February 28, 2020

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.

"In a fertile corner of Michigan, perched just above the state line in the soft crook of the St. Gerard River, lies the village of River Bend."

~ The House of Deep Water by Jeni McFarland

February 27, 2020

American Dirt

"Do you know anyone else who's lost sixteen family members in one day?" ~ pg. 64

Some books, you remember the characters. Some books remind you of close family or friends. Some books haunt you long after closing the spine. And some books, you remember how they make you feel. Then there are books, as is the case here, that will leave you with an unpopular opinion. The controversial new release, American Dirt, and current Oprah's Book Club selection has been discussed in and out of the media, among bookclub discussions and dragged in the Twitter streets. Well bookhearts, I am delivering this book review from a lonely corner because I am totally going against the grain on this one.

Confused? Google "American Dirt backlash" or "American Dirt controversy."

All caught up on the drama? You may now continue.

If every author only wrote about their own real-life experiences, the art of fiction would no longer exist. I read fiction because it is an escape from my own reality. It is a glimpse into the lifestyles of characters crafted by (mostly) talented writers. It offers themes in a slightly softer approach where it is easier to digest. It still brings awareness to issues that may affect our real lives, such as fear, corruption and justice. Let me be clear here: if I wanted to read about the "authentic" experience of a migrant or the cartel, I would choose a non-fiction book, memoir, autobiography, etc. As critics online so boisterously pointed out, there are plenty to choose from. Go read those then! But EYE chose to read the fictional telling of a migrant and deem American Dirt as one of the best books of 2020.

Main character, Lydia, lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore, has a wonderful marriage to a journalist named Sebastian, an impressive eight-year-old son named Luca and a comfortable life. For the most part, she is unaffected by the drug cartels taking over the city that her husband reports on. So when a charming man enters the bookstore and purchases two of Lydia's personal favorites, she does not recognize him as the new jefe of Los Jardineros cartel. Not until Sebastian's tell-all profile of Javier is published and all hell breaks loose. Friends become enemies. Peace becomes violence. Comfortability turns into fear. Lydia and Luca are instantly transformed into migrants and head el norte for safety. Their journey may be fictional but it is haunting nonetheless. 

Here is a little tidbit: I do not read books in the chronological order of pages. I read the inside jacket first (or online summary). I flip to the title page just in case I'm lucky enough to be in possession of an autographed copy. I read the dedication page. I am nosy and want to know whom the book is dedicated to and why. Next, I skip to the back of book and check for book club discussion questions, a reader's guide, the number of pages and the Acknowledgments. Again, I am nosy so want to know to whom the author gives thanks. Then I read the Author's Note (very important in this case) before flipping back to the beginning to browse the Table of Contents. How many chapters? Is it alternate points of view? Is there a time jump from past to present? Then I finally proceed to read the story.

American Dirt is a prime example of why I read the Author's Note before diving into the story itself. Jeanine Cummins explains her reasons behind writing American Dirt, her research and writing process, and supporting facts about migrants along the United States-Mexico border. It set the tone and confirmed my decision to read American Dirt despite all the negative hype.

We all read for different reasons: escapism, entertainment, enlightenment, obligation or out of boredom. Whatever the reason, you have a right to choose the stories you allow in your space. Maybe my review will persuade you to read American Dirt or maybe it won't. Just know that I took one deep inhale before diving into this story and did not exhale until the very last page was turned. The story of Lydia, Luca, Javier, Sebastian, Rebeca, Soledad and other minor characters will not flee my mind anytime soon. Well done, Jeanine Cummins!

Title: American Dirt
Author: Jeanine Cummins
Published: January 2020
Pages: 383
Edition: Hardcover
Rating: 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤

February 26, 2020

Rihanna: The Big Ass Book

Title: Rihanna
Author: Rihanna
Published: October 2019
Pages: 504
Edition: Oversized Hardcover
Rating: 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤


February 25, 2020

Lit Tidbits: Pithy Picks III

Today is February 29, a leap day and the last day of Black History Month. Yes, blackness is celebrated every day but you get the point. On this extra day, I thought it would be nice to highlight the stories of three (3) extraordinary women in their own right. They are from all walks of life and different eras. Each of these women have a story that is sometimes hard to believe. Need I say more?

Title: She Came to Slay
Author: Erica Armstrong Dunbar
Published: November 2019
Pithy Review: The life and times of Harriet Tubman are told from a modern point of view. This is no boring rendition of a slave story. This book delves into a timeline of Tubman's life with photos, illustrations and the right amount of pop culture mixed into the storytelling. (See: Harriet's Homies)
Quote Grab"She had very little to offer the needy, but she believed that God would always provide." ~ pg. 111 
Recommend or Nah? ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Diamond Doris
Author: Doris Payne
Published: September 2019
Pithy Review: Diamond Doris is a notorious jewel thief. She made a living stealing from elite jewelers all over the world. She vowed to turn the tables when she was once thrown out of a jewelry store when a white customer entered. From the 1970s to her arrest in 2013, Doris had quite the adventurous career. I suspect some of the heists are exaggerated though.
Quote Grab"Like people, no two diamonds are the same." ~ pg. 1 
Recommend or Nah? ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System
Author: Cyntoia Brown-Long
Published: October 2019
Pithy Review: The story of Cyntoia was all over the media: a 16-year-old girl convicted of murder and sentenced to life. She was treated as a teenage prostitute, not a sex trafficked victim. It is a coming-of-age memoir that held my interest throughout and urged me to research online for more case info. It is a fine example of finding hope through faith in a messed up justice system.
Quote Grab"Facts weren't facts, not in the courtroom." ~ pg. 121 
Recommend or Nah? ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


February 23, 2020

Series Sunday: On the Corner of Hope and Main

(Blessings #10) 

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 On the Corner of Hope and Main, the 10th book in the Blessings series by Beverly Jenkins. Henry Adams, Kansas, may be small but usually there's not a dull moment in town. It is election time; Trent July has been mayor for the past four years and ready for someone else to take the reign. One of the residents, Barrett Payne, is very vocal that he wants the job. But a surprise candidate makes it quite the mayoral race.

"There's the old saying that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." ~ 53%

I expected more from the tenth installment of this series. Maybe more excitement, fanfare through the town, a big 'ole celebration or something. Instead it was a bit uneventful. Even with a competitive race for mayor and the unwelcome presence of Bernadine's ex-husband, it was a bit boring. It did not help that several grammatical errors threw my reading off. I am still a fan of the Blessings series but On the Corner of Hope and Main missed the mark.

Happy Early Pub Day, Ms. Bev Jenkins! On the Corner of Hope and Main will be available Tuesday, March 3.

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: Beverly Jenkins
Published: March 2020
Pages: 301
Edition: Galley
Challenge: Popsugar—A Book By an Author Who Has Written More Than 20 Books
Rating: 🖤 🖤

February 21, 2020

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.

"'Here,' says the nice enough salesman, pointing to the lawn crypt to his right, 'your loved one would go in first, with his head facing this way. And when it's time, you would go in headfirst, so your heads and hearts are touching for eternity.' Umm..thanks?"

~ Black Widow by Leslie Gray Streeter

February 20, 2020

Memes & Reading Challenges of 2020

2020 Goodreads Challenge: Read 60 books in 2020. Already 9 books in!

2020 Page Count Challenge: Read 20,200+ pages in 2020. So far 2,725 pages turned!

2020 Popsugar Advanced Reading Challenge: Read 10 books w/prompts listed above. Shut the front door for three marked done!

Keeping Up with Patterson Challenge: Read books in the Alex Cross, Women's Murder Club, and Michael Bennett series by James Patterson.

Perpetual Kinsey Millhone Challenge: Continue to read books in the Kinsey Millhone alphabet series by Sue Grafton.

Perpetual Jack Reacher Challenge: Continue to read books in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child.

Live Read: Post comments/reactions in real time as I am reading a book.

First Lines Friday: Share the first line(s) from current read(s).

Series Sunday: Share a review/recommendation of a book in a series.

Lit Tidbits: Share current literary news.

US vs. UK: Compare covers of books released in US/UK.

Life of a Migraineur: Share moments of my life with migraines.

View all of Literary Marie's Memes and Reading Challenges here.