addiction · book review · books · Family · Historical fiction · Literary Fiction · love · own voices review · reading · secrets

In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow {Review}

Blurb:

Azalea “Knot” Centre is determined to live life as she pleases. Let the people of West Mills say what they will; the neighbors’ gossip won’t keep Knot from what she loves best: cheap moonshine, nineteenth-century literature, and the company of men. And yet, Knot is starting to learn that her freedom comes at a high price. Alone in her one-room shack, ostracized from her relatives and cut off from her hometown, Knot turns to her neighbor, Otis Lee Loving, in search of some semblance of family and home.

Otis Lee is eager to help. A lifelong fixer, Otis Lee is determined to steer his friends and family away from decisions that will cause them heartache and ridicule. After his failed attempt as a teenager to help his older sister, Otis Lee discovers a possible path to redemption in the chaos Knot brings to his doorstep. But while he’s busy trying to fix Knot’s life, Otis Lee finds himself powerless to repair the many troubles within his own family, as the long-buried secrets of his troubled past begin to come to light.

Set in an African American community in rural North Carolina from 1941 to 1987, In West Mills is a magnificent, big-hearted small-town story about family, friendship, storytelling, and the redemptive power of love.

Review:

I knew I was going to love this book when I read the synopsis. I related to this story and I felt this story on so many levels. Mr. Winslow tells a story that is all too familiar in the African-American community. Secrets are kept because people honestly believe  it’s the right thing to do when in reality the secrets are more harmful than helpful. All the while, hiding pain and suffering behind alcohol and being closed off from others. Knot is the prime example for all of that. She hides behind a mason jar of liquor, she pushes away the person who loves her so much. She keeps people at bay to avoid being hurt or disappointed and uses the excuse of being independent.

Otis is living in a world that he doesn’t realize is one big lie. A lie that he doesn’t even know exist. Not only a lie about him but his wife holds a secret that affects his dear friend Knot.

Secrets that are kept about true parentage  or other life events are much more detrimental than people realize. So many of the issues are presented in a historical sense but are still relevant today. Keeping secrets such as these can cause one to miss out on so much and when the truth does come out it can cause pain and anger. Knot had one daughter who built a relationship with her and her other daughter didn’t really have much to do with her.

I related to this story so much because I was adopted by a family member but it was a secret that was kept from me until I was 21 years old. My family believed that keeping the secret was better than knowing the truth and it was not the case. Keeping secrets such as these can cause one to miss out on so much and when the truth does come out it can cause pain and anger.

I highly recommend this story. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to read and review it. I look forward to Mr. Winslow’s next novel.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook and audiobook

A special thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for my gifted finished copy of this novel.

 

 

abuse · Blog Tour · book review · contemporary fiction · love · reading · romance

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary {Review}

Blurb:

After a messy breakup, Tiffy needs a new place to live…and fast. In an act of desperation, she answers a strange ad from Leon, a night-shift worker, who needs some quick cash. Since he’s only in the apartment during the day and Tiffy works during the day, they won’t cross paths – they don’t even have to ever meet in person! Wacky as it is, this arrangement seems to work. The two begin to get to know each other through post-it notes, building a friendship as they move from quick reminders about trash day to deeper notes about their families and struggles with work and love. Soon both Tiffy and Leon are wondering if it is possible to fall in love with someone you’ve never met…and if so, is love a horrible idea if that person is already your roommate!

Review:

I am finding myself more and more attracted to the romance genre these days but only if they are contemporary romances. Although still a bit far from my reality, they are still relatable.

The Flatshare is a contemporary romance that has the element of rom-com while also addressing an issue that is unfortunately too familiar for many women, and sometimes men. You meet Tiffy who has just come out of a dreadful relationship and is looking to start over on her own. What you don’t realize at first is that her ex, Justin is not just your average crappy ex, he has other characteristics that leave a bitter taste in your mouth and want to wish indefinite harm on him. At the same time you have Leon, who is a hardworking man who is looking to get a better footing on the financial ground while maintaining what turns out to be a high maintenance romance with his girlfriend, Kay.

As both adults attempt to share the flat without actually meeting each other, things start falling into place for the perfect romance, but not without conflict.

With all that being said, the one thing that bothered me while reading this was the way Leon’s chapters were written. In fact, they bothered me so much that I tried reaching out to both the author and publisher to see if this style was intentional or if it was just an error in my review copy.  My fellow book nerds in the amazing book community on Instagram advised me that it is in fact a style of writing that is similar to The Bridget Jones’s Diary. I also received a response from the author and getting her insight about his chapters made me feel better and made me appreciate the style of writing more.

I still enjoyed the story itself but Leon’s chapters made for a read that was difficult for me just because it is a style that I am not used to. But that is the part of reviewing books is that you get out of your comfort zone.  If you are willing to overlook that style of writing,  this will be a great summer read. I enjoyed the amount of entertainment while also addressing serious conflict. I also appreciated the fact that both Tiffy and Leon were a more diverse pair than the typical contemporary romance pairs.

Rating:

3.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook and audiobook

*A special thank you to Flatiron books for having me along on this blog tour and the free book in exchange for my honest opinion*

 

 

book review · books · dedication · diversity · Family · Historical fiction · reading · secrets · World War 2

The Song of the Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning {Review}

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Blurb:

1939 Two young girls meet in Shanghai, also known as the “Paris of the East.” Beautiful local Li and Jewish refugee Romy form a fierce friendship, but the deepening shadows of World War II fall over the women as they slip between the city’s glamorous French Concession district and the teeming streets of the Shanghai Ghetto. Yet soon the realities of war prove to be too much for these close friends as they are torn apart.

2016: Fleeing London with a broken heart, Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm. Her grandfather is dying, and over the coming weeks Romy and Wilhelm begin to reveal the family mysteries they have kept secret for more than half a century. As fragments of her mother’s history finally become clear, Alexandra struggles with what she learns while more is also revealed about her grandmother’s own past in Shanghai.

After Wilhelm dies, Alexandra flies to Shanghai, determined to trace her grandparents’ past. Peeling back the layers of their hidden lives, she is forced to question what she knows about her family–and herself.

The Song of the Jade Lily is a lush, provocative, and beautiful story of friendship, motherhood, the price of love, and the power of hardship and courage that can shape us all.

Review:

I knew I was going to like this book, I just was not prepared with how much I was going to love it. Being historical fiction, having a dual timeline, and the presence family secrets were all things that attracted me to this story.

My heart was shattered at the beginning of the story with an event that the Bernfeld family experiences as they attempting to flee Austria for their safety. Their family is torn apart in an instant. I couldn’t fathom going thru that experience and still having the strength to continue. They try to keep themselves together and hold on to their hope and faith as they start a new life in Shanghai. They aren’t the only ones who experience a tragic event while trying to get to safety, young Nina loses the people closest to her.

When Romy meets Li, she is shown a whole new part of Shanghai that she may not have otherwise experienced. The descriptions of the foods that she eats is phenomenal. Both girls are full of life and have such wonderful aspirations even with all that is transpiring around them.

Determination, self sacrifice and the will to fight on are all things Romy, Nina, and Li must deal with as they all get older.  Each of the girls is forced to make decisions in order to survive and protect the ones they love.

Meanwhile in present time, Alexander is dealing with a bad break up and then the death of her beloved grandfather. After his death,  Alexander has questions about her family origin. She knows that her birth mother was adopted and she is wanting to know who her mother may have been. That’s when the secrets start surfacing. After her grandmother’s avoidance of the conversation about her mother, Alexander makes the choice to look into her biological history on her own to try to tie up some loose ends.

As the story progresses thru both timelines, you are met with the feeling of hope for all the characters. You also experience the heartbreak they are forced to encounter.

Kirsty Manning weaves such a beautiful story that makes you feel so many emotions. You experience these emotions when you least expect to. At the same time you are trying to solve the mystery of Alexander’s mother’s birth mother. Along the way she is having to deal with some personal issues of her own.

The love between the characters in the story is so heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.  I could gush about this book forever.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audio

A special thank you to William Morrow for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Blog Tour · book review · books · suspense

I Know Who You Are By Alice Feeney {Review}

Blurb:

l Know Who You Are is the brilliant tale of two stories. One is about Aimee Sinclair—well-known actress on the verge of being full-on famous. If you saw her, you’d think you knew her. One day towards the near-end of her shoot on her latest film, Aimee comes home from filming to find her husband’s cell phone and wallet on the dining room table. He never goes anywhere without them. But he’s nowhere to be found. She’s not too concerned—they had a huge fight the night before. They both said things they didn’t mean. He might have done things he didn’t mean, things she can’t forget. Even though she has a history of supposedly forgetting. After all, she’s a very good actress.

The next morning she goes for her morning run and then goes to her favorite coffee shop. But her card is denied. When she calls the bank they say her account has been emptied of $10,000. She immediately suspects her husband. But they say no, it was Aimee herself who closed out the account. And thus begins a bizarre rabbit hole into which Aimee finds herself falling where nothing is at it seems.

Alternating with Aimee’s story is that of a little girl who wandered away from home. We always tell our kids not to talk to strangers or bad things will happen. Well, bad things happen.

In I Know Who You Are, Alice Feeney proves that she is a master at brilliantly complicated plots and twists after twists.

Review:

I am always a little hesitant when going into a popular thriller because I am afraid that I will not enjoy it and be the odd man out.  That is not the case for this story. One of the first things I thought was “oh boy, this is going to be an unreliable narrator who can’t handle her liquor.” I admit that I was okay with that aspect for this novel. Thankfully it was not the case. This story is told in dual timelines switching from when Aimee is a child to present time as an adult.

This is such a dark and twisted story. I was warned beforehand, but was still not prepared for how things were going to transpire. Dark and twisted is an understatement for this story. There are things that happen to Aimee as both an adult and child that literally made me cringe while reading.

Even with all that, I became so engrossed in this story I didn’t want to put it down. I was determined to figure out what was going on with her, this situation with her missing husband, the stalker, and also her childhood.

Learning what happens to Aimee as a child makes perfect sense as to how she becomes as an adult. She was a product of the environment that she was forced into. So much abuse and passive aggressive behavior. She has tried to live a normal life as a somewhat successful adult, although I am wondering how she would have known what was normal considering how she lived as a child. Then her past comes back to haunt her in more ways than one.

Nothing is what it seems. The pieces of her life don’t seem to fit together. The details of her marriage, her attitude about her missing husband, the things that are going on with her career.  Then BAM, there’s the plot twist. Talk about a bomb being dropped.

I would highly recommend this story if you are wanting a story that is going to blow your mind, but please see the trigger warnings below.  Also, please be prepared for the ending, lol. I was not fully prepared for and it was a bit overwhelming to be honest.

*Trigger Warnings:

Child abuse, allusions to rape, animal cruelty

 

Rating:

3.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook and audiobook.

 

A special thank you to HQ Stories for providing a free copy of this novel,  having me along on this blog tour, and allowing me to share my honest opinion about this story.

 

 

addiction · Blog Tour · book review · books · crime · Family · reading · suspense

The East End by Jason Allen {ARC Review}

Blurb:

After graduating high school, Corey Halpern would love to leave the Hamptons and never look back. He is stuck though, saddled with responsibility for his alcoholic mother, Gina, and his younger brother. So for now, he finds momentary escape by breaking and entering. The night before Memorial Day weekend, he targets the estate of Leo Sheffield, the billionaire CEO for whom he and Gina work.  But everything goes awry. Leo arrives suddenly—and he’s not alone. As Corey looks on in stunned horror, he witnesses a fatal mishap…as does another traumatized onlooker. With everything to lose, Leo will do whatever it takes to cover up the truth. Things spiral out of control, however. Pushed to their limits, Corey, Gina, and Leo all hurdle towards climactic showdowns as explosive as the holiday fireworks lighting up the night sky.

Review:

I think this is going to be the summer of reads about wealthy vacationing going wrong, lol. And I am here for all of it. Here in this story you have a young man, Corey, who is trying to figure out how to get out of his current life situation without having the stress of worrying about his younger brother and their pill popping, alcoholic mother. While out and about one night engaging in mischievous behavior, he is pulled into an issue that is going to set the scene for his summer and some important decision-making.

From the outside looking in, you think that Leo is living the perfect life with his wife and family, but in reality it is a sham and he is unhappy. He is harboring a secret that could cost him much more than he is willing to pay.  While trying to hide one secret, Leo finds himself in a much worse predicament that drives him further down the path of self-destruction.

Gina, the pill popping, alcoholic mother is such a train wreck. I thought she was a functioning addict but quickly realized that she did not have herself together whatsoever. She not only put her life in jeopardy, but also her job and the lives of her children. While being Leo’s confidant, she finds herself in a predicament that is not helpful to her already messed up situation with her addiction.

As the one single event that was supposed to transpire in secret starts unravelling and the lives of Corey, Gina, Leo, and unfortunately, Angelique become intertwined you realize that there may not be a happy ending for anyone. There are secrets, threats, and plain fear involved. You see everyone’s moral compasses spinning rapidly as they all try to figure out what to do, who to trust and when to let go.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available May 7, 2019 in ebook, hardcover, and audiobook

I would like to thank Park Row Books for having me on the blog tour for this novel. All opinions are honest and my own.

 

 

 

book review · books · crime · Family

The Night Before by Wendy Walker {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Rosie and Laura are as different as two sisters can be. One is stable and has the perfect family. The other struggles to break free from her troubled past. When Laura disappears after going on a blind date, Rosie takes matters into her own hands.

But as Rosie begins to search for her sister, her greatest fears come to the surface. Could Laura be more of a danger than the stranger she meets, or is the night before her last night alive?

Told in dual timelines—the night before and the day after—The Night Before is a riveting thriller about family loyalty, obsession, and what happens when the desire for love spins out of control.

Review:

This story starts with a therapy session of Laura’s and immediately I think this is going to have an unreliable narrator. I am not against those types of thrillers but sometimes it makes the character get on my nerves. However, this was proven very quickly to not be true. It’s told from the perspectives of Laura and her sister Rosie thru two overlapping timelines. Throughout the story you get the idea that Laura is your typical angry woman who got into some trouble as a young girl and is trying to make a change in her life after a really bad breakup. At one point I thought she may have even just been a crazed stalker. Nothing is what it seems in this story and some of the characters aren’t as crazy as you think and some are at a level of crazy that you don’t quite see coming.

Let’s not forget about the men in the story, Joe and Gabe. I won’t go into too much detail about them but man oh man there’s some crazy stuff that you just can’t wrap your mind around when it comes to their parts in this story.

I thought I was going to figure out what was going on and who the villain was early on in the story but I didn’t figure it out until just about the time it was revealed in the story. Wendy Walker not only throws in some twists as far as the crazed character is concerned but also throws in some secrets that make you take a double look and think what the hell kind of nonsense is this? I love a thriller that can leave me with those types of thoughts.

I am not a big reader of thrillers but I did enjoy this one. It was a quick and easy read. I started it one night and finished it the next day. I would say definitely pack this one along for a good beach read this summer. Just don’t read it before going on a blind date, especially one you’ve met online.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available in hardcover, ebook and audiobook May 14th, 2019

A special thank you to St. Martin’s Press for my free copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

AIDs · book review · books · diversity · Family · LGBTQ · reading

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai {Review}

Blurb:

A dazzling new novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy and loss set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris, by the acclaimed and award-winning author Rebecca Makkai.

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.

Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. The two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the eighties and the chaos of the modern world, as both Yale and Fiona struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.

Review:

I’ve had this book on my TBR since it came out last year and finally read it this month with a buddy read group on Instagram.

This story focuses on 2 separate timelines. One being the mid 80s during the beginning of the AIDs epidemic and told from Yale’s point of view and the other being present day and told from Fiona’s point of view. Makkai weaves back and forth between the two storylines seamlessly. Manipulating your emotions in every possible way. You love some characters, you hate some characters. You feel as if you’ve gained and  lost your family and friends among these pages.

As the story flips back and forth between the two storylines, they are eventually brought together but it is not the nice, neat, and happy merge that you’re hoping for. This book has literally left me wondering how I should feel about it’s ending and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I love the fact that this ending has made me feel that way. I don’t know if I want to feel hopeful or if I just want to break down in tears.

This book shows you the horrors and hopes that people experienced during this time and what the consequences were of losing yourself, putting yourself at risk, and living life freely. There was so much reckless behavior, broken relationships, and strained friendships. There were some happy and hopeful moments throughout the story but there were moments of pure devastation. Makkai’s style of writing puts you right there with the characters and what they are feeling and experiencing. This book is very eye-opening to the subject of the AIDS epidemic.

This book has deserved every award it has been nominated for and I wish it had won them all!!

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook and audiobook