abuse · black literature · book review · books · diversity · Historical fiction · middle grade · own voices review · Racism

Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Nobody free till everybody free. Moa is fourteen. The only life he has ever known is toiling on the Frontier sugar cane plantation for endless hot days, fearing the vicious whips of the overseers. Then one night he learns of an uprising, led by the charismatic Tacky. Moa is to be a cane warrior, and fight for the freedom of all the enslaved people in the nearby plantations. But before they can escape, Moa and his friend Keverton must face their first great task: to kill their overseer, Misser Donaldson. Time is ticking, and the day of the uprising approaches . . . Irresistible, gripping and unforgettable, Cane Warriors follows the true story of Tacky’s War in Jamaica, 1760.

Review:

I do not normally read middle grade novels but because this one is historical fiction and about a subject that I don’t normally see presented much(sugarcane plantations), I decided I wanted to give it a try.

The thing about slavery that we have to remember is that it was not just a thing in America. It was a thing in so many other countries that were “colonized” during that time frame. Especially in countries in the Caribbean. This particular story is set in Jamaica and is told from the perspective of a 14 year old boy. Now, we know that 14 doesn’t mean manhood but during slavery and even present day, a child of color is not seen as a child when they hit their teenage years. I thought that was something that was very thought provoking while reading this story.

This isn’t a very long book so I do not want to go into great detail about the story. One of the things that I found a bit difficult while reading this story was the switching of the dialect but after talking to a close friend, I have decided that it does not take away from the story. It adds to it.

The risks that this child and the men in this book take in order to gain their freedom is both admirable and heart breaking at the same time. The desire to just be able to live without fear and to be able to just enjoy the basic acts of life.

This is a middle grade book that I would recommend for younger audiences who want to know about the history of slavery that doesn’t take place in America and is also told from the perspective of someone their age.

Rating:

I would definitely read more work by this author. This book would get 2 Golden Girls from me.

Availability:

October 20, 2020 in hardcover, paperback and ebook

A special thank you to Akashic Books and their imprint Black Sheep for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

addiction · book review · books · Literary Fiction · love · Mental Health · reading · secrets

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman {ARC Review}

Blurb:

This is a poignant comedy about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined.

Viewing an apartment normally doesn’t turn into a life-or-death situation, but this particular open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes everyone in the apartment hostage. As the pressure mounts, the eight strangers slowly begin opening up to one another and reveal long-hidden truths.

As police surround the premises and television channels broadcast the hostage situation live, the tension mounts and even deeper secrets are slowly revealed. Before long, the robber must decide which is the more terrifying prospect: going out to face the police, or staying in the apartment with this group of impossible people. 

Review:

Great story. This story makes you think about life and what’s important. The thing I loved most about this story is that Backman shines a light on mental health and how it affects people differently. What extremes they go thru to hide or deny it and what extremes they go thru to not deal with it at all. There are some funny and endearing moments in this novel which is not unusual for a Backman novel.

As a person who deals with anxiety and depression on more occasions than I care to admit or think about, I felt seen with this story. This is one of those stories where nothing is as it seems. You go in thinking the story will go one way, but it turns a totally different direction and you are not disappointed by it because all along you are subconsciously thinking about so many things that you don’t realize you’ve been set on another path.

Backman’s story shows that you never know what someone is going thru and you never know how your interaction with people can affect them. Sometimes people can be saved but there is also the unfortunate reality that some think they are too far gone to be saved.

When reading a story by Backman, sometimes you find yourself thinking that this story is going all over the place. Who are all these people? How does any of this tie itself together? Well, it always does. Not necessarily in a neat little bow but definitely in a way that provides a conclusion that stays with you.

I recommend this book along with his other work. I am already looking forward to his next novel.

Rating:

I just outright loved and enjoyed this story.

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

A special thank to Atria Books for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

addiction · black literature · book review · books · dedication · diversity · Family · Literary Fiction · love · own voices review · reading

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Yaa Gyasi’s stunning follow-up to her acclaimed national best seller Homegoing is a powerful, raw, intimate, deeply layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama.

Gifty is a fifth year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford School of Medicine studying reward seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. 

But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith, and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive. Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanain immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief–a novel about faith, science, religion, love. Exquisitely written, emotionally searing, this is an exceptionally powerful follow-up to Gyasi’s phenomenal debut.

Review:

I want to start this book by saying that if you are going into this story thinking it is going to be parallel to Homegoing, let me stop you right there. This book is in no way the same type of story. Is this book just as heavy? It is. In my opinion, this book is heavier. I had to sit with this book for a few days to get my thoughts and feelings together because I just had and still have so many.

This story drew me into it in a way that is almost indescribable. Gyasi takes the subjects of faith, science, mental illness, addiction, and family and weaves them into a story that is heartfelt and heartbreaking at the same time. Your emotions are topsy turvy throughout the entire story. You have moments where you want to put the book down because it is almost too much to take in but you can’t because you want to know what is going to happen with each character.

I can never resist a story that makes me look at my own life and wonder how I would handle what the characters are dealing with. This story made me wonder how I would handle a family member’s addiction, the basic rejection of a parent’s love, and caring for a loved one with a depression so deep that you wonder if they are going to survive falling into that deep dark hole. I also never thought I would care so much about scientific research. Gyasi makes you care about it. She sneaks that feeling right into your heart.

This book was worth the wait and you will want to take your time reading it.

Rating:

All four Golden Girls

Availability:

Available September 1, 2020 in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

I want to say thank you to Knopf for my free copy in exchange for an honest review.

abuse · books · crime · diversity · Family · own voices review · reading · secrets

Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West {Review}

Blurb:

Family. Faith. Secrets. Everything in this world comes full circle.

When Ruby King’s mother is found murdered in their home in Chicago’s South Side, the police dismiss it as another act of violence in a black neighborhood. But for Ruby, it means she’ll be living alone with her violent father. The only person who understands the gravity of her situation is Ruby’s best friend, Layla. Their closeness is tested when Layla’s father, the pastor of their church, demands that Layla stay away. But what are his true motives? And what is the price for turning a blind eye?

In a relentless quest to save Ruby, Layla comes to discover the murky loyalties and dark secrets tying their families together for three generations. A crucial pilgrimage through the racially divided landscape of Chicago, Saving Ruby King traces the way trauma is passed down through generations and the ways in which communities can come together to create sanctuary.

Saving Ruby King is an emotional and revelatory story of race, family secrets, faith and redemption. This is an unforgettable debut novel from an exciting new voice in fiction and a powerful testament that history doesn’t determine the present, and that the bonds of friendship can forever shape the future.

Review:

As a woman of color there aren’t very many books that I read that make me feel seen. This was one of those rare occasions. Catherine takes the subjects of family, church, and secrets to light in this debut. The personification of the church was my favorite part of this novel. It shows what I have felt for years. The church is just a building that people put so much faith in to keep them safe. It makes them feel protected but in actuality it is a place that holds some of the darkest secrets.

Catherine also takes on the subject of generational curses. She shows how they affect a whole family directly and indirectly. How ignoring them can lead to damage that is sometimes deadly.

The friendships that are in this novel are deep, loving, and toxic at the same time. There are secrets and actions between friends that test the limit of what being a friend truly means. People are taken advantage of, people are forced to live with secrets they wouldn’t even have to carry if their love for their friend wasn’t so deep. Some of these friendships had many unhealthy aspects to them. Especially the friendship between Lebanon and Jackson.

This story doesn’t have a fairytale ending and I appreciated that. It had a very realistic ending even if you wanted more for certain characters.

I am curious to see what Catherine Adel West does with her work in the future. I am looking forward to reading more by her.

Rating:

All four Golden Girls( 5 Stars)

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook and audiobook.

black literature · Blog Tour · book review · books · diversity · Family · Racism · reading · secrets · YA

This Is My America By Kim Johnson {Blog Tour Review}

Blurb:

Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time—her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?

Fans of Nic Stone and Jason Reynolds won’t want to miss this provocative and gripping debut.

Review:

This book is going on my top ten list for this year, no questions asked. I wish I would have gotten copies for my two boys so that we could have read this together as a family. In fact, I will still buy them each their own copy so they can read it and we can discuss as a family.

The Beaumont family has already been displaced from New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina and now they must deal with the horrid racism in Texas. No matter how hard Jamal has worked to become a star athlete and not be the poster child for the “child of a convict” campaign, all his hard work is thrown out the moment he is considered a suspect in a crime. His sister Tracy is already doing everything that she can to try to bring their father home from a death row sentence. He received this sentence for a crime he did not commit. Time is running down for him and now she has to prove that her brother is innocent.

Mrs. Johnson is able to convey this subject matter in a way that young adults can ingest without difficulty and a way that adults can ingest and also know how to convey to their own children. Even thru the heavy subject matter, Tracy is still portrayed as a regular teenager dealing with feelings of love and lust, your normal teenage stubbornness, and her friendships as well.

The way the story is written and progresses keeps you engaged. You don’t want to put the book down because you fear you may miss out on what will happen next. There are plenty of twists throughout the story that keep out on your toes.

One of my favorite moments in the story is when Tracy is holding one of her workshops and they are discussing how a black person should act when encountering the police. I loved this scene and it broke my heart at the same time because this scene is one black parents know all too well. I want to thank Mrs. Johnson for writing this story. I want to thank her for showing that the fight against racism isn’t just about police brutality. It is something that is fought at every aspect of life. It is even a battle against the people who don’t even realize or want to realize that they are racist. This is the book that needs to be added to school curriculums.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availibility:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

I want to say a special thank you to Underlined for my free copy in exchange for an honest review and for having me along on this tour.

abuse · addiction · book review · books · Bootlegging · Family · Historical fiction · reading · secrets · Women's fiction

Etiquette For Runaways by Liza Nash Taylor {Suzy’s Approved Book Tours}

Blurb

1924. May Marshall is determined to spend the dog days of summer in self-imposed exile at her father’s farm in Keswick, Virginia. Following a naive dalliance that led to heartbreak and her expulsion from Mary Baldwin College, May returns home with a shameful secret only to find her father’s orchard is now the site of a lucrative moonshining enterprise. Despite warnings from the one man she trusts—her childhood friend Byrd—she joins her father’s illegal business. When authorities close in and her father, Henry, is arrested, May goes on the run.
May arrives in New York City, determined to reinvent herself as May Valentine and succeed on her own terms, following her mother’s footsteps as a costume designer. The Jazz Age city glitters with both opportunity and the darker temptations of cocaine and nightlife. From a start mending sheets at the famed Biltmore Hotel, May falls into a position designing costumes for a newly formed troupe of African American entertainers bound for Paris. Reveling in her good fortune, May will do anything for the chance to go abroad, and the lines between right and wrong begin to blur. When Byrd shows up in New York, intent upon taking May back home, she pushes him, and her past, away.
In Paris, May’s run of luck comes to a screeching halt, spiraling her into darkness as she unravels a painful secret about her past. May must make a choice: surrender to failure and addiction, or face the truth and make amends to those she has wronged. But first, she must find self-forgiveness before she can try to reclaim what her heart craves most.

Review

I am beginning to think that maybe WW2 historical fiction isn’t my favorite anymore. I think it is fiction told during the Jazz Age, which is also part of the war time but has its own vibe to it. More stories seem to include black characters and touches on the struggles that they dealt with during this time instead of an author acting like they didn’t exist.

May has had a very unconventional upbringing. She was raised by her father after her mother left them. She also experienced trauma as a young child when her infant brother died. Though all that happened she was able to grow into a fine young lady and go off to school. Now being a bit naive caused her to get in a bit of trouble and that sent her back home. Her strength faltered slightly and in my opinion that was expected considering what she was dealt with and then coming home to an alcoholic father who is selling illegal moonshine.

You get a sense that May experienced some deep depression but she does manage to get thru it. You also see her picking up her strength as she decides that she is going to leave home and pursue a career even though every one around her, including her childhood best friend Byrd. Once her mind was made up, there was no changing it and May did what she could to get to New York which was a totally different vibe from her home state of Virginia.

May is chasing her dream and also chasing the ghost of her mother. She has to quickly learn that life in New York is not like the life she led in Virginia. She has some minor setbacks but she doesn’t let that deter her. Her determination helped land her a job in Paris. Once again she was chasing her dream and the ghost of her mother. Once in Paris, life was not what she thought it was going to be. The war was just starting and her fellow Parisian coworkers treated her as if she didn’t know anything.

Throughout everything May went thru, she continued to push forward even if she made some reckless decisions and put herself in some pretty shady situations.

I am glad that she finally learned the truth about her mother so that she could stop chasing that ghost. She also found her footing in life.

This book touched on so many issues and one of the things that I enjoyed about it is that the author did not try to round the edges of these situations to make readers feel more comfortable. I feel that the ending was realistic and a great fit for this story.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for historical fiction with a strong female lead who deals with real life issues and to anyone looking for a story that is not all flowers and sunshine.

Availability:

Available August 18th in hardcover and ebook.

A special thank you to Suzy Approved Book Tours for having me along on this tour and for the gifted copy. Also, thank you to Blackstone Publishing for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

book review · books · contemporary fiction · dedication · Family · love · reading · romance · secrets · Women's fiction

What You Wish For by Katherine Center {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Samantha Casey loves everything about her job as an elementary school librarian on the sunny, historic island of Galveston, Texas—the goofy kids, the stately Victorian building, the butterfly garden. But when the school suddenly loses its beloved principal, it turns out his replacement will be none other than Duncan Carpenter—a former, unrequited crush of Sam’s from many years before.

When Duncan shows up as her new boss, though, he’s nothing like the sweet teacher she once swooned over. He’s become stiff, and humorless, and obsessed with school safety. Now, with Duncan determined to destroy everything Sam loves about her school in the name of security—and turn it into nothing short of a prison—Sam has to stand up for everyone she cares about before the school that’s become her home is gone for good.

Review:

I can’t lie, the cover of this book and the fact that I loved the last two Katherine Center books is what made me want to read it. I read the synopsis after adding it to my TBR. Which I have to admit that I must have only skimmed it because once I picked up the book to read it, I wasn’t sure what was in store for me.

As usual, Katherine weaves a story that has heavy content while still keeping it light and entertaining. Catching your emotions off guard while making you think about what you would do in each character’s situation. I liked the character development of both Sam and Duncan, although Duncan kind of irritated me when he first showed up. As the story moves forward you begin to understand why he comes in with guns hot (pun intended there. You’ll understand if and when you’ve read this book).

Sam is another female character of Katherine’s who has to do some self-discovery even though at the beginning of the story she is already more sure of herself than she gives herself credit.

I do wish there had been a little more insight into Duncan’s life but I understand that this was not his story. The same goes for wanting more insight into the lives of Tina and her husband Kent. Wait, no I didn’t. I had enough of Kent with his on page time. What a dislikable character. Katherine hit the nail on the head with him.

This may not have been my favorite Katherine Center book, it will not stop me from waiting impatiently for her next story. Also, I need to go and get her backlist read.

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

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

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.