I’m not generally a short story reader, I like a big chonky tome with so much detail, I could drown in it. But I saw so many fabulous reviews for My Monticello and it was one of Librofm Influencer ALC choices so I decided to go for it.
It was exactly what I struggle with in reading short stories, each one was so compelling that I wanted more. “Control Negro” was so powerful and unusual of a story, I wanted so much more. Within the first few minutes of narration, I was completely hooked, wondering about the backstories of these characters we only get to experience for an epically short time. This was my favorite story of the collection. The titular story contains one of the most raw characters illustrating the complexity of being a mixed-race woman. Balancing her family’s history with her own desires and the reality of the still-racist world around her, we see Da’Naisha strive for survival. We see all of the characters strive to matter.
My overall rating is not a reflection of the writing, the detail and emotion in it were fabulous and moving. I just wanted more, more, more. I balanced my overall feelings of each work with my desire for more and am landing with ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. Usually I give a separate narrator rating but here we get several, they were all great and Levar Burton… squeee!!
Thanks to Librofm for free access to this ALC. All opinions above are my own.
What black author are you reading today in honor of MLK’s dream?
Wish You Were Here is my third pandemic focused read, you’d think it’d be preferred to shy away from these but in fact, I’m finding these oddly refreshing. Hearing pandemic experiences that are starkly different from my own is enlightening.
Diana is an art dealer just about to head to the Galapagos with her doctor boyfriend in March 2020 when the pandemic shifts into its first wave. Her boyfriend must stay in NYC but she decides to go, only to find the island closed to tourists. She decides to stay anyway and the story follows her interactions with the locals and discovery of her true self as she is isolated from the pandemic and regular communications home. Here and there she will find wifi and get an email from her boyfriend pouring out the miseries of the pandemic from the heart of it. The dichotomy of it is interesting to observe.
I wished for a little more majesty of the Galapagos, there are scenes of it but most of Diana’s focus is on the people. That may just be my personal preference as an introvert biologist though… I enjoyed Diana’s experience and how her revelations were similar to many people in the pandemic where they realize the day to day choices they’ve made prior don’t really hold up to what’s really in their heart.
Truly this is like two books, mid-stream the story takes a turn and I was so surprised by that I almost didn’t keep going with it. Picoult is good at that gut punch, isn’t she? I’m glad I stuck with it although I preferred the first half of the book to the second, I also didn’t think it needed the epilogue and my overall rating reflects those two things.
Also I’ve decided Marin Ireland is my favorite audiobook narrator. I read this book half on my kindle with the early copy I got from Netgalley and half on Libro.fm with an ALC. I rarely prefer the audiobook to actually reading but as it was with Cloud Cuckoo Land, Marin’s voice added so much to the story. I am definitely going to be looking out for her in more reads. All opinions above are my own. ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
Are you shying away from pandemic reads or dystopian themes now that we’re living in one or can you enjoy stories that parallel our real world trauma?
“Some scars are carved into our bones – a part of who we are, shaping what we become.”
————————— Daughter of the Moon Goddess is a beautiful mythical story that I got absolutely lost in. It has everything you want in a fantasy story: a principled, hardworking heroine; an ill fated love story; magic; dragons; merpeople; a stunning betrayal and epic battles. The world building is fabulous and immersive. Xingyin is the daughter of a goddess and yet she lives as a girl who has nothing, never once does she rely on her personal mythology to get ahead.
The first quarter of the book is a bit slow and focuses more on character interactions building real strong bonds between the main characters. But then it is non-stop action from there. You will barely be able to catch your breath as Zingyin goes on campaign after campaign and mission after mission working towards her goals. You will adore her, her resilience, her ethics and her hope for peace.
Even though this is labeled as a duology, it finishes like a standalone and I so appreciated that. I am however interested to hear more about this world. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐
Thanks to Netgalley for early access to this novel. All opinions above are my own.
I adore sweeping stories that show the passing of time and evolution of culture in a place and the impact of those changes in the lives of the average people. Beasts of a Little Land starts off in the remote Korean forest where a Japanese soldier is pursued by a tiger, he is saved by a local boy and that one action has a domino effect on many lives over the next few decades. Jade a local girl is trained from a young girl as a courtesan and we see her accept what is a better life for her than the poverty she would have endured with her own family. We see her struggle with her desire to befriend others who are not so fortunate as her. Over the years she is challenged and tested as her star rises and she is eventually able to buy her own freedom. The lives of several other characters intertwine with hers as the Korean occupation by Japan takes more and more from the citizens. Each character is faced with tough choices in order to survive, to love and to fight for their freedom.
The characters were rich and nuanced with many moments of introspection as they reflected upon their changing circumstances. I really loved how we were able to see several of the characters thrive in the face of adversity, often times these stories of war only show loss. This story balanced well the idea that even amongst strife one can find stasis or even growth. The love stories nestled within were heartwrenching.
This one is perfect for fans of Pachinko or Memoirs of a Geisha. I split my time with this one between reading and listening to the ALC I received from Libro.fm. The narrator was fabulous and added such texture to the characters. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐💫
What’s the last story you read based in a culture other than your own?
In The Running Wolf, we are immersed in the life of a German smithy who has relocated with his family to England in the late 1600s. While the story follows the ins and outs of their lives it illuminates the truth of life as an immigrant, as a skilled worker operating outside of a guild, the politics of England, religious intolerance and the general harshness of life in that era. The story flips back and forth between an imprisoned smuggler in the run up to the Jacobite uprising and the life of the smithy, Hermann (love that character’s name obviously).
I really loved the intricate detail of Hermann’s life. We see the importance of their nationality in their lives, the respect and care for elders, the importance of gender roles and the job of a smithy in general. I liked that there were scenes in both England and Germany so we saw life in both places. There were quite a few scenes of action that I felt were heart pounding but you should expect for the most part, a slower paced story with small snippets of life changing action.
This is really fabulous historical fiction with a slice of life that I haven’t read in other novels of this type. We really see how the rigors of life challenges even the best people and the choices they are forced to make under duress.
Thanks to Love Book Tours and Helen Steadman for a gifted copy of this audiobook. All opinions above are my own.
Wahala means trouble in Nigerian and boy is this novel aptly named! The story follows three lifelong mixed-race Nigerian girls who bonded over their shared cultural heritage. Now living in London, each of the three is trying to find their happiness in their relationships, careers and friendships. Each has a issues with their upbringing that impact their present lives. Ronke is a truly lovable dentist who hasn’t yet nailed down her new Nigerian boyfriend. Her friends Boo and Simi are both married to white men and think she should be as well. Boo is in a rut with her husband and a bit stuck in motherhood she’s looking for some action in her life. Simi is married to a man who is very successful but pressing her to get pregnant. The friends have the perfect balance and trust between them until the day Isobel arrives. Isobel seems like the perfect posh friend to reinvigorate them all but just what’s her motivation to ingratiate herself with these three? You will be surprised how this one turns!
I’d say this one is a bit hard to characterize. It is a strong character story in the vein of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie until about 3/4 of the way through and then I see where the “thriller” title comes in. I’m not sure it’s a thriller in a traditional sense but when the action kicks in, you are really cringing and hoping for the best for our girls. They are on a collision course with disaster and you’re really hoping they figure out what’s going on before it’s too late.
There are beautiful notes of love to Nigerian culture, scathing moments of rebuke of the darker aspects of their culture and poignant moments of balancing being mixed-race and mixed-culture. I enjoyed the friendship of the three and learning more about how hard it is to balance two starkly different cultures. My only criticism is that I found Boo really unlikable, I wish she had some redeeming qualities. I disliked her more than I did Isobel and I don’t think that was the author’s goal. Otherwise, this was a refreshing take on a traditional thriller. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐
Thanks to Netgalley for early access to this novel. All opinions above are my own.
Tell me, do you like a straight-ahead twisty thriller or one with more substance to it?
In book one, Umrigar captures right from the first chapter what it is to land in India and be assaulted by the sounds, sights and smells. Smita, an ex-pat journalist experiences the crush of the markets, the opulence of the city, the reality of the poverty of the slums and the intense beliefs of those around her. She experiences layers the kindness of the people with the intense national and cultural pride as she familiarizes us with the varied cultures of the people of the story she is about to tell. I appreciated that we saw the opinions of the local people, all with different backgrounds, as well as one of an American, which made it more relatable to me personally.
In book two, we get to the heart breaking story of Meena. She is a woman under the thumb of some very antiquated thinking men. Under the thumb of her brothers, she makes her first stretch for autonomy by getting a job at a local factory. The brothers feel only men should work and that she and her sister are bringing ill omens to their family. When she falls in love with a man at the factory, she is once again challenging their authority to make the match they desire. Worst of all, the man she falls for is a Muslim and they feel this is the greatest dishonor to their Hindu family. When she becomes pregnant, the brothers take justice into their own hands causing the death of Meena’s husband and her disfigurement. It is the trial of these brothers that brings Smita to India.
In book three, we see what truly brings all these characters together. Their arcs and realizations are really powerful. I really loved Mohan’s way of describing how he had been so proud of his country and “asleep” to the truth of the way some people are forced to live. He is so many of us with our heads down.
I started this one on a flight and I didn’t want to get up when the plane landed because I was so interested in the end of the story. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Thanks to Algonquin for this gifted copy. All opinions above are my own.
This one has been chosen by Reese’s book club this month, do selections like that make you more or less likely to read a book?
Charlie Holmberg is one of my favorite YA fantasy writers, immediately you are drawn into unique worlds with compelling characters. In this story, we are brought to a little peasant town to meet a young girl who is betrothed to a man who she loves but does not love her. In a bid to gain his love and adoration she volunteers for a very rare ritual to make love to the Sun to birth a star. Usually this is a death sentence but she miraculously survives and has such an impact on the Sun he begs for her to stay with him. But she wants to go home to see what impact her choice had on her family. When she arrives home she realizes 700 years have passed and her family is long gone. She is determined to find her descendents leading her on a journey across the land on which she meets a mysterious godling that will change everything, for her and the whole world.
Like all of her other books, we get a heroine, Ceris, that is strong but vulnerable and so likable. You’re immediately drawn to her and so invested in her journey. The depiction of the Sun and the other celestial beings is entirely unique and intriguing. The idea that the universal beings are constantly battling for purchase in the universe and care not for humans yet need their worship was really interesting.
There is not a lot of action but the characters and their interactions really held my attention and I flew through this one. This is available on KindleUnlimited so I recommend giving it a try. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This one has a sequel coming out in the spring, what upcoming sequel are you looking forward to?
29 hours and 34 minutes. What a whale of an audiobook! After reading Master of Sorrows last month, I knew I couldn’t wait long to dive into the sequel. The series is billed as the backstory of a villain, where we see an evil God reincarnated coming to accept who he is to become. But I would argue that it’s the story of several fabulous dark characters on a crash course for domination. This sequel gives us some serious bada** character developments.
We of course learn more about Annev as he develops from a student into a master, a child into a man, a human into a god. But Myjun just may be my favorite evil woman hell bent on revenge, her story is insanely fabulous. I loved how much detail we got about her growing into her evil powers. We get great progression of all of the side characters and can begin to envision how they will all come together in the end.
This is fantasy superbly written with villains as gratifying as those in LOTR or ASOIAF, if you like that kind of thing… and I do!!
What’s the best fantasy book you’ve read recently?
Ok, I think I’m the last one in the world to read this one. But I really hate the ‘my life is a mess’ female main character trope. On the other hand, I’ve become an accidental hitman… was too tempting to pass over. So I waited until it was on sale on @BookOutlet before I got it.
Finlay is a total mess, as advertised, but she’s charming and funny and you really want to root for her. She gets into scrape after scrape and she somehow worms out of them and even sometimes comes out better for it. I like that the bad guys are actually bad guys and the good guys, while trying to be morally grey, are actually doing good.
Reminds me of a much tamer, funnier version of The Collective. Read this one if you liked Arsenic and Adobo or The Hunting Wives. Nothing like a good crime story with a little humor! Oh, and a great ending with such a fun potential opening to the next book. ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
What’s the last book you read that you hadn’t expected to enjoy but did?