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.

 

 

abuse · book review · books · crime · diversity · Historical fiction · mystery · own voices review · reading

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins {Review}

Blurb:

A servant and former slave is accused of murdering her employer and his wife in this astonishing historical thriller that moves from a Jamaican sugar plantation to the fetid streets of Georgian London—a remarkable literary debut with echoes of Alias Grace, The Underground Railroad, and The Paying Guests.

All of London is abuzz with the scandalous case of Frannie Langton, accused of the brutal double murder of her employers, renowned scientist George Benham and his eccentric French wife, Marguerite. Crowds pack the courtroom, eagerly following every twist, while the newspapers print lurid theories about the killings and the mysterious woman being held in the Old Bailey.

The testimonies against Frannie are damning. She is a seductress, a witch, a master manipulator, a whore.

But Frannie claims she cannot recall what happened that fateful evening, even if remembering could save her life. She doesn’t know how she came to be covered in the victims’ blood. But she does have a tale to tell: a story of her childhood on a Jamaican plantation, her apprenticeship under a debauched scientist who stretched all bounds of ethics, and the events that brought her into the Benhams’ London home—and into a passionate and forbidden relationship.

Though her testimony may seal her conviction, the truth will unmask the perpetrators of crimes far beyond murder and indict the whole of English society itself.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton is a breathtaking debut: a murder mystery that travels across the Atlantic and through the darkest channels of history. A brilliant, searing depiction of race, class, and oppression that penetrates the skin and sears the soul, it is the story of a woman of her own making in a world that would see her unmade.

Review:

What attracted me initially to this story was that it put me in the mindframe of one of my all time favorite books, I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Conde. It takes during slavery, but not American slavery.

Frannie is writing her story, not to dispute her guilt of the horrendous crimes she may or may not have committed but to clear her conscience of the things she has done in her life. Things that were done by force and by choice.

Frannie is born into a life that she has no control over what happens to her but at the same time is given the slight freedom of having a bit of education. Being taught how to read has both its advantages and its setbacks for her as she grows up with the Langton’s but is later practically thrown to the Benham’s.

As I progressed thru this story, I quickly realized how different it was from my favorite novel and I loved the differences. Frannie’s story made me feel sorry for her while at the same time infuriating me. There were things I felt that she could have had more control over even if she were a slave and later a servant as intelligent as she was, but these flaws showed her vulnerability. At the same time she faced issues that not even a free person could have avoided.

Although this isn’t your typical summer read, if given the chance it will tick off more boxes on your list than you can think to imagine. Along with being a historical fiction, there is also the element of mystery and the hint of romance regardless of how socially unacceptable it was for its time period.

This is a beautifully written debut that will hold your attention not only with the storyline but with the lyrical writing style. I look forward to seeing what else Sara Collins will write in the future.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

*A special thank you to Harper Books for my review copy in exchange for my honest review*

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.

book review · books · Bootlegging · crime · Historical fiction · secrets

Tasting the Apple {The Bootleggers’ Chronicles #2} by Sherilyn Decter

Blurb:

A young widow on the edge. A policeman back from the dead. Together, can they take down the city’s most notorious bootlegger? In a city of bootleggers and crime, one woman must rely on a long-dead lawman to hunt down justice…

Philadelphia, 1925.
With a son to raise and boarders to feed, Maggie Barnes is at her wit’s end. But when a criminal element infiltrates the police force, the single mother puts her cares aside to help. As she tries to dig up dirt on bootlegger mastermind Mickey Duffy, Maggie realizes she can’t take on the case alone.

Inspector Frank Geyer used to patrol the streets of Philadelphia before Maggie was born. As he attempts to clean up crime from beyond the grave, the spirit uses his Victorian sensibilities to fight back against lawbreakers. But with corruption throughout the police force, can the phantom informant save his city and Maggie’s livelihood?

With the roof leaking and the lawlessness spiraling, Maggie and Frank have one chance to take down a criminal and prevent the unthinkable.

Tasting the Apple is the second thrilling book in The Bootleggers’ Chronicles historical mystery series. If you like strong female characters, stories inspired by actual history, and a touch of the paranormal, then you’ll love Sherilyn Decter’s tale of temptation and corruption.

Buy Tasting the Apple to experience the dark side of the Roaring Twenties today!

Review:

I have found myself back with Maggie and Inspector Frank as they help the Philadelphia police department fight back against the criminals. This time not only do they have the street criminals to worry about, they also have to worry about the criminals with badges and political power. Decter once again brings to life an era we sometimes forget about when it comes to historical fiction Prohibition and the Roaring Twenties.

I was happy to see how resilient Maggie has remained considering her previous run in with Mickey Duffy and his gang. Her friendship with Edith has blossomed although Edith seems to be on a path of self-destruction.

I really enjoy Sherilyn’s style of writing with this series. This is a semi complicated story but the writing style is simplistic enough to keep you engaged.

There were times I worried about Maggie and her decision making. But as always, she prevailed. Having Inspector Frank with her again helps keep her grounded in my opinion. She takes on the task of going back to school while still running her boarding house and raising her son. Again, in this story we see some internal conflict with Tommy as we did before in the previous novel.

We are also priviledged to witness a vulnerable side to Inspector Frank that I wish would have been developed a bit more.  I would like to see more of what is going on in his mind while in his current situation.

Sherilyn has also added some spice of forbidden love in the mix and I enjoyed that little shake up. Forbidden love and some potentially  new love. I won’t tell you who experiences what. You’ll have to read to find out.

I don’t want to give too much more away since this is part of a series. Just know that there is crime, pain, love and plenty of determination once again.

If you haven’t already, make sure you check out the first book in the series, Innocence Lost.

Rating:

3.5 Stars

Availability:

Available in ebook and paperback on Amazon

 

Thank you to MC Book Tours for reaching out to me and allowing me to be apart of this book tour.

 

 

 

books · Historical fiction · reading

Temptation Rag by Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard {Feature}

    

I want to take a moment and spotlight a book that has come into my possession. I hope that you will take the time to check it out and see what it’s all about. Most of you know by now that I enjoy a good historical fiction. While I read mostly war stories, it is good to come across historical fiction that is not based on a war but another period of history.

Blurb:

Seventeen-year-old May Convery, unhappy with her privileged life in turn-of-the-century New York City, dreams of becoming a poet. When she meets the talented young Mike Bernard, an aspiring concert pianist, she immediately falls in love. But after their secret liaison is discovered, neither is prepared for the far-reaching consequences that will haunt them for decades. As Mike abandons serious music to ruthlessly defend his hard-won title, Ragtime King of the World, May struggles to find her voice as an artist and a woman. It is not until years after their youthful romance, when they cross paths again, that they must finally confront the truth about themselves and each other. But is it too late?

The world of ragtime is the backdrop for a remarkable story about the price of freedom, the longing for immortality, and the human need to find forgiveness. From vaudeville’s greatest stars to the geniuses of early African American musical theater, an unforgettable cast of real-life characters populates this richly-fictionalized historical saga.

Words for thought:

Looking for some historical fiction with a bit of twist? Check out this Ragtime Era story.  This era is as important in history as the world wars and everything else. It’s a breath of fresh air.

Thank you Historical Virtual Book Tours for this opportunity to spotlight this novel!

Availability:

Available now in paperback and ebook