Saturday, June 25, 2016

Review of The Blackbirds by Eric Jerome Dickey

The Blackbirds is the latest novel by the prolific author Eric Jerome Dickey.  I read this book as part of an online book club that I've recently joined, and though I must confess that I voted for a different book for the group's selection, I am so glad to have read the novel. (Shoutout to the members of R.E.A.D.!!!)

The plot traces the lives of four best friends who live in the same apartment building.  Indigo, the owner of the apartment building, is the child of a wealthy Nigerian family and the on-again, off-again girlfriend to a superstar NFL player.  As he cheats on her and stalls on putting a ring on her finger, she wavers between him and her ex-boyfriend, an equally famous NBA player. Kwanzaa is a Starbucks barista and college student, trying unsuccessfully to get over her broken engagement and cheating fiance.  A chance encounter with a handsome, mysterious customer leads to a wild fling with details that outdo even some of the author's most sensual works!  Destiny is the infamous title character from a previous EJD work, Chasing Destiny.  She is all grown up but still fighting the demons of her tragic past.  Ericka is a divorced teacher, left by her pastor husband while fighting cancer.  She is also fighting a strong, hidden crush on Destiny's father.  The novel is divided into sections based on each character's  birthday, and there is enough drama, romance, and fast-paced dialogue to keep readers turning pages well into the wee hours of the morning.

Eric Jerome Dickey is the author of over twenty novels, including the Gideon series, one of my personal favorites.  He also penned a series of graphic novels featuring the Black Panther and Storm, the African weather witch of X-men fame.  He hails from Memphis, but now makes his home as a nomad, traveling from place to place.  Learn more about him and his works at his website.

This novel takes readers on a roller coaster ride of emotions.   I laughed out loud literally at the antics of the women and their sharp wit and brutal humor.  I cried with them as they faced heartbreak and disappointment.  I raged against men who broke their hearts, and in Ericka's case-a bitter mother who was much better at dishing out bitterness and animosity than love.  On the other hand, I marveled at the strength of the relationship between Indigo and her mother.  As they discussed relationships, her mother told her, "you are better than me, Indigo.  You are better than me in every way.  You are the woman I admire and adore.  Don't let a man kiss you and turn a princess into a frog."  I cheered for Destiny as she fought to reclaim her life and stop living in the shadows.  I nearly stood up and shouted "Amen" when she told a man from her past, "I am a black woman, overworked, stressed, abused, and I have demons.  Oppression, fear, being marginalized creates demons.  Every black person in America should have demons, or they are spiritually dead.  You'd have to be crazy to not have a breakdown."  The novel is not all serious conversation, however.  Those EJD fans who turn to his books for the spine-tingling, graphic sex scenes will not be disappointed.  There is truly something for everyone in this novel.  This is a true gem from a beloved author.  EJD certainly rose to the occasion with this work.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Review of The Inquisitor's Niece by Erika Rummel

The Inquisitor's Niece by Erika Rummel is featured on this blog as part of a Virtual Authors Book Tour blog tour.  The novel is a historical fiction piece full of carefully researched details that brings the setting of Spain during the Inquisition to life as the backdrop to a touching love story.

The novel follows the story of Luisa and Alonso, two seemingly star-crossed lovers who overcome life-threatening odds to be together.  Luisa originally has dreams of becoming a nun, however her ambitious father has dreams of marrying her off to a prominent man. Being a woman in the 16th century means that she has little to no say in her future, so marriage it is.  On the advice of the Cardinal, her father arranges a marriage to Deodatus, a prominent scholar and poet who is wealthy and famous.  However, Deodatus is attracted to men only, and Luisa finds herself trapped into a loveless, sometimes abusive relationship.  Alonso is a Jew who was forced into conversion by the Inquisition, but even this wasn't enough to save his father, who is eventually killed, leaving his family in shame and penniless.  Alonso barely escapes losing his livelihood as a doctor by receiving a pardon from the Cardinal upon recommendation of Natale, a sneaky spy of the Inquisition.  Natale's scheming, back-stabbing tendencies play an integral part of the story and nearly bring about the demise of Alonso.  As I'm not a fan of spoilers, I will leave details about how Alonso and Luisa meet, how her marriage to Deodatus ends, and what happens at the end, for readers to discover on their own!  And, as part of the blog tour, here is your chance to win a copy of the novel:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Erika Rummel is a scholar, author and historian from Vienna, Austria.  She earned her PHd from the University of Toronto and went on to teach Renaissance history there, as well as at Wilfrid Laurier in Waterloo.  To learn more about her, check out the BTWA interview with her on this blog's Author Interviews page.

The Inquisitor's Niece embodies what I love the most about reading historical fiction:  the ability to learn about a time period in history while being entertained with a delightful plot.  Rummel's background as a history scholar is evident in the amount of painstaking research that obviously went into recreating the life of Christians and Jews during the Inquisition in Europe.  Luisa and Alonso are endearing characters who are vividly brought to life and their quest to be together will win readers' hearts.  I look forward to reading forthcoming works from Erika Rummel and am excited to once again participate in a Virtual Authors  Book tour.