African American

Book Review: The Bluest Eye

Cover of The Bluest Eye
Author: 
Morrison, Toni
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The Bluest Eye is about a young African-American girl named Pecola living in 1940's Ohio. Pecola lives with her brother and abusive parents who constantly tell her she is ugly because of her dark skin and kinky hair. On top of that, the children at her school bully her for the fact that her father is an alcoholic. All her life, Pecola has wanted blue eyes to feel pretty. Her only friends, Freida and Claudia try to defend her against the colorism in their community, but Pecola is unable to embrace her features and becomes obsessive over her desire for blue eyes.

One of the reasons I read this book is because of Morrison's writing style and her thematic elements. The book is very intellectually stimulating and gave me better insight into colorism and how it is still largely prevalent today in the African-American community. I really liked how Morrison used a young girl as a main character to show how these feelings of low-esteem and poor body image are started at a young age, and how the people around us influence our thoughts and feelings.

There are a lot of complex characters and you get to hear each of their stories about why they're the way they are. Claudia is my favorite character because she represents women and girls who challenge our ideas of beauty. The ending was sad, but it really brought light to how damaging our obsession with beauty is.

Reviewer's Name: 
Nneoma

Book Review: Punching the Air

Book Cover
Author: 
Zoboi, Ibi & Salaam, Yusef
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Yusef Salaam is one of the "Central Park Five", young men of color who were incorrectly accused of raping and beating a woman jogging in Central Park in the late 80s. After the five had served their sentences of 5-15 years, they were exonerated when the real culprit came forward. This book is clearly heavily inspired by Yusef's story as it tells the story of Amal, a teen in prison for a similar crime that he did not commit. It starts with the conviction and then moves into Amal's experiences in a juvenile detention center.

Every year, there's a book that I promote really heavily in classrooms. This will definitely be that book. It's so good. So sad. So spare in that way that only books in verse can be. It takes a while to read, because sometimes you just kind of have to sit with it for a while to process it. It does such a great job of illustrating just how deeply flawed and racist our "justice" systems are. I dare you not to empathize with Amal. I can't wait to share this important book with everyone I know! Also, like, that cover y'all. So pretty. And it's relevant to the story! Anyway, consider this required reading, especially for all the folks trying to "read woke". 5 stars.

Thanks to Edelweiss and Balzer + Bray for the eARC which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Punching the Air is out 01 September - put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: Ghost

Book Review: Ghost
Author: 
Reynolds, Jason
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

I had taken a break from reviewing books until I read Ghost. This book is really well written. The narrator is believable and the plot illustrates his struggles and growth. Ghost is a troubled kid who stumbles onto a track team and turns his life for the better. I both loved and hated the ending, because it was so good but I didn't want the book to end. Great quick read. I highly recommended giving it a whirl.

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: American Street

Cover of the book American Street
Author: 
Zoboi, Ibi
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

American Street is about a girl named Fabiola who moves from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, to Detroit to see her aunt and cousins. When Fabiola and her mom get to New York to go on there connecting flight to Detroit her mom got held back
in New York while Fabiola goes on to Detroit. Once she gets to Detroit and gets to her cousins house she finds out that her mom wasn't coming to Detroit because of immigration laws. So she stays with her cousins Chantal, Donna, and Pri and her aunt Jo till she can figure out how to get her mother to come to Detroit. Fabiola enrolls in school and struggles to adjust to America. She grows close to her cousins who were known as the "Three Bees," Pri is the brawn of the group, Chantal is the brains, and Donna is the beauty and together they made a good team. Fabiola becomes friends with a classmate to get help with homework and stuff. They slowly become fast friends. Slowly she falls in love with a boy named Kasim who was best friends with Donna's drug dealer boyfriend, Dray. Finally, she figures out that Kasim went to a party to sell drugs for Dray and something bad happened that left Fabiola and her cousins heartbroken. In the end Fabiola, Pri, Donna, Chantal, and Aunt Jo moved away from Detroit for good and left for New Jersey.

Something that I liked about this book is that it was moving and heartbreaking but still a beautiful piece of literature. Something that I didn't like about the book was that Dray and Kasim were friends because they were so different and Dray wasn't a good guy but Kasim was a good guy. I usually don't like books like this but this one was so passionate and moving that I had trouble putting the book down. Another good thing about this book was that the plot didn't take awhile to develop and Fabiola changed a lot with her visit to America.

Reviewer's Name: 
Kaitlyn B.

Book Review: Cinderella is Dead

Book Cover
Author: 
Bayron, Kaylynn
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

Cinderella is dead is about a girl in a society where women are expected to behave like Cinderella in the beloved (well, they're forced to love it) fairy-tale: wait until you're somethingth birthday and then you must go to a ball to be chosen by a boy/man/grandpa who you will be forced to obey for the rest of your life. Those who refuse are executed. When our main character falls in love with another girl instead of waiting to be chosen at the ball, she decides it's time for a change.

I saw this book ages ago on Netgalley and while I love the cover (and don't be afraid to chose a book by it's cover, kids!), I'm pretty over anything to do with Cinderella as I feel as though I've read around 8 million re-tellings in the last five years or so. Then, I heard some folks from Bloomsbury talk about this book at a recent conference, and I was sold! Unfortunately, though, there was way too much Cinderella in it for me to truly enjoy it. The worldbuilding and plot waffled between being creative and a bit silly. The characters were one-dimensional and the romance unearned. That said, I think the book's audience, younger teens, will enjoy it, so I'll definitely be recommending it.

This is the perfect book for younger teens who just can't get enough of Cinderella or who are looking to make the jump from middle grade to young adult fiction. For this older reader, the coolness of the author's innovation with the Cinderella fairytale was outweighed by bland characters and forced romance. 2 stars - it was ok.

Thanks to Bloomsbury YA and Netgalley for the eARC which I received for an unbiased review. You can put Cinderella is Dead on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: Party of Two

Cover
Author: 
Guillory, Jasmine
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Olivia Munroe has just moved to LA, and finds herself frequenting her hotel's bar as she navigates the rental process in LA. On her last night in the hotel, she meets a sexy stranger at the bar. They have a cute interaction, but go their separate ways. Olivia is stunned when she realizes the sexy stranger was in fact Max Powell, a hotshot junior senator from CA. The two have another chance encounter, and this time continue to see each other. But is Olivia ready for life in the public eye?

This is my second Jasime Guillory book (The Wedding Party was my first), and I obviously liked the first enough to read this one, but I liked this one so much more! Olivia and Max were just such great characters, I fell in love with both of them pretty quickly. There's also some topical information about relations between the Black community and the police and politics at large, so that was super timely to read and adds an extra dimension to what would otherwise be a fluffy book. Really, aside from a couple of plot aspects that annoyed me personally, the only thing that bothered me was the lack of sex! Where is the sex?!?! There was soooooooo much sex in The Wedding Party that I expected a bunch here as well and was disappointed by it's absence, especially as I connected with these characters a little more.

I would generally recommend this to women's fiction readers, especially those who are looking for a slightly lighter way to read woke. 3.5 stars - it's somewhere in-between "I liked it" and "I really liked it" for me.

Thanks to Netgalley and Berkley Books for the eARC that I received in exchange for an honest review. Party of Two is available on 23 June.

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Reviews: The Obelisk Gate

The Obelisk Gate
Author: 
Jemisin, N. K.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

I’ll admit that reading The Fifth Season had a bit of a learning curve for
the Broken Earth series. Not only did I have to learn about the vastly
powerful magic system based on rocks (and other rock forms), but I had to get
used to a second-person point of view (POV). Jumping between timelines with
similar characters who had different names was a bit confusing, but I was
able to figure it out by the end. Fast forward to the sequel, The Obelisk
Gate, and most of my qualms with the first book were smoothed over or solved
outright.

One of the things I enjoyed about The Obelisk Gate was the increase in the
scale of the magic system. Including the moon in these calculations makes
perfect sense considering the nature of the orogeny magic. I also appreciated
how the story seemed to focus on a single POV, which made for a more intimate
experience as we followed only one or two individuals instead of four. Now
that I was used to the second-person writing style and the character it
described, it didn’t bother me as much as when I read The Fifth Season.

While The Fifth Season set up the world-building for this trilogy, The
Obelisk Gate’s only weakness is that it finally set up the climactic plot
for the third book. Sure, there was plenty of character development and
intriguing twists in the plot in The Obelisk Gate, but they all seemed to be
hinting at something much more significant that wouldn’t take place in this
book. I do appreciate an excellent three-act structure, so this slight
weakness can be seen as merely an artifact of the second book in a trilogy.
In fact, because it was more focused, I liked this book more than its
predecessor. After all, it’s a strong concept with solid execution.

A focusing and foreshadowing of the Broken Earth series, I give The Obelisk
Gate 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: A River of Royal Blood

Book Review: A River of Royal Blood
Author: 
Joy, Amanda
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Eva's nameday is coming up. And on that day, she'll become a Rival Heir. From then on, she'll be expected to try to kill her sister (or die in the process), so that one of them could take the throne. Eva's always been her father's favorite, but in this matriarchal society, her mother, the Queen, who, of course favores Eva's sister Isadore, would do anything to make sure that Eva doesn't get the throne. Including helping Isa with her magic while trying to keep Eva from accessing hers. But the throne is Eva's destiny. It's that, or death.

This was another instance of the plot being hard to describe, though that's mostly due to the fact that there are so many things happening in this book. It's pretty complicated. Not in a bad way - I really enjoyed it. The worldbuilding was very cool, I loved the khimaer. A lot of it was new to me, or a fun twist on a familiar concept. I loved the book's mythology. Something about it felt fresh. I also bizarrely really liked the middle part of the book - its full of layered mysteries, court intrigue, training montages and the right amount and type of romance. It's built on mutual and earned respect (and yes, hotness). There's a lot to like in this book, and it won't be the last by this author that I read.

That said, the beginning and ending were rote and felt a bit weak. The end, in particular, felt like it existed only to get you to read the next installment. There was no resolution, and it felt very rushed, especially after a story that was otherwise taking its time unfolding. I don't want to spend a lot of time criticizing what was otherwise a fun read - give it a go!

TLDR: This was so close to being really good, but it just missed the mark (rote beginning and ending, super strong middle and worldbuilding). I quite enjoyed it, nonetheless. 3.5 stars - I almost really liked it. :)

Thanks for the eARC Netgalley and Putnam for the advance copy! A River of Royal Blood will be available for purchase on 29 October, but you can put your copy on hold today.

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: War Girls

Book Review: War Girls
Author: 
Onyebuchi, Tochi
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Onyii and Ify live as sisters in an all-girls refugee/war camp on the edge of the Redlands, an area riddled with radiation from a long-ago nuclear disaster. Nigeria, their home, is in the midst of a civil war. Children are conscripted as soldiers and pilots for mechanized warrior robots. Onyii and Ify are separated, and as truths are revealed to each of them, they must decide where, and with whom, their loyalties lie all while trying not to die a terrible death in a bloody civil war.

Going into this, I knew nothing about the Nigeria - Biafran civil war of the 1960s, which is at the heart of this novel. Personally, I enjoy learning about parts of history that I know nothing about (I typically don’t gravitate to one of the 1,983,784,767 WWII novels, for example), and I really enjoyed the unique setting. The book is set in the future, and the futuristic elements really added a lot to the plot and were well employed by the author. Onyii, for example, is an Augment, meaning that she’s a little bit of a bionic woman. While I didn’t really relate to the main characters, I did really like them. They didn’t always make the best decisions, but their decisions made sense to their characters and their respective arcs. They were easy to root for. Really, my only complaint was that it felt overlong, and I skimmed through some of the battle scenes, but that’s more a matter of personal preference.

TLDR: Looking for something to read after Children of Blood and Bone? You’ve found your next great Nigerian inspired read! (And, honestly, if you haven’t read Children of Blood and Bone but it’s on your TBR, I’d suggest replacing it with War Girls, which is a much more original, engaging book). For readers who like apocalyptic novels and futuristic sci-fi battles. 4 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and Razorbill for the eARC which I received in exchange for an honest review. War Girls will be available for purchase on 15 October, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: Monster

Monster
Author: 
Myers, Walter Dean
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This book is an interesting and suspenseful novel. It is filled to the brim with moments that will have readers on the edge of their seat. Monster also is written in a unique format, in the form of a movie script written my the protagonist Steve Harmon, who is awaiting trial for a crime he didn’t commit. This story is written with intense figurative language that paints a terrifying image depicting the horrors of prison. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great suspenseful read. Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: 
Kyle Y

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