addiction · black literature · book review · books · dedication · diversity · Family · Literary Fiction · love · own voices review · reading

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Yaa Gyasi’s stunning follow-up to her acclaimed national best seller Homegoing is a powerful, raw, intimate, deeply layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama.

Gifty is a fifth year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford School of Medicine studying reward seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. 

But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith, and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive. Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanain immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief–a novel about faith, science, religion, love. Exquisitely written, emotionally searing, this is an exceptionally powerful follow-up to Gyasi’s phenomenal debut.

Review:

I want to start this book by saying that if you are going into this story thinking it is going to be parallel to Homegoing, let me stop you right there. This book is in no way the same type of story. Is this book just as heavy? It is. In my opinion, this book is heavier. I had to sit with this book for a few days to get my thoughts and feelings together because I just had and still have so many.

This story drew me into it in a way that is almost indescribable. Gyasi takes the subjects of faith, science, mental illness, addiction, and family and weaves them into a story that is heartfelt and heartbreaking at the same time. Your emotions are topsy turvy throughout the entire story. You have moments where you want to put the book down because it is almost too much to take in but you can’t because you want to know what is going to happen with each character.

I can never resist a story that makes me look at my own life and wonder how I would handle what the characters are dealing with. This story made me wonder how I would handle a family member’s addiction, the basic rejection of a parent’s love, and caring for a loved one with a depression so deep that you wonder if they are going to survive falling into that deep dark hole. I also never thought I would care so much about scientific research. Gyasi makes you care about it. She sneaks that feeling right into your heart.

This book was worth the wait and you will want to take your time reading it.

Rating:

All four Golden Girls

Availability:

Available September 1, 2020 in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

I want to say thank you to Knopf for my free copy in exchange for an honest review.

abuse · books · crime · diversity · Family · own voices review · reading · secrets

Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West {Review}

Blurb:

Family. Faith. Secrets. Everything in this world comes full circle.

When Ruby King’s mother is found murdered in their home in Chicago’s South Side, the police dismiss it as another act of violence in a black neighborhood. But for Ruby, it means she’ll be living alone with her violent father. The only person who understands the gravity of her situation is Ruby’s best friend, Layla. Their closeness is tested when Layla’s father, the pastor of their church, demands that Layla stay away. But what are his true motives? And what is the price for turning a blind eye?

In a relentless quest to save Ruby, Layla comes to discover the murky loyalties and dark secrets tying their families together for three generations. A crucial pilgrimage through the racially divided landscape of Chicago, Saving Ruby King traces the way trauma is passed down through generations and the ways in which communities can come together to create sanctuary.

Saving Ruby King is an emotional and revelatory story of race, family secrets, faith and redemption. This is an unforgettable debut novel from an exciting new voice in fiction and a powerful testament that history doesn’t determine the present, and that the bonds of friendship can forever shape the future.

Review:

As a woman of color there aren’t very many books that I read that make me feel seen. This was one of those rare occasions. Catherine takes the subjects of family, church, and secrets to light in this debut. The personification of the church was my favorite part of this novel. It shows what I have felt for years. The church is just a building that people put so much faith in to keep them safe. It makes them feel protected but in actuality it is a place that holds some of the darkest secrets.

Catherine also takes on the subject of generational curses. She shows how they affect a whole family directly and indirectly. How ignoring them can lead to damage that is sometimes deadly.

The friendships that are in this novel are deep, loving, and toxic at the same time. There are secrets and actions between friends that test the limit of what being a friend truly means. People are taken advantage of, people are forced to live with secrets they wouldn’t even have to carry if their love for their friend wasn’t so deep. Some of these friendships had many unhealthy aspects to them. Especially the friendship between Lebanon and Jackson.

This story doesn’t have a fairytale ending and I appreciated that. It had a very realistic ending even if you wanted more for certain characters.

I am curious to see what Catherine Adel West does with her work in the future. I am looking forward to reading more by her.

Rating:

All four Golden Girls( 5 Stars)

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook and audiobook.

black literature · book review · books · diversity · Family · own voices review · reading

Little Family by Ishmael Beah {Mystery Book Club Review}

Blurb:

Hidden away from a harsh outside world, five young people have improvised a home in an abandoned airplane, a relic of their country’s chaos. Elimane, the bookworm, is as street-smart as he is wise. Clever Khoudiemata maneuvers to keep the younger kids—athletic, pragmatic Ndevui; thoughtful Kpindi; and especially their newest member, Namsa—safe and fed. When Elimane makes himself of service to the shadowy William Handkerchief, it seems as if the little family may be able to keep the world at bay and their household intact. But when Khoudi comes under the spell of the “beautiful people”—the fortunate sons and daughters of the powerful—the desire to resume an interrupted coming of age and follow her own destiny proves impossible to resist.

A profound and tender portrayal of the connections we forge to survive the fate we’re dealt, Little Family marks the further blossoming of a unique global voice.

Review:

What a story. This book packs punches and lands feelings where you least expect. This story shows that family doesn’t mean you have to be blood related to be there for one another. It means the situation that you are in and how you come together to protect, provide, and love each other. Each of the five members( Elimane, Khoudiemata, Ndevui, and Namsa) bring something to the table no matter how small it may have seemed to an outsider’s perspective. The sacrifices they each make in order to survive. The chances they take to be their own beings.

After Elimane takes up company with William Handkerchief things start looking up for the family. But even then, they know that not everything is as it seems. You see the internal conflict Khoudiemata starts developing once she realizes that she may want more in life than what she is experiencing with her family. When things unexpectedly come crashing down, they handle it in a way most “real” families never could.

This is a short novel, but it is so intense from beginning to end.

I will be checking out Ishmael Beah’s other novel as well as his memoir. His style of writing is so captivating.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

 

A special thank you to the Mystery Book Club and Riverhead Books for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

addiction · Blog Tour · book review · books · Family · Historical fiction · love · reading · secrets · World War 2

Don’t Put the Boats Away by Ames Sheldon {Suzy’s Approved Book Tour}

Blurb:

In the aftermath of World War II, the members of the Sutton family are reeling from the death of their “golden boy,” Eddie. Over the next twenty-five years, they all struggle with loss, grief, and mourning. Daughter Harriet and son Nat attempt to fill the void Eddie left behind: Harriet becomes a chemist despite an inhospitable culture for career women in the 1940s and ’50s, hoping to move into the family business in New Jersey, while Nat aims to be a jazz musician. Both fight with their autocratic father, George, over their professional ambitions as they come of age. Their mother, Eleanor, who has PTSD as a result of driving an ambulance during the Great War, wrestles with guilt over never telling Eddie about the horrors of war before he enlisted. As the members of the family attempt to rebuild their lives, they pay high prices, including divorce and alcoholism―but in the end, they all make peace with their losses, each in his or her own way.

Review:

Reading historical fiction is my thing. There was no question as to if I wanted to participate in this book tour.

This story is told from the perspectives of Harriet and Nat who are the siblings of Eddie who has been killed in World War 2. Both Harriet and Nat work their best to gain approval from their father. They each try to live in ways to appease him in order to fill the void that the loss of Eddie has left behind. This is difficult for them because they each have their own dreams they want to follow. During this story they both cave into their father’s expectations even at the risk of them being unhappy. Harriet is able to realize her unhappiness before long but it takes Nat a bit longer and because of that, he ends up in a situation that is not the best for him.

What I liked about this book is that it addresses the subjects of grief, PTSD, alcoholism, and depression. Each character has to face their own inner battles as well as the battles that their family members face. They face these battles with each other or at least they make attempts to do so.

Another interesting aspect of this story is that not only did World War 2 affect this family, so did World War 1. Both wars leave behind scars that the family has to work thru over time. The wars not only leave behind scars and secrets, they also leave behind determination and will.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback and ebook.

 

A special thank you to Suzy Approved Book Tours for having me along on this book tour and to She Writes Press for my free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

 

abuse · black literature · book review · books · contemporary fiction · diversity · Family · Historical fiction · love · own voices review · reading

Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Following the fate of one family over the course of two decades in Nigeria, this debut novel tells the story of each sibling’s search for agency, love, and meaning in a society rife with hypocrisy but also endless life

“I like the idea of a god who knows what it’s like to be a twin. To have no memory of ever being alone.”

Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike are enjoying a relatively comfortable life in Lagos in 1996. Then their mother loses her job due to political strife, and the family, facing poverty, becomes drawn into the New Church, an institution led by a charismatic pastor who is not shy about worshipping earthly wealth. 

Soon Bibike and Ariyike’s father wagers the family home on a “sure bet” that evaporates like smoke. As their parents’ marriage collapses in the aftermath of this gamble, the twin sisters and their two younger siblings, Andrew and Peter, are thrust into the reluctant care of their traditional Yoruba grandmother. Inseparable while they had their parents to care for them, the twins’ paths diverge once the household shatters. Each girl is left to locate, guard, and hone her own fragile source of power. 

Written with astonishing intimacy and wry attention to the fickleness of fate, Tola Rotimi Abraham’s Black Sunday takes us into the chaotic heart of family life, tracing a line from the euphoria of kinship to the devastation of estrangement. In the process, it joyfully tells a tale of grace and connection in the midst of daily oppression and the constant incursions of an unremitting patriarchy. This is a novel about two young women slowly finding, over twenty years, in a place rife with hypocrisy but also endless life and love, their own distinct methods of resistance and paths to independence.

Review:

What an intense and heart-wrenching story that follows four children, Bibike and Ariyike(who are twins) and their younger brothers, Andrew and Peter. You follow them throughout their childhood and into adulthood after both their parents abandon them. Their father makes a very bad business decision and their mother is jobless and fed up. They are then dumped at their grandmother’s house and basically left to raise themselves. The story is told thru each of their points of view. Although they all experienced the same heartbreak, they each cope with it differently.

I love the underlying theme of religion that is present in the story. Each child has a different view of religion and life in general. There is no real stability or guidance in their lives as they grow up and are left to learn about so many important milestones in life by ways of their own actions and decisions and the actions of others.

Tola tells this story in such a lyrical way that is both enchanting and raw. She doesn’t hold anything back with her characters and their choices.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

A special thank you to Catapult books for my free copy in exchange for an honest review.
book review · books · crime · Literary Fiction · own voices review · reading · social media

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Lydia Quixano Perez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with four books he would like to buy–two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

American Dirt will leave readers utterly changed. It is a page-turner; it is a literary achievement; it is filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity on every page. It is one of the most important books for our times.

Review:

This was the perfect book to end my reading year of 2019. Such a compelling and heart-wrenching story about a mother and her son fleeing from the home they know and love in order to survive, to a place that won’t openly welcome them but advertises freedom and safety.

This is felt like a non-fiction read although it is fiction. The author puts you in Lydia’s and Luca’s shoes as they trek across Mexico into unknown territory with strangers because that is safer than what awaits them at home. They have lost their entire family and basically have nothing else to lose.  The people they meet along this journey will make you realize that people trying to make their way into this country aren’t always what the media makes them out to be. You begin to question yourself about what you would do or risk in order to find solace and safety. The risk of losing your life while trying to save it. Losing it physically, emotionally, and mentally. They don’t know who to trust and they really don’t know where they are going. They only know that they don’t want to go back to where they were.

I think this was an important story to be told. You can tell the author took great care in researching and presenting this story. This is one of the few books that I actually read the author’s note after finishing the and I highly recommend others doing so.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook January 21, 2020

 

A very special thank you to Flatiron Books for my gifted copy.

Blog Tour · book review · contemporary fiction · love · reading · romance · secrets · Women's fiction

This Is Not How It Ends by Rochelle Weinstein {Suzy’s Approved Book Tour Review}

Blurb:

When Charlotte and Philip meet, the pair form a deep and instant connection. Soon they’re settled in the Florida Keys with plans to marry. But just as they should be getting closer, Charlotte feels Philip slipping away.

Second-guessing their love is something Charlotte never imagined, but with Philip’s excessive absences, she finds herself yearning for more. When she meets Ben, she ignores the pull, but the supportive single dad is there for her in ways she never knew she desired. Soon Charlotte finds herself torn between the love she thought she wanted and the one she knows she needs.

As a hurricane passes through Islamorada, stunning revelations challenge Charlotte’s loyalties and upend her life. Forced to reexamine the choices she’s made, and has yet to make, Charlotte embarks on an emotional journey of friendship, love, and sacrifice—knowing that forgiveness is a gift, and the best-laid plans can change in a heartbeat.

This Is Not How It Ends is a tender, moving story of heartbreak and healing that asks the question: Which takes more courage—holding on or letting go? 

Review:

What an intense story. I found myself rooting for Charlotte and Philip but at the same time I wanted more for Charlotte and I felt that Philip wasn’t giving it to her.

When the story started I felt a connection to Charlotte. I could relate to the whirlwind, intense beginning of the relationship she had with Philip.

Once Charlotte and Philip settle into what is their “normal” routine, Charlotte finds herself wanting more but not really knowing what it is or how to get it.

Then Ben enters the story and things get complicated. Extremely complicated. Lines are drawn, lines are crossed. Feelings intensify for all parties involved.

As the story progresses, Charlotte, Philip, and Ben become this entangled mass and you as the reader think you know what is going to happen, but you are not quite right.

This novel makes you happy, angry, and sad all at the same time or at least back to back. Never a moment when you don’t feel something about the characters or the storyline.

I enjoyed having my emotions pulled all over the place.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available January 1, 2020 in paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

A special thank you to Suzy’s Approved Book Tours for having me along on this tour and thank you to Lake Union Publishing for my free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

abuse · book review · books · Historical fiction · love · reading · romance

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes {Review}

Blurb:

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them—and to the men they love—becomes a classic drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. Though they face all kinds of dangers, they’re committed to their job—bringing books to people who have never had any, sharing the gift of learning that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Starsis unparalleled in its scope. At times funny, at others heartbreaking, this is a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.

Review:

I have been a fan of Jojo Moyes since reading Me Before You. I have read almost all her backlist published before it and have read almost all her books published since. I could almost not contain my excitement for The Giver of Stars when I learned it was being published. The fact that this story doesn’t take place in Europe but rather in America definitely had an extra appeal to me. I love historical fiction and knew nothing of the traveling libraries.

While the story does take place in Kentucky, our heroine hails proudly from England. She is an outsider in a world where you think she would be accepted just by the color of her skin but that is not the case. Alice is trapped in a marriage that should have been all she wanted and more. Her husband cared more about pleasing his father and keeping up appearances than he did his own wife. Instead of being loved for who she was, Alice was almost smothered out of it. Joining the traveling library showed her that everything was not all bad in Kentucky. Although it took some time, she was able to make friends even if she did manage to still keep her biggest enemy who was unfortunately so close to home.

Alongside Alice, we also have another strong female character, Margery. She has been an outcast her whole life in the very place she calls home. Living under the shadow of the terrible things her father did, Margery has had to make her own way and live her life under awful scrutiny. The great thing about her is that she did not care how society viewed her. She worried about herself and what made her happy.

Together with a couple other women who all have something for their fellow townsmen to complain about or dislike, they band together on a mission that is almost doomed from the beginning. They are trying to bring literacy to a class of people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to it. When a horrific crime is revealed after a long winter, things start to spiral out of control for the women and their library.

This story was full of girl power and while showing how some beautiful parts of Kentucky, it did not sugarcoat or hide the prejudices of class and race. It also shows how books can bring people together.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availibility:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

 

A special thank you to Pamela Dorman Books for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

book review · books · diversity · memoir · reading

Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma {Audio ARC Review}

Blurb:

Haben grew up spending summers with her family in the enchanting Eritrean city of Asmara. There, she discovered courage as she faced off against a bull she couldn’t see, and found in herself an abiding strength as she absorbed her parents’ harrowing experiences during Eritrea’s thirty-year war with Ethiopia. Their refugee story inspired her to embark on a quest for knowledge, traveling the world in search of the secret to belonging. She explored numerous fascinating places, including Mali, where she helped build a school under the scorching Saharan sun. Her many adventures over the years range from the hair-raising to the hilarious.

Haben defines disability as an opportunity for innovation. She learned non-visual techniques for everything from dancing salsa to handling an electric saw. She developed a text-to-braille communication system that created an exciting new way to connect with people. Haben pioneered her way through obstacles, graduated from Harvard Law, and now uses her talents to advocate for people with disabilities.

HABEN takes readers through a thrilling game of blind hide-and-seek in Louisiana, a treacherous climb up an iceberg in Alaska, and a magical moment with President Obama at The White House. Warm, funny, thoughtful, and uplifting, this captivating memoir is a testament to one woman’s determination to find the keys to connection.

Review:

This was a very moving and powerful story about Hansen’s life and experiences as a deafblind woman from childhood to adulthood. Haben’s story is also inspirational. She hasn’t let her disabilities slow her down. If anything, they seem to have propelled her down the road of her life. Knocking out one obstacle at a time. She doesn’t pity herself or seek pity from others.

Haben lives her life just as fully as someone who has their sight and hearing. I honestly believe that she lives her life more. She travels, works, studies, the full nine. Her personality just flowed thru the stories she tells about her experiences. I’d not heard of Haben until I read her story. I am sorry that I didn’t have any background information on her but the way she tells her story leaves you feeling that you have known her your whole life. It was like listening to a close friend tell you about their life.

Haben is unbiased in her delivery of her story and is not fishing for anyone to feel sorry for her. She is sharing her story to show that life can still be accomplished even when the most difficult obstacles are thrown in the way.

I highly recommend this title.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

 

 

 

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

The Second Chance Supper Club by Nicole Meier {Suzy’s Approved Book Tour Review}

Blurb:

They had a forever bond, until a sudden tragedy thrust them apart. Now, each at a crossroad in her own life, two sisters’ paths are about to intersect.

Broadcast journalist Julia Frank has it all: a career, an ambitious fiancé, and the hard-won respect of her peers. Until a ruinous decision destroys her reputation, puts her job at risk, and sends her reeling toward the only soul left to turn to: her estranged sister, Ginny.

The owner of a clandestine supper club hidden in the Arizona desert, Ginny Frank has a lot on her plate. The last thing she wants is more drama—or the burden of nursing her younger sister’s wounded ego. But family is family. Besides, Ginny can use the help in more ways than one, and she’s going to make sure Julia pulls her weight.

As a tenuous reunion reopens old wounds, Julia and Ginny have no choice but to confront the pain and betrayals of the past. Will working to keep the secret supper club running be just what they need to find common ground and a path toward forgiveness, or will the increasing stress push them even further apart?

Review:

Estranged sisters? Good food you wish you had the recipes for? Yes, to both of those. I won’t even lie; I completely judged this book by its cover and knew I wanted to read it even before reading the synopsis. This is one of the cutest covers I have seen this year and it is not even a fancy cover. It is so simple but says so much.
In this story, you meet Ginny and Julia who are both living what would seem to be the dream life to the outside eye. However, both sisters have been dealt with some serious situations that are beginning to make or break them. Julia is dealing with a career conflict that she unfortunately placed herself in while Ginny is trying to stay afloat with her business and motherhood.

As with most sisters, when times get tough you know if you don’t have anyone else to turn to, you go to your sibling. Since their parents have passed away unexpectedly, Julia is forced to turn to Ginny who welcomes her with semi open arms considering how their relationship has been over the past few years. Both women know that the other is hiding something, but they try to act like nothing is going on and that this will be a temporary situation. Eventually everything will surface causing a bit of strain on the women’s relationship that they are trying to work on.

What I enjoyed about this story is that it was a realistic view of how sisters can and do treat each other. Nicole doesn’t sugar coat either of the women’s feelings or situations that they are dealing with. One thing I would have loved to see is recipes for the amazing food that was cooked. This is a book you definitely want to have a snack nearby when reading and maybe your phone on hand in case you have a sibling you want to make amends with or just check on because you love them.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availibility:

Available now in paperback, ebook and audiobook

 

A special thank you to Suzy Approved Book Tours for having me along on this book tour and thank you to Lake Union for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.