abuse · black literature · book review · books · contemporary fiction · diversity · Family · Historical fiction · love · own voices review · reading

Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Following the fate of one family over the course of two decades in Nigeria, this debut novel tells the story of each sibling’s search for agency, love, and meaning in a society rife with hypocrisy but also endless life

“I like the idea of a god who knows what it’s like to be a twin. To have no memory of ever being alone.”

Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike are enjoying a relatively comfortable life in Lagos in 1996. Then their mother loses her job due to political strife, and the family, facing poverty, becomes drawn into the New Church, an institution led by a charismatic pastor who is not shy about worshipping earthly wealth. 

Soon Bibike and Ariyike’s father wagers the family home on a “sure bet” that evaporates like smoke. As their parents’ marriage collapses in the aftermath of this gamble, the twin sisters and their two younger siblings, Andrew and Peter, are thrust into the reluctant care of their traditional Yoruba grandmother. Inseparable while they had their parents to care for them, the twins’ paths diverge once the household shatters. Each girl is left to locate, guard, and hone her own fragile source of power. 

Written with astonishing intimacy and wry attention to the fickleness of fate, Tola Rotimi Abraham’s Black Sunday takes us into the chaotic heart of family life, tracing a line from the euphoria of kinship to the devastation of estrangement. In the process, it joyfully tells a tale of grace and connection in the midst of daily oppression and the constant incursions of an unremitting patriarchy. This is a novel about two young women slowly finding, over twenty years, in a place rife with hypocrisy but also endless life and love, their own distinct methods of resistance and paths to independence.

Review:

What an intense and heart-wrenching story that follows four children, Bibike and Ariyike(who are twins) and their younger brothers, Andrew and Peter. You follow them throughout their childhood and into adulthood after both their parents abandon them. Their father makes a very bad business decision and their mother is jobless and fed up. They are then dumped at their grandmother’s house and basically left to raise themselves. The story is told thru each of their points of view. Although they all experienced the same heartbreak, they each cope with it differently.

I love the underlying theme of religion that is present in the story. Each child has a different view of religion and life in general. There is no real stability or guidance in their lives as they grow up and are left to learn about so many important milestones in life by ways of their own actions and decisions and the actions of others.

Tola tells this story in such a lyrical way that is both enchanting and raw. She doesn’t hold anything back with her characters and their choices.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

A special thank you to Catapult books for my free copy in exchange for an honest review.
books

Book-shaming

Book-shaming 

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with having your own opinions about reading, but you should never make someone feel like they are inferior because of their reading. I have been sitting on this topic for a couple of months now, going over how I wanted to present it. Thinking about what my other booklovers would think or how they would feel. I finally felt it was time to put my thoughts to words.

What is book-shaming?

Book-shaming is what I like to call a literary form of bullying. Thinking what or how you’re reading is more important over what or how someone else is reading. Making someone feel inferior about their reading life, whether it’s the quantity or quality of books. It can be blatant and direct or passive. Some try to disguise it as having “good” book tastes. Book-shaming in its worse form is the passive-aggressive, “Yay, you’re reading, but you’re reading trash.”

Who is a book-shamer?

 Have you ever uttered or thought the statement, “I can’t believe you’re reading that” or “That’s not really reading” and of course “those aren’t even real books?” If so, that is book-shaming. I’m sure we have all been guilty of it a time or two. The important thing is to recognize the toxic behavior and work on correcting it. Being a reader is hard enough as it is, but to be shamed about what you’re reading by people who enjoy the hobby as much as you is even worse.

Why are people book-shaming?

People book-shame because they either really believe that what they are reading or how they are reading is more important, superior, or relevant than others. People book-shame if they feel as if someone isn’t reading more books that are deemed culturally appropriate or important. People also book-shame to make themselves feel important and validated. Maybe they are doing it to disguise their own flawed reading lives, using it as a form of overcompensating. And some people don’t even realize that they are book-shaming others.

 

In closing, I hope that everyone can take something from this. If you know you are a book-shamer or know someone who is, don’t be afraid to say something to them. If you have been book-shamed, do not allow others to make you feel as if what you choose to read is inferrior or invalid. Yes, I do believe we should all try to expand our reading lives, but we shouldn’t be shamed into do so.

 

book review · books · Family · Historical fiction · love · reading · secrets

Light Changes Everything by Nancy E. Turner {ARC Review}

Blurb:

It’s the summer of 1907 and the sun is scorching down on Mary Pearl in the Arizona Territory. Mary Pearl and her sister Esther take their minds off the heat by sneaking banned Jane Austen novels from Aunt Sarah Elliot’s lively bookshelf. Whispered read alouds preoccupy their nights, and reveries of getting hitched to their own Mr. Darcy à la Pride and Prejudice swirl through their day dreams.

In walks old-fashioned old-money suitor Aubrey Hanna, here to whisk seventeen year old Mary Pearl off her feet with a forbidden kiss and hasty engagement. With the promise of high society outings and a rich estate, Aubrey’s lustful courtship quickly creates petty tension among the three generations of Prine women.

As autumn approaches all too quickly, Mary Pearl’s Wheaton College acceptance counters quick marriage preparations. Days of travel by horse and by train carry her deep into a sophisticated new world of Northern girls’ schooling. Seeking friendship but finding foes, Mary Pearl not only learns how to write, read, and draw, but also how to act, dress, and be a woman.

Light Changes Everything is the story of a resilient young feminist a century ahead of her time.

Review:

I didn’t expect this book to have such an impact on me. I had to sit a few minutes after I finished to gather my thoughts. Such a beautifully written story. The story is built around books, art, and family. I love that it was a non World War 2 historical fiction that I enjoyed reading. The story takes place in Arizona when it was still a territory.

Mary Pearl is a young woman living in a family who is proud but has its expectations of its members. Everyone has their place. Mary Pearl has been accepted to go to college in Illinois. Her mother does not want her to go and is too excited when Mary Pearl is unexpectedly courted and engaged to Aubrey right before she is set to leave.

Mary Pearl having a mind of her own but still loving her family, makes the decision to go to college. Once she is there, she quickly realizes just how different she is from the other students and how different life is going to be before her. She doesn’t make friends at first and throws herself into her studies.

What I loved about her character is that she didn’t allow other people to determine what she wanted to do. She didn’t seek anyone else’s acceptance, yet she did what she needed to do in order to show her family she still loved them and they still had her loyalty.

When Mary Pearl returns home and finds herself in a not so favorable situation, she has to make the decision to push forward or let life take her down. Mary Pearl decided to push forward. She didn’t let her situation stop her from pursuing her education which was turning out to be a bit more difficult than she expected and it didn’t stop her from being there for her family when they needed her the most.

Mary Pearl’s gumption and determination propels her thru all her obstacles. She learns so many valuable lessons that she incorporates into her life without losing herself.

This book makes me want to read some of the author’s other work.

 

Rating:

4 stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

 

A special thank you to St. Martin’s Press for my review copy in exchange for an honest review.

book review · books · Family · Historical fiction · love · reading · World War 2

All the Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White {ARC Review}

Blurb:

France, 1914. As war breaks out, Aurelie becomes trapped on the wrong side of the front with her father, Comte Sigismund de Courcelles. When the Germans move into their family’s ancestral estate, using it as their headquarters, Aurelie discovers she knows the German Major’s aide de camp, Maximilian Von Sternburg. She and the dashing young officer first met during Aurelie’s debutante days in Paris. Despite their conflicting loyalties, Aurelie and Max’s friendship soon deepens into love, but betrayal will shatter them both, driving Aurelie back to Paris and the Ritz— the home of her estranged American heiress mother, with unexpected consequences.

France, 1942. Raised by her indomitable, free-spirited American grandmother in the glamorous Hotel Ritz, Marguerite “Daisy” Villon remains in Paris with her daughter and husband, a Nazi collaborator, after France falls to Hitler. At first reluctant to put herself and her family at risk to assist her grandmother’s Resistance efforts, Daisy agrees to act as a courier for a skilled English forger known only as Legrand, who creates identity papers for Resistance members and Jewish refugees. But as Daisy is drawn ever deeper into Legrand’s underground network, committing increasingly audacious acts of resistance for the sake of the country—and the man—she holds dear, she uncovers a devastating secret . . . one that will force her to commit the ultimate betrayal, and to confront at last the shocking circumstances of her own family history.

France, 1964. For Barbara “Babs” Langford, her husband, Kit, was the love of her life. Yet their marriage was haunted by a mysterious woman known only as La Fleur. On Kit’s death, American lawyer Andrew “Drew” Bowdoin appears at her door. Hired to find a Resistance fighter turned traitor known as “La Fleur,” the investigation has led to Kit Langford. Curious to know more about the enigmatic La Fleur, Babs joins Drew in his search, a journey of discovery that that takes them to Paris and the Ritz—and to unexpected places of the heart. . . .

Review:

This is the first novel I have read from all three of the authors. I am familiar with and have read work by Beatriz Williams but that is all.

This story is told from three perspectives along three different timelines. I spent the first part of the story trying to figure out the connection between the three women and almost lost the point of the story. I quickly got myself together so that I could enjoy the story itself. And I am so glad that I did.

I don’t know who I can say is my favorite out of the three women. They all had their strengths and weaknesses. Each possessed a quality that was seen in the other women. There were even a couple of moments I giggled at some of the antics that they went thru which isn’t usual for a historical fiction and I enjoyed that.

Some of the men they had to interact with in their own timelines made me want to reach thru the pages and slap. Especially Daisy’s husband. With Bab’s situation, I wonder if PTSD was a thing that was recognized during that time period would she and Kit have made it as long as they did, or would she have known their relationship for what it really was.

When the connection is made between the three women along with some of the  women they interact with, I wasn’t surprised. I was pleasantly satisfied with the outcome.

Women have so much more strength than they are given credit for and sometimes they have to use their weaknesses to find their strengths and push forward.

I enjoyed this story and I can say that I will read another novel by all three authors and even check out their individual works.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available January 14, 2020 in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

 

A special thank you to WilliamMorrow books for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour · books · Historical fiction

Josephine: Singer Soldier Dancer Spy by Eildh McGinness {Spotlight for Historical Fiction Virtual BookTours}

Blurb:

Fiction based on Fact this novel follows the work carried out by Josephine Baker during World War 2 for the French resistance.

Born into poverty in a racially segregated America, Josephine flees to France. She embraces the hedonistic lifestyle available in Paris of the Roaring Twenties.
With Hitler’s rise to power in Germany she is forced to face her true self. Determined to protect the Liberty Equality and Fraternity she has found in France, she becomes an ‘honorable correspondent’ for the French Intelligence Service. So, beginning a journey which will take her from the Red Cross Shelters in Paris to the cruel deserts of North Africa. Whilst she will find love and enduring friendship she must also face dangers which will threaten not only her life but all she holds dear…
Can she find the courage to fight for what she believes in….no matter what the cost…?

Availability:

Available now in ebook and paperback

 

A special thank you to Historical Fiction Virutal Book Tours and the author for my gifted copy.

book review · books · crime · Literary Fiction · own voices review · reading · social media

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Lydia Quixano Perez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with four books he would like to buy–two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

American Dirt will leave readers utterly changed. It is a page-turner; it is a literary achievement; it is filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity on every page. It is one of the most important books for our times.

Review:

This was the perfect book to end my reading year of 2019. Such a compelling and heart-wrenching story about a mother and her son fleeing from the home they know and love in order to survive, to a place that won’t openly welcome them but advertises freedom and safety.

This is felt like a non-fiction read although it is fiction. The author puts you in Lydia’s and Luca’s shoes as they trek across Mexico into unknown territory with strangers because that is safer than what awaits them at home. They have lost their entire family and basically have nothing else to lose.  The people they meet along this journey will make you realize that people trying to make their way into this country aren’t always what the media makes them out to be. You begin to question yourself about what you would do or risk in order to find solace and safety. The risk of losing your life while trying to save it. Losing it physically, emotionally, and mentally. They don’t know who to trust and they really don’t know where they are going. They only know that they don’t want to go back to where they were.

I think this was an important story to be told. You can tell the author took great care in researching and presenting this story. This is one of the few books that I actually read the author’s note after finishing the and I highly recommend others doing so.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook January 21, 2020

 

A very special thank you to Flatiron Books for my gifted copy.

black literature · book review · books · contemporary fiction · diversity · own voices review · reading

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid {Early copy review}

Blurb:

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living showing other women how to do the same. A mother to two small girls, she started out as a blogger and has quickly built herself into a confidence-driven brand. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night. Seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, a security guard at their local high-end supermarket accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make it right.But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.With empathy and piercing social commentary,

 Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone “family,” the complicated reality of being a grown up, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

Review:

I loved this story. It was a light and a deep read at the same time. So many issues were addressed from the point of view of a black woman that aren’t expressed all the time in novels. Emira is a realistic representation of a young woman her age. Not very often are young women portrayed in the sense that they don’t really know what they want to do in life and are very complacent in their situations. Emira wants to make a decent living and enjoy life. Alix’s point of view as a white woman is also realistic. Her views and expressions are some that I am sure readers will find themselves relating to and then being angry because they can relate to her.
Alix is a woman who is too sure of herself and she ultimately forgets what it is like being a regular human. She is constantly trying to overcompensate while in reality she has a subconscious motive.
The connecting shock factor for Alix and Emira was almost too good to be true but so fitting for their relationship as employer and employee. It takes an almost life changing event for Alix to see that Emira is a real person with real problems. But the way she tries to build a bridge to Emira is sickening.
This is the type of story that is meant to bring someone out of their comfort zone when it comes to the type of situations that are addressed. But it is written with such grace that you can’t help but enjoy reading it even if you are sitting there in your feelings. You want to shake the characters at some of the things they say and do but you also don’t want to put the book down because you want to know what the outcome is going to be.

I highly recommend this book. A great read to start your 2020 reading journey.

Rating:

5 stars

Availability:

Available December 31, 2019 in ebook, hardcover, and audiobook

I’d like to say a very special thank you to G.P Putnam’s Sons for my free gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.