2015 Reading Challenge

Kindred

Kindred

Summary:

The first science fiction written by a black woman, “Kindred” has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity. Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

I am not sure the claim that this was the “first” science fiction written by a black woman (as noted in the description, but it certainly may be one of the best well-known.  This book is so intriguing because Dana is a modern woman with modern perspectives until she finds herself in antebellum Maryland.  This is an important perspective because I think many people tend to understate or make assumptions about individual’s view of life during that time.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that this makes the situation visceral and relatable.  I certainly found myself horrified at a few different points.

It had been quite a while before I re-reviewed this book to remind myself about it and it all came flooding back to me.  In my opinion, this book sticks with you much more than many other books tackling such difficult topics.  I’d definitely list this as required reading if you can squeeze in the time.

Warning: Contains repeated violence.

Rating: 5 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone who wants to try to get an inkling of what it would be to be yourself during slavery (modern perspectives and all).

 

Sula

Sula

Summary:

This rich and moving novel traces the lives of two black heroines from their close-knit childhood in a small Ohio town, through their sharply divergent paths of womanhood, to their ultimate confrontation and reconciliation.

Nel Wright has chosen to stay in the place where she was born, to marry, raise a family, and become a pillar of the black community. Sula Peace has rejected the life Nel has embraced, escaping to college, and submerging herself in city life. When she returns to her roots, it is as a rebel and a wanton seductress. Eventually, both women must face the consequences of their choices. Together, they create an unforgettable portrait of what it means and costs to be a black woman in America. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

I really wanted to like this book because I’ve heard so much about Toni Morrison, but overall the book fell flat for me.  The writing was fantastic, the prose kept me interested throughout the duration of the book and yet the story itself made me depressed.  Sula was just awful.  Regardless of who you are and where you live, I could not get over what Sula did to the one person she loved in the world and how she never felt any regret over it.  Though she claims to have achieved “freedom”, she never seemed happy to me.

I’m not sure what the overall message was supposed to be, but I think I missed it.

Warning: Contains violence and sexual content.

Rating: 3 stars!

Who should read it? Toni Morrison fans and folks who want to know what the book is about.

When Kambia Elaine Flew in from Neptune

When Kambia Elaine Flew Down From Neptune

Summary:

So I just made another note to add to my blue notebook later, when the house had cooled off: Tia's nature is boiling out of her like hot soup out of a pot, and Kambia Elaine just flew in from Neptune. Shayla Dubois lives in a Houston neighborhood known as the Bottom, where life is colorful but never easy. She wants only two things out of life: to become a writer and to have a nice, peaceful home. Instead, her life has been turned upside down. Shayla's mama kicked her sister, Tia, out of the house for messing around with an older guy, and months later Tia still hasn't come home. Shayla's father, Mr. Anderson Fox, has rolled back into town and has been spending a lot of time at the house with Mama. And Shayla still doesn't know what to make of her strange new neighbor, Kambia Elaine.

Kambia tells Shayla the most fantastic stories: that the Lizard People turn into purple chewing gum when the sun comes up; that Memory Beetles gather up and store people's good memories; that she is a piece of driftwood from the Mississippi River. All Shayla knows for sure is that Kambia's mother has a lot of male visitors and that Kambia doesn't look too healthy. When Kambia tells Shayla about the vicious Wallpaper Wolves that hide in her walls to catch bad little girls, Shayla knows something is wrong. But she doesn't know how she can help Kambia when she can't get past her stories, and when Tia still hasn't come home.

Told lyrically and gracefully by debut author Lori Aurelia Williams, When Kambia Elaine Flew in from Neptune shows how complicated life can get when children are forced to grow up too quickly, while it also celebrates the bonds of a strong, loving family. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

Initially when I started reading this book I was not particularly impressed, but it slowly grew on me.  If I hadn’t committed to reading it for the challenge, I’m not sure that I would have continued, but I’m glad I did.  It’s not a book I would have chosen to read at the age it was marketed to, but it would have been a good one for school!

Shayla felt naïve to me reading as an adult, but that may be that’s the 20/20 hindsight perspective on the book.  There are some concepts that are tackled that I think are valuable to address, but I also think there are other books that articulate them better.  The last quarter of the book is where Shayla’s voice really comes out and that’s what pulled it all together for me.  Had the book received one more pass by an editor, I think it could have really blown my socks off.

Warning: Contains content that may be explicit for young readers

Rating: 3 stars!

Who should read it? Young tweens still not sure what they want to do.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Summary:

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This was one of the best books that I’ve read in quite a while!  I absolutely adored it.  There were plenty of twists and turns and I never quite knew what was going on.  The group of friends is honestly too interesting and diverse to be true (at least in my world), but they kept it interesting and it was fascinating to see how they pulled together both old and new.  Mr. Penumbra was completely charming, I wanted to meet him and his bookstore in person.

I’d highly recommend this one to those who enjoy puzzles, particularly ones that seem to be straightforward.  There’s a little prequel to the book and I will certainly be giving that a read fairly soon!

Rating: 5 stars!

Who should read it? Everyone who loves a good puzzle.

Want to read the whole series? 

  • Ajax Penumbra 1969 (Mr. Penumbra’s Bookstore #0.5)