December 30, 2020

My Year in Sistah Speak Sunday

03.08.2020 Fringe
09.13.2020 Patreon
10.04.2020 Power Book II
10.11.2020 Power Book II
11.01.2020 Ask the Sistahs

@SistahSpeakCast on Twitter
Sistah Speak Productions Official Website

Visit our social media pages. You can find me in them Twitter streets at @_SistahLM  

My Year in Blogmoir

Blogmoir: A memoir in blog format of events, herstory and people in this fuckery called life.
09.18.2020 W.A.P.
11.03.2020 It's a Vote


December 29, 2020

Top 10 + 1 Fiction Books of 2020

'Twas the nights before New Year's when I finally chose the best fiction of 2020. You would think I had more time to read during a pandemic with stay-at-home orders. Oh, but it was the complete opposite. I could not focus on plots, my eyes would glaze over a page and it would take days (sometimes weeks) to finish just one book. But despite The RONA Brain, the books below allowed me to momentarily escape the real world and all share common themes: CULTURE and FAMILY. Find your next favorite!

Please note this list is purely my opinion. It is not influenced by social media, authors, other readers, my mama or yours, fellow reviewers or publishers that may have provided advance copies in exchange for my honest review. I would spend my hard-earned coin on all eleven (11) of the books listed below. Click the title for my previously published reviews.

1. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

2. An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

3. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

4. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

5. This is My America by Kim Johnson

6. The Wide Circumference of Love by Marita Golden

7. The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

8. Heart Bones by Colleen Hoover

9. Nutshell by Ian McEwan

10. The Business of Lovers by Eric Jerome Dickey

10 + 1. Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel


December 27, 2020

Top 5 Series of 2020

1. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (Earthseed #1)

2. On the Corner of Hope and Main by Beverly Jenkins (Blessings #10)

3. A Wedding Thing by Shea w/Larami Serrano (The One #3)

4. Graceful Burdens by Roxane Gay (Out of Line #1)

5. Murder with Honey Ham Biscuits (Mahalia Watkins #4)

December 25, 2020

Top 10 First Lines of 2020

The first line(s) of a book is the reader's first impression. Some are famous. Most are meh. Few are forgotten. Below are the best first lines I've read this year because they caused an immediate reaction, encouraged me to read further and unintentionally share a common theme of TIME

1. "My calendar is full of dead people." The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult 

2. "I had my recurring dream last night." Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

3. "She was mine before she was anyone else's. All mine. Partly mine. Now she belongs to you and them and shirts and rallies and songs and documentaries." One of the Good Ones by Maika & Maritza Moulite

4. "Time runs my life. A constant measuring of what's gone and what's to come." This Is My America by Kim Johnson

5. "What does it mean to want an age-old call for change not to change and yet, also, to feel bullied by the call to change?" Just Us: An American Conversation by Claudia Rankine 

6. "I refuse to acknowledge time, famously so." The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey

7. "I learned everything I know about love, life, and getting ahead in one of the last places most people would ever want to live: the infamous Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects, on Detroit's down and dirty east side." I Tried to Change So You Don't Have To by Loni Love

8. "All through the night my mother sat near me but never touched me." Zikora by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

9. "Deacon Cuffy Lambkin of Five Ends Baptist Church became a walking dead man on a cloudy September afternoon in 1969. That's the day the old deacon, known as Sportcoat to his friends, marched out to the plaza of the Causeway Housing Projects in South Brooklyn, stuck an ancient .38 Colt in the face of a nineteen-year-old drug dealer named Deems Clemens, and pulled the trigger." Deacon King Kong by James McBride 

10. "History is fucking wild." When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

December 23, 2020

DNF of 2020

Bookhearts, you are familiar with my 50-Page Rule and might have seen the discussion on Bookish Twitter among bloggers, booktubers, bookstagrammers, readers and reviewers. I understand writers put their heart, soul, ideas, time and money behind their work. Please recognize so do reviewers! 

However, an author should expect honest feedback, not all praise and high ratings. If an author cannot handle or wishes to not see negative reviews, then it is best to not publish. Better yet, if I identified you as such an author that only wants positive reviews, I made a mental note to never read your books again. Because what I'm not 👏🏾 gon' 👏🏾 do 👏🏾 is censor my opinion.

Then there are authors that do not understand DNF (did not finish) posts, such as this one. It is not my intent to be mean. I just don't think it is fair to give a full review on a book I did not finish. How can I? So instead I let other readers know why I didn't finish to help them decide whether to read it or not. For advance copies, I let the publisher know why a full review will not be posted. This helps us to better match future requests.

I also mark the book as DNF so I won't forget that I attempted to read it already. Being an avid reader, I am bound to come across the same books again so I need that reminder. It is not a stamp of disapproval or a warning to stay away. Just because a book wasn't for me doesn't mean it's not for the next reader. 

I do not have time to read more than 50 pages just to see if the book might get better. If it hasn't caught my attention by that point, it is fair to stop and move on to the next. And finally, it is perfectly okay to share what I quit and why. If you are not interested, kindly keep scrolling. Take this free marketing and allow my annual DNF blog post to help a book find its intended audience.

Whew, bookhearts! This unintentionally turned into a rant. Bottom line, there are too many good books around to waste time struggling through a novel. My TBR (to be read) pile is way taller than my patience. I have no guilt moving more books to the DNF (did not finish) pile or RBWT (Right Book Wrong Time) list this pandemic year. I was quick to close! So without further ado...
  1. Layla by Colleen Hoover ~ Too paranormalish.
  2. Halfway to Free by Emma Donoghue ~ What is happening?!
  3. Sorry I Missed You by Suzy Krause ~ Ghosts. Ghosted. Gone.
  4. We Are Not Free by Traci Chee ~ Why are there 14 points of view?!
  5. The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult ~ Yawn. Wordy. Strug-ga-ling!
  6. Dear Justyce by Nic Stone ~ I am so not the intended audience for this.
  7. Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West ~ Slow buildup to the hype.
  8. The Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer ~ I'm over it. So over it. NOPE.
  9. The Wrong Mr. Darcy by Evelyn Lozada ~ Put a halt to train of thought.
  10. Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo ~ Lost in translation, maybe?
  11. Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown ~ Shell shatters along with my interest.
  12. The Group by Mary McCarthy ~ Too many to track. Where is the masterpiece?
  13. Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld ~ Overhyped. I expected speculative not fan-fiction.
  14. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo ~ Punctuation threw me all the way off.
  15. The Paper Daughters of Chinatown by Heather B. Moore ~ Just couldn't get into it.
  16. Loretta Little Looks Back by Andrea Davis Pinkney ~ Right book at the wrong time.
  17. Smash It! by Francina Simone ~ Insensitive. Racist remarks. Too bad for a bomb cover.
  18. How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones ~ Already lost @ 11%.
  19. Black Bottom Saints by Alice Randall ~ No word should be mentioned 400x. Enough!
  20. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett ~ Right Book Wrong Time. Coming back with wine.
  21. All This Time by Mikki Daughtry & Rachael Lippincott ~ I can't with the co-dependency issues.
  22. Conjure Women by Afia Atakora ~ Revisit when in the headspace for foxes, symbolism, voodoo and southern dialect.
  23. Don't Tell Mom About This by Eric Serrell ~ Black female main character. Mention of "Pookie." White male author. NOPE.
  24. Breathless by Jennifer Niven ~ I obvi can't relate to a sex-on-the-mind-complaining-about-mosquito-bites-whiny-white-teenage girl.
  25. Deacon King Kong by James McBride ~ Colorful cast of characters with their names/roles in community but I don't have the focus for such wordiness. Whole lot of describing.

Memes & Reading Challenges of 2020

2020 Goodreads Challenge: Read 60 books in 2020.
Challenge Met: Read 77 books this year. (128% to goal)
2020 Page Count Challenge: Read 20,200+ pages in 2020.
Challenge Met: Read 22,380 pages this year. (111% to goal)

2020 Popsugar Advanced Reading Challenge: Read 10 books w/prompts listed above.
Challenge Not Met: Read only 6 books w/prompts.

Keeping Up with Patterson Challenge: Read books in the Alex Cross, Women's Murder Club, and Michael Bennett series by James Patterson.
Challenge Met: Read 3 KUWP books this year.
03.29.2020 20th Victim (Women's Murder Club)
08.12.2020 Blindside (Michael Bennett)
12.20.2020 Deadly Cross (Alex Cross)

Perpetual Kinsey Millhone Challenge: Continue to read books in the Kinsey Millhone alphabet series by Sue Grafton.
Challenge Met: Read one (1) Kinsey Millhone book this year.

Perpetual Jack Reacher Challenge: Continue to read books in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child.
Challenge Not Met: Read 0 Jack Reacher books this year.

Live Read: Post comments/reactions in real time as I am reading a book.
07.10.2020 White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
12.26.2020 A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Lit Tidbits: Share current literary news. 

December 22, 2020

Lit Tidbits: Pithy Picks V

I cannot let the year go by without reviewing a few of the best books read this year. Sometimes a book is so good that it has to sit on my mind before forming my opinion into words. I want the story to sink in. I want the characters to marinate. I want the ending to serve me satisfaction long after I've turned the last page. I want to see how long it stays with me and if "OMG this book was so good" vibes still stand later. Well, Bookhearts, I am happy to say the books below absolutely earned 5⭐️. Check out my pithy reviews below.

Title: Heart Bones
Author: Colleen Hoover
Published: August 2020
Pithy Review: An unexpected death forces Beyah to reach out to the father she hardly knows. If she can just get through the summer, a new life begins and she never has to look back. On paper, she has nothing in common with new neighbor, Samson. She's poor; he's wealthy. She's neglected; he's privileged. But they are both sad and drawn to each other. A summer fling turns into hearts being dragged out to sea. There is so much misguided anger and moments that tore at my heart strings. These two young adults were meant to cross paths. This novel is among Colleen Hoover's absolute best!
Quote Grab"Hearts don't have bones. They can't actually break." ~ pg. 156
Recommend or Nah? ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Wives
Author: Tarryn Fisher
Published: December 2019
Pithy Review: Imagine being identified by the day of the week because it's the only day you see your husband. Thursday's husband, Seth, has two other wives. She has never met them and knows nothing substantial about them, not even their real names. It's part of the unusual arrangement that she agreed to only out of love for Seth. But one day, she finds something that makes her question the marriage and what little she's been told. Something that tells a totally different story about the man she married. Listen when I tell you that my mind is still spinning. The characters are so imperfect. This novel is thee most shocking, twisted thriller that I've read in 2020. Standing ovay, Tarryn Fisher! You done did it with this one, girl!
Quote Grab"Realization is a slow boil." ~ 84% 
Recommend or Nah? ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Published: May 2020
Pithy Review: The writing: Beautiful. The subject: Realistic. The culture: 100%. The cover: Gorgeous. This book is the little sister of Tayari Jones' Silver Sparrow (one of my all-time faves). Written in verse with alternate narration, this YA novel is unputdownable. It is about loss, forgiveness, travel and family ties. Like every summer, Camino Rios goes to the airport to greet her father. He visits her in the Dominican Republic every year. But this time, the airport is filled with people crying and no passenger arrivals. In NYC, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal's office for bad news: her father died in a plane crash. The girls are miles apart and clueless of the other's existence. In the loss of Papi, they gain a part of him back in a sister.
Quote Grab"I grab my worries by the nape." ~ pg. 114
Recommend or Nah? ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

AuthorFrederick Joseph
PublishedDecember 2020
Pithy Review: With the exception of conversations with other artists/activists such as April Reign, Angie Thomas and Rabia Chaudry, this book is like every other. The interviews are what sets it apart! It is a black friend talking to other friends advising white friends on how to be better. Be more mindful. See color. Pronounce names correctly. Negate stereotypes. Recognize we have similar experiences but treated much differently. If you had to pick just one book on this topic, choose Frederick Joseph's and thank me later! 
Quote Grab"Because to see my color, to see my culture, to see my race, would also mean taking responsibility for how white people have historically treated people my color, with my culture, from my race." ~ pg. 35 
Recommend or Nah? ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


December 20, 2020

Series Sunday: Deadly Cross

(Alex Cross #28) 

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.

"It was incredibly paranoid, delusional, and hard to follow." ~ 57%

My Series Sunday pick is Deadly Cross, the 28th book in the Alex Cross series by James Patterson. I can count on two things every November: a Thanksgiving feast and a new Alex Cross novel. The latest opens with a scandalous double homicide in the nation's capital. A tryst gone deadly! Randall Christopher, respected educator and community advocate was caught literally pants down alongside Kay Willingham, the socialite, philanthropist and ex-wife of the sitting Vice President. They were murdered inside a luxury limo setting off a pattern of "Shoot the Rich" shootings.

The secondary mystery is pulled from headlines: missing girls that are put on the back burner until competent detectives are on the case. Our girls have been going missing for years and society as a whole doesn't bat an eye. That's a whole 'nother discussion but I am glad Patterson brought it to fiction meant for the masses.

"But I'd spent the majority of my adult life confronting murder, and there was only one way to do it well: divorce yourself emotionally from the victims. In this case, that was going to be difficult." ~ 5%

Back to the novel...Dr. Alex Cross and best friend, John Sampson, of the DC Metro Police team up to do what they do best: solve murder mysteries! But a tragedy hits close to home and will touch readers' hearts. How the main characters cope while also solving murders, kidnappings and rapes is beyond me. They make it happen with still being realistic and aware of their grief.

There aren't many series that make it to almost 30 books, let alone stay interesting. While Deadly Cross took me nearly a month to finish reading because of my own end-of-the-year frenzy, it was a good read and addition to the series. Thanks for being consistent, JP!

Author: James Patterson
Published: November 2020
Pages: 369
Edition: eBook
Challenge: Keeping Up with Patterson
Rating: 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤


December 18, 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.

"I finished writing The Black Friend in 2019, but so much has happened in 2020, I feel like I have to address it. Though we are only six months in as I write this, this year has already had a historic impact on the entire world."

The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph

December 17, 2020

One of the Good Ones

"She was mine before she was anyone else's. All mine. Partly mine. Now she belongs to you and them and shirts and rallies and songs and documentaries." ~ 1%

How many times have we heard he/she was one of the good ones? More than I can count. It seems to make bad news worse because it wasn't supposed to happen them, right? It also adds pressure as though someone is exempt from bad behavior ever. It sets a very high level of obedience and expectations. It also casts a dark light on one of the "bad" ones as if they were born to disappoint. So when I saw the title of this new novel, One of the Good Ones, I was more than interested in reading an advance copy.

The description says, "The Hate U Give meets Get Out." I totally disagree and don't see the similarities. Sister-writer duo, Maika and Maritza Moulite, come together again to explore prejudice in a new novel. Teen social activist and history buff, Kezi Smith, is killed after attending a social justice rally. Her sister, Happi, narrates through her grief, road trips with family and questions the idealized way her sister is remembered. 

Was she really one of the good ones? Why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed? Are those we lost automatically idealized and seen as the perfect angel? True points made by Maika and Maritza Moulite. 

"It's called narrative nonfiction." ~ 17%

Sometimes YA books do too much; One of the Good Ones is an example. I almost lost the overall message while going back and forth with alternating points of view (Kezi leading up to the day of arrest and Happi in the aftermath). I think it may be too confusing to follow for some young adults. 

Even I had to make lots of mental notes to chronicle the story for it to make sense. This took away from my actually enjoying it when I had to break out with sticky note tabs to create my own order of reading. Sorry I couldn't get into the person Kezi was and the person she shaped to be in her sister's memory. I appreciate the authors humanizing black people, just not in the writing style chosen. However, it may be a totally different experience for you so give it a try.

Happy Early Pub Day, Moulite sisters! One of the Good Ones will be available Tuesday, January 5, 2021.

Disclaimer: An advance copy was received directly from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are my own and would be the same if I spent my hard-earned coins.

Title: One of the Good Ones
Author: Maika and Maritza Moulite
Published: January 2021
Pages: 384
Edition: Galley
Rating: 🖤 🖤