Book Review of How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith

How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith

336 pages

Published in 6/1/21 by Little, Brown, and Company

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Nonfiction / History / Social Justice

Amazon | B&N

*click on photos to view original source.


Poet and contributor to The Atlantic Clint Smith’s revealing, contemporary portrait of America as a slave owning nation

Beginning in his own hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader through an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks-those that are honest about the past and those that are not-that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history, and ourselves.

It is the story of the Monticello Plantation in Virginia, the estate where Thomas Jefferson wrote letters espousing the urgent need for liberty while enslaving over 400 people on the premises. It is the story of the Whitney Plantation, one of the only former plantations devoted to preserving the experience of the enslaved people whose lives and work sustained it. It is the story of Angola Prison in Louisiana, a former plantation named for the country from which most of its enslaved people arrived and which has since become one of the most gruesome maximum-security prisons in the world. And it is the story of Blandford Cemetery, the final resting place of tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers.

In a deeply researched and transporting exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history, How the Word Is Passed illustrates how some of our country’s most essential stories are hidden in plain view-whether in places we might drive by on our way to work, holidays such as Juneteenth, or entire neighborhoods—like downtown Manhattan—on which the brutal history of the trade in enslaved men, women and children has been deeply imprinted.

Informed by scholarship and brought alive by the story of people living today, Clint Smith’s debut work of nonfiction is a landmark work of reflection and insight that offers a new understanding of the hopeful role that memory and history can play in understanding our country.”



“The sky above the Mississippi River stretched out like a song.”

As the whitest person to exist in America, I feel it is my responsibility to educate myself as much as I can on social justice issues that have taken place in the past and present. The goal, of course, is to prevent future issues from coming up. I like to share what I learn from what I read, and there’s a lot to unpack with this one.

I’ll start by discussing my reasoning behind my rating. I’m sure there are people throwing shade my way for not giving this five stars. First, just because someone doesn’t give an important book a five-star rating doesn’t make it any less important. There’s more to a book than the content that makes it a phenomenal read. Second, I shouldn’t have to explain myself. It didn’t hold my attention the entire time, there were naming off fact after fact, and I had to take a break from the book, sadly. If I rated books with decimals, it would be a 4.5. Anyway, let’s get to the review.

There was information I didn’t know about places I’ve learned about before. The Monticello Plantation is the best example. I remember learning about that in school, but not like I learned about it in this book. The tour guides want visitors to understand what kind of person Jefferson was in his entirety, but visitors were offended claiming they were trying to change history. There were also people who didn’t think slavery was a thing. I don’t know if they just deny it completely, really didn’t know, or they’re messing with the tour guides. That’s why educating yourself on the topic is important!

Yes, he contributed great things. Yes, he gave us the Declaration of Independence, and the university where I got my degree, but he also owned people. He owned ancestors of people I know. That’s reality. I think in order to really understand him, and to fully understand him, you have to grapple with slavery. You have to grapple with [physical] violence and psychological violence, and family separation. We would not be doing the story justice if we don’t tell those stories.

Niya Bates – Monticello’s director of African American History.

Smith also visits Angola Prison (Louisiana State Penitentiary). A location I have never heard of, but it’s so interesting (and horrifying) to learn about. The Red Hat Cell Block (restrictive and harsh housing in Angola Prison) holds cells that are 5 x 7 ft. It got extremely hot in there with no air. Prisoners would just lay on the cement floor in misery.

The execution bed was built by PRISONERS. They actually went on strike when they found out.

The guide would often pivot the conversation to bring positive light to the prison while Smith visited there. How could you even see this place in a positive light? It was nothing but horrifying, disgusting, and cruel. I’m happy that Smith discusses what the prison actually did.


There was talk about how women would kill their own children because they didn’t want them to grow up in the same situation. There’s a lot of talk about the Confederacy and the Lost Cause. You really just have to read it yourself to fully enjoy all the things you learn. I definitely won’t do the book justice from doing a WordPress blog review. Go read it for yourself!


About the Author

“Clint Smith is staff writer at The Atlantic. He is the author of Counting Descent, which won the 2017 Literary Award for Best Poetry Book from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. Clint has received fellowships from New America, the Art For Justice Fund, Cave Canem, and the National Science Foundation. His writing has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review and elsewhere. He currently teaches writing and literature at the DC Central Detention Facility. His debut nonfiction book How the Word Is Passed, which explores how different historical sites reckon with—or fail to reckon with—their relationship to the history of slavery, will be published by Little, Brown in June 2021. He received his B.A. in English from Davidson College and his Ph.D. in Education from Harvard University.”


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Book Review of The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

368 pages

Published: 2/9/21 by Atria Books

Genre: Historical fiction

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Amazon | B&N

*Click on photos to view original source.

”Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife. 

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favorite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.”


Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley for an early digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

“Numbers floated round my head like stars.”


If you enjoy books about books, then you’ll absolutely adore this one. It’s all about the American Library in Paris, which is still up and running to this day. I enjoyed the female power and determination that takes place in the story. We love strong female roles. The writing is no doubt beautiful and well done. I believe that the author spends quite a bit of time in Paris, so I’d say it’s pretty accurate, if I had to guess. It’s overall a great novel, but it just didn’t keep my attention. Historical fiction typically captures my attention, but I never wanted to pick this one back up. It was honestly a two-star read up until the last 50-ish pages.

I didn’t really care for any of the characters even though I could recognize how tough they were. There’s a strong community and family dynamic that I think a lot of people would enjoy. It’s more of family by choice type of situation. I can appreciate all of that.

I think the main thing that caused me to give it three stars was that it felt too long. Whenever I thought the story was about to come to a close, there was quite a bit left in the story. I’m sure no one else felt that way, but when you’re already not enjoying a book, that’s something that makes it feel even longer.

I know this author has written one other novel, so I’m interested in seeing if it’s something I’m interested in. I’d definitely give her a second chance. I really thought I’d fall in love with this one. It’s such a wonderful read, but I couldn’t get myself to give it more than a three-star rating. I would still recommend this since it’s a beloved book to many readers out there.


Janet Skeslien Charles divides her time between Paris and Montana. She enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with family. 

The backdrop of her debut novel MOONLIGHT IN ODESSA is the booming business of email-order brides, an industry where love and marriage meet sex and commerce. 

Her second novel THE PARIS LIBRARY is based on the true story of the courageous librarians at the American Library in Paris during World War II. Janet learned about the story when she worked at the Library.

Website: https://www.jskesliencharles.com


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Book Review of Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

336 pages

Publication date: 6/29/21 by Dutton Books

ISBN: 9780593183168

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Amazon | B&N

*Click on photos to view original source.

“It’s November 1991. George H. W. Bush is in the White House, Nirvana’s in the tape deck, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.

Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father. Or so he says. Like the Hitchcock heroine she’s named after, Charlie has her doubts. There’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t seem to want Charlie to see inside the car’s trunk. As they travel an empty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly worried Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s suspicion merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse played out on night-shrouded roads and in neon-lit parking lots, during an age when the only call for help can be made on a pay phone and in a place where there’s nowhere to run. In order to win, Charlie must do one thing–survive the night.”


Since this isn’t a finished copy, I’m not able to post a first line.


Thank you to Dutton Books and NetGalley for the early digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

I guess I’ll start with what I actually did like about this book.

I enjoyed the uneasiness this made me feel in the beginning. I thought Josh was such an odd character. He definitely served those serial killer vibes. He seemed almost robotic and cold. I actually loved his character when I first started the book.

I can also say that it’s very fast-paced. I probably could have read all of it in one day if I didn’t work all the time.

Okay, that’s about all for the pros.

I don’t want this to be super negative because I respect Sager as an author. He definitely has some great books, but this one just didn’t work for me.

This gave me I’m Thinking of Ending Things vibes when Charlie first got into Josh’s car. Obviously they’re not in a relationship, but it was the uneasy driving scene that made me think of it. This book just didn’t deliver the craziness that is Reid’s book.

I really, really didn’t enjoy the ending of this one. There was so much going on that I just didn’t care. I didn’t predict it, but at one point it all clicked in some weird way.

I don’t want to give any spoilers, so that’s about all I have to say. Even if I did spoil it, there’s not much to the book. It’s mainly one long car ride with some flashbacks and movie-filled daydreams. I just didn’t find the story thrilling in any way. I wouldn’t recommend this to Riley Sager fans or anyone in between.


Riley Sager is the award-winning pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name.

A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he’s not writing, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favorite film is “Rear Window.” Or maybe “Jaws.” But probably, if he’s being honest, “Mary Poppins.”


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Short Book Review of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

496 pages

Published: 8/4/20 by Random House

ISBN: 9780593230251

Genre: Nonfiction — Social Justice

Rating: 5 out of 5.

B&N

*Click on photos to view original source.

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.

“As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power—which groups have it and which do not.”

In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.

Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.”


“There is a famous black-and-white photograph from the era of the Third Reich.”

I was hesitant going into this because I don’t know anything about the Caste system. I knew what it was from school, but anything past that was new. I shouldn’t have hesitated at all because this was so helpful. Wilkerson pretty much walks you through everything, and she even discusses this ranking system in Nazi Germany and India. There are a lot of different stories pertaining to the Caste system, ones you’d never think were part of it. I’m just amazed at how well it’s written, and if you like audiobooks, this has a good one! The narrator has a relaxing voice and is easy to understand and listen to.

There are a lot of events that have happened in my lifetime that Wilkerson brings up, which I found super interesting because it seems like a lot of authors will only discuss events before my time. There’s talk about the Ebola outbreak, the United Airlines incident in 2017, recent politics, her own experiences, etc.

If I’m being honest, I don’t have a ton to say about this one. It’s all factual and the writing is very accessible. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least. There are stories about exploding packages, a man hiring his brother to kill his wife for “insurance” purposes, when it was really so he could blame a black man, dog training, and many, many more. I couldn’t put it down once I picked it up. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested. It’s quite long and dense, but worth every second.

“Americans are loath to talk about enslavement in part because what little we know about it goes against our perception of our country as a just and enlightened nation, a beacon of democracy for the world. Slavery is commonly dismissed as a “sad, dark chapter” in the country’s history. It is as if the greater the distance we can create between slavery and ourselves, the better to stave off the guilt or shame it induces.”

“Isabel Wilkerson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, has become a leading figure in narrative nonfiction, an interpreter of the human condition, and an impassioned voice for demonstrating how history can help us understand ourselves, our country, and our current era of upheaval.” Source: https://www.isabelwilkerson.com/


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Book Review of The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

464 pages

Published 2/6/18 by St. Martin’s Press

ISBN: 9781250165619

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*Click on photos to view source.

“Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.”


“That spring, rain fell in great sweeping gusts that rattled the rooftops.”


Content warning: PTSD, Abuse (physical, verbal, emotional), murder, death, grieving (loss of loved one / parent), cancer, description of broken bones / wounds, toxic family relationships.

As a first time reader of Kristin Hannah, I can safely say that this won’t be the last book I read from her. She seems like a good fiction author and storyteller. This was hard-hitting, but it wasn’t anything I haven’t read before in other books. Just be cautious going into it, and make sure to read the content warnings if you’re unsure.

Meet the Allbrights: Ernt, Cora, and Lenora “Leni”

Ernt, the father of this story, is a Vietnam veteran with PTSD. He watched a lot of bad things happen, and in return they’re impacting his present day life. He has moved his family five times in four years because he just wants the next best thing. The problem, he’s a toxic man who is feared by his wife and daughter. They’re afraid to speak up.

He receives a letter from the father of the man he watched die, and it states that his son wanted him to have his land in Alaska. Ernt doesn’t hesitate and drags his family to “The Great Alone.”

“Alaska isn’t about who you were when you headed this way. It’s about who you become.”

Even before they moved to Alaska, you can tell that Ernt isn’t a nice man. He’s very finicky and becomes upset easily. His actions in this book are very inexcusable regardless of his condition. I absolutely hated him. I almost put the book down because of how he treats people. I’m not sure of another way to tell you I hate him lol.

ANYWAY.

Leni and Matthew Walker’s relationship is honestly goals. They both have traumatic things going on in their lives, but they never judge one another. They help each other through it. They’re precious gems that should be protected at all times! They are also very smart kids. They can see the reality of any situation they’re in.

Cora. Cora, Cora, Cora. I know she is married to an abusive man, and hindsight is 20/20, but I just wanted to shake her! I wanted to tell her that she needs to get her and her daughter out of there. All she did was smoke and agree with Ernt. The occasional motherly scold came from her mouth, but nothing that would change Ernt’s mind. I know I shouldn’t hate her for anything, but her daughter should have been the first person she protected in their situation. I guess it’s one of those “easier said than done” situations.

The only problem I had with this was the transitions between events. Most of the time there was no warning, things just happened. I’m not going to spoil what made me drop the star rating, but I’m sure you probably have some inkling of what I’m talking about. Maybe I’m the only one with the problem. Either way, it wasn’t a five-star read for me. It was good but not that good.

I will definitely continue on reading Hannah’s other novels. I think if you read the content warnings about this one and are still interested, then go ahead and give it a go. It’s not perfect, but it’s fast-paced, action-packed, and the characters are well done. If you do pick it up or have already read it, let me know your thoughts.

Kristin Hannah is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, which was named Goodreads Best Historical fiction novel for 2015 and won the coveted People’s Choice award for best fiction in the same year. Additionally, it was named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, iTunes, Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, Paste, and The Week. Her novel, The Great Alone, was also voted as Goodreads best historical novel of the year in 2018.”


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Book Review of The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

400 pages

Published: 1/5/21 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

ISBN: 9780593085684

Genre: Historical fiction

Rating: 4 out of 5.

B&N | Amazon

*Click on photos to view original source.

“A singular and stunning debut novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation, the refuge they find in each other, and a betrayal that threatens their existence.

Isaiah was Samuel’s and Samuel was Isaiah’s. That was the way it was since the beginning, and the way it was to be until the end. In the barn they tended to the animals, but also to each other, transforming the hollowed-out shed into a place of human refuge, a source of intimacy and hope in a world ruled by vicious masters. But when an older man—a fellow slave—seeks to gain favor by preaching the master’s gospel on the plantation, the enslaved begin to turn on their own. Isaiah and Samuel’s love, which was once so simple, is seen as sinful and a clear danger to the plantation’s harmony.

With a lyricism reminiscent of Toni Morrison, Robert Jones, Jr. fiercely summons the voices of slaver and the enslaved alike to tell the story of these two men; from Amos the preacher to the calculating slave-master himself to the long line of women that surround them, women who have carried the soul of the plantation on their shoulders. As tensions build and the weight of centuries—of ancestors and future generations to come—culminate in a climactic reckoning, The Prophets masterfully reveals the pain and suffering of inheritance, but is also shot through with hope, beauty, and truth, portraying the enormous, heroic power of love.”



Triggers: Rape, abuse (physical, mental, emotional), lynching, death / murder (adult and child), animal sacrifice, slavery, racism, manipulation, loss of a loved one. Proceed with caution.

This was a difficult book for me to rate, not that the rating of a book like this is important. The importance comes from the incredible messages this story delivers. The main issue, and probably the only issue, I had with this book was the confusion I felt after finishing a few of the chapters. I’m not a critical reader, and sometimes I feel like because of that I shouldn’t review books. There’s always a little bit of impostor syndrome in me. Regardless of what kind of reader I am, I couldn’t give this five stars due to the reason mentioned. I couldn’t quite catch on to the concept. I don’t know if I should know more biblical references to understand it, but this book didn’t really do anything to ease the confusion. But, it’s incredible other than that.

There are a lot of characters to follow with this one, so taking notes couldn’t hurt the reading experience. I didn’t get them confused at any point, which I can always appreciate with a story of this stature. I will note that you don’t only follow the slaves. Following the whites of the story is very cringe and rightfully so. It’s also hard to read as far as content. There were points where I wanted to put it down for good, but not in a “I hated the book” way. It’s just so heartbreaking that these events happened/still happen. If I could snap a finger and make it go away, I would.

I don’t want to forget to mention the highlight of the book, the LGBTQ+ representation. That’s mainly what the story is about—Samuel and Isaiah (The Two of Them). I don’t think we got to see enough of them and their relationship because there are so many characters, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t deeply care for them. They didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but the love and admiration they had for each other was commendable. Oh, the ending will get to you if you end up loving these characters. It’s a tragedy, for sure. I was actually prepared for that, and I hope that I can prepare you for that if you haven’t read this yet.

This won’t be a book that everyone will enjoy based on how it’s written, and the fact that it’s character-driven. Sometimes character-driven books aren’t for me, but this one was well done. It wasn’t my favorite part of this novel just because there were so many characters. I just appreciate the message and the honesty. It’s heartbreaking, harrowing, brutal, admirable, and powerful.

Is it revolutionary?

I would think that’s also based on preference. It’s not for me but it’s damn near. It just seemed so original from anything I’ve read. The writing itself isn’t hard to understand. There’s great description and dialogue. I read that some people thought it was slow, but I was flipping pages like a madman. The relationships between the characters are incredibly fleshed out. I think it’s an important novel for our modern day, and whether or not you enjoy it subjectively, it undoubtedly packs a punch.

My favorite quotes:

“She knew that they purchased everything except mercy.”

“The scars lined them the way bark lined trees. But those weren’t the worst ones. The ones you couldn’t see: those were the ones that streaked the mind, squeezed the spirit, and left you standing outside in the rain naked as birth, demanding that the drops stop touching you.”

“Water done wore away at her stone, and the next thing she knew, she was a damn river when she could have sworn she was a mountain.”

“Whenever and wherever nothing encounters something, conflict is inevitable.”

“But how? How could they not need more of everything: more love, more life, more time?”

“How dare nature continue on as though his suffering didn’t even make a dent, like the bloodshed and the bodies laid were ordinary, to be reduced to fertilizer by insects and sucked up by crops. No more than cow dung in the grand scheme. Same color, too.”

“There could never be peace, only moments in which war wasn’t overwhelming.”

“I ain’t rotten fruit; I a man.”

“No one would remember her name, but she had become a larger spirit now: head bigger, hips wider, and whatever the hurt. All the ones who had come before her simply pumping through her heart and they had found a place to be in the caverns of her throat. There, she recalled her voice.”

“Only one question: What to do when the cavalry arrives? Only one thing to do: With every drop of blood: Rebel!”

“Robert Jones, Jr., was born and raised in New York City. He received his BFA in creative writing with honors and MFA in fiction from Brooklyn College. He has written for numerous publications, including The New York TimesEssenceOkayAfricaThe Feminist Wire, and The Grio. He is the creator of the social justice social media community Son of Baldwin. Jones was recently featured in T Magazine‘s cover story, “Black Male Writers of Our Time.” The Prophets is his debut novel.”

His website


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Book Review of The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare

371 pages

Published: 2/4/2020 by Dutton Books

ISBN: 9781524746025

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 3 out of 5.

B&N | Amazon

The unforgettable, inspiring story of a teenage girl growing up in a rural Nigerian village who longs to get an education so that she can find her “louding voice” and speak up for herself, The Girl with the Louding Voice is a simultaneously heartbreaking and triumphant tale about the power of fighting for your dreams.

Despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in her path, Adunni never loses sight of her goal of escaping the life of poverty she was born into so that she can build the future she chooses for herself – and help other girls like her do the same.

Her spirited determination to find joy and hope in even the most difficult circumstances imaginable will “break your heart and then put it back together again” (Jenna Bush Hager on The Today Show) even as Adunni shows us how one courageous young girl can inspire us all to reach for our dreams…and maybe even change the world.



Triggers: Forced marriage at a very young age and everything that goes along with it (sex, pregnancy, etc.), sexism, death, grieving the loss of a loved one, physical abuse, and the mention of rape.

I’m really sad this wasn’t a five-star read. I went in with the highest of expectations, I promise. I know that everyone views a book differently, but I almost felt like I had to enjoy this. However, this book is still important. I recommend you read this because it is well-loved and I recognize that it’s a good book as far as purpose and content.

I’ll start with what I did enjoy: Adunni, the main character, and the writing. These two aspects of the novel kept me in the story (as much as I could be). Adunni is a strong narrator / protagonist, and there’s no doubt she’ll be a great influence to many women, even though she’s a teenage girl. She pushes through many, many obstacles that most will never be able to imagine. She’s incredible, and if you don’t want to read it for anything else, read it to experience Adunni’s determination.

The writing style was hard to get into. I almost couldn’t understand what the characters were saying, but it obviously makes sense considering it takes place in Nigeria. It’s about a teenage girl who has never been to school. She’s extremely smart, though. I was just so impressed with how well Daré executed the writing. I would read more from this author because of that.

The reason for the three-star rating was the plateau in plot and the bland side characters. I think I expected a different story than what the book offered. I shouldn’t blame the book for that, but regardless of what happened, the plot plateaued for pretty much half the book. I thought we would experience Adunni going through school, but we don’t. The ending sets up for that, which is great in its own way, but it didn’t work for me.

The characters had no personality. They were very dry and unmemorable. They just fit in molds for this kind of story, as bad as that sounds. I just didn’t think they added anything to the story. I never wanted to pick it up and read about how these boring characters made Adunni’s life hell. I just wanted to DNF so badly.

I understand why people love this. Please do not take offense to my overall opinion! I respect this book for the lessons it shares. I’m sure it’ll be great for the majority of people. Please go pick it up if you’re interested!


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Book Review of Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters #1) by Talia Hibbert

Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters #1) by Talia Hibbert

384 pages

Published: 11/5/2019 by Avon

ISBN: 9780062941220

Genre: Romance

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Amazon | B&N

“Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…”



Triggers: Chronic pain (fibromyalgia) and discussion of abuse (physical and verbal).

Thank you to NetGalley and Avon for the early digital copy in exchange for honest review!

I’m pretty much two years late with this one, but it’s better late than never. *he he* I’m trying to make 2021 a better NetGalley year. Cheers to that. *holds up non existent champagne glass*

Anyway, let’s talk about the book that I didn’t like as much as I’d hoped. Let’s start with the positive, though.

I enjoyed the writing, the steam, and the discussion this book brought to the world’s attention. It doesn’t go into extreme detail about Chloe’s chronic pain, but it’s definitely brought up. She talks about how if the pain is below a 5, then she needs to kiss the feet of the universe. It bums me out that people actually have to live that way. I wish those people better days ahead.

There’s also discussion about Red and his ex, Pippa. He talks to Chloe about how she was actually abusive, but he never paid any attention. He just thought she was a brat. It just proves how much men are kind of looked over when it comes to abuse, and that also makes me sad. I hate that this particular topic is swept under the rug most of the time. We as a society need to be better about that.

What I didn’t like was Red and Chloe’s relationship as a whole. They were so up and down that I didn’t know what to think half the time. I couldn’t even tell if they wanted to be together. One minute they were so in love, then they were at each other’s throats over small mishaps and miscommunications. It was mainly Red that blew up because of the pretentiousness of Chloe. I couldn’t see the chemistry between the two of them, and I think that just about ruined the book for me. There are cute moments though. I will be the first to admit that some lines they share with each other are sweet.

No. No. This was the sort of moment she experienced, lists, worries, razor-sharp shyness and all. Bravery wasn’t an identity so much as a choice.

She chose him.

I would read more Hibbert, and I plan on continuing on with the series. This one in particular just didn’t work for me. That’s not to say that it shouldn’t get all of the buzz it receives, because I totally understand where everyone is coming from. If you think that you want to read this one, then go ahead and give it a whirl. I’m just hoping the next one is better.


Talia Hibbert is a USA Today bestselliing author who lives in a bedroom full of books. Supposedly, there is a world beyond that room, but she has yet to drum up enough interest to investigate.

She writes sexy, diverse romance because she believes that people of marginalised identities need honest and positive representation. Her interests include beauty, junk food, and unnecessary sarcasm. She also rambles intermittently about the romance genre online.

Talia self-publishes via Nixon House and is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan at Handspun Literary.


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Book Review of The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi – New All-Time Favorite!

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

248 pages

Published: 8/4/2020 by Riverhead Books

ISBN: 9780525541608

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Amazon | B&N

“What does it mean for a family to lose a child they never really knew?

One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings. As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships with the warm, boisterous daughters of the Nigerwives, foreign-born women married to Nigerian men. But Vivek’s closest bond is with Osita, the worldly, high-spirited cousin whose teasing confidence masks a guarded private life. As their relationship deepens—and Osita struggles to understand Vivek’s escalating crisis—the mystery gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of exhilarating freedom. 

Propulsively readable, teeming with unforgettable characters, The Death of Vivek Oji is a novel of family and friendship that challenges expectations—a dramatic story of loss and transcendence that will move every reader.” 



Triggers: Cheating, mention of rape, sacrifice of an animal, homophobia, physical abuse, bullying, sexism, rioting, miscarriage, death.

When I started this book I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as everyone else. It took me a minute to really get into the story. However, that ending made tears fall from my eyes, so I knew it was either going to be four or five stars. Upon further thinking, it was definitely a five-star read! If you’re looking for black authors to read for Black History Month, this would be a fantastic place to start.

The amount of heartbreak that happens while reading this novel is extreme. The control and oppression that Vivek is shown makes me so upset. His family / community never give him a break. He could never truly be who he wanted to be. You only get glimpses into Vivek’s brain, understandably, but you’ll want more as the story progresses. It’s hard only seeing through the lens of his family. You mainly get Osita’s point of view, and you’ll understand why if / when you read it.

It’s mind blowing to me that men with longer hair are even seen in a different light. It’s just hair, but different cultures assign it different meanings. This one gives men with long hair a bad connotation, but I’m so proud of Vivek for standing up for himself. I’m also happy that his mother, Kavita, sticks up for him as well. She struggles to understand what’s going on with Vivek, but she tries to see where he’s coming from. She just wants her baby to be okay. Sadly, he’s taken from the Earth far too early.

He was hiding in everyone else’s house as if he didn’t have a home. We didn’t know anything about our own child’s life.

There are parts in here that involve the two cousins, Vivek and Osita, that made me uncomfortable. I just didn’t expect it to happen. It’s a very intimate relationship, but you have to understand that Osita is one of the few people who allow Vivek to be Vivek. Osita obviously wants to protect his cousin, but he knows he’ll end up doing what he wants to in the end. Emezi definitely explores this relationship and turns it up a notch.

Can we talk about Mary and Ekene? I hated them with every fiber of my being. After reading about what happened when Mary took Vivek to church, I could have thrown the book (my iPad) across the room. I wanted to rage through my town. I just wanted to give Vivek a big hug.

I’m so happy I gave this book a chance. It explores so many kinds of relationships (familial and romantic). There’s so much sadness and heartbreak, but there’s a light at the end of the very dark tunnel. Some characters even experience growth—Kavita mostly. I just want everyone to experience this book, but I know it’s probably extremely triggering for so many people. I just think it’s so important to read. I haven’t read anything quite like it. If you think you can handle all of the triggers, then I recommend you read it with an open mind and open heart.

Akwaeke Emezi (b. 1987) is an artist and writer based in liminal spaces. Their art practice is located in the metaphysics of Black spirit and uses video, performance, writing, and sculpture to create rituals processing their embodiment as a nonhuman entity/an ogbanje/a deity’s child. 


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Book Review of Writers & Lovers by Lily King

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

320 pages

Published: 3/3/20 by Grove Press

ISBN: 9780802148537

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Amazon | B&N

Following the breakout success of her critically acclaimed and award-winning novel Euphoria, Lily King returns with an unforgettable portrait of an artist as a young woman.

Blindsided by her mother’s sudden death, and wrecked by a recent love affair, Casey Peabody has arrived in Massachusetts in the summer of 1997 without a plan. Her mail consists of wedding invitations and final notices from debt collectors. A former child golf prodigy, she now waits tables in Harvard Square and rents a tiny, moldy room at the side of a garage where she works on the novel she’s been writing for six years. At thirty-one, Casey is still clutching onto something nearly all her old friends have let go of: the determination to live a creative life. When she falls for two very different men at the same time, her world fractures even more. Casey’s fight to fulfill her creative ambitions and balance the conflicting demands of art and life is challenged in ways that push her to the brink.

Writers & Lovers follows Casey–a smart and achingly vulnerable protagonist–in the last days of a long youth, a time when every element of her life comes to a crisis. Written with King’s trademark humor, heart, and intelligence, Writers & Lovers is a transfixing novel that explores the terrifying and exhilarating leap between the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another.


Triggers: The death of a loved one, grieving, harassment.

“I have a pact with myself not to think about money in the morning.”

Wow, this book definitely took me by surprise. I almost put it down, but I opted for the audiobook instead. I don’t know if it made the writing come alive, but I couldn’t stop listening to it. I ended up loving Casey as a main character. She’s such a strong woman who is chewed up and spit out by life. She loses her mother, her best friend. Grieving the loss of a parent has to be the hardest thing to do in life. I can’t imagine.

I thought the side characters were also pretty interesting. Oscar one of the guys she talks to has two kids, and I loved how much Casey cared for them. She wanted what was best for them, and Oscar honestly made me question how well he took care of them. He also tried to push Casey into thinking golf was the route she should take. I remember him mentioning that if you have the talent, then you should put it to use. Stupid. I hated him, long story short.

Silas. Oh, Silas. He had been through loss before, and I think that helped him connect with Casey. He understood more of what Casey was feeling. I wanted more of Silas, but we definitely got more of Oscar, unfortunately. Although, I’m happy with the ending. It may have wrapped up too nicely, but I thought it was refreshing to see Casey get some relief, some closure.

A book in the library said that some Canada geese may travel as far as Jalisco, Mexico. My mother will like that, the long exhilarating trip, the foreign landing. But others, the book said, will stay where they are for the winter. Those geese are already home.

Overall, I would recommend the book if you can handle a character study. It’s very raw and emotional. I didn’t really care for the beginning, but I would definitely go back into in with a different perspective now that I completed it. This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, certainly with the writing style if not anything else. It’s an acquired taste. I had to get used to it. There are a lot of nice quotes from this one. I just thought it was a well-rounded novel.

Lily King grew up in Massachusetts and received her B.A. in English Literature from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her M.A. in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. She has taught English and Creative Writing at several universities and high schools in this country and abroad. Lily’s new novel, Euphoria, was released in June 2014. It has drawn significant acclaim so far, being named an Amazon Book of the Month, on the Indie Next List, and hitting numerous summer reading lists from The Boston Globe to O Magazine and USA Today. Reviewed on the cover of The New York Times Book Review, Emily Eakin called Euphoria, “a taut, witty, fiercely intelligent tale of competing egos and desires in a landscape of exotic menace.”


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