24 Books to Christmas – Day 24

baublesToday’s my last day of recommendations before Christmas and for the year 2019!  Bravo! If you’ve stuck with me until the end.  I really appreciate it.  My last recommendation is another really big favorite and it’s by one of my favorite authors too.  I’m going to be talking briefly about Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat.

Krik? Krak! is a short story collection exploring life on the island of Haiti and what happens to be people when they try to immigrate to other places. Each short story is told with such authenticity readers won’t be able to put the book down. Danticat’s rich writing and relatable stories remind us of the difficulty of life, being an immigrant, being a woman, and being left behind.  Krik? Krak! will give you a lot of food for thought.  This book would make an excellent book club pick and would be a great place to start reading Danticat’s works.  I recommend Krik? Krak! to first time readers of Danicat, die hard fans of Danticat, lovers of short story collections, and readers searching for Caribbean lit titles.  Check out the video below where they are trying to make a film adaptation of the short story, Caroline’s wedding, in Krik? Krak!.Krik  I’m going to also link their website here where they are tying to get donations to be able to finally finish the film.

Overview:

“When Haitians tell a story, they say “Krik?” and the eager listeners answer “Krak!” In Krik? Krak! Danticat establishes herself as the latest heir to that narrative tradition with nine stories that encompass both the cruelties and the high ideals of Haitian life. They tell of women who continue loving behind prison walls and in the face of unfathomable loss; of a people who resist the brutality of their rulers through the powers of imagination. The result is a collection that outrages, saddens, and transports the reader with its sheer beauty.” (Krik? Krak!, Back cover)

 

 

 

Krik? Krak! – Edwidge Danticat

Publisher:  Vintage

Pages:  224

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you’d like to pick up a copy of No Place To Call Home or any of my other recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 20

baublesI often hear people say that they no longer care to read fiction novels about slavery.  I personally don’t have a problem with that, especially if I can read one that’s really good.  Today’s recommendation is Family by J. California Cooper.  This is a novel you should definitely put on your 2020 TBR if you haven’t read it yet.

Family explores slavery through the generations while stressing how each generation survives and flourishes in spite of difficulty.  Family is more than a story of slavery, it is one of hope and the unfolding of the generations to come. That’s all I’m going to say because I don’t want to give anything away.

One of the best things about Family is the emotion it provoked in me. It had been a while since I felt so overwhelmed by a book.  It actually almost made me cry and that’s saying something because I don’t cry easily when reading.  If you haven’t read J. California Cooper yet you might want to start with this full length short novel.  Furthermore, she wrote many short story collections which are full of lively language and inspiring stories about everyday people.  Her short stories are optimistic and enjoyable.  You might want to try one of my favorites called Homemade Love.  I recommend FamilyFamily to new readers of J. California Cooper, readers who don’t mind reading slave narratives, and readers looking for a short novel that packs a punch.

Overview:

“In this wise, beguiling, beautiful novel set in the era of the Civil War, an award-winning playwright and author paints a haunting portrait of a woman named Always, born a slave, and four generations of her African-American family.” (Family, back cover)

 

 

Family – J California Cooper

Publisher:  Anchor

Pages:  240

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you’d like to pick up a copy of No Place To Call Home or any of my other recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 18

baublesI had only read one excerpt from Alexandre Dumas’ writing in French many years ago, but this past October and November we all had the pleasure of reading in full The Count of Monte Cristo.  I say all for those of you that joined in on my read along of this 1,276 page mammoth novel.  Full of humor, intrigue, and large doses of shadiness, The Count of Monte Cristo kept me engrossed.  So much so that I couldn’t be bothered to read very much alongside it.  Beautiful writing that eases the reader into the period, the well constructed storyline, and the marvelously developed characters symbolize top reasons why the novel is so enchanting.   It’s lovely to see how the rope of revenge tightens slowly and accurately over all the right people, at the right time, and without too much work.  That’s the beauty of fiction.

This 19th century French classic has stood and will continue to stand the test of time.  There’s something to say for a novel that uses themes that will always remain relevant – jealousy, revenge, affairs, business deals gone bad, etc., but more importantly they need
to be used in the right way.  I recommend The Count of Monte Cristo for readers who enjoy reading the classics, French classics, and stories of revenge. Not to mention, this Penguin Clothbound edition pictured below would make a wonderful Christmas gift!

I was so proud once I’d finished this huge book.  I also kept thinking about how interesting a modern retelling of this story would be.  Now that I can scratch one book off my list of books to read by Dumas, I’m looking forward to picking up The Three Muskateers next, hopefully in 2020, which is the first book in the series called The d’Artagnan Romances.  Check out the live chat below where I discuss The Count of Monte Cristo with Musical Tati and Michael Reads!  We had a great time and Loved the book.  I’d like to give a big Thank You to those of you who took the time to catch us live on YouTube and participated in the discussion.  I also urge you to go to Youtube and Count of Monte Cristocheck out these two Booktubers, who make superb videos. 🙂

 

Overview:

“Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantès is confined to the grim fortress of the Château d’If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and becomes determined not only to escape but to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration.” (The Count of Monte Cristo, Goodreads description)

 

 

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

Publisher:  Penguin Classics

Pages:  1,296

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 16

baublesToday’s recommendation I discovered in the spring of 2015.  Water Street was one of the first few short story collections I had read in a long time that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Fourteen connected  short stories set in Stanford, Kentucky in the black community.  I was amazed  to see how well Wilkinson linked each character and unveiled their secrets.  Water Street has that southern literary flair that I love to read.  The style of writing is through short narratives and monologues.  You’re probably thinking that this makes the short stories feel unfinished but in fact they are full of impressions and feelings that are familiar.

Crystal Wilkinson is a wonderful writer who develops her stories through her characters.  She doesn’t need an excess of pages to make the reader understand something.  I envy her capacity to shape the story with the minimum means.  It’s a gift in writing.  I strongly urge you to check out this author who should be praised more.  I also recommend three of her other works that I enjoyed just as much as Water Street, Blackberries, Blackberries (short story collection), The Birds of Opulence (short water streetnovel), and Holler (short story).

I recommend Water Street to readers who enjoy short story collections, African-American literature, and southern literature.  Check out Wilkinson in the video below talking about her writing and where her inspiration comes from.  She has quite the personality and you should follow her over on Instagram at crystalwilki.

 

Overview:

On Water Street, every person has at least two stories to tell. One story that the light of day shines on and the other that lives only in the pitch black of night, the kind of story that a person carries beneath their breastbones for safekeeping. WATER STREET examines the secret lives of neighbours and friends who live on Water Street in a small town in Kentucky. Assured and intimate, dealing with love, loss, truth and tragedy, Wilkinson weaves us in and out of the lives of Water Street’s inhabitants.

 

 

Water Street – Crystal Wilkinson

Publisher:  Toby Press

Pages:  179

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 10

baublesToday’s recommendation is one of our ReadSoulLit read along books from a few years ago called Some Sing, Some Cry.  This epic multi-generational family saga written in tandem by two sisters Ntozake Shange and Ifa Bayeza tells the story of an African- American family of women from Reconstruction to just before the beginning of the 21st century.  Strong characters and great pacing, Some Sing, Some Cry is full of rich language and will keep readers engrossed. The Mayfield family sees it all. It’s very hard to put this book down.  It’s just over 500 pages but really you won’t even notice its size.  The only thing this book is missing is a family tree.  Although I have a sneaky suspicion it was left out on purpose to maintain an element of surprise.  It was also really cool having real life people being mixed into the story with made up characters.  That added an excellent authentic touch and an excellent way to instruct readers who may not be familiar with them.

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy reading multi-generational stories, stories that contain music, stories that contain amazing characters, and historical fiction.img_4688

Overview:

Opening dramatically at  Sweet Tamarind, a rice and cotton plantation on an island off South Carolina’s coast, we watch as recently emancipated Bette Mayfield says her goodbyes before fleeing for the mainland. With her granddaughter, Eudora, in tow, she heads to Charleston. There, they carve out lives for themselves as fortune-teller and seamstress. Dora will marry, the Mayfield line will grow, and we will follow them on a journey through the watershed events of America’s troubled, vibrant history—from Reconstruction to both World Wars, from the Harlem Renaissance to Vietnam and the modern day.

 

Some Sing, Some Cry – Ntozake Shange and Ifa Bayeza

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

Pages:  558

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 5

baublesThis year I chose this next 24 Books to Christmas book for the February ReadSoulLit Readalong in honor of Black history Month – Unforgivable Love by Sophfronia Scott.  Wow! This was such an interesting modern retelling of the 18th century French classic novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.

Scott did an excellent job by placing this modern day retelling in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance with all black characters.  As the original classic is written in epistolary format, Scott chose to write it in prose/novel format.  That was not an easy feat but she managed to develop all the characters well and to tell the story while choosing the most import scenes to highlight .

Most of the readers who participated in this readalong loved the messiness between the characters.  It made us shake our heads, laugh out loud and gasp.  Scott’s astute fashion writing dialogues was that fine line between humor and seriousness at times.  The readers who didn’t like the book felt that the characters were being mean just to be mean and that wasn’t interesting to them. This being said it is a retelling so Scott can’t change the story.  It just wasn’t for those few readers.

Overview:

“Heiress Mae Malveaux rules society with an angel’s smile and a heart of stone. She made up her mind long ago that nobody would decide her fate. To have the pleasure she Lovecraves, control is paramount, especially control of the men Mae attracts like moths to a flame.

Valiant Jackson always gets what he wants—and he’s wanted Mae for years. The door finally opens for him when Mae strikes a bargain: seduce her virginal young cousin, Cecily, who is engaged to Frank Washington. Frank values her innocence above all else. If successful, Val’s reward will be a night with Mae.

But Val secretly seeks another prize. Elizabeth Townsend is fiercely loyal to her church and her civil rights attorney husband. Certain there is something redeemable in Mr. Jackson. Little does she know that her most unforgivable mistake will be Val’s greatest triumph.” (Unforgivable Love, back cover)

I’m linking below the Unforgivable Love Live discussion for anyone who may have missed it but has read the book. this video is full of spoilers so if you’re concerned about that don’t watch until you’ve read the book.  However don’t miss out on this discussion because it was very lively and full of a lot of insight. Moreover, Sophronia Scott joined in on the live where we had the pleasure of discussing the book, talking about creative writing, and Scott working on a black modern version of Jane Eyre. I can’t wait!

 

Unforgivable Love – Sophronia Scott

Publisher:  Harper Collins – William Morrow

Pages: 506

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 4

baubles24 Books to Christmas is really making me look back on my past reading. There are so many really great books that I’ve read in the recent past but also in the far away past.  I decided to go with The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race for day 4.

The Fire This Time  was released in 2016.  It is an anthology that was edited by National Book Award Winner, Jesmyn Ward.  It’s a collection of 17 essays by some of the top black American writers of the moment. Discussing race these essays are all poignant and thought-provoking.  While its title is inspired by Baldwin’s, The Fire Next Time, Jesmyn Ward brought these essays together as a response to the ongoing atrocities happening to blacks and people of color in the United States.  You surely won’t forget them.

Sadly I feel like this collection was hardly pushed in the book influencer community at its release.  I wonder if that was because of the subject matter, or because it’s an anthology, or both.  Please comment below and let me know what you think the reason could be.

You’ll read powerful essays from Isabel Wilkerson, Kiese Laymon, Mitchell S. Jackson, Edwidge Danticat, Daniel José Older, and more.  The Fire This Time is accessible and not very long for those that find long essay collections a put off.  The collection is separated into 3 parts:  Legacy, Reckoning, and Jubilee, which represent some of “the darkest corners of American history” (The Fire This Time inside book flap)the fire this time.   I recommend this essay collection to readers looking for and excellent nonfiction read, readers who desire to learn more about living in the United States as a black person, and who are interested in reading nonfiction pieces from some of their favorite black authors.

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, edited by Jesmyn Ward

Publisher:  Scribner

Pages:  215

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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24 Book to Christmas – Day 2

Today’s recommendation was an easy choice –  The Word : Black Writers Talk About the Transformative Power of Reading and Writing edited by Marita Golden came to mind as soon as I woke up this morning.  I read The Word last month as a recommendation by my friend Rosa.  She said it was a book she found enlightening and informative. Agreed. The Word was that and much more.

If you don’t know who  Marita Golden is, she wrote a novel called The Wide Circumference of Love which was released in 2017.  I haven’t had the pleasure of reading it or any of her other works for the moment you better believe it is on my #backlistbooksbliss discovery list for 2020.  The premise of The Word is reading 13 interviews from various writers conducted by Marita Golden about how reading and writing transformed them. You’ll read inspiring interviews from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Pearl Cleage, J. California Cooper, Edwidge Danticat, Nikki Giovanni and many more.

I picked this one up for Nonfiction November and it was a lovely short but inspirational read.  What more to get me in the mood to write more frequently and with intention.  If this book taught me anything it’s that there is no wrong way or right way to write a book.  I recommend it to understand some very well known writers better.  I also recommend it to people who are looking for black authors they may not know but should read because they are all very important ones. Last but not least, you’ll get a bunch of backlist book recommendations from brilliant writers to round off your TBR lists. The Word is a hidden jewel that should not be missed.  It would make a wonderful Christmas gift to avid readers and people who are interested in writing.

The Word: Black Writers Talk About the Transformative Power of Reading and Writing –  edited by Marita Golden

Publisher: Broadway Paperbacks

Pages: 209

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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My Reading in February 2019

We are now well into March and finally I’m taking a moment to reflect on what I managed to read during last month.  February was very active since I was celebrating Black History Month through #ReadSoulLit.  Firstly I’d like to thank everyone deeply for taking the time to post, to share, to encourage others to join in, to follow, to subscribe, to comment, and mostly to read and promote black authors in February. Thank you! Thank you! Every year #ReadSoulLit is growing and I’m really happy that people are reading and promoting black authors more and more.  We must keep it going all year-long not just for Black History Month.  Always remember to tag your posts and pictures with #ReadSoulLit so that they can be found.

As for my reading in February I didn’t do so badly. I read a total of 8 books.  Most of them were short.  The only book I didn’t finish was the short story collection called Black Enough.  I didn’t quit because I was bored.  I think I was just a bit too preoccupied with everything.  There was a lot going on between the read along, the Instagram Photo Challenge, Booktube  Black Chats, and book reviews.  Despite all that was going on I still feel like my reading was very good and most of all meaningful.  So here’s the break down:

Unforgivable Love by Sophfronia Scott was the read along pick for February.  This year I decided to choose something that was very different from what we usually read in February.  Unforgivable Love is a retelling of the 18th century French novel Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, set in 1940s Harlem.  What a stunning read!  The writing was beautiful and the characters were messy and kept me looking for what was going to happen next.  There were quite a few poignant, unforgettable scenes too.  The original French work was written in epistolary form but this was written as a novel allowing for more creative license to fit the story to 1940s Harlem.  I highly recommend it.  I also held a live discussion on my YouTube with a few Booktubers and the author Sophfronia Scott.  That was AWESOME!  If you’d like to watch it just click here.  I suggest not watching if you plan to read the book because the video contains spoilers.

We Cast A Shadow is by debut novelist Maurice Carlos Ruffin from my hometown New Orleans.  I was really excited to pick this one up but sadly it didn’t wow me as much as I thought it would.  I liked it because of the premise and the bold statements it makes but I felt like the main character’s voice was so domineering  that it took me away from the overall feeling of the novel.  The tone of  We Cast a Shadow is very particular. I’m not sure how to describe it – dystopian but not really.  The book explores the black unnamed main character who is married to a white woman and has a son named Nigel. The main character would like his son to undergo a demelanization(change his skin color and features to that of a white person’s) operation so that he can no longer have problems living in the world as a black person.  The book is full of hard, sad truths, even today.  You can see more about how I felt in my video review here.

Next I read The Negro Motorist Green-Book  which brought me back to the Jim Crow period. It was a book used by black people when they wanted to travel within the US. It gave them recommendations of hotels where they could stay, restaurants, and even gas stations that accepted black dollars.

The Post-Racial Negro Green Book is a must read. It gives the statistics on race relations in the United States state by state. It give the percentage of blacks per state in proportion to whites. The poverty rate, unemployment rate, imprisonment ratio are given as well as information on whether the state has an open permit and stand your ground law. The number of hate groups are numbered and it is mind-boggling the quantity per state. We have some serious issues to work through in the states if we ever want to improve and get to a peaceful existence. Finally the percentage of black victims of law enforcement killings from 2013 – 2016 are TOO DAMN high! Whether there are large demographic of blacks in the state or not racism is still rampant. Incidents of racism being perpetrated by not only police officers but by mayors, fire chiefs, sheriffs, etc. The book cites racist incidents after another throughout the union from racial slurs oral and written everywhere even universities and incidents that have led to deaths. White America when are you going to fix this? You’re in control!  This book left me feeling helpless, pessimistic, and dejected.

Dear Ancestors was the only poetry collection I read and it was a real treat.  I’ll link my blog review here.  It recounts the Trans Atlantic slave trade to today.  After I picked up Praise Song for the Butterflies which explores the terrible African tradition of religious shrines where young girls mostly are literally sold into slavery in atonement for the family’s misfortune. It’s a beautiful story of redemption and recovery.  You can click here for my video review.  Praise Song for the Butterflies has also been longlisted for the Women’s Prize 2019.

The last #readsoullit book I read in February was Eva’s Man by Gayl Jones. Wow! Wow! Wow!  Gayl Jones does NOT play.  Her writing is so direct and brutal.  Haven’t read that many writers that have that power in their writing.  Why is she so underrated? Corregidora was at the same level of potency. Eva’s Man tells the story of Eva Medina Canada who is serving time in prison for poisoning her lover Davis Carter.  This book essentially tries to uncover the effect of sexual abuse, trauma, exploitation, and promiscuity.  It’s for this reason I will warn you about the graphic sexual content of the book.  Powerful short read that says so much in so few pages.  Can’t wait to start The Healing by her next.

Finally the last book I read in February was The Tattooist of Auschwitz.  This book is a historical fiction novel based on the life of real people.  This was my book club’s March pick.  Sadly this one was not my cup of tea.  You can check out my Goodreads review here.

All in all, this was a fantastic reading month for me.  Wish February was 31 days, but #readsoullit is 365 day of the year. Hope you all had a great February reading month.  Let’s chat about that below!  What were some of your memorable #readsoiullit books from February?

 

 

 

 

Dear Ancestors Poems & Reflections on the African Diaspora

Poetry is not something I pick up very much but in the past 4 years I’ve had the pleasure of reading some fantastic poetry collections.  This year has started with Dear Ancestors Poems & Reflections on the African Diaspora by CP Patrick, author of the compelling novel The Truth About Awiti.  There are poems in this collection that come from The Truth About Awiti.  I strongly recommend you check it out because it is quite the story with a dash of fantasy and deals with the African diaspora and the transAtlantic slave trade.

It’s a slim collection containing only 58 pages, a short poem on each page.  To the eye that would appear to be slither to discuss such a complex subject, but believe me it’s more than enough.  From the first poem I was thrown into the African diaspora, my emotions rising within.  I could put it down and when I did I had finished and reread it a second time.

The collection is structured in 4 parts – Home, Middle Passage/Second Home, Bondage, Freedom or Something Like It.  The poems in each section are perfectly understandable.  These poems are not obscure or difficult to understand.  They are written with nuance and a perspective that will touch you before you realize it.  These poems made me reflect but also made me remember how proud I am to be black.  I come from strong people.  People that have a history that doesn’t just start with slavery.

The fact that CP Patrick begins the collection with poems from the section Home that cherishes the beginnings of black people in Africa – free with their own lives and customs, good and bad, exhibits her desire to tell our entire story.

“if but for a moment

you were

stillborn

descending from the heavens

leaving the safety of my warm womb

you saw this sad world

and changed your mind”

clairvoyant stillborn

  • CP Patrick, Dear Ancestors Poems & Reflections on the African Diaspora, p. 28

If you’d like to pick up a copy of Dear Ancestors or any of my other recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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