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!



33. All My Friends Are Superheroes

Tom has been married six months to the Perfectionist.  The only problem is his wife can’t see him.  At their wedding, the Perfectionist’s ex-boyfriend, Hypno hypnotizes her to forget about Tom.  Therefore, he spends the majority of the novel trying to get her to see him, while reminiscing about the moments they spent together as they were falling in love.  All of Tom’s friends are superheroes, but not the kind of superheroes you’re thinking of.  Imagine having friends called the Frog-Kisser, the Stress Bunny, or the Couch Surfer.

All My Friends Are Superheroes is a quirky, fairytale, love story.  It’s a well written novella and very original in its telling.  I don’t think I’ve read anything like it.  It’s sentimental and feel good.  You ‘ll start to read and you won’t be able to put it down.  It’s only 109 pages so it can be read in less than an hour and a half.  Actually, the only thing I dislike about this book is the cover.  It’s a turn off.  If you’re the kind of person that chooses books by their covers, you would surely have passed this one up.

Andrew Kaufman is from Wingham, Ontario, Canada.  The same place the author Alice Munro is from.  If you don’t know who she is, she won the 2009 Man Booker Prize for her lifetime body of work.  She’s written The Love of a Good Woman, Open Secrets, etc.  So, that makes two famous authors from the same small town in Canada.  Kaufman is a producer, director, and a writer.  He has also written another novella entitled The Tiny Wife which was published in 2010 and a novel, The Waterproof Bible, which was published in 2009.  I’ll definitely be checking out these two works because I was happily surprised with his approach to telling a love story.  I gave this novella four stars on Goodreads!  Check it out!  Happy reading……

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.

                                                            ____ Gustave FLAUBERT

25. Fifty Shades of Grey

I got so sick of hearing about this book that I had to read it to see what all the hype was about.  It’s everywhere – You Tube, television shows, book reviews, etc  I’m living in France and Fifty Shades of Grey hasn’t come out here yet, but I’m sure when it does it will probably make just as much hoopla.  As always books that contain sex in small or large doses no matter what kind, in this case BDSM, always seems to make it to popularity.  Of course popularity leads to the New York Times bestseller list – combined print & e-book fiction and the paperback trade fiction and probably some others too.  Fifty Shades of Grey is number 1 and has been for 20 weeks, Fifty Shades Darker is number 2 and has been for 20 weeks, and Fifty Shades Freed is number 3 and has been for 19 weeks.

The book is said to be a love story and begins with Anastasia Steele taking her roommate’s place to interview mysterious, billionaire entrepreneur Christian Grey for her college newspaper.  There is an immediate attraction between the two, an explosive “lust” at first sight.  Christian is extremely attractive, arrogant, controlling, and has a dark side.  He’s a dominant.  Anastasia however is 21 years old, naive, shy, and a virgin.  Together they explore and experience each other through Christian’s love of BDSM and the romance begins…

Now I’m not sure this book is for everyone and of course I’m talking about those of you over the age of 18.  There were things that annoyed me.  Firstly the writing wasn’t brilliant but I actually suspected that.  I don’t think I’ve ever read an erotic novel that was well written (not that I’ve read a lot of them). Suggest some below if you know any.  Another thing that bothered me were the constant repetition of the following words and phrases:  my inner goddess, eyeball rolling which everybody seemed to be doing in the book, Anastasia’s mother included and she was a minor character, he’s hot, he looks like a god, he’s so perfect, pants hanging off his hips, running fingers through his hair, biting her lip, I blushed/I blush/she blushes.  I had enough of those phrases because they were constantly repeated.  When Anastasia compares Christian to a god it reminded me a lot of Bella in Twilight, which apparently EL James read over and over and loved.  That’s what gave her the inspiration to finally put pen to paper.  There were also a few things that didn’t make sense to me.  For example I didn’t understand how Christian didn’t suspect that Anastasia was a virgin, since she was blushing all over the place and he hadn’t even touched her yet.  Not to mention, when he shows her his red room and how she doesn’t bolt for the door.  There are problems with realism although she seemed to do her research on the BDSM culture.  There’s a full list of  sex acts and toys to educate us all.

The good thing about this book is that it can play up to some people’s fantasies.  The sex is hot as Anastasia would say.  The story moves along and reads quite quickly and you do want to know how this unlikely duo will fair in the future.  For that you’ll have to read books two and tree.  The character analysis is a little minimal but the intensity of the relationship is well described.  The story takes place in Seattle which is not the sexiest city in the US but who knows with the success of the book it might get some attention.  I give this book 2 stars which means if you’re curious read it and if you could care less don’t.  It also depends on what you feel like reading.  In essence it’s a light fast read or even a beach read if you can avoid blushing in public. Oops I said that word again, as I roll my eyeballs…Arrghhh!  Otherwise don’t bother and wait for the movie.

21. Anna and the French Kiss

I have just started to add reading YA novels to my repertoire because some of them are pretty interesting and secondly it enables me to suggest good books to the French kids I tutor in English.  I’m an English Foreign Language teacher in France and have come to the conclusion that students have difficulty writing  and reading in English.  I figured I’d try to find some books that would entice them into this difficult task of reading in English.  That’s when I fell upon and finally finished the famous Anna and the French Kiss which is being talked about everywhere.  I do feel I’m the last one to climb on this bandwagon, but frankly I’m glad I did.  It’s not yet here in France but I’ll give it another six months to a year to arrive.

It’s the story of Anna, who’s been taken to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year of high school, so that she can get “cultured”.  Anna is shy, anxious, and doesn’t speak a word of French because she’s been taking Spanish for the past three years at her high school in the States.  Never mind, she soon starts to make the difference between oui and si and adapting to her new school, new friends, and of course Paree Paris.  Amongst all the adaptation, there’s a cute TCK(third culture kid) guy called Etienne St. Clair (everybody calls him St. Clair)  who has not only grasped the attention of Anna but of every other girl in the school.  Etienne is a Franco-American raised in England, henceforth the charming English accent.  He’s the cute boy with the “beautiful” hair.  Like Anna says, “Every American girl is a sucker for a boy with an English accent.  The story is filled with lots of teenage angst, grief, love, and shenanigans.  Makes you want to be seventeen again.

Stephanie Perkins writes with amazing sensitivity.  The voice of Anna is refreshing, amusing, honest and realistic.  There are enough turns and twists to the story to keep you reading right through to the end.  You won’t have a chance to be bored.  It’s hard to put down and speaks to the bit of youth left in the hearts of adults.  I was skeptical when I saw the Eiffel Tower on the front cover and feared a sappy love story for teenagers but that wasn’t the case.  Perkins describes the Paris 5th arrondissement to perfection – independent cinemas, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, French bakeries, sugary voluptuous pastries, etc.  The food descriptions make your mouth water.  It’s all true.  The French love their food and they should because it’s exceptional.  So, Anna and the French Kiss is just under 400 pages but a must read for anyone that likes a good love story, with romantic Paris as the backdrop.

Stephanie Perkins writes on her website, “I write novels for teens (and for adults who aren’t afraid to admit that teen books are awesome).”  That’s Anna and the French Kiss in a nutshell!  Perkins released her second novel Lola and the Boy Next Door in September 2011 which is a companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss.  It’s getting just as much attention too.  Perkins really knows how to maintain the magic in her stories, while totally avoiding cheesy and cliché concepts.  I give Anna and the French Kiss five stars.  It’ll make your day and that’s basically how long it will take you to read it.  Happy reading…..