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Blog Tour & Giveaway – The Gilded Ones

Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone! Special thanks to TBR and Beyond Tours for including me on this blog tour! The Gilded Ones is a very special book and to share my love for Deka I will be doing a giveaway of the book. To enter comment below why you are excited to read The Gilded Ones. You must be following my blog and BOTH Namina’s and my Instagram pages. The drawing will be done Tuesday at 7PM (EST) and the lucky winner will be announced on Wednesday. (Sorry – Limited to the United States unless Book Depository ships to you.)


Buy Links


Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.


Review

First of all let me tell you how much I enjoyed this book! The world building was incredible. At first I started highlighting all of the new vocabulary for this world but quickly realized that this was not necessary as Forna lays out descriptions within a few sentences. Unlike other fantasy novels the different people, places and items were clearly defined right off. The world building is matched with action and scenes that grab and pull you in. There is violence but none of it felt over the top to me. I felt that it served a purpose and held meaning in allowing us to know what Deka and her blood sisters had endured.

One scene in particular really struck me. Belcalis discusses how people took advantage of her and persecuted her. They saw no wrong in their actions as she was one of the cursed – the gilded ones. But she reminds Deka that even though she may not bear physical scars, that the memories still weigh heavily on her heart. This sentiment reminds me of the myth of the strong Black woman. People think that because we have been persecuted over and over again and keep standing up that we feel no pain. Even if we have a tough exterior and manage to come through our ordeals smiling, the pain is still there. The scars have been forged inside.

The Gilded Ones talks about racism, xenophobia and fighting against the patriarchy. Although this was a coming of age novel, Deka and her blood sisters were strong female characters and their allegiance to one another was a beautiful thing to see. Overall, this book was empowering and it showed that not everything or everyone is as they appear.

The Gilded Ones is the first book in the Deathless series.


Meet the Author

Namina Forna is a young adult novelist based in Los Angeles, and the author of the upcoming epic fantasy YA novel The Gilded Ones. Originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa, she moved to the US when she was nine and has been traveling back and forth ever since. Namina has an MFA in film and TV production from USC School of Cinematic Arts and a BA from Spelman College. She works as a screenwriter in LA and loves telling stories with fierce female leads.

Where You Can Find Her

Stop By The Gilded Ones Virtual Book Tour

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Teaser Tuesday 2/9

The Teaser

There was no two ways about it. But the truth was a sticky thing. A thing that could stretch and shift and blow up and pop at the prick of a pin. Like gum. Who was she to force it down other people’s throats?


The Synopsis

In the aftermath of a deadly outbreak—reminiscent of the 1962 event of mass hysteria that was the Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic—a city at the tip of Africa is losing its mind, with residents experiencing hallucinations and paranoia. Is it simply another episode of mass hysteria, or something more sinister? In a quarantined city in which the inexplicable has already occurred, rumors, superstitions, and conspiracy theories abound.

During these strange days, Faith works as a fulltime corpse collector and a freelance “truthologist,” putting together disparate pieces of information to solve problems. But after Faith agrees to help an orphaned girl find her abducted baby brother, she begins to wonder whether the boy is even real. Meanwhile, a young man named Sans who trades in illicit goods is so distracted by a glimpse of his dream woman that he lets a bag of money he owes his gang partners go missing-leaving him desperately searching for both and soon questioning his own sanity.

Over the course of a single week, the paths of Faith, Sans, and a cast of other hustlers—including a data dealer, a drug addict, a sin eater, and a hyena man—will cross and intertwine as they move about the city, looking for lost souls, uncertain absolution, and answers that may not exist.


This book found its way on my TBR through the Tournament of Books. Otherwise I would have overlooked it as it centers on a pandemic. How comfortable are you reading books about quarantines, viruses and epidemics now that this is our reality? Do you avoid them or seek them out?

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#5 On My TBR – Recced by Friends

Hello All and welcome to my blog! This week our theme for #5 On My TBR is books recommended by our friends. As I have a whopping TBR – 1861 books! – with over 400 on my shelves I chose my selection from the last 5 books that were gifted to me. I have arranged them in alphabetical order by title.

So what is #5 on My TBR you ask?

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme that gets you digging into your massive TBRs to find five special books. Created by E@LocalBeeHuntersNook this meme centers on a new prompt each Monday. For those of you interested in participating in #5 On My TBR you can find additional info and future prompts here.

So let’s get to it!

#1: A Fall off Marigolds

A beautiful scarf, passed down through the generations, connects two women who learn that the weight of the world is made bearable by the love we give away….

September 1911. On Ellis Island in New York Harbor, nurse Clara Wood cannot face returning to Manhattan, where the man she loved fell to his death in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Then, while caring for a fevered immigrant whose own loss mirrors hers, she becomes intrigued by a name embroidered onto the scarf he carries…and finds herself caught in a dilemma that compels her to confront the truth about the assumptions she’s made. Will what she learns devastate her or free her? 

September 2011. On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, widow Taryn Michaels has convinced herself that she is living fully, working in a charming specialty fabric store and raising her daughter alone. Then a long-lost photograph appears in a national magazine, and she is forced to relive the terrible day her husband died in the collapse of the World Trade Towers…the same day a stranger reached out and saved her. Will a chance reconnection and a century-old scarf open Taryn’s eyes to the larger forces at work in her life?


#2: Fledgling

Fledgling, Octavia Butler’s new novel after a seven year break, is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly inhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: She is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted – and still wants – to destroy her and those she cares for and how she can save herself. Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of “otherness” and questions what it means to be truly human. 


#3: The Kindest Lie

A promise could betray you.

It’s 2008, and the inauguration of President Barack Obama ushers in a new kind of hope. In Chicago, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy-League educated Black engineer, is married to a kind and successful man. He’s eager to start a family, but Ruth is uncertain. She has never gotten over the baby she gave birth to—and was forced to leave behind—when she was a teenager. She had promised her family she’d never look back, but Ruth knows that to move forward, she must make peace with the past.

Returning home, Ruth discovers the Indiana factory town of her youth is plagued by unemployment, racism, and despair. As she begins digging into the past, she unexpectedly befriends Midnight, a young white boy who is also adrift and looking for connection. Just as Ruth is about to uncover a burning secret her family desperately wants to keep hidden, a traumatic incident strains the town’s already searing racial tensions, sending Ruth and Midnight on a collision course that could upend both their lives.

Powerful and revealing, The Kindest Lie captures the heartbreaking divide between Black and white communities and offers both an unflinching view of motherhood in contemporary America and the never-ending quest to achieve the American Dream.


#4: Song of the Crimson Flower

From the acclaimed author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns comes a fantastical new tale of darkness and love, in which magical bonds are stronger than blood.

Will love break the spell? After cruelly rejecting Bao, the poor physician’s apprentice who loves her, Lan, a wealthy nobleman’s daughter, regrets her actions. So when she finds Bao’s prized flute floating in his boat near her house, she takes it into her care, not knowing that his soul has been trapped inside it by an evil witch, who cursed Bao, telling him that only love will set him free. Though Bao now despises her, Lan vows to make amends and help break the spell.

Together, the two travel across the continent, finding themselves in the presence of greatness in the forms of the Great Forest’s Empress Jade and Commander Wei. They journey with Wei, getting tangled in the webs of war, blood magic, and romance along the way. Will Lan and Bao begin to break the spell that’s been placed upon them? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives with black magic running through their veins?

In this fantastical tale of darkness and love, some magical bonds are stronger than blood.


#5: The Sum of Us

One of today’s most insightful and influential thinkers offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn: Racism has a cost for everyone–not just for people of color.

“This is the book I’ve been waiting for.”–Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist

Heather McGhee’s specialty is the American economy–and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a common root problem: racism. But not just in the most obvious indignities for people of color. Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy and constitutive of the spiritual and moral crises that grip us all. But how did this happen? And is there a way out?

McGhee embarks on a deeply personal journey across the country from Mississippi to California to Maine, tallying what we lose when we buy into the zero-sum paradigm–the idea that progress for some of us must come at the expense of others. Along the way, she meets white people who confide in her about losing their homes, their dreams, and their shot at better jobs to the toxic mix of American racism and greed. This is the story of how public goods in this country–from parks and pools to functioning schools–have become private luxuries; of how unions collapsed, wages stagnated, and inequality increased; and of how this country, unique among the world’s advanced economies, has thwarted universal healthcare.

But in unlikely places of worship and work, McGhee finds proof of what she calls the Solidarity Dividend: gains that come when people come together across race, to accomplish what we simply can’t do on our own.

The Sum of Us is a brilliant analysis of how we arrived here: divided and self-destructing, materially rich but spiritually starved and vastly unequal. McGhee marshals economic and sociological research to paint an irrefutable story of racism’s costs, but at the heart of the book are the humble stories of people yearning to be part of a better America, including white supremacy’s collateral victims: white people themselves. With startling empathy, this heartfelt message from a Black woman to a multiracial America leaves us with a new vision for a future in which we finally realize that life can be more than zero-sum.

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#5 On My TBR – Animals

Hello Everyone! Hope you are all happy and healthy and enjoying the holiday season.

I am posting late as this is finals week. I’m a bit more overwhelmed than usual as my children’s schools closed down last week with little notice and there are a lot of time conflicts between their Zoom sessions and my Collaborate meetings. Keep your fingers crossed and pray that we pull through this week intact and sane.

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme that gets you digging into your massive TBRs to find five special books. Created by E@LocalBeeHuntersNook this meme centers on a new prompt each Monday. This week’s theme is Animals. For those of you interested in participating in #5 On My TBR you can find additional info and future prompts here.

I had a lot of fun with this one. First I thought I would look for books with animals in the title. Then I thought Ooh how pretty my books with animals on the covers were. I had a hard time choosing between the two so I decided to do a combination of both.


#1 – Black Panther: Long Live the King

HEAVY IS THE HEAD THAT WEARS THE CROWN! As the Black Panther and an Avenger, T’Challa has had to save the world time and again – but those duties pale in comparison to his responsibilities as king of Wakanda. As the nation rebuilds in the wake of revolution, T’Challa finds his people besieged by a massive monster tearing through the country, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake! From acclaimed novelist NNEDI OKORAFOR (Binti, Who Fears Death) and illustrator ANDRE LIMA ARAUJO (SPIDEY, The Wicked + The Divine) comes an adventure set in the world of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ landmark BLACK PANTHER run and told in the Mighty Marvel Manner!
Collects Black Panther – Long Live The King #1-6.


#2 – Creatures

On the eve of Evangeline’s wedding, a dead whale is trapped in the harbor of Winter Island, the groom may be lost at sea, and Evie’s mostly absent mother has shown up out of the blue. From there, in this mesmerizing, provocative debut, Evie remembers and reckons with her complicated upbringing in this lush, wild land off the coast of Southern California. 


#3 – The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish

Moving through a selection of first-person accounts and written with a sinister sense of humor, The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish powerfully captures the quiet torment of two sisters craving the attention of a parent they can’t, and shouldn’t, have to themselves. In this captivating debut, Katya Apekina disquietingly crooks the lines between fact and fantasy, between escape and freedom, and between love and obsession.


#4 – The Bird and the Blade

As a slave in the Kipchak Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom … until the kingdom is conquered by enemy forces and she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father across the vast Mongol Empire. On the run, with adversaries on all sides and an endless journey ahead, Jinghua hatches a scheme to use the Kipchaks’ exile to return home, a plan that becomes increasingly fraught as her feelings for Khalaf evolve into a hopeless love.

The Bird and the Blade is a lush, powerful story of life and death, battles and riddles, lies and secrets from debut author Megan Bannen.


#5 – Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

Thirty-four-year-old prostitute Jmiaa reflects on the bustling world around her with a brutal honesty, but also a quick wit that cuts through the drudgery. Like many of the women in her working-class Casablanca neighborhood, Jmiaa struggles to earn enough money to support herself and her family—often including the deadbeat husband who walked out on her and their young daughter. While she doesn’t despair about her profession like her roommate, Halima, who reads the Quran between clients, she still has to maintain a delicate balance between her reality and the “respectable” one she paints for her own more conservative mother.

In her breakout debut novel, Meryem Alaoui creates a vibrant picture of the day-to-day challenges faced by working people in Casablanca, which they meet head-on with resourcefulness and resilience.


Animals on the Cover

#1 – Forest of the Pygmies

  • Fantasy/ Adventure/ Young Adult
  • Paperback, 272 pages
  • Expected publication: January 5th 2021 by Katherine Tegen Books 
  • First published April 2004

#2 – Untamed Shore

  • Mystery/ Thriller/ Historical Fiction
  • Kindle Edition, 339 pages
  • Published February 11th 2020 by Agora Books

#3 – The Down Days

  • Science Fiction/Speculative/Dystopian
  • Hardcover, 368 pages
  • Published May 5th 2020 by Skybound Books

#4 – Barn 8

  • Political drama/ Humor/Contemporary/Literary
  • Paperback, 256 pages
  • Published March 3rd 2020 by Graywolf Press

#5 – The Beast and Other Tales

  • Fantasy/ Short Stories
  • In Translation from Provençal
  • Paperback, 120 pages
  • Published September 15th 2020 by Northwestern University Press
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Throwback Thursday 12/10

I discovered Throwback Thursday on my friend Carla Loves To Read page.

Throwback Thursday meme is hosted by Renee@It’s Book Talk and is a way to share some of your old favorites as well as sharing books that you’re FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on your TBR list while you continue to pile more titles on top of them! These older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board and connect back to Renee’s blog.

All the Bad Apples is one of those titles that fell off of my radar as my TBR bloomed. I rediscovered it when prompted to read a book with apple in the title for a December reading challenge on GoodReads.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis

The day after the funeral all our mourning clothes hung out on the line like sleeping bats. ‘This will be really embarrassing,’ I kept saying to my family, ‘when she shows up at the door in a week or two.’

When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true.

And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.

My Thoughts

At first I thought this book was a YA fantasy about a family of women that were under a curse. That if it was deemed by the rest of the family that they were bad apples that they would suffer this doomed fate. I didn’t quite get what the specific details of that fate would be beyond visitation by banshees, broken bone combs, bodily scratches and the ghost of a bull. Was she going to die? Be tortured mercilessly? Be trapped in purgatory? I just wasn’t sure. But as the book opens up with a teenaged girl Deena on the verge of her 17th birthday coming out to her sister we get a sense that whatever this fate is, it will befall her. Especially after her father walks in on her revelation. And certainly after both of her sisters reactions. They implore her to remain quiet about her sexuality and emphasize how important it is for her to appear to be a “good girl”, a normal nice good girl.

I was kind of surprised that with this storyline that this book is set in 2012. But as the story goes on you learn more about Deena’s family history and how the curse came about, you come to realize that bad apples include women who were deemed to be too pretty, women who spoke their mind, women who had boyfriends, women who were raped.

The afterword by Moira Fowley-Doyle gave me more insight into the crux of the book and why she why she chose to use these women to represent this time frame. In it she talks about the Magdalene houses in Ireland and how up until 1996 they operated without much oversight. Because there was no separation of church and state thousands of women were sent to these homes for anything construed as being deviant behavior. She explains how abortion was illegal until 2019 and punishable by 14 years in jail. How she was compelled by the death of Savita Halappanavar to tell this story. Halappanavar had suffered an incomplete miscarriage and was denied surgery to remove what remained in her womb. As the physician explained, her request went against Irish Catholic law. On October 28, 2012 Savita died from sepsis,one week after being admitted to the hospital.

Fowley – Doyle also talks about how two school boys discovered bodies that were buried in a mass grave near Tuam, County Galway. It was excused away at first as being from the famine. It turns out that more than likely these bones were the bones of children who were born at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home.

Research was conducted by Catherine Corless who pulled up the records of all of the children born into this home and found there were 796 children, babies whose bodies were unaccounted for. They were not buried in any of the local cemeteries. The Bon Secours Mother and Baby home was open from 1925 – 1961. Using this figure Corless estimated that one child died within those walls every two weeks. One baby every two weeks. 796 children unaccounted for.

Throwback Pic

Eartha Kitt – Gordon Parks 1952

Signing off. Hope we get to talk books soon!

Teaser Tuesday 12/8

Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, the weekly Meme hosted by The Purple Booker. It’s super easy and anyone can join in the fun!

1: Grab your current read
2: Open to a random page
3: Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

“Bad apples don’t have history,” she went on, handing me a towel. “They don’t have roots. They just sit in the grass where they fell, rotting alone.”

A curse hangs over the heads of the Rys girls. Once they hit the age of seventeen it takes affect. Their only chance of avoiding it is to be deemed a good girl, one who is nice and honorable, respectable in every way. Deena is just about to turn seventeen and is in the closet, but if anyone finds out her secret . . .

#5 On My TBR – Small Town

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme that gets you digging into your massive TBRs to find five special books. Created by E@LocalBeeHuntersNook this meme centers on a new prompt each Monday. This week’s theme is Small Town. So I set about looking for books that took place in small towns. But I am guessing that anything with small town charm or with a twee vibe will count for this challenge. For those of you interested in participating in #5 On My TBR you can find additional info and future prompts here.

#1 – Valentine

From Goodreads: An astonishing debut novel that explores the lingering effects of a brutal crime on the women of one small Texas oil town in the 1970s.

Mercy is hard in a place like this . . .
It’s February 1976, and Odessa, Texas, stands on the cusp of the next great oil boom. While the town’s men embrace the coming prosperity, its women intimately know and fear the violence that always seems to follow.

In the early hours of the morning after Valentine’s Day, fourteen-year-old Gloria Ramírez appears on the front porch of Mary Rose Whitehead’s ranch house, broken and barely alive. The teenager had been viciously attacked in a nearby oil field—an act of brutality that is tried in the churches and barrooms of Odessa before it can reach a court of law. When justice is evasive, the stage is set for a showdown with potentially devastating consequences.

Valentine is a haunting exploration of the intersections of violence and race, class and region in a story that plumbs the depths of darkness and fear, yet offers a window into beauty and hope. Told through the alternating points of view of indelible characters who burrow deep in the reader’s heart, this fierce, unflinching, and surprisingly tender novel illuminates women’s strength and vulnerability, and reminds us that it is the stories we tell ourselves that keep us alive. 


#2 – The Wicked Deep

From Goodreads: Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.


#3 – Welcome to Braggsville

From Goodreads: Welcome to Braggsville. The City that Love Built in the Heart of Georgia. Population 712

Born and raised in the heart of old Dixie, D’aron Davenport finds himself in unfamiliar territory his freshman year at UC Berkeley. Two thousand miles and a world away from his childhood, he is a small-town fish floundering in the depths of a large, hyper-liberal pond. Caught between the prosaic values of his rural hometown and the intellectualized multicultural cosmopolitanism of Berzerkeley, the nineteen-year-old white kid is uncertain about his place until one disastrous party brings him three idiosyncratic best friends: Louis, a “kung-fu comedian” from California; Candice, an earnest do-gooder claiming Native roots from Iowa; and Charlie, an introspective inner-city black teen from Chicago. They dub themselves the “4 Little Indians.”

But everything changes in the group’s alternative history class, when D’aron lets slip that his hometown hosts an annual Civil War reenactment, recently rebranded “Patriot Days.” His announcement is met with righteous indignation, and inspires Candice to suggest a “performative intervention” to protest the reenactment. Armed with youthful self-importance, makeshift slave costumes, righteous zeal, and their own misguided ideas about the South, the 4 Little Indians descend on Braggsville. Their journey through backwoods churches, backroom politics, Waffle Houses, and drunken family barbecues is uproarious to start, but will have devastating consequences.

With the keen wit of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and the deft argot of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, T. Geronimo Johnson has written an astonishing, razor-sharp satire. Using a panoply of styles and tones, from tragicomic to Southern Gothic, he skewers issues of class, race, intellectual and political chauvinism, Obamaism, social media, and much more.

A literary coming-of-age novel for a new generation, written with tremendous social insight and a unique, generous heart, Welcome to Braggsville reminds us of the promise and perils of youthful exuberance, while painting an indelible portrait of contemporary America.


#4 – Ordinary Grace

From Goodreads: “That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word.”

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.

Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family— which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother— he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.

Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.


#5 – Jack

From Goodreads: Marilynne Robinson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, returns to the world of Gilead with Jack, the latest in one of the great works of contemporary American fiction.

Jack  tells the story of John Ames Boughton, the beloved, erratic, and grieved-over prodigal son of a Presbyterian minister in Gilead, Iowa. In segregated St. Louis sometime after World War II, Jack falls in love with Della Miles, an African American high school teacher who is also the daughter of a preacher―discerning, generous, and independent. Their fraught, beautiful romance is one of Robinson’s greatest achievements.

The Gilead novels are about the dilemmas and promise of American history―about the ongoing legacy of the Civil War and the enduring impact of both racial inequality and deep-rooted religious belief. They touch the deepest chords in our national character and resonate with our deepest feelings.

52 Weeks of Women of Color Post 3

I came across the 52 Weeks of Women of Color challenge late last year. When I jumped aboard I had no idea just how wonderful my reading experience was going to be. More than half of these books were from new-to-me authors and they span a gambit of genres.

As this month is #NonfictionNovember here is My post“Nonfiction Works by Women of Color.”

Book #19 – Hitting A Straight Lick With a Crooked Stick

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My Review


Book #20 – The Talented Ribkins

Rating: 4 out of 5.

From Goodreads“Inspired by W. E. B. Du Bois’s famous essay “The Talented Tenth” and fuelled by Ladee Hubbard’s marvelously original imagination, The Talented Ribkins is a big-hearted debut novel about race, class, politics, and the unique gifts that, while they may cause some problems from time to time, bind a family together.”

I enjoyed this family and their hijinks. My favorite part was when Johnny was teaching Eloise about their family history. The moral of the story was knowing who you are and what your gift is. That everyone has a special spark or super power to brighten the world.


Book #21 – Breathe: A Letter to My Sons

Rating: 5 out of 5.

From GoodReads: “Emotionally raw and deeply reflective, Imani Perry issues an unflinching challenge to society to see Black children as deserving of humanity. She admits fear and frustration for her African American sons in a society that is increasingly racist and at times seems irredeemable. However, as a mother, feminist, writer, and intellectual, Perry offers an unfettered expression of love–finding beauty and possibility in life–and she exhorts her children and their peers to find the courage to chart their own paths and find steady footing and inspiration in Black tradition.”

So glad I had access to both the audio and the hard copy. I liked hearing the author’s words and experiences in her own voice. Yet I felt that what she was saying was so important that I had to see the words, mark them down. Absorb them.


Book #22 – Who Put This Song On?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is a semi-autobiographical YA novel about a young girl that struggles with anxiety and depression. Written by poet Morgan Parker, it rings true and is very relatable. Parker captures the aughts (2000s), its music and a young black girl’s struggle with fitting in with humor and grace.


Book #23 – This Is Just My Face Try Not To Stare

Rating: 4 out of 5.

FUNNY! I would definitely recommend listening to the audiobook for this one. Sidibe narrates it herself and will have you in stitches! Who would have known that Precious was so funny?


Book #24 – Split Tooth

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My GoodReads review


Book #25 – The Revisioners

Rating: 4 out of 5.

From GoodReadsThe 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.


Book #26 – Know My Name

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was a heartbreaking memoir. Chanel Miller recalls her attack by Brock Turner and describes the anguish she went through in the days after and during the trial. I applaud her strength in coming forward and telling her story as a victim, then a survivor and now an activist.


Book #27 – The Queen’s Assassin

Rating: 4 out of 5.

From GoodReadsPerfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Red Queen, this is the first novel in a sweeping YA fantasy-romance duet about a deadly assassin, his mysterious apprentice, and the country they are sworn to protect from #1 NYT bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz.

The books showcased in this post were all read in February this year.

#5 On My TBR – Death

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme that gets you digging into your massive TBRs to find five special books. Created by E@LocalBeeHuntersNook this meme centers on a new prompt each Monday. This week’s theme is Death. El Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday that celebrates the souls of loved ones departed. It follows the Aztec tradition of honoring the dead by setting up family altars, enjoying your loved one’s favorite foods and visiting their graves with marigolds and gifts. The Day of the Dead is held November 1st and 2nd this year. If you are interested in participating you can find additional info and future prompts here.

#1 – Men We Reaped

From Goodreads: In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five men in her life, to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses, one after another, made Jesmyn ask the question: why? And as she began to write about the experience of living through all the dying, she realized the truth–and it took her breath away. Her brother and her friends all died because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of family and relationships. Jesmyn says the answer was so obvious she felt stupid for not seeing it. But it nagged at her until she knew she had to write about her community, to write their stories and her own.

Jesmyn grew up in poverty in rural Mississippi. She writes powerfully about the pressures this brings, on the men who can do no right and the women who stand in for family in a society where the men are often absent. She bravely tells her story, revisiting the agonizing losses of her only brother and her friends. As the sole member of her family to leave home and pursue high education, she writes about this parallel American universe with the objectivity distance provides and the intimacy of utter familiarity. 


#2 – Death in Her Hands

From Goodreads:

A novel of haunting metaphysical suspense about an elderly widow whose life is upturned when she finds a cryptic note on a walk in the woods that ultimately makes her question everything about her new home.

While on her normal daily walk with her dog in the forest woods, our protagonist comes across a note, handwritten and carefully pinned to the ground with a frame of stones. “Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body”. Our narrator is deeply shaken; she has no idea what to make of this. She is new to area, having moved her from her longtime home after the death of her husband, and she knows very few people. And she’s a little shaky even on best days. Her brooding about this note quickly grows into a full-blown obsession, and she begins to devote herself to exploring the possibilities of her conjectures about who this woman was and how she met her fate. Her suppositions begin to find echoes in the real world, and with mounting excitement and dread, the fog of mystery starts to form into a concrete and menacing shape. But as we follow her in her investigation, strange dissonances start to accrue, and our faith in her grip on reality weakens, until finally, just as she seems be facing some of the darkness in her own past with her late husband, we are forced to face the prospect that there is either a more innocent explanation for all this or a much more sinister one – one that strikes closer to home.

A triumphant blend of horror, suspense, and pitch-black comedy, ‘Death in Her Hands’ asks us to consider how the stories we tell ourselves both guide us closer to the truth and keep us at bay from it. Once again, we are in the hands of a narrator whose unreliability is well earned, only this time the stakes have never been higher.


#3 – Dog Flowers

From Goodreads:

A daughter returns home to the Navajo reservation to confront her family’s troubled history and retrace her mother’s life—using both narrative and archive in this unforgettable and heart-wrenching memoir.

After Danielle Geller’s mother dies of a withdrawal from alcohol during a period of homelessness, she is forced to return to Florida. Using her training as a librarian and archivist, Geller collects her mother’s documents, diaries, and photographs into a single suitcase and begins on a journey of confronting her family’s history and the decisions she’s been forced to make, a journey that will end at her mother’s home: the Navajo reservation.

Geller masterfully intertwines wrenching prose with archival documents to create a deeply moving narrative of loss and inheritance that pays homage to our pasts, traditions, heritage, the family we are given, and the family we choose.


#4 – Monkey Beach

From Goodreads:

Five hundred miles north of Vancouver is Kitamaat, an Indian reservation in the homeland of the Haisla people. Growing up a tough, wild tomboy, swimming, fighting, and fishing in a remote village where the land slips into the green ocean on the edge of the world, Lisamarie has always been different.

Visited by ghosts and shapeshifters, tormented by premonitions, she can’t escape the sense that something terrible is waiting for her. She recounts her enchanted yet scarred life as she journeys in her speedboat up the frigid waters of the Douglas Channel. She is searching for her brother, dead by drowning, and in her own way running as fast as she can toward danger. Circling her brother’s tragic death are the remarkable characters that make up her family: Lisamarie’s parents, struggling to join their Haisla heritage with Western ways; Uncle Mick, a Native rights activist and devoted Elvis fan; and the headstrong Ma-ma-oo (Haisla for “grandmother”), a guardian of tradition.

Haunting, funny, and vividly poignant, Monkey Beach gives full scope to Robinson’s startling ability to make bedfellows of comedy and the dark underside of life. Informed as much by its lush living wilderness as by the humanity of its colorful characters, Monkey Beach is a profoundly moving story about childhood and the pain of growing older–a multilayered tale of family grief and redemption.


#5 – In Cold Blood

From Goodreads: Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time.

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

Five years, four months and twenty-nine days later, on April 14, 1965, Richard Eugene Hickock, aged thirty-three, and Perry Edward Smith, aged thirty-six, were hanged for the crime on a gallows in a warehouse at the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing, Kansas.

In Cold Blood is the story of the lives and deaths of these six people. It has already been hailed as a masterpiece.

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.