Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Child Next Door by Shalini Boland

Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Length: 283 pages
Published: March 2018

A solid 3 for psychological thriller, The Child Next Door by Shalini Boland. This book was my club's choice for our upcoming suspense genre meeting in July. It was definitely suspenseful. The publisher marketed the book as "unputdownable." While the jury is still out on whether that's a real word, I do have to say it's an accurate description. I devoured this mystery in about 2  days.  

New mother Kirstie Rawlings is the protagonist who hears someone planning a child abduction through a frequency on her daughter's, Daisy, baby monitor. Having the only baby in her neighborhood and monitors only picking up frequencies close by, Kirstie is sure that someone is out to get her baby. From there, the reader is taken on an emotional roller coaster, told from Kirstie's postpartum point-of-view, to learn who she overheard and what their plans are. The secondary characters add more intrigue to the story. I'm sure this was in an attempt to keep the reader guessing. However, I had it figured out pretty early on. 

I enjoyed that this book was fast-paced. I found that to be one of its strong points. I also think the story is very compelling and realistic. However, I did get bogged down by Kirstie at times. Her moaning about needing her husband so much and being so fearful of her neighbor without really any evidence seemed a bit of a stretch. Also, the epilogue seemed to take the ending over the top. I think we could have done without it, but maybe Boland is planning on writing a sequel later. We shall see! 

Recommendation: Overall, I found this book to be the perfect summer read. It was a page-turner that kept me, as the reader, engaged till the satisfying end. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change by Ellen K. Pao

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Length: 10:40:00
Published: September 2017

Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change by Ellen K. Pao is another autobiographical read inspired by an interview on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. In the book Pao shares her experiences in her career with sexism and marginalization of women (specifically women of color). She also walks the reader through the workplace discrimination lawsuit she brought against her former employer, Kleiner Perkins. 

My motivation for purchasing a (audiobook) copy was quite simple ... I was fed up. I am fed up, and I needed some inspiration. If you're going to read (and get anything out of) this blog post, you have to accept this as fact - Sexism and marginalization in the workplace is very real, and it's pervasive. It is not always physical and overt, but sometimes it is. Often it's subtle things like: getting left off important email chains, not being invited to meetings, being talked over when trying to present ideas, and having your ideas stolen by someone and presented as their own. These are things I knew before reading Pao's book. These are things I've experienced. I was quite surprised, yet also comforted, to know that it's happening everywhere. 

In my professional career that spans nearly 20 years, all of these things have happened to me. Early on in my career, a white male intern referred to me as a bitch because he believed I had come to work sick (and contagious, I suspect). He was fearful that my perceived illness would cause him harm and ruin his upcoming skiing trip. Later on in my career, I was shouted at by a male octogenarian who didn't like that way I was handling a project. He physically stood over me while I sat at my desk and berated me. (I chose to leave the office and do my own reset at a local Starbucks). One day, a co-worker asked what I thought the solution to police brutality was. Most recently in what I thought was friendly conversation, a co-worker decided to share information about his family and used the word nigger in a one-to-one conversation with me while in the office. I've shared some of my experiences with my dad who, at one point in his life, was a military drill sergeant. And he said to me so simply, "This is sexist, Melyssa." It made me sad that he was sad for me, but it also gave me strength that he, as a man, could acknowledge it and empower me to stand my ground. We need more men in this fight with us. Reading this book gave me more strength. 

The book is not read by Pao, but I did enjoy the narrator. Her speaking style was very smooth. I found the stories both insightful and infuriating. Pao begins with her childhood and helps the reader navigate through her career, the lawsuit, and the resulting inclusion work that she is now doing. The book is painfully truthful with rays of hope. 

My only critique is that the author focused the majority of the book on her specific industry specific - tech. However, the ideas and themes are applicable to any industry. I understand Pao was writing what she knows, but I wish the book was a little more generalized so all readers can understand, this is not just a tech/Silicon Valley problem. This is a worldwide problem. We know better, and we should do better. 

Recommendation: If you have a job - paid or volunteer, you need to read this book. My purpose for listening to this book was to find inspiration. Pao definitely offered that. If she can survive sexism in the workplace and a very public lawsuit, I can press on. I can move forward. I will persist. And I will know that I am not alone in this fight. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful. 

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Length: 346 pages
Published: August 2012

This month's book club genre was a beach-themed read. My book club, Richly Read selected On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves. I was really looking forward to reading something light for the summer. 

On the Island is the fictional story of 30-year old Anna Emerson who is hired to tutor 16-year old T.J. Callahan over the summer because he had fell behind in his studies due to his cancer diagnosis. While in remission, his parents plan a summer vacation and fly ahead to a tropical island where Anna and T.J. are to follow a few days later. As luck would have it, Anna and T.J.'s plane crashes and they are shipwrecked on an island somewhere in the Maldives and presumed dead for several years. The crux of the plot is about Anna and T.J.'s struggle for survival and their complicated relationship that develops during the time they're stranded. 

This book could easily be filed as chick lit. It is an easy, fast read. I finished it in about 4 days. This is Graves' first novel, so there are definitely some areas for improvement, but overall the writing is pretty solid. There are not many errors. And she does a good job of conveying the emotions of her characters. I, personally, did not enjoy the plot. I found it to be a little unbelievable. However, the purpose of this book was to escape reality for a bit during the summer, and it did accomplish that. 

Recommendation: If you're looking for a light read with some conflict but not too much heaviness, this may just be the book for you! Visit your local library and borrow a copy today. Thank you to the Fort Worth Central Library for this loan. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful. 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Length: 384 pages
Published: May 2015

In December, my book club - Richly Read - did a gently used book swap, and I scored The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. I had heard good things about the book. I also think it was an Oprah Book Club selection at one point. I was really excited to dig in, but only just got time to start reading it in late May. It was worth the wait! 

The book fits the historical fiction genre, but is essentially a creative biography of the Grimké sisters, specifically Sarah Grimké, and their work to abolish slavery and their fight for women's equality in the United States in the 19th century. Interwoven is an account of a fictional slave character, Hetty "Handful" Grimké, who is given to Sarah on her 11th birthday as a waiting maid of sorts. The book alternates perspectives between Sarah and Handful where the reader learns of their lives and struggles as a woman and a woman slave, respectively. 

It took me a bit to get into this story, but I attribute that to me and not the author. The prose is beautiful and the story is heart-wrenching. By the end I was totally and emotionally invested. Last year I read A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake, which features some of the same real people/literary characters and historical events that are featured in The Invention of Wings. If you haven't already I'd encourage you to read both books, starting with Kidd's book. This book is yet another perspective on a horrible time in U.S. history, but also very important that we remember lest we repeat the same atrocities. Just like the Grimké sisters stood up for justice in a time when it was very unpopular to do so. We still need people of all races and backgrounds to stand up to the continued injustices that permeate our society today. So, while a book steeped in a time where African Americans were only considered 3/5 of a person, we readers can still find value and relevance today. 

Recommendation: I enjoyed this book, not because it is an easy read, but because it is an important one. I encourage you to pick up a copy today.  

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

What Lies Below by Barbara Taylor Sissel

Genre: Contemporary Mystery / Literary Suspense
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Date of Publication: May 15, 2018
Pages: 334

Gilly O’Connell’s nightmares aren’t just bad dreams; they’re glimpses of terrifying realities to come. Gilly has spent her entire life trying to suppress the foreboding visions. So when a dismissed premonition leads to her husband’s murder, she buries the guilt and pain of the unsolved crime in the only way she knows how—she runs from it.

Three years later, after overcoming a battle with addiction and starting over in a small Texas town, Gilly dares to believe the worst is over. That is, until another crime rips her heart open: the abduction of a three-year-old girl. Gilly knows more about it than anyone…

She’s dreaming again.

Gilly is convinced that if she tells the police she dreamed of the kidnapping before it happened, there’s no way they’ll believe her. But when she finally gets the courage to come forward with what she saw, people don’t see her as crazy—they see her as a suspect.

Now, in order to help a desperate single father save his child, Gilly must first clear her own name. But as the nightmares of the past catch up to her, Gilly’s only chance for salvation might be the dreams she’s spent so long trying to ignore.

Rating: 5 of 5 stars 

Call it reader's clairvoyance, but when I picked up What Lies Below by Barbara Taylor Sissel I just knew it was going to be an excellent book. And please believe me when I tell you, it more than lived up to my expectations. 

The story takes place in small Texas town Wyatt where Gilly, the book's protagonist, is not-so-successfully trying to move on with her life after the traumatic murder of her husband in Houston. The twist is that Gilly has premonitions that warn her of horrible events like her husband's death and now the kidnapping of three-year-old, Zoe. Because of this "gift" Gilly becomes a suspect in the abduction and a probable target of her husband's killer, who was never caught. The novel is a heart-pounding race where Gilly is on the search to help find Zoe and clear her name while also trying to avoid the dangers of her husband's killer before it's too late for her and Zoe. 

The story is fast-paced. The writing and editing is solid. And the plot and characters are well developed. I don't have much criticism for this novel. I really enjoyed the in-depth characters. They were complex, flawed, but also had some redeeming values - even the seemingly bad ones. The ending provided hope and closure, but it wasn't a picture perfect ending, which I appreciated. The author definitely has a gift for succinctly telling a compelling story. There's no wonder she's already written nine bestsellers!  

Recommendation: I absolutely loved this book. I always enjoy a good mystery, and this one kept me guessing till the very end. If you're looking for a suspenseful read with a paranormal twist, pick up a copy of this book ... today! Something tells me you will enjoy it! 

Please note: I received a complimentary signed paperback copy of What Lies below in exchange for my honest review.

Until next time ... Read on!

“Infused with heart-stopping suspense, emotional resonance, and startling imagery, What Lies Below swept me along a river of urgency and dread. Barbara Taylor Sissel effortlessly weaves together prescience, regret, grief, love, and revenge—all wrapped in the mystery of a young girl’s abduction. Beneath the breathless immediacy of the story lie deeper questions: How do we forgive ourselves—and others—for remembered transgressions, and can we ever break free of the past?” ~A. J. Banner, #1 Amazon and USA Today bestselling author of The Good Neighbor and The Twilight Wife

“Barbara Taylor Sissel’s What Lies Below is suspense at its finest—heartrending, compelling, and beautifully written. If you’re looking for your next up-all-night read, look no further.” ~Jessica Strawser, author of Almost Missed You and Not That I Could Tell

“I cannot emphasize this enough: you must read What Lies Below. Barbara Taylor Sissel manages to combine an unreliable narrator, twisting plot, and well imagined characters to create a world where nothing is as it seems and secrets abound. I had intended to savor the novel’s lovely prose but wound up devouring the book in a day. Simply fantastic.” ~Karen McQuestion, bestselling author of Hello Love

Barbara Taylor Sissel writes issue oriented, upmarket women's fiction that is threaded with elements of suspense and defined by its particular emphasis on how crime affects the family. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, she was raised in various locations across the U.S. and once lived with her family on the grounds of a first offender prison facility. The experience, interacting with the inmates and staff, provided a unique insight into the inmate's lives, the circumstances behind the crimes they committed, and the impact on the families that were affected. The bestselling author of nine novels, her stories focus on the family at the heart of the crime. An avid gardener and the mother of two grown sons, Barbara lives in the Texas Hill Country. She’s represented by Barbara Poelle at the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

Connect with Barbara
: WebsiteFacebook | Twitter | BookBub | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads

1st PrizeSigned Copy of Book + Bookmark + $15 Amazon Gift Card
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May 15-24, 2018

15-May Excerpt Texas Book Lover   
16-May Review Dressed to Read 
17-May Author Interview That's What She's Reading
18-May Review The Clueless Gent  
19-May Notable Quotable / Bonus Review The Love of a Bibliophile  
20-May Notable Quotable Story Schmoozing Book Reviews
21-May Review A Page Before Bedtime (You are here)  
22-May Guest Post Part 1 Reading by Moonlight   
23-May Guest Post Part 2 Books in the Garden   
24-May Review Book Fidelity 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union

Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Length: 7:48:00
Published: October 2017

In my continued quest to listen to more audiobooks, I downloaded Gabrielle Union's We're Going to Need More Wine. I first heard about her book when she appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. I was intrigued by much of what she said and figured I'd give her book a go. Plus, how can you not love that title?! 

So, I'll start with the obvious. Gabrielle Union wrote and narrated the book. Because she's a fairly prolific actress, it was no surprise that she acted out her words very well. I found the book to be formatted like a collection of essays where Union shared very vulnerable parts of her life with her audience. Her stories gave me greater insight to her as a person, not just a celebrity. She struggles with many of the same issues that non-celebrity women struggle with. It was refreshing to learn how she's gained so much strength from her survival. Growing up in an area that lacked diversity, she didn't have the best childhood. Her dad wasn't the best person. She was violently raped as a teenager. And she was a party to a tumultuous divorce as an adult. I related to many of her experiences, and found myself liking her more after I finished the read than before. I haven't followed Union's acting career closely. I've never seen an episode of Being Mary Jane. But that didn't stop me from understanding her biographical timeline and appreciating her story.

My harshest critique of this book is the language. There was much cursing, vulgarities, and sexually-explicit scenes. To be fair, she does offer a language disclaimer/warning at the beginning of the book. However, I still wasn't prepared for how pervasive it was ... and I'd already purchased the book. I also didn't like how she kind of used her friend's legacy as a trope to finish the book. It sounded rushed and like she was looking for an out rather than a natural conclusion. 

Recommendation: Gabrielle is funny, insightful, and she curses ... a lot. I think the book is worth a read or a listen. There were certain things she shared about her life as an African American woman that gave me pause and caused me to think about it long after I'd finished listening to her reading of the book. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Truevine by Beth Macy

Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Length: 448
Published: October 2017

Many moons ago, I set up an recipe where the most popular book-related articles from The New York Times are gathered and delivered to my inbox each week. I am pretty sure I learned about Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South by Beth Macy through this weekly email. I added the book to my ever-growing TBR (to be read) list, and I finally got the opportunity to dive in May.

Truevine is a historical account about two albino brothers who were essentially kidnapped by a circus manager and forced to work in the circus for many years without pay. All the while their mother searched for them eventually finding them and taking on one of the biggest names in the circus industry. 

Macy did a great job of researching, synthesizing, and presenting the information, not only about George and Willie Muse, but also about life in the circus during this time and the Jim Crow south. I cannot summarize this book accurately in one short blog article. There is a lot of detail that provides a greater picture of what people of color had to endure from the early 1900s through present day. My mother asked me why I wanted to read such a painful book. She is correct. It is a painful book, but it is an important one in that it adds another facet of African American history to my personal knowledge. Moreover, it gives me a greater appreciation for my blessings today. We have yet a long way to go, but we have come so far because others have paid the price. Reading George and Willie's story continues to teach me that. 

Recommendation: This is one of my favorite non-fiction reads. I would recommend it to students, to adults, to anyone seeking a greater understanding of the sordid history of our country. We must learn it so we dare not repeat it.  

Until next time ... Read on!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

One Good Dog by Susan Wilson

Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Length: 8:23:00
Published: March 2010

I regretfully write that I nominated One Good Dog by Susan Wilson for Richly Read's May selection. We had decided to read a book that had an animal focus. I found this one on many lists with high star ratings on Goodreads and Amazon. 

As an aside, I prefer not to read reviews before I write my own so my review is truly my own thoughts and opinions. Choosing a book on numerical ratings is not something I would normally do either. I think if you are a reader, you should have no problem reading a review from a fellow reader. If you are simply relying on the ratings ... shame on you! But I digress. The high quantitative praise coupled with the compelling description of the book led me to nominate it. 

One Good Dog is about a man, Adam March, who makes a mistake that causes his professional and personal life to plummet drastically. While attempting to rebuild and redefine himself, he performs a good deed. As a result of that deed, Adam adopts a dog (or as we animal lovers like to say: the dog adopted him). From there, the author tries her best to take us on Adam's journey to redemption. She tries.  

The story is structured in such a way that one chapter is told from Adam's perspective in third person and the alternating chapter is told from the dog's (Chance's) in first. Adam's character was not at all likable. He was angry, mean, and abusive. In what seemed to be Wilson's attempt at Adam's self-reflection came off as a self-absorbed, white privileged male who couldn't understand why life would deal him such a hand. He had no redeeming qualities. I had hoped for growth over the course of the story. No dice. Adam lost a lot, which ideally would make the character sympathetic; however, he was just annoying. (I don't know if Wilson got paid for Lexus product placement in this book, but she certainly should have. She referenced Adam's 2007 Lexus too many times to count.) 

I listened to this book on audio borrowed for my local library. I am thankful I didn't purchase it. However, my disdain for the book is probably stronger because I listened to the audio version. The voices attributed to the African American characters, who were always specifically called out as African American while no other races were noted, were condescending. (It's almost as if the author was trying to satisfy some affirmative action quota for number of black people in a novel.) All of the African American characters were using this so-called "black" dialect in the audiobook. I'm sorry. Is this how all African Americans speak? No one I know talks this way. The reading and acting did nothing to further character development. Sadly, they only exacerbated very basic and condescending stereotypes of African Americans. Frankly, it angered me, and I'll likely never read another book by this author as a result. Finally, people of color were relegated to seemingly negative roles. They were dog fighters or homeless or Hurricane Katrina victims. There were no instances of African Americans who were of higher socioeconomic status or from Adam's life before his fall.  

I was completely disgusted by the constant comparisons of African Americans to dogs throughout the entirety of the book. In a world where African Americans have been enslaved, lynched, attacked by dogs, and gunned down like animals, the racist overtones only contribute to an unrealistic image of black people. I first sensed a hint of racism when one of the dogs was named "Fiddy" as in the rapper, 50 cent. Later, when Adam is trying to decide what to name Chance, his friend suggests Cassius as in Clay or George as in Foreman. The late, great Muhammad Ali has not used the moniker Cassius Clay since 1964. Why black athletes and a rapper as dog names? Are there no professional boxers of other ethnicities? Why not call the dog Rocky? 

It is ironic and unfortunate that Wilson wrote her protagonist as struggling not to be viewed or defined by one major life event, but she was completely OK creating one dimensional African American characters. On top of the racial overtones, the foul language in the book was overused and added no depth to the story. 

If you're wondering why my review seems to focus so much on the racial aspect, it is because Wilson did as much in her writing as I in my reviewing. 

Recommendation: I gave this two stars because I'm a dog lover. It probably deserves one. Regardless of what Garth Stein says about this book (he seemed to endorse it), I'm telling you, if you want to read an emotional book about a dog, pick up The Art of Racing in the Rain

Until next time ... Read on!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Circumvent by S. K. Derban

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Length: 233 pages
Published: November 2017

In reading the back cover synopsis of Circumvent by S. K. Derban, the reader learns that the story is set in Hawaii and France. Yes, Hawaii and France. Reading really can take you to the most beautiful places! The mystery genre is one of my favorites, so I was excited to jump right in. 

The protagonist, French-born journalist, Nikki, is recently married to Swiss pastry chef, Ruggiero Delémont. On her way to Lyon, France for a work writing assignment, she meets a dangerous fate. When she doesn't check-in as planned with her husband, who is back at home in Hawaii working at his up and coming restaurant, he fears the worst and contacts the police. With the help of unlikely friends at home and abroad, Ruggiero engages in a cat-and-mouse chase as he desperately seeks to learn what has happened to his beloved wife.  

The story includes strong Christian themes with the main characters demonstrating an active prayer life, which I appreciated. The author is very well traveled and versed in a variety of cultures. With her strong use of imagery, Derban takes the reader on an international trip. I enjoyed reading the different languages (with translations), the descriptions of the delectable cuisines, and learning about the structure and architecture of France. Derban gives us a view that goes beyond what a tourist might see. 

My criticisms are few. I did not like how the author focused so much on the physical appearance of both Nikki and Ruggiero. She went into great detail on multiple occasions throughout the book explaining how beautifully tan Nikki was and how her gorgeous, long, and dark brown hair complemented her. She also touched on Ruggiero's athletic physique. Sometimes I got the feeling that if they weren't as beautiful they wouldn't have been as deserving of the search for a happy ending. Additionally, this quick-read is nicely tied with a bow in the end. I felt like the reconciliation between Nikki and Ruggiero was a little forced. However, if you accept the story for what it is - a fun, escape from reality, I think it is an enjoyable read for most. 

Recommendation: If you're looking for a fast-paced, weekend and/or beach read with a hint of romance, a Christian focus, and some beautiful people, be sure to check out this suspense-filled mystery. 

Please note: I received a complimentary signed paperback copy of Circumvent in exchange for my honest review. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Covey Jencks by Shelton L. Williams

Genre: Mystery / Social Thriller
Publisher: Southern Owl Publications, LLC
Date of Publication: February 10, 2018
Pages: 229

Covey Jencks is a murder mystery with a social conscience. Set in West Texas with a cast of colorful and humorous characters, it follows a young lawyer from Washington, D.C. back to his hometown of Odessa, Texas. He wants and needs to solve a murder case from 1979 in 1993. The problem is that the Odessa Police Department has already found its man, and no one wants to re-visit the case of a black prostitute whose life was seemingly of no consequence to anyone. But Freddie Mae Johnson’s death matters to Covey and eventually he discovers an old flame, JayJay Qualls, who also knew and loved Freddie. Together they undertake an investigation that uncovers not only the truth about Freddie but also the secrets of Odessa’s south side, Mexican gangs, a Boston mobster, and the fallacy of unexamined assumptions. Finding out who killed Freddie is one thing, but preventing their own demise is quite another! 

Rating: 4 of 5 stars 

I fell in love with this book before I started reading the actual story. The foreword by author Shelton "Shelly" Williams warmed my heart. I knew I was about to partake in the creative genius of one who was not only a talented writer but also socially-aware and compassionate. 

I will start here: Covey Jencks is the title of the book and also the protagonist. I read a paperback copy, and, as per usual, I read everywhere I can: on solo lunch and dinner breaks, in the grocery story line, at Starbucks. Everywhere I read this book, strangers were drawn in by the cover and wanted to know what Covey Jencks meant. (You're welcome, Shelly, I've been selling this book for weeks for you!)    

Covey Jencks is about an attorney who leaves Washington D.C. to return to his hometown of Odessa in west Texas to help correctly solve the murder of Freddie, a working girl, from the late 70s. The story takes place in the mid-90s. This might seem odd because the story could have easily been set in present-day; however, I appreciated the return to that time period. The AOL references made me chuckle. (Come on, if you were born before the mid-80s, you know you had an aol email address at one time. No judgment here if you still have one. Ha!) Anyhow, Freddie's husband had confessed to her murder and served time due to the inequities of the legal (read: not justice system). This created years of dissonance for Covey, so he returns on a quest to set things right. The book opens with his return to Texas and from there we meet a myriad of diverse characters who help and hinder his path to the truth. Most memorably is his love interest, JayJay. I'd have to say her quick wit and spunk made her my favorite character of the book. Some might argue that she is just as much the protagonist of the novel as Covey. 

At a little over 200 pages and with very generous margins in the print copy, this book is a quick read. The content and storyline propels the reader a few decades into the past and encourages one to continue turning the pages until the mystery is solved. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book very much. The large cast of characters made it a little confusing at times, but thankfully, the author smartly added a listing of each character with short description at the beginning. I found myself referring to this dog-earred (Yes, I'm one of those readers!) page often. Additionally, the unexpected perspective changes and dialogue without speaker identifiers (e.g., Covey said, JayJay questioned, etc.) added to my confusion. However, with careful reading and some re-reading, I was very pleased with the pace and final outcome. 

Recommendation: Treat yourself to a fast-paced murder mystery set deep in the heart of Texas. But don't jump right into the story, be sure to read that foreword as well as the Williams' ending afterword notes. I can't wait for his next work of fiction to be published! 

Until next time ... Read on!

I just love Covey Jencks and JayJay Qualls! They are a modern couple who remind me of Nick and Nora in West Texas. Characters, crimes, and social commentary leap off the page. Shelly can tell a story! ~Deborah Crombie, author of the award-winning mysteries of Gemma James/Duncan Kincaid

I loved the story, the writing, and the prospects for future Covey Jencks adventures, but what I love the most, as an African- American author and documenter of human experience, is the proof that this work presents of the inextricability of Black and White lives in America. ~Sharon T. Freeman, CEO of Gems of Wisdom Consulting, author of 24 books, and global development expert

A dead body and a miscarriage of justice? What is a West Texas boy to do? Well, Covey Jencks, an Odessa native who knows some secrets, spurns his job with a Washington, DC law firm, and heads back to his hometown to solve the crime. ~Prudence Mackintosh, Contributing Editor, Texas Monthly, author of Thundering Sneakers and more

"I have unfinished business in Odessa, by God, Texas." And with that, we are off on a wild ride with Covey Jencks as he tries to find out who killed Freddie Mae Johnson, a black prostitute, when Covey was a junior in high school. If you like your detectives to be misfits who chafe at the social rules, idealists who try to find the order behind apparent chaos, attractors of a cast of characters as contradictory as the detective is, you will grab hold of Covey and hang on until the end of the ride. When you get there, you'll know for sure that you've been somewhere. ~Carol Daeley, Professor Emerita of English, Austin College

Shelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and he taught for nearly 40 years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He has served in the US Government on 4 occasions and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the Blood, Summer of 66, and now Covey Jencks. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.
Connect with Shelly: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

10-Apr Character Interview Hall Ways Blog    
11-Apr Review Chapter Break Book Blog
12-Apr Excerpt Texas Book Lover
13-Apr Review The Clueless Gent  
14-Apr Author Interview The Librarian Talks 
15-Apr Top 11 List StoreyBook Reviews  
16-Apr Review Reading by Moonlight 
17-Apr Scrapbook Page Missus Gonzo   
18-Apr Notable Quotable Forgotten Winds   
19-Apr Review A Page Before Bedtime (You are here)