Posted in diversity, Reading Challenge, Reviews

Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo by Ntozake Shange

234934Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo by Ntozake Shange is a fantastic book full of beautiful, fluid language and the much needed representation of African American women. It centers around three sisters and their mother, providing a slice of life account of each of their journeys. Each woman is shown in her connection to female ancestral spirits as well as featuring her in her own agency in present day. Interspersed as part of the book’s narration are letters from their mother, dream sequences, journal entries, and recipes as dishes prepared in the text of the story.

Indigo is the youngest (and my favorite) and she practices magic, so her section includes spells. She lives at home with their mother in Charleston, South Carolina, and the book opens with her getting her first period. She starts out playing with dolls but ends up as a skillful violinist, admired by neighbors and strangers alike, in addition to Uncle John and her male peers, fellow Jr. Geechee Captains.

Sassafrass is the oldest sister who makes art of her woven tapestries and her delicious food dishes. She struggles to find herself while dealing with an abusive partner and his disrespectful friends who write lewd poetry “praising” (hypersexualizing) black women’s bodies while hypocritically dating only white women. Her story explores her intersectional identity and her longing to make something lasting. She moves from Los Angeles to stay with their middle sister, Cypress, in San Francisco.

The narration demonstrates how Cypress throws lavish parties and is willing to have sex with but not be tied to any particular man in a relationship, unlike Sassafrass. Cypress ends up moving to New York to pursue her dancing career, and there meets and falls for another female dancer, Idrina. Cypress enjoys being part of an all-female dance collective, telling stories of women’s bodies through their powerful performances. The romance crashes when Idrina’s lover returns from a long trip in Europe, and Cypress drowns her sorrows for a time frequenting late night bars, until she is reunited with Leroy, a friend she had tried to set Sassafrass up with back in San Francisco. Cypress’s story flows naturally through the feminist and civil rights movements of the time.

This book is so beautifully written, a summary cannot begin to do it justice. Just hearing the storyline is light years away from experiencing this deeply spiritual and artistic book for yourself.

Reading Challenges
Here we go for reading challenge updates:

Hashtags for the challenges that had them:
#popsugarreadingchallenge
#rockmytbr
#diversereads2017
#whatsinaname2017
#AnneReadAlong2017

December continues to tick away! Are you ready for the year to end?
Jobe

Posted in Reading Challenge, Reviews

January First by Michael Scholfield

51ma0RMF88L._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_I took a break from blogging during November to focus on Nanowrimo but I finished reading several books and got behind on my write-ups. I’m going to try to do these books justice despite having let them sit for too long before writing down my thoughts. I read January First by Michael Schofield in record time: I started it one evening and finished it the next morning before work. I am a SLOW READER so this is saying A LOT about how this book grabbed me and didn’t let me go. I don’t know if everyone’s experience of this book will be similar to mine but I was absolutely spellbound. This is a nonfiction account of a father whose daughter January has child-onset schizophrenia. There were many aspects of this book which rang painfully true, having experienced mental illness firsthand in several forms, in myself, close friends, and close family. This book demanded my attention; I had to know what was going to happen to this girl and the father fighting for her. So many aspects of this read were familiar, and it was affirming to see them expressed in print. I’m lucky to have a kid on the autistic spectrum high-functioning enough that we can easily communicate. But the way that January threw violent fits was very reminiscent of the way that a friend’s low-functioning autistic son acts out. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone, he just can’t communicate in a different way when he gets that upset. When January is hospitalized, I can see the facilities in my mind’s eye, because I know such places too well. And when January’s “bad memory” is recognized for the dissociation it actually is, I was dumbstruck. This book is heavy and somewhat dark without a picture perfect happy ending, although it does leave the reader with hope. If you are interested in mental illness and mental health, this is a Must Read. I haven’t turned this book back in to the library yet because I read through it so quickly I wanted to read it a second time through more slowly. An incredible tale offering a true human connection thanks to this dad’s ability to be so raw and honest about the frustration, fear, confusion, anger, and exhaustion that accompanies having a close family member with mental illness in crisis. If you read the book and still want more, here’s an interview with Michael Schofield; janisjourney.org is meant to be a progress blog for Jani and her family but I can’t get it to load so I’m not sure of its status.

Reading Challenges
Here we go for reading challenge updates:

Hashtags for the challenges that had them:
#popsugarreadingchallenge
#rockmytbr
#diversereads2017
#whatsinaname2017
#AnneReadAlong2017

November has come and gone! December is already half gone! Where did the year go???
Jobe

Posted in Reading Challenge, Reviews

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

akatawitchMy latest read was Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. Okorafor does a splendid job of placing her work in the stream of those that have come before, and it struck me that this would be another volume particularly suited for providing you with a list of “books mentioned in another book” (No. 50 on the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge). Chichi’s home, which belongs to her mother Miss Nimm, is “full of books.” Sunny, too, is a lover of books; when “she had run out of shelf space” she “started keeping books under the bed.” In Okorafor’s opening before the novel begins, there’s a quote from Wizard of the Crow by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. Throughout the novel, there are also many quoted passages from the made-up book Fast Facts for Free Agents by Isong Abong Effiong Isong. Okorafor also mentions in her pages: Her Stories by Virginia Hamilton; The Witches by Roald Dahl; In the Shadow of the Bush by P. Amaury Talbot; and Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Like the author, the main character Sunny was born in America and raised by Nigerian parents. Sunny and her family have moved back to Nigeria, where she speaks English as well as Igbo. It is so exciting to read a book about a young witch coming into her own–steeped in African legends and cultural references, rather than the old familiar western ones. Sunny forms an oha coven with her friends Chichi, Sasha, and Orlu. The reader learns all about the secret, magical world of the Leopard People alongside Sunny, who is late to the game and trying hard to catch up. There are crafty and discerning teachers,  troubles at regular school, new knowledge at every turn, a difficult father figure in Sunny’s mundane life, and a truly evil foe. Okorafor’s writing is fast-paced and exciting, and will keep you flipping pages ’til the very end. Luckily for those of you just discovering this volume, the second book, Akata Warrior, is already out! If you want to read more about Akata Witch, check out Chantel’s blog My Jamaican Vignettes and Bina’s blog If You Can Read This.

Reading Challenges
Here we go for reading challenge updates:

Hashtags for the challenges that had them:
#popsugarreadingchallenge
#rockmytbr
#diversereads2017
#whatsinaname2017
#AnneReadAlong2017

October is rockin’, can you believe it! It will be Nano before you know it…
Much Love,
Jobe

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Posted in Reading Challenge, Reviews

The Boy on the Bridge by M. R. Carey

A million years ago (ok, ok, earlier this year) I read The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey. The Boy on the Bridge is its prequel. Carey’s new spin on the zombie apocalypse is precipitated by the cortyceps fungus, making an army of mindless undead who know only hunger–that’s the premise established in the first book. Except that the boy, Stephen Greaves, has discovered a second generation of the fungus’s mutation, and these blood-drinkers are sentient… and children–that’s the stage set for this second book. In-fighting and politicking between scientists and the military land Stephen, our autistic genius main character, in a very dangerous mine field, trying to keep his new friends from killing or being killed by his race, humans 1.0. I listened to the audiobook for both volumes, so I should point out that the voice-acting as well as the writing are great.

The main complaint about this book seems to be that it isn’t as thrilling as its predecessor, and I will agree; but I’d argue that this sets out to be a different kind of book. Carey’s scope in Girl is macro, where we feel the weight of the fate of the world. In Boy, already knowing the fate of the world, the scope becomes micro: for this novel, the whole world is the 10-person crew on the bus, which expands to include the zombie children once Stephen learns of their existence (and narrows as characters are killed). The writing is certainly up to snuff. Again Carey brings us beautiful and insightful language. Who else comes up with her cropped white hair like exhaled smoke. Terrific stuff.

This book got a lot of people buzzing. NPR said that “Carey uses this larger crew and the slightly earlier timeline to explore the anxiety and desperation of living on the precipice of a breakdown.” The Verge compares Stephen to the main character of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, another book with an autistic boy as the main character, which isn’t an unfair comparison, if a bit limiting. As readers here, we get to experience all of Stephen’s emotional distress, anxiety, fear, and love from the inside, as well as the way he is treated and thought of by other characters.

The Verge complains that “From the beginning…its character dynamic is so strikingly similar…Once again, there’s an underage genius who’s underestimated by his travel companions, except for the nurturing mother-figure.” While it’s certainly true that Carey has created a formula that works and used it twice, he himself (in the narrative) states “all journeys are the same journey,” and it was only a few books ago that we heard Ann Patchett say the same, “just about any decent writer you can think of can be boiled down to one story. The trick, then, is to learn not to fight it, and to thrive within that thing you know deeply and care about most of all.”

Greaves goes about the rest of his waking up ritual, in spite of the fact that he hasn’t been asleep. It’s not just to forestall questions. He needs to do it because each day has a shape, and the waking up ritual is one of its lode-bearing components.

“Don’t be scared,” he slur. “It’s okay, it’s okay.” But they’re not. and it isn’t.

He wants to find who did this and teach them the going rate for eyes and teeth.

His hands are shaking. There is no sequence here. None of the things he is doing are on the long, long list of things he has done before.

Reading Challenges
Here we go for reading challenge updates:

Hashtags for the challenges that had them:
#popsugarreadingchallenge
#rockmytbr
#diversereads2017
#whatsinaname2017
#AnneReadAlong2017

October is zooming! How is it half over already??? Are you ready for nanowrimo.org???
Much Love,
Jobe

Posted in Jobe Update, Reading Challenge

Reading Challenges Progress Report

[ // JANUARY // FEBRUARY // MARCH // APRIL // MAY // JUNE // JULY // AUGUST // ]

With August done our year is 2/3 finished with 1/3 to go. I’ve read 33 books so far.toptoptop

Challenge Completed Status
PopSugar 33 of 40 83% main
33 of 52 63% advanced
Audiobooks 1 100% bit level reached!
10 100% Byte level reached!
11 of 25 40% Megabyte
Pages 12,000 pages! 100% Bonsai level reached!
50% Shrub
Colors 9 of 9 colors! All 9 colors completed!
Reread 3 of 4 75% Déjà Vu
3 of 8 38% Feeling Nostalgic
Mount TBR 8 of 12 67% Pike’s Peak
8 of 24 33% Mount Blanc
Rock My TBR 8 of 12 67% completed
Diversity & Diversity 8 of 12 67% completed
Full House 23 of 25 92% completed
Books You Buy 12 of 41 29% Making Inroads
What’s in a Name  3 of 6 50% completed
Anne Read Along  1 of 8  13% completed

gayflagpennants#popsugarreadingchallenge #rockmytbr #diversereads2017
#whatsinaname2017 #AnneReadAlong2017

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Non Fiction –> Free Space: Kindling by Angel Blackwood On TBR for 2+ years: Divergent by Veronica Roth More than 500 pages: Allegiant by Veronica Roth Page Turner: The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey Middle Grade book: Ash by Malinda Lo
2017 published: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan Published pre 2000: Autonomy and Rigid Character by David Shapiro UK/European author: Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War by Clive Barker Back List book from fav author: White Night by Jim Butcher, book 9 Dresden Files Book from a list: Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Award Winner: Abarat by Clive Barker Books about books: Lamb the Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore Size word in title: Small Favor by Jim Butcher, book 10 in the Dresden Files Two Word Title: Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher, book 8 Dresden Files Debut book: Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Food on cover or title: ????? Cozy Mystery: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher, book 7 in the Dresden Files Book from childhood: Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery Diversity book: Lost Girls by Alan Moore, illustrated by Melinda Gebbie Australian/NZ author: ?????
Western: The Dark Tower comic series by Stephen King USA/Canadian author: Insurgent by Veronica Roth Not really for you: The Destroyer #46 Next of Kin by Warren Murphy Attractive cover: Tithe by Holly Black Borrowed: The Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell

gayflagpennants

How’s your reading going???

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Posted in Reading Challenge, Reviews

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

 

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone is the start of a five book series (soon to be six) that’s garnered a lot of attention. Gladstone has been selected for several prestigious nominations, including finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in both 2013 and 2014, and a Hugo finalist in 2017 for the series, which is called The Craft Sequence. Admittedly there were awful problems with the 2015 Hugo awards, which resurfaced in 2016, but 2017 looks to have succeeded against small-minded bigotry. Gladstone is also publishing with TOR; if you read fantasy, you know that TOR has been a mover-and-a-shaker for a long time. Fans were not pleased in 2015 (see here and here) when president & publisher Tom Doherty of Tor Books came out in defense of the same racists and misogynists who were f*cking up the Hugo awards. (In 2017 there’s some weird stuff going on, too, but it seems to mainly be Scalzi v Vox in this instance.)

Despite all the recognition from ambiguous sources, Gladstone’s own work features several aspects of a diverse cast. And Gladstone doesn’t just write books—that’s right, I let my nerd flag fly—he also writes games and serials. In addition, his middle book (third to come out, fifth in the internal chronology of the series… it’s complicated) has been on just about every diversity reading list I’ve seen lately. I think the black woman and the Asian woman on the cover are lovers, but I’m not for sure. (I’ll keep you posted).

Anyway, that black woman, whose name is Tara, is our main character for this book, Three Parts Dead, which takes it’s quirky name from Betrand Russell, “To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.” A quick internet search will also advise that “three parts” is generally understood to mean 75%.

Tara is the lawyer mage, Abelard is the apprentice priest, and Cat is the addict cop. Together they find trouble, and ultimately, answers. Each of our trio has some scenes working solo and some teaming up. I like that our main characters are young, untested with something to prove. You can really see the character development and growth that happens in these pages.

If that doesn’t snag you, rest assured this book will also provide: gargoyles, vampires, murder, dead gods, and LOTS of magic use. And you can encounter such choice phrases as “the pretty young vivisectionist” who works with “dead human meat,” or the not-so-nice professor whose magic masterfully manipulates the very fabric of the universe, “time its warp and space its weft.” This volume has a very sci-fi feel for a book that’s considered fantasy, and there are also some parts that feel steampunky. And here’s some bizzaro fun with font and cover colors—apparently Gladstone is a little magical himself.

 

Reading Challenges
Here we go for reading challenge updates:

  • PopSugar 2017 reading challenge No. 45 a book about an immigrant or refugee. I was trying to give this category the respect it deserves and save it for a serious nonfiction book, but I just don’t know if I’ll get there. The news is depressing enough. So I decided this book may be as close as I get. Tara talks about her family being immigrants twice. It was that or No. 20 career advice, since the novel explores Tara’s career path, but I think I’m much more likely to read another book about writing (my preferred career path).
  • Book Dragon’s Lair Audiobook challenge Nope.
  • Book Dragon’s Lair Pages Read challenge These 333 pgs bring me to 11,489 pgs.
  • Read It Again, Sam Nope.
  • My Reader’s Block Mount To Be Read (TBR) and Rock My TBR challenge While I have been wanting to read this series for a hot minute, the rules say I can’t count it because I checked it out from the library.
  • Diverse Reads challenge (here and here). Yes! The main character is black, as are some of the supporting cast, and Tara is a strong, capable, intelligent woman who also fights for freedom and what is right! Just the kind of hero we can love whole-heartedly. I also liked that, unlike in many books, the males in these pages play more submissive roles while the women do the lion’s share of fighting and detective-ing. This is also the first book of the series which promises an Eastern setting in book three. I will keep you posted.
  • The Book Date Full House challenge Nope.
  • The Book Date Read the Books You Buy challenge This one I have managed not to buy yet, but I make no promises for the future.
  • The Worm Hole’s What’s In A Name challenge Does “three” count for the number title, or is it disqualified because it isn’t written as a numeral 3?
  • Anne Read Along Nope.

Hashtags for the challenges that had them:
#popsugarreadingchallenge
#rockmytbr
#diversereads2017
#whatsinaname2017
#AnneReadAlong2017

Love,
Jobe

Posted in diversity, Reading Challenge, Reviews

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

 

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo is the story of a transgirl written by a transwoman, and they even used a beautiful trans model for the book cover. The setting is high school, and any reader will recognize the familiar trappings—divorced parents who don’t see eye to eye, teens who are or are not included in “the popular kids,” feeling scared and uncertain of social situations. There are also several flashback scenes that give the reader a fuller sense of who the main character is, developing and enriching our reader experience at a pace that is masterfully parsed. The writing here is just so honest and so real. A lot of people say that reading the Diary of Anne Frank made them feel Jewish. This book will make you feel trans, in the best, most empathetic ways. Simply stated this book is vitally important and should be required high school reading nationwide. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m afraid to say much more so let this suffice: I adore this book. If you read one book this year, make it this one.

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It made my heart surge to see this book translated into so many languages.

Reading Challenges
Here we go for reading challenge updates:

Hashtags for the challenges that had them:
#popsugarreadingchallenge
#rockmytbr
#diversereads2017
#whatsinaname2017
#AnneReadAlong2017

Love,
Jobe