Sunday, December 31, 2017

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson



                This is the story of Walter McMillan, a man on death row in Alabama, awaiting an execution date for a murder he claims he didn’t commit. This is the story of Bryan Stevenson, a young, black lawyer who founded Equal Justice Initiative, in hopes of helping those who had fallen victim to an unjust legal system. This is the story of how Bryan Stevenson saved Walter McMillan from the execution chair by fighting for his freedom and revealing the holes in a case based off corrupt witness testimony, lies, and deceit. But this is also the story of many other people living behind bars, hoping for a chance at freedom, even though the odds are stacked against them.
                This book was absolutely incredible and extremely disheartening. Stevenson, in telling this story, reveals so much about what is wrong in our criminal justice. And he does it in such a way, that it is extremely hard to refute. He is full of compassion and he is able to do what so many others blatantly refuse to do and that’s see people that have committed crimes as human. Stevenson looks at each prisoner, not as a case number or crime or statistic but as a person. Too often we see people punished because they are seen as an other and their humanity is totally stripped from them. Stevenson doesn’t allow himself or the reader to take away someone’s humanity. That makes such a difference when you look at issues like capital punishment, treating child offenders as adults, sentencing, mental illness, abuse and so many other circumstances that affect the criminal justice system. I couldn’t stop reading this book. It contains so much information and yet it is a very intimate look, not only at Bryan and Walter, but of the many other people that Bryan mentioned and whose cases he worked on. Walter is the focus because his situation was so atrocious and so blatantly corrupted that it is hard to believe it even happened. But it did happen and if it weren’t for Bryan and those who worked at Equal Justice Initiative, Walter would have been killed even though he was innocent.
                Some books are meant to challenge your way of thinking and make you uncomfortable. Those are usually the books that affect us most and shake us to our very core. Just Mercy is one of those books for me, because of the way in which Stevenson discussed capital punishment and the detail that he provided of many of the intricacies in sentencing. I was never aware of much of the information that he detailed and reading this book makes me want to educate others and myself more on these topics. This book was so well written. I immediately began to trust Stevenson and became invested in the outcome of his cases and the many people he discussed. Stevenson continues to fight the good fight and it’s because of his dedication to reforming the criminal justice that we are able to see changes. I’m so grateful that he chose to share this story and this information. I highly recommend this book. I give this 5 out of 5 stars. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi




                This was a story that I began reading with the most basic of information and a whole lot of hype. I took my time getting to it. Part of me didn't know if I was mentally ready to read it, the other part of me didn’t want to be disappointed. I shouldn't have feared either. This book was amazing, beautifully crafted and extremely engaging. Homegoing is about a family separated. Sisters, that never knew each other, and how their fates would lead their descendants in two completely different directions. One would stay in Africa. The other a slave in America. But what would become of their children, and their children's children, and the many after that? This is a look back at history. This history of a people separated. One side staying home while the other can only look back unknowingly to a home they never knew.
                I've said before and I'll say it again, writing successful generational stories is hard. Gyasi though executed it beautifully. Each chapter is centered around a new character's narrative. The narrative are chronologically told from the beginning of the slave trade to the 2000s. I loved that she used these distinct narratives. I loved that she made it easy to follow the family line through the different narratives. I love the unique storylines which lended itself to creating the atmosphere of the novel.
                 I never lost interest in this story! I was invested throughout. It was such an amazing concept and was so well done. Gyasi crafted amazing stories and molded these family units in such a way that you become addicted to learning the outcomes. Her world building and plot development allowed for time to pass with ease without disconnecting the reader from the characters or their histories. Gyasi's effort with this novel has to be applauded. There were moments throughout the book where the social commentary was so spot on that this became almost heartbreaking. I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it. 5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Imago by Octavia E. Butler

Imago by Octavia E. Butler


This is how a story should end. This is how you bring all the different parts together, weave them together seamlessly and produce something new. The Ooankali weren't expecting to create a construct-ooloi and yet Johads is going through metamorphosis, its first, and will become the first construct-ooloi. What this will mean for its future and its ability to mate is yet to be seen.
When I first started this trilogy I was constantly amazed by Butler's creativity and her ability to give so many details to not only the Ooankali but the world that was left after war destroyed life on Earth. With each book she added layers to the story that just increased the scope of this world and brought me to the brink of my imagination. Imago blends seamlessly into this world and takes a wholly unexpected turn that kept me intrigued and excited!
One of things that I really loved about this series was the passage of time. Decades pass between the books and yet Butler misses nothing when filling in the details. The passage of time also allows readers to meet new characters and focus on their journey while still being aware of and interacting with the characters from the first book. I loved that anything was possible in this series! This is exactly what I want from science fiction. I want to be completely flabbergasted by what an author can come up with and yet still make believable. Butler was the queen of the that and it's so obvious in this series!
I am going to recommend the entire series. But this may not be for everyone! If you aren't a fan of science fiction stories with aliens and a dystopian edge to it then you might not enjoy these books. I did because I love Butler's writing style and this story was intoxicating. I give this 5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Adulthood Rites by Octavia E. Butler

Adulthood Rites by Octavia E. Butler



                Lilith has just given birth to the only human born, male construct on Earth. Akin looks human with brown skin and no tentacles except one on his gray tongue. His perception is amazing. Within days he can speak and because of his memory and Oankali senses he is very intelligent. But Akin, regardless of how intelligent he is, is still a child. The raiders took him from his village on Earth in hopes of trading with one of the resister villages. It is there, with the people who once knew his mother that Akin learns of his Human heritage and why they feel the need to continue to fight.
                Just enough time has passed between Dawn and Adulthood Rites for this to feel like a fresh start, with different challenges and circumstances. Lilith has now been living on Earth for years, and has been raising a family with her Oankali mates. The resisters live on Earth as well, having separated from the Oankali as soon as the opportunity arose. The resisters are completely infertile, but have an extended life expectancy thanks to the Oankali. Akin’s experience with the resisters dictates his experience throughout his life. I really enjoyed Akin’s character. His intelligence, his ability to think through many sides of a situation, and his experiences make him the only person who can speak with any authority about the human condition and why the resisters refuse to join the Oankali. Akin was just extremely interesting and extremely self-aware. I also thought it was really interesting seeing some of the characters that interacted with Lilith in the first book. So many questions were left unanswered in Dawn about what would happen to humans. With Adulthood Rites Butler did an amazing job continuing to construct the world and building towards a future.
                Butler was a creative genius. This story of Lilith, Akin, Oankali and humanity is absolutely incredible. It is unpredictable with circumstances that I could never imagine. Her incredible understanding of humanity and society is breathtaking. The fact that she was able to put her observations on the page in a manner that is undeniable is unmatched. I love this series. I’m always actively engaged in the story and interested in what happens. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Dawn by Octavia E. Butler

Dawn by Octavia E. Butler



                I love Octavia E. Butler. I can’t say that enough. I think she is a masterful storyteller. This book is no exception. It took me way too long to fall under the Butler spell and now that I have there is no turning back. Dawn is the first book in the Xenogenisis trilogy. In this novel you are introduced to Lillith, a survivor of a nuclear war on Earth. The Oankali rescued her and the rest of the survivors and placed them on their ship orbiting around Earth. Eventually they will return to Earth. Lillith has been chosen by the Oankali to act in the role of leader or mother, but first she must learn their ways, learn to survive and learn to teach others. All of this is for the trade. The Oankali will return the humans to Earth but they expect something from the humans in return.
                Disoriented. That’s how Lillith felt trying to understand the world she was now a part of and that’s how I felt in the beginning of the book. Simply off kilter. It’s easy to try and put the dots together and to make assumptions but until Butler made it clear what the circumstances were there was absolutely no way to get your bearings. From the very beginning you are lost in this world just like the main character. I was hooked. Readers learn so much about Lillith, while she learns about the new world around her. Butler did an amazing job creating Lillith and creating these highly unusual aliens. This story feels extremely original and unpredictable.
                I highly recommend this science fiction novel. I love that Butler always explores humanity and it’s many facets, regardless of the fact that the novel takes place away from Earth and humanity. Butler was just a magnificent writer that exemplifies the best in science fiction. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Tampa by Alissa Nutting



                Celeste seems to have a perfect life. Her husband is a police officer with an inheritance that allows them to live more than comfortably. She is an extremely attractive woman, who will begin her first teaching job in the fall. Everyone thinks they are really happy. But all Celeste really wants is for the school year to begin so she can be surrounded by fourteen-year-old boys and find that special one that she can do with as she pleases sexually. Celeste is well aware of the fact that she has to be careful, that no one will understand the way she prefers young men right on the cusp of puberty and that while others may find her husband attractive she simply sees him as a means to an end. Celeste has been looking forward to this for so long and then she finds him, Jack.
                Tampa is a complete mind fuck of a book. And I mean that in a good way. This book isn’t going to be for everybody and you will know very early on if this is a book that you can actually handle reading. Celeste is a perverted sociopath obsessed with teenage boys, has a very specific type, finds her prey, stalks him and then makes him hers. This book is descriptive with regard to Celeste’s inner most thoughts which really means that Nutting is really specific when describing all the things Celeste wants to do and will do to the man(child) of her dreams.
                I actually found this book really enjoyable. I detested everything about Celeste and the situation she was placing herself in but Nutting did an amazing job creating this character. She was so well fleshed out and completely unpredictable. It was genuinely the equivalent of watching a train derail: you sit in abject horror but you can’t look away. Celeste was on the precipice of derailing the entire book. I wish the ending could have been slightly more satisfying but I understand why Nutting ended it the way she did. We’re supposed to be emotional the entire book and that does not change with Celeste current situation. I give this 4 out of 5 stars. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin



And now the journey continues and the fight against Father Earth rages on. Essun and Nassun are both on the road now, one to destroy the world, the other to save it. Both struggling to make it to their destinations. Their companions remain faithful if not completely aware of their destinies and why. Each with a stone eater near, constantly watching. And throughout this, a story is being told. The story of how the seasons began, how the prisoners fought back and how the world was never the same.
Well, if that's not how you are supposed to end a series then dammit, I've got nothing. This has such a satisfying ending, one that was completely unexpected and yet perfectly fitting. The Stone Sky picks up where The Obelisk Gate left off and the readers are thrown right back into a desolate world. I was wary from the beginning to find out where Nassun and Essun were going, if their paths would cross and how? The narratives changed between, Nassun in third person, Essun in second person, and Hoa in first person. While the first two narratives were set in the present, Hoa's took readers to the past. It was a great decision executed flawlessly.
I am overwhelmingly pleased with this trilogy. The world building, character development and plot were so well done that I often found myself hypnotized by her writing simply unable to put any of these books down! Jemisin just did an incredible job with the story. I would definitely recommend this. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler


                Olamina has been living on Acorn for two years now with her husband and the many people who journeyed with her. Their small community has grown and they have embraced her teachings of Earthseed. They are making a life for themselves in their secluded home. But trouble it brewing outside of their community, in the shape of a presidential candidate who wants to return America back to its previous glory, when Christianity was the only practiced religion. Some of his people known as Crusaders have been making the rounds in the area near Acorn and while Olamina is doing what she can to protect her community and Earthseed, the future is extremely unclear.
                This second novel in Butler’s Earthseed series is a story told through the eyes of Olamina’s daughter, Larkin, who we soon learn was taken from her mother and given to a married couple to be raised away from Olamina’s heathen ways. We learn what has happened to Acorn through Olamina’s journal entries and Larkin’s narrative. This novel has the exact same strengths as the first novel: great world building, well developed characters and a detailed realistic and terrifying dystopia. I’m not sure how much I enjoyed Larkin’s character or her narrative but she stood in the place of a hard truth and the circumstances of a divided family. I think through her character you get a true look at how much destruction has been done to families. I enjoyed this book almost as much and I enjoyed the first in the series. Butler’s writing can carry any story and this one is no exception. I give this novel 4 out of 5 stars. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Comic Book Story of Video Games: The Incredible History of the Electronic Gaming Revolution by Jonathan Hennessey, Art by Jack McGowan

The Comic Book Story of Video Games: The Incredible History of the Electronic Gaming Revolution by Jonathan Hennessey, Art by Jack McGowan



                This was a really entertaining and fascinating look at the history of video gaming. Comprehensive and done with a nod to all those who took part in the creation of video games as we now know it, The Comic Book Story of Video Games doesn’t take itself too seriously but does make sure to leave readers with an overall history of how video games were created. I enjoyed this book. It kept me intrigued and revealed plenty of information that I wasn’t aware of. I thought the illustrations were well done and heightened the appeal of the overall story. Hennessey did his research and made sure to highlight many of the games people know and love while introducing those behind the scenes of their creation. I am not a video game master by any means but I thought this was well done. I give this 3.5 out of 5 stars. 

Thank you Blogging for Books for this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel


                This novel begins the night Arthur dies. He collapsed on stage while performing King Lear. His obituary would be in the next day’s paper. The night of his collapse would be the night the pandemic really began. The hospitals in Toronto were overflowing, the incubation period for patients with the Georgia Flu was hours, with death in days. And it was spreading, faster than anyone could imagine. Twenty years have passed since that night. Survivors are now in Year 20, since the collapse of civilization as it was once known. The Traveling Symphony that Kirsten travels with has seen what’s left of the world. They have their territory that they feel secure in covering after all these many years. Whenever she thinks back on that night, the night the world begins to end, it’s always Arthur that she remembers.
                I’m not sure how this dystopian novel worked as well as it did. I’ve read quite a few dystopian novels centered around the idea of a plague that wipes out the majority of the population. The way this one focuses on the journey of the survivors is something very unique. Arthur is the center around which this story prevails, which is somewhat interesting because Arthur is dead. But all of the characters who we become familiar with are connected through his life. Reading about the fate of each of these characters, with rotating narratives between time and characters, was really interesting choice. And St. John Mandel is able to really execute in that regard.
                I really enjoyed this novel. I thought it was a fresh new look at a way to tell a dystopian story. I loved the tone of the novel and the efforts she put in world building. I thought that each character brought a different perspective and helped tell a really well rounded story. I would definitely recommend this book. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton


          It all started the day “The Nutcracker” cast was announced. Bette knew she would be the Sugar Plum Fairy, just like her sister. And besides she is the best dancer at the American Ballet Conservatory. The chances that Mr. K would choose someone else for that role are slim to none. June feels the same way. She has been at the conservatory since she was 6. She knows all about how Mr. K chooses to cast his ballets, and that’s why she knows she won’t be cast as the Sugar Plum Fairy, because June is half-Korean and none of the Asian girls ever get a lead role. Needless to say, everyone was shocked when Gigi, the new girl from California, got the role. Especially since she is the only black girl in the class. Now Gigi unknowingly has a target on her back.
           So this book is really intense! I was expecting something along the lines of “Centerstage” with some dramatic flair. What I got was a surprisingly diverse group of characters, a stark look at race and drama ranging from an alcoholic mother, drug use, eating disorders and back stabbing. Including the three POV characters, there was wide range of personalities and lives that intersected daily. Charaipotra and Clayton did an amazing job with creating an environment that was devoid of stagnant characters. These stories breathes dance and it breathes emotion. I got swept away in the day to day activities of the girls and the drama present. It was definitely a plot that was easy to get lost in.
          This book does have a sequel which I will definitely be grabbing. I want to know how things continue for this characters. I know who I am rooting for and I know who I am hoping will choose a different career path and gain some damn humility. I definitely recommend this book. It’s fun and worth a read. I give this 4 out of 5 stars. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Perfect Days by Raphael Montes

Perfect Days by Raphael Montes




                Are you in the mood for the look inside the mind of sociopath, intent on forcing a girl to love him? If so, then stop right here because we have a winner with Perfect Days. It’s the story of Teo, the young medical students whose best and only friend is a corpse by the name of Gertrude. He was living with his mother and dog in Rio de Janeiro, when he met Clarice at a barbeque. Teo was entranced by Clarice and became so entranced that he convinced himself that she would love him if only they were able to spend more time together. And that’s exactly what they did. Clarice had been planning to go to a secluded cabin in Teresopolis, so after drugging her, Teo placed her in a suitcase and took them there. All he needed was time but the sedatives, handcuffs and gag couldn’t hurt. She didn’t realize that all they needed was time together and she could love him too.
                Disturbing enough for you? This book is an in-depth and personal look at the life of a sociopath. There is no way around that fact. From the very beginning of this novel, Teo makes the reader uncomfortable. He is very matter of fact in his decision making but he is not centered in any aspect of reality. His ability to analyze information is completely distorted by his view of his relationship with Clarice, even when no relationship exists.
               Perfect Days has the ability to make your skin crawl with its realistic look at Teo and his obsession. This novel is very well written with an unpredictable plot and a villain you can never root for. I couldn’t put it down. Mostly because I couldn’t believe how things were unfolding and the lengths Teo was able to go in the name of loving Clarice. Montes was able to reveal the motivations of his main character with an uncanny and distressing narrative. I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance by Simone Biles with Michelle Burford

Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance by Simone Biles with Michelle Burford



                Simone Biles. I first heard of this amazing young gymnast in 2014. I am a huge Olympics fan. I like the Winter Olympics but I absolutely love the Summer Olympics. And one of my favorite sports to watch is Artistic Gymnastics. I always try and keep track of our Olympic prospects in the years leading up to the final selection and Simone stood out to me when she won the Nationals in 2014. She was incredible! I was hooked. I followed her career from then on and was ecstatic watching her compete and win in 2016 in Brazil. But I didn't know her story. As time passed and she was featured more in magazines and online articles I began to learn more about this stunning young woman. Needless to say I was eager to get my hands on this autobiography.
                Written with the assistance of Michelle Burford, Simone begins her story with a setback and what inspired her to train harder. She then begins telling her tale from the beginning with a mother who couldn't stay clean, living in foster care and eventually being adopted by her grandparents, who we all know and acknowledge as her mother and father. She then describes the daycare trip to a gym that would change her life and the painful decisions she would have to make to pursue her career as an elite gymnast. Told with grace and honesty, Simone told her story admitting the days that were filled with doubt and fear, other days where she couldn't believe her own success. It's a coming of age story filled with the commitment and the desire to be the best gymnast in the world.
                Needless to say Simone Biles is the best gymnast and one of the best athletes in the world. She is changing the game as we know it. I enjoyed this book. It's a quick and easy read filled with emotion. I wanted to learn more about Simone and I feel like I have. It's an inspiring story but it's also difficult. Too make so many life altering decisions at such a young age and to see the fruits of those decision rewarded! I doubt I'll ever meet Simone but I'm glad I was part of her experience even if I was just screaming while she was doing the tumbling or rooting for her loudly on my social media trying to spread the word about her. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Hunger by Roxane Gay

Hunger by Roxane Gay


                Is there anything more personal to us than our body? Is there anything more personal and yet so public as our body? Our size, our skin. These are the things that you notice upon meeting someone. Yet as much as we create and dictate what goes into our bodies, how we choose to show or cover our bodies, we can never dictate what or how others view our bodies. Hunger is the story of Roxane Gay's body. This isn't a memoir about dieting and exercise or finding the true her within her body. It is a memoir of her body, her life and her hunger. It is a memoir about pain. It is a memoir about sexual assault. It is a memoir about space. It is a memoir of how we judge and try to dictate other people's bodies.
                Hunger is an extremely intimate portrait of Roxane Gay by Roxane Gay. Whatever image you may have of her, good or bad, will pale in comparison with how she views herself. This book is raw and painful. It begs you to see the world as she does, and it is uncomfortable and all too telling to recognize society and the way it treats people. How do you fit in society's view? Does this gaze make you comfortable? Why does society feel it has any right to judge anyone's body? The many questions she ask and the questions that hold answers with little or no meaning to those most affected. Gay is super morbidly obese but you don't need to tell her that outright. She already knows because of how society treats her.
                You can never know someone else's story until they bare it all to you. I wasn't prepared for all that Gay exposed about herself. I don't think you can ever be prepared for someone to bare their everything. For me, it's because I know how it feels to bare my inner thoughts, my inner workings and be misunderstood. Hunger doesn't ask for your understanding. There are things you will not understand because you are not in her body. But you need to experience Hunger. You need to experience through her eyes, a life of someone whose pain caused them to hunger and that hunger built walls, walls that take time to come down. I give this 5 out of 5 stars.



Sunday, November 12, 2017

(My Second Time Around) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

(My Second Time Around) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell 

          The first time I read this novel was three years ago, in 2014, when my reading theme was evaluating banned books. I loved this novel. In my original review I commented about how “amazing, innovative, funny, well developed and brilliantly written” this novel was. I abhorred Scarlett, as I still do, as being “beautiful, self-centered, harsh, spiteful, bullheaded, strong.” I wrote about the relationships portrayed between owners and slaves. “In Gone With the Wind the loyalty of the slaves to many of the white families is evident and a source of pride for those slaves. It was interesting at the very least to read this depiction of life in the south after the Civil War.” I ended my review by stating that “there is no hiding the struggles that occurred, the language that was used, the maltreatment that people suffered, the change that happened because of that time in our history. At least with this novel, we are getting a frankly honest depiction of what life may have seemed like for Confederates.” Mitchell crafted a beautiful novel, there is no denying that. But there is so much more to this novel than I realized and in this second review I plan on dissecting more into exactly what it was I felt this time. 
Was Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind supposed to be a glorification of the south? Or was it meant to expose the south for what it truly was. Early on in the novel it becomes very obvious that Scarlett took pride in her low education and found pride in those around her that had little to no education. The one family in the novel that appreciated education and the arts was seen as “queer” by people in the county. Gambling was preferred by many of the characters in this book compared to being educated. Classism runs rampant throughout as well, with even the slaves of the rich plantation owners looking down at those who had less, even thoough the slaves had less still by their bondage. The pride before the fall of the confederacy is seen early on in the novel as well. No one believed the war would last long and those who digressed were shot down, belittled and ignored. As the story went on and defeat was imminent was when the hate truly began to show through, especially later on in the novel when the Reconstruction era began. The Yankees were taking over and those they referred to as the “Old Guard,” those families seen as Southern Aristocracy, were hard pressed to allow it to happen. And then rose the Ku Klux Klan and the stern belief that the “darkies” could never be as good as them and damn the Yankees for making them believe that they could be. Killings ensued as history will tell us but one statement plays out in my mind over and over and it’s said by the most beloved character in the book, Melanie. She was the one who would take vagrants in her home, always had a kind were, and loved Scarlett vehemently. She said “I won’t forget… I’ll teach my grandchildren to hate them people- and my grandchildren’s grandchildren if God lets me live that long!” I read those words and it was like a bell went off. Because many haven’t forgotten and they’ve spread that hate through the generations. 
Everything became clear to me after reading that one quote from Melanie. Sweet, poor, sickly Melanie who ran the social world of the Old Guard simply because she was so pure of heart. And yet here she was, spewing hate. I laughed myself stupid the first time I read this novel. I found every single snide comment Mitchell made about the uneducated confederates. I devoured her account of the life in the south before, during and after the Civil War. I know the history of the Civil War so none of that came as shock. I was more shocked the first time around that Mitchell would add so much detail to the novel, to show the depths of despair to which the confederacy had fallen! But this time around well aware of the plot and the low levels to which Scarlett would sink, I was able to comb through the intricate detail towards the attitude of the south and now this novel feels like its main purpose was to expose the south. Expose the core of southern beliefs and what Melanie said has shown itself to me to be that core.    
Many won’t agree and that’s fine, but we can’t deny that hatred, bigotry and racism are taught. Melanie’s moment of truth when she states that she will teach that hate in the hopes that her descendants never forget is damning of this entire novel. If Mitchell wanted this to be a novel to glorify the south, then in my eyes she failed. Too early on she laid a foundation that exposed why the south was damned from the beginning. Throughout the novel she showed the pride that kept the south steeped in hate for so long, never truly acknowledging the fact that in war there are losses on both side and only briefly engaging in the horror that was truly slavery. This is all-out exposure and by having Melanie, the pride of the south, state such a hateful truth, she put the nail in the coffin. This is a damn good book and I appreciate it for its honesty. I’m glad I took the time to reread it. Took years away from it and came back to it. Got lost in the pages and the story of the horrendous Scarlett O’hara and the ruthless Rhett Bartlett that saw through her. But more than anything I’m grateful for Melanie and the calm and cool fashion in which she exposes herself to the hate that has lasted generations in the United States. She said it more eloquently than any man screaming “its heritage not hate” ever could. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


                You may not be ready for this book. I thought I was ready and yet I still got punched in the gut. I heard all of the rave around THUG before it came out. I've had it for months and couldn't bring myself to read it. Now that I have I must recommend it to you. Before you read it though let me say that this is about as real as it gets. You may not want to read the words written on this page. They may make you feel some kind of way about race and privilege and police brutality. It may make you extremely uncomfortable. But it comes from a place that resonates with an experience many people go through. I know because I've gone through these emotions. The anger, the loss, the fear. I've felt the way this main character felt. I could have been the main character. And so could half of the people I've grown up with. Now it’s time for the review.
                Starr is from Garden Heights. She knows about gangs and living in the ghetto. She goes to a private school almost an hour away where she can’t be the same Starr she is in Garden Heights. She can’t be "the ghetto black girl" because in her school she is one of the only black girls. One of the only girls to step foot in a ghetto. Her life changes the night her best friend dies. The night they get pulled over after leaving a party and she sees three bullets from a police officer exit his body. They label him a thug, a drug dealer, a banger. And now as the only witness she has to defend her friend from the crime of trying to get her home safely. Her voice becomes her weapon and as the only witness she must speak in defense of herself and defense of her friend.
                I feel wholly inadequate writing that blurb. It doesn’t touch on the complexity of this novel at all. It's more than a story about a police shooting. It's more than a story of a teenager losing his life. It's about a young girl coming to grips with the reality of who she is and how her life is valued. Starr is one of the most well written characters I have ever come across. She has so much depth. She is hilarious and yet very introspective. Her view of the world changes after this lived experience and seeing her develop and come to grips with reality is beautiful. Her family and friends reflect the differences in Starr's reality and each of them having varying levels of depth that are shown throughout the book.
                Thomas made a really smart decision when she chose not to place this book in real world location. These events could take place anywhere! Her world building is a reflection of society and all its many facets. She didn’t need to name an actual place. If you lived anywhere like this you automatically recognize it. If you haven't lived in a place reminiscent of Garden Heights, her world building is so powerful that it doesn't matter. You are transported there with her detailed descriptions and Starr's narrative.
               The reality of this book stings, like opening up an old wound. And as funny as this book is, as real as these characters are, the reality of this situations hurt. Thomas was able to create a book that in fiction reveals the truth of what is happening and what has been happening for decades. Reading this book brings so much home. I devoured her words. I have to give this book 5 out of 5 stars. The Hate U Gives reveals the reality we cannot hide from.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality by Julie Sondra Decker

The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality by Julie Sondra Decker




                This book is an introduction to asexuality as a sexual orientation. It discusses not only what asexuality is but what is isn’t and goes to great lengths to help people understand the validity of asexuality as a sexual orientation and a way for people to identify themselves. So what is asexuality? Asexuality is an orientation describing people who don’t feel sexually attracted to anyone. It's possible to be heterosexual and asexual, homosexual and asexual, queer and asexual, trans and asexual, in a romantic relationship and asexual. Have questions about any of that? Pick up this book and educate yourself.
                I found this book to be extremely informative. Written by Decker who identifies as asexual and is able to rely not only on her own experiences but the available research lends an authenticity to this book that you wouldn't find from an outsider looking in. I loved her candid and straightforward writing style. Her passion for educating people on asexuality is apparent throughout the book. The separation into 6 different parts allowed Decker to focus on specific topics and reference others throughout the book as necessary. She also made sure to explain asexuality and how it relates to other sexual orientations. Decker discusses the range of those that identify as asexual and how everyones experience differs from each other. What’s most important is understanding asexuality in order to understand how people identify.
                I knew next to nothing about asexuality before reading this book. I feel really well informed after reading this book, but nowhere near an expert. There are parts for everyone, even those that are non-asexual like myself that want to gain understanding. This book is really well done. I think Decker did a really amazing job with this book. But it did get repetitive at times. And there is a lot of information that you may need time to process while reading. Overall, this is a recommendable read with great insight into asexuality. I give this 4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin


                Here you are. Time has passed and you have stayed in this place you have begun to consider home. Alabaster is with you, but he is dying and he has one final lesson to teach you, so you can understand why he brought on the fifth season. To understand why he is ending the world. Your daughter, Nassun, is alive and it’s been months since you've seen her. She is with Jija. He has not killed her but he hates that she is a rogga. His search for her cure brings him to the person that brought you to the Fulcrum and taught you what it means to fear someone you love.
                Well damn. If you loved The Fifth Season (which I unabashedly did) then you will absolutely love The Obelisk Gate. It is a perfect sequel. It takes up where The Fifth Season ended with little passage of time. But it starts with the past and the death of Uche at the hands of his father. This book fills in some of the gaps. You learn much more about Nassun and what has happened since the beginning of The Fifth Season. You also learn more of Alabaster and how he found himself in his current state.
                All of the things I thoroughly enjoyed in The Fifth Season are replicated within this novel. Jemisin's characters are beautifully detailed and developed. The world building is done to perfection. And this novel is intense. The world is ending and people are dying left and right. The will to survive is strong in the comm that Essun is now a part of.
                I started this one a few months after reading The Fifth Season and honestly it feels like I never left. I fell right back into the story, right back into the season, right back into this crazy world. Jemisin is fantastic. I love that she kept the interchanging narratives, with Essun's still being in second person. I love that we were able to get a better look at the Stone Eaters and everyday life. I'm really excited about the last book which is coming out soon. I give this 5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan


                One thing I love about people knowing I am an avid reader is that they always think of me when they are reading and they suggest books to me. One of my coworkers had mentioned this book to me stating “It’s about this guy who was helping Jews escape from Italy during World War II and he ends up joining the German army, becoming a driver for this General and then becoming an Ally spy.” I was sold. She brought me her copy of the book before she even had a chance to read the whole thing. I began reading the book and was immediately captivated by the story of a man I had never heard of before. Pino Lella was only seventeen years old when he began helping Jews escape into Switzerland. It was days before he turned eighteen that he joined the German army, at the urging of his parents who feared for his safety. After being injured, he had a chance encounter with General Leyers and became his driver. He then began relaying information to his uncle who was an active part of the resistance. His story isn’t one that many knew, but the information he provided was vital to the movement of the Allies.
                This isn’t a biography of Lella. Sullivan made multiple trips to visit and interview Lella, researched extensively about the sequence of events that happened during this story from 1943-1945, but he takes artistic license with this story. It is a historical fiction novel about Lella’s life and is extremely engrossing. It’s easy to get a sense of the life Lella lived. The bravery he had to have in order to risk his young life for a cause he adamantly believed in is inspiring. The ridicule he experienced while wearing a swastika armband even though he was working as a spy relaying information to the allies, was almost too much for him to endure. Many people, including his own brother, considered him a traitor. But for his brothers and his family’s safety he refused to reveal the truth, taking the judgement and the criticism, knowing he was fighting on the right side of history. The horrors he saw and endured for months on end would haunt him for the rest of his life.
               Sullivan’s telling of this story was incredible. He brought this history to life and honored Lella with his depiction. Every character in this story felt real and every atrocity was horrifying. We live in a world where these things happened and confronting that history is the only way to honestly remember those who fought and put their lives at risk. Lella’s story needed to be shared. The story of the war in Italy isn’t one that I’m familiar with so learning of the actions that took place during that time was enlightening and disturbing. I gave this novel 5 out of 5 stars. Lella’s legacy is honored and recognized within these pages. 

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (Revisited)

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
(Revisited)


                This is my second reading of The Handmaid's Tale and it's been almost four years since the first time around. I felt a need to return to this book and this story. Maybe because of the current politics. Maybe because I needed to realize what real-life horror could be. Maybe the furor around the TV adaptation influenced me. I'm not sure exactly why but I needed to reread this book. And so I did. This story was just as powerful and unsettling the second time around.
                This is the story of Offred. But it isn't just her story. It's the story of all the women in the Republic of Gilead who have no rights, no jobs, no money and a life completely determined by the men around them. Offred is a Handmaid. She has been sent to the Commander with only one purpose: to bear a child. In the time before she was married, had a child, had a job and her own bank account. But all of these things have been taken from her. All of the women must now serve a purpose to men and to society. There are the Wives who wear Blue, The Marthas who wear green and do service work around the house and the Aunts who train the Handmaids. Women are not allowed to read. The stores that women frequent have pictures so as not to tempt the women to read. This is the world Offred knows now. She remembers the time before but is helpless to make any change or to escape. Offred, the Commander, his wife and the Republic of Gilead with its wall where bodies hang and secret rebel organization exist is the shadows.
Spoilers are coming.
                This is the kind of story that can send chills up and down your spine. Because it is both a world you fear and a world that you can easily envision. Offred could be anyone. Her day to day life before could be reminiscent of anyone's life. And yet here she is now with nothing. Her body used as a ritual to further the means of those who hold her captive. This society is representative of male dominance and women subservience in every since of the world. It has a very biblical undertone that is used as means of control. There is a sense of defiance but the hope in it is fleeting. There is no proof of success, only its undercurrent. And here we have a story of a world that has passed and what has come after. A world where your identity is stripped and you can't even speak your real name.
                If you ever want to know what I am afraid of, read this book. This type of story is exactly what terrifies me. Women unable to control their own destiny. I imagine that this kind of world could indeed happen and in many ways it would feel like Atwood was simply seeing into the future. I credit her world building. She was able to define a world all too black and white, defined by its restrictions. By making the readers well aware of the few things women were allowed to do she made it all to clear all of things women were not allowed. Offred was a character whose mind drifted between then and now, as if trying to hold on to the world she couldn't leave behind. Images of her daughter haunted her while fear for husband permeated her thoughts. Nothing was settled in her mind and the drifting back in forth, the stark realization of the now, was terrfying.
               Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale leaves you with a feeling of discontent. We are unsure of Offred's fate, unsure of what happened in the Republic of Gilead, left to ponder its very existence. I love Atwood's writing in this. It is both descriptive and disconcerting. I kept hoping for a moment of relief and was left wanting. I see those around me who would be complicit to these changes, who would let the world fall around them if it wouldn't affect them directly. And I see those around me who would fight and rage against this horrifying society. This identifying and categorizing of people around me makes it feel real. I give this 5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Harry, A History by Melissa Anelli

Harry, A History by Melissa Anelli


                It wasn’t until fairly recently that I noticed Harry, A History and I wasn’t at all interested. To be completely honest with you I just wasn’t sold on the idea of reading someone else’s experience as a Harry Potter fan. I had my own history with the books, one that I cherish and speak about to people shocked that a thirty year old woman still rereads the series every year. I just didn’t have the patience to indulge and I have so many books I want to read. Then one weekend I was visiting my in-laws and saw a copy of the book. My mother in law, who is also a huge Harry Potter fan, had ordered the copy months ago and had yet to read it. Sitting idly on the couch, I began reading the forward by J.K. Rowling. I must admit that my interest was piqued after seeing both her name and the fact that the author of this book was the webmistress of The Leaky Cauldron, a site I had frequented often for Potter news. Before I knew it I was chapter in and hooked. Just like that I had fallen into the history of the Potter Fandom.
                Now would be the appropriate to dive into my history with Harry Potter. I picked up the first book in the fall of 1998 at 12. I almost book snobbed it, stating pretty proudly that I didn’t read fantasy when a friend suggested I read it. My obsession with the series began right when the books were being published in the U.S. so I got a first-hand view of the tide as the Harry Potter wave began to rise. I got my hands on a British edition of the second book at a local book store, before the book was released in the U.S. and then promptly bought a U.S. copy as soon as it was released. I reread the books constantly, something I had never done before. I loved the series and was a dedicated fan. The waiting between books sucked, but I returned to the books often. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to count the amount of times I’ve read these books but I still do even to this day.
                Melissa Anelli has a different story. She came across the books while in college in 2000, after a few of the books had already been released and the fandom was increasing exponentially. Her journalism career took her down a different path. She would begin perusing fanfiction sites, indulging in these stories, while also researching articles and sending them to The Leaky Cauldron. Overtime she would become a leading force in providing news regarding the series. She began writing this book moments before the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, came out. It was in honor of the fandom that she wrote the book and that’s the reason why I loved the experience of reading Harry, A History. It is funny, intriguing and informative. I was never a part of the some of the fan experiences that she describes and it was interesting to learn about all of the events taking place, the rivalries, the discussions, the extensive fanfiction, the conventions. But what I loved most was reading about another fan falling head over heels in love with this series. Reading about someone else and the connection they share with a book series that I am so dedicated to and love brought back all of the memories I associated with Harry Potter. This is a book for Harry Potter fans. People who loved these books and were both sad and happy at the fact that it had to end. The story isn’t going anywhere. I have multiple copies of the series and plan to reread them every January for the foreseeable future. Anelli’s journey was different but we are connected through this story of young boy wizard who continued to fight until the battle was won. I give this 5 out of 5 stars.   

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee



                It is extremely difficult to tell a multigenerational story that has a well-crafted plot, great world building, and amazing character development. Lee managed to not only master all those things but also include historical details and racial nuances that enhanced the story and described a culture. Pachinko begins in Korea in the early 1900s, the story of man crippled since birth, who marries a poor young girl whose father had too many daughters and few prospects. It then follows the growth of their family, his death and his daughter’s unexpected pregnancy. All around them the world is changing. Korea is now controlled by Japan, people are suffering because of their culture and uncertainty about the future looms. We follow this family through four generations. As the years pass, their lives change in unbelievable ways as wars come and go, their country is divided and their family survives.
                I don’t want to be purposefully vague but I also don’t want to give anything away. This story was incredibly well done. The manner in which Lee crafted and maintained this story lent itself beautifully to this plot. She didn’t go into painstaking detail about each year of their lives, but allowed time to pass naturally and events to unfold organically. Reflecting on the time passed and the ways in which it changed the characters was extremely effective. The beginning of the story provided absolutely no clues to what would happen as time changed. Social commentary throughout clued readers into the historical events happening around the characters.
                One of the things that I really enjoyed about this novel was the look at Korean culture and the racial divide between Koreans and Japanese. I’m not well versed on the struggles that occurred in Korean history. Reading about the bigotry and cultural differences that were so pervasive was interesting and I thought well handled. It was vital to making this novel as authentic as possible to explore how these two cultures interacted.
                I’m giving this novel 5 out of 5 stars. I was impressed by the way Lee tackled this multi-generational epic about a Korean family. It isn’t a novel you can casually read because it handles so many details and those details are what weave the beautiful fabric that is this novel. Very well done. I was invested in the characters from the beginning and that dedication to them never wavered. I felt like I was living through turbulent times, rejoicing through their triumphs and despondent through their pain. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty



                I usually read books before I watch any kind of on screen adaptation, as a rule, because I know that the book will be better than the adaptation. I broke that rule for Big Little Lies and dived head first into the HBO adaptation simply based on the casting. It took one episode for me to realize that I needed to read the book and immediately requested it from the library and became #141 in line for the next book. Needless to say I got my copy right after the season ended. I loved every episode and was very interested to see what had been changed in this adaption. Spoiler Alert: a lot had been changed but both were really enjoyable.
                Big Little Lies is the story of three very different women and their families, living in Australia. An incident occurs regarding one of their sons, tension occurs and the worst of the community rears its ugly head and battle lines are drawn. In the midst of these battle lines are all of the imperfections that only these women recognize in their own families because everyone has secrets. An abusive husband, a rape, rage against an ex-husband. It all seems so simple but from the onset we know that someone is dead and it isn’t until the end that we realize how so many of the lies lead to that death.

                I’m not sure how quickly I would have realized who was dead if I had read the book first. I was able to make all kinds of assumptions while watching the show, many of which I assumed I would have made if I read the book first, but alas I will never know. Moriarity crafted this story well and the lives of all of these women were captivating and interesting. I had heard mixed reviews about the book, which I’m glad I decided to ignore. The details provided in the book added so much depth to the story that fortunately the actors were able to add to the show. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Patternmaster by Octavia E. Butler

Patternmaster by Octavia E. Butler



                And so it all ends. And it was so damn good! Okay, let me slow down and start with the beginning of this book. The Clay’s Ark disease is running rampant. The only people who exist now are those with the disease, those who hold the pattern and the mutes being controlled. The Clayarks and Patternist are basically at war. Teray is a son of the Patternmaster, Rayal, who is dying from the Clay’s Ark disease. Coransee is also a son of Rayal and now sees Teray as his biggest threat to obtaining the pattern once Rayal finally succumbs to the disease.
                There you have it. That is the backdrop for the final book in this series. I’m not going to try and go into the details of this book because they are too vast and I won’t be able to put into words everything going on, within the limits I want this post to be. What I will say is that this was a satisfying finale. This story spreads over hundreds of years. Many of the characters within the story are never intertwined but they are vaguely mentioned and if you are familiar with these books, then their presence is obvious. I kept wondering throughout if any of the previous characters would intertwine more explicitly and honestly I like that she didn’t. Each of these novels could easily stand on their own. Interestingly enough that’s how this series began! Patternmaster was the first book released in this series but is the last in the series chronologically. The story then moved to Mind of My Mind (chronologically the second book), then Survivor (chronologically fourth but a book she pulled from being published again because she hated it. Of course I’m curious but it’s almost impossible to get my hands on!) Fourth to be released was Wild Seed (chronologically first) and the last book to be released was Clay’s Ark (chronologically third).
                I’m glad that my first experience reading this series was in the chronological order. I absolutely loved the way these characters developed and how the story was told. The world building blended and expanded beautifully with each book. I gained more understanding of the how the pattern was formed and maintained through each book. The introduction of the Clay’s Ark disease was a completely unexpected twist that piqued my interest instantly and made me crave to know the conclusion of the series. I will eventually read the series in the order it was published because I’m curious to see what that reading experience would be like.

                This is a series I would highly recommend. The topics and themes explored were extraordinary. The concepts of slavery, control, freedom and maintaining humanity were prevalent throughout the series, and the supernatural, magical elements added so much depth to the story that it was easy to fall into the story. I loved each of these book. I’m just upset it took me this long to read them. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Clay’s Ark by Octavia E. Butler

Clay’s Ark by Octavia E. Butler


                Blake thought he would be safe with his daughters in their armored truck, even as they traveled out of their safe enclave. But when a man ripped open his locked door and threatened to kill his family everything changed. Blake knew these people were different. They were reading his body language, like they were reading his mind. They knew Keira was sick even if the strangers couldn’t deduce what was wrong. The strangers forced them to go to the ranch, kidnapping Rane, Blake’s other daughter and threatening them all if they didn’t follow. Eli, the leader of the ranch, made it clear that they couldn’t leave. That they would be infected like him, and everyone else at the ranch. The extraterrestrial organisms inhabiting Eli’s body would infect him too. Shockingly, the only way to keep any one at the ranch, and the world safe, would be for Blake and his family to stay. By then they were already infected.
                I have absolutely no idea how this novel fits into the Patternist series because none of the other characters of the previous books were even mentioned, but it is obvious that this novel is part of the Patternist universe, so beyond anything else, I am extremely curious. With that being said, this book could stand on its own. Changing in narrative from the past, with Eli’s infection and him coming upon this inhabited ranch, back to the present with Blake’s family kidnapped and brought to the ranch, Butler weaves a tale of the struggle to maintain humanity, while your body is losing its humanity. Every single character is struggling with their circumstances, brought on by a mission off the planet and an infection that took the lives of everyone but Eli. The possibilities of what could happen in this well-crafted, and terrifyingly realistic world are disturbing to say the least. And I could not put this novel down.

                I mean, damn. I’m continually shocked by how amazing Octavia E. Butler was a writer. This story, like every single one of hers that I have read so far, has incredible character development and world building. Each plot has been mind-blowing in its uniqueness and detail. This is another book that I could easily recommend. I give this 5 out of 5 stars. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mind of My Mind by Octavia E. Butler

Mind of My Mind by Octavia E. Butler



                Centuries have passed since Dora and Anyanwu have met and chose to live harmoniously. A truce between the two of them to exist together even though they may disagree. Doro is close to getting what he always wanted. His descendants are growing in number and now there is Mary. He knew from the moment Mary was born that she would be different. An exceptionally strong telepath, something completely different than he had seen before. She would be the prize he was looking for, if she survived transition. What Doro wasn’t expecting was for her to form a pattern with some of his other telepaths after she transitioned. That those telepaths would be connected to her and that she would be able to control them in a way that even he could not. And that he would begin to see her as a threat.
                The Patternist series is just incredible. There is no other way around it. What Octavia E. Butler created with this series is a group of non-humans who are able to enslave and take over those around them without their knowledge. That plot in and of itself is achieved seamlessly in Butler’s very capable hands. This second book in the series is as strong as the first and pulls in a deeper realm than I ever imagined. The characters are beautifully imagined. The world building is extremely strong. And because there is no extent to their power, the possibilities really are endless to where this story can go.

                I will say that I am reading this book in the order the series flows but not in the order the story was published. I had no idea the story was published in a different order but I am glad I am reading this story through chronologically. I’m loving the way these stories are flowing in to one another. This series is just steadily taking my breath away. Well done. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. Eager to begin the next book. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler

Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler



                This is a story of power, unbelievable power and unexplainable beings. Doro has roamed the Earth for over three millennia, taking bodies as necessary and finding others with some form of power to breed and build colonies of people, his people, obedient, subservient, useful and different. Many would call them witches. Anyanwu was special. She had power the likes of which Doro had never seen before, able to not only control her shape and appearance but to heal. Alive for more than three hundred years Anyanwu had many husbands and bore many children but none with a power to rival her own. Two extremely powerful beings with motives that would never mix and one content to keep the other a slave.
                I don’t want to spoil anything but what follows is an intense power struggle, one based on morals and the concept of what it means to truly live and to truly love. Anyanwu is willing to sacrifice her freedom for the people she loves and for her descendants. She believes in family and in forming relationships. Doro on the other hand has to kill to survive and only values the lives of those who can best serve him in one way or another. They both fear one another and yet Anyanwu is in a form of slavery. It is an intense and unpredictable story that looks at how we sacrifice ourselves for the ones we love and how others use power to manipulate others for their own gain.

                Octavia E. Butler ladies and gentlemen in all of her splendid glory. I am obsessed. And a little upset at myself for being so late to the “Octavia E. Butler is an amazing author” party. What the hell have I been doing?! What I love about her is that I never know what to expect from her stories but I can always depend on amazing character development, beautiful world building and a wholly original plot that is emotional, not contrived, well thought out and an extremely visceral experience. This novel about Anyanwu and Doro fit all of that and more. Easily 5 out of 5 stars. This is the first book in the Pattermaster Series and I’ve already downloaded the second book to begin reading soon.