Book Review: Speak No Evil by Liana Gardner @lkgg @VesuvianMedia @partnersincr1me

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Title: Speak No Evil
Author: Liana Gardner
Publisher: Vesuvian Books
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

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Speak No Evil
Liana Gardner
Vesuvian Books, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-944109-36-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

What if every time you told the truth, evil followed?

My name is Melody Fisher. My daddy was a snake handler in Appalachia until Mama died. Though years have passed, I can still hear the rattle before the strike that took her from me.

And it’s all my fault.

Since then, I’ve been passed around from foster home to foster home. I didn’t think anything could be as bad as losing Mama.

I was wrong.

But I will not speak of things people have done to me. Every time I do, worse evil follows. Now, the only thing I trust is what saved me years ago.

Back when I would sing the snakes calm …

There’s a certain vibe that comes with the mere idea of snake handling, a vibe that is a mix of religious fundamentalism, backwoods living and a touch of macho man. Most of us can’t begin to really understand why people engage in the practice but there’s no doubt we’re fascinated by it.

The young Melody is a tragic figure whose life has been in a downward spiral ever since her mother was killed by one of her father’s snakes and, through backflashes, we see what has happened to this child over the years. It’s not surprising, really, that Melody has stopped speaking, especially since her voice, as beautiful as it is, has not served her well. Can she find a way to explain why she stabbed a classmate and will she find release in the music she has always loved?

Ms. Gardner spins a tale that is full of emotion of all sorts and I found an immediate connection to this young girl. Various subject matters could have been overwhelmingly dark but the author finds the right amount of light and I think I’ll remember this book for a long time.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

An Excerpt from Speak No Evil

Uncle Harlan slammed my bedroom door open. “You’re going to learn to show the Lord respect, girl.” He grabbed my neck and forced me to walk in front of him.

My neck hurt where he dug his fingers in.

He took me outside and shoved me toward the shed. He slipped the key in the lock and removed it from the hasp. The door creaked as it opened and then he thrust me through.

“I’m not going to allow you to follow your mother’s footsteps. You’ll learn to make peace with snakes and not show them any fear. Or else.”

He grabbed a snake case from the shelf, put it on the ground, and opened it. He stepped backward out of the shed and swung the door shut. The latch clicked. Uncle Harlan on one side of the door, and the snake and me locked inside.

“I’ll come get you in time for school in the morning.”

His footsteps receded.

Light filtered through the cracks in the shed slats. In the dim light, the snake coiled in the corner, its tongue flicking out periodically. I slowly lowered to the ground and hugged Raksha Waya tight.

The inside of the shed was slightly warmer than outside. Staying warm might be a bigger problem than keeping the snake calm. It ignored me and remained coiled, but the cold seeped into my bones. I scanned the shelves. There had to be something in here I could use to help keep warm.

A tarp sat on a shelf on the opposite side of the shed from the snake. But I might not be tall enough to pull it down. Standing on tiptoes, I grabbed a corner and tugged. My fingers slipped. I set Rakkie on a lower shelf, then reached with both hands and tugged.

The weight of the tarp almost knocked me over as I caught it.

Making sure to keep my movements small so I didn’t threaten the snake, I unfolded the tarp and spread it out. Then I grabbed Rakkie and carefully crawled under a corner. Once settled with Rakkie on my lap, I pulled it over us and tucked it under my chin.

The hours passed as the light changed and moved through the shed. My tailbone ached and my back hurt from sitting still for so long. Twilight came. Surely Uncle Harlan didn’t really mean to leave me here with the snake all night.

When the darkness was complete and I could no longer see my hand in front of my face, I faced the hard truth—Uncle Harlan meant it. I’d spend the night locked in a small space with a pit viper.

While my toes still felt frozen, the rest of me was warmer with the tarp. My eyes drooped and closed. Then I heard it.

Hiss. Rattle. The whisper of something dragging across the floorboards.

The snake was on the move. The slight rattle as it slithered through the shed made my heart pound. I froze.

About the Author

Liana Gardner is the multi-award-winning author of 7th Grade Revolution (most recently the recipient of a 2018 Nautilus Book Award) and The Journal of Angela Ashby. The daughter of a rocket scientist and an artist, Liana combines the traits of both into a quirky yet pragmatic writer and in everything sees the story lurking beneath the surface.

Liana volunteers with high school students through EXP (expfuture.org). EXP unites business people and educators to prepare students for a meaningful place in the world of tomorrow. Working in partnership with industry and educators, EXP helps young people EXPerience, EXPand, and EXPlore.

Engaged in a battle against leukemia and lymphoma, Liana spends much of her time at home, but her imagination takes her wherever she wants to go.

Liana is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Catch Up With Liana Gardner On:
lianagardner.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted
by
Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours
for
Vesuvian Books and Liana Gardner.
There will
be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com
Gift Card and
2 winners of a signed print copy
of Speak No Evil
by Liana Gardner. The
giveaway begins on October 1, 2019
and
runs through December 2, 2019. Open to

U.S. addresses only. Void where prohibited.

Enter here.

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Book Review: If the Creek Don’t Rise by Leah Weiss

If the Creek Don’t Rise
Leah Weiss
Sourcebooks Landmark, August 2017
ISBN 978-1-4926-4745-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

He’s gonna be sorry he ever messed with me and Loretta Lynn

Sadie Blue has been a wife for fifteen days. That’s long enough to know she should have never hitched herself to Roy Tupkin, even with the baby.

Sadie is desperate to make her own mark on the world, but in remote Appalachia, a ticket out of town is hard to come by, and hope often gets stomped out.  When a stranger sweeps into Baines Creek and knocks things off kilter, Sadie finds herself with an unexpected lifeline…if she can just figure out how to use it.

This intimate insight into a fiercely proud, tenacious community unfolds through the voices of the forgotten folks of Baines Creek. With a colorful cast of characters that each contribute a new perspective, IF THE CREEK DON’T RISE is a debut novel bursting with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.

There are only a few authors I’ve come across that write fiction about Appalachia with authority and with a strong sense of understanding, compassion and respect. Catherine Marshall and Sharyn McCrumb come to mind and I’ve now added Leah Weiss to my shortlist. This may be a debut but Ms. Weiss has created a story that, to me, represents the way I personally feel about the Appalachian people and their way of life.

Those of us who live in more traditional, perhaps more “sophisticated” environs get a good taste of Sadie’s insular, self-contained world and, while we think her pregnancy and marriage at such a young age are appalling enough, it’s much harder to comprehend the way of life that would lead her Granny to treat Sadie so harshly. As Sadie says, “Granny don’t do my heart any good” but Granny is what Appalachian mores and society are all about. It all makes thoughts of murder a little more forgiveable.

My heart was immediately taken by Sadie and I was energized by her hopes of escaping this crushing poverty and illiteracy but, truly, nearly all these people, Granny and the abusive Roy included, tugged at me for one reason or another. Some of my reaction is because of my own familiarity with the Appalachian world from regular family trips to the Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee areas when I was growing up and my fondness for fiction set there as well as nonfiction. Ms. Weiss is responsible for drawing me in this time and I truly hope to see more of Sadie and the people of Baines Creek. In the meantime, If the Creek Don’t Rise has a place on my list of best books read in 2017.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon
Book Depository // Indiebound

An Indie Next, Okra Pick, and LibraryReads 

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About the Author

Leah Weiss is a Southern writer and novelist born in North Carolina and raised in the foothills of Virginia. Her debut novel, If the Creek Don’t Rise, will be released in August of 2017. Her short stories have been published in The Simple Life magazine, Every Day Fiction and Deep South Magazine. She retired in 2015 from a 24-year career as Executive Assistant to the Headmaster at Virginia Episcopal School. She now pursues writing full time.

Website // Facebook // Goodreads

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“Weiss’ debut novel reveals the best and worst of human nature…
The author’s masterful use of language, including dialect unique
to the area, builds another layer of connection between these
characters while she develops a greater sense of inner isolation
and distance from those outside the community. Weiss’ novel is a
great suggestion for fans of the Big Stone Gap books, by Adriana Trigiani,
and Mitford series, by Jan Karon.” – Booklist, STARRED review

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Book Review: The Reluctant Midwife by Patricia Harman

The Reluctant MidwifeThe Reluctant Midwife
A Hope River Novel #2
Patricia Harman
William Morrow Paperbacks, March 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-235824-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Nurse Becky Myers is a reluctant midwife. She’s far more comfortable with tending the sick than helping women deliver their babies. For these mothers-to-be, she relies on an experienced midwife, her dear friend Patience Murphy. But the Great Depression has hit West Virginia hard. Men are out of work; women struggle to feed hungry children. And sometimes Becky is called upon to bring new life into the world.

Though she is happy to be back in Hope River, time and experience have tempered Becky’s cheerfulness— as tragedy has destroyed the vibrant spirit of her former employer, Dr. Isaac Blum, who has accompanied her. Patience too has changed. Married and expecting a baby herself, she is relying on Becky to keep the mothers of Hope River safe.

Becoming a midwife and ushering new life into the world is not Becky’s only challenge. Her skills and courage will be tested when a calamitous forest fire blazes through a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. And she must find a way to bring Isaac’s spirit back to life and rediscover the hope they both need to go on.

Much has been written and studied about the Great Depression and its devastating effects and West Virginia was certainly one of the states hit hardest. Already lagging behind other states economically, the Depression made things much worse and true poverty became commonplace. Such is the setting for the tale of some wonderful and resilient people told in The Reluctant Midwife.

Technically speaking, this is the second book in a series but it’s really more of a companion novel to the first. The main character from The Midwife of Hope River, Patience Murphy, is present in the second book but the focus is on a different character, Becky Myers. I enjoyed Patience in this story (not having read the first book yet) but Becky is the one who really caught my attention.

Becky is a nurse but is every bit as terrified as any layman would be at the thought of attending childbirth and it’s this facet of her personality that tells us who Becky is, the fortitude and compassion that imbue her personality. Oddly enough, I was reminded of the James Herriot books in the type of person Becky is, doing what needs to be done even when she really doesn’t want to, and also in the style of the story, with vignettes of medical scenarios forming the heart of the tale.

Becky is a woman I’d love to know in reality even while I’d be a little intimidated by her essential goodness. She takes on the burden of caring for her nearly catatonic employer, Dr. Isaac Blum, and does so just because that’s the right thing to do. Her compassion towards him in the face of impending starvation is remarkable and, yet, it fits the mold of those people who live in Appalachia and other economically stressed areas. They are people who recognize that community and caring for one’s neighbors is how they rise above their conditions.

Becky, like them, is full of heart and resilience and I love her story. I’ll be picking up the first book while wiondering where Ms. Harman will take us next.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2015.

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Goodreads

Purchase Links:

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About the Author

Patricia HarmanPatricia Harman, CNM, got her start as a lay midwife on rural communes and went on to become a nurse-midwife on the faculty of Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, and West Virginia University. She lives near Morgantown, West Virginia; has three sons; and is the author of two acclaimed memoirs.

Find out more about Patricia at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Follow the tour:

Tuesday, March 3rd: West Metro Mommy

Wednesday, March 4th: Bibliotica

Thursday, March 5th: Broken Teepee

Friday, March 6th: Kritter Ramblings

Monday, March 9th: Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, March 10th: A Novel Review

Thursday, March 12th: Life Between Reads

Monday, March 16th: Unshelfish

Tuesday, March 17th: A Patchwork of Books

Wednesday, March 18th: Buried Under Books

Thursday, March 19th: FictionZeal

Friday, March 20th: A Chick Who Reads

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Book Review: Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past by Sharyn McCrumb—and a Giveaway!

Nora Bonesteel's Christmas PastNora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past
A Ballad Novella
Sharyn McCrumb
Abingdon Press, October 2014
ISBN 978-1-4267-5421-0  Hardcover

From the publisher—

When someone buys the old Honeycutt house, Nora Bonesteel is glad to see some life brought back to the old mansion, even if it is by summer people. But when they decide to stay through Christmas, they find more than old memories in the walls.

On Christmas Eve, Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and Deputy Joe LeDonne find themselves on an unwelcome call to arrest an elderly man for a minor offense. As they attempt to do their duty, while doing the right thing for a neighbor, it begins to look like they may all spend Christmas away from home.

Two companion stories that really are not related except that a few of the people know each other and they’re in the same mountain location offer a brief but gentle look at the Christmas season. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and his deputy, Joe LeDonne, are tasked with arresting a traffic offender on Christmas Eve with snow approaching and the elderly Nora Bonesteel, who has the Sight, is asked by a “snowbird” neighbor to find out why peculiar things are happening with her Christmas decorations.

Both stories, on the surface, would seem to be rather simplistic and they actually are but there’s a kernel of meaning in each that reflects the best of home and hearth, so to speak. At times, the stories drag a little but it’s nice to spend time again with Nora and the Sheriff and Joe (as cranky and cynical as the last might be) and absorb some of the Appalachian sensibility Sharyn McCrumb conveys so well. Is there mystery here or perhaps fantasy? Yes, in a very mild way, but it’s far more about the characters and the setting. The appeal is in these people and their community and I always enjoy returning to Appalachia and, in particular, to Ashe Mountain.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

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To enter the drawing for a hardcover
copy of Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past
by Sharyn McCrumb, leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn
Tuesday evening, November 25th.
This drawing is open to residents of the US.

Book Reviews: Notown by Tess Collins and The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey

NotownNotown
Book One: The Midnight Valley Quartet
Tess Collins
BearCat Press, May 2013
ISBN 978-1-937356-31-6
Hardcover

The Notown of the story is a nowhere kind of place, a coal mining town set in Kentucky’s Cumberland Mountains. The heroine of the story is a no-good kind of girl, a product of her times in the 1960’s, at least in this particular place. Randi Joe Gaylor’s daddy is a coal miner who, although not always successful, works hard to feed his many children. Her mother is something else, a woman of secrets. But Randi Jo slowly discovers the whole family has secrets, some more gruesome than others, some because once again, these people live in this time and in this place. Murder and betrayal are a part of their history, as well as the history of the people they know. And if you’re born a Notowner, as Randi Jo finds out, you are always a Notowner. There doesn’t seem to be any way out.

Notown is a crime story, although it’s not a mystery. The people, even Randi Jo, as we follow her life from the time she’s a little girl, to young love, marriage and motherhood, to her final degradation and redemption, seems to personify a class of people. Who says America doesn’t have a class system? In Notown it throve, sad and joyless.

Once into the story, the writing is riveting, faithfully reflecting Randi Jo’s voice. Hard reading, at times, because the emotion can only be taken in smaller doses. I think it might be overwhelming in one fell swoop, needing time to be assimilated. Notown is excellent and is sure to make you think about the world and the people in it.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, August 2013.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

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The Widows of Braxton CountyThe Widows of Braxton County
Jess McConkey
William Morrow, July 2013
ISBN 978-0-06-218826-7
Trade Paperback

Kate Krause was a very happy bride as she traveled with her husband, Joe, to her new home in Braxton County, Iowa.  Kate and Joe met online but Kate felt that they were just right for each other.  Kate’s widowed mother had passed away and her grandparents raised Kate. Her grandmother complained endlessly and Kate’s life was not a happy one.

When the new couple arrived at Joe’s farm, a woman that Kate first mistook for a housekeeper met Joe and Kate at the door.  The woman was Trudy Krause, Joe’s mother.   Joe explained that he didn’t tell Kate about Trudy because Trudy was to have moved to a retirement home prior to the couple’s homecoming but there was some problems at the home and her room would not be ready for weeks.

Kate soon found that life was not going to be as she pictured it.  The farm was in bad financial shape and Kate’s savings were used to pay some of the debts but it wasn’t enough.   Joe would not agree to let Kate help him with the management of the farm even though Kate had proven to be an excellent money manager.  Plans for Trudy’s move to a retirement home did not materialize.

As Kate became acquainted with the neighborhood, she finds that the Krause family harbors a long kept secret about a mysterious death.   This secret haunts Kate as dangerous, unexplainable events begin.

A Krause family member, but not one that Joe associates with, owns the local hardware store.   Joe warns Kate not to shop at that store.  Kate ignores his wishes, makes friends with the owner of the store, and finds out a little more about the mysterious past and haunting secret of the Krause family.

The book goes back and forth between present day and the past where the Krause mystery began.  I found this book to be very interesting and I could not wait to get to the end but when I did, I wished the book were longer.

Jess McConkey a/k/a Shirley Damsgaard is an award-winning writer.  Love Lies Bleeding was the first book I read by the author Jess McConkey and it was a good read.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, September 2013.

Book Review: To the Bright and Shining Sun by James Lee Burke

To the Bright and Shining Sun
James Lee Burke
Hyperion, October 2000.
Originally published by Scribner’s, 1970.
9780786889686
Mass Market

For a moment he thought of forgetting the bus depot. He had almost fifty dollars in his wallet, and that would be enough until he could find some type of job. […] There was no work at all now back on the plateau, and his family would be better off if he stayed in the city and sent them part of his paycheck. There would be no J.W.’s to worry about, no long evenings in the cabin while his mother stared blankly at the fire, and no more quiet hatred or that anticipation of sudden violence when he stood next to a scab or a company man on a street corner.

The post-World War II economic boom, with the expansion in manufacturing fueled by increased consumer demand, should have been good for the coalfields of Appalachia. Instead, the social and economic devastation wrought by the Great Depression was prolonged by violent, protracted conflicts between union organizers and mine companies determined to keep the unions out and scrape every last cent of profit out of the region. This desperate poverty and equally desperate violence is the world in which Perry Woodson Hatfield James comes of age in James Lee Burke’s To the Bright and Shining Sun.

At the outset of the novel, Perry, scarcely sixteen years old, seems trapped in a never-ending cycle of futility and inevitability. Because of an injury his father suffered in a mining accident, Perry is the only member of his family fit to work regularly. Unfortunately, work, when it can be found, is degrading, dangerous, and does not pay enough to support a single person much less an entire family, not even in the eastern Kentucky hollow where Perry lives. Despite the promises of union benefits and wages, mechanization is eliminating hundreds of jobs in the big mines. To keep the unions out, mine operators either shut down or trucked in scabs from out of state. There might be work for a small operator, but those jobs offered with no benefits, hazardous conditions, “and the little money he made wouldn’t pay the charge at the store at the end of the month.” The only alternatives were to make moonshine for the Detroit syndicate or work for the Forest Service government keeping trails clear – jobs generally reserved for survivors, like Perry’s father, of mining accidents.

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