I don’t read thrillers very often but recently I came across three that blew my mind. Two of them were from authors whose work I have not read before and the other was from an author whose work I am familiar with. Here are those books and my thoughts!
False Witness by Karin Slaughter
AN ORDINARY LIFE
Leigh Coulton has worked hard to build what looks like a normal life. She has a good job as a defence attorney, a daughter doing well in school, and even her divorce is relatively civilised – her life is just as unremarkable as she’d always hoped it would be.
HIDES A DEVASTATING PAST
But Leigh’s ordinary life masks a childhood which was far from average… a childhood tarnished by secrets, broken by betrayal, and finally torn apart by a devastating act of violence.
BUT NOW THE PAST IS CATCHING UP
Then a case lands on her desk – defending a wealthy man accused of rape. It’s the highest profile case she’s ever been given – a case which could transform her career, if she wins. But when she meets the accused, she realises that it’s no coincidence that he’s chosen her as his attorney. She knows him. And he knows her. More to the point, he knows what happened twenty years ago, and why Leigh has spent two decades running.
AND TIME IS RUNNING OUT
If she can’t get him acquitted, she’ll lose much more than the case. The only person who can help her is her younger, estranged sister Calli, the last person Leigh would ever want to ask for help. But suddenly she has no choice…
This is my third Karin Slaughter standalone novel and once again she does not disappoint. The story may be difficult for some readers because of the content and the possible triggers. Karin usually writes thrillers that are tough on the nerves but does it in a fashion that does not make a reader feel shame about enjoying the story.
How does a person face the possibility of having to defend someone who claims to know the deepest, darkest secret that has been carried around for years. A secret so shocking that worlds will rock and fall apart if the truth gets out. How far should this person be willing to go to keep that secret? Defend the psycho who knows the truth or fight back like before?
This story also shows how one event can affect people differently, how a person doesn’t always see the truth of what happened to them until it is almost too late.
Deep, dark, twisted.
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For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing
Teddy Crutcher has won Teacher of the Year at the esteemed Belmont Academy, home to the best and brightest.
He says his wife couldn’t be more proud—though no one has seen her in a while.
Teddy really can’t be bothered with the death of a school parent that’s looking more and more like murder or the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is on pushing these kids to their full academic potential.
All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way.
It’s really too bad that sometimes excellence can come at such a high cost.
This is the first Samantha Downing book that I have read and it was a nice introduction to her writing. This book might make one think twice about sending their child to private school after this book.
Parents all want teachers who want the best for their children but sometimes that can come at a cost that is paid for by death. Is it really worth it? Can a school afford to have a teacher who thinks they really know what is best for the students and is willing to do anything to show that?
A story about deception and misdirected care. Those poor students, parents, and teachers. Especially the teachers. Be careful in the teacher’s lounge.
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Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
Ike Randolph has been out of jail for fifteen years, with not so much as a speeding ticket in all that time. But a Black man with cops at the door knows to be afraid.
The last thing he expects to hear is that his son Isiah has been murdered, along with Isiah’s white husband, Derek. Ike had never fully accepted his son but is devastated by his loss.
Derek’s father Buddy Lee was almost as ashamed of Derek for being gay as Derek was ashamed his father was a criminal. Buddy Lee still has contacts in the underworld, though, and he wants to know who killed his boy.
Ike and Buddy Lee, two ex-cons with little else in common other than a criminal past and a love for their dead sons, band together in their desperate desire for revenge. In their quest to do better for their sons in death than they did in life, hardened men Ike and Buddy Lee will confront their own prejudices about their sons and each other, as they rain down vengeance upon those who hurt their boys.
Provocative and fast-paced, S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears is a story of bloody retribution, heartfelt change – and maybe even redemption.
What a story! Daddies showing up and showing out. Kicking asses, blowing shit up. Talk about unconditional love, even if it seemed to have shown up too late. Cosby wrote the hell out of this story. I bet my daddy would have been just like Ike and Buddy Lee if something happened to me. I loved how these men decided to do what was right and didn’t just stand by when it seemed that the killers of their sons weren’t going to be brought to justice.
These fathers may not have been the best to their sons when they were alive, but they are willing to stop at nothing in order to find out who killed them and why.
The flow of the story, the grittiness. No punches held back(literally).
In present-day Miami, Jeanette is battling addiction. Daughter of Carmen, a Cuban immigrant, she is determined to learn more about her family history from her reticent mother and makes the snap decision to take in the daughter of a neighbor detained by ICE. Carmen, still wrestling with the trauma of displacement, must process her difficult relationship with her own mother while trying to raise a wayward Jeanette. Steadfast in her quest for understanding, Jeanette travels to Cuba to see her grandmother and reckon with secrets from the past destined to erupt.
From 19th-century cigar factories to present-day detention centers, from Cuba to Mexico, Gabriela Garcia’s Of Women and Salt is a kaleidoscopic portrait of betrayals–personal and political, self-inflicted and those done by others–that have shaped the lives of these extraordinary women. A haunting meditation on the choices of mothers, the legacy of the memories they carry, and the tenacity of women who choose to tell their stories despite those who wish to silence them, this is more than a diaspora story; it is a story of America’s most tangled, honest, human roots.
Do you know what is better or just as good as a book that is 350 plus pages? A book that is less than 250 pages but packs a powerful punch. That is exactly what you get when you decide to read Of Women and Salt. I was not fully prepared for the story that I was going to ingest when I picked up this book. I honestly thought it was going to be one of those deep, but quick reads. Boy, was I wrong.
This story follows women who are dealing with the world thru addiction, immigration, abuse, and love. The different points of view showcase how complex the world is for women. It shows how women have to deal with so much trauma and at the same time fight to survive. Especially women of color.
I found myself so invested in Jeannette’s story and followed her point of view very closely. She not only had to deal with her addiction, she also had to deal with childhood abuse and hold on to a secret about her father that doesn’t surface until after his death. Her mother, Carmen is completely clueless as to what has gone on in her home. At first I was very angry with Carmen and thought she was just clueless but as more of her story develops you understand that she has demons that she hasn’t dealt with herself.
Ana’s and Gloria’s story is also one that is full of heartbreak and desperation. The lengths a mother goes to in order to provide and protect her family, especially her children. The same can be said for Carmen’s mother, Delores. That was a relationship I wanted to see if more developed after the revelation of what Carmen saw as a child.
In all, this 200 page book could have easily been a 350 plus page book with all the intensity that it had packed into it. I don’t know how Ms. Garcia did it but it is well appreciated. This book was a much better read than some other books that I have read that feature the subject of immigration and racism.
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Available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook on March 30, 2021
A special thank you to Flatiron Books for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.
I enjoyed listening to this memoir on audio. Georgina narrates it herself. I couldn’t imagine being one race and being raised by another race and my parents not tell me what race I am or even try to incorporate aspects of that race into our daily lives. Ignoring race doesn’t make it go away. Georgina has to battle with self identity as a child and even more so as an adult. She uses her experience to help others that have been in her situation and to educate the masses who are familiar with and follow her work.
I received both a review copy and finished copy of this book from Harper Perennial in exchange for an honest review.
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Available now in paperback, hardcover in some places, ebook, and audiobook
The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard
This book was the type of historical fiction that I needed to take a break from my usual WW2 historical fiction. The story follows two black domestic workers, Sitwell and Jennie who work in the house of the Barclays. At first glance Sitwell appears docile and mild mannered. However, we find out later that is not the case. He is definitely the definition of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Jennie appears to be young and naive but she is actually resourceful and strong willed.
I would say that their behavior at work is to be able to keep their job and their behavior outside of work is their true nature. Something these days we call code switching.
I like this book because of the timeframe it is written in and it is not only historical fiction, there is a bit of a mystery/thriller aspect thrown in. This was also a story that tests its characters humanity.
I received a gifted finished copy from Amistad Books
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Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook
Just As I Am by Cicely Tyson
I would like to take a moment of silence to honor the late Cicely Tyson.
I knew the moment that this book came across my radar that I needed to have a copy and read it. I have the physical copy of this book but I felt I wanted to listen to the audiobook and I am glad that I did. Cicely narrates a small section at the beginning but does not narrate the entire book. Robin Miles does an excellent job of narrating Ms. Tyson’s story. I’ve heard her narrate another memoir that I enjoyed call Diamon Doris.
Anyway, Ms. Tyson’s story is one of greatness but not without some pain. She took life’s lemons and made them work. Her work ethic was like no other that I’ve ever heard about in Hollywood. I learned so much about her and about celebrities in this memoir. I knew of her relationship and marriage to Miles Davis but I had no idea that he was such a lost soul.
Ms. Tyson was a force to be reckoned with. She didn’t let anything stand in her way. I admire how she took life by the horns. Her story is inspiring and educational. I am grateful that she was able to get her story written down before passing. That way her story is fully hers.
Beloved Georgia judge Joseph Donaldson was known for his unshakable fairness, his hard-won fortune–and a scandalous second marriage to his much-younger white secretary. Now he’s left a will with a stunning provision. In order to collect their inheritance, his lawyer daughter Maya, her stepmother Jeanie, and Jeanie’s teen daughter, Ryder, must live together at the family lake house. Maya and Jeanie don’t exactly get along, but they reluctantly agree to try an uneasy peace for as long as it takes…
But fragile ex-beauty queen Jeanie doesn’t know who she is beyond being a judge’s wife–and drinking away her insecurities has her in a dangerous downward spiral. Fed up with her mother’s humiliating behavior, Ryder tries to become popular at school in all the wrong ways. And when Maya attempts to help, she puts her successful career and her shaky love life at risk. Now with trouble they didn’t see coming–and secrets they can no longer hide–these women must somehow find the courage to admit their mistakes, see each other for who they really are–and slowly, perhaps even joyfully, discover everything they could be.
A story about grief and how three women who loved the same man in different aspects deal with his unexpected death.
Maya, who is Judge’s daughter from his first marriage has now lost both parents and the grief of her father’s passing is devastating. But because of the morals and ethics her father instilled in her, she pushes forward and her grieving is limited. This is a situation that a lot of people find themselves in and don’t really know how to handle their grief and because of that, their grief bleeds into other parts of their lives.
Jeanie who is Judge’s second wife has let grief completely overtake her to the point of self destructive behavior. I could almost relate to the pain that she was going thru even though at times I felt she was playing the victim a bit too much at times.
Ryder who is Jeanie’s daughter and Judge’s stepdaughter is caught between her own grief and hiding her mother’s destructive behavior from Maya.
Each woman must learn how to grieve and how to get along. Maya and Jeanie must learn how to do this without depending on Ryder to be their buffer. She has her own issues as a teenager to deal with on top of losing the man she knew as her father.
This was a good story to show that people deal with grief differently and that families can still come together. Having lost both of my parents this was a story that I could definitely relate to.
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A special thank you to Suzy’s Approved Book Tours for having me on this tour and to Kensington Books for my free copy in exchange for an honest review.
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)
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.
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.
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Diamond Doris by Doris Payne (gifted copy from Amistad Books, published September 2019)
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.
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.
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The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (gifted copy from Tor Books, published October 2020)
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.
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.
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The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel (gifted copy from Gallery Books, published July 2020)
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 Network, The 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.
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.
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Me by Elton John (published by Henry Holt in October 2019)
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.
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.
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Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (published by Grand Central in February 2017)
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.
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.
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Not pictured, but read:
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (published by Harper in September 2019)
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.
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.
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To the outside world, beloved advice columnist Lane Meckler has all the answers. What no one knows is that she also has a secret: her life is a disaster, and it’s just gotten worse. Her husband, whom she was planning to leave, has died in a freak accident. Her six-year-old son, Henry, has stopped speaking to everyone but her. Lane’s solution? Move. Growing up, that was what her family did best.
But when she and Henry pack up and leave, Lane realizes that their next home is no better, and she finally begins to ask herself some hard questions. What made her family move so often? Why has she always felt like an outsider? How can she get Henry to speak?
On a journey to help her son find his voice, Lane discovers that somewhere along the way she lost her own. If she wants to help him, she’ll need to find the courage to face the past and to speak the truth she’s been hiding from for years.
What I liked about this story and most of the stories that I have read from Lake Union Press is how close to reality they are. They take events that can happen in everyday life and bring them to the page in a way that the reader understands. In this story we have a Lane who is somewhat of a control freak. But not in the usual way of the phrase. She is a control freak of her emotions and you find out why throughout the story. Our childhoods have such an adverse affect on how we take on adulthood and this story was a great representation of that.
Between a childhood tragedy and the sudden loss of her husband, Lane is somewhat forced to face things from her childhood and in her life. During this time, her son Henry is dealing with his own conflicts which seem terribly heavy for a six year old boy. To be so young and have experienced trauma at such a young age, Henry is very receptive of the world around him. His silence allows him to see things that most adults miss or do not understand.
Both Henry and his mother have to find their voices as they take on life after tragedy. They both have to step back, forget the rules and then move forward. On their move forward, relationships are built, secrets are learned, old lives are brought back together, and new lives are brought together.
Sometimes we have to break the rules in order to find freedom in life from conflict.
2 girls( 3.5 Stars)
Available now in paperback, ebook and audiobook
A special thank you to Suzy’s Approved Book Tours and Lake Union Press for my free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1924. May Marshall is determined to spend the dog days of summer in self-imposed exile at her father’s farm in Keswick, Virginia. Following a naive dalliance that led to heartbreak and her expulsion from Mary Baldwin College, May returns home with a shameful secret only to find her father’s orchard is now the site of a lucrative moonshining enterprise. Despite warnings from the one man she trusts—her childhood friend Byrd—she joins her father’s illegal business. When authorities close in and her father, Henry, is arrested, May goes on the run. May arrives in New York City, determined to reinvent herself as May Valentine and succeed on her own terms, following her mother’s footsteps as a costume designer. The Jazz Age city glitters with both opportunity and the darker temptations of cocaine and nightlife. From a start mending sheets at the famed Biltmore Hotel, May falls into a position designing costumes for a newly formed troupe of African American entertainers bound for Paris. Reveling in her good fortune, May will do anything for the chance to go abroad, and the lines between right and wrong begin to blur. When Byrd shows up in New York, intent upon taking May back home, she pushes him, and her past, away. In Paris, May’s run of luck comes to a screeching halt, spiraling her into darkness as she unravels a painful secret about her past. May must make a choice: surrender to failure and addiction, or face the truth and make amends to those she has wronged. But first, she must find self-forgiveness before she can try to reclaim what her heart craves most.
I am beginning to think that maybe WW2 historical fiction isn’t my favorite anymore. I think it is fiction told during the Jazz Age, which is also part of the war time but has its own vibe to it. More stories seem to include black characters and touches on the struggles that they dealt with during this time instead of an author acting like they didn’t exist.
May has had a very unconventional upbringing. She was raised by her father after her mother left them. She also experienced trauma as a young child when her infant brother died. Though all that happened she was able to grow into a fine young lady and go off to school. Now being a bit naive caused her to get in a bit of trouble and that sent her back home. Her strength faltered slightly and in my opinion that was expected considering what she was dealt with and then coming home to an alcoholic father who is selling illegal moonshine.
You get a sense that May experienced some deep depression but she does manage to get thru it. You also see her picking up her strength as she decides that she is going to leave home and pursue a career even though every one around her, including her childhood best friend Byrd. Once her mind was made up, there was no changing it and May did what she could to get to New York which was a totally different vibe from her home state of Virginia.
May is chasing her dream and also chasing the ghost of her mother. She has to quickly learn that life in New York is not like the life she led in Virginia. She has some minor setbacks but she doesn’t let that deter her. Her determination helped land her a job in Paris. Once again she was chasing her dream and the ghost of her mother. Once in Paris, life was not what she thought it was going to be. The war was just starting and her fellow Parisian coworkers treated her as if she didn’t know anything.
Throughout everything May went thru, she continued to push forward even if she made some reckless decisions and put herself in some pretty shady situations.
I am glad that she finally learned the truth about her mother so that she could stop chasing that ghost. She also found her footing in life.
This book touched on so many issues and one of the things that I enjoyed about it is that the author did not try to round the edges of these situations to make readers feel more comfortable. I feel that the ending was realistic and a great fit for this story.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for historical fiction with a strong female lead who deals with real life issues and to anyone looking for a story that is not all flowers and sunshine.
Available August 18th in hardcover and ebook.
A special thank you to Suzy Approved Book Tours for having me along on this tour and for the gifted copy. Also, thank you to Blackstone Publishing for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.