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.

 

book review · books · crime · diversity · mystery · own voices review · reading · suspense

The Missing American by Kwei Quartey

Blurb:

When her dreams of rising through the police ranks like her late father crash around her, 26-year-old Emma Djan is unsure what will become of her life in Accra. Through a sympathetic former colleague, Emma gets an interview with a private detective agency tracking down missing persons, thefts, and marital infidelities. It’s not the future she imagined, but it’s her best option.

Meanwhile, Gordon Tilson, a middle-aged widower in Washington, DC, has found solace in an online community after his wife’s passing. Through the support group, he’s even met a young Ghanaian widow he really cares about, and when her sister gets into a car accident, he sends her thousands of dollars to cover the hospital bill—to the horror of his only son, Derek. When Gordon runs off to Ghana to surprise his new love and disappears, Derek chases after him, fearing for his father’s life.

The case of the missing American man will drag both Emma and Derek into a world of sakawa scams, fetish priests, and those willing to keep things secret through death.

 

Review:

I want to start off this review by saying that I usually try to steer clear of series, but I allowed myself to get sucked into this story and I am not mad about it. I am only mad that I have to wait for the next one to come out.

I loved the different perspectives that you see throughout the story. Quartey writes most of the story from Emma’s point of view. Even though he is a male writer, I feel that he did an excellent job. He was able to write about her feelings and insecurities without making her seem whiney or needy. He was also able to write her as a strong-willed woman without making her seem too aggressive. Most male writers are not able to do that with a main female character. That is always something that I am hesitant about when reading a story told from a woman’s perspective but written by a man.

The mystery that surrounds the story of the sakawa and the involvement of Gordon was engrossing. You immediately find yourself trying to protect the innocent involved while also wanting to shake some sense into them. This story showed how Americans can easily find themselves in false security. That is what put Gordon in his situation. The sakawa are trained enough to be able to spot this in their victims.

While this is happening, Emma has her own conflict to deal with and own decisions to make about what is going to happen in her life and with her career. She doesn’t let an inconvenient detour lead her from her dream. She just begins a new road to get there. And while doing so, she discovers even more strengths about herself.

This story takes you on such a ride and introduces so much culture at the same time. You’re trying to solve a crime and at the same time you are learning.

I highly recommend this story to anyone who loves a good mystery that will keep you thinking and engaged. Everything is not what it seems in this story. I am too excited about the next installment but until then, I am hoping to get my hands on Kwei Quartey’s previous works.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover and ebook

 

I would like to send a special thank you to Kwei Quartey for sending me a gifted copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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

Light Changes Everything by Nancy E. Turner {ARC Review}

Blurb:

It’s the summer of 1907 and the sun is scorching down on Mary Pearl in the Arizona Territory. Mary Pearl and her sister Esther take their minds off the heat by sneaking banned Jane Austen novels from Aunt Sarah Elliot’s lively bookshelf. Whispered read alouds preoccupy their nights, and reveries of getting hitched to their own Mr. Darcy à la Pride and Prejudice swirl through their day dreams.

In walks old-fashioned old-money suitor Aubrey Hanna, here to whisk seventeen year old Mary Pearl off her feet with a forbidden kiss and hasty engagement. With the promise of high society outings and a rich estate, Aubrey’s lustful courtship quickly creates petty tension among the three generations of Prine women.

As autumn approaches all too quickly, Mary Pearl’s Wheaton College acceptance counters quick marriage preparations. Days of travel by horse and by train carry her deep into a sophisticated new world of Northern girls’ schooling. Seeking friendship but finding foes, Mary Pearl not only learns how to write, read, and draw, but also how to act, dress, and be a woman.

Light Changes Everything is the story of a resilient young feminist a century ahead of her time.

Review:

I didn’t expect this book to have such an impact on me. I had to sit a few minutes after I finished to gather my thoughts. Such a beautifully written story. The story is built around books, art, and family. I love that it was a non World War 2 historical fiction that I enjoyed reading. The story takes place in Arizona when it was still a territory.

Mary Pearl is a young woman living in a family who is proud but has its expectations of its members. Everyone has their place. Mary Pearl has been accepted to go to college in Illinois. Her mother does not want her to go and is too excited when Mary Pearl is unexpectedly courted and engaged to Aubrey right before she is set to leave.

Mary Pearl having a mind of her own but still loving her family, makes the decision to go to college. Once she is there, she quickly realizes just how different she is from the other students and how different life is going to be before her. She doesn’t make friends at first and throws herself into her studies.

What I loved about her character is that she didn’t allow other people to determine what she wanted to do. She didn’t seek anyone else’s acceptance, yet she did what she needed to do in order to show her family she still loved them and they still had her loyalty.

When Mary Pearl returns home and finds herself in a not so favorable situation, she has to make the decision to push forward or let life take her down. Mary Pearl decided to push forward. She didn’t let her situation stop her from pursuing her education which was turning out to be a bit more difficult than she expected and it didn’t stop her from being there for her family when they needed her the most.

Mary Pearl’s gumption and determination propels her thru all her obstacles. She learns so many valuable lessons that she incorporates into her life without losing herself.

This book makes me want to read some of the author’s other work.

 

Rating:

4 stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

 

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

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.

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 · 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.

 

 

book review · books · dedication · diversity · Family · own voices review · reading · secrets

Around Harvard Square by CJ Farley {Review}

Blurb:

It’s the nineties, and Tosh Livingston, straight-A student and superstar athlete, is living the dream—he’s made it out of upstate New York and into the incoming freshman class at Harvard University. But after an accident blows up his basketball-playing hopes, he discovers a new purpose in life—to win the frenzied competition for a spot on the staff of the Harvard Harpoon, the school’s legendary humor magazine.

Along with Lao, his pot-smoking roommate from China, their friend Meera, a passive-aggressive science major from India, and Zippa, a Jamaican student-activist with a flair for cartooning, Tosh finds that becoming a member of the Harpoonis weirder and more dangerous than anyone could have imagined. Success requires pushing themselves to their limits and unearthing long-buried secrets that will rock their school and change all of their lives forever.

Review:

This was one of those books I went into partially unaware of what it was going to be about and I also had some of the plot mixed up with another book, lol. Even with all that I ended up enjoying this story.  There were so many relatable aspects and scenarios. Farley explores privilege and race in a way that is not subtle but also not in your face. There were events that happened with Tosh that I have not only experienced in similar fashion but also have been witness to. He is a black male who is a first generation college student even though his father took a few classes at a community college. He is not your typical star athlete who has gotten in an ivy league school because of his sports talent but because of his intellectual ability.  He has to fight stereotypes while also having to manage not stereotyping others. For example, his roommate Lao and their friend Meera. Each of them has a background that they all try to hide from each other. They are all using Harvard as a clean slate to reinvent themselves.

When an opportunity comes to become part of the Harpoon, one of the school’s long-standing publications they are each tested in their morale and in their friendship.

The story is told from Tosh’s point of view to an unnamed person who you find out later is Zippa and that she plays a much bigger part in the story than is realized. This person has even more at stake than the others and much more to prove.

Farley not only explores the topics of racism, he also explores sexism as well. This story takes place in the 90s but it is so similar to what is currently going on today.

There is not a clear-cut ending to this novel and it basically leaves you to your own thoughts and assumptions as to what happens. I find that although that is not a desirable ending for most, it fit this story perfectly.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback and ebook

 

Thank you to Akashic Books 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