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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.
Oxford Messed Up - Andrea Kayne Kaufman 3.5 Star Rating

When I read the synopsis for Oxford Messed Up was interest was spiked. The idea is so original. I have never read a book about OCD or one were music by one musician was the main theme. I wounder how Kaufman was going to pull this off. A love story that involves OCD, feminist poetry, and Van Morrison? That seem like a tall order.

Kaufman was able to pull most of it off. The feminist poetry portion of the story was not too out there. There was no preaching about feminism and women's right. Instead, Kaufman used the feminist poetry element as a tool to bring the characters together and contrast the different portions of Gloria's personality.

The Van Morrison portion was a little overwhelm for me. I am not that familiar with Van Morrison's music and was lost when certain songs were referenced. Van Morrison was everywhere. After a moment I got tired of reading about Van Morrison. In place were feelings and emotions would have been appropriated there were Van Morrison song titles or quotes. Sometime the story seemed to be more about the greatness of Morrison than the relationship between Gloria and Henry.

The OCD angle was both good and not so good. Gloria's OCD was real and it was interesting to see how it affected her life choices and interactions with others. At one point of the story behavior therapy is used to help Gloria overcome her obsessions. I thought that the treatment work a little too quickly for someone who has been suffering from OCD for most of their life.

I did enjoy both Gloria and Henry's character. They were will developed and complex. They were both messed up and the glimpses that Kaufman gave into their past allowed the reader to see why. I think Henry's experiences were more traumatic and his character was a more developed than Gloria's. There was the opportunity for the difference between Gloria's feminist poetry background and her actual personality.

I rooted for them as a couple. They were just messed up enough to expect each other as they were and to work through their flaws together. Henry's humor balanced out Gloria's seriousness. Gloria ambition balanced Henry's laziness. Their love for Van Morrison helped, also.

Kaufman did commit what I think is a sin: The Epilogue. I would have been happy with the story where the last chapter had left off but the epilogue messed up the ending for me. I for one am comfortable wondering what happens in characters lives after the main part of the story ends. I don't need complete closure.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration - Isabel Wilkerson I normally find history books to be "dry" but not The Warmth of Other Suns. I found it to be engaging and easy to read. I think the fact that Wilkerson, focused large portions of the book on the personal experiences of Foster, Sterling and Gladney helped a lot. In between their stories she will add in facts about the time periods and history of the south and the migration.

I experienced every emotion possible while reading this one: happiness, anger, excitement, pride, disappointment, sadness.

In fact, at one point at the end I had to put the book down because I did not want to read about Ida Mae Gladney dying. I had already read about George Sterling and Robert Foster dying and I did not think that I could handle her dying as well. All three of them, Gladney, Sterling and Foster, had became family members to me. In them, I saw member of my own family. Ida Mae reminds me of my great grandmother, who is originally from Texas but migrated to California in the 1950s.

Wilkerson did a great job telling the story of the Great Migration and the people the participated in it.

Covenant

Covenant - Brandon Massey Covenant opens with what should be a relaxing afternoon between father and soon but there is something wrong with father. The son, Anthony, knows this and think that he has done something wrong. Then a shot is heard and the father is killed. Reading this made me sad. Massey did a good job in showing how important and deep the relationship was between Anthony and his father. This helps the reader later understand why the death of the father had such a profound affect not only on Anthony but the who Thorne family, even 15 years later. It also makes the reader what to know why the father was killed and by whom.

I tend to fill that thrillers in general don't focus on characters that much, and often times they can seem a little one or two dimensional. Covenant, sort of falls into this trap. The main characters, Anthony and his wife, Lisa, are well thought out. I really enjoyed both of them, even though I would have liked to see more of Lisa. The secondary characters were a little flat. I wish that characters like Mike, Anthony's best friend, was flushed out a little more.

The way that Massey handle the clues that helped solve the murder was clever. I loved it. Everything added up perfect and when it all came together, I didn't find myself scratching my head and thinking WTF? I did make an accurate guess on some of the clues, they weren't that hard to figure out (at least of me) and knowing what was going to happen did not lessen my enjoyment of the story. It just made to excited to get to a section and say "I know it".
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot It's hard to review The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks because 1) it's non-fiction and 2) I really enjoyed it. It's hard to write a review when there is so much to say but I am trying to prevent spoilers.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot tells how a Henrietta Lacks unintentional became one of the most important women in science by dying of cancer. But that is just part of the story. The real story is about the children that Henrietta left behind and their struggle to understand what happened to their mother and the secrecy surrounding her contribution to science.

For a non-fiction book, I really connected with the people in it. Normally with non-fiction (and history) the events have already happened and I consider myself more of a watcher. I don't root for the individuals in the story. But I found myself connecting with Henrietta's children, especially Deborah, and rooting for them. Hoping that they someone would finally give them the information that they wanted on their mother.

For those that do not have a science background, do worry. Skloot made all the science behind the Henrietta's story understandable.

To finished this in two days and did not want to put it down. Which is something that I don't often say about non-fiction books.

Overall Recommendation:

This is a must read. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.
The List - J.A. Konrath The List is just as fast as any thriller novel. I was hooked within the first couple of pages. I wanted to know what connections Mankowski had with the other victims and potential victims. The action never stopped and because of that reason I was able to finish The List in one date (and it is not that long).

The plot was interesting at first. I was intrigue to find out about the number tattoos on the bottom of the foot and how these tattoos connected the character. But as the story progressed and things began to fall into place, it become clear that the plot was pretty outlandish. Completely and totally unrealistic, in order to enjoy The List. I sort of had to suspend my disbelief and just roll with it. As the story progressed I had to suspend my disbelief even more, Kornath throw in everything but the kitchen skin in his plot.

While the pace was fast there was not much character development. The characters were just there, I wanted to see what was going to happen to them but I wasn't invested in them. The lack of character development did not take away from my enjoyment of the story but I did notice that I could have cared less if one of the main characters lived or died.

The writing was average. There were some funny jokes that made me chuckle but it was more like slap stick comedy.

Overall Recommendation:

I would recommend this one to anyone that what wants an easy and fast paced thriller to read. I would add in the warning that the plot is a little outlandish and the unrealistic.
Glow - Jessica Maria Tuccelli I don't really know how to review this one. I didn't get what I was expecting. What I was expecting was the tale of a mother and daughter and the events surrounding their flight from Washington DC back to their hometown in Georgia. That's just part of the story, a very small part of the story. What Glow is really about is a small town Georgia and the history of that town. How that towns history connects all the main characters together.

I wanted to hear about Amelia and what possessed her to move to Washington DC in the first place. What forced her to send her daughter Ella back home to Georgia alone on a bus. I did get that story, somewhat, but not enough. It felt like Amelia and Ella's life in Washington DC was just a tool for the author to tell the history of this Georgia town. This wasn't really a story about Amelia and Ella, and their relationship. This was the story of the town. Which was a disappointment for me because that is not what I had expected..
One of the main flaws in the whole novel for me was the lack of connection that I felt towards Amelia and Ella. This was caused by the fact that halfway through the novel Tuccelli stopped focusing on the mother and daughter and switched her focus to Willie Mae Cotton and Riddle Young. Up until that point, I was looking forward to learning more about Amelia and Ella, what caused the disconnect in their relationship. What caused Amelia to leave everything she knew in Georgia and head to Washington DC. Before I could find this out, the story jumped back in time to Willie Mae and Riddle Young.

Willie Mae and Riddle's stories were excellent. As a reader I could see that the author was really in her element while writing about these two characters. They (their stories and characters) were just so well developed and thought out, that the pages just seemed to fly by and I wanted to read more and more. But the strength of these two highlighted the weakness of Amelia and Ella. I wish the author would have taken some of that same talent and used it to plump up Amelia and Ella's story.

When I finished Glow, I wondered if Tuccelli had run out of space. Because for me if this novel had been longer and Tuccelli had been about to flush out the characters and plots more, this would have been more than just a 3 star read. I probably would have given it 4 or more.

****Disclaimer review is from an advanced reader copy received from publisher****
Silver Sparrow - Tayari Jones I loved Silver Sparrow. I ended up reading the first 3/4 of the book in one sitting and finished the last 1/4 the next morning.

It was a quick read filled with all the elements that to make up a good story. Engaging writing, good characters, and an interesting storyline. Two of the things that I enjoyed most in Silver Sparrow was the characters. All the characters were well thought out and detailed The other thing that I lived was the writing. I found myself highlighting sentences and passages. Which is always a good sign.

Someone said this book is "real". It is was like reading someones real story, with real people, in a real situation.

The Replacement Wife

The Replacement Wife - Eileen Goudge Full review on my blog

I really wanted to like this one and had high hopes for it. But my hopes were dashed.

My main problem was that he characters did not grow. Which is a problem, because essentially this is a character driven novel. Stuff happens, but it is the kind of stuff that you would expect to happen on an normal given day in the course of ones lifetime. This story was prefect for strong, unforgettable characters that the reader could watch grow and develop. But they don't. Camille did learn to appreciate what she had but she did not change very much. The husband, Edward, was so forgettable that I had to look up his name to write this review. I can only remember the name of Camille and Edward's son, Zach. Goudge was not able to make me care about any of her characters.

Also, I felt that the books was uneven. The first two-thirds was slow (to me). It picked up in the last third but by then I just wanted to find out what happened so it would it. If the writing in the first two-thirds was as strong as the writing in the last one-third then I would have enjoyed this more.
The Farming of Bones - Edwidge Danticat I read The Farming of Bones in one day. The story was compelling, the characters engaging, and the writing was prefect. Danticat had me hooked all the way through. An added plus was that it is historical fiction, my favorite genre.

The Farming of Bones takes place during Rafael Trujillo reign of power in the Dominican Republic. Personally, I know very little about the Dominican Republic and it history. Most of what I know about this period I learned form The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, which I read back in 2009. The Farming of Bones, gave me another chance to learn about this moment in history and from the view point of a foreigner living in the Dominican Republic during the unrest. I could help about shuffle through my memory every now and again to remember bits and pieces of Diaz's novel and what I learned there to apply to this one. It was interesting to learn about the discrimination that Haitian workers experienced in the Dominican Republic, the history of the conflict between Haiti and the DR, as well the Massacre of 1937. This information along with the characters, their backstories and Danticat's writing style combined lead to a real page turner.

I can't say that I liked one character more than another. They were all so well developed and thought out. The author could give you glimpses into the each characters background and what brought them to this moment in time. This made me keep turning pages to find out more about them and what fate had in store for them. The main character, Amabelle was the most flushed out (of course) and her story was heartbreaking at times (most of the time). I found myself rooting for her and hoping that by the time I got to the last page she would finally find even a little bit of happiness and peace. Her story did not end the way that I had hoped, but it felt right. I didn't find myself second guessing, there was no "What? Where did that come from?" moment. Danticat's choices for Amabelle (or any of the characters) were very much in line with the way the story was going, no surprise illogical twist.

The writing style was amazing. That is the only way that I can describe it. One of my favorite passages:

I will say that for me the end was a little unsatisfying. I felt that Danticat tried to wrap everything up with a bow. The ending seemed a little rushed to me and did not as nicely together with the story as the rest of the parts. In this case, there are somethings that I wish she had left me to wonder about.
That Deadman Dance: A Novel - Kim Scott (3.5 Stars)

While, Scott is a gifted storyteller, I wasn't able to connect with his characters. The characters all felt sort of superfical to me, like they had no depth. This was mainly because there are so many characters and Scott spends a little time telling the background of each one of them. They all had unique and interesting stories but I just didn't feel any connection with any of them. And I love a good character based story.

The main character in the story is Bobby, a Noongar boy, whom the story follows through old age. I was hoping that Scott would give more substance to Bobby, but I found that he was more of the archetype for The Fool character (his was a gifted performer in the story). There were times when I felt that Bobby character was starting to grow and deviate from The Fool character, only to fail. Even to the end, Bobby never really seemed to grasp the reality that increase number of European settlers and the rules they were imposing would mean to him and his people.

Now, the writing in That Deadman Dance is beautiful. Scott is a very gifted writer. In fact, the writing is what saved this story for me. But I will caution that it is not an easy read. This is literary fiction at its finest. I had to read this in bits and pieces and really take my time. While I did not like Scott's characters I did like his descriptions of the scenery. Even though he did not go into great details, he did give me enough information to envision the scenery in my mind. The whale hunting scenes were awesome.

Overall Recommendation:

I would recommend this with caution. That Deadman Dance is an interesting novel, but I don't think it's for people that aren't really literary fiction fans. If you like literary fiction I would recommend giving it a try.

I received That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott as an ARC.

Who Is He To You

Who Is He To You - Monique D. Mensah I was looking for what genre to classify Who Is He To You in, both B&N and Amazon have it listed under drama, which is very fitting. This is a drama filled book all three of three of the female main characters experience nothing buy drama, rarely is there a normal moment in their lives.

Before I get to the drama and the main characters, let discuss the title. For me the title Who Is He To You gave away the twist in the book (there is always the fact that I think there should be a question mark). Combine the title with other clues in the book, I knew the twist before I got to it. In fact, it frustrated me that Mensah waited so long for the big reveal, when everything fell into place. Then there were times when I wonder if the author was awry of the fact that the puzzle was so easy to piece together for me the reader and she did it intentionally. But either way, when the big reveal finally came out, I merely shrugged my shoulders. Kind of disappointed that she used the method that she did.

I have read plenty of reviews on this book and looked forward to reading it. I really wanted to get to know each of the characters and about their lives. Instead, I ended up finding out that all the characters were damaged. Not just slight imperfections, but truly emotionally, psychologically damaged. Each and everyone of them (mainly the main characters and most of the secondary characters). All of them needed counseling and probably a couple of prescriptions. It made it hard for me to root for any of them.

Simone is 14 years old, beautiful and being molested by her father. She is the character that the reader is suppose to be the most sympathetic to because of her situation and her age. At times I felt think shaking her. There is one chapter where she ignores all the warning signs (even her own misgiving) and walks straight into a dangerous situation. All I could think was that I saw this coming, she saw this coming why did she walk straight into it. Why is she surprised at the outcome? Out of all the characters I liked her the most. Even if I felt that her character was inconstant at times.

Jessica is Simone's mother and completely unaware of what is going on between Simone and her father. She has issues from her past that affect her self-esteem. She doesn't feel that she deserves the life that she has been given. Her relationship with Simone's father, Ross, is so unbalanced and she just wants to keep her family together.

The synopsis doesn't even began to fully explain the crazy mess that is Ryan. She basically is a mess. Mensah describes Ryan as a woman with an addiction, to drugs and love. Really, what seems to be the problem is that she suffers from at most a panic disorder and probably a mood disorder. I really didn't like how this was glanced or and so easily resolved. After breaking up with Anthony (aka Ross), she was able to overcome her addiction to pain killers and him in three days. Not very realistic at all.

Anthony/Ross is the most disturbed at all. He justifies his molesting of his daughter because of some Oedipus complex crap he had for his mother. He justifies his treatment of his wife because she was too willing to please. And his affair with Ryan was because he was his father's son.

I did like the plot. I liked how Mensah gave the reader background on Anthony/Ross and how he became the man that became. She did the same thing with Jessica which later helped justify some of the things that she was willing to do and did. I only wish that she had done the same thing with Ryan, who felt kind of incomplete.

Even though I didn't like the characters I did like the story overall. I wanted to see what happened and how it played out. The last 200 "pages" went by quickly, the action really picked up and I was on the edge of my seat to see what happen next. It didn't quite play out like I thought it would. And Mensah did end up wrapping everything up with a little bow, but I think the whole mess ended the why that it should have.

Overall Recommendation:

I would recommend this book. Monique D. Mensah is a good story teller. I have a feeling that the next books in the series will be better and I am going to read them. From what I can gather the next one can be read as a standalone. I am interested to see what Mensah thinks of next.
Wench - Dolen Perkins-Valdez Dolen Perkins-Valdez debut novel Wench takes a different route then most narratives surrounding slavery. While it is like the traditional slave tale, Wench does deal with the harden facts of slavery, beatings, escape, oppression, fear, uncertain. But Perkins-Valdez takes Wench a step further and dives into the relationship and experience of slave women (wenches) and their masters.

The main character, Lizzie, this is primarily her story and how her interactions with the three women change her own views on her enslavement and the relationship she has with her master, Drayle. When the story first started I did not like Lizzie, her actions infuriated me and made her unlikable. I was ready to write her off and I even state the book down for week, not sure if I could continue. But her character did learn for the actions and I had hope for her. She seemed to gain strength and grow. I was rooting for her. Then she disappointed me once again.

I think my main problem with Lizzie was that she was to malleable. She seemed so ready to believe anything and everything that Drayle had to tell her. No matter what the circumstance. Her character seemed to want to believe the best in him. Lizzie continued to accept all his offers of appeasement even when they directly conflicted her desire for freedom for herself and her children.

The other characters were minor. They were more consistent and as a reader I knew what to expect from them.

Wench was original in the fact that Perkins-Valdez set most of the at Tawawan House. Which is a hotel where Southern men would take their slave women for the summer without their wives. I liked this, it offered a different view into historical events. Something that I had never considered before: masters taking their favorite female slaves on vacation with them.

One of the most problematic issues I had with this novel was that I got the feeling that was stuff left out. Like the author was constrained to a limit amount of space and had to get her story out in that space. There were several scenes that I had to read a couple of times to understand what was going on. The details weren't there and it made it hard to follow. This would have been a better novel if the details would have been flushed out more.
The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown After reading the first two books in the Robert Langdon series and enjoyed them a lot. In fact, to me they were page turns. I couldn't put them down. I even pasted them on to my sister after reading.

I did not have the same feeling about this book. Compared to the other two this one was just okay. It lacked the fast pace action of Angels and Demons or the Da Vinci code. I also found the description of place in DC did not have the detail as the other two books.

I don't think that I would be so quick to recommend this one as the other two.
The Promises She Keeps - Erin Healy When I received an email from Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists about review The Promises She Keeps, I was intrigued and agreed to review it. Neither the email or the back blurb prepared me for this book. First, I was expecting Christian Fiction and second I was expecting something more suspense and romance. There is some romantic love but I didn’t find it very suspenseful.

The plot revolves around Promises and how Porta quest for eternal life effects a lot of people. Some whom have never met. I liked the basic plot, it was interesting by itself. Since this was a Christian fiction novel there was a struggle between Porta's occult religious views and Chases Christian beliefs. There was some overt religious references in the books, quote from scripture and such, but it didn't distracted me from the story for the most part. Towards the end there was a section dealing with Chases twin sister, Chelsea, and his mentor, Wes, that did pull me out of the story a little.

The back cover mentions eternal love, and Chase falling in love with Promise. Chase falls in love with Promise after meeting her once. During the whole story Chase and Promise interact maybe five times and because of his autism those meetings are awkward. I don't understand how he fell in love with her but Chase is the character that I found it the hardest to connect with. I don't know if this was the authors, Erin Healy, attention but Chase fell flat for me especially since his character was so essential to the storyline.

Promises character, also didn't connect with me. I found her to be sometimes selfish and I wasn't sympathetic to her struggle, illness or desire for fame. The characters that I did like and could connect to were minor characters. Chelsea and Wes, their subplot and their feelings towards Chase grabbed me and had my attention. I also like Zack, he was one of the more three dimensional characters in the story. I think he should have been mention on the back cover, because I honestly don't see how the storyline could have progressed without him.

Healy's writing style was a little hard to get use to. The story seemed to go back and forth between realism and magical realism. I didn't find the book that engaging, in fact it took me months to finish it. I would sit it down and completely forget about for weeks at a time.
Matchmakers 2.0 - Debora Geary Matchmakers 2.0 is not a novel. The author, Debora Geary, calls it a Novel Nibbles which is a cutesy way for saying short story. I finished this short while enjoying the day at the beach with my sister and cousin. It was very light and entertaining, the prefect beach read.

Since Matchmakers 2.0 is a short story there is not a lot of room for the character development that I am use from novels. The story is told from the point of view of Mick, a scientist turned online matchmaker. Mick is corky and smart. I like the fact that Geary was able to develop Micks character in such a short story and makes the reader feel like they know her. It makes her more relate-able. In fact, most of the characters that were in the story were memorable and well thought out.

I found myself wishing that this was a longer piece. The problem with a lot of short stories is that ending seems rushed and Matchmakers 2.0 suffered the same fate. All the little storylines were wrapped neatly into a little bow. Which isn't bad since the genre is romance but I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been dragged out a little bit more. If there had just been a little bit more “action”.