Enchanted needs to sing like she needs to breathe. The white girls at her school say she sounds like Beyonce, but that’s only because they don’t know many Black singers. Enchanted’s passion is the classic singers–the ones she and her grandma used to sing along with–Gladys Knight, Aretha, Nina Simone.
When she auditions for Music LIVE, the judges aren’t impressed with her dated sing choice or her timid performance, but 28 year old superstar Korey Fields is. He convinces her parents to let Enchanted tour with him, his newest protege. But there’s a darkness to Korey that Enchanted didn’t see at first, and the whirlwind that she thought would lead her to fame and love instead carries her down into terror, abuse, and ultimately a pool of blood on the floor of Korey’s penthouse.
I cannot adequately express how powerful and moving this book is. Enchanted’s voice is so strong. Even with the immense power her abuser holds over her, even when she is confused and heartbroken and doubting herself, she holds on. She fights when she’s able (and when she isn’t able to fight emotionally, mentally, the author makes it very clear that it is NOT her fault that she is in this situation). And she survives.
And the community around her! Reading this book as an adult and a parent, I wept at some of the scenes where her parents defend her. Jackson incorporates their voices directly through police interview transcripts and minutes of mom group meetings to provide a deeper perspective on how a whole community is affected by and responds to the violent abuses of a powerful man. Not all adults react in a positive way, but many do–from the parents, to the psychiatrist, to the flight attendant who notices something amiss. A reader will come away from this book knowing that there is help out there. That they are not alone in their experiences and they do not need to be alone in their rescue and recovery. As dark as the subject matter is, a reader will come away from this book with hope.
TW: This book could definitely trigger survivors of sexual violence and/or abusive relationships, but FWIW it didn’t trigger me. I think it was the strength of Enchanted’s voice and the knowledge from Chapter One that she will escape–that there will be some form of justice–that kept me from going to a dark place. But every survivor’s journey is different, so definitely exercise caution.
Evvie Drake was leaving Tim. She was literally in the car, her suitcase packed in the trunk, when her phone rang. There had been an accident. Her husband was dead.
One year later, Evvie’s life does not resemble the freedom she imagined she’d find without Tim. Her family and friends think it’s grief, but really it’s something else. Guilt. Guilt for the lack of grief. Guilt that she ever wanted to get away from Tim, who was in everyone else’s eyes, completely and utterly perfect. Guilt for the remote possibility that the universe had known she wanted to escape and had taken the matter into its own hands.
But when she takes in a former all-star baseball pitcher as a lodger, Evvie gradually begins to enjoy life again. Because Dean is full of possibility–new friendship, new project, new distraction. What Evvie doesn’t count on is that in trying to fix Dean’s life, she may have to confront the darkness in her own past and the ghosts Tim left behind.
An engaging contemporary romance, EVVIE DRAKE is a fun read and great book club book for groups that enjoy “women’s fiction.”
The maid of honor’s body washed up on the Nantucket beach the morning of the wedding. It was the bride who found her. Needless to say, the wedding was canceled. Now it is up to the chief and his lead detective to interview the shell-shocked bridal party and figure out what happened. The simplest explanation, of course, would be that it was an accident. Girl has too much to drink, goes for a late night swim, washes up on the beach the next morning. But what about the abandoned kayak that belongs to the father of the groom? Why does the other bridesmaid seem so reluctant to discuss the MOH’s love life? Why was the bride on the beach so early in the morning carrying a suitcase? And where is the best man? As the investigation unfolds, it becomes clear that everyone has at least one secret and no one is as perfect as they seem.
A character-driven mystery, this novel will appeal to some mystery fans, but also realistic fiction fans who like some good old-fashioned family dysfunction. In the end, exactly what happened is less important than the complex web of relationships between the characters. A fast and enjoyable summer read!
Ove is ready to leave the monotony of this life behind. He is tired of making his morning rounds to insure that all of the neighbors are abiding by the residential association’s rules. He is particularly tired of dealing with people, most of whom he finds to be incompetent and lazy. And most of all, he misses Sonja, who has been dead for six months now. As soon as his affairs are in order, he has resolved to join her. That is, until some new neighbors move in and drive their vehicle down into the residential area (although the sign Ove installed clearly states that this is a violation of the rules!) and back into his mailbox. Somehow, the reluctant Ove gets swept up into their lives and reinvested in his community which, as it turns out, needs him as much as he needs them.
This international bestseller is humorous, quirky, feel-good book about the importance of community and relationships. Engaging and occasionally absurd plot threads propel this story about a diverse cast of unconventional but lovable characters. I highly recommend it to adult readers of realistic fiction who like humor in their thought-provoking novels.
Jane moved to Pirriwee on a whim. Really, everything she’d done since Ziggy was born had been a whim, not just the frequent moves. But in the small seaside town she immediately strikes up an unlikely friendship with feisty, queen bee Madeline and kind, perfect Celeste, and Jane begins to feel a sense of community for the first time in five years. Unfortunately, not everyone in Pirriwee is immediately friendly to the single mom, and when Ziggy is accused of bullying, the kindergarten moms divide into vicious factions. It would all be somewhat funny, if there weren’t a murder on the horizon. . . .
This book grabbed me not so much from the suspense of impending murder (although there was some of that) but from the suspense in Jane’s and Celeste’s life stories. If you enjoy character driven realistic fiction with a bit of suspense, check it out!
Hoping to get back home to his patients ahead of a snowstorm, Ben Payne charters a flight from Salt Lake to Denver and, on a whim, invites the bride-to-be that he met in the terminal, Ashley. She needs to get back home for her rehearsal dinner, and Ben can’t help think of Rachel and how special his own wedding was. They fly out with a chatty pilot and his little dog, only to learn mid-flight that the pilot never filed a flight plan, and the plane is only supposed to seat one passenger. Then, over the frozen mountain wilderness, the pilot has a heart attack. Although Ben and Ashley survive the crash, Ashley’s femur is broken, along with several of Ben’s ribs, and altitude sickness makes their predicament worse. With no one knowing where they are, Ben must use the few provisions they have to survive the snowstorm and drag Ashley down the mountain to safety. Throughout their weeks struggling in the wilderness, Ben composes letters to Rachel on his audio recorder, remembering their relationship and coming to terms with the horrible experience that brought it to an end–as well as the knowledge that, should they survive, his developing feelings for the soon-to-be-married Ashley must also end in heartache.
I really enjoyed this novel. The action of the survival-thriller plot neatly compliments the tragic love story told in flashback. Interestingly, though, it is the suspense of the love story–the desire to find out what happened to Rachel, who is implied at various points to be both dead and alive–that really kept me reading. I’m not sure I would enjoy the new film adaptation, which seems to focus solely on the survival plot. But I would recommend this novel to realistic fiction readers who like action-packed love stories. Although it is literary fiction, romance readers may also find this novel satisfying.
It took less than two minutes for Gretchen’s life to change. She was hit from behind, crushed into the asphalt, and robbed. And then she witnessed something even worse. Six months later she’s still having panic attacks. Phoenix has them, too. After what he experienced of gang violence in El Salvador, and his harrowing journey through Mexico, he is now being treated as a criminal for seeking asylum in the United States. His brother Ari, in his group home in Texas, is worse:not speaking a word to anyone. A legal adult at 18, Phoenix is grateful to have a place to live in Atlanta, even though he knows he will soon be sent back and killed. Almost no one from El Salvador is allowed to stay, even when deportation is a death sentence. But when he meets Gretchen, things begin to change. He begins to enjoy his life in the U.S. And Gretchen begins to venture out of her shell. Together, they begin to heal from the traumas gang violence brought to their lives.
A horrifying glimpse into the realities of gang warfare and the Central American refugee journey, The Radius of Us does not shy away from graphic violence. As disturbing as some scenes are, the novel helps teen (and adult) readers understand how gangs can take hold of the lives of children and teens and what the experience of fleeing to the U.S can mean for these children, including being abducted up by drug cartels and trafficked as slaves. And memories and flashbacks aside, the story is busting with kindness and hope. It does have the fairly trite plot where the girl kicks the boy out, but once he’s gone suddenly learns from his friends all these wonderful things about him and must therefore go on a road trip to get him back. But still a worthwhile read.
Sheriff Lee Mattock was popular in the small town of Marathon, KY. No one could believe it when he was murdered. But as deputy Harlan Dupee soon learns, Lew may not have been as innocent and he seemed. Harlan follows the trail of Leo’s killer, gradually uncovering the complicated web of Marathon’s underground Oxycotin trade. Meanwhile, teenaged Mary Jane finds that getting rid of Lew hasn’t led to the immediate freedom she and her boyfriend thought it would, and the drugs no longer seem to provide enough of an escape.
Not quite a mystery, Donaldson’s novel is a harsh glimpse into prescription drug abuse in the ’90s and its impact on individuals and communities. The book may grab some mystery readers due to its subject matter and the puzzle-like way that the whole picture gradually develops, but it will likely appeal most to readers who enjoy gritty, realistic stories about dysfunctional communities, corruption, and seedy small town life.
Mele thought Bobby would be excited she told him she was pregnant. She definitely didn’t expect him to tell her that he was engaged to another woman. Raising her daughter on her own, she sought out other parents in the San Francisco Moms Club and after a few failed attempts, finally found the perfect group of unconventional, wine-drinking, occasionally pot-smoking moms (and a dad). Now she hopes to fulfill her dreams of becoming a writer by winning the SFMC cookbook competition, blending her best recipes with vignettes about the parents she encounters. And hopefully, by the time she’s done, she’ll have decided whether or not to go to Bobby’s wedding.
Told through a series of vignettes interspersed with Mele’s cookbook application and excerpts from SFMC message boards, this novel will likely appeal most to parents disenchanted with the stereotypical “perfect mom” culture. The plot didn’t grip me or drive me to keep turning pages, but it was an entertaining read that I took at a slow pace (a chapter every couple of days). The snarky narration kept me coming back to read a bit more. Recommended to adults who like realistic fiction, especially parents who enjoy poking fun at mom groups.
Phil Needle has finally figured out the truth about humanity. “We are pirates!” he announces to the crowd of party- goers who have come to his home to gawk at his wealth. They don’t understand. But then, they weren’t part of the insane events that led Phil to this conclusion. Except, of course, for his teenage daughter, Gwen, the shoplifter, whose supreme dissatisfaction with life was bound to drive her to the high seas.
This strange realistic fiction novel is at times poignant, often humorous, and occasionally deeply disturbingly. The loose chronology and shifting POVS require the reader to pay close attention, and much of the humor comes from the quirky and often deliberately misleading narration. You will know a few pages in whether this is the book for you. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy off-beat, humorous novels and absurd, twisting story lines that keep you guessing.