TurningPages

I am an avid reading who loves connecting readers to the right book. I love reading, reviewing and reflecting on books. Also enjoy traveling and sports but always have books with me.

Complexities of the Past, Present, and Future

The Shadow of the Crescent Moon - Fatima Bhutto

THE SHADOW OF THE CRESCENT MOON is a riveting story that place over a couple hours on a rainy Friday morning in Mir Ali, a small town in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan, as three brothers and two of the women they love find their past, present, and future merge together. It is the thriller-like anticipation and the elegant language that had me reading this book in one session. I was interested in reading this book on a region in Pakistan that I knew very little about except from the pov of news updates regarding the American militia experience so I did “google” the town – Mir Ali before beginning the book and that gave me the necessary understanding to fully appreciate this enthralling storyline.

 

The prologue sets up the storyline as the three brothers are breakfasting together before going about their day but first they have to decide which mosque each will attend as, “It is too dangerous, too risky, to place all the family together in one mosque that could easily be hit. They no longer know by whom.”


Then as the minutes/hours tick by, we learn actually what each brother is doing and why. The flashbacks provide the necessary background information and the lyrical language shows how the people go about their lives doing ordinary things overshadowed by the hovering violence that is never spoken about out loud. While the stories concentrated mostly on the male characters, it is the two women characters whose resolve and spirit surprise those around them – their love ones and their opposers.

 

As the pace quickens toward the climax I am holding my breath as I turn the page to see what happens, the story ends. As I re-read the last couple of pages to see if I missed a clue it dawns on me that this ending is intentional by the author. How can she provide an ending when there is no known ending to this conflict and turmoil in this region. I might have finished reading the book but the story is not over.

Overall, this is a thought-provoking book on loyalty, identity, love, and sacrifice. A very solid debut novel and I look forward to reading future books by the author.

 

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Secret Liaisons (Women in Hollywood) - Shelia M. Goss

Vivacious thirty-year old Mona Johnson has just received a promotion at work; one of her scripts has been chosen to be pitched, putting her closer to her dream of being a professional screenwriter. Now if she could just get over her attraction to her boss, the dashing and successful movie director, Terrance Beckham. Mona wants a commitment-minded man and Terrance is not known for dating a woman more than twice. Terrance wants a woman who wants him for the man he is, not his bank account or his industry connections. He is attracted to Mona but she is his employee!

Using aliases on an online dating site to solve their dating dilemmas both Mona and Terrance create profiles and find the perfect matches for them.  Meanwhile, after attending a Hollywood event together Mona and Terrance find their sexual chemistry ignites into a night of sizzling lovemaking. Terrance is convinced Mona is the only woman for him while Mona wants to explore a relationship with her online match. Will Terrance be able to win Mona’s heart before the ghosts of the past and a meddling relative block their happily-ever-after?

Goss delivers a fast, engaging and addictive read with enough angst and passion that grabs from start to finish. She does a great job of getting to the very heart of the couple and what drives and inspires them. Terrance is a good guy with an open heart who did not mind lending a helping hand to others when it is deserved. Once he set his heart and mind are making Mona his woman, his maturity shines through the rocky points in their relationship. Mona learns to let go of her self-doubt and gains her confidence so she can love openly with someone who will accept her for who she is. The chemistry between Mona and Terrance is blistering, but what makes the romance so sweet is the way they challenge and balance each other. This is one couple I was happily rooting for.

The cast of secondary characters and secondary storylines provides for some pulse-pounding intrigue and deceptions. The secondary romance storyline between Terrance’s mother and the Pastor wants a nice touch for those who enjoy the challenges and joys of a mature couple.

SECRET LIAISONS is the second book in the Hollywood Women in Hollywood series. Goss continues her theme of providing the reader with insights into the challenges of women balancing their professional and personal lives with realistic scenarios readers can relate to.  Smooth plotting and pacing provides a cinematic quality.

I recommend
SECRET LIAISONS to readers who enjoy romances which are sinfully sizzling as well as romantically charming with a dollop of trickery.

You Can't Hide Your Heart

Secret Relations (Women in Hollywood) - Shelia M. Goss

R&B star Sean “Mr. Naughty” Maxwell is in need of a new manager, and classy Charlotte Richards, one of Hollywood’s top talent managers, fits the bill with her impressive resume and curvaceous figure. Charlotte has worked hard to earn her stellar reputation and knows she is going to have to work even harder to keep her attraction to Sean under wraps. No sooner than the ink is dry on their business contract, a crisis arises where Charlotte innocently comforting Sean leads to a night of sweltering passion between the couple. Charlotte is determined not to repeat a mistake from her past while Sean now sees Charlotte as being much more than his business manager. Can this couple find their happily-ever-after with each other in both their personal and business relationships?

Goss has written a sweet and soulful romance of two strong-minded professionals learning how to come out on top in both life and love. Charlotte is a spitfire heroine whose stubbornness, holding on to her past almost crippled her from the man she desires. There were times when I just wanted to shake Charlotte to see how perfect Sean would be for her and just wanted some of that astuteness she showed in business relationships to apply to her personal life. Sean lives up to his role as a dreamy hero. I enjoyed his romantic wooing to win Charlotte over and often wondered when his patience would run out. Sean’s growing maturity and understanding his respect and love for Charlotte was unfolded in a realistic manner. While the chemistry between the couples at times seems lacking their journey of personal revelations and professional success will hold the hearts and attention of readers.

SECRET RELATIONS is the first book in the Women in Hollywood series and Goss neatly introduced readers to the scenery, politics, and secrets that are as fundamental to the premise of the series as any of the characters. Charlotte and her two girlfriends make up a strong loving support network and I look forward to reading their stories.

I recommend SECRET RELATIONS to readers looking for a romantic and entertaining storyline.

Heat in the Kitchen

Hot Summer Nights (California Desert Dreams) - Lisa Marie Perry

Perry has penned a luscious romance of two controlling personalities who learn being blind-sided isn’t a bad thing, sometimes the best surprises come out of it. Gabby has no regrets about her past and has worked hard to achieve her dreams. She is a perfectionist and controlling. The steadfast rules she lives by puts her in a quandary as her heart and head does battle once she meets Geoffrey. Geoffrey is all alpha male but once he makes up his mind to pursue Gabby he learns what is necessary to get her to trust him. His patience and magnetism allows Gabby to figure out how to pursue their relationship. I thought a couple of the scene transitions could have been smoother and vague references to past incidents slowed the flow but the couple’s personalities and antics quickly pulled me back into the storyline. The initial meeting between Gabby and Geoffrey is one of the best and hottest sexual tension scenes I have read. And all of their intimate scenes that follow sizzle and burn up the pages.

HOT SUMMER NIGHTS is the second book in the California Desert Dream continuity has the connecting theme revolving around the mysterious mishaps at the posh Belleza Resort and Spa and the three best friends female executives. Gabby has to deal with kitchen accidents while ensuring that Gabriel considers hosting events at the resort. The ambiance of the resort and diverse characters provide the necessary background to move the storyline along. The ending preps the reader for the final book in this trilogy.

Overall
HOT SUMMER NIGHTS is a delicious story as the readers watch the couple negotiate their pasts and indulge in a charmingly sensuous journey to their happily-ever-after.

— feeling wink
""Book collecting is an obsession, an occupation, a disease, an addiction, a fascination, an absurdity, a fate. It is not a hobby. Those who do it must do it. "

Jeanette Winterson "

Utterly Charming!

A Man Called Ove - Fredrik Backman

Utterly charming story that made my heart soar!

 

You just cannot help loving the grumpy, big-hearted, rule loving Ove. His life has been hard and losing his beloved wife, Sonja six months ago takes all the color from his life. Speaking to her as he plans his suicide to join her, but life has other plans for Ove. New neighbors and old enemies have a series of crisis that keep foiling his plans and despite himself gives him reasons to live and love again. Told in a series of vignettes which reveal Ove’s past and present life events and a stellar cast of secondary characters, I laughed, smiled and cried while reading this endearing story.

 

I highly recommend this book to readers who need a quiet uplifting moment in their busy lives and live stories that explore our humanness.

Magic, Myth, & Memory

Land of Love and Drowning: A Novel - Tiphanie Yanique

A sumptuous tale of two sisters and their half-brother entangled by magic, myth, and the pull of memory tinged with illicit love set in the Virgin Islands.

 

This intergenerational tale covers the years 1916 when the Danish West Indies was transferred to the United States to the 1970s as orphaned sisters Eeona and Annette, often at odds with each other, forge their identities from their legacies commingled with “Americanisms” as half-brother Jacob navigates the muddy waters of lineage secrets. I liked how the use of magical realism gives the story a more unique feeling as it builds tension and moods as readers wonder if the characters decisions are of free will or the pull of the destinies. The transition between first person narrators and the third person narrator seemed choppy at times but I enjoyed how the third person narrator gave their part the feel of oral storytelling.

 

I appreciated how the author effectively blended history, folklore, and family memoir into a spellbinding story. I recommend to readers of historical fiction, magical realism, and Caribbean history.

Family, Loyalty & History

The Headmaster's Wager - Vincent Lam

In this magnificently ambition tale a politically naïve Percival Chen, the headmaster of a successful English academy in 1960s Saigon believes in the superiority of his Chinese heritage and the value bribes are the keys to his success. After all this has worked with past conquerors, the Japanese, the French and the Americans–no matter how temporary their stay but being oblivious to the newest player for control will challenge Percival beyond his nightmares.


I was captivated by this book from the beginning and held spellbound to the last paragraph by the Lam’s storytelling ability to intertwine the history/connection of Vietnam, China, Hong Kong and the foreigners. This was an audio book for me and the narrator effectively conveyed the tension, arrogance, love, and betrayals.


I believe part of the appeal of this book for me can also be contributed to my recent trip to China and Hong Kong and reading the wonderful book, “Ghost Month” by Ed Lin helping me to appreciate the complexly layered history of this region.


Lam has crafted a gripping masterpiece that captures a street-level view of the complexity of a world where one misstep can lead to an unraveling of all that you hold dear. I recommend this book to readers of historical fiction.

Truth, Greed & Freedom

The Moor's Account: A Novel - Laila Lalami

I was looking forward to reading this book when I first heard that Laila Lalami would write a fictionalized account of Estebanico as I knew she would provide the necessary insight on Morocco and a Moroccan point-of-view of the 1500s. This book exceeded my expectations.

 

There are many accounts of the Narvaez expedition and what happened in the years 1527 – 1536, when the four survivors (out of 600) were reunited with other Spaniards. Among the survivors was a Moroccan slave known in the accounts by his enslaved name Esteban or Estebanico. At last is a compelling historical fiction account giving a voice to the first known black explorer of the New World.

 

I enjoyed how Lalami through her graceful language and journal-like format places the reader in the narrator’s hands, giving him an identity other than a slave – Mustafa al-Zamori. The beginning alternates with chapters of all the pomp and arrogance of the Spaniards decisions and Mustafa telling his life before he was a slave allowing us to see the complex layered reality of his situation. Wonderful storytelling and a fresh robust take of an arduous adventure makes this a book to be read by all interested in early American history and conquest.

 

As the saying goes – the only new history is history yet to be discovered and I graciously thank the author for her time and research for a thoughtful informative book.

The Story of Land and Sea

The Story of Land and Sea: A Novel - Katy Simpson Smith

Occasionally, I read a book that even after a day or two of reflection I am still not sure what I feel about the book and I am thus stumped when someone asks me how I would rate this book (and not liking to rank a book as I believe most books are much more than their ratings).


I was interested to read this book for several reasons; I enjoy historical fiction, North Carolina (the setting for the book) is now my new home state so enjoying learning the history of the area, and the author has written a history book.


I enjoyed how the author was able to take me to a particular place and time – the waning days of the American Revolutionary War set in a small prospering coastal town in North Carolina whose growth will be spurred by the growing town of New Bern. The book informs and reminds how challenging childbirth was in the past, often with the mother not surviving and how this changed the dynamics of childrearing. While I had no issues with the lyrical yet taut language it did not invest me in the characters. The story format also contributed to my often lack of interest in the characters as the first part told me a little too much of what to expect for the rest of the book.


Themes of duty, devotion, free will and self-blame are well played out and the self-rationalization of the characters show-off that human nature is the same across time. For many in current times, slavery has one face but the author shows us slavery in time as it was evolving into the formal institution that defined the United States and those that were enslaved did not believe the “hype” that sometimes cane from the “caring” slaveholders.


Overall, this book added to my knowledge of time and place despite my lack of connection to the characters.

What Would You Do????

Bird Box - Josh Malerman

Great premise!

 

I am a fan of near/post apocalyptic storylines that have an adult tone. This book immediately built the suspense and tension but it sizzled out a little for me during the flashbacks as those events became anti-climatic because of the river journey. But was still anxious to turn the pages to the end. I also enjoy storylines where there are several – what would I do in those situation moments, especially those when there are so many unknowns and this book provided several for me to ponder.


This debut novel was well-paced and engaging though the book focused on the information that the characters knew about I wanted to know a little bit more of the big picture of the situation. I look forward to reading future books by the author.

Hauntingly Moving and Compelling Read

The Bird Skinner - Alice Greenway

Cantankerous ornithologist Jim Kennoway whose leg was recently amputated retreats to an island off the coast of Maine and just wants to be left alone. Instinctively the reader knows there is much more to Jim’s orneriness than meets the eye as the elegiac language is often betrayed by restrained humanity. In this story, it is the arrival of Cadillac, the daughter of the Melanesian man who scouted with Jim during WWII, on her way to Yale to study medicine that allows the floodgates of Jim’s memories to encroach into ours.


The well-layered flashbacks provide the details, and the spellbinding poetic language provides the muted emotions, taut suspense, and pending release in a heartfelt manner. But the brilliance of this tale was the evocation of place and time whether is it was WWII ravaged Solomon Islands, sultry pristine Cumberland Island at the turning of the twentieth century, present day Fox Island off the Maine coast or the competitive academic world of Manhattan.


This hauntingly moving tale held my attention from the first page and dared me every time I thought to put it down before the final page. Needless to say I stayed up late into the night to finish. This was my first read by the author and look forward to reading more of her work. I recommend to readers who like stories regarding owning memories, life expectations, and acceptance.

From Where We Come

Belle City - Penny Mickelbury

Belle City by Penny Mickelbury is a historically rich interracial intergenerational saga of love, loyalty, family dynamics and the vicissitudes of everyday life. I looked forward to reading this book as I am a fan of family sagas and history. The book follows two characters from two different branches of the same family tree, Jonas Thatcher who is white and Ruth Thatcher who is black from when they are twelve-years old in 1917 until their dying many decades later both leaving wills that their relatives in 2005 do not quite understand. I enjoyed how Mickelbury skillfully threw unexpected curveballs into the storyline occasionally that allowed some of the secondary characters, such as Beau, to outshine the main characters. These sections provided the tension and excitement to keep the reader focus and to showcase the author’s mystery writing skills. While the even flowing plot nicely sets the tone of the eras and the character’s motivations, I thought some editing could have avoided the story dragging in places. The value of the story is the feeling that this could have been every family’s story and will have readers thinking how their families fared during times of historical upheavals and change.

Murder Most Historical

The Laced Chameleon - Bob Rogers

The Laced Chameleon by Bob Rogers is a suspenseful, compassionate and perceptive reflection on race, identity, and the multifaceted history of New Orleans. The story opens on April 25, 1862, as the Union is routing the Confederates out of New Orleans. The beautiful feisty quadroon Francesca Dumas, her lover, wealth banker Joachim, and several friends are among the crowd celebrating the turnover. Then Francesca world swirls out-of-control when Joachim is shot down before her eyes. Vowing revenge Francesca quickly dispatches her friends to follow the suspected shooters, as she attends to moving Joachim’s body. Now penniless and homeless as Joachim’s family refuses to honor the signed placage contract, this allows mixed-race women to form arranged liaisons with wealthy white men. Further distressed upon learning the police does not have the resources to investigate the murder of Joachim or the kidnapping of her friend Emily, Francesca will turn amateur sleuth working against the clock of time finding out she is much more than what is expected of her.

 

Rogers’ characters are sharply drawn, and realistically complicated highlighting that much in history is not necessarily all black and white but shades of gray as personal necessity demands. This was a time where race and class defined your identity and everyone was expected to play within the spoken and unspoken rules but it was the characters that stepped outside those boundaries that get me turning the pages. I enjoyed the political intrigue and treachery that’s beautifully interwoven with the history, especially how the fictional and “real life” characters moved the plot along.

 

I enjoyed and cheered on the character of Francesca and her growth throughout the story. She was raised to use her beauty as her badge of security but survival quickly taught her that was only one key in her arsenal that brains, common sense, compassion, and determination allowed for more opportunities and independence. While I thought the beginning bogged down at points as circumstances reveal deeper, darker motivations, the pace and plot quickens to a satisfying conclusion.

 

And while I know the author has many more historical stories to tell us, I am hoping that this would be the beginning of a Francesca mystery series. I recommend this book to readers of historical fiction who enjoy a mysterious unscrambling of history.

 

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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