#SoCS – Reservation

socs-badge-2017-18-e1503097084778
Badge by J-Dub @ https://jilywily.wordpress.com/

This post is part of this week’s SoCS prompt I recently discovered on Linda G. Hill‘s site.

We passed by few, but too many on our trip across the country.  They were there, tiny and large reminders of the atrocities done to a people who had done nothing wrong.  Reservation passed, reservation warnings, reservation sadness. It was sometimes enough to bring tears to our eyes as we drove through. We never saw one person outside. Just drove on through between buildings, vacant shops, and land.  Lots of land and space in between, as if the rest of the world had either forgotten or wanted to forget about this space. And then there were the casinos, popping up seemingly out of nowhere and we passed them and viewed the whole thing over and over again. It sometimes made us wonder, why here? There are no places like this back home. Also sad. That means they were never given a chance there. My ancestors would be heartbroken. The ones I never knew, but was told about and confirmed in my DNA results. What would they think to know that their histories and very being had been wiped from the land for miles and miles that they had once inhabited by right and birth. It was stolen from them, much like life is being stolen all around us now. Did they have any reservations as they were forced onto reservations? Did the men that put them there have reservations about putting their fellow men out of their homes and rounding them up like sheep, telling them where they could and could not settle in a land that had always been theirs? Tears in the night and in the day in the open spaces with no one out of the homes walking the streets or land. The only signs of life are the cars parked outside the casino and the occasional passing car.

BOOK REVIEW: The Unkindness of Ravens by Abra Staffin-Wiebe

Title & Author:  The Unkindness of Ravens, Abra Staffin-Wiebe37786306
Publication Date & Publisher:  July 18, 2018, Bimulous Books
Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Literary Fiction
My Rating: 4.5

 

Description (from Goodreads):

The oba is dead.

The Eight Great Houses are under attack … and they are losing.

What’s worse than being ignored by your god?

As the royal heir from House Crow, Anari is desperate to protect his people from a plague-driven war.

Without the blessing of his god, he doesn’t have the magical power to compete in the succession battle for the beaded crown of the oba. He is easy prey for the strongest heirs. To stay alive, he must be quick and clever.

When his plans go wrong, he does the unthinkable.

Worse is having your god owe you a favor. Particularly when he’s a trickster.

Anari might not become the ruler of his people, but he has won his god’s undivided attention. If he can survive what he’s put in motion, he will have one chance to save them all. Fortunately, Anari has a few tricks up his own sleeve …

 

My review:

I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! (Sorry, had to get that out of the way before I went on.)

From the very beginning of The Unkindness of Ravens, Abra Staffin-Wiebe has you fully engaged in the world of House Crow and House Raven (two of the Eight Great Houses).  I didn’t even realize how emotionally attached I was to two of the main characters, Anari and Kayin, until Anari is close to death in the first few pages…

I knew he had to live.

According to the description of the book, there was no book without him.  And yet…

My heart was beating hard in my chest and I had tears in my eyes.  Not only was I worried for Anari, but for Kayin (who I was both feeling mad at and worried for at the same time)!  I couldn’t imagine this world without Anari in it and I couldn’t help but feel for Kayin…what would he do without Anari? What would happen if Anari died right in front him? I wanted to hug him and tell him everything would be okay and smack him at the same time!

This wasn’t chapters in where I’ve been given plenty of time to warm up to these characters, ya’ll…we’re talking the beginning of the story!

The description of both the action and the world is so artfully described that I felt as if I had left this world completely and been dropped right smack dab into the book.  At one point, Anari is hiding in plain sight on a battlefield among the dead.  I actually wrinkled my nose as if I could actually smell the rotting corpses.  Here’s an excerpt from that scene:

…He took shallow breaths through his mouth, but the stench of meat just beginning to go off wormed its way inside his nostrils.  He swallowed down an upsurge of bile. He had expected corpses to be stiff, but lying in the heat for hours had made them soft and squishy. They could not be mistaken for living flesh. One of the corpses sighed against his cheek like a love. The fine hairs on the back of his neck stood on end…

I could tell there were a lot of differences between each House.  Each member of a House had specific traits, abilities, and tendencies.  As you read through the book you learn more about the Houses, but mostly about House Raven and Crow.  For much of the book, I kept thinking ravens and crows are so similar, why are there even two houses? (This was explained.) But I got chills when I read Kayin’s explanation to Anari of the difference between Crow and Raven:

Crows like to flock. Together, they make a murder of crows. A group of ravens, called an unkindness, only comes together in two places: battlefields and graveyards, where the bones of men fall.

When I finished The Unkindness of Ravens, I was hungry for more! Not because the ending wasn’t sufficient, but because I feel emotionally invested in these characters and have a deep desire to want to learn what happens to them next.

I’m definitely going to need to pick up a copy of this book once it’s published!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

All That’s Left of Me by Janis Thomas – BOOK REVIEW

Title & Author:  All That’s Left of Me, Janis Thomas36533723
Publication Date & Publisher:  June 12, 2018, Lake Union Publishing
Genre:  General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction
My rating:  3.0

Summary (from Goodreads):

I wish…

It starts with a simple wish, and Emma Davies hardly notices when it comes true. She’s too preoccupied with a life she isn’t happy in—the spark in her marriage has fizzled, her career is headed nowhere and her boss is a misogynist. Her teenage daughter has grown distant, and her heart breaks daily for her teenage son with cerebral palsy. But soon Emma discovers her wishes are coming true, and she realizes that she has been given the power to change her life. Either that, or she’s going insane.

Emma begins testing her newfound gift, making calculated wishes and learning one important rule—once granted, they cannot be undone. Over time, she grows bolder as she builds up to the one wish she both fears and desperately longs to make. But when Emma finally gets everything she’s asked for, will it be worth the price?

My review:

There’s so much in All of That’s Left of Me that works and sucks you in to a world where wishes coming true is possible, that it’s hard to believe it was such a disappointing read for me.  (Maybe my hopes were set just a little too high???)

The story itself was compelling and it definitely keeps you interested enough to keep reading!

The supporting characters were great!

Emma’s children are incredibly lovable, funny and realistic teenagers.  This is something I haven’t found in adult novels lately (was starting to think most adult novelists have never met an actual teenager).  As the mother of two teenagers, it was refreshing to get “real” teens in this read.

I felt for Emma’s husband throughout the novel.  She wasn’t happy in her marriage, but it didn’t seem to be through any real fault of his own.  Emma seems to still be pining away for her college boyfriend and I often wondered if he knew this on some level.  I was definitely rooting for him and found myself thinking “What the heck is wrong with you, Emma?  You’ve got a great man right there.”  But that’s the thing…

The whole book can be boiled down to Emma’s dissatisfaction with her life.  She isn’t thankful for a single piece of it.  Her children, her husband, her job, her clothes…she wants it all to be “better.” Emma herself sums it up nicely:

…I had love. I had a husband, two children, each of them flawed, but no more so than I. Less flawed than I. But instead of accepting them for the gifts they were, instead of letting them in and allowing them to love me, I saw them as challenges to endure, hardships to survive, encumbrances that dragged me under. I wanted a life with no burdens, no conflicts, no struggles…

Unfortunately, not everything seemed to make sense to me.

For instance, supposedly all of Emma’s wishes come true, but one of her first wishes is to be transported to another dimension without cerebral palsy.  There was no “rule” to say this wish couldn’t happen, and would’ve actually been in line with some of her other wishes.  While this wasn’t a huge killer for me, it definitely didn’t help.

Her son has cerebral palsy and she translates for him all throughout the book.  I feel that this could have been handled a different way.  As it’s written, it continuously pulled me out of the story even though I pretty much skipped the “Josh speak” for most of the novel.

Because of Emma’s constant complaining and her insistence on continuing to make wishes, even after it’s obvious every wish results in something negative, it was hard to ever make an emotional connection with her.  This was maybe my number one issue with this book. You spend the entire novel in someone’s head that’s not all that likable.

As I said above, the story itself is great and it’s worth the read, it just wasn’t as great as I had expected it to be. I’d love to hear from you… Are you reading All That’s Left of Me? What do you think?

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Loving Day by Mat Johnson – Book Review

Well, I finally got to check Mat Johnson‘s Loving Day off of my “To Be Read” list!

23164956

Loving Day is funny, serious, light-hearted, deep, uplifting and slightly offensive all at the same time… Basically, I loved it!

It’s a satirical story about Warren Duffy, a biracial man who recently divorced overseas, and has come back home to Philadelphia following his father’s death in order to sell his father’s house — a possibly haunted, possibly condemnable, most definitely flammable, mansion in the ghetto. He’s not home long before finding out he has a “casually racist” teenage daughter named Tal. Despite his outward appearance of a white man, Warren views himself as black and really acknowledges only that side of himself. When Tal (who may have more problems than Warren himself does) comes to stay with him, he somehow manages to get involved in a cult/school filled with teachers and students struggling with the same identity issues.

As an incredibly light-skinned mixed chick who grew up in a very white neighborhood in West Virginia, this book hit home on so many levels! I struggled with race, identity, and where I “belonged” all through my childhood and Loving Day captured a lot of that in Warren and Tal’s journey. This is probably the first book I’ve read that seems to perfectly hit on what it’s like to be bi-racial in America.

As a child, I was in a school system where there were never more than three bi-racial students (including me) all through my elementary, junior, and high school years. The number of black students could be counted on my fingers. I was a bit of an outcast… too white to be accepted by the black kids and too black to ever be accepted by the white ones either. Somehow, the other mixed kids didn’t seem to have it so bad. It was in high school that I realized it’s okay to be mixed, as long as you look black… If you’re skin is so light that most people passing you on the street assume you’re white, the assumption is that you can’t be trusted.

So I already knew I was going to love this novel by the second page, when I read:

I’m not white, but I can feel the eyes of the few people outside on me, people who must think that I am, because I look white, and as such what the hell am I doing here? This disconnect in my racial projection is one of the things I hate. It goes in a subcategory I call “America.” … I hate that because I know I’m black. My mother was black — that counts, no matter how pale and Irish my father was. So I shall not be rebuked. I will not be rejected.

Warren Duffy, at the beginning of Loving Day, was dealing with some of the same emotions I felt as a child.

As the novel goes on you meet some hilarious, truly lovable characters that help him on his journey to come to terms with and define his own identity, instead of allowing others to define it for him. Just when you think you’ve got the supporting cast in this book figured out, you learn something new about them you’re suddenly seeing them differently. (I’m dying to tell you all about them, but I want you to read the book and… well, spoilers! So if you read the book (or have already read it) shoot me a message and let’s talk about One Drop, Roslyn, Spider, Sunita, or Tosha!?!?!)

It’s hard to find a book that deals with such tough, emotional issues as Loving Day does (race, death, surprise parenting, etc.) and manages to have you laughing throughout, but somehow Mat Johnson pulls it off.

As far as ranking goes… I’m torn between a 4 and a 5 so I’m saying 4.5. My hesitation on a straight 5 is because it was hard to read the terms “mulatto” and “Oreo” so many times. I’m aware that’s because of my own past negative experiences and it’s hard for me to see the words in any way other than racist… even when they’re not specifically being used that way. I’ll definitely be reading it again in the future though!

I don’t even know what to believe anymore. (Lies that Bind Us Review)

36278104

I hate liars.

Being a Christian, I’m supposed to be all about the love and oozing the warm and fuzzies for all of humanity.  But when it comes to people who can’t seem to tell the truth to save their lives… pure, unadulterated, loathing  I struggle with the “love them as you love yourself” thing.

Why I decided to read Andrew Hart’s (aka A.J. Hartley) Lies that Bind Us despite hating the main character, a pathological liar named Jan, before I even began reading the book… no idea.  (Probably because it was a free book and sounded semi-interesting).

A little about the book…

Basically, Jan and some friends are on a reunion vacation to relive a trip they had taken five years ago in Greece.  The group includes her ex-boyfriend, Marcus, and their friends Simon and Melissa (a wealthy couple who organize the whole trip), and Kristin and Brad (a TV star and a real estate professional).   Jan and Marcus are the outsiders of the group.  Jan works in a retail store that sounds a lot like Walmart and Marcus is a high school history teacher.  When Jan gets to Crete, there is another woman joining them, Gretchen, and no one except Simon and Melissa know why she’s even there.

The book goes back and forth between Jan being locked up in a cell somewhere with no idea how she’s gotten there, and the play-by-play of the trip as she tries to recall what happened prior to waking up a prisoner.   She learns a lot about herself and comes to terms with some hard truths about the past (in more ways than one) as the book goes on.

A little about what I thought…

In general, I really enjoyed the story.  It was super interesting and kept me guessing the whole time (which I happen to love while reading a novel).  I felt as if I knew the characters and went through everything with them (which I also happen to love).  Generally speaking, when a book gives me those two things, I’m raving about it to everyone that’ll listen!  Unfortunately…

I was a little put off by the opening of the book, and not just because the main character lies about almost EVERYTHING.  There seemed to be too much description and not enough story over the first few chapters.  Oddly, dispersed between the over describing were places that I felt could have been flushed out a little more.  Thankfully, this wasn’t something that happened throughout the entire book and once I was past the first 3 or 4 chapters I could barely put it down!

Most surprising to me was that I actually found myself relating to Jan!  Despite being a pathological liar, she is actually quite sympathetic and you can’t help but love her.  I saw myself in her as she rode to the villa after arriving in Crete:

I was sitting with my carry-on in my lap, which felt ridiculous and uncomfortable.  The car was huge, and I could have easily tossed it into the back seat or the trunk, but now I was belted in and had been there for so long that turning around and trying to get rid of it felt stupid for reasons I couldn’t explain.  So I sat with the bag in my lap and my arms around it, like it was one of those under-seat float cushions the flight attendants had told us about…

What can I say?  I’ve got a soft spot for people who are just as awkward as me!

Lies that Bind Us is actually a little scary in that it had me thinking about 1) just how well do I really know my friends and 2) just how vulernable am I when we’re hanging out together???

So here’s my incredibly condensed review:

On a scale of 1-5, I’d give Lies that Bind Us a 3.5.  It’s a great story with compelling, likable characters, but I was pulled out of the book too often to give it a 4 and since I can’t see myself ever reading it again, it’s definitely not a 5.  I would recommend it as a “should read” with the warning that it’s one of those books you’ll need to get through the first few chapters before you find yourself enjoying it.

I’d love to hear from you!  If you’ve read Lies that Bind Us, what did you think?  If you haven’t, are you put off by the idea of a pathological liar as a main character?