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.

 

 

Blog Tour · book review · books · contemporary fiction · Family · reading

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman {Blog Tour ARC Review}

Blurb:

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

Review:

I absolutely loved this book. I loved everything about it from the storyline, the characters, and also the writing style. This is the first book in a very long time that had me wanting to annotate it because there were so many passages that made me laugh and so many things that Nina did that I could relate to in my life. I felt as if my life had been transposed onto paper without me actually writing or narrating it. I believe all booklovers will relate to Nina.

Abbi has taken the characteristics of a bookworm and written the perfect, quirky story highlighting those characteristics. She has also incorporated some real life issues such as anxiety and shows how it can affect someone’s life, and how you can share some of the most unique characteristics with family members you have never even met. Nina is living a typical bookworm life. Working in a bookstore, filling her time with activities, and filling her mind with knowledge, some of it only useful for her trivia nights and awkward conversations, lol.

Nina has spent her time building the perfectly scheduled life for herself but all that is thrown off-balance when she finds out about her father and falls for a man she thought she despised. Nina has to learn how to live life by rolling with the punches but also maintaining the part of herself that makes her so unique.

This is one of those books I want to go around give to all the true to heart bookworms I know. I knew I was going to enjoy this story but I had no idea how much I would love it. There is no better surprise than to be mind-blown from a highly anticipated read. Abbi Waxman has done it again with her writing and storytelling styles.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availibility:

Available July 9th in hardcover, ebook, and audio

A very special thank you to Berkely Publishing for having me along on this book tour.

book review · books · dedication · diversity · Family · Historical fiction · reading · secrets · World War 2

The Song of the Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning {Review}

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Blurb:

1939 Two young girls meet in Shanghai, also known as the “Paris of the East.” Beautiful local Li and Jewish refugee Romy form a fierce friendship, but the deepening shadows of World War II fall over the women as they slip between the city’s glamorous French Concession district and the teeming streets of the Shanghai Ghetto. Yet soon the realities of war prove to be too much for these close friends as they are torn apart.

2016: Fleeing London with a broken heart, Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm. Her grandfather is dying, and over the coming weeks Romy and Wilhelm begin to reveal the family mysteries they have kept secret for more than half a century. As fragments of her mother’s history finally become clear, Alexandra struggles with what she learns while more is also revealed about her grandmother’s own past in Shanghai.

After Wilhelm dies, Alexandra flies to Shanghai, determined to trace her grandparents’ past. Peeling back the layers of their hidden lives, she is forced to question what she knows about her family–and herself.

The Song of the Jade Lily is a lush, provocative, and beautiful story of friendship, motherhood, the price of love, and the power of hardship and courage that can shape us all.

Review:

I knew I was going to like this book, I just was not prepared with how much I was going to love it. Being historical fiction, having a dual timeline, and the presence family secrets were all things that attracted me to this story.

My heart was shattered at the beginning of the story with an event that the Bernfeld family experiences as they attempting to flee Austria for their safety. Their family is torn apart in an instant. I couldn’t fathom going thru that experience and still having the strength to continue. They try to keep themselves together and hold on to their hope and faith as they start a new life in Shanghai. They aren’t the only ones who experience a tragic event while trying to get to safety, young Nina loses the people closest to her.

When Romy meets Li, she is shown a whole new part of Shanghai that she may not have otherwise experienced. The descriptions of the foods that she eats is phenomenal. Both girls are full of life and have such wonderful aspirations even with all that is transpiring around them.

Determination, self sacrifice and the will to fight on are all things Romy, Nina, and Li must deal with as they all get older.  Each of the girls is forced to make decisions in order to survive and protect the ones they love.

Meanwhile in present time, Alexander is dealing with a bad break up and then the death of her beloved grandfather. After his death,  Alexander has questions about her family origin. She knows that her birth mother was adopted and she is wanting to know who her mother may have been. That’s when the secrets start surfacing. After her grandmother’s avoidance of the conversation about her mother, Alexander makes the choice to look into her biological history on her own to try to tie up some loose ends.

As the story progresses thru both timelines, you are met with the feeling of hope for all the characters. You also experience the heartbreak they are forced to encounter.

Kirsty Manning weaves such a beautiful story that makes you feel so many emotions. You experience these emotions when you least expect to. At the same time you are trying to solve the mystery of Alexander’s mother’s birth mother. Along the way she is having to deal with some personal issues of her own.

The love between the characters in the story is so heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.  I could gush about this book forever.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audio

A special thank you to William Morrow for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

book review · books · child abduction · dedication · Family · Historical fiction · Literary Fiction · Science Ficton · space

Light From Other Stars by Erika Swyler {ARC Review}

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Blurb:

Eleven-year-old Nedda Papas is obsessed with becoming an astronaut. In 1986 in Easter, a small Florida Space Coast town, her dreams seem almost within reach—if she can just grow up fast enough. Theo, the scientist father she idolizes, is consumed by his own obsessions. Laid off from his job at NASA and still reeling from the loss of Nedda’s newborn brother several years before, Theo turns to the dangerous dream of extending his living daughter’s childhood just a little longer. The result is an invention that alters the fabric of time.

Amidst the chaos that erupts, Nedda must confront her father and his secrets, the ramifications of which will irrevocably change her life, her community, and the entire world. But she finds an unexpected ally in Betheen, the mother she’s never quite understood, who surprises Nedda by seeing her more clearly than anyone else.

Decades later, Nedda has achieved her long-held dream, and as she floats in antigravity, far from earth, she and her crewmates face a serious crisis. Nedda may hold the key to the solution, if she can come to terms with her past and the future that awaits her.

Review:

I remember reading and loving Ms. Swyler’s first book, The Book of Speculation so much and have been waiting to see what else she was going to bless us with in a new book. After I read the synopsis for The Light From Other Stars, I knew I wanted to read it. Being able to review it and share my thoughts is a bonus.

When the story opens, we are with grown Nedda who is on a spacecraft in the very near future. When the science terminology started I didn’t think that I would be able to keep up with the story. That was not the case. The scientific terms, although over me head at times, were crucial to the story and to the characteristics of Nedda, both young and older.

The story is told in a duel timeline, grown Nedda in space and younger Nedda in 1986. Nedda is a bright girl who is seen as odd in the eyes of most of the people she comes into contact with. She does have one best friend who loves her for who she is.  His name is Denny. Their friendship is so admirable. Both semi outcasts who love each other for who they are. Even though Nedda is really smart and Denny is just barely making it along, she doesn’t belittle him and he doesnt make fun of her.

Nedda has a very close relationship with her father yet the relationship with her mother is more volatile. Her mother dealt with a great loss while Nedda was younger and their relationship suffered because of it. It is also the same reason Nedda and her father are so close. He was the main parent in her life while her mother dealt with her loss.

Nedda’s father is attempting to work on a machine that will change so much in their lives. Mainly is it something that will help slow down the effects of his arthritis. The pain in his hands are making it harder and harder for him to work. He also as another secret about wanting to get his machine up and running.

Nedda’s mother is a homemaker. She bakes and takes care of the house. The relationship between the parents almost seems as it is of convenience and not love. Further reading and learning about each of them shows this to not be the case,

Nedda’s father miraculously gets his machine working one day but the results are not what he or anyone else expected. There is almost a catastrophic effect. So much is effected in the area around the machine. Unexplained things are happening. Denny and Nedda’s dad are the ones are affected by it the most.

It takes Nedda and her mother to figure out how to make everything right again. During this time, Nedda learns that there is much more to her mother than meets the eye. She is more than just baking sweets. She is very intelligent and knows so much about science. Together they are able to “save the day” but have they saved the day too late?

While grown up Nedda is in space she starts thinking about that fateful day during her childhood and she thinks that she knows what she can do to make living conditions better for her and her spacemates while there are on their journey. Once again Nedda will need her mother’s knowledge In order to complete the job that needs to be done.

Although this novel is categorized under science fiction and historical fiction, I feel that there is some magical realism tied into the story as well.

I am so glad that I did not let the science terminology affect my enjoyment of the book.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback, audio, and ebook.

Thank you, Bloomsbury  Publishing for my review copy of this book.

addiction · Blog Tour · book review · books · crime · Family · reading · suspense

The East End by Jason Allen {ARC Review}

Blurb:

After graduating high school, Corey Halpern would love to leave the Hamptons and never look back. He is stuck though, saddled with responsibility for his alcoholic mother, Gina, and his younger brother. So for now, he finds momentary escape by breaking and entering. The night before Memorial Day weekend, he targets the estate of Leo Sheffield, the billionaire CEO for whom he and Gina work.  But everything goes awry. Leo arrives suddenly—and he’s not alone. As Corey looks on in stunned horror, he witnesses a fatal mishap…as does another traumatized onlooker. With everything to lose, Leo will do whatever it takes to cover up the truth. Things spiral out of control, however. Pushed to their limits, Corey, Gina, and Leo all hurdle towards climactic showdowns as explosive as the holiday fireworks lighting up the night sky.

Review:

I think this is going to be the summer of reads about wealthy vacationing going wrong, lol. And I am here for all of it. Here in this story you have a young man, Corey, who is trying to figure out how to get out of his current life situation without having the stress of worrying about his younger brother and their pill popping, alcoholic mother. While out and about one night engaging in mischievous behavior, he is pulled into an issue that is going to set the scene for his summer and some important decision-making.

From the outside looking in, you think that Leo is living the perfect life with his wife and family, but in reality it is a sham and he is unhappy. He is harboring a secret that could cost him much more than he is willing to pay.  While trying to hide one secret, Leo finds himself in a much worse predicament that drives him further down the path of self-destruction.

Gina, the pill popping, alcoholic mother is such a train wreck. I thought she was a functioning addict but quickly realized that she did not have herself together whatsoever. She not only put her life in jeopardy, but also her job and the lives of her children. While being Leo’s confidant, she finds herself in a predicament that is not helpful to her already messed up situation with her addiction.

As the one single event that was supposed to transpire in secret starts unravelling and the lives of Corey, Gina, Leo, and unfortunately, Angelique become intertwined you realize that there may not be a happy ending for anyone. There are secrets, threats, and plain fear involved. You see everyone’s moral compasses spinning rapidly as they all try to figure out what to do, who to trust and when to let go.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available May 7, 2019 in ebook, hardcover, and audiobook

I would like to thank Park Row Books for having me on the blog tour for this novel. All opinions are honest and my own.

 

 

 

book review · books · dedication · diversity · Family · own voices review · reading · secrets

Around Harvard Square by CJ Farley {Review}

Blurb:

It’s the nineties, and Tosh Livingston, straight-A student and superstar athlete, is living the dream—he’s made it out of upstate New York and into the incoming freshman class at Harvard University. But after an accident blows up his basketball-playing hopes, he discovers a new purpose in life—to win the frenzied competition for a spot on the staff of the Harvard Harpoon, the school’s legendary humor magazine.

Along with Lao, his pot-smoking roommate from China, their friend Meera, a passive-aggressive science major from India, and Zippa, a Jamaican student-activist with a flair for cartooning, Tosh finds that becoming a member of the Harpoonis weirder and more dangerous than anyone could have imagined. Success requires pushing themselves to their limits and unearthing long-buried secrets that will rock their school and change all of their lives forever.

Review:

This was one of those books I went into partially unaware of what it was going to be about and I also had some of the plot mixed up with another book, lol. Even with all that I ended up enjoying this story.  There were so many relatable aspects and scenarios. Farley explores privilege and race in a way that is not subtle but also not in your face. There were events that happened with Tosh that I have not only experienced in similar fashion but also have been witness to. He is a black male who is a first generation college student even though his father took a few classes at a community college. He is not your typical star athlete who has gotten in an ivy league school because of his sports talent but because of his intellectual ability.  He has to fight stereotypes while also having to manage not stereotyping others. For example, his roommate Lao and their friend Meera. Each of them has a background that they all try to hide from each other. They are all using Harvard as a clean slate to reinvent themselves.

When an opportunity comes to become part of the Harpoon, one of the school’s long-standing publications they are each tested in their morale and in their friendship.

The story is told from Tosh’s point of view to an unnamed person who you find out later is Zippa and that she plays a much bigger part in the story than is realized. This person has even more at stake than the others and much more to prove.

Farley not only explores the topics of racism, he also explores sexism as well. This story takes place in the 90s but it is so similar to what is currently going on today.

There is not a clear-cut ending to this novel and it basically leaves you to your own thoughts and assumptions as to what happens. I find that although that is not a desirable ending for most, it fit this story perfectly.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback and ebook

 

Thank you to Akashic Books for my free copy in exchange for an honest review.

book review · books · crime · Family

The Night Before by Wendy Walker {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Rosie and Laura are as different as two sisters can be. One is stable and has the perfect family. The other struggles to break free from her troubled past. When Laura disappears after going on a blind date, Rosie takes matters into her own hands.

But as Rosie begins to search for her sister, her greatest fears come to the surface. Could Laura be more of a danger than the stranger she meets, or is the night before her last night alive?

Told in dual timelines—the night before and the day after—The Night Before is a riveting thriller about family loyalty, obsession, and what happens when the desire for love spins out of control.

Review:

This story starts with a therapy session of Laura’s and immediately I think this is going to have an unreliable narrator. I am not against those types of thrillers but sometimes it makes the character get on my nerves. However, this was proven very quickly to not be true. It’s told from the perspectives of Laura and her sister Rosie thru two overlapping timelines. Throughout the story you get the idea that Laura is your typical angry woman who got into some trouble as a young girl and is trying to make a change in her life after a really bad breakup. At one point I thought she may have even just been a crazed stalker. Nothing is what it seems in this story and some of the characters aren’t as crazy as you think and some are at a level of crazy that you don’t quite see coming.

Let’s not forget about the men in the story, Joe and Gabe. I won’t go into too much detail about them but man oh man there’s some crazy stuff that you just can’t wrap your mind around when it comes to their parts in this story.

I thought I was going to figure out what was going on and who the villain was early on in the story but I didn’t figure it out until just about the time it was revealed in the story. Wendy Walker not only throws in some twists as far as the crazed character is concerned but also throws in some secrets that make you take a double look and think what the hell kind of nonsense is this? I love a thriller that can leave me with those types of thoughts.

I am not a big reader of thrillers but I did enjoy this one. It was a quick and easy read. I started it one night and finished it the next day. I would say definitely pack this one along for a good beach read this summer. Just don’t read it before going on a blind date, especially one you’ve met online.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available in hardcover, ebook and audiobook May 14th, 2019

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