The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

by Kim Michele Richardson

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Overview

"...a hauntingly atmospheric love letter to the first mobile library in Kentucky and the fierce, brave packhorse librarians who wove their way from shack to shack dispensing literacy, hope, and — just as importantly — a compassionate human connection."—Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants

The hardscrabble folks of Troublesome Creek have to scrap for everything—everything except books, that is. Thanks to Roosevelt's Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, Troublesome's got its very own traveling librarian, Cussy Mary Carter.

Cussy's not only a book woman, however, she's also the last of her kind, her skin a shade of blue unlike most anyone else. Not everyone is keen on Cussy's family or the Library Project, and a Blue is often blamed for any whiff of trouble. If Cussy wants to bring the joy of books to the hill folks, she's going to have to confront prejudice as old as the Appalachias and suspicion as deep as the holler.

Inspired by the true blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service of the 1930s, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere—even back home.

Additional Praise for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek:
"A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word."—Kirkus
"A timeless and significant tale about poverty, intolerance and how books can bring hope and light to even the darkest pocket of history."—Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of Liar Temptress Soldier Spy
"Emotionally resonant and unforgettable, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a lush love letter to the redemptive power of books."—Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Almost Sisters

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781492671534
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 05/07/2019
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 8,858
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Kim Michele Richardson was born in Kentucky and resides part-time in Western North Carolina. Her work includes Liar's Bench, GodPretty in the Tobacco Field and The Sisters of Glass Ferry. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is her fourth novel.

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The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
Tangen 4 months ago
horror, Appalachia, prejudice, starvation, love, historical-research, historical-places-events, historical-fiction, libraries, ***** Cussy Mary Bluet is fiction. The horrors of starvation, prejudice against both blue and black skin colors, and coal mining are real. Also real is the recessant gene for methemogobinemia with the dubious studies and treatment of the 1930s, the pride and perseverance of the people of Appalachia, and the WPA Pack Horse Project librarians including the kindness of those who donated reading materials. The story itself is of one Book Woman who suffered from a misunderstood trait, the debilitating prejudices of those around her, and the soul deep sadness that comes from being helpless to improve the dire living conditions of others. Despite all, the end of this book is uplifting. I requested and received a free ebook copy from Sourcebooks Landmark via NetGalley. Thank you!
Kelsey Bickmore 10 hours ago
This was a really fascinating story! Even though it is historical fiction, I learned a lot that I had never known, like the blue people of Kentucky. This book had me going and looking up more information about them as I read the book and afterwords. I really liked traveling along with Cussy as she rode Junia, as a Book Woman of the Pack Horse Library. Reading it in the modern times, it was hard to get through the prejudice that some of the characters had for Cussy, and other people of color, be they blue or another shade. Cussy is a wonderfully strong woman during all the trials she had in her life and she showed great kindness through them all too. This is a great book to read and a good jumping off point to get to reading more about the blue people and the awesome Pack Horse Library and Book Women and Men.
Bookdeedoo 9 days ago
Oh this book! It just got me in all the right places! I really struggled to put this down at all -- I wanted to read straight through to see what was going to happen next for Cussy Mary. In this book, Author Kim Michele Richardson paints the most exquisitely detailed picture of what life would have been like during the depression in the Kentucky hills. I did not love the last 10% or so of the story so that takes a tiny bit off my final score, but I still strongly recommend this read -- it was fascinating and equal parts uplifting and heartbreaking. 4.5 stars rounded up to 5 for this one. Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for providing me with a DRC of this book.
trutexan 11 days ago
This one is definitely making my list of favorites for this year! I had no idea about the Fugates of Kentucky or the Pack Horse Librarians. I love it when reading opens my eyes to new information. Kentucky is a state that has had its share of struggles and the author presents readers with life in Appalachia during the years of some of the most desperate times for the folks living in the hills. Set during the depression years, Cussy Mary’s father is a miner who is suffering from black lung. The conditions in the mines were awful and it created quite a bit of conflict in the mining communities. In addition to that, people were without jobs due to the depression, causing many families to go hungry. Cussy Mary was fortunate to have her job as a Pack Horse Librarian. She loved her job and had a caring way with the people on her route. Yet, she was an outcast in the community because of a genetic condition that turned her skin blue. The hill folks on her route didn’t seem bothered by her color. They loved to see her coming with some new books and often gave her small gifts or mementos. I enjoyed following along as she delivered books on her route, interacted with the people along the way and nurtured her relationships with those she loved and cared about. She had a very hard life, but a joyful, giving soul in spite of it. I think the author did a wonderful job in presenting the story and look forward to reading more of her work. I think all book lovers will enjoy reading this one. It’s full of interesting Kentucky history which will appeal to historical fiction and history readers as well. Many thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for allowing me to read an advance copy and give my honest review.
Anonymous 20 days ago
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is an example of historical fiction that draws you in to the era and location. Cussy is one of the blue-skinned people of Kentucky - a group of people that were viewed with mistrust. She obtains a job with the WPA Pack Horse Library project, to bring literacy to those in Appalachian Kentucky. She develops trust with her clients and brings what she can for the impoverished residents. Cussy struggles with being 'colored' and with the horrors she sees, yet realizes her inner strength to maintain her self-esteem and help others as best she can. The writing was excellent and makes me what to read other historical novels from Kim Michele Richardson. I highly recommend this book and it would be a great book club selection.
FrancescaFB 22 days ago
bamcooks 23 days ago
*4.5 stars rounded up Set in 1936 in the hollers and hills of Kentucky, this is a heart-wrenching novel about poverty, prejudice and the longing for love and acceptance, but most of all, it is about the power of books to set us free. The main character of the story, Cussy Marie Carter, is a traveling librarian with the Pack Horse Library Project, delivering books and other reading material to the folks in the hills. But there's one other interesting thing about Cussy--she's blue-skinned, a congenital disorder virtually unknown outside these hills. In fact, Cussy, also known as Bluet, may be the last of her kind. Her mother has recently died as the story opens, and her father, a coal miner with lung disease, is trying to find a suitor for her so he'll know she'll be taken care of when he is gone. But there's so much prejudice about her skin color that the only taker is a 62-year-old man and he takes her only because some land is offered. Fortunately for Cussy, fate takes a hand on their wedding night. So now she's a widow and back at home, working the job she loves best with the ornery mule she has inherited from her husband. There is so much to love about this story, this character, and the people she meets along the way. But there's sadness too-in the poverty, ignorance, and prejudice she confronts: "Nary a townsfolk, not one God-fearing soul, had welcomed me or mine into town, their churches, or homes in all my nineteen years on this earth. Instead, every hard Kentucky second they'd filled us with an emptiness from their hate and scorn. It was as if Blues weren't allowed to breathe the very same air their loving God had given them, not worthy of the tiniest spoonful He'd given to the smallest forest critter. I was nothing in their world. A nothingness to them." Beautifully written and thought-provoking. Informative too! I had never heard of this disorder before reading the book. I received an arc of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley for my honest review. Many thanks for providing me with a very good read.
Anonymous 27 days ago
One of the things I really love about historical fiction is when an author can take a little-known subject and immerse you in that place and time. This book did that for me and I found myself really connecting to the characters and their 1930's Rural Kentucky hardships. The main character is a 'Book Woman' - a librarian employed via the Pack Horse Library Project who delivers books via packhorse to patrons in Rural Kentucky. I was amazed at what she endured in her level of commitment to deliver books. In addition, she is one of the 'Blue-Skinned People of Kentucky', a person who looks a certain enzyme in their blood which causes their skin to be blue in color which adds to her difficulties. I originally gave this book 4 stars but since finishing the book a few days ago, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it and what an important story it is. It was so well researched and written that I had to come back and give it 5 stars!
justforbooks123 27 days ago
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek was definitely a book unlike anything I have ever read before. Not only had I personally never read a book that takes place in the south during that time, but I've never encountered a character quite like Cussy. While I admit this genre and concept weren't really my cup of tea, I kept reading because of Cussy's character, and I am glad I did. This book was innovative and beautiful. I would definitely read more from the author, and definitely would recommend this book to any fans of historical fiction, as well as anyone looking for something unique and new to read. 4.5/5 Stars
Anonymous 28 days ago
This was the perfect read for February, Library Lover's Month and for that matter anyone who enjoys a story told in an entertaining fashion with bits of historical information, obnoxious haters and kind people who see past the differences in others! Richardson has written a darn good book about the little known Blue People of Kentucky and the Pack Horse Library Project of which, Cussy Mary Carter, one of the last of the Blues, works as a traveling book delivery person in the impoverished hill country communities of Kentucky. Cussy delivers much more than reading material, she reads to those who can not, befriends those without, consoles, educates and acts as liaison passing messages to those in the bigger city and beyond. Yet, despite her community service she, like other persons of color, is ostracized and disrespected. Her dying father hopes to marry her off before he dies but there is little interest for a blue woman. The author, treats Cussy's reality with moving tenderness. This is a story which will stick to me for some time. Thank you NetGalley, Kim Michele Richardson and Sourcebooks Landmark for digital access to the Advanced Readers edition of this impressive novel. Available May 7, 2019.
YayaReadsalot 29 days ago
I received an advanced digital copy of this book from Netgalley.com and the publisher Sourcebooks Landmark. Thanks to both along with Ms. Richardson for the opportunity to read and review. This in no way has affected my review. Cussy Mary is a Kentucky Blue, the last of her kind. She is also a Pack Horse Librarian, travelling dangerous trails and crossing paths with dangerous people to deliver books to the hill folk of the area. Cussy is treated brutally by her neighbors and coworkers for being "colored". She overcomes obstacles to do the job she loves and seevher patrons who love her for coming to them. Historically accurate and well written. This book is set in the past but has a theme that could be included in the current news. Emotional and moving without meladrama, you feel Cussy's trauma and pain. A story of a woman who just wants to belong. Highly recommended.
Debbiesreadingcorner 29 days ago
I really enjoyed this book. The author did a great job telling this story. This can be a hard topic to tell because it is about race. The race is a very uncommon type but does exist. Cussy Mary is what you would call a blue lady. That is her skin has a blue tint to it. The story takes place in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. She is part of the WPA program that FDR started when he became President. This program is called the Pack horse library. What she does is gather up donated books and deliver them to her patrons on horse back or mule. She actually becomes friends with her patrons and everyone is happy to see her. She does have some things happen to her. This story goes into how these blue people are treated almost as bad as the blacks or the poor. When I picked up the book I didn't want to put it down. This is a great story and you should give it a read. I learned somethings that I didn't know. I didn't know all the programs that FDR put into action when he was President to help us get out of the depression and back on our feet. I gave this book 4.5 stars.
MalkaShayna 3 months ago
This was a beautifully written book. I highly recommend it. I won an e-copy of this book from BookishFirst. This is my unbiased and voluntary review. This was an amazing book exploring the little known blue skinned people with congenital methemoglobinemia, who lived in remote Appalachian Kentucky during the Great Depression. Now thought to have immigrated from France and descendants of French Huguenots, they were considered "colored" only worse by the ignorant, and shunned so they were forced to intermarry. The author combines this with The Pack Horse Library Project, begun to provide jobs for women and reading material to the poor and isolated people of eastern Kentucky. The fictional story is about nineteen year old Cussy Mary Carter, also known as Bluet, who lives with her father, a coal miner, who like many of the residents of the area are over worked and underpaid for very dangerous work leading to lung disease. Cussy, applies and gets a job as a librarian, where she is ridiculed and spurned by most of the townspeople of Trouble, Kentucky, but is held in high esteem by her patrons. Her father tried to marry her off, like he promised her mother he would, but she has no interest in these men, who are only after the deed to their property. After one disastrous marriage, her father lets her be, and she devotes and sacrifices herself to help the poverty stricken. But there is one man who sees beyond the color of her skin.
BethMorrissette 3 months ago
I loved this book...what a good read! Lots of emotions experienced throughout the story. God writing, characters I cared about, and a smidge of intriguing history as well. I would have been happy to have purchased it, and it’s going to stay in my collection ion. Full disclosure: I received an Advance Readers Copy in exchange for an honest review.
QuirkyCat 3 months ago
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a brilliant and sometimes heartbreaking read. It probably had so much more impact due to the fact that it’s based on a true story, well, sort of. It’s inspired by real people, and a real career (the book women – librarians who would deliver books to locations too far and small for their own library). Set in 1936, the book follows Cussy Carter, but she’s better known as Bluet. She’s a book woman – meaning that she delivers books to her far neighbors so they can have the opportunity to read (or learn to read, in some cases). She’s also blue. This novel deals with a lot of heavy and emotional subjects. It discusses the need for people to have access to books, the consequences of censorship, and the pain of racism and segregation. All of this while telling a beautiful and ultimately uplifting tale. Warnings: There are a few really rough moments in this novel, along with the overall heavier tones to be told. In the beginning of the novel there’s a scene that questions consent, and it comes alongside abuse. There are other abusive moments during the novel, but most of them are verbal. There are mentions of what can happen to a blue person if they acted out though, and it’s rough. This novel also covers racism and segregation. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek was an absolutely beautiful novel. The overall message of Bluet – her determination to get books to those that have been so overlooked by life is inspiring. Her need to help others, no matter the cost to herself, was touching, as were many other moments and sentiments in this novel. Unfortunately there were a lot of heavy tones in this novel as well. For example, not everyone was as open to the idea of learning to read as others. And even those that were meant to help increase the exposure to reading weren’t above censorship. This novel will start a conversation: the concept of racism and segregation, and the surprise of seeing Bluet included in that treatment. It’s not something I would have ever considered – though it makes a heartbreaking amount of sense when you think about it. I’m so glad to have had it pointed out to me, and in such a well-written manner. There were moments in this novel where my heart absolutely broke for Bluet, her family, and her friends. But there were other moments where she inspired me. And moments that were truly uplifting. The balance was perfect, and did a wonderful job of carrying the overall message of this story.
Lindsey Brown 3 months ago
From the first paragraphs, this title is evocative and transports you to another time and place. It’s rife with folklore, superstition, and old home remedies – balanced with an honest and colourful depiction of a difficult era and landscape. Inspired by the historical and truly remarkable Kentucky Pack Horse library service and gentle-hearted blue-skinned people of Kentucky, Kim Michele Richardson weaves a poignant and heart-wrenching telling of poverty, misogyny, racial prejudice, and poverty. Through it all, books bind humble souls together – feeding the mind when the land won’t yield food and families are dying of starvation. One of the most moving, well-written books I've read in a while.
somi19ad 3 months ago
This book is absolutely AMAZING!! There’s really nothing more that I could say about this book that others haven’t. I grew up in the hollers of KY and I have two children that are descendants of the Fugates. The author has described everything precisely. Even though I moved away from KY many years ago I found myself reading this book with the KY dialect. This book is a must read. I wish I could give it more stars.
lsmoore_43 4 months ago
I enjoyed this book so much. I learned a lot about people who lived in this area during this time. Some of it was not good but some was happy and loving. Cussy Mary had a very hard life yet she dedicated her time to helping others. She loved the people on her route and the children were her world. The love of reading was so prevalent then and Cussy, or Book Woman as some called her, made it her mission to get books to anyone who wanted them. She ran into lots of mean cruel people or people who just did not understand that she was a human just like them. She was not white and she was not black. She was a blue. She was feared because people didn’t understand what exactly caused her to be blue. All she wanted was to be accepted and treated with kindness. He mama had died and it was only her and her dad. He dad worked in the coal mines and was sick from the coal dust and such hard work. He loved his daughter and only wanted what was best for her. He thought the only way to keep her safe was for her to marry and have a man to protect her. This book had a lot of emotion in it. It made me cry, laugh in places, cringe, and cry some more. There were parts that just made my head spin. I don’t understand how some people can be happy at other people’s expense. How can some people be so mean and cruel just because they think they are better than others. There were lots of very nice caring people in this story too. It made me stop and think quite a bit. It touched me in ways that a good book is suppose to. I’ve never been a prejudice person and don’t intend to start being one now. I have always believed we are created equal and this book certainly had people that loved Cussy Mary even though she was different. She was a ray of sunshine who only wanted to be accepted. I didn’t realize this was based on actual events until I read the Author’s notes at the end. It’s such a good story to be written and I feel very fortunate to have read it. Thank you to Kim Michele Richardson for writing this book. It needed to be written. It was a true joy to be given an ARC of this book. It’s my first by this author but won’t be my last. A huge thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks landmark publishing for the ARC in exchange for my complete and honest review. It’s a big 5 stars from me.
AmyGoBucks 4 months ago
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is set in the poverty-stricken hill country of Kentucky during the 1930s. Cussy Mary is a blue-skinned woman, shunned by her community for being "colored." Her salvation comes through becoming a Book Woman, delivering books to folks living in the backwoods. There is a lot to learn about the period and the "blue people," and for that Richardson educates readers well. For some reason, however, the first half of the book is very hard to get through. While the last half finally hooks the reader into the characters' lives, it takes a long while to get there. Also, the ending is a bit too abrupt. We are hit with some hard reality as it plays out in action, and then the conclusion is simply talked about in a letter. We aren't really allowed to feel better about things. While I wanted to love this book, I found it harsh in ways that kept me somewhat distant. It was hard to keep reading all that Cussy Mary and the people of that place/time endured. Maybe that was exactly the point, but unfortunately, it kept me from loving the book.
Sandy5 4 months ago
Nestled in the backwoods of Kentucky, in the year 1936, there was a glow coming from a courting candle which had been burning quite a while. Pa had made a promise to his wife and thus far, no one came forward to make the commitment and douse the flame, claiming their daughter for his wife. Nineteen-year-old Cussy (Bluet) had been harassed and tormented for being “blue” and she knew that her chances for someone courting her were slim-to-none. Being the last of her kin in Kentucky, her skin had the blue color of her ancestors and Bluet now held the position of being the last ‘Blue” female in the state of Kentucky. Pa’s job at the mine held its own uncertainties so to help out, Bluet found herself a job working with the Pack Horse Library Project. With her mule Junia, she traveled the back hills of Kentucky delivering books to folks who looked forward to her visits. These individuals became like a family to her as she stopped each week dropping off a book and checking in on them. The other librarians also became great friends to Bluet as they grew closer each week. I loved the excitement and the love she felt as she traveled to each of her different drop-off sites each week. The days were long but she felt needed, loved and important as she made these trips. To think that she spent all day doing this and then when she returned home, she had to tend to her mule and fix her father supper so he could go to work, made me tired. To travel by mule and not by horse, took even longer but Junia was a special mule and seemed to be able to read Bluet. She had a special friendship with a girl named Queenie and I enjoyed the time they spent together. The novel started out a bit slow for me but then when things picked-up, I couldn’t put it down till I was finished. I enjoyed how Bluet grew as a person and I cringed when her family got involved with the doctor. I was scared and concerned for Bluet as she just wanted to be accepted by everyone but the price to do seemed so costly. It was hard reading the novel as Bluet tried to be brave because as she puts forth her best, it worried me what the outcome might be. I enjoy reading about the Appalachian Mountains and I felt that this novel was a perfect fit for me. It opened my eyes to the library project as I had never heard of it before. I highly recommend this novel. 4.5 stars Thank you to Bookish First for providing a copy to me in exchange for my honest review.
Suzanne Costner 4 months ago
This book will capture your attention, break your heart, have you crying and mad enough to spit all at the same time. Cussy Mary is a "blue," one of a small group of people with a blue tinge to their skin; she even has the nickname "Bluet." She also is one of the Pack Horse Library Project workers. Being a Book Woman is a bit extraordinary, but Cussy Mary enjoys providing books to her patrons scattered up and down the hollers despite the natural hazards as well as the danger from mean-spirited residents who distrust anyone different. As you read, you will see the natural beauty that surrounds the harsh living conditions of the miners and their families. The fact that they are trying to survive the miserable economy of the 1930s makes the outlook even more bleak. Modern readers will be amazed at the home remedies Cussy Mary's neighbors try and the edibles they manage to forage from the woods around them. But the most enjoyable thing to see is Bluet's spirit, her inner strength despite all the sorrows and hardships, and the hope for a better future for her will keep you reading until the last page. If you enjoy historical fiction with resilient heroines, you must read this book.
Suzanne Costner 4 months ago
This book will capture your attention, break your heart, have you crying and mad enough to spit all at the same time. Cussy Mary is a "blue," one of a small group of people with a blue tinge to their skin; she even has the nickname "Bluet." She also is one of the Pack Horse Library Project workers. Being a Book Woman is a bit extraordinary, but Cussy Mary enjoys providing books to her patrons scattered up and down the hollers despite the natural hazards as well as the danger from mean-spirited residents who distrust anyone different. As you read, you will see the natural beauty that surrounds the harsh living conditions of the miners and their families. The fact that they are trying to survive the miserable economy of the 1930s makes the outlook even more bleak. Modern readers will be amazed at the home remedies Cussy Mary's neighbors try and the edibles they manage to forage from the woods around them. But the most enjoyable thing to see is Bluet's spirit, her inner strength despite all the sorrows and hardships, and the hope for a better future for her will keep you reading until the last page. If you enjoy historical fiction with resilient heroines, you must read this book.
Anonymous 4 months ago
I LOVED THIS BOOK! Five stars!! Nicknamed Bluet due to her blue skin, Cussy Mary has been an outcast her whole life. Deep in Kentucky, Blue skinned people are looked down upon as tainted, unholy, second class citizens. Now 19, her coal mining father wants nothing more for her than to settle down with a husband and have a family like a decent woman should but she has found her place - as a Book Woman, riding the trails delivering books to the Hill folk, who can't or won't get an education otherwise. Through the books and magazines she delivers she is making a difference in the lives of her patrons, and they are making a difference in hers, giving her a sense of pride an income, and a community. But not everyone is accepting of her as a Blue, and she is increasingly more threatened by the local Preacher, who is determined to "save" her.
SecondRunReviews 4 months ago
While a bit predictable, I did enjoy reading this novel. The characters were ones you were willing to rally behind and support. I loved learning about this lost bit of American history.
brf1948 4 months ago
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is an excellent historical novel, set in the hills of Kentucky. The setting, the language, the personalities are all evocative of these isolated communities in the mid-1930s, the hardships of the depression and the closing of several coal mines, and the works of the WPA. Cussy Mary Carter is 19 years old in 1936, and a new member of the WPA Pack Horse Librarians. She is one of the gentle Blues, those blue-skinned children of two parents carrying the very rare recessive gene for methemoglobinemia, a blood disorder that limits the uptake of oxygen into red blood cells and results in brown colored blood and blue coloration to the skin. There were actually several families of Blues in this area of Kentucky in this time frame. (See the Fugates family information at Wikipedia.org.) Cussie, called Bluet by everyone but family, is briefly married to an abusive member of the influential and wide-spread Frazier family, a match approved by her father because he feared his black lung would take him and she would be left unprotected, Cussy is freed when Charlie Frazier's heart attack ends his latest abuse. Her inheritance is a mule named Junia who also fears men, and a return to her much loved WPA job lost to her on her marriage. Cussie loves her job, her patrons, her books. She is a strong advocate of education and does her best to spread reading across her hills. But will she ever find happiness? All it would take to make her happy would be a family of her own, a man who could see past the blue of her skin into the warmth of her heart. But that would be impossible, with the built-in prejudice in the Appalachian community that includes Troublesome, Kentucky. I received a free electronic copy of this historical novel from Netgalley, Michele Richardson, and Sourcebooks Landmark. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me. I have read this book of my own volition, and this review is my honest opinion of this work.