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Quick reviews on some recent reads

I managed to read more than I thought last month. I read a total of 10 books and didn’t review any of them because life has been life. It’s 2020 and ya’ll know what I am talking about. Anyway, since I am still really not in the mood to post full reviews but I needed something to do, I figured I would share some quick thoughts on some of my reads.

Sisters of War by Lana Kortchik (gifted copy from Harper Collins, published September 2020)

Blurb:

A dark shadow is about to fall over the golden cupolas of Kiev…

As the Red Army retreats in the face of Hitler’s relentless advance across Eastern Europe, the lives of sisters Natasha and Lisa are about to change forever.

While Lisa’s plans to marry her childhood sweetheart turn to tragedy under the occupation, Natasha grows close to Mark, a Hungarian soldier, enlisted against all his principles on the side of the Nazis.

But as Natasha fights for the survival of the friends and family she loves, the war threatens to tear them apart.

Review:

Yes, this is a story set during WW2 and yes the women on the cover aren’t looking at the “camera” but I don’t hold that against the story. This story had some intense moments. You didn’t really know what was going to happen from each moment to the next. Each character had an equal chance of not surviving or having a happy ending. Now, I don’t know if there is a such thing as a happy ending in a story that contains so much loss and devastation but we have to take gems of happiness where we can get them. Lana really plays with your emotions in this story.

Rating:

3 Golden Girls

Diamond Doris by Doris Payne (gifted copy from Amistad Books, published September 2019)

Blurb:

Growing up during the Depression in the segregated coal town of Slab Fork, West Virginia, Doris Payne was told her dreams were unattainable for poor black girls like her. Surrounded by people who sought to limit her potential, Doris vowed to turn the tables after the owner of a jewelry store threw her out when a white customer arrived. Neither racism nor poverty would hold her back; she would get what she wanted and help her mother escape an abusive relationship.

Using her southern charm, quick wit, and fascination with magic as her tools, Payne began shoplifting small pieces of jewelry from local stores. Over the course of six decades, her talents grew with each heist. Becoming an expert world-class jewel thief, she daringly pulled off numerous diamond robberies and her Jewish boyfriend fenced the stolen gems to Hollywood celebrities.

Doris’s criminal exploits went unsolved well into the 1970s—partly because the stores did not want to admit that they were duped by a black woman. Eventually realizing Doris was using him, her boyfriend turned her in. She was arrested after stealing a diamond ring in Monte Carlo that was valued at more than half a million dollars. But even prison couldn’t contain this larger-than-life personality who cleverly used nuns as well as various ruses to help her break out. With her arrest in 2013 in San Diego, Doris’s fame skyrocketed when media coverage of her astonishing escapades exploded.

Today, at eighty-seven, Doris, as bold and vibrant as ever, lives in Atlanta, and is celebrated for her glamorous legacy. She sums up her adventurous career best: “It beat being a teacher or a maid.” A rip-roaringly fun and exciting story as captivating and audacious as Catch Me if You Can and Can You Ever Forgive Me?—Diamond Doris is the portrait of a captivating anti-hero who refused to be defined by the prejudices and mores of a hypocritical society.

Review:

I did not want this story to end. I had never heard of Doris Payne before receiving a copy of this book. This was a memoir that I did not mind going into without having knowledge of the writer. It’s a short memoir but it packs punches. Doris was a beast in her prime and in my opinion, she is still a beast for pumping out her story so late in life. This is going to be one of my favorite memoirs. And yes, I do intend on watching the movie whenever it comes out. I hope that they do it justice. I believe Doris did what she did out of necessity and not out of greed but it seemed to also become a thrill to her. The story of Doris Payne goes to show you that bad assery comes in all forms.

Rating:

4 Golden Girls

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (gifted copy from Tor Books, published October 2020)

Blurb:

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name. 

Review:

When I was first approached about this book, I admit I did a major eyeroll. I did not give much thought to it. And the same went when I received one of the influencer boxes. I was thinking that as much work that was put into the boxes possibly meant the book was not going to live up to the hype(I’ve been fooled by cute boxes before). Then I started reading the book and OMG!!!! WOW! Talk about a humbling moment. I had to eat my words. I was wrong about how I would feel about the story. It was so engrossing. I just wanted more and more. I devoured this story. This is a book that I would consider revisiting in the future.

Rating:

4 Golden Girls

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel (gifted copy from Gallery Books, published July 2020)

Blurb:

Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books one morning when her eyes lock on a photograph in a magazine lying open nearby. She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in sixty-five years—a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names.

The accompanying article discusses the looting of libraries by the Nazis across Europe during World War II—an experience Eva remembers well—and the search to reunite people with the texts taken from them so long ago. The book in the photograph, an eighteenth-century religious text thought to have been taken from France in the waning days of the war, is one of the most fascinating cases. Now housed in Berlin’s Zentral- und Landesbibliothek library, it appears to contain some sort of code, but researchers don’t know where it came from—or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answer—but will she have the strength to revisit old memories and help reunite those lost during the war?

As a graduate student in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris after the arrest of her father, a Polish Jew. Finding refuge in a small mountain town in the Free Zone, she begins forging identity documents for Jewish children fleeing to neutral Switzerland. But erasing people comes with a price, and along with a mysterious, handsome forger named Rémy, Eva decides she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children who are too young to remember who they really are. The records they keep in The Book of Lost Names will become even more vital when the resistance cell they work for is betrayed and Rémy disappears.

An engaging and evocative novel reminiscent of The Lost Girls of Paris and The Alice NetworkThe Book of Lost Names is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of bravery and love in the face of evil.

Review:

Yes, another WW2 historical fiction with the infamous cover, lol. This story takes place in Paris. A story of bravery that makes you wonder if you would be brave enough to endure the risk of death to help those who can’t help themselves. I remember trying to forge one of my parent’s signatures one time and the amount of stress I felt was not even worth the risk. I couldn’t imagine trying to forge documents knowing that if I am caught, the consequences are going to be horrific not just for me but also for those I love. Diligence is another word that comes to mind when thinking about this story. Another thing, this book was soooo hard to find when it came out. When it was finally back in stock without a 1-2 month wait for delivery, I ordered it and then I received a gifted copy from the publisher, lol. I will definitely be reading other books by this author.

Rating:

4 Golden Girls

Me by Elton John (published by Henry Holt in October 2019)

Blurb:

In his only official autobiography, music icon Elton John writes about his extraordinary life, which is also the subject of the film Rocketman.

Christened Reginald Dwight, he was a shy boy with Buddy Holly glasses who grew up in the London suburb of Pinner and dreamed of becoming a pop star. By the age of twenty-three, he was on his first tour of America, facing an astonished audience in his tight silver hotpants, bare legs and a T-shirt with ROCK AND ROLL emblazoned across it in sequins. Elton John had arrived and the music world would never be the same again.

His life has been full of drama, from the early rejection of his work with song-writing partner Bernie Taupin to spinning out of control as a chart-topping superstar; from half-heartedly trying to drown himself in his LA swimming pool to disco-dancing with the Queen; from friendships with John Lennon, Freddie Mercury and George Michael to setting up his AIDS Foundation. All the while, Elton was hiding a drug addiction that would grip him for over a decade.

In Me Elton also writes about getting clean and changing his life, about finding love with David Furnish and becoming a father. 

Review:

While I enjoy reading stories about people I am not that familiar, I also enjoy memoirs/autobiographies but those I am familiar with. I knew I wanted to read this one because I find Elton John to be one of those celebrities who has done so much and seems to have lived forever. I am always curious as to what their lives are/were like before a obtaining a celebrity status. I listened to this one on audio and although it’s not narrated by Elton himself, the narrator still did a fabulous job. I also learned that the man who narrated the book is the same man who plays Elton John in Rocketman. Elton did some crazy shit during his life. But he also had enough sense to get help before it was too late. I think that was probably my favorite part of his story. Now, I did attempt to watch Rocketman after finishing this book but I couldn’t get into it. I knew there was going to be music, but I wasn’t expecting folks to break out in full song and dance. I may try watching it again at a later date.

Rating:

4 Golden Girls

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (published by Grand Central in February 2017)

Blurb:

Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan. 

So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

Review:

Family saga, historical fiction, 400+ pages. Yes, please and thank you. I am so mad at myself for letting this book sit on my shelf unread for 3 years. At the same time, I am glad that I waited to read it. I think I appreciated it more because I waited to read it. I had an idea what it was going to be about and did not reread the synopsis when I decided to finally pick it up and I am glad that I didn’t. This is a beautifully written story and it will take your heart and hold it hostage. What each of these characters has to endure is so horrifying at times. Each of them have so many choices they have to make in order to survive. I intend on reading Min Jin’s debut novel, Free Food for Millionaires which has also just been sitting on my shelf.

Rating:

4 Golden Girls

Not pictured, but read:

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (published by Harper in September 2019)

Blurb:

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.

The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested. 

Review:

So, I did this one on audio. I am so glad that I did because I more than likely would have DNF’d it. Tom Hanks saved the day with this one. Had he not narrated it, I would have DNF’d it. While listening to this story and referencing the synopsis several times, I still didn’t quite understand the point of the story. This is one that received quite the hype when it first came out. For me, it was not worth the hype. That is I have to say about this one. If you read it and enjoyed it, please tell me what made you enjoy it.

Rating:

2 Golden Girls (only because Tom Hanks narrated the audio and I checked it out from the library)

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.
black literature · book review · books · contemporary fiction · diversity · own voices review · reading

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid {Early copy review}

Blurb:

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living showing other women how to do the same. A mother to two small girls, she started out as a blogger and has quickly built herself into a confidence-driven brand. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night. Seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, a security guard at their local high-end supermarket accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make it right.But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.With empathy and piercing social commentary,

 Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone “family,” the complicated reality of being a grown up, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

Review:

I loved this story. It was a light and a deep read at the same time. So many issues were addressed from the point of view of a black woman that aren’t expressed all the time in novels. Emira is a realistic representation of a young woman her age. Not very often are young women portrayed in the sense that they don’t really know what they want to do in life and are very complacent in their situations. Emira wants to make a decent living and enjoy life. Alix’s point of view as a white woman is also realistic. Her views and expressions are some that I am sure readers will find themselves relating to and then being angry because they can relate to her.
Alix is a woman who is too sure of herself and she ultimately forgets what it is like being a regular human. She is constantly trying to overcompensate while in reality she has a subconscious motive.
The connecting shock factor for Alix and Emira was almost too good to be true but so fitting for their relationship as employer and employee. It takes an almost life changing event for Alix to see that Emira is a real person with real problems. But the way she tries to build a bridge to Emira is sickening.
This is the type of story that is meant to bring someone out of their comfort zone when it comes to the type of situations that are addressed. But it is written with such grace that you can’t help but enjoy reading it even if you are sitting there in your feelings. You want to shake the characters at some of the things they say and do but you also don’t want to put the book down because you want to know what the outcome is going to be.

I highly recommend this book. A great read to start your 2020 reading journey.

Rating:

5 stars

Availability:

Available December 31, 2019 in ebook, hardcover, and audiobook

I’d like to say a very special thank you to G.P Putnam’s Sons for my free gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.