January Book Reviews

January 29, 2021

What a January!!! I read so many good books this month. I have already reviewed Aftershocks, The Rib King and Disposession and they were all magnificent. The rest of my January reads took me through every emotion possible and had me on a roller coaster all month long!

Sugar by Bernice McFadden was a book that I kept seeing on Instagram. One of my favorite bookstagrammers highly recommended it so I put it at the top of my January #tbr list. And boy am I glad I did! Sugar Lacey is a prostitute who has had her share of hard times. She moved to a sleepy, southern town in Arkansas called Bigelow. Sugar has been running from her past for a long time and hopes to find some peace there. She moves next door to an older woman named Pearl. Pearl lost her daughter, Jude, fifteen years ago and Pearl has never recovered from her loss. Pearl was withdrawn, but something drew her to Sugar. Through their unlikely friendship, the two women learn about themselves, love, loss, forgiveness and redemption.

Reading Sugar gave me Their Eyes Were Watching God and Sula vibes. It’s the story of two broken women whose friendship is odd, but necessary. The way Bernice McFadden writes is vivid and honest. She perfectly captured a southern town, with its gossiping residents, righteous Christians, and racial undertones. The story is tragic, dramatic and downright scandalous at times. I enjoyed every single minute of it. I give this one five stars and I am trying to figure out when I will read the next Bernice McFadden book! Check this one out. You will not be disappointed.

Every January I try to read at least one inspirational book. This year, thanks to NetGalley, I read Permission to Dream by Christopher Gardner. You may already know some of Christopher Gardner’s story. He is the the “pursuit of happyness” guy. Remember that movie with Will Smith? This book is self-helpish and a memoir. It takes place on a cold winter day in Chicago when Chris took his nine year old granddaughter on a trip to purchase a harmonica that she has been wanting. The trip turns into a whole adventure with his granddaughter, Brooke, asking interesting questions along the way. Around this time, Chris is also grieving the loss of his longtime girlfriend, who died of cancer. Before dying, she asked Chris what he was going to do with the time he had left on Earth. That question haunts him but also encourages him to give himself permission dream – or to re-claim permission to dream. The moral of the story is that it’s never too late. If there’s a dream you used to dream, but gave up for whatever reason, it’s not too late. Give yourself the permission to dream and do.

I liked (not loved) this book. It was slow at times, but the message was on point. Dreams can slip away so fast and sometimes it’s because we let them. It was a reminder to me to hold fast to dreams.

It is a waste of time to be fixated on time. Often time can be bleak, dahling, so why choose to live in it? Life is about the moments we create and remember. My memory is a sacred place, one of the few things that belong entirely to me. This memoir is a collection of the moments that matter, the moments that most accurately tell the story of who I am, according to me.

Mariah Carey

I wasn’t going to read this one, but the bookstagram peer pressure was strong and I gave in…and I am glad I did. The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey far exceeded my expectations. I used to be a big Mariah fan, but lost touch with her music years ago. With that said, I really can’t speak to what may or may not have been missing. What I do know is that once I started listening (via Audible) I could not stop. Mariah narrates her memoir and it is sprinkled with her singing, laughing, crying and imitating some of the greats (which I really loved). In fact, I had to rewind a few times when she was imitating Aretha because it was highly entertaining, dahling.

This memoir is divided into 4 parts and goes back and forth in time. There are stories from every point in her life, with extreme highs and equally extreme lows. Mariah has been through some things! She talks about her struggle as a biracial child (and woman), her chaotic childhood, her toxic family, her mistakes, the meaning of many of her lyrics, an abusive marriage, the legends (like Prince, Whitney, Diana, Aretha) and her fight to remain sane in the music industry. Chile…I was all in. Grab this one on Audible. I think this book is like Becoming. You just have to listen to this one. Trust me.

“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”

from ‘The Mothers’ by Brit Bennett

The Mothers by Brit Bennett had me all in my feelings. Secrets. Small ones. Big ones. They all matter. And they all have consequences. This story was interesting because it goes back and forth between the mothers of the church telling the story how they see it (from afar and with a healthy dose of church gossip mixed in) and what is actually happening to the characters.

In a California town, where The Upper Room is the characters’ center, we meet Nadia, Aubrey and Luke. Nadia’s mother has committed suicide, leaving her to grieve and manage her confusion alone. Although she still has a father, he is grieving too and they are not able to help each other. As a result, Nadia becomes a rebel. Her lack of caring leads her to a relationship with the pastor’s son Luke Sheppard. Luke is 21, Nadia is 17, but this doesn’t stop either of them. Luke is the poster boy for a dream deferred. He was a college football player who had a bright future until an unfortunate injury. Now he waits tables at restaurant and lives an empty life. These two, with all of their emptiness hook up and eventually, Nadia becomes pregnant. Thinking that she was a mistake to her parents, and knowing that she cannot possibly bring a baby into the world, she decides to end the pregnancy. Luke provides the money, Nadia goes on with her life, but the secret and Lukes’ parents’ attempt to hide it eventually catches up with them. Nadia has a best friend named Aubrey. Aubrey is also dealing with brokenness and grief and the two find comfort in each other. Nadia leaves home to attend school in Michigan and tries her best to erase her past. But while she’s gone, her best friend and her ex-boyfriend start a relationship of their own. Aubrey doesn’t know about the days when Luke and Nadia were a couple. Or what happened when they were. Unforseen circumstances bring Nadia back home, where she has to face it all and reckon with the past. The secret has caused lots of pain and Nadia, Luke and Aubrey have to bear it all.

Y’all. Get this book. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.

The long awaited sequel to The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah will be released soon. In anticipation, I launched a buddy read for The Coldest Winter Ever so that we can be fully caught up and ready to see what Winter Santiaga has been up to.

Winter Santiaga is the spoiled and entitled teenaged daughter of the most notorious drug dealer in Brooklyn, Ricky Santiaga. Her father has given her the best life that fast money can buy, but when he moves the family out of Brooklyn to a mansion in Long Island, it all falls apart. Once he is busted for all of his crimes, it’s on Winter to make her own way. If you’re like me, you read this book when you were a youngin’ and thought you know everything about everything. Reading this book as a parent has me stressed out! Winter is doing way too much and not enough. I want to strangle her, her parents, her friends. EVERY DAYUM BODY. But one thing is certain, twenty-two years later, this book is still a page turner. Grab it, read along with me (on IG and/or FB) and clutch your pearls. Winter will take you on a crazy ride!

If you love historical fiction, The Yellow Wife by Sadequa Johnson is the book you need to read. This was another IG peer pressure read, but my favorite fellow bookstagrammers never steer me wrong. I am a history lover, but I am usually not really into historical fiction. The Yellow Wife made me change my mind. The story is inspired by “the Devil’s half acre”, which was a holding facility and slave jail in Richmond, Virginia. 

Pheby Delores Brown is the daughter of a slave master and an enslaved woman. She has been protected her whole life because she is the master’s child. Her father promised that he would send her to school in Massachusetts once she turned 18. She was taught to read, write and play the piano by her aunt. In comparison to the other enslaved people, she has lived a sheltered life. As is almost always the case, the master’s wife doesn’t care for her husband’s slave child. Once the mistress of the plantation has an opportunity, she sells Pheby – on the day of Pheby’s mother’s funeral no less. And to make sure Pheby suffers as much as possible, she makes sure that Pheby’s next destination is “the devil’s half acre.”

Once arriving at the infamous jail, the owner of the jail, Ruben Lapier, takes interest in her and purchases her himself. He has plans for her to be his wife and “mistress of the jail.” Pheby soon finds out why it’s called “the devil’s half-acre” and who the devil is. She has the master’s four children and she receives benefits because she is his mistress and mother of his children but he also reminds her that he IS her master and she should act accordingly. She becomes an integral part of the jail business and finds ways to use the little status that she does have to protect her children. She endures an unimaginable amount of pain, loss, and abuse. But, she always remembers her mother’s words and refuses to crumble. She will remain strong, adapt to her ever changing circumstances and survive. She does what many women before her had to do, and focuses on freedom for her children, rather than herself.

This just isn’t another “slave story.” This story focuses on the humanity of those, and especially the women, who endured the horrid evil institution of slavery. It reminded me of the tv series, “Underground.” Because slavery is front and center, it may be a difficult read for some, but I fell in love with Pheby Deloris Brown and her quest. It was like a whole soap opera. There are some books that totally change you. I love it when I read the final page of a novel, and feel a slight shift. This book is one that will stay with me for a long time, and possibly forever. Run and get this book. Now.

If you’d like to purchase any of these books, please consider using my affiliate link. I have partnered with Bookshop. Bookshop supports independent bookstores. Here’s the link to my bookstore.

What are you reading? Have read any of these?

Until next month…happy reading!

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