abuse · black literature · book review · books · diversity · Historical fiction · middle grade · own voices review · Racism

Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Nobody free till everybody free. Moa is fourteen. The only life he has ever known is toiling on the Frontier sugar cane plantation for endless hot days, fearing the vicious whips of the overseers. Then one night he learns of an uprising, led by the charismatic Tacky. Moa is to be a cane warrior, and fight for the freedom of all the enslaved people in the nearby plantations. But before they can escape, Moa and his friend Keverton must face their first great task: to kill their overseer, Misser Donaldson. Time is ticking, and the day of the uprising approaches . . . Irresistible, gripping and unforgettable, Cane Warriors follows the true story of Tacky’s War in Jamaica, 1760.

Review:

I do not normally read middle grade novels but because this one is historical fiction and about a subject that I don’t normally see presented much(sugarcane plantations), I decided I wanted to give it a try.

The thing about slavery that we have to remember is that it was not just a thing in America. It was a thing in so many other countries that were “colonized” during that time frame. Especially in countries in the Caribbean. This particular story is set in Jamaica and is told from the perspective of a 14 year old boy. Now, we know that 14 doesn’t mean manhood but during slavery and even present day, a child of color is not seen as a child when they hit their teenage years. I thought that was something that was very thought provoking while reading this story.

This isn’t a very long book so I do not want to go into great detail about the story. One of the things that I found a bit difficult while reading this story was the switching of the dialect but after talking to a close friend, I have decided that it does not take away from the story. It adds to it.

The risks that this child and the men in this book take in order to gain their freedom is both admirable and heart breaking at the same time. The desire to just be able to live without fear and to be able to just enjoy the basic acts of life.

This is a middle grade book that I would recommend for younger audiences who want to know about the history of slavery that doesn’t take place in America and is also told from the perspective of someone their age.

Rating:

I would definitely read more work by this author. This book would get 2 Golden Girls from me.

Availability:

October 20, 2020 in hardcover, paperback and ebook

A special thank you to Akashic Books and their imprint Black Sheep for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

black literature · book review · crime · diversity · gentrification · gentrification thriller · own voices review · Racism · reading · secrets · Thriller

When No One Is Watching By Alyssa Cole {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear? 

Review:

Gentrification thriller. That is all it took for me to want to read this book. Me, a reader who doesn’t read a lot of thrillers. Not only is this a gentrification thriller, it’s by Alyssa Cole who I am only familiar with thru her romance novels which I haven’t read(don’t judge me) but have heard a lot of good things about. Anyway, back to the book at hand. I am so glad that I read this book. Alyssa takes a subject that is already frightening enough by itself in real life and turns it into a story that shows how bad it already is and worse it will get worse if nothing is done.

Gentrification is something that I, along with other black people are currently witnessing in towns and cities that we live in. Companies coming in and sweet talking or sometimes bullying residents of color out of areas that were once prominent but have deteriorated over the years due to the lack of non color residents not wanting to reside there until that area is seen as a potential money maker. Then this practice is justified in their minds because they are “beautifying” the area. When in reality if the area was afforded the same access to funding, they would never be in the worn down conditions that they end up in.

Cole takes this story and tells it from Sydney’s point of view, which I admit was a bit hard to follow at first because I was thinking she was just going to be an unreliable narrator. But she turns out to have more sense than what I thought. My heart was broken reading this story knowing how realistic it is. How there are so many people are out there experiencing this daily basis.

Now, the story is also told thru poor old Theo’s point of view. Poor, poor naive Theo. Lawd Sweet Baby Betty White. Bless Theo’s heart. I definitely had my reservations about him and rightfully so. That poor man was so damn clueless, as are most people of his background. And I am not talking about social background either. He is as clueless as they come, especially dealing with “Bodega Becky”(read the book and you’ll know exactly what I am talking about. Theo really possessed the “I mean well” and ” I am trying to understand” attitude that is continuously shown in racial situations.

The partnership of Sydney and Theo was one that was relatable when it comes to the racial climate that we are currently in. It is good to have counterparts on the other side who want to help, but them knowing how to help and having to recondition their beliefs is the real battle that is faced and Alyssa did a great job showcasing this.

In closing, one thing I that makes me dislike a thriller is the either the plot twist or the climax. I hate when I get to those parts and it’s like “pew” instead of “BAM”. This thriller was all the way “BAM”. Go pick it up.

Availability:

Available September 1, 2020 in paperback, ebook, and audiobook

Rating:

Knocked all four girls down!!!!

Thank you so much to William Morrow Books for this free copy in exchange for my honest review.

addiction · black literature · book review · books · dedication · diversity · Family · Literary Fiction · love · own voices review · reading

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Yaa Gyasi’s stunning follow-up to her acclaimed national best seller Homegoing is a powerful, raw, intimate, deeply layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama.

Gifty is a fifth year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford School of Medicine studying reward seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. 

But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith, and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive. Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanain immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief–a novel about faith, science, religion, love. Exquisitely written, emotionally searing, this is an exceptionally powerful follow-up to Gyasi’s phenomenal debut.

Review:

I want to start this book by saying that if you are going into this story thinking it is going to be parallel to Homegoing, let me stop you right there. This book is in no way the same type of story. Is this book just as heavy? It is. In my opinion, this book is heavier. I had to sit with this book for a few days to get my thoughts and feelings together because I just had and still have so many.

This story drew me into it in a way that is almost indescribable. Gyasi takes the subjects of faith, science, mental illness, addiction, and family and weaves them into a story that is heartfelt and heartbreaking at the same time. Your emotions are topsy turvy throughout the entire story. You have moments where you want to put the book down because it is almost too much to take in but you can’t because you want to know what is going to happen with each character.

I can never resist a story that makes me look at my own life and wonder how I would handle what the characters are dealing with. This story made me wonder how I would handle a family member’s addiction, the basic rejection of a parent’s love, and caring for a loved one with a depression so deep that you wonder if they are going to survive falling into that deep dark hole. I also never thought I would care so much about scientific research. Gyasi makes you care about it. She sneaks that feeling right into your heart.

This book was worth the wait and you will want to take your time reading it.

Rating:

All four Golden Girls

Availability:

Available September 1, 2020 in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

I want to say thank you to Knopf for my free copy in exchange for an honest review.

black literature · Blog Tour · book review · books · diversity · Family · Racism · reading · secrets · YA

This Is My America By Kim Johnson {Blog Tour Review}

Blurb:

Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time—her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?

Fans of Nic Stone and Jason Reynolds won’t want to miss this provocative and gripping debut.

Review:

This book is going on my top ten list for this year, no questions asked. I wish I would have gotten copies for my two boys so that we could have read this together as a family. In fact, I will still buy them each their own copy so they can read it and we can discuss as a family.

The Beaumont family has already been displaced from New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina and now they must deal with the horrid racism in Texas. No matter how hard Jamal has worked to become a star athlete and not be the poster child for the “child of a convict” campaign, all his hard work is thrown out the moment he is considered a suspect in a crime. His sister Tracy is already doing everything that she can to try to bring their father home from a death row sentence. He received this sentence for a crime he did not commit. Time is running down for him and now she has to prove that her brother is innocent.

Mrs. Johnson is able to convey this subject matter in a way that young adults can ingest without difficulty and a way that adults can ingest and also know how to convey to their own children. Even thru the heavy subject matter, Tracy is still portrayed as a regular teenager dealing with feelings of love and lust, your normal teenage stubbornness, and her friendships as well.

The way the story is written and progresses keeps you engaged. You don’t want to put the book down because you fear you may miss out on what will happen next. There are plenty of twists throughout the story that keep out on your toes.

One of my favorite moments in the story is when Tracy is holding one of her workshops and they are discussing how a black person should act when encountering the police. I loved this scene and it broke my heart at the same time because this scene is one black parents know all too well. I want to thank Mrs. Johnson for writing this story. I want to thank her for showing that the fight against racism isn’t just about police brutality. It is something that is fought at every aspect of life. It is even a battle against the people who don’t even realize or want to realize that they are racist. This is the book that needs to be added to school curriculums.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availibility:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

I want to say a special thank you to Underlined for my free copy in exchange for an honest review and for having me along on this tour.

abuse · black literature · book review · books · contemporary fiction · diversity · Family · Historical fiction · love · own voices review · reading

Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Following the fate of one family over the course of two decades in Nigeria, this debut novel tells the story of each sibling’s search for agency, love, and meaning in a society rife with hypocrisy but also endless life

“I like the idea of a god who knows what it’s like to be a twin. To have no memory of ever being alone.”

Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike are enjoying a relatively comfortable life in Lagos in 1996. Then their mother loses her job due to political strife, and the family, facing poverty, becomes drawn into the New Church, an institution led by a charismatic pastor who is not shy about worshipping earthly wealth. 

Soon Bibike and Ariyike’s father wagers the family home on a “sure bet” that evaporates like smoke. As their parents’ marriage collapses in the aftermath of this gamble, the twin sisters and their two younger siblings, Andrew and Peter, are thrust into the reluctant care of their traditional Yoruba grandmother. Inseparable while they had their parents to care for them, the twins’ paths diverge once the household shatters. Each girl is left to locate, guard, and hone her own fragile source of power. 

Written with astonishing intimacy and wry attention to the fickleness of fate, Tola Rotimi Abraham’s Black Sunday takes us into the chaotic heart of family life, tracing a line from the euphoria of kinship to the devastation of estrangement. In the process, it joyfully tells a tale of grace and connection in the midst of daily oppression and the constant incursions of an unremitting patriarchy. This is a novel about two young women slowly finding, over twenty years, in a place rife with hypocrisy but also endless life and love, their own distinct methods of resistance and paths to independence.

Review:

What an intense and heart-wrenching story that follows four children, Bibike and Ariyike(who are twins) and their younger brothers, Andrew and Peter. You follow them throughout their childhood and into adulthood after both their parents abandon them. Their father makes a very bad business decision and their mother is jobless and fed up. They are then dumped at their grandmother’s house and basically left to raise themselves. The story is told thru each of their points of view. Although they all experienced the same heartbreak, they each cope with it differently.

I love the underlying theme of religion that is present in the story. Each child has a different view of religion and life in general. There is no real stability or guidance in their lives as they grow up and are left to learn about so many important milestones in life by ways of their own actions and decisions and the actions of others.

Tola tells this story in such a lyrical way that is both enchanting and raw. She doesn’t hold anything back with her characters and their choices.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

A special thank you to Catapult books for my free copy in exchange for an honest review.
book review · books · diversity · Family · Historical fiction · love · own voices review · reading

The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton {ARC Review}

Blurb:

In 1925, Josephine is the proud owner of a thriving farm. As a child, she channeled otherworldly power to free herself from slavery. Now, her new neighbor, a white woman named Charlotte, seeks her company, and an uneasy friendship grows between them. But Charlotte has also sought solace in the Ku Klux Klan, a relationship that jeopardizes Josephine’s family.

Nearly one hundred years later, Josephine’s descendant, Ava, is a single mother who has just lost her job. She moves in with her white grandmother Martha, a wealthy but lonely woman who pays her grandchild to be her companion. But Martha’s behavior soon becomes erratic, then even threatening, and Ava must escape before her story and Josephine’s converge.

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

Review:

What a story. It was gripping and engaging. I had both a difficult time reading it and not wanting to put it down. What made it difficult to read is that so many things hit close to home but that’s what also made it hard to put down.

Sexton explores and presents a part of the black culture that is sometimes overlooked. What I am talking about is the belief system some slaves had. They didn’t necessarily believe in the “Christian” way but their beliefs helped them survive and maintain hope.

The story has three separate timelines. Present day and two from the past. We learn about Ava(present day) and her great grandmother, Josephine(both past timelines).

Ava(who is mixed race) is at a point in her life where she needs more help than she cares to ask for but is naive enough to accept help from her white grandmother, Martha. This help comes with stipulations and costs. At first Ava tries to overlook the small, but hurtful jabs but soon has to come to her senses to protect herself and her son.

Josephine is telling her story about growing up in slavery and her life after slavery. She reflects on events that occurred with her parents as well as her owners. As Josephine’s story progresses, you see how her view of white people changes from how she viewed them as a child to how she viewed them as an adult. Prime examples are her relationship with Miss Sally as a child and her adult interaction with her neighbor Charlotte.

There is also a supernatural element to the story which I found intriguing. Some would say that the spiritual beliefs of Josephine and her parents and the beliefs of Ava’s mother would be considered witchcraft or even voodoo. The senses of seeing or deja vu are prevalent in both women’s stories and play a strong role in how their lives are lived.

This is a story about self preservation, sacrifice, and family dynamics and relationships.

There were quite a few quotes and passages that stood out to me while reading this story. That is not something that usually happens when I read. I look forward to reading more by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

A special thank you to Counterpoint Press for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

black literature · book review · books · diversity · Family · own voices review · reading

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Two families from different social classes are joined together by an unexpected pregnancy and the child that it produces. Moving forward and backward in time, with the power of poetry and the emotional richness of a narrative ten times its length, Jacqueline Woodson’s extraordinary new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of this child.

As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s birthday celebration in her grandparent’s Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, escorted by her father to the soundtrack of Prince, she wears a special, custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody’s mother, for her own sixteenth birthday party and a celebration which ultimately never took place.

Unfurling the history of Melody’s parents and grandparents to show how they all arrived at this moment, Woodson considers not just their ambitions and successes but also the costs, the tolls they’ve paid for striving to overcome expectations and escape the pull of history. As it explores sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives—even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.

Review:

Where have I been while Jacqueline Woodson has been out here dropping literary gems in the book world? I feel like I have missed out on so much from her . I can’t even say what drew me to this book. It clearly wasn’t just the fact that Jacqueline Woodson wrote it, it was the content. Being written by Ms. Woodson was the ultimate plus.

Woodson explores the dynamic of black families in such a mesmerizing way. You see that within the black family there is still the defining difference of class and even skin color. How some blacks try so hard to get above where they have come from and some are content with just being able to survive. How love isn’t just enough to keep one happy.

Melody is the end result of everything her parents and even grandparents had to go thru. She has a plethora of history to look back on when it comes to making decisions about her future. At the same time she also has to build her own identity without wiping away her history.

So many difficult choices are made by the characters in this story.

I am so grateful to have been able to experience it.

This is a small book that packs such a big punch. It’s short but still so complex.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available September 17th in hardcover, ebook, and audio.

A special thank you to Riverhead Books for allowing me to read and review this title.
abuse · book review · books · civil rights · crime · diversity

One Night in Georgia by Celeste O. Norfleet {ARC Review}

Blurb:

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

At the end of a sweltering summer shaped by the tragic assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy, race riots, political protests, and the birth of Black power, three coeds from New York City—Zelda Livingston, Veronica Cook, and Daphne Brooks—pack into Veronica’s new Ford Fairlane convertible, bound for Atlanta and their last year at Spelman College. It is the beginning a journey that will change their lives irrevocably.

Unlikely friends from vastly different backgrounds, the trio has been inseparable since freshman year. Zelda, serious and unyielding, the heir of rebellious slaves and freedom riders, sees the world in black versus white. Veronica, the privileged daughter of a refined, wealthy family, strongly believes in integration and racial uplift. Daphne lives with a legacy of loss—when she was five years old, her black mother committed suicide and her white father abandoned her.

Because they will be going their separate ways after graduation, Zelda, Veronica, and Daphne intend to make lasting memories on this special trip. Though they are young and carefree, they aren’t foolish. Joined by Veronica’s family friend Daniel, they rely on the Motorist Green Book to find racially friendly locations for gas, rest, and food. Still, with the sun on their cheeks, the wind in their hair, and Motown on the radio, the girls revel in their freedom. Yet as the miles fly by, taking them closer to the Mason-Dixon line, tension begins to rise and the conversation turns serious when Daphne shares a horrifying secret about her life.

When they hit Washington, D.C., the joyous trip turns dark. In Virginia they barely escape a desperate situation when prison guards mistake Daniel for an escapee. Further south they barely make it through a sundown town. When the car breaks down in Georgia they are caught up in a racially hostile situation that leaves a white person dead and one of the girls holding the gun.

Review:

This was such a deep book. It wasn’t too complex as far as the writing or story is concern but the content was complex. When you are first introduced to Zelda, you immediately feel her strength and determination bouncing off the page and that is a good thing that will come in handy for her as the story progresses.

As the girls and Daniel travel, they are thrown into situations that will both test their mental strength, friendships, and self-esteem at the same time. They are quickly reminded that although the world is changing, it is a slow change and they still have to be careful. They cannot take anything for granted.

Although this is a historical fiction, there are so many instances that reflect today’s society and what is going on in so many ways. It shows that although things aren’t completely as they were in the 60s, there are some things that have yet to change.

I love how this story plays out even if there were times it made me so angry that I wanted to cry. I think that is what the author was maybe trying to go for with this story. Take us out of our comfort zone. Open our eyes to how things were, still are at times, and can be at any given time.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback, ebook and audiobook

 

A special thank you to Amistad Books for my review copy

 

 

abuse · book review · books · crime · diversity · Historical fiction · mystery · own voices review · reading

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins {Review}

Blurb:

A servant and former slave is accused of murdering her employer and his wife in this astonishing historical thriller that moves from a Jamaican sugar plantation to the fetid streets of Georgian London—a remarkable literary debut with echoes of Alias Grace, The Underground Railroad, and The Paying Guests.

All of London is abuzz with the scandalous case of Frannie Langton, accused of the brutal double murder of her employers, renowned scientist George Benham and his eccentric French wife, Marguerite. Crowds pack the courtroom, eagerly following every twist, while the newspapers print lurid theories about the killings and the mysterious woman being held in the Old Bailey.

The testimonies against Frannie are damning. She is a seductress, a witch, a master manipulator, a whore.

But Frannie claims she cannot recall what happened that fateful evening, even if remembering could save her life. She doesn’t know how she came to be covered in the victims’ blood. But she does have a tale to tell: a story of her childhood on a Jamaican plantation, her apprenticeship under a debauched scientist who stretched all bounds of ethics, and the events that brought her into the Benhams’ London home—and into a passionate and forbidden relationship.

Though her testimony may seal her conviction, the truth will unmask the perpetrators of crimes far beyond murder and indict the whole of English society itself.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton is a breathtaking debut: a murder mystery that travels across the Atlantic and through the darkest channels of history. A brilliant, searing depiction of race, class, and oppression that penetrates the skin and sears the soul, it is the story of a woman of her own making in a world that would see her unmade.

Review:

What attracted me initially to this story was that it put me in the mindframe of one of my all time favorite books, I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Conde. It takes during slavery, but not American slavery.

Frannie is writing her story, not to dispute her guilt of the horrendous crimes she may or may not have committed but to clear her conscience of the things she has done in her life. Things that were done by force and by choice.

Frannie is born into a life that she has no control over what happens to her but at the same time is given the slight freedom of having a bit of education. Being taught how to read has both its advantages and its setbacks for her as she grows up with the Langton’s but is later practically thrown to the Benham’s.

As I progressed thru this story, I quickly realized how different it was from my favorite novel and I loved the differences. Frannie’s story made me feel sorry for her while at the same time infuriating me. There were things I felt that she could have had more control over even if she were a slave and later a servant as intelligent as she was, but these flaws showed her vulnerability. At the same time she faced issues that not even a free person could have avoided.

Although this isn’t your typical summer read, if given the chance it will tick off more boxes on your list than you can think to imagine. Along with being a historical fiction, there is also the element of mystery and the hint of romance regardless of how socially unacceptable it was for its time period.

This is a beautifully written debut that will hold your attention not only with the storyline but with the lyrical writing style. I look forward to seeing what else Sara Collins will write in the future.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

*A special thank you to Harper Books for my review copy in exchange for my honest review*