April Wrap Up 2018

April was a successful month of reading. Why, you ask?  Duh, I read a five-star book!  The last book I finished in April was read on the 28th and it really rocked my literary fiction world.  Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau is 152 pages of pure literary genius.  It’s a must read for all of you lovers of literary fiction.  Having only read excerpts of Texaco in French, another great book by Chamoiseau, I’m anxious to buddy read it this month with Claire from Word by Word and Leslie from Folklore & Literacy.  I’m excited to extend my journey through Caribbean literature with two awesome reading buddies.

Slave Old Man explores the escape of a slave.  He escapes as if it’s something he was always planning to do.  There was no inner struggle, no people in particular left behind, and no fear.  He just decides one day that that’s the day and he walks calmly right off the plantation and is gone for quite a bit before anyone notices.

Quickly, savage nature impresses him as it does to the master and the mastiff that are searching with much difficulty for the old slave man’s trail. I suggest you pick up this well written novel filled with beautiful descriptions. You won’t want to miss this novella which was newly released on May 1st by The New Press.  As for the other books I read, I’m going to start from the four-star books and work my way down to the two-stars ones.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi was the book club pick for April.  It was a re-read for me.   Two years later and I still felt the same way about it.  It was a powerful generational story of slavery and how it affects families.  Each characters’ story was interesting however, I wish we could have learned more about the characters.  Gyasi is brilliant with writing male characters because they seemed to be more memorable than some of the female characters.  I’d say this book felt like reading a linked short story collection more than a real novel.  The characters have to share the pages since the voice changes every twenty or so pages.  I still found myself having to look back at the family tree to remember the names.  This being said it is well worth the read and sparked some passionate conversation at my book club.  We could all agree that we could see how she was trying to make the family history go round 360° to give it depth and more historical meaning.

The next four-star book I read was a poetry collection by Nicole Sealey called Ordinary Beast.  I don’t read poetry as much as I should but this collection was a real surprise.  Sealey’s poems are odes to life the real things we’re feeling and won’t necessarily want to say aloud.  Her poems are unapologetically real, from the words chosen to how they are printed on the page.  She’s telling us about race, gender, beauty, death and more.  It may not be the best collection for debuting poetry readers, being that it’s slightly experimental in its wording and structure, but for those who love poetry that touches you deeply and makes you think, Ordinary Beast is ideal.

I’ll be counting Ordinary Beast as part of my Caribbean literature challenge since Nicole Sealey was born in St. Thomas, although she was raised in Florida.  Just so you can get a taste of her poetry here’s one of my favorites:

unframed

Handle this body. Spoil

it with oils.  Let the

residue corrode, ruin it.

I have no finish, no

fragile edge.  (On what

scrap of me have we

not made desire paths,

so tried as to bury

ourselves therein?)  I

beg:  spare me gloved

hands, monuments to

nothing. I mean to die a

relief against every wall.

  Nicole Sealey, Ordinary Beast, p. 58

Black Betty is Walter Mosley’s fourth book in the Easy Rawlins series. I won’t be able to talk much about it because I don’t want to give anything away if you’re reading it too.  I rated it three stars because It wasn’t as good as Devil in a Blue Dress and White Butterfly but it was surely better than A Red Death.  Black Betty is great with setting the scene and story because it’s 1961 and Easy has some changes to his household.  Mouse and Mofass are back and of course there is a wide range of new characters.  There are a few new twists and turns to the novel but not enough happens to warrant it more stars unfortunately.  I’m still enjoying this series and can’t wait to pick up A Little Yellow Dog this month.

The next two books were both rated two stars.  Oh well everything you read can’t be wonderful.  Vernon Subutex by Virgine Despentes has been nominated on the shortlist of the Man Book International prize.  So, I decided to pick it up knowing already a bit about Despentes and what she likes to write about.  I also looked at it as a chance to try something new but also to read at least one of the books on the Man Booker International shortlist before the winner is announced.  I even read this one in French.  Now I’m curious to read a bit of the English version to see how the translator made out with all the French slang.  As for the story it wasn’t really for me.  The first 150 pages had me engaged with its critical, pessimistic view on society, the economy, and everything else having to do with adulting and living in the world.  Vernon Subutex is ignoble, lazy, and misogynous.  He used to own a record store called Revolver that went out of business.  So in the beginning of the book he is being evicted from his apartment.  He has to accept some generosity from past friends and eventually winds up having to live on the streets of Paris.  Since he was a good friend with a famous rock star called Alex Bleach and possesses a last recording from him, everyone is trying to get their hands on it.   Sounds intriguing right? However, past page 200 I checked out mentally and became bored with the  all of the off the wall characters and the incessant rants (Virginie Descents’ rants). Vernon Subtext could win the prize though.  It has all the right characteristics – being different from what’s expected, it critiques society heavily, and its divisiveness.  There are 3 other books in the Vernon Subutex series and that idea alone tires me out just thinking about it.

Lastly, I read Bad Men and Wicked Women by Eric Jerome Dickey to review for Dutton Books.  I’m always willing to try out  a new Eric Jerome Dickey novel because I have fond memories of reading his earlier works.  I didn’t love this one.  I feel like he’s abandoned the good story writing he used to do in exchange for trying to impress millennials to read his books these days.  Bad Men and Wicked Women contains a ton of bad Men  and only one true “wicked” woman.  So the title needs to be reviewed.

Ken Swift is the main character  and he is a strong-arm for a big gangster called San Bernadino.  Swift makes his money roughing up customers to get them to pay up.  At the beginning of the novel,  Swift has a meeting with his daughter who he hasn’t seen since she was a child.  This storyline is supposed to depict the more sensitive side and family life that he had in the past.  Then Swift and his partner are sent off to rough up somebody that owes money to San Bernadino and from that incident the story begins.  Problems? Yes.   Nothing really happens during the first three-quarters of the book.  The dialogue doesn’t come off naturally and all of the action takes place within the last quarter of the novel.   The action can best be described as Tarantinoesque.   I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re a die hard fan of Eric Jerome Dickey and don’t mind the lack of plot.

So, as a whole reading in April turned out to be unexceptional, except for Slave Old Man.  My month’s reading was an overall average rating of three stars.  I read 6 books which at least keeps me on track for my goal of reading 60 books by the end of the year. In fact, I’m ahead of schedule by five books.  Unfortunately, I’ve only read 1,690 pages this month.  I was hoping to read over 2,000 pages.  I’m going to have to step up on reading bigger books because I’m already behind on the Big Book Challenge by 2 books.   I pledged to read 12 books over 400+ pages this year and I’ve actually only read two.  But, I’m going to end this on a positive note. I’m keeping up with my reviewing and that’s great and I’m basically reading what I want to while not being too influenced by what others are reading.  So, how did reading go for you in the month of April?  Are you hitting your reading goals?

 

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Tar Baby Live discussion!

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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 21 Published in you 21st year

 

    

I was 21 years old in 1987 when this great American literary novel was written, Beloved.  I read it for the first time in 1988 in a black women writers class.  All I can say is unbelievably well written and unforgettable.  I should definitely reread it sooner than later.  Who knows maybe this year?  I’m anxious to see if I’ll love Beloved even more than the first time I read it.  Thank you @tonimorrison__ 👑 for continuing to write books that inform us but most of all make us reflect on the human condition.  Oh and this is the beautiful @foliosociety edition I invested in a few years ago. It’s beautiful! 😍

Beloved – Toni Morrison, hardcover, 304 pages (Folio Society)

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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 9 Want to Reread

There are so many novels that I’d like to reread but the one that comes to mind from an African-American author is Native Son.  I first read Native Son in college for a third year literary course.  I was blown away by the precision in Richard Wright’s writing style.  You will literally go through all emotions while reading this tragic and infuriating novel, which show cases Bigger Thomas one of the most intriguing main characters in an American modern classic.  Native son has to be one of the greatest American classics and should be read by all.  Have you read it?  Were you blown away by it?

Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright’s powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.” (Native Son, description from Goodreads)

Native Son – Richard Wright, paperback, 454 pages (Vintage Classics)

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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 3 – A Family Saga

I thought about quite a few novels to suggest for today but the one that stood out is Nowhere Is a Place, which I had the pleasure of reading last year.  I took the time to read through all Bernice L. McFadden’s novels last year.  It was great to see how she has developed over her writing career.  She is a wonderful writer who knows how to create and to grow a character throughout a story.  Sherry is haunted by an unexplained incident from when she was young and it leads her on a discovery of her family as an adult.  It was hard to put this book down.  I was completely engrossed and fell in love with Sherry and her straight shooting, hysterical mother, Dumpling.  This would be a great place to start reading McFadden if you’re interested.  Have you read Nowhere Is a Place? What titles of family sagas from African-American authors would you recommend?

 

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#ReadSoulLit Read Along 2018 Announcement

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Reading Baldwin…

IMG_0956I used to run my hands along the books on the wooden bookshelves that were in the hall upstairs in my home.  It contained a myriad of first edition African-American novels from Frederick Douglas to Malcolm X.  Growing up I was particularly intrigued by the title Giovanni’s Room.  I wondered what the story could be about.  I remember reading the back cover but still not being so sure.  I always heard my mother and especially my uncle persuasively explaining to me the importance of James Baldwin’s works, emphasizing  Another Country (my favorite so far)Going to Meet the Man, and Go Tell it on the Mountain.  I grew up having these titles in mind but Giovanni’s Room, for some reason, was always in the forefront, probably because it was the first book of his that I held in my hands.

Sadly it has taken me forty years to read one of Baldwin’s novels.  I read lots of African-American authors at college for my major but Baldwin surprisingly never came up.  Four years ago, I read and thoroughly enjoyed If Beale Street could Talk. The year after I read Giovanni’s Room. I’m so glad I finally got to the book that perked my interest at such a young age because of the title alone.  I followed up by reading Another Country and The Fire Next Time.  Both are incredible literary works that everybody should read before they die. I still have more to discover by Baldwin.

So I guess you’re wondering why I’m writing about my reading discovery of James Baldwin. Well I thought I’d let you all in on a reading project that one of my Booktube buddies, Denise D. Cooper ArtBooks Life (Awesome creative Booktuber go check her out!) will be doing next year.  It’s called The Blackout for Books 2018.  She’ll be reading books by African-American authors for twelve months.  The rules are the following:

  1.  Only read African-American writers
  2. Read 1 independent writer each month
  3. Read 2 African-American Women Writers each month

It’s as easy as that.  I commend her for this and I’ll be joining her for January, February, and March of 2018.  I can’t wait.  It would be great if you all could join in too for any amount of time you’d like.  So, now you know a bit more about why I started this post talking about James Baldwin.  I’ll punctually be writing posts about some of my favorite African-American writers and about those that I haven’t read yet but are looking forward to read in preparation for this reading challenge.  This will give you some ideas if you aren’t sure what you’d like to read.  If you decide to participate, don’t forget to link your comments with #the blackoutforbooks2018 everywhere.  Let me know below what you think about this reading challenge and if you’re interested in joining in. Happy reading y’all!

 

 

Confused Spice Live Show

 

Confused Spice – Mathis Bailey (paperback 262 pages)

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