Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday
Flashback Friday

The Comeback

The Comeback
The Comeback by Ella Berman

Friday, April 9, 2021

FLASHBACK FRIDAY-Tangerine by Christine Mangan- Feature and Review


The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

Tangerine is a sharp dagger of a book—a debut so tightly wound, so replete with exotic imagery and charm, so full of precise details and extraordinary craftsmanship, it will leave you absolutely breathless.



TangerineTangerine by Christine Mangan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tangerine by Christine Mangan is a 2018 Ecco publication.

I seldom give much credence to author recommendations, having learned a long time ago, that they are mostly meaningless. I've helped authors through various stages of marketing, and trust me, sometimes authors just pull those blurb quotes right out of thin air without even reading the book first.

But… Then I saw that Joyce Carol Oates had written an endorsement for this debut novel, saying:

“As if Donna Tartt, Gillian Flynn, and Patricia Highsmith had collaborated on a screenplay to be filmed by Hitchcock—suspenseful and atmospheric.”

I must admit, I was intrigued, and the synopsis did capture my attention. That, along with a few friend reviews, convinced me to see what all the fuss was about.

I can tell you up front this book may not be for everyone, but I really liked it. The time period- 1950’s, the location- Morocco- sets the stage nicely, for a charlatan tale of obsession and manipulation that left me chilled to the core.

Alice and Lucy were roommates in New York until a horrendous incident separated them. Not long afterwards, Alice got married and moved to Morocco. Now, Lucy has decided to take a vacation to Morocco to visit her old friend-showing up unannounced, out of the blue, without an invitation.

‘Everything changes, sooner or later. Time moves along, without constraints- no matter how hard one may attempt to pause, to alter, to rewrite it. Quite simply, there is nothing to stop it, nothing at all.”

Lucy is shocked by her friend’s condition, the way her husband, John, treats her, and is determined to pull the wool from Alice’s eyes and convince her to go back home with her to New York.
Alice remains torn, slowly coming around to Lucy’s way of thinking- until her husband disappears…

This novel is certainly a slow burner, but the atmosphere alone was enough to keep me invested in the story. There are a few minor issues, places that didn’t gel completely, but books centered around fixations and obsessions must allow for a few inconsistencies here and there, as characters create and absorb information and respond to it, occasionally reacting to revelations in unexpected ways, as we would in reality.

“There were moments when I had thought that I did not so much want her as wanted to be her”

This is one twisted and deliciously wicked little tale and does most assuredly have a whisper of Patricia Highsmith running through it, and a knack for leaving one feeling very unsettled, ala Gillian Flynn. I’m not comparing this book or the author to either one of these authors, or their work, but the atmosphere and clever twists on top of layers of mistrust and re-inventions did put me in mind of them, which leads me to believe JCO may have really read this book and her assessment was spot-on. However, this little gem stands on its own merits just fine and this author is definitely one to watch.

I have the feeling this book may end up being underappreciated, which is too bad, because it really is a very worthy competitor, extremely well written, and certainly a cut above the average, over rated, psychological thriller out there, and most definitely falls into the literary thriller category.

As for me, I am almost embarrassingly grateful and quite appreciative of the work done here. There are so few novels, especially within this genre, written with this type of prose, this ability to create such rich characterizations, against such a vivid backdrop.

“I had realized what a hard place it could be. It was not a place where one simply arrived and belonged- no, I imagined it was a process, a trial, even an initiation of sorts, one that only the bravest survived, it was a place that inspired rebellion, a place that demanded it, of its people, of its citizens. A place where everyone had to constantly adapt, struggle, fight for what they wanted.”

I found the novel to be utterly chilling, but understated, quite unnerving, and well- constructed, especially for a debut novel!

I highly recommend this one to readers who enjoy nuanced, atmospheric, sophisticated, and stylish novels of suspense.





Christine Mangan has a PhD in English from University College Dublin, where her thesis focused on eighteenth-century Gothic literature, and an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Southern Maine. Tangerine is her first novel.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The Comeback by Ella Berman- Feature and Review


Grace Turner was one movie away from Hollywood’s A-List. So no one understood why, at the height of her career and on the eve of her first Golden Globe nomination, she disappeared.

Now, one year later, Grace is back in Los Angeles and determined to reclaim her life on her own terms.

So when Grace is asked to present a lifetime achievement award to director Able Yorke—the man who controlled her every move for eight years—she knows there’s only one way she’ll be free of the secret that’s already taken so much from her.

The Comeback is a powerful and provocative story of justice in the #MeToo era—a true page-turner about a young woman finding the strength and power of her voice



The ComebackThe Comeback by Ella Berman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Comeback by Ella Berman is a 2020 Berkley publication.

Painful, Powerful, and Ultimately Liberating!

After years of intense grooming as a teen star, Grace Turner, now in her early twenties, is right on the cusp of her big acting breakthrough, when she abruptly walks away from Hollywood without a word.

She’s been living under the radar, staying at her parent’s home, coping with addictions, and the pain of internalizing an insidious secret eating away at her.

As the story unfolds, through Grace’s flashbacks, we see the repulsive way she was molded, manipulated, and abused by powerful men in Hollywood.

When Grace returns to Hollywood, staging her 'comeback', she contacts old acquaintances, friends, and lovers- but, ultimately, she must decide how to navigate her life, and how to take control of her own destiny.

This is a dark story, approached with a polished, understated atmosphere which slowly builds tension and emotion as the horrifying truth is unveiled.

The subject matter is handled perfectly, without unnecessary or vivid details. The emotional impact is felt more strongly as a result.

The author states in her notes, that this book was written some months before the #MeToo Movement, which makes her insights even more impressive.

I was impressed with the way the author presented this convincing cautionary tale. It’s raw, dark, and sad, but not heavy handed or strident. The story is submitted with a subtle style, so as not to overpower nor downplay Grace's conflicts, or mettle; yet it still manages to drive home the harsh realities of the abuse she endured.

While nothing about this story should come as a shock at this point, it still boggles the mind that through all of the advances in entertainment, some things never change.

Overall, this is an impressive and timely debut, spotlighting the disturbing imbalance of power in the movie industry, the sickening exploitation of young performers, and the importance of recognizing your worth, your strength, and about having the courage to take control over one’s own life.



Ella Berman grew up in both London and Los Angeles and worked at Sony Music before starting the clothing brand London Loves LA. She lives in London with her husband, James, and their dog, Rocky. The Comeback is her first novel, coming August 11, 2020

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce- Feature and Review

A Fascinating and Innovative Novel of Historical Fiction

Goodreads Debut Novel to Discover & Biggest Upcoming Historical Fiction Books
Oprah Magazine, Parade, Ms. Magazine, SheReads, Bustle, BookBub, Frolic, & BiblioLifestyle Most Anticipated Books
Marie Claire & Black Business Guide’s Books By Black Writers to Read
TODAY & Buzzfeed Books for Bridgerton Fans
SheReads Most Anticipated BIPOC Winter Releases 2021
Palm Beach Post Books for Your 2021 Reading List

In a stirring and impeccably researched novel of Jazz-age Chicago in all its vibrant life, two stories intertwine nearly a hundred years apart, as a chorus girl and a film student deal with loss, forgiveness, and love…in all its joy, sadness, and imperfections.

“Why would I talk to you about my life? I don't know you, and even if I did, I don't tell my story to just any boy with long hair, who probably smokes weed.You wanna hear about me. You gotta tell me something about you. To make this worth my while.”

In a stirring and impeccably researched novel of Jazz-age Chicago in all its vibrant life, two stories intertwine nearly a hundred years apart, as a chorus girl and a film student deal with loss, forgiveness, and love…in all its joy, sadness, and imperfections.

“Why would I talk to you about my life? I don't know you, and even if I did, I don't tell my story to just any boy with long hair, who probably smokes weed.You wanna hear about me. You gotta tell me something about you. To make this worth my while.”

1925: Chicago is the jazz capital of the world, and the Dreamland Café is the ritziest black-and-tan club in town. Honoree Dalcour is a sharecropper’s daughter, willing to work hard and dance every night on her way to the top. Dreamland offers a path to the good life, socializing with celebrities like Louis Armstrong and filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. But Chicago is also awash in bootleg whiskey, gambling, and gangsters. And a young woman driven by ambition might risk more than she can stand to lose.

2015: Film student Sawyer Hayes arrives at the bedside of 110-year-old Honoree Dalcour, still reeling from a devastating loss that has taken him right to the brink. Sawyer has rested all his hope on this frail but formidable woman, the only living link to the legendary Oscar Micheaux. If he’s right—if she can fill in the blanks in his research, perhaps he can complete his thesis and begin a new chapter in his life. But the links Honoree makes are not ones he’s expecting . . .

Piece by piece, Honoree reveals her past and her secrets, while Sawyer fights tooth and nail to keep his. It’s a story of courage and ambition, hot jazz and illicit passions. And as past meets present, for Honoree, it’s a final chance to be truly heard and seen before it’s too late. No matter the cost . . .



 Wild Women and the Blues

Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce is a 2021 Kensington publication.

I love the jazz age!

This debut novel, set in 1925 Chicago, is centered around Honoree Dalcour and the Dreamland Café- a high-end black and tan club- and Sawyer Hayes, circa 2015- a film student- haunted by the loss of his sister.

Sawyer finds some photographs belonging to his grandmother, which sends him on a quest to find Honoree Dalcour, a woman now in her 110th year of life.

As Sawyer slowly coaxes Honoree's memories to the surface, an amazing story unfolds revealing a 1920s saga full of crime drama, heartbreak, and romance. While Sawyer feels there is a connection there somewhere with his family, the truth is far more shocking than he bargained for.

I loved this book! The author has created complex characters, as well as an authentic atmosphere to create a well -rounded historical mystery and drama, which spotlights black filmmakers and stars of the era. Naturally, with the book set in the twenties, there was plenty of crime drama involving the mob and illegal substances… and murder.

As usual, for me, the historical segments are what truly made the story sparkle. The contemporary storyline is a means to an end, for the most part, but there are some compelling emotional pulls to Sawyer’s side of the story, for a more well-rounded tale. Several characters taking part in the story, were actual filmmakers, movie stars, and performers of the day, making the story even more interesting.

This is an exceptional view of the Chicago Jazz age, from the position of black people, juxtaposing the glamour of the decade against the powerful criminal elements that held a tight gripe on the era.

The story also highlights the power of friendships and love, while the mystery is tense and suspenseful!

Overall, I truly enjoyed this book! It is a compelling story set in one of my favorite historical time periods, but is written from a fresh perspective. There were several historical elements I was unfamiliar with, which sent me on a Googling frenzy on a quest to find out more about the real- life characters featured in this book. I’d also like to mention the fabulous cover on this book- I love twenties fashions!

An impressive debut novel for Bryce- hope to hear more from her in the future!



An award-winning author, Denny won the RWA Golden Heart® and was a three-time GH finalist, including twice for WILD WOMEN AND THE BLUES. She also writes book reviews for NPR Books and entertainment articles for FROLIC Media.

The former professional dancer is a public relations professional who spent over two decades, running her marketing and event management firm. For nearly 10 of those years, however, she wrote and read Buffy/Spike fan fiction. A devoted fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Angel (the TV series), she is also a classic film buff and loves genre TV. Current favorites include A Discovery of Witches; This is Us, The Flash, and Seal Team.

She is represented by Nalini Akolekar, Spencerhill Associates. A member of the Historical Novel Society, Women's Fiction Writers Association, and Novelists, Inc., she is a frequent speaker at author events and lives in Northern Virginia.