First, I want to say that, I have always loved reading. In high school I was always walking around with a book in my hand. A lot of times, I wasn’t paying attention in class because I was busy getting whisked away in another land. Falling in love with the characters in these books. As I got older, I found it harder and harder to read for pleasure. I was always busy studying and reading a textbook. This year is probably the year that I’ve read the most since high school and I am so proud of myself lol. I have “traveled” to New Orleans, Nigeria, New Salem. I have been shocked by family secrets, rooted for the underdog, and felt empowered by women and their magic. I have never done book reviews, so this will be a really rough summery of the books I’ve read this year, but I do hope to do this more often. So here it goes…..
by Emilie Richards
This book weaves together two different generations, two different lifetimes, two different stories. We are introduced to our central character, Phillip Benedict. He’s a journalist that resides in Los Angeles, if you can call a studio with a hotplate, ‘residing’. He comes to New Orleans to visit his mother, a pretty well known Jazz singer in those parts. He has somewhat of a relationship with a beautiful woman named Belinda, but it is pretty obvious that commitment within many things aspects of his life is a difficult thing. Aurore Gerritsen, seeks out Phillip to get him to write her life story for her. She chose him for reasons that will eventually be revealed. She begins her story before she is even able to walk, and it already involved a love triangle, illegitimate children, and murder. It takes the entire book to unwind all of the lives that have been twisted together, all of the loss and the hurt. But in the end, there is relief that the truth is out there and hope that a family once torn apart, can be one day united.
I actually read this book in HS and loved it back then. I decided to reread it before I read the sequel. It is crazy how different you interpret things or how much more you understand from the characters, once you are an adult. I loved this book because it starts off with the drama and then builds the story around it. I love that the overall theme of this story is to take away segregation and unite as a family, no matter what the color of your skin is. There is a lot of history in this story about the riots and war on color at that time. Also, there is an undertone of coming up from nothing to being someone successful, none of which is determined by the amount of money that you make. One of the major loves, in my opinion is Aurore and Rafe. They did a lot to hurt each other, but underneath it all, it was misunderstandings and secrets that broke them. They really loved each other and it kills me even now, to think of how their story ended. There really is a lot more depth here than I am able to speak on. There is racism and sexism and clear segregation of society. It is a lot to unpack, but I did enjoy the book then and I enjoyed it again this year.
by Emile Richards
Rising Tides begins with the death of Aurore Gerritsen and the reading of her will. She left specific rules to be carried out, everyone listed in the will must stay to hear the entire will over the course of four days and stay together at her summer house in Louisiana or else they will not receive their share. During these four days, more secrets are revealed, relationships patched, marriages broken.
We see Phillip Benedict again, as well as his mother Nicky and her partner. Aurora’s son with his wife and daughter were there although, he really didn’t want to be. I don’t have too much to say about book. I loved it because it was a continuation of Iron Lace, but I wasn’t as emotionally invested as I was in Iron Lace. We get a deeper dive into Nicky’s life after her and Clarence ran away for safety, her struggle coming up in the world and her struggle with love. We get introduced to Dawn, Aurore’s granddaughter and learn of their love for each other and her strained relationship with her dad and bond with her uncle. It is an eye opening story in relation to history, being able to see from our character’s eyes, the hardships they faced with racism and segregation, the war, and the underground ways people were trying to fight for their freedoms. It was a dangerous time to put your foot down and stand your ground. I loved being able to close the circle from Aurore’s life, but I think my heart will always belong to her and Rafe.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics
by Marisha Pessl
This one really had my mind going in circles, in a good way and in an eye opening way. This was the first book in my book club and I felt so bad because I feared the title would scare people away. I always prefaced the introduction with ‘it’s a murder mystery, it’s not what it sounds like’. The book itself is structured very interestingly; each chapter is a name of a book, and I started to panic that I needed to have read these books to get some inside joke, but that panic faded away after the first few chapters. We meet Blue Van Meer and right off the bat, she’t extremely intelligent, well rounded. She narrates this story citing multiple works of literature which also made me panic that I had to read this also or at least look up what these books were, but no need to fear, it is not that serious. I felt like I was getting slapped in the face and reminded that my vocabulary is definitely not up to par. Which, in reality was a good thing because it made me step up my game and work on it. I did have to look up a lot of words while reading this book, but that was MY fault and not the fault of the book itself. Well, we learn right away that Blue has not lived a normal life. She has suffered loss, which I think her emotions seemed kind of detached from, and we are told, that she suffers more as the book goes on. She lived a very nomadic life with her father, changing schools very often, never really living in a place that she could really call HOME. She was already accustomed to not getting too attached to her friends at school. She does eventually become friends with a group at her new school called the BLUEBLOODS, mostly because her teacher Hannah Schneider invited her into it. I don’t want to say too much and spoil the storyline, but for me, the book felt very drawn out for most if it. Events happened that made you question everything, and then all of a sudden, you are rushed within a few chapters with information that came from almost nowhere. It’s like in the movies where they do a sudden reveal, and then go back and show you clips from certain parts of the movie, and it makes you go “ooooh”.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. I with that the big reveal was more than the rush of information in the end that we have to piece together, but I guess that is how most mystery plots go. I really wanted more for Blue, and I expected more from her father, but the rest is left to our imagination to hope.
The Girl with The Louding Voice
by Abi Dare
The main character of this story is Adunni, a 14 year old girl, facing the reality of her life in Nigeria. She lost her mom a while back, and is now finding herself being married off for money. She is the girl with the “louding voice” because she doesn’t want to just accept the marriage and bare children, she wants an education, she wants independence. This is a great story on women empowerment and fighting with every bone in your body for your dreams. Adunni gets away from her husband who is trying to force her to have his baby, he is abusive and she fears for her life. She finds herself an escape, where she is again in another abusive household, practically working as a servant to survive. She becomes friends with another woman there that has the same values as she does and wants her to succeed. She helps Adunni out the situation she is in and we are then left to dream of the great things that Adunni will undoubtedly accomplish.
This is a very straightforward story of a girl that is willing to fight for her dreams, even with the world is against her. With an eye opening look at culture in certain areas of Nigeria.
The Once and Future Witches
by Alix E. Harrow
Another book about women empowerment. This book is centered around 3 sisters during a time where magic had become a thing of the past. Magic was more like whispers in the darkness, rather than the powerful being that it was. From beginning to end, this story is all about growth between these sisters. Growth in their bond, growth in themselves as women. There are a lot of underlying themes of needing to burst through confinement, push through being held down and to accept and love who you are. There is love, loss, battles. One of my favorite books of 2020 probably.
So, for my first book review post, I’d like to apologize for it lol . It had been a long time since I read some of them, and I have never written book reviews before, but I was proud of what I read in 2020 and I wanted to share. I’m hoping to improve my future book reviews and not rush it like I did with this.