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Reading the Rainbow – June

I’m sure by now that you have heard the old adage “Never judge a book by its cover.” But if you’re like me some book covers simply make you swoon. Before I go too far this post is not about cover lust but a challenge to read books from your TBR that are of a particular color. Each month Life of a Book Addict group on GoodReads assigns two colors. The challenge is to read as many books within that month that prominently display that color. At the end there’s a beautiful collage of books generated by all the members of the group. This month Jackie has picked green and navy as “June is bright and colorful with flowers and blooming trees all around. We have green grass and lots of water sports again.”


My shelf

My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal

For fans of The Language of Flowers, a sparkling, big-hearted, page-turning debut set in the 1970s about a young black boy’s quest to reunite with his beloved white half-brother after they are separated in foster care.

Told through the perspective of nine-year-old Leon, too innocent to entirely understand what has happened to him and baby Jake, but determined to do what he can to make things right, he stubbornly, endearingly struggles his way through a system much larger than he can tackle on his own. My Name Is Leon is a vivid, gorgeous, and uplifting story about the power of love, the unbreakable bond between brothers, and the truth about what, in the end, ultimately makes a family.


Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson–winner of the John W. Campbell Award, the Sunburst Award, and the World Fantasy award (among others), and lauded as one of our “most inventive and brilliant writers” (New York Post)–returns with a new work. With her singular voice and characteristic sharp insight, she explores the relationship between two sisters in this richly textured and deeply moving novel . . .


Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby

A new essay collection from Samantha Irby about aging, marriage, settling down with step-children in white, small-town America.


Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins

New York Times bestselling author Morgan Jerkins makes her fiction debut with this electrifying novel, for fans of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jacqueline Woodson, that brings to life one powerful and enigmatic family in a tale rife with secrets, betrayal, intrigue, and magic.


The Passengers by John Marrs

Eight self-drive cars set on a collision course. Who lives, who dies? You decide.

The new gripping page-turning thriller from the bestselling author of THE ONE – soon to be a major Netflix series.


The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Arctic town of Vardø must fend for themselves.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1621 witch trials, The Mercies is a story of love, evil, and obsession, set at the edge of civilization.


Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

A tragic comedy of epic sweep and dimension, Skippy Dies wrings every last drop of humour and hopelessness out of life, love, mermaids, M-theory, the poetry of Robert Graves, and all the mysteries of the human heart.


Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline

From the New York Times-bestselling author comes a pulse-pounding domestic thriller about a group of friends who have been bound for twenty years by a single secret—and will now be undone by it. Someone Knows is an emotional exploration of friendship and family, as well as a psychological exploration of guilt and memory.


How many of you are doing color challenges this year and how do you select your books?

WWW Wednesday 1/6

It’s been some time since I have done a WWW post. But I realized that not only was it fun to see what you all were reading, but it also gave me a moment to pause and consider what I had read over the week. So WWW Wednesday will be one of the memes I continue throughout 2021.

So what is WWW Wednesday?

This meme was created by Miz B formerly of shouldbereading and currently hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

The Three Ws are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What I’ve Read

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was a poignant and emotional memoir. I recommend listening to the audio which George Johnson narrates himself.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This epic retelling of the Trojan War is told from the women’s points of view. Haynes begs the question what makes someone a hero during war. How many lives you vanquish? Or how many lives you touch and nurture?


What I’m Reading

This book will be part of an ongoing process and will be included in my 52 Weeks of Women of Color challenge for 2021. As the second volume came out, together these two (at 1841 pages) will count towards my 2021 Pop Sugar Challenge for “The longest book on your TBR.” So far I have been enjoying reading a few pages each morning while I sip on my coffee. There is something about starting your day off with a good book that warms my soul. I also have been journaling my thoughts and writing up additional info that I come across while researching these women.


So far I like the character’s voice and am expecting this to be a 5 star book. Somehow though I got sidetracked watching the election yesterday (and today) so I might not finish this one until tomorrow. Not a good way to start off the year — reviewing days after publication but all I can do now is get it in as soon as possible.


What’s Next?

I have three blog tours coming over the next week:

1/8 – Find Me in Havana

I have already and reviewed this title. The link will be open at midnight Pacific time January 8th. Link to Blog Tour


1/10 – Their Frozen Graves

  • Mystery/ Thriller
  • Kindle Edition, 381 pages
  • Expected publication: January 7th 2021 by Bookouture
  • 52 Weeks of Women of Color
  • NetGalley

1/14 – The Woman Inside

  • Mystery/ Thriller
  • ebook, 331 pages
  • Expected publication: January 13th 2021 by Bookouture
  • Bookopoly Challenge
  • NetGalley

Throwback Thursday #2

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.


This week’s selection was taken from my “Best Book of the Year” shelf where I try earnestly to pick my ultimate favorite book out of 100 or so books I’ve read that year. A daunting task for sure but it gives me a bit more time to spend with the books that touched my heart. Hanya Yanigihara’s A Little Life was one of two books in 2015 that made it on to my list. To read this book is to viscerally, with your whole body and heart, experience another person’s life, loves and tragedy. This is one of those books where I ugly cried. But it is also one of the most tender and moving and strangely hopeful books I’ve ever read. You can find the following review and more on my GoodReads page.

It took me quite a while to get through this book. Not because of the 700+ pages but because of the intense themes (addiction, self-mutilation, abuse in its many forms) that run throughout the book. Please don’t get me wrong I loved this book. It was so beautifully written, the characters were so thoughtfully developed. Yanagihara held nothing back as she praised their gifts; exposed their weaknesses and flaws. I felt as if I personally knew JB, Jude, Willem and Malcolm. Despite how seemingly different my life was from theirs, I still found myself identifying with each of them, crying real tears as they faced their trials and endured the unthinkable. Despite the dark undercurrents of this book, I found it to also be a love story between friends, the definition of family and the sacrifice of lovers.

Throwback Pic

In this photo of Jimi Hendrix taken in 1968 for the album cover of Electric Ladyland, photographer David Montgomery set an actual fire on the set. Yet look at Jimi’s serenity. Despite the chaos behind him he seems at peace. Altogether it makes for an awesome shot don’t you think?

Signing off. Hope we get to talk books soon!

Blog Tour: Punching the Air

Synopsis

From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

The story that I thought

was my life

didn’t start on the day

I was born

Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.

The story that I think

will be my life

starts today

Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?

With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.


Review

I can remember vividly the days surrounding the Central Park jogger case. I remember the collective fear that held New York City in a vice. The way the press preyed on our emotions with descriptions of roving gangs of teens “wilding out”. Five teens — black and brown — were accused of this depraved act. They were villainized. Trump took out a full page ad in the New York Times demanding the death penalty in their case. In the days the followed one person stood out for me. Yusef Salaam’s mother. Because of her stoicism. She never faltered. In the heat of the frenzy she boldly proclaimed her son’s innocence across her chest.

In the end the five would spend 6-13 years behind bars for a crime they did not commit.

Punching the Air is a collaboration between award winning author Ibi Zoboi and Exonerated Five member Yusef Salaam. It tells the story of a teenage boy Amal who has been wrongfully convicted of a crime. The book is a beautifully rendered piece that delves into the disenfranchisement of young black men.

“Locking you up isn’t enough
for them They will try to crush your spirit until
you’re nothing but —

Dust
we both say
together”

Written in verse, Punching the Air shows Amal whose name means hope draw strength through creativity. His poems and art are glimpses of freedom that give him hope to carry on.

” And what does dust do, Amal?
What did Maya Angelou say about dust?
Umi asks
It rises, I whisper”


“It was this one dude
who said that’s why we’re always
fucking up, we’re always making
mistakes
because ain’t no butterflies in the hood

See, if there were butterflies
we would have what’s called
the butterfly effect

A butterfly’s wings can
change the path of a storm

Something so small
can change
one big thing in the world
one big thing in the universe

If there are no butterflies here
no pretty little wings flapping in the
hood
then we can’t change a thing, he said

We’re the butterflies, I said
and the things we do are like wings”


Meet the Authors

Ibi Zoboi

Ibi Zoboi was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her novel American Street was a National Book Award finalist and a New York Times Notable Book. She is also the author of Pride and My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, a New York Times bestseller. She is the editor of the anthology Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America. Raised in New York City, she now lives in New Jersey with her husband and their three children.


Dr. Yusef Salaam

Dr. Yusef Salaam was just fifteen years old when his life was upended after being wrongly convicted in the “Central Park Jogger” case, along with four other boys who are now known as the Exonerated Five. Their story has been documented in the award winning film The Central Park Five by documentarians Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon and in Ava DuVernay’s highly acclaimed series When They See Us, one of Netflix’s most-watched original series of all time. Yusef is now a poet, activist, and inspirational speaker who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama.

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

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.

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.

Book Review: Underground, Monroe and The Mamalogues

In Underground, Thompson examines masculinity, power, protest and privilege. Kyle surprises “Dix” (Mason) when he shows up uninvited to his hideaway home in upstate New York. From the outset, I was skeptical about the purpose of his visit as Kyle went about furtively going through Mason’s things and taking pictures. He came off as a hustler and I was trying to figure out what game he was running. Slowly their past is revealed, as are Kyle’s motives, and Mason becomes more assertive. Having risen above poverty, he no longer feels that the Black male struggle is his fight. He fought. He won. He’s done.

Monroe is based in part on a real lynching that took place just outside the city of Monroe, Louisiana in 1919. George Bolden*, an illiterate man, was lynched after being accused of writing a letter to a white woman. The play opens up with a community viewing strange fruit hanging from a tree. We get to see the impact on the young man’s loved ones as they cope with the brutality of his death and the terror it instills. His sister Cherry cleaves to her religion while his best friend Clyde makes plans to escape the violence and Monroe.

Of the three plays The Mamalogues was the most humorous and lively. Here Thompson turns her lens onto Black single mothers with the aim of dispelling stereotypes and shedding light on issues of inter-sectionality. To this end, Thompson’s group of mature successful women hold conversations with the audience about traditional views on marriage, ageism, homosexuality, the school-to-prison pipeline, how to train your child to survive being called the N-word and other basics of “parenting while black and living in the age of anxiety”.

The common thread in all of these plays is the Black middle class. Thompson is particularly interested in the costs, as well as the benefits, of class ascension.

*If you would like to read more of George Bolden’s story, it is featured in the book Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror.

Saudade by Suneeta Peres da Costa

“Love is a fire that burns unseen, a wound that aches yet isn’t felt . . . a longing for nothing but to long, a lonlieness in the midst of people, a never feeling pleased when pleased, a passion that gains when lost in thought” _ Camoes

Saudade is a feeling of melancholy brought on by the sense of absence and a longing to return to what was lost and can never be regained.

This sense of yearning ripples throughout this novella as a young Goan emigre struggles to find her self and her place during the Angolan Civil War. A daughter of Portuguese sympathizers she comes to realize that their existence, albeit of a privileged class, is that of outsiders. Yet they no more belong in Goa than they do in Angola. She does not recall her ancestral home and her parents cannot fathom how to return to a “life they have forgotten”. Peres da Costa eloquently captures this feeling of displacement across characters and experiences. Saudade is applied not only to the immigrant experience but to intimacy and coming of age.

Suneeta Peres da Costa (born 1976) is an award-winning Australian author and playwright, best known for her tragicomic novel, Homework, about a dysfunctional Goan migrant family set in suburban Sydney. Peres da Costa was twenty-three years-old when the novel was published internationally.” Saudade is her third novel.