AIDs · book review · books · diversity · Family · LGBTQ · reading

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai {Review}

Blurb:

A dazzling new novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy and loss set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris, by the acclaimed and award-winning author Rebecca Makkai.

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.

Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. The two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the eighties and the chaos of the modern world, as both Yale and Fiona struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.

Review:

I’ve had this book on my TBR since it came out last year and finally read it this month with a buddy read group on Instagram.

This story focuses on 2 separate timelines. One being the mid 80s during the beginning of the AIDs epidemic and told from Yale’s point of view and the other being present day and told from Fiona’s point of view. Makkai weaves back and forth between the two storylines seamlessly. Manipulating your emotions in every possible way. You love some characters, you hate some characters. You feel as if you’ve gained and  lost your family and friends among these pages.

As the story flips back and forth between the two storylines, they are eventually brought together but it is not the nice, neat, and happy merge that you’re hoping for. This book has literally left me wondering how I should feel about it’s ending and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I love the fact that this ending has made me feel that way. I don’t know if I want to feel hopeful or if I just want to break down in tears.

This book shows you the horrors and hopes that people experienced during this time and what the consequences were of losing yourself, putting yourself at risk, and living life freely. There was so much reckless behavior, broken relationships, and strained friendships. There were some happy and hopeful moments throughout the story but there were moments of pure devastation. Makkai’s style of writing puts you right there with the characters and what they are feeling and experiencing. This book is very eye-opening to the subject of the AIDS epidemic.

This book has deserved every award it has been nominated for and I wish it had won them all!!

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook and audiobook

abuse · book review · books · Family · medical thriller · suspense

Saving Meghan by DJ Palmer {Review}

Blurb:

Can you love someone to death? 

Some would say Becky Gerard is a devoted mother and would do anything for her only child. Others claim she’s obsessed and can’t stop the vicious circle of finding a cure at her daughter’s expense. 

Fifteen-year-old Meghan has been in and out of hospitals with a plague of unexplained illnesses. But when the ailments take a sharp turn, doctors intervene and immediately suspect Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a rare behavioral disorder where the primary caretaker, typically the mother, seeks medical help for made-up symptoms of a child. Is this what’s going on? Or is there something even more sinister at hand?

Review:

When the story opened, I immediately thought “well, everyone is crazy.” Not just Becky or Meghan. The whole Gerard clan. I liked that it was a medical thriller and not just your everyday “someone got killed and here is your unreliable narrator” type of thriller.

I also appreciated the writing style and the formatting of the plot itself, although the ending felt just a tad bit rushed to me.

Of course there is always the character that you can’t stand in a thriller and in this one for me it was the whole Gerard clan. They just didn’t sit well with me throughout the whole story, lol. I really enjoyed that part because I was left not rooting for anyone. I just wanted to see what was going to happen.

As the story geared up for the plot twist and climax I have to admit there were some parts that I found difficult for me to suspend my logic in order to believe they could really happen. That is because I am not a big reader of thrillers.

All in all, this was quite the ride and I am curious to see what else this author has up his sleeve. This would make a great beach read for thriller fans this summer. Don’t let the amount of pages discourage you because it does read fairly quickly.

Rating:

3.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audio

Thank you St. Martin’s Press for this review opportunity.

addiction · book review · books · Family · Native American Fiction

In the Night of Memory by Linda LeGarde Grover {Review}

Blurb:

Two lost sisters find family, and themselves, among the voices of an Ojibwe reservation.

When Loretta surrenders her young girls to the county and then disappears, she becomes one more missing Native woman in Indian Country’s long devastating history of loss. But she is also a daughter of the Mozhay Point Reservation in northern Minnesota and the mother of Azure and Rain, ages 3 and 4, and her absence haunts all the lives she has touched—and all the stories they tell in this novel. In the Night of Memory returns to the fictional reservation of Linda LeGarde Grover’s previous award-winning books, introducing readers to a new generation of the Gallette family as Azure and Rain make their way home.

After a string of foster placements, from cold to kind to cruel, the girls find their way back to their extended Mozhay family, and a new set of challenges, and stories, unfolds. Deftly, Grover conjures a chorus of women’s voices (sensible, sensitive Azure’s first among them) to fill in the sorrows and joys, the loves and the losses that have brought the girls and their people to this moment. Though reconciliation is possible, some ruptures simply cannot be repaired; they can only be lived through, or lived with. In the Night of Memory creates a nuanced, moving, often humorous picture of two Ojibwe girls becoming women in light of this lesson learned in the long, sharply etched shadow of Native American history.

Review:

What drew my attention to this novel is the storyline and the voices that the story is told thru. I have not had the priviledge of reading many stories told from a Native American’s point of view. I feel that it is important to know how a system like foster care works in different communities.

Another subject that is mentioned throughout the story and also has an impact on the girls’ lives is alcoholism. Their mother was an alcoholic and Junior is a recovering alcoholic. Alcoholism in the Native American community is prevalent and also can be seen as a generational curse as well.

What I loved most about this story was how each point of view that it was told from gave you an insight of the girls as well as their family history. This isn’t brightest and sunniest story but the love and lives that they end up experiencing are much better than what they started out with.

Azure and Rainy have the most beautiful relationship with each other and serve as backbones for one another throughout everything they experience. Azure falls into the role as the older sister even though she is the younger sister. They share a single memory of their mother that stands out to both of them. As they get older, you see the effects of what they have been thru and how it has effected them, especially in Rainy.

I highly recommend this story even if it isn’t light and fluffy.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover

Thank you Bookish First for this copy and also University of Minnesota Press.

book review · books · reading · secrets

Cape May by Chip Cheek {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Late September 1957. Henry and Effie, very young newlyweds from Georgia, arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon only to find the town is deserted. Feeling shy of each other and isolated, they decide to cut the trip short. But before they leave, they meet a glamorous set of people who sweep them up into their drama. Clara, a beautiful socialite who feels her youth slipping away; Max, a wealthy playboy and Clara’s lover; and Alma, Max’s aloof and mysterious half-sister, to whom Henry is irresistibly drawn.

The empty beach town becomes their playground, and as they sneak into abandoned summer homes, go sailing, walk naked under the stars, make love, and drink a great deal of gin, Henry and Effie slip from innocence into betrayal, with irrevocable consequences.

Erotic and moving, this is a novel about marriage, love and sexuality, and the lifelong repercussions that meeting a group of debauched cosmopolitans has on a new marriage.

Review:

Let me start off by saying “WHOAH!!!!” I almost have no words for this book, the story. One of the things I loved about it was how it was told from a male perspective. Not only was it told from a male perspective, it was from a naive male at that. Another thing I enjoyed about this story was that it wasnt necessarily wrapped and presented in a nice, neat, conflict free package. The conflicts were realistic and relatable. Things got real and there wasn’t any sugar-coating to it, provocative is a word that keeps coming to mind. This book is provocative in so many ways. It is also thought-provoking.

Chip brings to life the story of young newlyweds, Henry and Effie. This young couple who throw out a vibe of innocence and cluelessness. Both of these prove to be wrong as the story develops. I will say that I did not care for Effie and that is because I felt that she belittled Henry in so many off-handed ways. I don’t know if that was intentional but it is definitely how I felt about her interactions with him. He doted on her and she basically treated him like a commoner. I wonder if that is because they came from different backgrounds or because she was just a spoiled brat. You are also introduced to Clara, Max and Alma. The three of them are quite the trio. Clara loving and doting on Max. Max almost aloof to Clara’s emotions. And Alma, seeming quite the innocent orphaned child who has been thrust into this carefree life.

Nothing is what it seems in this story. The conflicts that occur make you wonder what you would do in those situations. Chip demonstrates with each of these characters that one can never truly say never about anything in their life.

Before I wrap this up, I do have to mention the level of steaminess that is portrayed in this novel. There haven’t been many books that could make me blush in public but this one definitely tops the list. I do have to say that the steaminess is not why I am going to give this book 5 stars, it is the total content of the book and the writing that make me give this book 5 stars.

This is for sure a beach read! Unless you’re afraid you’ll blush too much, lol.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

April 30th, 2019 in hardcover, ebook and audiobook

 

Thank you to Celadon Books for this opportunity to read and provide an honest review of this novel.

 

 

book review · books · Bootlegging · crime · Historical fiction · secrets

Tasting the Apple {The Bootleggers’ Chronicles #2} by Sherilyn Decter

Blurb:

A young widow on the edge. A policeman back from the dead. Together, can they take down the city’s most notorious bootlegger? In a city of bootleggers and crime, one woman must rely on a long-dead lawman to hunt down justice…

Philadelphia, 1925.
With a son to raise and boarders to feed, Maggie Barnes is at her wit’s end. But when a criminal element infiltrates the police force, the single mother puts her cares aside to help. As she tries to dig up dirt on bootlegger mastermind Mickey Duffy, Maggie realizes she can’t take on the case alone.

Inspector Frank Geyer used to patrol the streets of Philadelphia before Maggie was born. As he attempts to clean up crime from beyond the grave, the spirit uses his Victorian sensibilities to fight back against lawbreakers. But with corruption throughout the police force, can the phantom informant save his city and Maggie’s livelihood?

With the roof leaking and the lawlessness spiraling, Maggie and Frank have one chance to take down a criminal and prevent the unthinkable.

Tasting the Apple is the second thrilling book in The Bootleggers’ Chronicles historical mystery series. If you like strong female characters, stories inspired by actual history, and a touch of the paranormal, then you’ll love Sherilyn Decter’s tale of temptation and corruption.

Buy Tasting the Apple to experience the dark side of the Roaring Twenties today!

Review:

I have found myself back with Maggie and Inspector Frank as they help the Philadelphia police department fight back against the criminals. This time not only do they have the street criminals to worry about, they also have to worry about the criminals with badges and political power. Decter once again brings to life an era we sometimes forget about when it comes to historical fiction Prohibition and the Roaring Twenties.

I was happy to see how resilient Maggie has remained considering her previous run in with Mickey Duffy and his gang. Her friendship with Edith has blossomed although Edith seems to be on a path of self-destruction.

I really enjoy Sherilyn’s style of writing with this series. This is a semi complicated story but the writing style is simplistic enough to keep you engaged.

There were times I worried about Maggie and her decision making. But as always, she prevailed. Having Inspector Frank with her again helps keep her grounded in my opinion. She takes on the task of going back to school while still running her boarding house and raising her son. Again, in this story we see some internal conflict with Tommy as we did before in the previous novel.

We are also priviledged to witness a vulnerable side to Inspector Frank that I wish would have been developed a bit more.  I would like to see more of what is going on in his mind while in his current situation.

Sherilyn has also added some spice of forbidden love in the mix and I enjoyed that little shake up. Forbidden love and some potentially  new love. I won’t tell you who experiences what. You’ll have to read to find out.

I don’t want to give too much more away since this is part of a series. Just know that there is crime, pain, love and plenty of determination once again.

If you haven’t already, make sure you check out the first book in the series, Innocence Lost.

Rating:

3.5 Stars

Availability:

Available in ebook and paperback on Amazon

 

Thank you to MC Book Tours for reaching out to me and allowing me to be apart of this book tour.

 

 

 

book review · books · reading · Self Help

Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis {Review}

Blurb:

Rachel Hollis has seen it too often: women not living into their full potential. They feel a tugging on their hearts for something more, but they’re afraid of embarrassment, of falling short of perfection, of not being enough.

In Girl, Stop Apologizing, #1 New York Times bestselling author and founder of a multimillion-dollar media company, Rachel Hollis sounds a wake-up call. She knows that many women have been taught to define themselves in light of other people—whether as wife, mother, daughter, or employee—instead of learning how to own who they are and what they want. With a challenge to women everywhere to stop talking themselves out of their dreams, Hollis identifies the excuses to let go of, the behaviors to adopt, and the skills to acquire on the path to growth, confidence, and believing in yourself.

Review:

I want to start this review off by saying that self help books are not books that you can pick up and start reading and expect to enjoy if you are not in the right mind frame for the content. I read and really enjoyed Rachel’s first book Girl, Wash Your Face and was very excited when I learned that she was going to be writing a second book with more content to help women. I know that there is so much controversy behind the first book and I am pretty certain that there will be some behind this second book as well.

While listening to the audio version of this book, even though the publisher gifted me a beautiful advanced copy, I have to admit at first I had some major eye rolling moments. I knew that I probably needed to stop and step away from the book at that moment and maybe come back to it. Which is what I did and that helped so much. Now, while I am not out here trying to build a multimillion-dollar company, Rachel does have some nuggets of advice and inspiration that I know I will be able to apply to my everyday life such as having goals no matter how big or small, asking for help with confidence, planning, and most importantly learning to say no.

I enjoyed her pop culture references because they were things that I could personally relate to and I find that very important when dealing with books like this one. At the same time, I could also see where some may think that she is coming off as pretentious and privileged. I don’t think that she means to come off that way, but I also take some of her personality traits with a grain of salt. I am not here to dissect her book and life because I feel like she doesn’t know my struggle. I am here to get what I can from what she has written and apply it the best way that I can.

Once again with this book, I feel that there is something for everyone to take from it. You cannot go into a book like this with the author on a pedestal because you will be disappointed. She is a human being and she is not perfect. She has flaws just like everyone else. What she wants you to do is stop apologizing for your flaws and work on what you can. Take charge.

I would recommend giving this book a chance. Do not be fooled by the placement of this book in the Christian section of a bookstore because that is not where it belongs. Inspirational does not equal religion. Inspirational is just what it is. To inspire someone.

Rating:

3.75 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook and audio

Thank you HarperCollins Leadership for my advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

book review · books · Family · memoir · reading

Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs {Review}

Blurb:

Born on a farm and named in a field by her parents–artist Chrisann Brennan and Steve Jobs–Lisa Brennan-Jobs’s childhood unfolded in a rapidly changing Silicon Valley. When she was young, Lisa’s father was a mythical figure who was rarely present in her life. As she grew older, her father took an interest in her, ushering her into a new world of mansions, vacations, and private schools. His attention was thrilling, but he could also be cold, critical and unpredictable. When her relationship with her mother grew strained in high school, Lisa decided to move in with her father, hoping he’d become the parent she’d always wanted him to be.

Small Fry is Lisa Brennan-Jobs’s poignant story of a childhood spent between two imperfect but extraordinary homes. Scrappy, wise, and funny, young Lisa is an unforgettable guide through her parents’ fascinating and disparate worlds. Part portrait of a complex family, part love letter to California in the seventies and eighties, Small Fry is an enthralling book by an insightful new literary voice.

Review:

Let me start by saying that as with most celebrities we have a certain belief of how their life is and should be. We forget that they are just everyday people like us, and they make mistakes, they have no so desirable qualities that money doesn’t make disappear. The work that Steve Jobs put in has definitely made lives easier and more entertaining, but we have to remember that he was just a man who happened to put in work to become successful. He was not perfect no matter how hard we want to believe that he was. He has flaws and he was just a normal man who happened to be extremely successful.

This story is about his oldest daughter Lisa and told thru her eyes and experiences. She shines another light on Steve that I would never have thought about before. She didn’t write this book to put a spotlight on his flaws. She wrote a story to tell what it was like for her to have Steve in her life. The Steve we didn’t see or know about and at times during this story, don’t want to really believe. I am glad that she wrote this story. It goes to show that money doesn’t always make someone better as a person.

Lisa had an interesting childhood to say the least. She did not grow up with a silver spoon in her mouth and had to work to gain even the smallest bit of affection from her father. She had to work, not in the monetary sense but she had to put her emotional development on the line as well as her peace of mind. Even at a young age. Her mother was not perfect either. Lisa grew up in a very interesting and at times, dysfunctional environment.

Her being able to share this story about a man who is so beloved speak volumes for her. She tells the story in a matter of fact way. In no way do you think she is bitter because of how she grew up. You see the love that she has for both parents regardless of what they all had to endure from each other while she was growing up.

I am very glad that I read this memoir before I head into possibly reading a biography about Steve Jobs himself.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available now in ebook, hardcover, and audiobook