Friday, August 26, 2016

New Books Coming Your Way, August 30, 2016 - The Romance Edition

Body and Soul by Jade Williams
320 p. (Fiction; romance)

With a bad breakup behind her and a milestone birthday ahead of her, love has become a four-letter word to music magazine director Carol Shaw. As for s-e-x, she’s almost forgotten what goes where. Not that her work doesn’t provide frequent reminders. Still, days filled with eye-candy and innuendo are just leaving Carol hot and bothered…until she’s offered a spot as a judge on a top reality TV talent search. Now the contestants aren’t the only ones whose fantasies may come true…

Soon Carol is surrounded by competing hotties—and the hottest is determined to make her his prize. But the most dangerous forbidden temptation is her fellow judge. He’s got the kind of hard body and sultry voice that make Carol melt. She should know—he’s her ex. And the rivals for her attention don’t end there. Suddenly riding a wave of steamy suitors and tantalizing trysts, Carol is in danger of overlooking one important detail—the cameras are rolling.

Purchase: Indiebound | Powell’s | B & N | Amazon

Troublemaker by Trice Hickman
320 p. (Fiction; romance)

After twenty years, childhood best friends Alexandria Thornton and PJ Brightwood have reunited—and fallen in love. Alex’s artistic nature as a spoken word artist, and PJ’s success as a talented surgeon promise a bright future. But their happiness brings unexpected complications for those they care about most…

A devoted wife, loving mother, and successful businesswoman, Victoria Thornton is a pillar of her suburban Atlanta community. But when her daughter, Alexandria, becomes engaged to the son of Victoria’s former lover, her past mistake threatens her orderly life. As the impending marriage reunites both families, it reignites old feelings that test all of their relationships—and all of their boundaries.

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My Married Boyfriend by Cydney Rax
356 p. (Fiction; romance)

Gorgeous Nicole is about to get everything she’s hustled for. She’s having her rich, married lover Rashad’s baby. And a lucky break has made her a media heroine—and the perfect new wife material. With one more deception here, a couple more little seductions there, she’ll finally push Rashad’s wife, Kiara, completely out of his life. With her formidable competition gone, Nicole will lock down Rashad’s ever-wandering interest, and be the next Mrs. Eason for sure…

But there are some temptations even this sexy schemer finds tough to pass up. Especially her first love, ex-con Ajalon, who’s just walked back into her life. His intense hunger, chiseled body, and mind-blowing endurance are throwing Nicole off her game and reigniting emotions way too hot to control—or resist. But he’s also handed Kiara, and another interested ex, the perfect ammo to expose Nicole and blow her world apart once and for all. Now the only guarantee for all involved is shattering scandal—and mutually assured destruction.

Purchase: Powell’s | Amazon | Indiebound | B & N

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

New Books Coming Your Way, August 30, 2016

Elizabeth and Michael: The Queen of Hollywood and the King of Pop—A Love Story by Donald Bogle
400 p. (Biography)

From the moment Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson met, they were hooked on each other. He peered into her violet eyes and was transfixed; she, in turn, was dazzled by his talent, intrigued by his sweet-tempered childlike personality, and moved by the stories she had already heard about his troubled early life. Soon a deep friendship blossomed, unexpectedly unlike anything either had ever experienced. Through thick and thin, through their various emotional upheavals, through the peaks and valleys of their careers, through their personal traumas and heartaches, through the unending health issues and extreme physical pain that each experienced, and through the glare of the often merciless public spotlight, their bond held them together, and their love for each other endured.

Donald Bogle skillfully recreates the moving narrative of Taylor and Jackson’s experiences together and their intense emotional connection, without shying away from the controversies that swirled around them. Through interviews with friends and acquaintances of the two stars, as well as anonymous but credible sources, Elizabeth and Michael emerges as a tender, intimate look at this famous “odd couple” and a treasure to their millions of fans.

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Aphrodite's Daughters: Three Modernist Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Maureen Honey
224 p. (Poetry)

The Harlem Renaissance was a watershed moment for racial uplift, poetic innovation, sexual liberation, and female empowerment. Aphrodite’s Daughters introduces us to three amazing women who were at the forefront of all these developments, poetic iconoclasts who pioneered new and candidly erotic forms of female self-expression.

Maureen Honey paints a vivid portrait of three African American women—Angelina Weld Grimké, Gwendolyn B. Bennett, and Mae V. Cowdery—who came from very different backgrounds but converged in late 1920s Harlem to leave a major mark on the literary landscape. She examines the varied ways these poets articulated female sexual desire, ranging from Grimké’s invocation of a Sapphic goddess figure to Cowdery’s frank depiction of bisexual erotics to Bennett’s risky exploration of the borders between sexual pleasure and pain. Yet Honey also considers how they were united in their commitment to the female body as a primary source of meaning, strength, and transcendence.

The product of extensive archival research, Aphrodite’s Daughters draws from Grimké, Bennett, and Cowdery’s published and unpublished poetry, along with rare periodicals and biographical materials, to immerse us in the lives of these remarkable women and the world in which they lived. It thus not only shows us how their artistic contributions and cultural interventions were vital to their own era, but also demonstrates how the poetic heart of their work keeps on beating.

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The Striver's Row Spy by Jason Overstreet
448 p. (Historical fiction)

For college graduate Sidney Temple, the Roaring Twenties bring opportunities even members of his accomplished black bourgeois family couldn’t have imagined. His impulsive marriage to independent artist Loretta is a happiness he never thought he’d find. And when he’s tapped by J. Edgar Hoover to be the FBI’s first African-American agent, he sees a once-in-a-lifetime chance to secure real justice.

Instead of providing evidence against Marcus Garvey, prominent head of the “dangerously radical” back-to-Africa movement, Sidney uses his unexpected knack for deception and undercover work to thwart the Bureau’s biased investigation. And by giving renowned leader W. E. B. Du Bois insider information, Sidney gambles on change that could mean a fair destiny for all Americans…

But the higher Sidney and Loretta climb in Harlem’s most influential and glamorous circles, the more dangerous the stakes. An unexpected friendship and a wrenching personal tragedy threaten to shatter Loretta’s innocent trust in her husband—and turn his double life into a fast-closing trap. For Sidney, ultimately squeezed between the Bureau and one too many ruthless factions, the price of escape could be heartbreak and betrayal no amount of skill can help him survive.

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Dark Work: The Business of Slavery in Rhode Island by Christy Clark-Pujara
224 p. (Non-fiction; history)

Historians have written expansively about the slave economy and its vital role in early American economic life. In Dark Work, Christy Clark-Pujara tells the story of one state in particular whose role was outsized: Rhode Island. Like their northern neighbors, Rhode Islanders bought and sold slaves and supplies that sustained plantations throughout the Americas; however, nowhere else was this business so important. During the colonial period trade with West Indian planters provided Rhode Islanders with molasses, the key ingredient for their number one export: rum. More than 60 percent of all the slave ships that left North America left from Rhode Island. During the antebellum period Rhode Islanders were the leading producers of “negro cloth,” a coarse wool-cotton material made especially for enslaved blacks in the American South.

Clark-Pujara draws on the documents of the state, the business, organizational, and personal records of their enslavers, and the few first-hand accounts left by enslaved and free black Rhode Islanders to reconstruct their lived experiences. The business of slavery encouraged slaveholding, slowed emancipation and led to circumscribed black freedom. Enslaved and free black people pushed back against their bondage and the restrictions placed on their freedom. It is convenient, especially for northerners, to think of slavery as southern institution. The erasure or marginalization of the northern black experience and the centrality of the business of slavery to the northern economy allows for a dangerous fiction—that North has no history of racism to overcome. But we cannot afford such a delusion if we are to truly reconcile with our past.

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The Full Tank Life: Fuel Your Dreams, Ignite Your Destiny by Ben Tankard
208 p. (Religion)

As a pastor, pilot, motivational speaker, bestselling Gospel/Jazz musician, and reality TV star, Tankard has a lot of experience with both success and failure. He has learned that our greatest opportunities often come from our greatest disappointments. Today, he is doing what he was born to do, and he knows it didn't happen by accident. Tankard encourages readers to examine seven key elements-Dreams, Environment, Subconscious, Time, Inspiration, Network, and You, sharing his life-tested secrets to help readers find their own way. Including fresh insights on familiar Bible passages, wisdom from Tankard's own setbacks, and laugh-out-loud stories, Tankard shows readers that they too can have a "full tank" life.

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Friday, August 19, 2016


It's said that you should be careful what you wish for because you just may get it. It's the summer of 1984 and Autopsy Bliss places a full page ad in the local newspaper inviting the devil to the small town of Breathed, Ohio. Autopsy, from the word autopsia which in Greek means "to see for oneself," when asked why he would do such a fool thing as invite the devil to town simply responds that he wanted to see for himself.

Breathed sits in the southern part of Ohio near the Appalachian Mountains. Even in 1984 it's a town without paved roads, a town where time seems to have stood still. It's full of small town values, small town ideas and small-minded people.

When Fielding Bliss, son of Autopsy, first lays eyes on Sal, he just sees another 13 year old. But Fielding is looking through innocent eyes. He doesn't see a black boy, he just sees a new friend.

Though nowhere in the book does it say that there are no black people in town, it's understood by the response of the townspeople that the sight of anyone non-white is a rare occurrence. Grayson Elohim has the most visceral reaction to the appearance of the brown boy with green irises. Time for Mr. Elohim stopped in 1956 when he lost his fiance. Perhaps that's why he's so taken aback by the sight of a black boy, lost in his memories of a time when black people, especially black boys and men, knew their place and stayed in it.

Indeed, Sal is a bit strange, but no stranger than anyone else in Fielding's family or in Breathed. Wise for his years, he offers counsel to Fielding and the rest of the Bliss family as they embrace him and take them in as one of their own. And he needs their embrace and their acceptance as strange things start to happen around town. It's unbearably hot and the townspeople are starting to behave in inexplicable ways. Secret meetings around town regarding the town's 13 year old visitor hearkens back to Klan meetings. Seemingly reasonable people are pulled into the rantings and ravings of Elohim and worked into an unforgettable and unforgivable frenzy based on his bigoted beliefs.

As the story unfolds, neither Fielding nor the rest of his family believe that Sal is anything other than a child, and I think that may have been the author's goal. Sal is charming and though he does bring out the worst in some people, he brings out the best in others. Did he arrive in Breathed for the sole purpose of exposing the evil lurking in the hearts of men and women? Is Sal really devil or just a very wise boy? I'll leave it up to you to decide.

320 p.
Published: July 2016
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from author, opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

#BookReview: A HOUSE WITHOUT WINDOWS by Nadia Hashimi

Nadia Hashimi has a habit of introducing her readers to characters and story lines they might not otherwise be drawn to or give much thought to. With 2014’s The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, she brought the long held tradition of bacha posh to the forefront. 2015’s When The Moon is Low took us on an immigrant’s journey from war torn Afghanistan to England via Iran, Turkey and Greece. This year she introduces us to yet another unforgettable story with unforgettable characters in A House Without Windows.

Everyone in their small village knows that Zeba’s husband Kamal is a bad man. Public drunkenness is just one of the many things he does that goes against the teaching of the Quran. And while he is bad, he’s still a man in a place where men are not questioned and certainly not by a woman. When he’s murdered and Zeba is found standing over his body, there’s not much doubt that she killed him, but why?

As a boy, Yusuf’s family fled Afghanistan. Now an American attorney, he feels the pull of his motherland and returns to help those he can with legal assistance. With a closed mouth, borderline hysterical Zeba as his client, and neighbors unwilling to get involved and tell the truth about the kind of man Kamal was, Yusuf doesn’t stand much of a chance of defending her.

As she awaits trial in prison, a house without windows, Zeba reminisces about her childhood with her fiery mother, Gulnaz the sorceress, and her disappearing father. Through these flashbacks we learn how her mother’s domineering ways shaped Zeba into the docile woman that made her the perfect victim for Kamal’s abuse. Though she doesn’t appear to be as strong as her mother, readers will find that Zeba is every bit as determined and smart as the strong willed Gulnaz.

Her time in prison also introduces us to a lively cast of characters. There’s a very Orange is the New Black meets Wentworth vibe going on that makes for a bit of comic relief when Zeba’s story becomes too heavy. Much like Bea in Wentworth, Zeba becomes the unlikely leader of her fellow prisoners, a role she at first rejects and gradually accepts.

Once again, Hashimi approaches difficult subjects with class and grace – covering the life of women in Afghanistan and the struggles of Yusuf as an American raised, Afghanistan born man who has forgotten the written and unwritten rules of his country. Anything this author writes is guaranteed to be a good read and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

432 p.
Published: August 2016
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

New Books Coming Your Way, August 16, 2016

A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi
432 p. (Fiction; Afghanistan)

For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice. Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed.

Awaiting trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have led them to these bleak cells: eighteen-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an “honor killing”; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, a teen runaway who stays because it is safe shelter; twenty-year-old Mezghan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for a court order to force her lover’s hand. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, like them, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment; removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.

Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his homeland have brought him back. With the fate this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like the Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.

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The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
448 p. (Fiction; fantasy)

This is the way the world ends, for the last time.

The season of endings grows darker, as civilization fades into the long cold night.

Essun -- once Damaya, once Syenite, now avenger -- has found shelter, but not her daughter. Instead there is Alabaster Tenring, destroyer of the world, with a request. But if Essun does what he asks, it would seal the fate of the Stillness forever.

Far away, her daughter Nassun is growing in power - and her choices will break the world.

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Divorce is in the Air by Gonzalo Torne
320 p. (Fiction; Spain)

There’s a lot about Joan-Marc that his second wife doesn’t know—and that he now sets out to tell her, come what may. He begins with his disastrous first marriage to an American named Helen, and the vacation they took in a last-ditch attempt to save their relationship. From there Joan-Marc unfurls the story of his life, from early memories of adolescence to a reckoning with mortality in his forties: friendships he abandoned, women he wronged, the wide swathe he cut across polite society in Madrid and Barcelona. Joan-Marc may be the kind of man we love to hate, yet his caustic wit, nostalgia, and self-pity are ultimately as winning as they are devastating.

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Born Bright: A Young Girl's Journey from Nothing to Something in America by C. Nicole Mason
256 p. (Non-fiction; biography)

"Standing on the stage, I felt exposed and like an intruder. In these professional settings, my personal experiences with hunger, poverty, and episodic homelessness, often go undetected. I had worked hard to learn the rules and disguise my beginning in life..."

So begins C. Nicole Mason's compelling memoir, which gives us a rare insider's look into the lives of the American poor. Born in the 1970s in Los Angeles, California, Mason was raised by a 16-year-old single mother who dropped out of high school. From wondering where her next meal would come from to learning the deadlines for college entrance exams by eavesdropping on the few white kids in her predominantly Black and Latino high school, Mason describes in vivid detail the chaos, failing systems, isolation, and violence that make the American Dream out of reach for so many.

While showing us her own path out of poverty, Mason examines the conditions that make poverty nearly impossible to escape and exposes the presumption harbored by many—that the poor don't help themselves enough. In truth, the convoluted, bureaucratic lattice of societal rules that govern everything from education to criminal justice is structurally impenetrable by the poor. With first-hand experience learning these rules for herself, Mason illuminates the sheer fortitude that it takes to navigate systems designed only for the success of the few.

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The Rest I Will Kill: William Tillman and the Unforgettable Story of How a Free Black Man Refused to Become a Slave by Brian McGinty
240 p. (Non-fiction; history)

Independence Day, 1861. The schooner S. J. Waring sets sail from New York on a routine voyage to South America. Seventeen days later, it limps back into New York’s frenzied harbor with the ship's black steward, William Tillman, at the helm. While the story of that ill-fated voyage is one of the most harrowing tales of captivity and survival on the high seas, it has, almost unbelievably, been lost to history.

Now reclaiming Tillman as the real American hero he was, historian Brian McGinty dramatically returns readers to that riotous, explosive summer of 1861, when the country was tearing apart at the seams and the Union army was in near shambles following a humiliating defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run. Desperate for good news, the North was soon riveted by reports of an incident that occurred a few hundred miles off the coast of New York, where the Waring had been overtaken by a marauding crew of Confederate privateers. While the white sailors became chummy with their Southern captors, free black man William Tillman was perfectly aware of the fate that awaited him in the ruthless, slave-filled ports south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Stealthily biding his time until a moonlit night nine days after the capture, Tillman single-handedly killed three officers of the privateer crew, then took the wheel and pointed it home. Yet, with no experience as a navigator, only one other helper, and a war-torn Atlantic seaboard to contend with, his struggle had just begun.

It took five perilous days at sea—all thrillingly recounted here—before the Waring returned to New York Harbor, where the story of Tillman's shipboard courage became such a tabloid sensation that he was not only put on the bill of Barnum’s American Museum but also proclaimed to be the "first hero" of the Civil War. As McGinty evocatively shows, however, in the horrors of the war then engulfing the nation, memories of his heroism—even of his identity—were all but lost to history.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

#BookReview: ANOTHER BROOKLYN by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson typically writes for children and young adults, so it’s a real treat when she wades into grown woman territory. With her latest, Another Brooklyn, readers, but especially black women, are swept back into their own childhood, coming of age, hanging on the block with your girls – all of the things that ultimately create what @thepbg coined as #blackgirlmagic.

The protagonist of the story, August, returns to Brooklyn in her thirties to bury her father. A run in with a childhood friend, Sylvia, sends her on a trip down memory lane to a time when Sylvia, Angela and Gigi were revolving planets in her universe. Navigating the streets of Brooklyn and life without a mother is difficult, but it’s eased by the presence of friends like Sylvia, the recent immigrant from Martinique; Gigi, an aspiring actress that sheds her skin and accent for whatever she nationality or personality thinks is more suitable for the current situation; and Angela, the dancer who loses herself in the melody of the music while blocking out images of her strung out mother.

In the summer of 1973, the girls have no way of knowing what the future holds, but they have each other. So when one of them is raped, it’s her friends that put her back together. When another’s mother goes missing, the others assure her that she’s still alive. They warn each other of what streets to avoid, what people to avoid – especially which boys and men, those that leer at them too long or try to press up against them while coping a feel.

Woodson’s Another Brooklyn feels so much like my childhood. From the girl next door who pretended the bruises on her arm were from falling down to the girl down the street who slept with any boy who asked, trying to find love where she could since her Bible thumping foster mother didn’t dole it out and the reverend that did didn’t offer the right kind of love; trips to the penny candy store; visits to Eunice or Marie, the local kitchen beauticians; betrayals of friendship; fights over boys; and looking back fondly at your time together but knowing when it’s time to move on. Another Brooklyn is truly the definition of #blackgirlmagic.

192 p.
Published: August 2016

Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

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Friday, August 5, 2016

New Books Coming Your Way, August 9, 2016

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
192 p. (Fiction; African-American)

Set in 1970s Brooklyn, the acclaimed, bestselling National Book Award-winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming delivers a searing tale of friendship, hopes, and the realities of an adulthood coming too soon.

Running into a long ago friend, sets memory in motion for August, a woman who once lived in a Brooklyn where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t anymore. For August and her girls, Brooklyn was a place where they believed as they walked the streets and confided in each other, that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them. But beneath the veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where men reached for them in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted their nights and mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.

Woodson heartbreakingly illuminates the formative time between childhood and becoming an adult—the promise and peril of growing up—and exquisitely renders a powerful, indelible and fleeting friendship that united four young lives.

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Known and Strange Things: Essays by Teju Cole
416 p. (Non-fiction; essays)

A blazingly intelligent first book of essays from the award-winning author of Open City and "Every Day Is for the Thief. With this collection of more than fifty pieces on politics, photography, travel, history, and literature, Teju Cole solidifies his place as one of today's most powerful and original voices. On page after page, deploying prose dense with beauty and ideas, he finds fresh and potent ways to interpret art, people, and historical moments, taking in subjects from Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, and W. G. Sebald to Instagram, Barack Obama, and Boko Haram. Cole brings us new considerations of James Baldwin in the age of Black Lives Matter; the African American photographer Roy DeCarava, who, forced to shoot with film calibrated exclusively for white skin tones, found his way to a startling and true depiction of black subjects; and (in an essay that inspired both praise and push back when it first appeared) the White Savior Industrial Complex, the system by which African nations are sentimentally aided by an America developed on pillage.

Persuasive and provocative, erudite yet accessible, "Known and Strange Things" is an opportunity to live within Teju Cole's wide-ranging enthusiasms, curiosities, and passions, and a chance to see the world in surprising and affecting new frames.

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I Hid My Voice by Parinoush Saniee
304 p. (Fiction; Iran)

Four-year-old Shahaab has not started talking. The family doctor believes there is no cause for concern; nevertheless, Shahaab is ridiculed by others who call him “dumb.” In his innocent and deeply hurt child’s mind, he begins to believe that the “good” and “intelligent” children like his older brother are their fathers’ sons. On the other hand, children like him who are “clumsy” and “problematic” are their mothers’ sons.

No one in the family can understand Shahaab except his maternal grandmother, who seems to possess the understanding and the kindness he so desperately craves. Their growing bond leads to a deep friendship in which Shahaab is able to experience some happiness and finally find his voice.

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The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman by Mamen Sánchez
336 p. (Fiction; Spain)

Atticus Craftsman never travels without a supply of Earl Grey, an electric kettle, and a teacup—so he makes sure he has packed all three after his father, distinguished publisher of Craftsman & Co., sends him to Madrid to shut down a failing literary magazine, Librarte. But when nobody has heard from him in three months, his father knows something must be very wrong.

Fortunately, Inspector Manchego is on the case. Manchego gets to work unraveling the mystery of the Englishman’s disappearance, but there to block him at every turn are the five fiery and close-knit Spanish women who run Librarte and who will do anything to keep their jobs. From a kidnapping to the “discovery” of the long-lost poems of Federico García Lorca, Manchego and Atticus are taken on a madcap journey through the narrow streets of Madrid and down to the bohemian heart of Andalucía.

A charming tale with linguistic mishaps, literary intrigue, a clash of cultures, and an unexpected romance, The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman is at once a humorous literary caper and a touching love story, making for an altogether clever and delightfully different read.

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The Cauliflower by Nicola Barker
304 p. (Fiction; India)

He is only four years older, but still I call him Uncle, and when I am with Uncle I have complete faith in him. I would die for Uncle. I have an indescribable attraction towards Uncle. . . . It was ever thus.

To the world, he is Sri Ramakrishna--godly avatar, esteemed spiritual master, beloved guru (who would prefer not to be called a guru), irresistible charmer. To Rani Rashmoni, she of low caste and large inheritance, he is the brahmin fated to defy tradition and preside over the temple she dares to build, six miles north of Calcutta, along the banks of the Hooghly for Ma Kali, goddess of destruction. But to Hriday, his nephew and longtime caretaker, he is just Uncle--maddening, bewildering Uncle, prone to entering ecstatic trances at the most inconvenient of times, known to sneak out to the forest at midnight to perform dangerous acts of self-effacement, who must be vigilantly safeguarded not only against jealous enemies and devotees with ulterior motives, but also against that most treasured yet insidious of sulfur-rich vegetables: the cauliflower.

Rather than puzzling the shards of history and legend together, Barker shatters the mirror again and rearranges the pieces. The result is a biographical novel viewed through a kaleidoscope. Dazzlingly inventive and brilliantly comic, irreverent and mischievous, The Cauliflower delivers us into the divine playfulness of a 21st-century literary master.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

#BookReview: HERE COMES THE SUN by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Jamaica is my happy place. From the moment I step off the plane and feel the humidity swell my hair, I feel like I’ve returned home. It’s the escape from the constant gaze that one feels as a person of color in America that I most appreciate when I’m there. The laughs and knowing looks I’m able to exchange with island residents when white tourists are acting a fool feel like I’m in on an inside joke about how “those” people act. It’s the place where I most feel like me. But I’m not ignorant to the financial constraints of the service workers in the tourism industry. When I see the entertainment staff working hard to get a laugh out of a stiff tourist, I’m well aware that while they could care less about said tourist, they do care about the tip that could come from engaging them, or the promotion they could earn.

In the debut novel from Nicole Dennis-Benn, she tackles the private lives of such workers. Margot is a hustler; always has been, always will be. But she’s hustling for a reason; to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. No one works longer hours at the hotel than Margot, serving and servicing clients both day and night. It will all be worth it to see Thandi fulfill her dream of going to university. But is that Thandi's dream or just Margot's dream for her?

Margot is Delores’ throwaway child. Early on, she tossed Margot aside and turned a blind eye to the men that preyed on her young daughter. Delores has lived a hard life and blamed most of it on Margot. Things will be different for Thandi though. Delores and Margot don’t agree on much, but they agree that life will be better for Thandi than it was for them, a seller of trinkets and a high class call girl.

For Thandi it’s not enough to be smart, she wants to be admired by her classmates and noticed by boys. And because colorism is real, she believes that lightening her skin will bring both friends and boyfriends. She would trade all of the smarts in the world for adoration.

Verdene Moore is an islander that left for London and returned when her mother died. While she was out in England, she is shunned back on the island. Her neighbors torture her by leaving dead animals in her yard. Her only friend is the girl who adored her years ago when she was a teenager, and is now her lover.

I loved Here Comes the Sun. Dennis-Benn tackles a number of subjects that tend to get swept under the rug: the shunning of the LGBT community in Jamaica; skin bleaching; the long term effects of sexual abuse; the economic disparity between those working in the tourism industry, and returning home to shacks, and the guests that stay at those resorts, as well as the disparities between those that own the resorts. As hardened as Margot is and as difficult as Delores is to like, readers will likely find themselves rooting for each of them to succeed, if only because it means that Thandi might succeed where they have failed.

352 p.
Published: July 2016
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

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