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.

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 · 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.

 

 

 

abuse · book review · Family · reading · secrets

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie {Review}

Blurb:

Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in a beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They’re completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear. Although her Papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home—a home that is silent and suffocating.

As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent to their aunt, a university professor outside the city, where they discover a life beyond the confines of their father’s authority. Books cram the shelves, curry and nutmeg permeate the air, and their cousins’ laughter rings throughout the house. When they return home, tensions within the family escalate, and Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together.

Review:

This is the second novel I have read by Adichie and because I enjoyed Americanah so much, I had very high hopes for this story. I was not disappointed. In fact, I was even more blown away with her beautiful prose and style of writing.

This story is told from the perspective of a fifteen year old girl named Kambili. She is the daughter of a well to do businessman and a religious fanatic. From the outside, the world believes that Kambili, her older brother Jaja, and her mother live the perfect life of happiness. In reality, their home life is everything but that. Kambili’s father has horrifying standards for his family and they often pay in pain when they disappoint him.

Although I did like the story being told by Kambili, there were moments when I wanted to get Jaja’s perspective on what they were going thru especially when they went to visit their aunt, Ifeoma.

Adichie draws you in and forces you to connect to her characters in such a way that you don’t even realize it’s happening. The story flows at a remarkable pace. The dynamic nature between the characters is astounding. I admit when I first started reading this story, I didn’t think I would connect with Kambili and I thought her character wouldn’t develop like it did.

Reading this story and seeing what Kambili and her family went thru, broke my heart in many ways. This story makes you think about how an outside perspective can often cause disillusionment when it comes to someone’s life and what they may be dealing with or going through. You also think about how much you are willing to take or deal with when it comes to your loved ones. How much you are willing to sacrifice. Does being a religious figure or devout believer really separate you from those you believe to beneath you for being non believers when you aren’t living as perfectly as you think?

I highly recommend this book if you are a fan of Adichie. I still can’t believe that this was her debut novel.

This book was the first of my backlist buddy read that I’m hosting on Instagram this year.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audio.

book review · books · Family · secrets · World War 2

The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman {Review}

Blurb:

Two estranged sisters, raised in Brooklyn and each burdened with her own shocking secret, are reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII. While one sister lives in relative ease on the bucolic Armory campus as an officer’s wife, the other arrives as a war widow and takes a position in the Armory factories as a “soldier of production.” Resentment festers between the two, and secrets are shattered when a mysterious figure from the past reemerges in their lives.

Review:

The main setting of this story is at the Springfield Armory during WW2. This was a place that I had never heard of before and after reading this story I definitely want to learn more about it. I am thankful that the author chose this for her setting. Definitely something different for a WW2 novel.

Having read and enjoyed Loigman’s debut novel, The Two-Family House, I was very happy to see that she was about to publish her second novel AND it was a historical fiction!

This story mainly follows two sisters, Ruth and Millie. They are complete opposites of each other in all aspects of the word. As they grow up, their relationship becomes almost non existent. After the death of their parents, and Millie’s husband comes up missing, Ruth invites Millie to live with her and her family at the Springfield Armory. From there we are then introduced to Lillian and Arietta who both have experienced life changing events.

The experiences that each of the four women have dealt with bring them together in some form or fashion. But what is a good story without there being some type of secret? Omitting the truth about something is just as detrimental as telling a lie. This is observed in this story.

Loigman uses WW2 as a perfect backdrop for this story. Although these women aren’t fitting battles directly on the line, their every day lives during the war are constant battles. They are fighting their own pasts, secrets, and even some of the very people they love.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

I am so thankful to St. Martins press for sending me an advanced copy of this book to read and review. I look forward to seeing what else Lynda Cohen Loigman is going to write.

book review · books · dedication · reading · secrets · World War 2

The Light Over London by Julia Kelly {ARC Review}

Blurb:

This poignant women’s fiction novel tells the present-day story of Cara, an antiques dealer who would rather bury herself in the past than confront the dilemmas of her present. So when she finds an World War II diary from 1941, she delves into the life of Louise Keene- a small town girl on the outskirts of the war, uninterested with the mundanity of her days.  Desperate from a larger life, Louise defied her parents and joined the women’s branch of the British Army in the anti-aircraft gun unit.  As Cara, journeys through Louise’s life on the page and tries to figure out what happened to her, Cara just might uncover some truths about herself as well.

Review:

Historical fiction is probably one of my favorite types of genre so when I am able to get my hands on an advanced reader’s copy of historical fiction, I jump at the chance. This book is compared The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah(I read and loved) and Lilac Girls (I have not read but plan to do so soon). I did not allow those comparisons to build my expectations because I was afraid of being disappointed and I also wanted this book to make it’s own impression on my reading experience. I am so glad that I went into reading it with that mindset.

This story weaves Cara’s present day story with Louise’s past day story thru a diary that Cara finds while on a job assignment. Cara has gone thru some emotionally trying events in her life events in her life and all she has left on this earth in her loving, but strongly spirited grandmother who has a secret of her own. Cara’s devotion to finding the owner of the diary gives her the strength to ask her grandmother about her military past, but nevertheless, Iris shuts Cara out. Cara doesn’t allow this to deter her away from her mission.

Throughout the story, you see how Cara develops a more independent mindset and you see her confidence build. At the same time, thru diary entries and an alternate point of view, you see Louise’s growth as a woman during a time of war and during a time when women were expected to not have confidence or a mind of their own.

While reading the story, I began making my own assumptions about who the owner of the diary was and how it could possibly relate to whatever secret Iris was hiding from her granddaughter. Needless to say, my assumptions proved to be incorrect and I am okay with that.

Of course, what would this type of story be without a bit of romance? I appreciated how Julia Kelly intertwines the romance of the story into the plot without making it a hardcore historical romance novel. The romance in the story is not your run of the mill everyone lives happily ever after. The romance in both Louise’s and  Cara’s lives are the types that are seen every day and are relatable instead of far fetched.

What made this novel stand out for me is that I learned about a part of World War II that I was not familiar with. Learning about the women in the anti aircraft gun unit made me want to do more research about it.

If you are a fan of historical fiction, but you don’t want to read one that will completely weigh you down emotionally, I highly recommend checking this novel out.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

January 8, 2019 in hardcover, ebook and audio.

I received this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.