abuse · black literature · book review · books · diversity · Family · own voices review · Racism · reading · secrets

Memphis by Tara Stringfellow {Book Review}

Blurb:

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.

Review:

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

π•Žπ•™π•šπ•π•– 𝕀 π•–π•Ÿπ•›π• π•ͺ𝕖𝕕 π•₯π•™π•šπ•€ π•“π• π• π•œ, 𝕀 𝕙𝕒𝕧𝕖 π•₯𝕠 𝕝𝕠𝕨𝕖𝕣 π•žπ•ͺ 𝕣𝕒π•₯π•šπ•Ÿπ•˜ π•’π•Ÿπ•• π•₯π•’π•œπ•– π•“π•’π•”π•œ π•žπ•ͺ π•£π•–π•”π• π•žπ•žπ•–π•Ÿπ••π•’π•₯π•šπ• π•Ÿ. 𝕋𝕙𝕖 𝕒𝕦π•₯𝕙𝕠𝕣 π•₯𝕣𝕦𝕝π•ͺ 𝕀𝕙𝕠𝕨𝕖𝕕 𝕠𝕦π•₯ π• π•Ÿ π•žπ•ͺ 𝕑𝕠𝕀π•₯ π•₯π•™π•šπ•Ÿπ•œπ•šπ•Ÿπ•˜ 𝕀𝕙𝕖 𝕔𝕠𝕦𝕝𝕕 𝕓𝕦𝕝𝕝π•ͺ π•’π•Ÿπ• π•₯𝕙𝕖𝕣 π•£π•–π•§π•šπ•–π•¨π•–π•£ 𝕨𝕙𝕠 π••π•šπ••π•Ÿβ€™π•₯ π•–π•§π•–π•Ÿ 𝕙𝕒𝕧𝕖 π•’π•Ÿπ•ͺπ•₯π•™π•šπ•Ÿπ•˜ π•Ÿπ•–π•˜π•’π•₯π•šπ•§π•– π•₯𝕠 𝕀𝕒π•ͺ π•’π•Ÿπ•• 𝕨𝕙𝕒π•₯ 𝕀𝕙𝕖 π••π•šπ•• 𝕀𝕒π•ͺ π•šπ•€ π•₯𝕣𝕦𝕖. 𝕋𝕙𝕖 π•žπ•–π•Ÿ π•šπ•Ÿ π•₯𝕙𝕖 π•“π• π• π•œ 𝕒𝕣𝕖 π•₯𝕣𝕒𝕀𝕙. π•Šπ•–π•©π•¦π•’π• 𝕒𝕓𝕦𝕀𝕖𝕣𝕀, 𝕑𝕙π•ͺπ•€π•šπ•”π•’π• 𝕒𝕓𝕦𝕀𝕖𝕣𝕀. 𝕀 𝕕𝕠 π•Ÿπ• π•₯ π•”π• π•Ÿπ••π• π•Ÿπ•– π•“π•–π•™π•’π•§π•šπ•Ÿπ•˜ 𝕒𝕀 π•šπ•— π•ͺ𝕠𝕦’𝕣𝕖 𝕓𝕖π•₯π•₯𝕖𝕣 π•₯π•™π•’π•Ÿ π•€π• π•žπ•–π• π•Ÿπ•– 𝕓𝕖𝕔𝕒𝕦𝕀𝕖 π•ͺ𝕠𝕦 π•‘π•¦π•“π•π•šπ•€π•™π•–π•• π•ͺ𝕠𝕦𝕣 π•—π•šπ•£π•€π•₯ π•“π• π• π•œ. π•Žπ•– 𝕒𝕣𝕖 π•“π• π• π•œ π•£π•–π•§π•šπ•–π•¨π•–π•£π•€ 𝕗𝕠𝕣 𝕒 π•£π•–π•’π•€π• π•Ÿ. π•Žπ•– π•¨π• π•Ÿβ€™π•₯ π•π•šπ•œπ•– 𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕣π•ͺπ•₯π•™π•šπ•Ÿπ•˜ π•’π•Ÿπ•• 𝕨𝕖 π••π• π•Ÿβ€™π•₯ 𝕙𝕒𝕧𝕖 π•₯𝕠, 𝕓𝕦π•₯ π•œπ•–π•–π•‘ π•žπ•–π•€π•€π•šπ•Ÿπ•˜ π•’π•£π• π•¦π•Ÿπ•• π•’π•Ÿπ•• π•ͺ𝕠𝕦’𝕣𝕖 π•˜π• π•šπ•Ÿπ•˜ π•₯𝕠 π•£π•¦π•Ÿ π•šπ•Ÿπ•₯𝕠 𝕒 π•£π•–π•§π•šπ•–π•¨π•–π•£ 𝕨𝕙𝕠 π•¨π•šπ•π• 𝕙𝕒𝕧𝕖 π•₯𝕙𝕖 π•₯π•šπ•žπ•– π•₯𝕠𝕕𝕒π•ͺ.

Rating:

1 Golden Girl, well basically at this point it’s Stan.

Content Warnings:

Sexual assault of a child and domestic abuse, and death of a parent.

Blog Tour · book review · books · Family · Historical fiction · love · secrets

The Keeper of Happy Endings by Barbara Davis {Suzy’s Approved Book Tour}

Blurb:

Soline Roussel is well schooled in the business of happy endings. For generations her family has kept an exclusive bridal salon in Paris, where magic is worked with needle and thread. It’s said that the bride who wears a Roussel gown is guaranteed a lifetime of joy. But devastating losses during World War II leave Soline’s world and heart in ruins and her faith in love shaken. She boxes up her memories, stowing them away, along with her broken dreams, determined to forget.

Decades later, while coping with her own tragic loss, aspiring gallery owner Rory Grant leases Soline’s old property and discovers a box containing letters and a vintage wedding dress, never worn. When Rory returns the mementos, an unlikely friendship develops, and eerie parallels in Rory’s and Soline’s lives begin to surface. It’s clear that they were destined to meetβ€”and that Rory may hold the key to righting a forty-year wrong and opening the door to shared healing and, perhaps, a little magic.

Review:

If you’re looking for historical fiction but don’t want to concentrate on a war, this is a good book to pick up. Now, World War 2 does play a part in the story but it is not the main background for the story.

You have Soline whose story is told both in β€œpresent” day 1985 and also in the past in the 1940s during the World War and Rory’s story is told in 1985. The two timelines merge fairly quickly as there is a connection between Rory and Soline that neither of them realize.

This story focuses on love, loss of love, and growth. Both of these women have experienced events in their lives that contribute to how they live their everyday lives. Their coming into each other’s lives helps them heal and discover life again.

Rating:

3.5

Availability:

Available now in paperback, ebook, and audio.

A special thank you to Suzy’s Approved Book Tours for having me along for this book. Also, a special thank you to Barbara Davis and Lake Union Publishing for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.
black literature · book review · books · contemporary fiction · diversity · own voices review · Racism · reading · secrets · short story collection

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans {Review}

Blurb:

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 griefβ€”all while exploring how history haunts us, personally and collectively. Ultimately, she provokes us to think about the truths of American historyβ€”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.

Review:

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.

Rating:

4 Golden Girls

abuse · addiction · books · diversity · Family · Literary Fiction · love · Racism · reading · secrets · Women's fiction

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia {ARC Review}

Blurb:

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.

Review:

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.

Rating:

4 Golden Girls

Availability:

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.

book review · books · civil rights · crime · movie review · Racism

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson {Book and Movie reviews}

Blurb:

An unforgettable true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to end mass incarceration in America β€” from one of the most inspiring lawyers of our time.

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit law office in Montgomery, Alabama, dedicated to defending the poor, the incarcerated, and the wrongly condemned.

Just Mercy tells the story of EJI, from the early days with a small staff facing the nation’s highest death sentencing and execution rates, through a successful campaign to challenge the cruel practice of sentencing children to die in prison, to revolutionary projects designed to confront Americans with our history of racial injustice.

One of EJI’s first clients was Walter McMillian, a young Black man who was sentenced to die for the murder of a young white woman that he didn’t commit. The case exemplifies how the death penalty in America is a direct descendant of lynching β€” a system that treats the rich and guilty better than the poor and innocent.

Review:

Let start by saying, it took me a minute to get my emotions together after finishing the book and watching the movie. This was the first time I ever read the book and watched its movie right after. This was also the first book about this subject that I introduced to my son. He found it very informative but also sad.

While the focus of the movie is on the Walter McMillian case, the book focuses on that case and the many cases of others on death row facing similar or worse fates than Walter.

Before I decided to read this book with my son, I had a pretty strong opinion about death row. I was a person who thought that it was a waste of money to let those on death row have such long sentences before being put to death. After reading this book, my opinion has most definitely changed. I see why they have long sentences. If it weren’t for those long sentences, so many would not have the chance to fight for their freedom or lesser sentences.

The writers and director of the film did such an amazing job with the casting and how the movie was done. There were some noticeable things that were either changed or left out, but it didn’t take away from what was there.

Not only did Walter’s story tug at my emotions, so did the story of Herbert Richardson. A man who fought for this country and was damaged mentally. While he did commit his crime, being punished by being put to death because the justice system isn’t equipped with handling suspects with mental or emotional illness is unacceptable. Had the military and the justice system done better, he would have had the change to repent from his crime while also getting the help that he needed.

Stevenson did a great job bringing to light about the many children that have been sent to death row when they aren’t even close to being the age of 18. Having to spend their lives in prisons when they are at an age where they don’t even fully comprehend what is being done to them. This also shows how horrifying the justice system can be. Some of these children didn’t even commit the crimes that they are accused of or they have committed crimes that adults aren’t even being sent to death row for. The children go in traumatized and if they are lucky enough to come out they are in even worse conditions. It’s even worse for those who have already been damaged.

I would highly recommend both reading the book and watching the movie. This book is great on audio and is narrated by Stevenson.

Rating;

4 Golden Girls

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook

abuse · black literature · book review · books · crime · diversity · Family · Historical fiction · Literary Fiction · love · memoir · own voices review · Racism · reading

3 Minute Book Reviews featuring: Raceless, The Rib King and Just As I Am

Raceless by Georgina Lawton

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.

Rating:

4 Golden Girls

Availability:

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

Rating:

3 Golden Girls

Availability:

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.

Rating:

4 Golden Girls

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

addiction · Blog Tour · book review · books · contemporary fiction · diversity · Family · love · reading · secrets · Women's fiction

Judge’s Girls {Suzy ‘s Approved Book Tours}

Blurb:

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. 

Review:

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.

Rating:

3 Golden Girls

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.

abuse · addiction · book review · books · crime · diversity · Family · Historical fiction · love · memoir · reading · reading wheelhouse · romance · secrets · World War 2

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 1970sβ€”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: β€œIt 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?β€”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 yearsβ€”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 IIβ€”an experience Eva remembers wellβ€”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 fromβ€”or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answerβ€”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 RΓ©my, 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 RΓ©my 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)

abuse · black literature · book review · books · diversity · Historical fiction · middle grade · own voices review · Racism

Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Nobody free till everybody free. Moa is fourteen. The only life he has ever known is toiling on the Frontier sugar cane plantation for endless hot days, fearing the vicious whips of the overseers. Then one night he learns of an uprising, led by the charismatic Tacky. Moa is to be a cane warrior, and fight for the freedom of all the enslaved people in the nearby plantations. But before they can escape, Moa and his friend Keverton must face their first great task: to kill their overseer, Misser Donaldson. Time is ticking, and the day of the uprising approaches . . . Irresistible, gripping and unforgettable, Cane Warriors follows the true story of Tacky’s War in Jamaica, 1760.

Review:

I do not normally read middle grade novels but because this one is historical fiction and about a subject that I don’t normally see presented much(sugarcane plantations), I decided I wanted to give it a try.

The thing about slavery that we have to remember is that it was not just a thing in America. It was a thing in so many other countries that were “colonized” during that time frame. Especially in countries in the Caribbean. This particular story is set in Jamaica and is told from the perspective of a 14 year old boy. Now, we know that 14 doesn’t mean manhood but during slavery and even present day, a child of color is not seen as a child when they hit their teenage years. I thought that was something that was very thought provoking while reading this story.

This isn’t a very long book so I do not want to go into great detail about the story. One of the things that I found a bit difficult while reading this story was the switching of the dialect but after talking to a close friend, I have decided that it does not take away from the story. It adds to it.

The risks that this child and the men in this book take in order to gain their freedom is both admirable and heart breaking at the same time. The desire to just be able to live without fear and to be able to just enjoy the basic acts of life.

This is a middle grade book that I would recommend for younger audiences who want to know about the history of slavery that doesn’t take place in America and is also told from the perspective of someone their age.

Rating:

I would definitely read more work by this author. This book would get 2 Golden Girls from me.

Availability:

October 20, 2020 in hardcover, paperback and ebook

A special thank you to Akashic Books and their imprint Black Sheep for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

addiction · book review · books · Literary Fiction · love · Mental Health · reading · secrets

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman {ARC Review}

Blurb:

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. 

Review:

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.

Rating:

I just outright loved and enjoyed this story.

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

A special thank to Atria Books for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.