All posts filed under: Reviews

Highlights from Avonlea

Anne of Green Gables had been on my “to be read” (#tbr) list or faaaar too long (probably since watching the classic ’80s TV series). But for alas, it took me until now to finally get around to it. And either way, I’m so glad I finally crossed this one off my list! There was probably no better time to read it as the seasons begin to change. The setting of Avonlea and the way L.M. Montgomery introduces each chapter with a romantic description of its changing seasons was a highlight for me. Anne, Marilla, Matthew, and Diana were all very charming characters, but Avonlea itself, the Lake of Shining Waters, the Haunted Forest, and the Snow Queen were my favorites. The natural setting was a meditative escape and had me dreaming of a visit to Prince Edward Island. Also, I was surprised at what a fast read it was. I’d expected it to be more like a traditional “classic,” with a fair amount of tangents and portions being a little over-written. But I found …

I mean….yeah

Quick summary: This book was stupid. Longer thoughts: It starts with a rape and ends with the author pretending it wasn’t. The interaction begins with Henry following a very intoxicated Tess up the stairs under the pretense of helping her because she is wobbly and drunk. Once upstairs, he kisses her. She says “I can’t. I’m engaged.” And then she “gives in.” Cut to baby and a complete denial of what this encounter was. I really found it odd that Chamberlain made no real effort to address the four letter word in the room. Moreover, she wants us to root for this dude later on. If she meant it to be a wild night where both parties got carried away, perhaps she should have tried a little harder and dedicated more than a paragraph on how these characters ended up in bed. She lost me after that. It only went downhill from there with extremely one-demential characters that basically existed to tell Tess that there is “more than meets the eye.” Ooooo. In order to …

All of the Things…

The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain definitely had all of the components of a beach read. There was death and loss, marriages, childhood friendships, engagements, broken engagements, an epidemic, an unplanned pregnancy, a world war, family feuds, long lost loves, issues of racism, sexism, classism, sexual assault, family secrets, gas rationing fraud, a car accident and more death, some mysticism and spirituality thrown in. This book had all of the things. And honestly it left me a little dizzy. The protagonist Tess DeMello was born and raised a good Catholic girl from Baltimore. She was engaged to be married to her childhood sweetheart when one “mistake” changes everything. Although what the book blurb describes as a mistake I’d describe as sexual assault. I don’t consider this a spoiler since it happens within the first 30 pages of the book… Tess gets uncharacteristically drunk during a night out with her best friend Gina. They meet two strangers and join them for drinks under Gina’s encouragement. Tess and one of the men, Henry, exchange almost no words during …

High Drama, Low Believability

Our theme for August is “Beach Read,” and while The Stolen Marriage may not be a typical beach read, it certainly ticks the “Beach Read” boxes of being quick, and with quite a high mix of drama. Chamberlain certainly didn’t hold back in terms of the dramatic themes in The Stolen Marriage. Discussing the book with the other “Katherines,” I kept finding myself sliding into a Stefon-like description (“This book has everything – the polio epidemic, death, World War II, abandonment, abortion, adultery…” and I’ll stop there even though I could easily tick off 10-15 more things, but there would be major spoilers). In many ways, it felt like every chapter was also the introduction of another new element (SPOILER ALERT: “…mediums, secret relationships, arson…”). And while that kind of drama can certainly be entertaining and engrossing, it can also be incredibly overwhelming and unbelievable. For all of these terrible things to happen to one person in the span of a year!? Well, the book might as well have been about 2020. It was also …

History

One cannot review Barracoon. One reads it and is given something that we rarely get in this world – someone’s story unedited, unforgiving, and un-redacted. American history in education is full of redactions to suit a purpose. To whitewash the history of slavery is a reflection of those who wrote the history books – white people hoping to to make slavery more palatable and, in a sense, more forgivable by disconnecting it from today and diminishing the horrors. Even more than that, the only voice we hear is white. That disconnect and silencing aids in the insidious creep of racism into our societal constructs of today – ever less apparent to those who benefit from it. Zora Neale Hurston is an incredible gifted writer. To refuse to alter the voice of Oluale Kossula, she shows herself to be more than a gifted writer. She shows herself to be measured and endlessly dedicated to capturing the truth. The recovery of this work allows us a chance to listen to a voice of truth, our real history. …

In Their Words

In school I learned about enslaved Africans. I learned how millions of men, women and children were kidnapped from Africa, shipped to America, and lived and died enslaved in this country. But I learned of these stories from whitewashed history curriculums. I had never read of slavery from the words of a person enslaved. And author Zora Neale Hurston takes such care and commitment in recording Kossola’s story. I am thankful she shared her talents, her dedication, and for Kossula’s strength in sharing his life. There’s a kind of tragic poetry to the words Kossula shares, and I felt honored to be let into his story through Barracoon. This book is a rare and important one. And I don’t throw that term around loosely. Barracoon is a must read. It’s our history, and it’s past time we start centering more voices like these. Hurston understood in 1927 even better than we do now how important it is to hear our stories through the voices of those who experienced them. And with that, I’ll stop talking. …

An Opportunity to #Listen

I started and finished Barracoon in just under four days. I honestly don’t know how to write this review. Full disclosure, book reviews aren’t my forte in general (which you may have figured out if you’ve read any of my others). However, reviewing Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon feels strange. She was brilliant, and scholars and biographers have studied her and her work. I don’t have anything to add there. The book is Kissola’s recollection of his life in Africa, being enslaved, and then being free from enslavement. There is no room to judge the quality of the narrative, because it’s simply his life – we can’t ask that it be anything it’s not.  Therefore, I feel as though I can only speak to my experience reading it. Reading Barracoon at this particular moment feels appropriate. Reminding, or for some people learning, about the experience of enslaved people is an important piece in acknowledging our history and seeking to better our present. My heart broke for Kissola and the pain and suffering he had to endure, …

Feeling Old. Might Delete Later.

I don’t know that I have much of a framework for “reviewing” books like this. I’m obviously old enough that I identified with the cranky old teacher who would rather turn people into apples than deal with their nonsense. Wayside School is obviously a strange little book with strange little characters. It’s like fantasy for eight year olds. A book grounded in something they understand, a classroom, and expands on the complexities and simplicities of learning, friendship, and recess, while being out of this world wacky. I can see how kids my niece and nephew’s age would laugh and laugh at the silliness. I also can see how the bouncy, punchy read could keep the attention of its intended audience.  As an adult, I appreciate a couple of things about this book. One, every student in the classroom gets a chapter – or at least most of them. They are all their own self. I think it is a subtle but important point for kids. We are all someone with individuality, flaws, silly sides, and …

Scary Stories from Wayside School

I’m so excited to be sharing my first-ever review in PODCAST format! We’ve partnered with Alli from the SSR Podcast for our May & June read of Sideways Stories from Wayside School, and it was so much fun! SSR has been one of our favorite bookish podcasts for awhile now, breaking down an old school read from our tween and teen days every week. And I had the pleasure of chatting with Alli all about this odd, silly, creepy childhood classic. We had a lot to say; good, bad and ugly. So thank you so much to Alli and the SSR Podcast for hosting Bookly this month, and please CLICK HERE to check out all our thoughts and feelings in Episode 97 of the SSR Podcast . . .   And make sure to visit the SSR Podcast for plenty more literary throwback chats!