Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk


                Logan has lost the love of his life. Autumn lost her best friend. Shay is twinless. None of them are okay and nothing is fine. The loss is with them everyday and it’s changed them all. The Beauty That Remains is their story, but its also the story of the ones they loved and the people that love them. The people who are with them as they gather the pieces and face one day at a time.
I like that Woodfolk took her time with each individual’s story and each individual loss. I like that each main character was not only dealing with the loss, but that the loss changed each one and caused them to grapple with different aspects of themselves. Told in alternating first person narratives readers are given an in-depth look at each person after the loss which I think is important. Readers never get to know the characters outside of their loss and for a while it is that loss that defines them. Until they can find themselves again. And that is what this novel ends up being, coming of age stories prompted by the loss of a loved one, revolving on a shared love of music, the theme of which runs throughout the story. I thought it was really important that Woodfolk included therapy, which I know to some people still has a stigma but it’s such a useful tool and can be extremely helpful.
I’m a big mess of emotions and it’s okay. This book deals with loss in such a profound honest way. The story of three teenagers who have all lost someone close to them stings of grief and adolescence. As a woman in my early thirties, it’s hard to remember sometimes how hard it was being a teenager and grappling with coming adulthood. Reading books like this bring all of that back to me. I remember the pain of losing loved ones as a teenager and trying to process that loss and all of the emotions that came with it. It’s not easy and this book handles the emotional aspect of it beautifully and painfully. I recommend this book because it’s well done and full of an unbearable but all too honest human experience. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Thank you Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King


Stephen King is one of those writers whose books I buy the day they come out. They mark the highest on the "to be read" shelf and I can never get enough. But I've never read anything by Stephen King's son, Owen King. I found out about this books production a little over a year ago, when Stephen spoke about it at the National Book Festival. A world where the women have all gone to sleep and can't wake up. I was intrigued.
This novel centered around the town of Dooling. The people living in this town had heard of the Aurora sickness but it seemed so far away. Hawaii and Australia are quite a distance away from the east coast of the United States and the information was so little that no one paid it much attention. That is until the women of Dooling started falling asleep and their bodies began encasing themselves in the cocoon. Video footage was everywhere. The news was full of images of hospitals full of women whose faces were wrapped in a cocoon. It became widely known that if you tried to remove the cocoon these women would attack violently, killing the people that disturb them. Some women tried their hardest to stay awake hoping to wait for a cure. Other women chose sleep, hoping that whatever came next would be better than what they had now. In a world now full of men and young boys were the women trying to stay awake and the one woman, Evie, who could sleep and wake as she chose.
This book was so good and a very telling narrative. What would the world be like without women? The Kings try and take an impressive shot at capturing the madness that would ensue at such a departure. They also take an attempt at dismantling the problems in a male dominated society. I'm not going to say that every observation was perfect but they hit the target on a lot of the issues they planned on addressing. In the midst of all that was an incredible story with great characters, world building and a story I didn’t want to stop reading. I guess I should pick up some of Owen King's books so I can get a hold on his individual writing style. The pairing of these two authors worked really well. I give this 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton





                Imagine a world full of beauty. A place where you can choose how you look from the color of your skin, hair, eyes, size and change them on a whim. Welcome to Orléans. The people here, the Gris, were cursed by the God of the Sky and now their skin is grey, their eyes are red and their hair is like brittle straw. The Belles are from the Goddess of Beauty and use their arcana to change the Gris’s appearance and make them beautiful again. Each generation, the Queen chooses a favorite from the Belles. Camille always wanted to be chosen as the favorite. Her mother was the favorite of her generation and Camille along with her five sisters have been training all their lives to compete to be the Queen’s favorite and live in the palace. After being presented on the night of their sixteenth birthday they will all learn where they will serve in the kingdom. But they will also learn the truth about beauty and the arcana they’ve been bestowed with. They’ll also learn how far the Gris are willing to go to be beautiful.
                The Belles is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It has so many different elements and is so extremely imaginative. A world where you can determine every single bit of your appearance and there are people who can change your appearance at will. And the extents to which these changes can be made are absolutely mind blowing. I want to take a second and completely gush about how beautiful the world building of this story genuinely is. Clayton’s descriptive language and visual detail is stunning. I was absolutely infatuated with the world she built. This story would not have been anywhere near as successful as it is, if she wasn’t able to deliver in creating this immaculate world. With this kind of template, The Belles absolutely thrived.
                With the lovely world building, these characters jumped off the page. Camille was a very intriguing main character. She is driven by her need to create but she also sees the beauty where others don’t. She has a heart and isn’t an incredibly shallow character, unlike some of the other characters we meet. Her relationship with the other Belles was believable with just enough competitiveness and comradery to mimic what would be expected of sisters. She is young and full of the faults that you would expect in a teenager. But she is incredibly strong and readers never have a reason to suspect her of being anything other than genuine. She is an incredible narrator for the story.
                I absolutely loved this book. I ended up devouring it in two days because I simply could not stop reading it. I found myself swept up in Orléans and these characters. The plot never stopped moving, and was highly unpredictable. One of the things that I enjoyed most in this book were the observations Clayton made about what can be considered beautiful. In a world where you can decide your entire appearance, and fads can be changed and embraced constantly then what is actual beauty. The ways in which people varied themselves and compared themselves to others was astounding. It’s an interesting narrative and one that I can’t wait to see explored in other books of this series! I give this story 5 out of 5 stars. 

Thank you Netgalley for this book in exchange for an honest review. 


Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henríquez


The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henríquez



Alma and Arturo moved to Delaware for their daughter. They had a life in Mexico. Their family is in Mexico. But after Maribel's accident they wanted to give her the best opportunities imaginable, so they immigrated to America. Arturo got a job in Pennsylvania with a company that would sponsor their visas. Times were tough but they had faith in the future. They had a home. And they had neighbors that would become family.
Damn. This book is incredible. From the first two chapters I knew I would enjoy Henríquez's writing style. She already had me hooked. But as the story continued, I genuinely could not stop reading! The story is told through the eyes of Alma who immigrated to the US for her daughter Maribel, and Mayor, a teenager who lives in their apartment building and is slowly falling in love with Maribel. Their narratives are incredible and heart wrenching. The way each of them sees their family, situation, the US and Maribel is so well told and emotional. I was hooked. But along the way the reader meets the other people that live in the building. Each of them has a unique story and each of them bring light to the way Americans view what is considered "other." Henríquez's use of so many individual characters cast a wide net that envelop the truth of so many.
I definitely recommend this book. I'm still reeling emotionally from the experience. These characters were full of so much depth and life. Their experiences were so unique and yet so universal. Henríquez is an incredible writer. The way she was able to weave these stories together and make both of these main narratives so powerful is a credit to her incredible story building. Very well done. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz




Interesting is about the best I can come up with right now to describe this book. Did I enjoy it? Yeah it was an enjoyable read. Would I recommend it? Probably not. Would I read something else by this author? Yes, in a heartbeat. I wasn't very interested in the main character but I kept reading because I really enjoyed the writing and I also really enjoyed the story behind the character, his family, their history and the Dominican Republic. Oscar and I just didn't hit it off. I could have been besties with his sister though.
Let me explain. Oscar is a loser who wants to get laid. He is a great writer but a disaster of a person. He is odd, not very social and throughout the book our narrator blames the fukú, a curse on the family. We don't really hear from Oscar himself but from the people around him who describe him and his habits in detail. But in explaining him, our narrators describe the history of his family, and how they became cursed. Those are the moments that really shined to me. The moments when the history of the other characters were laid bare. The characters were well developed and the bits of history regarding Trujillo and the Dominican Republic was really fascinating. I just didn't care for Oscar and he was the center of the story.
Díaz though like I said before is an author I want to read more of. He has a great writing style that kept me intrigued I just wish I had been more interested in this particular story. I give this 3.5 out of 5 stars. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education by Mychal Denzel Smith

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education by Mychal Denzel Smith




                I decided to make a “must read” list for myself in July of 2017. These were all of the books that had been sitting on my shelf for a considerable amount of time, that I knew I needed to push myself to read regardless of how I would handle the content. This year has been a tough one for me so far and I found myself shying away from some of the books that I really wanted to read but didn’t think I could handle emotionally. Invisible Man, Got the Whole Word Watching was one of those books. This was a book that I had heard quite a bit about and was given quite a bit of praise. I bought it but I waited. Then I made that damn list and was dead set on finishing every book on it. I started Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching and had to pull myself off the couch and get ready to go to work. If I could have called off that day to finish reading it, I would have. I starting reading Smith’s words and instantly began to relate to his story, his life. I was also born in 1986 and could immediately relate to a lot of what Smith had to say.
               And he wasn’t holding back. Smith’s social commentary was so spot on and honest that it spoke to me in ways that were all too familiar. I’m at the age now where I can recognize hard truths and he refused to back away from them. The way he discussed the black community, politics, sexism, homophobia, the government, the presidency, all of these issues that are issues that I’ve often had to wrestle with and discuss. It wasn’t until I became more aware of the system in which I was raised that I began to unlearn the problematic stances I had been taught. Reading books like this by Smith brings me comfort in knowing that I am not alone. These are things that many people have to wrestle with, come to terms with and grow from. I was taken away by the depths Smith was willing to discuss issues and the way in which he reflected on his own upbringing. His social commentary and the way in which he could relate past events to current events and the cycles that haven’t yet been broken was all very well done, well though-out and well written. I loved this book. I rushed home and finished then sat down to write this review. I want other people to read it and be exposed to this because it is really intimate and honest. I give this 5 out of 5 stars. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo


                I loved this book. I finished it in a day simply devouring Oluo’s word. I can relate to so much of what Oluo was sharing and in so many ways it was validating but also depressing. I feel better knowing that I’m not the only person experiencing these microaggressions, working through these issues and surviving day to day but at the same time having these similar lived experiences makes me very well aware of how far we have to come in the U.S. when it comes to dealing with race, racism and equality.
                So You Want To Talk About Race is a really well written, comprehensive look at the issue of race and how race relates to inequality, success, poverty, education and much more. When I took a look at the contents of the book I was blown away because I could recognize immediately that these topics were geared towards having a thorough conversation about race and not just placating people who want to feel like they are putting in the work. She included topics like intersectionality, privilege, affirmative action and addressed them head on, pointing out the arguments in each and encouraging readers to recognize and acknowledge where they stand on these different issues. I was hooked from the first page of the introduction. Oluo has a very straightforward writing style and she is extremely well grounded in herself and her voice. That assuredness allowed Oluo to expose herself and her personal experiences in ways that I could never imagine.
                I hope this book speaks to you. I hope this book challenges you and makes you rethink your past experience. And that goes for every person regardless of race, gender, religion or anything in between. There were people that I had in mind while reading this book. Mostly people whose friendships I had to reevaluate in the last year because I realized how much of me they didn’t see and how much of my experience they didn’t recognize. Oluo’s book saw me and saw the struggle taking place right now. I am so thankful for this book and the effect that it could have on those willing to learn, willing to talk and willing to make a change when it comes to race. I give this 5 out of 5 stars. 

Thank you Netgalley for this book in exchange for an honest review.