Saturday, May 30, 2009

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Pages: 376
Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 1938

Synopsis (From Inside Cover):

Set at the great Cornwall estate of Manderley, one of the most famous country houses in England, the story has an immediate urgency, a brilliantly created atmosphere of suspense. As the novel opens, Manderley's glamours mistress, Rebecca, has been dead for eight months - drowned in a tragic sailing accident. But her legacy lives on, especially in the mind of Maxim de Winter's young and frightened second wife. Through her eyes we come to know Rebecca, from the tall and sloping R with which she signed her name, to the way she meticulously organized the magnificent annual costume ball that was attended by the whole countryside.

Du Maurier's tale is deeply moving, weaving together the lives of her superbly drawn characters to create an atmosphere that alternates between the doom of impending disaster and the ecstasy of an exquisite love story, and delving deeply into the inner working of the minds of men and women to create this unforgettable drama.

I have heard many great things about Du Maurier's Rebecca, all the reviews that I have read have been great. I think that I am suffering from a case of high expectations. I just felt that Rebecca was okay. Not a bad novel but not a great one either.

The writing was overall superb. I really had no problem with Du Maurier's writing style. The novel is done through first person. The female narrator goes unnamed, which allows for a little bit of mystery. I thought that the writing was very fluid. The author (or narrator in this case) was very good at giving just the right amount of detail. I was able to see the scenes that where describe in my mind, without her going into great detail.

The characters were okay. As stated before the main female character, our narrator, is never given a name. Non of the main characters ever say her first name and she never gives it to the reader. That leads to some interesting consequences. For me it lead me to give her a name, Margret. I don't know where that name came from but I could have swore that Du Maurier had mentioned it somewhere in the beginning. It also allows for her character to come out more. The other characters were interesting. Maxim de Winter was a mystery until almost a third of the way through the book. But most of the characters were, by the end of the book we find out how most of them all fit together. I can't say that anyone character stood out to me. I just wasn't able to connect to any of them.

I did not feel any of the suspense or mystery that I heard other readers talk about. I could see where parts of the story were going before it actually got there. The main mystery was not really a shock to me, not because I had already guessed it, but it fit into the overall story. I sort of found the whole story rather dull. I kept finding myself putting the book down and doing other things. Not picking it up for days later and not really excited to return to it.

Pros: Writing, Description
Cons: Sort of Boring

Overall Recommendation:
This isn't one of those books that I would go out of my way to recommend. If someone asked me about it I would say that it was "okay" but if someone asked me for a book recommendation this book would not be one of them.

Round The World Passage: England (5 out of 18)
Library Challenge (13 out of 25)
1% Well Read (4 out of 12)

Other Reviews:

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Finds: May 22

I always both love and hate doing Friday Finds hosted by Shouldbereading. I love it because it is one of the only times I allow items to be added to my TBR shelf. I hate it because I have to limit myself and be selective. It is hard to be selective when there are so many good books out there to read.
This Friday I bring you five finds from my google reader (some are rather old). All summaries are from Google Books.

The first two books are non-fiction and curtosey of Black Girl..... Lost in a Book

Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism by James W. Loewen

The explosive story of racial exclusion in the north, from the American Book Award-winning author of Lies My Teacher Told Me As American as apple pie: • Most suburbs in the United States were originally sundown towns. • As part of the deepening racism that
swept through the United States after 1890, town after town outside the traditional South became intentionally all-white, evicting their black populations with tactics that ranged from intimidation to outright violence. • From Myakka City, Florida, to Kennewick, Washington, the nation is dotted with thousands of all-white towns that are (or were until recently) all-white on purpose. Sundown towns can be found in almost every state. "Don't let the sun go down on you in this town." We equate these words with the Jim Crow South but, in a sweeping analysis of American residential patterns, award-winning and bestselling author James W. Loewen demonstrates that strict racial exclusion was the norm in American towns and villages from sea to shining sea for much of the twentieth century. Weaving history, personal narrative, and hard-nosed analysis, Loewen shows that the sundown town was—and is—an American institution with a powerful and disturbing history of its own, told here for the first time. In Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, sundown towns were created in waves of violence in the early decades of the twentieth century, and then maintained well into the contemporary era. Sundown Towns redraws the map of race relations, extending the lines of racial oppression through the backyard of millions of Americans—and lobbing an intellectual hand grenade into the debates over race and racism today.

Burried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America by Elliot Jaspin

"Leave now, or die!" From the heart of the Midwest to the Deep South, from the mountains of North Carolina to the Texas frontier, words like these have echoed through more than a century of American history. The call heralded not a tornado or a hurricane, but a very unnatural disaster--a manmade wave of racial cleansing that purged black populations from counties across the nation. We have long known about horrific episodes of lynching in the South, but the story of widespread racial cleansing--above and below the Mason-Dixon line--has remained almost entirely unknown. Time after time, in the period between Reconstruction and the 1920s, whites banded together to drive out the blacks in their midst. They burned and killed indiscriminately and drove thousands from their homes, sweeping entire counties clear of blacks to make them racially "pure." The expulsions were swift--in many cases, it took no more than twenty-four hours to eliminate an entire African-American population. Shockingly, these areas remain virtually all-white to this day. Based on nearly a decade of painstaking research in archives and census records, Buried in the Bitter Waters provides irrefutable evidence that racial cleansing occurred again and again on American soil, and fundamentally reshaped the geography of race. In this groundbreaking book, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Elliot Jaspin has rewritten American history as we know it. The Mob Formed a Skirmish Line Along The RailRoad Tracks about fifty yards from the Negro Quarter and began riddling homes with gunfire. But they soon ran out of ammunition, and they turned back towards the Armory on Walnut Street. There they rearmed, this time with army rifles. Theyreturned to the Negro Quarter, and this time some crossed the tracks and began setting homes on fire. There were fifteen people crammed into the basement of the Cobb's small wood-framed house. As they crouched in terror in the basement, they realized the only escape was to the south. They would have to run through the Negro Quarter, wade a stream called Clear Creek and then race up a small hill and into the tree line. It was a distance of about 400 yards over open ground. The light from the burning buildings would illuminate every step. But once they got to the woods they would be safe. They had no choice. they crawled up the stairs and one by one they burst out of the house and bolted towards the creek. Rifles cracked behind them, and they could hear the zip of bullets on either side. Some stumbled as they crossed the creek and lay there, too frightened to go farther. On the gentle rise above the town where the whites lived, people stood on the sidewalk watching the spectacle below. Later, one woman recalled that night. "We sat out on the walks all night until 3 o'clock in the morning watching the breaking in of the jail, the hanging, and the burning of the buildings. I couldn't keep from laughing at times at the strange things people did but all in all t'was a serious matter."

From She is Too Fond of Books
(two Finds)

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The book everyone is falling in love with . . .
In Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962, there are lines that are not crossed. Black maids raise the white children, but no one trusts them not to steal the silver. Black maids clean the toilets, but they have their own out back. Everyone stays within the lines. But, suddenly, three womenaAibileen, Minny, and Skeeterafind themselves tired of the lines.
Aibileen is a black maid, raising her seventeenth white child. She is a smart, regal woman, but a bitter seed has been planted in Aibileenas chest after the death of her son. Aibileenas best friend, Minny, is the sassiest woman in Mississippi, and goes through jobs like water. And Skeeter is just back from college, a white woman with a degree but, to her motheras chagrin, no ring on her finger. Too tall and too smart for her own good, she now discovers her beloved maid Constantine has disappeared without a trace.
Seemingly as different as can be, these women will come together for a clandestine project that will put all of them at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines. With the civil rights movement exploding all around them, Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter start a movement of their own, forever changing a town and the way womenablack and white, mothers and daughtersaview one another.

The Book of Night Women by Marlon James

From a young writer who radiates charisma and talent comes a sweeping, stylish historical novel of Jamaican slavery that can be compared only to Toni Morrisons Beloved. The Book of Night Womenis a sweeping, startling novela true tour de force of both voice and storytellingthat tells the story of a young slave woman on a sugar plantation in Jamaica at the turn of the nineteenth century, revealing a world and a culture that is both familiar and entirely new. Lilith is born into slavery, and even at her birth, the slave women around her recognize a dark power that theyand she will come to both revere and fear. The Night Women, as they call themselves, have long been conspiring to stage a slave revolt, and as Lilith comes of age they see her as the key to andas she reveals the extent of her power and begins to understand her own desires and feelingspotentially the weak link in their plans. Liliths story overflows with high drama and heartbreak, and life on the plantation is rife with dangerous secrets, unspoken jealousies, inhuman violence, and very human emotion between slave and master, between slave and overseer, and among the slaves themselves. Lilith finds herself at the heart of it all. And all of it told in one of the boldest literary voices to recently grace the pageand the secret of that voice is one of the books most suspenseful, satisfying mysteries. The real revelation of the bookthe secret to the stirring imagery and insistent proseis Marlon James himself, a young writer at once wholly in command of his craft and breathtakingly daring, spinning his magical web of humanity, race, and love, fully inhabiting the incredibly rich nineteenth-century Jamaican patois that rings with a distinctly contemporary energy.

Last but not least from Becky's Book Review
(I don't think this one has been published yet, all information from Westside Books)
Between Us Baxters by Bethany Hegedus

It’s hard to be a "Black Sheep Baxter," at least for 12-year-old Polly. From a poor white family, Polly’s best friend, Timbre Ann Biggs, is black, making them the only "salt-and-pepper" friends in town. Her mom keeps secrets, her dad turns to the "devil’s drink," and her rich, mean Meemaw makes Sunday dinners a chore. But in that fall of 1959, life in quiet Holcolm County starts to heat up. One by one, thriving colored businesses burn to the ground. When someone throws a note wrapped around a brick through the window of Biggs Repair, Polly worries that Timbre Ann will be blinded by the color of her skin and forget they were ever as close as Polly’s mom and Timbre Ann’s Aunt Henri have always been. When a tragic fire brings everything to a head, the spotlight falls on Polly’s family. Sensitively painting a vivid portrait of the Jim Crow South, Polly’s inspiring story captures the defiant spirit of youth in an oppressive small town, just as the seeds of the Civil Rights Movement begin to sprout.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Second First Time: Booking Through Thursday

What book would you love to be able to read again for the first time?

(Interestingly, I thought that I had thought this one up myself, but when I started scrolling through the Suggestions, found that Rebecca had suggested almost exactly this question a couple months ago. So, we both get credit!)

When I first read this question the book that popped into my heads was Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eyes". This book happens to be my all time favorite. I have read it a least three times and I normally am not a re-reader. I have a fear of read reading books because I think that I will not enjoy them as much as I did the first time (I feel the same way about movies). But I always enjoy "The Bluest Eyes" when I re-read it and still have the same intense emotional reaction.

But when I really thought about the question I decided that I would love to be able to read "The Outsiders" for the first time again. Why? because when I read it as a teenager, I had a huge crush on just about every actor in the movie. So, all the characters in the book in my mind looked like the characters in the movies. Not that that was a bad thing. But I think it made my enjoyment of the book so much better. I don't think that I will be able to get that feeling back because one because I am older now, and don't have the same crushes and two I haven't seen the movies in years. All I remember was the Patrick Sawyze looked hot in it. And the hair dying scene.

I do plan to re-read "The Outsiders" in the future and hopefully I will enjoy it the second time as much as I did the first.

Monday, May 18, 2009

When Chickenheads Come.... by Joan Morgan

Full Title: When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Pages: 239
Genre: Non-Fiction
Series: No
Publication Date: 1999

Synopsis (From Back Cover):
In this fresh, funky, and ferociously honest book, award-winning journalist Joan Morgan bravely probes the complex issues facing today's African-American women in a world where feminists often have not-so-clandestine affairs with the most sexist of men; "independent" women insist that men pick up the tab; and the ever-present baby mama drama reminds black women who long for marriage that traditional nuclear families are a reality for less than 40 percent of the African-American population.

I have had this book on my TBR list for a very longtime. I remember first coming across an article mention this book when doing a research paper for an African-American studies course. I have long since forgotten what the paper was about but I remember this book title. Maybe because it is such a catching title and used a term that I remember from growing up. That being said I had high hopes for this book. While I think the author deliver I did have some issues with it. There were many topics brought up in this book but I am only going to go into a few.

My first expectation was that this would a more academic type book. It wasn't, but it was not remedial in anyway. While I was reading I just kept picking up on how the author would switch back and forth between slang and academic language. At first I was annoyed. Then I realized that something about the authors writing was familiar. What was so familiar. Morgan wrote like I (and most of my friends) talk. It was interesting and sort of comforting. To see the play of words that are engraved in my speech patterns on paper. I have a college degree and consider my self educated. But I also grow up in an "urban" area. Have lived in the projects and went to public school, where the population was most people of color. So my speech pattern is influenced both by my college education and my upbringing. I, have fallen into the habit of mixing educated talk with street slang (and all my friends do it). It made the book, seem like I was "talking" to one of my girlfriends and it drew me in.

When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, is not so much about the chickenhead in all of us. But it is about black women (particularly educated, independent black women) who have grown up with hip-hop defining "feminism" for themselves. I personally would never call myself a feminist because it brings up an image of bra burning, hard line, mostly white women. It's a little to "aggressive for me. But I like what Morgan terms "hip-hop feminist". Here is an excerpt for a chapter that appealed to me.

Am I no longer down for the cause if I admit that while total gender equality is an interesting intellectual concept, it doesn't do a thing for me erotically? That, truth be told, men wit too many "feminist" sensibilities have never made my panties wet, at lest not like the reformed thug nigga who can make even the most chauvinistic of "wassup, baby" feel like a sweet, wet tongue darting in and out of your ear.
I agree with what she said in most of this chapter (titled Hip-Hop Feminist).

Morgan also brought up a topic that always confused me, Male Reproductive Rights, and she thinks like I think. Which is shocking because I don't think that either of us follow the mainstream ideology on this. Basically, what she states is that if a man makes it clear to a woman that he doesn't want to be a father (even if she is already pregnant) than he has the right to give up all responsibility for that child (emotional, financial, etc). Now there are some limits, for example within the first six months of the child's life or something like that. Now this is not a popular idea but if a woman can decided to have a baby on her own terms. Why can a man decided not to participate (within a reasonable amount of time)? If a woman says "I am pregnant" and he says "I don't want kids (now, never, or with you)" and the woman decides that adoption and abortion is not an option? Why should he be penalized for her decision. Yes, yes I know that they had sex and that's how babies are made. But is it really fair for to leave someones future in the hands of one persons?

Now what I did not like is that Morgan sort of put a lot of the blame for the state of black men on black women. She tries not to do that but it is what she does. In particularly she blames mothers for there sons actions. Now, to some degree I agree. But where is the personal responsibility? She gets into the whole "mother's raise their daughters but love their sons" argument. Which is true sometimes. But it negates personal responsibility and puts adult decision on the why a child is raised. If you get to twenty five years old and don't know how to open a door or act like an man than it is not entirely your mother's fault.

All together, it was a fast, entertaining, funny, insightful read. I am sorry that I waited so long.

Pros: Language, View Point, Issues Raised
Cons: Blame Game

Overall Recommendation:

I would highly recommend this book. I think that it gives plenty of insight in what some young black women are experiencing today (even though the book is almost 10 years old).


TBR Challenge (8 out of 12 Books)


If you have a review of this book or any other book reviewed on my site. Post a link to that review in the comment section so, I can link back to you.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
    Let the book fall open to a random page.
    Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
    You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
    Please avoid spoilers!
My Two Teasers (Warning Mild Profanity):
When It comes to romance, sistas need to eliminate the words "if only" from our vocabulary. What Dude will be in five years "if only" he got therapy, healed his relationship with his mother, stopped tricking bitches, eased up on his hustle, focused, or got over his commitment anxiety is really none of our business. page 150

Monday, May 11, 2009

Talking to the Dead by Helen Dunmore

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Pages: 300
Genre: Fiction
Series: No
Publication Date: 1996

Synopsis (From Inside Cover):
Nina and Isabel are the closest of sister, bound together since childhood by the devastating, sudden death of their baby brother. The two women have created very different lives for themselves. Dark, sensual Nina works as a London-based freelance photographer, and beautiful remote Isabel has married and retreated to country life. But when Isabel give birth to her first child, and Nina comes to help look after her, images from the hidden past rush back. The new baby is so like the brother who died in his crib twenty-five years before...

Against the backdrop of the hottest summer for a century, a drama of suspicion and betrayal unfolds. Bonds of love and shared history are stretched to the breaking point as Nina begins an illicit affair. Each sister claims to possess knowledge that could destroy the other. But who is lying and who is telling the truth? As the past becomes alive and dangerous, it forces Isabel to commit a shocking, transforming act.


I picked this book because I needed to read a book for my Round The World Challenge that took place in Ireland. The book that I originally picked, was a bust. So this was my second attempt to explore Ireland though a book.

Unfortunately this book was not as suspenseful and drama filled as the synopsis would have one believe. It was actually kind of flat. There were some interesting things happening in the story but Dunmore failed to make me really care. It was all rather boring.

The story is told through the first person perspective of Nina. Nina character could have been interesting but she failed to connect to me. I wanted her to be interesting and exciting but she was as boring as the drama and suspense that was promised.

Isabel is a little more interesting in the fact that the reader sees her through Nina's somewhat jaded eyes. But there seems to be so much more going on with her. Other than that she was boring also.

I really like to give somewhat in depth reviews but this was just bland. I was disappointed. The inside cover and title got me excited and didn't deliver.

Pros: Easy to read
Cons: Boring

Overall Recommendation:

Not worth the time.


Library Challenge (12 out of 25)
Round The World Passage (4 out of 18)

If you have a review of this book or any other book reviewed on my site. Post a link to that review in the comment section so, I can link back to you.

Mailbox Monday (05/11/2009)

Wow, its been over three months since I have done a Mailbox Monday. Normally, I don't get things in the mail. But for the second time in a row, I have won ARC books from LibraryThing.

This months book is The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips. Here is a brief synopsis of the novel (courtesy of Google Books): Witnessing what she believes to be the murder of an infant in a Depression-era Alabama mining town, nine-year-old Tess Moore and her civic-minded family subsequently struggle with the darker side of their racially torn community.

I will hopeful get time to read it before the summer is over. I have to catch up on my reading since I have done very little in the last two months. I am so far behind.