books · Mental Health · reading

Books, blogging, podcasting, and life

If you have followed me for a little while, then you know that sometimes I like to just take time out and talk about life and books outside of reviewing. If you notice in the title of this post, I have added podcasting to my repetoire.

Life for most of the year has been an unbelievable shit storm for me, as it has been for most of the world. I knew for sure that 2020 would be my year. A new year? A new decade? What could be better than that? The ultimate form of a clean slate. However, 2020 had other plans in mind including a pandemic, living under a tyrannical president, and last but MOST DEFINITELY not least the fear of living while being black.

Books and reading are usually a form of escape for me but this year it has been different and I think that is due to the book community. I never knew that this community could become so political and I am not even talking literal politics. I am talking about the politics of the book world. I come to the book world to escape the politics of the real world, but too often lately I am finding myself witnessing some of the most ridiculous things. There is a lack of decorum when it comes to certain things. So many people are practically tap dancing for these publishers just to get a free book.

One thing about myself that is that what you see is what you get. I have made some minor changes since first starting but those have been changes that reflect my growth not overshadow my individuality or personality. Some people will do anything for clout and they are clogging up the feeds with utter nonsense. Where has the love of books and reading gone? Is it the pandemic that has made everyone go mad? I would like to think so, but deep down inside I know that is not true. Folks just want to be out here acting a damn fool for no good reason.

I also notice that some people think bringing more color onto their bookshelves will make them better people and that is not true. People need to understand that no matter how many books are read by people of color, the book world is not going to change the real world that we are in. That closing the pages of these books and saying how much more they understand isn’t making this world a better place. People also have to realize that you have to give folks room, space, and time to change. It is not something that is going to happen overnight and they don’t need to be criticized at every chance. Look how long it took for slavery to end, for black people to gain civil rights. Yet, we are still being treated like nothing and we are out here being killed. Those black squares and those readalongs of books hasn’t changed anything but follower counts. Both positively and negatively. Now, I won’t sit here and say that people are not out here doing anything because some are, not many but a few. And I thank them for that because we need all that we can get right now.

Let me talk about my podcast. I had been talking about starting my own podcast for a while so when George Floyd was murdered and some people I considered colleagues showed their true colors, I knew it was time to do my own thing. I am so happy that I did. I have been having a great time talking to fellow booklovers about books and life. I was on a roll when real life hit me and hit me hard. I had to take a moment and step back. But I am slowly getting back into it.

Another thing that I have noticed this year is the sheer amount of people suffering from depression and anxiety. I am one of those people. I am here to tell you that just because someone is posting on their page or participating in chats, doesn’t mean that they are not suffering. I found myself spiraling faster than I could keep up. Things are getting better but I am still not where I want or need to be. I sat and thought about the last time I was just genuinely happy and it has been about 3 years. The other day my dad said that he was glad to see me happy and I had to tell him that he was just seeing me on one of my few good days and that I still had a long road to go. It hurt me to tell him that but he needed to know the truth. The example I gave him so that he could understand the seriousness of someone suffering from mental illness even if their life seems all put together is Robin Williams. I think that just maybe he understood or we at least had a breakthrough momentarily. These days I take what I can get.

I chose that picture for this post for a reason. If you look closely and really know me, you know that is not just a resting bitch face. My eyes are dead. Void of all emotion. I look plain tired and beatdown even with the little bit of makeup. I believe that is how most of us are trying to survive right now.

Find your strength, stay strong. Find your happiness, hold on to it. MAKE SURE YOU VOTE! And if you really care about people, check on your friends and family. Sometimes you may need to check on a stranger too.

addiction · book review · books · Literary Fiction · love · Mental Health · reading · secrets

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman {ARC Review}

Blurb:

This is a poignant comedy about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined.

Viewing an apartment normally doesn’t turn into a life-or-death situation, but this particular open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes everyone in the apartment hostage. As the pressure mounts, the eight strangers slowly begin opening up to one another and reveal long-hidden truths.

As police surround the premises and television channels broadcast the hostage situation live, the tension mounts and even deeper secrets are slowly revealed. Before long, the robber must decide which is the more terrifying prospect: going out to face the police, or staying in the apartment with this group of impossible people. 

Review:

Great story. This story makes you think about life and what’s important. The thing I loved most about this story is that Backman shines a light on mental health and how it affects people differently. What extremes they go thru to hide or deny it and what extremes they go thru to not deal with it at all. There are some funny and endearing moments in this novel which is not unusual for a Backman novel.

As a person who deals with anxiety and depression on more occasions than I care to admit or think about, I felt seen with this story. This is one of those stories where nothing is as it seems. You go in thinking the story will go one way, but it turns a totally different direction and you are not disappointed by it because all along you are subconsciously thinking about so many things that you don’t realize you’ve been set on another path.

Backman’s story shows that you never know what someone is going thru and you never know how your interaction with people can affect them. Sometimes people can be saved but there is also the unfortunate reality that some think they are too far gone to be saved.

When reading a story by Backman, sometimes you find yourself thinking that this story is going all over the place. Who are all these people? How does any of this tie itself together? Well, it always does. Not necessarily in a neat little bow but definitely in a way that provides a conclusion that stays with you.

I recommend this book along with his other work. I am already looking forward to his next novel.

Rating:

I just outright loved and enjoyed this story.

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

A special thank to Atria Books for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

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

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi {ARC Review}

Blurb:

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

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

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

Rating:

All four Golden Girls

Availability:

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

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

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

Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West {Review}

Blurb:

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

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

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

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

Rating:

All four Golden Girls( 5 Stars)

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook and audiobook.

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

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

Blurb:

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback and ebook.

 

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

 

Blog Tour · book review · books · contemporary fiction · Family · reading

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman {Blog Tour ARC Review}

Blurb:

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

Review:

I absolutely loved this book. I loved everything about it from the storyline, the characters, and also the writing style. This is the first book in a very long time that had me wanting to annotate it because there were so many passages that made me laugh and so many things that Nina did that I could relate to in my life. I felt as if my life had been transposed onto paper without me actually writing or narrating it. I believe all booklovers will relate to Nina.

Abbi has taken the characteristics of a bookworm and written the perfect, quirky story highlighting those characteristics. She has also incorporated some real life issues such as anxiety and shows how it can affect someone’s life, and how you can share some of the most unique characteristics with family members you have never even met. Nina is living a typical bookworm life. Working in a bookstore, filling her time with activities, and filling her mind with knowledge, some of it only useful for her trivia nights and awkward conversations, lol.

Nina has spent her time building the perfectly scheduled life for herself but all that is thrown off-balance when she finds out about her father and falls for a man she thought she despised. Nina has to learn how to live life by rolling with the punches but also maintaining the part of herself that makes her so unique.

This is one of those books I want to go around give to all the true to heart bookworms I know. I knew I was going to enjoy this story but I had no idea how much I would love it. There is no better surprise than to be mind-blown from a highly anticipated read. Abbi Waxman has done it again with her writing and storytelling styles.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availibility:

Available July 9th in hardcover, ebook, and audio

A very special thank you to Berkely Publishing for having me along on this book tour.

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*

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

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.