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review 2017-12-11 14:16
Review: Let Us Dream by Alyssa Cole
Let Us Dream - Alyssa Cole

This is a novella that was originally published in the anthology Daughters of a Nation.


I read this for square 7 (International Human Rights Day) as it takes place in Harlem (in 1917) as the state of New York prepares to vote in the November elections, especially the amendment to the state constitution giving women the right to vote. Bertha is a business woman running her own restaurant/night club/whorehouse and is working hard to help the suffragettes get the vote. She also has to fight off some men who were former clients when she was selling sex now that she is widowed. Her dead hubby wasn't a great guy and there is no lingering grief going on....seems Bertha saw it as much of a business decision as anything else in her life. Bertha wants the right to vote so that she can help her fellow women business owners and her girls, pretty much every woman who are often overlooked or mistreated. She also has to contend with the vice squads that are bringing down the hammer on clubs like hers due to selling sex and race mixing. I liked Bertha as a boss lady and teacher (she taught civic classes to her girls and other people when the club was closed so that those that can (or will soon be allowed to) vote can do so with a foundation of knowledge.


Amir left the British navy as a cook hoping for a more stable and socially upward mobile life in America. Unfortunately he has only met with brick walls and is just trying to survive. He is unsure if he wants to return to Bengal and live as a farmer under British rule or keep surviving in America. He has no papers, so staying out of law enforcement's grasp is a daily reminder he is Other. Bertha needs another cook to help/sub for her club's cook who is mightily pregnant. Amir has political/community organizing, along the lines of labor unions, but Bertha's lessons open him up to refining his political beliefs. I really liked Amir and his friends/roommates, especially Syed. I also like how Amir is identified as a Muslim, first in the dialog between him and Bertha and then later on while he was praying for her safe return from jail.


The characters were great, the setting and issues of the day were well written, but the romance sucked. I did believe they had sexual chemistry, but not an emotional connection. Bertha acted like a cold bitch to Amir several times and every time he apologized but she never admitted she was out of line. Maybe if the story was longer, there would be more time for Bertha to open up to Amir the way he did with her.

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review 2016-07-15 17:39
Review: Talk Sweetly to Me (Brothers Sinister #4.5) by Courtney Milan
Talk Sweetly to Me - Courtney Milan

The book starts without a cute meet, so I felt a little like I was dropped into a show where the story was already in progress. Rose and Stephen were neighbors/kind of friends when the book opens. I liked Rose, but she needed a longer book to be fully fleshed out character and to create a more believable change in her mind about falling for Stephen. Stephen first made his appearance in the previous book, so I was familiar with him. Rose is a math genius, Stephen is an expert in math puns. I really liked that this was another science-based plot, although it did have a feel of repeating Violet's and Sebastian's story from earlier in the series.


One thing about the story line that kept me from connecting to the romance was that Rose threw around her race and gender as the reasons why her life was much harder in Victorian England than Stephen's and why she had to be extra careful about the choices she made concerning marriage, children, work, and performing in society. I don't doubt that 1880s England was hard to live in when you are from a minority group, especially as a woman. Stephen realized how her race (especially) influenced every social interaction she has when he witnessed the doctor being racist to her and her sister. No mention of how Rose saw how hard living in Victorian England was for Stephen, an Irish Catholic - not exactly a welcoming environment. The Irish (especially the Irish Catholic) were not considered "white folk" until the 20th century; during the time of the story, they were very much "other". I felt that if Rose had a chance to see how life is as an Irish Catholic, like Stephen saw how living was for Rose as a black woman, there relationship would have had a deeper understanding to it.


3.5 stars.



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review 2016-06-12 21:48
Review: Let It Shine by Alyssa Cole
Let It Shine - Alyssa B. Cole

This novella can be purchased both as a separate book and part of the multi-author anthology Juneteenth. I read this in honor of Loving Day.


Sofie Wallis was raised to be a good, docile daughter and future wife by her father after her mother died. When the story opens, Sofie is already battling the demands of her father and church against the stirrings in her heart for the resistance movement (part of the collective Civil Rights Movement). She is angry, but it is a purposeful anger. I really liked her, partly because her impulsiveness is not rooted in some stupid concept of what independent woman do/are, but rooted in her to do more than just sit and read about others' experiences in the movement. I think Cole for the most part really captured a realistic religious character in a secular story - Sofie uses her understanding of Christianity (I am assuming non-denominational variety as the church was not given a particular sect) to motivate her work with the resistance movement.


Ivan is her childhood friend that she hadn't seen since the day her mother died. He went from being a scrawny 12 year old to a handsome boxer. Oh and he is Jewish, but not a regular practitioner - although he has commendable use of Yiddish. Nope, the gym is his temple. I thought that it was a bit of a cop-out that Sofie was seen as active member in her faith, but Ivan wasn't. It seemed an easy but cheap way for a Christian/Jew relationship to be accepted if one of the characters didn't have a strong bond to his/her faith.


The only quibble I had was that Sofie went from having screaming great sex (in the boxing ring) with Ivan to walking into church for service without cleaning herself up or dousing herself in Chanel No 5. Uhm....people can smell the funky after sex scent dear authors. Especially considering Ivan worked his magic so well that her panties were soaked...and she didn't have a spare set to change into.


I read the stand alone novella version, which also came with a short story that was more like the final chapter. The story takes place in 1961 (the summer of the Freedom Riders), the epilogue takes place in 1964 (the year of the Civil Rights legislation but still marriage of interracial couples was illegal), and the short story takes place in 1973, where we find that Ivan and Sofie took their experiences and knowledge about activism and applied them to other movements going on at the time (for Ivan, the anti-war movement; for Sofie, the women's rights movement). The short story felt more like Ivan's story than Sofie and Ivan's story. But I thought it was realistic as they had been together more than a decade and had been through a lot of shit, both relationship wise and the political/social/economic upheaval the country went through.


I really like Cole's writing - her humor is spot on and her novellas take place over weeks and months rather than a mere 48 hours. Her research seeps through the story without feeling like a history lecture for the reader. 4 stars. Summer Bingo square "Romance" filled.

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