Everyday People: The Color of Life – a Short Story Anthology

Over the years I’ve developed an appreciation for short stories. I used to resent not having the ending and knowing what happened. Now I can enjoy them from a different place. I’m enjoying not knowing the full stories. Because that’s how life is.

Everyday People is a collection of fourteen short stories by a diverse group of writers of color. While the work can be considered contemporary fiction, the writing spans several different writing styles, experiences and points of view. It’s almost impossible to choose a favorite, but A Sheltered Woman by Yiyun Li is very close. A Chinese woman works taking care of newborn babies and helping their breastfeeding moms. She doesn’t stay past the time she is needed, moving on to another family when the babies are a month old. Her current employer, however, is finding it difficult to accept her new role as a mother.

Other favorites include High Pursuit by Mitchell S. Jackson (something about it just felt like ‘home’), Wisdom by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, and The Kontrabida by Mia Alvar. A great bonus at the end of the book is a Reading List of Contemporary Works by Women, Nonbinary, and Transgender Writers of Color/Indigenous Writers. It’s a very comprehensive list covering many genres that I will revisit again and again.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this e-book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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New Release Tuesday: Intercepted

I’m so not a fan of any sports at all, except when the players are characters in romance novels. It can get so messy and entertaining, you know? All the traveling and groupies and wives and childhood sweethearts, etc. add the perfect amount of drama. I was reluctant to read Intercepted because it’s Alexa Martin’s debut book, but I read her bio and it said she was married to a former NFL player, so I dove in.

Marlee Harper has been an NFL girlfriend for 10 years. Longer than usual for most. Her boyfriend Chris is the quintessential football player. Big house he doesn’t need. Flashy car. He makes Marlee join the player’s wives group, the Lady Mustangs, even though they see her as “just a girlfriend”. Of course she has nothing in common with these botoxed, mean girls but she endures it because she loves Chris and wants to support him and his career. He’s under extra stress right now because the team is bringing in a new quarterback and apparently that means something to wide receivers. Who knew? *shrugs* Anyway, this new hotshot quarterback, Gavin, just happens to be a man from Marlee’s past. Chris and Marlee break up, for totally unrelated reasons, and she swears off professional athletes forever. Gavin doesn’t care about that, though, and seems hellbent on changing her mind.

This was such a fun book to read. Alexa Martin has written a hilarious, sexy novel filled with lots of insider football tidbits. The scenes where Marlee attends the Lady Mustang meetings with thealone are worth picking Intercepted up. Writing this review makes me want to read it all over again and I can’t wait for her next book in the The Playbook series, Fumbled, due out Spring 2019.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this e-book from the First to Read program and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Barracoon

This is a difficult book to review. On the one hand, the author was a brilliant storyteller and I greatly anticipated the release of this book. But, on the other, maybe this didn’t deserve a full length publication. It feels more suited to a magazine article or a series of them.

Cudjo (Kossula) Lewis arrived in America in 1859 on what is thought to be the last ship to carry enslaved Africans, the Clotilda. As part of her work as a cultural anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston was sent to interview him for Carter G. Woodson’s Journal of Negro History. Through a series of casual visits at his home, Hurston is able to hear a rare first hand account of what it’s like to be sold from everything you’ve known and forced into a whole new way of existence. Slavery is abolished less than 7 years later and now Cudjo and the others who came over on the Clotilda are in the unique position of being free in a country where they’re considered foreigners, even by the African-Americans they worked alongside.

It’s easy to see why Hurston was chosen for this assignment, as she was able to relate to Cudjo in a familiar yet respectful way, allowing him to tell his story in a way that felt comfortable for him. I learned a lot, but I felt like the meat of the story was less than I expected. There’s a lengthy introduction that gives backstory surrounding the history of the area where Cudjo was born, the sailing of the Clotilda, and Hurston’s efforts to get this work published. I would have preferred this as an afterward, because it was a little exhausting to read before actually getting to the book. It made Cudjo’s words seem over too quickly.

As a student of African-American history, I recommend Barracoon because of its importance to the canon of Zora Neale Hurston. But I finished wanting more.

Goodreads Rating: 3 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this e-book from Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Midyear Reading Check-In

As far as social media is concerned, I spend the most time on Facebook (because I’m not a millennial), then Instagram (because I need to know what millennials are doing), and finally Goodreads.

In addition to keeping track of and rating the books I’ve read, Goodreads allows me (a true introvert) to interact with authors and likeminded readers. You can win books, join virtual bookclubs, find out about upcoming releases and even buy books. It’s a dream.

Every year they sponsor a reading challenge to help support you to read more if you’re someone who works better with concrete goals.

This year I set my goal as 125 books and as of today, I’ve read 64 which is 51% there.

Seems like a lot? If you’re reading War and Peace type books, yes. But I read a variety of books including romance, which I can usually finish in a few hours.

Some stats:

  • Of the 64 books I’ve read, 56 were romance novels.
  • Of those 56 romances, 32 were independently published and most were better than the ones put out by traditional publishers.
  • I gave the top rating (5 stars) to 5 books so far this year: When They Call You A Terrorist, A Brief History of Seven Killings, The Wanderer, Children of Blood and Bone, and Fire Shut Up in My Bones.
  • I rarely give romance books 5 stars, but The Wanderer made the cut. Nia Forrester is a great writer.
  • Fortunately, I didn’t give any book I’ve read this year under 3 stars. Three stars means “I don’t consider this book a waste of time, but…meh”
  • I gave the recently released Zora Neale Hurston book Barracoon 3 stars. #sorrynotsorry

So that’s it so far in my reading year. According to Goodreads, I need to read 3 books a week to remain on track to meet my goal. Let me go do that.

Click here if you want to be my friend on Goodreads.

Is This Thing On?

It’s ridiculous how bad I am as a book blogger. Especially since I am great as a book reader. And I was also a really good bookseller.

But writing/blogging and I don’t get along so well. If you ever invite me out to lunch, dear reader, I will gladly sit with you for hours and discuss everything I’m reading, have read, or hope to read soon. Not just because your feeding me (because you will have to pay for lunch; it’s not in my budget), but because I could TALK about books all day. Writing all day? Nah…

Maybe I’m intimidated by all the great writing I’m exposed to. Maybe I don’t think I’m as good as other bloggers. Maybe I’m lazy. Maybe I don’t have time for a blog.

All of those things are false, of course. I’ve read enough self help books to recognize “negative self talk” when I hear it. Recognizing it is easy, fighting it is harder. But I must try. I’m not a bookseller anymore, but I’m still an avid reader and I need to share with others – the good and the bad.

So let’s try this again, shall we? I’m going to read something then I’m going to tell you what I thought of it. Sometimes I will force you to drop what you’re doing and go buy a book. Other times I will invite you to join me as lament having to give up on a book (and maybe it’s author, too). And I’ll continue to try and find my authentic review voice that I hope you will enjoy reading.

Dangerous Consequences

Lisa Renee Johnson

dangerous consequences

Dangerous Consequences is the perfect title for this book. Every character at some point is forced to come to grips with the results of their actions. Donathan James, a psychologist, is known on his radio show as the “Sex Doctor”, where he gives out advice to listeners. Of course his local celebrity status and the subject matter he discusses come along with a certain amount of extra attention from women, and now one of them has turned into a stalker. She is able to get him into a compromising position and begin blackmailing him, all of which he tries to shut down before his wife Sydney, a pediatric neurosurgeon (how stressful is THAT job?) finds out.

I admit that I wasn’t sure at first that I would like this romantic thriller, but the great writing sucked me in. The resulting twists and turns weren’t thrown at you, but eased into the story in a very believable way. Characters who normally appear in books like this aren’t usually written as complex and faceted as Johnson does here. I was constantly re-evaluating the categories that I had placed them in as I read. The subplots featuring Donathan and Sydney’s friends and family fit well into the ongoing narrative.

Books with cliffhangers are usually off-limits to me. I don’t like feeling obligated to read further just in case the initial book isn’t good. Not the case here. Dangerous Consequences tied up a loose end nicely while leaving the others dangling in an interesting enough way to get me to come back.

4stars

I received a complimentary copy of this e-book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Breathless

Beverly Jenkins

breathless

I’m pretty sure at this point in my reading career, it’s assured that I’m going to love anything that comes out of Beverly Jenkins brain. Seriously, I love her. I don’t make a habit of rereading books, but I’ve read each of hers several times because they serve as comfort food to me.

Breathless is the second book in the Old West series, but really, since all of her characters are connected in some way, Jenkins’ entire catalog catalog is one long series. Picking up about 15 years later from the ending of Forbidden and it’s aftermath. The Carmichael family have resettled in Arizona and are running a hotel with neice Portia at the helm as the manager. She’s smart and independent which are not really prized attributes in 1885, especially for Black women. Portia is focused on her family’s business leaving matters of the heart to her starry eyed little sister, until a man from their past rides into town and works to change her mind.

There wasn’t as much conflict in this book as in previous ones, but I enjoyed reading about Portia and Kent getting to know each other as adults as well as what the Carmichael family has been up to.

4stars

I received a complimentary copy of this e-book from Edelweiss and Avon in exchange for my honest review.