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My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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I Owe You One
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Love, Hate & Other Filters
The Wartime Sisters
The Belles
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Hey, Kiddo
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The Retribution of Mara Dyer
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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Blog Tour Excerpt: No One Saw by Beverly Long


Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this novel for participating in a Blog Tour for this book.  This did not influence my opinions in this post.


Book Summary:

Detective team A.L. McKittridge and Rena Morgan are back on their beat after solving the brutal Baywood serial killings, but crime doesn’t rest for long in their small Wisconsin town. In book two of Beverly Long’s electrifying A.L. McKittridge series, NO ONE SAW (MIRA Mass Market Paperback; June 30, 2020; $7.99), a child seemingly vanishes from a day care into thin air and A.L. and Rena must race to bring her home before time runs out.

Baywood police department detective A.L. McKittridge is no stranger to tough cases, but when five-year-old Emma Whitman disappears from her day care, there isn’t a single shred of evidence to go on. There are no witnesses, no trace of where she might have gone. There’s only one thing A.L. and his partner, Rena Morgan, are sure of—somebody is lying.

    --------------------------------------------
In the past few years I've enjoyed crime novels more and more.  I've loved discovering established authors such as Louise Penny and Cara Black.  And finding authors that are new to me, such as Beverly Long, the author of No One Saw.  This was an exciting thriller that I devoured in two days!  I could not put it down.

This is the second in a series centering around A.L. McKittridge, a police detective in a small Wisconsin town.  A.L. has a teenage daughter, an ex-wife, and a female partner who has her own dramas.  This is a nice counter-balance to some harrowing criminal investigations.

If you like crime novels, this series will have you staying up all night to see who done it!

Here is an excerpt:

One


With a week’s worth of mail in one hand, A.L. McKittridge unlocked his apartment door with the other. Then he dragged his carry-on suitcase inside, almost tripping over Felix, who had uncharacteristically left his spot by the window where the late afternoon sun poured in. He tossed the collection of envelopes and free weekly newspapers onto his kitchen table and bent down to scratch his cat. “You must have missed me,” he said. “Wasn’t Rena nice to you?”

His partner had sent a text every day. Always a picture. Felix eating. Felix taking a dump. Felix giving himself a bath. No messages. Just visual confirmation that all was well while he was off in sunny California, taking a vacation for the first time in four years.

I can take care of your damn cat, she’d insisted. And while he hadn’t wanted to bother her because she’d have plenty to do picking up the slack at work, she was the only one he felt he could ask. His ex-wife Jacqui would have said no. His just turned seventeen-year-old daughter, Traci, would have been willing but he hadn’t liked the idea of her coming round to an empty apartment on her own.

Baywood, Wisconsin—population fifty thousand and change—was generally pretty safe but he didn’t believe in taking chances. Not with Traci’s safety. She’d been back in school for just a week. Her senior year. How the hell was that even possible? College was less than a year away.

No wonder his knees ached. He was getting old.

Or maybe it was flying coach for four hours. But the trip had been worth it. Tess had wanted to see the ocean. Wanted to face her nemesis, she’d claimed. And she’d been a champ. Had stood on the beach where less than a year earlier, she’d almost died after a shark had ripped off a sizable portion of her left arm. Had lifted her pretty face to the wind and stared out into the vast Pacific.

She hadn’t surfed. Said she wasn’t ready for that yet. But he was pretty confident that she’d gotten the closure that she’d been looking for. She’d slept almost the entire flight home, her head resting on A.L.’s shoulder. On the hour-plus drive from Madison to Baywood, she’d been awake but quiet. When he’d dropped her off at her house, she hadn’t asked him in.

He wasn’t offended. He’d have said no anyway. After a week together, they could probably both benefit from a little space. Their relationship was just months old and while the sex was great and the conversation even better, neither of them wanted to screw it up by jumping in too fast or too deep.

Now he had groceries to buy and laundry to do. It was back to work tomorrow. He grabbed the handle of his suitcase and was halfway down the hall when his cell rang. He looked at the number. Rena. Probably wanted to make sure he was home and Felix-watch was over. “McKittridge,” he answered.

“Where are you?”

“Home.”

“Oh, thank God.”

He let go of his suitcase handle. Something was wrong. “What’s up?” he asked.

“We’ve got a missing kid. Five-year-old female. Lakeside Learning Center.”

Missing kid. Fuck. He glanced at his watch. Just after 6:00. That meant they had less than two hours of daylight left. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”



The Lakeside Learning Center on Oak Avenue had a fancier name than building. It was a two-story building with brown clapboard siding on the first floor and tan vinyl siding on the second. There wasn’t a lake in sight.

The backyard was fenced with something a bit nicer than chain link but not much. Inside the fence was standard playground equipment: several small plastic playhouses, a sandbox on legs and a swing set. The building was located at the end of the block in a mixed-use zone. Across from the front door and on the left were single-person homes. To the right, directly across Wacker Avenue, was a sandwich shop, and kitty-corner was a psychic who could only see the future on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

A.L. took all this in as he beached his SUV in a no parking zone. Stepped over the yellow tape and made a quick stop to sign in with the cop who was at the door.

everybody who entered and exited the crime scene.

Once he was inside, his first impression was that the inside was much better than the outside. The interior had been gutted, erasing all signs that this had once been the downstairs of a 1960s two-story home. There was a large open space to his right. On the far wall hung a big-screen television and on the wall directly opposite the front door were rows of shelves, four high, stacked with books, games and small toys.

It was painted in a cheery yellow and white and the floor was a light gray tile. There was plenty of natural light coming through the front windows. The hallway he was standing in ran the entire length of the building and ended in a back door.

There was a small office area to his left. The door was open and there was a desk with a couple guest chairs. The space looked no bigger than ten feet by ten feet and was currently empty.

He sent Rena a text. Here.

A door at the far end of the hallway opened and Rena and a woman, middle-aged and white, dressed in khaki pants and a dark green button-down shirt, appeared. Rena waved at him and led the woman in his direction. “This is my partner, Detective McKittridge,” she said to the woman. She looked at A.L. “Alice Quest. Owner and director of Lakeside Learning Center.”

A.L. extended a hand to the woman. She shook it without saying anything.

“If you can excuse us,” Rena said to the woman. “I’d like to take a minute and bring Detective McKittridge up to speed.”

Alice nodded and stepped into the office. She pulled the door shut but not all the way. Rena motioned for A.L. to follow her. She crossed the big room and stopped under the television.

“What do we have?” he asked.

“Emma Whitman is a five-year-old female who has attended Lakeside Learning Center for the last two years. Her grandmother, Elaine Broadstreet, drops her off on Mondays and Wednesdays between 7:15 and 7:30.”

Today was Wednesday. “Did that happen today?”

“I have this secondhand, via her son-in-law who spoke to her minutes before I got here. It did.”

The hair on the back of A.L.’s neck stood up. When Traci had been little, she’d gone to day care. Not at Lakeside Learning Center. Her place had been bigger. “How many kids are here?” he asked.

“Forty. No one younger than three. No one older than five. They have two rooms, twenty kids to a room. Threes and early fours in one room. Older fours and fives in the other. Two staff members in each room. So four teachers. And a cook who works a few hours midday. And then there’s Alice. She fills in when a staff member needs a break or if someone is ill.”

Small operation. That didn’t mean bad. “Where are the other staff?”

“Majority of the kids get picked up by 5:30. According to Alice, she covers the center by herself from 5:30 to 6:00 most days to save on payroll costs. Emma Whitman is generally one of the last ones to be picked up. Everybody else was gone tonight and she’d already locked the outside door around 5:45 when the father pulled up and pounded on the door. At first, she assumed that somebody else had already picked up Emma. But once Troy called his wife and the grandmother, the only other people allowed to pick her up, she called Kara Wiese, one of Emma’s teachers, who said that Emma hadn’t been there all day. That was the first time Alice had thought about the fact that the parents had not reported an absence. She’d been covering for an ill staff member in the classroom that Emma is not assigned to.”

Perfect fucking storm.





Excerpted from No One Saw by Beverly Long, Copyright © 2020 by Beverly Long. 

Published by MIRA Books



NO ONE SAW

Author: Beverly Long

ISBN: 9780778309659

Publication Date: June 30, 2020

Publisher: MIRA Books


Buy Links: 

Harlequin 

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s


Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @BevLongBooks

Instagram: #BeverlyLong

Facebook: @BeverlyLongAuthor

Goodreads


Author Bio: 

Beverly Long’s writing career has spanned more than two decades and twenty novels, including TEN DAYS GONE, the first book of her A.L. McKittridge series. She writes romantic suspense with sexy heroes and smart heroines. She can often be found with her laptop in a coffee shop with a cafe au lait and anything made with dark chocolate by her side.


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Saturday, June 27, 2020

ARC Review: Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth




Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The first novel written for an adult audience by the mega-selling author of the Divergent franchise: five twenty-something heroes famous for saving the world when they were teenagers must face even greater demons--and reconsider what it means to be a hero . . . by destiny or by choice.

A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.

Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended.

Review:
No one does dystopian novels like Veronica Roth.  Full of nods to her beloved Chicago and its rich history, this book reads like a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but much more dark.  Although I found the ending to be a bit strange, I really enjoyed this book.

What I Liked:
Setting:
The novel begins ten years after  an epic battle between good and evil.  A group of teens, all "Chosen Ones" have defeated an evil mastermind known as "The Dark One".  Although the names are not exactly original, they represent the typical tropes of this genre.  This is rather cool. You have the leader of the group, Matt (who everyone assumes is the true Chosen One) and his group of Scoobies.  Sloane, Albie, Esther, and Inez.  What makes this novel different is that now that the group has matured, they are all at a crossroads.  How will they live out the rest of their lives?  How do you move on when you know the most important thing you will ever do is behind you?

I also loved that in the aftermath of defeating The Dark One, they are dealing with a level of celebrity unparalleled in history.  Each deals with it differently.  Matt becomes a philanthropist, Esther is an Instagram influencer, which allows her the independence to return to her family to take care of her dying mother.  Albie and Inez are working through depression and cases of PTSD.  Sloane, who is the focus of this novel, is trying to find a way to live with the difficult choices she made during the defeat of The Dark One.  She also hates her celebrity status.  If she could figure out a way to live alone in a cabin in the woods, she would do it.

Characters:
I really liked that Sloane was not a character one would instantly like.  She is not lovable, at all!  That is mostly because she feels such overwhelming guilt for the things she did in the group's defeat of The Dark One.  Although Matt is presented to the public as the group's actual Chosen One, it is Sloane who has the most affinity for magic.  Her relationship with magic is complex.  She is most powerful when she gives in to her darkest longings for violence.  She knows this is NOT a good thing, so she is in a constant battle to tamper down her impulses.  When she lets go, very bad things happen.

Story:
I think the story really is an exploration of discovering who you are, and accepting it.   Sloane, in particular, has difficulty accepting who she is.  This compels her to do what everyone expects (settle down with Matt), but she isn't truly happy.  Can Sloane make peace with her mistakes and find a way to live for herself?  Is that selfish?  Probably.  But it's also vital for her, and anyone else.  You are doing yourself a real disservice by doing only what everyone else thinks you should do, rather than being your authentic self.

I can't get into the actual storyline without giving away massive spoilers.  But I will say that there are lots of characters who are different than how they appear at first.  There are reversals of who is good and bad, which makes this book unpredictable and fun.


What I Was Mixed About:
Although the story centers around Sloane (and to some extent, Matt), I didn't feel like the other Chosen Ones were completely fleshed out.  I wish the author would have delved more deeply into what each one did during their earlier battles with The Dark One.  What was it about each one that made them special?  We never find out.  One of the characters, Inez barely makes an appearance in the book at all.  One would hope that she would be more prominent in future installments of the series.

Rating: 


Release Date:  April 7th, 2020

Author:  Veronica Roth

Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Press

Genre:  New Adult Fantasy

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  A solid adventure with insights into twenty-something angst.  A must read for fans of Veronica Roth














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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

ARC Review: Love by Roddy Doyle




Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this novel from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Davy and Joe were drinking pals back in their Dublin youth. Davy rarely sees Joe for a pint anymore--maybe one or two when Davy comes over from England to check on his elderly father. But tonight Davy's father is dying in the hospice, and Joe has a secret that will lead the two on a bender back to the haunts of their youth.

Joe had left his wife and family a year earlier for another woman, Jessica. Davy knows her too, or should--she was the girl of their dreams four decades earlier, the girl with the cello in George's pub. As Joe's story unfolds across Dublin--pint after pint, pub after pub--so too do the memories of what eventually drove Davy from Ireland: the upheaval that Faye, his feisty, profane wife, would bring into his life; his father's somber disapproval; the pained spaces left behind when a parent dies.

As much a hymn to the Dublin of old as a delightfully comic yet moving portrait of what it means to try to put into words the many forms that love can take, Love marks a triumphant new turn for Roddy Doyle.

Review:
I first became aware of author Roddy Doyle's work when I took a trip to Ireland two years ago.  After two weeks of driving from one end of the island to the other, we had seen our fill of historic sites and stunning natural scenery.  We wanted to have an experience that would immerse us in everyday Irish life.  We found this in Dublin, watching the debut of a theatrical version of Doyle's book, The Snapper.  This story takes place in the Eighties, and has a large, loud, chaotic and (ultimately) loving family.  Love, Doyle's latest book, has a larger theme.  It's (obviously) about love; how it begins, and how it changes over time.  But it's also about friendships and how they also change with time, as well.


What I Liked:
Writing Style:
This was a challenging book to read, mostly due to Doyle's writing style.  Like a long, drunken, conversation, its rambling style weaves in and out of various timelines, settings, and people.  There are no chapters in this book.  The people Davy and Joe talk about may change in the middle of a paragraph.  But the payoff is a glimpse into the lives of people the reader can relate to.

Characters:
Davy and Joe are at that point in life where they reflect on, and question, some of their life choices.  Joe has left his wife for a woman both Davy and he wanted in their youth.  He wonders why he feels so at peace with this new person.  Is this what he has yearned for all his life?  Or is he indulging in a massively rationalizing of his actions in breaking up his marriage?

Davy is incredulous.  He can't understand how Joe can just jump ship on his family for this woman.  Davy also starts to question things.  Does he want to continue his friendship with Joe, for starters?  Or has their friendship run its course?

Story:
Davy has many other issues in his life that are explored in the book.  He has a complicated relationship with his wife, and a strained relationship with his dying father.  And that, coming to terms with the end of relationships, is what ties all the stories and characters together.  What is it one says, the only constant in life is change?  How we look at the changing nature of love will determine our personal level of happiness (or misery).

Rating: 


Release Date:  June 23rd, 2020

Author:  Roddy Doyle

Publisher:  Viking Press

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

Page Length:  304 Pages

Source:  Edelweiss

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation: 
This was a book with many layers.  I loved peeling back the pages to reveal the truths of these characters.  Read this as you sip a Guinness (or two).












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Thursday, June 18, 2020

ARC Review: We Came Here To Shine by Susie Orman Schnall



Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

At the iconic 1939 New York World’s Fair, two ambitious young women—a down-on-her-luck actress and an aspiring journalist—form an unlikely friendship as they navigate a world of possibility and find out what they are truly made of during a glorious summer of spectacle and potential…
Gorgeous Vivi is about to begin filming her first starring role in a Hollywood picture when the studio head ships her off to New York as a favor to a friend. She’s assigned the leading role in the heralded Aquacade synchronized swimming spectacular at the World’s Fair, a fate she believes will destroy her film career. If she performs well, she’ll have another chance at stardom, but with everything working against her, will her summer lead to opportunity or failure?

Plucky Max dreams of becoming a serious journalist, but when her job at the New York Times doesn’t pan out, she finds herself begrudgingly working for the daily paper of the World’s Fair. As her ideas are continually overlooked by her male counterparts and her career prospects are put in jeopardy, Max must risk everything to change the course of her life.

When Max and Vivi’s worlds collide, they forge an enduring friendship. One that teaches them to go after what matters most during the most meaningful summer of their lives.

Review:
Although I have read many Historical Fiction novels set in New York, I have never read one that focused on the 1939 World's Fair.  I think the concept of such an event can't even be imagined in today's world.  It would be like a Pop-Up Epcot Center in New York!  We Came Here to Shine, by Susie Orman Schnall, puts the reader in this amazing place in such a convincing way, that I felt like I could walk around the Fair and see all the wonders of it.  That being said, I wish the author had included more of the social ills of the time, to round out the picture.  Because, for some, life in 1935 was certainly no day at the Fair.

What I Liked:
Setting:
Both Max and Vivi work in different capacities at the World's Fair.  Max works behind the scenes for the Fair's daily newspaper, while Vivi is front and center as the headliner of the elaborate Aquacade show.  This gives the author ample opportunity to show just how complex an operation this was.

Who knew that a World's Fair would even have its own newspaper?  The level of coordination between the many departments within the Fair for special events, such as the visit from the King and Queen of England, showed what a massive undertaking was at hand. 

For Vivi, the Aquacade show was the ultimate theatrical production, with costumes, music, comedy acts, special effects, and complicated choreographed swim routines.  Vivi is thrown into this world where she literally has to sink or swim to stardom!  This came with all the usual personal dramas among cast and crew.  It would have been such an exciting production.

Characters:
I really liked both Max and Vivi.  While both young women were determined to succeed in their chosen career, they had opposite types of approaches.  Max was very confrontational.  This was helpful as a woman trying to make it in a workplace filled with men.  But it also meant she put some people off with her impatience, and made it hard for her to form alliances with others. 

Vivi knew how to get along with others.  She made friends, and had a reputation for being easy to work with.  Her issue was that she was reluctant to rock the boat.  She was far too trusting that her bosses had her best interests at heart.

I loved how the two women became friends and helped each other with their challenges. 

Story:
The story follows how Max and Vivi each work through setbacks that happen at the beginning of the novel.  Max doesn't get her dream internship at the New York Times.  Instead she is placed in a clerical post at the World's Fair newspaper where her boss prevents her from doing any writing.  Vivi was  set to begin filming her first big movie role, but instead was sent to New York to work (albeit, star) in the Aquacade.

I liked how the resolved itself.   Everything did not work out perfectly for our main characters.  Instead, they learned more about themselves and realized that what they wanted would change over time.  This was much more realistic, and was ultimately a positive message.

What I Was Mixed About:
Washing Over Prejudice:
As I said in my introduction, I wish the author had delved more deeply into some of the problems of living in the 1930's.  While there were a few cursory references to discrimination, the author painted them as minor inconveniences, not the huge hurtles they would have been.

For instance, Max, who is Jewish, has a crush on one of her fellow students.  He comes from a rich, society family (most likely WASP).  She makes a fleeting reference that his mother wouldn't like her because she's Jewish.  But in 1939, it would be unheard of for a Christian and a Jew to marry.  Both would be cast out of their social circles.  Max also would have had a tougher time finding a job as a journalist.  But the book spends no time exploring the realities for Jewish people at that time.

There is also a gay character who willingly outs himself to get fired from a job he doesn't want.  But in 1939, a man could go to prison for being gay.  I hardly think anyone would be so glib as to take the threat of jail so lightly.

Obviously, this was not meant to be a book about the tough realities for marginalized people in the 1930's.  But by glossing over these issues, the author creates a less authentic reality.

Rating: 


Release Date:  June 16th, 2020

Author:  Susie Orman Schnall

Publisher:  St. Martin's Griffin

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Page Length:  384 pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  An intriguing look at the 1939 World's Fair, with lots of details about the workings of this massive event.  Adding more details of the social complexities of the day would have made this even better. 





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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

ARC Review: The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton


Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Everyone journeys to Key West searching for something. For the tourists traveling on Henry Flagler’s legendary Overseas Railroad, Labor Day weekend is an opportunity to forget the economic depression gripping the nation. But one person’s paradise can be another’s prison, and Key West-native Helen Berner yearns to escape.

The Cuban Revolution of 1933 left Mirta Perez’s family in a precarious position. After an arranged wedding in Havana, Mirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon. While she can’t deny the growing attraction to the stranger she’s married, her new husband’s illicit business interests may threaten not only her relationship, but her life.

Elizabeth Preston's trip from New York to Key West is a chance to save her once-wealthy family from their troubles as a result of the Wall Street crash. Her quest takes her to the camps occupied by veterans of the Great War and pairs her with an unlikely ally on a treacherous hunt of his own.

Over the course of the holiday weekend, the women’s paths cross unexpectedly, and the danger swirling around them is matched only by the terrifying force of the deadly storm threatening the Keys.

Review:
I love historical fiction.  I love the way it transports you to another time, and to events you can't ever imagine.  Over the past few years, no one has written historical fiction as riviting as Chanel Cleeton.  All of her books have something to do with either Cuba or Florida and follow various members of the Perez family (I am, coincidentally, also a Perez!).  Taken separately or as a whole, her books create a rich tapestry of a fictional family history, that is thrilling to read.

What I Liked:
Setting:
Key West in 1935 was an exotic place.  At the southern tip of Florida, it's just ninety miles away from Cuba.  In 1935, it was home to people looking for adventure, and for people who didn't want to be found.  With a mix of tourists, criminals, WWI veterans, and long-time locals, anyone could be there. 

Key West was also a way station between Cuba, and the United States.  Besides the ferry that linked the two countries, there was also a railroad that connected Key West to the rest of Florida, and to the east coast of America.

The author did an amazing job of showing the continuing of the local community, but also how all those people passing through left their mark on the area.

She also tells the story of the hurricane that devastated the area in 1935.  This remains one of the most powerful storms in American history.  But, nearly one hundred years later, few know much about what happened.

Characters:
The story has three main story lines, each with a central main female character.  Mirta is a new bride from Cuba.  She has just married a wealthy American from New York.  But how did he come upon that wealth?  Is he a great businessman, or the leader of a crime family?  And why did she marry a relative stranger in the first place?

Elizabeth has just arrived from New York.  While she certainly looks like a spoiled society girl, she has many dark secrets.  She is looking for her brother, one of the many WWI veterans who are working on the highway system.  But he seems to not want to be found. 

Helen is a local who's heavily pregnant.  She is also being abused daily by her husband.  Will she be able to protect her child from her own husband, or can she run away and hope he doesn't catch up to them?

All of these characters are riveting in different ways.  What they have in common is a determination to take control of their own lives, with plenty of people trying to stop them.

Story:
Each of the three characters has their own story, but they intersect with the others at different points.  This was cleverly accomplished.  While much of their initial interactions seem random, they are later to be revealed to be inevitable.  I loved it!

Rating: 


Release Date:  June 16th, 2020

Author:  Chanel Cleeton

Publisher:  Berkley Books

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Page Length:  320 Pages

Source:  Edelweiss

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  A must read for fans of historical fiction.  Exciting, with lots of wonderful characters and historical details about 1935 Key West and the powerful hurricane that decimated the area.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

ARC Review: Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West




Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

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


Review:
One reason I read books is to learn about lives and experiences I know nothing about.  Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West, about the lives of several generations in an African-American neighborhood in Chicago, showed me a culture, centered around Church, that came alive through the page.  But it also was about family secrets, neighbors who look the other way, the shame we carry, and the damage that causes.  Those themes were universal.


This is not a feel-good novel about a neighborhood, but a serious examination of the generational harm of domestic violence, and sexual abuse.  Ultimately, it is a story about redemption, and is a stunning debut novel.

What I Liked:
Setting:
Even though this book is set in Chicago, the neighborhood where all the characters live is very much like a small town.   Life is centered around the Church, where everyone can been seen all day on Sundays.  Everyone seems to know your business, so there is pressure to not do things that will cause gossip.  The author did a wonderful job of creating a sense of place, with music, food, and characters.

Narrative Style:
I've never seen a narrative style quite like the one in this book.  While we have several characters narrate various chapters, we also have the Church building as a narrator!  This is a really unique perspective as people are both honest and hiding their darkest natures in Church.  People also are at their most vulnerable and even in crisis at Church.  I loved this insight.

Characters:
Many of the characters are seen over multiple years in their lives, and the transformations they experience are extreme.  Life is not kind to most of these people.  We see how optimistic the characters are when they are younger and how life turns their outlooks bleak. 

But this also gives the reader a fuller picture of why a few of the characters make some terrible choices later in life.  I appreciated that this was given as background, and not an excuse, for each character's actions.

Themes:
The problem with "Mind Your Own Business":
I think some readers may feel frustrated with Ruby, and her mother Alice.  They seem, at first glance, passive about the abuse from Lebanon (the dad).   If you've never been in a situation of domestic violence, you may wonder why they seem to accept their situation.  But where are they supposed to get help from?  The Church community says all the right things about how people should behave.  But it also looks the other way when they know men abuse their families.  Or when people have a problem with substance abuse.  They are happy to gossip about it, but would never intervene.

This attitude of "What happens in the home, stays in the home", is why nothing changes.  It is prevalent in communities where reputation is everything, not just the neighborhood in this book.  I think that people worry that if they get too nosy, someone might denounce their own family.  It's also a matter of pride.  No one wants to admit weakness.  But the consequences of silence are devastating to families and continue from one generation to the next.  It's heart-wrenching.

Generational Violence:
This book makes a strong case that abusers are often products of abuse, themselves.  If you've been hit as a child, told you're worthless, or seen your mother abuse drugs, you're possibly going to do that when you're an adult.  This is not because people think it's fine to do these things.  It's because they don't have any other tools to deal with anger, fear, and stress.

Story:
The story centers around us figuring out who killed Ruby's mother, Alice.  It's a complicated mystery that spans several generations to fully understand what happened.  There was plenty of suspense as the clues are revealed.  You really don't know the complete story until the very end.  This made this book a page-turner.

Trigger Warnings for sexual abuse and domestic violence.

Rating:   




Release Date:  June 16th, 2020

Author:  Catherine Adel West

Publisher:  Park Row Books

Genre:  New Adult Contemporary Fiction

Page Length:  352 Pages

Source:  Publisher and Netgalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  A brutal, intense mystery.  I couldn't stop reading it!









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MsArdychan has read 2 books toward her goal of 120 books.
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