In the summer of 1995, ten-year-old Joan, her mother, and her younger sister flee her father’s violence, seeking refuge at her mother’s ancestral home in Memphis. Half a century ago, Joan’s grandfather built this majestic house in the historic Black neighborhood of Douglass–only to be lynched days after becoming the first Black detective in Memphis. This wasn’t the first time violence altered the course of Joan’s family’s trajectory, and she knows it won’t be the last. Longing to become an artist, Joan pours her rage and grief into sketching portraits of the women of North Memphis–including their enigmatic neighbor Miss Dawn, who seems to know something about curses.
Unfolding over seventy years through a chorus of voices, Memphis weaves back and forth in time to show how the past and future are forever intertwined. It is only when Joan comes to see herself as a continuation of a long matrilineal tradition–and the women in her family as her guides to healing–that she understands that her life does not have to be defined by vengeance. That the sole weapon she needs is her paintbrush.
Inspired by the author’s own family history, Memphis–the Black fairy tale she always wanted to read–explores the complexity of what we pass down, not only in our families, but in our country: police brutality and justice, powerlessness and freedom, fate and forgiveness, doubt and faith, sacrifice and love.
What a punch this story packed in less than 300 pages. I could not put it down and when I was forced to put it down to participate in the real world, I couldn’t wait to get back to it.
Memphis follows the lives of the Joan, her mother, her sister, her aunt, and her grandmother. When Joan, her, and her sister flee from their father in the middle of the night, they end their journey in North Memphis. They return to the home Miriam grew up; The one her mother always said she could come home to.
The story is told from different points of view and throughout a timeline. Each of the women have their own demons to battle and they learn how to live with one another, especially with a dark cloud hovering over their lives. The strength and resilience that these women show during their lives keeps them going even when times seem as though everything is going to end.
I loved how the author blends the history of the family along with the history of Memphis.
Tara Stringfellow came into the publishing world swinging and I can’t wait to see what she does next. This story proves that women, especially black women, can overcome just about anything that is thrown at them. They find solace in things they love
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).
Danielle Evans is widely acclaimed for her blisteringly smart voice and x-ray insights into complex human relationships. With The Office of Historical Corrections, Evans zooms in on particular moments and relationships in her characters’ lives in a way that allows them to speak to larger issues of race, culture, and history. She introduces us to Black and multiracial characters who are experiencing the universal confusions of lust and love, and getting walloped by grief—all while exploring how history haunts us, personally and collectively. Ultimately, she provokes us to think about the truths of American history—about who gets to tell them, and the cost of setting the record straight.
In “Boys Go to Jupiter,” a white college student tries to reinvent herself after a photo of her in a Confederate-flag bikini goes viral. In “Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain,” a photojournalist is forced to confront her own losses while attending an old friend’s unexpectedly dramatic wedding. And in the eye-opening title novella, a black scholar from Washington, DC, is drawn into a complex historical mystery that spans generations and puts her job, her love life, and her oldest friendship at risk.
Short story collections have been showing up and showing out(or maybe I’m just late to the game). This particular collection was no different. Each story draws the reader in making them think they are reading for pleasure but in reality they are ingesting gems that they didn’t know they needed.
Need a story about passing? Pick this collection up and make sure you pay close attention to the title sharing novella. Need a story showcasing white privilege at its finest? You’ll find that in this collection as well.
The thing that always made me veer from short stories is the feeling that you don’t get any closure at the end. I didn’t get this feeling when reading this collection. Danielle Evans does a great job with this. Her endings leave a little room for thought and speculation but not so much room that the meat of the story is lost.
I listened to the audiobook but I will be getting a physical copy because there are stories I want to visibly revisit.
This book was brought to my immediate attention from @gettbr. I signed up for their tailored book recommendation subscription and this was one of the first books I was recommended. Definitely check out this service. I just received my second set of recs and can’t wait to see what I’ll pick next.
This was the book to put a crack in my reading slump and I’m so glad for it!
After being informed that The Stacks podcast had two episodes about this book, I had to go listen to them. In episode 147, Traci discusses the book with Danielle without spoilers but it was a great insight into her writing. In episode 148, Traci and her guest Deesha Philyaw take a deeper dive into the book(spoilers for this episode). After listening, I know that I will be revisiting this collection once I get a physical copy.
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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If you have followed me for a little while, then you know that sometimes I like to just take time out and talk about life and books outside of reviewing. If you notice in the title of this post, I have added podcasting to my repetoire.
Life for most of the year has been an unbelievable shit storm for me, as it has been for most of the world. I knew for sure that 2020 would be my year. A new year? A new decade? What could be better than that? The ultimate form of a clean slate. However, 2020 had other plans in mind including a pandemic, living under a tyrannical president, and last but MOST DEFINITELY not least the fear of living while being black.
Books and reading are usually a form of escape for me but this year it has been different and I think that is due to the book community. I never knew that this community could become so political and I am not even talking literal politics. I am talking about the politics of the book world. I come to the book world to escape the politics of the real world, but too often lately I am finding myself witnessing some of the most ridiculous things. There is a lack of decorum when it comes to certain things. So many people are practically tap dancing for these publishers just to get a free book.
One thing about myself that is that what you see is what you get. I have made some minor changes since first starting but those have been changes that reflect my growth not overshadow my individuality or personality. Some people will do anything for clout and they are clogging up the feeds with utter nonsense. Where has the love of books and reading gone? Is it the pandemic that has made everyone go mad? I would like to think so, but deep down inside I know that is not true. Folks just want to be out here acting a damn fool for no good reason.
I also notice that some people think bringing more color onto their bookshelves will make them better people and that is not true. People need to understand that no matter how many books are read by people of color, the book world is not going to change the real world that we are in. That closing the pages of these books and saying how much more they understand isn’t making this world a better place. People also have to realize that you have to give folks room, space, and time to change. It is not something that is going to happen overnight and they don’t need to be criticized at every chance. Look how long it took for slavery to end, for black people to gain civil rights. Yet, we are still being treated like nothing and we are out here being killed. Those black squares and those readalongs of books hasn’t changed anything but follower counts. Both positively and negatively. Now, I won’t sit here and say that people are not out here doing anything because some are, not many but a few. And I thank them for that because we need all that we can get right now.
Let me talk about my podcast. I had been talking about starting my own podcast for a while so when George Floyd was murdered and some people I considered colleagues showed their true colors, I knew it was time to do my own thing. I am so happy that I did. I have been having a great time talking to fellow booklovers about books and life. I was on a roll when real life hit me and hit me hard. I had to take a moment and step back. But I am slowly getting back into it.
Another thing that I have noticed this year is the sheer amount of people suffering from depression and anxiety. I am one of those people. I am here to tell you that just because someone is posting on their page or participating in chats, doesn’t mean that they are not suffering. I found myself spiraling faster than I could keep up. Things are getting better but I am still not where I want or need to be. I sat and thought about the last time I was just genuinely happy and it has been about 3 years. The other day my dad said that he was glad to see me happy and I had to tell him that he was just seeing me on one of my few good days and that I still had a long road to go. It hurt me to tell him that but he needed to know the truth. The example I gave him so that he could understand the seriousness of someone suffering from mental illness even if their life seems all put together is Robin Williams. I think that just maybe he understood or we at least had a breakthrough momentarily. These days I take what I can get.
I chose that picture for this post for a reason. If you look closely and really know me, you know that is not just a resting bitch face. My eyes are dead. Void of all emotion. I look plain tired and beatdown even with the little bit of makeup. I believe that is how most of us are trying to survive right now.
Find your strength, stay strong. Find your happiness, hold on to it. MAKE SURE YOU VOTE! And if you really care about people, check on your friends and family. Sometimes you may need to check on a stranger too.
This is a poignant comedy about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined.
Viewing an apartment normally doesn’t turn into a life-or-death situation, but this particular open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes everyone in the apartment hostage. As the pressure mounts, the eight strangers slowly begin opening up to one another and reveal long-hidden truths.
As police surround the premises and television channels broadcast the hostage situation live, the tension mounts and even deeper secrets are slowly revealed. Before long, the robber must decide which is the more terrifying prospect: going out to face the police, or staying in the apartment with this group of impossible people.
Great story. This story makes you think about life and what’s important. The thing I loved most about this story is that Backman shines a light on mental health and how it affects people differently. What extremes they go thru to hide or deny it and what extremes they go thru to not deal with it at all. There are some funny and endearing moments in this novel which is not unusual for a Backman novel.
As a person who deals with anxiety and depression on more occasions than I care to admit or think about, I felt seen with this story. This is one of those stories where nothing is as it seems. You go in thinking the story will go one way, but it turns a totally different direction and you are not disappointed by it because all along you are subconsciously thinking about so many things that you don’t realize you’ve been set on another path.
Backman’s story shows that you never know what someone is going thru and you never know how your interaction with people can affect them. Sometimes people can be saved but there is also the unfortunate reality that some think they are too far gone to be saved.
When reading a story by Backman, sometimes you find yourself thinking that this story is going all over the place. Who are all these people? How does any of this tie itself together? Well, it always does. Not necessarily in a neat little bow but definitely in a way that provides a conclusion that stays with you.
I recommend this book along with his other work. I am already looking forward to his next novel.
I just outright loved and enjoyed this story.
Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.
Aspecial thank to Atria Books for my gifted copy in exchange for an honestreview.
Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.
But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.
When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?
Gentrification thriller. That is all it took for me to want to read this book. Me, a reader who doesn’t read a lot of thrillers. Not only is this a gentrification thriller, it’s by Alyssa Cole who I am only familiar with thru her romance novels which I haven’t read(don’t judge me) but have heard a lot of good things about. Anyway, back to the book at hand. I am so glad that I read this book. Alyssa takes a subject that is already frightening enough by itself in real life and turns it into a story that shows how bad it already is and worse it will get worse if nothing is done.
Gentrification is something that I, along with other black people are currently witnessing in towns and cities that we live in. Companies coming in and sweet talking or sometimes bullying residents of color out of areas that were once prominent but have deteriorated over the years due to the lack of non color residents not wanting to reside there until that area is seen as a potential money maker. Then this practice is justified in their minds because they are “beautifying” the area. When in reality if the area was afforded the same access to funding, they would never be in the worn down conditions that they end up in.
Cole takes this story and tells it from Sydney’s point of view, which I admit was a bit hard to follow at first because I was thinking she was just going to be an unreliable narrator. But she turns out to have more sense than what I thought. My heart was broken reading this story knowing how realistic it is. How there are so many people are out there experiencing this daily basis.
Now, the story is also told thru poor old Theo’s point of view. Poor, poor naive Theo. Lawd Sweet Baby Betty White. Bless Theo’s heart. I definitely had my reservations about him and rightfully so. That poor man was so damn clueless, as are most people of his background. And I am not talking about social background either. He is as clueless as they come, especially dealing with “Bodega Becky”(read the book and you’ll know exactly what I am talking about. Theo really possessed the “I mean well” and ” I am trying to understand” attitude that is continuously shown in racial situations.
The partnership of Sydney and Theo was one that was relatable when it comes to the racial climate that we are currently in. It is good to have counterparts on the other side who want to help, but them knowing how to help and having to recondition their beliefs is the real battle that is faced and Alyssa did a great job showcasing this.
In closing, one thing I that makes me dislike a thriller is the either the plot twist or the climax. I hate when I get to those parts and it’s like “pew” instead of “BAM”. This thriller was all the way “BAM”. Go pick it up.
Available September 1, 2020 in paperback, ebook, and audiobook
Knocked all four girls down!!!!
Thank you so much to William Morrow Books for this free copy in exchange for my honest review.