is written in first person, bouncing between two different perspectives – the woman who is the ‘main’ character and her father.  So it takes both the male and female perspectives, which helps make it not so much of a ‘chick’ read.  But…written from a woman’s perspective, and…basically saying that men are pretty messed up and worthless…?  Yeah, that kind of pushes it in a chick lit kinda way.  Not that it isn’t well written though.

The book seems to make boyfriends out as worthless wastes of time, effort and money.  At least up until the moment that they aren’t, which isn’t for long, and of course any boyfriend who’s a little better than worthless isn’t the same boyfriend that was complained about earlier.

And fathers…?  Those seem to be guys that don’t know enough to keep from screwing their kids up, ensuring that their daughters are going to pick boyfriends who are worthless wastes.  Then of course there are the sons who are simply not yet old enough to be too messed up (and have that youth thing as a built in excuse).  And, if these sons don’t have a father figure to talk to and bond with well…they’re pretty much just wastes of time, effort, etc., etc.  Starting to see a trend here?

Maybe I was just being a little defensive of my gender and was taking things too personal when I read it.  Maybe I’m a little jealous of the author since my writing muse has been a bit quiet and distant lately.  Or maybe I’m making the mistake of finishing this blog entry on trash night and, like it does every trash night, it’s raining…  Sheesh.  A nice, rainy night is just fine for a night in, but not for lugging a few trips of smelly plastic bags down to the curb.  And grumpy doesn’t make for delightful reviews.  I’ll have to remember that when I eventually start reading reviews of my books (note to muse: “Get back here.  You’ve got work to do!”)

But…grumpiness aside, I give a positive review to Multiple Listings (somewhere between a 3.5-4.0 out of 5).  I probably won’t ever read it again, but it had characters that were well fleshed-out, and a fairly focused story (though it did kind of just peter out at the end like it ran out of steam).  And it kept me entertained for a few nights before I fell asleep and that’s pretty much a success.

So…I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to my guy friends, but…if you’re looking for a quick read that’s not too deep, it can fit the bill.

Now I’ve got a 700-page hardcover suspense/horror novel sitting on my nightstand, ready to go.  And that should ensure a few more interesting dreams each night when I set it down.  So here we go…..


A Stinky Book Review

I’ve been blog slacking big time lately.  There really should be a word for that.  It’s probably because a few months ago I discovered a company that was looking for bloggers who are writing book reviews to use for advertising.  So of course I thought ‘I could write a bunch of those and earn myself some advertising dollars!’.  Then, when a week went by and I hadn’t started doing it, I felt guilty and put it off for another week.  Then, I read something that wasn’t that bad, but wasn’t that great, and it didn’t seem worth writing about.  Then, I just put it off for a while.  And so, much later, here we are…

In other words, I really need to get to it.  I’ve got hundreds of books sent by authors who have been hoping to receive a review in exchange for taking their time to package them up and take them to the post office (have I told you that my postal carrier absolutely loves it that she has to get out of her vehicle at least three times a week to drop off yet another book-sized package that just won’t fit in the mailbox?)

I actually received one delivery the other day that was a little different.  Instead of simply sending me one book, this self-published author mailed me a box containing his entire trilogy.  Sure, that was a nice gesture, but…

I opened the box with Graham next to me, waiting for his opportunity to take possession of the perfect cat-sized box.  And, as I pulled the stack of books out of the box, I had a three-word review instantly ready to go – These books stink!

And I was meaning that in the completely literal sense.  Graham actually hopped right into the box and, before all four paws had even hit the cardboard bottom, he’d hopped right back out and dashed off to the garage (where I presume he crashed in his litter for a few minutes to try to keep down his lunch).

Whoever wrote those books was a HUGE smoker, that’s for sure.  And apparently, each and every puff he ever took, he blew out directly into that box.  For years on end.  Phew!

Okay, to be honest, those books wouldn’t have been first on my priority list, but I don’t think I’ll ever read them.  I’m scared to pick them up again, and I can only wonder what each page smells like.  And how could I ever write a fair review when all I could think was ‘This chapter really stinks!’.

I’ve been hoping to receive a copy of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods or Lisa Lutz’ The Passenger (books I’ve been wanting to read anyway), but here I have this mini stack of books I don’t even know what to do with.  Throwing them away just seems mean, but it’s either that or leave them on the floor in the corner untouched and unloved where even the cat gives them a wide birth.  Tomorrow’s trash night though so I probably just need to do it – find a pair of tongs to pick those books up and carry them out to curb.  Who knows, maybe they could be well-written pieces of American fiction that just haven’t been discovered yet, but sorry, my eyes are already watering just thinking about the smell of them.  And after all, I’ve got future advertisers to worry about.  If I ever get around to it that is…

Books, Books and Way More Books


Just out of curiosity, I decided to see how many books I’ve received in the mail over the last year or so with the expectation that I would complete an on-line review for them.  I knew that it had been getting slightly out of control, but I didn’t realize that I’d actually received 172 different physical copies of books.  Everything from huge hardcover “coffee-table” books to regular sized softcovers to graphic novels to short, self-published novellas, a couple of children’s picture books, and even books of poetry have been shipped to the house with the hope that I’ll first read it, then love it, then post a wonderful review on-line praising the brilliance and immense talent of the author.  And I’d love to.  Really I would.  But…

Where’s the time?

Of course I ask that while I’m reading a Christopher Moore novel that I’ve probably read at least five times already (plus I paid full price for it when it came out too).  So maybe blaming a lack of time really isn’t the best excuse.  It’s just one of many.

Some books are just obviously not designed for me.

For example…  I’m probably not going to read any of the half dozen romance novels that I’ve received (though who really knows what could happen on a rainy weekend afternoon prior to the start of the football season).  And then there are those days when I open up a FedEx package to find Part 3 of a writer’s trilogy.  So I already have no idea what’s going on in the story before I would read the first sentence.  So I think I’ll pass…

And then, they say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but wow…  Sometimes you actually can.  Actually, every time that I receive one (and I’m probably up to 4-5 arriving each week now) I completely judge it by its cover.  And a slick, well designed cover and a logo from an established publishing house wins out over a hand-drawn cover (some looking like they were done in crayon) of a self-published book every time.  Sorry.  Maybe I’m a bit shallow.  But I’m okay with that.  I support the independent authors out there, but you’ve got to put in a little work…

And then there’s the font.  If you’re doing it yourself and don’t have a publisher, at least use a point that makes the inside look professional, and not like a high school ‘D’ average student’s term paper.  Sure I’m picky.  But I’ve got 171 other books vying for my attention.

Earlier this week I received a hard cover novel of about 650 pages shipped to me from an author in Australia.  The cover looks great, the story description looks interesting, and there are author endorsements on the back cover.  But…maybe more importantly, the author spent $40 in postage to mail it to me.  So I feel a bit indebted to him and am putting the one next on my list to read.  It just seems fair.

Oh, who am I kidding…?  It’s all about the cover.  It just looks cool enough to read.  Once I finish the one I’m re-reading now anyway…

The Murderer’s Daughter


 I don’t necessarily enjoy being negative about the works of writers. Maybe I shouldn’t review books when I’m grumpy. But…since I now have 54 books stacked up on my bookshelf waiting to be read and reviewed, I need to get through ’em, right? Obviously it’s been a little while since I’ve posted – due to a number of things – and I need to really get to it, right?  Even if it’s to start out by telling you that this book kind of ticked me off.

Let’s start with a quick description…

A brilliant, deeply dedicated psychologist, Grace Blades has a gift for treating troubled souls and tormented psyches—perhaps because she bears her own invisible scars: Only five years old when she witnessed her parents’ deaths in a bloody murder-suicide, Grace took refuge in her fierce intellect and found comfort in the loving couple who adopted her. But even as an adult with an accomplished professional life, Grace still has a dark, secret side. When her two worlds shockingly converge, Grace’s harrowing past returns with a vengeance.

First of all, I’ve never been a fan of an author writing a main character who’s absolutely brilliant, one of the greatest minds out there.  It just strikes me as a way to take a bit of reality from the story and make you notice the author rather than the character. It reminds me of when I read the books of Chaim Potok when I was young. The main character was always a brilliant Jewish boy, and the books were written by a Jewish man who considered himself to be brilliant. Why not write a memoir entitled “I Believe I’m Smarter and More Misunderstood Than You”? instead?  Save us all some time…

And here, in this novel, having a brilliant main character seems to be used as an opportunity to pull out all of the grandiose verbiage which comes across as pompous and a pleading for academic acceptance. But that’s not even consistent. If that’s the tone of the whole book, fine. I think we’ve all read those authors.

When a character has to hit the brakes to avoid “pulverizing a pedestrian who leaped off the sidewalk into nocturnal traffic.”, it just seems to be taking things too far… Especially when it isn’t consistent. There will be “normal” descriptions and wording for paragraphs until it seems time to remind the readers that yes, the author is brilliantly able to use big, or rarely-used words. Heck, there’s a sentence when the main character “drank water, peed, drank some more, drained her bladder again, then did some stretching and push-ups and took a nap.” But later, does a house sit on a cul-de-sack? No…that’s amateuristic. Instead, it’s “nearly at the street’s terminus”.

And, when a male author writes about the sexual awakening and blossoming of a teenaged girl, it really creeps me out a bit… Then, when the female main character is described – again by a male author – as having extremely selfish sexual escapades for her own occasional needs, it seems to say far more about the author than you would ever want to know.  But fortunately, that isn’t a huge aspect of the story line. More of an excuse for the main character to randomly meet one person in an area of millions that will kind of impact the story line, even if she’s going to meet him again the next day.  Kind of odd, kind of random and kind of lacking in realistic odds.

There’s the potential for a decent story line here, hidden within the jumble. Growing up within the foster system, trying to find yourself, and coming to terms with who you turned out to be… That makes for an intriguing background to the story. But there’s definitely too much of the main character simply thinking – thinking in a hotel room, thinking in a cafe, thinking while driving, thinking over solitary dinner, thinking in next hotel, thinking about her past, thinking about her present, etc. There’s just not enough character development through action or the interactions with or viewpoints of others. And, the few other characters that do exist are boring and two-dimensional. It’s like they’re there because they have to be, not to really add anything more than the basics.

Then, surprisingly, especially considering this was written by a best-selling author of many other books, this novel ends as if the author had simply grown completely bored of dealing with it and wanted to move on to something else (you and me both dude). There’s no grand revelation, no shocks or surprise, and not even a minor reward for reaching the end.  Just a quick resolution (I’ll be good and avoid giving out any details to spoil(?) it for anyone) with no consequences, no meaning and no real impact to the main character that we can see.  Like someone walking out in the middle of the conversation because they’re done.  No resolution, no wrap up, and no consideration for the other party.  Just a turn of the back and walk away…

So I just can’t recommend this one.  I impressed myself by even finishing it, but that’s just because I can be a bit stubborn and refuse to quit, even when I should.  Sometimes authors lose their way and can sell books simply with their name attached.  And that’s what this feels like.  But I think anyone who wants a good psychological thriller could do far better…

The Curse of Crow Hollow

imageI absolutely love receiving books in exchange for a review – despite what they do to the amount of memory on my iPad or the shelving space on my bookshelves –  but wow, it’s easy to start falling behind…  So this time, even though it was an ebook, I still went with the cover that jumped out.  And this time around, that belonged to The Curse of Crow Hollow by Billy Coffey.  The rest will just have to be patient.

Here’s a quick description to give you an idea of just what the novel is about:

Everyone in Crow Hollow knows of Alvaretta Graves, the old widow who lives in the mountain. Many call her a witch; others whisper she’s insane. Everyone agrees the vengeance Alvaretta swore at her husband’s death hovers over them all. That vengeance awakens when teenagers stumble upon Alvaretta’s cabin, incurring her curse. Now a sickness moves through the Hollow. Rumors swirl that Stu Graves has risen for revenge. And the people of Crow Hollow are left to confront not only the darkness that lives on the mountain, but the darkness that lives within themselves.

The one problem that I have with novel pretty much hit me over the head as soon as I started reading.  The narrator.  The voice of a hillbilly from the hollow who’s your insider for the story he’s about to tell.  Okay, there’s a reason behind the use of that narrator that becomes clear at the end, but the hickness of the language is a little off-putting until you get used to it.

I also had a little bit of an issue keeping the characters straight as there are quite a few people living in the small town of Crow Hollow that are a part of the story line.  And sometimes they’re referred to by first time, sometimes by last.  In that way it reminded me of Russian literature, where you have to put in some work remembering everyone and just who they are.  Outside of those two issues, it was a fun read.  And it was character-driven, despite all of the action surrounding secrets and revenge and misunderstandings and relationships formed over years together in a tiny mountain area.  And, of course, the possibility of a witch and dealings with the devil.

As I went through the book, I kept thinking that this was a pretty good book – a solid 3 out of 5 (still working on a better rating system to use…).  But then, the farther I made it through, I realized that I was reading when I should be writing, reading when I should have been sleeping, and generally reading another chapter or two, or just another few pages before setting it down.  And that’s a sign that it was better than average.  It’s the connection that writers want to develop with their readers.  It’s what I’m hoping to have with the people who read mine.  Even whoever reads my rough draft I hope misses out on hours of sleep…

Until then, it’s time to flip through the list to find the next cover that sucks me in.  Sure, you can’t judge a book by its cover.  But you can choose a book to judge by its cover.  That’s completely fair…