May 25, 2018

First Lines Friday - Memoir Memorial Weekend

First Lines Friday is a bookish meme hosted by Literary Marie. I encourage all of my fellow book bloggers and bookhearts to play along.
  • Grab your current read(s).
  • Share the first line(s).
  • Include the title and author.

"After two weeks of intensely working out, I had lost not one fucking pound!"

The Mother of Black Hollywood by Jenifer Lewis

"On March 6, 2000, I stepped to the podium at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City to accept Earth, Wind & Fire's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In my acceptance speech, I told the audience that establishing the band's place in history had been a hard road, but a good road."

My Life with Earth, Wind, & Fire by Maurice White

"He was about seven months old when I first noticed it."

~ Raising Kanye by Donda West

May 24, 2018


"I want to look lak I in Affica, 'cause dat where I want to be." ~ pg. 113

In late 1927, Zora Neale Hurston conducted a series of interviews with the last known surviving African of the last American slaver. Oluale Kossola, also called Cudjo Lewis, was 86 years old at the time. He recalled memories of his childhood in Takkoi, the attack of female warriors, seeing jawbones snatched and decapitated heads of his family and townspeople. He was held at the barracoon, enslaved in America, then lived through the Civil War and Jim Crow to tell about it. He trusted and shared his life story with Zora Neale Hurston over the span of three months.

Look at the book cover above and let this fact sink in. Of all the millions of people captured and transported from Africa to America, Cudjo Lewis was the only man left. His illegal journey from Africa to Alabama, United States was aboard the fastest slave ship called Clotilda under the guise of shipping red palm oil. It would turn out to be the last voyage. The thought alone makes me shiver.

"How does one sleep with such memories beneath the pillow?" ~ pg. 16

Barracoon has elements of folklore, traditional storytelling and historical data. But it is told in a way that is not up for interpretation. It is Cudjo Lewis' life story as told by himself. Thanks to the dialogue written as Cudjo pronounced it, I can picture Zora Neale Hurston eating sweet Georgia peaches and ice cold watermelon* as Cudjo gets lost in thought and shares details from a cargo's point of view. Most times it was hard to understand but about halfway through, I picked up on certain words (de=the; Afficka=Africa; doan=don't; astee=ask). *Please note this is not a stereotype that I threw in my review. They really did commune over watermelon under the shade of his China-berry tree.

"My folks sell me and yo folks (Americans) buy me." ~ pg. 68

I have to be careful reading books like this. The ways of our good ole' country and its treatment of blacks usually rile me up. But surprisingly, it was not the content that made me angry. Barracoon was completed back in 1931. How this story of the last "black cargo" took so long to find a taker and be published is beyond me. It's been nearly a century! Perhaps because there is no sugar-coating that Africans were not only victims, but participants, of the slave trade. Yeah, go ahead and swallow that pill. This nugget of truth is just one of many that makes Barracoon a hard read. Alice Walker says, "We are being shown the wound."

At the risk of sounding like a school book report, I will now end this review with a recommendation. Bookhearts drawn to black history, nonfiction and a good word from novelist/folklorist/anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston, will appreciate this new release.

Title: Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo"
Author: Zora Neale Hurston
Published: May 2018
Pages: 171
Edition: Hardcover
Rating: 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤


May 23, 2018

The Perfect Mother

"Don't they know how hard this all is? The pressure of just keeping these babies alive. The task of loving someone like this, and how easy it is to fuck this up, the way we're sure our mothers did." ~ pg. 176

Author Aimee Molloy did a great job in identifying a mother's worst nightmare. She explored the pressures of being a good mom, of making sure your baby reaches all the necessary milestones, and of keeping up appearances in social circles. Some new mothers take extra precaution while others follow the advice of parenting newsletters. What works for one mother is not necessarily the right route for another. Because of Molloy's characterization, it made it hard to decide whom I empathized with as the story unraveled.

Fourth of July was meant to be a fun night out for the May Mothers—a group of new moms whose babies were born in the same month. They get together a couple times a week to share stories, let the babies bond, and for much-needed adult time. But on this particular holiday night, they go out for drinks at a neighborhood bar in Brooklyn. It all goes terrifyingly wrong when one of the six-week-old babies is taken from the crib. Who took Baby Midas?

I was tempted to stop reading just before I reached 50 pages. Enough with the mundane details of the May Mothers Club. All characters were introduced at this point yet nothing major happened yet. Thank goodness for the Prologue offering a glimpse into fourteen weeks later. It garnered enough interest for me to continue and build to that point. The Perfect Mother is the type of psycho-thriller that slowly reaches the climax. If you can hang in there, it is worth it until the surprising ending.

"At once wonderfully nuanced and compulsively readable, it keeps you guessing at every moment up until the very end. I could not be prouder to be bringing this thriller to the big screen." ~ Kerry Washington

The Perfect Mother was picked up for a movie adaptation back in February 2017 and it was just published earlier this month. Obviously others had high hopes before it even hit the shelves. I cannot see Kerry Washington as the lead role; perhaps because it will take a while to not see her as Olivia Pope. However, I am looking forward to seeing this on the big screen and *fingers crossed* the movie will be good as the book.

Title: The Perfect Mother
Author: Aimee Molloy
Published: May 2018
Pages: 317
Edition: Hardcover
Rating: 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤


May 22, 2018

Gate 76

"Look too far into anything and you'll find something you're not supposed to know. And that's the first step toward getting involved." ~ 1%

Retired professional heavyweight boxer, Freddy Ferguson, is now an investigator working for a private entity. He has no clue at first that the mysterious woman seen boarding the wrong plane is in danger. It is not until her face and name appear in connection with a fatal crime that Freddy begins his nationwide search to find her. She could be the only living witness but pursuers might silence her for good.

"The results of the background check show up about two minutes before my plate of brisket. Think about that the next time you think there's such a thing as privacy in the internet age." ~ 45%

It is not often that I cancel all plans for an entire day to finish reading a book. Sure I have lazy moments when all I do is read. But Gate 76 was worthy of actually postponing all I had planned just because I could not focus on anything else until the story was done. Calling Gate 76 unputdownable is a statement you can take to the bank.

It has a very strong start with the mysterious woman pulling a switcheroo at Gate 76; minutes before the plane she was supposed to board crashes with a full flight of passengers. The plot takes readers through Freddy fighting his own internal battle while trying to protect a stranger. The ending was fitting. Do I have your attention yet? Trust me, bookhearts. This new release is intended for readers that love suspense and great character development.

Gate 76 has put author Andrew Diamond on my radar. I really wish he would grant my wish and make this into a series; I need more Freddy Ferguson in my life.

Happy Early Pub Day, Andrew Diamond! Gate 76 will be available Friday, June 1.

Disclaimer: This book was received directly from the publisher for review purposes only. In no way does it influence my review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and would be the same if I spent my hard-earned coins.

Title: Gate 76
Author: Andrew Diamond
Published: June 2018
Pages: 320
Edition: Galley
Rating: 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤

May 20, 2018

Series Sunday: A Sin Such as This

(Love Lies Beneath #2) 

Series Sunday is a bookish meme hosted by Literary Marie. I encourage all of my fellow book bloggers and bookhearts to play along.
  • Read an installment of a series.
  • Share your review/recommendation below.
  • Include the title, author and series name.

My Series Sunday pick is A Sin Such as This, the follow-up book to Love Lies Beneath by Ellen Hopkins. Tara has gone from a rich single woman to a suburban housewife. Her niece, Kayla, moves into the home and immediately hooks up with the seductive stepson. As if that is not enough family drama, Tara's sister is going through marital issues. Then we have Sophia, a gorgeous ex-girlfriend found murdered. All of the main characters had motive but only one is suffering the sins of others. Whew—this is a bit much! Crazy beget crazy.

"You are like rain, forecasted to quench a summer's thirsting, thirst grown beyond easy need, to life or death." ~ 31%

Let's look at the cover first. There is something about calming waters and a landscape that puts me at peace. Maybe too much. I fell asleep the first two times I started reading it. Then one chapter was really interesting and I saw promise for this novel. But it went downhill after that one chapter.

"Even a small bed is too big, alone." ~ 47%

Here we are three years later with a sequel to Love Lies Beneath. I expected this follow-up novel to be better than the first book. It is largely because I am conditioned that Ellen Hopkins writes in beautiful prose. Not the case for traditional book format. The characters and the story itself fell flat, making it a struggle to finish. I found myself only looking forward to the few poems that separated sections. They told far more about the plot than dialogue and paragraphs did. Putting the format aside, I still did not care for A Sin Such as This as much as Ellen Hopkins' other works. Please go back to the beloved old writing style!

Happy Early Pub Day, Ellen Hopkins! A Sin Such as This is available Tuesday, May 29.

Disclaimer: This book was received directly from the publisher for review purposes only. In no way does it influence my review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and would be the same if I spent my hard-earned coins.

Author: Ellen Hopkins
Published: May 2018
Pages: 384
Edition: Galley
Rating: 🖤

May 18, 2018

First Lines Friday

First Lines Friday is a bookish meme hosted by Literary Marie. I encourage all of my fellow book bloggers and bookhearts to play along.
  • Grab your current read(s).
  • Share the first line(s).
  • Include the title and author.

"Those who love us never leave us alone with our grief. At the moment they show us our wound, they reveal they have the medicine."

Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo" by Zora Neale Hurston

May 17, 2018

Bring Me Back

"Once you were back, you became the most important thing in my life, to the exclusion of everything and everyone else." ~ pg. 49

A young couple is on holiday in France. They are driving around and stop at a shady looking gas service station. The guy runs to the bathroom and insists his girlfriend lock the car doors behind him. But when he returns, the passenger side door is wide open and the car is empty. No one ever sees the girl again.

Fast forward ten years and the guy has moved on. New life, new wife-to-be, new job. All is well until he comes home one day to find his fiancé sitting on the sofa with a puzzled look, twiddling with an object. In an instant, the past comes back. She is holding a Russian doll—an object only significant to the missing girlfriend.

I love an author that can make me question the integrity of the main character. Is he genuine? Is he lying to us, and even himself? Is he just telling the police things to make it look better? Can I trust this narrator's point of view? All of these questions went through my mind while reading Bring Me Back. All were answered...but too many pages later. Again I found myself trying not to skim through and get to the good part.

So is it a good or bad thing when only one thought lingers after reading a novel? Because never have Russian dolls seemed so haunting.

Happy Early Pub Day, B.A. Paris. Bring Me Back will be available Tuesday, June 19.

Disclaimer: This book was received directly from the publisher for review purposes only. In no way does it influence my review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and would be the same if I spent my hard-earned coins.

Title: Bring Me Back
Author: B.A. Paris
Published: June 2018
Pages: 256
Edition: Galley
Rating: 🖤 🖤