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.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible | BookDepository | Downpour Audiobook | !ndigo | Kobo eBook

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. 

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned:  IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Audible Audiobook  |  Audiobooks  |  BookDepository  |  Downpour Audiobook  |  eBooks  |  !ndigo Books  |  Kobo Audiobook  |  Kobo eBook  

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. 


Purchase Links #CommissionEarned:  IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Audible  |  Audiobooks  |  AudiobooksNow  |  BookDepository  |  eBooks  |  !ndigo Books  |  Kobo Audiobook  |  Kobo eBook


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? 





Purchase Links #CommissionEarned:  IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Audible  |  BookDepository  |  Books-A-Million  |  !ndigo Books  |  !ndigo Audiobook



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

Wednesday, September 23rd: @readsrandiread

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

2020 Book 356: AND NOW SHE’S GONE by Rachel Howzell Hall

And Now She’s Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall 
ISBN: 9781250753175 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250753168 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250772671 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08C7YBLRY    (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B082RSNH44   (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 22, 2020 
Publisher: Forge Books


Isabel Lincoln is gone.

But is she missing?

It’s up to Grayson Sykes to find her. Although she is reluctant to track down a woman who may not want to be found, Gray’s search for Isabel Lincoln becomes more complicated and dangerous with every new revelation about the woman’s secrets and the truth she’s hidden from her friends and family.

Featuring two complicated women in a dangerous cat and mouse game, And Now She’s Gone explores the nature of secrets  and how violence and fear can lead you to abandon everything in order to survive. 





Purchase Links #CommissionEarned:  IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Apple Books  |  Audible  |  Audiobooks   |  BookDepository  |  eBooks  |  !ndigo Books  |  Kobo eBook   |   Kobo Audiobook  |  Powell’s  |  Target  |  Walmart



Read an excerpt here.




Grayson Sykes is a female private detective on her first case with Rader Consulting in Los Angeles. The case is to locate a missing person, Isabel Lincoln, on behalf of her boyfriend, a local cardiologist. Initially, it appears that Isabel may have left her boyfriend because of an abusive relationship. But Grayson knows firsthand what an abusive relationship is like and she’s convinced that all is not what it appears. Although she doesn’t like the arrogant Dr. Ian O’Donnell, she begins to realize that he may be guilty of many things, but the charge of physical abuse isn’t one of them. She talks Dr. O’Donnell into allowing her to stay on the case to track down Isabel and is quickly led down a proverbial rabbit hole as she uncovers secret after secret in Isabel’s life.

Now, I could go on and reveal the secrets of this book, and there are quite a few. What I will tell you is that And Now She’s Gone is a smart, well-written, psychological mystery with layer after layer of twists and turns that kept this reader engaged until the very last page. There are bad guys — come on people it’s a mystery so of course there are bad guys  and horrible guys. The entire story is told as two stories, one as a flashback and the other as a more contemporary storyline. The flashback reveals the story of Natalie K. Grayson Dixon. She’s married to a Vegas big shot and is slowly isolated from her friends and family as well as constantly abused. She was raised in foster care until the age of 15 when she was adopted by Faye and Victor Grayson, both now deceased. Faye was a school teacher and Victor was an FBI agent who worked with Dominick Rader, former FBI agent and currently the CEO of Rader Consulting. For those of you that are sensitive to stories that include physical, mental, and emotional abuse themes, you may want to give this book a pass. However, for those of you that enjoy reading a taut and twisted psychological thriller with truly warped characters, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of And Now She’s Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall to read. Personally, I’ll be adding quite a few of Ms. Hall’s previous titles to my TBR list and possibly re-reading And Now She’s Gone over the next few weeks or months. I know, there are other books I should be reading, but I so enjoyed this one. There are many bad things I could say about 2020, but it has been great as the year of procrastireading (reading instead of doing anything else). One of the many great things about 2020 is that I’ve had the opportunity to read some wonderful books including And Now She’s Gone. I look forward to reading more by Rachel Howzell Hall in the 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.”

2020 Book 231: PARTY OF TWO by Jasmine Guillory

Party of Two, Wedding Date Series #5, by Jasmine Guillory 
ISBN: 9780593100813 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780593100820 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780593100837 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593214534 (audiobook)
ASIN: B0842XN95M (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B081Y3TT9C (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 23, 2020 
Publisher: Berkley Books



A chance meeting with a handsome stranger turns into a whirlwind affair that gets everyone talking.

Dating is the last thing on Olivia Monroe’s mind when she moves to LA to start her own law firm. But when she meets a gorgeous man at a hotel bar and they spend the entire night flirting, she discovers too late that he is none other than hotshot junior senator Max Powell. Olivia has zero interest in dating a politician, but when a cake arrives at her office with the cutest message, she can’t resist–it is chocolate cake, after all.

Olivia is surprised to find that Max is sweet, funny, and noble–not just some privileged white politician she assumed him to be. Because of Max’s high-profile job, they start seeing each other secretly, which leads to clandestine dates and silly disguises. But when they finally go public, the intense media scrutiny means people are now digging up her rocky past and criticizing her job, even her suitability as a trophy girlfriend. Olivia knows what she has with Max is something special, but is it strong enough to survive the heat of the spotlight?





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Jasmine Guillory has returned with book five in the “Wedding Date Series” with Party of Two. If you read The Wedding Date, then you’ll probably remember the brief appearance of Olivia Monroe, sister to Alexa. Then Olivia was working in New York, but she’s now returned to California and is the process of setting up her own law firm with her good friend, Ellie Spencer. Olivia isn’t exactly averse to starting a relationship, but her intention is to focus on building her new law firm. Her plans change when she meets the smart and attractive Max, who turns out to be Senator Maxwell Stewart Powell III. Not only is Max one of the youngest senators in Congress he’s also one of the “hottest” bachelors. Olivia isn’t exactly poor, but she is somewhat conservative and has a tendency to think, okay over-think most decisions, especially those that may impact her professional career. She’s learned to curb her impulses and not always say the first thing that comes to mind and that’s exactly what Max seems to do, even if it sometimes gets him into some trouble he always finds a way to come through untarnished. Olivia and Max are true opposites and initially take their relationship very slow, but then once they realize they’re “in love” the decision is made to “go public.” Olivia is somewhat hesitant about what this may mean for a White man dating a Black woman but she’s willing to give their relationship a chance. Until Max puts Olivia in a bad position by bringing up something from her past at a public event without her foreknowledge or permission. For Olivia, this is one blow too many from their relationship and she’s simply not sure if she can handle Max’s impulsive nature. Can opposites attract and if so, can they stay together for the long haul? Will true love reign supreme or is it truly over for Olivia and Max?

It seems a bit strange, but for those of you that are unaware, June is Migraine Awareness Month and this month I’ve had more than my usual number of severe migraine days. Yes, I get a migraine headache every day, but I can usually push through them, but this month I’ve spent at least half of the month in bed with the lights off, phone ringer off, and no reading. You know it’s bad when I’m not reading folks. So I was a bit late to the party in reading my review copy of Party of Two (yes, I know that’s an incredibly bad pun and yes it was intended). If you’ve been following my blog for any time now (and I hope you have), then you’ll know that I’ve read and loved all of the previous books written by Ms. Guillory. Each time, I think there’s no way they can get any better, but amazingly they do. Each book pulls me and I read them in one day, often in one sitting and it was no different with Party of Two. I read it yesterday evening without any food/beverage breaks or other interruptions. I enjoyed the developing relationship between Olivia and Max in addition to the conflicts that arose. I enjoyed Olivia’s friendships in her new hometown, as well as getting reacquainted with Alexa and Drew. And FYI, there is a HEA but you’ll need to read the book to find how the problems are resolved and how they arrive at their happy-ever-after. Seriously, if you’ve read any of the previous books in this series The Wedding Date, The Proposal, The Wedding Party, and Royal Holiday, then you’ll want to grab a copy of Party of Two as soon as possible. If you haven’t read The Wedding Date, The Proposal, The Wedding Party, or Royal Holiday and you’re a romance reader you are seriously missing out on a fantastic series. Take a long weekend or your staycation and read all five books, you can thank me later. For this reader, migraine headaches permitting, I plan to spend the next weekend re-reading the entire series. 

Happy Reading y’all! 💕


(NOTE: To give you an idea about how serious I am about this series and author, last summer I drove over 210 miles one-way from WV to OH to see the author and get my copies of her books signed. And I took my then 84-y.o. mother along with me. My mom decided she had to read the books after the discussion in the bookstore and she’s now hooked on this series as well. So don’t just take my word on it that this series is great, take the word of an almost 86-y.o. woman that’s a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother!)



Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy from the publisher via Edelweiss+ in exchange for a fair and honest review. 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 112: MAD, BAD & DANGEROUS TO KNOW by Samira Ahmed

Mad, Bad & Dangerous To Know by Samira Ahmed
ISBN: 9781616959890 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781616959906 (ebook)
ASIN: B07V112Z11 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Soho Press
Publication Date: April 7, 2020


Told in alternating narratives that bridge centuries, the latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Samira Ahmed traces the lives of two young women fighting to write their own stories and escape the pressure of familial burdens and cultural expectations in worlds too long defined by men.

It’s August in Paris and 17-year-old Khayyam Maquet—American, French, Indian, Muslim—is at a crossroads. This holiday with her professor parents should be a dream trip for the budding art historian. But her maybe-ex-boyfriend is probably ghosting her, she might have just blown her chance at getting into her dream college, and now all she really wants is to be back home in Chicago figuring out her messy life instead of brooding in the City of Light.

Two hundred years before Khayyam’s summer of discontent, Leila is struggling to survive and keep her true love hidden from the Pasha who has “gifted” her with favored status in his harem. In the present day—and with the company of a descendant of Alexandre Dumas—Khayyam begins to connect allusions to an enigmatic 19th-century Muslim woman whose path may have intersected with Alexandre Dumas, Eugène Delacroix, and Lord Byron.

Echoing across centuries, Leila and Khayyam’s lives intertwine, and as one woman’s long-forgotten life is uncovered, another’s is transformed.






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Khayyam Maquet (named after the Persian poet Omar Khayyam) has suffered several major disappointments in her young life. What she thought was a brilliantly thought out plan to reveal an unknown facet of art history as an early entry essay into the college of her choice ended with a big fizzle. Adding insult to injury, her “boyfriend” is now her ex. When she arrives with her parents to Paris only to find that her “ex-boyfriend” is back in Chicago living it up with numerous other girls. Could this summer get any worse?! Never ask that question of God or fate, because a presumably chance encounter with the descendant of Alexandre Dumas named, appropriately enough, Alexandre Dumas runs into Khayyam and a flirtation ensues. Their flirtation sparks an investigation that just might reveal the final clue revealed by Alexandre’s ancestor all those year’s ago, “find the woman, find the treasure.” Is it possible that Khayyam might be getting her art history entrance do-over after all? Is this search and budding romance all just a little too good to be true? Should she tell Alexandre about Zaid? Just when it seems as if things are getting better in Khayyam’s life, Zaid shows up in Paris and things really heat up. Khayyam must decide just where she stands, not only with Zaid but also with Alexandre. She must also decide if she puts herself first before boys. As Khayyam questions herself and the men in her life, she begins to question the goals of this quest and just who it will benefit and why? Does this Muslim woman’s story need to be told? Is uncovering the truth of this “hidden figure” for more than two centuries truly beneficial to history or just beneficial financially and academically?

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know is the second book by Samira Ahmed that I’ve read and folks, I can’t believe I have to say this to you, but WOW! Although this book is classified as a “Young Adult” book, please don’t let that dissuade from you reading it. This was simply an amazing read that I read from cover to cover in one afternoon. I loved the characters of Khayyam and Alexandre (twenty-first century Alexandre), as well as that of Leila and the historical background of Dumas, Eugène Delacroix, and Byron (yes, that Byron). This is a story-within-a-story and the historical story is that of nineteenth-century orphan and former concubine, Leila. All of the historical clues interspersed throughout the story point to this mysterious lady and our intrepid young adults are out to “cherchez la femme.” I enjoyed Khayyam’s awkwardness and presumed inability to flirt with Alexandre. Although they were both speaking the “same language” they quite often misunderstood one another due to cultural references the other never quite understood. This story includes a lot of different elements such as the historical story, teen angst and drama, hints of romance, mystery, family intrigue, family drama, and more. I wish I could reveal the more but if I did, it might spoil the plot and you might not want to read the book and trust me you should read this book! Yes, I enjoyed reading Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know and it’s one that I wholeheartedly recommend to young adults and those just seeking a darn good read. I’m going to be contacting my diva twin nieces (they just turned 13 y’all) and telling them to add this to their TBR lists (okay, I’m contacting their mother so she can order the book for them…same difference). 

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 106: THE SHAPE OF FAMILY by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
ISBN: 9780062933225 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062933249 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062933256 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781094027500 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B07XF4RLX9   (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B07N7F1V5V   (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow|HarperCollins
Publication Date: March 17, 2020


From the international bestselling author of Secret Daughter and The Golden Son comes a poignant, unforgettable novel about a family’s growing apart and coming back together in the wake of tragedy.

The Olanders embody the American dream in a globalized world. Jaya, the cultured daughter of an Indian diplomat and Keith, an ambitious banker from middle-class Philadelphia, meet in a London pub in 1988 and make a life together in suburban California. Their strong marriage is built on shared beliefs and love for their two children: headstrong teenager Karina and young son Prem, the light of their home.

But love and prosperity cannot protect them from sudden, unspeakable tragedy, and the family’s foundation cracks as each member struggles to seek a way forward. Jaya finds solace in spirituality. Keith wagers on his high-powered career. Karina focuses relentlessly on her future and independence. And Prem watches helplessly as his once close-knit family drifts apart.

When Karina heads off to college for a fresh start, her search for identity and belonging leads her down a dark path, forcing her and her family to reckon with the past, the secrets they’ve held and the weight of their choices.

The Shape of Family is an intimate portrayal of four individuals as they grapple with what it means to be a family and how to move from a painful past into a hopeful future. It is a profoundly moving exploration of the ways we all seek belonging — in our families, our communities and ultimately, within ourselves.






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When we initially meet the Olander family, Keith is a hardworking and up-and-coming investment banker, Jaya is the mother from a privileged background, their tween daughter Karina is finding it difficult to straddle not quite being Indian and and not quite being American enough for either side in looks or temperament, and young Prem is the golden son who doesn’t have quite the same difficulties as Karina in terms of fitting in, simply adores his big sister, and wants everyone to be happy. In just a few years, Jaya is back to be working full-time, Karina is in middle-school and bears the responsibility of taking care of her brother for two hours after school every day. Then the unimaginable happens and the Olander family slowly shatters. In just a few more years, Keith and Jaya have divorced, and Karina has been self-harming just to carry on through her pain. Karina hopes that college will be a new beginning for her and initially it is and she finds friends and companionship with her roommate. She even finds a boyfriend. When that relationship falls apart, Karina turns to a part-time job, befriends a charmer from her job,  ends up her dropping out of school and living  with the “charmer” and others on a commune, helping to grow “medical marijuana.” Meanwhile, her mother has turned Prem’s childhood bedroom into a home temple and is following a guru around California and even visiting India for a month at a time to revitalize herself spiritually. Keith has left his big investment bank and is at a smaller firm but even he seems to floundering with his young girlfriends, ever-increasing drinking, and questionable trades. It seems as if Prem was the literal and figurative glue that held that Olander family together and without his presence, they are all falling apart in their grief and search for happiness. Can these three people find their way back to a life filled with purpose, togetherness, and happiness before it’s too late?

I wish I could say that I read The Shape of Family in one sitting, but I had to take a few breaks over the course of the day because this story packs quite an emotional punch. Keith, Jaya, Karina, and Prem had my emotions all over the place and I used up my last box of tissues (and the closest drugstore is empty due to COVID-19; we won’t even discuss the situation at the grocery store). This story is told in alternating perspectives and the reader even hears from Prem after his death and that’s what had me bawling like a baby and having to stop (my eldest brother died 25 years ago and I’d really like to think he’s still here with me like Prem but that’s a whole other story). Although I was deeply moved by Jaya and Keith’s stories  I can’t imagine the pain and loss a parent deals with the loss of a child  I often wanted to shake them because I felt they were ignoring Karina and only there superficially. Karina’s story is the one that touched me the most. This child felt guilty over the loss of her brother, suffered a sexual assault as an underclassman on campus, had to deal with a charmer that seemed to be a little “too good to be true” in the end, and comeback from a breakdown. There’s a lot happening in this story and this isn’t a story for those of you with emotional triggers (the sexual assault isn’t graphically described just hinted at but that may be enough for some people) and there are people dealing with a host of issues from physical abuse to recovery from drug abuse. Ms. Gowda has taken a story about one family, inserted a tragedy, and made it into a timely tale of getting lost in grief over the loss of a family member, anger and guilt at not being able to do anything to change the facts of that loss, despair over being left behind, loneliness from being left behind, not quite fitting in, quests for success, and more. To say that this book moves beyond family drama is a major understatement. The Shape of Family is a powerful and emotionally moving story and one that I’m incredibly glad I read. I won’t tell you if this family ultimately finds peace, you’ll just have to discover that for yourself. Although this may not be suitable for everyone given the emotional triggers, it is going on my recommended read list for this year. I hope you’ll add this to your TBR list and that you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. If you’ve never read anything by Ms. Gowda, I encourage you to grab a copy of Secret Daughter and The Golden Son along with The Shape of Family to read. You can thank me later. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Gowda in the future and will probably be re-reading The Shape of Family when I have a surplus supply of tissues handy.

Happy Reading, y’all!



Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+ as well as a print copy from the publisher via TLC Book Tours. 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

Photo by Stacy Bostrom

Shilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. Her previous novels, Secret Daughter and The Golden Son became international bestsellers, selling over one million copies worldwide. She holds an MBA from Stanford University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead-Cain scholar. She lives in California with her husband and children.




Find out more about Shilpi at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.





BLOG TOUR

Instagram Features


Tuesday, March 17th: Instagram: @wordswithrach

Wednesday, March 18th: Instagram: @momandmadread

Thursday, March 19th: Instagram: @owlslittlelibrary

Friday, March 20th: Instagram: @readingmama_reviews

Saturday, March 21st: Instagram: @babygotbooks13

Sunday, March 22nd: Instagram: @k2reader

Monday, March 23rd: Instagram: @jennsbookvibes


Review Stops

Tuesday, March 17th: Lit and Life

Wednesday, March 18th: Book by Book

Thursday, March 19th: Helen’s Book Blog

Friday, March 20th: Instagram: @thebookclubmom

Monday, March 23rd: BookNAround

Tuesday, March 24th: Really Into This

Wednesday, March 25th: Orange County Readers

Thursday, March 26th: Girl Who Reads

Friday, March 27th: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, March 30th: The Book Diva’s Reads

Tuesday, March 31st: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader

Wednesday, April 1st: Into the Hall of Books

Thursday, April 2nd: Welcome to Nurse Bookie

Friday, April 3rd: Iwriteinbooks’s blog

Monday, April 6th: What Is That Book About

Tuesday, April 7th: Instagram: @crystals_library

Wednesday, April 8th: Openly Bookish

Thursday, April 9th: Girls Just Reading

Friday, April 10th: Tabi Thoughts



This review and blog tour brought to you via TLC Book Tours

2020 Book 81: THAT CAN BE ARRANGED by Huda Fahmy

That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story by Huda Fahmy
ISBN: 9781524856229 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781524861964 (ebook)
ASIN: B084DL8K2R  (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication Date: March 10, 2020


Chaperones, suitors, and arranged marriages aren’t only reserved for the heroines of a Jane Austen novel. They’re just another walk in the park for this leading lady, who is on a mission to find her leading lad. From the brilliant comics Yes, I’m Hot in This, Huda Fahmy tells the hilarious story of how she met and married her husband. Navigating mismatched suitors, gossiping aunties, and societal expectations for Muslim women, That Can Be Arranged deftly and hilariously reveals to readers what it can be like to find a husband as an observant Muslim woman in the twenty-first century.

So relevant in today’s evolving cultural climate, Fahmy’s story offers a perceptive and personal glimpse into the sometimes sticky but ultimately rewarding balance of independent choice and tradition.





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Imagine you’re a twenty-something-year-old female in a conservative Muslim American family. You’re not allowed to date and you’re not really interested in dating, but you are interested in getting married. (Certain Muslim cultures just don’t allow for dating y’all, get over it.) All of your friends are getting married. Your sisters are getting married. You, on the other hand, are not. This was Huda Fahmy’s life. Huda wasn’t seeking an “arranged marriage” per se, but she was looking for something akin to the marriages found in Jane Austen novels. As a matter of fact, she actually refers to Jane Austen novels in her search for the perfect husband. Muslims (and other cultures) prepare a dossier or “biodata” that is used to “match” compatible couples when all else fails, and at this point in Huda’s life, all else had pretty much failed (or had it). What is in this “biodata” you ask? Ms. Fahmy provides the perfect definition in her book:


“biodata (noun): personal information about one’s life, work, family, personality, goals, financial status, values, beliefs, health history, favorite Pokémon, and other preferences about things both religious and secular. Think super-detailed Tinder profile, except instead of dating, they’d get married.”


That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story is a quick read but one that had me laughing out loud, choking on my chai, and bookmarking pages to return and read later. Any author/artist that can reference Jane Austen, J.K. Rowling, and Pokémon in one book is beyond amazing in my opinion. Huda’s quest and it was a quest, for a husband was rife with hilarity. Although I know her story ended well (I follow her on social media), I was beginning to believe she might actually become a single cat lady at one point. (Hey, there’s nothing wrong with being single or owning cats). She pokes fun at the meddling aunties (trust me, read the book and you’ll understand this reference) and the variety of suitors she encounters throughout her quest. I cheered when she met Gehad and achieved her happily ever after, this is a love story, it says so in the title! FYI, this isn’t every Muslims’ story but it is one specific Muslimah’s story of growing up in this country and her quest to find love and get married within the bounds of her religious beliefs. Ms. Fahmy tells her story with style, grace, respect for the religion, and quite a bit of humor. Although this graphic novel/memoir discusses bits of Muslim culture and the Islamic faith, this is a book that can be read and appreciated by any reader. If you’re into graphic novels, memoirs, humor, or just want a quick read, I strongly encourage you to grab a copy of That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story by Huda Fahmy to read. If you can’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story and will be re-reading again in the near future. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Fahmy in the future.

Happy Reading y’all! 



Disclaimer: I received a free digital review 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.”