The Winston Brothers series by Penny Reid

I’m not a huge series reader, but I must tell you about my all-time favorite series. I met author Penny Reid at the 2019 Book Bonanza in Dallas, TX this past August. Of the over 50 authors I met there, Penny was the most humble, kind, and hilarious one. I knew immediately that I would enjoy her books, and man was I spot-on! Her writing is so refreshing, full of hilarious banter, romantic escapades, and a strong bond between a Southern family of six bearded brothers living in small-town Green Valley, TN.  

Of all Reid’s books, my favorite are the Winston Brothers series. The first book in the series is called Truth or Beard and is the story of Duane Winston. Duane’s mama, Bethany, was the beloved town librarian but she passed away at a young age after a fairly quick battle with cancer. Sweet Bethany’s only bad habit was staying with Duane’s despicable daddy, Darrell Winston, who is in jail due to his illegal exploits with the local biker gang, the Iron Wraiths. Bethany and Darrell had 6 boys (Billy, Jethro, Cletus, red-headed twins Duane & Beau, Roscoe) and one girl, Ashley. The brothers are ultra-charming and handsome, but also prone to mischief. Reid’s characters are charming and unique, and she tackles tough issues very well with her tell-it-like-it-is dialogue. Cletus, Duane, and Beau run an auto mechanic shop in Green Valley. Jethro is a park ranger with a bit of a sordid past. Billy is a senator, and Roscoe, the baby of the family, becomes a veterinarian. Ashley took on a sort of sister-mom role to the guys when Bethany passed away. They are all very close, and Cletus is a main part of the glue holding them all together.

Each book in the series focuses on a different Winston brother and his romantic exploits. They can all be read as a standalone full-length romantic comedy, but are better enjoyed when read in the order of publication so readers can follow the progression of the family as it grows with marriages and births. It’s easy to spot these books for their creative cross-stitched covers, each depicting a different bearded Winston brother (and one of Ashley!). (Side note: I also love that Penny cross stitches, just like me! Nerds, unite!) My personal favorite of the brothers is Cletus because of his extensive vocabulary and extreme geekiness that only someone like he can pull off as cool. Not to mention his homemade sausage and special coffee. He makes me laugh so hard!

I hope you enjoy this series and let me know what you think! The fictional world of Green Valley, Tennessee that Penny created is so popular and loved , in fact, that now there are a whole bunch of other amazing authors writing book series that take place in Green Valley, TN. The Winston brothers make many appearances in the Smartypants Romance books, which I absolutely love! They are all part of the amazing Smartypants Romance group. For instance, the Donner Bakery series which is Cletus’s wife, Jenn’s, bakery and the Scorned Women Society series by Piper Sheridan which is the story of Suzie Samuels, and all of the women that heartthrob, bad-boy turned park ranger Jethro Winston left behind. And, my personal favorite, as a librarian of course, is the Green Valley Library series, which have amazing titles (Love in Due Time, Shelf Awareness, Crime and Periodicals, Prose Before Bros). I mean, come on, the titles alone make a librarian swoon! And there are a bunch more Smartypants Romance books launching this year. Yippeee!

I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from Cletus Winston:

“Stay away from the normals, the small-minded people who fill their brains with small-minded pursuits, who blend in and keep up with the Joneses. Those people will tear you down and make you boring. Instead, surround yourself with the weirds. With the misfits, oddballs, and outcasts. Because the normals, bless their hearts, have no idea how to have fun.”

 

 

 

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

15797848Stephanie Perkins’ YA horror/thriller novel, There’s Someone Inside Your House, will have adults and teens alike reeling until the very last page. Think Scream, but much more original and clever! Try to go right to sleep after finishing this book and let me know how that works out for you. It certainly didn’t work for me!

Makani left Hawaii and is now in her senior year at a small school in rural Nebraska, in the farming town of Osborne. She lives with her aging, and somewhat senile grandmother, sent to help her by her soon-to-be-divorced and non-present parents, who stayed behind in Hawaii. Her two best friends are Alex and Darby, and though she sometimes feels like the third-wheel of the group, she is going through the motions of surviving high school, all the while trying to keep a low profile so that no one finds out the true reason she left Hawaii and changed her last name to Young. Makani starts to take a renewed interest in Ollie Larssen, one of her classmates who is sexy and mysterious, but doesn’t care what others think about him, or his recent hot pink hair color. Ollie lives with his slightly older brother, Chris, a town police officer, because their parents were killed by a drunk driver a few years ago.

As Makani and Ollie get to know each other better (nothing like a good steamy romance!), random high school students are being brutally murdered one-by-one.  Makani fearfully begins to wonder who will be next. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to how the students are being chosen at random, but Makani can’t help but wonder if her past and the incident in Hawaii is finally catching up with her in Nebraska. The murders start to increase at an alarming rate, but the killer manages to escape capture, leaving a gruesome setup at each murder scene.

The book is packed with both fear and romance, a killer combination that will keep readers fascinated. I couldn’t put the book down! It was a very fast read, but the scenes and grisly details stayed with me well after I had read the last page. The murder scenes were bizarre and original, causing Perkins’ first horror novel to be a stand-out from other books of this genre.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the book is that the killer is revealed about three-quarters of the way through the book, and readers don’t have to wait until the final page to know who it is. However, even after the killer is revealed (in a most unsettling & painful way for Makani and Ollie, by the way), he/she keeps on killing, right under everyone’s noses. It’s crazy! The plot is original, wildly entertaining, and filled with creepy moments. When you start a young adult novel and one of the characters is murdered savagely in the first chapter, you know it’s going to be a game-changer for young adult horror. Fans of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer will absolutely love this book!

To quote of my high school student readers, “It was a real slasher!” (She gave it a 10 of 10.)

Last Words by Michael Koryta

This book will be published by Little, Brown, and Company on August 18, 2015. I decided to read it because I knew the author lived in Bloomington, IN (at least part time) and the story took place mostly in a fictional small town in southern Indiana. Being an Indiana girl, born and raised, I was intrigued. I truly enjoyed the story. It has quite a bit of suspense and mystery, which kept me flying through the pages. The most fascinating part of the story to me was the setting in southern Indiana where caves and caverns are plentiful. I’ve been through many caves in that area, but only in the portions where public are allowed of course. I find the rest of the cave system dark and creepy, and one couldn’t pay me to be in them. Perhaps that is why this book gave me such a chill at times.

Mark Novak has lost his wife and the murderer has still not been caught or punished. For fear that he may lose his job due to his rash behavior, Mark’s boss, Jeff sends him to a small town named Garrison, Indiana to check out a cold case disappearance and possible homicide from 10 years ago. Ridley Barnes, the local crazy and best known cave expert is thought to have been involved in the disappearance and death of Sarah Martin, whose body he pulled from Trapdoor cave 10 years ago. The problem is that Ridley claims to not have any memory of his time in the cave or how he found Sarah’s body and brought her to the surface. He contacts Mark and asks him to come and investigate the case to see if he can finally provide the truth for Ridley and others. Was he involved? Did he kill Sarah? What really happened? Mark heads from his home state of Florida to snow covered, cold Indiana and has no intention of doing much with the case, only appeasing his boss. However, he soon becomes involved in more ways than one and even after a near death experience, decides to stick around until he uncovers the truth, no matter who or what tries to get in the way. Like I said, I would totally recommend this book because it is well written and fascinating. I was surprised at the ending because it didn’t end like I thought it might. Also, I think the author left it open for a sequel, or at least more stories with Mark Novak in them. I do hope he writes another one soon. Read it…you won’t be sorry!