Book Review: The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future.

Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others.

When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.

Link to Book

“Embrace diversity or be destroyed” (ch.16)

As my first foray into my Study Black Lit intensive, The Parable of the Sower is a fantastic beginning. It’s a science fiction and dystopian novel by black author Octavia E. Butler. I remember picking up novels by her as a kid but I’m not sure if I remember reading them. That’s the trouble when you’re an avid reader that blows through pages as quickly as I did.

“What we don’t see can kill us” (ch.23)

I used the chapter references for quotes on this post because I listened to this book via Overdrive. The narrator is Lynne Thigpen and she is absolutely phenomenal. The emotions, the tension, suspense, fear, the surety in the voice of a 15-year-old girl turned prophet. It was phenomenal and I listened to the entire book straight through.

“All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you” (ch. 7)

I started with Octavia E. Butler because I’m a big fan of science fiction. I wanted to read something new and inventive that still created converse about today’s issues. This novel tackles many controversial topics and blends them with the quiet intelligence of an empathic teen. Homelessness, god and religion, fear, hierarchy and classism, and the ever burdening of capitalism.

“People without homes will build fires” (ch.16)

In The Parable of the Sower, I see seeds of my own novel Solaria. The intense need to speak about the world around us is a profound feeling many black authors have. Butler does this in one chapter, describing a world where companies hire workers, give them a home, provide for their families, and take care of their needs. Then once the workers are settled, they make them legal slaves, citing them with debts they can’t repay. If that doesn’t sound like the world today, I don’t know what will.

“Why is the universe? To shape god. Why is god? To shape the universe” (ch.7)

Her thoughts on god remind me of church songs I sang growing up. My parents were pastors and we were in church a minimum of two times a week. Often times from eight in the morning until evening. One hymn, in particular, comes to mind. “Everything must chaaaange” was sung every Sunday, deep altos repeating the phrase over and over until tears streaked faces and hands rose in exaltation. The fact that no matter what you’re going through, no matter how hard times are, everything must change – and let the churchgoers tell it, it’ll change for the better. The idea that ‘Earthseed’ is based on god being change, about living a good life while you’re still here to experience it, and embracing self is one that deeply resonates with me. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m no longer religious but I ate up every Earthseed scripture I heard.

“Your teachers are all around you” (ch.23)

Another interesting thing taught is that the world is your education. I love this. My entire life I’ve worked under this optimistic principle that even the negative things in my life teach me things. They either shape my wounds, showing me what I can or can’t handle. They push me forward, toward my goals or away from them but always moving. Another quote of hers that I loved is “God is trickster, teacher, chaos, clay” (ch.18). Yes, yes, and yes.

“No one is who we think they are, that’s what we get for not being telepathic” Ch. 16

I’d definitely recommend this book if you are looking for something with a great premise and characters with depth. No need to look further beyond the words on the page However, reading, rereading, looking at the layers, and reading her other works would benefit any reader! I plan to read the second book in the series (and others if I can). I also plan to read Kindred, Fledgling, her Xenogenesis series, and a few others.

If you have any suggestions of Black women writers, comment below and subscribe for more posts!

Link to Book

Other Quotes from the novel that I loved: 

“There’s always a lot to do before you go to heaven” (ch.8)

“Could I have been seen? A figure of darker darkness in an otherwise empty street” (ch.14)

“No one is who we think they are, that’s what we get for not being telepathic” (ch.16)

“What we don’t see can kill us” (ch.23)

Check out my last posts:

5 Masterful Mystery Novels

101 Books I Read in 2020

5 Masterful Mystery Novels

5 of My Favorite Mystery Novels

Heya, 

I going to share 5 of my favorite mystery novels with you. A lot of people say they have never reread a book and that their TBR (To Be Read) pile is just too long for all that. I tend to agree. However, if I truly love a book I will definitely read it more than once. Each of these books have been multi-reads and if you check them out, you will see why. 

If you’ve read any of these books or you have any mystery novels that you loved and would like to share, please comment below! I need more recommendations! I need more things to solve!

Invisible by James Patterson and David Ellis

Everyone thinks Emmy Dockery is crazy. Obsessed with finding the link between hundreds of unsolved cases, Emmy has taken leave from her job as an FBI researcher. Not even Emmy’s ex-boyfriend, field agent Harrison “Books” Bookman, will believe her that hundreds of kidnappings, rapes, and murders are all connected. That is, until Emmy finds a piece of evidence he can’t afford to ignore

I’ve read this book 3 times. I love it. I also got the sequel! It’s called Unsolved. This duo is a match made in heaven! I love how you get scenes from the killer’s point of view, the depth of the main character, as well as the crime analyzing badassery. 

Link to Book

You Belong to Me by Mary Higgins Clark

When Dr. Susan Chandler decides to use her daily radio talk show to explore the phenomenon of women who disappear and are later found to have become victims of killers who prey on the lonely and insecure, she has no idea that she is exposing herself — and those closest to her — to the very terror that she hopes to warn others against.

I’m a big fan of Mary Higgins Clark. When I was a kid, I stumbled across one of her books hidden on the shelf in my private school’s library. I quickly became infatuated. Over the years, I read many other books but last year I had to come back to a long-lost love. That’s why there are two books by her on this list. They are truly phenomenal. 

Link to Book

8 Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Years ago, bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw compiled a list of the genre’s most unsolvable murders, those that are almost impossible to crack—which he titled “Eight Perfect Murders”. But no one is more surprised than Mal, now the owner of the Old Devils Bookstore in Boston, when an FBI agent comes knocking on his door one snowy day in February. She’s looking for information about a series of unsolved murders that look eerily similar to the killings on Mal’s old list. And the FBI agent isn’t the only one interested in this bookseller who spends almost every night at home reading. The killer is out there, watching his every move.

I read this book in 2020. It was an audiobook I wanted to listen to only when I went on my 3-4 mile walks. Then I got hooked. This is the perfect book-ception! It’s a mystery book inside of a mystery book about a bookseller who loves mystery books. I know, it’s great.  

Link to Book

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

A wealthy woman strangled six hours after she’s arranged her own funeral. A very private detective uncovering secrets but hiding his own. A reluctant author drawn into a story he can’t control. What do they have in common?

I listened to this book and then immediately picked up the second book The Sentence is Death. I wanted to read a book that was Sherlock Holmes-esque and I discovered Anthony Horowitz and his love for the crime-solving genius. In this novel, the author put a fictionalized version of himself as the Watson to an old washed-up detective’s Holmes.    

Link to Book

Loves Music, Loves to Dance by Mary Higgins Clark

A serial killer leaves one dancing shoe on a foot of the victims who answer his personal ads. When Erin dies, her best friend places ads to entice the villain already targeting her next. New York police detective Vince D’Ambrosio takes a personal interest. New boyfriend Dr. Michael Nash is supportive. A stalker may surprise everyone.

When I first time I read this book (as an adult), I finished it in two days. The second day I was at work, on break, when I finally figured out who the killer was. I literally jumped out of my seat and…did a little dance. And some whoops. And maybe made a little lasso motion with my hand. That’s the kind of reader I am. See Mary Higgins Clark gushing above.

Link to Book

Good Readdance,

Jade

101 Books I Read in 2020

Heya, 

Last year was hard for everyone. One of the things I struggled with was making “reading” a priority. I want to do the things that I love and oftentimes, it’s difficult to do so when the world is in such disarray. I attempted to post the books I read every month so that some of you could join me in reading them. Due to Covid 19, and the total mind melt that was 2020, that did not happen. 

So, here are the books that I read in 2020 – in the order I read them!

I hope you enjoy this list. If you see any books that you read, loved, disliked, or want to read, let me know! If you see any books on the list you’d like to know more about – that doesn’t already have a book review – comment and I will make a separate book review just for you!  

Find this list with covers and links on my Goodreads page: My Reading Challenge 2020.

Needful Things by Stephen King

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Immortal Angel by Lynsay Sands

Black Widow by Lesley Grey Streeter

More Than Enough by Elaine Welteroth

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Diaz

Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon

Immortal Born by Lynsay Sands

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez

Real Murders by Charlene Harris

The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser

The Butterfly Girl by Rene Denfled

Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

The Carrying by Ada Limon

The Vacation by T.M. Logan

Th1rt3en by Steve Cavanagh

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

29 seconds by T M Logan

My life in Plants by Katie Vaz

When a Duke Loves a Woman by Lorraine Heath

The Postcard Killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund

The Scoundrel in her Bed by Lorraine Heath

Beyond Scandal and Desire by Lorraine Heath

Some kind of Magic by Mary Ann Marlowe

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

The Shadows by Alex North 

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

The Shining by Stephen King

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Bullseye by David Baldacci

The Secret His Mistress Carried by Lynne Graham

Storm’s Heart by Thea Harrison 

Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison 

Walk The Wire by David Baldacci 

Love and Other Wild Things by Molly Harper

Even Tree Nymphs Get the Blues by Molly Harper

A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

How to Date Your Dragon by Molly Harper

A Werewolf in Manhattan by Vicki Lewis Thompson

8 Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

The Perfect Alibi by Phillip Margolin 

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

The Third Victim by Phillip Margolin

The Third Victim by Lisa Gardner

The Perfect Husband by Lisa Gardner

Down Range by Lindsay McKenna

The Weight of Silence by Greg Olsen

Danger Close by Lindsay McKenna

Falling for the Highlander by Lynsay Sands

The Sound of Rain by Greg Olsen

Final Girls by Riley Sagar

The Handmaid’s tale by Margaret Atwood

Dark Tides by Chris 

The Hiding Place by CJ Tudor

Educated by Tara Westover

The Killing lessons by Saul black

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Stud by Cheryl Brooks

Virgin by Cheryl Brooks

Origin by Dan Brown

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Deadly Silence by Rebecca Zanetti

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

The Oxford Inheritance by A.A. McDonald

Blankets by Craig Thompson

10% happier by Dan Harris

Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts

A Hunger So Wild by Sylvia Day

The Touch of Crimson by Sylvia Day

The More of Less by Joshua Becker

The War of the Worlds by HG Wells

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver

The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker

Year One by Nora Roberts

The Innocent by David Baldacci

The Hit by David Baldacci

Good Readdance,

Jade

Discover Black Literature

A Discovery of Black Literature

Growing up, the only people who encouraged my love for books taught in my classrooms. Teachers who went above and beyond for the young foster girl who’d rather read fiction than her textbooks (and often got in trouble for sneaking a novel beneath her desk where she thought no one could see her).

My adoptive parents weren’t champions of my reading. If anything, my adoptive mother tried everything she could to stop me from reading. Especially if it wasn’t about religion – Christianity. Once, she went through all my shelves searching, just searching for something to tear to shreds. Books by black authors often fell under the category of “too mature” for me – obviously, my parents had no idea what reading level I was on. So, any attempt to branch out was quickly extinguished.

This had the reverse effect on me.

I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. Anything that I could pull off the front of the shelves, check out with my secret library card, and shove in the bottom of my backpack. However, this fingertip-convenience meant more books by white authors than black authors. This meant more stories by people whose books never represented me or my culture. Whatever that culture was. 

As a foster kid, I grew up daydreaming about who I was, who my ancestors were, and what kind of magic might flow through my bones. I knew my biological mother and a handful of siblings I’d been split from. However, I didn’t know where my people were from. I’d been given so many answers, African (of course), a blend of Asian in there somewhere, something else with light skin, and something loosely coiled hair (evidenced by my own head than anything). Something with thin hips and rhythm and short stocky women. 

What I really wanted to know about was Literature. Who were my people? What did they write? What did they read? Were they all slaves? Did anyone create a new language, or code, or shorthand? Were they intelligent? If they were, does that mean I’m intelligent?

These questions weren’t answered.

So, I searched for them in books. I didn’t realize, until I was much older, there was an oppressive reason behind the lack of representation in the books I loved. I just read. Absorbing each page and regurgitating them to my teachers with a childish enthusiasm that shocked them. 

I remember one teacher (Mr. Vincent Potts, a handsome man who listened to me drone on about fictional characters and how “1984” changed my views on…everything) sending me home with a letter saying that a recent essay was absolutely phenomenal and that “if her love for literature is fostered, she could be writing essays at a college-level very soon”. As you can tell, my love for literature and writing wasn’t fostered. No one seemed to care. 

There I was, a love for books unchecked, far away from the black women writers I wanted to discover. 

At some point, our lack of knowledge is our responsibility. Especially when recognized. Once I became an adult, I spent years reading anything that interested me because I didn’t want to close myself into a box. I didn’t want to be like those readers who said “I only read books by black writers because what can white people teach me?” I was astounded by this and I clutched my bookish pearls. I’d read so many books by so many authors of other cultures that truly blew me away. I couldn’t imagine never discovering them.

So, why would I assume I had put enough focus on my own culture?

Over the years, I read many books (articles, interviews, essays, and short stories) by black writers but I didn’t put any more focus or light on them than the white writers. I never cared what race they were. If the synopsis sounded good, I read it. Most of the time, I didn’t even look at the author’s name or picture on the flap. Stories can come from everywhere. 

If I loved it, I told everyone about it. If I hated it, I told everyone about it. 

I still read books by all sorts of writers, but the importance of intention can’t be overlooked. A few years ago, I recognized that my connection with the black community had begun to slip due to my cross country move and my extreme introversion (which kept me from making new friends and frankly, leaving my house).  I realized I wanted to focus more on literature written by African Americans. More specifically, Black Women like me.

Yes, I’ll eventually sign up for Ancestry.com and discover what’s in my blood but first I need to discover what is in my heart. 

I intentionally read books by black writers and appreciated them for the masterpieces they were. I shared them on my book groups and talked about them with my online writing friends. I spread the word about them with renewed excitement in “my” history. They also worked as a creative catalyst to opening up my writing “eye”. I discovered my Voice and didn’t feel like my blackness was diminished because I could see myself in the work I was reading.

It still isn’t enough. 

This year, I want to put a spotlight on black women writers like I never have before. It’ll be a “Study Black Lit” intensive. I’m on the search to find an author that will spark an academic flame in me. Someone who will inspire hours of scholarship, collections of essays, and true passion. To do this, I plan to read works by a different black woman at a time and deeply study them. Taking notes. Deciphering clues, metaphors and intentions. Recognizing frustrations. I want to get to know the writers through their words. Align my experiences with theirs and see that we are the same and yet oh, so different.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with all of this studying or if it’s just for me but…I’m going to enjoy the journey of rediscovering Black Literature. And I’ll take you along.

Good Readdance,

Jade

P.S. I will say, I always wondered why black women writers are always relegated to that one very tiny university course titled “African American literature” or posted under a very long list of “optional diversity courses”. They’re so jam-packed into these courses that there’s only space for one. How does this do them justice? Us justice? How amazing would it be to see these works by black women highlighted instead of boxed away? How great to have a range of black women writers join the ranks of “classics” literature and be taught as a major focus and not a supplemental one? How inspiring would this be for young black girls as interested in books as I’d been?

I’m getting ahead of myself but…you see the love, here. 

Book Review: The Guest List by Lucy Foley

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

One of the things that I’m discovering about Lucy Foley is that she is fantastic when it comes to character development. I’ve read two books by her so far and in each, the voices are varied and pointed. I also must say that I listened to both as audiobooks. It’s easy to get swept away by all of the accents, the acting from the voice actors, the emotion behind the words. 

I honestly think I like this book better than The Hunting Party (read my book review for it here). Usually, there is a bit of confusion where there are so many characters. So many points of view. A blending of time. Crossing plot directions. Not for Lucy Foley.

As a fellow writer, I want to see her story grids. I’d like to crawl in her head and see how she comes up with all the characters and make them all have depth and purpose. In the story’s plot, there’s an ebb and flow of small twists and big surprises and I love it. No small feat to keep the reader, reading.

I actually listened while cooking dinner and planned to stop when it was time to eat but every time I felt like I was at a good stopping point I just….kept going. In the book, you really dig into the many layers of a wedding party, and the event’s guests, and see all the horrors of what is supposed to be a beautiful day.

The setting is just as lovely as it was in The Hunting Party. In The Guest List, the setting is strong and idyllic: a secluded place, torturous waters, a nervous host, and no way to escape. At the end of this book I found myself wanting more! I enjoyed the distraction.

So, I would definitely recommend The Guest List by Lucy Foley.

Link to Book

Minimalism and Books

  I got rid of 2900 books. 

When I was a young foster kid, my mom learned the perfect punishment for me. Taking away my ability to read.

Punishments would include one or two months banned from the library, packing all the books in my bedroom and putting them outside my door – where she would keep them for weeks at a time (and I oftentimes didn’t get all the books back), and (when I was fairly young) sitting in front of the fireplace because “GO TO YOUR ROOM” isn’t a punishment when you’d rather be there anyway. 

I was an introvert who loved books more than people and had a hard time connecting with other students my age. This was greatly due to the large gap in age between the other foster kids and me. It was also due to my issues with trust, fears of getting close to others, and abandonment.

As time moved on, excruciatingly slow, I learned that you had to hold on to the things you loved. I learned that if you didn’t people could take them away from you, no matter what boundaries you set or what laws were in place. Your property, your freedom, your life.

It made me hold on to things. To gather them to my chest where no one could see them. To stick them in the back of my closet, or inside my pillowcases, or hide them under the false bottom I’d created in one of my dresser drawers. 

In adulthood, this didn’t change. I worked hard for my money. 80-85 hours a week to afford things no one could take from me. Books continued to be my solace and I filled my apartment with them. 

My closets had never-opened boxes of the books I had rescued from my childhood. My shelves overflowed, bowing beneath the weight of unread pages. Every surface, from kitchen to dining to living rooms, to stairs, to bedside tables had books on them. 

This isn’t a post shaming the surplus of books. It’s explaining my need to collect them. Not just read them. And trust me, I read a lot. It’s also explaining how I was able to let them go.

***

When Marie Kondo’s Netflix series first came out I had no idea what it was about. The one thing I did know was that she said to only keep 30 books. Everyone in every book group I was in  talked about it at length. For weeks, I dug into the show, into minimalism, and into the idea of living with less clutter.

They missed her point. 

It wasn’t my first introduction to minimalism but her Netflix series was the first that resonated with me because of this. She said to only keep items that spark joy. To hold them in your hands, feel their energy, ask yourself if it brings you joy.

If the answer is no, donate it. 

She also said (and I might be pulling this from her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing – I read the anime version) that this process is less about what to “get rid of” or to throw away. It is more about what you keep. 

Think of it like this, if you only keep the things that spark joy your house is filled with only the things that bring you happiness. Nothing is weighing you down. Nothing there just for the heck of it. There’s more space for Light and love.

This resonated with me. I mean, I had begun hoarding all of these books because I wanted to keep the things I loved, but I wasn’t being selective. So would any ole book do? That seemed preposterous. 

So I went through my books. All of them. I read the synopsis for every single book, even if I had already read it. I separated them into several categories:

Books I Loved: 

These were the books I had already read and found them absolutely phenomenal. 

In this category, you could find Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, On Writing by Stephen King, Zeroes by Chuck Wendig, and my entire Argeneau vampire series collection by Lynsay Sands.

Books To Be Read:
This pile had all the books I hadn’t read yet – that I actually intended to read. Repeat. Actually intended to read. 

I still plan to read Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (the movie was great), Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine, and The Binding by Bridget Collins.

Books For Naomi:
A ton of the books I’ve kept from my childhood were ones I wanted to pass down to my children one day. Before breaking these down further, I put all “Naomi” books in the same pile. I knew I would donate some of these, too.       

I wanted to collect a few old-school Nancy Drew books. You know, the ones that made the entire shelf yellow? Love them! 

Books I’ll Never Read:

Instead of chucking every unread book into my TBR pile, I read the synopsis and was honest with myself. Will I read this book? Is it truly interesting or did I only buy it because of its popularity? If the answer was no, it went into the DONATE pile.

Although, I love James Patterson I have a ton of his “series” books that I’ve never read because I’m the type of reader that needs to follow the order of a series. So, I’d rather read these as ebooks or listen via audiobook.

Books Read but Unloved:

Another type of book that I hoarded was ‘Books I’ve Read’. It’s as if I kept them as a trophy for myself. Yay! You did it. Another book down! Nope, if I didn’t love it into the DONATE pile it went. Especially if I didn’t plan to read it again.

I read You by Carolyn Kepness and passionately disliked it. I kept this book for almost a year. Why?

***

After breaking the books into their categories, I packed up the ones I wanted to donate. The rest were shelved in my favorite way. By genre. Then “loosely” alphabetical by author’s last name.

In the first round of donating, I got rid of 2,900 books. I still have many and there are much more than 30. Although, Marie Kondo said not to start with the most sentimental area I had to. I’m glad I did. Once the books were gone (donated to the thrift store), it was easier to delve into other areas of the house.

In 2020, I had a huge set back due to Covid. I didn’t declutter as many things as I thought I would. During the pandemic, I gained 8lbs and emotionally took steps backward. I hung on to many things as well as buying some stuff I knew I didn’t need. However, I was able to donate another 150 books. That’s something.

Closer to the end of the year I found things leveling out. I found myself excited to lose weight, excited to get back to minimalism, and excited to see what a future of less clutter and more joy could be like. So, here I am.

Subscribe to continue reading more about my journey and how I heal through minimalism.