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review 2018-04-11 18:46
Girl Harry Potter in Nigeria
Akata Witch - Nnedi Okorafor

Sunny is an outcast. Albino, returned from living overseas, ahead of her older classmates academically, and forced to live with the limitations of staying out of the sun, she has many challenges holding her down. When new friends introduce her to the magical world she was born to power in, she discovers that her flaws fuel her greatest strengths and she is absolutely necessary.

 

I loved this. The writing style is clear, direct, and seamless. The world-building is flawless and fascinating - I don't have any particular familiarity with Nigeria, but was able to understand everything I needed to just through context. The plot is unusual in that it doesn't seem to build in a steady arc toward the dramatic finale, but rather spends much of its runtime in letting its characters explore the limits of their newly expanded, magical world, and yet at no point was I bored or distracted.

 

I loved the way it treated the teen protagonists with respect; they were challenged to high standards, punished for failures and disobedience, and allowed to take risks for a worthy cause. There are good and not-so-good parental figures. The magic system was fascinating, believable (as far as these things go) and richly detailed. Loved the way knowledge was literally wealth, and the nuance it gave to abuses of power, morality/ethics, and navigating an uncertain, adult world -- there was a lot of scope to explore big ideas without putting them in boxes. Can't wait to read the sequel, and I'm ordering all her backlist to marathon as well.

 

The only trouble with books like this is that whatever I read next seems dull in comparison!

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review 2018-04-11 05:24
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
TransAtlantic - Colum McCann

Newfoundland, 1919. Two aviators—Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown—set course for Ireland as they attempt the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, placing their trust in a modified bomber to heal the wounds of the Great War. Dublin, 1845 and ’46. On an international lecture tour in support of his subversive autobiography, Frederick Douglass finds the Irish people sympathetic to the abolitionist cause—despite the fact that, as famine ravages the countryside, the poor suffer from hardships that are astonishing even to an American slave. New York, 1998. Leaving behind a young wife and newborn child, Senator George Mitchell departs for Belfast, where it has fallen to him, the son of an Irish-American father and a Lebanese mother, to shepherd Northern Ireland’s notoriously bitter and volatile peace talks to an uncertain conclusion. These three iconic crossings are connected by a series of remarkable women whose personal stories are caught up in the swells of history. Beginning with Irish housemaid Lily Duggan, who crosses paths with Frederick Douglass, the novel follows her daughter and granddaughter, Emily and Lottie, and culminates in the present-day story of Hannah Carson, in whom all the hopes and failures of previous generations live on. From the loughs of Ireland to the flatlands of Missouri and the windswept coast of Newfoundland, their journeys mirror the progress and shape of history. They each learn that even the most unassuming moments of grace have a way of rippling through time, space, and memory.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

This novel open in 2012 but before the final page ends up spanning two continents and three centuries. Though considered a complete novel, TransAtlantic ends up having more the feel of interconnected short stories, the first being of two former WW1 pilots, Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown, in Newfoundland in 1919, who are attempting the first nonstop transatlantic flight after modifying an old bomber plane.

 

Days of welding, soldering, sanding, stitching. The bomb bays were replaced by extra petrol tanks. That's what pleased Brown the most. They were using the bomber in a brand-new way: taking the war out of the plane, stripping the whole thing of its penchant for carnage. 

 

 

Their destination: Ireland. The project is riddled with setbacks. Just the attempt to fly from London -- when they're SO close to the finish line! --  to Clifden, Ireland causes the plane to basically crumble apart at times, nearly killing them more than once! 

 

From there, the story stays in Ireland but jumps back to the year 1845. Former slave / abolitionist Frederick Douglass is visiting Dublin while on a European tour to promote his memoirs (and thereby his abolitionist message). It is during this time that author Colum McCann paints a picture of what the era of the potato famine might have looked like to someone who had likewise known extreme hardships such as Douglass. 

 

Douglass writes to wife Anna about his impressions of Ireland and its people, initially noting that he finds himself quite at ease, as the people are incredibly friendly and respectful, not an n-word hurled at him once. That, the reader will find, is short-lived. Douglass starts doing joint speaking engagements with "The Great Liberator" Daniel O'Connell. People start calling Douglass "the black O'Connell". As the tour continues, Douglass starts to notice his own publisher (international, that is), Webb, treats him more and more like a specimen or a roadshow attraction. Webb becomes noticeably more stingy with covering Douglass' travel expenses. That slur usage Douglass thought was absent in Ireland ends up rearing its head in Cork as Douglass is simply walking down a street one day. It is during this time that author McCann also works in the storyline of Douglass making plans on how to officially negotiate his freedom while in England. 

 

Douglass (at least McCann's portrayal of him) does describe a moment of PTSD while being fitted for a suit while overseas, a moment in the experience throwing him back to his days as a slave. 

 

The reader is also given a more modern story, comparatively, involving Irish-American senator George Mitchell, based in NYC, who heads to Belfast in 1998 to try to help promote peace talks in Northern Ireland. (Colum McCann himself, per his author blurb, was born in Dublin but now lives in NYC). When it came to this portion of the book, the bits about the senator being so in love with his wife were very sweet but overall I found myself a bit bored by his storyline.

 

Have I mentioned how much this book jumps back and forth between all these different eras? Yeah, if you like your fiction strictly chronological, TransAtlantic might prove to be a challenge for you. Comfortable in that 1990s setting? Too bad! McCann will slingshot you over to Civil War era and back again. A heads up regarding that, if you are a sensitive reader: much of this book is pretty tame (low violence factor), but the Civil War portions do contain some crude, graphic descriptions that may possibly turn your stomach. 

 

Part of what kept me reading was trying to figure out how all these characters were connected ... I assumed there must be at least some link, even a thin one... it wasn't always immediately evident what those connections were. But in the case of Douglass's story, there was a character there that comes back around years later and links stuff up for the reader in Part 2. This character's story, with her connection to Douglass... in a way it saddened me, but there was something there that leaves a feeling of optimism for the future. 

 

In general, the plots going on within the various storylines were mildly interesting, but nothing really deeply hooked me as a reader. Also, the jumping around seemed to lack finesse, instead giving me a bit of a headache trying to keep up and make sense of all the details being tossed about. 

 

_____

 

EXTRAS

 

* In his acknowledgements section, Colum McCann gives a shout-out to Irish actor Gabriel Byrne as part of the "TransAtlantic Crew"... makes me wonder if a movie adaptation was ever in the works? I can't find evidence of this anywhere online... later on he also gives nods to fellow writers Michael Ondaatje (of The English Patient fame) and Wendell Berry.

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review 2018-04-09 19:39
Deep Fried Trouble - Tyora Moody

 

Widowed, retired and with grown children living on their own, Eugeena Patterson searches for ways to make her life less mundane. For three years she headed her neighborhood watch and just recently a handsome widower, Amos Jones moves in next door and they both are interested.

On one of Eugeena's daily walks she notices her once close friend's dog running loose in the yard. Knowing that's unusual, she looks into the situation and discovers her friend dead. Still shaken from the murder so close to home, Leesa, Eugeena's daughter visits with her children, but disappears without any explanation, leaving Eugeena to take care of her grandchildren. Determined to find out who murdered her estranged friend, she also probes into the whereabouts of her daughter disappearance and why.

I enjoyed this first in the Eugeena Patterson mystery series. Eugeena's character was relatable. I connected well with her character, because I'm a mother and grandmother and will do whatever it takes to protect the ones I love. Most of the characters were represented well, but a couple of them
I wished were developed more. Whenever Eugeena and Amos were together, I felt a smile cross my face.

I was pleased with the beginning of the story. No fluff to build up to the plot, straight to the point. The story flowed smoothly without any need to read over or skip pages to find out what happened next. However, discovering the murderer needed more strength. I knew who it was right away in the story and I like to be challenged.

If you enjoy a good, warm cozy mystery or a mystery in general, I recommend Deep Fried Trouble. A story of friendship, family and a sprinkle of romance.

 

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review 2018-04-09 18:31
Starting National Poetry Month with a bang
Citizen: An American Lyric - Claudia Rankine

I'm cognizant of the fact that I don't read enough books by women of color and that I read very few works of poetry. I decided to kill two birds with one stone by reading Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric. (Also, it's National Poetry Month so it was a no-brainer.) This book is especially relevant right now with the state of our world being what it is: a shambles. Citizen is essentially Claudia's exploration of what it is to be a black woman living in America as told through poetic verse. It is beautiful, tender, terrible, tragic, and real. She doesn't shy away from such topics as police brutality or the prevalence of feeling like an outsider. This book is a personal revelation and a public admonishment all rolled into one neat package Coupled with her verses are historical quotes and pencil drawn (I think?) artwork. What better way to begin your foray into poetry than by reading a book that challenges the status quo and speaks from the heart? If you'd like to maybe see the world through a different set of eyes Citizen is your golden ticket with many stops along the way. 9/10

 

I made a note of this quote on page 89 to give you an idea of just how powerful her words are:

 

Those years of and before me and my brothers, the years of passage, plantation, migration, of Jim Crow segregation, of poverty, inner cities, profiling, of one in three, two jobs, boy, hey boy, each a felony, accumulate into the hours inside our lives where we are all caught hanging, the rope inside us, the tree inside us, its roots our limbs, a throat sliced through and where we open our mouth to speak, blossoms, o blossoms, no place coming out, brother, dear brother, that kind of blue.

 

What's Up Next: From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford

 

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-03-20 19:25
One House Over - Mary Monroe

 

 

Joyce was born late in life to her parents. Living in Alabama in the 1930's during the Jim Crow era, her parents did well for themselves as Black owners of a grocery store in their predominately black neighborhood.  They adored Joyce and did their best raising her and giving her the best. Joyce's parents showered her with praises for being intelligent and a hard worker, but berated her for not being married and unattractive.

 

 

While on one of Joyce's weekly visits to her father's store, she's introduced to Odell, who works stocking shelves.  A swindler and fast talker, Odell needed money and working as stock boy wasn't going to make him rich quick.  His ticket of out poverty is staring him in the face and the charm begins.  Life is going well for the married couple until lies, deceit and blackmail takes center stage.

 

I didn't like one character in the book.  Joyce's parents not once cared about her feelings with their underhand compliments.  Joyce's high-and-mighty attitude....hmmm...maybe that's her defense mechanism since people were always looking down at her, prevents her from noticing her tranquil life is about to be shaken.  Odell's character is straight out conniving.

 

Mary Monroe is one of my favorite authors.  Her writing is descriptive and pulls you into the characters.  Her plots are well thought and engaging.  For me One House Over fell short.  The story was rushed and unexciting.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Kensington for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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