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Spell the Month in Books

Spell the Month in Books is a fun challenge created by Jana @ Reviews from the Stacks. The idea is to spell the month using the first letter from books you plan to read during that month. When I saw it on Susan’s page I decided I would jump in on the fun but as October is nearly over I decided to instead highlight books from another challenge I am participating in called 52 Weeks of Women of Color.

O is for One Night in Georgia

“Set in the summer of 1968, (One Night in Georgia) a provocative and devastating novel of individual lives caught in the grips of violent history—a timely and poignant story that reverberates with the power of Alice Walker’s Meridian and Ntozake Shange’s Betsey Browne.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

C is for Conjure Women

Conjure Women is a magical debut that vividly captures America after the Civil War. A compulsive read, it emphasizes the importance of community, the resilience of women and knowing your power.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

T is for The Talking Drum

The Talking Drum examines gentrification and its impact on the black community was what drew me to this book. With the beating of the drums as an undercurrent throughout the book, Braxton reminds the reader of our connection to the ancestors and spirituality. That rhythm is our collective heartbeat. It symbolizes that all within the diaspora are of one blood despite our divisiveness.

The take home message from The Talking Drum was about community and of people holding steadfast in their convictions and weathering the storm together.

Check out my interview with Lisa Braxton here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

O is for The Other Americans

The Other Americans is a multilayered novel. It is all at once a family saga, a mystery, social commentary and a love story. Told from the perspectives of the victim, his immigrant family, neighbors and police, The Other Americans not only provides a clear lens for racial and class tensions, but also allows insight into the burdens our protectors carry. Although the book description focuses on the hit and run accident that claimed the life of patriarch Driss Guerraroui, at the forefront of this novel is love: self-love and acceptance, the love between a parent and child, sacrifice and romantic love. Not a syrupy sweet fairy tale romance, but a soul stirring love with real people, real issues and real emotion.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

B is for Banned Book Club

Banned Book Club is a graphic novel set during South Korea’s Fifth Republic. One aspect of the book that I liked was that it shows throughout history how books and art were used as a form of protest. The author not only declares books as political, but goes further to address the reasons why those in power censor books. The reason is not just because of possible messages of dissent, but rather that they can see themselves as the villains of these novels. Their fear that others may recognize this is what drives them to ban books. They want to control their image, to control the political narrative.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

E is for Empire of Wild

Dimaline’s Empire of Wild is a love story. It is about family, tradition, the gift of our elders. It is also a social commentary on the dispossessed, on capitalism and the perverting of religion for financial gain. The horror of this story is not the Rogarou, but big business and their manipulation of legal loopholes to trample on indigenous people and the land.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

R is for The Revisioners

The Revisioners explores the depths of women’s relationships—powerful women and marginalized women, healers and survivors. It is a novel about the bonds between a mother and a child, the dangers that upend those bonds. At its core, The Revisioners ponders generational legacies, the endurance of hope, and the undying promise of freedom.”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Check out my GoodReads page to see my full reviews and more suggestions of diverse reads!

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Mermaid-A-Thon TBR

I am late to the game with this Readathon. I first saw it on Twitter on Deja (I hope I spelled her name right.) Diary of a Reader‘s page. This is the third round of Mermaid-A-Thon. It is hosted by Fernando of Fernando’s Mermaid Books.

Dark World Challenges


Read a Book That Features War

Read a Book with a Badass Female Main Character

A Thousand Ships is a retelling of the Trojan War from a female perspective. Short listed for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction, “A Thousand Ships gives voices to the women, girls and goddesses who, for so long, have been silent.”


Read a Book By a Black Author

Read a Predicted 5 star Read

In Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, “the Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.”


Read a Horror Middle Grade Book

Dead Voices is the spine tingling sequel to Katherine Arden’s Small Spaces. When I read this book a few years ago I got so swept up in the story that I forgot it was supposed to be a family read. LOL Looking forward to see where Arden takes Ollie and friends in this next chapter.


Read a Book with Revenge

In this first installment of Robert Pobi’s Lucas Page series, former FBI agent Lucas Page must find a sniper bent on revenge before his family find themselves in the sniper’s lens.

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Book Review: Luster

My Thoughts

Luster — lus·​ter | \ ˈlə-stər:

  • 1. :a gentle sheen or soft glow, especially that of a partly reflective surface.
  • 2. a: a glow of light from within LUMINOSITY the luster of the stars; b: an inner beauty RADIANCE
  • 3 a superficial attractiveness or appearance of excellence

I have a hard time putting into words what I think about this book. I didn’t really like the characters and I found the story sad. There is quite a bit of social commentary though. Now please understand that a book does not need likeable characters to be a good book. There are some books where the only reason why I read them is because of the bad@$$ antagonist. Sometimes you need a character you love to hate to drive the novel. But Luster is not that type of novel. All the characters are suffering and throughout the book we see them archiving their loneliness and sorrow in different ways. It doesn’t matter what skin they are in – young, old, black, white, rich or poor — there is pain and desolation here. And you wait a long time for Edie to find her inner beauty and shine. In the end she discovers more about who she is, but she has not come full circle yet.

As I was reading there were sentences that stopped me in my tracks. All I could say is “Wow! That’s deep!” There was poetry in the language and a depth of understanding the human condition. Then there were other times where I felt that the text was too cerebral. I felt that the writing got in the way of emoting the feelings.

From this debut it is obvious that Raven Leilani is very talented and creative. I am interested in seeing what she does next.

Raven Leilani

Raven‘s debut novel, Luster, is forthcoming from FSG August 2020. Her work has been published in GrantaMcSweeney’s Quarterly ConcernYale Review, ConjunctionsThe Cut, and New England Review, among other publications. She completed her MFA at NYU. Represented by Ellen Levine @ Trident. You can reach her at @RavenLeilani

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Weekly Wrap Up: July 26, 2020

This week was filled with many ups and downs. My best reading day was Wednesday with 571 pages. By the end of the day I had finished 4 books for the week and was halfway through the fifth. My worst day was Thursday when my migraines started. But as you can see I never picked myself back up. Still feeling drained and out of sorts. Not sure if I am actually sick or just run down from online classes.


What Books Did I Read This Week?

This week my focus was on reading ARCs and getting my NetGalley average up. In total I read 7 ARCs and 2 backlist titles – A Good Marriage and The Night Watchman. Both backlist titles were bookclub picks.

Here are the buy links and release dates of the ARCs I read this week:

My NetGalley feedback ratio is now 91%, the highest since I joined the service. I still have 13 galleys to read. Four of these are due to be released within the next month.


Which Book Was My Favorite?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I had four five star reads this week. Choosing one is very hard as they were all different styles and genres. The Death of Vivek Oji is a contemporary fiction about identity. Emezi’s prose is tender and beautiful. I cried my way through this one. The Night Swim is a fast paced thriller. After the Rain is a graphic novel adapted from one of Okorafor’s short stories and Underground, Monroe and the Mamalogues are three plays written by scholar Lisa B. Thompson.

But if I have to choose just one it would have to be Awaeke Emezi’s third novel, The Death of Vivek Oji.


What Am I Reading Next?

Empire of Wild is a supernatural fable in the vein of Little Red Riding Hood. Hieroglyphics is a contemporary novel about parenthood, memory and loss. I will be reviewing both of these novels over the next week so stop back and hear my thoughts.

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Reading Rush 2020: Days 5 & 6

Friday July 24th, Day 5

What did I read today?

Today I finished my sixth book for the challenge – Paris Never Leaves You – an historical fiction about a woman who survives the German occupation of Paris and flees to the United States with her young daughter.

I listened to portions of Alice Feeney’s His & Hers while doing laundry at 4 in the morning. No worries though. I had my headphones on. The whole house was snug as bugs.

I participated in two Twitter sprints hosted by Caz from LittleBookOwl and Nidhi over at nidhireddyreads. During that time I read about half of The Death of Vivek Oji.

I finished both His & Hers and The Death of Vivek Oji on Day 6.

Although I have not received my copy of Hieroglyphics yet I was pleasantly surprised to find a copy of Sisters in Hate by Seyward Darby at my door. Thanks goes out to Jess at Little, Brown and Company. Come back and check out my blog in a week or so for my review.

Question of the Day

How do you organize your books?

I organize my books mostly by genre with a special shelf for African literature. Within each genre the books are arranged alphabetically by last name of author. I have multiple cases and some are dedicated to specific topics. My “nightstand” shelf has science related books. Book series are bundled together above the mantel. Physical ARCs are on desk or dresser.

Where have you done the most productive reading?

Before COVID19 I would have said at Panera Bread, on the bus or while driving. These days I get the most reading done either listening to audiobooks while doing chores and inputing data or in bed curled up with my Kindle in my favorite blanket. (Yes, in all this heat. — I just turn the AC up higher!)

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Reading Rush 2020: Day 4

What did I read today?

Although I started the day off really well by finishing off The Night Watchman, I was just really exhausted and suffering from migraines. So I only read 235 pages total.

The Night Watchman is my first Louise Erdrich. I read it for Camp TOB where it is going up against Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age. Although I gave both these books a 4 star rating if I had to cast my vote today The Night Watchman would edge out the competition. I feel that it had more depth and showed more emotion. I also felt more connected to Patrice than I did to either Emira or Alix.

So far Paris Never Leaves You is not grasping my attention but His & Hers is most definitely picking up. I am hoping by tomorrow to finish at least one of these for my sixth book.

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Book Review: After the Rain

“On the Road” is a short story from Nnedi Okorafor’s Kabu Kabu collection. Chioma is a visiting her family in Nigeria. Shortly after arriving the town is hit with torrential rains in which should have been their dry season. As soon as the rain stops you have this young man come to her door. His head is bashed in. Chioma can see the blood matter. For all intents and purposes this young man should not be alive. He should not be able to walk or talk. But there he is, the monster at her door. And she lets him in.

Over the next few days Chioma senses she is being followed. There is a strange odor wafting through her house and she seems to possess a strange magnetism for the town’s lizards. She has no idea what she has awoken or what fate awaits her. But the elders of the town seem to know something. As Chioma gets thinner and weaker the women of the village prepare for what’s to come.

Okorafor does a great job with the build up. She certainly had me anxious and it definitely did not help that I was reading this story at 3 am on a rainy day when the house and neighborhood were fast asleep. Like Binti, I found that I fell right into the story and the pages of this fantasy came to life. As with the majority of Okorafor’s work After the Rain is centered on African mythology.

Agbogo-Mmuo, 1972 by Ben Enwonwu (1917-1994)

For the most part the graphic novel is true to “On the Road” with a few departures for clarity’s sake. I loved the artwork by David Brame and found that his illustrations really do make the story leap off the page.

David Brame; After the Rain

I am hoping that this is a superhero origin story and that there will be a spin off or sequel to After the Rain. My only complaint with the galley was that the font was very fine and pixelated. Had I not had a copy of Kabu Kabu to read, I would have been very upset as there was no way that I would have been able get the story with the little bit that I could read. As I’m sure this will be rectified by the final printing I am not deducting any stars from my rating.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Reading Rush 2020: Day 3

With 571 pages read Day 3 was my most productive day so far!

I decided to switch out His & Hers for the “Read a book entirely outside your house.” The weather has been very uncooperative switching between heat wave and thunderstorm.

Instead, I read the short story “On the Road” and completed Nnedi Okorafor’s graphic novel “After the Rain”.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I read 49 pages of Paris Never Leaves you during Twitter Sprint.

But as Louise Erdrich’s The Night Watchman was calling my name, I abandoned everything else to finish it.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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Reading Rush 2020: Day 2

Books Completed:

A Good Marriage By Kimberly McCreight

A Good Marriage was our book club pick for the month of July. I listened to the audiobook version with Sarah Zimmerman, Karissa Vacker, and George Newbern as narrators. This book is told from multiple point of views: Amanda, our victim and Lizzie, a former federal prosecutor defending her first client, Amanda’s husband Zach. In between their accounts we are given grand jury depositions and investigative reports. These varying writing styles and perspectives add a layer of dimension to the novel and make its 400 pages go by that much faster. I found that A Good Marriage had plenty of twists and turns to keep me up through the night.


Watch an adaptation BEFORE reading the book that inspired it.

For this challenge I watched the theatre productions of Underground and The Mamalogues before I read this book of plays. Being plays the adaptations that I watched were pretty close to the original — although there is always another dimension added when actors throw themselves into a role. Between the two plays that I did watch I enjoyed Underground more because of the chemistry and dynamic between Marc Pouhe and Jeffery Da’Shade Johnson as Kyle and Mason.

Playwright and Scholar Dr. Lisa B. Thompson

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My Reading Rush Journal

What was the hardest challenge you’ve ever done for a read-a-thon?

My hardest challenge was to read a book about a podcast. At that time I had not heard of any books with podcasts in them although I did enjoy listening to Serial at work. In the end I read Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski which is comprised of six episodes in the manner of Serial. Each episode tells another character’s side of the story, removing layer by layer the mystery surrounding the death of Tom Jeffries.

I have since read several books with podcasts that I enjoy.

Two sisters – one dead, one missing – and a radio personality obsessed with finding her before it is too late. Sadie was one of the best reads for me in 2018. Since reading this book I started picking up Courtney Summers other titles and I have yet to be disappointed. If you would like to listen to the podcast “The Girls” featured in the novel just click the link.


Rachel Krall is the host of “Guilty or Not Guilty” a true crime podcast that asks the listener to be the judge. Her first season ended up in a conviction reversal for a man accused of rape. Now Rachel’s attention is focused on the high profile rape case of a rising star athlete bound for the Olympics. The small town of Neapolis is divided. Half believe the teenage girl. The other half feel as if she saw is trying to bring their golden son down. Either way no one really seems to want Rachel in town. That is besides the woman who has been surreptitiously leaving her notes about a death that occurred 25 years ago.

The Night Swim was a fast paced read that delved into society’s view on rape, consent and how we judge our victims and perpetrators.

This was my first completed book for Reading Rush 2020.