Blog Tour · book review · books · Historical fiction · love · reading

The Undertaker’s Assistant by Amanda Skenandore {Blog Tour Review}

Blurb:

Effie Jones, a former slave who escaped to the Union side as a child, knows the truth of her words. Taken in by an army surgeon and his wife during the War, she learned to read and write, to tolerate the sight of blood and broken bodies–and to forget what is too painful to bear. Now a young freedwoman, she has returned south to New Orleans and earns her living as an embalmer, her steady hand and skillful incisions compensating for her white employer’s shortcomings.

Tall and serious, Effie keeps her distance from the other girls in her boarding house, holding tight to the satisfaction she finds in her work. But despite her reticence, two encounters–with a charismatic state legislator named Samson Greene, and a beautiful young Creole, Adeline–introduce her to new worlds of protests and activism, of soirees and social ambition. Effie decides to seek out the past she has blocked from her memory and try to trace her kin. As her hopes are tested by betrayal, and New Orleans grapples with violence and growing racial turmoil, Effie faces loss and heartache, but also a chance to finally find her place . .

Review:

I really didn’t know what to expect coming in to this story. I’m a sucker for a good historical fiction and I admit I had some reservations about the author telling the story from freed woman’s perspective. She surprised me with how well it was written. The feelings and things that Effie experienced were valid and also relatable. She dealt with prejudices because of the color of her skin from whites and because she was a “northern” black woman she also deals with prejudices from the black community. She struggled with trying to find where she fit in while also learning how to deal with feelings for one of the first times in her life. Orphaned as a slave, and then later being betrayed by the man who took her in. At almost every step she feels like she doesn’t belong.

Effie has been on her own so long that she doesn’t really know how to make friends or fall in love. She also has trouble with learning about her employer’s true feelings about civil rights. Effie also must learn how to build healthy friendships and relationships. She finds a friend in a person she least expected and she also experiences heartbreak for the first time. All issues that women deal with in the present. Effie comes face to face with her past in such a way that tests her emotionally and mentally.

While Effie has come to the south to find out where it is that she came from and to find out if she has any family left, she also learns how to be true to herself and accept love and friendship.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availibility:

Available now in paperback and ebook

 

Thank you Historical Fiction Virtual Tours for having me along on this book tour and Kensington books for my review copy.

book review · books · Family · reading · romance

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s excellent at dealing with other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to uproot her life and move to Boston, it’s an emergency of a kind Cassie never anticipated.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the handsome rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because she doesn’t fall in love. And because of the advice her old captain gave her: don’t date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…but will she jeopardize her place in a career where she’s worked so hard to be taken seriously?

Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt, affecting novel about life, love, and the true meaning of courage.

Review:

This book was so amazing and it was just what I needed at the time that I read it. I am a bit upset at myself for flying thru it like I did. I enjoyed Cassie and the storyline. I could relate on so many of the issues that she had, from her determination to keep feelings at bay, her head held high, and keep the past in just enough reach to remember to not let her guard down.

In this story, Cassie must learn how to deal with her past, choose to forgive, learn to love and be loved all while maintaining her career.

This was my second novel by Katherine and I have to say that I love the way she writes her stories. It’s like sitting down and actually talking and engaging with the characters.

I highly recommend checking this book out.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availibility:

Available August 13th in hardcover, ebook, and audio

A special thank you to St. Martin’s Press for the review Copy I received.

You can also hear my review of this book on the 3 Book Girls podcast.

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

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Two families from different social classes are joined together by an unexpected pregnancy and the child that it produces. Moving forward and backward in time, with the power of poetry and the emotional richness of a narrative ten times its length, Jacqueline Woodson’s extraordinary new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of this child.

As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s birthday celebration in her grandparent’s Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, escorted by her father to the soundtrack of Prince, she wears a special, custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody’s mother, for her own sixteenth birthday party and a celebration which ultimately never took place.

Unfurling the history of Melody’s parents and grandparents to show how they all arrived at this moment, Woodson considers not just their ambitions and successes but also the costs, the tolls they’ve paid for striving to overcome expectations and escape the pull of history. As it explores sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives—even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.

Review:

Where have I been while Jacqueline Woodson has been out here dropping literary gems in the book world? I feel like I have missed out on so much from her . I can’t even say what drew me to this book. It clearly wasn’t just the fact that Jacqueline Woodson wrote it, it was the content. Being written by Ms. Woodson was the ultimate plus.

Woodson explores the dynamic of black families in such a mesmerizing way. You see that within the black family there is still the defining difference of class and even skin color. How some blacks try so hard to get above where they have come from and some are content with just being able to survive. How love isn’t just enough to keep one happy.

Melody is the end result of everything her parents and even grandparents had to go thru. She has a plethora of history to look back on when it comes to making decisions about her future. At the same time she also has to build her own identity without wiping away her history.

So many difficult choices are made by the characters in this story.

I am so grateful to have been able to experience it.

This is a small book that packs such a big punch. It’s short but still so complex.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available September 17th in hardcover, ebook, and audio.

A special thank you to Riverhead Books for allowing me to read and review this title.
abuse · book review · books · civil rights · crime · diversity

One Night in Georgia by Celeste O. Norfleet {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Set in the summer of 1968, a provocative and devastating novel of individual lives caught in the grips of violent history—a timely and poignant story that reverberates with the power of Alice Walker’s Meridian and Ntozake Shange’s Betsey Browne.

At the end of a sweltering summer shaped by the tragic assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy, race riots, political protests, and the birth of Black power, three coeds from New York City—Zelda Livingston, Veronica Cook, and Daphne Brooks—pack into Veronica’s new Ford Fairlane convertible, bound for Atlanta and their last year at Spelman College. It is the beginning a journey that will change their lives irrevocably.

Unlikely friends from vastly different backgrounds, the trio has been inseparable since freshman year. Zelda, serious and unyielding, the heir of rebellious slaves and freedom riders, sees the world in black versus white. Veronica, the privileged daughter of a refined, wealthy family, strongly believes in integration and racial uplift. Daphne lives with a legacy of loss—when she was five years old, her black mother committed suicide and her white father abandoned her.

Because they will be going their separate ways after graduation, Zelda, Veronica, and Daphne intend to make lasting memories on this special trip. Though they are young and carefree, they aren’t foolish. Joined by Veronica’s family friend Daniel, they rely on the Motorist Green Book to find racially friendly locations for gas, rest, and food. Still, with the sun on their cheeks, the wind in their hair, and Motown on the radio, the girls revel in their freedom. Yet as the miles fly by, taking them closer to the Mason-Dixon line, tension begins to rise and the conversation turns serious when Daphne shares a horrifying secret about her life.

When they hit Washington, D.C., the joyous trip turns dark. In Virginia they barely escape a desperate situation when prison guards mistake Daniel for an escapee. Further south they barely make it through a sundown town. When the car breaks down in Georgia they are caught up in a racially hostile situation that leaves a white person dead and one of the girls holding the gun.

Review:

This was such a deep book. It wasn’t too complex as far as the writing or story is concern but the content was complex. When you are first introduced to Zelda, you immediately feel her strength and determination bouncing off the page and that is a good thing that will come in handy for her as the story progresses.

As the girls and Daniel travel, they are thrown into situations that will both test their mental strength, friendships, and self-esteem at the same time. They are quickly reminded that although the world is changing, it is a slow change and they still have to be careful. They cannot take anything for granted.

Although this is a historical fiction, there are so many instances that reflect today’s society and what is going on in so many ways. It shows that although things aren’t completely as they were in the 60s, there are some things that have yet to change.

I love how this story plays out even if there were times it made me so angry that I wanted to cry. I think that is what the author was maybe trying to go for with this story. Take us out of our comfort zone. Open our eyes to how things were, still are at times, and can be at any given time.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback, ebook and audiobook

 

A special thank you to Amistad Books for my review copy

 

 

book review · books · psychological thriller · secrets

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager {ARC Review}

Blurb:

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story . . . until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

Review:

Riley Sager does it again. I am not a bit thriller lover, but I have loved everything that Riley Sager has written thus far. What I enjoyed about this story is that it is not the horror story that you think. Riley draws you into the story and plants all these clues to make you believe that you have figured out what is going on and then BAM there is a twist. The plot development was concise and flowing. The storyline was intriguing. This story reminded me of a movie I watched about a haunted floor of a building, but I can’t recall the name of it at this time.

I have to admit that in the beginning, thought that Jules was going to be the typical unreliable narrator. She quickly proved me wrong. She did what she thought she needed to do to solve the mystery. She realized that if something is too good to be true than it usually is.

The history of the Bartholomew kept my attention. I wanted to look up more info as if it was a true story. That never happens when I read a thriller. I didn’t have to suspend my mind too much to believe this story.

This book will be a great last-minute summer vacation read or a nice quick thrilling read while everyone gets ready to get back into the routine for school.

Rating:

4 stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

A special thank you to Dutton Books for my review copy.
addiction · book review · books · Family · Historical fiction · Literary Fiction · love · own voices review · reading · secrets

In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow {Review}

Blurb:

Azalea “Knot” Centre is determined to live life as she pleases. Let the people of West Mills say what they will; the neighbors’ gossip won’t keep Knot from what she loves best: cheap moonshine, nineteenth-century literature, and the company of men. And yet, Knot is starting to learn that her freedom comes at a high price. Alone in her one-room shack, ostracized from her relatives and cut off from her hometown, Knot turns to her neighbor, Otis Lee Loving, in search of some semblance of family and home.

Otis Lee is eager to help. A lifelong fixer, Otis Lee is determined to steer his friends and family away from decisions that will cause them heartache and ridicule. After his failed attempt as a teenager to help his older sister, Otis Lee discovers a possible path to redemption in the chaos Knot brings to his doorstep. But while he’s busy trying to fix Knot’s life, Otis Lee finds himself powerless to repair the many troubles within his own family, as the long-buried secrets of his troubled past begin to come to light.

Set in an African American community in rural North Carolina from 1941 to 1987, In West Mills is a magnificent, big-hearted small-town story about family, friendship, storytelling, and the redemptive power of love.

Review:

I knew I was going to love this book when I read the synopsis. I related to this story and I felt this story on so many levels. Mr. Winslow tells a story that is all too familiar in the African-American community. Secrets are kept because people honestly believe  it’s the right thing to do when in reality the secrets are more harmful than helpful. All the while, hiding pain and suffering behind alcohol and being closed off from others. Knot is the prime example for all of that. She hides behind a mason jar of liquor, she pushes away the person who loves her so much. She keeps people at bay to avoid being hurt or disappointed and uses the excuse of being independent.

Otis is living in a world that he doesn’t realize is one big lie. A lie that he doesn’t even know exist. Not only a lie about him but his wife holds a secret that affects his dear friend Knot.

Secrets that are kept about true parentage  or other life events are much more detrimental than people realize. So many of the issues are presented in a historical sense but are still relevant today. Keeping secrets such as these can cause one to miss out on so much and when the truth does come out it can cause pain and anger. Knot had one daughter who built a relationship with her and her other daughter didn’t really have much to do with her.

I related to this story so much because I was adopted by a family member but it was a secret that was kept from me until I was 21 years old. My family believed that keeping the secret was better than knowing the truth and it was not the case. Keeping secrets such as these can cause one to miss out on so much and when the truth does come out it can cause pain and anger.

I highly recommend this story. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to read and review it. I look forward to Mr. Winslow’s next novel.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook and audiobook

A special thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for my gifted finished copy of this novel.

 

 

book review · books · crime · reading

A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell {ARC Review}

Blurb:

There is a stranger outside Caroline’s house.

Her spectacular new beach house, built for hosting expensive parties and vacationing with the family she thought she’d have. But her husband is lying to her and everything in her life is upside down, so when the stranger, Aiden, shows up as a bartender at the same party where Caroline and her husband have a very public fight, it doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary.

As her marriage collapses around her and the lavish lifestyle she’s built for herself starts to crumble, Caroline turns to Aiden for comfort…and revenge. After a brief and desperate fling that means nothing to Caroline and everything to him, Aiden’s obsession with Caroline, her family, and her house grows more and more disturbing. And when Caroline’s husband goes missing, her life descends into a nightmare that leaves her accused of her own husband’s murder.

Review:

I want to start this review off by stating that thrillers are not my favorite genre and I find myself critiqueing them the hardest. I don’t know why that is but it just is.

Anyway, this story started off strong. The potential was there for a fairly decent thrill. I knew that Caroline was going to have some personality issues but not anything I couldn’t overlook. I felt some anger for her when her husband showed up to the party with the Russian bombshell and then kind of fell off the grid. I’ll also admit that I thought Aiden was going to be trouble from the moment he entered the story. Like I said, the bricks were laid out nicely….then….

Unreliable narration kicked in, not only from one character, but two!!! I could see where the author was going but things were not lining up properly for me. There were some gaps and there were also some unnecessary incidents that did not have any real purpose to the plot.

With all that being said, I am sure there are plenty of people who will in fact enjoy this story and I hope that there are. But for me, it missed it’s mark. It’s an easy and fast read. Won’t take much time to fly thru or much concentration. I believe those are both good things for a “beach read.” As far as substance though, if that is what you are seeking, I can’t sit here and say that this story has any.

I was so happy to receive the big marketing box that it came in, but now I realize that it was like seeing a big souped up truck with a hot guy driving it and the hot guy turns out to be only 5 ft tall.

This is my first book by this author and I do have her other two books. I plan on reading them to see if this was just a book that missed the mark for me.

Rating:

2.5 Stars

Availability:

Available July 23, 2019 in hardcover, ebook and audio.