Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Review: Home Field

Summary: The heart of Friday Night Lights meets the emotional resonance and nostalgia of My So-Called Life in this moving debut novel about tradition, family, love, and football. As the high school football coach in his small, rural Maryland town, Dean is a hero who reorganized the athletic program and brought the state championship to the community. When he married Nicole, the beloved town sweetheart, he seemed to have it all—until his troubled wife committed suicide. Now, everything Dean thought he knew is thrown off kilter as Nicole’s death forces him to re-evaluate all of his relationships, including those with his team and his three children.

Dean’s eleven-year old son, Robbie, is withdrawing at home and running away from school. Bry, who is only eight, is struggling to understand his mother’s untimely death and his place in the family. Eighteen-year-old Stephanie, a freshman at Swarthmore, is torn between her new identity as a rebellious and sophisticated college student, her responsibility towards her brothers, and reeling from missing her mother. As Dean struggles to continue to lead his team to victory in light of his overwhelming personal loss, he must fix his fractured family—and himself. When a new family emergency arises, Dean discovers that he’ll never view the world in the same way again.

Transporting readers to the heart of small town America, Home Field is an unforgettable, poignant story about the pull of the past and the power of forgiveness. -- William Morrow

I don't think you can read HOME FIELD by Hannah Gersen and not make some comparisons to Friday Night Lights. In fact, I saw on the author's website that the television show actually influenced her when writing this novel. I love pretty much enjoy anything that has to do with football; and since I also love novels about dysfunctional families, I figured HOME FIELD would be a good match... and it was. I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

HOME FIELD tells the story of Dean, a high school football coach and father of three. Dean's life was seemingly perfect. He married the town sweetheart Nicole and had the job of his dreams. He even won the state football championship for his high school. However, the unthinkable happened -- his wife committed suicide and Dean is left to navigate life and fatherhood on his own.

As hard as it is to deal with the loss of his wife, Dean is also having to help his children deal with the void in their lives. Dean, who spent most of his waking hours coaching or thinking about coaching football, is now having to deal with his two young sons because his stepdaughter Stephanie has left town to attend Swarthmore. Robbie, the 11 year old, is acting out by running away from school; and Bry, the 8 year old, doesn't really understand what's going on and turns to his aunt's fundamentalist church as a way to cope. Nicole always handled most of the issues with the kids and then Stephanie filled in, and Dean is completely lost in how to handle his sons.

Meanwhile, Dean isn't taking his wife's death very well either. Dean discovers that coaching the all-important high school football team in this town and parenting his children is just too much for him; and he is forced to take a step back from his coaching duties. As Dean does his best to keep his family together, he also has to help them (and himself) move forward.

I really liked HOME FIELD. I was both entertaining and touched by the story. In addition, I was impressed with the author's writing as well as her character development -- these people were so flawed yet likable, and I thought she did an amazing job of bringing a small town and its cast of characters to life. All in all, it was a quality read and the characters' stories stuck with me after I finished the novel.

What really impressed me, though, was how well the author handled the subject of grief. Ms. Gersen did a wonderful job in making the pain these characters were feeling real to the reader. At times, the sense of grief was almost overpowering to me. It was incredibly difficult to see how each family member tried to deal with it in his or her own way. Personally, I found Stephanie's ability (or inability) to handle her mother's death to be the most painful. For some reason, her desire to leave the small town and start her own life while also feeling the guilt of leaving her brothers was just so incredibly sad. I couldn't get her character out of my mind.

While the main theme of HOME FIELD was definitely dealing with loss, I also appreciated how the author showed that the family was eventually able to cope and even move on. The book was sad, of course, but it also left me with feelings of hope. I don't want to say that everything was wrapped up neatly with a big red bow, but I did leave the pages of this book thinking that everything could be okay for these characters. Not that everything would be necessarily easy for them, but there was a sense that they could be happy in the future.

I do think HOME FIELD would make a terrific book club selection. There is a reading guide available with eleven interesting questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include grief, loss, guilt, home, family, acceptance, and forgiveness. I have a sense that many readers will relate to the characters' intense feelings of loss, so it could be a meeting that requires tissues!

I found HOME FIELD to be a beautiful novel about loss and resilience. I definitely recommend it to fans of stories about dysfunctional families.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Guest Review: Free Fall

Summary: Pilots with no control…

High above the Adirondack Mountains, a commuter flight to New York City turns into a rolling, twisting nightmare, plunging from the sky before the crew regains control. Then, in London, a jetliner crashes into the runway, killing fifteen people.

Investigators with no answers…

Reporter Kate Page believes something beyond mechanical—or human—error is behind the incidents that have air investigators baffled. But the mystery deepens as teams scramble to pinpoint a link between the tragedies, and Kate receives an untraceable message from someone boasting responsibility and threatening another event.

A looming disaster…

As Kate, the FBI and the NTSB race to find answers, the shadow figures behind the operation launch their most devastating plan yet, and time ticks down on one of the greatest tragedies the world has ever known. -- Mira

I have to be honest. There is no way I would ever read FREE FALL by Rick Mofina. The premise of an airplane going out of control with no explanation is way too scary for me. Lucky for me, Booking Pap Pap read it instead. Here are his thoughts:

In FREE FALL by Rick Mofina, the main character is reporter Kate Page who works for a newswire service. While in the office on the weekend fine tuning a news article, Kate hears on the scanner a report about a New York commuter flight that has malfunctioned sending the passengers into a panic. Kate immediately heads for LaGuardia airport to learn as much as she can about the flight. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is quick to identify the problem as pilot error but the pilots insist that the advanced operating system failed. As the investigation is taking place, another airliner with the similar operating system crashes while landing in London killing several passengers. Pilots again say the operating system failed but investigators again lean toward pilot error. Investigators insist that the two accidents occurring so close together is a coincidence. As Kate tries to find a common thread in the two incidents, she receives an email from a party claiming responsibility and threatens even more death and destruction. Kate reports the email to the FBI but aviation authorities insist it’s a hoax and claim airplane operating systems cannot be hacked or controlled remotely. All parties are concerned about reporting the story without the full facts and causing panic in the airline industry. Kate continues to chase the story as she confronts resistance from her own editors, the FBI and the NTSB. Kate’s efforts result in her and her family becoming targets. Soon the FBI, Kate and the NTSB get on the same page and work together to try to avert a major disaster.

Author Rick Mofina does a great job of weaving all the characters into the story while maintaining a high level of intensity. Mofina makes the storyline even more realistic when he goes into great details in describing the work of an airline disaster investigation and follows the work of the FBI in trying to solve the case. Although the characters are well developed, they are not the story. The story is the airlines, the sophisticated operating systems and the question as to whether they can be hacked. What results is a chilling fictional account of an issue that we all can relate to. Is airline travel safe?

FREE FALL is a complex thriller that centers on a subject that is too real. I suggest that you don’t do what I did. I read this thriller before getting on an airplane.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Kid Konnection: Atlas of Animal Adventures

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you an awesome book that's perfect for the animal lovers in your life!

Summary: From the team behind the best-selling Atlas of Adventures. Head off on a journey of discovery, with this book that collects together nature’s most unmissable events from between the two poles, including epic migrations, extraordinary behaviours, and Herculean habits. Find hundreds of things to spot and learn new facts about every animal. -- Quarto Publishing Group

ATLAS OF ANIMAL ADVENTURES is a giant (11 inches x 15 inches) picture book that is written by Rachel Williams and Emily Hawkins and illustrated by Lucy Letherland. It is as gorgeous as it is informative, and it is just a terrific way for kids ages six to nine to learn about animals and the world.

ATLAS OF ANIMAL ADVENTURES is a great book that is so much fun to look through. Even the endpapers are adorable -- the ones at the beginning are filled with hundreds of bird illustrations and the ones at the end with sea creatures. The book begins with an atlas of the world with some cute illustrations of the animals that live on each continent and ocean. The book is then divided into chapters by continent with detailed information about animals and their unique habitats.

I absolutely love ATLAS OF ANIMAL ADVENTURES! The book is gorgeous to look at with Ms. Netherland's drawings; however, I was impressed with all of the information it contains. Each page is primarily filled with illustrations (which kids will love), but they do include a brief explanation of a specific animal and its traits. There are also close-up drawings of the animal as well as interesting tidbits about other animals that live in the same area. For example in the Africa section, there is a page spread devoted to hippos in Botswana; and in the Australia section, there is a page spread devoted to the platypus which also includes a little bit about the azure kingfisher.

The last pages of the book are devoted to something I know my kids would have loved! There is a "Can You Find?" section that includes adorable illustrations of objects and animals that kids can search for throughout the 80+ pages. I had fun myself going back and looking for a few!

Overall, ATLAS OF ANIMAL ADVENTURES is a wonderful addition to any home or school library. It's fun and educational! What more can you ask for in a kids' book?

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Review: The Guineveres

Summary: To four girls who have nothing, their friendship is everything: they are each other’s confidants, teachers, and family. The girls are all named Guinevere—Vere, Gwen, Ginny, and Win—and it is the surprise of finding another Guinevere in their midst that first brings them together. They come to The Sisters of the Supreme Adoration convent by different paths, delivered by their families, each with her own complicated, heartbreaking story that she safeguards. Gwen is all Hollywood glamour and swagger; Ginny is a budding artiste with a sentiment to match; Win’s tough bravado isn’t even skin deep; and Vere is the only one who seems to be a believer, trying to hold onto her faith that her mother will one day return for her. However, the girls are more than the sum of their parts and together they form the all powerful and confident The Guineveres, bound by the extraordinary coincidence of their names and girded against the indignities of their plain, sequestered lives.

The nuns who raise them teach the Guineveres that faith is about waiting: waiting for the mail, for weekly wash day, for a miracle, or for the day they turn eighteen and are allowed to leave the convent. But the Guineveres grow tired of waiting. And so when four comatose soldiers from the War looming outside arrive at the convent, the girls realize that these men may hold their ticket out.

In prose shot through with beauty, Sarah Domet weaves together the Guineveres’ past, present, and future, as well as the stories of the female saints they were raised on, to capture the wonder and tumult of girlhood and the magical thinking of young women as they cross over to adulthood. -- Flatiron Books

There sure has been a lot of buzz about THE GUINEVERES by Sarah Domet; and after finishing it, I totally understand why. This novel about four teenage girls, all named Guinevere, takes place in a convent; and in many ways, is a coming of age story. I thought this novel was extremely well done, and the writing was certainly something special.

THE GUINEVERES tells the story of four Guineveres -- Vere, Gwen, Ginny, and Win. Each girl arrived at The Sisters of Supreme Adoration convent within a few years of each other and become fast friends. They were all left at the convent by their families (with little explanation) and never really had any contact with them. Thankfully, they had each other.

Each girl definitely has their own personality, but they all complement each other. One thing they have in common, though, is a desire to leave from the convent and live in the real world. The girls come up with a hysterical plan to hide in one of the floats during the annual festival as a means of escape. Unfortunately, the nuns figure out their plan... that float was darn heavy for a nun to pull! And their punishment is to work in the convalescent ward tending to soldiers and the elderly.

When one of the girls at the convent is allowed to leave as a nurse to a recovering soldier, the girls come up with another brilliant escape plan. They each pick out a comatose soldier to tend to with the hopes that the soldiers will fall in love with them. They spend hours caring for these men and are certain that they will recover... and take the girls with them when they leave the convent.

I really appreciated THE GUINEVERES! It was a terrific story and truly unlike anything I've ever read, although I have seen some comparisons to THE VIRGIN SUICIDES. It's hard to believe that this is Ms. Domet's debut novel. The writing is so polished and so smart. I'm definitely looking forward to more of her stories in the future.

I am pretty certain that I haven't been able to convey just how well written this book is. I feel as if Ms. Domet accomplished quite a bit with this novel, and I loved how well she told these girls' stories. The background stories of the girls' path to the convent were gradually revealed, and I found them to be heartbreaking. As I learned the history of these girls and their parents, it helped to explain their characters' personalities and motivations. In addition, I loved that we discovered what happened to the girls after they left the convent and were out in "the real world."

I also love how the author wove the themes of Catholicism into the novel. Of course, there were nuns and an alcoholic priest whose stories were intriguing (and a bit funny!) However, I appreciated that each of the chapters were named after important events in the Catholic faith such as the Ascension, Advent, the Assumption and more. Even more interesting was the author's choice to intersperse a few small chapters on the lives of special female saints like Saint Cecelia and Saint Christina the Astonishing. I know this sounds a little crazy, but it all worked!

All in all, my favorite part of this novel was the character development of these four girls. While they all had very different personalities, somehow they all seemed like one. Maybe it's because they all were deserted by their families and they felt trapped in the convent. Or possibly it's because they all had the same dreams of falling in love and escaping. However, I think the author's choices in style also had a major effect on this feeling. While Vere was the primary narrator, she often times used the first person plural to describe their stories. It was a really interesting use of words that most definitely conveyed a unity between the girls.

I'm sure it won't surprise you ant THE GUINEVERES would make a terrific book club selection. There is a reading guide available with 22 (wow!) questions, and they are really, really good ones! I think I touched upon many of the themes, but some things you might want to discuss include the feeling of being trapped, friendship, grief, wishes, gender norms, faith, war, wonder, pain, memories, family, and hope.

THE GUINEVERES is a fantastic novel for fans of literary fiction. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Review: This Was Not the Plan

Summary: From the acclaimed author of The Darlings comes a “funny, bittersweet, and ultimately uplifting look” (Sarah Pekkanen) at fatherhood, love, and family life.

Charlie Goldwyn’s life hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. Widowerhood at thirty-three and twelve-hour workdays have left a gap in his relationship with his quirky five-year-old son, Caleb, whose obsession with natural disasters and penchant for girls’ clothing have made him something of a loner at his preschool. The only thing Charlie has going for him is his job at a prestigious law firm, where he is finally close to becoming a partner.

But when a slight lapse in judgment at an office party leaves him humiliatingly unemployed, stuck at home with Caleb for the summer, and forced to face his own estranged father, Charlie starts to realize that there’s more to fatherhood than financially providing for his son, and more to being a son than overtaking his father’s successes.

At turns heartbreaking and hilarious, This Was Not the Plan is a “sparkling and heartfelt” (Bookpage) story about loss and love, parenthood, and friendship, and what true work-life balance means. -- Touchstone

After I finished reading THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN by Cristina Alger, I realized that I don't read a lot of feel-good books. Or at least, I haven't read a lot of them lately. It might be related to the amount of thrillers that I've read in recent years, but I can't remember the last time I smiled after finishing the last page of a novel. THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN definitely warmed my heart!

THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN tells the story of Charlie Goldwyn, a man who has been dealt his fair share of heartache. He lost his wife in a tragic accident and was left with a toddler son. Fortunately, Charlie's sister serves as the primary caregiver for his son Caleb because Charlie works non-stop as a high power attorney. And I mean non-stop! The novel begins with Charlie working three straight days (or something crazy like that!). Despite leaving his son with virtually no mother or father, he can't stop now because is fairly certain that he is on track to become a partner in the firm.

However, when Charlie attends a company party and over imbibes, he speaks out against the companies his firm defends and ends up losing his job. In what seems like an unfortunate twist of events, Charlie ends up spending lots of time with his quirky five year old son. He also finds himself facing some painful events from his past... and discovers that there's more to life than just work.

I really enjoyed THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN, and I admit that I fell a little in love with Charlie and Caleb. Charlie was an extremely well drawn character who evolved so much throughout this novel. It was difficult not to root for him; and while I was pretty sure how this book would end, I didn't mind the predictability of the story one bit! And Caleb was just an adorable boy who was also a bit different from his classmates. He loved the colors pink and purple, had his own sense of fashion, and also happened to not have a lot of friends. I adored how Charlie accepted his son for who he was. Even when Charlie was a very attentive father, I knew he still loved his son... he just didn't know how to be a father.

And part of the reason Charlie wasn't a hands-on father was that Charlie didn't grow up with a dad. His mom got pregnant with a married, high-power attorney (See any similarities there? Can you say daddy issues?) and chose to bring up Charlie and his sister on her own. Charlie never knew the entire story and spend 35+ years upset with his father for neglecting him. He also spent a major part of his life trying to perfect to prove to his father that he didn't need him. I enjoyed seeing how the relationship with his father eventually played out in this novel; however, I will admit that I preferred the dynamics between Charlie and Caleb.

One thing I absolutely adored about THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN was how it ended. Remember when I mentioned that the book was kind of/sort of predictable? Well, I basically knew that Charlie would end up realizing that work isn't as fulfilling as being a parent, brother, and son. However, I have to say that I thought how the author chose to end the novel was clever. I don't want to give too much away, but Charlie didn't get everything he wanted... and Ms. Alger definitely didn't wrap up his entire story with a pretty red bow. Having said that, the novel did end rather open-ended or at least I sure hope the ending is up to interpretation!

I also really appreciated how this book tugged on my heartstrings while also making me laugh. There really is a lot of humor in this novel. I found myself laughing quite a bit at Caleb (in a good way), and I thought the scene where Charlie embarrassed himself was hysterical. And there were many more truly funny scenes and characters. However, as a mom who decided to stay home with her children, I also found this novel to extremely touching. My heart went out to Charlie. He sure had a lot of hang ups, but he was a good man just trying to do the best he could.

THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN would make a great book club selection. I was excited to find a reading guide with ten quality questions as well as a few suggestions for how to enhance your book club meeting. Some of the themes you might want to discuss are grief, guilt, parenting, father/son relationships, second chances, work/life balance, the definition of family, friendship, happiness, acceptance, love, and healing.

Overall, I enjoyed THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN so much. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy family dramas and sentimental stories.

Thanks to Get Red PR and the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

I Won, I Won, I Won!!!

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Harper Collins Winter 2017 Blogger Presentation. I enjoy these presentations because I learn about the new releases straight from the marketing teams' mouths. It's so fun to see their excitement for the books, and of course, I'm always looking for great book suggestions!

This presentation was even amazing! I discovered so many new books that I have to read from the various Harper Collins' imprints. However, the absolute highlight for me was winning one of the raffles. At the end of the presentation, each imprint gives away a prize. I just happened to win the very best one -- or at least the best one in my opinion! It was from Tavia at William Morrow books. And it was a huge prize pack of books and other goodies!

I received so much from the fine folks at William Morrow that I had to break out the photos. The first photo shows some of the books I received including Christina Baker Kline's new novel A PIECE OF THE WORLD. I also received a signed first edition of NEWS OF THE WORLD by  Paulette Jiles! This book is one of the 2016 National Book Award Finalists -- woo hoo!
I also was thrilled to receive copies of Greg Iles' Natchez Burning trilogy including the new one -- MISSISSIPPI BLOOD which comes out in March! I loved NATCHEZ BURNING -- you can read my review here, and I've been recommending this novel (and the entire series!) to everyone I come in contact with. The tote bag in the photo was a nice surprise too. It's really big and heavy... which comes in handy given all the books they sent.
Finally, I received some fantastic book-related gifts! I love my Moleskine notebook. It's a gorgeous green and I will be using it often. And last but certainly not least, I received a $100 gift card to Out of Print. This website has so many book themed products that I'm having a hard time trying to decide what to order. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments section!
I can't even express how excited I was to win this William Morrow books raffle -- thank you @WmMorrowBooks. I am a huge fan of their novels, and I can't wait to read all of them! 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Review: Natchez Burning

Summary: From #1 New York Times bestselling author Greg Iles comes the first novel in his Natchez Burning trilogy—which also includes The Bone Tree and the upcoming Mississippi Blood—an epic trilogy that interweaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present in a mesmerizing thriller featuring Southern lawyer and former prosecutor Penn Cage.

Raised in the southern splendor of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned all he knows of duty from his father, Dr. Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor has been accused of murdering the African American nurse with whom he worked in the dark days of the 1960s. Once a crusading prosecutor, Penn is determined to save his father, but Tom, stubbornly invoking doctor-patient privilege, refuses even to speak in his own defense.

Penn's quest for the truth sends him deep into his father's past, where a sexually charged secret lies. More chilling, this long-buried sin is only one thread in a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the vicious Double Eagles, an offshoot of the KKK controlled by some of the most powerful men in the state. Aided by a dedicated reporter privy to Natchez's oldest secrets and by his fiancée, Caitlin Masters, Penn uncovers a trail of corruption and brutality that places his family squarely in the Double Eagles' crosshairs.

With every step costing blood and faith, Penn is forced to confront the most wrenching dilemma of his life: Does a man of honor choose his father or the truth? -- William Morrow

I am so excited to share my thoughts with you about a fantastic novel NATCHEZ BURNING by Greg Iles! Believe me when I tell you that I don't usually recommend 800+ page novels. In fact, I rarely read books that long because I'm intimidated by them. However, I had heard so many wonderful things about this author that I decided to give it a try. Let me just say... I couldn't put it down! And 800 pages seemed like nothing!

NATCHEZ BURNING is the first book in Mr. Iles' Natchez Burning trilogy. The second book is titled THE BONE TREE (which I will be reading in the very near future) and the final installment is MISSISSIPPI BLOOD which will be released early next year. Needless to say, I'm hooked on this series and can't say enough good things about NATCHEZ BURNING. In fact, I was excited to learn that this novel is actually the fourth one starring Penn Cage, so there's plenty more books for me to read. Woo Hoo!

NATCHEZ BURNING is a big book and I don't just mean because it's so long. It's big because it covers so much -- from family drama, to crimes, to lies, to secrets, to murder, to secret organizations, and more! It's a complex novel that goes back and forth between the present and the past, and it's extremely well-written. I don't know if you can tell but I thought this book was outstanding! Ha Ha!

The novel stars Penn Cage, a lawyer and now mayor of his home town Natchez, Mississippi. When he discovers that his father, the small town doctor who is as close to a hero as any mere mortal can be, is accused of murdering his African American nurse who he worked with way back in the 1960s. Penn is determined to prove his father's innocence, but his father is being less than helpful and doesn't want to talk about her death... or his past.

So Penn sets out to find out the truth on his own and digs into his father's past. He discovers that his father has his own set of secrets including a possible relationship with his nurse. As difficult as it is to face the truth about his father, he's even more disturbed to learn that his hometown has some very dark secrets too, including the Dark Eagles, a secret organization that is an offshoot of the KKK... and even more brutal than the KKK ever was.

Penn works together with the award-winning journalist (who also happens to be his fiancee) Caitlin as well as another very courageous journalist who has been investigating the history of the Dark Eagles for some time. While they are all determined to reveal the members of the Dark Eagles for what they've done, they quickly realize that these are very dangerous men who are more than willing to do what's necessary to anyone and everyone who gets in their way.

NATCHEZ BURNING is just an incredible novel. I loved the characters (or at least the good guys!) and I loved the complexity of the story. I honestly can't remember reading a novel that encompasses this much in a very long time. What truly stood out to me is just how amazing Mr. Iles is as a writer and storyteller. I loved how he told this story on a macro level, but I also was impressed with his prose and his dialogue.

I am just touching the surface of this novel and hope I'm not doing it a disservice. There is no way I can go into the complexities of the mystery or the characters. However, I will say that I was blown away by how well the author navigated going back and forth between the present and the past. Often times in a novel that switches back and forth, I prefer one time period and its stories to the other. That wasn't the case in this book. I loved Penn as he delved into learning the truth about his father, but I also loved the flashbacks to 1960s Natchez. Mr. Iles brought this time period to life in an incredibly honest way... even though it was brutal and disturbing at times.

I also was extremely impressed with the mystery aspect of this novel. It is a good one with some big time twists. However, what made the novel so special to me wasn't the actual mystery. Rather, it was just how smart this book was on so many levels. While the mystery was the central theme of the story, it was about so much more than just figuring out what happened to Dr. Cage's nurse. The book explored a complex man in Dr. Cage as well as Penn's relationship with him. It also does a fantastic job of showing the ethical dilemmas that Penn faced while learning the truth about his dad. In addition, the book explores such complex issues such as assisted death, racism, small town life, violence, and much much more.

I feel as if my review could go on for pages because there truly is so much to discuss about this novel. As a result, I would love to talk about this book (and probably the other two as well) with my book club. It truly is an ideal book club selection, although I do think many groups will be reluctant to select an 800+ page novel. In addition to talking about the great mystery, there is so much to say about the various characters. I also think it would be interesting to make some comparisons to what is going on in our country today. Some of the other themes you might want to explore include ethical dilemmas, race relations, secrets, family dynamics, truth, corruption, and more!

I loved NATCHEZ BURNING and will be reporting back to you soon with my review of THE BONE TREE. In the meantime, I can't recommend this book enough... so what are you waiting for? You have plenty of time to read the first two books in this trilogy before the final installment will be released in March!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.