Book Reviews September 2018:
Shoulda, coulda, woulda read more but couldn’t, wouldn’t, didn’t make the time. Oops. September dissolved with only five books to my credit. I enjoyed all five even though they are wildly different, from mystery/thriller to a gem of a short story collection.
When I attend book clubs to speak about my own book, I’m often asked what types I like to read. My answer: a variety. I think it’s important to understand what’s popular, to read excellent literature, and to reflect on why classics endure. I consider reading much like listening to all sides of a story. If we always stay in our lane, how will we grow?
Having said all this, the first book I read in September is right in my wheelhouse of favorite genres—southern fiction. Ha.
The Invention of Wings
by Sue Monk Kidd
I can’t believe I waited so long to read this novel by one of my favorite authors, Sue Monk Kidd. The Invention of Wings alternates between the POVs of Sarah Grimke (eighth of fourteen children) and a slave girl named Handful. For her 11th birthday, Sarah is given her very own slave—Handful. But strong-willed Sarah abhors slavery and sets her sights on change. Sarah teaches Handful to read, which is a criminal offense in the antebellum south. From there, an unlikely yet strained friendship develops.
The Invention of Wings is loosely based on real characters, Sarah Grimke, an abolitionist, and Hetty (Handful) a slave. Kidd expertly weaves a cast of powerful characters including Sarah’s sister and Handful’s mother. And she reminds us that bondage wears many disguises.
My favorite line: Everything she knew came from living on the scarce side of mercy.
This book made me: sad, angry, shake my head. I’ve heard people say, why do we still talk about slavery? Because we can’t dare forget.
Suffer the Children
by Lisa Black
When I met best-selling author Lisa Black at the Florida Authors and Publishers Conference in August, she gave me an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of her latest novel Suffer the Children. I don’t often (ever) read crime mystery novels, but after meeting Lisa, a real-life forensic expert, I was excited to dig into this book. It didn’t disappoint.
Suffer the Children is 4th in the Gardiner/Renner series, but I had no trouble following along as forensic expert, Maggie Gardiner, and homicide detective, Jack Renner, set out to investigate a mysterious death at a juvenile facility. When another child suddenly dies during the investigation, it becomes apparent that a killer is on the loose. Tension builds as everyone (in my mind) becomes a suspect, and the killer is no doubt someone from within. (This reminded me of When a Stranger Calls, one of the scariest movies ever in my opinion.) Fans of CSI and whodunits—you will be mesmerized by the scientific and investigative detail woven into the story. Lisa Black knows the forensics business and gives us a front seat view.
(Although I was given an ARC, opinion is my own.)
My favorite line: Emptiness had gotten boring.
This book made me: consider adding more crime to my life. In the form of books:)
My Accidental Jihad
by Krista Bremer
This memoir is the story of an American journalist (a self-proclaimed feminist) who falls in love and marries a Muslim immigrant from Libya. I found My Accidental Jihad to be soulful and honest, a compelling read. Bremer takes the reader along as she visits her Middle Eastern in-laws for the first time, an eye-opening holiday during the reign of Gaddafi. The real story, above and beyond how two people from different cultures create a life together, is the author’s internal struggle to discover herself. Her journey is one of spiritual enlightenment, one that provides a glimpse into a world not often revealed to us via American news and/or religious sources. And P.S. the author is an editor of Sun Magazine!
My favorite line: Ramadan revealed to me the limits of my compassion.
This book made me: think more about bi-cultural relationships and how love doesn’t discriminate.
Three Little Words
by Ashley Rhodes-Courter
While driving to Dallas, I listened to the audio version of Three Little Words (read by the author). This memoir was difficult and painful to hear, yet I couldn’t stop listening. Ashley Rhodes-Courter lived nearly ten years in fourteen different foster care homes, including two group homes. She endured abuse and manipulation at the hands of the adults charged to care for her. Her story is riveting, depressing as hell, and incredibly inspirational because she not only survives, she soars. And p.s., her three little words, aren’t what you expect them to be. In some ways, Three Little Words reminded me of A Child Called It and The Glass Castle.
My favorite line: Your Mother is a hard act to follow. She will always be the love of your life.
This book made me: heartbroken for all the children lost in the system. Grateful for those working to do something about it.
My Southern Journey
by Rick Bragg
I absolutely adore Rick Bragg’s writing. I wish he’d take me fishing so I could listen to his tales in person. My Southern Journey is a collection of Bragg’s writings published in Southern Living, Garden & Gun, and other magazines and journals. He talks about people and places and truths as familiar to this farm girl as the Pledge of Allegiance. I particularly loved the snippets about his family. The picture Bragg paints of his beloved Alabama and New Orleans is how I can only hope to someday describe my Arkansas delta.
My only complaint—there’s a little too much mention of Alabama football for me. But, in truth, I’d be worried about a Bama boy who didn’t Roll with the Tide.
My favorite line: (describing his house) It has the pictures of my people, the books I love, the music I hear. I guess it is really just a wooden box to hold a life in, for days or decades, until someone else takes it over.
This book made me: happy deep down inside where my own memories swirl.
On to October reading!
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.
P.S. I wonder if Rick Bragg will be in Fayetteville this weekend to see Arkansas beat Alabama????
[tweetthis]Books I read in September @penguinrandom @suemonkkidd #RickBragg #KristaBremer #bookreviews [/tweetthis]
Paul McCartney, Blackbird