Thursday, January 30, 2020

Book Review: Deep State by Chris Hauty

Deep State: A Thriller by [Hauty, Chris]
Hauty, Chris. Deep State. 2020. New York, NY: Emily Bestler Books (Atria), a division of Simon & Schuster

My customers love political and espionage thrillers. Like LOVE them. I have several who read them faster than I can find them to recommend. So, I am always on the lookout for new ones. I had seen Deep State mentioned on the Twitter account "Atria Mystery Bus" (which is a lot of fun to follow, btw, with all his "live mystery unboxing" shenanigans). When I was at Bouchercon in Dallas in November, I was lucky to come across an ARC of this title and snatched it up.

Deep State is a debut from Chris Hauty, a screenwriter who has worked at all the major movie studios in nearly every genre of film. You would expect someone like that to be able to set a scene and keep the pace moving, and boy, does he. This is a very good debut, with few narrative issues you sometimes encounter with first time authors.

And there are a couple of twists I did not see coming AT ALL, which always pleases me to no end. As an avid reader, I am not often so surprised.

The main character, Hayley Chill ("cool" name!) escaped a tough upbringing in West Virginia by joining the army. When she leaves the military, she winds up as an intern at the White House, working for the Chief of Staff of the current administration. Older, and more mature, than the other interns, she quickly makes a good impression on those in power around her, including the president.

When Hayley discovers the Chief of Staff dead, apparently of a heart attack, only she suspects foul play. Not used to trusting anyone, she keeps the information to herself for a while. And she is proven correct in her reticence when she comes under attack for nosing around the case. With multiple twists that made me say "what?" and enough pace to keep me turning the pages, I ended the book hoping I would see more of Hayley Chill in the future.

If you squint, you will certainly see similarities to the current political realm of the U.S., but the author does a good job of changing characters enough to keep it interesting and not beating the reader over the head with his own ideology, whatever that may be. This is one thing I have to watch out for, because I do not usually know the political inclinations of my customers. The best political thrillers, in my opinion, manage to tell an exciting, page-turning story without preaching. And I believe Chris Hauty has accomplished this.

Deep State is the first book I finished this year, and I have already recommended it to several of my customers. Which makes them happy. And that makes me happy. More like this, please!

Audiobook Recommendations from Librarians, Authors, and Other Bibliophiles on Twitter

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I have a 30 minute, twice daily commute to work at the library, and have had some trouble finding an audiobook that has staying power for me recently. Earlier this week I posed the question on Twitter, "What's your favorite audiobook lately," and I got some great feedback. Without further words (because I always use twice as many as I need to) here is a list of audiobooks suggestions for your consideration (apologies in advance if I left some out or misspelled some things):

Adult Fiction:

Lincoln in the Bardo - George Saunders
Murmur of Bees - Sofia Segovia
Such a Fun Age - Kiley Reid
Long Bright River - Liz Moore
Library of Lost and Found - Phaedra Patrick
The Secrets of Wishtide - Kate Saunders
A Man Called Ove - Fredrik Backman 
Nothing to See here - Kevin Wilson
All the Lost Things - Michelle Sacks
Sunburn - Laura Lippman
The Little Shop of Found Things - Paula Brackston
My Sister the Serial Killer - Oyinkan Braithwaite
The Light We Lost - Jill Santopolo 
The Good Girl - Mary Kubica
Rabbits for Food - Binnie Kirshenbaum

Science Fiction/Fantasy:

Ten Thousand Doors of January - Alix E. Harrow
The Poppy War - R.F. Kuang
Night Circus - Erin Morganstern


The Pink Carnation series - Lauren Willig
Harry Dresden - Jim Butcher
Amelia Peabody - Elizabeth Peters
Parasol Protectorate - Gail Carriger
The Emerald Atlas - John Stephens


Born a Crime - Trevor Noah
The Sun Does Shine - Anthony Ray Hinton
Talking to Strangers - Malcolm Gladwell
Bad Blood - John Carreyrou
Catch and Kill - Ronan Farrow
The Trial of Lizzie Borden - Cara Robertson
Just Kids - Patti Smith
Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman
Making Toast - Roger Rosenblatt


Scythe - Neal Shusterman
Truly Devious series by Maureen Johnson

Happy Listening!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Book Review ~ ALL IN by L.K. Simonds ~ Lone Star Literary Book Blog Tour

L.K. Simonds
Genre: Gritty Realistic / Christian Fiction
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Date of Publication: August 27, 2019
Number of Pages: 282
Scroll down for the giveaway!
A woman’s empty pursuit of happiness leads to a crisis before finding redemption in the Lord in this challenging and gritty Christian novel. Twenty-nine-year-old novelist and blackjack dealer Cami Taylor seems to have it all—but just underneath her confident exterior and newfound celebrity is a young woman in trouble. Cami’s boyfriend, Joel, wants to get married, buy a house on Long Island, and raise a family—a life that’s a million miles from Cami’s idea of happiness. Her therapist suggests compromise and trust, but Cami would rather bolt like a deer. Breaking things off with Joel, Cami launches herself on a new quest for happiness. But her pursuit of pleasure only takes her further from herself—and toward a harrowing new reality unlike anything she’s faced before. What follows for Cami is a fight to the death that can only be waged with God’s love.


I buy all the Fiction and Romance titles for the library system where I work, including Christian Fiction ("CF"). CF readers know to expect certain things from that genre: character-driven, faith based to some degree, with no profanity, graphic violence or sex contained therein. These stories are sometimes referred to as "gentle reads."

All In by L.K. Simonds is classified as Christian Fiction, but it does not fall within the expectations of the genre. As long as readers know that going into this well-written and engaging novel, there shouldn't be too much of a shock to the system. The author's beliefs about the way God lives and moves in our world today are different in some ways from my own; so other than an ending that was not quite what I was expecting, I enjoyed watching a character struggle with life in this often inexplicable world and find some hope and redemption in the end.

Cami Taylor is an author living in New York City who has recently published a very successful debut novel. She is living the dream: has a nice apartment, a loving boyfriend, and is close to finishing a second book. All that starts to fall apart when her boyfriend pushes her for a commitment, and she realizes she doesn't want the same life he has imagined for them together. He accuses her of being closed off and removed in their relationship and encourages her to see a therapist to try to figure out some of her "issues." She doesn't appreciate that (who would?) but goes anyway.

The scenes with the therapist are very realistic based on my own experiences, and we get to know a little more about Cami through them. She was an afterthought in her parent's life, wasn't nurtured by them, and spent a lot of time alone as a child. She learned early on not to depend on anyone and to seek satisfaction in her life on her own terms. She has had many lovers, casual one night stands, and her moral compass is far from what one usually sees in this genre. 

The unexpected sex scenes are tastefully written; but more importantly we begin to see the negative effects Cami's lifestyle is having on her, both physically and mentally. When she receives a shocking diagnosis, she escapes to Texas to stay with a recently discovered distant relative who is a evangelical Christian. Through her interactions with multiple characters in the second half of the book, Cami begins to evaluate some of the mistakes of her past and decides she wants a different life for herself.

There are a few places in the book that I did find unrealistic, but I cannot go into details without spoiling the story for future readers. And, as a Christian myself, I do have some different beliefs about how God interacts with his creation in our contemporary world. Because of that, the ending was not as satisfying to me as the first part of the book.

What kept resonating with me, though, is this: life is messy; we can be very selfish; we make mistakes, daily, and are not always sorry for them. Yet, God loves us in spite of ourselves and created a way of redemption for us all. Cami Taylor personifies this messy life her behavior and thoughts, and I cared for her as a character because she is very human, as we all are. Some CF readers might not enjoy this book for the reasons I mentioned at the beginning of this review. But I am glad I got to witness Cami's journey as, in the end, she went All In.

L. K. Simonds is a Fort Worth local. She has worked as a waitress, KFC hostess, telephone marketer, assembly-line worker, nanny, hospital lab technician, and air traffic controller. She's an instrument-rated pilot and an alumna of Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas. All In is her first novel.
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ONE WINNER Autographed, library-bound copy of All In + $50 Visa gift card
JANUARY 14-24, 2020
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