American Daughters by Piper Huguley

American Daughters by Piper Huguley
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

In the vein of America’s First Daughter, Piper Huguley’s historical novel delves into the remarkable friendship of Portia Washington and Alice Roosevelt, the daughters of educator Booker T. Washington and President Teddy Roosevelt.

At the turn of the twentieth century, in a time of great change, two women—separated by societal status and culture but bound by their expected roles as the daughters of famed statesmen—forged a lifelong friendship.

Portia Washington’s father Booker T. Washington was formerly enslaved and spent his life championing the empowerment of Black Americans through his school, known popularly as Tuskegee Institute, as well as his political connections. Dedicated to her father’s values, Portia contributed by teaching and performing spirituals and classical music. But a marriage to a controlling and jealous husband made fulfilling her dreams much more difficult.

When Theodore Roosevelt assumed the presidency, his eldest daughter Alice Roosevelt joined him in the White House. To try to win her father’s approval, she eagerly jumped in to help him succeed, but Alice’s political savvy and nonconformist behavior alienated as well as intrigued his opponents and allies. When she married a congressman, she carved out her own agendas and continued espousing women’s rights and progressive causes.

Brought together in the wake of their fathers’ friendship, these bright and fascinating women helped each other struggle through marriages, pregnancies, and political upheaval, supporting each other throughout their lives.

A provocative historical novel and revealing portrait, Piper Huguley’s American Daughters vividly brings to life two passionate and vital women who nurtured a friendship that transcended politics and race over a century ago.

This is an inspiring story about two women who form an unexpected friendship that transcends their different social statuses, politics, and race. It showcases historical figures that we are familiar with, such as Portia Washington the daughter of the famous educator, Booker T. Washington, and Alice Roosevelt, the President of the United States at the time, Teddy Roosevelt. The journey of these two women is a testament to their resilience and the power of friendship.

I enjoyed reading and learning about the strengths and resilience of the two fascinating women in the book. The author did a fantastic job of crafting a tale that navigated the life and friendship of Portia and Alice. It was interesting to see how their bond exceeded wealth, privilege, race, and cultural background – from their start as “Good Daughters” to their eventual “Liberation” as individuals. As I read, I saw that they were both women of intelligence, determination, and hope. Their differences were obvious but the similarities to me are what drew them together, and the bond formed from there is what forged their relationship that lasted over a century.

The book alternates between the voices of Portia and Alice. I could not help but be drawn to their strong but lady-like characteristics. Their historical significance is one to notice as it shows their influential relevance as they navigated their famous title of American daughters during their roles as wives, mothers, and women facing various relevant life issues that many of which still apply today.

Portia’s husband, Sid Pittman, was a source of trouble that I knew Portia should have avoided. Although I could sympathize with his internal struggle as his father-in-law, Mr. Washington, mentioned to his daughter, Portia about the challenges that men of color in an industry where “Negro men have never gotten to do before.” I am sure that with Booker T. Washington as his father-in-law, Sid was held to a high standard and expectations were set higher than he could achieve. However, it was difficult to understand why he channeled his anger towards damaging the spirit and minds of those who loved him. As for Alice, she is supporting her husband, Nick, during his political career as he is up to become the next Speaker of the House, and a surprise adds more excitement to her unconventional marriage of convenience.

I was glad to read American Daughters, but it did not captivate me as much as I expected. I found some slow spells of dialogue that made the story longer than necessary. Additionally, I did not think ahead of how the book would end, and I felt that all I read about was what the two ladies going through. I wanted more details of the ending that matched the energy of the earlier parts of the book. The book ended leaving me with only the assumption of how their lives would unfold after the last big reveal.

Portia and Alice were remarkable women who encountered many challenges throughout their lives. They always had each other to rely on, which was inspiring to read about. My takeaway from the book is that their beginning not only benefited them and that “motherless children must stick together” but it also changed the narrative for their daughters and their bond is a testament that will live on. This was an interesting story.

Double Lives by Mary Monroe

Double Lives by Mary Monroe
Publisher: Dafina
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Since childhood, identical twins Leona and Fiona Dunbar have been getting in—and out—of trouble by pretending to be each other. Yet underneath, they couldn’t be more different. Outspoken Leona lives to break rules, have a good time, and scandalize their respectable hometown of Lexington. Fiona is a seemingly-demure churchgoing girl who is the apple of her domineering, widowed mother Mavis’s eye.

But together, the twins have fooled teachers, boyfriends, bosses, racist police—and most importantly, strait-laced Mavis. Even when Leona does jail time for Fiona, their unbreakable bond keeps them fiercely loyal. . . . So when Fiona feels stifled in her passionless marriage, and Leona is heartbroken over losing her one true love, it’s perfect timing to change places once again . . .

Leona is shocked to discover she enjoys the security of being a wife and homebody. And the unexpected spark between her and Fiona’s husband is giving her all kinds of deliciously sexy ideas. Meanwhile, Fiona enjoys being free, single, and reveling in the independence she’s never had. And the more she indulges her secret, long-repressed wild child, the more Leona’s ex-lover becomes one temptation she’s having trouble resisting . . .

As the sisters’ masquerade ignites desires and appetites they never expected, it also puts their most damning secrets on the line. Once the fallout rocks their small town, can Fiona and Leona’s deep sisterhood shield them from total disaster and help them reconcile their mistakes? Or will the trust between them become a weapon that shatters their lives for good?

Identical twins Fiona and Leona find it amusing and convenient to switch identities as it suits them, but could their harmless switching lead to serious trouble?

This 320-page historical fiction is a great example of why Mary Monroe is one of my favorite authors. Her unique writing style and engaging plots are always a guarantee that I will be drawn in for a thrilling read. The author masterfully developed Fiona and Leona’s story throughout, and lastly climaxed in a plot twist that I did not see coming.

Double Lives is a work of historical fiction that spans from 1901 to 1938 in a small, segregated country town in Alabama. Readers are introduced to identical twins Fiona and Leona Dunbar who find it amusing in ‘fooling folks’ by switching their identities. The narrative alternates between Fiona and Leona’s perspectives. The author’s signature style of creating characters that are intriguing and memorable resulting in this entertaining, and original plot. I found myself unable to put the book down, eager to see how the story would unfold.

The bond between the sisters is like no other. I found it disturbing the sacrifices Leona made for Fiona. It was even more unsettling that Fiona allowed her sister to take on a negative image while benefiting from their switching. In my opinion, Fiona was selfish, while Leona was naive and always ended up being the protector or scapegoat. This unfair dynamic between the sisters made me angry. Leona was also naive when it came to her friendship with Bonnie Sue. Bonnie Sue got on my nerves and was very much obsessed with Leona, but Leona could not see it.

Who wouldn’t want to trade places to get out of trouble or to get out of their current circumstances? Mary Monroe has written another captivating five-star book that tells the story of the Dunbar sisters’ masquerade, which ignites into something they may not be able to switch back from. I highly recommend it.

A Christmas to Remember by Beverly Jenkins

A Christmas to Remember by Beverly Jenkins
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Ever since Bernadine Brown bought the town of Henry Adams, her relationship with diner owner Malachi “Mal” July has had its share of ups and downs. But now they’re finally ready to say “I do.”

Or are they? As wedding preparations go into full swing, and families both local and extended begin to gather for the festivities, that long awaited walk down the aisle hits a speed bump that may derail everything.

But Mal and Bernadine’s relationship isn’t the only one being tested.

Preston Mays aka Brain, loves his girlfriend as much as he does physics but when she decides being a couple is no longer a good thing, his heart is broken. Will connecting with his bio dad’s family ease his pain?

Reverend Paula Grant has been patiently waiting for God to send her someone to share her life. When the town’s charming new chef arrives in town, she wonders if he could be the one.

And then there’s former mayor Riley Curry who throws a parade with his hog Cletus! There’s always a lot going on in Henry Adams, and this will be a Christmas to remember.

The small historical town of Henry Adams has a long history and is still being developed and improving. While reading I could picture the town’s people moving about this well-developed close-knit village. Henry Adams is a respectful place of love, new beginnings, acceptance, and healing. It truly shows the power of community as the town’s people get together for holiday events and festive gatherings.

I like to make notes of characters’ names and minor details about them when I am reading a book. This book had so many characters that I gave up writing the names down once I got half-way on a second sheet in my notebook. The story and the lives of those in the small town of Henry Adams are simple and there is no drama whatsoever, so this was a quick and easy read. From my understanding the book is part of a series, however this is the only book that I have read from the series.

I enjoyed each of the charming characters. It was inspiring to see examples of strong and capable women within the town. I like the variety of the age range of the characters, from high school age to the town’s matriarch Tamar July and patriarch Bing Shepard. The various storylines readers will follow Bernadine Brown and her relationship with diner owner Malachi “Mal” July as they prepare for their upcoming nuptials. Young Preston Mays Payne is one of the town’s adopted youths, trying to understand why his girlfriend Leah Clark made the decision to end their relationship before they departed for college. And then there is Reverend Paula Grant, readers get to see the courtship and new love develop with new resident Chef Thornton Webb.

This book is unbelievably too good to be true and, though not particularly realistic, it is a comforting, sweet read that offers nearly no drama. There were humorous conversations from the nosey meddling town’s folk. I liked that the town’s people were loving and caring, and the author brought to light so many adoptions and caring couples opening their homes and lives. I noted examples of the characters working on their relationships being respectfully vocal, and I liked that the characters were not afraid to communicate their fears. I also like that the author made efforts to include how counseling can be used to work through individual and relationship problems.

This is a delightful read for readers seeking a happy conclusion for all.

Dogboy v Catfish by Luke Gracias

Dogboy v Catfish by Luke Gracias
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Ginger

On the day of her second wedding, Katherine Fisher, aka ‘Catfish,’ set the date for her divorce. In precisely 18 months, she would be entitled to half of their combined assets and receive maintenance payments until her five-year-old daughter, Emma, turns 18. Just as Catfish was about to take her husband, Lindsay ‘Dogboy’ Kramer (a successful businessman and dog whisperer) to the cleaners, he goes missing.

The police investigation into Dogboy’s disappearance leads them into the dark world of counterfeit designer goods, money laundering, and drug smuggling.

With Dogboy’s assets frozen and the mob protecting their interests, the missing persons case escalates to homicide. Catfish is in a race against time to get hold of Dogboy’s assets before the police get hold of her.

One question remains – is Dogboy dead or alive?

There are several slang words that fit Katherine Fisher, gold digger could be one. A gold digger is described as a person or woman who seeks out wealthy men or enters a relationship with someone for money, gifts otherwise basically exploiting or deceiving the other person rather than for a love interest. However, the author gave Kath an appropriate name of ‘Catfish’. This slang title is defined as a fictitious attractive persona with malicious intent.

Kath has timed her divorce from Lindsay ‘Dogboy’ Kramer after 18 months of marriage, she knows she will be entitled to half of his assets and receive child support payments for her five-year-old daughter, Emma, until she turns 18 but there seems to be a bit of delay in her plan. Her husband Lindsay ‘Dogboy’ Kramer is missing.

Be warned: if you do not have time to read it in one or two sittings, you may want to hold off until you can block off time and make sure your eReader is charged in advance. I like the organized set up of the breakdown or table of contents that shows the different sections and how each chapter has a name, reminding me of how episodes in a television series are named. The title references a phrase said during that chapter or episode. I like that the author provided the dates so that I was able to follow along in the timeline of events and investigation easily. What attracted me to the book was first the cover and then the excerpt. I like that the cover ties into the storyline where the three snakes were mentioned by Matthias in Bangkok and again in the tale of the Endless Knot that explains the color and what each snake represents.

This book has all the right ingredients for a suspenseful and remarkably interesting storyline. I can tell research was done on the criminal and family laws in Australia, statistics were reviewed on the suicide rate among men and my favorite since my background is in fraud and forensic accounting is reading about the money laundering and counterfeit/luxury handbags. I enjoyed the storyline; the author gave details that kept the story going enough to help set up the scenes, but he did not overdo it or get carried away being too wordy. Kath is an entitled individual that I did not like from the very first chapter when she met with the family law attorney Freya Keogh and there are many more instances that shed light on her true gold digger characteristics. Sadly, readers are not introduced to Lindsay, or his persona but I feel like his character was represented and created clearly by those that he considered devoted friends and acquaintances. The other characters spoke of Lindsay in a positive way which led me to believe he was a smart and good person, and I like how the author carried that out. Lindsay was a huge part of the story but yet he was not a physical character so to speak he was only mentioned and talked about, and the author executed that very well.

The author effortlessly captivated me with this complete, intriguing well told novel where the good guys win. A book of greed, crime, illegal pursuits, and friendship; however, the characters play a small part as the novel is plot driven. I normally like to get to know the
characters I am reading about better, but the narrative surrounding counterfeit designer bags, and the twist of illegal activity in this exceptional story took precedence.

A must read for readers seeking a good crime thriller!

Roulette by Thomas Locke and Jyoti Guptara

Roulette by Thomas Locke and Jyoti Guptara
Publisher: Down & Out Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Don’t trip. It could cost your life…

They call it Roulette because there’s no way of knowing what kind of ecstasy awaits. A rollercoaster ride through any one of seven heavens—or straight to hell.

A new and dangerous substance has suddenly appeared at the rave scene of Gainesville, Florida. When former special agent Eric Bannon comes to investigate, the local sheriff doesn’t know whether to be relieved someone is finally taking the rave issue seriously, or disturbed about who has answered the call. The inquiry must be kept quiet. But why are senior government officials turning a blind eye to such a dangerous drug?

As the county hospital’s senior ER nurse, Carol Steen has seen her share of small-town trouble. Her greatest concern is the snobbish new doctor. Stacie Swann is everything Carol detests: fresh out of med school, too many years her junior, drop-dead gorgeous—and with a bad attitude. Why did Stacie, an upcoming surgical star, leave her prestigious residency at the University of Florida medical center and take up station in their remote clinic?

To Stacie, the nosey nurse is only a bitter reminder of what the medical establishment took from her, landing her in Middle of Nowhere, Florida. But when the night’s emergencies are rushed in, the two ladies begin to bond over a common challenge.

What appears to be a simple case of overdose turns into an ER nightmare. Patients seem to be suffering symptoms from multiple drugs. None are detectable.

Eric arrives at the clinic in time to witness the victims’ transformation from near-coma to bestial strength and ferocity. Eric and the ladies track the drug’s origin to clandestine operations based within the university student body. These young people both finance the production and facilitate the human trials of the world’s most exciting new high.

Roulette makes you feel like your best self, times ten. Because it’s no longer the old you.

Carol and Stacie’s patients belong to the 1% of consumers exposed to Roulette’s true purpose, a purpose so heinous it will rewrite not just history, but the human genome.

As opposition mounts from within his own government, Eric must face off with experimental science and the question: In the battle to control the future of humanity, do they really want to fight fire with fire?

What are the chances of winning when the payout is a negative expected return? Playing roulette is a game of chance; when you compare the outcome to playing with an experimental drug what can possibly happen?

The book started off during a normal shift at the Alachua County Medical Center. Readers are introduced to senior ER nurse Carol Steen, who knows and does her job very well. But as the shift progresses Carol and medical resident doctor Stacie Swann find that their patients have been introduced to something more than the normal prescription drug party.

Carol’s husband, local sheriff Dewey Steen, is aware of the effects of this new drug, as are other law enforcement officers, such as former special agent Eric Bannon who is assigned to Gainesville, Florida to investigate this new and dangerous drug.

This book is an easy read, has a very interesting storyline and I enjoyed the characters, however I wanted more to happen or more detail to what happened to the wolf-like people. Is the book paranormal, romance or a thriller? I felt that it touched on a lot of genres, but it is missing some of the substance that would make this an edge of your seat, cannot put the book down thriller. The book seemed to be more character driven since a higher percentage of the novel focused on the main characters and their lives versus the details surrounding the fallout from the drug. While there are brief mentions on how and why the drug was created, I am thinking some of the “slowness” could have something to do with the narration or point of view being told that leaves the gaps and missing details. There are heightened moments of suspense and excitement, but it felt like this story has been told before. I don’t want to give spoilers, but the reason the drug was invented was something that we’ve seen many times before.

I was able to put the book down for a few days with no rush to see how it ended. Not saying that as a bad thing it just did not draw me in as much as I’d hoped. There was action that heightened the reading experience and I did have some anticipation on how the story would play out. The book kept my attention well enough, and I was able to finish reading it. The writing style is easy to read and follow, it has very short chapters which I prefer and the plot flows with a good pace. Car chases, kidnapping, being on the verge of realistic and supernatural, this is a thought provoking read that made me think what if there was such a drug introduced to society.

This 280-page book has a wide cast of characters with an abrupt ending that leads me to believe there will be a sequel.

All the Little Truths by Debra Webb

All the Little Truths by Debra Webb
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Legal investigator Finley O’Sullivan has dealt with her share of shady characters, but the firm’s latest client has an even darker past than most. In fact, Nashville Metro Police seems to think he’s a murderer.

Finley isn’t so sure. Her investigation into Ray Johnson’s history focuses on the unsolved murder of a teenager who died thirteen years earlier. The case went cold, but questions remain. After the girl’s death, people close to her started disappearing—Ray’s brother first, then the girl’s mother. But why?

As Finley races to solve a decade-old murder, she uncovers new clues and long-buried secrets that could blow the case wide open. But whoever killed the girl all those years ago may still be a threat—and now the chase is on.

Secrets can be dangerous and even the smallest truths might make a difference if they are revealed.

This book had me engrossed from the first page. “All the Little Truths” follows Finley O’Sullivan with her unusual skill set for finding out the truth; it does not matter if her client’s innocence or guilt is discovered in the outcome. This is book three of the Finley O’Sullivan series and Finley is tasked with solving a high-profile cold case murder that happened thirteen years ago.

The book is part of a series however I was able to follow along and understand the events that took place in the previous book. How thoughtful of the author to give a refreshing overview of what happened in the series previously to those that read the earlier books. I am sure new readers will appreciate the recap as I did, it helped to give some insight into what happened to Finley previously. The tide bits about what happened to Finley’s husband piqued my interest, and now I want to go back to read the previous books in the series.

The author’s writing is always enjoyable to read and easy to follow. The plot is suspenseful although I did figure out early on who the killer was, finding out how all the other parts fit into the story kept me reading. The story did not lag at any point, however there were times when I felt the story was taking too long to get to its full truth. There was not a dull moment in this book, the multilayered plot made sure of that. Not only is Finley working on solving the Lucy Cagle murder, she is working to find out what happened to Ian Johnson, Finley is also mentally dealing with the aftermath of what happened to her and her husband. She discovered her neighbor Helen Roberts passed out in the backyard and takes the time to visit her in the hospital, and she makes the decision to run for District Attorney all the while a stalker is following her. See what I mean? A lot happening, but the author did not miss a beat in keeping each plot point moving with sufficient details and making sure all had closure. I could not even think of one question. Skillful writing and editing make for wonderful reading pleasure.

Finley’s drive and determination is evident, she holds true to only caring about finding out the truth even when it looks like her father may have some involvement in what happened to Lucy. Finley is juggling a lot, but she does it well. She is a character to be admired and one I want to read more about.

The novel’s end was very unexpected for me, this astonishing twist was unsettling and unusual. The author’s craft in mystery writing is intense and descriptive and it is evident that her goal is to keep the readers interested. That goal was achieved. The places and details mentioned show that she does her research into the structure of her novels. This is characteristic for a Debra Webb book, and her well-structured suspenseful plot will surely ignite enough curiosity to keep readers reading in one session. Recommended.

Christmas in the Trap by K. Larry

Christmas in the Trap by K. Larry
Publisher: Twyla T. Presents, LLC
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Born with all odds against him. No mother. No father. No siblings. Remo was destined for failure from the very beginning. In spite of, he was determined to beat the odds. Just as things begin to look up for him, an accident sends him crashing into The Plug; The man with more jewels than kings and more money than corporate America. One simple mistake puts him in a position that he never thought was possible. Will he succumb to the demands of the streets? Or will he stand in his own greatness?

Mahlia is young, hard working, beautiful, and ready for love. She has her cousin Amelia by her side and they are more like sisters so Mahlia has no problem confiding in her ride or die. When jealousy rears its ugly head, the cousins are faced with drama out of this world. Will the bond that Mahlia shares with Amelia stand in the way of love? Or will true love win? They say Christmas is the season for magic, so come take this crazy ride in The Magic City as K. Larry brings nonstop drama, love, deceit, and betrayal in this sultry African American Urban Fiction Novella.

Remo has all odds against him; will the streets win him over or will love?

This was a quick and good read that follows Remo and Maliha. Remo grew up without family as a ward of the State of Alabama then his luck seems to turn for the better once he comes in contact with Mike Larry. Will Remo choose the dangerous lifestyle of the street hustle?

Told from different views this novella is packed with a good story of drama, jealousy and chances for change. There are a few typos, but they did not impact the flow of the storyline or my reading. Warning the language may be harsh to some readers. I enjoyed the chemistry between Remo and Maliha. Mike and Amelia made some bad choices that had me fusing as I was reading. What happened in the book was unexpected and made for a very entertaining read.

I will definitely read more books from this author.

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.

Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby

Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Audible Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Audible Narrator: Adam Lazarre-White
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Ginger

A Black father. A white father. Two murdered sons. A quest for vengeance.

Ike Randolph has been out of jail for fifteen years, with not so much as a speeding ticket in all that time. But a Black man with cops at the door knows to be afraid.

The last thing he expects to hear is that his son Isiah has been murdered, along with Isiah’s white husband, Derek. Ike had never fully accepted his son but is devastated by his loss.

Derek’s father Buddy Lee was almost as ashamed of Derek for being gay as Derek was ashamed of his father’s criminal record. Buddy Lee still has contacts in the underworld, though, and he wants to know who killed his boy.

Ike and Buddy Lee, two ex-cons with little else in common other than a criminal past and a love for their dead sons, band together in their desperate desire for revenge. In their quest to do better for their sons in death than they did in life, hardened men Ike and Buddy Lee will confront their own prejudices about their sons and each other, as they rain down vengeance upon those who hurt their boys.

Provocative and fast-paced, S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears is a story of bloody retribution, heartfelt change – and maybe even redemption.

Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee are both ex-con fathers with a lot more in common than they thought–the love of their sons and the heart to confront not only their sons’ killer but their own prejudices.

This book is filled with fast paced action, bloody violence, heartfelt change, and personal growth. There are a lot of important topics touched on, talked about, revealed, and delivered in such a masterful way that I wish I could rate this book 10 stars. There is humor, healing, brotherhood, reflection, love, and judgement. Judgement of race, sexuality, social class, criminal history and probably the worst kind, self judgement. The message I took from this novel is to give people their flowers (love, acknowledgment, acceptance) while they are presently here in the physical. Do not judge someone for who they love, for the color of their skin, their criminal record because in the end all that does not matter. They are human, and time is short and precious.

I very much enjoyed this novel. There is action, violence, and topics that may be sensitive to some but, I personally would love to see this as a movie (but only if they’d don’t change anything). This is a current day storyline that will impact readers from any lifestyle or social class. The characters are well developed, likeable and authentically true to life. I enjoyed both Ike and Buddy Lee; they were not bad men but seeing them self-reflect on things they could have done better or differently, seeing them appreciate the important things now and seeing them change for the better was at times an emotional read. There were times it felt like an invasion of their privacy as they processed their healing, and then I had to remind myself they were not real.

My favorite character is Buddy Lee. He is down to earth, keeps it real and comes with no filter. In the audio version of the book Buddy Lee needed his own narrator. The narrator did an awesome job but a character with the personality of Buddy Lee deserves his own. The writing is superb. Readers will be able to take away their own message because the author is just that award talented in covering so much that it fits a multitude. This book kept my attention and is definitely on my highly recommend memorable book list.

The Life I Owe Her by Allison Meldrum

The Life I Owe Her by Allison Meldrum
Publisher: Self-Publish
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

How far would you go to repay a debt to the friend who saved your life?

What if the thing she wants is your child?

Ava and Sylvie forged a friendship that sustained them both as teenagers. But when their high school prom night almost turns to tragedy, Sylvie saves Ava from drowning and their friendship takes on an even deeper meaning. Ava is haunted by a need to repay the debt of life she owes to her best friend.

But, years later, the opportunity comes knocking and Ava is faced with the chance to make the ultimate sacrifice for a friend whose life is torn apart by infertility. As the consequences of their actions unfold, the lives of both women are threatened by an adversary who will stop at nothing to keep control of his family.

How far would you go to repay someone for saving your life? Would your repayment be to split up your newborn twins?

This was a quick novel that made for a straightforward read. Readers are introduced to a close friendship and a life saving act that seals their bond even more. Though unusual and disturbing, the author had a good idea for a plot that piqued my interest. Although I must admit it took me some time to move past the idea of Ava giving away a child to repay Sylvie for saving her life.

It was difficult to truly connect to either of the female characters. Ava Peterson was very dramatic and strong willed. Sylvie Tellier was too soft and had low self-esteem. Sylvie’s husband Michael was the bad guy. These three were in high school together, but Michael did not seem to be the bad guy then. He was mentioned as being creepy, but I never wondered why he did not have any friends of his own because he was always with Sylvie and Ava. I don’t know if the author tried too hard to make Michael seem like a bad guy, maybe I missed something. He was an arrogant prick when Sylvie mentioned their issues with conceiving, but it wasn’t until later in the story when he was made to be the villain.

The story is told from both Ava and Sylvie’s points of view. This helps explain a lot of the story and what kept the plot moving and kept me turning pages. The time span goes from 1996 when 17-year-old Sylvie moved to Edinburgh through 2011.  The book is described as a psychological thriller, but I would not define it as such. I would label it as more suspense/mystery since there were two small surprises that were thrown in, but it just didn’t seem like a true psychological thriller to me.

However, the writing was brisk and smooth, and the dialogue was insightful. By the end of the story Ava’s debt is paid for Sylvie saving her life and the author gives the story a happy ending. It is an interesting story and a unique premise; the author did a good job of structuring the plot and I saw no editing issues. The story was not bad, and I’m not sorry I read it, but it just did not meet my expectations.