BOOK REVIEW: The Ballad of Old Joe Booth (A Song for Eighth Block) by William Pauley III

Title: The Ballad of Old Joe Booth (A Song for Eighth Block)

Author: William Pauley III

Audiobook Length: 45 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Bizarro Fiction, Horror, Novella

Read Start Date: May 23, 2023

Read Finish Date: May 23, 2023

Number of Book in Series: 5

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads:  Some monsters are impossible to see. This is The Ballad of Old Joe Booth. An epic poem in four parts. A song for Eighth Block.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This is the 5th book in the Bedlam Bible series, but I haven’t read book 2 or 3 yet because they were archived on Netgalley before I had a chance to download them. In any event, it isn’t necessary to have read the previous books, as this one is stand-alone.

The Ballad of Old Joe Booth is a captivating tale narrating the genesis of the enigmatic cosmic horror entity known as Old Joe Booth. The Bedlam Bible, an extraordinary compilation encompassing every book in the series, holds the key to Old Joe Booth’s demise. Learning of its existence, and the potential fatal nature of the Bedlam Bible, Old Joe is prompted to embark on a relentless quest to eradicate this ominous tome. With its evocative descriptions and thrilling narrative, this eerie and delightful short story by William Pauley III is yet another resounding success.

Other Books in the Series (that I have read)

Title: The Tower

Author: William Pauley III

Audiobook Length: 2 hours and 23 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Short Story

Read Start Date: January 27, 2023

Read Finish Date: January 31, 2023

Number of Book in Series: 1

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Something is happening to the residents of Eighth Block Tower…

There’s radiation in the walls. Salt covers the hallways. The food and water are poisonous. A giant green brain pulsates under the roof, pumping electric venom throughout the apartment building. The residents are trapped and losing their minds.

Sanity is a myth. Sickness is life.

See my review of The Tower here.

Title: Fight Tub

Author: William Pauley III

Audiobook Length: 2 hours and 45 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Bizarro Fiction, Horror, Novella

Read Start Date: May 6, 2023

Read Finish Date: May 8, 2023

Number of Book in Series: 4

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads:  The story of a man who became his bathroom.

See my review of Fight Tub here.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


BOOK REVIEW: Hounds of the Underworld by Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray

Title: Hounds of the Underworld

Author: Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray

Audiobook Length: 8 hours and 18 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Crime, Mystery

Read Start Date: April 21, 2023

Read Finish Date: April 24, 2023

No. of Book in Series: 1

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads:  On the verge of losing her laboratory, her savings, and all respect for herself, Pandora (Penny) Yee lands her first contract as scientific consult to the police department. And with seventeen murder cases on the go, the surly inspector is happy to leave her to it. Only she’s going to need to get around, and that means her slightly unhinged adopted brother, Matiu, will be doing the driving. But something about the case spooks Matiu, something other than the lack of a body in the congealing pool of blood in the locked room or that odd little bowl.

Matiu doesn’t like anything about this case, from the voices that screamed at him when he touched that bowl, to the way his hateful imaginary friend Makere has come back to torment him, to the fact that the victim seems to be tied up with a man from Matiu’s past, a man who takes pleasure in watching dogs tear each other to pieces for profit and entertainment.

Hounds of the Underworld blends mystery, near-future noir and horror. Set in New Zealand it’s the product of a collaboration by two Kiwi authors, one with Chinese heritage and the other Māori. This debut book in The Path of Ra series offers compelling new voices and an exotic perspective on the detective drama.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Hounds of the Underworld is about siblings Matiu and Penny, who team up to solve a man’s disappearance. Penny, on the brink of losing her laboratory, is hired by the police for her services, and Matiu, her adopted Maori brother, tags along to the crime scene. Accidentally touching a bloodied bowl on the floor, Matiu hears a cacophony of screams in his head and wakes up his childhood imaginary friend, Makere. The siblings are thrust into a dark world of dog fighting, murder, and supernatural forces.

With respect to the audiobook recording, I really loved listening to the New Zealand accents of the narrators. The book includes a list of Maori terms that were used throughout the book, but I didn’t find it helpful in the audiobook version. With a paperback, you could flip to the back to see the definition, but by the end of the audiobook, it was already too late.

The dog fighting ring depicted in the story may be a trigger for dog lovers — it was for me. I was ready to cry at some points in the book and I was not happy that the authors didn’t do more to at least have a happy ending for a certain dog I have in mind.

The book starts off slow, focusing on the siblings’ relationship, but picks up pace in the last half and ends on a cliffhanger. Since this book was first published in 2017 (I think the audiobook format was just released), the 2nd and 3rd books in the trilogy are already published and available. I already have a long list of books on my “TBR” list this year, but I will definitely be adding the next books for reading in the future.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Title: After I Do

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Book Length: 336 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Chick Lit

Read Start Date: April 19, 2023

Read Finish Date: April 27, 2023

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: From the New York Times bestselling author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, comes a breath taking novel about modern marriage, the depth of family ties, and the year that one remarkable heroine spends exploring both.

When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.

Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for? This is a love story about what happens when the love fades. It’s about staying in love, seizing love, forsaking love, and committing to love with everything you’ve got. And above all, After I Do is the story of a couple caught up in an old game-and searching for a new road to happily ever after. 

My Review: The novel tells the story of Lauren and Ryan, a married couple who have been together for 11 years but are struggling in their marriage. The book takes readers on a journey through the couple’s decision to take a year-long break from their marriage to try and figure out what they really want.

The novel begins with Lauren and Ryan at their breaking point. They have tried couples therapy, but nothing seems to be working. Lauren is feeling unfulfilled in her job as a freelance writer, and Ryan is feeling stuck in his job as a lawyer. They are also struggling with communication issues, and their once-loving relationship has become strained.

After a particularly bad fight, Lauren and Ryan decide to take a year-long break from their marriage. During this time, they agree not to see each other or communicate in any way. They both hope that this time apart will help them figure out if they still love each other and if they want to stay married.

The year apart is not easy for either of them. Lauren struggles to find her place in the world and her purpose in life without Ryan. She also finds herself becoming more isolated and lonely as she spends more time on her own. Ryan, on the other hand, finds himself drawn to a coworker and begins to question his feelings for Lauren.

Throughout the novel, we see the couple grow and change as they spend time apart. They both have experiences that help them grow as individuals, and they begin to understand themselves better. Lauren discovers a new passion for photography and starts a successful business, while Ryan decides to leave his law firm and pursue a career as a musician.

As the year apart comes to a close, Lauren and Ryan must decide if they want to stay together or move on separately. They both have new perspectives on life and love, and they must decide if they can forgive each other for the mistakes of their past and build a new future together.

As a fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s recent books, I couldn’t help but notice that her writing style in After I Do feels different. Although Reid is an excellent writer, the tone and structure of this book deviates from the style of her more recent works. Perhaps it’s because After I Do is written in the first person, or maybe it’s because it’s a contemporary novel rather than historical fiction (or what I like to call modern historical, where the story takes place in the last few decades rather than centuries). Whatever the reason may be, it feels like a departure from her usual style – but this could also be an early work in the evolution of Reid’s writing.

Although I have been divorced myself, I found it difficult to relate to Lauren. When I ended my own marriage, I was completely done with my ex and didn’t think about him or care about his whereabouts. However, Lauren seemed to be consumed by the absence of her husband and continued to think of him throughout their year-long separation, even writing unsent emails to him. From the beginning, I sensed that she didn’t truly hate him as she claimed. While the book’s message seems to be that the year break was necessary for them to rediscover their love for each other, I couldn’t help but wonder if they were truly in touch with their feelings. If they were so fed up with each other that they wanted to break up, why did they immediately realize that they couldn’t stand being apart? This made me question their level of self-awareness and the authenticity of their feelings.

Despite this one small flaw, some positive aspects of the book include:

Realistic portrayal of marriage: One of the strengths of the book is its realistic portrayal of marriage. Reid does not shy away from showing the ups and downs of a long-term relationship, including the challenges and struggles that many couples face. This makes the story relatable and authentic

Strong character development: The characters in the book are well-developed and complex, making them feel like real people rather than just fictional constructs.

Thought-provoking themes: The book tackles many thought-provoking themes, including the importance of communication in relationships, the challenges of pursuing one’s dreams while in a partnership, and the question of whether love is enough to sustain a long-term relationship.

BOOK REVIEW: The Idea of You by Robinne Lee

Title: The Idea of You

Author: Robinne Lee

Book Length: 448 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Chick Lit

Read Start Date: March 31, 2023

Read Finish Date: April 9, 2023

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: EVERYONE IN THE WORLD KNOWS HIS NAME.

At thirty-nine, Solène Marchand is a devoted mother, a dedicated colleague and a considerate ex-wife.

But it’s a long time since she’s felt like herself.

So when someone comes along who seems to see her – to want her – for who she really is, the attraction is instant. And so begins a jet-setting, earth-shattering secret love affair.

But what if that someone is world-famous sex symbol Hayes Campbell? Captivating frontman of boy band of the moment August Moon – whose face is everywhere. Including Solène’s teenage daughter’s bedroom wall.

Can Solène allow herself to fall for the boy the whole world wants?


My Review: The story follows Solène Marchand, a successful and recently divorced art gallery owner in her 40s, who unexpectedly falls in love with Hayes Campbell, a younger man in his 20s who happens to be a member of a popular boy band.

As their relationship develops, Solène and Hayes must navigate the challenges that come with their age difference, including the disapproval of Solène’s friends and family, as well as the intense scrutiny of the media and the public. The novel raises thought-provoking questions about societal norms and the double standards that exist around age differences in relationships.

I think what I liked most about the book was the love story. The romance scenes are steamy, and the chemistry between the 2 characters is undeniable. The book stayed with me long after I was done reading it, but maybe because the ending was unsatisfactory, albeit realistic.

What prevented me from giving the fifth star was how the novel repeatedly emphasizes the age difference between Solène and Hayes, with Solène frequently reflecting on her insecurities and concerns about dating a younger man. Often referring to him as a “boy.” I found this way too repetitive. Like we get it already.

Secondly, EVERYONE in Solène’s life was constantly saying “what are you doing with him”. She had no support from literally anyone in her life. It just got a little tiring. Basically her friends were telling her that although Hayes was the big love of her life, she wasn’t allowed to be with him because he was younger than her and a celebrity? This also didn’t make sense to me because she live s in L.A….aren’t people there used to having celebrities around? You’d think it would be no big deal.

Overall, The Idea of You is a well-crafted and emotionally resonant novel that is worth a read for fans of contemporary romance. While it may not be perfect, it is still a highly engaging and thought-provoking work that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

BOOK REVIEW: The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

Title: The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes

Author: Neil Gaiman

Book Length: 240 Pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Comics, Fantasy, Horror, Graphic Novels

Read Start Date: March 22, 2023

Read Finish Date: March 26, 2023

No. of Book in Series: 1

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: New York Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman’s transcendent series THE SANDMAN is often hailed as the definitive Vertigo title and one of the finest achievements in graphic storytelling. Gaiman created an unforgettable tale of the forces that exist beyond life and death by weaving ancient mythology, folklore and fairy tales with his own distinct narrative vision.

In PRELUDES & NOCTURNES, an occultist attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. After his 70 year imprisonment and eventual escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On his arduous journey Morpheus encounters Lucifer, John Constantine, and an all-powerful madman.

This book also includes the story “The Sound of Her Wings,” which introduces us to the pragmatic and perky goth girl Death.

My Review: The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes is a graphic novel first published in 1989 and is the first installment in The Sandman comic book series.

The story follows the character of Dream, also known as Morpheus, who is one of the seven Endless, a group of powerful beings who embody universal concepts such as destiny, death, and desire. At the beginning of the story, Dream is captured and imprisoned by a group of human occultists for seventy years. After finally managing to escape, he sets out to reclaim his lost objects of power and regain his former realm. Along the way, he encounters various characters, including his sister Death and the demon Azazel, and faces a series of challenges that test his strength, will, and ingenuity.

I picked up this graphic novel after my boyfriend had finished it. He had watched the Netflix series and then had wanted to read the graphic novel it was based on. I have not yet seen the Netflix series, but after hearing my boyfriend gush over the novel, I figured I’d give it a try.

One of the most striking aspects of The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes is its artwork. The book features illustrations from several different artists, including Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, and Malcolm Jones III, and each brings a unique style and perspective to the story. From the dreamlike landscapes of the Dreaming to the gritty realism of 1980s London, the artwork in this book is truly stunning and adds an incredible amount of depth and atmosphere to the narrative.

Gaiman uses characters from a wide range of sources, blending together elements of mythology, folklore, and popular culture to create a world that is simultaneously familiar and otherworldly, and he populates this world with an eclectic cast of characters who come from a variety of different traditions.

For example, Dream himself is based on the character of Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams. However, he is not a direct adaptation of the mythological figure – rather, Gaiman takes inspiration from Morpheus and creates a new, more complex character who embodies both the power and the vulnerability of the dream world.

Other characters in the book come from a variety of different sources as well. For example, the character of John Dee is based on the real-life historical figure of the same name, who was a famous alchemist and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. In Gaiman’s series however, Dee is reimagined as a villain who seeks to control Dream’s power for his own ends.

Similarly, the character of Cain is based on the biblical figure of the same name, who is best known for murdering his brother Abel. In The Sandman Cain is one of the immortal beings who inhabit the Dreaming, and he is constantly at odds with his brother Abel, who is also a character in the book.

Other characters in the book come from more contemporary sources e.g. the character of John Constantine, who I know from the movie, but I think is based on another comic book.

The use of these different characters from different sources adds an incredible amount of depth and richness to the world of The Sandman. From reading the introduction to the graphic novel, it is my understanding that such a blending is unique to this series of graphic novels and has never been done before or since.

I am only giving it 4 stars instead of 5 mainly due to two reasons: pacing and confusion. Some parts of the story were more engaging than others, and I found myself feeling ambivalent towards certain parts while feeling more invested in others. Additionally, given the multi-layered nature of the story and the introduction of many characters, it can become a little overwhelming and confusing to keep track of everything. Although I appreciate Gaiman’s efforts to build the world and characters in the first volume of the series, it can be challenging to get used to, particularly for someone who is not accustomed to reading graphic novels. Nonetheless, I acknowledge that Gaiman has executed this well and created an intricate world for readers to explore.

Definitely a novel worth reading!

BOOK REVIEW: Goddamn Electric Nights by William Pauley III

Title: Goddamn Electric Nights

Author: William Pauley III

Audiobook Length: 2 hours and 38 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Short Stories, Horror, Bizarro Fiction, Novella

Read Start Date: March 12, 2023

Read Finish Date: March 15, 2023

Brief Summary of the Plot from GoodreadsWhen electricity hangs in the air so thick the moon and stars fizzle and drown in a sea of light, the people living within it, breathing it in, can never be “normal.”

From disfigured mutants accidentally murdering god to a man falling madly in love with a blood-thirsty VCR, we promise you’ve never read anything as bizarre as this!

In these six tales, Pauley explores the lives of those living in the darkest corners of the world, those living electric:

Contains the stories:

1) Slime Night!
2) Killing Teddy (previously published under the names Insection 8 and The Third Floor)
3) The Spiders of Honeyville
4) Hypnagogia
5) $5 Electric Suzie
6) Spin Doctors Mixtape

My Review: Goddamn Electric Nights is a collections of various stories. I have reviewed each one separately below. I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Slime Night!: (about 40 minutes). Out of all the stories, this one was my least favorite. It depicts the tale of two teenage boys vying for the affections of the same girl. However, their portrayal of her is unflattering, portraying her as promiscuous and having undergone multiple “wire hanger” abortions. The boys engage in a bizarre pinball game known as Slime Night!, where losing results in being drenched in slime. By the conclusion, one of the characters experiences a significant personal revelation. While not terrible, I believe the story could benefit from more extensive exploration of the emotional complexities, perhaps through a longer narrative.

Killing Teddy: (about 20 minutes). The story opens on an excellent note, with the first-person protagonist, who is the superintendent of a building, abruptly awakened by a deafening scream followed by the menacing sound of a chainsaw. To his horror, he finds a woman and a colossal ant inside one of the apartments. The woman recounts an implausible tale of a Japanese game show where the prize money is 500k, and the contestant, Teddy, must be killed and transformed into hundreds of distinct species to entertain the audience. Without weighing the consequences, the superintendent agrees to help the woman for a hefty sum. However, unforeseen events unfold as a result. Overall, this story is a delightfully imaginative and entertaining read.

The Spiders of Honeyville: (about 28 minutes). The story commences with a plumber visiting his lover’s residence to unclog her shower drain. However, after he eliminates a snake, a yellow fog bursts out from inside it, killing both the plumber and his mistress and turning them into zombies. In the second part, we learn that the snake species has evolved a revenge mechanism, which results in the predator’s death. Scientists are studying this phenomenon and come across a pregnant woman infected with it, from whom they deliver the baby via cesarean section. But the baby is promptly stolen, and in a pursuit, the thief drops the baby, causing it to explode and release a yellow cloud over the entire town. Consequently, the scientists devise a plan to combat the zombies with genetically engineered spiders, which backfires, creating a town full of zombie Spider-Men. Overall, this story is hilarious and had me chuckling throughout. This one is probably my favorite story in the collection.

Hynagagia: (about 15 minutes). This was the first part of The Tower, another novella by the author, which I reviewed here.

$5 Electric Suzie: (about 17 mins). In this story, Susie, an anthropomorphic VCR, needs blood to stay alive. The protagonist of the story becomes infatuated with Susie and starts feeding her his own blood. Eventually, he develops an obsession with her and begins to kill people, starting with his own parents. The tale begins with the protagonist as a young boy, and as he grows up, he continues to feed her. He spends his whole life in the service of the VCR. This story was weird, and not one of my favorites. Nothing much happened from a plot perspective, and the sexual connection with the VCR was uncomfortable.

Spin Doctor Mix Tape: (about 38 mins). The story begins on a somber note, with the protagonist’s girlfriend’s cat dying accidentally. However, the narrative is imbued with a sense of humor, as the narrator adopts the tone and delivery of a newscaster. The girlfriend forgives him, and when he invites her and his parents over for dinner, everything goes smoothly until they realize that he fed them the cat instead of the planned chicken. The protagonist explains that he was short on cash and had no other option. The girlfriend breaks up with him again, but after listening to a Spin Doctor mixtape he made for her, she decides to give him another chance. Although the cat’s death and consumption were a bit off-putting, the story was enjoyable overall.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: The Tower by William Pauley III

Title: The Tower

Author: William Pauley III

Audiobook Length: 2 hours and 23 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Short Story

Read Start Date: January 27, 2023

Read Finish Date: January 31, 2023

Number of Book in Series: 1

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Something is happening to the residents of Eighth Block Tower…

There’s radiation in the walls. Salt covers the hallways. The food and water are poisonous. A giant green brain pulsates under the roof, pumping electric venom throughout the apartment building. The residents are trapped and losing their minds.

Sanity is a myth. Sickness is life.

My Review: I received this book from NetGalley and exchange for an honest review. The Tower is the first book in the “Bedlam Series.” I wasn’t sure what to think of this book. It was a little trippy, like what all the movies portray an acid trip to be like. But it was also a little confusing.

Although a novella, the book seems to be split into 2 separate stories. Both take place in the “Eighth Block Tower,” which is more or less an apartment building with radiation in the walls. At least that’s what the inhabitants say. The inhabitants themselves are strange. Some might even say “radiated” or “mutated.” They are too weird to leave, even if they want to.

The first story is about a killer who starts killing the women of the building. The twist at the end was weird and a little off putting.

The second story is about someone who works at a meat facility located at the apartment complex (also somehow strange). I didn’t really get the point of this story. The ending is weird and also confusing.

I read some reviews on Goodreads that said there was a third story…but actually I’m not sure what that one was…

What I did like was the futurist atmosphere of the place. But this also left me with unanswered questions. What was the outside world like? What was society like? Why were these people at this building? There were so many interesting elements of this story that weren’t explored. I’m giving it 4 stars despite the confusion because it was just so damn intriguing, the writing was good, and the idea was imaginative.

Hopefully, my questions will be addressed in the next book, which I definitely will be reading.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

Title: The Bookshop on the Corner

Author: Jenny Colgan

Book Length: 384 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Chick Lit, Books about Books, Contemporary, Scotland

Read Start Date: November 18, 2022

Read Finish Date: January 26, 2023

Number in Book Series: 1

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more.

Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling.

From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending.

My Review: Nina has always had a dream of owning her own bookstore. When she loses her job as a librarian in Birmingham, she heads to the Scottish Highlands to purchase a van that would be perfect to house a mobile bookshop. Nina hits a snag when the gruff seller won’t sell it to her. With the help of the book-starved inhabitants of Kirrinfief, the seller finally relents. The townspeople are disappointed when Nina tells them she doesn’t intend to open her shop in Kirrinfief.

While Nina had originally planned to open the shop in Birmingham, red tape prevents her from doing so. Reluctantly, she returns to Kirrinfief and rents a renovated barn from a stubborn, abrasive, hunky farmer, who goes by the name of Lennox. He is in the midst of a bitter divorce, and is more rude than welcoming. It is obvious, however, that this guy will be the love interest by the end of the book.

Despite her initial hesitance, Nina soon becomes enamored with the Scottish Highlands and its people.

One night, Nina is driving in the van, and she stalls on the train tracks as a train is coming. Luckily, the train stops. She meets Marek, the gorgeous and kind train operator from Latvia (he is living in Birmingham). They soon fall into a romantic exchange –they leave notes and books for each other by hanging them on the tree next to the spot where they first met. The romance is more emotional than physical, as they rarely see each other, and it is ill fated from the start.

By the end though, Nina is where (and with whom) she should be and has her own “happy ever after”.

I started reading this book back in November, 2022, when my daughter was in the hospital with a bad case of bronchitis. I needed something light and fluffy, and this book fit the bill. Jenny Colgan writes with a nice and easy prose that begs the eyes to keep reading. It took me a while to finish it, because recently I’ve only had time to read at bedtime, and I have been trying to read paperbacks before bed (to avoid screens). As I was reading this via the library app Libby on my ipad, I turned to this book only when my mood couldn’t handle the subject matter of the true crime books I’ve been reading.

It is a bit sappy in parts — like how Nina calls her bookshop “The Little Shop of Happy-Ever-After” — but overall a good book.

This is a great read for when you are in a bad or sad mood and need something light and uplifting.

BOOK REVIEW: The Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson

Title: The Book Woman’s Daughter

Author: Kim Michele Richardson

Audiobook Length: 10 hours and 29 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction,

Read Start Date: January 7, 2023

Read Finish Date: January 18, 2023

Number in Book Series: 2

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Bestselling historical fiction author Kim Michele Richardson is back with the perfect book club read following Honey Mary Angeline Lovett, the daughter of the beloved Troublesome book woman, who must fight for her own independence with the help of the women who guide her and the books that set her free.

In the ruggedness of the beautiful Kentucky mountains, Honey Lovett has always known that the old ways can make a hard life harder. As the daughter of the famed blue-skinned, Troublesome Creek packhorse librarian, Honey and her family have been hiding from the law all her life. But when her mother and father are imprisoned, Honey realizes she must fight to stay free, or risk being sent away for good.

Picking up her mother’s old packhorse library route, Honey begins to deliver books to the remote hollers of Appalachia. Honey is looking to prove that she doesn’t need anyone telling her how to survive, but the route can be treacherous, and some folks aren’t as keen to let a woman pave her own way. If Honey wants to bring the freedom that books provide to the families who need it most, she’s going to have to fight for her place, and along the way, learn that the extraordinary women who run the hills and hollers can make all the difference in the world.

My Review: This book is both a standalone book and a sequel to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. This book is told from Honey Mary Angeline Lovett’s POV. If you haven’t read the first book you will still be able to read and enjoy this book, but you will miss out on some of the backstory of Honey’s mother and the packhorse project.

The story starts off with Honey’s parents going to jail for violating Kentucky’s misogyny laws, which outlaws the marriage of two different races. Honey and her mother, Cussie, are carriers of a genetic trait that led to the blood disorder methemoglobinemia, turning their skin blue. Therefore, in the eyes of the racist, ignorant Kentucky folk, the marriage between Cussy and her husband, a white man, violates the law. They are sent to prison for 2 years.

Honey, nearly 17 years old, is at risk — the authorities want to send her to a reform school until the age of 21 — which is little more than a child prison — even though she would legally be an adult at the age of 18. Luckily, a guardian (an elderly woman and friend of Cussy’s named Loretta) steps forward, keeping her out of prison for the moment. That path is shattered when Loretta dies, leaving Honey again at risk.

But Honey is resilient and a tough cookie, as my boyfriend would say. She gets a job and makes a salary (the same one her mother had bringing library books on mule back to the disadvantaged folk in the Kentucky mountains). She makes friends, she pays her own way, and she even researches a landmark case in Kentucky for emancipation. She is determined to gain her freedom.

This is a story about friendship, overcoming adversity, and about standing up for your beliefs, even in the face of danger.

I found this book slow at times, and I couldn’t put it down at other times. Trigger warning for elements of domestic abuse and violence against women. Although I did enjoy it when the villain got the comeuppance he deserved at the end.

All in all a great book. I would recommend it along with the first one.

For some interesting book club questions, I would recommend visiting Three Sisters Read blog post here.

Other Books in this Series

Title: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

Author: Kim Michele Richardson

Audiobook Length: 9 hours and 26 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Read Start Date: September 13, 2022

Read Finish Date: September 23, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry.

The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.

Along her dangerous route, Cussy, known to the mountain folk as Bluet, confronts those suspicious of her damselfly-blue skin and the government’s new book program. She befriends hardscrabble and complex fellow Kentuckians, and is fiercely determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give to those who have nothing, a bookly respite, a fleeting retreat to faraway lands.

See my review of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek here.

BOOK REVIEW: Took by Mary Downing Hahn

Title: Took

Author: Mary Downing Hahn

Book Length: 272 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Mystery, Paranormal, Ghosts

Read Start Date: December 24, 2022

Read Finish Date: December 28, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “Folks say Old Auntie takes a girl and keeps her fifty years—then lets her go and takes another one.”
Thirteen-year-old Daniel Anderson doesn’t believe Brody Mason’s crazy stories about the ghost witch who lives up on Brewster’s Hill with Bloody Bones, her man-eating razorback hog. He figures Brody’s probably just trying to scare him since he’s the new kid . . . a “stuck-up snot” from Connecticut. But Daniel’s seven-year-old sister Erica has become more and more withdrawn, talking to her lookalike doll. When she disappears into the woods one day, he knows something is terribly wrong. Did the witch strike? Has Erica been “took”?

My Review: Daniel and Erica are forced to move to rural West Virginia when their father losses his job. Once a successful businessman, their father (and mother) take retail jobs at a local store. As an adult, this didn’t make sense to me — why would they leave a NYC suburb where all the business-esq jobs are, only to move to a rural community where only retail jobs are available?–but as this story is for Middle-Grade readers, I guess it’s not much of a problem. Or rather, a kid probably wouldn’t think in such terms.

To me, it seemed to be just a vehicle for moving to West Virginia, the location of the ghost story. It also helped explain the kids picking on them, and why they wouldn’t be aware of the history of the house. But again, these are adult thoughts and will not affect the storyline for the kids.

Anyway, they move to this rural area, to this house where 50 years ago, a child was kidnapped. All the kids at school make fun of Daniel and Erica because of where they live. At first, Daniel doesn’t believe them, but then strange things start to happen e.g. his sister starts talking to her doll and acting like it can talk back. Daniel doesn’t get any help from his parents, as things for them are also difficult. Their parents are working a lot to make ends meet, and they are constantly fighting with each other. The kids are also quarreling as siblings often do. So to say, the kids are having a really hard time with the move.

When the ghost of an old witch sets her sights on Erica, will Daniel be able to save her in time?

This book was being given away for free at a South Carolina library near where my parent’s live. Despite being Middle Grade, it sounded interesting and was highly enjoyable even for me, an adult. I think that kids will really enjoy this book, especially if they like books about ghosts.