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.

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.

book review · books · Family · love · reading · secrets

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Audrey knows that life is filled with ups and downs, but she can’t help feeling like she’s been dealt more than her fair share as she’s watched her family come undone over the years. Her dream as a mother had been for her daughters, Jess and Lily, to be as close as only sisters can be. But now as adults, they no longer speak to each other, and Audrey’s two teenage granddaughters have never met. Even more upsetting is the fact that Audrey has no idea how to fix her family as she wonders if they will ever be whole again.

If only Audrey had known three decades ago that a secret could have the power to split her family in two, but ironically, also keep them linked. And when hostilities threaten to spiral out of control, a devastating choice that was made so many years ago is about to be revealed, testing once and for all Audrey and those she loves.

Is it too late for one broken family to heal and find their way back to each other…?

A beautiful novel of mothers and daughters, the bonds of family, and the secrets that can sometimes divide us yet also bring us together, If Only I Could Tell You will remain on your mind long after the last page is turned.

Review:

My first thought after finishing this book was “how can I go back to work after finishing this?” To me, that’s a sign of a really good book. Not to mention that I’m a sucker for family secrets, drama, strained relationships, the whole nine yards.

This story was about the love of a parent, the bonds of families, and the power of secrets.

Told from the perspectives of Audrey and her two daughters, Jess and Lily, we witness how one family tragedy changed their lives and relationships.

As the story develops and plays out we get bits and pieces of what happened to cause the estrangement between the sisters as well as put a strain on the relationship between them and their mother. As I was reading I found myself trying to put the pieces together as if this were a mystery instead of a family. I had so many ideas and theories of what had transpired that by the time the first bomb was dropped, I was floored and I felt bad about about what I originally thought of a character.

This book took me on an emotional rollercoaster that I was not fully prepared for and I LOVED IT! There was so much pain and anguish throughout this story. You will not be able to resist feeling everything that these women feel as they sort thru their emotions, lives, and conflicts. So many times I was teary eyed or angry while reading. I felt hopeful for everyone even when it seemed there wouldn’t be any resolution on things. The ending was just…..not anything I expected and that’s what I liked.

I liked how Hannah told the story with different perspectives and timelines. Everything flowed. When you felt like you were left hanging in one chapter she gave you a little more with the next chapter. Building anticipation the whole time.

This is a story that shows you how perspective of a single event can change the course of a relationship.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

A special thank you to William Morrow 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 · books · Family · reading · romance

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s excellent at dealing with other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to uproot her life and move to Boston, it’s an emergency of a kind Cassie never anticipated.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the handsome rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because she doesn’t fall in love. And because of the advice her old captain gave her: don’t date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…but will she jeopardize her place in a career where she’s worked so hard to be taken seriously?

Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt, affecting novel about life, love, and the true meaning of courage.

Review:

This book was so amazing and it was just what I needed at the time that I read it. I am a bit upset at myself for flying thru it like I did. I enjoyed Cassie and the storyline. I could relate on so many of the issues that she had, from her determination to keep feelings at bay, her head held high, and keep the past in just enough reach to remember to not let her guard down.

In this story, Cassie must learn how to deal with her past, choose to forgive, learn to love and be loved all while maintaining her career.

This was my second novel by Katherine and I have to say that I love the way she writes her stories. It’s like sitting down and actually talking and engaging with the characters.

I highly recommend checking this book out.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availibility:

Available August 13th in hardcover, ebook, and audio

A special thank you to St. Martin’s Press for the review Copy I received.

You can also hear my review of this book on the 3 Book Girls podcast.

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

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Two families from different social classes are joined together by an unexpected pregnancy and the child that it produces. Moving forward and backward in time, with the power of poetry and the emotional richness of a narrative ten times its length, Jacqueline Woodson’s extraordinary new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of this child.

As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s birthday celebration in her grandparent’s Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, escorted by her father to the soundtrack of Prince, she wears a special, custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody’s mother, for her own sixteenth birthday party and a celebration which ultimately never took place.

Unfurling the history of Melody’s parents and grandparents to show how they all arrived at this moment, Woodson considers not just their ambitions and successes but also the costs, the tolls they’ve paid for striving to overcome expectations and escape the pull of history. As it explores sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives—even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.

Review:

Where have I been while Jacqueline Woodson has been out here dropping literary gems in the book world? I feel like I have missed out on so much from her . I can’t even say what drew me to this book. It clearly wasn’t just the fact that Jacqueline Woodson wrote it, it was the content. Being written by Ms. Woodson was the ultimate plus.

Woodson explores the dynamic of black families in such a mesmerizing way. You see that within the black family there is still the defining difference of class and even skin color. How some blacks try so hard to get above where they have come from and some are content with just being able to survive. How love isn’t just enough to keep one happy.

Melody is the end result of everything her parents and even grandparents had to go thru. She has a plethora of history to look back on when it comes to making decisions about her future. At the same time she also has to build her own identity without wiping away her history.

So many difficult choices are made by the characters in this story.

I am so grateful to have been able to experience it.

This is a small book that packs such a big punch. It’s short but still so complex.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available September 17th in hardcover, ebook, and audio.

A special thank you to Riverhead Books for allowing me to read and review this title.
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*