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review 2018-01-16 22:30
Fabulous Read!!
When the Stars Come Out: A Cottonbloom N... When the Stars Come Out: A Cottonbloom Novel - Laura Trentham

When The Stars Come Out by Laura Trentham is an amazing, well-written book.  Ms. Trentham has delivered a book that will have you falling in love with these phenomenal characters.  Willa is working for the Abbott brothers at their garage, she's on the run and trying to save money to keep her car running for when she may have to leave town.  Jackson is one of the Abbott brothers.  Willa and Jackson's story will make your heart hurt and will have you cheering for all these characters.   There's plenty of drama, suspense and sizzle to keep readers glued to this book from start to finish.  I totally loved reading When The Stars Come Out and look forward to my next book by Laura Trentham.  When The Stars Come Out is book 5 of the Cottonbloom Series, but can easily be read as a standalone.  This is a complete book, not a cliff-hanger.

 

I voluntarily read an Advance Reader Copy of this book that I received from NetGalley.

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review 2018-01-15 19:36
A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo
A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa - Alexis Okeowo

This is a short nonfiction work by a Nigerian-American journalist that goes behind the headlines in four conflict areas in Africa, telling the stories of people who range from victims to local leaders. It is a very engaging book, a quick read that introduces readers to several countries and humanizes big events, although at only 236 pages for so many stories, it is very brief and therefore unable to treat its subjects with the depth I would have liked.

Eunice is a teenage girl living in rural northern Uganda when she is kidnapped by Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army while visiting her sister at boarding school. Once in the bush, she is forced to marry Bosco, a young man also kidnapped as a teenager, and both are forced to participate in acts of violence. By the time both eventually escape, they have children together, and Eunice, like many young women whose futures are circumscribed by LRA kidnapping, decides to return to Bosco. Former rebels are given amnesty to encourage defection, but the couple faces ostracism from their community and seems to be passing on their trauma to their children.

Biram is a Mauritanian activist, growing up in a socially conscious family in the last country in the world to outlaw slavery (it became illegal in 1981, but not a criminal offense until 2007), and one where the police remain uninterested in bringing wealthy slaveowners to justice. He starts an organization dedicated to eradicating slavery, rescues slaves directly and draws attention to the cause by risky acts like publicly burning the books used to justify slavery under Muslim law (though he is Muslim himself). Later he expands his focus to other racial justice issues and runs for president of Mauritania.

Abba, aka Elder, is an auditor and patriarch of a large family in northern Nigeria when Boko Haram gains traction in the area. Frustrated by the lack of government response to the attacks, he joins a local vigilante group that captures militants and hands them over to security forces, proving far more effective than the actual military. He becomes a leader in the group and moves into politics as well. Meanwhile, Rebecca is a teenage boarding school student in nearby Chibok when she is kidnapped by Boko Haram along with 300 classmates. Fortunately, she is one of the 50-odd with the courage and presence of mind to quickly escape, and gradually overcomes her trauma while returning to school in a distant city.

Finally, Aisha is a teenage girl in Mogadishu, Somalia, who refuses to let al-Shabaab terrorists intimidate her out of playing basketball. They certainly try – she receives regular death threats by phone, is nearly kidnapped and has a gun pointed at her on a bus – and another female player is brutally murdered. But Aisha is determined to live her own life, and she and her teammates find joy in the game and treasure rare opportunities to participate in tournaments, despite the lack of government support.

These are all fascinating stories, though the subtitle doesn’t quite fit anyone other than perhaps Aisha: Biram and Elder are leaders, not ordinary people, while Rebecca is a survivor but not exactly fighting extremism, and Eunice and Bosco remain victims. Each story is told in two chapters, one in the first half of the book and the other in the second, and the second half provides much of the emotional consequences and complexity that seemed to be missing from the first half. Of course the circumstances of these people’s lives, and the strength required to keep going, is extraordinary to the Western reader. This book tells very compelling stories in a quick and accessible way; for me it is too quick (each of these stories deserves its own book), but it provides a great introduction while telling human stories behind events in the headlines.

My other reservation is the fact that the book cites no sources, and the author tells us nothing about her research other than what happens to come out in the text as she relates her experiences in meeting these folks. She generally applies critical thought to the stories people tell her – for instance, she includes the accusations of brutality against Elder’s group – but sometimes seems to accept simplistic stories, as in the 9-page life story of a Mauritanian slave that seems to be a chronicle of constant abuse. Though the author seems to do her research, it’s never clear how well the stories are corroborated.

Despite that, I think this is a great premise for a book and these stories are engaging, emotional, and well-told, with enough background information included for readers unfamiliar with these countries to understand their contexts. I recommend it.

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review 2018-01-15 18:14
Gut by Giulia Enders
Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ - Giulia Enders

A book about the digestive system for laypeople. It’s written in a strong voice and is both informative and accessible, explaining current research in terms understandable to the non-scientist and including helpful tips for everyday life. Enders advises readers on everything from cleanliness (wring out kitchen sponges; bacteria love them because they’re warm and damp, but drying can keep them somewhat cleaner) to diet (cold cooked rice, potato salad, asparagus, leeks, garlic and onions are all nutritious offerings for the good bacteria in our digestive system) to combating nausea (ginger has proven effects, as does the acupuncture point P6).

But I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy reading this as much as I expected based on the reviews. Maybe because this just isn’t my favorite subject, and I read it from start to finish, pushing through sections such as the one on laxatives that didn’t particularly interest me in order to reach the more interesting material, like the influence of the gut on the brain. Maybe because I’m used to books with an overarching thesis to pull it all together, where this felt more like a series of disparate topics and a lot of (often intriguing or useful) factoids than a coherent whole. Maybe because so many topics are breezed through so quickly, often in metaphorical language that can help readers picture what’s going on, but that doesn’t provide a full understanding. Still, it’s a useful book with plenty of practical application in daily life, so although it wasn’t my favorite reading experience, I am glad I read it and would recommend.

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review 2018-01-15 17:28
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzi Lee

It is impossible to explain how you can love someone so much that it’s difficult to be around him. And with Percy sitting there, half in shadow, his hair loose and his long legs and those eyes I could have lived and died in, it feels like there’s a space inside me that is so bright it burns.

 

This book is absolutely beautiful.  And for this to be on mainstream shelves makes me very happy.  I fell in love with all of these characters, and Monty's inner voice was heartbreaking and frustrating at the same time.  A character who for the most part grows into a man over the course of this adventure, despite the demons this boy carries. The writing is simply magnificient.

 

Perhaps he can’t understand it, the way that house will always be haunted for me, even if my father were gone from it. I can’t imagine living in it for the rest of my life, throwing parties in its parlors and filling the cabinets with my papers, all the while ignoring the dark spot on the dining room floor that’s never washed away, where I tore my chin open when my father knocked me to the ground with a single well-swung fist; or the hearth that chipped my tooth when I was thrown into it. There are bodies buried beneath the flagstones of my parents’ estate, and some graves never green.

 

 

I do wish we had also gotten sweet Percy's POV or a final scene between Monty and his father. I can only hope that we will get a third book to this series and perhaps a continuation of these boys as they grow further in their love for one another and continue to grow into the men they have become, standing on their own in a world so unaccepting of their love.

 

 

Felicity's story it seems is next. I am quite excited to see her continued adventures, perhaps with the "pirates" as she also looks to stand as a woman of purpose in a time where socially her worth has been predetermined.

 

 

 

Such amazingly developed fan art to accompany this beautiful journey.

 

Highly recommended.

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text 2018-01-15 07:32
Reading progress update: I've read 135 out of 368 pages.
Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King

Wow... That was disturbing on all levels, start to finish. Full dark indeed.

 

Two bits on this novella are what I'm thinking on, but I'm too lazy to find the quotes: That we make our own hell right here; and that the dead don't stop.

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