Cold Hollow by Emilie J. Howard

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HowardColdHallowWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: J. Scott Bennett

Publisher: Emilie J. Howard (2015)

Length: 5 hours 27 minutes

Author’s Page

Angus Barner is relocating his family to a quaint town, Cold Hollow, in Vermont because he’s been offered a good job there. His wife Sophia has sold her bakery and plans to open a new one. The kids are excited over the adventure. Everything seems peachy until the odd rules of Cold Hollow are enforced. The town is full of odd people who have odd habits. Not all of them are benevolent folk.

The story opens by jumping from one character to the next pretty quickly. Don’t let this throw you off as we will get to know these characters more later in the story. Myrna has an abusive husband, Bob, and she’s just about fed up with him. Meanwhile, a truck driver (Ray) fell asleep at the wheel, causing an accident. Forest Ranger Bullock is meeting out some serious assault on Hugo. All this is going on as the Barners pack up the last of their belongings in Connecticut and head out to Vermont.

Once the Barners arrive in Cold Hollow, the focus shifts to them for the majority of the story. Sophia revels in opening her new bakery. She puts the kids (Liam and Leila) to work part time there and even then needs to hire another hand to keep things going. Myrna becomes an important part of the story as she forms a friendship with Sophia and tries to smooth the way for the Barners in the town.

Mizar is a very shady character. Technically, he is the mayor of the town but pretty much he is a bully with authority backing him up. He checks up on each and every town resident regularly and this is usually to elicit some kind of protection money. He uses Bullock as his muscle, when needed. As he tries to elicit one shady tax after another from the Barners, Sophia starts pushing back. I enjoyed trying to figure out Mizar. At first, I thought he might once have been a kind of good guy that had to instate a kind of martial law and then his ego got too big for his britches and things had just been getting worse since then. That didn’t turn out to be the case, but I definitely enjoyed trying to figure him out.

The Barners are generally good-natured and this gets them into an untenable position. However, they have treated several of the townsfolk with kindness, that few are indifferent to them being bullied. Myrna especially has grown quite found of them all. She knows how the town works and she does her best to smooth things over and/or beat the cranky into submission behind the scenes. Indeed, Myrna’s story arc (from abused house wife to independent bakery assistant) was most interesting. She’s not a goody twoshoes nor does she believe in the absolute right or wrong of an action. She’s really a kind of grey character, committing some actions a person might not agree with but doing so for very good reasons. She quickly became my favorite character.

Meanwhile, we were privy to that serious beat down Hugo took from Ranger Bullock at the beginning of the book. Hugo pops up again later, though he isn’t moving too well. When I started the book, I didn’t know if Hugo deserved the beating or not. It was hard for me to tell who was the bad guy in that situation, even as I disliked Bullock’s obvious enjoyment in his work. Later, it does become clear who is the bad guy between these two and that all ties back to Mizar.

With all these interesting characters running around, the plot thickens. There’s no way to call out of the valley, even with cell phones. Whenever the Barners want to leave on a shopping trip, they have to check in with the local law enforcement. The rules are indeed strange. Then Angus makes a chilling discovery, which is followed by yet another worrisome discovery. The Barners don’t like what they see now that the curtain has been pulled back.

The ending was not what I expected. I really felt for the Barners in that last bit of the book. Myrna steps up and shines as a beacon of righteous payback for all the years of abuse from Mizar. Even as she started making her plans, pulling in allies, and calling in favors, I still wasn’t sure if she would be successful. Indeed, I had my little doubts that all would not end well. The tension in this last 5th or 6th of the book was intense! When all was said and done, I was satisfied with how things turned out. Not everyone gets out alive but many wrongs have been righted. It was a very satisfying book.

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: J. Scott Bennett had to do some New England accents for this story. Most of the time he was great, though sometimes characters would slip out the New England accent (like Sophia). I didn’t really mind this much as each character still had a unique voice. The female voices were believable for the most part – one little old lady sounded like an asthmatic man (but, hey, that might be me in 40 years). I liked his gruff voice for Hugo and his kid voices.

What I Liked: Starts off all happy happy and gets more and more mysterious; Myrna is not your typical heroine and I didn’t even peg her as one until perhaps half-way through the book; the kids work part time; the big reveal about the town and the inhabitants; the last bit of the book was super intense; not everyone makes it out alive; this book made me hungry for pastries.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I thoroughly enjoyed this novel!

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