#ThrowbackThursday Gods in Alabama by @JoshilynJackson

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Renee @It’sBookTalk began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of our old favorites as well as sharing books that we’re FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. I’ve wanted to join this meme for a long time and I thought it would be a great idea because it forces me to read books from the TBR and not only new releases. And, of course, I can also include some old favorites!

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For 10 years Arlene has kept her promises, and God has kept His end of the bargain. Until now. When an old schoolmate from Possett turns up at Arlene’s door in Chicago asking questions about Jim Beverly, former quarterback and god of Possett High, Arlene’s break with her former hometown is forced to an end. At the same time, Burr, her long-time boyfriend, has raised an ultimatum: introduce him to her family or consider him gone. Arlene loves him dearly but knows her lily white (not to mention deeply racist) Southern Baptist family will not understand her relationship with an African American boyfriend. Reluctantly, Arlene bows to the pressure, and she and Burr embark on the long-avoided road trip back home. As Arlene digs through guilt and deception, her patched-together alibi begins to unravel, and she discovers how far she will go for love and a chance at redemption.

I haven’t had time to read much this past week, so I thought I could feature an old title today. I read Gods in Alabama back in 2010 and it was one of those books that make me realize what kind of books I like. It depicted everything I love about a story. The kind of novel I’d love to write one day. And it might not be the best in the genre, but it was my first and so it’s still today one of my favorite reads.

Gods in Alabama deals with various themes like family, racism, rape, feminism and, it’s set, obviously, in Alabama. It’s a mystery and a drama at the same time, but the characters stayed with me forever. In addition, it made me laugh. Despite all the drama, the writing was sharp and witty.

Oh, and the ending was brilliant, in my opinion, exactly what I would’ve chosen. I’ve read other books by Jackson and while I’ve enjoyed some, my first is still my favorite. What are you waiting for?

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Mini Reviews #5 | The Secret She Keeps & The Poisonwood Bible

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Two books that I read while being on vacation… wanna know what I thought of them? Let’s see…

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Agatha is pregnant and works part-time stocking shelves at a grocery store in a ritzy London suburb, counting down the days until her baby is due. As the hours of her shifts creep by in increasing discomfort, the one thing she looks forward to at work is catching a glimpse of Meghan, the effortlessly chic customer whose elegant lifestyle dazzles her. Meghan has it all: two perfect children, a handsome husband, a happy marriage, a stylish group of friends, and she writes perfectly droll confessional posts on her popular parenting blog—posts that Agatha reads with devotion each night as she waits for her absent boyfriend, the father of her baby, to maybe return her calls. When Agatha learns that Meghan is pregnant again, and that their due dates fall within the same month, she finally musters up the courage to speak to her, thrilled that they now have the ordeal of childbearing in common. Little does Meghan know that the mundane exchange she has with a grocery store employee during a hurried afternoon shopping trip is about to change the course of her not-so-perfect life forever…

The Secret She Keeps was a compelling and thoroughly addictive read that I enjoyed while on vacation. I had previously read another book by Michael Robotham, and it was quite different, to be honest. What I liked the most about this one were the two distinct voices. I greatly appreciate when an author makes me care for a character who isn’t a really good person. The way this book was written, you couldn’t help but feel sorry for them.

As for the plot, I can’t say the book was particularly original. I had read similar stories in the past and I was almost glad that the “twist” was revealed at about 40%, as I had suspected it from the beginning. The second part of the book was less psychological and more “classic thriller”, so I knew there wouldn’t be any surprises left, which was kind of a disappointment. Still, I enjoyed reading this one a lot and I explained the entire plot to my friends, so I think that’s a pretty good sign.

Netgalley, Little Brown UK, 2017

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This story is told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it – from garden seeds to Scripture – is calamitously transformed on African soil.

The Poisonwood Bible is celebrating a brand new edition featuring this strikingly beautiful cover. This is not a new book: it came out in 1998 and it’s already considered a classic. I read this book because I wanted to dive into a completely different story and I got exactly that.

This was a fascinating tale featuring a Baptist family who moves to the Belgian Congo and tries to settle down there. The father is a preacher and his mission is to convert the whole community into Christianism. The story is told from the four daughters’ points of view and despite some sad scenes, I found the narration pretty amusing. My favorites were Adah and little Ruth May. Rachel was fun to read because of her shallow personality, but on the other hand, I didn’t like Leah at all, and she was probably the main protagonist.

My only problem with Poisonwood Bible was the length. I usually avoid longer books because I don’t think I enjoy them as much as I would if they were shorter. This was exactly what happened here. My initial enthusiasm gradually decreased when I got to a point where I thought the book might be ending but there were actually many pages left. So I struggled a lot and I’m quite sad because I think I would’ve absolutely loved this if it had been around 350 pages.

Faber & Faber, 2017

Review: All The Wicked Girls by @WhittyAuthor @BonnierZaffre

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Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she’s a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace, Alabama – especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine. Then Summer goes missing. Grace is already simmering, and with this new tragedy the police have their hands full keeping the peace. Only Raine throws herself into the search, supported by a most unlikely ally. But perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .

You can’t imagine how happy I was when I checked out my reading calendar and saw that my next ARC was All The Wicked Girls. I had been trying to catch up on physical arcs to be able to focus my attention on Netgalley when I’m on vacation, and Chris Whitaker’s book was next on my to-read list. I was excited. And nervous. What if I didn’t love it as much as I loved Tall Oaks? After all, that one was my favorite book of 2016. High expectations were inevitable.

As soon as I read the first chapter though, I remembered why I loved his debut so so much. The writing is flawless, the story manages to grip you from the very first paragraph and you can’t wait to keep on reading to find out more. If you read the first chapter and you don’t want to know more… well, then I guess we can’t be friends 😉 It’s still July, but I already know All The Wicked Girls will be one of my favorites. It was that good. You know which book I thought of while reading this one? Mystic River. And I liked All The Wicked Girls better.

At the same time, I feel I should warn you that this is much darker and dramatic than Tall Oaks ever was. This book was like one of those epic dramas that leave you exhausted but in a good way. I don’t know how to explain it, but I could feel this was going to be a special novel just after a few pages. There was something magnetic about it, I was completely captivated. And no, this isn’t your typical fast-paced, easy-to-read thriller, it’s way more complex and deep, and I especially love the way the author explores small-town dynamics and relationships between unlikely allies. And how the weather is practically another character.

So what’s it about? All The Wicked Girls tells the story of Grace, Alabama, a small-town filled with broken people keeping secrets. And girls from near towns are disappearing. No one knows what’s going on and the only suspect is someone they call “Bird”. But who is he? Everything changes when Summer Ryan disappears. She’s Grace’s “good girl” and she wouldn’t run away, would she? But then again, she left a note… Did Bird take her? Did she take off? Meanwhile, her wild sister Raine is determined to find out what happened and so she starts investigating with the help of two other teenagers: Noah and Purv. But that’s not all. We will also follow Summer’s months before her disappearance and we might discover things we wish we hadn’t known…

The mystery was hands down fantastic, and it’s exactly the kind of story that I crave for. A southern gothic tale that is completely absorbing and leaves you breathless by the time you reach the tragic final pages.

Even though the book is completely different to Tall Oaks, it still has all those ingredients that made me fall in love with Chris Whitaker’s writing. You can’t help but love Noah from the very first scene with the badge. And he is not Manny, but there’s something about this sweet kid that reminded me of him. The relationship between the teenagers is sweet and devastating at the same time and I’m not ashamed to admit I shed a few tears.

All The Wicked Girls is an unforgettable novel and I want you all to discover its magic.

ARC, Bonnier Zaffre, 2017

Review: The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

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Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman. It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood. Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

I’ve read and loved some of Joshilyn Jackson’s books, but my last one (Someone Else’s Love Story) was quite a disappointment, so it’s been a couple years without her stories. As soon as I saw this beautiful cover, though, I realized I wanted to read her books again. And I need to catch up!

The Almost Sisters was a thoroughly enjoyable novel, a weird mix of geek references and southern secrets that I found a bit incompatible, to be honest. On the other hand, I liked the book and I adore Jackson’s writing and her ability to make me care about the characters and their problems. She makes long books feel short. Despite the two very different storylines, I really loved the characters in this novel and was rooting for Leia from the very beginning. She was delightful.

The family dynamics were perhaps my favorite part of the novel, along with the Batman scenes. I admit that’s weird for me because I usually find myself more attracted to the mystery plot and the flashbacks, but while I definitely wanted to know what had happened, the book’s lack of focus on the secret made me shift my attention to the contemporary storyline.

This isn’t one of my favorites by her, mostly because I wish I had been more invested in the “secret” part, which by the time it got revealed, it was exactly what I was expecting. Still, it was a good read and I recommend it to fans of contemporary family dramas and southern stories. She’s always fun to read and this was maybe the funniest book she’s written: it still has plenty of drama, but it isn’t a dark book at all.

Edelweiss, William Morrow, 2017

Review: The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter @EmilyDCarpenter

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In this gripping, atmospheric family drama, a young woman investigates the forty­-year­-old murder that inspired her mother’s bestselling novel, and uncovers devastating truths—and dangerous lies. Reformed party girl Meg Ashley leads a life of privilege, thanks to a bestselling horror novel her mother wrote decades ago. But Meg knows that the glow of their very public life hides a darker reality of lies, manipulation, and the heartbreak of her own solitary childhood. Desperate to break free of her mother, Meg accepts a proposal to write a scandalous, tell-all memoir. Digging into the past—and her mother’s cult classic—draws Meg to Bonny Island, Georgia, and an unusual woman said to be the inspiration for the book. At first island life seems idyllic, but as Meg starts to ask tough questions, disturbing revelations come to light…including some about her mother. Soon Meg’s search leads her to question the facts of a decades-old murder. She’s warned to leave it alone, but as the lies pile up, Meg knows she’s getting close to finding a murderer. When her own life is threatened, Meg realizes the darkness found in her mother’s book is nothing compared to the chilling truth that lurks off the page.

First of all, I need to say that I read and enjoyed Burying The Honeysuckle Girls last year. It was one of my firsts approvals ever on Netgalley and for that, I’ll always be grateful. However, as much as I enjoyed that first book, I think The Weight Of Lies is much better and it just proves that Emily Carpenter is a fantastic storyteller. I can’t wait to read what she writes next! Although both books are southern gothic tales, they couldn’t be more different. The first was more of a slow-burning mystery, this one is all suspense and action. It’s addictive, compelling and the last few chapters were completely crazy. I loved all of it.

The Weight Of Lies tells the story of a young socialite called Megan Ashley, daughter of famous best-selling author Frances Ashley. The relationship between the two of them has never been easy, so no one is surprised when Megan decides to write a memoir about her childhood and goes on to investigate the real crime that inspired her mother’s most famous book: Kitten.

This is a book within a book, so we get to read one chapter from the actual story and then a Kitten excerpt. I must say that structure works really well and this way, you know what the characters are talking about when they describe the Kitten phenomenon. And Kitten was surely gripping (at least, that’s how I feel about the parts we got to read), but the present story was the real gem here.

The setting was my favorite part: Bonny Island, Georgia. I could feel like I was there with the characters, and the hotel made for a really good book location. Emily Carpenter has written a complex and fascinating mystery with plenty of red-herrings and moments where characters say things like: “You have no idea of what’s going on here” (I honestly felt my heart racing at that moment) and scenes where there is so much tension that you need to breathe in and out to relax.

I was never sure about my suspicions and I kept changing my theories with every new chapter. In conclusion, even though the last chapter felt a bit rushed, I finished the book with a big smile on my face. I knew this would be one of the best books of the month. And not that it needed it, but there was a nice twist that I never even considered (although once you start thinking about it, it makes total sense).

Netgalley, Lake Union Publishing, 2017