book review · books · crime · Family · mystery · psychological thriller · reading

Home Before Dark by Riley Sage {ARC Review and Mystery Book Club}

Blurb:

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Review:

I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to be along for the ride of this book. I am not a person who watches scary movies or reads too many thrillers but there is just something about Riley Sager’s writing that makes me throw all caution to the wind whenever he releases a new book.

This book was no different. I was going thru a reading slump like most of us have during this time and although I only had access to the egalley, I devoured it. What I like most is how Riley takes a troupe and puts his own little twist on it making it something a bit new. He also has the ability to write his stories from a female perspective without making you feel like he is patronizing her.

There were parts in this story where I cringed, but I was still able to sleep at night. There were also some parts where I had to extend my imagination just a bit more than normal, but that was not a problem for me because that is what reading a story like this is all about.

I have to admit that I did not feel any connection with any of the characters, but that is because I just kept wanting to see what would happen to them. A bit cruel, huh? Hey, it’s a thriller. What do you expect?

I recommend this book especially if you are a fan of haunted house stories with weird twists or if you are just a Riley Sager fan in general.

Rating:

4 Stars

A special thank you to Mystery Book Club and Dutton Books for the opportunity to read and review this title.

black literature · book review · books · diversity · Family · own voices review · reading

Little Family by Ishmael Beah {Mystery Book Club Review}

Blurb:

Hidden away from a harsh outside world, five young people have improvised a home in an abandoned airplane, a relic of their country’s chaos. Elimane, the bookworm, is as street-smart as he is wise. Clever Khoudiemata maneuvers to keep the younger kids—athletic, pragmatic Ndevui; thoughtful Kpindi; and especially their newest member, Namsa—safe and fed. When Elimane makes himself of service to the shadowy William Handkerchief, it seems as if the little family may be able to keep the world at bay and their household intact. But when Khoudi comes under the spell of the “beautiful people”—the fortunate sons and daughters of the powerful—the desire to resume an interrupted coming of age and follow her own destiny proves impossible to resist.

A profound and tender portrayal of the connections we forge to survive the fate we’re dealt, Little Family marks the further blossoming of a unique global voice.

Review:

What a story. This book packs punches and lands feelings where you least expect. This story shows that family doesn’t mean you have to be blood related to be there for one another. It means the situation that you are in and how you come together to protect, provide, and love each other. Each of the five members( Elimane, Khoudiemata, Ndevui, and Namsa) bring something to the table no matter how small it may have seemed to an outsider’s perspective. The sacrifices they each make in order to survive. The chances they take to be their own beings.

After Elimane takes up company with William Handkerchief things start looking up for the family. But even then, they know that not everything is as it seems. You see the internal conflict Khoudiemata starts developing once she realizes that she may want more in life than what she is experiencing with her family. When things unexpectedly come crashing down, they handle it in a way most “real” families never could.

This is a short novel, but it is so intense from beginning to end.

I will be checking out Ishmael Beah’s other novel as well as his memoir. His style of writing is so captivating.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

 

A special thank you to the Mystery Book Club and Riverhead Books for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

abuse · Blog Tour · book review · books · child abduction · crime · mystery · psychological thriller · reading

Little Lovely Things by Maureen Joyce Connolly {Suzy Approved Book Tour Book Birthday}

Blurb:

Claire Rawlings, mother of two and medical resident, will not let the troubling signs of an allergic reaction prevent her from making it in for rounds. But when Claire’s symptoms overpower her while she’s driving into work, her two children in tow, she must pull over. Moments later she wakes up on the floor of a gas station bathroom-her car, and her precious girls have vanished.

The police have no leads and the weight of guilt presses down on Claire as each hour passes with no trace of her girls. All she has to hold on to are her strained marriage, a potentially unreliable witness who emerges days later, and the desperate but unquenchable belief that her daughters are out there somewhere.

Little Lovely Things is the story of a family shattered by an unthinkable tragedy. Played out in multiple narrative voices, the novel explores how the lives of those affected fatefully intersect, and highlights the potential catastrophe of the small decisions we make every day.

Review:

This book took me on quite the ride. I will admit that I had some pre conceived notions on how I thought the story was going to go and they were shot down very early in the story. I always go into thrillers with reservations but this one was more of a mystery than a thriller and I appreciated that. I will just highlight on a few points of the story because there is so much that can be easlity given away that needs to remain hidden to get the complete feel of the story and how the plot plays out.

Claire was a character who was allowed to have the flaws of a real person. She was not the picture perfect woman or character. She was allowed to feel emotions like a person would in real life. Her marriage was depicted in a realistic manner considering the situation that she and her husband were going thru.

I loved how a paranoramal scene was woven into the story. This wasn’t a mystery that played out by the book. The spiritual aspect made it that much more endearing. Especially when it showed up in multiple perspectives.

My only complaint was how the story ended. It was not a bad ending, it just wasn’t what I had in mind or wanted for the characters but I can forgive the author because she still wrote a good story. Every ending isn’t going to be for me. I will still read more of her work in the future.

 

Rating:

3.75 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback, ebook, and audiobook

 

Thank you to Suzy’s Approved Book Tours for having me along on this book tour and to Sourcebooks for my free copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

addiction · Blog Tour · book review · books · Family · Historical fiction · love · reading · secrets · World War 2

Don’t Put the Boats Away by Ames Sheldon {Suzy’s Approved Book Tour}

Blurb:

In the aftermath of World War II, the members of the Sutton family are reeling from the death of their “golden boy,” Eddie. Over the next twenty-five years, they all struggle with loss, grief, and mourning. Daughter Harriet and son Nat attempt to fill the void Eddie left behind: Harriet becomes a chemist despite an inhospitable culture for career women in the 1940s and ’50s, hoping to move into the family business in New Jersey, while Nat aims to be a jazz musician. Both fight with their autocratic father, George, over their professional ambitions as they come of age. Their mother, Eleanor, who has PTSD as a result of driving an ambulance during the Great War, wrestles with guilt over never telling Eddie about the horrors of war before he enlisted. As the members of the family attempt to rebuild their lives, they pay high prices, including divorce and alcoholism―but in the end, they all make peace with their losses, each in his or her own way.

Review:

Reading historical fiction is my thing. There was no question as to if I wanted to participate in this book tour.

This story is told from the perspectives of Harriet and Nat who are the siblings of Eddie who has been killed in World War 2. Both Harriet and Nat work their best to gain approval from their father. They each try to live in ways to appease him in order to fill the void that the loss of Eddie has left behind. This is difficult for them because they each have their own dreams they want to follow. During this story they both cave into their father’s expectations even at the risk of them being unhappy. Harriet is able to realize her unhappiness before long but it takes Nat a bit longer and because of that, he ends up in a situation that is not the best for him.

What I liked about this book is that it addresses the subjects of grief, PTSD, alcoholism, and depression. Each character has to face their own inner battles as well as the battles that their family members face. They face these battles with each other or at least they make attempts to do so.

Another interesting aspect of this story is that not only did World War 2 affect this family, so did World War 1. Both wars leave behind scars that the family has to work thru over time. The wars not only leave behind scars and secrets, they also leave behind determination and will.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback and ebook.

 

A special thank you to Suzy Approved Book Tours for having me along on this book tour and to She Writes Press for my free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

 

book review · books · love · reading · romance

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane {ARC Review}

Blurb:

When her partner of over a decade suddenly ends things, Laurie is left reeling—not only because they work at the same law firm and she has to see him every day. Her once perfect life is in shambles and the thought of dating again in the age of Tinder is nothing short of horrifying. When news of her ex’s pregnant girlfriend hits the office grapevine, taking the humiliation lying down is not an option. Then a chance encounter in a broken-down elevator with the office playboy opens up a new possibility.

Jamie Carter doesn’t believe in love, but he needs a respectable, steady girlfriend to impress their bosses. Laurie wants a hot new man to give the rumor mill something else to talk about. It’s the perfect proposition: a fauxmance played out on social media, with strategically staged photographs and a specific end date in mind. With the plan hatched, Laurie and Jamie begin to flaunt their new couple status, to the astonishment—and jealousy—of their friends and colleagues. But there’s a fine line between pretending to be in love and actually falling for your charming, handsome fake boyfriend…

Review:

In the past I haven’t read many romance novels but lately I have found that I do enjoy a good contemporary romance. What I liked about this particular story is that I could imagine it as a rom-com on screen while I was reading it.

This story shows how easy it is for a person to lose themselves in a relationship and they never realize it until it is almost too late. While Laurie is devastated over her break up with Dan, during her healing process she is able to find the person that she was before they started dating and even the person she was when they started dating. I like that she didn’t necessarily lose her assertiveness in how she approached life and work but she did learn how to have fun again.

While Jamie may be playing at dating Laurie and wards off all things commitment and love, this experience shows him that there is more to life than just living in the moment and being flighty.

Both characters learn about forgiveness and healing and are there for each other during those crucial moments.

This fake dating was the perfect set up for Laurie and Jamie in ways that they don’t even realize and I enjoyed how it all plays out for both of them in the end.

I will definitely check out more books by this author.

 Rating:

4 stars

Availability:

Available March 24, 2020 in paperback, ebook, and audiobook

 

A special thank you to Goodreads and William Morrow books for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.
book review · books · crime · diversity · mystery · own voices review · reading · suspense

The Missing American by Kwei Quartey

Blurb:

When her dreams of rising through the police ranks like her late father crash around her, 26-year-old Emma Djan is unsure what will become of her life in Accra. Through a sympathetic former colleague, Emma gets an interview with a private detective agency tracking down missing persons, thefts, and marital infidelities. It’s not the future she imagined, but it’s her best option.

Meanwhile, Gordon Tilson, a middle-aged widower in Washington, DC, has found solace in an online community after his wife’s passing. Through the support group, he’s even met a young Ghanaian widow he really cares about, and when her sister gets into a car accident, he sends her thousands of dollars to cover the hospital bill—to the horror of his only son, Derek. When Gordon runs off to Ghana to surprise his new love and disappears, Derek chases after him, fearing for his father’s life.

The case of the missing American man will drag both Emma and Derek into a world of sakawa scams, fetish priests, and those willing to keep things secret through death.

 

Review:

I want to start off this review by saying that I usually try to steer clear of series, but I allowed myself to get sucked into this story and I am not mad about it. I am only mad that I have to wait for the next one to come out.

I loved the different perspectives that you see throughout the story. Quartey writes most of the story from Emma’s point of view. Even though he is a male writer, I feel that he did an excellent job. He was able to write about her feelings and insecurities without making her seem whiney or needy. He was also able to write her as a strong-willed woman without making her seem too aggressive. Most male writers are not able to do that with a main female character. That is always something that I am hesitant about when reading a story told from a woman’s perspective but written by a man.

The mystery that surrounds the story of the sakawa and the involvement of Gordon was engrossing. You immediately find yourself trying to protect the innocent involved while also wanting to shake some sense into them. This story showed how Americans can easily find themselves in false security. That is what put Gordon in his situation. The sakawa are trained enough to be able to spot this in their victims.

While this is happening, Emma has her own conflict to deal with and own decisions to make about what is going to happen in her life and with her career. She doesn’t let an inconvenient detour lead her from her dream. She just begins a new road to get there. And while doing so, she discovers even more strengths about herself.

This story takes you on such a ride and introduces so much culture at the same time. You’re trying to solve a crime and at the same time you are learning.

I highly recommend this story to anyone who loves a good mystery that will keep you thinking and engaged. Everything is not what it seems in this story. I am too excited about the next installment but until then, I am hoping to get my hands on Kwei Quartey’s previous works.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover and ebook

 

I would like to send a special thank you to Kwei Quartey for sending me a gifted copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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.