Step right up. Take a ride you didn’t sign up for. A ride that no one else is taking, but they’re watching you, wondering why you’re getting on this ride, alone.
You get on this ride, no one to strap you in or give you the safety speech. You have no idea what’s going on. You don’t even know why you’re on this ride and you don’t know anything about it.
The incline is so fast, and yet so slow. You don’t have time to adjust. You only know that something may not be quite right, but again isn’t that how everything is? In fact, it almost feels good except for the loop-d-loops you’re on that send you into a crazed state of being.
The descent is slow and speeds up at the oddest points. You can’t keep up; when you think it’s okay, it’s not. When it seems it can’t get worse, it eases up. And remember, you’re on this ride alone, no one is helping. Everyone is just watching or walking on by.
When you get to what you think is the end, IT’S NOT! It’s just time to start all over. And this ride goes on and on. When you reach out for help, no one understands. To them it’s just a ride. A ride that you should just be able to get off of. A ride you shouldn’t have chosen to take.
I don’t read thrillers very often but recently I came across three that blew my mind. Two of them were from authors whose work I have not read before and the other was from an author whose work I am familiar with. Here are those books and my thoughts!
False Witness by Karin Slaughter
AN ORDINARY LIFE
Leigh Coulton has worked hard to build what looks like a normal life. She has a good job as a defence attorney, a daughter doing well in school, and even her divorce is relatively civilised – her life is just as unremarkable as she’d always hoped it would be.
HIDES A DEVASTATING PAST
But Leigh’s ordinary life masks a childhood which was far from average… a childhood tarnished by secrets, broken by betrayal, and finally torn apart by a devastating act of violence.
BUT NOW THE PAST IS CATCHING UP
Then a case lands on her desk – defending a wealthy man accused of rape. It’s the highest profile case she’s ever been given – a case which could transform her career, if she wins. But when she meets the accused, she realises that it’s no coincidence that he’s chosen her as his attorney. She knows him. And he knows her. More to the point, he knows what happened twenty years ago, and why Leigh has spent two decades running.
AND TIME IS RUNNING OUT
If she can’t get him acquitted, she’ll lose much more than the case. The only person who can help her is her younger, estranged sister Calli, the last person Leigh would ever want to ask for help. But suddenly she has no choice…
This is my third Karin Slaughter standalone novel and once again she does not disappoint. The story may be difficult for some readers because of the content and the possible triggers. Karin usually writes thrillers that are tough on the nerves but does it in a fashion that does not make a reader feel shame about enjoying the story.
How does a person face the possibility of having to defend someone who claims to know the deepest, darkest secret that has been carried around for years. A secret so shocking that worlds will rock and fall apart if the truth gets out. How far should this person be willing to go to keep that secret? Defend the psycho who knows the truth or fight back like before?
This story also shows how one event can affect people differently, how a person doesn’t always see the truth of what happened to them until it is almost too late.
Deep, dark, twisted.
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For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing
Teddy Crutcher has won Teacher of the Year at the esteemed Belmont Academy, home to the best and brightest.
He says his wife couldn’t be more proud—though no one has seen her in a while.
Teddy really can’t be bothered with the death of a school parent that’s looking more and more like murder or the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is on pushing these kids to their full academic potential.
All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way.
It’s really too bad that sometimes excellence can come at such a high cost.
This is the first Samantha Downing book that I have read and it was a nice introduction to her writing. This book might make one think twice about sending their child to private school after this book.
Parents all want teachers who want the best for their children but sometimes that can come at a cost that is paid for by death. Is it really worth it? Can a school afford to have a teacher who thinks they really know what is best for the students and is willing to do anything to show that?
A story about deception and misdirected care. Those poor students, parents, and teachers. Especially the teachers. Be careful in the teacher’s lounge.
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Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
Ike Randolph has been out of jail for fifteen years, with not so much as a speeding ticket in all that time. But a Black man with cops at the door knows to be afraid.
The last thing he expects to hear is that his son Isiah has been murdered, along with Isiah’s white husband, Derek. Ike had never fully accepted his son but is devastated by his loss.
Derek’s father Buddy Lee was almost as ashamed of Derek for being gay as Derek was ashamed his father was a criminal. Buddy Lee still has contacts in the underworld, though, and he wants to know who killed his boy.
Ike and Buddy Lee, two ex-cons with little else in common other than a criminal past and a love for their dead sons, band together in their desperate desire for revenge. In their quest to do better for their sons in death than they did in life, hardened men Ike and Buddy Lee will confront their own prejudices about their sons and each other, as they rain down vengeance upon those who hurt their boys.
Provocative and fast-paced, S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears is a story of bloody retribution, heartfelt change – and maybe even redemption.
What a story! Daddies showing up and showing out. Kicking asses, blowing shit up. Talk about unconditional love, even if it seemed to have shown up too late. Cosby wrote the hell out of this story. I bet my daddy would have been just like Ike and Buddy Lee if something happened to me. I loved how these men decided to do what was right and didn’t just stand by when it seemed that the killers of their sons weren’t going to be brought to justice.
These fathers may not have been the best to their sons when they were alive, but they are willing to stop at nothing in order to find out who killed them and why.
The flow of the story, the grittiness. No punches held back(literally).
Danielle Evans is widely acclaimed for her blisteringly smart voice and x-ray insights into complex human relationships. With The Office of Historical Corrections, Evans zooms in on particular moments and relationships in her characters’ lives in a way that allows them to speak to larger issues of race, culture, and history. She introduces us to Black and multiracial characters who are experiencing the universal confusions of lust and love, and getting walloped by grief—all while exploring how history haunts us, personally and collectively. Ultimately, she provokes us to think about the truths of American history—about who gets to tell them, and the cost of setting the record straight.
In “Boys Go to Jupiter,” a white college student tries to reinvent herself after a photo of her in a Confederate-flag bikini goes viral. In “Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain,” a photojournalist is forced to confront her own losses while attending an old friend’s unexpectedly dramatic wedding. And in the eye-opening title novella, a black scholar from Washington, DC, is drawn into a complex historical mystery that spans generations and puts her job, her love life, and her oldest friendship at risk.
Short story collections have been showing up and showing out(or maybe I’m just late to the game). This particular collection was no different. Each story draws the reader in making them think they are reading for pleasure but in reality they are ingesting gems that they didn’t know they needed.
Need a story about passing? Pick this collection up and make sure you pay close attention to the title sharing novella. Need a story showcasing white privilege at its finest? You’ll find that in this collection as well.
The thing that always made me veer from short stories is the feeling that you don’t get any closure at the end. I didn’t get this feeling when reading this collection. Danielle Evans does a great job with this. Her endings leave a little room for thought and speculation but not so much room that the meat of the story is lost.
I listened to the audiobook but I will be getting a physical copy because there are stories I want to visibly revisit.
This book was brought to my immediate attention from @gettbr. I signed up for their tailored book recommendation subscription and this was one of the first books I was recommended. Definitely check out this service. I just received my second set of recs and can’t wait to see what I’ll pick next.
This was the book to put a crack in my reading slump and I’m so glad for it!
After being informed that The Stacks podcast had two episodes about this book, I had to go listen to them. In episode 147, Traci discusses the book with Danielle without spoilers but it was a great insight into her writing. In episode 148, Traci and her guest Deesha Philyaw take a deeper dive into the book(spoilers for this episode). After listening, I know that I will be revisiting this collection once I get a physical copy.
Avery Keene, a brilliant young law clerk for the legendary Justice Howard Wynn, is doing her best to hold her life together–excelling in an arduous job with the court while also dealing with a troubled family. When the shocking news breaks that Justice Wynn–the cantankerous swing vote on many current high-profile cases–has slipped into a coma, Avery’s life turns upside down. She is immediately notified that Justice Wynn has left instructions for her to serve as his legal guardian and power of attorney. Plunged into an explosive role she never anticipated, Avery finds that Justice Wynn had been secretly researching one of the most controversial cases before the court–a proposed merger between an American biotech company and an Indian genetics firm, which promises to unleash breathtaking results in the medical field. She also discovers that Wynn suspected a dangerously related conspiracy that infiltrates the highest power corridors of Washington.
As political wrangling ensues in Washington to potentially replace the ailing judge whose life and survival Avery controls, she begins to unravel a carefully constructed, chesslike sequence of clues left behind by Wynn. She comes to see that Wynn had a much more personal stake in the controversial case and realizes his complex puzzle will lead her directly into harm’s way in order to find the truth. While Justice Sleeps is a cunningly crafted, sophisticated novel, layered with myriad twists and a vibrant cast of characters. Drawing on her astute inside knowledge of the court and political landscape, Stacey Abrams shows herself to be not only a force for good in politics and voter fairness but also a major new talent in suspense fiction.
Woah, what a ride. I finished this book in the wee hours of the morning because I could not sleep and because I was so invested. I was excited to get an early copy of this book but I still went into it a little hesitant. I’m glad I did because it exceeded all that I could have thought it was going to be. The style of writing, the plot, and the characters were all I could have wanted and more in a legal thriller.
I don’t want to say too much about the story itself because I feel the reader needs to go in and experience this one on their own without having too many preconceived thoughts in mind.
This book was fast paced and very engaging. You are able to connect with the characters and follow the story even with the presence of legal and scientific jargon used.
It’s always fun to read a book in a genre that you like but it’s even better when that book is written by someone who looks like you. I hope that Ms. Abrams blesses us with another legal thriller in the future and I plan on checking out her previously published romance novels.
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Available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook on May 11, 2021
A special thank you to Double Day books for this gifted copy.
In present-day Miami, Jeanette is battling addiction. Daughter of Carmen, a Cuban immigrant, she is determined to learn more about her family history from her reticent mother and makes the snap decision to take in the daughter of a neighbor detained by ICE. Carmen, still wrestling with the trauma of displacement, must process her difficult relationship with her own mother while trying to raise a wayward Jeanette. Steadfast in her quest for understanding, Jeanette travels to Cuba to see her grandmother and reckon with secrets from the past destined to erupt.
From 19th-century cigar factories to present-day detention centers, from Cuba to Mexico, Gabriela Garcia’s Of Women and Salt is a kaleidoscopic portrait of betrayals–personal and political, self-inflicted and those done by others–that have shaped the lives of these extraordinary women. A haunting meditation on the choices of mothers, the legacy of the memories they carry, and the tenacity of women who choose to tell their stories despite those who wish to silence them, this is more than a diaspora story; it is a story of America’s most tangled, honest, human roots.
Do you know what is better or just as good as a book that is 350 plus pages? A book that is less than 250 pages but packs a powerful punch. That is exactly what you get when you decide to read Of Women and Salt. I was not fully prepared for the story that I was going to ingest when I picked up this book. I honestly thought it was going to be one of those deep, but quick reads. Boy, was I wrong.
This story follows women who are dealing with the world thru addiction, immigration, abuse, and love. The different points of view showcase how complex the world is for women. It shows how women have to deal with so much trauma and at the same time fight to survive. Especially women of color.
I found myself so invested in Jeannette’s story and followed her point of view very closely. She not only had to deal with her addiction, she also had to deal with childhood abuse and hold on to a secret about her father that doesn’t surface until after his death. Her mother, Carmen is completely clueless as to what has gone on in her home. At first I was very angry with Carmen and thought she was just clueless but as more of her story develops you understand that she has demons that she hasn’t dealt with herself.
Ana’s and Gloria’s story is also one that is full of heartbreak and desperation. The lengths a mother goes to in order to provide and protect her family, especially her children. The same can be said for Carmen’s mother, Delores. That was a relationship I wanted to see if more developed after the revelation of what Carmen saw as a child.
In all, this 200 page book could have easily been a 350 plus page book with all the intensity that it had packed into it. I don’t know how Ms. Garcia did it but it is well appreciated. This book was a much better read than some other books that I have read that feature the subject of immigration and racism.
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Available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook on March 30, 2021
A special thank you to Flatiron Books for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.
I enjoyed listening to this memoir on audio. Georgina narrates it herself. I couldn’t imagine being one race and being raised by another race and my parents not tell me what race I am or even try to incorporate aspects of that race into our daily lives. Ignoring race doesn’t make it go away. Georgina has to battle with self identity as a child and even more so as an adult. She uses her experience to help others that have been in her situation and to educate the masses who are familiar with and follow her work.
I received both a review copy and finished copy of this book from Harper Perennial in exchange for an honest review.
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Available now in paperback, hardcover in some places, ebook, and audiobook
The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard
This book was the type of historical fiction that I needed to take a break from my usual WW2 historical fiction. The story follows two black domestic workers, Sitwell and Jennie who work in the house of the Barclays. At first glance Sitwell appears docile and mild mannered. However, we find out later that is not the case. He is definitely the definition of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Jennie appears to be young and naive but she is actually resourceful and strong willed.
I would say that their behavior at work is to be able to keep their job and their behavior outside of work is their true nature. Something these days we call code switching.
I like this book because of the timeframe it is written in and it is not only historical fiction, there is a bit of a mystery/thriller aspect thrown in. This was also a story that tests its characters humanity.
I received a gifted finished copy from Amistad Books
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Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook
Just As I Am by Cicely Tyson
I would like to take a moment of silence to honor the late Cicely Tyson.
I knew the moment that this book came across my radar that I needed to have a copy and read it. I have the physical copy of this book but I felt I wanted to listen to the audiobook and I am glad that I did. Cicely narrates a small section at the beginning but does not narrate the entire book. Robin Miles does an excellent job of narrating Ms. Tyson’s story. I’ve heard her narrate another memoir that I enjoyed call Diamon Doris.
Anyway, Ms. Tyson’s story is one of greatness but not without some pain. She took life’s lemons and made them work. Her work ethic was like no other that I’ve ever heard about in Hollywood. I learned so much about her and about celebrities in this memoir. I knew of her relationship and marriage to Miles Davis but I had no idea that he was such a lost soul.
Ms. Tyson was a force to be reckoned with. She didn’t let anything stand in her way. I admire how she took life by the horns. Her story is inspiring and educational. I am grateful that she was able to get her story written down before passing. That way her story is fully hers.
Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Brown was promised her freedom on her eighteenth birthday. But when her birthday finally comes around, instead of the idyllic life she was hoping for with her true love, she finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devil’s Half-Acre, a jail where slaves are broken, tortured, and sold every day. Forced to become the mistress of the brutal man who owns the jail, Pheby faces the ultimate sacrifice to protect her heart in this powerful, thrilling story of one slave’s fight for freedom.
This year I have decided that I want to continue my journey reading historical fiction, but I wanted to venture outside of the usual WW2 era.
This book was definitely the step in the right direction. Taking place before the Civil War during the most intense part of slavery in the south, Johnson throws you into the life of Pheby. Immediately you realize that she is not a typical slave. She knows how to read and she doesn’t have to perform the duties of either a field or house slave. She and her mother are favored by their master, Jacob.
After the death of a fellow slave, Pheby is summoned to work in the Big House and then begins her troubles. Working for the mistress of the property proves to be hard and stressful. Things continue to go downhill for her. The promise of freedom is the only thing that keeps her going. However, she has no idea what is in store for her.
After things take a turn for the worse, Pheby finds herself on the way to the auction block. Because of her light complexion she is saved from the auction block only to be sent into a life that is just as bad.
This book was intriguing and infuriating at the same time. There were times that I wanted to reach in the book and shake the life out of Pheby but at the same time I felt sorry for her. The things she risks and goes thru in order to protect her children. I also felt that she put herself in certain situations that she didn’t have to be in.
Johnson weaves the story intricately, keeping your attention and drawing in your emotions. While the book doesn’t give you the ending that you hope for after all Pheby has gone thru, it is an ending that is infuriatingly realistic.
Navaya Howard is an erotic writer in a rut. Her readers are fed up of her stale plots and Navaya can’t blame them. She’s been celibate for over a year and a half since finding her now ex-boyfriend’s side chick’s positive pregnancy test on her bathroom counter. How can she write steamy romances if she can barely remember which body parts go into the other?
Navaya enlists the help of her best friend, Xander, to revive the inspiration that used to have her sitting comfortably at the top of her game. What happens when the sex hits deeper than either of them expected and the tender emotions can no longer be denied?
Navaya and Xander’s arrangement has gone far deeper than intended. Will their friendship and their hearts survive the fall?
Now I have read my small share of black romance, but never have I come across a story like this one. There were definitely some shock factors thrown in but there were also parts that I was able to figure out on my own. That doesn’t take away from the story. Rilzy put some Easter eggs in this story that have me wanting to read more of this series. I have to say a huge thank you to Taima of shadesandpages. She recommended this book and loaned me her copy. She was right on point with this recommendation.
I think I would like to read another friends to lovers book. Even though I enjoyed this book and stepped out of my wheelhouse, I won’t read it all the time. But Rilzy Adams is an author who will be on my radar.
An emotionally riveting debut novel about war, family, and forbidden love—the unforgettable saga of two ill-fated lovers in Korea and the heartbreaking choices they’re forced to make in the years surrounding the civil war that continues to haunt us today
When the communist-backed army from the North invades her home, sixteen-year-old Haemi Lee, along with her widowed mother and ailing brother, is forced to flee to a refugee camp along the coast. For a few hours each night, she escapes her family’s makeshift home and tragic circumstances with her childhood friend, Kyunghwan.
Focused on finishing school, Kyunghwan doesn’t realize his older and wealthier cousin, Jisoo, has his sights set on the beautiful and spirited Haemi—and is determined to marry her before joining the fight. But as Haemi becomes a wife, then a mother, her decision to forsake the boy she always loved for the security of her family sets off a dramatic saga that will have profound effects for generations to come.
Richly told and deeply moving, If You Leave Me is a stunning portrait of war and refugee life, a passionate and timeless romance, and a heartrending exploration of one woman’s longing for autonomy in a rapidly changing world.
What an intense and incredible story. The way the story progresses was not what I was expecting. It was as if I went into the story without ever reading any blurbs. You are following two separate families as they are trying to survive the war in Korea.
There is so much hope, tragedy, love, determination, and many other things in this book that I can even name. You have two young men vying for the attention of the same girl. Each for different reasons although they claim they love her both. She has feelings for both young me but the feelings are not the same for each of them. Eventually she marries out of convenience.
The trials and tribulations that each of these characters much endure makes your breath catch in your throat. At times you don’t know who to feel more compassion for.
Another thing that is brought up in this story is the use of opioids as a pain killer. And domestic violence is present in this story as well.
Following these characters through each of their life changes is fascinating and heartbreaking at times. We as people need to realize that problems exist across all cultures and we need to learn more about world history.
I would definitely read more by Crystal Hana Kim. This book definitely spun my reading wheel house. Im just sorry it took me so long to get it off my shelf and read.
4 Golden Girls
Available now in hardcover, ebook, paperback, and audiobook
Beloved Georgia judge Joseph Donaldson was known for his unshakable fairness, his hard-won fortune–and a scandalous second marriage to his much-younger white secretary. Now he’s left a will with a stunning provision. In order to collect their inheritance, his lawyer daughter Maya, her stepmother Jeanie, and Jeanie’s teen daughter, Ryder, must live together at the family lake house. Maya and Jeanie don’t exactly get along, but they reluctantly agree to try an uneasy peace for as long as it takes…
But fragile ex-beauty queen Jeanie doesn’t know who she is beyond being a judge’s wife–and drinking away her insecurities has her in a dangerous downward spiral. Fed up with her mother’s humiliating behavior, Ryder tries to become popular at school in all the wrong ways. And when Maya attempts to help, she puts her successful career and her shaky love life at risk. Now with trouble they didn’t see coming–and secrets they can no longer hide–these women must somehow find the courage to admit their mistakes, see each other for who they really are–and slowly, perhaps even joyfully, discover everything they could be.
A story about grief and how three women who loved the same man in different aspects deal with his unexpected death.
Maya, who is Judge’s daughter from his first marriage has now lost both parents and the grief of her father’s passing is devastating. But because of the morals and ethics her father instilled in her, she pushes forward and her grieving is limited. This is a situation that a lot of people find themselves in and don’t really know how to handle their grief and because of that, their grief bleeds into other parts of their lives.
Jeanie who is Judge’s second wife has let grief completely overtake her to the point of self destructive behavior. I could almost relate to the pain that she was going thru even though at times I felt she was playing the victim a bit too much at times.
Ryder who is Jeanie’s daughter and Judge’s stepdaughter is caught between her own grief and hiding her mother’s destructive behavior from Maya.
Each woman must learn how to grieve and how to get along. Maya and Jeanie must learn how to do this without depending on Ryder to be their buffer. She has her own issues as a teenager to deal with on top of losing the man she knew as her father.
This was a good story to show that people deal with grief differently and that families can still come together. Having lost both of my parents this was a story that I could definitely relate to.
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A special thank you to Suzy’s Approved Book Tours for having me on this tour and to Kensington Books for my free copy in exchange for an honest review.