It’s been a while since I did a book art post. I just wasn’t feeling it with my last few reads. But Shelby Van Pelt changed that! This piece is inspired by ‘Remarkably Bright Creature’s’ by @shelbyvanpeltwrites – I took some liberty with our dear Marcellus’ coloring just to make it pop on a digital space. That said, Marcellus is truly one of my favorite characters, ever. And the story itself was very meaningful, especially to those of us who have lost a child. I’ll leave it at that. I recomment 5/5 stars. Available anywhere you buy books.
Whew! American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is not for the faint of heart. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like for migrants coming from Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico…look no further. Immigrants do the work Americans find too low paying, demeaning or difficult, but what you don’t know is that washing dishes, cooking, landscaping and all those other labor intensive jobs are a cakewalk compared to what they went through to get here.
American Dirt is the story of Lydia and her brilliant 8 year old son, Luca. They must get out of South and Central America for reasons I won’t ruin for you. Know that you will care about these characters, and that what they experience is the reality for many. Their travels will keep you on the edge of your seat, because survival against the elements, cartels, and border patrol is unlikely.
This story is really a testament to saying goodbye, grief, and to new horizons. What I liked most was the insight Cummins gives to each character, how they process their emotions and trauma through impossible situations.
I’d heard rumblings about people and critics disliking American Dirt… none of which I read. Given the political climate, any book about crossing the border into the United States would be controversial. I highly recommend you give this a chance regardless of what anyone says. Go into it knowing nothing, and out of it rewarded with the knowledge that those who seek to be near us have good reason to.
Dream Cast 🎥 🍿
Lydia: Eiza González
Javier: Benicio del Toro
Sebastian: Michael Peña
The Jackal: Pedro Pascal
Marisol: Adriana Barraza
Lorenzo: Diego Tinoco
Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica will keep you on your toes. A must-read for any mystery/thriller junkie! I’ll say no more!
Kindred is a timeless novel about time. Imagine going about your day when you just get snatched into history because you have a connection – unknown to you at the time- to a specific individual you are linked to in history. And what if that time period just so happened to be 1815, when slavery was legal. Imagine this happening to you and you’re black. And a woman. That’s what happens to our protagonist, Dana- whose *now* is 1976. She must learn to survive in a world where she is considered property.
Nothing else I could say would do this justice. Parts of the novel reminded me of 12 Years A Slave. So if you’ve seen that film, you know this a story that will break your heart. Despite the tough subject matter, I recommend you read this. You will be better for it.
I love you, Octavia E. Butler!
Note: Kindred is soon to be adapted into a Netflix limited series. Release date TBA.
Oh dear. If you’re new here, you know I rarely unleash one of my handy “just stop” memes for my book reviews. And that when I do it, it’s for good reason. I’m saddened to report a “wtf book” so early in the year, but here we are. That said, I don’t think many will agree with me when it comes to The Maid by freshman author Nita Prose. The book has already been picked up for a movie adaptation and is high on the NYT Bestsellers List. I can see why people will enjoy this, but I didn’t. It has all the makings of ~the unputdownable~: first person narrative, overcoming the struggles as the underdog, murder, romance, suspense. And still, this fell flatter than a pancake. If you read further, here’s the obligatory 🔥 SPOILER ALERT 🔥.
The story follows Molly the Maid (yep), a character I can only describe as a female mashup of Sheldon Cooper and Forrest Gump, who happily works at a four-star hotel. She is dedicated to bringing rooms back to a “state of perfection”. One day she finds one of the hotel’s prolific and famous guests dead. From there, she unwittingly uncovers a series of dark happenings, all while trying to survive on a measly salary following the death of her grandmother.
What bothered me was the inconsistency with Molly. She was naive and uneducated when it worked for the story, then deceptive, capable, and cunning in the next instant which made her innocence about the most basic of things ridiculous. Molly is a complicated character, which would have been fine had there been any consistency whatsoever. Yes, she was sheltered, had what I can only guess would be considered Asperger’s, and was raised through her grandmother’s endless usage of proverbs and empty platitudes (which you will have to read over and over). But that still doesn’t explain her actions, which led me to believe the author did it to try to create the element of surprise for the reader. And by creating that element of surprise, you lose the believability of your titular character. The other, more disturbing, issue is that if you are going to write a story about a person with autism, be careful to do it justice. Make it clear that wrongdoing, lying, or turning a blind eye to unforgivable harms is a moral compass issue, one that has nothing to do with the disorder the character may have. Otherwise, you run the risk of creating confusion and suspicion about an already misunderstood diagnosis millions of people live with.
Don’t waste your time or money on this maid service. Let this one collect dust.
2/5 stars ⭐️ ⭐️
She died in 2006. That said, I intend no exaggeration when I say Octavia E. Butler saw Trump and his enablers/supporters coming. Ten years after she died, Trump was elected. Within these pages, there is a destructive and incompetent politician, Andrew Steele Jarret, who actually says he wants to Make America Great Again. No lie. And there are even “maggots” that invade safe spaces and destroy the property and lives of those who don’t agree with said politician. (This made me think of “MAGAts”, a term for frothing at the mouth Trump supporters like those who attacked the Capitol). Butler writes of the spread of disease long before COVID reared it’s ugly head. And most important of all, she writes of the tragic impact uneducated demagogues and their vicious refusal to listen to science have on humanity and the planet. The time period of the books is our NOW and the years ahead, and while there are clear differences between reality and Parable, it’s still scary as hell that there are even more similarities. She wrote these books in the 90s.
These are hard books to read, but worth it. The story of Lauren Oya Olamina, the motherless daughter of a Reverend who can feel what you feel. And I mean, really feel it. Her mother was addicted to a drug that left Lauren with the ability to experience what others do. And it’s to her detriment because she’s living in a violent, collapsed America where survival isn’t likely. If people know she can feel another’s pain or sickness, they can use it against her and harm her. As a result, Lauren has no choice to be violent to protect herself and others. She has to kill, look the other way when she knows she shouldn’t, and never, ever let her guard down. People are rabid with sickness and addiction and communities have fractured, and this existence is hell. Life changes for Lauren, who lives in a compound, when she is separated from her family and must survive on her own. Ever the realist, though just a teen, she forges ahead and connects with others who are also looking for safety. Her intentions change when she realizes she wants to start her own belief system called Earthseed, something she started working on as a child but kept secret due to her Reverend father’s religious leanings. Earthseed is a simple but straightforward approach to viewing and making it in our ever-changing world. A world Lauren has realized humans must leave if our species is to survive.
I was torn about Lauren. Is she well intentioned? Not always. Can she be cruel? She must. Is she just another manipulative cult leader? Kinda. Is she a survivor? Absolutely.
Parable represents one of those rare cases where the genre are multiple things at once. Dystopian, science fiction, black American experience, technology, women’s literature, politics, romance, religion, young adult? Yes. All of it. I was left heartbroken, angry, and speechless by these amazing works of fiction. I cared about the characters, flawed as they were. I was also in awe of Butler, who not only gave us something special and timeless, but a red alert warning for what is to come. And here we are. At each other’s throats, confused, and dealing with people who have a ferocious refusal to put health and safety first. I’m not a religious person, but I pray it never gets as bad as Parable. We still have time to turn things around. Why don’t we?
As an aside, I looked into Octavia E. Butler. A black woman who writes science fiction? A fellow nerd and minority? I feel like I would have been best friends with her if I’d ever met her. Maybe I give myself too much credit that someone so talented would want to be friends with me in return. I wish she was here. I wish I could thank her for writing something so very hard, but so extremely necessary. Why I never read her books sooner, I’ll never know. I just didn’t know about her. So don’t be me, don’t wait another moment. Read these books, and know that you will be better for it.
Rating for both books: 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
DREAMCAST: 🍿 🎥 🎭
If Hollywood adapted the books, I think it should be a mini-series. You can’t property capture this story in a two or even three hour movie. That said, this is my dream cast. And they all have such kickass names:
Lauren Oya Olamina (Teen/YA): Amandla Stenberg
Lauren Oya Olamina (Adult): Queen Latifah
Doctor Taylor Bankole: Colman Domingo
Reverend Olamina: Samuel L. Jackson
Zahra Moss: Juno Temple
Travis Douglas: Jeffrey Wright
Natividad Douglas: Alexis Bledel
Harry Balter: Domnall Gleeson (older version played by his father Brendan Gleeson)
President Andrew Steele Jarret: Bryan Cranston
Larkin/ Ashe Vere: Zazie Beetz
Marc Olamina: Mahershala Ali
Quick question to ponder: What happens when our sun starts to dim? And that solar dimming is being caused by material, aptly named Astrophage, literally sucking the life out of it? And it’s happening at such a rate, Earth will find itself in an ice age and all the fun disaster that comes with it in less than two decades? What do we do? We can’t even get people to wear masks during a pandemic so this is a loaded question. But for the purposes of this post the answer is Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir.
Ryland Grace, a molecular biologist/junior high school teacher turned astronaut is our main protagonist. The story swaps from everything leading up to the launch of Project Hail Mary, to Grace’s experiences in a spacecraft charged with finding a solution to the impending disaster by traveling to a solar system unaffected by the Astrophage. Without giving anything else away, he makes amazing discoveries that make this into an adventure worth reading.
My recommendation is to listen to the audiobook. There is a lot of technical “stuff” that can seem overwhelming to understand if science fiction isn’t your thing. And even if it is your thing, voice actor Ray Porter does a great job narrating the confusing or mind numbing portions to help you grasp the science behind a decision made in Project Hail Mary.
I’d also say the reader should be prepared to understand that Ryland Grace is far from what any person could measure up to. He’s a genius, scientist, mechanic, teacher, linguist, and…everything else? His versatility allows the story move forward, but pushes the boundaries of what could be considered realistic. The things Ryland figures out would take a normal, even a genius human being, months or even years to figure out. That said, this was a fun book to get into.
One last thing: Ryland may be our hero, but the real star of the show is Rocky. I’ll say nothing more.
Rating: 4/5 Stars ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Dream Cast 🍿 🎥 :
Ryan Gosling is already attached to the movie for the role of Ryland Grace. I think he’s a great choice. I also thought Riz Ahmed would be a perfect.
Rocky: Ray Porter was a perfect Rocky
Eva Stratt: Tilda Swinton
It took author Madeline Miller ten years to write The Song of Achilles. And her hard work paid off. Although it was released in 2011, the novel still pops up on the NYT Bestsellers list and it’s 2021. Ten years of work followed by another ten making its mark!
This epic story about the greatest warrior known to man, Achilles, actually comes from the perspective of his devoted partner and companion, exiled prince Patroclus. This is a story of forbidden love, friendship, expectation, and Achilles’ scary ass mom, Thetis, who just so happens to be a sea goddess.
I loved Patroclus. Despite being rejected, he is always kind, always giving, and forever committed to helping others. And that’s what made the ending of this tragic story all the more satisfying. Unlike others, Patroclus appreciates Achilles not just for his ability to fight, but for his companionship, his bluntness, and most notably his musical talent (hence the title).
Greek mythology is hard to tackle. Miller seems to do it with ease. The first book I read by her was Circe, which I absolutely loved and liked more than this. That said, this is very much worth your time.
Rating: 4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Dream Cast: 🎥 🍿
Patroclus: Aubrey Joseph
Achilles: Cody Fern
Thetis: Tilda Swinton
Agamemnon: Mads Mikkelsen
I’ll be blunt. A Million Things by Emily Spurr will break your heart. But know the following: even as you lie on your kitchen floor shattered and ugly crying into a dish towel after reading this remarkable book, you will be better for it. We all need a reminder that we aren’t alone, even if we are lonely. To know that animals are just like any other family member worthy of respect and care, that parents can hurt and leave us, and that judging neighbors harshly can prevent us from forming the most meaningful of relationships.
I waited for this to come out on Audible because I was hesitant to read it, and knew I’d stop picking it up if I had a hard copy. I knew it would hit too close to home. Mentally ill mom. Check. Becoming an adult when you aren’t even a teenager yet. Check. Being left alone way too young. Check. Having your closest family member be a pet. Check. Based on those similarities alone, I didn’t think I could get through this given the heavy subject matter. But I found it was actually good for me to read something that shows the complicated upbringing of a girl, because I haven’t seen much of that or felt any connection with a female protagonist in this way. And y’all know I read a lot. We have so many coming of age stories about boys (Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies). And if the story Is about a girl, it’s always about how her heart is broken over a boy, or she has an eating disorder, or how she’s in love with her middle aged teacher. This here is no YA book. This was more like Room, where the perspective of a vulnerable but resilient child going through very adult trauma tells their story. We need more books like this, about children with imperfect parents, and how they survive the unimaginable. Know that this is a hard read, but a good one. Content warnings include suicide, hoarding, and mental illness, and child and animal physical injury.
Big spoiler: I clearly loved the book so I feel like I need to explain my rating. The reason I gave this four stars instead of five was because of the graphic part involving the description of Splinter’s injuries at the end. It actually made me feel a bit sick. It didn’t add anything to the story and was overkill. I didn’t think the same was true for the way Rae must cover up the smell of her mother’s corpse, as that served a purpose in showing the reader how she was trying to maintain appearances and save the only home she’d ever known.
Rating: 4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Dream Cast: 🎥 🍿
Rae: McKenna Grace
Lettie: Dianne Weist
Mom: Isla Fisher
Oscar: Iain Armitage