Book Review: The Hollows by Jess Montgomery @JessM_Author @MinotaurBooks @TLCBookTours

The Hollows
The Kinship Series, Book 2
Jess Montgomery
Minotaur Books, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-18454-2
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Ohio, 1926: For many years, the railroad track in Moonvale Tunnel has been used as a shortcut through the Appalachian hills. When an elderly woman is killed walking along the tracks, the brakeman tells tales of seeing a ghostly female figure dressed all in white.

Newly elected Sheriff Lily Ross is called on to the case to dispel the myths. With the help of her friends Marvena Whitcomb and Hildy Cooper, Lily follows the woman’s trail to The Hollows―a notorious asylum―and they begin to expose dark secrets long-hidden by time and the mountains.

The Appalachians are a vast and very old area covering all or parts of thirteen states in the eastern part of the US plus some of eastern Canada, a system that includes a variety of mountain ranges, and the descendants of its original settlers are a different breed from most of us. Take it back almost a hundred years and the people are even more distinctive, a blend of European and Native American backgrounds with their own culture, who lived simply, apart from “mainstream” America by choice. In The Hollows, Ms. Montgomery has captured the beauty of this one small portion of the Appalachians and the unique inhabitants of the period.

There are also secrets to be discovered by Lily and her friends, along with the reader, as well as immersion into the racial divides, labor organizing and societal inhibitions that plagued women at the time and the mystery of what really happened to the old woman. The word “hollows” carries a double meaning here, referring to a geographical distinction found in the mountains but also, in this case, to what turns out to be an insane asylum as dark as anything you’ve ever heard of. Meanwhile, Lily is running for re-election against great odds and the Women’s Ku Klux Klan, the auxiliary of the better-known men’s organization, is creating trouble in the community.

A book like this one appeals to me greatly because I came away from it knowing a bit more about our American history and, along the way, enjoyed a journey through a beautiful and compelling setting. The characters are vivid and fully fleshed out, the three women in particular, and they created in me a strong empathy for them. I haven’t yet read the first book, The Widows, but I’ll be doing so forthwith and, in the meantime, I’m adding The Hollows to my list of best books read in 2020.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iTunes
Books-A-Million // Amazon // Indiebound

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About the Author

JESS MONTGOMERY is the Literary Life columnist for the Dayton Daily News and Executive Director of the renowned Antioch Writers’ Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Based on early chapters of The Widows, Jess was awarded an Ohio Arts Council individual artist’s grant for literary arts and the John E. Nance Writer-in-Residence at Thurber House in Columbus. She lives in her native state of Ohio.

Jess Montgomery showcases her skills as a storyteller in The Hollows: a powerful, big-hearted and exquisitely written follow-up to her highly acclaimed debut The Widows.

Connect with Jess:
Website // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram

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Book Review: The Dead Days Journal by Sandra R. Campbell

The Dead Days JournalThe Dead Days Journal
Volume 1
Sandra R. Campbell
CreateSpace, March 2015
ISBN 9781506100401
Trade Paperback

From the author—

The daughter of a radical doomsday prepper, Leo Marrok spent her entire life preparing for the end. A skilled fighter and perfect marksman, Leo is her father’s second-in-command when Armageddon comes to pass. Together, they lead a group of survivors to a secure bunker deep in the Appalachian Mountains.

Vincent Marrok is willing to take extreme measures to repopulate their broken world. Leo’s refusal marks her as a traitor. With father and daughter at odds for the first time, their frail community is thrust into turmoil. Until the unthinkable happens, a blood-thirsty horde arrives. The impending attack will destroy all that they have worked for.

To protect her home and everything she believes in, Leo puts her faith in the arms of the enemy-a creature only rumored to exist-the one she calls Halloween. An alliance born out of necessity evolves into feelings Leo is ill-equipped to handle.

The Dead Days Journal is a post-apocalyptic story of love and family told through Leo Marrok’s first-hand account and the pages of Vincent’s personal journal, giving two very different perspectives on what it takes to survive.

Mature themes, adult language, sexual situations, violence and gore. 18+

The problem with many post-apocalyptic stories, whether book or film, is that there is frequently a strong feeling of unreality in the sense that it’s hard to believe that such a scenario could come to pass. Something about the story itself feels like pure fiction rather than the kind of science fiction that opens a window on what our future could be. There’s almost a feeling of adventure.

Then there is the kind of post-apocalyptic story that Ms. Campbell has crafted in which you feel immersed in the darkness of spirit that surely must develop when the world you know has come to an end. The brutality of survival is what we really should expect and it’s what makes The Dead Days Journal so believable from the start.

Leo is a young woman who has lived nearly four years in a fortified cave in the Appalachians built to give a handful of people a chance to survive. The 22 members of this small band have learned what it takes to live under perilous circumstances and with dangerous shortages and the tale focuses largely on the leader, Vincent Marrok, and his daughter, Leo.

Personalities become intensified during such stressful times and Vincent has become very controlling, generally feeling that his opinion is the only right one. His wish to repopulate is certainly not surprising but, unfortunately, Leo is the only female likely to be able to bear children. Imagine what it must feel like to know that your father is so “invested” in your sex life—it gives new meaning to having a desire for grandchildren, doesn’t it?

I liked Leo a great deal, partly because she’s such a strong woman in every way that matters and partly because she’s subject to normal emotions that any of us might feel in her situation. Vincent, on the other hand, raised my hackles and, although I understand his motives, I couldn’t like them. The character I thought was least well-developed was Lincoln. No 11-year-old boy in our own time would be so childish and it’s even less likely that he would be so living in a world of such hardships. And then there are Ben, the man who seems to be the perfect match for Leo despite all her misgivings and Orrin, an enigma who has an undeniable effect on Leo.

As post-apocalyptic fiction, this is a good, strong story but I did not care for the introduction of a supernatural element even though certain characters are quite memorable. Don’t get me wrong, I like supernatural and I usually like it blended with other genres but it just didn’t work for me in this case. Still, I’ll be interested to see what lies ahead for these people who have managed, so far, to survive the unimaginable though they apparently have no idea that they have not yet encountered the worst. Sandra R. Campbell knows how to craft a tale and I look forward to more from her.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2015.

Book Review: Soul Catcher by Leigh Bridger

Soul Catcher
Leigh Bridger
Bell Bridge Books, 2009
ISBN 098217568X
Trade Paperback (ARC)

Do people and places really have souls? Could we all have lived before and been reincarnated? What if it is true and our soul mates were out there really searching for us? Not only does Leigh Bridger make this theory sound interesting, but possible as well in her urban fantasy Soul Catcher.

Livie (short for Olivia) Van Belane is plagued by dreams of demons and uses her only cure, learned in childhood, to get rid of them. She draws the demon then burns the drawling. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, one demon was too smart to be so easily burned away and escaped Livie’s drawling to enter the world.

Turns out this demon, nicknamed Pig Face, has been hunting Livie’s soul and killing her mortal body for the last two hundred years. Thankfully for Livie’s sake, she is not alone in her battle against the demon. Her soul mate, a soul hunter named Ian, wants to help (if only she will let him) and she has several other souls who have been her friends & family throughout the centuries. The location pogs (souls) also provide Livie help on her quest to figure out why this particular demon wants her dead again.

Soul Catcher is creative and full of reincarnation theory that allows Leigh Bridger to place the hand full of characters in different time periods, which she does through visions and dreams the main character has. There is a Harry Potter-like feeling to some of the creature descriptions but the profanity that is appropriately used ensures that readers will not think the man characters are running around in Potterville. The concept of a soul hunter (Ian) and a soul catcher (Livie) is interesting even though I feel that soul banisher might have been a more appropriate title. The struggle that Livie must go through personally to come to grips with the unseen (by most) world she now finds herself in and to learn how to reclaim her soul catcher abilities keeps the story moving forward. The book is fast paced and full of action that will keep you reading. If modern-time fantasy is your thing, then you will definitely want to pick up Soul Catcher.

Reviewed by Brenda Cothern, March 2011.