The Peach Seed by Anita Gail Jones

The Peach Seed by Anita Gail Jones
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Fletcher Dukes and Altovise Benson reunite after decades apart―and a mountain of secrets―in this debut exploring the repercussions of a single choice and how an enduring talisman challenges and holds a family together.

On a routine trip to the Piggly Wiggly in Albany, Georgia, widower Fletcher Dukes smells a familiar perfume, then sees a tall woman the color of papershell pecans with a strawberry birthmark on the nape of her neck. He knows immediately that she is his lost love, Altovise Benson. Their bond, built on county fairs, sit-ins, and marches, once seemed a sure and forever thing. But their marriage plans were disrupted when the police turned a peaceful protest violent.

Before Altovise fled the South, Fletcher gave her a peach seed monkey with diamond eyes. As we learn via harrowing flashbacks, an enslaved ancestor on the coast of South Carolina carved the first peach seed, a talisman that, ever since, each father has gifted his son on his thirteenth birthday.

Giving one to Altovise initiated a break in tradition, irrevocably shaping the lives of generations of Dukeses. Recently, Fletcher has made do on his seven acres with his daughter Florida’s check-ins, his drop biscuits, and his faithful dog. But as he begins to reckon with long-ago choices, he finds he isn’t the only one burdened with unspoken truths.

An indelible portrait of a family, The Peach Seed explores how kin pass down legacies of sorrow, joy, and strength. And it is a parable of how a glimmer of hope as small as a seed can ripple across generations.

Fletcher Dukes and Altovise Benson shared a youthful love nearly fifty years ago, will a secret unravel their chance for a loving life together?

This novel follows the Duke family and the dynamics of their family over a span of generations. I was excited once I read the excerpt and was looking forward to reading about the Duke family’s male tradition. What a wonderful idea to follow the first peach seed talisman and how its inheritance was passed down through generations. I enjoyed the story, however I felt that the author was doing too much and there were too many storylines and backstories that watered down such a good plot. I was left wondering what the main story was.

For example, the enslaved story of Malik Wele’ did not quite fit nor really tie into the current day family event. Malik’s story could have been a quick explanation of how the tradition started. Then there was the backstory of Fletcher Dukes and Altovise Benson along with the other parts of the novel that included Bo D’s story about his battle with drug addiction and there was Siman Miller discovering and connecting with his biological family.

The story only seemed to focus on specific family members, and not much time was spent on Georgia and Mozell. It was understood that Fletcher had remorse at not having boys to continue the family tradition, but the names were odd, Fletcher’s children called him Ourdaddy and Fletcher’s nickname for his daughters were ‘son’. Not sure what purpose was served including so much talk about the Albany Civil Rights Movement, and that the family helped with the campaign for Obama, but it was mentioned several times throughout the story. The book was told from several points of view. There were a lot of characters named which made me wonder why they were being mentioned or what was their importance in the story.

I rated the book a three star because of what I stated above, however what I took from the story was that the family is resilient, that they stick together and are able to work out their disagreements and differences. I like the idea of the peach seed being passed down as a rite of passage as custom tradition. Also, there had to be someone of skill to continue to carry the knowledge of carving the peach seeds, but it seemed to stop with Fletcher. I don’t think Bo D was taught how to carve. I enjoyed reading about Fletcher and Altovise. Their past story and their love for each other was still there after so many years had passed. Their love would have been a story all to itself and the secret that Altovise brought with her gave the story some of the climax. The author included drug and alcohol addiction which was a way to show the family’s strength and endurance to overcome their obstacles and that they are able to seek help in order to stay strong.

I enjoyed the story, the realness of the situation and events made for a pleasant read. Overall, it was a good story idea, with some structure and a better outline this could have been an even better story. The idea of telling about the rite of passage, seeing the growth and maturity in the Duke family was inspiring, I will definitely give the author another try.

Cows to the Rescue by John Himmelman

Cows to the Rescue by John Himmelman
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co
Genre: Humor, Contemporary, Childrens (0-8 yrs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

It’s the day of the county fair!

Three-legged races, a “Smartest Pig” contest, the Ferris wheel―what could be more fun? But the Greenstalks’ car won’t start, so they’ll need some help getting there. . . .
Cows to the Rescue is the fabulous new book in John Himmelman’s hilarious barnyard saga. It follows Chickens to the Rescue and Pigs to the Rescue, bringing back the fun with brand new mishaps and brand moo―er, new―problem-solvers.

A humorous book about the cows…coming to the rescue!

I liked this story because it showed how sometimes we have to have a little bit of rescue. The series of events and how the cows helped is so funny. Children will love the funny illustrations. The cows aren’t always the best at helping with the situation, but that’s not always bad. They’re trying their best. It’s funny and repetitive, which makes it perfect for children learning to read and those who just want to laugh.

If you’re looking for a funny book that will help younger readers, then this is the story for you.

Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman

Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Genre: Non-Fiction, Recent Historical, Memoir
Rating 5 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Madly, Deeplyis a rare invitation into the mind of Alan Rickman―one of the most magnetic, beloved performers of our time.

From his breakout role in Die Hard to his outstanding, multifaceted performances in the Harry Potter films, Galaxy Quest, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and more, Alan Rickman cemented his legacy as a world-class actor. His air of dignity, his sonorous voice, and the knowing wit he brought to each role continue to captivate audiences today.

But Rickman’s ability to breathe life into projects wasn’t confined to just his performances. As you’ll find, Rickman’s diaries detail the extraordinary and the ordinary, flitting between worldly and witty and gossipy, while remaining utterly candid throughout. He takes us inside his home, on trips with friends across the globe, and on the sets of films and plays ranging from Sense and Sensibility, to Noël Coward’s Private Lives, to the final film he directed, A Little Chaos.

Running from 1993 to his death in 2016, the diaries provide singular insight into Rickman’s public and private life. Reading them is like listening to Rickman chatting to a close companion. Meet Rickman the consummate professional actor, but also the friend, the traveler, the fan, the director, the enthusiast; in short, the man beyond the icon.

Madly, Deeply features a photo insert, a foreword by Emma Thompson, and an afterword by Rima Horton.

A fascinating man in an everyday setting.

I love reading the diaries of famous people. Not because I want to learn something salacious. No, it’s because I want to see the person as a person–not the image on a screen. This book does that. Granted, its Rickman’s diaries and I have no doubt he ever expected them to be made public. That’s kind of what made them fantastic and magical to me. It’s just him. Just his thoughts, his boringness, his sometimes snarly comments…it’s just him. It’s what he does day-to-day. To some, this will not be an explosive read, but a boring one. He goes to fittings, struggles with depression and not feeling well. He talks about friendships and some might think name drops, but how can one name drop when they’re talking about being with the people they work with?

The most touching part of the book wasn’t even his writing, to be honest. This was a full four star read throughout, but what really tipped it over the edge for me was the afterward by his partner, Rima Horton. She writes about his last days, the decline when the cancer was too great, how he planned his own funeral and insisted on having “Uptown Funk” played that day. It made me love this actor even more. I’d already been a fan, but seeing the human side, really helped.

If you want to learn great new stories about Alan Rickman from his own hand, then this might be the book you’re looking for. I recommend it heartily.

Me by Elton John

Me by Elton John
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In his first and only official autobiography, music icon Elton John reveals the truth about his extraordinary life, from his rollercoaster lifestyle as shown in the film Rocketman, to becoming a living legend.

Christened Reginald Dwight, he was a shy boy with Buddy Holly glasses who grew up in the London suburb of Pinner and dreamed of becoming a pop star. By the age of twenty-three he was performing his first gig in America, facing an astonished audience in his bright yellow dungarees, a star-spangled T-shirt, and boots with wings. Elton John had arrived and the music world would never be the same again.

His life has been full of drama, from the early rejection of his work with song-writing partner Bernie Taupin to spinning out of control as a chart-topping superstar; from half-heartedly trying to drown himself in his LA swimming pool to disco-dancing with Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth; from friendships with John Lennon, Freddie Mercury, and George Michael to setting up his AIDS Foundation to conquering Broadway with Aida, The Lion King, and Billy Elliot the Musical. All the while Elton was hiding a drug addiction that would grip him for over a decade.
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In Me, Elton also writes powerfully about getting clean and changing his life, about finding love with David Furnish and becoming a father. In a voice that is warm, humble, and open, this is Elton on his music and his relationships, his passions and his mistakes. This is a story that will stay with you by a living legend.

Tantrums and Tiaras had nothing on this book.

I went into this book knowing I loved Elton John’s music. I assumed I’d like him as a person, too. He’s complicated and can be a bit of a pain in the behind, but I wouldn’t expect him any other way. His writing is honest and flows well. Plus, he’s candid. He doesn’t pull punches. He talks about his relationship with his mother, his father–both ridiculously complicated–and his love life. Then there’s his music.

In the grand scheme of things, he rather glosses over the music. It’s almost like it’s there, but it’s not the focus. I kind of liked that because he talks more about himself than the songs. But if you’re looking for his insights on his music, then this might not be the right book.

I loved how he described his feelings about David, his husband, and how he fell in love and opted to have kids. It’s sweet, complicated and worth the read. There are the kiss and tell moments, but this is more than that. It’s his honest recollection of his life–full of dents, holes, wrong turns and love.

If you want an autobiography that doesn’t come off preach and will keep your interest, then this is the book to try. Elton John fans, check it out!