All posts filed under: The Authors

A Fitting End

I sat down Tuesday morning to read Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How it Ends, the final book in our 2020 line up, and I finished by early afternoon. I sat for a few hours taking in Luiselli’s words and questions one at a time. As she addresses America’s current child refugee crisis rooted at the Mexico border, Luiselli asks herself and the reader many questions … Why? How? For how long? Where does it begin? Where does it end? She highlights a cruel cycle that our country and our neighbors hold blame for, proving that it’s not until they (we) take responsibility that we can rectify and steer away from this crisis. “It would surely be a step forward for our governments to officially acknowledge the hemispheric dimensions of the problem, acknowledge the connection between such phenomena as the drug wars, gangs in Central America and the United States, the consumption of drugs, and the massive migration of children from the Northern Triangle to the United States through Mexico. No one, or almost no one, from …

Tell Me How It Ends: A Call to Action

In Luiselli’s Tell Me How It Ends, the child migrant crisis in the United States is laid bare. Without going into tremendous detail of individual stories, Luiselli manages to make it clear that all of these children are running from, and the running to is merely a consequence. Relatives in the United States are going into debt and spending their life savings to bring children to safety – to save them from gang violence that the United States helped to, directly or indirectly, foster and fund. They spend their life savings and then cross their fingers that these children are able to make the treacherous journey – survive the elements, the people hunting them, the journey itself. Luiselli writes that “The children who cross Mexico at the U.S. border are not ‘immigrants,’ not ‘illegals,’ not merely ‘undocumented minors.’ Those children are refugees of a war, and, as such, they should all have the right to asylum. But not all of them have it.” That we as a country cannot agree that these children (let me …

Homegoing: Great Expectations

I’d heard nothing but praise for Homegoing before picking it up. It’s clearly a beloved story, and a big reason why we chose it as our November book. But sometimes such high expectations get in my way. But with the really good ones, the author-defining books like this one, expectations are just the beginning. Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel Homegoing is a blow-you-away kind of story. Gyasi masterfully engineers the stories of eight generations into just three hundred pages in a way that’s nothing short of a work of art. Her writing is poetic and yet efficient. The characters are each sketched as full portraits in their short chapters. And the beginning of every ancestor’s story reads like the start of its own epic novel. Some of the characters I missed after their brief time in one chapter (give or take some overlap), but Gyasi then has you falling in love with the next character, and the next, and the next. And all the while she weaves in significant periods of history in a way that’s …

Eyes Open: Homegoing

I read Homegoing in March. I wrote my review of Homegoing immediately, in March. A lot has happened since March. A lot has happened that is relevant to the subject matter of Homegoing. I have done a lot of reflecting, a lot of reading, a lot of discussing, and a lot of Work. This book and this review, in some ways, were a turning point in my commitment to truly understanding my own privilege, to educating myself, and to equity and justice. So, instead of rewriting it to reflect all that I have learned since, here it is, exactly as I wrote it in March. Homegoing Review, March 2020 Let me get the easy part out of the way, Homegoing is absolutely amazing. Yaa Gyasi wrote a phenomenal novel following a family line over centuries, through separation, slavery, loss, death, heartbreak, hope, and everything imaginable. This book rocketed easily into my top ten favorite books ever. From the first chapter, I was completely hooked and desperate to find out what would happen in the next generation. I …

Who Invited You?

Jennifer McMahon’s The Invited wasn’t bad but it wasn’t scary either. I think this narrative that “you shouldn’t really fear ghosts; it’s your neighbors you should be scared of” is more than played out. The focus of the book quickly shifts from one of hauntings and ghostly presences to that of a seemingly cute town hiding more than its fair share of dirty secrets. That is a shame because the creepy wind was quickly taken out of the sails of this book.  I liked the back and forth story telling between the two main characters because the shifting perspective made things move quickly and instilled some much needed suspense. The characters are a bit one note and almost secondary to pushing the storyline along. The most interesting characters are the ghosts, and we hardly get to know them. (Inexplicably one chapter is written in first person, in contradistinction to the rest of the book, and it actually makes me mad.) It admittedly gets pretty fun at the end leading up to the predictable “twist.” As …

RSVP: Maybe?

Let me start by saying that Jennifer McMahon’s earlier book The Winter People is one of my favorite books. And I’ll probably read anything she writes from now on. But it also means I come into her books with fairly high expectations. I was excited to add The Invited to our 2020 Bookly list, and felt like it couldn’t be a better fit for our October selection. And I wasn’t totally wrong! Haha. It was a solid ghost story set in Maine during late summer and early fall, so it was a great time to pick this one up. But overall, for me, it wasn’t a home run. Don’t worry, I’ll share my thoughts without any spoilers… I struggled with the main character. She fell a little flat for me, and I never quite hooked into any of her motivations. It’s not giving anything away to say she spends most of the story fixated on local historical artifacts that tie into the greater mystery. And to me this fixation seemed like a bit of a …

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 …