Chapter by Chapter Blog Tour Review: It Had to Be You by Lizzy Charles

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I’m happy to be teaming up with Chapter by Chapter Blog Tours & Promotions to share with you all today my review for the novel It Had to Be You by Lizzie Charles.

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Tour Dates: May 15-26, 2017

Amazon  –  BAM  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Chapters  –

Goodreads  –  Google Play  –  iBooks  – Kobo

Published: 15 May 2017

Publisher: Entangled Publishing LLC: Teen Crush

Category: Young Adult/Romance

James Parson has a problem. His military dad is going to yank him out of his expensive boarding school if James doesn’t prove he’s no longer hooking up, pulling pranks, and charming his way out of consequences. What better way to show he’s now responsible than becoming the committed boyfriend of a U.S. diplomat’s daughter?

Level-headed, book-smart Edelweiss may have traveled the world thanks to her dad’s job, but when it comes to friends and boys, she knows exactly nothing. Newly enrolled in boarding school, Edel is now on a mission to learn it all. James says he’ll help her experience the ultimate high school life—if she’ll be his fake girlfriend. And fake is perfect, because he’s exactly the kind of player she’d never date.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains red-hot romance, all the feels, and a soul-mate bad boy.

Rating: 4 Stars

I got this book at just the right time! Last week as part of my Top 5 Wednesday post, I talked about what kind of Summer time reads I was looking forward to and I spotlighted contemporary novels. While this book doesn’t take place in the summer,  I think it’s just the right kind of lighthearted fare to read during the hot months ahead (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere like me, though you should totally still read this if it isn’t summer).

Edelweiss and James are two students at Brockmore Academy, a boarding school that I wouldn’t be out of place comparing to Chilton from the television show Gilmore Girls. In fact, Edelweiss and her roommate Tuti talk about binge-watching this show and whose team they’re on more than once in the course of the book.

Edelweiss (shortened to Edel) and James are at Brockmore for different reasons and both want to stay there. Through a slightly complicated series of events, they come up with an arrangement: pretend to be dating to show that James is serious to his father and so Edel can have the normal high school experience after being home schooled by her diplomat parents.

This was a fast read that had all the hallmarks of a high school drama. It was a lot of fun to read and I didn’t find any slow points. I think there are some parts that could have been fleshed out a bit more, such as the friendships that Edel formed between herself and her roommate and some of the other girls in her dorm, or some of the smaller chats that she and James must have had that lead to them falling in real love.

There are some cliches in the book, such as the high school Mean Girl who we don’t learn too much about other than the cursory things (she’s James’s ex, she’s jealous of Edel, etc.). Maybe it’s because I don’t read too many of these books, but this didn’t bother me too much even though I know it’s happened a lot before. I am curious if we’ll learn more about her, though, her inner workings, that sort of thing.

The secondary characters introduced had the potential to be really great: Tuti, the YouTube celebrity that pays her bills by promoting her channel supremely well; Ainsley, the foster kid with a head for computers; Charlotte, Grant, Procter, and more. I learned just enough about each of them to be able to keep them separate in my head, but I wish I knew more. This book, however, was mostly true to Edel and James, so I understand in the end why we might not have heard as much as I’d have liked about the others.

I think this is only Brockmore Academy book #1, so there will hopefully be more adventures for all involved.. James still has half a year left as a senior at the school and Edel has her own senior year before the advent of college. Who knows what lays in store for these two? Will Emma, the school’s Mean Girl and James’s ex, come back with a vengeance? Will Ainsley, one of the friends Edel has made this year, find a resolution to her own familial questions? Lizzy Charles has authored a brilliant little book here and I hope to read more soon.

And, for the record, I’m with Edel on this Gilmore Girls opinion: #TeamLogan all the way!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

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When Lizzy Charles isn’t scrambling to raise her two spunky toddlers or caring for premature and sick babies as a neonatal intensive care nurse, she’s in a quiet corner writing or snuggled up with a novel and a few squares of dark chocolate. Black tea keeps her constant and she loves guacamole. She married her high school sweet heart, a heart-melting musician, so it’s no surprise she’s fallen in love with writing contemporary YA romance novels.

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Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Supporting Characters in the Sailor Moon Manga

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes and created by Lainey from Gingerreadlainey.

Think about your favorite book, your favorite manga, your favorite movie. Who is the first character that comes to mind? Odds are, it’s going to be one of the main characters, like Harry Potter, Inu Yasha, or Tony Stark. While these characters are obviously very important, as the story revolves around them, there are other characters in the chosen work that support them. The book/manga/movie wouldn’t be the same without these supporting characters, whether they’re bad guys to support motivation or good guys that provide emotional assistance in times of stress.

For this week’s Top 5 Wednesday, I thought that I might go back to one of my favorite works: the Sailor Moon manga by Naoko Takeuchi. This was a relatively short series when you think about some of the other series out there (Bleach, Naruto), but it packed a lot of characters in that meant a lot to the series as a whole. Today I’ll share my favorite ones with you.

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Artemis, Diana, and Luna

Each of these characters represents a huge presence in their respective owner’s lives: Artemis to Minako, Diana to Chibiusa, and Luna to Usagi. They’re not only confidantes, but they serve as bearers of new equipment, such as the transformation compacts and wands used by the Sailor Soldiers.

Throughout much of the series we only see them in their feline forms; the human forms don’t appear until near the end of the series, when we’re dealing with Sailor Galaxia, Princess Kakyuu, and the False Soliders. However, in the animated movie Sailor Moon S: The Movie, we are treated to the only time in the anime we see Luna’s human form. It’s a heartbreaking story of unrequited love, but a beautiful one nonetheless because Luna gets a lot of screen time.

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Kou Taiki

While aesthetically Kou Yaten was the Sailor Starlight that I preferred (the white haired one), Kou Yaten was the Starlight that seemed more like the person that I would’ve been. S/he was also the kindest of the three of the Starlights, in my opinion, much more open to kindness rather than remaining islands unto themselves.

In the manga the Starlights were female that crossdressed as males when in their human forms, whereas in the anime they actually changed genders, so that’s something to keep in mind when viewing/reading Sailor Moon Stars.

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Ikuko Tsukino

 

Usagi Tsukino’s human mother, Ikuko is a hilarious mum and while we don’t get to see her much, she’s a vital part to the structure of the Tsukino family. She not only does her best to keep Usagi on the right path (which isn’t always easy, given how lazy that girl is!), but when characters like Chibiusa and Chibichibi show up she cares for them as well. Granted a bit of magic is involved, but still, her mothering instinct is there and I think she’d have done these amazing things even if she knew the whole story.

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Phobos and Deimos

These two are responsible for at least some of my interest in mythology when I was in high school. I even submitted their names in a knight naming contest (two suits of armor guarded our library, I don’t remember why). They’re the crow equivalent of Luna, Artemis, and Diana: protectors of Sailor Mars who reveal their names to her when she’s young and help her guard the Shinto temple she lives in with her grandfather. They’re not on a humorous level like Luna; they’re more noble and mysterious. The anime doesn’t do them justice and their manga story ends tragically. Actually, pretty much all of the story does once you hit Stars. ^^;

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Chibichibi

Chibichibi might have annoyed me when I first met her watching the anime, but after reading the manga, I learned so much about her character. Her backstory and place in the manga is different from the anime that I first encountered. I’m not sure if I’d quite call it more hopeful, but her anime identity, which is revealed to be the Star Seed of Sailor Galaxia, is in keeping with the feel of the past seasons of Sailor Moon. The time travel and hopelessness of Sailor Cosmos, her true identity in the manga, reminded me of Chibiusa’s own time travel ordeal earlier in the manga. The callbacks involved with Chibichibi’s story to traditional Sailor Moon story lines and feelings made this ending story arc feel, sad as it was, like it was true to what the series was.

 

 

 

Who are some of your favorite side characters? These characters are the support structures of our favorite stories, after all! Please share your favorite with me in the comment section down below.

 

 

 

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Review: The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories

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Stories by: Mahvesh Murad (Editor), Jared Shurin (Editor), Neil Gaiman, Amal El-Mohtar, Catherine King, Claire North, Hermes, Jamal Mahjoub, James Smythe, JY Yang, Kamila Shamsie, Kirsty Logan, K.J. Parker, Kuzhali Manickavel, Maria Dahvana Headley, Monica Byrne, Nnedi Okorafor, Sami Shah, Saad Hossain, Sophia Al-Maria, Usman Malik, E.J. Swift, Helene Wecker

Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Goodreads

Published: 14 March 2017

Publisher: Solaris

Category: Short Stories/Fantasy

A fascinating collection of new and classic tales of the fearsome Djinn, from bestselling, award-winning and breakthrough international writers.

Imagine a world filled with fierce, fiery beings, hiding in our shadows, in our dreams, under our skins. Eavesdropping and exploring; savaging our bodies, saving our souls. They are monsters, saviours, victims, childhood friends.

Some have called them genies: these are the Djinn. And they are everywhere. On street corners, behind the wheel of a taxi, in the chorus, between the pages of books. Every language has a word for them. Every culture knows their traditions. Every religion, every history has them hiding in their dark places. There is no part of the world that does not know them.

They are the Djinn. They are among us.

With stories from: Nnedi Okorafor, Neil Gaiman, Helene Wecker, Amal El-Mohtar, Catherine King, Claire North,  E.J. Swift, Hermes (trans. Robin Moger), Jamal Mahjoub, James Smythe, J.Y. Yang, Kamila Shamsie, Kirsty Logan, K.J. Parker, Kuzhali Manickavel, Maria Dahvana Headley, Monica Byrne, Saad Hossein, Sami Shah, Sophia Al-Maria and Usman Malik.

Rating: 4 Stars

I initially requested this book because I saw it included stories by Neil Gaiman and Maria Dahvana Headley, but once I started reading it I realized there were so many more stories in it that I would come to treasure.

Some of the stories were pleasant to read in my own time, such as The Congregation by Kamila Shamsie, but others felt like they would be better read aloud. Hurrem and the Djinn by Claire North had that precise feel, that of a story being told to me as opposed to one that I was reading. While reading it I felt like I was tripping over some of the sentences, but if I took a moment and read the sentence aloud to someone next to me, the words flowed more easily, sounded more like a fantastical tale that could be passed down or along.

My favorite by far was Reap by Sami Shah. It flew in the face of any expectation or portrayal of djinn I’d ever seen before and was very intense. I was afraid, nervous, and a great many things. @Aimalfarooq on Twitter warned me not to read it at night and did I listen? Nope! Haha, while I don’t regret reading it, I might suggest that if you have a tendency to be nervous in the dark, maybe leave this one for the daytime. Trust me.

This was a great collection of shorts stories. With so many of them, the amount of ones I liked to ones I didn’t care for as much was far higher than I expected. With collections like this with so many authors, it’s hard to tell sometimes how it will go quality wise because there are different factors to take into account, such style, voice and the like.

Would I recommend this collection? Very much Yes!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

The Last Star Release Day Blitz

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If you’re like me and prefer to have all your books in the same format, then today is a great day to be a fan of Rick Yancey’s Fifth Wave series. I came into this series late and was given the first book as a gift in paperback. Ever since I’ve been waiting for the following books to release and now it’s time for The Last Star!

A fascinating series about a race of aliens called The Others, the 5th Wave series is about the waves of an alien invasion of Earth, each killing more of Earth’s population of humans. Beginning in book one, The 5th Wave, we join main character Cassie Sullivan and other young survivors of the first four waves as they attempt to survive the Others, who are working toward complete human extinction.

The final volume, out today in paperback, is wrapping up the final story and answering the question about what’s more important: Earth’s survivors “saving themselves…or saving what makes us human.”

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The enemy is Other. The enemy is us.

They’re down here, they’re up there, they’re nowhere. They want the Earth, they want us to have it. They came to wipe us out, they came to save us.

But beneath these riddles lies one truth: Cassie has been betrayed. So has Ringer. Zombie. Nugget. And all 7.5 billion people who used to live on our planet. Betrayed first by the Others, and now by ourselves.

In these last days, Earth’s remaining survivors will need to decide what’s more important: saving themselves…or saving what makes us human.

As a special treat to celebrate the release of the paperback edition of The Last Star, there’s a giveaway for anyone who’s a fan, who might be a fan, or anyone who needs to be a fan. Check out the Rafflecopter below for entry details.

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Enter for a chance to be one (1) grand prize winner and receive a set of The 5th Wave Collection in paperback, including The 5th Wave, The Infinite Sea, and The Last Star (ARV: $32.97), or to be one (1) of five (5) second place winners to receive The 5th Wave in paperback (ARV: $10.99 each).
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on May 23, 2017 and 12:00 AM on May 30, 2017.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about June 2, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

About the Author

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Rick Yancey (www.rickyancey.com) is the author of the New York Times bestseller The 5th WaveThe Infinite SeaThe Last Star, several adult novels, and the memoir Confessions of a Tax Collector. His first young-adult novel, The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp, was a finalist for the Carnegie Medal. In 2010, his novel, The Monstrumologist, received a Michael L. Printz Honor, and the sequel, The Curse of the Wendigo, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. When he isn’t writing or thinking about writing or traveling the country talking about writing, Rick is hanging out with his family.

 

 

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Review: Hit the Ground Running by Mark Burley

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Author’s Website  –  Goodreads

Published: 25 April 2017

Publisher: Blue Moon Publishers

Category: Fiction/Adventure/Action

“Eric—Mom and Dad are gone. I don’t know what happened, but I’m going to find out.”

Eric might not be getting along with his family—or anyone else, for that matter—but he’s pretty sure a boarding school in another country isn’t the answer. Skilled in parkour, running helps him deal. So be it, he decides. Do the time and get out. Flow like water. But when he gets a cryptic message from his brother telling him their parents have been abducted, and then his brother disappears, he realises they weren’t punishing him, they were hiding him. To find them, Eric has to discover the secrets of his parents’ research, but the conspiracy he uncovers threatens more than just his family. With help from unlikely new friends, a hack-first-ask-questions-later approach to computers, and a dangerous plan, he soon learns that some secrets don’t want to be found, and others have a way of revealing themselves at all the wrong times.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

The summary for this book sounds the basis for an exciting new movie or, at the very least, a television series. Eric, the main character, finds out that his family is missing under mysterious circumstances. Not only that, but he receives a video from his brother warning him against coming home and, not only that, but the video also shows his brother is in danger. What comes next? An international journey to discover where his family is, what they’re involved with, and what he can do about it with the support of a few classmates.

Reading the passages when Eric engages in parkour practice (is that the term?) was interesting. It was a combination action/art scene because while there was a lot going on (jumping, spinning, kicking off of rocks and walls), there was also the beauty to it that Eric espoused. It cleared his mind and gave him the ability to think. It was a unique skill for a novel character, at least for my part.

Having seen parkour on television and YouTube, I wondered if Hit the Ground Running would make a good web series. It certainly had the feel: mystery, action, family secrets, etc.

My favorite characters were Seth and Lakey, the twins that helped Eric clean up and learn more about the video that alerted him to his family’s trouble. They’re intense adrenaline junkies that also have a head for hacking and reminding me a little of Fitz & Simmons from Agents of Shield.

With really good characters to pull it along, I didn’t mind as much that the writing wasn’t as exciting as I would have liked for what felt like an action-adventure book. It took me awhile to really get into the story because there were just big portions where I could feel myself getting bored stiff, but I pressed on because I needed to know what happened to these people next.

The ending was a real cliffhanger (no pun intended toward Eric). I almost forgot this was a trilogy, but as the book was nearing 100% on my Kindle I realized that not everything would be solved, not everyone would be saved. The leaving off point makes me very anxious to get to the next book because we are left with two characters being introduced to a potential new baddie and it’s one that’s quite high in a particular society. Who will it turn out to be? Truly bad or someone that will ultimately help? Things could go either way and if you want to read the firsts step of the journey, you should pick up Hit the Ground Running and see for yourself.

It is well worth a try, especially if you like hackers, mystery, and if you’ve ever thought parkour looked cool.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: The Dining Car by Eric Peterson

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Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Goodreads

Published: 1 November 2016

Publisher: Huckleberry House

Category: Fiction

In his second novel, author Eric Peterson dishes up a riotous spectacle of self-absorbed chefs, backstabbing politicians, and devious publishing magnates, set against a backdrop of haute cuisine, presidential politics, and an endless supply of top-shelf liquor and wine.

Fresh from a public humiliation and in search of his true calling, former college football star Jack Marshall enlists as bartender and steward aboard Horace Button’s vintage private railroad car, the Pioneer Mother, which is transporting the legendary food writer and social critic across the country in opulent style.

Decked out in a white jacket, mixing perfect cocktails, Jack is immersed in a style of living — and dining — he’d assumed was extinct. While striving to appease the eccentric, finicky Horace, and Wanda, the Pioneer Mother’s enigmatic chef, Jack falls under the spell of Giselle Lebeau, a gorgeous celebrity chef whose designs on him test his self-control amd his loyalty.

But when tragedy rocks Horace’s insulated white-linen world, Jack must take charge of a simmering stew of quirky yet powerful personalities — all while staying in Wanda’s good graces and keeping an eye on their newest passenger.

A story of service, serendipity, and second chances, The Dining Car is.more than a mouthwatering read — it’s a marvelous, exuberant work of fiction.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Food Network is one of my favorite channels on television. Food competitions and food history shows are very entertaining for me. So, in the last couple of months, I’ve been reading more food related books, whether they are recipe books, restaurant recommendation guides, or fictional books about bartenders aboard trains, pouring drinks for an esteemed food writer, as it the case in The Dining Car.

The great thing about this book was the way the author talked about the liquor and the food. He was very descriptive, but not in a way that made it feel like I was reading a catalog. It was easy to see the bar in the opening scenes at Biscuit Shooters/Mount Hollow and the spreads that Jack, the main character and bartender, witnessed aboard Horace’s train, the Pioneer Mother. Wanda, the chef on the train and creator of all the delicious food Horace consumed, was an amazing source of knowledge that Jack did not possess upon taking up this job. She knew everything from the proper place setting to all of Horace’s personal idiosyncrasies and handled them with more grace than I can imagine in such small quarters.

These scenes were the best part, but the connecting passages were somewhat duller and made the book drag rather more than I would have liked. It made reading it an unenjoyable challenge. Some of the characters alleviated this somewhat, particularly Wanda. My first impression of her was a no-nonsense woman who is used to an unorthodox work environment and the insanity that goes along with it. Horace, while an eccentric grandfather type, came across as annoying in his magazine articles. Peppered throughout the book, they were filled with excessively long and complicated words, as though he (or the author of this book) used a thesaurus while writing them. Jack, the main character, was alright, but I never really felt anything for him beyond seeing him as a vehicle to meet all these other people and witness all these other events.

On the plus side, I think that readers will see an elegant side of dining and, at times, humorous moments, such as when Horace punches a Senator or some of his other comments and drunken escapades. On the negative, you’ll have to wade through some rather dry passages, which I’d like to chewing on a tough steak that Wanda would never have let get to her table in the first place, all while Jack let’s your wine glass sit empty.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn

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Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Goodreads

Published: 11 April 2017

Publisher: Simon Schuster

Category: Non-fiction/True Crime

By the New York Times bestselling author of Manson, the comprehensive, authoritative, and tragic story of preacher Jim Jones, who was responsible for the Jonestown Massacre—the largest murder-suicide in American history.

In the 1950s, a young Indianapolis minister named Jim Jones preached a curious blend of the gospel and Marxism. His congregation was racially integrated, and he was a much-lauded leader in the contemporary civil rights movement. Eventually, Jones moved his church, Peoples Temple, to northern California. He became involved in electoral politics, and soon was a prominent Bay Area leader.

In this riveting narrative, Jeff Guinn examines Jones’s life, from his extramarital affairs, drug use, and fraudulent faith healing to the fraught decision to move almost a thousand of his followers to a settlement in the jungles of Guyana in South America. Guinn provides stunning new details of the events leading to the fatal day in November, 1978 when more than nine hundred people died—including almost three hundred infants and children—after being ordered to swallow a cyanide-laced drink.

Guinn examined thousands of pages of FBI files on the case, including material released during the course of his research. He traveled to Jones’s Indiana hometown, where he spoke to people never previously interviewed, and uncovered fresh information from Jonestown survivors. He even visited the Jonestown site with the same pilot who flew there the day that Congressman Leo Ryan was murdered on Jones’s orders. The Road to Jonestown is the definitive book about Jim Jones and the events that led to the tragedy at Jonestown.

Rating: 4 Stars

No one going into this book should expect a happy ending, or a happy story. It is, after all, the story of Jim Jones, the man behind the mass murder/suicide that inspired the saying “drinking the Kool-Aid” (a misnomer, as the drink was actually Flavor Aid).

Knowing this, I had to admire author Jeff Guin for his ability to complete this book. The sheer amount of research he did for this book was enormous. Being touted as the book on the Jonestown Massacre, being entrenched in this kind of information for months if not years on end is no mean feat.

The story begins with the discovery of the bodies at the site of the massacre, located along the border of Venezuela and Guyana, by members of the Guyana Defense Force and the National Service. The tone of the book is dire, as expected, and the writing is somewhat dry, heavy with a lot of military and political details as various groups attempt to uncover what is going on at the site of Jim Jones’s self named camp, Jonestown.

The narrative then backtracks in history to the early twentieth century and the early days of Jones’s mother: her murky origins, her lofty ambitions, and her personal interactions as she tried to make something of her life and that of the child a dream had told her would be a great person.

This history, while it might seem extraneous when you consider what that Jim Jones is most well known for his actions as an adult, is fascinating because is shows another side to this person. For example, as a child he was odd but friendly, particularly with a neighbor, Myrtle Kennedy. He even kept in touch with her throughout his life, though his communications were not the whole truth of his actions. It’s strange to think that someone that can inspire such tragic events as the Jonestown Massacre can show kindness to people, especially someone from his childhood that, really, he needn’t have kept in touch with if he didn’t care to.

An exhaustive work on quite the grim subject, Jeff Guinn has written a text that is unlikely to be surpassed in its depth of knowledge, its commitment. You’re likely to know about the end of the story, but in order to understand how it was possible to happen, pick up The Road to Jonestown and take a step back in time to see where Jim Jones, head of the Peoples Temple and mass murderer, originated.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.