My thoughts: • This is a another book that I wondered why it has taken me so long to read as it has been sitting on my shelf unread for so so long – maMy thoughts: • This is a another book that I wondered why it has taken me so long to read as it has been sitting on my shelf unread for so so long – maybe it is because I knew my granddaughter would love this book and was waiting on until she became of age to highly recommend to her. • Though I am not a big fan of coming-of-age stories or YA stories – I was immediately engaged from the first chapter and became invested in the characters so much that I quickly read this book over two nights. • Shange is a consummate storyteller whose ability to address issues relating to Black women is uncannily good and so her characters come across as relatable and heartfelt. • Betsey Brown was written in 1985 and Shange wrote this book because she wanted to provide reading material for adolescent African American girls. And does an excellent job of creating scenes/situations that are universal to adolescents; bodily changes, first budding love interests, the need for privacy and getting a sense of who they are and who they want to be as adults and into this mix Shange also confronts issues specific to the AA experience. • Enjoyed how Betsey’s journey is paralleling the changes/journey of AAs in the beginning age of the Civil Rights Movement, especially after the Brown vs The Board of Education decision. Loved how the family name is Brown to help solidify the journey. • Betsey Brown’s story is about being 13 years old, being black, and being female in 1959 St. Louis as they decided to ‘desegregate the schools. • I liked how this storyline explored the tensions that Betsey, her mother and grandmother has as a “privileged” member of a doubly oppressed group – black women and how each was a product of their time and class. • Riveting storyline, engaging characters, enthralling look at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, and beautifully rendered writing made Betsey Brown a highly satisfying captivating read for me. Highly recommend this book be part of school and public libraries and is certainly a must read for lovers of coming-of-age stories and African American life. • While I have read other works by Ntozake Shange and I once again reminded of her contributions to the writings of the black woman’s aesthetic and am motivated to reading more of her work. ...more
In this magnificently ambition tale a politically naïve Percival Chen, the headmaster of a successful English academyThis was a 4.5 star book for me.
In this magnificently ambition tale a politically naïve Percival Chen, the headmaster of a successful English academy in 1960s Saigon believes in the superiority of his Chinese heritage and the value bribes are the keys to his success. After all this has worked with past conquerors, the Japanese, the French and the Americans–no matter how temporary their stay but being oblivious to the newest player for control will challenge Percival beyond his nightmares. I was captivated by this book from the beginning and held spellbound to the last paragraph by the Lam’s storytelling ability to intertwine the history/connection of Vietnam, China, Hong Kong and the foreigners. This was an audio book for me and the narrator effectively conveyed the tension, arrogance, love, and betrayals. I believe part of the appeal of this book for me can also be contributed to my recent trip to China and Hong Kong and reading the wonderful book, “Ghost Month” by Ed Lin helping me to appreciate the complexly layered history of this region. Lam has crafted a gripping masterpiece that captures a street-level view of the complexity of a world where one misstep can lead to an unraveling of all that you hold dear. I recommend this book to readers of historical fiction. ...more
Will & Dena: Love and Life in World War II by Bob Rogers tells a story that until recently was mostly only whispered about, or at least was not knWill & Dena: Love and Life in World War II by Bob Rogers tells a story that until recently was mostly only whispered about, or at least was not known outside of a limited community of people. It is a coming-of-age story that begins in the North Carolina Central Piedmont region in the spring of 1943. The United States is in the midst of a World War fighting to free countries from tyranny, but in this small corner of western North Carolina, freedom is not available to everyone. The reader is introduced to Will Wallace, who wants nothing more than to work with his father as a lumberjack, play baseball on one of the local “colored” teams, and plans his life with the Lena Horne look-a-like Dena Miller. But, just as curveballs are pitches designed to disrupt the batter’s timing, Will will be thrown some curveballs that will disrupt his life in ways he never imagined.
While drafting the review, I thought about how timely this book is in light of some recent current events and how these events relate to the story of Will & Dena. There are several states that are looking to change the way African-American history is presented, and bullying is a growing concern in our schools. As we watch Will mature into a man, it will be several bullying incidents that will change the path of his life, and this story is rich in the history of the contributions of the African-Americans soldiers in WW II and the battles that were fought not only against the foreign enemy but another enemy – Jim Crow. And while, in recent years, we have learned more about the role of African-American soldiers in Europe, I enjoyed reading about the 366th Infantry Regiment involvement in Italy, and hope more of these stories will come to light.
I enjoyed this storyline and really appreciated how Will’s father out negotiated the white power brokers because they thought he would not understand the value of what he was getting. Despite being a sports enthusiast, the detailed inning by inning plays at the beginning of the book slowed the story down, but the story quickly picked back up. I also wish the book had a better title as I feel male readers, and some female readers, will hesitate to pick up the book because of the title.
This would be a wonderful book for young black males to read and discuss as there are lessons in growing up that they can relate to. I recommend this book to readers who enjoy reading stories about the WWII era and learning about more about the complex history of the United States. ...more
Cantankerous ornithologist Jim Kennoway whose leg was recently amputated retreats to an island off the coast of Maine and just wants to be left alone Cantankerous ornithologist Jim Kennoway whose leg was recently amputated retreats to an island off the coast of Maine and just wants to be left alone. Instinctively the reader knows there is much more to Jim’s orneriness than meets the eye as the elegiac language is often betrayed by restrained humanity. In this story, it is the arrival of Cadillac, the daughter of the Melanesian man who scouted with Jim during WWII, on her way to Yale to study medicine that allows the floodgates of Jim’s memories to encroach into ours. The well-layered flashbacks provide the details, and the spellbinding poetic language provides the muted emotions, taut suspense, and pending release in a heartfelt manner. But the brilliance of this tale was the evocation of place and time whether is it was WWII ravaged Solomon Islands, sultry pristine Cumberland Island at the turning of the twentieth century, present day Fox Island off the Maine coast or the competitive academic world of Manhattan. This hauntingly moving tale held my attention from the first page and dared me every time I thought to put it down before the final page. Needless to say I stayed up late into the night to finish. This was my first read by the author and look forward to reading more of her work. I recommend to readers who like stories regarding owning memories, life expectations, and acceptance. ...more
This was an audio book for me. it was 14 hours long. Very detailed and delves into the post Civil War time with a diverse groups of characters, ex-slaThis was an audio book for me. it was 14 hours long. Very detailed and delves into the post Civil War time with a diverse groups of characters, ex-slaves, former slave owners, Nativer Americans, etc. ...more
While I am not a big fan of short fiction, I do realize the value of a novella prequel to introduce an upcoming series to reads. I must say that the aWhile I am not a big fan of short fiction, I do realize the value of a novella prequel to introduce an upcoming series to reads. I must say that the author achieved her goal of writing an engaging prequel and has me anticipating reading the books in the series. I am big fan of historical fiction especially stories which looks into the history of black people. I appreciate how the author wrote the characters with dignity and grace within the troubling time period of the 1840s. This is a sweet romance that is fully flushed out in the novella and who does love a feisty heroine and protective hero finding their happily every together. I am glad to find a historical series that I can read along with my teenage granddaughters. ...more
I so enjoy books where lyrical evocative writing brings to life the time and place of the storyline. Children of Paradise is such a book. The time isI so enjoy books where lyrical evocative writing brings to life the time and place of the storyline. Children of Paradise is such a book. The time is the late 1970s, and the place is commune deep in the jungles of Guyana. The storyline is loosely based on the true events of Jim Jones’s utopian community but especially speaks to the voiceless children and their lives in this environment. As beautiful as the prose is it is plainspoken in oppression, heartbreak, and blind faith expected of the all commune inhabitants. But it was Adam, the commune gorilla that had me turning the pages. I loved hearing his thoughts on what was going on around him and how he made decisions based on his own fate and survival. His back story and what his dreams were also a nice touch. I liked how the tension was slowly built and maintained throughout the story. Even though I knew the outcome it did not keep me from being hopeful and optimistic that some would escape the fatal outcome. There is one haunting heartbreaking scene that was so beautifully written that it will stay with me long past finishing the book. The children are so hungry (they stayed in a stage of hunger and growling stomachs while the leader feasted every meal) and make a plan to “steal” a loaf of bread and Ryan decided among the children that he was the best person for the job. I was like the children holding my breath and taking every step with Ryan. I recommend this book to those who enjoy stories about wolves who walk around in sheep’s clothing. ...more
As other readers have mentioned I was drawn into this book after reading the first chapter but also felt that at times the story dragged a little. ButAs other readers have mentioned I was drawn into this book after reading the first chapter but also felt that at times the story dragged a little. But, I am glad that I read this story. It was interesting to read this story as it is told from the pov of the photo-journalists who were each there for their own personal reasons and all were not good for the war effort or the people of Vietnam. I thought the author did a good job of having Vietnam itself be a character in the story. ...more
The Laced Chameleon by Bob Rogers is a suspenseful, compassionate and perceptive reflection on race, identity, and the multifaceted history of New OrlThe Laced Chameleon by Bob Rogers is a suspenseful, compassionate and perceptive reflection on race, identity, and the multifaceted history of New Orleans. The story opens on April 25, 1862, as the Union is routing the Confederates out of New Orleans. The beautiful feisty quadroon Francesca Dumas, her lover, wealth banker Joachim, and several friends are among the crowd celebrating the turnover. Then Francesca world swirls out-of-control when Joachim is shot down before her eyes. Vowing revenge Francesca quickly dispatches her friends to follow the suspected shooters, as she attends to moving Joachim’s body. Now penniless and homeless as Joachim’s family refuses to honor the signed placage contract, this allows mixed-race women to form arranged liaisons with wealthy white men. Further distressed upon learning the police does not have the resources to investigate the murder of Joachim or the kidnapping of her friend Emily, Francesca will turn amateur sleuth working against the clock of time finding out she is much more than what is expected of her.
Rogers’ characters are sharply drawn, and realistically complicated highlighting that much in history is not necessarily all black and white but shades of gray as personal necessity demands. This was a time where race and class defined your identity and everyone was expected to play within the spoken and unspoken rules but it was the characters that stepped outside those boundaries that get me turning the pages. I enjoyed the political intrigue and treachery that’s beautifully interwoven with the history, especially how the fictional and “real life” characters moved the plot along.
I enjoyed and cheered on the character of Francesca and her growth throughout the story. She was raised to use her beauty as her badge of security but survival quickly taught her that was only one key in her arsenal that brains, common sense, compassion, and determination allowed for more opportunities and independence. While I thought the beginning bogged down at points as circumstances reveal deeper, darker motivations, the pace and plot quickens to a satisfying conclusion.
And while I know the author has many more historical stories to tell us, I am hoping that this would be the beginning of a Francesca mystery series. I recommend this book to readers of historical fiction who enjoy a mysterious unscrambling of history.
This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. ...more
There is nothing I enjoy better than traveling to an exotic place and time through a well-crafted historical storyline. I enjoy observing a new placeThere is nothing I enjoy better than traveling to an exotic place and time through a well-crafted historical storyline. I enjoy observing a new place and time through the eyes of the characters as they go about their daily lives. This is exactly what I got when reading, Daughter of Two Nations by Katrina Covington Whitmore. My interest was piqued from the beginning when meeting Lady Kiah, princess of the ruling family of the kingdom of Kush, an intelligent compassionate yet innocent young lady, as she is traveling from her home to Palmyra, Syria. Kiah is taking the reverse route for the same reason as her mother, Tiri, took 22 years ago when she left her home in Palmyra to travel to Kush. As this is the third century and women are expected to be a negotiating tool between nations, Kiah has been contracted to marry the heir of the most powerful family in Palmyra, the eastern jewel of the Roman Empire. In deference to her age, Kiah will first live with her aunt, Aziza, and her cousin, Zenobia, so she can become accustomed to the customs of her new home.
The author took me on a wonderful journey through the third century. The sights, sounds, and smells came alive through the characters. While Kiah is a privileged teenager of royal birth, she experiences some of the same trials and tribulations as teenagers of today; jealousy among friends, distinguishing who is friend or foe, learning to navigate the adult world, and experiencing the first pangs of love. I enjoyed the diversity of the characters and while the story will be enjoyed by all female teenage readers, those of color will appreciate seeing the characters that look like them. Quick reading, but well paced -- the story builds to an unexpected conclusion. As this is the first book in the Bride of the Desert trilogy, I will be anxiously waiting for the next book to see how the conclusion plays out.
I recommend this book to readers of historical fiction, especially teenager and young adult readers. This would be a wonderful book choice for Mother-Daughter book clubs ...more
For lovers of historical fiction, nothing is better than a book that has you immersed in the storyline and engages all of your five senses, so that whFor lovers of historical fiction, nothing is better than a book that has you immersed in the storyline and engages all of your five senses, so that when you look up from reading it takes you a couple of seconds to re-orient to your current surroundings. Shadow Princess by Indu Sundaresan was just that book for me. When Shadow Princess opens we are transported to 17th century India as the Mumtaz Muhal, the much beloved wife of the Emperor, is about to give birth to her 14th child. Also, in the room with her are her two teen-aged daughters, Jahangir(17) and Roshanara (14). As the birth process continues, it appears Mumtaz Muhal may not survive, and she reaches out for Jahangir, neglecting Roshanara, who also rushes to her mother’s side. But, despite the best of care available, Mumtaz Muhal dies, leaving behind four sons, two older daughters, a newborn girl child, and an inconsolable husband. But when the Emperor is finally convinced to resume his morning appearances before the royalty, it obvious that he is in a very fragile state; for a show of unity, Jahangir thrusts her four brothers out into the balcony to stand by their father. At this moment, all four brothers, despite their young age, feel the surge of power of being Emperor and this becomes each of their goals. Roshanara, once again feeling left out, and in her bitterness wonders how to control her destiny in this male-dominated world.
While this is the third book in the Sundaresan’s trilogy on the Mughal Empire, it is not necessary to read the prior books to enjoy this storyline. Sundaresan’s passion and research for this period of Indian history comes through in her exquisite writing and the decoding of the culture. This a tale of the lush life of the royalty and those favored by them. Even for the reader who knows the outcome of the power struggle, Sunderesan weaves an interesting path of getting to this point, focusing the story on Jahangir and Roshanara and the roles of women in shaping Indian history. What most of us know of this era is the building of the Taj Mahal as a tribute of a man’s love for wife, Sundaresan took a chance and made the Taj Mahal a character in the book and it is only fitting as the influence of women have often been overlooked in the telling of this period; however, this oversight is corrected by this trilogy.
I recommend this book to not only readers of historical fiction, but also to readers who enjoy reading about sibling rivalry, unrequited love, uncontrolled ambition and adventure. ...more