Book review

Books #53

Sorry it’s been awhile! Honestly, I’ve been struggling to read lately. With the pandemic and everything in the news, it’s hard to focus. I used to read 2 or 3 books a week but lately, I’m lucky if I finish one book a week now. But nonetheless, here are some suggestions for you:

#1 The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston

This book is a terrifying read. It’s about anthrax, smallpox and weaponizing viruses. I did not know a ton about smallpox or anthrax before reading this book. I had a basic knowledge of it but reading this book was really eye-opening and absolutely terrifying. Yes, they “eradicated” smallpox….but….apparently the US and Russia still have some on hand, JUST IN CASE, to make biological weapons.

Don’t read this book if you freak out easily! It’s so scary!

#2 The Janes (Alice Vega Book #2) by Louisa Luna

This was a strong follow up to the first book in the series. In this one, Alice and Cap are in San Diego working “under the table” with a task force (DEA and local PD) that found two bodies of young girls. The story is about human trafficking.

The book is good and the story kept me guessing. It felt a little long at times and I’m not sure if it needed some editing, or if it was just the flow of the story, but there were a few times where it felt exceptionally long. Other than that, I liked the story and the characters.

#3 Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

Edward is 12 years old when he loses his whole family. They are flying to LA from New York for his mom to start a new job. His mom is in first class, he’s sitting with his older brother and dad. When the plane crashes. Everyone on the plane but Edward dies. The book is about grief, healing, learning to rebuild your life after tragedy and to find your way after your life is so radically changed.

The book is about a tragedy and it’s sad, but it’s not a depressing read. It’s hopeful and sweet at times. It’s also a coming-of-age type of story as it follows Edward from age 12 to 18. I enjoyed the book and liked the unique way the story was written.

#4 The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede

This was a really good story and uplifting. It was a story I never knew about, too! In all of the 9-11 books and articles I’ve read, somehow I missed this gem.

“Thirty-eight planes landed there on September 11, depositing 6,595 passengers and crew members in a town whose population is barely 10,000… They placed their lives on hold for a group of strangers and asked for nothing in return. They affirmed the basic goodness of man at a time when it was easy to doubt such humanity still existed.”

Amidst the horrors of that day and the aftermath, here was a small Canadian village that dropped everything to take care of these stranded people.

“The volunteers at the fraternal organization had made a point of cooking something special for the passengers on their first night with them and had prepared a roast-beef banquet. Rather than serving the meal buffet style, the volunteers insisted on each of the 154 passengers taking their seats and being waited on as if they were in a restaurant.”

It was a really positive message.

#5 The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

I liked this book. My only complaint is that it was really long.

It takes place during WWI and then after WWII. Eve is a young spy during WWI for England. She’s in German-occupied France, working in a restaurant as a waitress. But no one knows she speaks German, too, so she eavesdrops and passes on important messages to the resistance as part of the “Alice Network” for England.

Then fast forward years later, Eve is an old woman, and she meets Charlie, an American girl in London looking for her missing cousin. They band together. The story is well written and the characters are multi-dimensional. I felt like Charlie’s cousin’s story line was the weak link and the rest of the story was more interesting, but overall I enjoyed the book and was fascinated that it was based on some true history.

#6 A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight

I thought this book was really excellent! It definitely had a “Big Little Lies” vibe to it. Rich, private school, a murder, a trial, secrets coming out… It was well written and kept me guessing and kept me reading. It was a page turner for sure! And I liked the ending.

Happy Reading!

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What Can We Do?

I cried for several days because of the news of Ahmaud Arbery. It felt very similar, to me, to Trayvon Martin’s murder and it just gutted me. And George Floyd happened. And everything escalated.

I woke up to text messages from coworkers about the Justice Center in downtown Portland being set on fire, staff trapped in the building. I spent days glued to news and twitter and watching as protests, which started peacefully, turned violent all around the nation.

Portland loves a protest. They’ve been protesting everything for as long as I’ve lived here. I’ve participated in several protests. YEARS ago I marched against George W Bush and the war and I remember we shut down the freeways near downtown. I marched in the Women’s March. I am 100% in support of protests and marches and using your voice FOR CHANGE. My sincere hope is that the protests in the last week will spark some change. We need reform, we need checks and balances in police departments and police unions. We need good cops to stand up to shit they see, we need bad cops to be punished, and not protected by bad unions and bad contracts.

This is my opinion. I know not everyone will agree with it, but at this point, my heart hurts and I kind of don’t care. Black Lives Matter. Period. That is not a statement against anyone else, or a statement against military. It’s just a fact.

I wanted to do something positive, share something in my area of expertise. I know a lot of people feel stuck or lost or not sure how to help. You can start with knowledge. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. So here are some of my favorite books, written by African American authors. These are just a few of my favorites and I included two newer books that are very important reads and I recommend everyone pick up.

1- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“Then the mother of the murdered boy rose, turned to you, and said ‘You exist. You matter. You have value. You have every right to wear your hoodie, to play your music as loud as you want. You have every right to be you. And no one should deter you from being you. You have to be you. And you can never be afraid to be you.'”

Heavy, heavy stuff. I teared up a lot during this book. I definitely recommend this book for everyone!

This book is short. It’s a collection of short stories/essays/letters to the author’s son about race in America and his experiences growing up African American in Baltimore. It also talks about current events like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. He talked a lot about police and his fear for his son with the police.

This book was so heartbreaking and very eye-opening to the African American experiences and how current events are effecting their day to day life. It’s a hard book to read, but an important one, I think.

Despite the heavy, heartbreaking topic, the author did not come across as angry. The theme was sadness, grief and fear.

2 – Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin by Sybrina Fulton, Tracy Martin

I wrote a lot about this book when I reviewed it awhile ago. I won’t rehash it here. But I recommend you reading it. It’s written by his parents and it will gut you.

3 – Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde is an outstanding feminist writer. I loved this book in particular, but she has a lot of other great books, too. This is an autobiography of her life in New York, growing up in the 50’s as a black, gay poet and activist. She is absolutely amazing and her writing is stunning!

4 – Native Son by Richard Wright

Wow, I don’t even know what to say. I read this book for (I think) Sophomore English class and it left such a lasting impression on me I kept the book and I’ve reread it half a dozen times over the years. It’s a compelling story, one you CANNOT PUT DOWN. It is shocking. It is horrific.

It takes place in 1930’s Chicago. It’s about a race revolution, about a relationship between a white woman and a black man, a mistaken death, race, poverty, wealth, communism, social issues… It is such a good book, so worth reading.

5 – Another Country by James Baldwin

I have been a huge fan of James Baldwin since I was a teenager. I read this book in high school (on my own, not for English class or anything) and it left a really lasting impression. It takes place in the 1950’s. But it’s not a love story…it’s…about race and jazz and art and booze, and sexuality. There is racial tension, sexual identity tension. Pretty much anything by James Baldwin is worth a read.

More authors to check out:

Angela Davis

Alice Walker

Roxane Gay

Michelle Obama (her memoir was OUTSTANDING)

Here are some book lists to check out:

The 100 greatest books ever written by African American women

20 Best Books About Anti-Racism to Educate Yourself

14 books by black authors that are shaping our conversation about race

Instead of Amazon, please support a local business owned by African Americans. Here is a list you can try. And here is another list.

Stay safe, keep reading, keep listening and learning and trying to understand. Join the conversation.