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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

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From the internationally bestselling author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, the boldly imagined tale of a poor boy’s quest for wealth and love. 

His first two novels established Mohsin Hamid as a radically inventive storyteller with his finger on the world’s pulse. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia meets that reputation, and exceeds it. the astonishing and riveting tale of a man’s journey from impoverished rural boy to corporate tycoon, it steals its shape from the business self-help books devoured by ambitious youths all over “rising Asia.”

It follows its nameless hero to the sprawling metropolis where he begins to amass an empire built on that most fluid, and increasingly scarce, of goods: water. Yet his heart remains set on something else, on the pretty girl whose star rises along with his, their paths crossing and recrossing, a lifelong affair sparked and snuffed and sparked again by the forces that careen their fates along. 

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a striking slice of contemporary life at a time of crushing upheaval. Romantic without being sentimental, political without being didactic, and spiritual without being religious, it brings an unflinching gaze to the violence and hopes it depicts. And it creates two unforgettable characters who find moments of transcendent intimacy in the midst of shattering change.

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Rating: 2 out of 5.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’ve kind of had to think about whether I truly enjoyed reading this one or not. Kind of on the fence about it at the moment. Confused and disliked it at first then it sort of grew on me. I read it for Life’s Library Book Club. I think anyone looking to read something written a bit differently may enjoy it.

The Story
It’s more of a love story, more of an autobiographical quality really, which was a unexpected to me, having not paid little attention to the description as I often do, just scanning it for key words that make me say “yay I’m excited” or “nay this is going to be a slog,” which felt indulgent if only going by the title as I read the beginning chapters.

I wasn’t disappointed, just intrigued and surprised by how it all came to be in a book like this. I had a lot of questions that were answered in the very end so I glad I stuck with it as it did have some redemptive qualities. There just wasn’t a crux or a character/plot arch per say, yet it kind of was in itself as a whole if that makes sense once you hear from the author himself, as I did by listening to an author interview that made the read a bit more complete for me. More of a passing on of wisdom in a different sort of sense.

The Writing
This is the unique bit about the book. Written in 2nd POV, present tense, often omniscient. Sort of talking in a futuristic sense as well. Sort of built up the premise up in this way, which also made for a very long-winded account.

I admit I was incredibly bored at the beginning, not as much about the content, though it felt jumbled to me and I had a hard time processing it, but mostly in the writing in the way it was presented. My brain was tired of the POV and self-help theme, but I got more into it by the end which you could argue its effectiveness of that.

There was no framing. Completely lacked which made it amiss for me.

The style spoke of universal implication and also individual anonymity. This I quite liked.

Descriptions
I think for me, there was just so much detailed play-by-play. Not with a lot of descriptors or emotional state, not a lot details of atmosphere or mood, just more about people doing things. All the smell descriptors were about disgust, nothing about cuisine or spice which I would have liked to have known. Which is okay, just made me antsy because I kept waiting for something to connect to, to look forward to, especially something about the How to part. It wasn’t a complete bait-and-switch though. I won’t spoil it here, but I was happy to have read it to the end. Though overall I am still not sure how really invested I was.

Tried hard at being somewhat philosophical, lofty, kind of gibberish at times, too abstract for my liking. Very likely could have been my mood and hunger for more of a connected tone or escapist reading experience at the moment.

Probably what it really was now that I think about it, was this use of far fetched vocabulary to describe things that were much more simpler than they came out to be. I had to look up a lot of words. Perhaps this is what distracted me the most. Took me out of the story.

The Characters
All this yearning for physical intimacy and hardly a mention of emotional intimacy. No real introspection, no one barely gets to talk about their feelings. It often came across as a very empty, disconnected read. In the end though, it sort of read like a mobster story which I enjoyed.

I loved the comedic bits. Though I don’t think I got all the cultural humor. Felt like an inside joke sometimes where I was the only one that didn’t know what was going on.

I absolutely loved that the author took risks in the writing, playing around with a less common approach and style that is unique to the lit fic genre as it is typically classified.

I think I probably would have appreciated it more if I knew more about the culture he was basing this book off of, the dilemmas, successes, and backstory.

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Categories
Book Reviews Books Classics Featured Fiction Romance

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

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Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person — no mean feat for a black woman in the ’30s. Janie’s quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was so rich, really loved this, even after having read it three times now, first in high school, then chosen as a character study for a women’s studies course in college, and now for Life’s Library Book Club. I’d recommend it to anyone. A great pick for book clubs.

The Story
I loved the way the author created a certain kind of nuance to the story, paralleled with the life cycle of a plant, a pear tree in particularly, blossoms, embracing each part of its growth stage, the main character coming into her womanhood, her relationships, whether romantic or platonic. Coming into her identify in social status, following the racial divide, the freedoms she wanted, the tensions she faced, the contradiction of those closest to her, even her own friends and family, some unable to relate, some in denial, some with outright hate.

It’s an important book and I feel like my perspective in reading it at different times of my life has made me appreciate it so much more.

It evoked a certain nostalgia for me.

It’s interesting how a reread of a book can take you straight back to your thoughts at the time, memories you didn’t even realize you formed. When I came across the line, “Put dat in yo’ pipe and smoke it” I was immediately taken back to high school, kids giggling as they quoted such a line, challenging the teacher, the class clown being silly, pleading “Well it was in our reading!”

I remember the book having a certain impact at a young age, how my experiences of the world and myself were not well articulated but discovering how a book like this expressed feeling you could never put into your own words, references not even well formed yet context through shared experiences.

Coupled with the very fact that accessibility to a book like this with its known contents was in my possession as a teenager. I even remember the controversy over sexual explicitness, abuse issues, historical context, language, and even the lack of proper grammar being showcased in a book that was a required read. Class discussions (quite the way to develop a sense of self I must say), taking place about how topics of the sort were being revisited, the how and why it was part of our required reading, and what was the result. What did they want us to learn? I remember thinking how honored should I be that teachers would want to invest in our education, how amazing it was to be able to read about someone else’s experience, and how dreadful it must be to attend a school that thought of a book like this as poison.

For me, it also took me back to a time of vulnerable innocence, not quite grasping all that the book had to offer. In my university women’s study course, it was brought on as a character study. A course geared toward studying what it means to be a woman. What shapes a woman. How are women identified. What women can, have, and could contribute to society. Asking how can women progress in life and find personal satisfaction individually and collectively? What holds women back? How far we’ve come? What is the life goal for a woman? What are the things that bring us joy and genuine happiness? How is that passed on generationally?

With this most recent reread, I feel it’s more of a personal read, hits me in a different way, a more relational level, looking at Janie’s companionships, her personal and family relationships, free-spirited choices in life, looking at the ones that held her back and where she ultimately ended up.

The title makes for a great discussion.

In my heart also is a deeper appreciation for literacy as a whole.

The Narration
The POV kept a certain tone consistent, all while skipping around with enough perspective that gave me a sort of strong idea of where the character was coming from. I could see why she loved Tea Cake, though he had character flaws not likely to be desired by a certain majority of women, but her life experiences brought her to accept some, reject others how she saw fit, celebrating the notion that one could choose.

Setting
Florida, 1928. I’ve traveled to Florida, have survived hurricanes, of course never been to 1928, but the cultural aspects mentioned along with the writing made it easy to imagine it as so.

Vernacular
I loved the expressiveness mixed with the formal, philosophical quotes in more lyrical fashion. This was a big point of discussion with my first read in high school. Should required reading, books in general, really be “teaching” kids improper English? How does creative writing techniques and life perspective fit into a primary school curriculum? Does it condone such things? And how does a writer draw strength in showing this in books rather than readers being told? Can you ever get the same effect? I’d say not really, which is why I probably appreciated this book so much because the risk the author took telling it like it was.

Characters
A lot to unpack here. Nuances. The character arc is subtle and is shown through a few actions/inactions, but mostly mirrored in her relationships as they come along. Maturity, discretion, desire, hope, fulfillment.

My Favorite Lines
“Put dat in yo’ pipe and smoke it.”

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

“When God had made The Man, he made him out of stuff that sung all the time and glittered all over. Some angels got jealous and chopped him into millions of pieces, but still he glittered and hummed. So they beat him down to nothing but sparks but each little spark had a shine and a song. So they covered each one over with mud. And the lonesomeness in the sparks make them hunt for one another.”

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Categories
Audiobooks Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Nonfiction

Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters by Annie Dillard

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In this dazzling collection, Annie Dillard explores the world over, from the Arctic to the Ecuadorian jungle, from the Galapagos to her beloved Tinker Creek. With her entrancing gaze she captures the wonders of natural facts and human meanings: watching a sublime lunar eclipse, locking eyes with a wild weasel, or beholding mirages appearing over Puget Sound through summer.

Annie Dillard is one of the most respected and influential figures in contemporary nonfiction and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Teaching a Stone to Talk illuminates the world around us and showcases Dillard in all her enigmatic genius.

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Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters by Annie Dillard

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It was alright.

Here’s the thing I’m learning about myself. Well more confirmation about my taste in books actually.

I’m just not much for books that are super contemplative.

Contemplating your naval type stuff. I like action. Like John Wick action. Take me somewhere I didn’t see coming. An underlying life lesson is fine. Some distinct pull from reality or unique observation. Or a cutesy little story about a relationship gone awry and a character who ruins, then saves the day. Or educational, I love educational.

So I have to be honest in that I don’t have the patience for books like this.

I read this one for Life’s Library. I must say it’s introducing me to books I wouldn’t normally read and I do find some value in that.

I read alternating print and audiobook. The audiobook was narrated by Randye Kaye. The audiobook was great at some points, but mostly sounded too much like a computer with mixes of voice inflection that were either jarring or mismatched. Words were typically ran together which was less to my liking. Funny enough though, when sped up, the running of words actually became more isolated, distinct, and more thus more clear.

A variety of POVs. First person present, ugh. Deep contemplation with inferences I didn’t feel attached to most of the way.

A lot of similes which sometimes I appreciated, but so many made it feel like a college entrance exam.

Too abstract for my taste and mood right now. It was overly descriptive for my liking.

There were a lot of general mere observations which I found rather boring to read about. I just didn’t connect to all of the stories. Not real memorable for me.

So what did I like?

I found the mundane activities described about attending the Catholic church, a childlike outlook, deciding which parts were performative and which were meaningful, was confirming to experience.

My favorite part was the telling of the girls of the village wanting to braid and re-braid hair. I think that’s always something so strong among every culture, with integration and an expression of acceptance, endearment, exploration of the world and self, building connection, a bit of joy, skill, and bonding, is girls, mothers, sisters, friends, doing each other’s hair.

I liked the mention of solar eclipse. Having witnessed a few totals and partials in my lifetime, I could appreciate that chapter. The excitement, yet eeriness of birds going silent, darkening, and wondering what people back in the day thought about the world ending.

I also liked the little booklet we got in our subscription package. Has some good writing prompts in there that I might try answering on my website/blog. 32 questions in all. Might be an interesting personal exercise.


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Categories
Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Poetry

Space Struck by Paige Lewis

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Consider this glowing debut from Paige Lewis a menagerie of near-extinction. Space Struck explores the wonders and cruelties occurring within the realms of nature, science, and religion, with the acuity of a sage, the deftness of a hunter, and a hilarious sensibility for the absurd. The universe is seen as an endless arrow “. . . and it asks only one question: How dare you?”

The poems are physically and psychologically tied to the animal world, replete with ivory-billed woodpeckers, pelicans, and constellations-as-organisms. They are also devastatingly human, well anchored in emotion and self-awareness, like art framed in a glass that also holds one’s reflection. Silky and gruesome, the poems of Space Struck pulse like starlight.

Space Struck by Paige Lewis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed this one. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club. I’d recommend this book to anyone, whether a newby to poetry or a seasoned reader of poetry, anyone in between.

It was a very accessible book of poetry, it was a little generational, but overall encompassed a lot of shared sentiments through recognition.

This one engaged those parts of my brain, like the moments of slight panic or chaos followed by relief and serenity. Like reading Sunday comics after heavy news pages, finally finding the mate to the last pair of socks while doing laundry, sitting on the tarmac in a plane you thought you were going to miss. It’s this satisfying feeling of gratitude and calmness, things are ok, a type of feeling of accomplishment, entertainment, and relaxation for your soul.

I suppose I don’t read poetry enough.

Poetry to me takes a certain amount of discipline. Discipline I don’t always have. A certain amount of concentration. Concentration I don’t always have. It’s never my first pick when choosing a book, but when I do find something I enjoy, I ask myself why don’t I read more?

I think it’s because the audience for whom the book is intended is not always well-defined. And sharing one’s feelings, pondering, and outlook on life is so super subjective and often boring without context, plot, leading trajectory, as a lot of poetry goes from my experiences, that its appeal is somewhat limiting. My exposure altogether is limited so I can’t speak for all. Poetry typically has relational/social concepts, presented as overly complex, yet dubious, often incredibly specific to culture, upbringing, and life experiences that aren’t always commonly shared, ones I don’t understand or find far-reaching or weird, and then to put it into writing in a riddle-like stanza is like double dissatisfaction for me.

Anyway, about the book.

I loved the lines referencing nature the best. The observations and inquiring when to intervene, whether the subject matter stirs up anger, then confusion, let it be, it’s nature. It was an interesting concept for me.

I liked that much was intertwined with bits of history.

I liked that the format of poems where changed up.

Some more vague and personal than others, parts I felt a little naive, then though “Oh, ok.” Others I truly didn’t “get” still very intriguing to read. Some with bits of pop culture, childhood relatability, some depicting more intimate aspects of a relationship, some religious interest, some contemplative, some speculative. I liked the variety.

And I also liked that it was short and that single-subject concepts weren’t exhaustive/belabored/overly descriptive or too-trying. It expressed a feeling/concept and moved on.

But I think what makes this collection unique and interesting to me was how it balanced abstract thought and tangible, concrete circumstances, much relative to my own generation, which made all the difference.

MY FAVORITE CHAPTERS/POEMS:

On Distance

Diorama of Ghosts

MY FAVORITE LINES:

“It’s nothing. The sun, with its plasma plumes and arching heat, is five million miles closer to Earth than it was in July, and we are still alive.”



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Categories
Book Blog Books Featured

Books I’m Reading: Summer 2020 Readathons & Challenges

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This summer I’m participating in:

The Reading Rush

Life’s Library Readathon

Libro.fm Summer Reading Challenge

ARC August is coming up too, but we’ll see how far I get with these reads!

The Reading Rush

The Reading Rush is a week long readathon, starts next week!

Here are the challenges:

1. Read a book with a cover that matches the colour of your birthstone.

My March birthstone is aquamarine. I love the blue-green shade seen in the ocean front cover of this book.

Spring Tides at Swallowtail Bay by Katie Ginger

2. Read a book that starts with the word “The.”

I have yet to decide between these two…

3. Read a book that inspired a movie you’ve already seen.

TBD

4. Read the first book you touch.

TBD

5. Read a book completely outside of your house.

The Secret Seaside Escape by Heidi Swain

6. Read a book in a genre that you’ve always wanted to read more of.

I don’t read a lot of poetry and this book is our next Life’s Library Book Club read.

Space Struck by Paige Lewis

7. Read a book that takes place on a different continent than where you live.

This one takes place in New Zealand.

The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Life‘s Library Readathon

This readathon hosted by participants in Life’s Library Book Club is one month long.

There are 16 prompts.

15 for each Life’s Library shelf and 1 bonus.

1. Aloe: A book where magic happens.

:fire:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone #1 by J.K. Rowling

2. Chamomile: Enjoy a cup of tea (or favorite beverage) when reading this book.

:tea:

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

3. Cygnus: A book that either talks about space/the universe OR takes place in space.

:swan:

This one is making a reappearance from previous readathons. Because what challenge would be complete without it?

Earth by David Brin

4. Forest: The character(s) travel far distances.

:compass:

When Bunnies Go Bad (Pru Marlowe #6) by Clea Simon

5. Hibiscus: A book that takes place in Africa or Asia.

:elephant:

The Poppy War (#1) by R.F. Kuang

6. Ivy: There is a 4-legged animal on the cover.

:cat2:

Dark Canyon by Louis L’Amour

7. Marble: A book set before 1970 OR in a world without computers.

:computer:

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides

8. Onyx: A book that evokes nostalgia for you.

:water_buffalo:

Again, an appearance from The Reading Rush, this one takes place during from the 1950s to 1980s, decades in which I love learning about Hollywood life of the time.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

9. Pearl: A book that is part of a series.

:octopus:

The Paris Librarian: A Hugo Marston Novel #6 by Mark Pryor

10. Quartz: There is pink on the cover.

:gem:

I’ll be reading this outside as part of The Reading Rush challenge, which also happens to have pink on the cover.

The Secret Seaside Escape by Heidi Swain

11. Rose: Sit where you can enjoy the sunlight when reading this book.

:rose:

Overlapping with The Reading Rush challenge.

The Bone People by Keri Hulme

12. Scale: Read a non-fiction book.

:test_tube:

I’m #57 of 119 on the waitlist for the library… not sure if I’ll get it in time, we’ll see!

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

13. Tulip: Read a book with either a bird or food on the cover.

:owl:

Spring Tides at Swallowtail Bay by Katie Ginger

Making an appearance from The Reading Rush.

14. Willow: Read a play or a book of poetry.

:guitar:

Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore

15. Gold: Book cover is shiny – it can be the entire cover or just a portion of the cover like the text or part of the image.

:gold_tea:

Also from The Reading Rush.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

16. Bonus: Read a book either Rosianna or John has recommended OR a previous LL book that you haven’t read yet.

:tada:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Libro.fm Summer Listening Challenge

I’m also participating in the Libro.fm Summer Listening Challenge which takes place all summer long.

Here is the bingo card:

What books are you reading?

Let me know what readathons/challenges you are participating in this summer, if you have any book recommendations, and what books you plan on reading in the comments below!

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Categories
Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo

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What if the history of the transatlantic slave trade had been reversed and Africans had enslaved Europeans? How would that have changed the ways that people justified their inhuman behavior? How would it inform our cultural attitudes and the insidious racism that still lingers today?

We see this tragicomic world turned upside down through the eyes of Doris, an Englishwoman enslaved and taken to the New World, movingly recounting experiences of tremendous hardship and the dreams of the people she has left behind, all while journeying toward an escape into freedom.

Check out the audiobook at Libro.fm and support your local bookstore

Check it out on Amazon

Blonde RootsBlonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I really liked the concept of this book. Unfortunately that’s where it ended for me. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club.

The story.

I love satire. Satire that takes a contrasting view and turns it into a narrative that pushes it so far that it becomes believable, relatable, immersed in an idea that can cause you to question reality, cause you question yourself, your own ethos at times.

However I didn’t see the point in this book. It took aspects of African culture and experiences of slaves during the trade and imposed them onto “whytes” as a juxtaposition, which to me, lost the very cause and effect it tried to steer its way through. Its whole foundation, all of its substance, disorientating. Whether satire or not, there was this attempt to draw parallels that just weren’t there.

I would rather have liked the portrayal of satire as an extreme to evoke an empathetic sense. It banked on stereotypes upon stereotypes, trite propositions that did not give rise to irony, sarcasm, or human connectivity. It played it safe. Sardonic but not in a clever or meaningful way.

Apart from the so-called satyrical take, I didn’t feel a stronger connection to it in any sense of the idea that I think the author was trying to convey. I suppose the story is what really felt forced to me. Contrived in such a way that it was running away with itself, losing power, perspective, and what I had high hopes for in achieving the main idea. And the idea was there, but the details to get there were less developed for me. Some parts read like an outline.

The heavy topics seemed to only be there for shock value and it was the explanatory tidbits that followed that really threw me off, especially because the tension seemed to be drawn off of this shock value which didn’t make a strong story of fiction for me in and of itself and were less supported even more so by the over-explanations of them.

Then there was a red-hot poker searing, sending warm bloody tears streaming down your body. Peeling “hairy” skins of a guava. I’ve eaten a lot of guava in my lifetime. I’ve had a guava tree. Had a really good harvest this past year. First, they’re not hairy and second, it’s actually quite common to eat them whole, skins and all. Perhaps the author was thinking of kiwi? There’s also a notable difference between coconut milk and coconut water.

I won’t comment on other discrepancies or even what I thought were less accurate portrayals of rationales behind certain historical events because they’d be tediously beside the point to mention in a story like this, which I felt began to ignore the strengths of context, community, and redemption which would have helped to guide readers and answer the questions proposed in the description in the first place.

The writing.

The writing as a whole wasn’t much of anything new. Read a bit mundane and unoriginal. Fire cackling, wind slapping, cloudy gray skies, heavy wooden door, tan leather boots. The prose toward the end depicted the movement of the story in a more unique way, but then focused more on actual events and became tethered to the dialogue rather than expressing emotional energy, reflection, or perception, which I think was lacking in majority of the book.

There was a lot of explaining away in the narrative. I didn’t feel at ease with the writing style. I wanted imagery and creative language. I had a hard time getting through this book and it wasn’t just the heavy subject matter, but the style in which it was written.

Sentence structure and effect. In recognizing race in a language, the phonic sounds were too formal, too complete and long-winded, too gibberish at the same time, the effect was nonsense to me.

Time. I had the hardest time understanding what time frame it was written in and who it was for. Then realizing it was a mix of time periods and time frames, including a blend of old and modern day vernacular, letting me know early on that this book wasn’t for me. Terms like freaking out, getting mojo back, Inheritance Tax for Dummies along with a twist on geography for role reversal effect wasn’t my cup of tea and was less effective at conveying a message of what I thought of as a more serious and important issue. Time and setting can really solidify a story, this had neither to enhance or support the story in the way I wanted to connect with it more.

POV and tense. The back and forth tenses sort of took me out of the story rather than add to or strengthen the premise. From past to present. There wasn’t a lot going on to drive me forward in the story.

The tone. Monologic tone didn’t fit with the structure of the story. The more graphic parts read just the same as light-hearted ones. Not in a cohesive way, but disjointed actually.

Characters. The growth and development wasn’t there for me. They read the same, not much personality to them. I knew about them but didn’t really know them. As I read on, I even questioned if they were meant to have any emotional capacity, undermining the whole premise.

The voices. The voices were less distinguished. Both main characters read the same people to me.

I will say on my most positive note of the book, “The Middle Passage” was my favorite part of the story and had the most complete concept, thought, and meaningful writing.

Overall this book fell incredibly short for me. I didn’t want to nitpick over this one, but it was just not a good book to me for multiple reasons. I’d be curious to read another book by this author though.

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