Book Review: Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Heya,



I know that I said I would be reading books by different black authors – as a part of my Black Literature intensive – but I just can’t stop reading Octavia E. Butler. I’m not sure if I’m just more open to science fiction, and speculative fiction, now that I’m an adult or what but I love it. With every book I read in this genre, I’m drawn away from romance, thriller, domestic thriller, and even memoir! It feels almost impossible that I didn’t start reading them until now. Reading or writing!

Kindred is about a black woman living in the ’70s who unwillingly travels to the past. During her time in the past, she’ll become a slave, deal with assaults (physical and verbal), and learn the truth of her ancestors. The book tackles interracial couples, the tensions between white and black people in the 1800’s, gender roles, societal expectations and so much more.

I listened to Kindred (because the Parable of the Sower series worked so well via Overdrive) and it was phenomenal. All of her narrators have been amazing so far. Or maybe it’s because I’m alone in Florida without a black community or family supporting me, that I always feel like I’m getting a hug from black narrators. I knew from the first twenty minutes that I wouldn’t stop listening until the story was over.

The characters are strong with depth and purpose. Every character felt important, and every scene was beautifully written. I aspire to her level of style. It’s like the ‘minimalism’ of writing. Every chapter and every scene pushed the story forward. There were no chapters that drug, making me want to skip ahead or roll my eyes. It held me enraptured from beginning to end.

I feel such a kindred spirit in Butler. All the things I want to say about the world, she does. All the solutions I’ve come up with are expertly addressed in her work. I love this novel and I’d love to own a physical copy. Maybe that’ll be the next gift I give myself.

I think I’m going to read Fledgling next, although I’m not sure how to feel about the synopsis. It’s…weird. But at this point, I’m willing to read anything she’s ever written. The other day my mother-in-love told me she was listening to a podcast that mentioned Butler, one that described her writing as genius, and we spent a hefty amount of our Zoom time discussing the topic.  

I’d love to discuss this author with you: Have you read any of her books? Do you have any thoughts on Fledgling? What about comparable authors? After I finish Octavia E. Butler, I’d love to read more black authors writing in the same genre. Do share!

Good Readdance,

Jade

Link to Book

Things Got a Little Hairy…Under the Arms

“So…when are you going to shave?”

I’ve heard these words so many times in the last few months. My guy, Tony, first noticed my lack of shaving during a steamy moment of ‘let’s kiss before the baby wakes up’ late one night. He’s very supportive of me and my extreme measures to understand the world, and my place in it, but this is one he just couldn’t get behind. 

Part of it might be my fault because I didn’t tell him what I intended to do or why. They (the proverbial They) always tell you not to share your goals before you do them. Anyone who knows me knows that it’s nearly impossible for me to keep my goals to myself. Especially when I believe they will change my life. 

The fact that I didn’t share this one with anyone proves the experiment.

It wasn’t on purpose, so don’t go thinking I’m a martyr or a saint (Well, you can if you want). Late one night, I felt a soft breeze across my leg, as we’ve been prone to keeping our bedroom door open lately, and then I felt something skitter across. Shooting up, I slapped one, two, three times at my shin until I realized there was no spider, or ant, or mosquito. It was just hair. Long, downy, rust-red leg hair. I tried to remember the last time I shaved but I couldn’t. 

Rolling off the bed, I moved slowly to the bathroom to shave. I came to a stop. I pivoted. and I went back to the bed. Crawled between the covers. Pulled my legs up tight to my chest, total fetal position. And I cried. 

I didn’t want to shave. I also didn’t want to be ugly. I wanted agency, control over my body, and an ability to be lazy if I wanted to. I also didn’t want to go to the gym and be self-conscious over every pull-up or every row or every pair of shorts. After twenty minutes of pity party and boohoo and why doesn’t anyone find me beautiful, I sat up. I washed my face and I made a decision that would change everything. 

“Ummm…no sexy times until you shave that nonsense.”

After my introduction to TikTok, a social media app I told myself I wouldn’t get (because I knew I would get addicted, which…I am), I started something I called the Regain Your Beauty Challenge. Along with my intense desire to have control over my body, and the way it looks without outside societal influence, this was the perfect time for me to notice how disgusted I was with my appearance when not using filters. I had used the “Pretty Filter” on Snapchat for so long, I think I’d forgotten how beautiful my eyes are, how my skin glows when kissed by the sun, how my cheeks are so big they make everyone else smile. 

I’d forgotten what I looked like. What JADE looks like. So for seven days straight, I created a video where I looked at myself, took in my features, and admired myself without filters or changes in lighting. I got to know myself again. It was only the beginning of my rediscovery. 

“So…are you going to shave your underarms?” 

It didn’t end with legs. I didn’t shave anything. Everything went to the dogs. My legs, my vagina, my underarms, I even got a chin hair or two (don’t tell anyone). I didn’t pluck anything. I didn’t even search for them like I usually do. 

I told myself that I needed to learn how to stop feeling shame for what my body does. I needed to stop internalizing everything that everyone says is wrong with me. Yes, this was an extreme take but I needed to do it. I didn’t explain to Tony, and maybe I should’ve, but I felt like it was my body and I wasn’t going to let him pressure me either. My decision to shave would be mine. 

So, I went to the gym with my very supportive sports bra, a sleeveless workout top, a pair of longer biker shorts, and my Brooks runners. I did everything that I knew would show off my hairy bits, and then I cried in the car. I had kept my headphones on, even as I sprinted to the car on wobbly legs. Their eyes had touched me like spider legs. Every time I did a squat or lunge, I had looked around to see if anyone was looking at me. 

“Hey, I got you some nice razors.”

After the first embarrassing month, checking to see if others were staring was no longer a problem. When February rolled around, I stopped wearing my shirts with sleeves. I went to the grocery with a tank top on and reached for things on top shelves. I wore this oversized shirt, with hidden shorts beneath, to a coffee shop around the corner from my house (socially distanced sipping, of course). When my guy asked if I was going to shave with the razors, I said “Eventually” and happily moved along my way. 

There was a moment of reckoning, the day before I shaved. Which was yesterday. I had on this very cute dress and headed over to a friend’s house for a mom break away from the little baby (Naomi) and the big baby (Tony). We sat down to watch Raya and the Last Dragon (a fantastic movie, I might add), and there it was. A hairy leg sticking out from beneath the edge of the blanket. My friend looked down at it and so did I. There was a brief moment of silence before I said “I’m so freaking hairy, yo”. We laughed until our bellies hurt and our eyes filled with tears. We had to stop the movie so we wouldn’t miss anything. There might’ve been wine involved. 

I didn’t feel shame. I didn’t feel embarrassed. I felt free. 

And now, after a nice spa day complete with shaving my entire body, my new skin care routine, and burning incense, I’m revitalized. I feel more confident than I ever have in my entire life. I’m almost thirty, I have 30lbs to go before I’m at the weight I want to be (post-baby), I daydream of a time when I can afford the clothes that would fit an aesthetic I just created: Soft Minimalism, and my hair is a crazy frizzy halo of black magic…

And I freaking love it. Gaining self-esteem and confidence is a journey. It’s a marathon and I’m training for a marathon (no, I’m serious…I’m running again) so I know I can do it.

I’m beautiful and I don’t care if other people disagree. I know that I’m just as beautiful and light as my soul. It just took me getting hairy to truly realize it.

A recent tweet I wrote explains it all:
“The more I love myself the more beautiful I grow – every day.”

12 Books Releases by by Black Authors in 2021

Heya,

I found a list of 35 books written by black authors that are coming out in 2021. The article titled “35 Must-Read 2021 Book Releases by Black Authors” was posted recently on Marie Claire’s page. After going through each book, I found several that I plan to read! I’m so excited about it! Here’s my list! Add them to your Goodreads, like I did, or preorder them! Are you planning to read any of these books?

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  1. Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

This quick-witted satirical debut follows a young man who transforms almost overnight from an unambitious Starbucks employee to a ruthless salesman after a chance encounter with the CEO of NYC’s hottest tech startup. When tragedy strikes, he resets with a new goal: helping young people of color infiltrate America’s sales force.

Available January 5, 2021

  1. Angel of Greenwood’ by Randi Pink

Isaiah Wilson and Angel Hill attend the same school in the Greenwood area of Tulsa, Oklahoma—known as Black Wall Street—and hold different views on how to defeat racism. But when a vicious white mob storms the community of Greenwood on May 31, 1921, leaving the town destroyed and thousands of residents displaced, Isaiah, Angel, and their peers discover who their real enemies are.
Available January 12, 2021

  1. ‘A Glimmer of Death’ by Valerie Wilson Wesley

Fans of cozy mysteries will love this novel about caterer and psychic Dessa Jones who takes a job at a real estate firm when her bakery company goes bust. Her new boss, Charlie, is an abusive jerk, so when he’s found brutally murdered, his many victims become the suspects. As Dessa follows the case, she realizes that she needs to do something fast before she’s either the next victim or the primary suspect.

Available January 26, 2021

  1. ‘This Close to Okay’ by Leesa Cross-Smith

Recently-divorced therapist Tallie Clark is heading home when she saves a man from jumping off of a bridge. Told through both Tallie and the man’s perspective, this is a touching story about two strangers who meet under the worst of circumstances, but end up finding love and healing within each other.

Available February 2, 2021

  1. ‘The Gilded Ones’ by Namina Forna

One of *the* most talked about books of the year is this West African-inspired feminist fantasy set in a patriarchal society, where a woman’s worth is tied to her purity. When Deka bleeds gold—the color of impurity—at the blood ceremony, she’s presented with two choices: stay and be subjected to torture at the hands of her former community, or leave and join an army of girls just like her to fight for the empire. The novel has already been auctioned for a TV adaptation.

Available February 9, 2021

  1. ‘The Conductors’ by Nicole Glover

In a post-Civil War Philadelphia, Hetty Rhodes, a magic user and former conductor on the Underground Railroad, solves murders and mysteries with her husband, Benjy, that the white police ignore. When one of their friends is found murdered in an alley, they set out to find answers, but their search leads them to unexpected revelations that will change everything.

Available March 2, 2021

  1. ‘Act Your Age, Eve Brown’ by Talia Hibbert

The final installment in The Brown Sisters trilogy centers on the flightiest Brown sister, Eve, who sets out to prove herself to her parents by getting a job at a B&B. However, the rigid, perfectionist owner, Jacob, is instantly put off by Eve. When she accidentally hits him with her car, he’s forced to accept her help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen, and his heart.
Available March 9, 2021

  1. ‘Wild Women and the Blues’ by Denny S. Bryce

In 1925 Chicago, the jazz capital of the world, Honoree is trying to dance her way to the top at Dreamland Café, where she socializes with celebrities. In 2015, grieving film student Sawyer Hayes seeks out the 110-year-old Honoree to get answers for his thesis on the legendary filmmaker, Oscar Micheaux. As the past meets the present, it’s a final chance for Honoree to truly be heard and seen before it’s too late.

Available March 30, 2021

  1. ‘Love in Color’ by Bolu Babalola

Following its earlier U.K release last summer, Bolu Babalola’s debut collection, Love in Color, is finally getting published in the U.S. In the anthology, Babalola retells the most beautiful love stories from around the world focusing on the myths, folklore, and history of West Africa, Greece, and the Middle East.

Available April 13, 2021

  1. ‘Sorrowland’ by Rivers Solomon

Sorrowland follows Vern, a young girl who flees the cult-like commune where she was raised to provide a better life for herself and her children. But even in the forest where she has gone, she is a hunted woman. To protect her family, Vern transforms into something terrifying and powerful that may just help her break free from her past. Sorrowland is a powerful story about motherhood, survival, and the cruel treatment of Black bodies.

Available May 4, 2021

  1. ‘The Other Black Girl’ by Zakiya Dalila Harris

 With an adaptation already in the works at Hulu, Zakiya Dalila Harris’s debut novel is one of the most highly-anticipated books of the year. When Nella Rogers, an editorial assistant at the predominantly white publishing firm, Wagner Books, meets Hazel, she is initially thrilled to no longer be the only Black girl at work. Then, the threatening notes start appearing, and Nella can’t help but wonder if Hazel is behind them.

Available June 1, 2021

  1. ‘Seven Days in June’ by Tia Williams

This beautiful love story follows an erotica writer, Eva, who’s juggling her career and single motherhood when she reconnects with the love of her life, Shane, who’s now a famous literary author. However, Eva’s not sure she can trust the man who broke her heart, and she wants him out of her life—after she gets some answers, of course.

Available June 8, 2021

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

CNF: Blanket

*optional content warning at bottom of page*

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When everyone was running about the house to get ready for the movie, we lay on the couch under the thickest blanket in the house. It spanned from end to end and could curl up and over the back of the couch. Behind me, my adoptive sister lay on her side with one arm tucked under her, invisible to the world. 

The other lay along her side, the hand resting lightly on my hip. She was nearly skin and bones, despite her age and the amount she ate. I was too, but at only nine or ten my chest had just started to bud and I hadn’t any curves yet. We fit there, sinking into the cushions with just our heads above the water. 

Lying on my right side, I squeezed my eyes closed and my mouth, too. She curled against me, her legs touching the back of my legs, her long skeletal hands pushing at the soft band of my pajama pants. She went down, further into those places, and parted my vulva with uninvited fingers. I wanted to speak but there it was. The hairless skin was dry and when she found the spot she wanted, she pushed against it with the edge of a pen. Capped, with a small spongy bulge for a finger grip, it scrapped against one side then the other.

I whimpered, it hurt worse than the last time. She seemed to be in a rush. 

I had known what she wanted, as soon as she crooked her finger at me in the hall. When I followed with slow long steps, she had pulled me beneath the covers. She had already covered herself but I drug on, my eyes down to the floor. I knew at any moment others would return. Can she get what she wants in this short a time? I opened my eyes, felt them water, and closed them again. She grunted, made one of those happy sounds mom says not to make when you’re at the dinner table.


***


I can hear them coming, feet booming against the stairs like thunder, ready to play the newest Blockbuster on VHS. Mom is yelling from the other room – I’m sure telling everyone to slow down. I see my brother come to the door of the family room, pausing on the lip before stepping down onto the carpet. He’s looking at me, I know he is, and I open my eyes to catch him. Our gazes meet and before he can speak she opens her mouth.

“When are we going to put the movie in?” she asks as she pushes the pen in and out. He sucks his teeth and rolls his eyes. That’s what he’s into now. Attitude.

I want to whip the covers back and show him where she’s putting her hands but I know he doesn’t like me. He hits me, putting his fists on my face, on my back, sometimes smacking on my thighs as I run up the stairs. It’s funny to him but I don’t like it. I don’t think brothers should hit their sisters. Boys shouldn’t hit girls, anyway.

“I’m the only one that can hit you. That can hurt you,” I remember him saying. It wasn’t true. They hurt me at the last place, she hurts me now, they’ll hurt me in the future and I know, I just know he won’t stop them. 

Another foster girl comes to the door, a bag of extra-buttered popcorn hanging from one hand. She has a gaggle of napkins clutched in her other and she glances at us quickly before popping into the room like a cheerleader. The pen goes in and out but slows a bit. Her other hand touches me at the top of my folds. I flinch as she pinches there.

“Are y’all ready to watch the movie?” I hear my adoptive mother ask. She’s yelling from the kitchen, as she always does, and everyone but me calls back.

She’s scrambling to remove the pen, using two fingers to pull, pull, pull, and it’s deeper than I thought. It comes out with a scrapping and my thighs tense in the effort to not cry out.

“Hey, get up off that couch! You’re taking up all the space,” mom says and I look up at her. I want to speak. Tell her. She says I can tell her anything but she lies. When I tell her she tells others. When she tells others they tell me. They sing it to me with laughter in their voice. I don’t much like to tell her things.

She’s fast enough to pull her hands out of my bottoms and slides up the back of the couch like a snake. Her arms release me and I float down to the floor. Everyone laughs as I take my tumble and I feel that tickling at the back of my eyes that you get when the tears come. I push up on my forearms and watch the other fosters come to settle in the room, taking up residence on the opposite couch, the chairs round the back, and the space before the small tv.

Mom stands just beside the doorway with this look on her face that tells me she knows something I don’t know. I avert my eyes and climb to my feet. I’m hurting, down there, and I have to keep my knees wide when I walk. When I pass her she puts a hand on my arm but says no words. I look up at her and first see the breasts against her chiffon shirt. Then the folds of her neck and the small curve of her chin. I don’t meet her eyes but I focus on the small uptilt of her nose.

She releases me and I turn toward the living room. It’s muscle memory, the walk to my bedroom. I’m tired. I want it to stop. I wince with each wooden step I take and once I’m safe in my room I go pee. I feel the muscles moving down there and I lean forward on the toilet. Something sharp stabs me and I whimper and lean further.

Reaching down with tentative hands, I touch, and feel, and move my fingers around, and there it is. Something sharp is lodged in there, it scrapes against the pad of my fingertip and I push another finger in to grab. And I’m grabbing and I’m crying. I can’t hold my breath and hold the tears at the same time. Finally, it’s there, between my fingers and I pull. It scrapes as it slides out and a small sound pushes between my teeth.

It’s the cap from the pen. She’d pushed in the wrong side. I clutch it between my slick fingers and stand, forgetting to wipe. I pull up the soft bottoms and the band snaps around my tiny waist. 


***

I’m running. I hit the stairs quickly and have to catch the railing to keep from tumbling down. I’m through the living room and the floor bows slightly beneath my feet. Expensive figurines clink in the small china cabinet – stereo duo. I know I shouldn’t run in there but my feet move anyway. When I’m at the family room door I can see it’s dark, aside from the glow of the TV. They’ve turned out the lights. They’ve moved along as if I didn’t matter. I’m standing on the edge of the step-down, my toes wavering in the air.

They can see me, I’m sure of it. 

The light from the kitchen just down the hall always illuminates this room when you’re on the other side, but no one looks in my direction. My mouth opens and I gap like a fish. I look at all their faces as they speak, getting their words out before two hours of silence begins. I can see her sitting there, her knees pulled up tight to her chest, like a child.

The cushions are depressed but empty next to her – where I’m supposed to be. The blanket is on the floor, discarded like forgotten trash and no one moves to pick it up. They just ignore it, chattering on about things more important.

I want to clear my throat and interrupt them. I need to, I feel it with every fiber of my being. I want to scream at them to shut up and let me speak. Then I stop. I take in a shaky breath and take a step back, out of the glow of the light. I could scream all I want, yell all I want. I could tell mom everything I want. But I know she’d never be willing to quiet. I know she will never truly listen.

*mentions child abuse – molestation*

5 Books NOT to Read During a Pandemic

5 Books NOT to Read During a Pandemic

Mid-June, I pulled myself out of the stupor I’d fallen into due to Covid and our cross country trip. I started going for daily walks, I reintroduced myself to my apartment away after 6 weeks away, I started reading again. Not that I hadn’t been reading before, but I started to truly enjoy it again. Not just listening to the words or flipping pages mindlessly.

One of the first things I did to take back control was find books about wide-spread diseases, pandemics, the removal of humans (mass exodus or disappearance), etc. It, of course, didn’t start that way. At first, I wanted to read The Stand by Stephen King. 

I had already borrowed it from the library several times before but the behemoth scared me. I had read large books before but I had just spent the last few months unable to turn a page without this underlying sense of fear and frustration. It seemed insurmountable.

So, I bought it.

I became addicted quite quickly, flipping through the pages until one night passed by at the speed of light and my eyes burned from staying open so long. From there it spawned and I began looking for other things with the same subject.

Among others, I found these 5 books. You might see reviews for these separately but it was important for me to put them on an awesome list. The title of this post is misleading, I want you to read these books. I want you to read them today!      

The Stand by Stephen King

This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death. And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides — or are chosen.

In the first pages of this book, you see just how quickly the spread of a disease can happen. Heck, it might even frustrate you when you see the resemblance between the book and some goings-on at your local grocery store.

Link to Book

Pandemic Robin Cook

When an unidentified, seemingly healthy young woman collapses suddenly on the New York City subway and dies upon reaching the hospital, her case is an eerie reminder for veteran medical examiner Jack Stapleton of the 1918 flu pandemic. Fearful of a repeat on the one hundredth anniversary of the nightmarish contagion, Jack autopsies the woman within hours of her demise and discovers some striking anomalies: first, that she has had a heart transplant, and second, that, against all odds, her DNA matches that of the transplanted heart.

The crazy thing about this book is that I had no idea this book was a part of a series until I looked it up to write this. I randomly picked it up as a ‘related to’ book of The Stand. There’s a TV show coming out soon!

Link to Book

Phantoms by Dean Koontz

They found the town silent, apparently abandoned. Then they found the first body, strangely swollen and still warm. One hundred fifty were dead, 350 missing. But the terror had only begun in the tiny mountain town of Snowfield, California.

At first they thought it was the work of a maniac. Or terrorists. Or toxic contamination. Or a bizarre new disease.

I had actually read part of this book before but I think I was distracted by another book. Either way, when I picked it up again I was reminded how much of a suspense GENIUS Dean Koontz is. This book has a movie adaption.

Link to Book

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro

So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city—a city that includes his wife and son—before it is too late.

An epic battle for survival begins between man and vampire in The Strain.

This was book was a different look at Vampires (or vampiric virus) than I’m used to dealing with. I’m used to romance, and heat, and vampires being good – or marginally so. This book is evil vampires, ancient vampires, and a weird inner alien-looking, sucking thing that flies out of the throat vampires. This one also has a tv show adaption. I began watching it and I really liked it, surprisingly.

Link to Book

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.

For as the sleepwalking phenomenon awakens terror and violence in America, the real danger may not be the epidemic but the fear of it.

This one was absolutely phenomenal! I read it in one sitting because it was that fantastic. It is also a behemoth but totally worth it. This book is also getting an adaption. Isn’t that crazy? All of these were fantastic in their own way and now we’ll get to see them on the screen. 

Link to Book

If you have any other pandemic, disease, or exodus novels that you really love and would like to suggest, please do so! If you are interested in another round of these, I’ll share other books like this that I’ve read in the last year.


Good Readdance,
Jade