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.

Stay With Me Forever

Stay With Me

by Farrah Rochon

The sixth book in the Bayou Dreams series gives us its latest look at the proud residents of Gauthier, Louisiana. The town has grown and prospered since discovering its significant historical importance, but being in an area prone to hurricanes makes it vulnerable to flooding.

Paxton Jones and Sawyer Robertson grew up in Gauthier but on different sides of the tracks. Paxton was dirt poor living with her single mom and her high school crush Sawyer, the football star,  was the son of one of the town’s most successful businessman. Now adults living elsewhere, both have returned to work on an engineering project that will hopefully alleviate the town’s flooding issues. Working together brings up longheld feelings they have for each other as well as the perceived class separation between the two.

This book fit in well with the other ones in the series and had the perfect amount of conflict and romance. I wish the ending was a little more fleshed out with events that happened once the flood project was finished, but maybe that will come up in the next book.

4stars

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

Dark Paradise

Dark Paradiseby Angie Sandro

I had no idea that this was a “new-adult” mystery when I started it, but I’m glad that I picked it up. Mala Lacroix comes from a long line of women who are rumored to be “witches” in Paradise, Louisiana. The rumor is true, but Mala wants no part of it. When she comes across the body of a girl in the bayou near her home, she is drawn into the mystery surrounding the death and must confront (and use) the powers she has.

Despite how the rest of the town feels about the Lacroix women, Landry Prince has always harbored a crush on Mala. When the dead girl is revealed to be his sister, Landry becomes more drawn to Mala and together they work to find out the truth behind the murder.

I love a good mystery that includes elements of hoodoo/voodoo and this debut novel by Ms. Sandro gave me everything I needed.

4stars

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

Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore

Debbie doesn'tby Walter Mosley

If you read Walter Mosley for his gritty noir mysteries, don’t expect this book to be the same. While you get glimpses of that style of writing in some of the character’s development, Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore is one of Mosley’s departures from the genre is most known for.

Debbie is a porn start who experiences a revelatory moment on set at the exact same time as her husband dies in their home. Finding out about his betrayal and the debt he has now left her with makes her come to the conclusion that she isn’t going to do “it” anymore – she’s done with porn.

This is far from a quiet novel. Debbie has to deal with the police, her dead husband’s dangerous creditors, and her own past. But Debbie herself is written in a wonderfully subdued way, contrary to what you would expect a famous pornstar to be.

4stars

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

Cherry Lane: A Cavanaugh Island Novel

Cherry Laneby Rochelle Alers

We met Devon Gilmore in the last Cavanaugh Island book, Magnolia Drive, and I knew that she would get her own book one day. After visiting her friend Keaton on the island, Devon starts toying with the idea of moving there from the fast pace of New York City. Finding out that she’s pregnant by someone she sees no future with helps to solidify her decision to relocate. An instant romantic connection with aloof lawyer, David Sullivan, makes a hectic time in her life more complicated.

I love the Cavanaugh Island books because of the characters, the sweet communities and the rich Gullah history they include. While I enjoyed revisiting the area and its people, this isn’t one of my favorites so far in the series as it seemed the plot moved at a breakneck speed throughout to get to the happy ending.

3stars

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

For Your Love: A Blessings Novel

For your loveby Beverly Jenkins

This latest book in the Blessings series by Beverly Jenkins is the one I didn’t know I needed and the one that I maybe enjoyed the most. So much of these books focus on the newer residents of Henry Adams, Kansas and all the changes that are happening there, that I forget that there are still rich backstories to be told about some of the characters.

Trent July is a descendant of one of the founding families of Henry Adams and he and his high school sweetheart are finally married and raising the two boys that they’ve adopted. Raised by his grandmother Tamar, the town’s matriarch, Trent has always wondered about the birth mother that he never knew, but being surrounded by the love of such a close-knit community helped him not to dwell on it. Now new information about his mother comes forth and shakes up Trent as well as the town.

As always with this series, the town itself is a character itself. Welcoming newcomers and dealing with the envy of surrounding communities continue to test the strength and resilience of Henry Adams and its inhabitants. This is one of those series that you hope will go on forever and ever, and I can’t wait to read the next one.

4stars

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

Pleasantville

Pleasantvilleby Attica Locke

Lawyer Jay Porter is back after his introduction in Locke’s first book, Black Water Rising, where he tackled a murder case that found him embroiled in environmental politics and changed his life. Pleasantville picks up a few years later and Jay has become somewhat of a go-to lawyer for citizens in their fight against the dumping of chemicals in their neighborhoods.

Pleasantville, a predominately African-American neighborhood in Houston, Texas (in real life and in the book), is currently being represented in a lawsuit against a company that caused a chemical fire near their homes. On the eve of a mayoral election, a campaign volunteer goes missing Jay finds himself reluctantly involved in finding out what happened to her.

Attica Locke writes super-layered novels, so it’s almost impossible to cover everything in this review. Grief, greed, politics, environmental racism…it’s all here. What I love best about Pleasantville, and her other books, is that I never have a clue about who’s behind the mystery until she reveals it to me. The last pages of the book move at a lightning speed that will have your heart racing and tuning out everything else around you.

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

Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Cats

I decided to do sort of a weekly digest instead of a post for every book I read as a way to keep blogging fresh and interesting for me. I’m still tweaking it, but here goes:

Just Finished:
DirtyThe Dirty Version: On Stage, in the studio, and in the streets with Ol’ Dirty Bastard  by Buddha Monk, Mickey Hess
Although I was never a big Wu-Tang Clan fan, you really don’t need to be in order to find member Ol’ Dirty Bastard and his antics fascinating. It’s been 10 years since he died at the young age of 35 and besides the many media stories about his brushes with the law and drugs, there’s very little known about Russell Jones, the man. The Dirty Version is written by his best friend Buddha Monk who is also a rapper and producer. On the one hand it’s great to get a first hand account from someone who was with Dirty sometimes 24/7. On the other hand, that makes this more of a story about their friendship rather than a straight biography. Buddha can come off as a little self-serving at times when talking about all of the work he did for Dirty and was never paid for or anecdotes about his own rap career. If you a hip-hop fan, this will be an interesting read, but will ultimately leave you wanting more.

hungers mateHunger’s Mate  by A.C. Arthur
Book #5 in the Shadow Shifters series continues the saga as the Shifters advance their mission in America. As half humans and half cats, they work hard to shield themselves from the general public and keep them safe from a rogue delegation of Shifters who want to use their powers to dominate and take over the world. I am a huge fan of this series as each one tells a hot love story while also advancing the overall story of the Shifters. Ezra Preston and Jewel Jenner have both been mentioned in earlier books: Ezra as a bodyguard to the head of the Shifters and Jewel as a secretary to one of regional leaders. When Ezra goes on an undercover assignment to New Mexico to get more information about the Rogues plans, he also discovers that Jewel has secrets, too, that may impact the Shifters and their future as well. As always, Arthur keeps putting out interesting tales in this series and I can’t wait for the story of Eli, Ezra’s twin.

Currently Reading:
Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy
The Man From Essence: Creating a Magazine for Black Women by Edward Lewis with Audrey Edwards
It Ain’t Easy Being Jazzy by Quanie Miller

From the Vault:(Reviews from the vault are of books that I’ve read a while ago and never got around to blogging about)another woman
Another Woman’s Man by Shelly Ellis
I’ve read a couple of the books in the Gibbons Sisters series and I really like them. The sisters have been trained by their mother to be golddiggers in a sense. They must never love a man who doesn’t have enough money to support them in having the finer things in life and they must never get their heart involved. Of course, in every book, each sister manages to fall in love with someone who their mother disapproves us and despite this, find happiness. In this one, when her father reappears and wants to reconnect with Dawn Gibbons, she falls for the fiance of her half-sister.

New Arrivals: (Books I’ve received this week)
In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes From Grandmas Around the World by Gabriele Galimberti
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

Stitched: (Happenings from my sewing room)
Nothing happened in here this week. I did buy a few patterns and one piece of fabric because I just couldn’t help myself.

 

I received copies of The Dirty Version, Hunger’s Mate, and Another Woman’s Man from the publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Super Stitches Sewing

Super Stitches

A Complete Guide To Machine-Sewing And Hand-Stitching Techniques

Nicole Vasbinder

Not a lot of sewing going on in my world right now. In fact, I had not one, but TWO wadders yesterday as I try to convince my sewing mojo to return. In the meantime I’m doing a lot of reading, of course, including some sewing related material. My new favorite title to add to my crafty book collection is Super Stitches Sewing which is devoted entirely to the very things holding our clothing (and other things) together.

Usually this subject matter is relegated to a chapter in a sewing book or a few pages in the manuals that come with our machines. Super Stitches Sewing is divided into three sections: Machine Stitches, Hand Stitches, and Tools and Equipment. Each entry includes a key to the difficulty of the stitch, common uses, what needles to use and other great information. My favorite thing is that the book is entirely in color. I find craft books with black and white photos really frustrating for some reason. The illustrations on how to sew each stitch are really helpful and sometimes revelatory, especially in the hand-stitching section.

Super Stitches Sewing is a perfect addition to my sewing library, but I doubt it will make it onto the actual shelf. I plan to keep it as close to my machines as possible.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.