March Wrap Up & April TBR | 2020

Books I Read in March

  1. Inferno: New Tales of Terror by Ellen Datlow ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
  2. The Other People by C.J. Tudor ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
  3. From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  4. We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  5. Radicalized by Cory Doctorow ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  6. Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  7. Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  8. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  9. The Raven Boys by Maggie Steivwater ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
  10. The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  11. Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  12. Men Explain Things to Me by Revecca Solnit ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
  13. Home by Nnedi Okorafor ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  14. Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  15. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen MAria Machado ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  16. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
  17. The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
  18. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
  19. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  20. I Crawl Through it by A.S. King ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
  21. Female Husbands by Jen Manion ⭐️⭐️ (DNF at 46%)

This wasn’t a bad month. The ratings aren’t bad, but that makes me wonder if I’ve been too generous with my ratings. The lowest rating was 2 star, but that was a DNF. The next lowest was six 3.5 star books. Then I had eight 4 star books. That leaves two 4.5 star books and four 5 star books. That means ~6 exceptional books. All in all though the month still feels mediocre, so I might need to stop with the 3.5 star books. I’ve been using my rating scale, and most of these ratings are pretty fixed, meaning, slight changes in one area don’t usually change the rating. I still prefer that approach.

April TBR

  1. Still: A Memoir by Emma Hansen
  2. Conjure Women by Afia Atakora
  3. The Apartment by K.L. Slater
  4. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  5. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  6. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  7. The Majesty of Law by Sandra Day O’Connor
  8. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
  9. Welcome to Nightvale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor
  10. Carter & Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard
  11. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  12. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  13. Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
  14. My Real Children by Jo Walton
  15. Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King
  16. The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell

Provided by NetGalley and/or publisher for a fair and honest review.

I fell behind and didn’t read all the review books I was given last month, so I need to read those first thing this month. I will say, eight days into the month, I have had a very slow start. That said, I am aiming for smaller TBRs. My goal is 15 books a month, then if I have time I will fit in others. I am planning a few readathons where I want to read other books. Although, I will reassess my progress when they arrive. If you are wondering which readathons I will be doing it is Dewy’s 24 hour readathon and the intermediate reading rush. Next Month, I may be even more conservative and go with 10 books for my TBR then leave a big gap for other readathons or booktube ideas.

Blackathon Book Tag (and Challenge)

The Blackathon Book Tag is a tag created by Jesse at Bowties and Books where you talk about seven books, one of each of the following tags:

  1. Mirror Image: Cover recreation or homage
  2. Slept On: a book no one talks about
  3. Call and Response: A Community Recommendation
  4. #BlackBoyJoy: A lighthearted comfort read
  5. #BlackGirlMagic: SFF with a black protagonist
  6. POSE: Black LGBTQIA+ author or character
  7. My Kitchen: Book covering black mental health and/or disability

This was created for YouTube, but I’ve decided to do a blog post for it as well. Part of the reason I am doing that is because I also used this as my own reading challenge/readathon. The idea is you would pick a book to satisfy each challenge above, and I just used that as the framework for a readathon. Where instead of talking about books I had already read, I choose books too read that I thought would fit.

My goal was to read these 7 books over the course of one week. That didn’t actually happen. My initial plan ended up spanning ~2.5 weeks, and it led to me falling behind in my monthly reading plans. However, I still pushed through and finished the challenge. Below I’ll give a brief review of each book (rather than make a unique post for each.

Mirror Image: Cover recreation or homage

Lagoon was the first novel I read by Nnedi Okorafor, and I absolute loved it. This is the story of an alien visiting Earth in Legos Nigeria. The story was a unique take on the alien invasion/contact idea. What’s more, Okorafor makes use of the Nigerian culture to provide a compelling backstory outside of the main plot. Part of that was the connection of spirituality between our characters, the alien, and life itself. Sometimes, religion can be heavy handed in science fiction, but I thought it was handled well here.

Really the only flaws here was I didn’t absolutely love the characters. It wasn’t a major issue, but some of them were one dimensional. To be clear, I loved the book overall, and I highly recommend it.

Rating Break Down

Writing Style: 9/10, Plot: 8/10, Characters: 8/10, Ending: 9/10, Engagement: 8/10, Enjoyment: 8/10, Comprehension: 8/10, Pacing: 7/10, Desire to Reread: 3/10, Special: 3/10, Calculated Rating: 3.78/5
Final Rating: 4/5

Slept On: a book no one talks about

Let’s Play White was one of my most anticipated books of 2020. It is a collection of horror short stories that explore race in a variety of different ways. That was the best part of this collection, but even with that new look a lot of these stories still felt unoriginal. What’s worse, most of them weren’t scary or creepy (with a couple exceptions). Most of them were just fine.

You might still consider reading this because I don’t think enough horror stories cover the topic of race. Plus, there are good stories, and those that aren’t so good aren’t terrible. I will still be keeping an eye out for more works by Burke because I’m hopeful that maybe her next work might be more consistent throughout.

Rating Break Down

Writing Style: 7/10, Plot: 7/10, Characters: 7/10, Ending: 6/10, Engagement: 7/10, Enjoyment: 7/10, Comprehension: 9/10, Pacing: 7/10, Desire to Reread: 0/10, Special: 0/10, Calculated Rating: 3.345/5

Final Rating: 3.5/5

Call and Response: A Community Recommendation

I loved this book. When I first heard about this concept I was very intrigued. During the Jim Crow (1900’s) thousands (10s?) of black Americans migrated from the south to the north and west to escape segregation and racism. This is a story that does not get told. It is one of (if not the biggest?) migration of Americans in our history, yet it is ignored in our history classes.

That is probably because it reflects on the racism in this time and the harm it and segregation had on black Americans. Wilkerson follows 3 different families as she details these travels. They are meant to represent the different types of people that migrated and the experience they each had. I thought that approach worked really well. We got a diversity of views on how this migration can and did effect families, but it also gave us a few individuals to connect to directly to really relate.

The result is a compelling and fascinating read that I highly recommend to everyone.

Rating Break Down

Writing Style: 10/10, Content: 10/10, Structure: 9/10, Summary: 9/10, Engagement: 8/10, Enjoyment: 8/10, Comprehension: 10/10, Pacing: 8/10, Desire to Reread: 10/10, Special: 10/10, Calculated Rating: 4.6/5
Final Rating: 4.5/5

#BlackBoyJoy: A lighthearted comfort read

Sadly, this was a very disappointment read. Angelou’s first two memoirs were poetic and moving, but her third memoir loses a lot of the charm. Her writing didn’t feel as poetic. What’s more, the story lacked much substance. I don’t want to dismiss her experience; she is still a single black mother trying to make a life for her and her son. However, the story focuses less on her relationship with her son than on a period of her life where she joins a traveling dance act.

It builds nicely on the last memoir where she explores her love of dancing, and the actual main story isn’t that bad. The issues I had was that it was still bland, and the ending felt abrupt. It ends with her leaving the job to return to her son. However, she never really touches on her feelings of being away. It felt like an excuse to change the story. It seems like the kind of thing that should be a more overarching theme. If it was there, clearly it didn’t stand out as a big part of the story.

There are still 3-4 more memoirs in her series, and from what I’ve read, this one is her worst. I’m hopeful for a return to her poetic style in books to come.

#BlackGirlMagic: SFF with a black protagonist

In the first book in Okorafor’s Binti trilogy of novellas, a Nigerian women leaves her home to explore what the galaxy has to offer. I really like this book. Okorafor is a creative science fiction writer who does a great job writing science fiction in a way that is accessible to pretty much anyone. Whats more, she’s written a character that is equal parts intelligent and curious. she makes for a fantastic and strong female protagonist. I can’t wait to read the rest of the books in the series (and her books outside it!).

Rating Break Down
Writing Style: 9/10, Plot: 8/10, Characters: 8/10, Ending: 8/10, Engagement: 10/10, Enjoyment: 9/10, Comprehension: 8/10, Pacing: 8/10, Desire to Reread: 4/10, Special: 0/10, Calculated Rating: 3.91/5, Final Rating: 4/5
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance to calculate a final score that is rounded to the nearest half.

POSE: Black LGBTQIA+ author or character

This is a classic novel about a young black women who grew up with an abusive father then husband. As she slowly grows to learn more about herself she falls in love with anther women her husband and her are taking care of. It was a poignant narrative from a unique perspective. It’s also set in my home state of Georgia. However, I did struggle to connect with the story and stay engaged. I read this while traveling, and that may have effected how well I retained what I was reading. Overall, I enjoyed this novel. Update June 2020: I’m updating this to a 4 instead of 3.5 star.

Rating Break Down
Writing Style: 8/10, Plot: 8/10, Characters: 10/10, Ending: 9/10, Engagement: 6/10, Enjoyment: 7/10, Comprehension: 7/10, Pacing: 7/10, Desire to Reread: 3/10, Special: 8/10, Final Rating: 4/5
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance to calculate a final score that is rounded to the nearest half.

My Kitchen: Book covering black mental health and/or disability

This book wasn’t what I was expecting. This is a memoir about a black man who grows up overweight. He eventually loses the weight, but we see how it shapes his mental state well into his adulthood (as well as the troubles associated with being a black man already). His story was profound and well told to boot. 4.5/5 stars.

Rating Break Down
Writing Style: 9/10, Content: 10/10, Structure: 9/10, Summary: 8/10, Engagement: 9/10, Enjoyment: 9/10, Comprehension: 9/10, Pacing: 8/10, Desire to Reread: 5/10, Special: 7/10, Calculated Rating: 4.41/5 Final Rating: 4.5/5
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance to calculate a final score that is rounded to the nearest half.

Jesse at Bowties and Books doing the Blackathon Book Tag

February Wrap Up & March TBR | 2020

Books I Read in February

  1. The Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
  2. Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
  3. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (Blackathon Cont. Challenge) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
  4. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (Reread) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
  5. Beloved by Toni Morrison (Blackathon Scifi Challenge) ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
  6. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  7. Not That Bad edited by Roxane Gay ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  8. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  9. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
  10. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (Blackathon Cont. Challenge) ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
  11. Heavy by Kiese Laymon (Blackathon Cont. Challenge) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
  12. Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor (Blackathon Scifi Challenge) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  13. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Blackathon Scifi Challenge) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  14. Lagurdia by Nnedi Okorafor (Blackathon Scifi Challenge) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  15. Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  16. March by John Lewis et al. ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
  17. The Color Purple by Alice Walker ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
  18. Let’s Play White by Chesya Burke ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

This was a great month, I enjoyed all the books I read with a few that were a little disappointing. However, there was a large fraction of 4-5 star books which prove it was an objectively good month of quality reading. If you look back on my February TBR post, you’ll see another ~5 books or so that I wanted to read, and it is disappointing that I wasn’t able to read all of them. Moving forward, I am going to try and take it a bit easier on my plans because I don’t like stressing about the books I want to read. This is meant to be fun.

March TBR

  1. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
  2. Still: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Motherhood by Emma Hansen*
  3. Female Husbands by Jen Manion
  4. Conjure Women by Afia Atakora
  5. The Other People by C.J. Tudor
  6. The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal
  7. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  8. Her Bodies and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
  9. Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor
  10. I Crawl Through It by A.S. King
  11. Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire
  12. The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel
  13. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman 
  14. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
  15. Inferno by Ellen Datlow (Backlist readathon)
  16. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Backlist readathon)
  17. Wenjack by Joseph Boyden (Backlist readathon)

Provided by NetGalley and publisher for a fair and honest review.

*Provided directly by publisher, 

This month, I have several e-arcs that I want to tackle before they are published. I’m also doing a reading challenge of 5 more books (to be released), but I still made this list with the intent of being more conservative. The total number of books I’m aiming to read are ~20 books, but many of them are very short. After this month, I am going to try very hard to read even less. I want to feel a bit less pressure to read so I can spend more time writing my blog posts and doing YouTube videos. I have fallen behind on my blog.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

Read 2/6/20 and Reread 2/6/20 – 2/7/20

After reading this, I immediately stopped and started it over again. Toni Morrison is an author I have wanted to read for years, and the only reason I never got around to it was a fear of not being able to comprehend these complicated works of literary fiction. Luckily, I really enjoyed this book. By the end of my first read through, I will admit I felt like I missed some details. I was able to ascertain the overarching points and narrative, but I was still confused a bit by whose who but more so the structure of the novel. The book is presented at points in first person by a seemingly side character. Later, it gives another first person perspective, and a lot of the book in between is third person.

As you might imagine, that was difficult to follow and keep up with. While it may be a disappointing to my past literature teachers, I choose to review some readings aids after I finished the first time to figure out the things I was missing. After I did that, it made a lot more sense. My improved understanding coupled with a genuine desire to get as much as I could out of this novel motivated me to reread the novel. Admittedly, I listened to the audiobook, so it made it easier but also likely made it harder for me to catch all the details the first time around. Although, I think the beauty of audiobooks is that, if you have the time and enjoy the experience (which I did), rereading can be both fun and a great way of retaining more and more details about the books.

The book itself is written beautifully. I could appreciate the poetry in her Morrison’s words even if I struggled to pull all of the meaning, and rereading it helped me better ascertain the meaning. That kind of writing really lends itself to this kind of story. That is to say, a dark narrative about the pain induced by racism and how it can decay a person’s mental health. In this book, we focus on a young black girl whose desperate desire is to have the blue eyes of the white girls she sees being so admired. This is brought on by racism but also hatred and bullying by other minorities for her perceived status and family “ugliness”.

In my video review, I discuss how this racism is still alive today. Despite being set in the great depression, the novel feels all too modern in its content. It is a hard novel to read both mentally and emotionally. Nevertheless, I highly recommend you check it out. There is a reason this novel is so well regarded. It touches on major societal issues in a way that hits you to your core. I highly recommend to everyone.

In the end, I gave the book 4 stars the first time and 4.5./5 stars the second time.

Rating Break Down
Writing Style: 9/10
Plot: 8/10
Characters: 10/10
Ending: 10/10
Engagement: 8/10
Enjoyment: 9/10
Comprehension: 8/10
Pacing: 9/10
Desire to Reread: 3/10
Special: 10/10
Calculated Rating: 4.255/5
Final Rating: 4.5/5 (3.5-4/5 originally)
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance to calculate a final score that is rounded to the nearest half. 

January Wrap up & February TBR | 2020

Books I Read in January

  1. Miracle Creek by Angie Kim ⭐️⭐️⭐️½
  2. Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  3. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  4. Robin by Dave Itzkoff ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½
  5. Scythe by Neal Shusterman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  6. Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin ⭐️⭐️⭐️½
  7. Underland by Robert Macfarlane ⭐️⭐️
  8. How We Know What Isn’t So by Thomas Gilovich ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  9. If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t) by Betty White ⭐️⭐️⭐️½
  10. Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  11. The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  12. The Road by Cormac McCarthy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  13. Strange Exit by Parker Peevyhouse ⭐️⭐️½
  14. Yes Please by Amy Poehler ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  15. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi ⭐️⭐️⭐️½
  16. The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  17. In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½
  18. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy ⭐️⭐️
  19. Wilder Girls by Rory Power ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  20. Something Deeply Hidden by Sean Carroll ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  21. The Girl from Nowhere by Eliska Tanszer ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

Provided by NetGalley and publisher for a fair and honest review.

This was a great month, but I was worried. I started off slow while I traveled. Then I got the flu for a week. January AYearAthon really saved me (getting me back in the pattern of reading). I think I had a pretty good spread of books. If you saw my 2020 ongoing post, you’ll know I am trying a new rating scheme, and I think it is helping me rate books more concisely. I really like thinking about each piece of it as I think about the score it deserves.
Now, I did DNF two books this month, Underland and The God of Small things. I am still counting them because I was over 70% through them; it was enough. This is another sign of a good start to the year because I can really struggle to DNF a book I am not enjoying or getting into. On top of that, I hit 500 likes on my blog, so exciting! I also started Josh’s Bookish Voyage, my new Booktube channel. I talk all about that in my 2020 reading log as well.

February TBR

  1. The Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson
  2. Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
  3. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (Blackathon Cont. Challenge)
  4. Beloved by Toni Morrison (Blackathon Scifi Challenge)
  5. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
  6. Not that Bad edited by Roxane Gay
  7. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
  8. Joplin’s Ghost by Tananarive Due
  9. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
  10. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle
  11. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
  12. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (Blackathon Cont. Challenge)
  13. Heavy by Kiese Laymon (Blackathon Cont. Challenge)
  14. Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor (Blackathon Scifi Challenge)
  15. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Blackathon Scifi Challenge)
  16. Lagurdia by Nnedi Okorafor (Blackathon Scifi Challenge)
  17. Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou
  18. March by John Lewis et al.
  19. Harriet Tubman: The Life and the Life Stories by Jean Humez
  20. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

You can hear all my thoughts in my video above, but these are the books I am reading this month. I didn’t mention The Color Purple in the video because I ordered it and forgot to mention it. I have made a very ambitious goal this month, especially since it is a short month. Of course, it is Black History Month. I talk all about that in my video and how I am participating in #Blackathon2020. Check out the link to learn more. In doing that, there are some challenges I will be completing. I am identifying as team science fiction; I’ve marked the books I am reading for that in red above. However, I am reading enough books to satisfy some of the contemporary team (Cont.) which I’ve marked in blue. I will be one short sadly.

I’m aiming for 3 audiobooks a week which I think is my normal speed. On top of that, I will be completing the Blackathon book-tag and Instagram challenge where I am going to plug seven books. I’ve decided to treat that like a week long “readathon” where I will try to read these all over the course of one week. I will be doing it the week before the actual Instagram challenge due to personal things.

That comes out to 9 audiobooks (3 weeks) plus 7 for the “Readathon” week. That comes to 16 audiobooks (the exact number of audiobooks I have above). My physical reading assumes I can finish each book with reading on the bus plus a bit of personal time. If I don’t complete a book, that is really where it is most likely to happen. However, I only have two real books with two comics to enjoy. If you want to hear more about my thoughts for each book, check out my YouTube video above!

Kindred by Octavia Butler ★★★★★

Originally Read March 2015 (General Thoughts)

In March 2015, I read Kindred, after years of wanting to read it. It was the year of women; I had become aware of my bias for men authors and dedicated 2015 to reading only women. In doing so, I read what would come to be my favorite book of all time (let alone the decade). This book had everything I love in a book: real characters, a dark premise, time travel, and addressed serious societal topics. In particular, I am very interested in the discussion of slavery and race because it is such an important part of American history. Even more so, it is a significant part of southern history, and as a white man I believe I have a responsibility to understand the atrocities of the past that is very much a part of my history.

It is next to impossible to tell somewhat what your favorite thing is. Favorite movie, show, or book. Every time I am asked this kind of question, I find my mind racing. Nevertheless, a few possible candidates always come to mind, and for me, more often than not, Kindred was always one of those that never left my mind. When I read it, I felt liked I loved it, but so much about how you read a book can be situational. That is, the mindset you are in at the time. I’ve always been hesitant to call a book I’ve read once, an all time favorite. There are other books I’ve read countless times, yet I still don’t feel like they are the absolute best book ever.

When I read this, I loved it. In fact, I have the draft of a blog post I started to make to talk about this book–something I had never done. I’ve since considered going back and writing this discussion, but I wanted to wait until I had reread it. Over the summer, I came across the Graphic Novel Adaption for this book, and I knew I had to have it. I read it this fall, but before I did, I started rereading the main novel in October. I got about a third of the way and stopped (I started it on a road trip with friends). I decided to finish it the last day of the decade because it seemed fitting. I am so glad I did. This reread cements this book as an all time favorite. Not just of the decade but of all time.

Reread October 2019 and December 31st, 2019

The first thing I love about this is Butler’s writing. It is easy to read and get lost in the world she develops. One of the few problems with the Graphic Novel was the pacing. It felt like it jumped or skipped details. Butler has created a fast paced novel, and by the end, it’s hard to imagine how quickly we’ve made it through everything in the book. Still, the book never feels rushed. Butler was a master writer and one of the most creative writer’s of the modern era.

The most important part of the book is how well Butler is able to bring to life something so many people mistakenly assume is in the distant past. She explores the nature of racism by following the a young man as he grows up to become his father. People are not born racist. Racism is learned. Nothing is more obvious in than that. Although, Butler makes use of this story to address common problems that still exist today. From the words we use to what people are willing to tolerate.

One thing I absolutely adored in this was how Butler focused so much on the strength and courage of all the slaves who lived in the past. Dana, the main protagonist, discusses how she just doesn’t have what it takes to survive long term. That is, there is only so much she can take. That is not a fault of hers; it is a recognition of how different things are these days. It also highlights how truly atrocious America was. The laws we had to the actions we made. Despite this, it doesn’t stop Dana from taking every opportunity she has to help slaves learn or do things they aren’t supposed to do. Regardless how scared she may be, she recognizes a moral obligation to act if you can. That is a message that is very important for everyone. If you can push back against atrocities, you have to do so.

Lastly, I wanted to discuss religion in the context of slavery and morality. I recognize, most readers are probably religious (most people are). However, slavery is the perfect example of how religion has been used to justify moral atrocities. Many say religion isn’t perfect, but it offers us moral guidance. To which I say, no, it does not. Religion is an authority, created by man for man. Morality is more than a command; morality is a conscious effort to do better by asking about how our actions effect others. The bible is full of guidance that can be twisted any way you like. Morality requires more. If you feel confident in your actions and choices, you should be able to demonstrate without referring to an objective authority figure. It is this kind of thinking that paves the way for slavery and other atrocities.

I love this book. I recommend it to everyone. 5/5 stars.

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams ★★★★☆


I had to write this review a week or so after finishing it, so this may be a more abridged review. Queenie was a thoroughly enjoyable book about a young black woman struggle to survive in a world that simultaneously attacks her while minimizing the significance of what she is going through. This was a compelling novel that explores the racial biases that a black woman has to endure and the ways people try so desperately to deny that they have such biases. I am reading a narrative of a young black woman. I am hardly in a position to say what is like to a black woman. However, there was never anything in the story I found difficult to accept as realistic. I feel confident everything Queenie had to endure was entirely based in real life scenarios. I think the novel works really well as a way of commenting on these racial and gender injustices.

Part of Queenie’s problems are how she deals with what happens to her, but I found it difficult to begrudge her for acting in the ways she did given what she had to deal with. Overall, I thought it was a really good book. I was worried that the ending would be too cookie cutter, so I was happy when it wasn’t. This is the story about how a young black women begins to find ways of living and coping in a world out to get her.

My first instinct was to give this book 4.5 to 5 stars because there aren’t many obvious flaws. However, after reviewing my year end stats, I feel like I need to be less liberal on my >4 star rating. 4 is a great read. It just isn’t an all time favorite, which this isn’t. Therefore, this gets a 4/5 stars.

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia Butler, Damian Duffy (Adapted) ★★★★★

Started 11/22/19

Over four years ago, I read Kindred by Octavia Butler. It was my first time reading any of her work, and it quickly made her one of my favorite authors of all time. I hate to say I haven’t read as much of her work now as I would have liked to, but I’ve read a few and want to read more. That said, nothing she wrote will ever beat the masterpiece that is Kindred.

Kindred tells the story of a modern day black woman who is transported back to the antebellum south. She is drawn to a young white boy who continuously gets himself in danger and is in need of her help. Kindred is such a profound work of fiction because it uses Butler’s amazing imagination and creativity to simultaneously engage the reader while also forcing them to better appreciate the true horrors of slavery and racism. I can not speak highly enough of Butler, her writing, or her ability to tackle serious issues. All I can say is, if you haven’t read this, please do! Of all the books I’ve read, this is the one I’d probably push above all others.

For years, I’ve watch anxiously in hopes that it might be adapted into a film or TV series. Sadly, that has yet to happen. There is plenty to say about how such an amazing piece of work can go adapted given how frequently they happen, but this is not about that. That’s because we now have, not a film, but something in between. With this new graphic novel adaption, we can experience this amazing story in a brand new form.

Finished 11/30/19

I wish I could say I reread the novel before I started this, but I only read the first couple parts before I finally got around to starting this graphic novel. That gives me a unique perception of this story as I can compare the parts I recently read and see what other parts are like without being recently exposed to it. I definitely noticed the abridgment early on. As I passed what I had read, it became less obvious, but even then there were parts that felt oddly structured. Sometimes, transitions are abrupt skipping or shortening what calls for more time. In the end though, I think it is worth it. I get it takes sacrifices to be able to adapt this entire novel.

The fact is, it is abridged, so it just isn’t capable of covering the same material as effectively. For that reason, it isn’t as good as the original novel. That said, the content is still amazing. I don’t think you can judge the overall quality of the graphic novel for how it stands up against the original. The original did it better, but this is still an outstanding rendition. There is so much art here that brings this material to life on a much deeper level. We have the visceral descriptions (for the most part) of Butler coupled with the art of John Jennings. The art, by the way, is fine; I don’t have much of an opinion there. In the end, it works. It brings her work to a new level.

To me, the dream rendition of this would be an illustrated adaption of the entire novel, incorporating the art used here. Hell, maybe you (or I) could listen to the audiobook while following along in the graphic novel. I’ll also settle for a film/TV adaption as well :). Until then, I highly encourage you to read Kindred and this new Graphic Novel. 5/5 stars

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ★★★★★

Read 11/21/19 – 11/24/19

The 15 Suggestions

  1. Be a full person.
  2. Do it together.
  3. Teach her that ‘gender roles’ is absolute nonsense.
  4. Beware the danger of what I call Feminism Lite.
  5. Teach Chizalum to read.
  6. Teach her to question language.
  7. Never speak of marriage as an achievement.
  8. Teach her to reject likeability.
  9. Give Chizalum a sense of identity.
  10. Be deliberate about how you engage with her and her appearance.
  11. Teach her to question our culture’s selective use of biology as ‘reasons’ for social norms.
  12. Talk to her about sex and start early.
  13. Romance will happen so be on board.
  14. In teaching her about oppression, be careful not to turn the oppressed into saints.
  15. Teach her about difference.

This is one of the books I chose to read for Buzzwordathon 5.0, and you can read more about why I choose Dear Ijeawele there! I originally intended to make this a summary of the fifteen suggestions, but I decided not to do that about halfway through. It’s why I didn’t finish the book in one day; I was trying to discuss it as I listened.

Needless to say, I scrapped everything I had written. I did that because I realized it wasn’t necessary. This is a very short book with pages the size of my palm. Some of these suggestions are a page or less long. None of this is a bad thing. In fact, I think it is perhaps the biggest reason for everyone to read it!

I really enjoyed this book. It is a collection of suggestions that Adichie is giving her friend or cousin (I don’t remember which) on how to raise her daughter to be a feminist. Some of it may seem obvious, but Adichie frames each point in a very persuasive and easy to understand way.

You don’t need to be Nigerian to read this. You don’t need to be a mother or even a parent. These suggestions convey why everyone should be a feminist. It reminds us why we do this, and it offered me a clear guide to strive toward. I highly recommend it to everyone.

I will be buying it as Christmas gifts for several people in my family. I can see them scoffing at first, but I think it is short enough and open enough that hey might actually pick it up and learn something. Reading the list above isn’t enough. The context she provides is worth studying. I’ve already reread half of the book and intend to continue it to completion. Needless to say, it gets a solid 5/5 stars.

Gather Together in My Name, by Maya Angelou ★★★★☆

Introduction ~9/13/19

A few years ago I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first of Dr, Maya Angelou’s Autobiography series. I did it during a year where I read only woman authors. I was familiar with Dr. Angelou; how could I not be. She is a legend after all. Unfortunately for me, I had avoided the Caged Bird because I am not usually too into autobiographies. Except, Dr. Maya Dr. Angelou presents her life in a fictional retelling that is both beautiful and gripping. It ended up being one of my favorite books of the year, if not of all time. Dr. Angelou writes in a way that is poetic and characters that are real. As an autobiography, realness may be expected, but the real surprise comes from the honest and openness with which she presents her life. It is hard not to fall in love with it. I wish I was more fluent in writing styles to say exactly what it is about her writing that makes it so unique, but it is unlike anyone else I’ve read.

I have always wanted to continue this series, but for so long all I’ve ever read (for pleasure) is via audiobooks. I tried so hard to find these on audio–audible, CD, and even tape. Unfortunately, the 6th entry in the series is the only other book on audio, and that’s abridged. Therefore, I am doing the unprecedented and actually reading the physical book. I do not want to be deprived of this series just because it isn’t on audio. I am nearly 30; I have plenty of time to read these if I set my mind to it. It may take me 40 minutes to read 10 pages of a mass market paperback. These are short books. What’s more, I hope this will improve my reading speeds (though I read a good bit in middle and high school and yet I am still slow).

I will finish this book. I am forcing myself to read at least one chapter a day/night. These are at times a page or two long, so it really is the bare minimum. However, it is rare that I don’t read multiple chapter, and even when I don’t, it is only my own poor time management skills that prevent me. Every time I start this book, I am amazed at how quickly she can pull me in, even in only a page or two. That is the power of Dr. Maya Dr. Angelou’s writing. Lastly, I hope to use this to prove to myself I can read physical books. There are plenty of other great stories I don’t read because of their not being on audio.

Update 9/18/19

I am writing this the same day as my introduction because I didn’t want to write about this if I wasn’t going to get invested first. I am about 35 pages in, maybe 20%, and it is amazing. I am happy that I finally re-immersed myself into Dr. Angelou’s works in part because it is so great, but also because it reassures me that my initial praise of the Caged Bird was justified. I mentioned before the realism, and that is all to present. Dr. Angelou walks us through her transition to adulthood, warts and all. This as much a story about survival as it is about learning. I suppose the question then becomes how can I learn from Dr. Angelou’s life. I may be a decade older, but I still have so much to learn.

Update 9/23/19

I am more than half way now through the novel (57%). I am loving this book. I actually read well over my personal requirement over the weekend as I relaxed at a nice cottage in northern Ontario. Dr. Maya Angelou is just a gem. Her writing still stands out as unlike anyone else I’ve read. There are moments I am infuriated and others I just laugh out load at the absurdity. What’s more, I am learning so much more about Dr. Angelou. There is something about her persona that made her almost godlike or angelic (angel is in her name), but she takes us to even the darkest parts of her younger years. She was a good women who did what she could to survive and take care of her son, but she also had prejudices and did some questionable things. Of course, Dr. Angelou never explicitly says she regrets these things. For all intents and purposes this isn’t her writing it, this is like any other novel with the protagonist giving their thoughts, as they see it. It provides a level of realness that is gripping but also inspiring. It is nice to see people we look up to are human; they too have made mistakes. The road to their success isn’t what we may think.

Finished 11/12/19

Up to this point, I have discussed everything I love about Maya Angelou and her autobiographies. The back of my copy says “Maya Angelou writes like an angel who has paid her dues in hell,” and I think this perfectly conveys the tone of the novel. Her writings are beautiful and moving. As I have said before, it is comforting to know that Angelou hasn’t lived a perfect life. She is someone who a lot of people look up to, myself included, and she shows how life is a process of mistakes and learning. All we can ever do is our best, admitting our mistakes along the way.

I am very happy I read this novel for all the reasons I’ve mentioned, but I do wish it was a more complete story. This is a collection of moments in Angelou’s life in young adulthood. Therefore, I wouldn’t expect it to be a complete history, but the structure is a bit disconcerting at times, jumping from one moment to the next sometimes without much connection. This is particularly abrupt near the end where it feels she is building to a big life lesson to conclude with. Then she concludes that bit of her life, and continues into another small bit of her life before she concludes the story.

It all just felt so abrupt. I wish the it was a more cohesive story overall; perhaps what we have would have worked better in the form of short stories. Nevertheless, the novel is still great at what it does: presenting us with a period of her life as a young mother. 4.25/5 stars

My favorite Quotes

The more I read, the more I find lines I find myself wanting to make note of for whatever reason, and I thought this would be the perfect place to talk about or at least list them.

I hated their stupidity, but more than that I hated being underestimated. If they only knew, they could strip buck naked and do the Sassy Sue wiggle and I would continue to sit, with my legs crossed, sipping the Dubonnet.

Page 41, 3rd paragraph, Mass Paperback Edition

Dr. Angelou has recently met a lesbian couple who invited her over to their place. While there, she quickly came to regret the visit, and made it clear she was not any way gay. Nevertheless, the couple began to kiss intimately to get a rise out of her, igniting this hilarious response.

He melted into the darker darkness. The following year I heard that he had blown his brains out with a shotgun on the day of his father’s funeral.

Page 71, final paragraph chapter 16., Mass Paperback Edition

Dr. Angelou meets with an old acquaintance who goes on an on about wanting to leave home but having to take care of his father, never letting Dr. Angelou talk. When she finally bids him farewell, things turned quickly turned morbid in a way that just caught me off Dr. guard because of how matter of fact it was.

But I too had some training–that is, “Never let white folks know what you really think. If you’re sad, laugh. If you’re bleeding inside, dance.”

Page 86, 3rd paragraph, Mass Paperback Edition

This may be the most profound quote I read. It speaks to what is like to be black, let alone a black woman, during this time. Everything will be used against you, and you have no choice but to be cautious. This has an uncanny similarity to Dr. Angelous poem, When I Think About My Self. This is probably my favorite poem, not just of hers (of which I’ve read only a few). Please, watch the clip below as she performs it.

She talks about an older women who has to let her employer talk down to her because it’s what she has to do to to get buy. Beyond on that, its about the sacrifices one has to make and the indignities you may have to endure in life and how strong a person that makes you. Now, I say that, but let me be clear, I am probably missing or misrepresenting parts of it. You can probably see similarities to the quote I’ve mentioned here. The quote even adds a level of weight to this poem too. I always saw it as Dr. Angelou writing about women who have to endure this, never realizing she was one of those women. Of course, it makes the tears all the more understandable.

Things had arranged themselves in my favor at last.

Page 87, 6th paragraph, Mass Paperback Edition

I hesitated to include this quote because it is seemingly small and unimportant. Sure, it speaks to a life of hardship which is all too accurate. What surprised me when I read it was that I couldn’t help but do a double take. Dr. Angelou has a way of getting things done and working with what she is given that almost gives the illusion of success. I mean, don’t get me wrong, everything she does seems to become a success, but not because it’s what she wanted. Rather, she makes the most of what she is given in a way that is inspiring and admirable.

He’s a man. He’s got a job and his health and strength. Some people have to make it through life with less.

Page 89, 1st paragraph, Mass Paperback Edition

I may be giving this more weight than was intended, but I felt like there was a lot to unpack here. Dr. Angelou’s grandmother (who raised her) is talking to her about Dr. Angelou’s brother, who Dr. Angelou feels needs to strive for more than just being a waiter. Overall, it seems to speak to the contentment some people have in life, contentment that Dr. Angelou just doesn’t have. It is hard to figure out if Mother (the name given to her grandmother) is speaking regretfully or a matter of fact, but it definitely feels like she’s targeting men in particular in a way that amused me.

People always said Uncle Sam would spend a thousand dollars to get you if you stole a three-cent stamp from him. He was more revengeful than God.

Page 92, 1st paragraph, Mass Paperback Edition

There isn’t much to unpack here. I thought this was cute and funny. Except, it’s also very poignant even today. With recent reporting by Propublica about the IRS targeting the poor more often then the rich seemingly because they’re easier to take down. The government is flawed in many ways with backward approaches to resolving issues.

Hell, I wouldn’t have recognized Stalin if he’d been in my class when I was fourteen. Literally, all white folks still looked alike to me: pale and similar.

Page 94, 1st paragraph, Mass Paperback Edition

This is equally amusing as it is concerning. Here she is discussing her attempt to apply to the army. She was so sure she would get in, but she was worried they may find out that she has a son. Come to find out, the only thing they cared about was her being apart of socialist group. They accused her of being a traitor of her country.

The only way I could be in the business was to give due service for the money paid. I decided privately that I would make each trick (each man) happy and forget the unbearable loneliness that sent him out in the rain searching for love.

Page 139, 1st paragraph, Mass Paperback Edition

This was her right as she naively entered into the prostitution business. She was driven by a manipulative older man who convinced her this was so they could be together, and she in turn convinced herself that what she was doing was honorable and for the good of the man. I thought this was an interesting way of describing it because I think she was trying to convey her own nativity during this time in her life.

The Ancestors, by Brandon Massey, Tananarive Due, and L.A. Banks ★★★☆☆ (Spookathon)

Introduction – 10/13/19

I’m looking forward to this one. Their aren’t a lot of reviews, and what I have read about Banks is not great. That said, I loved Good House by Due, so I am looking forward to her story. It’s very short (9hrs, or <6hrs on fast forward), so I am sure I will finish it even if it is a bad.

Picture courtesy of my Mother.

Table of Contents

  1. Ev’ry Shut Eye Ain’t Sleep by L.A. Banks. ★★★☆☆
  2. The Patriarch by Brandon Massey ★★★☆☆
  3. Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due ★★★★

A discussion on diversity in books is included at the end.

1. Ev’ry Shut Eye Ain’t Sleep by L.A. Banks ★★★☆☆

Banks died of Cancer in 2011. She was a writer of a range of genres beyond dark fantasy and horror. Many of her works are YA or urban fantasy which isn’t my usual preference. I hope I enjoy this story. Even if I don’t, I suspect it is more to do with my own preferences, and I’m glad of the opportunity to experience her work.

This story wasn’t as bad as many reviewers made it out to be. In fact, I thought it was interesting and well written. The urban fantasy side of Banks was recognizable, but overall I thought it was a more on the paranormal side. I think my biggest issue with this story is the take away, the main moral of it all. The concept of our ancestors paving the way for us and even being integral to our own continued success and well being is a endearing thought. In many ways, we should respect what our family has done to help us achieve a better life. This basic concept makes its a good fit for this collection.

The issue stems from the Christianity centered themes that define this story. It is very much a Christian story. It was so extreme, it reminded me of reading the Left Behind books when I was still a christian. Christianity isn’t inherently a turn off. I enjoy Maya Angelou’s works even though her life is built around Christianity. The issue is with the concepts this book pushes. It is about the stories idea of morality and ethics. Essentially, every religion offers a form of goodness that our narrator sees in the form of light. It didn’t have to be just Churches, other religious individuals shared this trait. This may seem like an honorable note, but really it has a horrid implication.

It is as if without religion, there is no goodness to be had in a person. A person must focus all their attention on some god or institution if they have any hope to evade the darkness that seeks them. This story is fiction, and I admire it for how it is told. Nevertheless, the ideas within it are not new, nor are they fictional. Plenty of people believe this. It isn’t just ostracizing to a-religous person; it’s fundamentally insulting to what it means to be human.

The story has other issue. It tries to assign evil to taboo words or curses. Basically, they try and assign arbitrary harm to things religious people don’t like to try and turn a fundamentally amoral issue good and evil. I don’t know if Banks was just translating an important piece of African american history or if she was modern day C.S. Lewis. She wrote urban fantasy on vampires which makes me think it’s just this story, but who knows. This is a good work of fiction in my opinion. It’s where fiction overlaps with society that I have a problem with it. 3.5/5 stars, rounding down.

2. The Patriarch by Brandon Massey ★★★☆☆

Massey is a horror thriller writer who lives near Atlanta, Georgia. Wikipedia says his work often involves contemporary African-American life with elements of horror and the supernatural. This sounds more interesting to me than the first story.

This story is only an hour (sped up), and I’m half way through it. It’s okay. I actually enjoyed Bank’s writing more. It may be because hers was more fantasy or paranormal even from the start, but I think her style was more appealing to me too. I’ll save my overall thoughts post completion.

I didn’t hate this, but I don’t think I am a fan of Massey’s writing. It feels kind of amateur. I’m not sure if I’m knowledgeable enough to make that judgement, but it’s the impression I get nonetheless. The story was okay. It reminded me a lot of Fledgling by Octavia Butler. It was published a year after it, so I don’t know how much influence it might have had in it. Although, part of me wondered if they were set in the same world. General plot points may be spoiled moving forward in this paragraph. It’s the same concept: vampires feed on humans, but they are also a separate species. With the help of Vampires, humans can live longer like in Fledgling. There are vampires who don’t like humans just like the other. There is one subtle difference in how humans are tied to vampires in this story versus that.

Overall, I appreciated the similarity. It wasn’t enough to save the story. It was fine. I liked it, but if I had to choose again, I’d go for something better. 3/5 stars.

3. Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due ★★★★☆

Due is the only author I’ve read, and most reviews suggests this story is the best among them. She is an author and lecturer of black horror and afrofuturism. I really enjoyed the Good House and look forward to this one.

I don’t have a lot to say about this story which is odd because it’s also my favorite. The story was good. I enjoyed it. I wish the other stories were as well written as this one. Due is great at creating an dark tone and atmosphere coupled with characters that feel real. I enjoyed the family dynamic of this story; I felt it gave this story more layers of ancestor allegories than the other two which were much more heavy handed. The ancestors in this story aren’t even strictly the family that are the center of the story. That said, the bond this family has is still its own form type of ancestry.

My biggest problem with this story was that the plot didn’t resonate with me as much as I liked. It was well written and immersive. It was even interesting; I suppose I just came in expecting it to pack a bigger punch emotionally. 4/5 Stars.

Concluding thoughts

I didn’t this book. In fact, my expectations were circumvented in each case. I think the biggest surprise was the Banks’ story and my enjoyment of her writing. Then there was Massey who I thought I would like more. Then it ends on a good note, if not a great one with a story that is at least well crafted in prose and characters if not as much in plot. I will definitely be giving Due more of my time. As far as Banks, I will give her books another look over, but I still am not sure if they’re my cup of tea. The average rating was 3.5/5 stars (rounding down).

Commentary on diversity

I saw a great Booktube video by one vlogger Francina Simone discussing what diversity means in books and how we should approach it. She talks about people fixating on a book as being unique because its diverse. It ignores the story, what a vlog should really be about, and makes it about the boxes it checks. I found it informative. It is definitely something I want to think about when choosing and discussing books.

I chose this book because I wanted to find more black writers of horror. I like to think I am focusing on the stories. I want to find good books that I like. I may choose a book because it is a black author, but it isn’t for the sake of saying I did. What I hope to find are authors that I otherwise haven’t (and perhaps wouldn’t) heard of despite their being worthy of praise. I think Due is a perfect example of that. While I am unlikely to read any other books by Banks, I think her story is the perfect example of me having lower expectations for whatever reason and finding those to be wrong, at least in part.