Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Live To Tell

Live To Tell by Bianca Sloane
SBB: 9/7/16
eBook review copy; 302 pages
ISBN-13: 2940157148379

Live To Tell by Bianca Sloane is a recommended thriller.

At first glance Dr. Charles Morgan has it all. He came from a wealthy privileged family, has a successful practice, beautiful wife, and two sons who are also on their way to success. The problem is his wife, Jillian, is toxic. Nothing Charles does suits her. The two are barely civil to each other. It seems that Charles job is to bring home the paycheck for Jillian to spend while she belittles him. It seems like divorce or counseling is in order, but the two stay in their rut. Charles is seriously considering having an affair, but it needs to be with a woman who won't upset his current lifestyle but will provide him with the excitement he craves.

Charles meets Tamra, a cocktail waitress, quite by chance and starts an affair with her that he thinks will satisfy his desires. His affair provides him with a whole lot more than excitement though as he becomes obsessed with her.

Live To Tell is well written, and a seriously dark and sexy novel. Once the action starts it will grip most readers and keep you entertained. This is a perfect airplane book and I'm rating it based on the addictive factor - you will want to see what happens next. 3.5 stars

For me personally, I was less of a fan of this novel. I know other readers were surprised by the twist, but I wasn't and pretty much predicted everything that was going to happen very early on, when Charles was whining about his wife and we were shown that she really is a horrible bitch. Therein lies some of my problems with the novel: the characters felt like stereotypes to me and I didn't really care for the subject matter. Also, this is a part one of what will be at least two part series. Issues are left unresolved and there will be another novel to finish the story. I'm not a fan of that for thrillers either.  It's not that Live To Tell is bad, but I would recommend Bianca Sloane's previous novels before this one.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Shining Sea

Shining Sea by Anne Korkeakivi
Little, Brown and Company: 8/9/16
eBook review copy; 288 pages
ISBN-13: 9780316307840

Shining Sea by Anne Korkeakivi is a highly recommended family saga that spans generations.

The novel opens with Michael Gannon, 43, family patriarch and Bataan Death March survivor, realizing that he is about to die from a heart attack while finishing painting their California home. The focus then shifts to his widow, Barbara, mother of four: Mike Jr., Luke, Francis, Patty Ann, and pregnant with their fifth child, Sissy, and to Francis, the troubled youngest son. Chapters in the novel open with the dates, chronologically ranging from 1962 to 2015. Each dated chapter then follows either Barbara or Francis and the events that happened to them or the family that year, from their point of view.

The time span between chapters can be short or span many years, unlike family sagas that follow a set year by year progression (like Jane Smiley's hundred year's trilogy). While there is insight into family dynamics and the impact loss and war has played in their lives, the only two family members the reader will have any insight into are Barbara and Francis. Barbara's chapters will have more about her children, especially Patty Ann's troubled life, but the insight provided is based on what Barbara sees and experiences. Francis is always on the move, on the run, and an enigma to his family.

Shining Sea is well written and the story of the Gannon family, told through the experiences of Barbara and Francis, is captivating. The changing family dynamics over the years is captured along with the attitudes of the changing times. The damage, both physical and psychological, and loss the family experiences are caused by war, either the declared/military or the domestic variety, is poignantly captured. Life rarely turns out how you planned it to; it can be challenging, difficult and full of pain. It can also be full of hope and beauty. I think Barbara captured the acceptance of a situation and the ability to keep moving forward, even though she also chooses to be in denial sometimes.

There are a couple drawbacks for me. First is that the other children and characters are not fully developed. Then, there is closure at the end, but it seemed almost too pat. The final niggling thought I have about Shining Sea is not really a problem as it is endemic and what is expected of a family saga, but, at a certain point, if you have lived long enough, you have experienced all they have or more.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Hot Sauce Nation

Hot Sauce Nation: America's Burning Obsession by Denver Nicks
Chicago Review Press: 10/1/16

eBook review copy; 240 pages
ISBN-13: 9781613731840

Hot Sauce Nation: America's Burning Obsession by Denver Nicks is a very highly recommended celebration of the most popular condiment on earth and a tribute to the people who make it and the people who love it. Nicks explores the history of hot sauce, and some of the people and places who love it.

"Philosophers have often looked for the defining feature of humans - language, rationality, culture, and so on. I’d stick with this: Man is the only animal that likes Tabasco sauce." Dr. Paul Bloom.

What a timely book as I have just started harvesting my habanero and tabasco chilis, and my jalapenos are coming on strong. I'm not the greatest fan of hot sauce in my home, but I understand how a hot sauce fanatic rates their various sauces and can distinguish one sauce from another. This is a fascinating look at how the chili pepper was "discovered" by Columbus in the New World and the love was subsequently spread around the world. in fact, that has continued to be the key to the success and the expansion of the varieties of hot sauces: immigration. As cultures intermingle, they bring their own varieties of hot sauce with them and we love it. Think of sriracha and the spread of its popularity

The true hot sauce aficionado can never have too many varieties of hot sauce. We love our hot sauces. "But, as you know if you’ve ever poured too heartily from the wrong bottle of hot sauce, taste and smell are but secondary pieces of the hot sauce puzzle. There’s something else happening with hot sauce unique to the chilies that are its essential ingredient, something weirder and kinkier and a stubborn mystery that cuts to the heart of what it means to be human - pain."

That pain is from capsaicin, but "capsaicin is just one of at least twenty-two compounds, called capsaicinoids, that account for a pepper’s heat in the myriad forms it takes." The heat profiles of various peppers differ widely, just as hot sauces differ. 

In fact, "Dr. Bosland developed a multidimensional heat profile to more fully describe a chili pepper’s heat, including five separate descriptors: how fast or delayed the heat is (Asian chilies tend to come on fast, while habaneros come on slowly); how long it lingers (habaneros stick around, but jalapeños dissipate more quickly); the sharpness or flatness of the heat (cayennes are sharper, like pins sticking in the mouth, whereas New Mexican chilies are flatter, like the heat is applied with a paintbrush); where the heat is strongest (jalapeños burn nearer the tongue and lips, habaneros attack the back of the throat); and finally how much heat the chili has. These are our good old-fashioned Scoville heat units."

I found this exploration of the history of hot sauces and the current trend to more varieties and more heat fascinating. We'll see how far the trend to more heat/pain goes. In the meantime I've got some jalepeno poppers to make and it's time to explore some recipes for homemade hot sauces for my tabasco and habanero chili peppers.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Wonder

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
Little, Brown and Company: 9/20/16
eBook review copy; 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9780316393874

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue is very highly recommended historical fiction novel set in rural Ireland, 1859.

Lib Wright, a nurse who trained under Florence Nightingale, is hired to travel to Athlone, Ireland. There she is to simply keep watch over eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell. Anna has reportedly not eaten in four months, and yet is supposedly healthy. Lib and another nurse, who happens to be a nun, have been hired by Dr. McBrearty, the family's physician, and a local committee to provide twenty-four hour surveillance of Anna for a period of two weeks. They are to record if Anna is eating or drinking anything without discussing their observations with each other. Clearly they are present to determine if Anna's claim is a hoax or a miracle.

It is evident to Lib that Anna, a devout Catholic girl who claims to be living off manna from heaven, is not entirely healthy. It is also clear that the doctor wants to believe Anna is the embodiment of a miracle. Tourists are already coming to the family's cabin to see the Wonder. Lib records Anna's vital statistics and notices that since the nurses arrival, Anna's health is deteriorating. Anna claims she has not eaten, but what could be the logical explanation for her survival for four months and is the presence of the nurses going to mean her death? And why are all the adults in Anna's life willing to let her kill herself by starvation in deference to some idea of piety and reverence?

Lib becomes more and more attached to Anna, while at the same time she tries to find a logical answer to the girl's situation. Obviously something is going to have to happen, some break-through is going to have to be made or Anna will die.

The inspiration for Donoghue's novel is based on the true cases of nearly 50 "Fasting Girls" from the 16th to the 20th centuries who were from the British Isles, western Europe, and North America. She also includes detailed descriptions of period customs and social behavior of the characters, including the overwhelming prevalence of Catholicism in the daily routine of Anna and the O'Donnell family. Lib must negotiate this unknown culture and decode the words and language they are using. Language and the meaning of words is an essential element in The Wonder. In fact, each chapter opens with a single word, followed by the multiple definitions for the usage of the word. It is obvious that unless the usage of a word is understood by all parties, miscommunications can/will occur.

This is an incredibly well-written, compelling novel that will grip you and hold you immersed in the time period and setting until the end. The suspense and the tension deepen slowly, incrementally, and are amplified as the narrative progresses and more information is revealed. There is a claustrophobic atmosphere in the tightly clannish society and the small cottage set in the isolated country side. Anna's behavior is constricted; she is following societal rules above and beyond normal expectations. In sharp contrast, Lib has broken societal rules in her training with Florence Nightingale and her out outspokenness.  I loved the ending.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

The Other Side of the World

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop
Atria Books: 9/20/16
eBook review copy; 256 pages
ISBN-13: 9781501133121

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop is a recommended literary novel about searching for home and postpartum depression.

It is 1963 in Cambridge. Charlotte and Henry are married, have one daughter, and are expecting another. Charlotte is going through postpartum depression and feels as if in motherhood she has lost the essence of what makes her unique and gives her satisfaction, like her painting and long walks. Henry, a university lecturer and poet, is dreading the coming cold, damp winter and dreaming of moving someplace warm. He feels the answer to Charlotte's malaise and his dislike of cold weather is found in a brochure he discovered on relocating to Australia.

He brings up the idea until Charlotte, too overwhelmed with her own situation, reluctantly agrees. Charlotte regrets her acquiescence to Henry's idea immediately, but is too exhausted, and depressed to bring up her objections. Henry applies and gets a position as a lecturer, so the family moves and settles in Perth.

Although it is warm and brings up childhood memories of India for him, Australia is not the paradise Henry thought it would be. As an Anglo-Indian, Henry is met with racism at work. He finds himself questioning his identity and it becomes increasingly hard for him to concentrate on writing his book. Charlotte longs to be back at home, in England. Almost every waking moment has her struggling to cope, but wanting to escape.

The actual quality of the writing in The Other Side of the World is quite good - lyrical and descriptive. The writing will please those who enjoy literary fiction. Bishop's descriptions of their surroundings and various landscapes are noteworthy. The plot, however, is slow, perhaps because this is an introspective novel that is driven by the character's inner thoughts, memories, dreams, and longings. The characters themselves are very well developed. The problem I had was I found it difficult to make a connection and empathize with the characters. This leaves me with rating a book where the actual prose is exquisite, but the plot and characters were lack luster and became tiresome.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley
Random House Publishing Group: 9/20/16
eBook review copy; 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9780345539960
Flavia de Luce Series #8

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley is the highly recommended eighth book in the popular Flavia de Luce series.

Twelve-year-old chemist Flavia de Luce is back! After being banished to Canada and sent to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Toronto, Flavia has now been re-banished back home to England at her family estate at Buckshaw and the village of Bishop's Lacey. All is not well, however, when Flavia is met at the dock by Dogger and told that her father, Col. Haviland de Luce, is in the hospital with pneumonia. The reunion with her older sisters Ophelia and Daphne (Feely and Daffy) and her younger cousin Undine, Flavia is ready to jump on her trusted bike, Gladys, and sets off to see Cynthia Richardson, the vicar's wife.

When Flavia consents to running an errand for Cynthia, she is sent to deliver a message to wood carver Roger Sambridge. Once at his home, Flavia knocks but no one answers. She tries the door and discovers it is unlocked. Further investigation leads to her discovery of the reclusive man crucified upside down on the back of the bedroom door in his cottage. Naturally, Flavia examines the body and the crime scene. Her discoveries have her off and running on a new investigation

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd is another winning addition to Bradley's Flavia de Luce series. As with the other books in this series, the current addition is extremely well written and clever. Flavia is an appealing, intelligent girl full of wit, logic, and scientific experiments to help her solve the mysteries she investigates. Flavia, as most readers of the series realize, is a unique character and definitely acts more mature than you would predict anyone her age would act. (I tend to ignore her given age at this point and mentally place her as older than 12.) Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd ends with another cliffhanger, so be forewarned to look for the next adventure.


Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Only Daughter

Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra
MIRA: 9/20/16
eBook review copy; 288 pages
ISBN-13: 9780778319443

Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra is a highly recommended psychological thriller.

In 2014  a young woman who is detained for shoplifting in New South Wales, Australia, claims to be Rebecca “Bec” Winter. Eleven years ago, in 2003, sixteen-year-old Bec went missing from the streets of Canberra. She was last seen working her shift at the McDonald's. This Bec, however, is an imposter who saw a TV show and noticed she resembled the missing girl. To avoid giving her real name and to escape the shoplifting charges, she tells the police the lie.

Soon she is being reunited with her "family" and talking to the lead detective on the case, Special Investigator Vincent Andopolis. Fake Bec is claiming to be foggy on the details of what happened to her and says she just wants to be home, with her family. Her family seems to be... odd, and then there are the threatening text messages.

The narrative alternates between the stories of the real Bec in 2003 versus the Fake Bec in 2014. In 2003 Bec seems to be all about teen drama and hijinks at first, but there are also unexplained, dark occurrences. Her family is more focused on how her twin brothers Andrew and Paul are doing than what Bec is up to. The tension begins to rise for Fake Bec too, as she decides to stick around and look for clues to try to find out what really happened to Bec. 

This is a well written debut novel that is both a quick and compelling read. The tension and ominous feeling carries through in both time periods. I was glued to the pages even when the action seemed a little far-fetched. It does require some suspension of disbelief (for example, Fake Bec even getting to meet the family, let alone the reaction of the family) and in the surprise ending, but I had no problem with that for Only Daughter. This is a perfect airplane book. You will be glued to the pages and the time will fly.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

The Kept Woman

The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter
HarperCollins: 9/20/16
eBook review copy; 480 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062430212
Will Trent Series #10

The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter is a very highly recommended mystery/police procedural.

Will Trent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is back. After failing to get a conviction in the case of basketball superstar Marcus Rippy, who was acquitted of rape charges, Will is now investigating the murder of Dale Harding at a construction site with his partner Faith Mitchell. His lover and GBI medical examiner Dr. Sara Linton is also on the case, as is Amanda Wagner, the GBI deputy director. Harding was a despicable man, but he used to be a detective with the Atlanta PD. There is a whole lot more blood on the scene than could have possibly been Harding's. It is also not his blood type and evidence points to it coming from a woman, so potentially there is a witness or more than one murder happened.

When a Glock found at the scene is discovered to be registered to Angie Polaski, the search is on for Angie - or for her body. She and Will are still married... but it's complicated and they rarely see each other unless Angie wants something. In any event, suddenly Will's past is thrust into the case, and Angie's past is closely tied to Will's. To further complicate matters, the building is the future home of the All Star, a nightclub owned by basketball star Marcus Rippy. Construction was suspended for Rippy's rape trial, but now it is due to start again in a couple weeks.

Slaughter does an excellent job presenting the complicated investigation as the clues are discovered and leads are checked out. Part way through The Kept Woman, the action shifts to a week earlier which provides an insight into information the investigators aren't privy to yet. This really ratchets up the tension and makes the pace feel even more frantic. Will's personal demons seemed to be coming to the surface as he is conflicted over Angie's presence in his life, however marginal, versus his love for Sara.

Incredible writing, realistic, complicated characters, incredible tension, and a fast pace make reading The Kept Woman addictive. There are plenty of twists to surprise you, and questions for which you will be desperate to find answers. While it is a police procedural, it also is a psychological thriller that explores choices and consequences as well as the lasting effect of psychological damage experienced as a child.

Although The Kept Woman it is part of a series, you can read this on its own and follow the plot just fine.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Bone Tree

The Bone Tree by Greg Iles
HarperCollins: 9/13/16
Trade paperback P.S. edition: 832 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062311122

The Bone Tree by Greg Iles is a very highly recommended riveting and epic Southern Gothic mystery/thriller. This is the second book in the trilogy that started with Natchez Burning and the fifth book featuring Penn Cage. Read Natchez Burning and then you will have to read The Bone Tree and Mississippi Blood, which is due to be released in March 2017.

In Natchez Burning Penn Cage and his fiancée Caitlin Masters barely survived an attack by Brody Royal and the murderous KKK faction called the Double Eagles. Now, in The Bone Tree, Tom Cage is still on the run, hiding from the evil Forrest Knox, who is trying to take the reins of the state police’s Criminal Investigations Bureau, and his uncle, Snake Knox, the de facto leader of the Double Eagles. Penn, who just wants to find his father and get him to safety, is doing everything he can to shake up the Knox family.

Caitlin, however, is still chasing what could be the biggest story of her career, solving murders that were committed decades before and still happen today. She wants to search for the bone tree. The bone tree is a huge old cypress tree that is hollow in the middle. It is growing way-back, hidden in the swamp, and rumors about it have been quietly shared for years. It is called the bone tree because there are layers of bones inside the hollow space. Some are animals, but many are human, put there purposefully to hide their murder.

FBI Special Agent John Kaiser has evoked the Patriot Act to charge the Double Eagles as a domestic terrorist organization so he will have jurisdiction over them. He knows they are responsible for numerous civil rights hate crimes over the years. The question he really wants answered is are these men, and those they worked with in the 1960's somehow involved in the assassination of JFK?

Iles continues to impress me with his incredibly details and skillful writing, intricate and complex plot twists, and well-developed characters. All of this is combined with nail-biting suspense. Really, everything I said in my review of Natchez Burning still applies to The Bone Tree:

"This is a tale of illegal activities, racism, greed, murder, corruption, and brutality, as well as the different legacies a family may be passing on to the next generation. Penn must decide if he will choose his father or truth. Penn is a crusader at heart, one who wants to right wrongs, but what if the wrongs involve his father, or result in his father's death?

"Incredible, rich, vivid, descriptive writing highlight this fast-paced, engrossing thriller. You need to realize that there are some very vivid descriptions of violent acts in Natchez Burning, but they are also crucial to the plot. Iles does an remarkable job allowing the facts and secrets to slowly emerge as characters uncover the monumental truth of the past and the present, piece by piece, and realize how far-reaching the gross injustices reach.  The character development is phenomenal. Iles has created characters that are memorable, complex, flawed, and totally believable."

I will admit that The Bone Tree seemed to read a bit slower than Natchez Burning, but I totally accept this as a symptom of it being the second book in a trilogy - it's the middle of the story. But if this page-turner is the middle, then what on earth is going to happen in Mississippi Blood? I may need to take a few days off when it is released just to read it asap.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC for review purposes.  


Monday, September 19, 2016

The Perfect Girl

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan
HarperCollins: 9/6/16
trade paperback; 464 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062476760

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan is a highly recommended psychological thriller.

Zoe Maisey is a 17 year old musical prodigy who was involved in a car accident when she was 14 and living in Devon. She was driving the car that crashed, resulting in the death of three of her classmates. For her actions, Zoe served nine months in a rehabilitation facility. Her parents' marriage ended, so when Zoe was released, her mother Maria moved them to Bristol to start a new life. Maria remarries and she and Zoe have kept all the details from their past a secret from Maria's new, wealthy husband, Chris Kennedy. Now Zoe has a baby half-sister, Grace, and a step brother, Lucas in this "second chance family."

Lucas also plays the piano, so Maria has planned and publicized a public performance for the two. This is meant to signal the new start her life and set her life on the path her mother has chosen. During the opening number, however, the father of one of the accident victims interrupts the performance, yelling that it is a travesty and a disgrace for Zoe to be there. In a panic, she runs off the stage and she and Maria head home, leaving Lucas to continue his portion of the event with his father, Chris. Zoe wants her mother to tell her how they are going to explain the interruption of the concert to Chris? Six hours later, Maria is dead and there are even more unanswered questions. Zoe has learned plenty of lessons from her past. Will any of them help her now?

The Perfect Girl is a very compelling novel. The plot kept me glued to the pages and held my attention to the end. All of the characters are well developed and clearly defined. Part of the explanation for this is that the narrative is told through several different characters and from their perspective. The narrators, who tell the story and the backstory, include Zoe, Lucas, Tessa (Zoe's aunt), Sam (Zoe's attorney from her earlier case), and Richard (Tessa's husband). The multiple viewpoints is used very effectively here; the unfolding stories explain background and slowly expound on the facts and clarify what really happened in the past and the present. The truth is rarely clear and everyone has secrets in this family drama. It appears that Chris and Lucas were also keeping secrets from Maria and Zoe. All the members of this "second chance family" have been walking on tightrope since the beginning - and now it is all unraveling.

I did question two things about the plot. First, I questioned the choice to have the character of Sam, the attorney, as a narrator. While he told a part of the story, his presence never felt natural to me, and I questioned his other reason for being part of the story. I guess I would have looked for another way to tell that part of Zoe's background. At the beginning I also questioned why Zoe was given the car accident backstory. I accepted the thought processes that lead to it, but still thought it could have been accomplished in a slightly different way with the same results.

All in all, though, this was a great novel that I thoroughly enjoyed why overlooking my few questions. 4.5 stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC for review purposes.  


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ninth City Burning

Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black
Penguin Publishing Group: 9/6/16
eBook review copy; 544 pages
ISBN-13: 9781101991442

Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black is a recommended science fiction tale, highly recommended and suited for YA audiences.

Seven young narrators tell the story in first person of Earth's fate in this four part novel. The narrators are are: Jax, Torro,  Vinneas, sisters Rae and Naomi, Kizabel, and Imway.
An alien race, nicknamed "Romeo"or the "Valentines," wants to take over the Earth. The war began 500 years ago when "Romeo" brought a weapon that is a universe-altering force known as thelemity. Entire cities have been destroyed and the success of the aliens seemed inevitable until it is discovered that there are people who are called "fontani," who can produce thelemity, or "revenni." These individuals can use thelemity to impose their will upon the world, but more importantly they can fight back against Romeo using this magic/technology hybrid weapon.

Ninth City Burning is the first book in a new series. This initial introduction to the story, young protagonists, and the war borrows numerous ideas from other, classic sci fi novels. It has a very slow start that may discourage some readers, but those who stick with it and keep track of the narrators will appreciate the end and likely be anxiously anticipating the second book in this purposed three book series. It can be humorous and playful at times, especially with the pop culture references.

I was really looking forward to reading Ninth City Burning, but I did have a few issues with the novel. Those who enjoy YA fiction and frequently read it may not feel the same way. I firmly believe that the market audience for Ninth City Burning is YA, especially based the age of the protagonists, although most of the characters don't exactly talk like they are tweens/teens. Additionally, there are simply too many narrators to keep track of for this strategy to be truly effective. There are many parts with a lot of technical descriptions that could potentially become a bit tedious. (Honestly, I checked out with the magic/technology in the thelemity as I'm not always a great fan of fantasy/magic stories.) There were also things introduced and then left, which I would imagine will play an important role in subsequent books in the series. A solid 3.5 for me, but I'm sure this is a 4.5 for YA fans.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

Friday, September 9, 2016

In Such Good Company

In Such Good Company by Carol Burnett
Crown: 9/13/16
eBook review copy; 320 pages
ISBN-13: 9781101904657

In Such Good Company by Carol Burnett is a highly recommended collection of reminiscences from the shows 11 year run on TV.
If you fondly remember the Carol Burnett Show or remember highlight clips from the show, then you will likely enjoy these glimpses into the variety show that ran from 1967 to 1978. Burnett shares many outstanding memories of what occurred during a regular show week,  anecdotes about the cast members, some guests, recurring characters, favorite movie parodies, some of the funny and off-the-cuff questions from the audience and her responses.

CBS scheduled the debut show to run Monday, September 11, 1967. The show featured comedy sketches and musical performances. The original cast members included Lyle Waggoner, Vicki Lawrence and Harvey Korman. Tim Conway was a frequent guest who permanently joined the cast later. The schedule for preparing for the show was like a school schedule and never varied, week to week. The cast always knew what was next and when to report.

Burnett gives credit to all the various people who helped make the show the success it was, especially the writers. Appendix 1 lists the shows and the guests for each season. Appendix 2 lists all the writers of the show by the season. Along with an outstanding variety of guests, there were others that helped with the show who were less well known. Bob Mackie designed as many as sixty to seventy costumes a week for eleven years. Don Crichton soon became the lead male dancer. Ernie Flatt was the brilliant choreographer. Artie Malvin was the special musical material writer. Harry Zimmerman conducted and orchestrated a live twenty-eight-piece orchestra. Ross Murray handled all the sound effects. Their censor was Charlie Pettyjohn, who came to every run-through and taping.

Recurring sketches that many people will recall include: The Charwoman; Carol and Sis; George and Zelda; The Old Folks; As the Stomach Turns; The Queen; Stella Toddler; Mrs. Wiggins and Mr. Tudball; Mary Worthless; Fred and Marge; and The Family. Burnett shares many memories of guest stars who appeared and their performances. The list of artists and entertainers is incredible. The long run ended when the final two hour special was was taped on March 17, 1978, and aired March 29. At the end, the show had won twenty-five Emmy awards.

Although it is full of memories of the show, this is not a negative tell-all slam of people who behaved poorly. It is positive and upbeat even when there are problems. The only bad guest is never named, an accomplishment that should be applauded alone in this time of tell all about everyone. This might not be the tell-all book some people would hope for, but it is an excellent trip down memory lane on what Time magazine listed as one of the "100 Best TV Shows of All Time." Thoroughly enjoyable!

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Empress of Tempera

The Empress of Tempera by Alex Dolan
Diversion Publishing: 9/13/16
eBook review copy; 282 pages
ISBN-13: 9781682302972

The Empress of Tempera by Alex Dolan is a highly recommended thriller/mystery set in the art world of NYC and challenges the value and meaning of art.

In the opening of The Empress of Tempera, Katie Novis legally changes her name to Paire Anjou. Paire, who is attending the Manhattan School of Art and Design, MSAD, adopts her new name In an attempt to distance herself from her past spent in Maine being tormented by classmates over a terrible act her parents committed. Now, legally Paire and the girlfriend of an up and coming graffiti/guerilla type artist, Derek Rosewood, she is headed to the Fern Gallery where Rosenwood has an opening exhibit being installed. Outside the gallery window is an old man sobbing, staring through the window. He fatally stabs himself in front of Paire while staring at the painting "The Empress Xiao Zhe Yi, Seated" by Chinese artist Qi. It is the only known work by Qi on exhibit anywhere, and may be the only known existing work by him.

Paire ends up getting a job at the Fern Gallery where she is obsessed with the painting along with the many others who stop to stare at it. Rosenwood's wealthy benefactor is the supremely  obnoxious Abel Kasson. Kasson, who arranged for the exhibit at the gallery, is also obsessed with the painting but for other reasons. Paire begins to accompany Rosenwood on some of his illegal guerilla installations, which eventually leads them to even more dangerous stunts.

The writing is good and the plot moves quickly after a slow start. Although some of the characters seem more one dimensional caricatures than flesh and blood people, Dolan sets up the story, describing what captivates and intrigues connoisseurs about Qi and "The Empress Xiao Zhe Yi, Seated," and then keeps the action moving swiftly to an almost inevitable conclusion. The risks people will take for art, to create it or possess it, is captured. Dolan does make a few leaps in the plot and leaves explaining what Paire's parents actually did until the very end, where it loses it's impact after all the other action that has taken place. Still, The Empress of Tempera will grab your attention and hold it to the end.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

After James

After James by Michael Helm
Tin House Books: 9/13/16
eBook review copy; 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9781941040416

After James by Michael Helm is a so-so novel told in three loosely connected storylines.  Disturbing and atmospheric, After James features stylistic, existential and dense prose resulting in a feeling of unease. The three parts of the novel represent three types of genre fiction: the gothic horror, the detective novel, and the apocalyptic.

The first part follows Ali, a neuroscientist who abruptly leaves her job and isolates herself in rural Canada. She plans to blow the whistle on the drug she helped create, Alph, which enhances creativity but also induces suicide in test subjects. The second part follows James, a literary detective hired by Ali's father as he tries to find Ali by decoding the work of an internet poet who writes with precise details about the disappearance and murder of people. The third part features Ali's sister Cecilia, a survivor of a miscarriage, who has her identity stolen by a conceptual artist.

After James is an ambitious novel that has brilliant parts but doesn't quite live up to its lofty goals. Part of the reason for this is the prose itself, which tends to be incredibly detailed. When this prose turns toward the characters, who are excessively reflective about everything, it is easy to lose track of any direction the stories are taking. They become pages of characters wallowing in their own thoughts while leaving the reader struggling to keep reading. I never felt any connection to them or had even begun to care about what they were thinking.

And, if I'm totally honest, Helm had to do a lot of making up to me as a reader concerning Ali and her dog. Ali, for an intelligent woman, needed more assertiveness and should have pulled out her cell phone and made a few calls. I don't think I ever quite forgave Helm for what happened to Ali's dog and her hazy nonchalant attitude toward him being missing. It's never good if I'm mentally talking back to an author about characters and choices. It didn't bode well for the next two parts.  In the end even the passages that were incredible couldn't overcome all the passages that left me struggling to keep reading (and I am a reader who tries very hard to understand the author's intent and very, very rarely does not finish what I start.)

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
HarperCollins: 9/13/16
eBook review copy; 336 pages
hardcover ISBN-13: 9780062491794

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett is a very highly recommended domestic saga involving four parents and six children, and covering five decades. Commonwealth is one of the best books I have had the pleasure to read this year.

By chance, just to escape the chaos at his home, Bert Cousins leaves his wife Teresa and their 3 children at home while he attends Beverly and Fix Keating's christening party for their second daughter, Franny. He barely knows her father, Fix, but before he leaves the party he has kissed and fallen for Beverly, thus setting up the dissolution of both marriages. Bert and Beverly marry, move from California to Virginia, and merge the two families. Every summer all six children are together in Virginia, and the two Cousins girls, Caroline and Franny, join forces with the Keatings, Cal, Holly, Jeannette, and Albie. The step-siblings form a bond and genuine affection for each other that based largely on their shared adventures and disappointment in and resentment toward their parents.

During their time in Virginia the children are left largely unsupervised and engage in some risky activities. When one of the children has an accident, the others ban together to tell all the adults the same story. They keep secret what really happened. The accident means that the shared summers have ended, although the loyalty the step-siblings feel toward each other doesn't diminish. This begs the questions: How reliable are the memories and perceptions of children? How much does a broken family affect children?

When Franny is in her mid-twenties she meets a famous writer she admires and begins an affair with him that has far reaching consequences. Author Leon Posen, who hasn't written anything for years, listens carefully to Franny's stories of her childhood and betrays her confidences when he uses them as material for a wildly successful book, (also called Commonwealth). This betrayal reaches all the step-siblings. Now the question is who owns the stories you freely share with someone you trusted?

Patchett mainly follows Franny, but all the people involved in these broken and blended families have their stories told at some point. Along with the shifting points-of-view, the narrative also jumps around in time. Starting with the christening party for Franny in the 1960's, the novel jumps to Franny going to chemo with her father, Fix, who is in his early 80's. Readers can anticipate a shifting chronology and perspective throughout this novel. It is not difficult to follow, though, and you will desperately want to know what happens next in all time periods.

As usual Patchett's writing is absolutely brilliant and totally captivating. She manages to capture the how past dramas can effect ordinary lives well into the future, but also how communicating and working together can overcome the trials. Sometimes a mature perspective can change an arbitrary and naive interpretation of events. All relationships are difficult and family drama always exists, but is there forgiveness along with the betrayals and disappointments? How would a stranger tell your story after viewing your family and your past? How would different members of your family tell their story? Patchett elegantly demonstrates that sometimes the truth is all in the telling of the story.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The 37th Parallel

The 37th Parallel by Ben Mezrich
Atria Books: 9/6/16
eBook review copy; 272 pages
ISBN-13: 9781501135521

The 37th Parallel: The Secret Truth Behind America's UFO Highway by Ben Mezrich is recommended for UFO believers and fans of The X-Files.

Chuck Zukowski has been interested in UFOs for years and has investigated reports and areas of activity in his own time for years. Mezrich follows Zukowski's beginnings as an UFO hobbyist whose interest turns him into an investigator. He began with an abiding interest in UFOs. He had telescopes to scan the night skies and visited tourist spots like Area 51, Taos, N.M  (the hum) and Roswell. Then he began to look into animal mutilations. He and his family moved from California to Colorado so Zukowski could be closer to where activities are being reported. While a sheriff's deputy in Colorado, he assembled a kit to assist in investigating any reported animal mutilations that defied normal explanations (predators, hunters).

According to Zukowski there are 10,000  unexplained animal mutilations every year. The book looks into several of these cases that Zukowski personally investigated. Mezrich also covers Zukowski's investigations conducted with his sister, who is a member of MUFON. There is one incident that seems like a direct X-Files episode, with men in black and everything. Mezrich follows the evolution of Zukowski's interest in UFOs over the years to his realization that the thing that ties most cases together is that they have occurred in the 37th parallel. 

Mezrich presents Zukowski's search in a serious, factual manner and includes photographs, a bibliography and an index. The whole book leads up to the revelation about the 37th parallel and then... that's it, which is more than a little disappointing considering it is in the title of the book. I'm not sure if Mezrich coverage of Zukowski's investigations turn up any definite answers, but this is a quick read and interesting enough to hold your attention.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.


Substitute by Nicholson Baker
Penguin Publishing Group: 9/6/16
eBook review copy; 736 pages
hardcover ISBN-13: 9780399160981

Substitute: Going to School With a Thousand Kids by Nicholson Baker is an overly long-winded account of his 28 days as a substitute teacher in Maine. It was so-so for me but recommended for anyone wondering and needing a complete description of what a typical classroom day might resemble for a substitute teacher.

In 2014 Mr. Baker took a brief night class, got fingerprinted, and was then eligible to earn $70 a day as an on-call substitute teacher in a Maine public school district. Once he was called in to a school he arrived and did his best to follow the lesson plans/sub plans left by the teacher. Be forewarned that this truly is a moment to moment, day by day account of Mr. Baker's days as a substitute teacher, in grades K-high school, a roving sub, and also several times as an "ed tech" in special education (which is called by other names in other states, but usually a paraprofessional).

I guess I need to disclose that I have been a licensed teacher (many years ago) and a paraprofessional in sped (more recently) in the public schools. I too struggled to get fingerprinted (apparently my fingerprints are also hard to take). There are several differences that any reader of this account needs to take note of before making assumptions that Mr. Baker's experiences are all applicable across the USA. Subs are required to have a college degree and the teacher preparation program in my state; paraprofessionals need to have the equivalent of an associate's degree or take a test.

There are some high points and more low points in this overly long and detailed account. For anyone who has ever worked in the public schools you will recognize his struggles and accomplishments, as well as the various personalities he encountered. There is the ever-present struggle to maintain order and quiet, to teach students of greatly differing capabilities and diversity, the arduous scheduling of the day, and worksheets galore. It must be noted that sub plans are often easier, and can consist of more worksheets and busy work than a normal classroom day. I would agree with him and the teacher who declared that iPads are the bane of education. The quality of subs differs widely and Mr. Baker didn't strike me as a particularly well-qualified one, no offense to him. Obviously he was doing it in order to write this book. Many subs are retired or former teachers and are much better at classroom management than Mr. Baker.

This book would have been more effective if it wasn't a day-to-day detailed listing of everything that happened every day. The days could have been summed up and the highlights noted. Then Baker could have included some personal thoughts and reflections about the day. The current book drones on too long and becomes tedious and repetitious.

Highlight: Why was six afraid of seven? Because seven eight nine! (A joke I've heard and had to laugh at numerous times.)

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Star Struck

Star Struck by David Hart Bradstreet and Steve Rabey
Zondervan: 9/6/16
eBook review copy; 320 pages
ISBN-13: 9780310344063

Star Struck: Seeing the Creator in the Wonders of Our Cosmos by David Hart Bradstreet is a highly recommended look at astronomy through the eyes of a Christian.

David H. Bradstreet is an award-winning professor, author and astronomy "rock star" who has been teaching students of all ages about the heavens since 1976 at Eastern University, where he serves as Professor and Chair of the Astronomy and Physics Department and Director of the David H. Bradstreet Observatory and Julia Fowler Planetarium. Dave earned a M.S. and Ph. D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics from the University of Pennsylvania and has worked with NASA, the National Science Foundation and the International Astronomical Union. He co-authored the Binary Maker 3.0 software program that helps astronomical researchers worldwide calculate the characteristics of binary stars. In 2014 the International Astronomical Union named the asteroid 5826 Bradstreet in honor of Dave’s work in binary stars and for his innovative digital planetarium curriculum.

As someone who has always been fascinated by astronomy, when I heard that in 2010 NASA's Kepler telescope reveal that every star emits its own song, I thought of  Psalm 148:3-5:
"Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at his command they were created."

I share with Dr. Bradstreet awe and appreciation of all the new discoveries and information we are gathering every day about the cosmos.  Star Struck is a fascinating introduction and would be especially insightful to budding young teen astronomers who question how their Christian beliefs can coincide with an interest in astronomy. Bradstreet addresses in simple, understandable language, what has been a dichotomy for some with enthusiasm and facts. He calls it the "wonder gap," where people who don’t believe in God sing the wonders of the cosmos while believers are mute. It is perfectly understandable to love God and the incredible vastness of space as well as all the new discoveries being made daily.

Star Struck covers early astrologers, and astronomers like Kepler and Galileo, along with science lessons. He offers a basic introduction to planets, stars, asteroids, nebula, comets, dark matter, galaxies, new discoveries, and more. There are photographs, a section of color photographs, illustrations, notes and sources. (It was pretty exciting to learn that Dr. Bradstreet is an expert on binary suns, and that they are more common than our single sun. Yup, that means that Star Wars got Tatooine right.) 

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? Psalm 8:3-4

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

The Risen

The Risen by Ron Rash
HarperCollins: 9/6/16
eBook review copy; 272 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062436313

The Risen by Ron Rash is a highly recommended novel about a damaged man, his successful brother, and events that happened in 1969.

Bill and Eugene are brothers. The young men and their mother live in a small North Carolina town with their tyrannical grandfather, the town doctor. Their grandfather rules all of them, and the town to some extent, with threats and an iron hand.  Their grandfather has his eyes set on Bill becoming a doctor and Bill is pursuing that goal. Eugene, though, is viewed as more worthless due to his artistic sensibilities and writing, which are subversively encouraged by their mother.

In the summer of 1969  Eugene, 16, and his older brother, Bill, 20, are fishing when Eugene sees Ligeia skinny dipping. Ligeia, 17, has been sent to her uncle's house by her parents in Daytona Beach in an effort to discourage her activities with the counterculture movement and drugs. Eugene falls for the free-spirited rebellious young woman and is also introduced to alcohol, drugs, and sex at this time, while distancing himself from his more dutiful brother. He also continues to steal sample packets of drugs from his grandfather's practice for Ligeia.

Forty-six years later, Eugene is a washed-up alcoholic who has lost everything and is slowly drinking himself to death. He nearly killed his daughter while driving drunk. She is estranged from him and his wife is gone. He is shocked to see that a body discovered has been discovered to be Ligeia. Bill had told Eugene that he had put her on a bus in 1969. Obviously something else happened and Eugene is determined to discover exactly what happened to her and the part Bill played in it.

Excellent prose highlights this novel along with exceptional character development. Rash sets the time and place with expertise and captures the age-old sibling rivalry between the brothers. It is also a poignant moment when 16 year-old Eugene is first introduced to alcohol by his brother at Ligeia's suggestion, and immediately enjoys it, portending his future alcoholism. For those who are familiar with the novel, there are recurring references to Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.


Mammoth by Douglas Perry
Amberjack Publishing: 9/6/16
eBook review copy; 266 pages
ISBN-13: 9780997237719

Mammoth by Douglas Perry is a so-so novel about a town-wide panic and the aftermath.

Something happens in Mammoth View at the beginning, a small earthquake and then some kind of attack that resulted in everyone fleeing the town in a panic. We don't know what the attack was until the end. Now there are just a few people left. Police Chief Hicks and his deputy are trying to figure out what happened, Billy Lane and his 2 cohorts take advantage of the situation and rob the bank. The two ne'er-do-well Johnson brothers also take advantage of the empty town. King, a radio DJ is leaving town with his girlfriend. And, instigated by Billy, the teen girls running camp up in the mountains evacuates in a rush, but leaves one of the campers behind, Billy's daughter, Tori. Over the next 24 hours chaos ensues, bringing out the worst in people, and perhaps the best in those that endure the rampage of the brothers.

Mammoth is technically well written and contains a whole lot of character development and backstory for multiple characters. The novel is told through short chapters that feature the point of view of several different characters. It is a quick read.

I agree with the reviewers who have said that the focus of his novel got away from Perry. It was about the disappearance of people who all suddenly and swiftly left town, that's intriguing on its own and what led me to read it. Add to it the bank robbery, Tori and the teen girls at the running camp, the DJ, the bad-news brothers.... and suddenly the novel morphed into something else. I could roll with that, but it seemed to swiftly and repeatedly change its focus. Okay, I decided, maybe it was just a character study of these people, but, then, no, it's about something else now. Finally, the disappearance is nothing and felt gimmicky and I was extremely disappointed when it was explained at the end.

Next, there is a whole lot of running up and down the mountain, running here, running there, running, running. I understand that Tori is a runner and will be running, but exactly how much blindly running to and fro would people be doing under these circumstances. Yes, run away from bad guys, but, no, do not run down to an empty town after you've been told everyone left it.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Frontier Grit

Frontier Grit by Marianne Monson
Shadow Mountain Publishing: 9/6/16
eBook review copy; 208 pages
ISBN-13: 9781629722276

Frontier Grit: The Unlikely True Stories of Daring Pioneer Women by Marianne Monson is a recommended collection featuring the story of twelve women who were pioneers.

The women featured in each short chapter are:
Nellie Cashman: Gold Rush “Boomer”; a nurse, businesswoman and gold prospector.
Aunt Clara Brown: a former slave who became an accomplished and beloved community leader.
Abigail Scott Duniway: Oregon Trail suffragette; "Abigail burned at these injustices. Women contributed economically, were held accountable for debts, but remained powerless to own property or manage their own incomes."
María Amparo Ruiz de Burton: The first Mexican-American novelist.
Luzena Stanley Wilson: Ever-resourceful; a gold-rush entrepreneur.
Mother Jones: She could not be silenced; a school teacher who became a labor activist and community organizer. "For over fifty years, Mary traveled the country speaking on behalf of child workers, steelworkers, deported Mexican workers, and coal miners. She once declared to a judge, 'My address is wherever there is a fight against oppression. . . . My address is like my shoes: it travels with me.'
Zitkala-Sa: “Red Bird”; a Sioux writer, editor, musician, teacher, and activist
Mary Hallock Foote: Mining town author and illustrator. Wallace Stegner was captivated by Mary’s story and his 1972 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Angle of Repose, was based on her life.
Martha Hughes Cannon: Frontier doctor, state senator, polygamist, refugee, and women’s rights activist.
Donaldina Cameron: The Most Loved and Feared Woman in Chinatown. Donaldina Cameron rescued thousands of girls from sex trafficking rings, and then raised them as her own daughters.
Charley Parkhurst: Most celebrated stagecoach driver in the west; she lived her life as a man.
Makaopiopio: The Spirit of Aloha; one of the first Hawaiian immigrants to settle the colony of Iosepa.

Frontier Grit is a well-researched, easy to read summation of the lives of these 12 women. Each chapter opens with a picture of the woman and a quote. As is my wont for documentation, I appreciate that Monson includes at the end of each chapter a list of books to consult for more information and that she has footnoted all of her resources. This will be a good resource for students because it will be easy to understand and is concise.

That said, it does have a few drawbacks. I truly wish Monson had restrained herself from adding her own personal thoughts and commentary at the end of each chapter. Surely each woman's life should speak for itself and different readers will likely have diverse lessons they need to learn from each woman's life. I am also beginning to detest the word "grit" which is currently being overused in a wide variety of venues. Enough with your grit everyone. Please look for a more deliberate and appropriate word to reflect your presentation, theories, and opinions. 

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The World in Flames

The World in Flames by Jerald Walker
Beacon Press: 9/6/16
advance reading copy; 208 pages
ISBN-13: 9780807027509

The World in Flames: A Black Boyhood in a White Supremacist Doomsday Cult by Jerald Walker is a highly recommended memoir.

Walker's family were adherents to Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God, a religion which ruled its members by fear, intimidation, brainwashing, and threats.  This memoir basically covers Walker's life from 6 (in 1970) to 14, a particularly impressionable time for a child, especially when you are first taught that the world will be ending in 1972. (This was a date that Armstrong later rescinded and changed to 1975, after the 1972 date passed. He then changed the 1975 date to another new, nonspecific date.). He is taught that at this time his family is part of the chosen ones who will be taken to a place of safety during the great tribulation.

Worldwide Church of God was also a profoundly racist and sexist organization and encouraged segregation and male dominance. It is rather surprising that Walker's parents, both black, accepted the racism of the organization, but perhaps less startling during the 1970's the time on which this memoir reflects and because of their family circumstances. Both of Walker's parents were blind and the church promised their sight would be restored. Additionally, the family of nine who were living in a hard Chicago neighborhood was promised relief from their hardships and financial struggles. The toll the Worldwide Church of God extracted for these future hopes, however, was steep.

Walker writes about his childhood with his twin and family, and the strict guidelines they had to follow, such as no celebration of  birthdays, Christmas, or Halloween. There were other church designated activities in which they did participate. It was especially hard as a child to hear the prophecy of the destruction that was to come, and things like a plague of boils, when he had no real understanding of what everything was (like a boil) and had context in which to place this information. He did know that his friend Paul was doomed so he tried to get him to switch from his Baptist church to the Worldwide Church of God so he wouldn't perish.

At age 11, when the 1975 date passed, Walker began to thoughtfully question the Worldwide Church of God. When he is 14 he asks his brother "How do you un-believe a belief?" As his brother tries to help Walker with facts that will help him survive in the real world it marks his maturation and transition to realizing that Armstrong was a con men, a hustler taking advantage of people's faith, trust, and hope for a better future.

This is a well written coming-of-age story told from the perspective of a boy going through the experiences. His voice and recollections are clear and concise. This memoir should resonate with many people. It would have been nice to read about Walker's transition into adulthood after he realizes the Worldwide Church of God was a cult and that he actually does have a future he can look forward to rather than expecting the world to end.

Support page for Survivors of Worldwide Church of God

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher via Library Thing for review purposes.