The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton, Bryan Stevenson, and Lara Love Hardin
Powerful. Heart-wrenching. Inspirational. Anger-inducing. Hopeful. In other words, this is a "do not miss" book to read. Told by an innocent man who spent thirty years on death row in an Alabama state prison, this book will do what Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson did; it will shake you to the core, make you question the idea of 'justice' in America, and give you hope that regardless of what society does to a person, it is still possible to be human. Ray Hinton was a 29 year old man who was just cutting his mom's lawn one day when he was arrested; subsequently convicted by a white prosecutor, white judge, and all white jury, through his words Ray shows us life on death row, the choices he makes to turn from bitterness to compassion, and the incredible help he gets from Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative to fight for his release. It is a rare book that can make one rage one moment, cry the next, and then squeeze one's heart to produce an incredible admiration for one human; The Sun Does Shine is that rarity. It is a perfect choice for a book club, a person interested in social justice, but more importantly, it is the must-read book for someone who thinks they know everything about how justice works in America and is willing to let the blinders be ripped off their eyes.
Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney
Hold onto your black, twisted, psychological thriller hat - this book is a DOOZY! Heck, just look at the title. The main character, Amber, is in a coma, she believes her husband has fallen out of love with her, and yes, sometimes she lies. And that is just the beginning. Told in three different time periods, debut author Feeney does a masterful job of stringing the audience along: Amber's story of "Now," as she experiences her present coma and all the visitors to her hospital room; Amber's story of the previous week prior to her car accident that precipitates the coma; and diaries from a long-ago childhood that tell of a poverty-stricken, loveless, abusive childhood and her best friend. An ex-boyfriend makes an appearance, while the husband and sister play pivotal parts, making one wonder what happened in this 'idyllic' adult life. The red herrings along the roadside are thick and plentiful, and you will find yourself crashing against them throughout the pages of this short, crisp, well-told thriller. I began this book on a Saturday morning, and closed the cover that same night while my husband wondered if my nose was ever going to rise from the pages. It is that kind of book. It will make a reader question the narrator (is she reliable or is she stringing us along?), question the ending (did this really just happen or did I miss something earlier?), and question when the next book by this author is coming out. In other words, this book is a HIT.
The Plea by Steve Cavanagh
This is one of the best legal thrillers I have read since I turned the first page of The Firm by John Grisham. And no, I am not exaggerating; it is seriously that good. Cavanagh, an Irish writer who nails the New York voice of his main character, Eddie Flynn, knows how to fully development all his characters so that one can root, laugh, and worry for them. Eddie is a lawyer on the seamy side of NYC, but really, he's a conman, raised by a father who knew how to run a good grift, but taught Eddie to only run a con on corrupt people who deserve to be cheated, not on good humans who are just trying to survive. Yes, Eddie is that kind of main character; he is corrupt when he needs to be, wily as a fox, loyal to the core, and has a moral center that I wish more people had. Eddie loves his wife, and she is being threatened as this book begins. He must get a young dotcom techie billionaire to plead guilty to murdering his girlfriend in order for Eddie to get his wife out of the trouble she's in. But what happens if Eddie senses that the billionaire is incapable of being a killer? And the chase begins...the chase to the truth, the chase for who the real bad guy is, and the chase for all the pieces in this puzzle to find their place. I could not put this book down; it kept me voraciously turning pages late into the night. I just need this publisher to hurry up and get the subsequent sequels into print here in America.
All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J. Church
The description of this book was a bit deceptive, in my opinion. Touted to be a book about a resilient girl, faced with adversity, who heads to Las Vegas in the 1960's to be a costume-wearing, dripping with jewels and feathers, showgirl, I would say this book is far more about the sexual abuse of a child, in great detail, and her battle against a variety of demons, both exterior and interior, to find some peace. Yes, there's some intriguing scenes that beautifully describe the showgirl lifestyle, the stars of the 60's club scene, and the rampant drugs and free sex of the 60's era. With that said, it is an admirable plot idea, that fell flat for me. Lily (aka Ruby Wilde in Vegas) is fairly likable, but thinly drawn; I did not find myself rooting for her as much as I should have, as I did not have a deep sense of who Lily actually was as a young girl, or as a grown woman. Complexity in characterization all around was lacking for me. And while I understood the focus on physical beauty in the Vegas showgirl life, if I heard one more time that Ruby was devastatingly gorgeous, I was going to yack. Every plot 'twist' was pretty predictable, with very little to keep my interest. I would recommend The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker if you want to read about complex characters dealing with serious child abuse and the heroic avenues a young girl will go to in order to save herself. This one was a miss for me.