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.
book review · books · Family · Historical fiction · love · reading · secrets

Light Changes Everything by Nancy E. Turner {ARC Review}

Blurb:

It’s the summer of 1907 and the sun is scorching down on Mary Pearl in the Arizona Territory. Mary Pearl and her sister Esther take their minds off the heat by sneaking banned Jane Austen novels from Aunt Sarah Elliot’s lively bookshelf. Whispered read alouds preoccupy their nights, and reveries of getting hitched to their own Mr. Darcy à la Pride and Prejudice swirl through their day dreams.

In walks old-fashioned old-money suitor Aubrey Hanna, here to whisk seventeen year old Mary Pearl off her feet with a forbidden kiss and hasty engagement. With the promise of high society outings and a rich estate, Aubrey’s lustful courtship quickly creates petty tension among the three generations of Prine women.

As autumn approaches all too quickly, Mary Pearl’s Wheaton College acceptance counters quick marriage preparations. Days of travel by horse and by train carry her deep into a sophisticated new world of Northern girls’ schooling. Seeking friendship but finding foes, Mary Pearl not only learns how to write, read, and draw, but also how to act, dress, and be a woman.

Light Changes Everything is the story of a resilient young feminist a century ahead of her time.

Review:

I didn’t expect this book to have such an impact on me. I had to sit a few minutes after I finished to gather my thoughts. Such a beautifully written story. The story is built around books, art, and family. I love that it was a non World War 2 historical fiction that I enjoyed reading. The story takes place in Arizona when it was still a territory.

Mary Pearl is a young woman living in a family who is proud but has its expectations of its members. Everyone has their place. Mary Pearl has been accepted to go to college in Illinois. Her mother does not want her to go and is too excited when Mary Pearl is unexpectedly courted and engaged to Aubrey right before she is set to leave.

Mary Pearl having a mind of her own but still loving her family, makes the decision to go to college. Once she is there, she quickly realizes just how different she is from the other students and how different life is going to be before her. She doesn’t make friends at first and throws herself into her studies.

What I loved about her character is that she didn’t allow other people to determine what she wanted to do. She didn’t seek anyone else’s acceptance, yet she did what she needed to do in order to show her family she still loved them and they still had her loyalty.

When Mary Pearl returns home and finds herself in a not so favorable situation, she has to make the decision to push forward or let life take her down. Mary Pearl decided to push forward. She didn’t let her situation stop her from pursuing her education which was turning out to be a bit more difficult than she expected and it didn’t stop her from being there for her family when they needed her the most.

Mary Pearl’s gumption and determination propels her thru all her obstacles. She learns so many valuable lessons that she incorporates into her life without losing herself.

This book makes me want to read some of the author’s other work.

 

Rating:

4 stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

 

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

book review · books · Family · Historical fiction · love · reading · World War 2

All the Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White {ARC Review}

Blurb:

France, 1914. As war breaks out, Aurelie becomes trapped on the wrong side of the front with her father, Comte Sigismund de Courcelles. When the Germans move into their family’s ancestral estate, using it as their headquarters, Aurelie discovers she knows the German Major’s aide de camp, Maximilian Von Sternburg. She and the dashing young officer first met during Aurelie’s debutante days in Paris. Despite their conflicting loyalties, Aurelie and Max’s friendship soon deepens into love, but betrayal will shatter them both, driving Aurelie back to Paris and the Ritz— the home of her estranged American heiress mother, with unexpected consequences.

France, 1942. Raised by her indomitable, free-spirited American grandmother in the glamorous Hotel Ritz, Marguerite “Daisy” Villon remains in Paris with her daughter and husband, a Nazi collaborator, after France falls to Hitler. At first reluctant to put herself and her family at risk to assist her grandmother’s Resistance efforts, Daisy agrees to act as a courier for a skilled English forger known only as Legrand, who creates identity papers for Resistance members and Jewish refugees. But as Daisy is drawn ever deeper into Legrand’s underground network, committing increasingly audacious acts of resistance for the sake of the country—and the man—she holds dear, she uncovers a devastating secret . . . one that will force her to commit the ultimate betrayal, and to confront at last the shocking circumstances of her own family history.

France, 1964. For Barbara “Babs” Langford, her husband, Kit, was the love of her life. Yet their marriage was haunted by a mysterious woman known only as La Fleur. On Kit’s death, American lawyer Andrew “Drew” Bowdoin appears at her door. Hired to find a Resistance fighter turned traitor known as “La Fleur,” the investigation has led to Kit Langford. Curious to know more about the enigmatic La Fleur, Babs joins Drew in his search, a journey of discovery that that takes them to Paris and the Ritz—and to unexpected places of the heart. . . .

Review:

This is the first novel I have read from all three of the authors. I am familiar with and have read work by Beatriz Williams but that is all.

This story is told from three perspectives along three different timelines. I spent the first part of the story trying to figure out the connection between the three women and almost lost the point of the story. I quickly got myself together so that I could enjoy the story itself. And I am so glad that I did.

I don’t know who I can say is my favorite out of the three women. They all had their strengths and weaknesses. Each possessed a quality that was seen in the other women. There were even a couple of moments I giggled at some of the antics that they went thru which isn’t usual for a historical fiction and I enjoyed that.

Some of the men they had to interact with in their own timelines made me want to reach thru the pages and slap. Especially Daisy’s husband. With Bab’s situation, I wonder if PTSD was a thing that was recognized during that time period would she and Kit have made it as long as they did, or would she have known their relationship for what it really was.

When the connection is made between the three women along with some of the  women they interact with, I wasn’t surprised. I was pleasantly satisfied with the outcome.

Women have so much more strength than they are given credit for and sometimes they have to use their weaknesses to find their strengths and push forward.

I enjoyed this story and I can say that I will read another novel by all three authors and even check out their individual works.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available January 14, 2020 in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

 

A special thank you to WilliamMorrow books for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

book review · books · diversity · Family · Historical fiction · love · own voices review · reading

The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton {ARC Review}

Blurb:

In 1925, Josephine is the proud owner of a thriving farm. As a child, she channeled otherworldly power to free herself from slavery. Now, her new neighbor, a white woman named Charlotte, seeks her company, and an uneasy friendship grows between them. But Charlotte has also sought solace in the Ku Klux Klan, a relationship that jeopardizes Josephine’s family.

Nearly one hundred years later, Josephine’s descendant, Ava, is a single mother who has just lost her job. She moves in with her white grandmother Martha, a wealthy but lonely woman who pays her grandchild to be her companion. But Martha’s behavior soon becomes erratic, then even threatening, and Ava must escape before her story and Josephine’s converge.

The Revisioners explores the depths of women’s relationships—powerful women and marginalized women, healers and survivors. It is a novel about the bonds between a mother and a child, the dangers that upend those bonds. At its core, The Revisioners ponders generational legacies, the endurance of hope, and the undying promise of freedom.

Review:

What a story. It was gripping and engaging. I had both a difficult time reading it and not wanting to put it down. What made it difficult to read is that so many things hit close to home but that’s what also made it hard to put down.

Sexton explores and presents a part of the black culture that is sometimes overlooked. What I am talking about is the belief system some slaves had. They didn’t necessarily believe in the “Christian” way but their beliefs helped them survive and maintain hope.

The story has three separate timelines. Present day and two from the past. We learn about Ava(present day) and her great grandmother, Josephine(both past timelines).

Ava(who is mixed race) is at a point in her life where she needs more help than she cares to ask for but is naive enough to accept help from her white grandmother, Martha. This help comes with stipulations and costs. At first Ava tries to overlook the small, but hurtful jabs but soon has to come to her senses to protect herself and her son.

Josephine is telling her story about growing up in slavery and her life after slavery. She reflects on events that occurred with her parents as well as her owners. As Josephine’s story progresses, you see how her view of white people changes from how she viewed them as a child to how she viewed them as an adult. Prime examples are her relationship with Miss Sally as a child and her adult interaction with her neighbor Charlotte.

There is also a supernatural element to the story which I found intriguing. Some would say that the spiritual beliefs of Josephine and her parents and the beliefs of Ava’s mother would be considered witchcraft or even voodoo. The senses of seeing or deja vu are prevalent in both women’s stories and play a strong role in how their lives are lived.

This is a story about self preservation, sacrifice, and family dynamics and relationships.

There were quite a few quotes and passages that stood out to me while reading this story. That is not something that usually happens when I read. I look forward to reading more by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

A special thank you to Counterpoint Press for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour · book review · books · Family · love · reading · secrets · Women's fiction

The Second Chance Supper Club by Nicole Meier {Suzy’s Approved Book Tour Review}

Blurb:

They had a forever bond, until a sudden tragedy thrust them apart. Now, each at a crossroad in her own life, two sisters’ paths are about to intersect.

Broadcast journalist Julia Frank has it all: a career, an ambitious fiancé, and the hard-won respect of her peers. Until a ruinous decision destroys her reputation, puts her job at risk, and sends her reeling toward the only soul left to turn to: her estranged sister, Ginny.

The owner of a clandestine supper club hidden in the Arizona desert, Ginny Frank has a lot on her plate. The last thing she wants is more drama—or the burden of nursing her younger sister’s wounded ego. But family is family. Besides, Ginny can use the help in more ways than one, and she’s going to make sure Julia pulls her weight.

As a tenuous reunion reopens old wounds, Julia and Ginny have no choice but to confront the pain and betrayals of the past. Will working to keep the secret supper club running be just what they need to find common ground and a path toward forgiveness, or will the increasing stress push them even further apart?

Review:

Estranged sisters? Good food you wish you had the recipes for? Yes, to both of those. I won’t even lie; I completely judged this book by its cover and knew I wanted to read it even before reading the synopsis. This is one of the cutest covers I have seen this year and it is not even a fancy cover. It is so simple but says so much.
In this story, you meet Ginny and Julia who are both living what would seem to be the dream life to the outside eye. However, both sisters have been dealt with some serious situations that are beginning to make or break them. Julia is dealing with a career conflict that she unfortunately placed herself in while Ginny is trying to stay afloat with her business and motherhood.

As with most sisters, when times get tough you know if you don’t have anyone else to turn to, you go to your sibling. Since their parents have passed away unexpectedly, Julia is forced to turn to Ginny who welcomes her with semi open arms considering how their relationship has been over the past few years. Both women know that the other is hiding something, but they try to act like nothing is going on and that this will be a temporary situation. Eventually everything will surface causing a bit of strain on the women’s relationship that they are trying to work on.

What I enjoyed about this story is that it was a realistic view of how sisters can and do treat each other. Nicole doesn’t sugar coat either of the women’s feelings or situations that they are dealing with. One thing I would have loved to see is recipes for the amazing food that was cooked. This is a book you definitely want to have a snack nearby when reading and maybe your phone on hand in case you have a sibling you want to make amends with or just check on because you love them.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availibility:

Available now in paperback, ebook and audiobook

 

A special thank you to Suzy Approved Book Tours for having me along on this book tour and thank you to Lake Union for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

book review · books · Family · love · reading · secrets

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Audrey knows that life is filled with ups and downs, but she can’t help feeling like she’s been dealt more than her fair share as she’s watched her family come undone over the years. Her dream as a mother had been for her daughters, Jess and Lily, to be as close as only sisters can be. But now as adults, they no longer speak to each other, and Audrey’s two teenage granddaughters have never met. Even more upsetting is the fact that Audrey has no idea how to fix her family as she wonders if they will ever be whole again.

If only Audrey had known three decades ago that a secret could have the power to split her family in two, but ironically, also keep them linked. And when hostilities threaten to spiral out of control, a devastating choice that was made so many years ago is about to be revealed, testing once and for all Audrey and those she loves.

Is it too late for one broken family to heal and find their way back to each other…?

A beautiful novel of mothers and daughters, the bonds of family, and the secrets that can sometimes divide us yet also bring us together, If Only I Could Tell You will remain on your mind long after the last page is turned.

Review:

My first thought after finishing this book was “how can I go back to work after finishing this?” To me, that’s a sign of a really good book. Not to mention that I’m a sucker for family secrets, drama, strained relationships, the whole nine yards.

This story was about the love of a parent, the bonds of families, and the power of secrets.

Told from the perspectives of Audrey and her two daughters, Jess and Lily, we witness how one family tragedy changed their lives and relationships.

As the story develops and plays out we get bits and pieces of what happened to cause the estrangement between the sisters as well as put a strain on the relationship between them and their mother. As I was reading I found myself trying to put the pieces together as if this were a mystery instead of a family. I had so many ideas and theories of what had transpired that by the time the first bomb was dropped, I was floored and I felt bad about about what I originally thought of a character.

This book took me on an emotional rollercoaster that I was not fully prepared for and I LOVED IT! There was so much pain and anguish throughout this story. You will not be able to resist feeling everything that these women feel as they sort thru their emotions, lives, and conflicts. So many times I was teary eyed or angry while reading. I felt hopeful for everyone even when it seemed there wouldn’t be any resolution on things. The ending was just…..not anything I expected and that’s what I liked.

I liked how Hannah told the story with different perspectives and timelines. Everything flowed. When you felt like you were left hanging in one chapter she gave you a little more with the next chapter. Building anticipation the whole time.

This is a story that shows you how perspective of a single event can change the course of a relationship.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

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

abuse · book review · books · dedication · Family · Historical fiction · reading · secrets

The Lost Daughter by Gill Paul {ARC Review}

Blurb:

1918: Pretty, vivacious Grand Duchess Maria Romanov, the nineteen-year-old daughter of the fallen Tsar Nicholas II, lives with her family in suffocating isolation, a far cry from their once-glittering royal household. Her days are a combination of endless boredom and paralyzing fear; her only respite are clandestine flirtations with a few of the guards imprisoning the family—never realizing her innocent actions could mean the difference between life and death

1973: When Val Doyle hears her father’s end-of-life confession, “I didn’t want to kill her,” she’s stunned. So, she begins a search for the truth—about his words and her past. The clues she discovers are baffling—a jewel-encrusted box that won’t open and a camera with its film intact. What she finds out pulls Val into one of the world’s greatest mysteries—what truly happened to the Grand Duchess Maria?

Review:

I absolutely love a historical fiction with a duel timeline. Nothing like the build up of the different stories and the satisfaction when they tie together at the end. That’s exactly what this book did. And not only that, it was different from my usual WW2 reads.

I have heard the Romanov family story but most of it has been based around Anastasia. I had not known much about the rest of her family, especially her siblings. So of course I had to jump at the chance to read this story.

I found this story about Maria to be so intriguing. Along with the storyline of Val who is the character in more recent times. Not necessarily present day because her story mostly takes place in the 70s-80s.

Both women face adversity and hardships that they have to fight thru. Maria is separated from the family she loves so dearly, but does manage to make a family of her own. She still experiences pain just when she thought she was done experiencing pain. Val is in a situation that is both infuriating and heartbreaking but she finds the strength to remove herself from it and find her own voice and ground to stand on.

This is a story based on love, survival, and sacrifice. There are also secrets that are kept but need to be told in order for some to heal.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and blew thru it. I recommend it if you are a historical fiction fan and want a bit of a break from WW2.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback, kindle, and audiobook.

A special thank you to William Morrow for my gifted copy and opportunity to read and review this story.