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

The Importance of Feeling Heard

I learned something about myself last night. 

Standing on our upstairs porch, listening to my guy brainstorm about what he would do with $1 million, watching the stars twinkle in the sky. I learned that I still have a lot of growing to do. I felt attacked, pushed aside, and hurt as he talked about things that didn’t include me. Things I also thought would be fun to do. Of course, I had forgotten that the “I want to start a scholarship for writers” and “I want to travel to Barcelona, and Greece, and find out my African ancestry and go wherever that is” from my turn hadn’t included him.

Do I call myself a hypocrite? Do I mention double standards? Do I call it pure selfishness or self-centeredness? 

When I was a kid, my adoptive mom said I was selfish. It never made sense to me because I loved giving others presents, I loved helping people with their problems, and I loved taking care of people. There are many “I”s in that sentence. As a foster kid, I spent a hefty amount of my childhood feeling unheard, unwanted, and unloved. It tore me to pieces, made me feel empty and lonely. I see how those feelings translate into my adulthood. And I don’t like it. 

With all my healing and meditation and introspection, I can’t seem to shake the worst of my childhood ghosts. 

Ask anyone. I talk a lot. I talk over people. I interrupt and interject and sometimes I’m not listening to hear. I’m listening to say my piece. I know why. I know it’s because I felt like no one ever listened to me as a kid. My words were stunted and they felt empty. As an adult, I constantly fall to my default response – input my thoughts as quickly as possible, before everyone is no longer listening. 

The importance of feeling heard as a child translates to listening skills as an adult, I’m sure of it.

Honestly, I think I’ve been blind and it hurts my heart. I hurt my heart. I didn’t notice how bad it was until Covid 19 forced me to take online courses for the Fall 2020 semester. My internet wasn’t the strongest, and this meant I couldn’t speak up during class – or in break-out-groups. I was told to give my input in the chatbox. Participation points. However, this often meant that I was the only person typing in the box and I felt no one was reading it anyway. I felt useless, unproductive, and passed over. 

And oh lord, the anxiety. 

It forced me to think about my input. Is what I’m saying important? Do my thoughts benefit anyone or am I just speaking to feel included? There’s an intense desire to be accepted by others. Feeling heard plays into this because you want others to know who you are. Know you’re ‘down’. Despite knowing that those I strive to be accepted by might not be healthy for me. “Alone, Not Lonely” is the anthem for my particular kind of introversion. However, my periods of introspection never ask if I’m a delight to be around or if I’m the reason others might feel uncomfortable. 

I live by the philosophy that we are all the center of our OWN universe. 

And it’s true. But there doesn’t have to be two extremes: “self-care is selfish” or “I put everyone before myself”. There can be a commonplace and this is where I find myself, in practice. But I don’t appear this way. I’m not sure if others see the person who is thoughtful and kind. They only see what I show them. And I think it might be a perception of self-centeredness. But am I what I show others? Do I become the mask that I wear?

I’ve noticed my tendencies toward self-centeredness in some of my writing groups. 

After we met up, I would talk. And talk. And talk. And sometimes I would say, “wow. Can you please tell me to shut up when I talk too much?” I guess the good thing is that I meant the words genuinely. I’ve always said, “I want to be where I’m wanted”. But am I wanted nowhere because I’m a social pariah that pushes others away because I can’t stop talking about MYself or MY projects or MY issues? My adoptive mom always said I needed to get my nose out of books because I didn’t have any social skills. She said that isolation coupled with deep introversion would set me back.

And I fall back into this often.

I don’t have all the answers. If I did, I’d probably be a better person. I’d probably talk less about myself. Which – as you know, if you know me – means I’d be a quieter person. I want to be a better listener and a better friend. I want to truly hear what others are saying. People always feel comfortable enough to tell me their secrets, their problems, and I help them see things in a different light. So, I know that I have it in me. Those brief moments of lucidity when I can untangle my tongue and absorb the world around me.

I just have to try.

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. 

 

Short Fiction: Migration

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When we arrived in the new place we didn’t know what to expect. The livestock was plentiful, and well-trained with arms and legs that worked machines and eyes that surveyed watchfully, the housing thick and occupied, the air barely breathable due to the closest factory spewing black into the midnight air. As if pollution could be hidden away, tucked into the late hour like a beddy-by-child.

It grew on us like moss. First, my neighbor to the left went under; finding a job at the local post office. Then my neighbor to the right, who I’d always thought would be my friend even after the transition, found a job at the local deli. I never felt so out of place.

Before our travels, I never thought I’d miss home so much. The dirt floors, caked red and hot in the day time, cool sands with unbearably freezing winds at night. I thought once I lay upon this downy thick, I would know what true comfort felt like. The way the inhabitant before me must have crawled beneath sheets warmed by the all-day sun. How they must have sat at the table to gobble their meals, crunching on chicken legs, and sipping the sweet cool liquid of yellow lemonade. How they walked these same halls as temporary tenants in my new home. But I felt no kindred spirit to them.

I wonder, thinking myself a neighbor soon to go under, if anyone was intrigued by me. By what I do and why I’d been allowed the biggest house on the block. I could stand here, where I am now, at the front of my window, in this temperature-controlled dwelling, and I can see theirs. The vast differences- oh, how the previous tenants showed their wealth – and the way I could see out to them but, having stood outside my own doors at night, they couldn’t see in. No matter how many lights were on.

Here I stood in my surveoyrism, and yet, I thought of their opinions. I could laugh at the number of times, before we came here, I thought of other’s opinions of me. In this new place, with it’s attention to status and hierarchy, I could only assume the bigger the dwelling the more important the character.

I’d always been good with things back home. My hands tinkering while my brains solved issues of another. I wasn’t the only one. Far from it. It wasn’t until we were prepped to move to this new place that my Highers realized I had an affinity for the unknown.

Day to day I would sit in my square, at the desk that rearranged itself to my liking at the beginning of the night, and I would fiddle with the new toys. My favorite, having been given to me by a Higher with a brow so thin and arched it blended with the hairline to low on the forehead, sat on a pedestal right inside the front door.

Looking now, where it was luminescent beneath the spotlight, I felt a sense of apprehension. These lights, in this new place, showed too much. Or maybe the ones back home showed not enough. You see particles floating in the air, slowly – as if gravity does not belong to them. I wonder where they come from. The factory just on the outskirts? I shine it daily, swiping at the air to remove the debris, but it does nothing to fix the main issue. The atmosphere is bad. No wonder everything dies here.

“Are you going to stand there all day?” I turn to see my replica coming down the stairs, floating on limber legs.

“I have the mind to do so,” I reply and turn away from him, and my prize, and look out on my neighbors again. There are a few lights on, scattered like stars in the darkness. I want to focus, to see if I can peer into their windows and into their lives. Maybe they are doing the same thing as me: adjusting.

“I thought you had more things to discover, do you not?” my replica asks. I turn to look at him again. He sees my prize, which he knows he can not touch, and mimes the action of its use. One hand up, thumb out, long finger pumping back and forth as if to jerk a trigger. I want to frown, we do not like violence, but it is indeed what the prize does. I do not fault him his curiosity.

“I do, I must go to the market today. They are struggling to keep up with production. Something must be done,” I said firmly. When we are not productive, we are not useful. Then we will die. “I will go down and see what I can do.”

“Do they think you a celebrity?” my replica asked, having moved over to join me at the window. Two lights blink and then die, another family gone to sleep.

“They do not know me at all, little one. They only know their lives will ease. As is the way,” I say.

“So, they have no idea that you’re the reason? That doesn’t seem right! Why can’t we tell them? Maybe they…”

“As is the way,” I interrupt.

“But they wouldn’t look at us with those eyes,” he pouted.

“What eyes?” I ask.

“The ones that shift with my gaze. They see us but do not see us. They ask about this,” he throws up his four arms, simultaneously motioning to the corners of the room, and it’s lavish gold trimming.

“As is the way,” I shake my head at him but push back my shoulders. I turn back to the window, dismissing him of his questions and his frustration. He should excuse the misgivings the previous tenants left for us. It was not we who built this home and it’s difference to those aside it. We could only take what was here and provided us. As is the way.

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Good Readdance,
Jade