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.

 

 

 

book review · books · crime · Family · reading · secrets · suspense · YA

Missing Her by J.L Willow {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Vanessa Stockton and her best friend Eliza are inseparable. They’re living the best years of their lives, enjoying high school, boyfriends and planning for their futures. All that changes, though, when Eliza goes out to a party and never makes it home. Months pass without a break in the case, until one day Vanessa wakes up . . . in Eliza’s mind. Even more disturbing, she discovers she’s woken up two days before Eliza goes missing. Vanessa has no choice but to relive her best friend’s memories leading up to the disappearance and discover the truth about what happened before time runs out. But is the past set in stone? Or can Vanessa save her friend from an unspeakable fate?

Review:

When I first read the synopsis for this book I thought it was going to be the typical YA suspense filled with unnecessary teenage drama. I was wrong. I appreciated how the storyline was suspenseful  with a bit of paranormal bits thrown in. That is what set this missing person story apart from others that I have read.

There were some eye rolling moments but that is to be expected when you are reading about teens. What YA story would be complete without those moments? But they weren’t obnoxious moments. They were required becuase of the plot.

This was a quick read but it still had some intensity to it. There is more to it than what the blurb tells you. Although I had an idea of what was going to happen, I was still kept engaged as I read.

I am glad that I read this story because I do not read very many YA novels. I am also glad that I enjoyed it. I would definitley recommend it to the YA fans in my life.

Rating:

3.5 Stars

Availibility:

Available May 8th in hardcover and possible paperback

I would like to take a moment and thank the author, Ms. Willow, for reaching out to me to see if I would read and review her story.

AIDs · book review · books · diversity · Family · LGBTQ · reading

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai {Review}

Blurb:

A dazzling new novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy and loss set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris, by the acclaimed and award-winning author Rebecca Makkai.

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.

Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. The two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the eighties and the chaos of the modern world, as both Yale and Fiona struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.

Review:

I’ve had this book on my TBR since it came out last year and finally read it this month with a buddy read group on Instagram.

This story focuses on 2 separate timelines. One being the mid 80s during the beginning of the AIDs epidemic and told from Yale’s point of view and the other being present day and told from Fiona’s point of view. Makkai weaves back and forth between the two storylines seamlessly. Manipulating your emotions in every possible way. You love some characters, you hate some characters. You feel as if you’ve gained and  lost your family and friends among these pages.

As the story flips back and forth between the two storylines, they are eventually brought together but it is not the nice, neat, and happy merge that you’re hoping for. This book has literally left me wondering how I should feel about it’s ending and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I love the fact that this ending has made me feel that way. I don’t know if I want to feel hopeful or if I just want to break down in tears.

This book shows you the horrors and hopes that people experienced during this time and what the consequences were of losing yourself, putting yourself at risk, and living life freely. There was so much reckless behavior, broken relationships, and strained friendships. There were some happy and hopeful moments throughout the story but there were moments of pure devastation. Makkai’s style of writing puts you right there with the characters and what they are feeling and experiencing. This book is very eye-opening to the subject of the AIDS epidemic.

This book has deserved every award it has been nominated for and I wish it had won them all!!

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook and audiobook

abuse · book review · books · Family · medical thriller · suspense

Saving Meghan by DJ Palmer {Review}

Blurb:

Can you love someone to death? 

Some would say Becky Gerard is a devoted mother and would do anything for her only child. Others claim she’s obsessed and can’t stop the vicious circle of finding a cure at her daughter’s expense. 

Fifteen-year-old Meghan has been in and out of hospitals with a plague of unexplained illnesses. But when the ailments take a sharp turn, doctors intervene and immediately suspect Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a rare behavioral disorder where the primary caretaker, typically the mother, seeks medical help for made-up symptoms of a child. Is this what’s going on? Or is there something even more sinister at hand?

Review:

When the story opened, I immediately thought “well, everyone is crazy.” Not just Becky or Meghan. The whole Gerard clan. I liked that it was a medical thriller and not just your everyday “someone got killed and here is your unreliable narrator” type of thriller.

I also appreciated the writing style and the formatting of the plot itself, although the ending felt just a tad bit rushed to me.

Of course there is always the character that you can’t stand in a thriller and in this one for me it was the whole Gerard clan. They just didn’t sit well with me throughout the whole story, lol. I really enjoyed that part because I was left not rooting for anyone. I just wanted to see what was going to happen.

As the story geared up for the plot twist and climax I have to admit there were some parts that I found difficult for me to suspend my logic in order to believe they could really happen. That is because I am not a big reader of thrillers.

All in all, this was quite the ride and I am curious to see what else this author has up his sleeve. This would make a great beach read for thriller fans this summer. Don’t let the amount of pages discourage you because it does read fairly quickly.

Rating:

3.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audio

Thank you St. Martin’s Press for this review opportunity.

addiction · book review · books · Family · Native American Fiction

In the Night of Memory by Linda LeGarde Grover {Review}

Blurb:

Two lost sisters find family, and themselves, among the voices of an Ojibwe reservation.

When Loretta surrenders her young girls to the county and then disappears, she becomes one more missing Native woman in Indian Country’s long devastating history of loss. But she is also a daughter of the Mozhay Point Reservation in northern Minnesota and the mother of Azure and Rain, ages 3 and 4, and her absence haunts all the lives she has touched—and all the stories they tell in this novel. In the Night of Memory returns to the fictional reservation of Linda LeGarde Grover’s previous award-winning books, introducing readers to a new generation of the Gallette family as Azure and Rain make their way home.

After a string of foster placements, from cold to kind to cruel, the girls find their way back to their extended Mozhay family, and a new set of challenges, and stories, unfolds. Deftly, Grover conjures a chorus of women’s voices (sensible, sensitive Azure’s first among them) to fill in the sorrows and joys, the loves and the losses that have brought the girls and their people to this moment. Though reconciliation is possible, some ruptures simply cannot be repaired; they can only be lived through, or lived with. In the Night of Memory creates a nuanced, moving, often humorous picture of two Ojibwe girls becoming women in light of this lesson learned in the long, sharply etched shadow of Native American history.

Review:

What drew my attention to this novel is the storyline and the voices that the story is told thru. I have not had the priviledge of reading many stories told from a Native American’s point of view. I feel that it is important to know how a system like foster care works in different communities.

Another subject that is mentioned throughout the story and also has an impact on the girls’ lives is alcoholism. Their mother was an alcoholic and Junior is a recovering alcoholic. Alcoholism in the Native American community is prevalent and also can be seen as a generational curse as well.

What I loved most about this story was how each point of view that it was told from gave you an insight of the girls as well as their family history. This isn’t brightest and sunniest story but the love and lives that they end up experiencing are much better than what they started out with.

Azure and Rainy have the most beautiful relationship with each other and serve as backbones for one another throughout everything they experience. Azure falls into the role as the older sister even though she is the younger sister. They share a single memory of their mother that stands out to both of them. As they get older, you see the effects of what they have been thru and how it has effected them, especially in Rainy.

I highly recommend this story even if it isn’t light and fluffy.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover

Thank you Bookish First for this copy and also University of Minnesota Press.

book review · books · Family · memoir · reading

Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs {Review}

Blurb:

Born on a farm and named in a field by her parents–artist Chrisann Brennan and Steve Jobs–Lisa Brennan-Jobs’s childhood unfolded in a rapidly changing Silicon Valley. When she was young, Lisa’s father was a mythical figure who was rarely present in her life. As she grew older, her father took an interest in her, ushering her into a new world of mansions, vacations, and private schools. His attention was thrilling, but he could also be cold, critical and unpredictable. When her relationship with her mother grew strained in high school, Lisa decided to move in with her father, hoping he’d become the parent she’d always wanted him to be.

Small Fry is Lisa Brennan-Jobs’s poignant story of a childhood spent between two imperfect but extraordinary homes. Scrappy, wise, and funny, young Lisa is an unforgettable guide through her parents’ fascinating and disparate worlds. Part portrait of a complex family, part love letter to California in the seventies and eighties, Small Fry is an enthralling book by an insightful new literary voice.

Review:

Let me start by saying that as with most celebrities we have a certain belief of how their life is and should be. We forget that they are just everyday people like us, and they make mistakes, they have no so desirable qualities that money doesn’t make disappear. The work that Steve Jobs put in has definitely made lives easier and more entertaining, but we have to remember that he was just a man who happened to put in work to become successful. He was not perfect no matter how hard we want to believe that he was. He has flaws and he was just a normal man who happened to be extremely successful.

This story is about his oldest daughter Lisa and told thru her eyes and experiences. She shines another light on Steve that I would never have thought about before. She didn’t write this book to put a spotlight on his flaws. She wrote a story to tell what it was like for her to have Steve in her life. The Steve we didn’t see or know about and at times during this story, don’t want to really believe. I am glad that she wrote this story. It goes to show that money doesn’t always make someone better as a person.

Lisa had an interesting childhood to say the least. She did not grow up with a silver spoon in her mouth and had to work to gain even the smallest bit of affection from her father. She had to work, not in the monetary sense but she had to put her emotional development on the line as well as her peace of mind. Even at a young age. Her mother was not perfect either. Lisa grew up in a very interesting and at times, dysfunctional environment.

Her being able to share this story about a man who is so beloved speak volumes for her. She tells the story in a matter of fact way. In no way do you think she is bitter because of how she grew up. You see the love that she has for both parents regardless of what they all had to endure from each other while she was growing up.

I am very glad that I read this memoir before I head into possibly reading a biography about Steve Jobs himself.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available now in ebook, hardcover, and audiobook