black literature · book review · crime · diversity · gentrification · gentrification thriller · own voices review · Racism · reading · secrets · Thriller

When No One Is Watching By Alyssa Cole {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear? 

Review:

Gentrification thriller. That is all it took for me to want to read this book. Me, a reader who doesn’t read a lot of thrillers. Not only is this a gentrification thriller, it’s by Alyssa Cole who I am only familiar with thru her romance novels which I haven’t read(don’t judge me) but have heard a lot of good things about. Anyway, back to the book at hand. I am so glad that I read this book. Alyssa takes a subject that is already frightening enough by itself in real life and turns it into a story that shows how bad it already is and worse it will get worse if nothing is done.

Gentrification is something that I, along with other black people are currently witnessing in towns and cities that we live in. Companies coming in and sweet talking or sometimes bullying residents of color out of areas that were once prominent but have deteriorated over the years due to the lack of non color residents not wanting to reside there until that area is seen as a potential money maker. Then this practice is justified in their minds because they are “beautifying” the area. When in reality if the area was afforded the same access to funding, they would never be in the worn down conditions that they end up in.

Cole takes this story and tells it from Sydney’s point of view, which I admit was a bit hard to follow at first because I was thinking she was just going to be an unreliable narrator. But she turns out to have more sense than what I thought. My heart was broken reading this story knowing how realistic it is. How there are so many people are out there experiencing this daily basis.

Now, the story is also told thru poor old Theo’s point of view. Poor, poor naive Theo. Lawd Sweet Baby Betty White. Bless Theo’s heart. I definitely had my reservations about him and rightfully so. That poor man was so damn clueless, as are most people of his background. And I am not talking about social background either. He is as clueless as they come, especially dealing with “Bodega Becky”(read the book and you’ll know exactly what I am talking about. Theo really possessed the “I mean well” and ” I am trying to understand” attitude that is continuously shown in racial situations.

The partnership of Sydney and Theo was one that was relatable when it comes to the racial climate that we are currently in. It is good to have counterparts on the other side who want to help, but them knowing how to help and having to recondition their beliefs is the real battle that is faced and Alyssa did a great job showcasing this.

In closing, one thing I that makes me dislike a thriller is the either the plot twist or the climax. I hate when I get to those parts and it’s like “pew” instead of “BAM”. This thriller was all the way “BAM”. Go pick it up.

Availability:

Available September 1, 2020 in paperback, ebook, and audiobook

Rating:

Knocked all four girls down!!!!

Thank you so much to William Morrow Books for this free copy in exchange for my 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.

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.

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.

 

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.

book review · books · crime · Literary Fiction · own voices review · reading · social media

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Lydia Quixano Perez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with four books he would like to buy–two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

American Dirt will leave readers utterly changed. It is a page-turner; it is a literary achievement; it is filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity on every page. It is one of the most important books for our times.

Review:

This was the perfect book to end my reading year of 2019. Such a compelling and heart-wrenching story about a mother and her son fleeing from the home they know and love in order to survive, to a place that won’t openly welcome them but advertises freedom and safety.

This is felt like a non-fiction read although it is fiction. The author puts you in Lydia’s and Luca’s shoes as they trek across Mexico into unknown territory with strangers because that is safer than what awaits them at home. They have lost their entire family and basically have nothing else to lose.  The people they meet along this journey will make you realize that people trying to make their way into this country aren’t always what the media makes them out to be. You begin to question yourself about what you would do or risk in order to find solace and safety. The risk of losing your life while trying to save it. Losing it physically, emotionally, and mentally. They don’t know who to trust and they really don’t know where they are going. They only know that they don’t want to go back to where they were.

I think this was an important story to be told. You can tell the author took great care in researching and presenting this story. This is one of the few books that I actually read the author’s note after finishing the and I highly recommend others doing so.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook January 21, 2020

 

A very special thank you to Flatiron Books for my gifted copy.

adventure · Blog Tour · book review · crime · mystery · reading

White Knight by John H. Cunningham {Suzy’s Approved Book Tour Review}

Blurb:

Buck Reilly’s vacation in the Virgin Islands goes downhill fast when he witnesses a helicopter crash over the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Buck races to the rescue, but the lone survivor—a beautiful woman—has amnesia. When Buck learns the woman is Giselle Huibert, the First Lady of France, who fled her husband while at the G8 Summit on St. Thomas for reasons she cannot remember, Buck has no choice but to try and help her. However, Giselle refuses to let him call the police—even when it becomes clear that men intending to kill them are hot on their trail. 

When Giselle remembers the horrifying assault she witnessed her husband and his head of security commit, and the events that led to her helicopter crashing, she and Buck are forced to flee throughout the Virgin Islands, with no one to trust but a group of unlikely heroes. 

Fueled by their mutual passion, revenge against her husband, and their quest for the truth, Buck and Giselle turn the tables on their pursuers, but the final showdown rocks them to their core and challenges everything they believed to be true. 

Review:

When I was first given the option of reading and reviewing this story, I was a bit hesitant because I thought it was part of a series. The author does have a series with this main character but this particular book is more of a standalone. Once I started reading it, I knew I’d be okay because of the background information the author feeds in throughout the story.

I liked Buck’s character even if he was a bit naive when it came to Giselle at times. I could see why he was so smitten with her. Beautiful, smart, determined Giselle.

The situation that Buck finds himself in with Giselle is the perfectwhen vacations go wrong” scenario. Helicopter crashes, running for your life, hiding in plain sight. The prime set up for an action packed adventure. And throw in a dash of mystery.

The way the story is written makes you visualize it as an action movie. The plot doesn’t require a lot of thought and concentration so it’s easy to either breeze thru or either pick up where you left off if you have to put it down.

Having read and enjoyed this story, I will say that I’ll probably check out the main series that features Buck Reilly.

Rating:

3 Stars

Availability:

Available now in ebook

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

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 · 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.

abuse · book review · books · crime · diversity · Historical fiction · mystery · own voices review · reading

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins {Review}

Blurb:

A servant and former slave is accused of murdering her employer and his wife in this astonishing historical thriller that moves from a Jamaican sugar plantation to the fetid streets of Georgian London—a remarkable literary debut with echoes of Alias Grace, The Underground Railroad, and The Paying Guests.

All of London is abuzz with the scandalous case of Frannie Langton, accused of the brutal double murder of her employers, renowned scientist George Benham and his eccentric French wife, Marguerite. Crowds pack the courtroom, eagerly following every twist, while the newspapers print lurid theories about the killings and the mysterious woman being held in the Old Bailey.

The testimonies against Frannie are damning. She is a seductress, a witch, a master manipulator, a whore.

But Frannie claims she cannot recall what happened that fateful evening, even if remembering could save her life. She doesn’t know how she came to be covered in the victims’ blood. But she does have a tale to tell: a story of her childhood on a Jamaican plantation, her apprenticeship under a debauched scientist who stretched all bounds of ethics, and the events that brought her into the Benhams’ London home—and into a passionate and forbidden relationship.

Though her testimony may seal her conviction, the truth will unmask the perpetrators of crimes far beyond murder and indict the whole of English society itself.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton is a breathtaking debut: a murder mystery that travels across the Atlantic and through the darkest channels of history. A brilliant, searing depiction of race, class, and oppression that penetrates the skin and sears the soul, it is the story of a woman of her own making in a world that would see her unmade.

Review:

What attracted me initially to this story was that it put me in the mindframe of one of my all time favorite books, I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Conde. It takes during slavery, but not American slavery.

Frannie is writing her story, not to dispute her guilt of the horrendous crimes she may or may not have committed but to clear her conscience of the things she has done in her life. Things that were done by force and by choice.

Frannie is born into a life that she has no control over what happens to her but at the same time is given the slight freedom of having a bit of education. Being taught how to read has both its advantages and its setbacks for her as she grows up with the Langton’s but is later practically thrown to the Benham’s.

As I progressed thru this story, I quickly realized how different it was from my favorite novel and I loved the differences. Frannie’s story made me feel sorry for her while at the same time infuriating me. There were things I felt that she could have had more control over even if she were a slave and later a servant as intelligent as she was, but these flaws showed her vulnerability. At the same time she faced issues that not even a free person could have avoided.

Although this isn’t your typical summer read, if given the chance it will tick off more boxes on your list than you can think to imagine. Along with being a historical fiction, there is also the element of mystery and the hint of romance regardless of how socially unacceptable it was for its time period.

This is a beautifully written debut that will hold your attention not only with the storyline but with the lyrical writing style. I look forward to seeing what else Sara Collins will write in the future.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

*A special thank you to Harper Books for my review copy in exchange for my honest review*