With the recent popularity of zombies and all things undead, you would think that a book about long dead loved ones reappearing is just another modern...moreWith the recent popularity of zombies and all things undead, you would think that a book about long dead loved ones reappearing is just another modern horror story. The Returned is not that. Instead it's a quiet, yet complex story about love, faith, and fear. Harold and Lucille Hargrave's son Jacob died at the age of 8 in 1966. Now, over 40 years later, he is brought home to them by a government agent who is as perplexed as they are but is just doing his job. It seems that this is happening all over the world and no one knows why. Are they living or dead? Are they back for good? What do we do with them? If you're looking for an action packed zombie novel like The Walking Dead, this is not for you. If you're interested in a story of ordinary people forced to deal with an extraordinary situation, then pick this up. The American television series based on this book, Resurrection will start in March 2014.(less)
Don't let that pretty down home cover fool you, this is an enjoyable, sometimes hilarious, sometimes serious novel about the endurance of women's frie...moreDon't let that pretty down home cover fool you, this is an enjoyable, sometimes hilarious, sometimes serious novel about the endurance of women's friendships. The Supremes were given that name by Earl (of the All-You-Can-Eat) as teenagers because they were an unlikely, but inseparable group of girls. Odette is the strong, take no prisoners, one who faces all challenges head on, including a devastating one. Clarice always follows proper protocol in the face of a lot of improper behavior. And Barbara Jean, the girl from the wrong side of the tracks who made good, is still facing demons from her past.
I loved this book and was completely engrossed in the lives of these women living in a small town in Indiana who have been gathering at Earl's every Sunday for years with their husbands. The women are now in their mid-fifties and it seems that things start to hit overdrive. Ghosts, secrets, infidelities, illness and more show up to rock the lives of these ladies and they handle it with strength, outrage, denial and humor.(less)
For me, a huge part of Terry McMillan's appeal as an author is that she is relatable. You can find a part of yourself or someone you know speaking thr...moreFor me, a huge part of Terry McMillan's appeal as an author is that she is relatable. You can find a part of yourself or someone you know speaking through the voices of her characters. Who Asked You? is McMillan's most timely novel to date, covering a lot of issues that are in the news every evening.
During a time when she should be thinking about retirement and enjoying her life, Betty Jean doesn't see that happening any time soon. Caring for a terminally ill husband, her two grandsons after her daughter disappears, a son in prison, and another son who has distanced himself from the whole family, has left BJ tired and on autopilot. Add in her judgmental sisters and an equally overwrought neighbor and it seems that there is a drama overload, but it never felt like too much for me. There are times when life's trials come at you all at once and this is what is happening to BJ, but like a lot of people in real life, she can't escape it. She digs in her heels and keeps on moving. (less)
I so enjoy Jen Lancaster's non-fiction books that I couldn't wait to read her second novel. (I somehow missed the first one. Must rectify that.)
Lissy...moreI so enjoy Jen Lancaster's non-fiction books that I couldn't wait to read her second novel. (I somehow missed the first one. Must rectify that.)
Lissy Ryder is the girl that everyone hates: pretty, super-popular in high school, great husband and high-paying cushy job as an adult. Then the unthinkable happens. She loses her job, her husband, all of her assets and is forced to move back in with her parents. At first she can only focus on the unfairness of it all, but then realizes that karma has returned to remind her of all the bridges she burned in the past.
What follows could easily be the premise of a cheesy movie: a magic potion gives Lissy the chance to go back in time to high school and make up for being the bitch that she was. Lancaster's hilarious writing, however, counters the cheesiness as Lissy struggles to learn the lessons that will make her a better adult going forward. Having read most of her memoirs, this novel really did work for me, as I could see some funny parallels between Lissy and Lancaster, herself.(less)
There's always been conversations around the legacy of slavery, reparations and the contributions of African-Americans in the building of this country...moreThere's always been conversations around the legacy of slavery, reparations and the contributions of African-Americans in the building of this country. The House Girl touches a little on those subjects through the eyes of Josephine, an enslaved woman in 1852 Virginia and Lina, the daughter of a prominent artist and a young lawyer in current day Manhattan. Lina has a chance to secure her future with a prominent law firm by taking on a class action case that seeks reparations for the descendants of slaves. While looking for a example to serve as the foundation for the lawsuit, she comes across a controversy in the art world that questions whether the work of famous 19th century artist, Lu Anne Bell, was really painted by her or by her house slave, Josephine.
Conklin has the story unfold by going back and forth between the voices of Josephine and Lina. We experience the isolation of both women from the people around them along with their respective quests for freedom: Josephine's in a literal sense and Lina's from the silence surrounding her mother's disappearance from her life. A thought-provoking and impressive debut.(less)
Over the years, I've developed an affinity for the short story format that I once despised. Mathis uses the Great Migration of African-Americans from...moreOver the years, I've developed an affinity for the short story format that I once despised. Mathis uses the Great Migration of African-Americans from the South to the North to kick off this saga of a family's history told through linked short stories. After moving from Georgia to Philadelphia, 15 year old Hattie and her husband August have settled in their new city and are celebrating the birth of their twins, Philadelphia and Jubilee. In the first story, named for the twins, Hattie is nursing them through a bout of pneumonia.
Two pages in, I was hooked. The writing was so vivid and beautiful that I felt that I was in the room with those sick babies and was moved to tears while reading on my commute to work. (I'm sure the other passengers thought I was going through some things.) Each subsequent chapter focuses on the couple's 9 other children and takes us from 1925 to the 1980's giving us insight not only into the lives of each person, but also the nature of the family dynamic and each person's role in it. Children from large families at times have very different relationships with their parents than their siblings and I love that each story reflected that while also checking in with Hattie and August. (less)
I'm usually at a disadvantage when reading novels by Sister Souljah because I read The Coldest Winter Ever when it was first released so most of these...moreI'm usually at a disadvantage when reading novels by Sister Souljah because I read The Coldest Winter Ever when it was first released so most of these characters are no longer in the forefront of my mind. Even though these books stand very well on their own, I still plan to go back and read it in order to clarify some things.
A Deeper Love Inside tells the story of Porsche Santiago the younger sister of Winter and the middle daughter of Ricky and what happens to her in the aftermath of the crumbling of her father's empire by law enforcement. Although the book can be found in the Fiction (or African-American Fiction in some stores) section, what really happens on these pages is pure magical fantasy. I should have learned my lesson from Midnight and its sequel Midnight and The Meaning of Love and not picked this one up. Porsche is supposed to be between the ages of 10 to 14 in this book, and just like Midnight, was overwhelmingly resourceful for someone with limited education. The journey that she takes from juvenile hall to look for her fractured family finds her in situations that no 11 year old in modern times would find themselves in. I almost want to tell people to read it just so see how ludicrous it is that a preteen can go from juvie, to a Native American reservation, to living off the grid in New York taking care of her junkie mother, to traveling the world as a dancer, and becoming wealthy...all before the age of 14.
Other holdovers from the Midnight books are that, once again, Muslim women are to be revered and cared for, while Black women are still "gold-digging, violent, whores" (quoting myself). One thing is clear, though, other than re-reading The Coldest Winter Ever, I won't be picking up any more fiction by Sister Souljah.(less)
I really loved this layered mystery set in Louisiana. One morning while doing her standard walk around the grounds of the plantation she manages, Care...more I really loved this layered mystery set in Louisiana. One morning while doing her standard walk around the grounds of the plantation she manages, Caren Gray is alerted to the fact that the body of a young woman has been discovered on the property.
Belle Vie is a former sugar plantation that has now morphed into a tourist site complete with historical reenactments in the former slave quarters. With the investigation of the murdered young woman, Caren is forced to confront her ties to the land, past (her ancestors were slaves there) and present.
A good mystery to me is one where the culprit is not immediately identifiable and that was certainly the case here. I also found the secondary plot line dealing with solving the murder of one of Caren's ancestors equally as compelling. (less)
Not necessarily a sequel to her earlier book, Prospect Park West, but we do catch up on the lives of several characters that made an appearance in the...moreNot necessarily a sequel to her earlier book, Prospect Park West, but we do catch up on the lives of several characters that made an appearance in the novel about moms in the hipster Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope. They grapple with the standard urban mom issues: finding a life after divorce, keeping a marriage fresh & exciting, dealing with the betrayal of infidelity (your partner's and your own), and revitalizing an acting career (that's pretty standard right?).
Men have a greater role in Motherland than they did in Prospect Park West with the introduction of a gay couple adopting another child into their already shaky family unit and through the early mid-life crisis of a screenwriter on the verge of his big break.
I liked this book much more than the last one as the characters rang slightly truer and the insider New York humor was more biting. The subplot of the serial neighborhood stroller thief was quite funny. However, when it comes to matters of race, Sohn likes to throw a storyline in that seems like an afterthought of stereotypes, just like the last book.(less)
Triburbia is another one of those novels set in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods of New York City where the incoming hipster set sometimes clashe...moreTriburbia is another one of those novels set in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods of New York City where the incoming hipster set sometimes clashes with the "natives". Usually they feature latte-sipping, stroller-pushing, organic food-eating mothers lamenting the loss of their youth, careers, and independence. All of that appears here also, except the main characters are men.
A group of men with seemingly nothing in common form a sort of bond when they see each other everyday dropping off their children at school. They get together for breakfast afterwards in a coffee shop mainly for the companionship since most of the men are self-employed. Even though they go through this daily ritual, we get the feeling that they really don't know each other well despite their need for this connection.
Told in the form of connected short stories (a popular tool in this genre), we see inside the lives of these men and the people around them that they are hesitant to share with each other. I don't read a lot of literary fiction that center around men, so it was interesting to get insight into the various insecurities that these men carry.(less)