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Quick reviews on some recent reads

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)

Blurb:

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.

Review:

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.

Rating:

3 Golden Girls

Diamond Doris by Doris Payne (gifted copy from Amistad Books, published September 2019)

Blurb:

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.

Review:

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.

Rating:

4 Golden Girls

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (gifted copy from Tor Books, published October 2020)

Blurb:

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. 

Review:

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.

Rating:

4 Golden Girls

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel (gifted copy from Gallery Books, published July 2020)

Blurb:

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 NetworkThe 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.

Review:

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.

Rating:

4 Golden Girls

Me by Elton John (published by Henry Holt in October 2019)

Blurb:

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. 

Review:

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.

Rating:

4 Golden Girls

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (published by Grand Central in February 2017)

Blurb:

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.

Review:

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.

Rating:

4 Golden Girls

Not pictured, but read:

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (published by Harper in September 2019)

Blurb:

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. 

Review:

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.

Rating:

2 Golden Girls (only because Tom Hanks narrated the audio and I checked it out from the library)

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.

 

 

 

addiction · book review · dedication · Family

Off the Rails: One Family’s Journey Through Teen Addiction by Susan Burrowes {Review}

Goodreads Blurb:

Fifteen-year-old Hannah was a privileged young girl with a promising future, but that didn’t stop her from sliding into an abyss of sex, drugs, alcohol, and other high-risk behaviors. Off the Rails narrates Hannah’s sudden decline and subsequent treatment through the raw, honest, compelling voices of Hannah and her shocked and desperate mother—each one telling her side of the story.

Fearing that they couldn’t keep their teen safe, Hannah’s parents made the agonizing decision to send her to a wilderness program, and then to residential treatment. Off the Rails tells the story of the two tough years Hannah spent in three separate programs—and ponders the factors that contributed to her ultimate recovery.

Written for parents of teens experimenting with high-risk behaviors, as well as those trying to navigate the controversial world of teen treatment programs, Off the Rails is an inspiring story of family love, determination, and the last-resort intervention that helped one troubled young woman find sobriety after a terrifying and harrowing journey.

My Review:

As a parent of a pre-teen, this was a much needed but intense and frightening read. I never think about the possibility of something like addiction happening to one of my children but reading this story made me realize that the possibility is there. I didn’t know if I would like the format in which the story was written but I gave more validation to how Hannah and her mom were feeling and what they were going thru. You see how fast Hannah’s addiction and behavior begin to affect their family. This story shows how difficult it is to make decisions for your child and family that may not be necessarily ideal but are needed. I don’t imagine that Susan ever thought she would have to send Hannah away for the length of time that she did. Having the story told from Hannah’s point of view allowed a look into how addiction affects the mind and feelings of the person addicted. Not only did Hannah have to go thru a healing process to get better, her family had to go thru one of their own in order to understand what they were going thru and why. For parents, I can say that would not be an easy task. To have to see where your faults are in possibly helping your child turn to a life of addiction. But at the same time, the addicted teen also has to take responsibility for their actions.  I highly recommend this story if someone has any questions of concerns about teen addiction and the affects that it has on a family. Although this story is heart wrenching it can provide hope that a change can be made for the better, but you have to be willing to set aside your personal feelings for it to happen.

I received this book from Booksparks in exchange for my honest review.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback and ebook

book review · books

Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love {review}

Drugs, money, loyalty. A man’s world, or is it?

I will admit that I had some reservations after I received this novel and didn’t think I would enjoy it. I then found myself wanting to know what was going to happen and when. This is not the typical type of novel that I usually read but I am so glad that I stepped outside of my box this time. What looks like sugar isn’t always sweet. Lola definitely defied the stereotypes types of a gang banger and I appreciated that fact. Lola was a hardcore thug. I honestly thought that she would soften around the edges when it was crunch time but she was ruthless throughout the entire story, even when it came to her own family. She was a woman after my own heart though. She knew how to take care of home and was willing to take risks to protect what was hers or what she deemed needing protection. The only soft spot she had was for Lucy whose mother was a junkie willing to pimp out her child for her next fix. Lola’s past made her protective of Lucy. I would recommend this story to anyone needing a break from the mundane suspense, thriller type novels or the stories where the man is always leading the pack. This is my first novel by this author and I look forward to reading more by her. Maybe Lola will get a sequel, lol.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this honest review.