Before I Forget by Leonard Pitts, Jr. is a story of three generations of black men who are related by blood, but each struggles with their role of beiBefore I Forget by Leonard Pitts, Jr. is a story of three generations of black men who are related by blood, but each struggles with their role of being a father and do not understand the heritage that bonds them and makes them who they are. The main character, Mo Johnson, a former soul star of the 70s, has just found out at age 49, he suffers from early-onset Alzheimer's, which will have him forget who he is before the disease kills him. This news, as expected, spins his world out-of-control. Trey, his son, at 19 also has a son, spends his time dreaming to be a rap star and has no means of supporting himself beyond what his mother and father provide to him, and he has just been arrested for robbery and murder. Jack, Mo's father, is dying of cancer and would like to see the son who has not spoken to him in 30 years, once more before he dies. While Mo's initial reaction to this request is no, the circumstances on why Mo refuses to speak to his father forces him to change his mind, as there are some things Mo needs to say before his memory is gone. So, Mo decides to embark on a trip back home to L.A. from Maryland, taking Trey with him as while Mo has supported his son financially he has not given him time and attention and wants to now spend time with his son.
Leonard Pitts weaves a wonderful story which is both painful and truthful, yet with compassion so the reader is able to view the lives of each of these characters and understand who they are. As Mo and Trey drive across country, the story unfolds in a series of flashbacks, alternating with action in the current time. The characters' voices for each of the generations were true to their times and I found myself smiling as I also heard the voices of the older and younger generations in my family. The most poignant of the storylines to me was the unfolding of the effect of Mo's early-onset Alzheimer's on him and his son, Trey.
Fathers are a major theme that affect both the major and secondary characters. The underlying question for the characters is what is a father and how do you effectively fill this role and more importantly, this book shows how black men wrestle with this issue and the different ways they come to terms with it. The author has the courage to address an issue that is on the minds of many in the black community and whether you agree with the characters' decisions or not - you will appreciate the honest portrayal. ...more
In Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell, the reader is treated to a beautifully written debut novel which describes a slice of life of the UkraiIn Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell, the reader is treated to a beautifully written debut novel which describes a slice of life of the Ukrainian immigrants in the northern plains of Canada. It is the spring of 1937, and Theo Mykolayenko returns to his wife and children after serving two years in jail for stealing his own grain. Theo stoically survived jail time by keeping his eyes on the prize of being free and owning his land. After all, wasn’t Canada the land of the free? Maria, his wife, and children survived the years by living in Theo sister’s shed and by pooling together their resources. Theo’s sister, Anna, has secured an adjacent homestead for Theo, unbeknown to her abusive husband. Will Theo be able to forget the past injustices and keep his eye on the future? Why does Anna cohort with the coyotes and will she learn from their strength to resist letting her husband back into her life? Will Maria, with her soothing spirit, be able to mend her husband and her sister-in-law? Will the children of Theo and Anna be able to straddle both their Ukrainian past and Canadian future?
This was an impressive novel that succeeded on many levels. The characters just came alive and will have the reader vested in their lives and feel their pain and joy of the vicissitudes of life. The description of the land and how unrelenting the elements were made Mother Nature a character in the book and you were rooting for this villainous character not to succeed in her attempt to break the spirit and resilience of the other characters. Tragedy was always looming, but to the credit of Shandi Mitchell’s skill as a writer, I was not quite sure when it would happen or to whom. This was an excellent immigrant story which showed that the success of the immigrant was less about the immigrants will to succeed but more on how much the new country was willing to allow the immigrant to succeed, and how those in power would always make and change the rules to make sure that they stayed in power.
I recommend this book to all fans of historical fiction.
Reviewed by Beverly APOOO Bookclub September 6, 2009 ...more
Cell Block Z by Ghostface Killah, Chris Walker, Shauna Garr, and Marlon Chapman is the story of Cole Dennis, a boxer with a formidable right hook, whoCell Block Z by Ghostface Killah, Chris Walker, Shauna Garr, and Marlon Chapman is the story of Cole Dennis, a boxer with a formidable right hook, who is loved by his fans, despite rumors that he has thrown a fight. This graphic novel opens with Cole being arrested for murder while being honored for his community service for turning teens against terrorism which has become rampant within United States. He is quickly convicted for a crime he did not commit, based on falsified evidence, and sentenced to life without parole at the dreaded Caucasus Penitentiary, Cole is puzzled on how he went from an honored community leader to a convict in a blink of eye and is wondering what they really want from him. As Cole believes that he has found a way out of his situation, he will have to make choices that get to the heart of the matter and gives new meaning to bioweapons. As the second book in the Wu-Tang graphic novel series and follow up on the highly successful first book in the series, I had high expectations for this one and I was not disappointed. As with the Wu-Tang musical collaborations, Ghostface Killah has assembled an excellent team to produce his book concept. A graphic novel needs works, layout and illustrations to come together in a seamless manner to effectively tell the story and keep the reader engaged, and Cell Block Z successfully executed all these elements. The layout helped convey the story and the messages and fans of the Wu-Tang clan will recognize the fast-paced flow. The words were succinct and like Ghostface Killah lyrics are not political commentaries but are politically driven. I loved the black and white illustrations which set the tone for the story and gave full effect to the words. I recommend this book to fans of graphic novels, Ghostface Killah and the Wu-Tang Clan. Please note that there is violence in this book that may not be suited for young readers of graphic novels. Reviewed by Beverly APOOO BookClub August 15, 2009 ...more
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie is an ambitious epic book that grabs you in the prologue, as an unnamed narrator is disrobed and left to wait naked wiBurnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie is an ambitious epic book that grabs you in the prologue, as an unnamed narrator is disrobed and left to wait naked with only a steel bench to sit on. His thought is – “How did it come to this.” How stark is this setting – but the grace of the language warns you that this is a story that you want to see unfold.
The story spans 60 years and takes the reader to five different countries: Nagasaki, August 1945; Delhi 1947; Pakistan 1982-3; and New York/ Afghanistan 2001-2; and the connecting points for two families whose family members will have intimate knowledge of the destruction of war. It all starts in the morning of August 9, 1945 before the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and we are introduced to schoolteacher, Hiroko Tanaka and a man from Berlin, Konrad Weiss. Both are looking forward to the end of the war so that life gets back to normal and they can be wed. But history has other plans, and Hiroko whose language skills has her working for the Americans during the occupation. Unable to work closely with the “terrorists” who have invaded her country, she flees to Delphi to Konrad’s sister. Hiroko is the one character that is present throughout the book and helps thread the book themes together.
This is an elegantly written story that allows the reader to understand how history affects our relationships with each other, Sometimes history defers relationships and others relationships survive despite the history. In each of the major parts of the book – there are historical events that are well known but what is not known is how it affects individuals who only want “to farm their land and raise their families.” There are themes of sameness and otherness in different cultures and the issues that one can have when trying to be the same. This book shows how a terrorist is defined is dependent on whose face you are looking at based on your own individual history.
I recommend this book to fans of historical fiction and world events. Readers of literary fiction will enjoy this poetic story with the universal themes of humanity and characters finding a way to bring satisfaction to their individual lives.
Reviewed by Beverly APOOO BookClub May 6, 2009 ...more
In Whiskey Gulf by Clyde Ford, Charlie Noble, a maritime private investigator, is asked by a local yacht club to investigate the disappearance of twoIn Whiskey Gulf by Clyde Ford, Charlie Noble, a maritime private investigator, is asked by a local yacht club to investigate the disappearance of two of its members while on their sailboat, Rebecca Anne. The Rebecca Ann was last heard from while in Whiskey Gulf, a small waterway between the United States and Canada. While no official is able to provide an answer regarding the disappearance of the couple or the sailboat, rumors abound. Could it have been an engine malfunction, could it have been a sailing error, despite the couple being experienced sailors, or did they get caught in a “live-fire” naval exercise?
There are enough twists and turns in what started out as a routine investigation for the storyline to turn into a military thriller. The author’s love and knowledge of sailing and the Northwest come through in his writing. But, at times the details of boats/sailing protocols were a little too much and distracted from the story. I very much enjoyed the scenes that involved Charlie’s Native-American partner, Raven, an ex-Navy seal. Raven provided the necessary background on the Native-American culture and location names that are more in tune with the nature of the locations than the American names on the maps. As an added plus, if you go to the author’s Web site, he has provided a link to iGeo where the reader can click on locations mentioned in the book and be treated to a satellite image of the area.
This is the third book in the series, and while the mystery thriller stands by itself, it would have been helpful to read the prior books in the series to better understand the characters.
I recommend this book to fans of sailing, military intrigue, lovers of the Pacific Northwest, and fans of the Charlie Noble series.
The book was provided by the publisher for review purposes
I am reading my way through the "Momma Lou" series and so far this is my favorite. I always like a story when a "bad boy" falls in love. I enjoyed howI am reading my way through the "Momma Lou" series and so far this is my favorite. I always like a story when a "bad boy" falls in love. I enjoyed how Kennedy and Juwan flirted with each other - each held their own. And learning about Nubian art was a plus. I cannot wait to read Trey's story as he was so amusing in this book trying to stay away from Momma Lou. And I would like to see Hawk get a story of his own....more
This was an easy and at times engaging story for me. I would have rated higher if I could have felt more engaged with the characters like I did with TThis was an easy and at times engaging story for me. I would have rated higher if I could have felt more engaged with the characters like I did with The Road and The Year of the Flood. This is my first book by Marcel Theroux and I would read another book by him as I enjoyed his writing style....more
• I am always wiser and more informed after reading a Louise Erdrich novel • At first I was a little confused by the characters and their connections a• I am always wiser and more informed after reading a Louise Erdrich novel • At first I was a little confused by the characters and their connections and then I settled into the voices of the different narrators as the tale reveals the effect of a tragedy on a small town in an area of country we often do not read involving a group (Native Americans) whose voices we often do not hear. • Beautiful language that makes you want to linger over the sentences, well-executed – just loved how the murderer is revealed at the end • Louise Erdrich writes the much needed stories we need to hear to fully understand the history of the U.S. ...more