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review 2018-07-17 00:23
The Ghost of Follonsbee's Folly by Florence Hightower
The Ghost of Follonsbee's Folly - Florence E. Hightower,Ati Forberg

A charming story about the Stackpoles, a lively family of six and their housekeeper/cook Angela, who moves into a gothic Victorian pile in the country. 'Follonsbee's Folly' has been empty for a long time, but some members of the family discover that it isn't as empty as they thought.

This was great. A new house is a classic launch for any kid's book, and this one follows several paths successfully. Everyone in the family is delighted with the house except for Angela who has cared for the two older children all of their lives and continues to look after the infant twins. She was willing to go with the family to their new home, but there are many reasons why a crumbling old house is no place for young children, especially if you have to be the one to take care of it all. She treats the children like her own, and often talks to them about her own son who was lost in World War II. The house is in poor condition, but the adults set to renovating the house while the children explore. Elsie is entranced by the discovery of an enormous doll house, the Folly itself in exact miniature, and decides to restore it. Tom discovers the bucolic wonders of the great outdoors and even finds his own project in an abandoned rowboat. It isn't long before Tom meets a young black man out in the woods who, though a little put out about new people finding his fishing spots, is friendly and willing to show Tom around the river and help fix up the boat so they can fish together. The young man, Joe, asks that Tom not tell anybody else about him as he doesn't like to be bothered on his vacation.

Hightower fills the book with descriptions of nature and the happy bustle of a family. The descriptions of the speaking tubes in the house and the underground railroad were great additions. The children have plenty to do with their respective story lines and have some dubious babysitting tips. I was pleasantly surprised at how central of a role Angela plays in the novel. She is sympathetic and well drawn and a vital part of the family. By the end of the book, Angela is the central character of the book and it is gratifying to see how it all works out.

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review 2018-07-16 22:30
HYSTERIA by Stephanie M. Wytovich, narrated by Teagan Gardner
Hysteria: A Collection of Madness - Stephanie M. Wytovich,Steven Archer,Michael A. Arnzen,Teagan Gardner

The entire time I was listening to this poetry collection, THE YELLOW WALLPAPER by Charlotte Perkins Gilman was in the back of my mind. HYSTERIA is about women and their likelihood of falling victim to men, to the world, to their children...and back again to the men. Unlike Gilman's story though, in HYSTERIA, the women often rise up and take what's due. I loved it!

 

I've admitted it before, but I will again here so we're clear, poetry is generally not my thing. But women are-especially strong women, women who have been through things in their life, women for whom life has not been easy. Most of this volume focuses on them, which is why, (I think), it speaks to me so intimately.

 

There are a lot of poems within and I can't get into all of them here, but I especially loved GREED, PLAYMATE OF THE NIGHT and GUARDIAN ANGEL:

 

"...lock me up somewhere else/you say the wrong thing around here, people start to think you're crazy, like madness is some contagion you breathe in through the air/I just told them that sweet Jezebel didn't like it when the men talk to her like that/when they visited her in her cell and touched her pretty face/ran their fingers through her silky hair/they beat me to get out my crazy..."

 

I found Stephanie Wytovich's prose to be killer: in bringing to mind vivid renderings of women-abused, crazy, strong, wild, beautiful, ugly, willful, sexy and with TEETH. Don't turn your back on these women, especially if you've done them wrong in the past. At the same time, some of these ladies are kind and nurturing, or at least they were... before they were diagnosed with HYSTERIA.

 

Highly recommended for fans of poetry and dark fiction!

 

*Thank you to Stephanie M. Wytovich for the free Audible copy of this book, in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2018-07-16 18:45
HOPE NEVER DIES (AN OBAMA/BIDEN MYSTERY) by Andrew Shaffer
Hope Never Dies - Andrew Shaffer

 

As soon as I saw the cover of this book, I knew I had to have it! Thanks to NetGalley and to Quirk Books for granting my wish.

 

Andrew Shaffer takes the former leader of the free world, joins him back up with Joe Biden, and together they work on a mystery. Amtrak Joe lost a friend, an engineer on the train that he rode nearly every day before he before he became Vice President. (This story is told from Joe's point of view.) After discovering a few unsavory facts about his friend and discovering a few things about himself, he teams up with former best friend Barack Obama, and together they set about learning what happened. Will the two solve the mystery of the Amtrak engineer? Will they continue to be friends after this case is over? You'll have to read this to find out.

 

I'll admit here and now that I was and am a big fan of both of these men. It's because I miss them and because the cover made me laugh that I requested this book. HOPE NEVER DIES doesn't get into politics much and I appreciated that. (I did enough comparisons between these two and our current administration in my head, I didn't need anything more spelled out.) I have no way of knowing how close this book comes to the real personalities of these two, and you know what? I don't care! It was a fun and entertaining story and that's all that I was looking for.

 

That said, I had only one big issue and it's likely mine and mine alone. I know that Joe Biden loves cars, (well Corvettes at least for sure.) So do I, and I've worked with them in some capacity my entire adult life. With that in mind, I couldn't understand why a lot of the vehicles referenced in this novel were referred to incorrectly. Ford does not make Impalas. I'm pretty sure Plymouth didn't make Firebirds either. (They made Thunderbirds and Superbirds- Firebirds were all Pontiac.) I did receive an ARC of this book, so perhaps those things were tidied up before publication? Even if not, most people probably wouldn't even notice.

 

Other than that, HOPE NEVER DIES was a lot of fun. It's not going to break any literary records or anything, but as a humorous detective story featuring two of my favorite politicians, it certainly fit the bill! I recommend it to anyone who thinks this premise is fun!

 

*Thanks to Quirk Books and to NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book, in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2018-07-16 14:09
The Butterfly Garden
The Butterfly Garden - Dot Hutchison

A serial killer called the Gardener captures young women, tattoos intricately detailed butterfly wings on their backs, gives them new names, keeps them in a secluded, secured location with a lovely garden and their own personal rooms. He clothes them, feeds them, rapes them and on their 21st birthdays, does something completely horrific to them.

 

The only other person who knows of this place of horrors is his son, Avery. Avery is allowed access to the girls and may come and go as he pleases. He is not kind to the girls at all, and enjoys causing pain and torturing them. This is a disturbing story told from the point of view of one of the surviving girls as she reveals to two FBI agents all that happened from beginning to end. Maya's depictions are not overly graphic despite all she had to endure, but explained in a matter of fact manner.

 

The biggest issue that I had with this book was being unable to understand why none of the girls attempted to escape. Not a real attempt outside of trying to peek at the door's security code. It is explained that they were afraid that if they failed and were caught, the Gardener would murder them sooner. Each of the girls seemed to be resigned to their fates, and even when they were taken off to be killed, they were terrified, but never put up much of a struggle.

 

I cannot imagine knowing that a psychotic man was taking me off to end my life and not fight tooth and nail! Not once did he use any sort of weapon. If they were going to die anyway, why not die fighting? Not only did the Gardener come to the garden alone, he was an older man and grossly outnumbered by the girls. I felt that the girls had so so many options and opportunities, but didn't even try.

 

They had a cave they could talk privately and devise a plan of action, they had access to the kitchen, they had trinkets and things given to them by the Gardener, surely they could have used something as a weapon. One girl was even granted a pair of scissors which had only been used for embroidery and to cut the hair off another woman for the sake of revenge.

 

There was a woman who had gained the Gardener's trust to the point where he did not kill her, instead he stopped visiting her bed, and even allowed her to come and go as she pleased. This woman was loyal to the Gardener and not once so much as considered going to the police to save the rest of the girls! In fact, she envied the girls and wanted the Gardener to love her.

 

The book, for me, had a satisfying ending. The twists and turns were interesting and despite the frustration of all the wasted opportunities to escape (many of which I am not even discussing in this review due to spoilers), kept me invested. Due to the subject matter, I would not recommend this book to everyone. It is a story that will stay with you long after you've finished reading it.

 

 

-Shey

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review 2018-07-15 20:44
Literary horror novel 'The Grip of It' leaves me with too many questions...or does it?
The Grip of It: A Novel - Jac Jemc

This book was a pick for my Litsy horror postal book club, and the second in a row that had the theme of a haunted house (this came on the back of the classic 'The Haunting of Hill House', which almost isn't fair, since that book is so well-known, and it was hard not to think of it).
'The Grip of It' was on my radar for a while after I noticed its cover, which is covered in the 'drawings' that show up mysteriously inside the house that the young couple, Julie and James, buy when they move to a small town outside of the city. There are lots of things that mysteriously go on inside the house (or do they?), after they move in, and the couple learns of the family that used to live there (or was it next door?), and they have so many questions that they start to run together...and largely are unanswered. ALL the way through to the end of the book. That was ultimately my biggest problem with 'The Grip of It': not ever feeling like questions were answered. The two main characters were also so similar (and weak, in my opinion), that their perspectives ran together, so the storytelling device of different chapters being their alternating different voices was ineffective. Whether or not this was intentional or not as a device to show that they were becoming of 'one mind' as the house took over, it was very confusing to read as the book continued.
I mostly enjoyed the literary prose and new approach to a 'horror' novel but occasionally I was a annoyed with the short sentences, which broke up some very beautiful writing, and very quotable prose.
And like most horror stories, the couple, Julie and James do frustratingly keep going back to this house that is obviously causing them to drift apart and for Julie to become ill (ergot poisoning? seizures?), yet the house sells quickly, so even though it seems that in general we have a no-nonsense 'literary' horror novel, we still have these silly tropes that don't make sense after all.
And what on earth happened to Rolf? ?
Still, I read this quickly, and it was a page-turner, it kept me engaged. It just could've been so much better.

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