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. 

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.

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.

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi ★★★★★ (Spookathon)

Introduction – 10/13/19

I am so excited to be reading this via a physical copy for this years #spookathon as a book a don’t normally read. This book does that twice over. One: a new fantasy/horror writer that is a woman of color and two: not listening to the book. I’ll post updates as I go along! The “plan” is to read it on Monday, but I am prepared to spread it out over the week.

Update – 10/14/19
Sunday night (monday morning)

I kicked spookathon off about 3 hours late, but I was determined to get going before I went to sleep. I got all of 5 pages or so before just had to go to sleep. It certainly didn’t help that the start of this book was weird and hard to follow.

My late night led to a late morning along with a few things that came up. I finally got going around lunchtime. It was a little rough going at first, but I ended up getting a steady 4 hours of reading in. I definitely enjoyed it, but I struggled. The format of this is a bit abstract, and I really wish it did a better job setting it up so we know what we’re getting into. I only got ~75 (1/3) pages in before I took a short break.

Monday evening

I got nearly half way Monday night before I had to call it. I was at a point where I finally started to understand what was going on enough to really enjoy everything it has to offer. The story starts off with a very weird beginning. Miranda is missing. This is the opening line. What follows is a strange assortment of writings that begin to introduce you to the story, but they are so obscure that it is hard to follow what the hell is going on. Luckily, this section is very short. The problem is, my confusion leaked on into part one where things were moderately more sensible.

The story is told, for the most part, from specific perspectives. I now appreciate the subtly of these perspectives and how the story transitions from one to the other. It may just be me, but this is very disconcerting for a very long time. Without revealing any hard details, what I would say to any perspective readers is to take great care to identify “who” is our narrator. I found this particularly hard because of how characters referred to members of their family. Dad was called dad yet mother is referred to by her name. This left me very confused and unsure who exactly was narrating. Therefore, try and figure out the relationship of our characters as soon as possible. Make a point to clearly distinguish them in your mind. I think this will make it far easier to understand; specifically look for a change in narrator after each break.

Speaking of breaks, sometimes sentences are ended with the same word that starts the next paragraph. Rather than state it twice, it’s printed once in between the two paragraphs (See the Instagram post below). This is pretty easy to catch onto, but I know I was confused over at least one break and just kept going without fixating too much on the incongruity.

Tuesday night
Update 10/15/19

I’m writing these first few entries at the same time, taking care to reveal things as they revealed themselves to me. I am officially in the full swing of things, capable of jumping in and out of the story with ease. I began reading with the intent to finish part 1 (~40 pages), but once I did, I was too hooked to stop. I’m now ~15 pages into part 2 and I had to stop to talk about how much I am loving this book.

Specifically, I finally understand what the opening of the story was saying. I don’t know everything, but finally, over half way through, I finally can look back and understand what the hell is going on. Making that connection was immensely satisfying. I am a little slower than the average reader and others may connect the dots sooner; if not, give it time. It is worth it. I have another 20 pages I want to read tonight (finishing this chapter and leaving ~1/3 left). I only stopped to gush about how great it is once it all comes together. It is weird and dark, and I am here for it.

The story itself is about Miranda and her place in her family. I still have a good bit to learn, but so far we see an interesting generational connection of strange women. To understand why Miranda is missing, we have to understand her. To do that, we have to understand her family. It’s a series of strange events full of well meaning characters suffering from serious mental issues for whatever reason. I suspect these mental issue must connect somehow to whatever secret this family of women hold.

It’s Wednesday night, and I finally finished White is for Witching.

Finished 10/16/19

In the end, I think I loved this book. I’ve read a lot of weird stories, whether it’s a short story, a novella, or full novel. Every time, I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s left me wanting wishing the intriguing mystery was more clearly addressed by the end of the book. I think I’ve finally found a book that does that. The more I think about it, the more I wonder. There is still plenty left up to the imagination. I think that makes things especially curious. Overall, this walks the line between curious and confusing, and it certainly crosses it times. In the end, I think it comes together nicely.

There is a connection between our character Miranda, her family, and their house. We never get to see things from Miranda’s perspective, and it becomes a journey of understanding what’s going on in her head. I liked the multiple perspectives because they each offered a different take. It reminded me of Anne Rice’s first two Vampire Chronicles books that center on Lestat and Louis, each from from the other’s perspective. It completely redefined Lestat’s character getting inside his head. While I am desperate to get inside Miranda’s mind, I do feel as if we get close to it.

The magical realism of this novel is like the manifestation of her own mental illness. It is chaotic, disturbing, and nearly impossible to escape. One of the reviewers quoted on the cover of the book relates Oyeyemi to Shirley Jackson. They are distinctly different, but I certainly see the similarities as it pertains to mental health. While it is unsettling, it is still a gripping tale.

What begun almost as a chore, ended with me desperate to make it to the end, not for the sake of being done, but to consume everything this book has to offer. This is probably the first physical book I’ve read in years, and I’ve missed the feeling of anticipation as I go from one page to the next. I kept checking my watch, wondering how much longer before I lose the high of my current cup of coffee. Can I afford another one so late? Part of me didn’t care if it meant I get to finish this book, and that, I think, best sums up, my feelings of this book.

I’m stuck rating this between a 4.5 to 5 stars. Should the slug of the beginning outweigh my feelings in the end? Was this slug a necessary component to ensure such a strong reaction in the end. Personally, I don’t think so. I think you can go into this book, unspoiled but with the slightest bit of advice to help ground you. However, as much as I can appreciate the unique style, I don’t entirely understand why it’s necessary to confuse your reader, right down to grammar at the end or start of a paragraph. 4.5/5 stars, rounding up.