The Lies We Hide by S. E. Lynes

The Lies We Hide: An absolutely gripping and darkly compelling novel

The Lies We Hide: An absolutely gripping and darkly compelling novel by S.E. Lynes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Special thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a free, electronic ARC of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication date: December 4, 2019

This was an extremely emotional, heart wrenching, page turner for me. Having been a victim of domestic violence myself in the past, I was caught up in the emotional turmoil Carol was finding herself in as a battered wife. The author does a fantastic job describing Carol’s emotions as she comes to the realization that her husband could kill her at any time and that she must protect her children from his wrath. She cannot fathom the possibility of them being raised in this house of horror she felt she couldn’t escape from until she almost dies from her husband, Ted’s, blind rage. The description and emotion that is felt when Carol finally decides to leave is scary, tension-filled, and breathless.

However, you see the war she has within herself. Grappling with herself on rationalizing that she could go back. Caught in between being paralyzed in fear that he would find her and drag her back home and thinking he has learned his lesson after being gone, she waffles back and forth between going back or staying gone. After facing Ted again and seeing him fly into a rage, as his hands are around her neck, she decides ‘no more.’

Sidenote: I felt sick to my stomach when I thought she was going back to Ted. She thought she could reason with him. Carol found out the hard way that abusers don’t change. Ted screamed at her, “I’ll kill you Carol. I’ll find you and fucking kill you.”

When Carol is trying to justify going back to Ted, I was panicking, as if I was reading about a real family. I did not want her to go back to that fool. She was living in a nightmare! “…his anger will write itself on her body later, invisible ink that reveals its black message by degrees.”

Carol is only trying to protect her kids, Graham and Nicola. You see their lives unfold as Carol starts her life over after Ted. Carol, trying to keep a handle on everything, you watch her try and keep her family together as best as she can. She does not want her son Graham going down the same path as his dad, but she is unsure of how to reach him before it’s too late.

There are a host of supportive friends that surround Carol and her family. Pauline, Carol’s ride or die friend, with her husband Tommy, is like a godsend to Carol. Many abused women are not able to get out because they don’t have a strong support system. Carol was able to find her way because of Pauline and Tommy. They protected her and helped her get on her feet until she was ready. Carol also met Jim. Carol was skittish and nervous around Jim. She didn’t know if she could trust him wholeheartedly without him turning on her, and bringing her back into a life she just escaped.

You also watch Graham become an adult in the wake of his father’s evil, vindictive, and physically violent behavior towards his mother. You see little Nicola grow up, somewhat unawares in a sense as to what’s really going on in the household, but also struggling to keep her brother close. You watch Carol get her life back in order after leaving her violent husband, and try to reestablish her life and place in the world, slowly coming back into her own self-worth.

The story is told from many different view points, and it was interesting to see how many angles and twists this story took. It was immensely triggering for me, as I’ve had some previous experience with domestic violence. This book is vivid and descriptive in the ways of physical violence towards Carol, so if you are triggered by this type of violence, I would caution you to take your time to read this because it could make you re-live your own experiences.

I wavered in between a 4 and a 5 rating with this book. What made the difference for me was the fact that I felt something was missing in the chapters of Richard. Richard had several chapters discussing an angle of Graham, but we don’t really know his backstory or see why it was important for the author to include an angle into Graham’s life through this character’s viewpoint. Also there is a time jump in this book that skips some important developments between Jim and Carol that I would have liked to see. Overall this book is a solid 4.5!

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The Mother I Could Have Been by Kerry Fisher

The Mother I Could Have Been

The Mother I Could Have Been by Kerry Fisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gripping, heartbreaking, emotional page turner! Wow!

I couldn’t stop reading this book! I was hooked! This book has drama written all over it!

Vicky Hall, young college student who graduates and goes on a two-week holiday to Corfu and decides never to come back home. She is disappointed that her mother couldn’t make it to graduation, and coming to a conclusion that her family is better off without her, she decides to make a life-altering decision to stay away. While away, Vicky is swept away by William, and both thinking they can live in sheer bliss forever, has to return to reality of real life after Vicky starts to have a complicated pregnancy. Once back in William’s home, Barbara, William’s mom pseudo-adopts Vicky as apart of the family, and helps her throughout the pregnancy and birth. However, once the baby arrives, all hell breaks loose.

Vicky, unable to cope with the rigors of family drama, motherhood, and expectations, she decides that her son is better off without her. She disappears when her son is 2 years old, and lives a nomadic-type lifestyle for 6 years. However, in a twisted turn of events, her son is back in her life for good and she now has to answer to the call of motherhood once again, uncertain, guilty, and ashamed for running off in the first place.

Vicky also struggles with her relationship, or lack of relationship with her mother, and is trying to figure out how to get back. Simultaneously, she lands a job where she meets Caro, another mother, who also has a strained relationship with her daughter. Here we see manipulation, bitterness, pure evil, unforgiving attitudes, and how perception can lead to estrangement.

Through Vicky, Barbara, Caro, and India, we find out how tough and stressful motherhood can be. We also see how the relationships with mothers go wrong, how preconceived notions determine the health of the relationships, and we see the sacrifices mothers make for their kids, whether for good or bad.

This book was definitely a page turner with sharp twists and unexpected surprises. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and seeing how Vicky managed her life and motherhood despite trying to run from responsibility for most of her adult life. The ending of this book was pretty open-ended, leaving the reader to imagine what happens next.

One thing I would mention is that I thought the book had some time gap issues, but overall, pretty solid novel! I would definitely read this again and recommend to others. This book is a 4.

Thank you to Net Galley, Kerry Fisher and Bookouture for providing me with my ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams *spoiler alert*


Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Queenie, for me, was a bit rough for most of the book. I disliked Queenie and her godawful attachment to Tom, her ex-boyfriend. Queenie, was horrible to him. She berated him, she used him, she was angry all the time at him, and she blocked him from having any form of physical contact with her most of the time. Tom loved her despite all that until she went a bit too far with her anger. For most of the book you watch Queenie self-destruct and create havoc on her life after her breakup with Tom. She careens out of control, having unhealthy sexual relationships (if you can even call it that) with white men. I was a bit lost for 2/3 of the book, trying to figure out what was going on and what was causing Queenie to lash out like this. I couldn’t understand for the life of me, how losing a boyfriend of only 3 years could set Queenie on this path of self-destruction. It was like watching a bad car wreck. The writing and story was all over the place. Not enough detail was given on Queenie’s backstory, and I was frustrated to no end trying to find the root cause of all of her self-destructive behaviors.

The book also focused on Jamaican family foundations and mindsets about proper behavior, the lack of conversation around mental health illness in the black community, and the attitude that went along with having family members who may suffer with mental health illness. We learn about Queenie’s support system in her friends and aunt, and how they play a part in her well-being. Her friends were lit! I definitely feel all black girls need to have them a Kyazike in their group! She was ride-or-die!

One of the things that really frustrated me about this book was the lack of information pertaining to Queenie’s root cause of her mental issues and backstory. The book alludes to some possibilities, but does not confirm or deny what was the source of where all this was coming from. I would have liked more knowledge about Roy (her mother’s boyfriend), and the relationship between her and her mother, and her mother and her grandmother. Even a backstory about her friends. Even though we meet them and get some general idea with how they all come in to play in Queenie’s life, the character development was not strong here. Without this important information, Queenie looks like an ungrateful spoiled child self-destructing because she can’t have what she wants. with placating friends. All while being unable to cope with rejection, and without a steady man in her life, her self-confidence plummets to the point where she has panic and anxiety attacks, even with a supportive group of friends in her corner.

One thing that I really appreciated in the book was the way the author showcased the hesitancy of seeking professional mental help. The stigma that black families have about mental health, and how families treat you if you try to seek help, or end up seeking help. That was very real and true in some cases in the black family. Mental health is not talked about nearly enough as it should be, and Queenie details what happens when mental health rears its ugly head in the family.

The author also tried to throw in some political justice issues (Black Lives Matter) through Queenie, but I’m not sure if it worked as well as it was intended. Queenie seemed to either force Black Lives Matter onto others or became severely angry when the issue was not taken seriously. There wasn’t much context around this issue other than what’s already known in the world to date. I would have liked some personal tie or experience that would have made this a more real issue for Queenie.

Overall, the book focused on how unstable Queenie was and how dependent her whole life depended on this one relationship with Tom. To be honest though, I wanted to scream if she talked about Tom anymore than she did… and then she did, still right up until the very end. By the end of the book, I was tired of Tom.

The last 1/3 of the book really picks up and I couldn’t put the book down. This last third of the book kind of wraps up some loose ties in the story and shows Queenie in a better light, as she’s finally getting it together.

Before reading this book, I saw some mixed reviews and most people said you will either love this book or hate it. I truly did hate this book in the beginning, but now having thought about some of the running issues in the book, the author did a good job in giving Queenie the voice that she had and how it reflects many women her age, who’ve had similar/same experiences. However, I do have issues with the missing complete backstory of Queenie, her mom, Roy, Tom, and her group of friends. I think there were some key missing parts there that could have given Queenie a more complete character development. Overall I rate this book a 3.

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The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates *spoiler alert*

The Water Dancer

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ta-Nehisi Coates has done it again! Well actually for the first time on this side of the tracks in this debut novel, but he has done a fantastic job on this historical slave fiction fantasy novel!

Picked as the first bookclub selection for Oprah’s bookclub on Apple+, this book has garnered a host of support, hype, anticipation, whatever you want to call it, everyone one and their mama is literally reading this book right now…

As with all of Ta-Nehisi’s work, you definitely learn some lessons, pick up on some thought provoking perspectives, and see the world from a different lens after reading one of his books. It was no different in this historical fictional piece of work. As Ta-Nehisi Coates has shared in his previous non-fiction work, the issue of race is his life’s work to explore, explain, to delve deeper into, understand every aspect, and share with the world. This book, The Water Dancer, takes you on a journey into a fantastical slave story with magical realism intertwined.

Told from the perspective of Hiram Walker, a slave who belongs to Howell Walker and who is also the son. The story of Hiram begins as he is explaining how he cannot remember his mother, but how he can remember every single detail besides his mother. The book then goes into explanation as to Hiram’s remarkable memory and how he decides that he cannot live another minute enslaved. Caught escaping, they are returned back into the waiting hands of slavery; however, Hiram is sent to leave with Corrine Quinn who is secretly determined to wage war against the slaveholders and free as many slaves as she can.

Here is where, for me the story fell flat for me. The author, uses magical realism and fantasy throughout this book, which is centered around Conduction. Hiram is supposed to have this gift that has been passed down to him from his grandmother, Santi Bess, of Conduction, also known as Water Dancing. Transporting self through time and space via the use of water. It takes Hiram some really deep soul searching and recalling/jarring his memory to actually get to the point of Conducting far enough to bring about an escape from slavery. However, before Hiram gets to this point, he meets “Moses” or Harriet Tubman, who helps him to understand a little bit more of this gift of Conduction and helping Hiram understanding his place in the Underground. However, the aspect of Harriet Tubman felt forced here. I couldn’t place her voice in the narrative to make her sound convincing enough, and I felt the author was reaching a bit with this character. I wished perhaps the story of Santi Bess was more developed and discussed as Santi Bess had more to do with Hiram than Harriet Tubman.

The story of Hiram and his upbringing, his initial escape, his love, the loss that shapes him, his family both slave and slave holder, is a gripping and emotionally raw story of how slavery has destroyed families both physically and emotionally. This book details the love that was had, that was lost, the ripping apart of families, the entitlement of white privilege, the savagery of owning other human beings, facing a reality that a slave could have no control over their entire lives, and how slaves lived in perpetual fear of being sold away from their family, being killed or tortured.

This book was a 4 for me and I would definitely read this book again to get a more clearer picture of all that is packed into some of the symbolism and parallel stories that is sprinkled through this book. Definitely recommend to everyone to read this!

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