Over the course of the summer months I will be sharing the recommended authors who feature in the Smorgasbord Bookshelf along with their books and a selected review.
The first book is one I enjoyed and reviewed earlier in the year, Jazz Baby by Beem Weeks... a story set in a time when the music was an escape from life for many.
About the book
While all of Mississippi bakes in the scorching summer of 1925, sudden orphanhood wraps its icy embrace around Emily Ann “Baby” Teegarten, a pretty young teen.
Taken in by an aunt bent on ridding herself of this unexpected burden, Baby Teegarten plots her escape using the only means at her disposal: a voice that brings church ladies to righteous tears, and makes both angels and devils take notice. “I’m going to New York City to sing jazz,” she brags to anybody who’ll listen. But the Big Apple–well, it’s an awful long way from that dry patch of earth she’d always called home.
So when the smoky stages of New Orleans speakeasies give a whistle, offering all sorts of shortcuts, Emily Ann soon learns it’s the whorehouses and opium dens that can sidetrack a girl and dim a spotlight…and knowing the wrong people can snuff it out.
Jazz Baby just wants to sing–not fight to stay alive.
One of the many reviews for the book
Beem Weeks will take you back in time with this story of a young girl who dreams of becoming a jazz singer. Emily Ann “Baby” Teegarten is gifted with an amazing voice, but her life falls apart when her mother murders her father, and she is left orphaned at thirteen. Taken in by an aunt, she struggles to navigate her own way, singing in speak easies, getting caught up in a life of gangsters, drugs, and sex.
The setting is gritty and raw, perfectly rendered. This is a dark book—the character endures a lot at the hands of those who would use her for their own gain—but it also presents a realistic slice of life that brings the seedier side of the 1920s to vivid clarity. The writing is a mesmerizing combination of “plain-speak” and crude beauty. I don’t think I’ve ever read dialogue that felt so authentic or flowed so effortlessly. Characters are exquisitely drawn. Some, like Nessie, will steal your heart. Others, like Pig and Rydekker, will make your skin crawl. There is a side plot related to stolen money, and others involving infatuations and the first flush of love.
Emily Ann is feisty and daring but also naïve. There were many times I wanted to shake sense into her, and others where I cringed over the danger she found herself in—time and time again. This is a coming-of-age tale that doesn’t pull punches. I felt like I stepped back in time to an era when “speaks” and cathouses ruled the night and dreams of overcoming circumstance resulted in reckless choices. Bravo to the author for painting such a stark reality of hardscrabble living.
Also by Beem Weeks
About Beem Weeks
Beem Weeks is the author of short stories, poems, essays, and novels. A pop-culture trivia buff, Beem’s passions include indie films, loud music, and a well-told story. He has also penned short story collections entitled Slivers of Life, and Strange Hwy: Short Stories.
Another book that I enjoyed and reviewed earlier in the year is by Stevie Turner, a psychological thriller – Scam: An Electric Eclectic Book
About the book
Winner of the 2021 Electric Eclectic Novella Prize
Lauren West and Ben Hughes are saving frantically for their forthcoming marriage and mortgage deposit. When Lauren sees an advert online from a firm of brokers extolling the profits to be gained by buying and selling Bitcoins, she is interested enough to pursue it further.
Lauren clicks on the advert. She is soon contacted by Paul Cash, a knowledgeable stockbroker whom Lauren trusts straight away. He is affable, plausible, and seemingly genuinely interested in her welfare. Lauren looks forward to making enough money to be able to surprise Ben and bring the date of their wedding forward, and also to put a deposit down on their ideal house.
What could possibly go wrong?
One of the reviews for the book
Lauren is tired of living with her in laws, especially her dominating mother-in-law and can hardly wait to be able to move out with her husband, Ben and have the privacy and liberty she craves.
Her desires to escape her current situation make her the perfect target for falling for a scam. One in which she practically loses all her and her husband’s life savings and in the process is destroying her marriage.
There is more to this novel besides the scam which places it above the white color crime genre and into the mystery crime novel.
Scam was an easy read and anyone who is thinking of embarking in a get rich scheme ought to read this book. It’s bound to make you think twice about parting with your well-earned money.
Scam is a face paced book with well developed characters. This is a story about forgiveness, mistakes and the power of love.
It’s short enough to be read in one sitting which I did not because of its length but because I couldn’t put it down. All in all a fun read.
A selection of books by Stevie Turner
About Stevie Turner
Stevie Turner is a British author of romantic suspense, humour, paranormal stories, and women’s fiction family dramas. She is a cancer survivor, and still lives in the same picturesque Suffolk village that she and husband Sam moved to in 1991 with their two boys. Those two boys have now grown, and she and Sam have 5 lovely grandchildren.
One of her short stories, ‘Lifting the Black Dog’, was published in ‘1000 Words or Less Flash Fiction Collection’ (2016). Her screenplay ‘For the Sake of a Child’ won a silver award in the Spring 2017 Depth of Field International Film Festival, and her novel ‘A House Without Windows’ gained interest in 2017 from De Coder Media, an independent film production company based in New York. ‘Finding David’ reached the quarter-finals of the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Competition. Stevie’s latest book, ‘His Ladyship,’ reached the finals and Longlist of the 2021 Page Turner Writing Award.
To quote reader Roberta Baden-Powell, ‘I’m looking forward to reading your new book, and find your books the best so far. The style you write in has given me a new perspective and a renewed inspiration in reading once again.’
Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you will be leaving with some books.. thanks Sally.