His Right Hand by Mette Ivie Harrison

his right handRating: **** (4/5)

Published: Soho Crime, December 2015

Format: ARC

Genre: Mystery

Source: Amazon Vine

Linda Wallheim is back, and once again, there is trouble in her Mormon community. The murder of her husband’s colleague in the bishopric is scandalous enough, but when it is revealed that this gentleman was biologically a woman, chaos ensues. The subject of such a controversy in a conservative community with strictly defined gender roles is quite the hot-button issue. It was somewhat comical that considering how sheltered Linda is, everything she knew about transgenderism she gleaned from internet searches.

Compared to how she was portrayed in The Bishop’s Wife, I found Linda much more tolerable in this book. She wasn’t quite as judgmental, and though she was certainly nosey and interfering, she was much less abrasive. Linda’s mysterious past was finally divulged, as it related to the situation with her youngest son. In addition to a murderer being at large in her ward and the higher-ups in the church interfering with the police investigation, she has some significant personal and family matters to overcome. She’s relatively unconventional in her views and really tries to be tolerant and progressive, but Linda is still a Mormon wife, no matter how liberal she considers herself.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program.

Book one in the Linda Wallheim mystery series: The Bishop’s Wife

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Nonfiction November – Books I’ve Discovered


I know I’m off topic here, but I’m not participating in the group read, so I thought I’d at least list all of the books I have discovered this month and where I found them…

  • Born to Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen VictoriaHeather left a comment  recommending this based on King, Kaiser, Tsar.
  • Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva – From Savvy Working Gal
  • Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II  – Via Maphead’s Book Blog
  • Both Savvy and Maphead recommended The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration
  • The Rising: Murder, Heartbreak, and the Power of Human Resilience in an American Town – Thank you Ann at Books on the Table
  • The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union – From Bookish Lawyer Jennifer
  • The Fictional 100:  Ranking the Most Influential Characters in World Literature and Legend – Via Emma at Words and Peace
  • The History of the World in Six Glasses -Thanks to Anne’s Head Full of Books



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Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts

I think I am finally recovered from last week’s vacation.  We took a long weekend to visit my family in Greensboro, NC and it was a blast.  Quality sister time is always amazing.

After seeing a recent episode of Animal Planet’s Tanked, we HAD to visit a local attraction to see a custom aquarium the ATM guys built for the Greensboro Science Center to house their giant pacific octopus.

The overall aquarium section they had there was super cool, we got to pet stingrays, and I could have sat in front of the reef tank all day.

I also visited my favorite local used bookstore while there and picked up a copy of Alix and Nicky (a Romanov wish list book) and a new-to-me discovery, Death Dealer: The Memoirs Of The SS Kommandant At Auschwitz.  Does that look effed up or what?!

I think I’m going to shop for my Christmas cards this weekend since I have uber Hallmark coupons.  Don’t worry recipients, no glitter this year, I promise.  I learned my lesson.

Speaking of Christmas, I have been killing it with getting my shopping done early.  I blame my Zulily addiction, but I have found some really unique things that I’m excited to give.

I’ve been having fun with Nonfiction November and I  have a great list of nonfiction discoveries from other bloggers to post next week.

I am making good progress with King, Kaiser, Tsar, considering I only read it on my morning train ride.  But man, that Kaiser Wilhelm II was an ass.

My MiL asked me to provide a vegetable for Thanksgiving dinner, and since there are only 5 of us this year (and ShortMan doesn’t eat veggies), I found a pretty simple recipe for oven roasted parmesan zucchini.  I don’t think it’s something I can mess up.

I have to share this recipe for killer home fries we made last night.  Since The Hubs is vegetable averse, we are always looking for different ways to prepare potatoes, and these were excellent with breakfast dinner.

I’m not making as much progress in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as I would like.  I think it’s because it’s the ANGRY Harry book.  I hope to make a bigger dent these next few weekends.  And The Hubs is already almost done with Book 7!

And a shout-out to Christine who has a birthday next week!

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Father’s Day by Simon Van Booy

father's dayRating: ** (2/5)

Published: Harper, April 2016

Format: ARC

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Source: Amazon Vine

I have really REALLY enjoyed Van Booy’s prior books, but I found it incredibly difficult to stay engaged with this story.  When Harvey’s parents are killed, a warmhearted social worker enlists Harvey’s father’s estranged ex-con brother, Jason, to raise her.  Well, there is no one as utterly clueless as Jason when it comes to raising a child, and his ineptitude makes him seem like a bad caricature.  Why any social worker would champion his cause is beyond me.  He doesn’t seem to know that a kid can’t be raised on junk food alone, that they need a doctor or a dentist every once in a while, or that girls grow up and get their monthlies.  Sure, Jason softens as the years go by and becomes more sympathetic as his bond with Harvey grows.  The narrative is so disjointed, it was hard to keep track of the different phases in their lives.  I thought the writing was pedestrian and the dialogue clunky.  And the vehicle for Harvey’s revelation to Jason at the conclusion was not profound, nor was the big emotional finale.

Long story short:  I was not impressed.

Also by Simon Van Booy:

Everything Beautiful Began After

The Illusion of Separateness


Filed under Book Reviews

Nontraditional Nonfiction


I didn’t think I was going to participate in this week’s Nonfiction November topic, because really, what nontraditional stuff can I claim to indulge in?  Then I remembered that the ONLY books I have ever listened to in their entirety were the Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics CD’s.  Honestly, if I had tried to sit and read these books, I would have been bored to tears.  But listening to Stephen J. Dubner was an absolute delight and he made the topics of “A Rogue Economist Exploring the Hidden Side of Everything” and “Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance” quite engaging.

Thank you Becca for hosting!


Filed under Opinion/Commentary

Stolen Years by Reuven Fenton – Giveaway, Review, and Author Interview

stolen years

I am offering a giveaway copy of this incredible book.  Please leave a comment below to qualify.  Contest ends midnight Sunday, November 15.

Subtitle:  Stories of the Wrongfully Imprisoned

Rating: ***** (5/5)

Published: Tantor Media, November 2015

Format: Trade Paperback

Genre: Nonfiction/True Crime

Source: TLC Book Tours

You would expect a book about wrongfully convicted people who wasted decades of their lives behind bars somewhat depressing. Not so in this case. Each of the 10 individuals depicted find themselves in the most nightmarish situation imaginable. What makes them so admirable is their unwavering hope and determination to prove their innocence despite the sluggish pace of the justice system that initially failed them. I thought Fenton did a great job capturing the personality and distinct voices of all of the subjects he interviewed. I found it touching that every one of them remembered their first meal after being exonerated, whether it was a steak or a Big Mac (except poor Debra Brown who couldn’t eat much because of her ill-fitting dentures).

This really brought to light the terrible injustices of a flawed system and the ghastly conditions of American prisons.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via TLC Book Tours.



And now I am please to introduce Mr. Reuven Fenton,  author and journalist for the New York Post!


What made you want to write about this topic?

What sparked the idea was covering the exoneration of a guy named David Ranta, who’d spent twenty years in prison for killing a rabbi, for the New York Post.

Not a lot of things move me on this job, but seeing the way Ranta embraced his family members in the courtroom really touched a nerve in me. Outside the courtroom there was this big, chaotic press conference, and the kinds of questions reporters asked were very superficial — How does it feel to be out of prison? What’s the first thing you’re going to do as a free man? Stuff like that. And those questions are fine for a breaking news story, but I remember thinking, as I held my voice recorder in Ranta’s face, that this guy had two decades worth of material for an amazing story, and that story had yet to be told.

I didn’t end up profiling Ranta for “Stolen Years,” but he was definitely the inspiration. Soon after I started researching the book, I started to realize that this project was going to more than just about stories. It had to be a call to action to change a justice system that sends countless thousands of innocent people to prison.

And what is that call to action?

It’s essentially to do what the press does when it gets hooked on a social issue: make a ton of noise. Bug your elected officials until they quake at the sound of your voice. Volunteer with one of the innocence organizations whose lawyers are so overworked they can barely handle the clients they’ve got. Donate money to these organizations, if you’re so inclined.

The bottom line is it’s not enough just to be outraged about an injustice. You have to be vocal about it. Change only happens when the people who write laws feel their power being endangered by the wrath of the public.

How did you choose the ten subjects you profiled for this book?

For better or worse, there’s a large pool to choose from.  The National Registry of Exonerations has over 1,600 exonerees listed from 1989 to today.

I had some pretty specific criteria that narrowed it down quite a bit. I wanted people who had done at least 10 years in prison. I wanted them to have been exonerated within the last couple years. I also wanted to include women, which is a population that doesn’t get a lot of press when it comes to wrongful convictions. I ended up finding two women who wanted to be part of my book.

Of course, not everyone I sought out wanted to participate. There was an attorney from Missouri who did ten years for beating his law partner to death. I reached him by phone, and though he didn’t give me a reason why he declined, I can only deduce that he thought the publicity would hurt his new law practice.

Another guy I really wanted to include was a state trooper from Indiana who had done 11 years for killing his wife and two young kids before getting exonerated. He seemed somewhat interested in being interviewed but eventually stopped replying to my emails. I felt, given his trauma, that I shouldn’t push him.

What is your interview process?

I have each subject just start from the beginning. I start with, What was your life like before your life got stolen from you? What were your hopes and dreams? Then it just turns into a conversation where one topic leads to the next.

This early life material inevitably becomes relevant to the story of their wrongful imprisonment, because you get to see the sequence of events that led to the dark day they were wrongfully accused of committing these crimes.

Then it’s just a lot of me asking, “What happened next?” I’ll stop them from time to time to clarify something they said, but it’s primarily me listening to monologues. I’ll just guide them along to keep them on point.

I spent eight-to-ten hours talking to each of my subjects. As I’d start writing, I’d come up with another seventy or eighty questions, big and small, to fill in the holes I discovered along the way.

Which story in “Stolen Years” have you found to be the most moving?

The short answer is, tough to say.

As a journalist I’ve learned to become pretty emotionally detached. But there have been moments working on “Stolen Years” where I felt myself getting rattled.

When Ginny LeFever told me the story about how her kids stopped visiting her in prison because they thought she had killed their father, she described the pain as like losing a child (something she had also tragically experienced). As a father myself, I was haunted by that.

Another of my subjects, Debby Brown, told me once that she’d started having nightmares again about prison because of our interviews. Yet she still wanted to continue, to finish what we’d started. I found that very inspiring..

Thomas Kennedy of Washington State has arguably the saddest story in “Stolen Years.” His 11-year-old daughter accused him of raping her one day. He was arrested, tried, and sent to prison. Years later, she recanted. Kennedy is very fragile and almost didn’t want to be interviewed, but over time he warmed up to me. His story is unbelievably tragic, yet he’s managed to hold it together and I really admire him for that.


Filed under Author Interview, Book Reviews, giveaway

Nonfiction November – Book Pairings

Nonfiction-November-2015As a huge fan of Downton Abbey, I picked two books that highlighted the upstairs/downstairs life of an English estate in the early 20th century.

My nonfiction pick is Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey:  The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by Fiona Carnarvon.  Written by the current countess and caretaker of the castle featured in the show, it offers insight to gilded Edwardian life.

My fiction pick is The House at Riverton by Kate Morton.  Told from the perspective of a former servant, Grace relives her past at Riverton as WWI comes and goes and the twenties come roaring in.

So read the books, watch the show, and bask in the decadence!  This week’s topic is hosted at Regular Rumination.


Filed under Opinion/Commentary