Loading...

Follow A PAGE BEFORE BEDTIME on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
or

Valid
Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 213 pages
Published: July 2017 

At its core, What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons is a story about grief, depression, and healing. In this short fictional novel, Clemmons presents a story centered around Thandi, born of a South African mother and black American father, who loses her mom to cancer. The plot is Thandi working her way through this loss. She also explores seemingly unrelated themes of femininity, race, sexuality, and identity.

Clemmons has received rave reviews on her debut novel. I'm not as impressed. While there were some touching passages that resonated with me, I found the book to be very disjointed and lacking fluidity. Maybe she was trying to illustrate the emotional elements of grief through her writing. I found it very cumbersome. At times I could not tell if she was writing fiction or non-fiction. She references real life events and scientific studies like the book is a work of non-fiction, but then she has Thandi's story, which is somewhat fictional, sitting on top of the book. I say "somewhat" because she, the author, has admitted to borrowing experiences from her relationship with her own mother and using them in the novel. I know authors do this - you write what you know. I truly believe this gives the stories depth. However, in my humble opinion, Clemmons did not execute this well. I found myself re-reading passages to understand if the events she was writing about were regarding a real life person, like Nelson Mandela or Barack Obama or if she was referring to the fictional character, Thandi.

I liken the tone and pace of this book to Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot. There seems to be a trend of authors writing their trauma through their books. I suppose this is a tool to heal. I just don't know if it's effective from a creative standpoint.

Recommendation This was an interesting read that I finished in about two hours. Obviously, it has resonated with many people. It just wasn't my cup of tea. The one thing I did take from it was: Love your mom while she's still here. Happy Mother's Day, Mom! :-)

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pages: 310 pages
Published: October 2018 

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi is a coming-of-age novel about a teen girl who happens to be Muslim and how her culture causes some uncomfortable and extremely violent reactions from people post-9/11. The book is somewhat autobiographical in that the author did experience some of the events illustrated in the novel. However, it is not an autobiography. Think of it as "inspired by" rather than a re-telling of her life. I learned about this book when Mafi spoke on a panel at the 2019 North Texas Young Adult Book Festival in March. I am glad I did.

Mafi is a storyteller. Her writing is fluid, and her prose is beautiful. In this novel, she presents some incredibly horrific events, in such a beautiful way, that captivates the reader. At its core, the book is a teen love story about the main character, Shirin, who meets her classmate, Ocean James. The two are very different but also very much drawn to each other. Mafi tells the story of their interactions and the result of those interactions from a snippet of time in their high school careers.

I think this book was very true to life, which is why I think it held my attention from page one till the very end. It was a quick and enjoyable albeit sometimes uncomfortable read. The pace and feel of it reminded me of Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give. It is so important that we all, especially young adults, have a diverse library of books from which to choose. I am thankful Mafi shared this story, and I hope she knows it does not only resonate with people from the Muslim community but other people of color as well.

Recommendation I would definitely recommend this book to young adults (late teens) of all backgrounds. We learn by reading, and there is something to be learned here. There is some language and romantic scenes, although nothing sexually explicit.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pages: 208 pages
Published: January 2006 (first published in 1993)

How old am I to be reading The Giver by Lois Lowry? In my opinion, books really have no age limit. Of course, there are certain books that are not suitable for youngsters, but I believe once you've reached my age, you can read anything you want - no judgement. Having said all that, I will offer up this explanation. I decided to read this book because my 6th grade niece is reading it for her language arts class, and I look reading and discussing books with all people, but especially her!

The Giver is essentially the OG of dystopian. Before The Hunger Games, there was this lovely book. It's about a utopian society where everything is calm and peaceful. All people are respectful and follow orders. Each family unit can only have up to two children. Careers are decided by a group of leaders. The days are formulaic. Everything is gray, dull ... and boring. When the protagonist, Jonas, reaches the age of majority where he is given his job in the community, he begins to see things in a new light. His eyes are open to a world beyond any he's ever known, and with this knowledge comes great responsibility.

I don't typically enjoy dystopian. Had I known that this was the genre, I probably would have gone into it with a different mindset. The reason I don't like reading dystopian is because of the few books I've read, it all seems hopeless and dire. I can't reconcile it with my reality, so I struggle. The difference with this book is that I do think it's filled with hope and promise. As I understand it, Lowry went on to write more books in the series. I don't know if I'll tackle those, (Although, I suppose my niece could convince me.) but I throughly enjoyed this one. Many other reviewers have balked at the ending; however this was my favorite part. I think most people either love it or hate it. If you've read The Giver or intend to, I'd love to hear your thoughts about the ending in the comments below.

Recommendation: This is a quick read for all ages. I recommend it as a nice escape from reality that evokes a myriad of emotions.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 



Rating: 4 of 5 stars 
Length: 172 pages
Published: June 2018

I received a copy of A River in Darkness: One Man's Escape from North Korea during Amazon's celebration of World Book Day in 2018. For the past couple of years Amazon has allowed users to download a select group of books for free on or about World Book Day. Those of us who read know that books can take you to faraway places, so I personally take delight this service provided by Amazon.

But back to this autobiography. The author, Masaji Ishikawa, was born in Japan of his Japanese mother and extremely abusive Korean father. While he and his sisters did experience some trials in Japan because of their socioeconomic status, it was nothing compared to the poverty, discrimination, and violence the entire family faced when his father forced them to move to North Korea. The bulk of this relatively short book is Ishikawa re-telling his formative years that include the struggles his family faced as mixed-race outsiders in both Japan then North Korea. The reader then follows the author into adulthood, where his struggles continue. As the title indicates, the author does eventually escape North Korea, but you'll have to read the book to find out at what cost.

This was a fairly quick read that got me out of a reading slump. Having said that, it was not an easy read. Some of the events in the book are extremely descriptive and disturbing. The book is very dark with little hope or joy. However, I do think it is well worth the read. It's important to read and learn about unpleasant situations so that we do not succumb to them. My hope and prayer after completing this book is that Mr. Ishikawa has found or will find peace.

Recommendation: This, like many works of non-fiction, is a necessary book. I recommend it when you are ready to take on a sobering, true story.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 



Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Length: 330 pages
Published: March 2019


Queenie is a hot mess, but Queenie, the debut novel by Candice Carty-Williams, is a pure delight. This fictional novel published just a few weeks ago, and I was lucky enough to snag a copy from my local library shortly after publication. Queenie is the Jamaican-British protagonist of this London-set novel. As the book opens, we learn that Queenie is embarking on a break from her live-in boyfriend, Tom. She moves out of their flat, and her life subsequently begins to unravel. About halfway through the novel, she hits rock bottom and is forced to face her demons in an effort to begin a journey of self discovery and healing. 

I found Queenie to be very relatable in her struggles with fitting in to be similar to my own. It's amazing how a black woman in the United States can identify with the challenges of a fictional Jamaican woman living in England. Because of her upbringing and surroundings, Queenie is constantly comparing herself to her white counterparts, dealing with thinly veiled racism in the work place and social settings, and even tolerating her white boyfriend's (Tom) racist family members. Her past, and a lot of her present, have shaped who she is and caused a callous exterior to form as an emotional coping mechanism. Her struggles are real, and I think, until her turning point in the novel, she was her own worst enemy. 

I really enjoyed the writing, the humor, and the care that the writer took in tackling the very heavy issues of depression, panic attacks, and self-esteem. My favorite parts of the book were the WhatsApp chats between Queenie and her girlfriends. My only very minor criticism is that in flashback scenes, it was sometimes difficult to identify that it was a flashback until I was a few sentences in. 

Recommendation: I think any woman can find some of her own truth in this novel, but I think it might speak more strongly to single and dating women of color. I would definitely recommend giving it a try. This is modern fiction novel is a solid debut for Ms. Carty-Williams! 

Until next time ... Read on!


Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 



Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Length: 447 pages
Published: February 2019


On the Come Up by Angie Thomas is about sixteen-year old Bri, who is an aspiring rapper. Haunted by the ghost of her father's past, she is trying to make a name for herself in hopes of lifting her family above the poverty line. This young adult novel is set in the same neighborhood of Thomas' debut, The Hate U Give. As such many of the themes, dialect, and characters are similar. It is important to note that while the sophomore book tangentially touches on the first book, it is not required reading to understand the plot.

This book was a quick read about an interesting topic. I liked how Thomas demonstrated how the main character came up with her rhymes. I also think the author did a good job of illustrating the internal and external struggles that Bri faced. Some of Bri's actions and obstinance were a little frustrating, but I suspect parents of teenagers reading this book would be able to attest that her behavior was realistic (smile, parents!). 

Like the first book, I found the characters in On the Come Up to be very real, and I believe this story is another version of Thomas sharing a part of herself. However, I did not enjoy this book as much as the first. The lifestyle and struggles that the protagonist suffer are not relatable to me. Having said that, they are meaningful. Additionally, this is a young adult novel. I am not the target audience, so I don't think it's really a criticism if the book didn't move me as a mid-lifer. 

Recommendation: I find Angie Thomas to be a talented writer who, in a creative way, exposes some of her own past and vulnerabilities through her writing. This is important for young adults, and I think it would be a great read for mature teenagers, especially those who enjoy poetry and prose. Please note the book does have some violence and a fair amount of curse words.   

Until next time ... Read on!


Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 



Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Length: 368 pages
Published: July 2019*


I was fortunate enough to be granted a digital copy of the most final proof of Home for Erring and Outcast Girls by Julie Kibler. I read Calling Me Home by this author in 2013 and thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved Home for Erring and Outcast Girls 10 times more! The book is mainly set in Arlington and Austin, Texas as well as Oklahoma. Full disclosure: Many of the scenes take place on or about the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) campus, which is my alma mater. I think this is why the book piqued my interest and resonated with me. 

This historical fiction novel is based on the actual Berachah Home for the Redemption and Protection of Erring Girls, established by Reverend James Toney and Maggie Mae Upchurch in 1903. Many of the real women whom the fictional characters are based on are buried in a cemetery on the grounds of UTA. The fictional story follows three strong female leads and their respective story lines that alternate with each chapter. In near present day, the reader first meets Cate who is a 30-something librarian at the university studying the history of the Home. Cate's story is told in present day in Arlington and flashbacks to her teenage years in Austin. Lizzie and Mattie's stories are also told at the turn of the century as residents of the Home. Over the course of the novel, we travel 30 years with Lizzie and Mattie. 

The overall theme of the book is forgiveness of self and recovery leading to personal discovery. I think the main characters in the book struggle with this as well as hesitance in letting other people get close. To be fair all of the major characters in the novel experienced some massive trauma that resulted in her respective emotional vulnerability. The author did an excellent job of illustrating these varied emotions through her descriptive language, driving tone, and exceptional prose. Some scenes made me smile while others made me cry and there was a character or two that made me angry. I really became invested in these characters, and they stuck with me long after I finished reading. 

My only critique of this story is the creative criticism of the church. I understand that this is the lens through which the author views things, and I respect it. However, it is an element that made me a little uncomfortable ... but that is what effective art does, right? It makes you dig deeper and question things, which is why reading and writing are so important to our societal growth. 

As a professional marketer, I know the greatest success is when you can drive a consumer to initiate or make a change in behavior. As a result of Kibler's beautifully told story, I have felt compelled to revisit my alma mater and seek out this hidden treasure that I'd never known until reading Home for Erring and Outcast Girls

Recommendation: I really enjoyed this book and hope to get a final, hard copy upon publication to include in my home library. I think my fellow Maverick alums would also appreciate this book. If you enjoy strong female protagonists who experience personal growth or the historical fiction genre, I would strongly recommend you pick up a copy of this book when it publishes this summer.

Until next time ... Read on!


*I received an advance reading copy (ARC) of Home for Erring and Outcast Girls from NetGalley. My copy was an uncorrected digital file. Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 



Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Length: 336 pages
Published: January 2019


One of my books clubs chose this newly released debut, We Cast a Shadow, by Maurice Carlos Ruffin for our March monthly read. The premise was intriguing - a black father who is essentially trying to save his son from himself. In the not too distant future, as the book describes it, somewhere in the United States, race relations has taken a terrible turn from bad to worse. The unnamed narrator decides, for his son - Nigel, to reach his fullest potential he must undergo a extreme surgical procedure coined demelanization to rid himself of the dark, pigmented birthmark on his otherwise fair, biracial skin.  

The entire book is about the father doing whatever he sees fit to secure the financial means for the procedure for his son. He's in a race against himself that only he seems to be running. Against his wife's, mother's, and even his son's wishes, the narrator stops at nothing to help "protect" his son. The author does a good job building suspense and creating tension. His writing style pushes the reader forward to discover what happens next. Intertwined in this emotion are some very real scenes that reflect current racial issues, like over-policed neighborhoods of color and mass incarceration. Because the novel is set in the future, it is a bit of downer for those of us who'd like to remain optimistic that these kinds of issues will get better, not worse, with time. 

I wanted to like this book. I really did. I feel as though the author is smart and his idea was worthy of print. However, I could not get into it. I did finish the book, but it wasn't satisfying for me. These dark comedies usually aren't. I don't know if it was just so unbelievable that someone could hate the essence of their being that much or if it was the misplaced satire that turned me off. I couldn't identify with the narrator. I found him to be unsympathetic, and I think, in the end, he got everything he deserved.   

I would definitely consider reading another book by Ruffin because I do think he's a talented writer. I just think this wasn't the book for me. 

Recommendation: Fans of dystopian novels may enjoy this book. I think it's always a good idea to give new writers support. Plus, you have the added benefit of seeing them hone their craft as they publish future works.  

Until next time ... Read on!


Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 



Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Length: 13:15:00

Narrated by: Karen Chilton
Published: April 2012

I downloaded the audiobook, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander several months ago on the recommendation of another book lover. One of my online book clubs chose it for the monthly read-along, so I began listening to the book to and from work during the month of February. 

There was a lot to digest in this book. The author takes us on a journey from slavery to present day explaining racial relations in the United States and how they have affected the legal system. Alexander presents the data in a very academic manner. I can envision this book being used as a textbook in criminal justice or psychology courses at the collegiate level. For this reason, I wish I would have purchased a physical or electronic copy so I could have highlighted and referenced some of the statistics and data she shared. 

This book was not read by the author, but the narrator did an excellent job engaging the listener with her smooth tone, using inflection at the most appropriate times.  

Do not be mislead by the title. I think the author intended to be a bit sarcastic. We do not live in a colorblind society, and I don't know that we necessarily should. However, color should not affect justice, and I think that's the point she persuasively makes in this text. I don't know that we will ever get to a place where the U.S. legal system is fair and impartial. Race will play a factor as will financial status. 

There is too much in this book to unpack in a succinct blog review. If you're interested in learning some hard truths, I would recommend this book. Be fair warned: this is not your light, beach read. 

Recommendation: This is a hard read (or listen), but it is an important one. I think it is not only important for the disenfranchised but also for the privileged. I think it could start important conversations and become the impetus for the change so vastly needed in our legal system. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.
Read Full Article

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
close
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview