Sunday, May 31, 2020

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo




Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 432 pages
Published: May 2020

Clap When You Land is my second read by Elizabeth Acevedo. It is written in prose. I read that Acevedo's first book, The Poet X, is also written this way. Her second book, and my first read, With the Fire on High was written in a more traditional way. While the stories are different, the writing is captivating; however, I did enjoy the format of With the Fire on High more.

Acevedo's books are categorized as young adult fiction, but I find that she takes on some heavy topics told through the eyes of teens that any reader can appreciate. Clap When You Land is about two half sisters: Camino who lives in the Dominican Republic and Yahaira who lives in United States. Neither sister knows about the other until a tragic plane crash kills the father they both share and love so dearly. The story is about them learning who they are through their shared connection. Because of the topic, there is grief and sadness, but it's realistic and handled appropriately for the age group of the book's target audience. The book also touches on colorism, sex t trafficking, forgiveness and healing.


"The kindness of a stranger, simply because she sees in us something worthy of this small gift."

I truly enjoyed this book. It was a summer read that lifted my heart. When I landed at the last page, I too wanted to clap.

Recommendation: This is a great book for teens or older adults. There are serious topics that are handled very well by this highly skilled and talented writer.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.






Saturday, May 23, 2020

A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight




Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pages: 400 pages
Published: May 2020

What constitutes a good marriage? If you're looking for the answer, you're not going to find it in this book. However, the novel, A Good Marriage, is a legal mystery full of twists and revelations that keep you turning the page until you learn who the killer is. This Book of the Month Club selection features Lizzie, a former federal prosector who is now working as an attorney in the private sector. She gets a late-night call from her former college mate, Zach, who has been arrested and is the main suspect in his wife's murder. Lizzie reluctantly takes his case and becomes an amateur sleuth in trying to find out what happened to his wife, Amanda. On top of that, Lizzie is having some pretty serious marital problems of her own.

The book is told through the alternating perspectives of Lizzie and Amanda and also includes grand jury testimony and other correspondence to give the reader clues for solving the mystery. Having said that, I was unable to discern the killer until the very end. The author, Kimberly McCreight, included several red herrings in the story that threw me off.

I enjoyed reading this book. I found it to be very engaging, and I think McCreight is a masterful storyteller. There were a couple of elements she introduced that added more suspense to the plot, but I don't think she closed the loop on. These are very minor and don't affect the story greatly. There was also foul language that I don't think added value to the story, and at times, seemed forced. Overall, this was an entertaining read, especially during this time of quarantine.

Recommendation: I give this novel 5 stars. I highly recommend it. Fans of Law & Order might enjoy this book.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.






Thursday, May 7, 2020

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano




Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pages: 352 pages
Published: January 2020

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano is about a family of four who board a fully booked plan in Newark, New Jersey headed for Los Angeles, California. Midway across the United States, the plane crashes leaving a sole survivor, Edward, a 12-year old boy and the youngest son of that family. Edward's story makes him a national celebrity as he navigates how to heal, physically and emotionally, and live life without his parents and his older brother. 

This is really a coming of age novel, and it is sad because a plane crash that kills nearly 200 people is sad, but it is also hopeful. It's about healing and learning who you are in spite of the most challenging circumstances. I fell in love with Edward and the secondary cast of characters who rallied around him to make sure he was OK after such a horrible tragedy. This book was very touching and very real to me. I know there has been a lot of criticism about the technical accuracy of the airplane and its crash, and I cannot attest to that. However, if you read the book for the beautiful piece of literature it is, I think you can overlook any technical errors that might be in place. 

Recommendation: No one is really traveling very much right now, so it's a good time to read a book like this. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.






Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Guest List by Lucy Foley




Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pages: 320 pages
Published: June 2020 (expected)

The Guest List by Lucy Foley was my April Book of the Month Club section. The book is a mystery thriller set on a remote island off the coast of Ireland. Mystery. Thriller. Ireland. Sign me up! The book is about the wedding of a high profile couple and features an ensemble cast. It is told in alternating perspectives of The Bride, The Best Man, The Plus One, The Wedding Planner and The Bridesmaid. It is reminiscent of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express in that someone gets murdered while on the island for the weekend wedding and everyone is a suspect. 

The book was a little slow to start, but overall it was a fun read. I quickly guessed the murder victim, but it took till nearly the end of the book for me to figure out who did the deed. I like reading books told from multiple perspectives. I think it works really well for mysteries. What I did not care for was the back in forth in the timeline. It made the storyline more confusing and added little value. There were some minor plot holes but nothing major that took away from the central story.  

Recommendation: I enjoy reading books set in Ireland, and I hope to make it there one day. Dublin is definitely on my bucket list. Until then, I'll continue to rely on books to take me places I can't go because of COVID-19. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.






Friday, April 10, 2020

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver



Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 369 pages
Published: March 2020

Last year I read One Day in December by Josie Silver and enjoyed it. I was excited to see this as a Book of the Month Club (BOTM) suggestion. Because I am trying to be realistic, I only purchase one book per month from BOTM. For this month, I chose to purchase another book and I borrowed The Two Lives of Lydia Bird from the Fort Worth Digital Library. I am glad I did. 

The protagonist, Lydia, had been with her long-time boyfriend, Freddie since high school. Now in their 30s, the two were engaged to be married when he was tragically killed on Lydia's birthday in a car accident. On top of that, his best friend Jonah, who Lydia doesn't particularly care for, survived. This story is about Lydia's path to healing. In her grief, she finds a way to connect with her lost love through somewhat of a fantastical realm. These encounters help her learn more about herself and what her identity will be post-Freddie. In her real life, she goes through the stages of grief with the help of her sister, Elle, and her mom. This book is truly a story of personal growth. 

In its totality I enjoyed this story. The first two-thirds of the book were very sad and read quite slow for me as I walked through the darkness with Lydia as she mourned her fiancĂ©. The last part of the book picks up as she starts to discover herself and come out of her grief. And the ending was perfect. I think the book hit home with a lot of passages and how someone deals with losing someone who was close to them. 

Recommendation: I enjoyed this book. I don't know if I enjoyed it more than One Day in December. It was a different story that evoked different emotions, but I can say that I enjoyed them both. I recommend picking up a copy for yourself.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.






Thursday, March 26, 2020

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler



Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 311 pages
Published: March 2020

I am going to be direct with my review of this book. I am always honest with my opinion of what I read, but normally I preface it with a soft introduction. I'm not doing that today. I hated this storyline. I absolutely hated it. I probably will not read anything else by this author. I do not think she researched well for this book, even though she assures us she has in her author's note at the beginning of the novel. I think she took pain that is all too familiar to the African American community and trivialized it in an attempt to profit from it.

The story is about a biracial (African American and Caucasian) teen boy who falls for his neighbor, a Caucasian teen girl. Not knowing about the teen crush, the boy's mother starts a bit of a civil war with the girl's father. The result is a series of unfortunate events with heart-wrenching consequences. Fowler is a gifted writer. Her sentence structure is captivating, but the plot of A Good Neighborhood is a horrible story filled with stereotypes and over-characterizations. Additionally, I wasn't a fan of the method of narration she employed.

After I finished reading this book, I wanted to throw it in the trash. I read for entertainment, and this book caused stress, frustration, and anger. I guess that could be considered a win for some - that it evoked such an emotion. But this book is not a winner, in my book.

Recommendation: I purchased this book using one of my Book of the Month club credits. I wish I would have spent the money on something else. I've tried to be direct here, but just in case it's not clear - I do not recommend this book.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.






Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Holdout by Graham Moore



Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 325 pages
Published: February 2020

The Holdout by Graham Moore is a quick read in the mystery and suspense genre that adds a twist on the classic Twelve Angry Men play by Reginald Rose. Protagonist Maya Seale is a juror on a high profile case that reunites the jury 10 years after they found the defendant, Bobby Nock not guilty when the court of public opinion pegged him for the crime. A "what's happened since" documentary is the reason the jurors are brought back together. Because Maya was the lone juror who believed in Bobby's innocence and persuaded the other jurors to change their vote, much light is put on her role in the documentary. However, before it can officially get started a fellow juror is found dead in Maya's hotel room. The murder catapults Maya back into the spotlight and the reader is taken on a race to find out whodunit.

I found this book to be very fast-paced and engaging. I finished it over a three-hour plane trip. There are some racial overtones and criminal (in)justice themes. There were also some plot twists at the end that made the book interesting. As far as mysteries go, this one was pretty simple to figure out, I guessed the ending before reaching it. However, it still made for an entertaining read. I could have done without some of the sexual scenes. They were not overly done, but I just don't know that they added value to the story.

Recommendation: This was a fun read. There wasn't anything that really stood out about it that left a lasting impression with me, but, in my opinion, it is a book worth reading.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.






Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare



Rating: 5+ of 5 stars
Pages: 384 pages
Published: February 2020

Oh! How I fell in love with Adunni, the main character in The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare. This emotionally wrought story is about a 14-year old child whose mother has died and her father sells her (his only daughter) to a dirty, old polygamist in a rural town in Nigeria. All Adunni wants is an education so that she may one day become a teacher and have a voice in her own life and circumstances. Afraid of becoming impregnated by the polygamist "husband" and the abusive sister-wife, she runs away only to be thrust into another abusive human trafficking situation.

I know the plot sounds dire, and it is, but there are elements of hope and redemption. Adunni is a heroine. She is courageous. She is the perfect protagonist to read about any time, but this read was especially inspiring to read during Women's History Month. The novel featured several strong female characters. As an author, Dare did an excellent job with this debut, painting vivid imagery without being too graphic. I enjoyed that she wrote in the voice of a young person who was struggling to learn English. It made the book feel more authentic.

This book gave me all the feels and left me pondering about what lie ahead for Adunni. It also made me think about how truly fortunate I am to have grown up in a place where education is readily available to boys and girls alike. I truly have no complaints about this book. It was executed very well and well worth the read.

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more from the author in the future.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.






Saturday, February 22, 2020

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi



Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 544 pages
Published: March 2018

So, I began my last review: I don't even like ghost stories or the paranormal ... And I will begin this review in much the same way. I don't even like fantasy novels, but I absolutely devoured Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. I began reading this book while most of the U.S. was engrossed in the annual Super Bowl. This book was way more captivating than the football championship game! This novel is the first in a series.

The story begins with the protagonist, Zelie, who is living in dire times where her people have lost their magic, and they are essentially being racially profiled by the authoritative figures of Orisha. Through happenstance Zelie meets Amari, the princess of Orisha and learns that there is a way to recapture the magic her people once lost. The two form an unlikely bond, and together, we are taken on a wild ride as they attempt to reclaim what was once lost.

The thing I enjoyed most about this book is that even though it falls in the young adult genre, it focuses on some very important topics through symbolism. The oppression exhibited by the characters who held authority was easy to envision and relate to as a person of color in the United States. The magic clearly was a metaphor for power - power lost, abuse of power, and power reclaimed. The overall symbolism was noted in Adeyemi's author's notes at the end of the book. I think it's quite beautiful how she took real-life tragedy and pain and created something so vivid through her prose and imagery in this book. I got to hear her speak about her writing at the 2019 North Texas Teen Book Festival in Irving, Texas. What's she's done here is simply astounding.

I struggled with a few minor things. There was a full cast of characters. It was a little challenging to nail down which ones would be most germane to the story as I began reading, so I took some notes as I read the first third of the book. I also struggled with the overabundant use of phrases like "for skies sake" and "what in gods name." Other than those two personal hang-ups, I really have no other criticisms.

Recommendation: I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and I think I just might have to read the subsequent books in the series. I don't even like fantasy stories ... and maybe I still don't. Maybe what I really appreciate is good writing. If you decide to pick up a book by Tomi Adeyemi, that's exactly what you'll get - excellent writing.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.






Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James



Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 336 pages
Published: February 2020

I don't even like ghost stories or the paranormal, but I absolutely loved The Sun Down Motel by Simon St. James. It was my first book from BOTM club, and it did not disappoint. I devoured this book every free moment I had over the course of six days. I would have finished sooner, but alas I have a full-time job.

The book vacillates between 1982 and 2017 where Carly, in the more present time, is working as an amateur sleuth to solve the mystery of her aunt who, Viv, who vanished without a trace more than 30 years earlier. In her attempt to find the truth, Carly takes on the life that her aunt lived those many years ago in a town that really hadn't changed as much since the 80s. The atmosphere is spooky, and the hotel that both Viv and Carly work(ed) at is the center of a lot of paranormal activity.

The author did a fabulous job of creating suspense, mystery, intrigue, and fear with her literary devices. I would be lying if I told you I didn't get a little uncomfortable reading some of the passages. The writing was so engaging that there were times when I had to close the book because I was home, alone, at night. My only criticism is that, even with the decades time difference, I sometimes had difficulty discerning if I, as the reader, was reading about what happened in 1982 or 2017. Each chapter did have a label at the beginning that identified the time period and perspective (Viv's or Carly's), but once I turned the page and was deep into one chapter I'd sometimes forget. This may have been intentional by the author to demonstrate how the town of Fell, New York was still stuck in the past.

Recommendation: Overall, I enjoyed this book and think that my new BOTM membership will be well worth the money paid. I don't even like ghost stories ... until I did. Thanks to BOTM and Ms. St. James for opening me to a new genre!

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.




Thursday, January 23, 2020

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert



Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 384 pages
Published: November 2019

I can't remember where I first learned about Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert, but the premise of the book seemed like a fun, light read that I ended up taking with me on a work trip. I have a lot of alone time after hours when I leave town for work. So, reading helps keep my mind occupied.

I would categorize this fictional novel as contemporary romance with a hint of humor. The protagonist is Chloe Brown who suffers a critical illness that becomes chronic and forced her into a life of solitude. I kind of relate to the solitude aspect, living as an introvert, myself.

Anyway, Chloe decides she needs to get herself back out there and she makes a bucket list of sorts to help her get a life, hence the title. The first task was moving out of her spacious familial home. In her new abode, she comes into contact with Red, who is the property's superintendent. He's the opposite of Chloe in just about every way. And as you might suspect, a love-hate relationship ensues and you can probably guess where the plot goes from there. No big surprises in the story. It's a tale as old as time.

The surprising, little nugget is the backgrounds of Chloe and Red. We learn some things about them, that happened before they met, that give their characters depth. The author lightly touches on some pretty heavy topics as a result of developing their respective back stories. I wish she would have put some more research and focus into those topics. Instead a great majority of the book is explicitly described sexual encounters. I think these could have been reduced by at least 25%. I found myself rushing through to just get to the expected ending so I could call this one done.

I do appreciate what the author was trying to do as well as her focus on more realistic ethnic and racial representation in novels. I just don't understand why some authors of color have to contribute to the stereotype of over-sexualized black women. That was a little disappointing for me. Additionally, the book was told from the perspectives of both Chloe and Red, but the author wrote in the same voice for both characters. It wasn't difficult to differentiate because one is female and one is male, but because the voices were so similar, the dialogue fell flat for me.

Recommendation: I wanted to like this one. I really did. In looking at other reviews, I realize I am in the minority on this, but my vote is a hard pass on this one as well as the other books in the series that focus on Chloe's sisters.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.


Friday, January 10, 2020

Free Cyntoia by Cyntoia Brown-Long



Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pages: 319 pages
Published: October 2019

I first learned about Cyntoia Brown (as she was known then) when celebrities started sharing her story and documentary on social media. When she was released from prison, I celebrated with her and her family. And when she published her memoir, I knew I had to read it. (Thanks to the Fort Worth Public Library for the digital borrow.)

Going in, I thought that I would learn about what a difficult childhood Cyntoia had, how she came from a broken home with no stability or parental support. Serves me right for making assumptions and applying stereotypes! That is not what I learned as I read her story. In my opinion, she had a good foundation but made some poor, and ultimately detrimental, life choices. During the first third of her autobiography, I was so frustrated with and mad at her. By the middle of the book, my heart began to soften, and by the end of the book I was absolutely enamored by the transformation she had made. Essentially, just as I changed my mindset in reading her book, she changed hers over the course of nearly two decades.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book by Cyntoia Brown-Long (as she is now known). I appreciated the journey she took me on as a reader, and I am grateful for her being vulnerable and sharing her story in this way. It is not a pretty one, but it is a beautiful illustration of God's grace and mercy.

Recommendation: This is an interesting true account of a young life, and how our criminal system impacted it. It is non-fiction but definitely a read for mature audiences. Even if you are not a Believer, I think you can appreciate the maturity and personal growth written about in this book.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo



Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 400 pages
Published: May 2019

I must say I picked a good first book to complete in 2020. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo is as young adult novel that centers around Emoni who is a teenage mom living with her abuela (grandmother). She is a naturally talented chef and as she approaches the end of her senior year in high school, she's at a crossroads in deciding what the future holds for her.

This story was so real - the content, the language, the emotion. The author did an excellent job of illustrating real world scenarios in a relatable way. She did not take shortcuts or rely on stereotypes or tropes with any of the characters. I appreciated that the story featured a young woman of color but it wasn't necessarily a "Black book" or a "Latina book." The main character could have been any ethnicity, and I enjoy books positioned like that the best. It was a bit of a coming of age novel, not in that it covered an extended period of time but because of the growth the main character experienced. There wasn't an explicit physical challenge for Emoni to overcome but rather an internal conflict to resolve.

While this contemporary book is categorized as young adult fiction, I don't feel it's limited to that demographic. The book has a wide range of appeal, and the writing is solid. I found myself wondering about Emoni's future long after my library loan was over. If selecting this book for your pre-teen or teenager, make sure they are mature enough to handle the content. There are topics of teen pregnancy, and the author uses curse words, albeit in an effect manner. (I'd rate the book PG-13.) Having said that, the topic is surely to make teens consider what being sexually active means and what consequences can come with that.

Recommendation I highly recommend this book. It is always available on Hoopla. If you have access to that service, why don't you download an electronic copy today?

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.


Sunday, December 29, 2019

I'm Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones, Gilly Segal



Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 249 pages
Published: August 2019

Someone in one of my Facebook bookish groups recommended I'm Not Dying with You Tonight — a fast-paced, young adult novel about two girls of different races with different perspectives who must depend on one another in an attempt to survive a chaotic night after a riot occurs at the local football game of the high school they both attend. The book is loosely based on the real-life aftermath of the killing of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. It was co-written by Kimberly Jones, an African American, and Gilly Segal, a White American. As mothers they decided to collaborate on the now published debut.

I think the authors did a great job of creating suspense and an authentic environment in the novel. I like how they both drew from their personal perspectives to reflect them in their art. The descriptions of each scene were very clear to me as the reader. I didn't really enjoy the over characterization of Lena's character. I think it played into stereotypes of African Americans, which maybe could distract the reader from the true purpose of the book's themes. I also think some of the other characters could have been more developed to provide a fuller, more complete novel.

Recommendation Overall, I did enjoy this timely, young adult novel that people of all ages can appreciate it. It is very fast-paced and can probably be finished in one sitting for most readers. Go grab a copy today, or if you have access to Hoopla, it's always available for an eBorrow.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.


Saturday, December 21, 2019

Crossover by Kwame Alexander



Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pages: 245 pages
Published: March 2014

Crossover by Kwame Alexander is a young adult fiction novel told in verse. It is relatively short, and because the story is written like a poem it is a fairly quick read. It is about twin brothers, Josh and Jordan, who are somewhat locals stars on the middle school basketball team. They have two caring parents - their father, who had some success on the international basketball circuit and their mother, who is the principal of the school they attend. In this story, Josh and Jordan experience personal growth through common challenges for their age group, but they also are required to mature because of a tragedy that affects their family.

The thing I just loved about this book is that it could have been about any two brothers. The story featured an African American family and black culture, but it wasn't the central to the story. I truly appreciate when authors are able to highlight the culture without being stereotypical or using easily accessible tropes. I also enjoyed the way it was written in verse. I think this makes it easy for young people to enjoy, especially young boys who may not find reading to be cool. I liken Alexander's style to Jason Reynolds. They are both writing impactful stories that are engaging an important demographic. Having said that, I think any young adult (or adult, for that matter) can appreciate this rhythmic story.

Recommendation This was a fun book to start wrapping up my reading year. (I think I have one more read to conquer in 2019.) I highly recommend it to anyone, but I think it will resonate with teenagers the most.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.


Friday, December 20, 2019

Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin


Category: Adult fiction
Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 384 pages
Published: December 2019 


Structured as a triptych, Africaville chronicles the lives of three generations of the Sebolt family—Kath Ella, her son Omar/Etienne, and her grandson Warner—whose lives unfold against the tumultuous events of the twentieth century from the Great Depression of the 1930s, through the social protests of the 1960s to the economic upheavals in the 1980s.

A century earlier, Kath Ella’s ancestors established a new home in Nova Scotia. Like her ancestors, Kath Ella’s life is shaped by hardship—she struggles to conceive and to provide for her family during the long, bitter Canadian winters. She must also contend with the locals’ lingering suspicions about the dark-skinned “outsiders” who live in their midst.

Kath Ella’s fierce love for her son, Omar, cannot help her overcome the racial prejudices that linger in this remote, tight-knit place. As he grows up, the rebellious Omar refutes the past and decides to break from the family, threatening to upend all that Kath Ella and her people have tried to build. Over the decades, each successive generation drifts further from Africaville, yet they take a piece of this indelible place with them as they make their way to Montreal, Vermont, and beyond, to the deep South of America.

As it explores notions of identity, passing, cross-racial relationships, the importance of place, and the meaning of home, Africaville tells the larger story of the black experience in parts of Canada and the United States. Vibrant and lyrical, filled with colorful details, and told in a powerful, haunting voice, this extraordinary novel—as atmospheric and steeped in history as The Known World, Barracoon, The Underground Railroad, and The Twelve Tribes of Hattie—is a landmark work from a sure-to-be major literary talent.


Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin is a fictional, generational story that centers on the Sebolt and Platt families. Over the course of nearly 400 pages, the author takes us on a journey of this black family and their struggles with race, gender and other societal issues. The result is a detailed and creative novel based on historical facts that were well researched by the author. 

My reading journey with this book started slowly. It was a little difficult for me to get into at first; however, I did find the storylines of Kath Ella, her son Omar/Etienne, and her grandson Warner to be engaging. I think the author did an excellent job of capturing the feel of the various time periods presented in the novel. I also appreciated his ability to vividly describe scenes without overwhelming the reader with dialogue.

The most challenging aspect of the book for me was the abrupt changes in perspective and flashbacks in time. Sometimes it took me a couple of paragraphs to re-orient myself then I'd have to go back and reread passages to get a fuller understanding. I forged ahead because of my commitment to provide a thorough review. However, if this book was one that I had picked up for leisure reading, I probably would have given up on it, which would have been a shame because the overall story was compelling. I wonder how different the novel might have been if it was divided and each generation of Sebolts/Platts had his or her own novel.

Recommendation This is a valiant debut novel, and I think the author has a promising future in creative writing. I'd recommend this read when you have time to really delve into it.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.







Jeffrey Colvin served in the United States Marine Corps and is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Harvard University, and Columbia University, where he received an MFA in fiction. His work has appeared in Narrative, Hot Metal Bridge, Painted Bride Quarterly, Rain Taxi Review of Books, The Millions, The Brooklyn Rail, and elsewhere. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and is an assistant editor at Narrative magazine. He lives in New York City.


Connect with Jeffrey: 
December 13: Kahakai Kitchen
December 18: Amy’s Book-et List
December 20: A Page Before Bedtime <--- You are here.

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