*Given an advanced reading copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie dives into Africa*Given an advanced reading copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie dives into African family relations that can arrange an marriage yet destroy it at the same time.
The story opens with Afi, a twentysomething struggling seamstress and failed student living in Ghana, preparing for her wedding. Without her husband, whom she never met. Going through with the marriage because of her shortcomings, Afi also wants to please her mother who wants to please Aunty Faustina Ganyo, a wealthy woman in the community who has her hands on everything―and likes it that way. Afi knows her mother never recovered from her father’s death, and now the head of their extended family is her stingy Uncle Pious. But Afi’s mother has received a lot of help from Aunty, and Aunty offering her favorite son Elikem “Eli” Ganyo to Afi to marry is the ultimate gift.
Moving away from her small village of Ho to the big city of Accra, Afi lives in a luxury apartment. Without her husband, whom she still has never met. It turns out Aunty set up Afi with Eli because she doesn’t like Eli’s Liberian girlfriend Muna. Not only is Muna not Ghanaian, but she’s too tall, has a manly shape, and a “roasted coffee beans” complexion, and she smokes cigarettes, drinks alcohol, and refuses to connect with the family and culture, according to the Ganyos. Plus, the daughter Muna had with Eli is battling sickle cell anemia, and they had already lost a child due to the same illness, so the Ganyos see Muna as a threat to their family line. But they also said Eli will leave Muna for Afi, who is light-skinned and Ghanaian, exactly what the Ganyos prefer for Eli’s wife. As Afi and Eli finally get close, Afi realizes that she still lives in the apartment while Muna lives in the mansion. She fights to get in the mansion, and when she does, she thinks the fight for Eli’s affection is over. But it’s far from over.
Afi is a young woman who doesn’t come from money and has had her education hopes dashed after failing entrance exams twice. But her luck changes once she becomes a wife with money and a career thanks to her connections to a rich family. This novel shows the evolution of a woman who learns the sacrifices to find love and reach her dreams are based on a choice that was made on her behalf at her expense. The ties to the Ganyos threatens Afi and her mother, who desperately wants to keep Aunty happy since Aunty gave her her job and her humble home after her husband died. Afi’s mother depends heavily on Aunty, which means Afi needs to depend on Aunty and her every word. Afi is torn between what she wants from Eli, her allegedly lawful husband, and how her demands could impact her mother, her uncle, and other members of her family back at home where the Ganyos reign over the territory. The tug of war between her family and in-laws puts Afi in the middle, and she eventually decides to put herself first.
Overall, the story flows well with Afi becoming stronger only because she has to fight her family in the fight for love. ...more
*Reviewed by a dedicated member of the Lambily who has waited for this story for three decades*
The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey is an in-de*Reviewed by a dedicated member of the Lambily who has waited for this story for three decades*
The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey is an in-depth celebrity memoir that highlights the intersection of racial and familial trauma and how the world-famous songstress converted the pain into laser focus on talent exploration and superstardom success.
Mariah clarifies that this is her story from her perspective as she describes her family in the negative light that she viewed them. The story starts with Mariah’s childhood that hints at trauma described in many of her songs from “Outside” on the Butterfly album to “Petals” on the Rainbow album. The youngest of three children, Mariah is years apart from her teenage brother Morgan and sister Allison, who were both already showing signs of psychological damage from growing up in an interracial family in the 1960s and 1970s in New York City. Mariah also has the fairest complexion that makes her a target of sibling abuse ranging from her brother exhibiting violence to the point where cops are called to her sister pimping her out to a grown man. Race plays a huge part with her Black father and White mother and seeps into her upbringing as she lives with her mother in a White section of Long Island and visits her father in Black Harlem. The location forces Mariah to attend predominantly White schools where she’s called racial slurs on an everyday basis for being Black. Then when she hangs out with her father and her Black cousins on the weekend she feels her complexion comes up in the question of her paternity. One of the issues that bothers little Mariah the most is that her mother never could wrangle her curls. The untidiness of her appearance brings self-esteem down even more until her opera singer mother trains her to sing, and music becomes Mariah’s saving grace.
A major portion of the book covers a few chapters on her tumultuous marriage to Sony Music executive Tommy Mottola, who discovered her and became her first husband. Mariah goes into detail about how what looks like a storybook fairy tale romance is slow torture to her twentysomething self. She even calls the mansion in upstate New York she shared with Tommy “Sing Sing” like the infamous prison. Metaphorically, she describes the luxurious baths she would take as washing off the Mariah Carey persona to become an unhappy housewife. The mental abuse is more described here with what Mariah calls Tommy’s incessant anger that was shown to her all the time and visible to others in his inner circle.
There are explanations for some of her obsessions that have been magnified in the media to make her seem frivolous. For example, she connects with her idol Marilyn Monroe after seeing her in film as a young girl and learning little Norma Jeane Mortenson also had a tumultuous childhood. Mariah is “eternally twelve” because the physical and emotional abuse hit a fever pitch at that age where she wishes she could be a regular kid.
Like Mariah said on her book tour, what she says is unimportant is not in the book from the highly publicized engagement and breakup with Aussie billionaire James Packer to the highly publicized stint and battle on American Idol with rapper Nicki Minaj. She also brilliantly throws shade at other highly publicized events from her career to show the media monster she’s over it. And shade is hinted toward Jennifer Lopez, who Mariah claims she does not know, and now we know the subtle beef started way before the meme.
Overall, this is an extraordinary celebrity memoir by Mariah, along with her co-writer and Black cultural writer Michaela Angela Davis, that emphasizes her biracial identity and how that impacted her family and her drive. Because of the depth, it’s recommended to read the actual book though the audiobook is also an excellent choice due to the amount of well-known lyrics within the chapters. There is a lot of digging deep into the construct of race and how it could destroy individuals with Mariah describing her journey of working to overcome the obstacles placed in her path. ...more
Paper Gods by Goldie Taylor is a political thriller centered in Atlanta where characters pretend to be sweet as syrup to the public and wicked in privPaper Gods by Goldie Taylor is a political thriller centered in Atlanta where characters pretend to be sweet as syrup to the public and wicked in private.
Equipped with degrees from Spelman College and Harvard Law, Atlanta mayor Victoria Dobbs is a force to be reckoned with. Her shiny life with her cardiac surgeon husband Marshall Overstreet and their twin daughters, Maya and Mahalia, after poet Angelou and gospel singer Jackson, is enviable. When her mentor Congressman Ezra Hawkins is shot dead by a sniper in the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, Victoria finds a red origami dragon beside Hawkins’ body. She takes it and tries to decipher the meaning since she's seen one before. But Hawkins’ position is up for grabs, and Victoria wants it. As she announces her run in the special election, uber-wealthy White men Virgil Loudermilk and his cousin-brother Whit Delacourte look for their own candidate to snatch Victoria’s power. It turns out mostly Loudermilk’s actions have sinister origins, connected to a committee of White politicos arranging for Democratic Black politicos to hold city positions like mayor but not state positions like governor, reserved for mostly White Republicans. The forced racial divide in politics has piqued the interest of veteran reporter Hampton Bridges as he’s been pursuing the story for years. His snooping has placed him on the blacklist for Victoria, Loudermilk, and Delacourte. He’s also been a victim of a suspicious car crash with his latest college-age girl in the front seat that raises more concern. While everyone is trying to hide their secrets and dodge threats, they are making sure they protect their best interests no matter who gets killed in the process.
This novel explores the dual identity most politicos presumably live with. Mayor Dobbs, for example, is the impeccable Black woman worthy of likeability, but she’s also pulling strings behind the scenes to make sure she stays on top. Loudermilk and Delacourte remain top lawyers at major companies throughout the Atlanta region while pulling the strings in overall state politics. Everyone’s hands in this story are dirty and get filthier by the page. The amount of scandal that multiplies for each character makes it a page-turner, especially as characters get killed or almost killed. What incites character empathy is how the characters try to protect their families, with many members having the Southern-style double first name.
Overall, the novel is an entertaining take on the fictional political atmosphere that reads like a smooth investigative magazine piece. The author is the editor-at-large at The Daily Beast, so she uses many of the characters’ last names as their main names, meaning it's written with journalistic flair. Read this book before the John Legend-produced ABC series starring Nia Long comes out. Also, the audiobook is hard to follow with the plethora of detail, especially all the names, and popular reader Bahni Turpin's voice doesn't vibe with the material. ...more
*Given an advanced reading copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
The White Coat Diaries by Madi Sinha is a fun mishma*Given an advanced reading copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
The White Coat Diaries by Madi Sinha is a fun mishmash novel that has a healthy dose of romance drama, family drama, and career drama.
Dr. Norah Kapardi is the daughter of a renowned cardiologist who died when she was a child in a car accident. So she wants to live up to his name, but it’s been difficult with her mother still mourning years later struggling with depression and diabetes. Norah’s brother and sister-in-law lay the guilt on her for not helping with her mother. Once she starts her residency, Norah quickly finds herself falling for her supervisor, Ethan. They start going out. Norah is falling hard, and she thinks Ethan is too until she discovers he may or may not be sleeping with another doctor. But when a patient on Norah’s watch dies unexpectedly due to Ethan’s advice, Ethan asks Norah to lie for him. Her feelings for him cloud her judgment. As she constructs the lie, she tries to figure out if Ethan is worth the possible obliteration of her medical career. But more mistakes along the way end up with her making sacrifices she didn’t expect.
The pressure to meet your career goals while being bogged down by family needs feels authentic, especially with Norah’s mother experiencing health issues and Norah being a doctor who helps when she can but can’t be on call 24/7 just for her mother. She has other patients! And she learns the importance of patient ethics as the book shows the stress of residency life and how patients’ well-being can still slip between the cracks when the doctors are not paying attention. While the doctors are worrying about patients, their own well-being is deteriorating, and they stay together all the time which leads to sexual tension. This story shows how hormones can lead to the wrong decisions as Norah, a virgin due to never having time for a social life, is still figuring out what it means to even be in love.
Overall, the novel is a page-turner since Grey’s Anatomy-like medical romances feel rare in the women’s fiction genre. The author is a doctor herself, so the ups and downs Norah is dealing with as she starts her career strikes a chord in the love, family, and friend departments. ...more
When I say That maybe I was punching All the walls They put around me Around us
I was punching The air The clouds The sun
Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five illustrates a heart-wrenching portrayal of a Black teen boy trying to find what joy he has left in juvenile hall after being accused of putting a White teen boy into a coma.
Amal is a regular sixteen-year-old Black boy growing up in New York when he finds himself in a courtroom fighting charges that he put a White boy from another neighborhood into a coma. He gets sent to juvie, where he taps his artistic and poetic ability as best as he can, but he’s deterred at every corner. The other boys are volatile and the adults are judgmental. Poetry class is his only outlet, but Amal struggles with the work the instructor wants him to put into his poems. Then his artistry clicks for him, and this leads to him repainting a mural in the common area where the boys meet up with their families. Amal becomes known as “Young Basquiat,” a tribute to Jean-Michel Basquiat, until that morsel of happiness is taken away from him, and his life seems to be precariously hanging in the balance again.
The entire story is told in verse. This young adult novel differs from others exploring the racial justice movement since the main character is in actual custody and his freedom depends solely on what a White boy says, only if he wakes up from his coma. How a Black boy’s life depends on a White boy’s testimony shows readers the racial dynamics even kids are dealing with. They had gotten into a fight that went too far. Amal says he didn’t throw the harmful blow that put Jeremy in a coma. The boys don’t know each other because Amal and his friends crossed over the physical boundaries of their neighborhood that separate Black and White families with markers of housing, education, resources, and opportunities.
Mental health is a major theme. One way Amal tries to stay grounded is through his Islamic faith. It’s refreshing to see a Black Muslim teen in a young adult novel because the religion is rarely seen in the genre, and when it is, it seems to belong to a Middle Eastern kid instead. Amal’s faith ties him to his mother, who reminds him to pray five times a day. He knows he stands out as a devout Muslim in juvie, and his faith remains under threat inside those gray walls behind bars. Amal also struggles with his poetry and art in the dreary environment. The story examines the power of art for youth since it represents healthy expression. When art is taken away by adults to cause detriment, a teen’s mental health could deteriorate, especially if they’re in a situation like juvie.
Overall, the novel dives into a serious issue of incarcerated teens and those teens looking for any glimpse of bright light they can capture to strengthen themselves. The co-author Yusef Salaam was one of the five Black and Latino teen boys found guilty in the Central Park jogger rape case in 1989. Salaam and Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise are now considered the Exonerated Five after they were exonerated in 2002 when the real rapist had been located through DNA testing. The novel is based on Salaam using his passion for art during his years behind bars also waiting for the truth to be revealed. That’s the most powerful aspect of this book: how race plays a part in who is trusted with the truth. ...more
The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed features a Black teen girl living in the wealthier outskirts of Los Angeles during the 1992 uprising, but thThe Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed features a Black teen girl living in the wealthier outskirts of Los Angeles during the 1992 uprising, but the historical event’s impact falls between the cracks as the main character stays on the sidelines.
Ashley is a well-to-do Black girl living in the hills in an all-White neighborhood where even her own neighbors sit outside on the lawn as a pretend patrol. Ashley’s older sister Jo is considered rebellious and moves away to live in the Crenshaw and Koreatown area of the city, which eventually become hotspots during the unrest. Also, Lucia, Ashley’s nanny, is planning to move back to her native Guatemala with her family. And Ashley’s parents are off focused on their demanding careers. Then on April 29, 1992, the Rodney King verdict comes down. The unarmed Black man beaten by four LAPD officers the year prior doesn’t see justice as those officers are acquitted. Hours later, the city of LA is afire, dredging up a level of racial tension unseen in a generation. But Ashley still wants to fit in with her White friends at her White private school. She starts a rumor about Black male classmate with a promising basketball future being criminally involved in the uprising. Then all of a sudden she recognizes the microaggressions she had been dealing with for years from her White girlfriends. As she questions what’s happening to the city, her uncle drops off his daughter at Ashley’s home to stay focused on saving the family’s vacuum store threatened by the fires. How the uprising is affecting her family leads to even more revelations. She’s starting to see how race impacts her life. The tension pressurizes for days until it explodes at prom where Ashley experiences the ultimate betrayal from her so-called friends and realizes which friendships need to be killed and which ones need to be nurtured.
Ashley’s life and surroundings seem relatable today though it’s a story taking place almost 30 years ago. The author does a great job with framing the time element to make teen readers feel closer to the story.
The writing is flowery but gets convoluted with throwing the actual events of 1992 on the shelf in favor of character backstory every few pages. The amount of flashbacks bury the current moment. Though the flashbacks are interesting and intimate, they clog up the story development as it moves at a slow pace. With Ashley as the main character, she is also living the uprising precariously through other characters who seem to be more in the action or more affected like her sister Jo and her cousin Morgan. Showing the story from the characters who are in the heat of the uprising would’ve been more interesting. Ashley tends to be too aware where her voice comes off more adultish as she quickly picks up on the deep meaning of what’s going on around her. It’s noticeable via the audiobook where actress Kiersey Clemons gives the story a gloomy feel.
Overall, the synopsis feels a bit misleading with the focus on the 1992 LA uprising since the main character is physically removed from the situation therefore trying too hard emotionally to be involved with it. The more exciting story would be around the characters in the middle of the uprising. It’s a novel where you would want another character’s perspective or have the perspectives change every chapter. ...more
*Given an advanced reading copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron is a fascinating*Given an advanced reading copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron is a fascinating take on what happened after fairy tale icon Cinderella married Prince Charming and how it’s not happily ever after.
Two hundred years after the death of Cinderella, in the kingdom of Lille girls are forced to attend a ball put on by King Manford. At the ball, a man will lay claim on the girl, and they’ll be married, even if the girl doesn’t want to. That’s the world Sophia lives in, and she hates it because she’s in love with her best friend Erin. But Sophia’s parents are putting everything they have into preparing Sophia for the ball in order for her to marry well, and Erin isn’t on board with defying the system. Sophia tries to get with the sacrifices until at the ball she realizes she can’t do that. In the process, she upsets the king and runs away into the dark forest. When she wakes up, she finds herself at Cinderella’s tomb with a redheaded girl named Constance who claims to be a descendant of one of Cinderella’s stepsisters. Constance tells Sophia the real story of Cinderella and how her life wasn’t a fairy tale, how a far more sinister event caused her death, leading to the kingdom diminishing the rights of girls and women in favor of male domination. Sophia becomes even more determined to be with Erin and works with Constance to take down the kingdom. They head to the home of the fabled godmother for assistance, and from there they learn even more history about their society and receive more fuel to save the girls and women of Lille.
The story opens the reader’s mind about the tale of Cinderella and how it can be interpreted as a failure and not a dream come true. The interpretation of the fairy tale’s legacy of oppressing females resonates in the current environment in different ways around the world, so it’s striking to see this kingdom struggle with real-life issues based on the interpretation of a well-known story. On top of the oppression, Sophia loves a girl and is told she can’t do that; it’s punishable by law. The transformation of Sophia’s love also uplifts the story with her feelings shifting to who supports her goal to take down the kingdom.
Overall, the novel moves with a nice energy, and the story continually interprets the Cinderella story in different ways that add to the uniqueness of this new story. ...more
More Myself by Alicia Keys is a memoir by an artist whose wins seem to dominate the losses, making the book less relatable, but she tells her story ofMore Myself by Alicia Keys is a memoir by an artist whose wins seem to dominate the losses, making the book less relatable, but she tells her story of striving to lead an inspiring life.
Alicia starts her story of being a girl in a cab with her mother and seeing a sex worker outside in the wintertime. She asks her mother about the woman standing on the corner, and the way her mother answers her question plants a seed for her to remember to work hard for her dreams to come true. She then takes us through her childhood in 1980s and 1990s Hell’s Kitchen in New York City, near Times Square and the theater district. It’s not the neighborhood it is now but one that was riddled with crime where she lived with her single mother, a former actress. She talks about her strained relationship with her father, who she sees seldomly throughout her childhood as he starts another family. As she navigates adolescence in New York City, she’s working on her music with her older music producer boyfriend Kerry “Krucial” Brothers. She lies about her age to him several times as their romantic and career-defining relationship grows. Then she’s offered a record deal simultaneously as an acceptance to Columbia University. She learns quickly she can’t juggle college and music, so she drops school and dedicates herself to become a full-fledged artist. Once her debut album Songs in A Minor drops in 2001, she solidifies her music superstardom.
Actually listening to Alicia’s voice on audiobook brought the story alive, though her hardships seem little compared to her success. For years, she tends to talk about her life in rough New York City with her single mother, but with her piano and singing skills, she’s signed to her first record deal at 15-years-old. That already puts her above the average upbringing in that same scenario. Unlike Jessica Simpson’s Open Book where that singer describes hardships before and throughout her career, Alicia’s story fails to come off as relatable to the average reader. It does leave that awe-inspiring glow of "if you stick to your dreams, then your dreams come true," which we all know does not add up for most people. Alicia’s chapters open up with words from her husband Swizz Beatz, Jay-Z, Clive Davis, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, and America Ferrera. Also as well as her father and her ex Krucial, both relationships she has repaired to the point they’re willing to contribute vocal notes to her audiobook. Again, not the most relatable move but could be seen as inspiring. Don’t we all want to repair past relationships so when those people are mentioned in our memoirs they get a say? Maybe, maybe not.
Overall, it’s a positive, not-as-moving portrait of a famous singer who sings on the audiobook at times with her voice really illustrating her story in a more entertaining way. ...more
*Given an advanced reading copy from the publisher via NetGalley*
Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West is a story about a young woman trying to figu*Given an advanced reading copy from the publisher via NetGalley*
Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West is a story about a young woman trying to figure out how to live with the abuse from her father when the community, especially their church, believe her father killed her mother.
Ruby King’s mother Alice is shot dead in her South Side Chicago home after returning from Calvary Hop Christian Church. This of course devastates Ruby but also worries her as she’s now stuck living in the house with her abusive father, Lebanon. Seen as the rough-around-the-edges guy, Lebanon is known to beat his wife, so in the eyes of the church community, he may have something to do with Alice’s murder. But at the time of the murder, he was at his bakery, so police believe it’s a robbery gone wrong. He keeps busy by visiting his sick mother Sara in the hospital. Ruby, on the other hand, is trying to stay calm though her best friend Layla thinks otherwise. Layla asks for help from her pastor father, Rev. Jackson Potter, but he’s not quick to help Ruby. This perturbs Layla, who entrusts others to help her get Ruby out the house. In her desperate struggle to save her friend, Layla discovers buried secrets between her family and Ruby’s family that causes her to question everything, including who killed Alice King.
Because Ruby is 24-years-old, a bona fide adult, the story at first doesn’t explain why she feels she has to stay with her father after her mother is killed. Why can't she stay with Layla? It does a good job of showing Ruby slow to act in her grief while Layla speeds up her efforts. The desperation differs between the two friends with Ruby feeling she can handle the abuse and Layla wanting to end the abuse as soon as possible. Another storyline develops between Lebanon and Sara, who is very cruel to her son. Lebanon tries to figure out why his mother is the way she is, which becomes one of the buried secrets that turns the story upside down, but also shows the destruction he passed down to his household. The generational trauma and pain is so heavy on the Kings where abuse thrives in their home while the Potters ignore theirs and become successful leaders in the church. But Lebanon’s past took him to prison for another murder that Jackson was present at, so who killed that person becomes another mystery within the story. The inanimate object that plays a huge role in this story is the church. The author gives the church its own perspective as if the walls can talk—and listen.
Overall, the story unveils layers at different parts to explain why Ruby is pressured to stay home with Lebanon and his abuse, why Layla is so headstrong to save Ruby, and why Alice’s murder comes down to the buried secrets that changed the characters’ hearts. ...more