Sunday, September 28, 2014

Changes are Afoot!

You may or may not have noticed that I've been taking more frequent blogging breaks and posting sporadically when I do blog.  That's happened for a few reasons, but mostly because I'd rather read than review any day.  But if I want the good people that publish books to continue sending me books I want to read, I have to review them.  However, I don't have to review them all here.

Starting this week, I'll be posting reviews of books that I've given four or five luxurious chairs to here.  All other books will be reviewed very briefly over on my Goodreads account as time allows.  Also, instead of posting Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I'll be posting on Saturdays and Sundays, since those tend to be the days that people read my posts the most.

Occasionally, I'll post during the week, but only if I'm participating in a blog tour or if a publisher requests that I post on a specific date.  Otherwise, check me out on the weekends.

Monday, September 22, 2014

#BookReview: Into the Go-Slow - Bridgett M. Davis

Often when someone dies, our memories of them become exaggerated.  We remember all of their good traits and focus on them as if they were some kind of superhuman while they walked the earth.  Instead of reflecting on their bad qualities and remembering them as they were, it's almost as if we put on blinders and elevate them an angel-like level.  In Bridgett M. Davis' Into the Go-Slow, we find 21 year old Angie tracing the footsteps of her deceased sister, Ella, and trying to fit in the missing pieces of the puzzle that she was.

As the youngest of three sisters, Angie witnessed Ella's need to shine in the eyes of their father and her rebellious spirit when dealing with her mother.  Middle sister Denise was always sensible.  And baby Angie just fit in where she could, carrying the heavy load of watching Angie tumble off her pedestal and trying to save her when no one else would.

 Whether Angie's recollection of Ella is clouded because of her young age at the time of Ella's death or because she engaged in older sibling hero worship, it becomes apparent that the Ella she thought she knew was not the person she really was.  Deciding to reconnect with those who really did know Ella, Angie goes to Nigeria to find out what really happened to her in her final days.

From Detroit to Nigeria, Davis takes readers on a sometimes painful, yet engaging, journey. She captures the spirit of  the late eighties; a Detroit beginning to crumble under Reaganomics, student activists' newly found awareness of South Africa's apartheid structure, and injustices around the world.  She vividly paints a picture of Fela's Nigeria as experienced through Ella and re-told to Angie.  And she does it all masterfully.

Published: September 2014
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

Monday, September 15, 2014

#BookReview: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell - Nadia Hashimi #Giveaway

It’s not shocking that being a boy is more advantageous than being a girl in most parts of the world. Every morning in Afghanistan there are girls that wake up, dress and leave the house acting as boys, or bacha posh, as they’re called. The reasons for this vary, but the bottom line is that it is safer and more privileges are afforded when you’re seen as a boy. In some homes, girls become bacha posh because it allows them to work and bring in income to a household that greatly needs it. In others, mothers need a child that can run to the store for them. As bacha posh, it is safer and allowable for a boy to walk the streets when women and girls cannot. The stories of two generations of women posing as bacha posh are at the heart of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell.

Initially, readers are drawn into the story of Rahima. In 2007 Kabul, she’s one of five sisters living with their mother and opium-addicted father. Prior to his addiction, Rahima’s father worked, but only sporadically gave enough money to support the household. Having a son would provide the family with money, since Rahima would be allowed to work. It would also allow her sisters safe passage to school, since she would be able to walk with them and serve as their protector. It seems like a win-win situation for all and, as the most rambunctious of the sisters, Rahima readily agrees.

Generations ago, Rahima’s great-aunt Shekiba also became bacha posh and while Rahima’s story is interesting, I found Shekiba’s most fascinating. A beautiful child, Shekiba was scarred and left disfigured at an early age. Already undervalued by her extended family, she’s shunned even more for her appearance. She’s kept close to the family home where her parents and brothers adore her. As her family succumbs to illness, a teenage Shekiba finds herself living alone, but determined to keep it a secret from her father’s family. Married off against her will, she soon finds herself living in the royal palace as bacha posh.

With Rahima’s life juxtaposed against Shekiba’s, it’s difficult to say who leads a more difficult life, but as Rahima’s Aunt Khala tells her Shekiba’s life story, you can see Rahima gathering strength from it. Though the circumstances and outcomes of becoming bacha posh differ for them, both endure and are triumphant in the end.

This is absolutely an amazing effort from Nadia Hashimi. She puts such thought into her characters and their emotions; it’s easy to tell that she was heavily invested in telling the story of these women and doing it properly. In addition to Rahima and Shekiba’s stories, she takes care to explore what happens with Rahima’s sisters, her mother and fellow wives, as well as Shekiba’s fellow eunuchs, offering a peek into the lives of other Afghani women. There were no lulls in any of the story lines and, at the end, I sad to say goodbye to Rahima and Shekiba, but grateful for what I learned from them.

Published: May 2014
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

I have two copies of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell to give away.  If you'd like a copy, leave an answer in the comments to the following question: Would you live as bacha posh if your family asked you to?  Two winners will be chosen and announced on Sunday, September 21, 2014.

Friday, September 12, 2014

#BookReview: Any Man I Want - Michele Grant

Katrina Montgomery is a hell cat. As the youngest in her family, she’s used to getting what she wants, even if it means inconveniencing others. That attitude served her well as a model and even now, as a fashion designer. Up until a certain point, it has also served her well in the romance department. But the hell cat runs across a scorned man determined to bring her, and the business she’s created with her family and friends, down. Enter her knight in shining armor, or at least a well-tailored suit, Carter Parks.

Known as Big Sexy to his friends, Carter Parks is a man who knows what he wants. A former football player, he’s now a successful businessman. His ties with the Montgomerys go back far. As a friend of Beau, spotlighted in Pretty Boy Problems, Carter would have never imagined that the strong willed brat he used to watch with amusement at Montgomery family gatherings would turn into the beautiful woman Katrina has become. Crossing the line from family friend to lover can be difficult, especially when your family and friends are watching every move you make.

It’s fun to see the give and take between Katrina and Carter. I do find that he’s a bit more pliable and willing to bend for Katrina long before she’s willing to do the same for him. That’s refreshing to me because so many female characters are written as damsels in distress who are willing to change who they are to please a man. While Katrina may eventually bend, she’s not a woman that would ever do a complete 180 degree turn to please anyone. Make no mistake, Carter isn’t doing a 180 for anyone either, so watching them struggle to find mutual ground is entertaining.

I love watching all of Grant’s characters interact and they do it well because they know each other. Similar to what Susan Elizabeth Phillips has done with a number of her books, the characters in Any Man I Want have appeared in Grant’s earlier works, the aforementioned Pretty Boy Problems and Heard It All Before. So when you read their interactions, they make sense and it’s like watching a group of friends. They feel familiar and comfortable and you’re glad that they’re back together even if this is the last time you’ll see them.

Published: July 2014