book review · books · diversity · Family · Historical fiction · love · own voices review · reading

The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton {ARC Review}

Blurb:

In 1925, Josephine is the proud owner of a thriving farm. As a child, she channeled otherworldly power to free herself from slavery. Now, her new neighbor, a white woman named Charlotte, seeks her company, and an uneasy friendship grows between them. But Charlotte has also sought solace in the Ku Klux Klan, a relationship that jeopardizes Josephine’s family.

Nearly one hundred years later, Josephine’s descendant, Ava, is a single mother who has just lost her job. She moves in with her white grandmother Martha, a wealthy but lonely woman who pays her grandchild to be her companion. But Martha’s behavior soon becomes erratic, then even threatening, and Ava must escape before her story and Josephine’s converge.

The Revisioners explores the depths of women’s relationships—powerful women and marginalized women, healers and survivors. It is a novel about the bonds between a mother and a child, the dangers that upend those bonds. At its core, The Revisioners ponders generational legacies, the endurance of hope, and the undying promise of freedom.

Review:

What a story. It was gripping and engaging. I had both a difficult time reading it and not wanting to put it down. What made it difficult to read is that so many things hit close to home but that’s what also made it hard to put down.

Sexton explores and presents a part of the black culture that is sometimes overlooked. What I am talking about is the belief system some slaves had. They didn’t necessarily believe in the “Christian” way but their beliefs helped them survive and maintain hope.

The story has three separate timelines. Present day and two from the past. We learn about Ava(present day) and her great grandmother, Josephine(both past timelines).

Ava(who is mixed race) is at a point in her life where she needs more help than she cares to ask for but is naive enough to accept help from her white grandmother, Martha. This help comes with stipulations and costs. At first Ava tries to overlook the small, but hurtful jabs but soon has to come to her senses to protect herself and her son.

Josephine is telling her story about growing up in slavery and her life after slavery. She reflects on events that occurred with her parents as well as her owners. As Josephine’s story progresses, you see how her view of white people changes from how she viewed them as a child to how she viewed them as an adult. Prime examples are her relationship with Miss Sally as a child and her adult interaction with her neighbor Charlotte.

There is also a supernatural element to the story which I found intriguing. Some would say that the spiritual beliefs of Josephine and her parents and the beliefs of Ava’s mother would be considered witchcraft or even voodoo. The senses of seeing or deja vu are prevalent in both women’s stories and play a strong role in how their lives are lived.

This is a story about self preservation, sacrifice, and family dynamics and relationships.

There were quite a few quotes and passages that stood out to me while reading this story. That is not something that usually happens when I read. I look forward to reading more by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

A special thank you to Counterpoint Press for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

abuse · book review · books · dedication · Family · Historical fiction · reading · secrets

The Lost Daughter by Gill Paul {ARC Review}

Blurb:

1918: Pretty, vivacious Grand Duchess Maria Romanov, the nineteen-year-old daughter of the fallen Tsar Nicholas II, lives with her family in suffocating isolation, a far cry from their once-glittering royal household. Her days are a combination of endless boredom and paralyzing fear; her only respite are clandestine flirtations with a few of the guards imprisoning the family—never realizing her innocent actions could mean the difference between life and death

1973: When Val Doyle hears her father’s end-of-life confession, “I didn’t want to kill her,” she’s stunned. So, she begins a search for the truth—about his words and her past. The clues she discovers are baffling—a jewel-encrusted box that won’t open and a camera with its film intact. What she finds out pulls Val into one of the world’s greatest mysteries—what truly happened to the Grand Duchess Maria?

Review:

I absolutely love a historical fiction with a duel timeline. Nothing like the build up of the different stories and the satisfaction when they tie together at the end. That’s exactly what this book did. And not only that, it was different from my usual WW2 reads.

I have heard the Romanov family story but most of it has been based around Anastasia. I had not known much about the rest of her family, especially her siblings. So of course I had to jump at the chance to read this story.

I found this story about Maria to be so intriguing. Along with the storyline of Val who is the character in more recent times. Not necessarily present day because her story mostly takes place in the 70s-80s.

Both women face adversity and hardships that they have to fight thru. Maria is separated from the family she loves so dearly, but does manage to make a family of her own. She still experiences pain just when she thought she was done experiencing pain. Val is in a situation that is both infuriating and heartbreaking but she finds the strength to remove herself from it and find her own voice and ground to stand on.

This is a story based on love, survival, and sacrifice. There are also secrets that are kept but need to be told in order for some to heal.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and blew thru it. I recommend it if you are a historical fiction fan and want a bit of a break from WW2.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback, kindle, and audiobook.

A special thank you to William Morrow for my gifted copy and opportunity to read and review this story.

book review · Bootlegging · dedication

Innocence Lost by Sherilyn Decter {ARC Review}

Blurb:

In a city of bootleggers and crime, one woman must rely on a long-dead lawman to hunt down justice…

Philadelphia, 1924. Maggie Barnes doesn’t have much left. After the death of her husband, she finds herself all alone to care for her young son and look after their rundown house. As if that weren’t bad enough, Prohibition has turned her neighborhood into a bootlegger’s playground. To keep the shoddy roof over their heads, she has no choice but to take on boarders with criminal ties.

When her son’s friend disappears, Maggie suspects the worst. And local politicians and police don’t seem to have any interest in an investigation. With a child’s life on the line, Maggie takes the case and risks angering the enemy living right under her nose.

Maggie’s one advantage may be her oldest tenant: the ghost of a Victorian-era cop. With his help, can she find justice in a lawless city?

Innocence Lost is the first novel in the Bootleggers’ Chronicles, a series of historical fiction tales. If you like headstrong heroines, Prohibition-era criminal underworlds, and a touch of the paranormal, then you’ll love Sherilyn Decter’s gripping tale.

Review:

What initially caught my attention with this novel is that it takes placed during Prohibition and the Roaring 20’s.  I love historical fiction and this is an era that I don’t have the pleasure of reading about enough.  Another thing that drew me to this story is that it is a self published debut and although I admittedly try to veer away from those types of novels, this one made me want to see what the author had in store.

The story opens with children being mischievous and getting into some trouble, although you don’t find out right away what that trouble is. Tommy and his friends are spying on men working in an illegal warehouse filled with booze. Bootlegging was a lifestyle that these young men unfortunately looked up to at that time. During this spying fiasco, we are introduced to an older cop by the name of Frank Geyer. Frank turns out to not be what you expect and I will admit that his part of the story was a bit more difficult for me to extend my mind to accept but I grew to appreciate Sherilyn’s approach with him.

The story begins to develop around the disappearance of a young boy who is from a neighborhood that is not so well off. Right away you see how the influence of money makes Philadelphia tick. The search for this young man is called off almost as soon as it started. This is when Frank has to employ the help of  Maggie Barnes, a widow and the mother of Tommy. She is just a single mom who is trying her best to take care of her son and make sure that they are safe. She has just recently decided to open her home to boarders in order to have some extra income for her and her son. You can see right away that she is not a weak woman and is willing to do what she can to make a way, while still being a lady.

I admired Maggie’s and Frank’s tenacity throughout the story even if the story went in a different direction than what I was expecting or wanting but that doesnt take away from the enjoyment I had while reading it.

I do believe that I will check out the other books in this series just to find out where things go with Maggie and also to see if they ever solve the crime of the missing boy.

Decter’s use of the language and phonetics during the 1920’s provides an entertaining backdrop. The descriptions of the women and the attitudes that men had toward them at that time provide another aspect toward the story considering the role that Maggie takes on with Frank. Decter has a very simplistic writing style and that makes this a light read even with the dark moments during the story.

Rating:

3.5 Stars

I received this book to read and review for the Historical Fiction Blog Tour. I want to take time to thank Amy Bruno and Sherilyn Decter for this opportunity to provide my honest opinion.

Availability:

Available

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

The Light Over London by Julia Kelly {ARC Review}

Blurb:

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

January 8, 2019 in hardcover, ebook and audio.

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

 

book review · Family · World War 2

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams {ARC Review}

Blurb:

In the summer of 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on elite, secretive Winthrop Island as a schoolgirl from the margins of high society, still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War. When her beautiful mother marries Hugh Fisher, whose summer house on Winthrop overlooks the famous lighthouse, Miranda’s catapulted into a heady new world of pedigrees and cocktails, status and swimming pools. Isobel Fisher, Miranda’s new stepsister–all long legs and world-weary bravado, engaged to a wealthy Island scion–is eager to draw Miranda into the arcane customs of Winthrop society.

But beneath the island’s patrician surface, there are really two clans: the summer families with their steadfast ways and quiet obsessions, and the working class of Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers who earn their living on the water and in the laundries of the summer houses. Uneasy among Isobel’s privileged friends, Miranda finds herself drawn to Joseph Vargas, whose father keeps the lighthouse with his mysterious wife. In summer, Joseph helps his father in the lobster boats, but in the autumn he returns to Brown University, where he’s determined to make something of himself. Since childhood, Joseph’s enjoyed an intense, complex friendship with Isobel Fisher, and as the summer winds to its end, Miranda’s caught in a catastrophe that will shatter Winthrop’s hard-won tranquility and banish Miranda from the island for nearly two decades.

Now, in the landmark summer of 1969, Miranda returns at last, as a renowned Shakespearean actress hiding a terrible heartbreak. On its surface, the Island remains the same–determined to keep the outside world from its shores, fiercely loyal to those who belong. But the formerly powerful Fisher family is a shadow of itself, and Joseph Vargas has recently escaped the prison where he was incarcerated for the murder of Miranda’s stepfather eighteen years earlier. What’s more, Miranda herself is no longer a naive teenager, and she begins a fierce, inexorable quest for justice for the man she once loved . . . even if it means uncovering every last one of the secrets that bind together the families of Winthrop Island.

My Review:

I am a big fan of historical fiction. I was surprised and happy to receive a copy of this book in the mail several months ago and am very upset with myself for taking so long to get to it.

I liked how the story moved between the past(1930 and 1951) and the present(1969) and was told from the point of views of Bianca and Miranda. Miranda wasn’t what you called a woman from money, she was one who was married into it since her mother’s second husband, Hugh, was one of the Island families. Miranda is thrown into this world of privilege, money and class. She does have her stepsister Isobel, who was born into this lifestyle to lead her along but she doesn’t always seem to have Miranda’s well being in mind. Or so it seems.

Everything in this story isn’t really what it seems. You think it is just a story about summer fun and young forbidden summer love but it is so much more than that.

You get to experience the summer from both classes in society (although years apart), see how they live together, survive together. You see the secrets that they have to keep. Secrets that make you wonder how far are you willing to go to protect “one of your own” even if they are guilty of sin or crime. How long do you keep these secrets?

This story flowed and was well plotted. I loved the pace. It’s main setting was the summer season but Beatriz weaves in other important and relevant information with ease. Miranda’s life after that fateful night during the summer of 1951. Bianca’s life after her summer of 1930.

I think what I liked most about this story is that it is set in a time after the war. You see how losing the lives of so many men affected the women left behind. Would Miranda have been in the same predicament if her father hadn’t died in the war? Would she have experienced her first love like she did that summer? She went to school with Isobel, but would they have ever been in that close of a circle?

This is my first novel from Beatriz Williams and I look forward to reading more of her novels. I definitely recommend this read for the summer, especially on the beach.

I received this copy from William Morrow in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audio.

books · Family · World War 2

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan{Review}

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I have received a copy The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this honest review.

 

Book Blurb:

Told through letters and journals, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir moves seamlessly from budding romances to village intrigues to heartbreaking matters of life and death. As we come to know the struggles of the charismatic members of this unforgettable outfit — a timid widow worried over her son at the front; the town beauty drawn to a rakish artist; her younger sister nursing an impossible crush and dabbling in politics she doesn’t understand; a young Jewish refugee hiding secrets about her family, and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past — we come to see how the strength each finds in the choir’s collective voice reverberates in her individual life. The novel is set during World War II.

 

Review:

This story is about a local choir who was at first being shut down because there were no men available to sing with the women until Miss Primrose Trent arrives and decides to make it an all women choir. The choir is brought together to be a positive outlet during a time of war. The ladies and girls in the choir come from various backgrounds but work wonderfully together. Thru the journal entries from each woman (nurse, midwife, sisters, and refugee), we learn secrets of love, devotion, and deceit. Not everyone is who they seem at first and there is tremendous growth in the ladies as they take on the challenge of being a woman only choir during a terrible time of war. They experience laughter, love, and tragedy. I enjoyed how the story was developed thru each of their views. I found that appealing because it makes you image how people really may have felt during that time period. There aren’t too many stories set during World War II that have a comedic type of appeal to them. I was able to more than just the feeling of dread. I was able to laugh with some of these ladies. Although the story is told thru the women, you do get a feel of how the men acted who weren’t at the front fighting and even those who came home to visit from the fighting. Some men were supportive, some were abusive, and there were those who were loving. Being in the choir gave strengths to each of the women that were needed to help them develop as people. Jennifer Ryan’s style of writing made this an enjoyable and easy read. I look forward to reading more from her.