books · Historical fiction · reading

Temptation Rag by Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard {Feature}

    

I want to take a moment and spotlight a book that has come into my possession. I hope that you will take the time to check it out and see what it’s all about. Most of you know by now that I enjoy a good historical fiction. While I read mostly war stories, it is good to come across historical fiction that is not based on a war but another period of history.

Blurb:

Seventeen-year-old May Convery, unhappy with her privileged life in turn-of-the-century New York City, dreams of becoming a poet. When she meets the talented young Mike Bernard, an aspiring concert pianist, she immediately falls in love. But after their secret liaison is discovered, neither is prepared for the far-reaching consequences that will haunt them for decades. As Mike abandons serious music to ruthlessly defend his hard-won title, Ragtime King of the World, May struggles to find her voice as an artist and a woman. It is not until years after their youthful romance, when they cross paths again, that they must finally confront the truth about themselves and each other. But is it too late?

The world of ragtime is the backdrop for a remarkable story about the price of freedom, the longing for immortality, and the human need to find forgiveness. From vaudeville’s greatest stars to the geniuses of early African American musical theater, an unforgettable cast of real-life characters populates this richly-fictionalized historical saga.

Words for thought:

Looking for some historical fiction with a bit of twist? Check out this Ragtime Era story.  This era is as important in history as the world wars and everything else. It’s a breath of fresh air.

Thank you Historical Virtual Book Tours for this opportunity to spotlight this novel!

Availability:

Available now in paperback and ebook

books · Bootlegging · reading · reading wheelhouse

Reading Wheelhouse

As a book lover, many of us have heard the term “wheelhouse” a time or two. For me it didn’t really sink in until recently. I have always considered myself a reader of just about everything minus the hardcore romance stuff but I have come to realize what my jam genre really is. Now don’t get me wrong, I love trying new things but I know that if it is not in my wheelhouse, I won’t always get the same enjoyment out of it that others may get if it is in their wheelhouse. I am also a tougher critic on the work  when it comes to reading and reviewing something out of my wheelhouse. I try to keep an open mind but sometimes it is very difficult especially if the novel has gotten rave reviews. I want to be blown away if I am stepping outside my wheelhouse. I believe that is true for other readers as well when they step out of their comfort zone of wheelhouse reading.

My Jam Genre(s)

My jam genre(s) would have to be literary fiction and historical fiction. I find more comfort in books that cause my emotions to run all over the place and I enjoy books that have take place during historical times. I came to this realization a few weeks ago as I was preparing some books to review on the Reading Envy podcast. One of the books I picked  has been a favorite of mine since I was about 12 years old. It is I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Conde. It is not only a historical fiction but it is also a novel that puts me in my feelings each time that I read it. The other two novels I picked were The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle and The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib. Both of these were books that both took me on an emotional ride. I don’t that The Dinner List was supposed to be an emotional read but it took me on a different route than most readers.

Wheelhouse Dilemma

What do you do when you find a book that is in your wheelhouse but it just doesn’t do anything for you? Do you keep reading, hoping that there is something that you just haven’t picked up on or do you scrap it and move on to the next? I will admit there are some books that are considered to be in my wheelhouse but they just didn’t seem to do it for me. On the same note, there have also been some books that aren’t in my wheelhouse that have caught me by surprise with how much I enjoyed them.

 

In Conclusion

What I have learned through all this is that, read what makes you happy and read what you enjoy. Don’t be tied to what you think you have to enjoy just because it falls into your wheelhouse and don’t be afraid to scrap something that falls into your wheelhouse but you just aren’t enjoying it.

 

book review · Bootlegging · dedication

Innocence Lost by Sherilyn Decter {ARC Review}

Blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating:

3.5 Stars

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

Availability:

Available

abuse · book review · Family · reading · secrets

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie {Review}

Blurb:

Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in a beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They’re completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear. Although her Papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home—a home that is silent and suffocating.

As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent to their aunt, a university professor outside the city, where they discover a life beyond the confines of their father’s authority. Books cram the shelves, curry and nutmeg permeate the air, and their cousins’ laughter rings throughout the house. When they return home, tensions within the family escalate, and Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together.

Review:

This is the second novel I have read by Adichie and because I enjoyed Americanah so much, I had very high hopes for this story. I was not disappointed. In fact, I was even more blown away with her beautiful prose and style of writing.

This story is told from the perspective of a fifteen year old girl named Kambili. She is the daughter of a well to do businessman and a religious fanatic. From the outside, the world believes that Kambili, her older brother Jaja, and her mother live the perfect life of happiness. In reality, their home life is everything but that. Kambili’s father has horrifying standards for his family and they often pay in pain when they disappoint him.

Although I did like the story being told by Kambili, there were moments when I wanted to get Jaja’s perspective on what they were going thru especially when they went to visit their aunt, Ifeoma.

Adichie draws you in and forces you to connect to her characters in such a way that you don’t even realize it’s happening. The story flows at a remarkable pace. The dynamic nature between the characters is astounding. I admit when I first started reading this story, I didn’t think I would connect with Kambili and I thought her character wouldn’t develop like it did.

Reading this story and seeing what Kambili and her family went thru, broke my heart in many ways. This story makes you think about how an outside perspective can often cause disillusionment when it comes to someone’s life and what they may be dealing with or going through. You also think about how much you are willing to take or deal with when it comes to your loved ones. How much you are willing to sacrifice. Does being a religious figure or devout believer really separate you from those you believe to beneath you for being non believers when you aren’t living as perfectly as you think?

I highly recommend this book if you are a fan of Adichie. I still can’t believe that this was her debut novel.

This book was the first of my backlist buddy read that I’m hosting on Instagram this year.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audio.

book review · books · Family · secrets · World War 2

The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman {Review}

Blurb:

Two estranged sisters, raised in Brooklyn and each burdened with her own shocking secret, are reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII. While one sister lives in relative ease on the bucolic Armory campus as an officer’s wife, the other arrives as a war widow and takes a position in the Armory factories as a “soldier of production.” Resentment festers between the two, and secrets are shattered when a mysterious figure from the past reemerges in their lives.

Review:

The main setting of this story is at the Springfield Armory during WW2. This was a place that I had never heard of before and after reading this story I definitely want to learn more about it. I am thankful that the author chose this for her setting. Definitely something different for a WW2 novel.

Having read and enjoyed Loigman’s debut novel, The Two-Family House, I was very happy to see that she was about to publish her second novel AND it was a historical fiction!

This story mainly follows two sisters, Ruth and Millie. They are complete opposites of each other in all aspects of the word. As they grow up, their relationship becomes almost non existent. After the death of their parents, and Millie’s husband comes up missing, Ruth invites Millie to live with her and her family at the Springfield Armory. From there we are then introduced to Lillian and Arietta who both have experienced life changing events.

The experiences that each of the four women have dealt with bring them together in some form or fashion. But what is a good story without there being some type of secret? Omitting the truth about something is just as detrimental as telling a lie. This is observed in this story.

Loigman uses WW2 as a perfect backdrop for this story. Although these women aren’t fitting battles directly on the line, their every day lives during the war are constant battles. They are fighting their own pasts, secrets, and even some of the very people they love.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

I am so thankful to St. Martins press for sending me an advanced copy of this book to read and review. I look forward to seeing what else Lynda Cohen Loigman is going to write.

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

The Light Over London by Julia Kelly {ARC Review}

Blurb:

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

January 8, 2019 in hardcover, ebook and audio.

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

 

book review · reading

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib {ARC Review}

Blurb:

The chocolate went first, then the cheese, the fries, the ice cream. The bread was more difficult, but if she could just lose a little more weight, perhaps she would make the soloists’ list.  Perhaps if she were lighter, danced better, tried harder, she would be good enough. Perhaps if she just ran for one more mile, lost just one more pound.  Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears-imperfection, failure, loneliness-she spirals down anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Julia, always hungry. Together they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day.

Review:

This book was everything I was told it was going to be. I started reading it on Saturday and finished it Sunday. I was so engrossed in the story. The way the story is structured, with vignettes of her life building up to her admittance to the house is just remarkable.  Yara Zgheib tells this story in such a beautiful fashion that connects you with the characters, especially Anna. You get an inside look at someone suffering from a disease but doesn’t fully understand the impact that it is causing on her life. Not only do you see how life can be with someone who has a support system, you also see from some of the other girls how life can be without a support system.  The denial, the pain, the suffering, and the victories(yes, there are some joyous moments). The way this story is written would make you think that it is actually a memoir instead of a fictional story.

If you are looking for a read that is going to pull at every emotion while also making you think, this is the story for you. I am a big fan of realistic fiction. I love reading a story that hits close to home and reality. Mental illness and eating disorders are not subjects that are easily discussed and are often times overlooked.

This is a phenomenal debut novel and I look forward to reading what Yara writes next.

This story does come with trigger warnings so if eating disorders and depression are subjects that you are sensitive about I would strongly suggest taking that into consideration before reading this story.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

February 5, 2019

*I received this advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.