All posts tagged: book review

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, …

Sorry, Not Sorry

Years before she published Dear Girls, Ali Wong aired a stand-up special on Netflix called Baby Cobra. She was pregnant with her first during filming, and I was just barely coming out of the fog of having two babies within about a year of each other. I couldn’t have been more primed to find everything she referenced all too familiar and laugh-out-loud hilarious. And I don’t take issue with her raw and crude brand of humor. Parenting is raw and crude, so it fits. Needless-to-say, when I heard about Dear Girls I was all in. Each chapter is a letter to her daughters Mari and Nikki where she shares different embarrassing, challenging, rewarding, gross, triumphant stories. I love that she is completely unfiltered in sharing the lessons she’s learned the hard way, and trying to share more of herself. Parents often project onto children so much of what we hope for them and how we see them, but we rarely share much of our own histories, vulnerabilities or mistakes. But Wong is completely unafraid of …

I Should Write More Letters…

Full disclosure: I finished Ali Wong’s Dear Girls about three weeks ago. I have also had a few glasses of wine tonight. Finally, the world is crazy and I can barely string two coherent thoughts together, let along write a poignant and thoughtful book review (my husband and I regularly have conversations that go like this: Me: “Did you, um, wait, when, um, did they, um, what’s the, um… do you know what I mean?” Him: “Yeah, but, if we, well.” and so on) . But here goes! I loved Dear Girls. It was a perfect and much-needed break from the reality we are living right now. At times it was touching, at times it was thoughtful, but mostly, it was just true and relatable, and hilarious. Even when the stories were so far from my own personal experience that I couldn’t even fathom their reality, it was relatable. And that’s a feat. At times I thought there is definitely a specific audience for this book. Like, maybe you need to be a mother, or a wife, or Asian, …

A Gross Argument for Living Your Best Life

Here’s the thing – Ali Wong is hilarious. No one needs to argue that. Her specials are the end result of a person who has been working their craft for some time and it shows because they are laugh out loud hilarious. I appreciate that her unabashedly raunchy humor is not always everyone’s cup of tea, but it is not put upon. I have a friend who went to high school with her and he says she was the same even back then – unapologetically filthy. What I think we can all appreciate about Ali Wong is that she has stepped into the limelight as a woman, Asian, American, sexual, and self-made. She has done so without letting any one of those factoids define her but also has never lost a sense of self. All of those things are part of who she is and where she is going – flaws and all. The stories she tells for her girls are at times not things I think any parent would honestly admit to their children …

Just Awe Inspiring

Bryan Stevenson’s writing is an astonishing testament to our failures as a society and the remarkable lengths one person can go to to try to right our course. He has spent his adult life advocating for those who have been so unjustly sacrificed to an incredibly flawed system. He has continued passion for his pursuits that is awe inspiring. What he has accomplished and created has benefited the lives of so many people and their families and friends. Not every man or woman can look beyond someone’s label of “criminal, thief, liar, rapist, or murderer” and see what potential is still there, what humanity is still there.  You can’t separate this work from the author. But what I can say is that as an author, Stevenson is gifted. He layers several stories, characters, and legal jargon in a remarkable way. He puts so much care into the way he writes about his clients, his own experiences, and explaining how we are good people but end up doing such horrible things to one another. He draws …

A Call for Justice and Mercy

An interesting little background note before I jump into my review: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson has popped up on the Bookly Club radar almost yearly, only to be outvoted by another book. Until this year, when we decided to read it in conjunction with the release of the film of the same name starring Michael B. Jordan as Mr. Stevenson himself. I haven’t seen the film yet, but if it is even half as good as the book, I recommend you watch it. For those who haven’t read the book, Just Mercy is Bryan Stevenson’s first hand account of starting the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit law office in Alabama, the early days of his work, and many examples of the cases he has handled since EJI’s founding in 1989. If you’re interested in EJI, Bryan Stevenson, or a more detailed synopsis of Just Mercy, you can find all of that here. I read Just Mercy over the course of about a week back in January, before coronavirus or quarantines, or working from home and parenting two small children who are …

Giving Five Stars

Before reading it I’d definitely heard of our February book, The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. I don’t live under a rock! Jojo Moyes is a beloved author (see Me Before You) AND Reese picked The Giver of Stars for her Hello Sunshine book club. So it was hard to miss. And most people who’d read it had nothing but good things to say. And that made me nervous. I feel that way anytime a book gets a lot of hype. Maybe because nothing can ever really live up to that hype? Or I just feel like I’m not usually the type of reader that likes the books that are so beloved? Too polarizing? Either way, that’s usually a turn off for me. But I was willing to give it a shot. Anything for The Bookly Club, right? I did do a lot of research on the story. So I knew the history it was based on. And of course I’d read the blurb, so I knew essentially what it was about. But I …

A little bit of nice…

Full honesty here – after reading the synopsis of this book, I expected to not entirely enjoy this read. I’m not entirely sure why but just a gut thing. After reading it, here is what I can say – for what it is, the book is delightful. The hard and handsome landscape contrasts the somewhat airy and pretty story very nicely. The pace is excellent without sparing imagery, making it a hard one to put down. Plus, I really enjoyed learning a bit of badass women history. I mean, these women were freaking amazing. The other side of the coin is that the story certainly lacks for some character complexity. Each person in the story, while serving a very distinct purpose, is either decidedly good or decidedly bad (or at the very least deeply flawed). No character is particularly challenging. Everything is made easy for you in the book – including Depression Era Kentucky, which is made to feel quaint.  I felt it a bit problematic that families living in abject poverty hoping for a …

Happiness and Hope

I can safely say this is one of my leading favorites for any of our November selections. It’s a month when we pick a book that circles around family; the drama, the trials, the love, and everything in between. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue was no different. A top book of 2017, Mbue’s debut novel, Oprah’s Book Club 2017 selection, and a New York Times bestseller. It’d been on my list since its debut, and I had high hopes! It’s the story of the Jonga family, and their journey to a happy life. Jende Jonga moves to New York City from Cameroon to find a job, provide for his family, and dutifully walk the path to citizenship in the land of opportunity. The book begins when he gets a stable, well-paying job as a chauffeur for Mr. Clark; a top executive at Lehman Brothers. The catch? It’s 2007. You may think you’re witnessing an American dream about to come true, but it’s much more complicated. The characters are powerfully written. I was deeply invested in each …

Rebecca meets Salem

We first meet 18-year-old narrator Mary Katherine Blackwood during one of her biweekly walks through the local town that sits under the shadow of her family’s Manderley-esque estate where she, her older sister Constance, and frail Uncle Julian live. They are the only three living in the “castle.” Once members of a large family, they’re all that’s left after the others were murdered with arsenic during dinner. The sugar on the blackberries wasn’t sugar. Luckily Constance never takes sugar, and Mary Katherine (aka Merricat) was sent to her room without dinner. Uncle Julian only took a bit. The sisters are odd to say the least. Sure, Constance was the lead suspect for having poisoned the family, but their dynamics are also quite unusual; and a little bit haunting. They live a life of routine and simplicity. Gardening, taking delicious meals together (always crafted by suspected murderess Constance), sending Merricat into town for food and library books, and taking diligent care of poor Uncle Julian. Uncle Julian is weak and without much memory. Although he spends …