abuse · book review · books · Historical fiction · love · reading · romance

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes {Review}

Blurb:

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them—and to the men they love—becomes a classic drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. Though they face all kinds of dangers, they’re committed to their job—bringing books to people who have never had any, sharing the gift of learning that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Starsis unparalleled in its scope. At times funny, at others heartbreaking, this is a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.

Review:

I have been a fan of Jojo Moyes since reading Me Before You. I have read almost all her backlist published before it and have read almost all her books published since. I could almost not contain my excitement for The Giver of Stars when I learned it was being published. The fact that this story doesn’t take place in Europe but rather in America definitely had an extra appeal to me. I love historical fiction and knew nothing of the traveling libraries.

While the story does take place in Kentucky, our heroine hails proudly from England. She is an outsider in a world where you think she would be accepted just by the color of her skin but that is not the case. Alice is trapped in a marriage that should have been all she wanted and more. Her husband cared more about pleasing his father and keeping up appearances than he did his own wife. Instead of being loved for who she was, Alice was almost smothered out of it. Joining the traveling library showed her that everything was not all bad in Kentucky. Although it took some time, she was able to make friends even if she did manage to still keep her biggest enemy who was unfortunately so close to home.

Alongside Alice, we also have another strong female character, Margery. She has been an outcast her whole life in the very place she calls home. Living under the shadow of the terrible things her father did, Margery has had to make her own way and live her life under awful scrutiny. The great thing about her is that she did not care how society viewed her. She worried about herself and what made her happy.

Together with a couple other women who all have something for their fellow townsmen to complain about or dislike, they band together on a mission that is almost doomed from the beginning. They are trying to bring literacy to a class of people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to it. When a horrific crime is revealed after a long winter, things start to spiral out of control for the women and their library.

This story was full of girl power and while showing how some beautiful parts of Kentucky, it did not sugarcoat or hide the prejudices of class and race. It also shows how books can bring people together.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availibility:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

 

A special thank you to Pamela Dorman Books 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 · Blog Tour · book review · books · Historical fiction · love · reading · romance · World War 2

Not Our Kind by Kitty Zeldis {Suzy Approved Book Tours Review}

Blurb:

With echoes of The Rules of Civility and The Boston Girl, a compelling and thought-provoking novel set in postwar New York City, about two women—one Jewish, one a WASP—and the wholly unexpected consequences of their meeting

One rainy morning in June, two years after the end of World War II, a minor traffic accident brings together Eleanor Moskowitz and Patricia Bellamy. Their encounter seems fated: Eleanor, a teacher and recent Vassar graduate, needs a job. Patricia’s difficult thirteen-year-old daughter Margaux, recovering from polio, needs a private tutor.

Though she feels out of place in the Bellamys’ rarefied and elegant Park Avenue milieu, Eleanor forms an instant bond with Margaux. Soon the idealistic young woman is filling the bright young girl’s mind with Shakespeare and Latin. Though her mother, a hat maker with a little shop on Second Avenue, disapproves, Eleanor takes pride in her work, even if she must use the name “Moss” to enter the Bellamys’ restricted doorman building each morning, and feels that Patricia’s husband, Wynn, may have a problem with her being Jewish.

Invited to keep Margaux company at the Bellamys’ country home in a small town in Connecticut, Eleanor meets Patricia’s unreliable, bohemian brother, Tom, recently returned from Europe. The spark between Eleanor and Tom is instant and intense. Flushed with new romance and increasingly attached to her young pupil, Eleanor begins to feel more comfortable with Patricia and much of the world she inhabits. As the summer wears on, the two women’s friendship grows—until one hot summer evening, a line is crossed, and both Eleanor and Patricia will have to make important decisions—choices that will reverberate through their lives.

Gripping and vividly told, Not Our Kind illuminates the lives of two women on the cusp of change—and asks how much our pasts can and should define our futures.

Review:

Historical fiction, strong female character, lovely storyline, and wonderful writing. These are all things that come to mind after reading this book and thinking about it.

Zeldis gives us a story that makes you not want to put this book down even after finishing it. She takes you on a trip and drops you off at the ending wondering what exactly you just experienced. I wish I had known about this novel when it was first published but I am thankful I was given the opportunity to read it now.

There is nothing more fulfilling than reading a novel in your favorite genre and the story is not of the usual caliber. Yes, this story takes place after WW2 but it shows a side of the prejudice against Jews that existed here in America even after America helped end the war and the terrible things that were going on in Germany.

Eleanor and Patricia are both forced to set aside their differences in order to do what’s best for Margaux. Which they are able to do until something terrible happens, affecting everyone involved. Eleanor is forced to see the world as it really is and Patricia is forced to face her own feelings and beliefs.

This is one of those stories that doesn’t necessarily end on a high note but it has a realistic ending that leaves you satisfied, yet wanting more.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, paperback, ebook and audiobook.

A special thank you to Suzy Approved Book Tours for having me along and Harper Books for my gifted copy.

book review · Family · love · secrets

Keeping Lucy by T. Greenwood {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Dover, Massachusetts, 1969. Ginny Richardson’s heart was torn open when her baby girl, Lucy, born with Down Syndrome, was taken from her. Under pressure from his powerful family, her husband, Ab, sent Lucy away to Willowridge, a special school for the “feeble-minded.” Ab tried to convince Ginny it was for the best. That they should grieve for their daughter as though she were dead. That they should try to move on.

But two years later, when Ginny’s best friend, Marsha, shows her a series of articles exposing Willowridge as a hell-on-earth–its squalid hallways filled with neglected children–she knows she can’t leave her daughter there. With Ginny’s six-year-old son in tow, Ginny and Marsha drive to the school to see Lucy for themselves. What they find sets their course on a heart-racing journey across state lines—turning Ginny into a fugitive.

For the first time, Ginny must test her own strength and face the world head-on as she fights Ab and his domineering father for the right to keep Lucy. Racing from Massachusetts to the beaches of Atlantic City, through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to a roadside mermaid show in Florida, Keeping Lucy is a searing portrait of just how far a mother’s love can take her.

Review:

I love a book that presents a subject that makes you think.  This book in particular caught my attention because it deals with the subject of special needs children.  While in present time there are better opportunites and more support systems, how would parents have faired during a time shuch as the one in the novel when that was not the case.  Should a parent be judged for the decision they make? How far is a mother, or father willing to go?

I am not a parent of a special needs child, however, I felt so infuriated for Ginny. She was forced into a decision that only she ended up paying emotional consequences for. Her husband and father-in-law made a life changing decision on her behalf that put her child into a situation that was almost detrimental. Luckily Ginny had a great friend to help her and she also found her backbone. She did what she felt she needed to do in order to protect her child even if it meant risking her own freedom and marriage.

It’s funny how a situation makes you reevaluate every decision you have made in your life up to that point. That’s another thing I enjoyed about this story. It forced Ginny to step back and realize that she did not have to take everything that was thrown her way. She didn’t have to settle for what others wanted or decided for her.

This story makes you think about decisions you’d make as a parent and show you that even when you feel powerless, it only takes a small amount of courage to do what you believe is the right thing to do.

 

Rating:

4 Stars

Availibility:

Available now in hardcover, ebook and audiobook

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for my review copy.

 

Blog Tour · book review · books · Historical fiction · love · reading

The Undertaker’s Assistant by Amanda Skenandore {Blog Tour Review}

Blurb:

Effie Jones, a former slave who escaped to the Union side as a child, knows the truth of her words. Taken in by an army surgeon and his wife during the War, she learned to read and write, to tolerate the sight of blood and broken bodies–and to forget what is too painful to bear. Now a young freedwoman, she has returned south to New Orleans and earns her living as an embalmer, her steady hand and skillful incisions compensating for her white employer’s shortcomings.

Tall and serious, Effie keeps her distance from the other girls in her boarding house, holding tight to the satisfaction she finds in her work. But despite her reticence, two encounters–with a charismatic state legislator named Samson Greene, and a beautiful young Creole, Adeline–introduce her to new worlds of protests and activism, of soirees and social ambition. Effie decides to seek out the past she has blocked from her memory and try to trace her kin. As her hopes are tested by betrayal, and New Orleans grapples with violence and growing racial turmoil, Effie faces loss and heartache, but also a chance to finally find her place . .

Review:

I really didn’t know what to expect coming in to this story. I’m a sucker for a good historical fiction and I admit I had some reservations about the author telling the story from freed woman’s perspective. She surprised me with how well it was written. The feelings and things that Effie experienced were valid and also relatable. She dealt with prejudices because of the color of her skin from whites and because she was a “northern” black woman she also deals with prejudices from the black community. She struggled with trying to find where she fit in while also learning how to deal with feelings for one of the first times in her life. Orphaned as a slave, and then later being betrayed by the man who took her in. At almost every step she feels like she doesn’t belong.

Effie has been on her own so long that she doesn’t really know how to make friends or fall in love. She also has trouble with learning about her employer’s true feelings about civil rights. Effie also must learn how to build healthy friendships and relationships. She finds a friend in a person she least expected and she also experiences heartbreak for the first time. All issues that women deal with in the present. Effie comes face to face with her past in such a way that tests her emotionally and mentally.

While Effie has come to the south to find out where it is that she came from and to find out if she has any family left, she also learns how to be true to herself and accept love and friendship.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availibility:

Available now in paperback and ebook

 

Thank you Historical Fiction Virtual Tours for having me along on this book tour and Kensington books for my review copy.

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.