Happy Wednesday from my little corner of the Book-O-Sphere, bookish peeps!
Today’s WWW Wednesday is a special one thanks to the kind people at Little, Brown And Company and Hear Our Voices. Thank both parties for the gifted e-ARC of The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander I’ll be talking about today!
Using Kofi Offin, an 11-year-old boy from Upper Kwanta, Alexander gives readers a chance to get a different perspective of what life could have been like for a young child in pre-colonial Africa. Readers will see Kofi be faced with learning about his family and village’s history, pursuing his love of swimming, and duking it out with his arrogant cousin, who is his age mate.
What made me love The Door of No Return is that Alexander starts his story with the understanding that people of the African Diaspora lived full and rich lives that did not originally cater to the white gaze. Kofi and his family are shown in their fullness and given agency over their stories without the story becoming voyeuristic.
This was something I appreciated as an empath because the history of those who were forced through a trading post on the Gold Coast before making the violent journey through the Middle Passage is always told in a way that centers whiteness. These gruesome stories almost read as if the authors want their readers to take pleasure in the disturbing details. However, Alexander handles Kofi’s story with care and humanizes this young boy and his village for readers.
If you are a reader who enjoys middle-grade fiction and is seeking a good place for yourself or your child to learn about the Middle Passage, I would highly recommend The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander. It also would pair nicely with a viewing of Viola Davis’ new film, The Woman King. The Door of No Return is also a part of a trilogy that Alexander will continue in the coming year.
Click below for an exclusive audio snippet of The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander to hear more from Alexander!
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney. Goffney’s book follows Quinn, a high school senior, who loses her prized journal of list and is blackmailed into completing her secret bucket list before her masked antagonizer exposes her secret to the school. Quinn faces everything from racism to reveling in her Blackness to coping with her grandmother’s dementia. Through it all, Goffney highlights the aspects of community and family life that make for a good and realistic Young Adult novel.
What will you read next?
As always, I’m a mood reader, so I cannot tell you what I’ll be reading next. But, if you have any suggestions, leave them below!
Thank you to Penguin Random House Audio for the Advance Listening Copy (ALC) of 30 Things I Love About Myself by Radhika Sanghani and LibroFM for my ALC of Mika in Real Life by Emiko Jean.
My first reads were Mika in Real Life by Emiko Jean and 30 Things I Love About Myself by Radhika Sanghani. Each of these books focused on having the characters develop self-love and self-awareness by being radically honest with themselves and others.
For Emiko Jean’s character, Mika, a thirty-five year old, first-generation Japanese wannabe artist, her journey to self-awareness and radical self-love has many pitstops. These pitstops include finding her long-lost daughter, Penny, and masquerading as an established artist to impress said daughter. Throughout Jean’s novel, Mika quickly learns that every lie costs. To dismantle her castle of lies, Mika will have to confront her traumatic past and overcome generational curses.
If you are a reader who enjoys character exploration and aren’t afraid of sitting inside uncomfortable situations with a character, Mika in Real Life will be a novel you enjoy. The writing in this book is crisp and the characters are realistic when it comes to tackling issues, such as adoption and sexual trauma.
There are moments when the book feels as if Jean is stretching reality to its limits with how a character may react to a situation (cough cough…Mika’s plan to build a life so swiftly once she reconnects with Penny…cough cough). But, if the reader suspends reality, things like this silly plan can be overcome. For more empathic and sensitive readers, I would suggest being aware that Jean’s book tackles issues, such as sexual trauma, adoption, the death of a parent, and depression.
If you’re looking for similar themes, but delivered in a lighter vein, I would suggest reading 30 Things I Love About Myselfby Radhika Sanghani. I laughed out loud and snorted throughout reading this book.
While Jean and Sanghani both are writing about thirty-something women whose lives have fallen apart, Sanghani leans into the mess and plays up her character’s, Nina Mistry’s mishaps to sell readers on the absurdity of the self-help industrial complex.
Nina Mistry is a mess and she knows it! When she’s “gifted” a self-help book called, How to Fix Your Shitty Life by Loving Yourself by the police officer who’s guarding her in jail after her arrest at a protest the night before her thirtieth birthday, she sees it as fate. Nina quickly becomes obsessed with changing her life and those around her for the better. Her schemes involve discovering a newfound love of yoga and embracing her Indian heritage by calling out all that’s wrong with the racist world she lives in.
Simple, right? Yes and no.
Even though Sanghani’s character is earnest and open to whatever the world may throw her way, Nina is also heavy-handed in executing her radical self-love journey for maximum impact. This means readers see her trying to “eat, pray, love” her way to self-awareness with hilarious results. This book is tailor-made for lovers of books (and movies), like Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding.
I enjoyed this book for many of the same reasons that I adored Jean’s novel. But, the one thing I did find a little off-putting was how severe mental health issues, such as depression and talk of suicide, were handled. While Jean frames her story as a dramedy with a heavy emphasis on the drama, Sanghani’s choice to lean into the comedic part of her narrative makes it hard to pivot to talk about these serious topics and give them the necessary space. This causes readers to be thrown from laughing at Nina’s antics into careening into a scene where Nina is dealing with her father’s suicide and the depression of her brother. Because of these quick turns, I would suggest readers who are empathic or not ready to deal with these topics be aware before reading.
What are you currently reading?/ What will you read next?
Since it’s the start of the semester, I have nothing on my TBR just yet.
If you all have any suggestions, I would love to hear them in the comments below.
I hope you all have a wonderful week until we meet again!
Happy Wednesday from my little corner of the Book-o-sphere!
It’s been a while since I did a WWW Wednesday. But, I wanted to check in with you all about some amazing reads I was introduced to over the summer by Simon & Schuster for their #BlackLoveSummer campaign and hear about the books you all have been reading this season!
Thank you to Simon & Schuster for the gifted books I’ll be talking about below!
As a full-time student who also works and takes care of family, reading these days is a privilege and allows me to have a “woo-sahhh” moment. So, I’m always geeked to find books I can relate to and become engrossed in. Simon & Schuster delivered on both fronts!
Good Morning, Love follows Carlisa “Carli” Henton, a musician and songwriter who wants to follow in her father’s footsteps to become a musician, but on her own terms. By day Carli battles it out as a junior account manager at a media company in New York City and uses her free time to write songs with her friends in hopes of creating a hit. She crosses paths with Tau Anderson, one of the music industry’s rising R&B stars, and the pair’s world collides professionally and romantically.
Coleman’s novel is perfect for readers who enjoy seeing what happens behind the glitz and glam of the music industry. The author’s characters are fully fleshed out and make you root for them even when you know lines are being blurred.
For instance, as a junior account manager and woman in the industry, Carli sets strict boundaries on how she interacts with men. Upon meeting Tau, these lines are blurred, and Carli is placed in a precarious position as they bond over their shared interest and the music Carli hopes to one day create. For readers who have had to make tough decisions about their career as a woman or minority in their field while trying to navigate the ranks, Good Morning, Love will have moments where you may be able to point out similarities in your live to Carli’s and commiserate with the choices she has to make.
My absolute favorite part of the novel, though, is the atmospheric moments in the narrative where Coleman uses her words to transport readers into the spaces Carli inhabits, be it a club setting or transporting readers into the music Carli is making. This is where Good Morning, Love shines.
I would highly suggest this book to anyone who loves music and stories that have a gradual slow-burn romance that characters build throughout the story. This film felt like it would pair well with a viewing of the film Brown Sugar, which is a love letter to the creation of hip hop and follows two friends as they grow up to work in the music industry and gradually realize their love for one another.
LaDelle’s novel follows two high schoolers, Dani Ford and Prince Jones, as they attempt to fall in love and conquer their senior year. Dani is slow to trust after being burned by love and losing her passion for love. Prince is sure he’s found “the one” in Dani and is more than willing to show her why he’s the perfect man for her. The only thing holding him back is that he’s trying to juggle being a caretaker for his mom, who has multiple sclerosis and acting as a father figure to his younger brother, Mook. Using his spot as a DJ and Detroit’s own “love guru,” Prince attempts to shoot his shot with Dani and show her how to believe in love and herself once again.
Love Radio is just what the doctor ordered for readers who love a solid romance novel with tropes, like love contracts, slow-burn romances, and a character who’s good at giving love advice but horrible at love.
LaDelle does a great job of crafting characters in Love Radio who are easy to root for. With Prince’s love of love and music and Dani’s beautiful prose when she references her favorite Black authors, LaDelle’s ability to build characters that are complex and believable shines through. However, my critique is that Prince and Dani feel as if they belong on a college campus instead of in high school. This is especially obvious in the scenes where Dani’s sexual assault trauma is discussed. While this isn’t a total weakness, if Love Radio is ever adapted for tv or film, I would love for this characterization and setting change to be played to make the novel’s action more believable.
As a Detroiter, I can say that LaDelle’s love for our shared hometown shines through with all the hidden Easter eggs she places in her book that only a fellow Detroiter would recognize. From drinking Vernor’s instead of ginger ale to skating at the Northland skating rink and trips to the Motown Museum, LaDelle hits a sweet spot for why the D is a special place to grow up and experience.
Besides a shared love of our hometown, my favorite part of LaDelle and Coleman’s books has to be the musical references. Check out this playlist to hear what soundtracks were playing as each artist wrote their books.
What are you currently reading?
I recently finished The Sandman on Netflix and instantly went looking for the graphic novel series. Originally written by Neil Gaiman and totaling more than 80 individual comics, this dark fantasy series blends mythology with horror and traditional DC comics to tell the story of Dream/Morpheus. This mythical character was imprisoned by humans for over 70 years and must go on a quest to get his Kingdom and treasures back from those who have stolen them from him.
The Netflix show ranks in my top three shows of summer, followed by Hulu’s The Bear and Starz’s P-Valley. The Bear is a dramedy about a mom-and-pop sandwich shop in Philadelphia and the cooking staff who works there. P-Valley is a Southern drama that does a deep dive into the inner workings of the cast of a strip club called The Pynk. Placed in the down-and-out town of Chucalisa, Mississippi, the cast constantly tries to claw their way up from the bottom to survive gentrification, the Rona, and life in general.
I binge-watched these shows and Coleman and LaDelle’s books for the two weeks I got for Summer Break.
Emezi tells the story of Feyi Adekola, an artist who is trying to recover from losing the love of her life as she finds love again. Granted a luxury trip to a tropical island where she starts a romance with a new man, Feyi is hopeful that she can “release the past and honor her grief” to gain a second chance at love. But, she must first contend with a third party who is possibly sabotaging her new love. I have the audiobook of You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty ready for when I need a break from school.
For fans of My (Not So) Perfect Life and Jasmine Guillory’s While We Were Dating, a disarmingly fun debut novel follows Carlisa Henton as her life comes undone after a chance meeting with a rising pop star.
Carlisa “Carli” Henton is a musician and songwriter hoping to follow in her father’s musical footsteps. But, biding her time until she makes it big in the music industry, she works as a junior account manager at a big-name media company to cover her New York City rent. Carli meticulously balances her work with her musical endeavors as a songwriter—until a chance meeting with rising star Tau Anderson sends her calculated world into a frenzy. Their worlds collide and quickly blur the strict lines Carli has drawn between her business and her personal life, throwing Carli’s reputation—and her burgeoning songwriting career—into question.
A smart, timely, energizing romance, Good Morning, Love shows us what the glamorous New York’s music scene is really like and takes us into the lives of a rising but somewhat troubled R&B star and a promising protégé who knows her job better than she knows herself.
With fresh and honest prose, Good Morning, Love examines the uncertainty of being a new professional looking to chase a dream while also trying to survive in a world that’s not always kind to ambitious women
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to interview you, Mrs. Coleman! Congratulations on publishing your novel, Good Morning, Love!
Introvert Interrupted: Can you tell readers about yourself and your journey to publishing Good Morning, Love?
Ashley M. Coleman: I am a writer and music industry executive. I’ve worked in music over ten years and so in many ways, it feels like Good Morning, Love is the debut novel it took a lifetime to write. Starting as a young person pursuing a career in music, I always felt like great stories lived there and like the people I was meeting were these larger-than-life characters. I started the story of Good Morning, Love to try to secure a writing fellowship and when that didn’t work out, I decided to keep going. I had a twenty-page sample that I liked so I kept writing. I was swirling around with this idea of what happens when a playboy falls in love? And that birthed the story of Tau and Carli. Thankfully, I was able to secure my agent in early 2020 and by the spring, we’d sold the manuscript to 37Ink/Simon &Schuster which has honestly been a dream come true.
II: How did you come up with the characters of Carlisa “Carli” Henton and Tau Anderson? Did you have any specific music artists in mind?
A: I like to say that they’re a composite of many artists. I absolutely love music. I listen to a lot of it for pleasure and for work. So, I took pieces of all the great artists I know both known and unknown to carve out the characters of Tau and Carli.
II: Carli’s story resonated with me as we see her walking a fine line in Good Morning, Love between having a “stable job” as a junior accounts manager and following her passion for becoming a singer and songwriter. To side characters, like Dylan and Red, Carli’s writing partners, Carli’s life feels charmed, causing her to receive flack for hustling to pursue her dreams.
In a time when some readers may also feel that they are being forced to choose between their passion and making a livable wage, what would you want readers to learn from Carli’s hustle mentality?
A: I would want readers to know that it is possible to do both. So often when we are from underrepresented communities, we don’t have the privilege of solely pursuing a creative dream. It’s a lot of hard work for sure which we see with Carli. But she has this knowing deep inside that there is something more for her. We don’t have to give up the dream for our survival. There may be some long nights or early mornings, but I think Carli’s character shows that it can be worth it.
II: Outside of being a wonderful storyteller, you also have a way of transporting your readers to a specific space and having us feel as if we’re there with the characters. Readers can see examples of this when Carli is in clubs performing her music or at the studio writing with her team and Tau. How did you learn to become such an atmospheric writer?
A: Having a bit of a background in journalism helps. It’s all about observation and so I’ve had practice in the area of trying to set the scene with words. The world of music is something I know intimately, so going to a place in my mind of a concert or open mic is so natural for me. I also like to try to put myself in a space when writing. For me, that’s music that helps set the tone for what I’m writing. It’s lighting a nice scent. All those things ground me in my story which I think helps translate that sense of atmosphere onto the page.
II: Carli and other women in Good Morning, Love are often hyper-aware of how their actions can be negatively perceived by their peers and the workplace. Yet, many male characters like Tau tend to act first and think about the consequences later. Was there a particular message you meant to convey with this outlook about the differences between your male and female characters’ approach to obtaining their goals and navigating the music industry?
A: I don’t think it’s something I did consciously, but as a woman who works in and around music, it’s something I’ve had a lot of conversations about with other women. Honestly, in many industries, women tend to think a lot about how they will be perceived. Whether they come across angry, too bossy, too sexy, the list goes on. I think it’s simply the nature of living in a patriarchal society. More specifically with music, it can be tricky because it is a social business where lines can easily be blurred. This aspect of the business, I think, gives women that hyper-awareness that we see in Carli’s story.
II: There are several instances where sexual assault is mentioned within your novel. Unfortunately, with cases like the R. Kelly case and the ongoing Russell Simmons case, your depiction of how women feel unprotected in the music industry and the world at large is very relevant. Why did you feel it was important to show this reality of the music industry in your novel?
A: It was most important to me to showcase how conflicting it can be when you are trying to get ahead but may have to work around people who make you feel unsafe. I guess more so I wanted to highlight how it’s not always the easiest decision it seems like it would be to simply walk away when so much is on the line. I wanted to show that sometimes it’s not always the extremes like the cases that you mention, but sometimes even in more nuanced ways.
II: While you combat challenging topics in your novel, my favorite part of Good Morning, Love is that #BlackLove is on full display with Carli and Tau’s relationship. How did you manage to write the chemistry between these two so effortlessly?
A: I love love stories. I mean I just eat them up. So, I think part of that ability really came from studying chemistry over the years in both books and film. It was somewhat easy to reference the moments when I find myself cheesing too hard watching or reading something and then being able to recreate those types of feelings in Good Morning, Love. The great part about fiction too is your characters become almost like real people. When you know them well and have flushed them out fully, you can visualize them interacting in a very three-dimensional way.
II: Good Morning, Love is such a vibe! Carli is often seen speaking about her favorite music artists. Outside of the Black Love Summer Playlist from Refinery 29, are there any music artists or albums that inspired your novel and characters?
A: I would just say R&B music in general. You know, a film like Brown Sugar focused on hip-hop and I would say that Good Morning, Love is almost like the cousin to that with a bit of a focus on R&B. I’m such a big fan of artists from back in the day like Boyz II Men and Brian McKnight to contemporary artists like Alex Isley, PJ Morton, and Lucky Daye among others. The feeling that a great R&B song gives you, to me, is what inspired both the book and characters.
II: Like Carli, you are a writer and media maven who has writing credits for major publications, such as Essence, song credits, and even a successful podcast and online platform for writers called, Permission to Write. What advice would you give people looking to find a good work-life balance and jumpstart their writing career?
A: I would say prioritize your writing. Too often I hear writers say, “I never can find the time,” and most often it’s because they are trying to fit it in where they can. So much of my initial draft for Good Morning, Love came together in 30-minute sprints before I started my workday. When writing is my very first thing, I feel so much better about taking on a busy and full day. I can always say to myself, “at least I’ve written.” So, prioritize and protect your writing time.
II:Do you have any other projects you’re working on that readers can look forward to?
A: I’m pretty excited about a forthcoming short story called “Breakfast for Dinner” that will be featured in the Heartbeat newsletter, free, weekly short stories celebrating love curated by Hannah Orenstein and Georgia Clark. And of course, I am always just writing! So, there are many more stories where Good Morning, Love came from.
II: Thank you so much for your time, Mrs. Coleman! I’ll be looking forward to your short story, “Breakfast for Dinner!”
Have you all picked up your copy of Good Morning, Love?
About the Author
Ashley M. Coleman is a storyteller and community builder moonlighting as a writer and project manager. Whether she is working with music makers or writers from marginalized communities, creating safe gathering spaces and education for creatives is at the center of her world. Her freelance writing has been featured in ZORA Magazine, GRAMMY.com, and The Cut among others and covers culture, lifestyle, and personal narrative. Currently, she is working on her forthcoming novel with 37Ink Books, Good Morning Love. You can catch her co-hosting the EightyTwo NinetySix podcast with Gabrielle Hickmon, tweeting often, indulging in Hip Hop and R&B music, and laughing at her pit/boxer mix Coltrane.
USA Today bestselling author K.M. Jackson delivers a hilarious road-trip rom-com perfect for fans of Meet Cute and When Harry Met Sally. Bethany Lu Carlisle is devastated when the tabloids report actor Keanu Reeves is about to tie the knot. What?! How could the world’s perfect boyfriend and forever bachelor, Keanu not realize that making a move like this could potentially be devastating to the equilibrium of…well…everything! Not to mention, he’s never come face to face with the person who could potentially be his true soulmate—her.
Desperate to convince Keanu to call off the wedding, Lu and her ride-or-die BFF Truman Erikson take a wild road trip to search for the elusive Keanu so that Lu can fulfill her dream of meeting her forever crush and confess her undying love. From New York to Los Angeles, Lu and True get into all sorts of sticky situations. Will Lu be able to find Keanu and convince him she’s the one for him? Or maybe she’ll discover true love has been by her side all along…
Mrs. Jackson, I appreciate you speaking to me about your novel, How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days!
Your novel had me laughing out loud at the adventures you sent Bethany “Lu” Carlisle on in pursuit of the one and only Keanu Reeves.
Adira: How did you come up with the idea for How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days, and how did you decide who to include in your star-studded cast?
K.M. Jackson: Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me and read HOW TO MARRY KEANU! I came up with the idea of HOW TO MARRY KEANY REEVES IN 90 DAYS after seeing a tweet pre-pandemic that said the next Matrix and John Wick movies were set to come out on the same day (it has since changed due to the pandemic). I replied to the tweet saying, “Note to self don’t put out your next novel on Keanu day unless it’s that How To Marry Keanu Reeves In 90 Day’s Romance.” I got quite a lot of responses that said, “I’d read that,’ and from there a book was born.
A: What I appreciate about your female characters, Bethany Lu and Dawn, is that they don’t have life all figured out even at 40-years-old. You make it clear that they are still making mistakes, wrestling with imposter syndrome, and trying to decipher life when society tries to sell us all the message that you should have it all “together” by their age. What made you want to tackle this angle of “growing up” with your characters’ backstories?
KMJ: I felt strongly about wanting to make my heroine for this story over 40 and I wanted very much to make her feel real. To be honest I have gotten some feedback from some readers that she comes off as young because of the premise of the book and her obsession with Keanu, and the fact that she doesn’t have things all figured out at her age, to that I’d challenge folks to really look at themselves or the world around them honestly and ask who does have it all figured out?
I know I sure don’t. I’m older than both by characters, Lu and Dawn, and a mother and I am pretty hard on myself for not having all the answers. I often wonder and am frustrated by why I don’t have it all figured out by now. But I’m trying hard to give myself a bit more patience and grace.
A: Found or “chosen” family is a major part of your novel, thanks to Bethany Lu’s reliance on her best friends, Dawn and True, to help her with everything from her creative blocks to taking care of her mental health. Were you working from a specific definition of community when you developed these characters, and if so, how did it inform the development of your cast of characters?
KMJ: I wasn’t working from any specific definition of community when I came up with Lu’s friends but more from the friends that I felt would be the best support for her character and the story to make it what I felt it needed to be to be a romance that I would be satisfied with. Both True and Dawn are people I would be happy to know, share time with and most of all trust.
A: In the last year, we’ve all had to cope with one form of loss or another, and Bethany Lu’s choice of coping mechanism while entertaining to read touches on how traumatic and stagnant working through grief can make us. Why was it essential to show Bethany Lu working through the stages of her grief in How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days?
KMJ: Bethany Lu and in a way True working through their grief in HOW TO MARRY KEAU was essential for me because there needed to be something really strong to give Lu her initial Keanu hold and a major motivation to carry the story through. Also dealing with grief and loss was something that was heavy on my heart by the nature of when I was writing the novel. There was just no way I could get away from it so better for me to just lean in.
A: Bethany Lu’s character is dealing with a hot button topic that has come up a lot over the last year thanks to society’s reliance on social media and influencers to get us through the pandemic, which is the issue of parasocial relationships.
Bethany Lu’s plot to stop Keanu’s wedding to distract herself from her own troubles is something that many readers may find to be super relatable. Was there a particular message you were aiming to give readers about how we interact with celebrities and influencers online?
KMJ: Though Bethany’s obsession with Keanu does hold her up in some ways it’s also in ways a healthy coping mechanism. She’s still gone on with her life and has had quite a bit of success. Keanu has been her happy place and a bright and stable spot when things were not so bright and quite shaky. As for the interaction with Keanu, well thankfully there is True and Dawn to help her with keeping a watch on that. Though Lu is a smart woman she knows she really doesn’t stand a chance to get Keanu to marry her and she states this throughout the book. I was careful not to let her cross the line into stalker territory and keep her in the fan zone. I hope I did.
A: How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days was basically made to be adapted for film or tv! Are there any adaptions in the works? Or, are you working on something else that can tide us over until Hollywood comes a calling?
KMJ: Thank you so much for saying that about TV or film adaptations. I sure hope so. *cut to me saying a quick prayer and mentally crossing everything* No, so far adaptations are not in the works but who knows. And thank you for asking, I am always working on something. The next book in my REAL MEN KNIT series under my Kwana Jackson name comes out in July of 2022 and I’m currently thinking up what I’ll be writing next. I have a few ideas in mind. It’s been such a pleasure chatting with you!
About the Author
A native New Yorker, Kwana Jackson, who also writes as K.M. Jackson Jackson spent her formative years on the ‘A’ train where she had two dreams: 1) to be a fashion designer and 2) to be a writer. After spending over ten years designing women’s sportswear for various fashion houses this self-proclaimed former fashionista, took the leap of faith and decided to pursue her other dream of being a writer.
Now a USA Today Bestseller Kwana’s self-published novel, BOUNCE won the Golden Leaf for best novel with strong romance elements from the New Jersey chapter of Romance Writers of America. She was also named Author of the Year by the New York Chapter of Romance Writers of America and has been tapped by Oprah Magazine, ShondaLand and NPR for their Best Romance lists.
A mother of now young adult twins, Kwana currently lives in a suburb of New York with her husband.
For January, I started rereading Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series and then moved on to one of my favorite “coming of age” books from high school called Big Girls Don’t Cry by Connie Briscoe.
Meyer’s books have been a slight disappointment in my reread. However, I did find that reading the books in audiobook format helped bring Meyer’s characters alive more. Rebecca Soler is the audionarrator for the Lunar Chronicles series, and she does a phenomenal job with accents and distinguishing the characters’ voices from each other. Soler’s narration also helped drive home how close Meyer’s books are to the original Grimm fairytales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood (Little Red Cap), Snow White (Little Snow White), and Sleeping Beauty (Little Briar Rose).
Honestly, if it weren’t for Soler’s performance, I probably would’ve tabled my reread of Meyer’s series by now. With Soler’s narration, though, things that irked me in my original review were made less egregious (e.g., Scarlet and Wolf’s love story). Unfortunately, Meyer’s series is still trope heavy in this second reading and has a firm spot in my “started with a bang and ended in a whimper” book pile. If you’re not a hardcore YA lover or into fairytale retellings, you may want to pass this series up.
Thankfully, Big Girls Don’t Cry by Connie Briscoe was a reread that I enjoyed. Briscoe covers Black girlhood in all its imperfect and confusing glory through the story of Naomi Jefferson, who is growing up during the ‘60s. Readers get to see Naomi struggle with growing pains along with seeing how her character is impacted by the death of Martin Luther King Jr., colorism, heartbreak, gender discrimination in the workplace, and the loss of a loved one as she grows into adulthood.
For lovers of Black urban cult classics, such as Flyy Girlby Omar Tyree and The Coldest Winter Ever by Sista Souljah, you’ll enjoy getting to know Naomi. I was happy to see that my rereading of Briscoe’s held against time. Briscoe places a lot of focus on Naomi’s career ambitions and gives space for readers to see Naomi fail and work through her reservations with working in corporate America and being “Black in America.” The only thing I would change is the development of Naomi’s love interests. If you enjoy stories built around character development and that have a slow burn romance, this is the book for you!
Jackson follows Bethany Lu Carlisle, Keanu Reeves’ superfan, as she receives the news that her long-time celebrity crush is engaged. For Bethany Lu, this is horrible news and is the last straw in a series of unfortunate events that cause her to struggle with the pressures of being an independent artist. Leaning on her friend, Truman “True” Erikson, for understanding, Bethany Lu sets out to win Keanu’s affection on a wacky road trip that has the sole purpose of getting Keanu to reconsider hanging up his bachelorhood for good.
How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days is perfect for anyone looking for a sweet romance or comfort read. Jackson shows an honest portrayal of a 35+ Black woman who doesn’t have it all figured out and is coping with mental health issues. The author does an excellent job of holding space for her character to fall apart and gives her the grace lean into her support system when she needs it. This departure from society’s belief that you have to have it all “figured out” by your 20s is refreshing. And the steamy romance between friends isn’t too bad either.
I’d highly recommend this book for any reader who’s into romance and books that have a “quest” element.
What are you currently reading?
January also saw me delve back into the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. This time around, I have been focusing on the graphic novels and short stories in theTales From the Follyanthology that goes along with Aaronovitch’s novels. The graphic novel collections add context to what happens to Peter and the gang in between the novels, while the short stories act as “snapshots” in the characters’ lives.
I’m partial to the graphic novels over the books, though. In these graphic novels, the author goes into fuller details about The Nightingale and the wizards he worked with before the Rivers of London series officially started. Readers also get to see what Molly gets up to while Peter and The Nightingale are off fighting the bad guys in these books, which involves pastimes are different from what I’d imagined. If you think Aaronovitch’s series is hilarious in his full-length books, you’ll love reading his graphic novels.
I am also working my way through The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. One of my classmates recommended this book, and I’m happy I picked it up even though it’s super sad.
Hannah’s book follows Elsa Martinelli as she and her family battle through life in the American Great Plains during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. Reading about how Elsa fights off her insecurities and the constant struggle to make a life for her children is painful. I’m about 70% through The Four Winds and am enjoying it, but I took a break to pick up a lighter read at the end of January.
What will you read next?
As a mood reader, I don’t know what I’ll be reading next. Do you have any recommendations?
If you enjoyed this post, I’d love it if you like, comment, and subscribe. #AllOfTheThings
If you’re following me on Twitter, you may remember my play-by-play reading marathon for the masterpiece that is His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie.
Dr. Medie has written an enthralling story about a young couple, Afi and Eli, as they try to dodge their meddling families and the pressures that come from following Ghanaian traditions to find footing in their marriage.
Oh! And there’s the troublesome hurdle of another woman who Afi, our narrator, must “get rid of” to find her happily ever after. No biggie, though…or so she thinks.
Dr. Medie’s story is gripping from the first sentence when the reader finds out that Afi is set to marry Eli with his brother standing in for him since Eli is on a business trip and can’t make it to the wedding.
Do you see the problem yet?
What drew me to His Only Wife is how well Dr. Medie situates readers inside Afi and Eli’s relationship. Her writing places characters into situations that feel like a stretch logically. Yet, they are so well-written that even when the reader knows better, you get sucked into wanting and believing for what the characters wish too, because the author is that good at stirring up the drama of her characters’ lives.
For instance, even from the first page in His Only Wife, when Eli doesn’t show at the wedding, I was standing in faith alongside Afi and believing what Eli’s family and her mother were selling Afi about the “other woman.” And I’m sure anyone reading this review can already tell how wild this line of reasoning would be in real life.
But, the way Dr. Medie structures her story really takes hold while you are reading this book. To the point, you will believe this farce about the “other woman” having such a hold on Eli that can only be broken once he falls in love with Afi until you close the book and it hits you how crazy this plan was from the beginning.
His Only Wife has a little something for everyone in it. From a slow burn relationship to insights about how familial and romantic relationships work in Ghanaian culture from a rural and urban perspective and across generations as Afi gains advice about her and Eli’s relationship from various women in her life’s perspective. I especially enjoyed learning more about these parts of Dr. Medie’s book from her in my interview, which you can check out here.
Dr. Medie’s book is one I can’t recommend enough for its dynamic characters, in-depth critique of the Ghanaian cultural and women’s roles in it, and just for being an excellent book to read and react to.
As cliched as it sounds, I enjoyed having the feeling of “discussion” around His Only Wife and not being able to guess what would happen next as I read. Even with how predictable the “other woman” trope may seem in the beginning, I couldn’t have predicted exactly how Afi and Eli’s love story would play out. Getting to live-tweet my reaction and discuss my thoughts with a group was probably my favorite thing about this book.
You’ll definitely want this book as your next book club read!
What are you currently reading?
Thanks to school, I’m still holding off reading the last 10% of The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. Jeffers book has taken me through it in every way possible. And oddly enough, I don’t want it to be over just yet. So, I’m still reading it.
I’ve also slowly but surely been making my way through The Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. I’m now on book four, which is Broken Homes. Peter Grant is quickly becoming one of my favorite literary characters for his wit, perspective, and ability to almost always end up at the short end of the stick of magic wielders.
My one issue with Aaronovitcth’s books is over time, it can become increasingly hard to separate the pro-police stance of the book and jokes Peter cracks about how coppers work inside with how vicious actual police tactics’ abroad can be. There are moments where Peter mentions how in the “old days,” a cop would go and “rough” a suspect up just because he could. These insights feel tone-deaf and wonky.
I say this because even though Peter is a man of mixed heritage and a cop, it’s clear this is Aaronovitch using Peter as a mouthpiece to say these things instead of it being a case where Peter is just being Peter. Since Peter will follow these moments up acknowledging that cops don’t like Black men who look like him (which is highlighted in a racially charged scene in the first book with a superior).
Don’t get me wrong, I love the stories atmosphere and the banter in the books. But, I do have moments when the story and backstories all feel a bit choppy.
On a lighter note, I’m currently reading The Checklist by Addie Woolridge. Woolridge’s story follows a “girl next door” type of romance about Dylan Delacroix, who temporarily moves back home to Seattle to help an eccentric tech CEO fix his flailing company. While she’s home, she finds sparks flying with Mike, the sun of her Bohemian family’s buttoned-up neighborhood rivals. I have laughed so hard at the characters in this book and their shenanigans.
If you’re looking for a palette cleanser after a heavy read, pick this one up! It’s free on Kindle Unlimited.
What will you read next?
As a mood reader, I don’t know what I’ll be reading next.
I have talked about a few of my top priorities on my TBR List in the previous post. So, check them out down below!
What are you reading now?
If you enjoyed this post, I’d love it if you like, comment, and subscribe. #AllOfTheThings
“Elikem married me in absentia; he did not come to our wedding.”
Afi Tekple is a young seamstress whose life is narrowing rapidly. She lives in a small town in Ghana with her widowed mother, spending much of her time in her uncle Pious’s house with his many wives and children. Then one day she is offered a life-changing opportunity—a proposal of marriage from the wealthy family of Elikem Ganyo, a man she doesn’t truly know. She acquiesces, but soon realizes that Elikem is not quite the catch he seemed. He sends a stand-in to his own wedding, and only weeks after Afi is married and installed in a plush apartment in the capital city of Accra does she meet her new husband. It turns out that he is in love with another woman, whom his family disapproves of; Afi is supposed to win him back on their behalf. But it is Accra that eventually wins Afi’s heart and gives her a life of independence that she never could have imagined for herself.
A brilliant scholar and a fierce advocate for women’s rights, author Peace Adzo Medie infuses her debut novel with intelligence and humor. For readers of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Candice Carty-Williams, His Only Wife is the story of an indomitable and relatable heroine that illuminates what it means to be a woman in a rapidly changing world.
Adira: Ms. Medie, I appreciate you taking the time to speak to me today!
Your writing in His Only Wife had me so compelled and invested from its first sentence to the point where I pulled an all-nighter to finish it.
Can you tell me about how you came up with the idea for your novel and what or who influenced your writing process?
Peace Adzo Medie: The influence for His Only came from several places, including my research. I study how gender norms affect various areas of women’s lives, including how these norms impact on their relationships, including marriage. I have published a book on the response to gender-based violence in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire and the novel was another vehicle through which I could explore how these norms affect women’s lives.
A: Like you, I come from an academic background and am big on research that pushes for the conversation of advocacy for vulnerable populations, such as women, children, and those without sufficient resources. You currently also have a scholastic book out now called Global Norms and Local Action: The Campaign to End Violence against Women in Africa. Is there a connection between His Only Wife and this nonfiction work? If so, did your research for either book influence the other?
PAM: Yes, one of the findings from ‘Global Norms and Local Action’ was that women’s relatives and friends influenced the decisions they made after they experienced intimate partner violence. For example, some women told me they stayed in an abusive relationship because of pressure from a parent. While physical violence is not a theme in His Only Wife, pressure from family is a major issue in the book. And I chose to write about it partly because of my research.
A:For Afi and Eli, community plays a huge part in their decisions throughout your book. How would you define community, and how did you use that definition to influence how you wrote the characters and settings in your novels?
PAM: Community describes the people closest to us, those we rely on and are accountable to, those in whom we see ourselves. It is the nuclear family, but also the extended family and those not related to us but surround us and touch our lives in manifold ways. In His Only Wife, most characters, especially Afi and Eli, are very concerned about their community, particularly their extended family, and this shapes much of what they do. The story underlines the connection between community expectations and character’s daily decisions and actions.
A:As a social worker, when thinking about clients, I am always confronted with the notion of class and gender and the inherent social boundaries of each. These two things, along with the client’s race, often influence what choices are available to that person and if they are hindered or helped by the resources that are open to them.
With His Only Wife, you show readers so many variations of how gender and class are tackled by each woman and woven into the fabric of their lives in their backgrounds, the jobs that are available to them, who they can date, and even the food they choose to eat. Was there a significance to how you explored these themes in the building of community in the novel and the character development of Afi, Evelyn, and Mawusi versus the older generation of women in your book (Aunty & Afi’s mother)?
PAM: Yes, I wanted to show how socioeconomic factors limit the options that are available to women, particularly young women like Afi. Many of the decisions that Afi and her mother made were guided by her socioeconomic status. In fact, I don’t think that Afi would have received that marriage proposal if she were from a well-off family, so we see class at play from the very beginning. I sought to show how the socioeconomic status of each character, especially the women impacted on what was possible in their lives. I especially wanted to show how experiences diverged and how some people succeed in climbing the economic ladder and how this then impacted their relationship with those around them.
A: Throughout your novel, there is an emphasis placed on the distinction between a “ceremonial wedding” and a “church wedding.” Does this hold cultural significance for Ghanaian culture, or was this written to help build tension for the drama of your novel? And if it was done for the novel’s sake, why was Elikem’s family so sure it would “fix” him?
PAM: I think a lot of people in Ghana have the traditional wedding and the church wedding. The latter is a relatively new practice that came with Christianity. However, the traditional wedding (and marriage) is deeply rooted and holds great significance in Ghanaian cultures. It usually involves both families, because it is not only about the bride and groom. There is a cultural and legal distinction between these two types of marriages; this is why many people have both.
A: I loved your writing in His Only Wife so much! Are you working on any new books or a sequel or film adaption to this novel?
PAM: Thank you! Yes, I’m writing my second novel, Nightbloom. It’s a book about female friendship and is set in Ghana and the US. It explores two childhood friends and their bond over several decades.
A: Thank you for answering my questions! I can’t wait to read more of your work!
PAM: Thanks for the questions!
Peace Adzo Medie is a Ghanaian writer and senior lecturer in gender and international politics at the University of Bristol in England. Prior to that she was a research fellow at the University of Ghana. She has published several short stories, and her book Global Norms and Local Action: The Campaigns to End Violence Against Women in Africa was published by Oxford University Press in 2020. She is an award-winning scholar and has been awarded several fellowships. She holds a PhD in public and international affairs from the University of Pittsburgh and a BA in geography from the University of Ghana. She was born in Liberia.
The Sunday Post is hosted by Caffeinated Reviewer and Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb @Readerbuzz. Check their pages out for more information about these bookish memes!
Good Morning from my little corner of the Bookternet, peeps! I hope your weekend went well!
It’s looking like my reading slump is finally gone. I’ve finished two books and am slowly but surely finishing The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers.
For those of you who’ve been reading my WWW Wednesday posts, you’ve probably heard me mention Jeffers’ books more than a handful of times since August. Coming in at a whopping 816 pages, Jeffers’ book is an emotional and soul shattering family saga.
In The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois, Jeffers tells the story of Ailey Pearl Garfield as she attempts to find her place in the world and combat the pain of surviving sexual abuse while she attempts to form her own identity as she honors the stories of her family’s past. It was an Oprah Book Club pick, which should instantly give you an idea of the emotional turmoil a reader could experience if they decide to pick up The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois.
For the average reader, this type of emotional book wouldn’t be so bad. However, I am an empath, which means that while the character is going through it, so am I.
An empath is a person highly attuned to the feelings and emotions of those around them. Their ability to discern what others are feeling goes beyond empathy (defined simply as the ability to understand the feelings of others) and extends to actually taking those feelings on; feeling what another person is feeling at a deep emotional level.
- "What Is an Empath and How Do You Know If You Are One?"
By Leah Campbell
Scientists are torn if this “mirroring” actually occurs. However, the brain holds what is known as “mirror neurons,” which could help humans mirror the emotions of people they come in contact with. And it’s suggested that some of us have more mirror neurons than others.
Imagine walking through the world experiencing secondhand embarrassment, the frustrations of others, and also their successes, and you’ll essentially get the gist of what being an empath is.
For me, my empathic abilities come alive in the form of a profound feeling of intuition and when I’m reading or watching any form of television. I detest watching the news and going into stores and crowds because of all of the emotions that I feel rolling off other people. But, on the other hand, there’s no feeling that comes close to the contact high that comes with holidays, like Valentine’s Day and Christmas, where people are full of positive energy and uninhibited joy.
Are you an empath?
What does this have to do with reading?
As a reader, though, finishing heavy books can be a struggle. The usual feelings that come with reading a book that researchers attribute to building up emotional intelligence are amped up 1000% for me. When I read, I find myself experiencing what the characters are going through, no matter how small or big it may be, as if it were my own pain and trauma.
The “reflection” period that other readers go through as they read, where they connect to the text seeing characters’ emotions and actions at a distance, is intensified for me as an empath. I feel as if I’ve been written into the story and am on an emotional rollercoaster embarking on a chaotic journey with the characters.
Even though I know that experiencing these narrative and aesthetic feelings are a part of what an author sets out to do with their writing, being drawn in as an empath sometimes feels like being bombarded from all sides – real and imagined.
How I cope with being an empathic reader
This wouldn’t be so bad if I weren’t reading books, like The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois, where Ailey’s family’s traumas are essential to the narrative and heavily drawn out. But, while I am a reader, I’m also going through my day-to-day life and experiencing empathic encounters IRL that require me to be present and in the moment.
Because of this, pacing myself while I’m reading is essential.
If I try to read a book that has too many heavy topics at once, I’ll end up going into a reading slump. A slump is also inevitable if I try to draw out reading these books for too long.
To combat this, I always try to be aware of how I feel as I read.
If you’ve been following me as I read The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBoison Twitter, you know Jeffers has taken me through it as I’ve been reading this book. I’ve shed tears, grown angry with the book’s main protagonist, and just had to close the book and walk away from it altogether.
Acknowledging and honoring my emotions throughout the reading process keeps me connected to the story but firmly rooted in reality as an empath. Posting Twitter threads for heavy books is especially helpful on this front.
I’d also recommend pairing a heavy book with one that’s light or funny to help ground you if you’re an empath.
My last reading slump was harsh since I tried to read Mona At Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James with Jeffers’ book. These two dramatic books threw me for a loop. And that caused me to hit an instant slump. I’m now pairing The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois with a YA romance book to help ease the heavy emotions that come with Jeffers’ book.
Having these simple steps helps me mitigate adverse side effects that can come from reading and being an empath.
Reading will always be a hobby I’m passionate about, even when my empathic nature causes me to relate and interact with books differently.
If you're an empath, how do you cope?
Thanks for stopping by for today’s Sunday chat!
If you’ve got any tips on how to cope with reading heavy tips or just want to share what you’re reading, leave a comment below.
As always, please don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe! #AllOfTheThings
I haven’t felt this emotionally spent by a book in a long while. The last time I felt this frustrated, angry, and all together disgusted by the treatment of a character and their choices, I was reading Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones.
Like Jones, Jeffers’ characters make me want to scream at them through the pages of her book. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been ready to hop into The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois and shake Ailey, the story’s main character, and her relatives for making the wrong choices.
While I love Jeffers’ book, I will say there are heavy topics at play in Jeffers’ book.
The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois tackles everything from racism, Black womanhood, addiction, the perils and abuse of American Chattel Slavery, and sexual abuse through Ailey’s maternal bloodline.
If you’re not a reader who likes to follow multiple plot points, The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois may not be for you. I’ve been live-tweeting my reading experience on my Twitter account if you want to see my unfiltered thoughts on Jeffers.