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.

 

 

addiction · Blog Tour · book review · books · crime · Family · reading · suspense

The East End by Jason Allen {ARC Review}

Blurb:

After graduating high school, Corey Halpern would love to leave the Hamptons and never look back. He is stuck though, saddled with responsibility for his alcoholic mother, Gina, and his younger brother. So for now, he finds momentary escape by breaking and entering. The night before Memorial Day weekend, he targets the estate of Leo Sheffield, the billionaire CEO for whom he and Gina work.  But everything goes awry. Leo arrives suddenly—and he’s not alone. As Corey looks on in stunned horror, he witnesses a fatal mishap…as does another traumatized onlooker. With everything to lose, Leo will do whatever it takes to cover up the truth. Things spiral out of control, however. Pushed to their limits, Corey, Gina, and Leo all hurdle towards climactic showdowns as explosive as the holiday fireworks lighting up the night sky.

Review:

I think this is going to be the summer of reads about wealthy vacationing going wrong, lol. And I am here for all of it. Here in this story you have a young man, Corey, who is trying to figure out how to get out of his current life situation without having the stress of worrying about his younger brother and their pill popping, alcoholic mother. While out and about one night engaging in mischievous behavior, he is pulled into an issue that is going to set the scene for his summer and some important decision-making.

From the outside looking in, you think that Leo is living the perfect life with his wife and family, but in reality it is a sham and he is unhappy. He is harboring a secret that could cost him much more than he is willing to pay.  While trying to hide one secret, Leo finds himself in a much worse predicament that drives him further down the path of self-destruction.

Gina, the pill popping, alcoholic mother is such a train wreck. I thought she was a functioning addict but quickly realized that she did not have herself together whatsoever. She not only put her life in jeopardy, but also her job and the lives of her children. While being Leo’s confidant, she finds herself in a predicament that is not helpful to her already messed up situation with her addiction.

As the one single event that was supposed to transpire in secret starts unravelling and the lives of Corey, Gina, Leo, and unfortunately, Angelique become intertwined you realize that there may not be a happy ending for anyone. There are secrets, threats, and plain fear involved. You see everyone’s moral compasses spinning rapidly as they all try to figure out what to do, who to trust and when to let go.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available May 7, 2019 in ebook, hardcover, and audiobook

I would like to thank Park Row Books for having me on the blog tour for this novel. All opinions are honest and my own.

 

 

 

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 · 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

book review · books · reading · secrets

Cape May by Chip Cheek {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Late September 1957. Henry and Effie, very young newlyweds from Georgia, arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon only to find the town is deserted. Feeling shy of each other and isolated, they decide to cut the trip short. But before they leave, they meet a glamorous set of people who sweep them up into their drama. Clara, a beautiful socialite who feels her youth slipping away; Max, a wealthy playboy and Clara’s lover; and Alma, Max’s aloof and mysterious half-sister, to whom Henry is irresistibly drawn.

The empty beach town becomes their playground, and as they sneak into abandoned summer homes, go sailing, walk naked under the stars, make love, and drink a great deal of gin, Henry and Effie slip from innocence into betrayal, with irrevocable consequences.

Erotic and moving, this is a novel about marriage, love and sexuality, and the lifelong repercussions that meeting a group of debauched cosmopolitans has on a new marriage.

Review:

Let me start off by saying “WHOAH!!!!” I almost have no words for this book, the story. One of the things I loved about it was how it was told from a male perspective. Not only was it told from a male perspective, it was from a naive male at that. Another thing I enjoyed about this story was that it wasnt necessarily wrapped and presented in a nice, neat, conflict free package. The conflicts were realistic and relatable. Things got real and there wasn’t any sugar-coating to it, provocative is a word that keeps coming to mind. This book is provocative in so many ways. It is also thought-provoking.

Chip brings to life the story of young newlyweds, Henry and Effie. This young couple who throw out a vibe of innocence and cluelessness. Both of these prove to be wrong as the story develops. I will say that I did not care for Effie and that is because I felt that she belittled Henry in so many off-handed ways. I don’t know if that was intentional but it is definitely how I felt about her interactions with him. He doted on her and she basically treated him like a commoner. I wonder if that is because they came from different backgrounds or because she was just a spoiled brat. You are also introduced to Clara, Max and Alma. The three of them are quite the trio. Clara loving and doting on Max. Max almost aloof to Clara’s emotions. And Alma, seeming quite the innocent orphaned child who has been thrust into this carefree life.

Nothing is what it seems in this story. The conflicts that occur make you wonder what you would do in those situations. Chip demonstrates with each of these characters that one can never truly say never about anything in their life.

Before I wrap this up, I do have to mention the level of steaminess that is portrayed in this novel. There haven’t been many books that could make me blush in public but this one definitely tops the list. I do have to say that the steaminess is not why I am going to give this book 5 stars, it is the total content of the book and the writing that make me give this book 5 stars.

This is for sure a beach read! Unless you’re afraid you’ll blush too much, lol.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

April 30th, 2019 in hardcover, ebook and audiobook

 

Thank you to Celadon Books for this opportunity to read and provide an honest review of this novel.

 

 

book review · books · reading · Self Help

Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis {Review}

Blurb:

Rachel Hollis has seen it too often: women not living into their full potential. They feel a tugging on their hearts for something more, but they’re afraid of embarrassment, of falling short of perfection, of not being enough.

In Girl, Stop Apologizing, #1 New York Times bestselling author and founder of a multimillion-dollar media company, Rachel Hollis sounds a wake-up call. She knows that many women have been taught to define themselves in light of other people—whether as wife, mother, daughter, or employee—instead of learning how to own who they are and what they want. With a challenge to women everywhere to stop talking themselves out of their dreams, Hollis identifies the excuses to let go of, the behaviors to adopt, and the skills to acquire on the path to growth, confidence, and believing in yourself.

Review:

I want to start this review off by saying that self help books are not books that you can pick up and start reading and expect to enjoy if you are not in the right mind frame for the content. I read and really enjoyed Rachel’s first book Girl, Wash Your Face and was very excited when I learned that she was going to be writing a second book with more content to help women. I know that there is so much controversy behind the first book and I am pretty certain that there will be some behind this second book as well.

While listening to the audio version of this book, even though the publisher gifted me a beautiful advanced copy, I have to admit at first I had some major eye rolling moments. I knew that I probably needed to stop and step away from the book at that moment and maybe come back to it. Which is what I did and that helped so much. Now, while I am not out here trying to build a multimillion-dollar company, Rachel does have some nuggets of advice and inspiration that I know I will be able to apply to my everyday life such as having goals no matter how big or small, asking for help with confidence, planning, and most importantly learning to say no.

I enjoyed her pop culture references because they were things that I could personally relate to and I find that very important when dealing with books like this one. At the same time, I could also see where some may think that she is coming off as pretentious and privileged. I don’t think that she means to come off that way, but I also take some of her personality traits with a grain of salt. I am not here to dissect her book and life because I feel like she doesn’t know my struggle. I am here to get what I can from what she has written and apply it the best way that I can.

Once again with this book, I feel that there is something for everyone to take from it. You cannot go into a book like this with the author on a pedestal because you will be disappointed. She is a human being and she is not perfect. She has flaws just like everyone else. What she wants you to do is stop apologizing for your flaws and work on what you can. Take charge.

I would recommend giving this book a chance. Do not be fooled by the placement of this book in the Christian section of a bookstore because that is not where it belongs. Inspirational does not equal religion. Inspirational is just what it is. To inspire someone.

Rating:

3.75 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook and audio

Thank you HarperCollins Leadership for my advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.