Book Review: A BRIGHTER FLAME by Christine Nolfi

A BRIGHTER FLAME by Christine Nolfi book cover, blue background with a large orange-red leaf behind a orange-yellow thin leaf mimicking a flameA Brighter Flame by Christine Nolfi
ISBN: 9781542038843 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781799783862 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B09WPKL13Q (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09RK5VJLX (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: September 27, 2022
Genre: Fiction | Family Life

She’s always wanted a sense of belonging. The last place she expects to find it is home.

Vale Lightner’s dreams turn to ash when the Pittsburgh bar she owns goes up in flames. Just like the past she escaped, very little seems salvageable. Facing unavoidable change, Vale returns to her hometown of Philadelphia to stay with her grandmother.

She knows that returning also means facing everything she left behind: a mother and stepfather who shunted her into the background from the day they married, and her charmed and favored half-sister, Blythe, who has abandoned a perfect marriage and is now at a crossroads of her own. Everyone has their secrets, and this reunited family racked by them is about to reach a crisis point.

For a mother and her two daughters, this reunion is a chance for closure, newfound love, and forgiveness. As each of them reassesses her own memories of the past, only the truth can bring them together—in ways that could last forever. From the bestselling author of The Passing Storm comes a poignant novel about family secrets, healing, and the hope of second chances.

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Vale Lightner is like so many others, in that she doesn’t feel that she quite fits in with her family. She is also constantly struggling to “fit in” various work environments. Vale is estranged from her mother, stepfather, and half-sister. The only “family” she currently has a relationship with is her father and maternal grandmother, but she strives to maintain those relationships no matter what. Sadly, Vale’s relationship with her father is tottering on the edge as they deal with their jointly-owned bar burning down. Vale isn’t quite sure what she wants to do with her life at this point, but owning another bar and returning to Philadelphia isn’t it. Vale is forced to accommodate her grandmother, who seems to be dealing with a major health issue. Returning to Philadelphia isn’t her first, second, or third choice, but she is used to starting over. This time around, she has to do it with her half-sister watching. As Vale begins to deal with the memories of her past, she comes to realize that there is a thin line between what we remember and what actually happened. Is it possible her relationship with her mother, stepfather, and half-sister was built on misperceptions? Is it possible for her to craft a new relationship with her sister? Vale has to decide if she’s willing to start over with her family? Can she forgive them as she seeks forgiveness for her own mistakes and start anew?

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Tolstoy

I found A Brighter Flame by Christine Nolfi to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. Vale was all-too-familiar in that she doesn’t feel like she quite fits in with her family. Vale is struggling on so many levels. She has to contend with the idea that her father is irresponsible and will never quite grow up and be the parent she wants. She is tormented by the idea that her mother didn’t really want to keep her but refused to give up custody to an irresponsible parent. She worries that her grandmother might be seriously ill. Vale also comes to the realization that her sister is dealing with just as many issues as she is and the only way to rebuild that relationship is by being the “big sister” her younger sister wants and needs. I won’t even get into the whole budding romance with her neighborhood pharmacist. I thought all of the characters were not only realistic but realistically flawed. Some were idealistic, others were pessimistic, and others were realistic with a touch of idealism. There aren’t any “bad guys” in this story, just a family filled with flawed individuals trying to make a way the best way they know how.

I have a huge list of “favorite” authors but only a handful that I will buy any and everything they write. Christine Nolfi is in both categories. A Brighter Flame is a multi-faceted multigenerational story that portrays relationships with all of their flaws. Each character is struggling with something major and it is only when they voice their struggles and fears that they are capable of moving forward with the help of family and friends. A Brighter Flame is not just about family or second chances, it is also about forgiveness, acceptance, and growth. If you can’t tell, I enjoyed A Brighter Flame. Even though I was afforded the opportunity to read this early via a digital review copy, I pre-ordered a digital copy for my personal library and ordered a print copy for my 87-y.o. mother (she loves reading Christine Nolfi books almost as much as I do). If you’re interested in reading a well-written contemporary story about family, hope, love, and second chances, then I strongly encourage you to go and get a copy of A Brighter Flame for yourself (I can’t wait to reread this one!).

Happy Reading, y’all! ♦

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the author via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Spotlight: THE BOOK WOMAN’S DAUGHTER by Kim Michele Richardson

THE BOOK WOMAN'S DAUGHTER by Kim Michele RIchardsonThe Book Woman’s Daughter, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek #2, by Kim Michele Richardson
ISBN: 9781728242590 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781728252995 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781728242606 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781665066594 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B09HY61WGX (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09DTLD7DK (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmarks
Release Date: May 3, 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction | Southern Fiction

Bestselling historical fiction author Kim Michele Richardson is back with the perfect book club read following Honey Mary Angeline Lovett, the daughter of the beloved Troublesome book woman, who must fight for her own independence with the help of the women who guide her and the books that set her free.

Picking up her mother’s old packhorse library route, Honey begins to deliver books to the remote hollers of Appalachia. Honey is looking to prove that she doesn’t need anyone telling her how to survive, but the route can be treacherous, and some folks aren’t as keen to let a woman pave her own way. If Honey wants to bring the freedom that books provide to the families who need it most, she’s going to have to fight for her place, and along the way, learn that the extraordinary women who run the hills and hollers can make all the difference in the world.

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Advance Praise for The Book Woman’s Daughter

Sara Gruen advance praise

 

William Kent Krueger advance praise quote

 

Ron Rash advance praise quote

The Book Woman’s Daughter combines themes of sisterhood and justice with vivid depictions of the Kentucky landscape, making it a good choice for book groups and readers of historical women’s fiction.” Booklist

“Richardson excels in her descriptions of the people and places of rural Kentucky. Fans will be delighted to find Cussy’s daughter is just as plucky as her mother.” Publishers Weekly

Meet The Author

Author Kim Michele Richardson

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today bestselling author, Kim Michele Richardson is a multiple-award-winning author and has written four works of historical fiction, and a bestselling memoir.

Her latest critically acclaimed novel, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek has earned a 2020 PBS Readers Choice, 2019 LibraryReads Best Book, Indie Next, SIBA, Forbes Best Historical Novel, Book-A-Million Best Fiction, and is an Oprah’s Buzziest Books pick and a Women’s National Book Association Great Group Reads selection. It was inspired by the real-life, remarkable “blue people” of Kentucky, and the fierce, brave Packhorse Librarians who used the power of literacy to overcome bigotry and fear during the Great Depression. The novel is taught widely in high schools and college classrooms.

Her forthcoming fifth novel, The Book Woman’s Daughter is both a stand-alone and sequel to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and will be published May 3, 2022. Born in Kentucky, Kim Michele lives with her family there and is the founder of Shy Rabbit.

Connect with the Author: Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website

Book Spotlight: THE FERVOR by Alma Katsu

THE FERVOR by Alma KatsuThe Fervor by Alma Katsu
ISBN: 9780593328330 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780593328347 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593552421 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B09FW9G5ZX (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09B8NJS8C (Kindle edition)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: April 26, 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction | Gothic & Horror | Suspense Thriller

 

From the acclaimed and award-winning author of The Hunger and The Deep comes a new psychological and supernatural twist on the horrors of the Japanese American internment camps in World War II.

1944: As World War II rages on, the threat has come to the home front. In a remote corner of Idaho, Meiko Briggs and her daughter, Aiko, are desperate to return home. Following Meiko’s husband’s enlistment as an air force pilot in the Pacific months prior, Meiko and Aiko were taken from their home in Seattle and sent to one of the internment camps in the Midwest. It didn’t matter that Aiko was American-born: They were Japanese, and therefore considered a threat by the American government.

Mother and daughter attempt to hold on to elements of their old life in the camp when a mysterious disease begins to spread among those interned. What starts as a minor cold quickly becomes spontaneous fits of violence and aggression, even death. And when a disconcerting team of doctors arrive, nearly more threatening than the illness itself, Meiko and her daughter team up with a newspaper reporter and widowed missionary to investigate, and it becomes clear to them that something more sinister is afoot, a demon from the stories of Meiko’s childhood, hell-bent on infiltrating their already strange world.

Inspired by the Japanese yokai and the jorogumo spider demon, The Fervor explores a supernatural threat beyond what anyone saw coming; the danger of demonization, a mysterious contagion, and the search to stop its spread before it’s too late.

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Advance Praise for The Fervor

One of CrimeReads’ Most Anticipated Crime Fiction 2022
One of Book Mark‘s Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of April
One of CNN‘s Most Anticipated Reads of April
One of Crime Read’s Recommended Books of April

Advance Praise for THE FERVOR by Library Journal

“Katsu has no peer when it comes to atmospheric, detail-rich historical horror, but this volume is more unsettling than anything she’s written yet, because its demons attack readers uncomfortably close to home. A must-read for all, not just genre fans.” Library Journal (starred review)

“The action leaps off the page and has a cinematic quality. The Fervor is a stunning triumph and unfurls like a masterfully woven tapestry. It is suffused with secrets, pain, Japanese myths long thought forgotten, and above all the guilt that permeates throughout. . . . The ghosts of this story will haunt readers long after they’re finished reading.” —Booklist (starred review)

“The plot moves at a dizzying pace . . . a balance of incisive detail and steady progression . . . What appears to be a story of supernatural suspense mixed with historical fiction transforms into an important reminder of the United States’ short memory of its own atrocities and its long history of anti-Asian sentiment, violence, and racism. . . . It’s enjoyable to experience the ambitious, weblike weaving of the book’s many elements.” Kirkus Reviews

“No one does historical gothic horror better than Katsu, and I can’t wait to immerse myself in this very creepy tale.” CrimeReads

“Another enthralling historical horror novel.” Book Riot

“Katsu weaves myriad perspectives into a powerful historical horror novel centered on the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. . . . The meticulous and compassionate portraiture, placed against the backdrop of what evils humans do to one another, creates a horror that renders even the creepiest spiders merely decorative in comparison. Horror readers looking for sharp social commentary should snap this up.” Publishers Weekly

“I’m in awe of Alma Katsu’s uncanny ability to take historical fiction and infuse it with something so dark and otherworldly. I read this book in two sittings and during the night in between, I dreamt about it. A supernatural story with true heartache.” —Jamie Ford, author of The Many Daughters of Afong Moy and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Meet The Author

Author – Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu is the author of seven novels, most recently Red Widow, The Deep, and The Hunger. Prior to the publication of her first novel, she had a 35-year career as a senior intelligence analyst for several U.S. agencies, including the CIA and NSA, as well as RAND. Katsu is a graduate of the master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. She lives in West Virginia with her husband.

Connect with the Author: Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website

2021 Book 133: LEGACY by Nora Roberts

LEGACY by Nora Roberts book cover, water front, possible creek or river, fall foliage with leaves on the ground, and red, wood covered bridge crossing the water in the background

Legacy by Nora Roberts
ISBN: 9781250272935 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250272942 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250802378 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781250802354 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08H8V21KC (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08FGVFNP7 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: May 25, 2021

The #1 New York Times bestselling author presents a new novel of a mother and a daughter, of ambition and romance, and of a traumatic past reawakened by a terrifying threat…

Adrian Rizzo was seven when she met her father for the first time. That was the day he nearly killed her—before her mother, Lina, stepped in.

Soon after, Adrian was dropped off at her grandparents’ house in Maryland, where she spent a long summer drinking lemonade, playing with dogs, making a new best friend—and developing the stirrings of a crush on her friend’s ten-year-old brother. Lina, meanwhile, traveled the country promoting her fitness brand and turning it into a billion-dollar business. There was no point in dwelling on the past.

A decade later, Adrian has created her own line of yoga and workout videos, following in Lina’s footsteps but intent on maintaining creative control. And she’s just as cool-headed and ambitious as her mother. They aren’t close, but they’re cordial—as long as neither crosses the other.

But while Lina dismisses the death threats that Adrian starts getting as a routine part of her daughter’s growing celebrity, Adrian can’t help but find the vicious rhymes unsettling. Year after year, they keep arriving—the postmarks changing, but the menacing tone the same. They continue after she returns to Maryland and becomes reacquainted with Raylan, her childhood crush, all grown up and as gorgeously green-eyed as ever. Sometimes it even seems like the terrifying messages are indeed routine, like nothing will come of them. Until the murders start, and the escalation begins…

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Lina Rizzo was a relatively naïve Georgetown college student when she had an affair with a married professor and wound up pregnant. She was told that he was in the process of getting a divorce. He lied. She left school. Had the baby and began a fitness and health company. She never told her daughter, Adrian, the whole truth about her conception other than she fell in love in college and she was the result. Seven years later, Lina, Adrian, and Lina’s best friend as well as Adrian’s nanny — Mimi, are back in Georgetown when the college professor shows up drunk and begins to beat up Mimi, before turning his attention to Adrian and then Lina. Fortunately, Lina fights back and the professor unfortunately dies in what is classified as self-defense. It is that year that Adrian gains her first childhood friend while staying with her maternal grandparents, Dom and Sophia Rizzo in Traveler’s Creek, Maryland. Maya Wells is the daughter of the new cook at Rizzo’s, Jan Wells. Her older brother, Raylan, is a gifted artist whose main interests are comics and graphic novels. A few years later, Adrian is in high school in New York and makes three new friends, Teesha Kirk – who later becomes her business manager, Hector Sung – who becomes her fitness videographer, and Loren Moorhead – who becomes her business lawyer. Meeting Teesha, Hector, and Loren changes Adrian’s life for the better and sets her on the course for the rest of her life, fitness her style. It also introduces her to an anonymous poet that begins to threaten her life and continues to do so for the better part of ten years. Who is this poet and why does he or she want her dead? Will the police or FBI be able to find the anonymous stalker before it’s too late?

Legacy is the latest romantic suspense thriller from the talented Nora Roberts. I’ve got to say that initially I felt that this book had a bit of a “been there, read that” feel to it, but the more I read the more it began to feel different from previous books by this author. Yes, there are some elements from previous books, namely shades of Hideaway with the child of a talented parent discovering their own talent and building their niche, Black Hills with the child of divorce (although Adrian isn’t the child of divorce, her circumstances with her grandparents are quite similar) spending time with the maternal grandparents, and Tribute with the graphic artist theme. Although there are similarities, there are also major differences. Adrian respects and loves her mother as well as adores her maternal grandparents. She also loves spending time in a small town, something her mother never truly enjoyed. Adrian has made life-long friends in both New York and in Traveler’s Creek. She has purposefully made her own path in the fitness industry without trying to use her mother’s influence. Legacy deals with a lot of themes, including friendship, family – those we’re born into and those we choose to make, love, physical abuse, school shootings, mental illness, murder, and warped ideas of vengeance. Yes, there’s a lot happening in this story, but I loved the diversity of the characters, their friendships, and the way they related to one another, as well as the whole small-town vibe (not that I can fully understand it even though I’m from a small town myself). One of the many things I appreciate when reading a Nora Roberts story is that I’ll be sucked into the story by the writing, complex characters, and involved storylines. Legacy is an outstanding addition to the Roberts collection and one I recommend to romance readers or those that enjoy complicated suspense thrillers. Legacy is yet another book going on my to-be-reread pile for the year. I’ll also be ordering a print copy of this one for my 86-y.o. mother to read.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2021 Book 67: THE LAST STRAW by Sharon Sala

The Last Straw, The Jigsaw Files #4, by Sharon Sala
ISBN: 9780778331995 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780778331438 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780369705440 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488210594 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781799959335 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08JH7XP2G (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08HV2DD2L (Kindle edition)
Publisher: MIRA Books
Release Date: February 23, 2021

Charlie Dodge may be down, but he’s most definitely not out. He’s still reeling after a series of earth-shattering events, so when a desperate woman hires Dodge Investigations to find her missing sister, the head-scratcher of a case is exactly the distraction Charlie and his steadfast partner, Wyrick, need. Two weeks prior, Rachel Dean disappeared without a trace from her locked-from-the-inside Dallas apartment, and every possible trail has gone cold.

Grappling with the fallout of her efforts to dismantle the shadowy organization Universal Theorem, Wyrick throws herself into her investigative work. Charlie knows his partner can handle herself, but when she uncovers a past connection that paints a target on her back, the threat of losing her hits Charlie hard. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do to keep Wyrick safe, but with the clock ticking on a victim they’ve yet to find, it’s only a matter of time before the cold-blooded killer leads them to a deadly end.

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Read an excerpt here.

 
 Readers were introduced to Charlie Dodge of Dodge Investigations and his rather enigmatic, genius associate/partner Jade Wyrick in The Missing Piece. We learned that Charlie is a retired Army Ranger and has been struggling with his wife Annie’s early-onset Alzheimer’s. Wyrick (don’t call her Jade), is a multi-millionaire (possibly a billionaire), has invented and patented numerous creations, created a number of popular video games, and owns and operates numerous businesses in addition to assisting Charlie with his private investigation business. Wyrick is also an accomplished pilot and a breast cancer survivor. She opted to forego breast reconstruction after her double mastectomies and sports an intriguing dragon tattoo that covers her chest, a portion of her back, and upper hips. (Wyrick is a mixture of Lizbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on steroids with a bit of Wonder Woman and a heaping dose of Einstein!) Readers also learned that Wyrick was genetically modified by Universal Theorem or UT and although she worked for UT, she was “fired” after she developed cancer because she was seen as defective. Since she survived her bout with cancer against all odds (actually she cured herself), UT has been willing to do anything to get her back. In Blind Faith, book three in this series, we saw Wyrick and Charlie do the seemingly impossible when they find a missing boy in a national park, uncovered the truth behind’s the boy’s accident, and, in Wyrick’s spare time, she released to the public and law enforcement documentation about all of the illegal and unethical practices of UT.

Now, in book four – The Last Straw, Charlie Dodge is now dealing with the death of his wife whilst Wyrick is dealing with the death of her landlord and only other friend, Arthur Merlin. Merlin has left Wyrick his mansion and all of his wealth (not that Wyrick really needed more money, but she’ll put it to good use). On the personal front, Charlie moves into Wyrick’s home after an attempt is made on her life and she’s injured. Now, in addition to being business partners, Wyrick and Charlie have become roommates. Although Wyrick has been adept at keeping people at great distance by her unusual makeup stylings, flamboyant clothes, and terse manners, Charlie soon learns that she is much softer than even he realized. Charlie becomes Wyrick’s protector in addition to her boss/partner now that a new enemy has shown up, a radical cult fronting as a church that wants Wyrick dead. On the business front, Charlie and Wyrick are dealing with a unique locked-door mystery involving a missing woman, Rachel Dean, and trying to deal with a number of assaults against Wyrick’s life. Can he protect Wyrick against these new enemies? Will he ever learn that she is in love with him? Will he be able to reciprocate given the depth of affection he felt for his now deceased wife? Can they solve the locked-door mystery and find the missing woman before it’s too late?

The Last Straw is the fourth and final book in “The Jigsaw Files” series by Sharon Sala. To say that there’s a lot going on with this story is somewhat of an understatement. First up is the locked-door mystery when the missing woman, Rachel Dean, seemingly vanishes from her locked apartment without a trace. Next is the religious cult trying to kill Wyrick because their leader has decided she must be evil due to her knowledge, skills, and abilities. If that’s not enough, Wyrick is now capable of harnessing her healing energy to heal others as well as herself. When the news of her healing abilities is released, people come out of the woodwork trying to get her to heal their loved ones not caring how this impacts Wyrick’s health in the least. Oh, I forget to mention the press conference. Yes, Wyrick holds a press conference with hopes that it will get the cult to back off. They don’t, so Wyrick has to teach them a lesson they same way she taught UT a lesson. The Last Straw is filled with plenty of horrors, attempted murder, kidnapping, rape, torture, murders, and more, but it is also filled with hope, second chances, and love. The Last Straw presents a somewhat kinder, gentler Jade Wyrick that is also able to kick-butt, take names, and make people regret they ever heard about her. Although I can’t give you specifics on each and every thing that occurs in this book, I can tell you that there’s a HEA. So for all of you that enjoy romantic-suspense and if you’ve read The Missing Piece, Second Sight, and Blind Faith, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of The Last Straw to read. If you haven’t read any of the previous books in this series, I strongly encourage you to grab them all, read them all, and pre-order your copy of The Last Straw. Seriously, people, this is a #mustreadseries! Although I’m sad to see this series end, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading all of these books and look forward to re-reading them in the near future.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2021 Book 3: THE FORTUNATE ONES by Ed Tarkington

The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington

ISBN: 9781616206802 (hardcover)

ISBN: 9781643751078 (ebook)

ISBN: 9781649040237 (audiobook)

ISBN: 9781664709461 (audiobook on CD)

ASIN: B08QXZMS9Q (Audible audiobook)

ASIN: B08519FF6Z (Kindle edition)

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Release Date: January 5, 2021

The Fortunate Ones feels like a fresh and remarkably sure-footed take on The Great Gatsby, examining the complex costs of attempting to transcend or exchange your given class for a more gilded one. Tarkington’s understanding of the human heart and mind is deep, wise, and uncommonly empathetic. As a novelist, he is the real deal. I can’t wait to see this story reach a wide audience, and to see what he does next.” —Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife

When Charlie Boykin was young, he thought his life with his single mother on the working-class side of Nashville was perfectly fine. But when his mother arranges for him to be admitted as a scholarship student to an elite private school, he is suddenly introduced to what the world can feel like to someone cushioned by money. That world, he discovers, is an almost irresistible place where one can bend—and break—rules and still end up untarnished. As he gets drawn into a friendship with a charismatic upperclassman, Archer Creigh, and an affluent family that treats him like an adopted son, Charlie quickly adapts to life in the upper echelons of Nashville society. Under their charming and alcohol-soaked spell, how can he not relax and enjoy it all—the lack of anxiety over money, the easy summers spent poolside at perfectly appointed mansions, the lavish parties, the freedom to make mistakes knowing that everything can be glossed over or fixed?

But over time, Charlie is increasingly pulled into covering for Archer’s constant deceits and his casual bigotry. At what point will the attraction of wealth and prestige wear off enough for Charlie to take a stand—and will he?

The Fortunate Ones is an immersive, elegantly written story that conveys both the seductiveness of this world and the corruption of the people who see their ascent to the top as their birthright.

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The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington has been called a contemporary The Great Gatsby, and I can definitely see the similarities. Charlie Boykin is definitely from the “have nots” and the wrong-side of town according to those in the know in Nashville society. His life changes, possibly for the better and then again maybe not, when he is provided a scholarship to an elite all-boys school and is befriended by Archer Creigh. Over the course of Charlie’s high school career, he eventually moves away from the wrong-side of town when his mother is offered a job as a personal assistant to a wealthy society matron. That move changes Charlie’s life forever. It isn’t just the disparity between the haves and the have-nots that shakes Charlie up, it’s the “affluenza” and, for lack of a better phrase, “white privilege” that he bears witness to that finally pushes him away from his family and friends permanently.

I’m going to go out a limb here and say that I didn’t really like The Great Gatsby, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Fortunate Ones. I liked the way Mr. Tarkington told the story, in almost a flashback mode, by taking us from Charlie’s present life to his past and then brought us back to the present. Although Charlie is the focal point of the story, the reader gets to know all of the secondary characters through Charlie’s eyes. I enjoyed reading about his friendships in high school, his return to Nashville in his late 20s, and his final departure from the life he knew but grew to despise. There’s a lot to take in with this story, including: class, racism, closeted homosexuality, mental illness, suicide, marital infidelity, affluenza/white privilege, love, the psychological toll of trying to be something and someone you’re not, loyalty, and more. Mr. Tarkington has crafted a coming-of-age story that pulled this reader in from the first chapter until the very end. For those of you that actually enjoyed reading The Great Gatsby and are interested in a modern retelling, then I highly recommend The Fortunate Ones. For those that are like me and didn’t exactly care for The Great Gatsby or didn’t read it, I still encourage you to grab a copy of The Fortunate Ones to read. This is my first #mustread recommendation for the year, folks. Now, go grab yourself a copy!

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2020 Book 438: CONFESSIONS IN B-FLAT by Donna Hill

Confessions in B-Flat by Donna Hill 
ISBN: 9781640638990 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781640638297 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781640638303 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781662051647 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781662052507 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08JHCB9MC  (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B0879HJ7S6   (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 24, 2020 
Publisher: Sideways Books

Essence bestselling author Donna Hill brings us an emotional love story set against the powerful backdrop of the civil rights movement that gripped a nation—a story as timely as it is timeless…


The year is 1963. In Harlem, the epicenter of Black culture, the fight for equality has never been stronger. The time is now. Enough is enough. Yet even within its ranks, a different kind of battle rages. Love thy neighbor? Or rise up against your oppressors?


Jason Tanner has just arrived in New York to help spread the message of his mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., of passive resistance, while beat poet Anita Hopkins believes the teachings of Malcolm X with all her heart: that the way to true freedom is “by any means necessary.” When Jason sees Anita perform her poetry at the iconic B-Flat lounge, he’s transfixed. And Anita has never met anyone who can match her wit for wit like this…


One movement, two warring ideologies—can love be enough to unite them?

Confessions in B-Flat is a celebration of the hard-won victories of those who came before us, and a stark reminder of just how far we still have to go.


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Anita Hopkins is a New York girl that fervently believes in the message of Minister Malcolm X Shabazz, “by any means necessary.” She volunteers for the movement, works as a waitress, is a poet with a growing local following, and a music lover. She doesn’t believe in compromise until she meets Jason Tanner. Jason is from Atlanta, an avid churchgoer, and is devoted to the message of nonviolence taught by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He’s moved from Georgia to New York with the hopes of bringing the message of nonviolent protest to the North. To say that Anita and Jason stand on opposite sides of the Civil Rights movement is a major understatement, but their attraction to one another just might help them bridge the divide. Gradually, they begin to accept that their views will continue to differ but they’re willing to “agree to disagree” to keep the peace as their relationship grows. Eventually, Anita introduces Jason to her parents in Brooklyn and Jason introduces Anita to his family in Atlanta. Jason wants more permanence to their relationship, namely marriage, but Anita thinks that they can simply live together for now. Just when it seems as if their relationship can’t handle another stumbling block, they come together once again until Jason makes a decision that Anita can’t understand or accept. This separation just might be the death knell for them when the Tanner family and Anita receive startling news. Anita might have stopped going to church after high school, but she needs faith and prayer now more than ever before. 


I’ve read a lot of romance novels over the years, beginning with my first Harlequin when I was about 13-years-old. I can’t believe that I’ve never read anything by Donna Hill before now. Confessions in B-Flat is more than a story about opposites-attract romance, it’s also about the two sides of the Civil Rights movement: the philosophies surrounding those movements and the reasons for those philosophies. The story touches on justice, protest movements, and even the early days of Vietnam. There’s a lot going on in this story and I enjoyed it all. I enjoyed the brief scenes with Dr. King, John Lewis, Andrew Young, the glimpses of 1960s Apollo theater music reviews, the inclusion of bits of speeches by Malcolm X, thoughts by James Baldwin, and others. Anita and Jason have a tempestuous relationship, but it was fascinating to read about the development of their romance. I enjoyed the scenes with Anita’s parents, as well as those with Jason’s family. Confessions in B-Flat has tons of angst and drama along with the romance and Civil Rights action. (Although this novel is set in the early 1960s, it is just as topical today with the Black Lives Matter campaigns, protests against police violence, etc.) This might not be a typical romance novel, but it was definitely one I enjoyed and feel can be enjoyed by anyone that enjoys reading romance stories featuring recent history. If you’re not a romance reader, then you can enjoy reading Confessions in B-Flat for just the history alone (not to mention the poetry). I look forward to reading more by Donna Hill in the future and have already amassed a list of her previous books that I want to read. I’ll be getting a print copy of Confessions in B-Flat for my 86-y.o. mother to read because I think she’ll enjoy this one as much as I did.


Happy Reading, y’all!


Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the >Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2020 Book 419: THE RIGHT KIND OF FOOL by Sarah Loudin Thomas

The Right Kind of Fool by Sarah Loudin Thomas 
ISBN: 9780764234019 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780764237843 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781493428144 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781705003466 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08M41K6MF  (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B087RTM4JC  (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 3, 2020 
Publisher: Bethany House Fiction

Thirteen-year-old Loyal Raines is supposed to stay close to home on a hot summer day in 1934. When he slips away for a quick swim in the river and finds a dead body, he wishes he’d obeyed his mother. The ripples caused by his discovery will impact the town of Beverly, West Virginia, in ways no one could have imagined.


The first person those ripples disturb is Loyal’s absentee father. When Creed Raines realized his infant son was deaf, he headed for the hills, returning only to help meet his family’s basic needs. But when Loyal, now a young teen, stumbles upon a murder it’s his father he runs to tell–shaping the words with his hands. As Creed is pulled into the investigation he discovers that what sets his son apart isn’t his inability to hear but rather his courage. Longing to reclaim the life he abandoned, Creed will have to do more than help solve a murder if he wants to win his family’s hearts again. 

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Small-town life in West Virginia has always been difficult if you’re different. Loyal Raines has a tendency to stick out in people’s minds because he’s deaf, uses sign language, and his father – Creed left the family and headed for the hills. Even though Loyal doesn’t have a relationship with his father, all he really wants is to prove to his father that he is worthy of his love and attention. When Loyal comes upon a dead body, he doesn’t go home to his mother, he climbs the mountain and turns to his father. This action will forever change the dynamics of the Raines family and the community of Beverly.


It seems hard to believe that a teenage deaf child could have such a strong impact on not only his family but an entire community, but Loyal does just that in The Right Kind of Fool by Sarah Loudin Thomas. It seems as if all of the characters in this story are searching for their rightful places within their family and the community, including Creed and Loyal Raines, teens Rebecca and Michael and their father, community leader and businessman Hadden Westfall, and others. The Right Kind of Fool is more than a coming-of-age story, or a self-discovery story, or even about the courage it takes to be different, it is also a murder mystery that gradually unfolds and touches the lives of numerous families in the community. I found this to be a delightful story and enjoyed the way Ms. Thomas artfully described the signs used by Loyal and his efforts to teach others including his father. I especially enjoyed the developing father-son relationship between Creed and Loyal, the friendship between Loyal, Rebecca, and Michael, and the rekindled romance between Creed and Delphy. There are so many layers to this story and Ms. Thomas has deftly woven them together to craft an amazing story with intriguing characters and action set during an interesting period in West Virginia history. I can’t imagine this story without any of the characters or without the hillside settings. If you enjoy reading historical fiction or stories with unlikely characters, then I strongly encourage you to grab a copy of The Right Kind of Fool to read. I’ll be purchasing a book for my 86-y.o. mother (she hasn’t returned any of the books I’ve “loaned” her so far this year, so now I buy books for her personal library!). I hope you’ll enjoy The Right Kind of Fool as much as I did. For now, I’m putting this on my to-be-re-read (TBRR) shelf!

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free print review copy of this book from the author/publisher. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2020 Book 389: SNAPPED by Alexa Martin

SNAPPED by Alexa Martin

Snapped, The Playbook #4, by Alexa Martin 
ISBN: 9780593102503 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780593102510 (eBook)
ISBN: 9780593291375 (Audiobook)
ASIN: B088HHBFR5  (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B084786PTF   (Kindle edition)
Publication date: October 20, 2020 
Publisher: Berkley Books


With the stakes this high, it’s no longer just a game for the quarterback in this romance by the author of Blitzed.


Elliot Reed is living her best life—or pretending to. She owes it to her dad’s memory to be happy and make the most of her new job as Strategic Communications Manager for the Denver Mustangs. Things are going well until star quarterback Quinton Howard Jr. decides to use the field as his stage and becomes the first player to take a knee during the national anthem.



As the son of a former professional athlete, Quinton knows the good, the bad, and the ugly about football. He’s worked his entire life to gain recognition in the sport, and now that he has it, he’s not about to waste his chance to change the league for better. Not even the brilliant but infuriating Elliot, who the Mustangs assign to manage him, will get Quinton back in line.


A rocky initial meeting only leads to more tension between Quinton and Elliot. But as her new job forces them to spend time together, she realizes they may have more in common than she could’ve ever imagined. With her job and his integrity on the line, this is one coin toss that nobody can win. 


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Okay, the first thing you should know is that I am not a sports person by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed The Playbook series by Alexa Martin. I just binge re-read the entire series over the past few days (yes, I re-re-read Intercepted, Fumbled, and re-read Blitzed) in preparation for reading the latest addition to this series, Snapped. I’m so glad I did. It was nice refamiliarizing myself with the Lady Mustangs (the wives and girlfriends of the Denver Mustang players) and their drama and romances. Each book in this series touches upon some serious issues while also providing a great steamy romance read. Snapped is a bit more serious in that it takes to heart the issues of long-term adverse effects of head injuries or CTE and lack of player parity within the football league, as well as professional athlete protests on-the-field and racial representation within the industry. I knew little about any of these subjects before reading this book (trust me, you’ll want to do some research if you watch any professional football). 

Elliot “Elle” Reed is just as lacking in confidence as some of the other women we’ve seen in previous books in this series. If I were dealing with professional athletes pulling in millions of dollars each year and having hundreds, if not thousands, of groupies throwing themselves at these players, I’d probably be somewhat lacking in confidence as well. But Elle is also dealing with childhood issues from being biracial and not quite knowing how to fit into society as she was raised by her white father without any strong black role models or guidance. She’s had to quietly straddle the fence of both races without being fully embraced into either one and trying to live her life colorblind, the way she was raised. I can tell you that it isn’t going well. Quinton Howard Jr. is the new star quarterback for the Denver Mustangs and has become something of a problem issue by blacking out the league logo on his jersey at the start of each game and his taking a knee during the national anthem. He’s quiet and respectful to all, but he’s also using his voice and money to try and right some wrongs. Elle’s job is to make the Mustangs and the league look good, so she has to once again straddle the fence by keeping the team’s owner happy whilst also working with Quinton to assure his personal goals are met. Needless to say, there’s a bit of friction and attraction between the two. Will they be able to make things work or will things frizzle out? Hey, this is a romance, and what is a romance without a HEA. Yes, there is trouble. Not only for Quinton and Elle but also for “Vonnie” Lamar and her husband Justin Lamar. Most of the trouble gets resolved (not all, but most). This book deals with quite a number of issues, including racial identity, racism, systemic racism within certain professional sports leagues, lack of parity in the treatment of retired professional athletes (NFL vs. NBA for example), and more. Yes, these are heavy topics to be dealt with in a romance, but Ms. Martin deals with these issues without lightly glossing over them or being too heavy-handed, or at least she does so in this reader’s opinion. There are plenty of light-hearted moments (it is a romance, people) and some moments that just make you want to say “aww.” If you’ve read any of the previous books in this series, then you’ll definitely want to add Snapped to your immediate TBR list. If you haven’t read any of the books in this series and you enjoy romance, then you’ll definitely want to grab all three of the previous books as well as a copy of Snapped when it releases. Something tells me that I’ll be re-re-re-re-reading this series at some point soon (yes, I’m enjoying it just that much!). I’m hopeful that this isn’t the end of this series, simply because I want to read more about these amazing women along with their struggles, their careers, their friendships, their families, and yes, their romances. 

Happy Reading, y’all!

 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the “Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

2020 Book 367: A BORROWED LIFE by Kerry Anne King

A Borrowed Life by Kerry Anne King 
ISBN: 9781542019484 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781713518174 (audiobook MP3 on CD)
ISBN: 9781713518167 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08DZZQW7J    (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B0841XZVL5   (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 22, 2020 
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing


From the Amazon Charts, bestselling author of Whisper Me This comes an emotional and sharply witty novel about how life’s unexpected detours can ultimately bring you home.

For twenty-six years Liz has perfectly played the part of Mrs. Thomas Lightsey, exemplary pastor’s wife and mother. But maintaining appearances for the congregation and catering to her demanding husband takes a toll, and she’s lost herself in meeting the expectations of others. When Thomas suddenly dies, Liz feels shock, grief, and, to her surprise, the siren song of freedom. Dare she dream of a life to call her own?

Despite the resistance of her daughter, Abigail, to even the smallest changes, Liz lands a role at the community theater. Inspired by new friends and the character she plays, she explores life’s possibilities, including an unexpected—and steamy—relationship with her leading man.

Just when Liz thinks she might be winning, life hits her with an unthinkable shock. She’s pregnant at forty-nine. Torn between conflicting loyalties to her daughter, her lover, her unborn baby, and herself, can Liz find a way to rebuild her dream life one more time? 





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Elizabeth Lightsey was a good and dutiful wife to her husband as well as a respectful wife to a clergyman. She was also a respectable mother to her daughter Abigail and followed all of the stringent rules set forth by her husband, Rev. Thomas Lightsey. She never disagreed with him. She never offered an opinion. She was never flamboyant. In fact, she was leading a church organized knitting circle in their home when her husband dropped dead of a massive heart attack. And now at age 49, Elizabeth (she prefers Liz, thank you very much) is at a literal and figurative crossroads in her life. Does she continue on the path set forth by her strict and overly rigid husband or does she find her own way in life?

You already know that Liz is going to shake free and try to discover who she really is because it’s never too late to try something new. Sadly, not too many people want Liz to change, including Liz’s daughter or any of the gossiping busybodies from Liz’s church. Fortunately, Liz has a BFF in her next-door neighbor and Val is definitely shaking things up. Liz has new clothes, is wearing her hair differently, and is even wearing makeup. She’s joined a theater group and has stopped going to church. And now, adding insult to perceived injury in her daughter Abigail’s eyes after an almost DUI (you’ll definitely want to read the book to learn more about that one), Liz is pregnant. Will she have an abortion, give the baby up for adoption (as Abigail suggests), or raise the baby as a single parent since she’s quite adamant about not getting married again?

Liz has crammed a lot of life into the few months after her husband’s death. The reader gets a glimpse into her marital life via journal entries, discoveries made whilst Liz is clearing the house, and more. A Borrowed Life isn’t a simple story about a mid-life crisis or a self-discovery. It’s about allowing oneself to become subsumed by a stronger personality in a relationship. It’s about family, both blood family and found family. And it’s a story about self-determination at any age (you’ll have to read the story to understand that a bit more). I found A Borrowed Life to be a fast-paced and enjoyable read. I could relate to all of the characters, the action, and empathized and sympathized with Liz and Abigail. If you enjoy reading stories filled with realistic characters dealing with everyday issues in a funny and unique way, you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of A Borrowed Life to read. After I finished reading this book, I immediately began discussing it with my 85-y.o. mother and had to order a print copy for her to read. (Yes, I liked it that much.) Ms. King is a new-to-me author, but I look forward to reading more of her work in the future. I hope you’ll enjoy reading A Borrowed Life as much as I did.

Happy Reading y’all! 


Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book from the author/publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”




Meet the author

Kerry Anne King (who also writes as Kerry Schafer) is a Washington Post and Amazon charts bestselling author who writes compelling and transformational stories about family and personal growth. She loves to add in mystery, humor, and an undercurrent of romance and celebrates when she succeeds in making readers both laugh and cry.

Kerry Anne has been chosen as the 2020 Writer of the Year by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Association. Her last novel, Everything You Are, was a finalist in the Nancy Pearl Awards hosted by the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. She is enthusiastic about encouraging and supporting other writers and is the host of Tell Me Your Secrets, a videocast/podcast featuring lively, informal interviews with authors and other people involved in bringing books into the world.

When not absorbed in creative pursuits, you’ll find Kerry Anne hanging out with her real-life Viking on their little piece of heaven in rural northeastern Washington.


Connect with the author via her website, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, and Twitter.



Giveaway

The Book Diva’s Reads, in conjunction with TLC Book Tours, is pleased to offer one reader of this blog the opportunity to win a (1) print copy of A Borrowed Life by Kerry Anne King. To enter use the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway begins on 10/02/2020 and ends at 11:59 PM ET on 10/09/2020. The winner will be announced by 10:00 AM ET on 10/10/2020. This giveaway is limited to US residents only (apologies to my international followers). All non-US resident entries will be disqualified. Void where prohibited by law. The book will be sent to the winner by TLC Book Tours after the blog tour ends.


a Rafflecopter giveaway




TLC Book Tours Tour Stops



Tuesday, September 22nd: The OC Book Girl and @theocbookgirl

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Thursday, September 24th: Living My Best Book Life and @livingmybestbooklife

Friday, September 25th: @the_unwined

Monday, September 28th: @the.caffeinated.reader

Wednesday, September 30th: @readswithrosie

Wednesday, September 30th: @iowaamberreads


Friday, October 2nd: The Book Diva’s Reads


Tuesday, October 6th: PhDiva Blog and @thephdivabooks

Wednesday, October 7th: @thereadingroom444

Thursday, October 8th: Amy’s Book-et List and @amysbooketlist

Monday, October 12th: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Wednesday, October 14th: Eliot’s Eats

Thursday, October 15th: The Bookend Diner and @thebookend.diner



This review, tour, and giveaway brought to you by TLC Book Tours