Cover Image: Carolina Built

Carolina Built

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Member Reviews

It was great reading about Josephine Leary and her amazing life experiences and business accument. Her story of going from being enslaved to a property owner and businesswoman is inspiring.
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OMG! Inspirational. I overall really enjoy this book. It made me proud to be an African American woman. This story is about an African American woman who wanted more and stopped at nothing to get it. The beautiful cover is what caught my eye to read it and oh I am so glad I did. I think this is my book of the year for 2022. My family and I will be taking a trip to North Carolina to visit I am and I am so excited. Josephine wanted to build a legacy even though it was tough, she endured. This book is filled with so much pride, passion, and perseverance. This book will take you on a journey of how Josephine wanted to leave a legacy for her family. I recommend this book to everyone. I give this book five stars.
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I was fascinated to learn about Josephine Leary and was drawn in by the Preface recounting all of the research done by Alexander. That being said, I wish this had been a non-fiction book relying more on that research than trying to fictionalize it. I found myself wanting more detail about the business prowess of Leary and obstacles around that as this book tended to focus more on the fictionalized private life and made the rest sound far too easy for a black woman in North Carolina in the 1800's. Thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for the review copy in exchange for my honest opinions.
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Thank you to Netgalley, the author and the publisher for a chance to read and review this wonderful book! Carolina Built reimagines the fascinating life of a real estate magnate Josephine N. Leary. After emancipation in North Carolina, she builds a stunning legacy through her passion and perseverance. A very interesting story and the characters are are very likable especially Josephine. She is a very strong and determined woman and it shows in the authors writing. I would recommend this book to everyone!
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I found this novel about the life of real estate magnate, Josephine Leary, interesting, but I struggled to stay engaged enough to reach the last chapter (although I did stick with it and eventually finish it). “Jo”, as she was affectionately known, was a very straightforward, no nonsense, woman and was quite demanding of everyone she interacted with. Although I admired her assertiveness and work ethic, it seemed a bit unrealistic to me that a black woman in the late 1800s would not come up against much resistance (especially with white men) during that time in history. Although emancipation had already happened, things were far from being equal between the races and even  between men and women and their place in society. 

There were many tender moments, especially with those that Jo loved and cared about. She did wear the pants in her marriage, though, which often caused friction between her and her husband, Archer “Sweety” Leary. I did admire her business sense, tenacity, and drive to become an independent woman at a time when that was uncommon. 

Many thanks to #Netgalley and #Gallerybooks for allowing me to read and provide my honest review of Carolina Built by Kiana Alexander. I give this book 3.5 stars.
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Carolina Built is a biographical novel of Josephine Napoleon Leary, who was born an African slave but became a successful real estate entrepreneur in North Carolina. Josephine dreams of building a future for her family. She and her husband move to Edenton, North Carolina where they own a barber shop. While being a wife and mother, Josephine wants to pursue her passion for real estate. However, she learns that it is difficult to pursue her dreams from the ground up.

     Josephine Napoleon Leary is a fascinating and hard working businesswoman. She was born from slavery but the emancipation freed her as a young woman. From an early age, she loved book learning and is very intellectual. She wants to build a legacy that her children and grandchildren will be proud of. She is very determined to pursue her dreams. Even when it's difficult, she never gives up. Josephine also learns business on her own. While she makes some mistakes, she is able to learn from them. Therefore, Josephine is an admirable woman who worked from the ground up and became a successful entrepreneur.

     Overall, this novel is about perseverance, family, and ambition. The message of the novel is to never give up on your dreams. Aside from Josephine, I felt the supporting characters were flat and seemed to blend in together. There were some parts of the novel that I thought were very rushed. Still, I thought this novel was very well-written! I found Josephine’s story to be inspirational and moving. Prior to reading Carolina Built, I had never heard of her, and I’m curious to know why she is largely forgotten. Josephine Napoleon Leary was a courageous woman who continued to work hard despite the adversity she faced. Thus, Carolina Built shines a light on an important but forgotten successful entrepreneur. I recommend this for fans of Island Queen, The Great Mrs. Elias, and A Betting Woman!
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Carolina Built is a fictional story based on the real life Josephine Leary. The book starts in 1870 when then the young Jo was emancipated. It follows Jo through life as she gets married, becomes a mother to two daughters, runs her barber shop along with her husband, Sweetie, buys real estate, and takes care of her mother and grandmother.

Jo struggles with the same things that many women today. She is torn between being a mother, taking care of the home, and being a businesswoman. Sweetie just wants her to be a wife and mother and forget about everything else. 

With all the research and sources that the author listed, I would have expected the story to be more developed. I feel like the book isn't truly fiction. It felt more like non-fiction with some fiction dotting the landscape. The book was just plain boring. I struggled to pay attention. I did find the accomplishments of Josephine to be outstanding 

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher. All thoughts & opinions are my own.
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I hadn't heard of Josephine Leary before reading the blurb fire this book. Contemplating what life was like for her and her family after emancipation was definitely something I wanted to imagine.  But overall, the book was OK.  Josephine's determination to create a legacy and inheritance for her family was something I admired.  But I also felt that she didn't view her husband as a real partner in all areas of life.  Neither one of them did a good job of communicating their feelings and insecurities.      While I could see what was going to happen because of that, and I would never condone abuse, both husband and wife got on my nerves from time to time.
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This is my honest review for the ARC given for this book.
Josephine was truly a woman before her time. With the family she had around her plus her true friends during that time helped her to see and become the the woman of herstory not history.
So happy she stood her ground during most of this book. I only questioned her sanity a couple of times but understood her position.
All in all a great read once I could actually sit down and get invested in the storyline.
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When I first started reading this, I had to keep going back and making sure that the time period was correct. The book doesn’t feel like historical fiction, because it feels like it’s written for current day. 
I wanted to love this book because this is my favorite genre ESPECIALLY when it’s telling the story of Black women throughout the African diaspora, but I was just not able to.
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This book was missing something for me.  Josephine Leary seems to have had a fascinating life but this just didn't come across.  Another review suggested this would be a better book if it was nonfiction - I completely agree.  This book had no right being so boring.  Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a free copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Carolina Built by Kiana Alexander
Raised as a slave in North Carolina, Josephine Napoleon Leary knew the hard times, but with emancipation, she had the opportunity to accomplish the dreams laid forth by her mother and grandmother. Although her husband, Sweety, didn’t always support her dreams, she forged ahead with plans to become a property owner. Over the first few years of her marriage she and Sweety worked as barbers in their own shop in Edenton, NC. She acquired property in her own name in spite of the obstacles laid forth by many a white man, and by her own husband. This novel explores what many a former slave and woman had to overcome to be considered seriously as businesswomen in their own right. Wonderful story of a successful woman.
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This factionalized account of the life and amazing accomplishments of Josephine N. Leary is truly inspiring. Josephine was born in slavery, daughter of a slave woman and her white owner. And history had repeated itself as Josephine’s mother’s birth circumstances were the same. Emancipation came when Josephine was 9 and her mother and grandmother worked hard to give Josephine and her brother examples of the value of education and of hard work. Josephine begins buying property right after she is married at age 17, and buys it  subsequent property acquisitions in her name only. She and her husband are both barbers, but Josephine has a drive her husband doesn’t share. As her daughters are born, she becomes obsessed with making sure they will always have financial security. Fighting the stereotype of the place a woman belongs is at home caring for her family causes strains on her marriage. Her strength carries her through hard times and big challenges. Truly inspiring.
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I really enjoyed reading the reimagining of Josephine Leary’s life. Her story is truly inspiring and I’m impressed with the research that went into the writing of this novel. The writer does an excellent job capturing the specific challenges of being a black woman during a time where very few women owned property or had their own source of income separate from their spouse’s.
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I really enjoyed reading the life of Josephine Leary a strong black woman who was born into slavery, then freed after the Civil War. Even though she is freed her dreams to build a real estate portfolio isn’t an easy journey.
This story needed to be told as does so many. Kianna Alexander did an amazing job of tell the story of Josephine Leary! I honestly hope that Kianna continues to shine light on all the amazing, strong and resilient slaves that need to have their stories told. I look forward to reading more from Kianna Alexander.
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This is based on the true story of Josephine Leary, a real estate magnate in the antebellum town of Edenton, North Carolina.  Born into slavery, Jo knows that once she has her freedom she wants something that is hers and hers alone. She never wants to be bound by anyone or anything. So she pursues business interests even while navigating a sometimes fraught relationship with her husband. Alexander paints a vivid, sometimes too much so, of Jo’s life and the trials and tribulations she faces as she attempts to create a better world for herself and her daughters.  

I was initially drawn to this book because my family had a strawberry farm in Edenton, so I spent quite a bit of time there and always loved the beautiful downtown. So why not read a book about a woman who actually helped to create this area? However, I felt it was lackluster. The description of day to day was overbearing and I felt that the characters never actually came alive to me. I never truly knew them. And of course, even though it is based on real life, I very much struggled with the relationship between Jo and her husband.
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Author Kianna Alexander does a brilliant job shining a light on the life and legacy of Josephine Leary. Enslaved at birth and freed after the Civil War, Leary proves herself to be a formidable figure in history as she navigates a Carolina landscape that has little respect for her abilities and intellect. As a black woman navigating a very white world, her fortitude and determination keep her on a path of success. She proves herself to be a devoted wife, adoring mother, and a capable business woman. Kudos to Ms. Alexander for a job well done!
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I am not sharing this review on Goodreads or other sites, as it is not my intention to influence other readers negatively. The galley copy I read was badly in need of editing, containing multiple errors. Changes in narrative person from first to third and back again in the middle of a paragraph, as well as content errors abounded: for example, the introduction of a social event opened with a statement that Josephine's friend Rosa would not be invited but was followed on the next page by a description of Josephine going to greet that same friend. Hopefully, these errors were corrected prior to publication.

Editing needs aside, I found the writing in this novel to be overly flowery, with an over-emphasis on descriptive details that added nothing to the story. Browsing the author's website, it came as no surprise to me that she was a fan of Harlequin romances, since it had already occurred to me that that was exactly the genre into which it best fit. But while avid readers of romance novels might enjoy this book, for those who are seeking good historical fiction, I have to recommend you look elsewhere. The dialog and other details of the story seem far too modern to fit its late nineteenth century setting, and the plot drags interminably.
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(DNF at 25%)

Alexander is a talented author and I'm sure Josephine Leary led an interesting and exciting life, but this book did not let Alexander's talents shine, while also making Leary's life seem boring and average. As far as historical fiction novels go, this just didn't work for me. In the first quarter of the book, practically nothing actually happened. Or if it did, it happened in the past and readers are delivered little snippets of it while then being met with repetitive descriptions and retellings. I couldn't connect to or care for the characters and just couldn't justify attempting to slog through this.
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This felt like it was meant to be non-fiction and not a work of fiction. It felt a bit dry- just a play by play of someone’s life. Not much meat to it.
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