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Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams

Source: William Morrow
Hardcover, 384 pgs.
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Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams tells a twisted and dark tale reminiscent of Rebecca‘s Gothic nature and the secrets held back from the main character Virginia Fortescue — you may remember her sister, Sophie, from A Certain Age.  The narrative shifts between the early 1920s (Virginia’s present) and the Great War where as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross, she meets a charming doctor, Captain Simon Fitzwilliam.  Their relationship starts out as a friendship, but you can tell that there is a spark between them from the start — almost a magnetic pull.  Virginia, unfortunately, carries a great deal of baggage and has an inability to trust men because of her father and the death of her mother. Meanwhile, Simon is bent on protecting her by any means, including keeping secrets and telling lies.  Their relationship seems doomed from the beginning.

The pacing of this novel between the time lines, plus the additional twists and suspenseful moments, can leave the reader fatigued as they try to see through the lies and get at the truth.  Like Virginia, who is the main narrator, the readers is left wandering in a fog of lies with little light to guide them.  The relationship of Simon and Virginia is passionate, but the deeper connection they felt is so easily broken by the lies of others and the circumstances they cannot control.

Many years pass and the darkness has poisoned what was once between them.  It makes it difficult for the reader to have faith in the relationship at all given all that has happened and the inability to find even a little truth in the lies.  It’s like in all the years since WWI, Virginia remains that same naive girl who is easily lead astray.  Simon is a character who is hard to get a handle on because of Virginia’s inability to see who he truly is for nearly the entire novel.

What’s even more frustrating is the last third of the novel seems out of left field in places and overly dramatic (like a soap opera), which again may be related to the Gothic feeling of the novel.  Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams is enjoyable in many parts and definitely dramatic.  There is definitely a lot to discuss with a book club.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz Williams spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons, before her career as a writer took off. She lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore.

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

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook; 14 CDs
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Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, narrated by Cassandra Campbell, Kathleen Gati, and Kathrin Kana — which was our September book club selection — is an expertly woven tale of Caroline Ferriday’s lilac girls, or the Ravensbrück rabbits, who were experimented on in a German WWII camp.  Ferriday, who was a real woman, is a socialite who soon realizes that her work with French nationals is more about helping others than it is about her social status, even as she falls for a married French actor and considers a different life for herself.  Told in alternate points of view — Ferriday, polish teen Kasia Kuzmerick, and a young ambitious German Dr. Herta Oberheuser — Kelly’s trifecta pushes readers deep into the emotional baggage of WWII and the relationships that carry each woman through.  Clearly well researched, Ferriday comes to life as a woman with little else to do but mourn her father and help those in need, while Kasia has a lot to learn even as she plunges headlong into the resistance to impress a boy.  Meanwhile, Herta — the most educated of the three — seems to have learned little compassion for others, instead remaining focused on how to get ahead as a medical professional, no matter the cost.

Even the German doctor appears sympathetic at first, until we see how camp life hardens her against humanity.  Kasia wears her camp damage on her at all times, pushing even her family away when it is clear she needs them most.  Meanwhile, Ferriday’s romantic troubles seem trivial in comparison, though it is clear they will push her into something that will become her life’s work — a search for justice for those who need it most.

It will be hard to look away from these women as they deal with the harsh experiments perpetrated by the Nazis, and they are set on their own paths and learn how best to move on with their lives after the war is over.  Kelly has lived with these women for some time, and it shows in her deeply dynamic characterization of the real-life Ferriday and Oberheuser; Kasia and her sister also are clearly based on real life accounts as their sisterly bond becomes a rock on which they can rely in even the toughest moments.  Even if you think you’ve read everything about WWII, this is not to be missed.

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, narrated by Cassandra Campbell, Kathleen Gati, and Kathrin Kana – is a harrowing look at guilt — misplaced or not — and the affects of bonds between siblings, mothers and daughters, and even strangers during wartime.  Nurturing supportive relationships with other women can ensure survival.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Martha Hall Kelly is a native New Englander who lives in Connecticut and Martha’s Vineyard. She worked as an advertising copywriter for many years, raised three wonderful children who are now mostly out of the nest and Lilac Girls is her first novel. She is hard at work on the prequel to Lilac Girls.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Annotated by Sophie Turner (Giveaway)

This is not precisely a review of Pride and Prejudice: A Novel. In Three Volumes. (Annotated and Restored to 1813 Egerton First Edition) by Jane Austen and Sophie Turner, as much as it is a look at why this revised edition was created. I’ve read this novel more times than any other, and because I do love it so much, I wanted to take a look at what Sophie Turner found in her endeavor to return the novel as close to Jane Austen’s original as possible. As grammar rules as we know them today were not as established when Austen wrote, there is a sort of free flow with her use of grammar and words.

This is particularly of interest, as the examples cited by Turner indicate how well placed Austen’s commas are in an effort to create a distinct voice for her characters. I also loved that the exclamation points we often think of as part of Mrs. Bennet’s character are not as plentiful as one would assume. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through this novel again, as well as Turner’s annotations. As an editor, I’m obviously fascinated with the choices that novelists make in word choice and punctuation.

Check out Pride and Prejudice: A Novel. In Three Volumes. (Annotated and Restored to 1813 Egerton First Edition) by Jane Austen and Sophie Turner to find Austen’s more authentic voice.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Book:

The novel needs no introduction. But readers may not have realised that we have been losing “Pride and Prejudice” over the years, particularly digitally. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation have eroded significantly from the 1813 Egerton first edition, and many digital copies suffer from poor formatting.

In 2017, the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, her “darling Child” has been painstakingly restored to the three-volume 1813 first edition. Adjustments have only been made where there were errors in the 1813 text, and are noted in detailed annotations at the end of the novel.

Please enjoy this beloved story, restored to Jane Austen’s original voice.

About the Sophie Turner:

Sophie Turner worked as an online editor before delving even more fully into the tech world. Writing, researching the Regency era, and occasionally dreaming about living in Britain are her escapes from her day job.

She was afraid of long series until she ventured upon Patrick O’Brian’s 20-book Aubrey-Maturin masterpiece, something she might have repeated five times through.

Alas, her Constant Love series is only planned to be seven books right now, and consists of A Constant Love, A Change of Legacies, and the in-progress A Season Lost.

She blogs about her writing endeavours at sophie-turner-acl.blogspot.com, where readers can find direction for the various social drawing-rooms across the Internet where she may be called upon. Visit her: Facebook, Twitter, Sophie Turner’s Blog, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Amazon.

International Giveaway:

To enter, leave a comment about why you’d like to read this new ebook edition of Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, annotated by Sophie Turner.  Enter by Sept. 15, 2017, 8 p.m. EST.

Good Luck, everyone.

To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts by Caitlin Hamilton Summie

Source: the author
Paperback, 216 pgs.
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To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts by Caitlin Hamilton Summie is a collection of short stories pregnant with emotion as characters deal with grief in a variety of ways.  From the WWII homefront to New York, Summie’s characters have experienced deep loss, whether it is the loss of a child or the loss of a father to war.  Grief comes in many forms, but its effects can be devastating, leaving you with a sense of hopelessness and emptiness.

“My father seemed vague and shadowy to me already.  I didn’t think I could lose him any more than I had, but I saw those tags, and touched them, and they were hard and smooth and warm from Jimmy’s constant agitation of them, and I knew this: that I could lose my father completely…” (pg. 14, “Tags”)

Summie has a deep sense of how grief can turn into inaction, reaction, and withdrawal.  She writes from a variety of perspectives, a young boy waiting for his father to return from war, a brother who has removed himself from his family, sisters who have grown apart after the death of a grandfather, and so many more.  These perspectives call to mind the universality of grief and how it impacts us all.  Lest you believe this collection of short stories is too depressing, it is not.

Summie offers characters a glimmer of hope, a moment of clarity, and a way through the grief.  We all struggle with loss, but we all must find a way to move on.  Through this collection, we find the solutions are not always the same, but the journey through grief is often possible with a little will and strength — either from within or through the help of others.

“February rolled in with a storm.  The snow came, and it hung in the air like a bad mood.” (pg. 99, “Patchwork”)

“We leaned against one another, against the pressure of what was coming as slowly and stealthily as that snow, wild in the wind outside yet silent.” (pg. 120, “Geographies of the Heart”)

Summie’s imagery is phenomenal; readers will be swept into the snowy landscapes, heavy with drifts.  Like the grief these characters experience, the snow weighs them down.  It’s devastatingly beautiful and poetic.  To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts by Caitlin Hamilton Summie is gorgeous in every word.  These stories remind us, “‘The grief never leaves. You just have to learn how to carry it.'” (pg. 199, “Taking Root”)

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Caitlin Hamilton Summie earned an MFA with Distinction from Colorado State University, and her short stories have been published in Beloit Fiction Journal, Wisconsin Review, Puerto del Sol, Mud Season Review, and Long Story, Short. Her first book, a short story collection called TO LAY TO REST OUR GHOSTS, was published in August by Fomite. She spent many years in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Colorado before settling with her family in Knoxville, Tennessee. She co-owns the book marketing firm, Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity, founded in 2003.  Discussion questions.

2017 New Authors Reading Challenge

The Inseparable Mr. and Mrs. Darcy by Jennifer Joy (Audio)

Source: the author
Audible, 9+ hrs.
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The Inseparable Mr. and Mrs. Darcy by Jennifer Joy, narrated by Nancy Peterson, takes place after the first two in this mystery series, and I would recommend reading these books in order. I love Joy’s turn of plot and her characterizations of Mr. Darcy and Lizzy Bennet. As grief appears to weigh very heavily on Mr. Bennet, Lizzy and Darcy must navigate their engagement and desire for a quick union. A secret correspondence is discovered, and Lizzy is concerned about the influence of her sister on Miss Darcy, who is taken with the cute pup Lydia has adopted.

But is her father merely ill with grief, is Mr. Collins plotting to gain his inheritance earlier, and is Lydia planning to tie her matrimonial fortunes to Miss Darcy?  Joy is adept at creating successful mysteries in this time period, while adhering to social norms and bending them slightly.  After solving several murders in Meryton, it would seem that Darcy and Elizabeth would never be separated by the likes of Lady Catherine. The intrigues are intricate, but the love between these main characters are never lost in the shuffle.

Elizabeth grows ever concerned about her father’s health, but when it appears to be more, she worries that someone has become incredible desperate because murder or attempted-murder has to be an act of desperation.  The Inseparable Mr. and Mrs. Darcy by Jennifer Joy, narrated by Nancy Peterson, is a wonderful diversion in the Regency era with two of the best classic characters created.  Joy’s mysteries are often very surprising in one way or another, which can be a breath of fresh air for people who can easily discern the perpetrator ahead of time.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

When Jennifer isn’t busy dreaming up new adventures for her favorite characters, she is teaching English, reading, perfecting her doughnut recipe, or going to the park with her family. She currently lives in Ecuador with her husband and 2 beautiful kids. All of them are fluent in Spanglish. Visit her Website.

The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel

Source: St. Martin’s Press
Hardcover, 356 pgs.
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The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel is loosely based on Jane Austen’s Persuasion.  Ruby Atlas is a tough young woman making her career in advertising on her own, while Ethan Bailey is a young, handsome billionaire who made a revolutionary app.  It has been 10 years since they’ve seen each other when they broke up.  Ruby is filled with anxiety at the reunion because she harbors a terrible secret about why she broke up with him after a wonderful summer of love.  Like Persuasion, Ethan (our modern Frederick Wentworth) is barely in the novel with many of his appearances happening in the past.  The novel alternates points of view between Ethan and Ruby and between the present and the past.

Both have lost their mothers — Ethan’s mother ran off and Ruby’s mother died when she was a young girl.  When her sister Piper decides to marry Charlie, Ethan’s best friend, neither one can avoid the inevitable, being once again in close proximity.  Ethan is a quiet and passionate man, and his dark handsome looks and big bank account make him a bit target at Piper’s wedding, and Ruby is incredibly jealous.  It’s at the wedding that she realizes she never stopped loving Ethan.

Pimentel’s characters are all incredibly nice and adult, though there are a few moments of female jealousy (tame at best).  There are some fantastic turns of phrase and bits of humor as well.

“We were rebranding them as the ‘Airline of Adventure,’ complete with GoPro footage of various lunatics jumping off buildings and abseiling down crevasses.  Because surely, at this point, it was only those lunatics who would willingly board one of their rickety planes.” (pg. 3)

“…she would sit upright and alert, like a gopher peering up and out of its hole.” (pg. 208)

This was the perfect summer read.  I enjoyed traveling to Europe with Ruby’s family and friends, and seeing Ethan and Ruby navigate their reunion with kid gloves.  There are Austenesque misunderstandings between them, and of course, there is the healing of Ruby who has been lost for the last decade.

“I had forced myself to love that place for so long.  The idea that I didn’t belong there — that I couldn’t belong — had been so crippling that I’d molded myself into someone who did belong, sharpening my elbows and edges every morning before I left the house.” (pg. 348)

The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel is about a young woman who strove to make it in the Big Apple because it was the last memories she had of her mother, and because of her independence, she molded herself to a life that left her less than satisfied.  But it is equally about the enduring rock of love where you can break yourself against it like Ethan and Ruby or embrace its strength and move forward together.  Pimentel had my attention from page one this summer, and the novel was more than satisfying.

RATING: Quatrain

Photo Credit: Ryan Bowman

About the Author:

MELISSA PIMENTEL grew up in a small town in Massachusetts in a house without cable and therefore much of her childhood was spent watching 1970s British comedy on public television. These days, she spends much of her time reading in the various pubs of Stoke Newington and engaging in a long-standing emotional feud with their disgruntled cat, Welles. She works in publishing and is also the author of Love by the Book.  Visit her on Twitter and on Facebook.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Rough Around the Edges Meets Refined by Rachael Anderson (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 7+ hrs.
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Rough Around the Edges Meets Refined by Rachael Anderson, which is the second book in the Meet Your Match series and is also narrated by Laura Princiotta, is a strong follow-up to the first book, Prejudice Meets Pride. But you don’t have to read these in order, because like Jane Austen, there are happy endings. Noah Mackie, his sister Emma was in book 1, is back home with his girls and his sister, and he plans to keep things on track. Only problem is that the construction industry is slowing down, and that promised promotion fades away. His support system is there to help with jobs to keep him busy until he can get back on track, but this support system also seems to think it’s time for him to start dating again.

Cassie Ellis, his daughters’ dance instructor, catches his eye after some prodding from his friends and family, but her chilly reception has him rethinking her potential. After offering sound suggestions for her studio renovation, Cassie hires him and the sparks from the tools start flying. Teasing and barbs are thrown, and misunderstandings are everywhere as Cassie strives to overcome the emotional baggage tied to her deceased husband and Noah tries to see the potential between them.

Rough Around the Edges Meets Refined by Rachael Anderson, which is also narrated by Laura Princiotta, is a delightful contemporary romance that is light on physical interactions and heavy on emotional struggle. Noah is still getting on his feet after the death of his wife, while Cassie is struggling to find herself after wilting behind her husband for so many years. Noah is a strong and understanding man, who knows what he wants, and Cassie is a woman, who wants to regain her independence and believe in love again.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

A USA Today bestselling author of clean romance, Rachael Anderson is the mother of four and is pretty good at breaking up fights, or at least sending guilty parties to their rooms. She can’t sing, doesn’t dance, and despises tragedies. But she recently figured out how yeast works and can now make homemade bread, which she is really good at eating.

Dark Lady: A Novel of Emilia Bassano Lanyer by Charlene Ball

Source: Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity
Paperback, 300 pgs.
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Dark Lady by Charlene Ball is a fictional account of Emilia Bassano’s life in the late 1500s. She is rumored to be the “dark lady” in Shakespeare’s sonnets and is considered the first professional female poet. Ball has taken a format that resembles journal entries in that they jump forward in time, but the narrative is not told in the first person. She was a young woman who was sent to live with the Countess of Kent at a young age and much of her family were musicians at court. She often felt held back by the social norms in which women were passed about as property and often judged as fallen or bad women just based on appearances. Many of her actions seem haphazard and naive, which is to be expected for a girl sent away from her home at a young age.

“It was a day of sun and white waves on the water that curled around the prow of the boat. Emilia moved closer to Lord Hunsdon, wrapped in his cloak against the chill of the morning. Earlier the sky had been soft pearl gray, and now it was streaked with scarlet, purple, and deep crimson.” (pg. 13)

“Emilia made a face. ‘Don’t bring raw noses into my parlor, I beg you.’

‘And should I leave my poor nose at the door waiting in the cold? Shivering, dripping, unkerchiefed?'” (pg. 87)

Ball infuses Bassano’s tale with beauty and darkness, but there also is humor. Despite the tragedies in her life, Bassano strives to take her fate in her own hands. She meets a young playwright named Shakespeare, a man who wants to be a professional poet with a patron, but his works and his carefree attitude capture her attention away from a lord who has protected her when she needed it most. She is torn between her gratitude for the man who has protected her all this time, despite his own marriage and family, and the passion she knows lies beneath the disguises of a married player. The interactions between Bassano and Shakespeare are eerily familiar to those in the movie “Shakespeare in Love,” at least in terms of the cross-dressing and cloak-and-dagger tactics Bassano and Shakespeare engage in.

Dark Lady by Charlene Ball looks at the life of one female artist in a time when men dominated society and women were pawns. While she was strong in many ways, it was clear that she was still a victim of her own naivete and her inability to protect herself from situations that could harm her. Readers may find that the format and style keeps them at a distance from the main character as the story unfolds, but she certainly led an interesting life full of colorful people.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Charlene Ball holds a PhD in comparative literature and has taught English and women’s studies at colleges and universities. Although she has written nonfiction, reviews, and academic articles, writing fiction has always been her first love. She has published fiction and nonfiction in The North Atlantic Review, Concho River Review, The NWSA Journal, and other journals. She has reviewed theater and written articles on the arts for Atlanta papers. She is a Fellow of the Hambidge Center for the Arts and held a residency at the Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico. She attends fiction workshops by Carol Lee Lorenzo, and she belongs to a writers’ group that she helped found. She retired from the Women’s Studies Institute (now the Institute for Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies) at Georgia State University in 2009 and has been busier than ever with writing and bookselling. She also volunteers with her congregation and other social justice groups. She and her wife, Libby Ware, an author and bookseller, were married in May 2016.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Modern Persuasion by Sara Marks

Source: Giveaway Win
Kindle, 220 pgs.
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Modern Persuasion by Sara Marks is a novel in which Emma Shaw passes up the love of Frederick Wentworth and his marriage proposal at college graduation in favor of returning to New York City for a career in publishing. During their time apart, they have both built solid careers — hers in publishing and his in Hollywood.

“Rationality won over love.”

Eight years later, her reputation as the “queen of book tours” proceeds her and Frederick Wentworth has little choice but to let her take the lead when his own editor goes down in a scuffle.  The multi-city book tour across the country should be the perfect opportunity for two professionals to get over their losses eight years ago and declare a truce, but even as the sparks start again, each has reason to push them aside and embrace anger and depression instead.  Will Emma and Freddie ever learn to move beyond the hurt of the past and rekindle their love?

Marks’ re-imagining of Jane Austen’s Persuasion is outrageous in some places given the characters she develops.  Their backgrounds in Hollywood make some of them eccentric, while others with their basis in Austen’s novel were modified to meet the modern setting.  The scenes at PubCon (which is pretty close to what some Book Expo America stints have been like) were pretty hectic, but very close to the truth.

Although the scuffle taking Freddie’s editor out of the picture seemed a bit much, a device was needed to throw him and Emma together.  Readers will note that there is quite a bit of telling rather than showing through description and dialogue, which puts the reader at a distance for a good portion of the book.  Modern Persuasion by Sara Marks ends up being a delightful read about overcoming grief of more than one kind, rekindling lasting affection and love, and chasing dreams that are bigger than you expect.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Sara Marks is an author, knitter, Wikipedian, and librarian from Massachusetts. Born in Boston, her family move to Miami, Florida when she was 3. There she spent the next 14 years of her life. She attended Florida State University for 3 years, but graduated with an A.A from Miami Dade College and a B.A. from Florida International University before moving back to Boston for graduate school. She hasn’t left Massachusetts since (except to visit people and places in the world). Now, over fifteen years later and over 10 years of participating in National Novel Writing Month, she is releasing her first novel, Modern Persuasion, with Illuminated Myth Publishing. Sara works with local writing group Mill Pages, which creates an annual anthology of short stories, poems, and art work. She is a member of the Society of Independent Publishers and Authors (SIPA), a group supporting writers in the Merrimack Valley.When she isn’t writing, Sara is an academic librarian at University of Massachusetts Lowell. She has a masters degree in library science and another in Communications. She is an active Wikipedian who has been editing Wikipedia for over 10 years. She spent 6 years as a member of Toastmasters International where she twice earned the status of Distinguished Toastmaster, the highest status members can achieve. She is one of the local organizers for National Novel Writing Month. She is an avid knitter who designs and publishes her own patterns. She love unicorns, Paris, and the color purple.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Prejudice Meets Pride by Rachel Anderson (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audio, 7+ hours
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Prejudice Meets Pride (Meet Your Match, Book 1) by Rachel Anderson, narrated by Laura Princiotta, is a charming contemporary romance with only the title overtly linking it to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.  Like Austen’s work, there are a number of preconceived and poor first impressions, as well as misunderstandings, between Emma Mackie and Kevin Grantham. Grantham comes from a wealthy and politically active family, and much of his adult life has been spent pursuing his career dreams and dating women he thinks need to meet a list of criteria before his mother and father will accept them. Emma is an artist who is thrust into an unfamiliar situation when she begins caring for her two, adorable and precocious nieces for her brother who is on a job out of state. Searching for a job to support herself and the girls is tough when she learns that there are not art teaching jobs to be had and she quickly runs up her credit card bills. With few skills to recommend her and very little money, Emma grudgingly accepts help from a select few neighbors, but Kevin isn’t one of them.

They immediately allow their perceptions of one another lead them down a path where they trade barbs and continue to stop around in frustration. Emma may have carved out her own life and paid her way through college without student loan or grant money, but her proclivity to spit in the face of those helping her can be wearying. Kevin, however, realizes his faults pretty early on and tries to navigate the maze that is Emma. Readers will fall in love with Emma’s nieces, and smile at Emma’s beyond-her-years abilities to redirect them and ensure they are as happy as they can be in the new town and rundown family home Emma and her brother inherited.

Prejudice Meets Pride (Meet Your Match, Book 1) by Rachel Anderson, narrated by Laura Princiotta, is a cute story about learning to see past your own perceptions to see the real person beneath, learning to trust and love along the way.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

A USA Today bestselling author of clean romance, Rachael Anderson is the mother of four and is pretty good at breaking up fights, or at least sending guilty parties to their rooms. She can’t sing, doesn’t dance, and despises tragedies. But she recently figured out how yeast works and can now make homemade bread, which she is really good at eating.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 11+ hours
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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, narrated by Bahni Turpin, is a young adult novel examining not only racism, but also life as a 16-year-old girl, Starr Carter, after witnessing the murder of her childhood friend Khalil by a police officer. (there’s a read-a-long at Book Bloggers International, if you’re interested) Following the death of Khalil, his murder is viewed not as the life of an unarmed teen who will never graduate high school or go to college but as the death of a drug dealer and a gang banger. Starr is forced to re-live those moments beside him as a unprovoked traffic stop turns into something tragic. Along the way, this young woman realizes that not only has she abandoned her old friends for the new ones at her suburban prep school, but that she has a voice that should be heard — loud and clear.

She also has to come to terms with where she comes from in Garden Heights — “the ghetto” — to where she wants to be as an educated woman capable of making her own life choices. Her double life comes to a head as she must reconcile the two halves of her identity — Starr Carter and Williamson Starr — to emerge on the other side of tragedy as a confident young lady. Starr also needs to stop placing labels on herself, all of her friends, and especially her white boyfriend, Chris — who let’s face it is mature beyond his years if he can refrain from sex and let her cry on his shoulders instead.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, narrated by Bahni Turpin, is a multi-layered novel about racism, poverty, justice, and healing. Starr and all of us need to review our own prejudices to see where justice can be had and how to bring together communities for the right reasons, not the wrong ones. Another one for the Best of List this year.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She can also still rap if needed. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Meyers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction and will be published in spring 2017. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg set to star.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Conceit & Concealment by Abigail Reynolds

Source: the author
ebook, 354 pgs.
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Conceit & Concealment by Abigail Reynolds is Pride & Prejudice set in an alternate history in which Napoleon successfully invaded England. It has been six years since the invasion, and it is clear that England has not succumbed to foreign rule quite yet. When Elizabeth Bennet meets Fitzwilliam Darcy for the first time, she is told he is a French sympathizer. Although not like other wealthy men who have struck deals with the occupying rulers, Darcy faces Lizzy’s condemnation, even as she finds his company pleasant.  The French in charge of Meryton are less than civil, with one commander making illicit passes at the Bennet sisters, forcing one into hiding.

Even as Wickham lurks among the French soldiers, Darcy is unphased by his presence because he has more conflicting emotions to deal with.  He’s slipped in his conversations with Lizzy, and he’s even allowed Georgiana to spend time with her and her sister, Jane.  It’s been a long road of protecting his sister from harm, but all could come apart if he continues to trust Lizzy with his secrets.  Too much hangs in the balance for Georgiana and the fate of England.  When Darcy is no longer able to care for Georgiana, he is forced to make a leap of faith, one that could leave Lizzy’s reputation in tatters.

Reynolds’ latest novel is wildly creative and engaging — espionage, uprisings, and alternate history — that will leave readers on edge as beloved characters are arrested as traitors and subjected to torture at the hands of the French.  The secrets are swirling around Hertfordshire and London, and Darcy’s family is at the center of most of it.  Readers will have a hard time not reading into the wee hours of the night.  Conceit & Concealment by Abigail Reynolds is one of my favorites and highly recommended. Another for Best of list consideration.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Abigail Reynolds may be a nationally bestselling author and a physician, but she can’t follow a straight line with a ruler. Originally from upstate New York, she studied Russian and theater at Bryn Mawr College and marine biology at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. After a stint in performing arts administration, she decided to attend medical school, and took up writing as a hobby during her years as a physician in private practice.

A life-long lover of Jane Austen’s novels, Abigail began writing variations on Pride & Prejudice in 2001, then expanded her repertoire to include a series of novels set on her beloved Cape Cod.Her most recent releases are Conceit & Concealment, the national bestsellers Alone with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections, and Mr. Darcy’s Journey. Her books have been translated into five languages. A lifetime member of JASNA, she lives on Cape Cod with her husband, her son and a menagerie of animals. Her hobbies do not include sleeping or cleaning her house.