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Blog Tour: One Perfect Grave

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Synopsis

She didn’t see the patch of black ice until it was too late. The car started to spin, and as it veered off into the deep ditch and the mounds of snow beside the road, she saw him. The little boy frozen in the ice.

When the remains of two bodies are found in an open grave along a desolate highway in Stillwater, Minnesota, Special Agent Nikki Hunt knows exactly who they are. The bright blue jacket lying on the frozen earth belongs to Kellan Rhodes, the missing boy she’s desperately been trying to find for the last two days. The other body is his mother Dana, who had been Nikki’s lead suspect.

Although the wounds on Dana’s body suggest she murdered her son and took her own life, Nikki finds evidence that suggests she was a victim too. Dana was desperately trying to regain custody of Kellan, and Nikki finds boot prints at the scene that belong to someone else.

When another child is reported missing, local journalist Caitlin Newport claims the cases are linked: Zach Reeves was taken away from his own mother in a custody battle, just like Kellan was.

Caitlin once helped Nikki find out the truth about her own parents’ murders, but her desire for a story nearly cost Nikki her life. Now, Nikki must decide if she can trust Caitlin again, before time runs out to find the killer and bring Zach home alive…

An unputdownable thriller that will make your heart pound until its final, shocking conclusion. Perfect for fans of Robert Dugoni, Karin Slaughter, Lisa Gardner and readers who want to binge read into the night.


My Review

Dana Rhodes is a woman who has gone through the fire. As a recovering methamphetamine addict, she has faced an uphill custody battle with her older sister Maggie. Understandably, because of her past it is hard for the family to trust her. When she and her son Kellan go missing everyone assumes the worst. Has Dana relapsed? Did she kidnap her son? Would she harm him?

When their bodies are found in a frozen grave what first appears to be an isolated murder-suicide starts to read like a totally different crime. FBI agent Nikki Hunt has an eye for detail and she quickly discovers that there is more to this crime than first meets the eye. Then, another boy around Kellan’s age goes missing. He too was the subject of a custody battle. Two boys missing within the same timeframe. Could there be a connection? Nikki Hunt is not so sure but reporter Caitlin Newport is adamant that the cases are linked. Despite their past differences, Nikki keeps an open ear and goes where the evidence leads her.

As a character Nikki is smart and sensitive. She is a devoted mom who will drop everything at the drop of a hat to comfort her daughter. She shows compassion and empathy for the victims while doggedly pursuing her cases. Although I did not have the chance to read The Girls in the Snow before One Perfect Grave I felt that I knew Nikki. One Perfect Grave was a fast paced thriller that kept me hooked. I actually read this one in a day. I most certainly will be continuing with this series and recommend that you do too. Special thanks to Noelle Holten and Bookouture for granting me access to this book.


Meet the Author

Stacy Green is the author of the Lucy Kendall thriller series and the Delta Crossroads mystery trilogy. ALL GOOD DEEDS (Lucy Kendall #1) won a bronze medal for mystery and thriller at the 2015 IPPY Awards. TIN GOD (Delta Crossroads #1) was runner-up for best mystery/thriller at the 2013 Kindle Book Awards. Stacy has a love of thrillers and crime fiction, and she is always looking for the next dark and twisted novel to enjoy. She started her career in journalism before becoming a stay at home mother and rediscovering her love of writing. She lives in Iowa with her husband and daughter and their three spoiled fur babies.

Where You Can Find Her

Featured

#5 On My TBR – Retellings

Hello Everyone! I know I haven’t done one of these in a while but I’m back to join in on the fun. This week’s theme is retellings. Ever since watching The Wiz as a kid I have had a soft spot in my heart for books that capture the essence of beloved classics.

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme that gets you digging into your massive TBRs to find five special books. Created by E@LocalBeeHuntersNook this meme centers on a new prompt each Monday. For those of you interested in participating in #5 On My TBR you can find additional info and future prompts here.

So let’s get to it!

#1: These Violent Delights

From GoodReads: “The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.


#2: Sansei & Sensibility

From GoodReads: “In these buoyant and inventive stories, Yamashita transfers classic tales across boundaries and questions what an inheritance―familial, cultural, emotional, artistic―really means. In a California of the ’60s and ’70s, characters examine the contents of deceased relatives’ freezers, tape-record high-school locker-room chatter, or collect a community’s gossip while cleaning the teeth of its inhabitants. Mr. Darcy is the captain of the football team, Mansfield Park materializes in a suburb of L.A., bake sales replace balls, and station wagons, not horse-drawn carriages, are the preferred mode of transit. The stories of traversing class, race, and gender leap into our modern world with wit and humor.”


#3: Legendborn

From GoodReads: “After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.

She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.”


#4: The Wife Upstairs

From GoodReads: “Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?”

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?


#5: The Bird and the Blade

This one is a retelling of an Italian Opera – Turandot by Giacomo Puccini.

From GoodReads: “As a slave in the Kipchak Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom … until the kingdom is conquered by enemy forces and she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father across the vast Mongol Empire. On the run, with adversaries on all sides and an endless journey ahead, Jinghua hatches a scheme to use the Kipchaks’ exile to return home, a plan that becomes increasingly fraught as her feelings for Khalaf evolve into a hopeless love.

Jinghua’s already dicey prospects take a downward turn when Khalaf seeks to restore his kingdom by forging a marriage alliance with Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. As beautiful as she is cunning, Turandokht requires all potential suitors to solve three impossible riddles to win her hand—and if they fail, they die.

Jinghua has kept her own counsel well, but with Khalaf’s kingdom—and his very life—on the line, she must reconcile the hard truth of her past with her love for a boy who has no idea what she’s capable of … even if it means losing him to the girl who’d sooner take his life than his heart.”

Featured

Blog Tour: The Lost Apothecary

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Synopsis

In this addictive and spectacularly imagined debut, a female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course. Pitched as Kate Morton meets The Miniaturist, The Lost Apothecary is a bold work of historical fiction with a rebellious twist that heralds the coming of an explosive new talent.

A forgotten history. A secret network of women. A legacy of poison and revenge. Welcome to The Lost Apothecary…

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating debut novel of secrets, vengeance and the remarkable ways women can save each other despite the barrier of time.


Review

The Lost Apothecary is an historical fiction with a dual timeline set in 1791 London and the present day. Both of these timelines deal with secrets and the agency of women. Both story arcs are born out of betrayal. The pain from one betrayal leads one woman to turn her apothecary into a means for other women to free themselves of the men in their lives. Whether it be their husband or employer Nella serves up doses of poison to kill them but make it look like they died of natural causes. Caroline’s betrayal brings her to England alone seeking clarity about her marriage.

The two timelines cross paths when Caroline goes mudlarking and finds a vial with the apothecary’s logo etched on it. This peaks her interest enough that she begins researching the lost apothecary and the series of murders that were linked to it. I loved how Penner brought the two storylines together and especially how she managed to have these dual timelines reach a crescendo at the same time.

The Lost Apothecary emphasizes how women are erased from history. Both main characters strive to defy this convention. Nella ensures that the names of every woman who visits her shop are recorded while Caroline works diligently to uncover their voices.

Words of Wisdom from The Lost Apothecary

  1. We can use our relationships with others to hide things from ourselves. In Caroline’s case once she got married she put her aspirations aside and followed her husband.
  2. We can be happy but not necessarily fulfilled. In loving someone else do not lose who are or forget your dreams.

Meet the Author

Sarah Penner is the debut author of The Lost Apothecary, to be translated in eleven languages worldwide. She works full-time in finance and is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She and her husband live in St. Petersburg, Florida, with their miniature dachshund, Zoe.

Where You Can Find Her

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Throwback Thursdays 2/25

I discovered Throwback Thursday on my friend Carla Loves To Read page.

Throwback Thursday meme is hosted by Renee@It’s Book Talk and is a way to share some of your old favorites as well as sharing books that you’re FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on your TBR list while you continue to pile more titles on top of them! These older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board and connect back to Renee’s blog.

My Thoughts

This was a group read for the Mystery/ Thriller Team for Blackathon 2021. It also satisfies the prompt for set in a country outside Europe and the U.S.

In this first installation to the Darko Dawson series a nurse who has been educating people about AIDS has been found dead in the bush. He’s called in from the city to give an outside perspective. We realize quickly how necessary Darko is when the rural police prove themselves to be incompetent and brutal. An innocent man is held for the crime based off of the word of one witness. He is interrogated for hours and beaten as the authorities call for him to assume responsibility for the crime. Even his parents plead with him to confess. They feel this is the only way the abuse will stop. In their minds a jail sentence is better than a death sentence. It doesn’t help that he has a reputation and the witness is of standing in the community.

This case proves very personal for Dawson as it takes place in the town where his mother disappeared many years ago. He also has his own way of handling things. I kept catching myself calling him Detective Desmon by accident. Gave myself quite a laugh as that is my cousin’s name. But I have to believe my cousin would not be upset. Darko is the kind of man who beats men he catches beating on women. When someone abuses his child in the name of faith healing he takes matters into his own hands (quite literally). He makes sure they know NEVER even dare think of touching his son again.

In the end, Darko is tested as the case hits fairly close to home. Wife of the Gods was fast-paced and engaging. I wish I could delve right into the rest of the series now. But alas, work and ARCs are calling my name.


Throwback Pic

Artist Cbabi Bayoc, 2012

This week I decided to highlight a painter. Cbabi Bayoc’s 365 Days with Dad is a beautiful tribute to fatherly love. You can purchase his work through his Society 6 page.

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Blog Tour: Honey Girl

Buy Links

Synopsis

HONEY GIRL (Park Row Books; February 23, 2021; $17.99) by Morgan Rogers is a stunning #ownvoices debut, a charming, lyrical, and introspective romantic coming-of-age story about Grace Porter – millennial, Black woman, astronomy Ph.D. – who wakes up after a wild night in Vegas married to a woman she doesn’t know. 

Strait-laced and structured all her life, Porter now faces life without a plan for the first time ever. Between her disappointed military father, the competitive job market, and a consuming sense of aimlessness, finding and falling in love with her wife across the country seems to be the only right answer. But Porter’s problems are just as big in Brooklyn as they are anywhere else, and she realizes she’s going to have to face adulthood whether she’s ready or not. 


My Thoughts

Have you ever read a book where you thought it was just what you needed when you needed it? Honey Girl has been that book for me. Those of you who know me know that I don’t do romance novels. I simply don’t do them. So why did I say yes to this blog tour invitation? (Thank you Lia Ferrone by the way. :D) Being a Black woman who has gone through a PhD program I was curious how Rogers was going to write and represent those of us who have ventured this road alone. It can be a very isolating and lonely existence. And then I was trying to wrap my head around how someone like Grace, supposedly so put together (believe me I know how “F.I.N.E.” – ie f’d up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional – we overachievers can be.) would allow her walls to come down long enough to get married to a perfect stranger. But Rogers pulls it off. You understand what brings Grace here AND you acknowledge what Yuki brings to her world. Honey Girl, at its heart, is more of a character study about a woman coming to find her own path in life. I think this is why it resonated with me. Both women were relatable. Both women had found families that I adored. Grace’s angst was palpable. Yuki’s stories were heartfelt and earnest. This was one of the places where Rogers’s poetic voice truly shines.

My question to all the lonely creatures out there is who is your siren? Who is your fellow lonely creature who sees into the very core of you and knows which song to sing? What song do they sing for you, and do you follow? What would happen if you did?

The synopsis sounds catchy but Honey Girl is so much more deep and honest than that. Rogers addresses racism, mental health and family dynamics and yet she leaves the reader with hope.

Honey Girl is a wonderfully rich debut that showcases Morgan Rogers’ amazing talent.


Meet the Author

Morgan Rogers is a queer black millennial. She writes books for queer girls that are looking for their place in the world. She lives in Maryland and has a Shih Tzu named Nico and a cat named Grace that she would love to write into a story one day. HONEY GIRL is her debut novel. 


Excerpt

One

Grace wakes up slow like molasses. The only difference is molasses is sweet, and this—the dry mouth and the pounding headache—is sour. She wakes up to the blinding desert sun, to heat that infiltrates the windows and warms her brown skin, even in late March.

  Her alarm buzzes as the champagne-bubble dream pops.

  Grace wakes in Las Vegas instead of her apartment in Portland, and she groans.

  She’s still in last night’s clothes, ripped high-waisted jeans and a cropped, white BRIDE t-shirt she didn’t pack. The bed is warm, which isn’t surprising. But as Grace moves, shifts and tries to remember how to work her limbs, she notices it’s a different kind of warm. The bed, the covers, the smooth cotton pillowcase beside her, is body-warm. Sleep-warm.

The hotel bed smells like sea-salt and spell herbs. The kind people cut up and put in tea, in bottles, soaking into oil and sealed with a little chant. It smells like kitchen magic.

She finds the will to roll over into the warm patch. Her memories begin to trickle in from the night before like a movie in rewind. There were bright lights and too-sweet drinks and one club after another. There was a girl with rose-pink cheeks and pitch-black hair and, yes, sea-salt and sage behind her ears and over the soft, veiny parts of her wrists. Her name clings to the tip of Grace’s tongue but does not pull free.

The movie in Grace’s head fast-forwards. The girl’s hand stayed clutched in hers for the rest of the night. Her mouth was pretty pink. She clung to Grace’s elbow and whispered, “Stay with me,” when Agnes and Ximena decided to go back to the hotel.

Stay with me, she said, and Grace did. Follow me, she said, like Grace was used to doing. Follow your alarm. Follow your schedule. Follow your rubric. Follow your graduation plan. Follow a salt and sage girl through a city of lights and find yourself at the steps of a church.

Maybe it wasn’t a church. It didn’t seem like one. A place with fake flowers and red carpet and a man in a white suit. A fake priest. Two girls giggled through champagne bubbles and said yes. Grace covers her eyes and sees it play out.

“Jesus,” she mutters, sitting up suddenly and clutching the sheets to keep herself steady.

She gets up, knees wobbling. “Get it together, Grace Porter.” Her throat is dry and her tongue sticks to the roof of her mouth. “You are hungover. Whatever you think happened, didn’t happen.” She looks down at her t-shirt and lets out a shaky screech into her palms. “It couldn’t have happened, because you are smart, and organized, and careful. None of those things would lead to a wedding. A wedding!”

“Didn’t happen,” she murmurs, trying to make up the bed. It’s a fruitless task, but making up the bed makes sense, and everything else doesn’t. She pulls at the sheets, and three things float to the floor like feathers.

  A piece of hotel-branded memo paper. A business card. A photograph.

Grace picks up the glossy photograph first. It is perfectly rectangular, like someone took the time to cut it carefully with scissors.

In it, the plastic church from her blurry memories. The church with its wine-colored carpet and fake flowers. There is no Elvis at this wedding, but there is a man, a fake priest, with slicked back hair and rhinestones around his eyes.

In it, Grace is tall and brown and narrow, and her gold, spiraling curls hang past her shoulders. She is smiling bright. It makes her face hurt now, to know she can smile like that, can be that happy surrounded by things she cannot remember.

Across from her, their hands intertwined, is the girl. In the picture, her cheeks are just as rose-pink. Her hair is just as pitch-black as an empty night sky. She is smiling, much like Grace is smiling. On her left hand, a black ring encircles her finger, the one meant for ceremonies like this.

Grace, hungover and wary of this new reality, lifts her own left hand. There, on the same finger, a gold ring. This part evaded her memories, forever lost in sticky-sweet alcohol. But there is it, a ring. A permanent and binding and claiming ring. 

  “What the hell did you do, Porter?” she says, tracing it around her finger.

She picks up the business card, smaller and somehow more intimate, next. It smells like the right side of the bed. Sea salt. Sage. Crushed herbs. Star anise. It is a good smell.

On the front, a simple title:

ARE YOU THERE?

   brooklyn’s late night show for lonely creatures

  & the supernatural. Sometimes both.

   99.7 FM

  She picks up the hotel stationery. The cramped writing is barely legible, like it was written in a hurry.

I know who I am, but who are you? I woke up during the sunrise, and your hair and your skin and the freckles on your nose glowed like gold. Honey-gold. I think you are my wife, and I will call you Honey Girl. Consider this a calling card, if you ever need a—I don’t know how these things work. A friend? A—

 Wife, it says, but crossed out.

 A partner. Or. I don’t know. I have to go. But I think I had fun, and I think I was happy. I don’t think I would get married if I wasn’t. I hope you were, too.

What is it they say? What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas? Well, I can’t stay.

Maybe one day you’ll come find me, Honey Girl. Until then, you can follow the sound of my voice. Are you listening?

Excerpted from Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers, Copyright © 2021 by Morgan Rogers

Published by Park Row Books

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Blog Tour & Giveaway – The Gilded Ones

Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone! Special thanks to TBR and Beyond Tours for including me on this blog tour! The Gilded Ones is a very special book and to share my love for Deka I will be doing a giveaway of the book. To enter comment below why you are excited to read The Gilded Ones. You must be following my blog and BOTH Namina’s and my Instagram pages. The drawing will be done Tuesday at 7PM (EST) and the lucky winner will be announced on Wednesday. (Sorry – Limited to the United States unless Book Depository ships to you.)


Buy Links


Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.


Review

First of all let me tell you how much I enjoyed this book! The world building was incredible. At first I started highlighting all of the new vocabulary for this world but quickly realized that this was not necessary as Forna lays out descriptions within a few sentences. Unlike other fantasy novels the different people, places and items were clearly defined right off. The world building is matched with action and scenes that grab and pull you in. There is violence but none of it felt over the top to me. I felt that it served a purpose and held meaning in allowing us to know what Deka and her blood sisters had endured.

One scene in particular really struck me. Belcalis discusses how people took advantage of her and persecuted her. They saw no wrong in their actions as she was one of the cursed – the gilded ones. But she reminds Deka that even though she may not bear physical scars, that the memories still weigh heavily on her heart. This sentiment reminds me of the myth of the strong Black woman. People think that because we have been persecuted over and over again and keep standing up that we feel no pain. Even if we have a tough exterior and manage to come through our ordeals smiling, the pain is still there. The scars have been forged inside.

The Gilded Ones talks about racism, xenophobia and fighting against the patriarchy. Although this was a coming of age novel, Deka and her blood sisters were strong female characters and their allegiance to one another was a beautiful thing to see. Overall, this book was empowering and it showed that not everything or everyone is as they appear.

The Gilded Ones is the first book in the Deathless series.


Meet the Author

Namina Forna is a young adult novelist based in Los Angeles, and the author of the upcoming epic fantasy YA novel The Gilded Ones. Originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa, she moved to the US when she was nine and has been traveling back and forth ever since. Namina has an MFA in film and TV production from USC School of Cinematic Arts and a BA from Spelman College. She works as a screenwriter in LA and loves telling stories with fierce female leads.

Where You Can Find Her

Stop By The Gilded Ones Virtual Book Tour

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Blog Tour – How to Build a Heart

“A potent coming-of-age story about the courage often required for pulling together multiple threads of a life to create an authentic self.”

BookBrowse

Synopsis

Family isn’t something you’re born into  it’s something you build.

One young woman’s journey to find her place in the world as the carefully separated strands of her life — family, money, school, and love — begin to overlap and tangle. 

All sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford wants is to feel like she really belongs somewhere. Her father, a marine, died in Iraq six years ago, and Izzy’s moved to a new town nearly every year since, far from the help of her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. When Izzy’s hardworking mom moves their small family to Virginia, all her dreams start clicking into place. She likes her new school—even if Izzy is careful to keep her scholarship-student status hidden from her well-to-do classmates and her new athletic and popular boyfriend. And best of all: Izzy’s family has been selected by Habitat for Humanity to build and move into a brand-new house. Izzy is this close to the community and permanence she’s been searching for, until all the secret pieces of her life begin to collide.

How to Build a Heart is the story of Izzy’s journey to find her place in the world and her discovery that the choices we make and the people we love ultimately define us and bring us home.


My Review

How do you find your way in the world if you don’t know who you are?

Izzy Crawford and her family have been constantly on the move since her father died in combat. Her mother is a hard working single mother but does not have family around to help her. Her side of the family is still and Puerto Rico and Izzy’s father’s family is not present. Izzy has one friend that lives in their mobile home park but her mom does not approve of her. She thinks Roz is a bad influence. When she starts making friends in her new school she is nervous about them learning that she is poor. She feels uncomfortable in her own skin. As she tries to figure out where she fits in she tries to be what she thinks each person wants her to be. When her family is awarded a house through Habitat for Humanity she feels that the publicity will cause all of her lies to blow up in her face. She has to find a way to tell the truth. To her friends. To her Mom. And to herself.

How to Build a Heart is a YA that deals with the definition of family and identity. It is a beautiful story about community. My favorite character was Mami. She was so strong, loving and passionate. Her pearls of wisdom set the tone for novel. She talks to Izzy about friendships and family and racism. When Izzy comes to her hurt she shows patience and insight. Her compassion for others is evident when she discusses prejudice. She explains that most racists have an issue not with color, but with difference period. Whether it be the color of your skin, what church you go to or what state you live in, if you are different they fear you. Despite the fact that she personally had been targeted, she showed grace in rising above the circumstances and looking at that person who hurt her objectively.

I found that there were a lot of positive messages here for teenagers and would definitely recommend this book.


Meet the Author

Maria Padian has a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College and a master’s degree from the University of Virginia. She is a freelance writer, essayist, and author of young adult novels, including Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress, Jersey Tomatoes Are the Best, and Out of Nowhere. Maria lives with her family in Brunswick, Maine. Visit her online at mariapadian.com and find her on Twitter: @mpadian.

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Blog Tour: Girlhood – Teenagers From Around the World in Their Own Voices

Synopsis

What do the lives of teenage girls look like in Cambodia and Kenya, in Mongolia and the Midwest? What do they worry about and dream of? What happens on an ordinary day?
 
All around the world, girls are going to school, working, creating, living as sisters, daughters, friends. Yet we know so little about their daily lives. We hear about a few exceptional girls who make headlines, and we hear about headline-making struggles and catastrophes. But since the health, education, and success of girls so often determines the future of a community, why don’t we know more about what life is like for the ordinary girls, the ones living outside the headlines? From the Americas to Europe to Africa to Asia to the South Pacific, the thirty-one teens from twenty-nine countries in Girlhood Around the World share their own stories of growing up through diary entries and photographs. They invite us into their day-to-day lives, through their eyes and in their voices, in a full-color, exuberantly designed scrapbook-like volume. 


My Review

This is a colorful anthology that gives you a glimpse into the lives of teenage girls from all over the world. From as far away as Kazakhstan to as close to home as Bayonne, New Jersey, we get to see these girls’ hopes, their dreams, their aspirations. Ahuja includes maps and statistics for each country showing the challenges faced by women in those societies. The personal journal entries allows you to hear each girl’s perspective and what she values most in life. Teenage girls will see that despite the differences there are many shared experiences. It is a wonderful to show young girls that they are not alone and that they have it in them to persist and rise above the challenges they face.

I started reading Girlhood with my 9 year old daughter. I wanted her to see how other girls from around the world lived. Although she enjoyed the first few stories, I soon realized that some of these girls’ experiences were beyond her scope and maturity level. These were conversations that I was not ready to have with my daughter just yet. As a woman though, I am grateful that this anthology exists and wish that it was available when I was a teenager.

That being said, I think this book would serve well as either a social studies or writing text. Middle school girls would benefit from having this as part of their curriculum.

Special thanks to Amanda Dissinger for access to this title.


Meet the Author

Masuma Ahuja is a freelance journalist reporting on gender, migration and human rights. She was previously a producer at CNN and national digital editor at the Washington Post. She uses words, photos and emerging media to report and tell stories about gender, migration and the impact of politics of people. Her projects have ranged from long-form stories to sending disposable cameras to women around the world to document their days to crowdsourcing voice mails from Americans about the impact of the 2016 election on their lives. She was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014.

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Teaser Tuesday 2/2

The Teaser

She was watching him still, that prideful shimmer in her eyes, and he felt a sudden horrible weight descend on him. He’d never had the experience of having someone else’s hopes wrapped up in him. Of knowing that he’d come up short of the imagined mark.


Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

My Review

Evan Smoak, “The Nowhere Man“, is supposed to be retired. He’s received his pardon and his walking papers with a warning to never pick up his hat again. If he goes back into the business the United States will send the weight of all its power after him and will not relent until he has been neutralized. At the conclusion of Into the Fire we thought he had retired; that he was trying to live a normal life. So what brings him back? Mysterious calls from someone claiming to be his mother. But who is this person really and can he trust them? Will Evan be able to think clearly and make the right decisions or will his emotions get him killed?

Prodigal Son is a fast paced, action thriller with lots of cool weaponry and high tech gadgets. Beyond the suspense though, it humanizes Orphan X and gives you more of his backstory. Newcomers to the series – don’t worry. You will feel as if you were with Evan from Day One. Hurwitz writes a spectacular novel that keeps us on the edge of our seat, then leaves us hanging begging for more.


Do you have Prodigal Son on your TBR? Have you read any of the books from the Orphan X series?

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WWW Wednesdays 1/27

This meme was created by Miz B formerly of shouldbereading and currently hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

The Three Ws Are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What I’ve Read

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Your Corner Dark by Desmond Hall

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Mr. Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Buzz Books: Great Reads Spring/Summer 2021 by Publisher’s Lunch

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Follow Me To Ground by Sue Rainsford

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dispossession by Tayari Jones, narrated by Gabrielle Union

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

What I’m Reading

Daughters of Africa, Edited by Margaret Busby

I have fallen behind schedule on my reading of Daughters of Africa. But if I double up over the course of the next few days I should be back on track.

Girlhood: Teens Around the World in Their Own Voices by Masuma Ahuja

At first I started reading this one with my daughter thinking about how awesome it was to see other girls, their dreams and their aspirations. But I do not think she is ready yet to process everything within this book. This book is tailored to a slightly older audience as the statistics sections talk about prevailing attitudes towards women, including abuse and femicide. So I have started to read ahead and preview the stories before hand which I should have been doing in the first place.

Right now I am about halfway through and feel that this is a wonderful anthology. Not only do you get to see the commonalities, but you also get to see the struggles that women in other countries experience. It allows you to see that however hard our road may be we are still fortunate.

The Down Days by Ilze Hugo

I am reading this title for the 2021 Tournament of Books. I had quite a few starts and stops. Not that there was anything wrong with the book but because in my anxiety I was avoiding anything concerning epidemics and quarantines. But now that I have given this book the chance that it deserves I am enjoying it immensely. For those of you participating in a reading around the world challenge, The Down Days is set in South Africa.


What’s Next

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

  • Literature/Short Stories
  • Paperback, 192 pages
  • Published September 1st 2020 by West Virginia University Press
  • 52 Weeks of Women of Color
  • 2021 Motley Reading Challenge

The Project by Courtney Summers

  • Young Adult/Mystery/ Thriller
  • Hardcover, 352 pages
  • Expected publication: February 2nd 2021 by Wednesday Books
  • 2021 Motley Reading Challenge

Surge by Jay Bernard

  • Poetry
  • Paperback, 58 pages
  • Published June 20th 2019 by Chatto & Windus
  • Life of a Book Addict Color Challenge