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The New Mrs. Collins - Quanie Miller

Letter Grade: B-

 

The New Mrs. Collins is a very unique take on the "left at the alter" story. The supernatural twist, intriguing backstory, and unique cast of characters makes this an enjoyable page turning read.

 

The New Mrs. Collins could have been a solid "B" I wanted it to be a solid "B" but there were a few flaws that held it back unevenness of the two main characters as well as time frame issues held it back. I was looking for a story with two strong characters. I got one strong character (Adira) and one with potential (Leena). Since Leena's potential was never fully realized for me, it was hard to find the ending as satisfying as I would have liked it to be. I was left feeling like "Wait there has to be more? Leena's story can't end like this with her being the same person she started out as?".

 

Overall Recommendation: Read

 

If you are looking for something with a bit of range The New Mrs. Collins is prefect. It's funny and dark at the same time. It has a great cast of characters and is a unique take on a common plot. I enjoyed reading it and if it hadn't been for a few flaws it would have gotten a solid B.

 

full review at The Little Reading Nook

Leaves - Michael Baron Overall Recommendation:

I would not hesitate to recommend Leaves by Michael Baron. In fact, I think I would not have a problem with reading other books by him in the future. At the end of the book Baron mentioned writing follow-ups or sequels for Leaves, featuring some of the characters and what happens to them. I probably wouldn't read it because I felt that the story had a prefect ending, loose strings and all.

Final Grade: B-

Disclaimer: I reviewed a free copy of Leaves by Michael Baron in exchange for an honest review in connection with Providence Book Promotions.

For a more detailed review head over to my blog The Little Reading Nook.

The Lynching of Louie Sam - Elizabeth   Stewart Grade: B

Overall, The Lynching of Louie Sam was a satisfactory read. I think what drag the grade down for me was George's character and the confusion about his age. I had to remind myself too many times that George was 15 years old and not 12 years old. It doesn't seem like a big thing but subject matter that is dealt with in the book it is important. While the writing was solid, it wasn't quite as strong as I would have like it to been. The research and historical facts is what saved The Lynching of Louie Sam from being a C+/B- book.

Overall Recommendation:

I would recommend The Lynching of Louie Sam to anyone that enjoy Historical Fiction and would like to read about the early settlers in the Washington region. I found the historical setting by itself fascinating and well worth the read.

Full Review can be found atThe Little Reading Nook

The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man

The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man - James Weldon Johnson his is a really hard review for me to write there is just so much to say about the book and I have no idea where to start. And if I said all that I wanted to say, this review would end up a term paper instead of a simple review.

Simply stated The Autobiography of An Ex-Colored is about a mulatto man that can pass as white. But the story is much deeper and more complex then just skin colored. Set in the early 1900's Weldon touch on a lot of issues dealing with racial prejudice and cultural identity. It's very interesting to watch the the narrator try to reconcile his racial background (black) with his appearance and upbringing. At one point in the story a "friend" of the narrator makes a comment that narrator was raised as a white man and should live his life as such, that it would be much easier for him to do so. There is a since that the narrator never really fits in anywhere, partially because of the ambiguity of his appearance and also because he really has no family or close ties. He ends up drifting through life with nothing to hold him down to one place or tie him to one group (race, family, friends, etc).

Something that I find interesting about The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man is that the issues presented in the book are still relevant today probably even more so, given the fact that the U.S. has a black (mixed) president. It is amazing how after 113 years very little has really changed in the regards to race and culture in the US.

The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man is not a "light" read when it comes to subject matter. But Weldon was able to pull me in and make me want to flip to the next page. I was surprised by how expertly he dealt with each topic and situation in such a sort book. I think part of the reason is because that it is done in memoir form so the reader gets the feeling that they are listening to an old man reflecting on his journey through life and questioning some of the decisions that he made.
Little Bee - Chris Cleave Overall Recommendation:

I would recommend this book to anyone that likes literary fiction and is not disturb by a story that is gloomy throughout. If you like your stories to take you away to a happier place, this is not for you. If you need your characters to go riding off into the sunset, keep moving. But if you are not bothered by the fact that things might not get better or might just even get worse for your characters, then this might be the book for you. Great writing, a unique plot, a to old for her age refugee girl, and no nice little bow endings.

Final Grade: A

For a more detailed review head over to my blog The Little Reading Nook

Christmas In The Bottoms

Christmas In The Bottoms - Charles  Harvey Overall, I really enjoyed Charles Harvey's take on Charles Dicken's classic A Christmas Carol. It was a light humorous parody of a holiday classic.

The Good: Harvey's talent for writing shined through in this short story. It carried the story and made me want to read more. The characters were overall phone and amusing. I especially enjoyed Madd and Dog2020. During the first third of the book, I found myself trying to hold back laughter and highlighting funny passages.

The Bad: Unfortunately, when it came time for Ebenezer's learning his lesson and being visited by ghost the story began to stumble. It seemed rushed and I wished that more attention had been payed to the segment and the creative that had been displayed in the first third of the short story had continued.

A full more detailed review can be found at my blog The Little Reading Nook.

The Family Business

The Family Business - Carl Weber, Eric Pete The Family Business and I started off on the wrong foot and it just went down hill from there. The first chapter introduces you to the youngest member of the Duncan Family, Paris. And she was annoying as a toddler throwing a fit in the middle of Walmart. Really, she was just one huge giant ghetto stereotype. Then Weber and Pete introduces you to the other members of the family and while they are not as bad as her. They are uninteresting and really hard to connect to. By the time I got to Chapter 3, which I believe was narrated by London (the oldest sister), I knew that I would not care what happened to anyone in the story.

One of the things that sometimes saves books from bad characters is good writing. The only word that I can think of to describe the writing style in this book is basic. The sentence structure had no depth and there was no style. Nothing to keep me wanting to turn the page. Combine that with the fact that Pete and Weber decided to write in the first person point of view, and it was a complete fail.

This is not my first time reading Carl Weber (but I stopped a long time ago) and Eric Pete is new to me. I don't think I will be reading anything but either of them any time soon.

Flight of the Blackbird: A Novel

Flight of the Blackbird: A Novel - While the premise of Flight of the Blackbird was interesting the characters, plot issues, and average writing weren't enough to carry the novel to it's full potential. It was rather, Meh.

Full Review on http://goo.gl/tWSTf
The Fifth Vial - Michael Palmer I didn't even make it to 20% of The Fifth Vial before I decided to throw in the towel. For a thriller it starts out incredibly slow. Maybe, I have been spoiled by the few thrillers that I have read because they all just jumped right into the action.

Palmer spends the first 50 pages (probably more but I didn't wait to find out) developing the characters and I did not care for the ones that I had met. They had interesting backstories and I thought that he did a nice job of create a history for them.

Overall, the writing was just not engaging enough of me to continue. It was too easy for me to put this one down and forget about it.
Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What it Means to Be Black Now - Touré, Michael Eric Dyson

A highly recommended read. In fact, I am going to let what I read marinate for another year and read it again. This time I am not going to be afraid to highlight sections that I love.

For my full review go to my blog: http://thelittlereadingnook.blogspot.com/2012/10/review-whos-afraid-of-post-blackness-by.html
Jessamine - Eugenia O'Neal 3.5 Stars

The combination of the cover and the synopsis of Jessamine made me think that I was about to read a scary ghost story. While is a ghost story, it's not scary. It's more two women trying to fit into a small island, St. Crescens. The women, Arabella (the ghost) and Grace are outsiders and move to St. Crescens for different reasons. But they both find it hard to fit into St. Crescens society.

Jessamine was filled with all my favorite elements. It had strong female characters, historical fiction, and an excellent location.

O'Neal did a wonderful job describing the fictitious island of St. Crescen and it's rich history. In fact, if St. Crescen were a real island I would have put it on one of the places that I have to visit. That is how well O'Neal created the world surrounding Jessamine

While Grace and Arabella were strong characters. Arabella was the stronger of the two. Her story was more detailed and readers got to know her better.

One of the problems that I had with the story that as a main character I thought that Grace was a little weak. Especially when compared to Arabella. Her character needed to be more "well rounded" and her storyline more detailed.

Another flaw for me was that the ending seemed to be a little rushed. Everything happened so fast and I wished that O'Neal would have drawn it out a little more. It might have made Grace a better main character.

Overall: I really enjoyed reading Jessamine and wouldn't hesitate to recommend Jessamine to other readers that have the same taste as mine. I am looking forward to read more by Eugenia O'neal.

*Disclaimer: Author provided a me with a review copy of Jessamine in exchange for an honest review.

This is a shorter version of a longer review that can be found on my blog.
Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout
Olive Kitteridge is the story of a woman who is in the last moments of her life. She is not dying but she is old. Her only child is grown and has moved away from the small town in which she raised him. Intertwined with Olive's story is the story of other residents of her small Maine town. Some of them have a direct connection with Olive's, while with others the connection is not as strong. There are stories about about friends, students, and people that she connects with going about her everyday life.

Overall, Olive Kitteridge is a character study more than action driven.

Stout shows her talent as a writer by being able to tale 13 different characters story and history without making it one large information dump. There were times when I wondered what connection certain characters had with Olive and then there would be a mention of her. Stout showed how one person can affect the course of so many lives by actions and words.

The main character, Olive Kitteridge is not a happy person. She had a hard difficult childhood and it reflected in how she treated the people around her. Which in turn reflected how they thought and interacted with her. There were times when I thought that she had to be the most rudest, nastiness, most bitter person around. Her dog was the only "person" that she displayed a constant display for consideration for, with everyone else she was a constant "hot and cold". Her attitude tainted the most important relationships in her life, that between her and her son, and her and her husband, Henry.

Now, while Olive was mean. She was honest, which I found refreshing even while finding it shocking. In the end, I liked Olive. I realized that at the time she thought she was doing her best and she really did not know any other way to behave. That her rudeness was a shield to hide her true feelings from the world. That ultimately she was scared of being hurt and in the end I think that she finally realized that two.

I liked Stout writing style, it was very fluid and engaging. She was able to masterfully distinguish all her characters and make them all complex. There voices were unique and never did I get confused about which characters story is was reading.

The overall tone was solemn, but Stout was able interject humor in just the right places to lighten the mood up when need. The humor didn't seem forced but flowed naturally with the story.

Overall Recommendation:

I found Olive Kitteridge to be a very pleasant story about a woman reflecting on her life mixed in with other stories about people dealing with various situations. It was a smooth read, and while I won't say that it was a favorite novel or that I would give it rave reviews. I would not hesitate to recommend this to anyone or read another one of Elizabeth Stout's novels again. I think this is the prefect book for anyone that enjoyed The Remains of The Day.

This is shorten review the longer version can be found here

The Upper Room

The Upper Room - Mary Monroe Plot:

From the description The Upper Room sounds like it is going to be an interesting read with a Christian slant.    Which is what I expected from an author whose most famous books are part of a series entitled "God Don't Like Ugly".  The Upper Room is not Christian fiction by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, I don't know what genre to even place it in.

This was not what I was expecting, in a bad way.  I thought I was getting the book in the description the tale of a women stealing a baby she once thought was dead.  It is and it isn't.  It's really hard to put into words what The Upper Room is about because I am/was so confused.  Instead, of a heartfelt story about a women  wanting a child so much that she is willing to steal her best friends baby, The Upper Room  is about a crazy, overweight serial killer, who just happened to steal the baby girl she always wanted but never had.

I had gotten to less than 100 pages into the novel when I wen back to re-read the description.  I even went back and re-read the reviews, just to see make sure I  was reading the right book.  After reading the reviews, I figured that somehow I wasn't getting it.  Everyone else seemed to think this book was funny. The star rating was 4 and above.  I wondered if Mary Monroe was using some form of satire that was just going over my head.  I did not find this book funny or even mildly entertaining.

Characters:
There is a whole cast of crazy characters.  Characters that I often confused with one another.

The main character, Mama Ruby claims to be a God fearing, Christian with the devil on her coattails.  In reality, the devil is on her left shoulder with direct access to her whenever he wants it.  She kills people (lots of them) needlessly with out not provocation. If someone wants to collect a debt she kills them, if someone calls her a name she kills them.  She kills anyone and everyone, claiming that they were trying to rape her and she had to "chastize" them.  She is also and alcoholic and is morbidly obese.  Her only redeeming qualities are the she loves her children and if you stay on her good side she is a great friend.

The daughter that she kidnapped, Maureen, was a underdeveloped.  All she wanted to do was live her life, which would only be possible if she could escape Mama Ruby, who has no intention of letting her go, ever.  I really wish Monroe would have done more with Maureen characters.  Yes, she knew that her mother was a "little" crazy, but she turned a blind eye to her antics, instead pretending that she did not know what was going on.

The characters that I liked the most were Virgil, Mama Ruby's son, and Black Jack, Virgil's friend.  They were the most believable out of all the characters.  They were the only two people that would say that Mama Ruby was crazy and that Maureen needed to run as far away from her as possible.

Writing:

Mary Monroe's writing style is engaging but her writing couldn't cover up what a hot mess this book was.

There were jumps in time without any indication that time had passed.  One minute Maureen is a baby, then next she is five, then she is 18.  It was confusing and took me out the flow of the story often.

Monroe wasn't consistent and her ages were off.  At one point I pulled out a calculator to figure out how old everyone was and it didn't match.

The dialogue was unbelievable.  I understand that the characters are from the south and that because of regional accents some words would have different pronunciations but who was "V-Eight Nam" or "so-wee-side"

I have tons of highlights with notes that way "!!!What???"  or "WTF".

The person that edited The Upper Room should be ashamed of themselves.

Overall Recommendation:

I would not recommend this book to anyone.  That being said, I am looking forward to reading the prequel, Mama Ruby, which was written about 20 years after The Upper Room.  I have heard that it is a much better book and show Monroe's growth as an author.  I am also looking forward to reading The God Don't Like Ugly series which I have heard good thing about, also.  Apparently, Monroe suffered from a bad case of "horrible" debut syndrome with The Upper Room and her other works are much better.
The Wicked - L.A. Banks Plot:
The plot of The Wicked continues were the last book ended, setting up for Armageddon. Damali and Carlos are finally married and her ex-almost-lover Cain is pissed. There is not much to say about the plot, it follows the rest of the books well and is just another piece in the puzzle needed for the final battle.

Characters:
I love the characters in this series. Mainly, I love Carlos. In this installment, Carlos grows a lot as a person. His relationship with Damali is tested but he is able to overcome the past and move forward not only to save their marriage but also for the good of the team. Damali has always been a solid character to me. She pretty much the same character wise. She did learn that she is not invincible and learned a bit of humility.

One thing that has always bothered me about Banks characters is that they all have about the same voice. There was no real variations in the dialogue to distinguish between characters. The only time that the characters "voice" was different was when dealing with hybrids or the vampire from Louisiana, that used French terms. Otherwise there was no variation in speech patterns which is annoying since Banks uses dialogue to give readers important information.

Writing:
LA Banks writing style is very engaging. I finished this book in two sittings, staying up until 3am the first night. I just did not want to put it down. The only negatives in Banks writing other then the dialogue issue is that she tends to do a lot of information dumping. Which I normally skip because sometimes the information is not that important (at least to me). Also, her fight scenes are a little confusing. I don't always understand what is going on and end up having to read some sections several times before I get it.
The Keepers of the House - Shirley Ann Grau Sometimes you come across a book that reminds you why you love your favorite genre.  From me, the genre is literary fiction and for me The Keepers of The House is one of those books that reminds me why I am a literary fiction reader.

The synopsis of the book is a little misleading.  Yes, it is a story of family and tradition but the racial injustice angle is not a major issue.  It's more like a reflection of the time and location.  This novel spans two generation of the Howland family and their history after they settled in Alabama.  The synopsis makes it seem that Abigail and the Howlands are mixed-race.  They are not all of the Howlands (including Abigail) are white, there is small a branch of the family that is mixed race and their role in the story is not prominent until the end.

The Keeper of The House starts off the the narrator, Abigail, reflecting on how her and her children ended up where they are.  To fully understand the Howland family and the county the helped found.  She takes the readers on a journey through her colorful and rich family history.  A large portion of the story focuses on her grandfather, William Howland, and how he came to father three children by his mistress, Margaret who is black.  The second part of the story is Abigail telling the reader about how her grandfather's past ends up effecting her present and the future of herself, her marriage and her children.

Grau picked the prefect narrator in Abigail.  Her voice was authentic.  It was interesting to see how she developed as a person as the time pasted.  I just can't say enough about her.  I just really liked her and wanted to see how she got to the place in her life she was in when she was introduced in the first chapter. All the characters (good and bad) were well thought out and presented.  Now of them were flat.  They all had good qualities and bad.

The Keepers of The House reminded me a lot of John Steinbeck's East of Eden (which I loved).  The difference being that The Keeper of The House is a much smaller book, without all the details that Steinbeck's East of Eden had.  But they were both tales of family history, how the started, and how they developed.
One Blood - Qwantu Amaru The reason that Qwantu Amaru 's One Blood caught my attention was the mention of Louisiana, slavery and curse. I was curious to see where he would go with this. I really want to say that Amaru pulled the plot off. He sort of did. One Blood was unique but there was just too much. There was too much ground to cover and it affected the flow of the overall story. Normally, book liked One Blood (thriller and horror) are easy reads for me, that I speed through and eat up. This time I found myself putting the book down after a couple chapters and resting.

The book goes back and forth from present day to past. At times there are markings to let you know what time frame this chapter is set in but at other times there aren't, which can get confusing.

As I mentioned before there is a lot of ground to cover, I think if was less information and backstory this would have been a better read. I just think the story was too "complex", it had too many parts. I found myself saying "WTF" a couple of time because information just did not seem to add up or it contradicted something for earlier in the novel.

Another issue I had with One Blood was that there were just too many characters to keep up with. There were like 10 that were important, and then there were a bunch more. It was impossible to connect with 10 characters, making it hard to connect with just one. While the synopsis says this is a story about Lincoln at thought this was more a story about Randy Lafitte and his family. Most of it had to do with them, Lincoln just seemed to get caught up in all there drama.

Amaru is a good writer and was able to keep my attention. I did want know what happened next and curious to find out how One Blood would end. I do look forward to reading more of his work in the future.