Kindred By Octavia Butler

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Kindred

Written By Octavia Butler

Published by Doubleday 1979 (hardcover)

Published by Beacon Press 1988 (paperback)

264 pages

Kindred is the story of Dana a writer living in California in the 1970’s with her husband Kevin. One day out of nowhere Dana is taken back in time to antebellum south where she encounters a young boy named Rufus who is drowning. Dana saves Rufus and we quickly find out that the two have a connection.  Dana is transported several times never knowing exactly how long she will stay but, it’s always when Rufus is in trouble. Time moves slower in the present than in the past, at one point Dana is stuck in the past for 8 months but, when she returns home it’s only been a few hours.  Rufus lives with his father and mother on their plantation where of course they own slaves. Through the course of time Dana meets and interacts with these slaves, comes to know some of them and, learns the connection some of them have to her life.

Kindred is billed as a science fiction book , Octavia Butler a science fiction writer. I have only read a handful of sci-fi in my life so I am no expert in how it’s “supposed” to be done.  All I know is, if this is how it’s done then I am all in. The time travel aspect of this book is never explained,we never find out the “science” part  of the science fiction but it doesn’t matter. Time travel is obviously important to the story but Dana, is the story. There are quite a few characters in the book but Dana and Rufus are what the story revolves around. Rufus is exactly what you would expect. The slave-owning son of a slave owner in antebellum south.  He is cruel, mean,and unreasonable but at times I found myself sympathizing with him. Then I hated myself a little of course. Dana is on my list of favorite characters ever. She is smart and strong yet vulnerable. Her reactions weren’t always what I wanted them to be but, given the circumstances they are the right ones. Dana learns quickly to curb her modern-day tendencies in order to survive even though it doesn’t always keep her out of trouble.

Butler doesn’t spare anyone’s feelings in this book she is raw and graphic. At time it’s difficult to read but also very necessary to the story. Nothing is all black or all white (pun intended). Everyone one is flawed and that’s what makes this book so good.  I found myself feeling bad for people I hated and getting angry with people I should feel bad for. This book was a roller-coaster of emotions and I loved it. I can’t wait to get my hands on more Octavia Butler.

Until Next Time

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Everything and Nothing The Dorothy Dandridge Tragedy

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Everything And Nothing The Dorothy Dandridge Tragedy

Written by Dorothy Dandridge and Earl Conrad

Published 1970 By Abelard-Schuman Limited

Dorothy Dandridge’s life story is the stuff Hollywood dreams–and nightmares. Completed shortly before her tragic death in 1965, Everything and Nothing recounts her rags-to-riches-to-rags story from her personal point of view. Dandridge recalls her humble beginnings in Depression-era Cleveland, Ohio, her rise to fame and success as the first African-American to receive a Best Actress Oscar nomination (for her role in Carmen Jones), the disappointments and pain of her childhood and family life, and her downward spiral into alcoholism and financial troubles, Everything and Nothing is a mesmerizing and harrowing journey through the life and times of one of Hollywood’s most unforgettable stars. Synopsis from Goodreads

  Ever since I saw the movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge starring Halle Berry I have been interested in the life of Dorothy. She is basically left out of the conversation about Hollywood starlets. We all know the usual ones so I don’t have to mention them but, I would wager that the average person doesn’t know Dorothy. Dorothy was born in Ohio the youngest of two girls to Ruby Dandridge a singer and performer. When Dorothy was three she began to sing and entertain with her sister. Eventually the girls would travel to churches and events all around and perform songs and skits that their mother wrote for them. Dorothy’s father was not in the picture when she was a little girl and, she only had a few encounters with her father as an adult.  While she was a young girl a woman who in the book is described as first a stranger to and, then a friend of her mothers entered their lives. This woman they called Auntie-Ma-ma would shape Dorothy’s life even after she left it. Dorothy married twice and had one child a daughter who was mentally handicapped. Dorothy was incredibly beautiful and incredibly talented and despite that she as never really happy. She spent the first part of her career singing in night clubs, saloons, and on television shows, later doing small roles in movies. Eventually she would land the movie Carmen Jones in 1954 for which she would receive an Oscar nomination for best actress. She was the first black woman to be nominated, but it would be 47 years before a Black woman would actually win that award.  After Carmen Jones Dorothy’s career would flounder largely due to a man she was involved with, and poor decisions. It would be only 11 years later when she would die of a prescription pill overdose. It is still in dispute whether it was accidental or suicide. At the very end of the book Dorothy says the theme of her life was “the man who wasn’t there” and that really sums it up. Despite her looks and her talent she was never happy.  She was pursued by numerous men usually white, but they never gave her what she really wanted which was marriage and respectability. She made terrible financial decisions and trusted the wrong people with her money. She would die broke  and nearly alone. At times I just wanted to shake her and say stop being so self-destructive but I realize she was a product of her circumstances. I imagine it was incredibly hard to be an actress in the 40’s and 50’s, but how much more so for a black woman?  This was a sad book and made even sadder by the fact that Dorothy doesn’t know the role she played in the history of black women actors. Overall it was fascinating and made me want to know even more about her.

Until Next Time.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Reviews:Beauty Queens and Night Swimming

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Beauty Queens

Written By Libba Bray
Format: Audio Book

Length: 10 CD’s 14 hours 37 minutes

Read by: Libba Bray

Published By:Scholastic Audio  May 24, 2011 (unabridged)

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.
What’s a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program – or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan – or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?
 Synopsis from Goodreads

Basically I LOVED this book. Now I have been hearing about this book for a while but it just didn’t appeal to me at first. It wasn’t until I heard  Rosianna or I loved listening to this book so much that halfway through I purchased a physical copy for myself. I knew that I would want to re-read this probably several times. The story and characters combined with Libba Bray’s amazing reading made this the best audio book I have ever listened to, and I have listened to tons of audiobooks.  Beauty Queens starts out full of action and fast paced, it slows down in the middle to develop some characters and then picks up the action at the end. I was never bored even when Libba was giving background on a character it was funny and engaging.  I love the writing style which if you are reading a physical copy may take some getting use to.

So I was all set to give a summary of this book but then I realized I couldn’t really do it justice. So instead I am going to direct you to a video on YouTube by one of my favorite book vloggers Sable Caught. She does and excellent job of telling you about the book without spoiling anything.  Click here to get all the awesomeness.

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Night Swimming’

Written By: Robin Schwarz

Format: Paperback  352 pages

Published: Warner Books (June 29.2004)

In the bestselling tradition of “Good in Bed,” and “She’s Come Undone,” comes a charming romantic comedy about a woman who flees a life and a body she doesn’t want, and finds love and her true self in the process. synopsis from goodreads

Charlotte is an overweight woman living a boring life in a small town in New Hampshire when she is told she only has a year to live.   Charlotte decides to quit her job, steal some money and move to L.A.   While living in L.A. she makes friends, falls in love and changes her name to Blossom. Blossom begins to swim at night (hence the name) and begins to lose weight.

The people in this book where kind of one-dimensional. Everyone is pretty transparent and you pretty much know what everyone is going to do before they do it. I can’t say anything in this book came as a surprise to me.  The story itself  was pretty predictable. Blossom starts out as kind of annoying, insecure, a bit needy but ends up quite the opposite. Most of the people she meets are likable even if they are transparent.  The one thing that really annoyed me was the way Blossom”s weight was handled.  The basic message  is that in order to be happy and fall in love you have to be thin. When Blossom was younger she was thin and then after a tragedy in her life she puts on weight. When the book begins she is described as very overweight. While she is in L.A. she begins swimming every night and eventually drops to at least a size 8 maybe smaller. Once she loses the weight she gets a makeover and BAM it’s all good. Somehow in spite of all of that I found myself kind of liking the book. It was very easy to see exactly where the story was going and where it was going to end up. Overall it was just OK.  After I finish a book by an author I’ve never read before, I ask myself  did this book make me want to read anything else by this author, and , the answer today is no. I didn’t hate this book but I’m not going to go looking for more by this author.

 

Book Review Molokai by Alan Brennert

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Moloka’i

Written by Alan Brennert

Published St. Martin’s Press; First Edition edition (October 21, 2003)

Moloka’i is the story of Rachel Kalama, growing up in Honolulu in the 1890’s, who at the age of 7 is taken from her family and sent to Kalaupapa, the isolated leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i. Goodreads

This was a complete cover and title buy. I knew I wanted it before I even read what it was about. I was hooked from page one of this book and it tore me up. The story starts with Rachel who lives with her parents sister and 2 brothers on the island of Oahu.  The story really gets going once Rachel is taken to the island of  Kalaupapa. We get to watch Rachel grow up in this environment that is completely foreign to her and  is basically set up as a place for these people to die. All round her people are in different stages of this horrible disease and most have essentially been abandoned by their family. Leprosy or the ma’i pake as they called it was something that would shame the entire family and so they would often cut off all contact from the person with it. Rachel is luckier than most because her father keeps in contact by letter and actually gets to visit a couple of times. The love Rachel’s father has for her is so clear and so beautiful. You can actually feel the pain he feels for his daughter.  Even though this island is set up for people to die Rachel get’s to live this rich full life.  We get to meet this group of wonderful characters that become Rachel’s friends and ultimately her family. The characters are the heart of the book but the story doesn’t suffer because of it.  This is one of the best book I have read this year and Rachel one of my favorite characters ever. I can’t attest to the historical accuracy of the book as I don’t know much about what actually happened. I don’t know if I would feel differently about then book if I knew more about the events. I took this book as a work of fiction and as such I loved it.

Until Next Time

Mini Review Time

So these are a few books I finished recently. Mini reviews will usually be reserved for books that don’t warrant their own review. They may be books I liked but don’t have enough to say about or,books that have been reviewed so much there isn’t anything left to say.

This week I have an exception to this in the first book. I have tons to say but I couldn’t seem to mix my thoughts with the review. So, I will be creating a discussion post on the book at a later time where I talk about how I feel and my personal experience with the subjects covered in the book.

Without further ado…

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Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What it means to be black now.

Written By: Toure

Audio Book edition Published by Dreamscape Media; Unabridged edition (September 13, 2011)

Read By Toure

Hardcover Edition Published by Atria Books; First Edition edition (September 13, 2011)

Journalist Touré turns his ear to 100 prominent black Americans to create a provocative look at the state of race in America .Goodreads

So i happened upon this book while browsing on my library’s website. It was available in audio format and since I am pretty familiar with Toure and I usually find what he has to say pretty interesting I checked it out. So post Blackness is basically black people deciding what it means to be black for themselves. The idea that you don’t have to speak or act in a certain way. The idea that liking a certain genre of music or disliking it wont take away your blackness. That you can grow up middle class or go to a really good school and do well and still be black. The crazy notion that not all black people think the same things or want the same things.  Toure picks the brains of the people he interviewed and get’s their insight and opinions about what post-blackness means to them. The stories he tells of their experiences are sometimes funny and sometimes painful but always really fascinating.  The most captivating part of this book had to do with Dave Chappelle. Even if you never watched The Chappelle show you probably saw or heard something about Dave’s “breakdown” and the subsequent end of his show. Toure really gives some insight into why that may have happened. Overall this was the kind of book that makes you think while simultaneously entertaining you. I don’t think you have to be black to enjoy this book and, if you aren’t it might give you something new to think about.

 

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A Vintage Affair

Written by: Isabel Wolff

Published by Bantam; 1 edition (June 29, 2010)

Do fairytale dresses bring fairytale endings? Every dress has a history, so does Phoebe! Phoebe always dreamt of opening her own vintage dress shop. She imagined every detail, from the Vivienne Westwood bustiers hanging next to satin gowns, to sequinned cupcake dresses adorning the walls. At the launch of Village Vintage, Phoebe feels the tingle of excitement as customers snap up the fairytale dresses. Her dream has come true, but a secret from her past is casting a shadow over her new venture. Then one day she meets Therese, an elderly Frenchwoman with a collection to sell, apart from one piece that she won’t part with ! As Therese tells the story of the little blue coat, Phoebe feels a profound connection with her own life, one that will help her heal the pain of her past and allow her to love again. Goodreads

This was all around a beautiful book. The book moves between modern-day London and WWII France. The back and forth is well done and well paced. There are 2 major story lines throughout the book the first is Phoebe’s the second is Therese Bell’s. Together the two women share their stories and deal with the grief and loss they have had in their lives. The backdrop of this story is fashion specifically vintage fashion. As someone who really loves vintage clothing  I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of Phoebe’s store and the clothing in it. I loved the writing style it was beautiful without being fluffy and the pacing was just perfect. Everything unfolded in just the right way and at just the right time. Ultimately this book is about family, friendship, love and forgiveness and I really loved it.

 

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Alias

A Secret Life (Alias Sequel #2)

Written by Laura Peyton Roberts

Published by Channel 4 Books (January 17, 2003)

It’s Sydney Bristow’s first mission–in Paris.
Her first alias.
Her first real enemy.
Her first real crush.
And her first big mistake.
There are a lot of firsts for Sydney.
But no second chances. Goodreads

This was a bit of a disappointment to read. Alias is my favorite TV show and I re-watch it all the time.  I rarely go more than a month with out watching it. Stands to reason that I would want to read these books. I read the first book in this series at the beginning of the year and I enjoyed it. I guess I had high expectations for this one and it did not live up to them. The problem with this book was Sydney I just didn’t like her. She was kind of whinny and pitiful which is so not Sydney Bristow. It is at the very beginning of her time at SD-6 so it would make sense that she wouldn’t be the strong Syd from the show but I feel like the author just didn’t understand her. She spends way to much time mooning over her partner. Come on even if he is cute a normal person isn’t going to be wondering if he liked her while you are literally running for your life. I did enjoy the fact that Noah Hicks is part of the book but, it was also a bit sad considering what happens with Noah in the show. There was more action in this book than there was in the first and that was a plus. I will be continuing on with the series because most of the books have different authors so the next person may do a better job. I don’t think this is the kind of book just anyone would want to read they are really for fans of the show.

Until Next Time

 

 

 

Book Review Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

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Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain

By Portia De Rossi

Published November 1, 2010 By Atria Books

325 pages (e-book edition)

Portia de Rossi weighed only 82 pounds when she collapsed on the set of the Hollywood film in which she was playing her first leading role. This should have been the culmination of all her years of hard work—first as a child model in Australia, then as a cast member of one of the hottest shows on American television. On the outside she was thin and blond, glamorous and successful. On the inside, she was literally dying.In this searing, unflinchingly honest book, Portia de Rossi captures the complex emotional truth of what it is like when food, weight, and body image take priority over every other human impulse or action. She recounts the elaborate rituals around eating that came to dominate hours of every day, from keeping her daily calorie intake below 300 to eating precisely measured amounts of food out of specific bowls and only with certain utensils. When this wasn’t enough, she resorted to purging and compulsive physical exercise, driving her body and spirit to the breaking point. synopsis from Goodreads

I am a huge fan of Portia De Rossi which is why I read this book.  She played one of my favorite characters on Alley McBeal I loved sub-zero Nelle. I remember watching in horror as she and several others on Alley McBeal became scary skinny. From my perspective this is when the obsession with female celebrities bodies exploded. Ahem thanks a lot David E. Kelly. It’s not like women haven’t always had to deal with being valued for the physical first but, Alley McBeal helped bring it to another level.

Initially I thought that this would be a sort of tell all about the show mixed with her struggle through anorexia and her relationship with Ellen. That isn’t exactly what I got. She does talk about the show and the fact that no one was very friendly or welcoming when she started. The thing that I found most fascinating was how nervous intimidated and scared she was to be on the show. There she was playing Sub-Zero Nelle a hard tough, confident woman and in real life she was more of a frightened little girl.  At no time does Portia blame the show for her anorexia. It is made abundantly clear that she had been dealing with bingeing, purging and disordered eating most of her life. The show was just another thing that contributed to her spiraling out of control. Most of the book however is about her actual anorexia and bulimia and the ways it which it manifested itself. She spends a lot of time sharing very specific stories detailing her  rituals, situations that occurred that made her feel like she had to binge or purge or over exercise. In this way it is much like other books I have read regarding disordered eating. Most eating disorders come with rituals that need to be performed before or after eating or exercising.  She also spends time discussing the fact that she knew she was a lesbian from a young age and what keeping that secret did to her. She had a few lesbian relationships but spent a lot of her time scared that she would be outed while on Alley McBeal. She shares the stories of telling her mom, brother, grandmother and extended family that she was gay. The fact that she was hiding who she really was and spent so much time being scared was something that contributed to her anorexia as well.  There were two things I really wished she would have added to the book. First  was more about her recovery. She speaks about it but not in detail and it is only really touched upon in the last chapter and the epilogue. Second was more Ellen. She does talk about their first meeting and shares a story about their wedding which was so beautiful.

Overall this was a good read.It was emotional and difficult at times but also uplifting.

On a side note I have started watching Arrested Development and OHMYGOD what took me so long. I freakin love this show. I am going to marathon it so I can be prepared to watch the new episodes that are on their way.

Until Next Time

The Warmth Of Other Suns By Isabel Wilkerson

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Written By Isabel Wilkerson

Published October 4th 2011 by Vintage

Read the synopsis at goodreads

I read this in eBook format and, about 15% into  it I realized I wasn’t going to be able to give a real review of this book. Not in the way that I have for other book. This book hit me in a way no other book ever has. It made me feel uncomfortable, angry, and so unbearably sad that I would have to put the book down for days.I am going to attempt to tell you why I am having such a hard time reviewing it but, I apologize in advance if it comes out poorly. Everything I know about my father’s side of the family my mother told me.  My paternal grandfather was born in Louisiana and moved to Littlefield Texas where he married my grandmother. Both of his parents died when he was very young and he wouldn’t make it past 6th grade.  My grandmother would have to drop out before she reached high school and, would give birth to her first child at age 14. They would both work as sharecroppers picking cotton while they raised their 17 children. She would be pregnant for the greater part of 2 decades. My father was number 14 and she would be back in the field picking cotton just 2 days after he was born. Eventually they headed west and in the late 60’s they ended up in New Mexico. I never realized that they were in fact part of the great migration. They may not have gone as far west as California or as far north as New York, or Detroit but they still got the heck out of dodge so to speak. The really sad thing is until last year I had a walking talking piece of history in my grandmother and I never bothered to ask her anything about her life . My grandfather died before I was born and I honestly know next to nothing about him. Up until now I was content with the few stories my mom would tell me.  Now that my grandmother is  dead I realize what I have lost.  I feel like I know what racism is, I sure don’t need a lesson on it. I have experienced racism first hand and, I have watched it happen to my father and friends but, I also know that what black people my grandmothers age faced doesn’t touch what I have seen. I’m not entirely sure I would have been able to handle what she may have told me but, I should have asked. I think that is the key reason why this book was so emotional for me. Nothing in this book was new to me but the way Wilkerson presented it made me feel it in a different way.

I agree with some of the other people who have said it was a bit long-winded but, it didn’t bother me and, I didn’t feel talked down to. There was a ton of information in this book and it was at times overwhelming but, I found that putting the book down for a day or so helped with that feeling.  I think people tend to forget that it wasn’t that long ago that it was perfectly ok to keep a black person from buying or renting a home, from entering a restaurant or getting a decent education, not to mention kill them. The correlations Wilkerson draws between treatment of blacks then and what’s going on today are so well done. In some ways we have come so far and in others we are as we ever were. Overall even though it was a difficult read it was well worth it and, I will likely read it again not soon but sometime in the future.

Until Next Time