Books Lately Vol. 5

I’m putting together the books I read the last two months as I really didn’t read much in April.  I wasn’t having much luck at finding anything at the library + nothing was coming up on my hold list.  However, that all changed in May when I was able to get my hands on Ania Ahlborn books as you can clearly see! 

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture In Crisis – J.D. Vance

From a former Marine and Yale Law School Graduate, a poignant account of growing up in a poor Appalachian town, that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class. Part memoir, part historical and social analysis, J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy is a fascinating consideration of class, culture, and the American dream.

Vance’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love.” They got married and moved north from Kentucky to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. Their grandchild (the author) graduated from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving upward mobility for their family. But Vance cautions that is only the short version. The slightly longer version is that his grandparents, aunt, uncle, and mother struggled to varying degrees with the demands of their new middle class life and they, and Vance himself, still carry around the demons of their chaotic family history.

Delving into his own personal story and drawing on a wide array of sociological studies, Vance takes us deep into working class life in the Appalachian region. This demographic of our country has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, and Vance provides a searching and clear-eyed attempt to understand when and how “hillbillies” lost faith in any hope of upward mobility, and in opportunities to come.

I think this book came up on my Goodreads recommendation list & I thought it sounded fascinating.  Apparently so did everyone else as I had a hold on this book at the library for what felt like months.  This one actually took me awhile to read.  While I knew it was a biography/memoir, I guess I thought it would be more of a sociological book as well based on the description.  As in, discussing the “hillbilly” culture more as a whole rather than his own experiences.  

Brother – Ania Ahlborn

Deep in the heart of Appalachia stands a crooked farmhouse miles from any road. The Morrows keep to themselves, and it’s served them well so far. When girls go missing off the side of the highway, the cops don’t knock on their door. Which is a good thing, seeing as to what’s buried in the Morrows’ backyard.

But nineteen-year-old Michael Morrow isn’t like the rest of his family. He doesn’t take pleasure in the screams that echo through the trees. Michael pines for normalcy, and he’s sure that someday he’ll see the world beyond West Virginia. When he meets Alice, a pretty girl working at a record shop in the small nearby town of Dahlia, he’s immediately smitten. For a moment, he nearly forgets about the monster he’s become. But his brother, Rebel, is all too eager to remind Michael of his place…

Jana & Steph both reviewed this book which sparked my interest.  I was even more intrigued after reading the synopsis on Goodreads so I added it to my library hold list shortly after.  I LOVED this book & could not put it down!  I feel like it was the perfect mix of horror and psychological thriller.  It was graphic in some parts but not as bad as I thought it was going to be (I was thinking it would be like the movie Hostel or Saw or something like that but not to that extent).  What I enjoyed most about this book was the psychological part– Michael was actually “adopted” by this family and doesn’t feel like he fits in.  But he goes along with his older brother Rebel because that is what he knows along with the fact that there would be repercussions by “Momma” and Wade if he disobeys.  Also, the whole family dynamic is something else which was definitely interesting.

Pretty Baby – Mary Kubica

She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can’t get the girl out of her head…

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family’s objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.  Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow’s past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.

Out of the three Mary Kubica books I’ve read, I think this one was my least favorite.  The story just felt “fluffy” in a lot of parts which made the story drag on.  I think it would have been so much better if she had just gotten to the point rather than making it a nearly 400 page book.   I thought that the underlying story was really interesting —  girl in foster care runs away, steals a baby, and makes her way to Chicago where she meets Heidi who has her own set of issues.  I also enjoyed the Omaha references as she mentioned several places that I’m familiar with!  

The Devil Crept In – Ania Ahlborn

Young Jude Brighton has been missing for three days, and while the search for him is in full swing in the small town of Deer Valley, Oregon, the locals are starting to lose hope. They’re well aware that the first forty-eight hours are critical and after that, the odds usually point to a worst-case scenario. And despite Stevie Clark’s youth, he knows that, too; he’s seen the cop shows. He knows what each ticking moment may mean for Jude, his cousin and best friend.

That, and there was that boy, Max Larsen…the one from years ago, found dead after also disappearing under mysterious circumstances. And then there were the animals: pets gone missing out of yards. For years, the residents of Deer Valley have murmured about these unsolved crimes…and that a killer may still be lurking around their quiet town. Now, fear is reborn—and for Stevie, who is determined to find out what really happened to Jude, the awful truth may be too horrifying to imagine.

I’m not even sure what I read.  This book started out super slow & I contemplated giving up.  I skimmed a few reviews on Goodreads so I knew it would eventually get better… which it did, thankfully.  But then it got to the point where I was like WTF and I couldn’t stop reading it.  This book kind of reminded me of the movie Jeepers Creepers for some reason as that was what I kept picturing in my head whenever it mentioned the “creature” in the woods.  I didn’t think this book was as good as Brother just because I’m not a huge fan of weird monster/zombie-type books.  

Within These Walls – Ania Ahlborn

With his marriage on the rocks and his life in shambles, washed up crime writer Lucas Graham is desperate for a comeback. So when he’s promised exclusive access to notorious cult leader and death row inmate Jeffrey Halcomb, the opportunity is too good to pass up. Lucas leaves New York for the scene of the crime—a split-level farmhouse on the gray-sanded beach of Washington State—a house whose foundation is steeped in the blood of Halcomb’s diviners; runaways who, thirty years prior, were drawn to his message of family, unity, and unconditional love. Lucas wants to tell the real story of Halcomb’s faithful departed, but when Halcomb goes back on his promise of granting Lucas exclusive information on the case, he’s left to put the story together on his own. Except he is not alone. For Jeffrey Halcomb promised his devout eternal life…and within these walls, they’re far from dead.

I’m sure you’re not surprised that I read ANOTHER book by Ania Ahlborn.  I am obsessed!  It reminded me of a Stephen King book as it had sort of a supernatural aspect along with a Jim Jones/Charles Manson vibe.  It was a very long book & I felt like I was reading it forever.  The author could have omitted some characters or certain parts to shorten it a little.  I also didn’t find it to be as graphic as the other two books although the situation when Jeffrey Halcomb was found by the police was slightly disturbing – let’s just say it involved a ritualistic killing of a pregnant woman.  Overall, the story wasn’t terrible but then again, I’ve always been fascinated by cults & how people get involved with them.    

Didn’t finish:  Twenty Days of Turin – Giorgio de Mario –  I really tried with this one.  I even read the first few pages while I was at the library before I checked it out.  I got about 100 pages in and couldn’t stand it anymore.  Maybe because it was originally written in Italian & then translated?  It was boring & hard to follow.  

My goal for this year was to read 25 books as I had gotten out of the habit of reading for so many years.  I’m over halfway there already & have no plans to stop anytime soon!  

Life According to Steph