Before I go any further, let me remind you all: I don’t review nonfiction on this site. I mention this on my review request page.
Yet, strangely, I get a lot requests to review biographies and memoirs. Don’t get me wrong, I do read bios, memoirs, books on public policy, books on social issues. As a matter of fact, I read them quite often. The reason why I avoid reviewing them here though is simple: I don’t like writing about nonfiction. Call it personal preference, being picky, whatever…but it’s important for me to keep this site enjoyable. The moment that I find myself taking on certain books and reviewing them out of obligation, habit, or a need to keep myself busy is the day that I probably should be shutting this site down, you know?
I don’t take money for reviews. I do this for the love of the written word. The bottom line is this: the books that you see reviewed here (even if I hated them) are books that I chose to review, upon my own free will. Book review requests that I receive in my inbox that I review here will always be books that I choose to review, upon my own free will. I wouldn’t want it any other way. A book author who writes their heart out in a labor of love wouldn’t want it any other way either.
Had to get that off my chest. Ya’ll carry on.
Review for “God Help the Child” by Toni Morrison (2015)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
“No matter how hard we try to ignore it, the mind always knows truth and wants clarity.”
It’s lines like the one above that leave no doubt that Toni Morrison is still the undisputed Queen of African American literature. Every single word she writes is intentional, and the beauty of the wisdom she imparts during her stories is the same feeling that you get when you’re sitting at the table with your grandmother in front of the best plate of soul food you’ve ever had. It took me a while to write this review because there is something about it that is not anything like any of her other books. It is short (less than 200 pages), with some sections were a bit too fast paced for my liking, hence the 4 stars. But there’s still a lot here. This is the story of Bride, a girl with “blue black” skin who is neglected by her lighter skinned mother as a child but manages to grow into a beautiful, successful businesswoman. Immediately I thought that this novel was in the same vein as “The Bluest Eye” (a masterpiece, btw), with its exploration of colorism in the black community, but surprisingly, that is not the main theme here. This novel is more about the psychological trauma of our pasts and ways in which it manifests itself in our adult lives. All of the characters in this book carry burdens, deep wounds that become detrimental to their lives and the people around them.
“Each will cling to a sad little story of hurt and sorrow– some long ago trouble and pain life dumped on their pure and innocent selves. And each one will rewrite that story forever, knowing the plot, guessing the theme, inventing its meaning and dismissing its origin. What a waste.”
I won’t give away this book (I never spoil books I like), so you’ll have to read it for yourself. I wish it had been longer, but this is still great writing here, as Toni Morrison is capable of nothing less.
Review for ‘Violent Ends’ by Shaun David Hutchinson, et al (2015)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
After I finished this book I spent about 10 minutes staring up at the ceiling, thinking: Wow.
This book takes a very unique narrative approach–it is a novel told in 17 different short stories, all centered around one terrible and tragic event, a school shooting. Each story is by a different author of YA literature, some of whose names I’m familiar with, but many of which I’ve not yet read. The stories are non-linear. Some take place over various periods before the shooting, some after, and some during the actual shooting.
The unifying thread throughout all of the stories is Kirby Matheson, the teenage shooter who kills a teacher, several of his classmates, and injures a dozen more before finally killing himself. Kirby never speaks to us directly, but the people connected to him do–friends, acquaintances, family members, his classmates–some that knew him intimately, some that didn’t know him at all. You never really get a sense of who Kirby was or why he did what he did, but the gaps in your understanding are precisely the point of this book. After such tragedies occur, we pause to wonder why seemingly “normal” people become violent. Was he bullied? Was he mentally ill? Were there signs? Did his parents know? “Violent Ends” offers no clear answers, just a picture of an American tragedy and the people left in its wake.
Be cautioned that all of the stories in this book are not created equal, however. Some were quite forgettable, but there were several standouts. “Grooming Habits” was sensational, as well as “Survival Instinct,””History Lessons,” and “Presumed Destroyed.” The authors of these stories I will most definitely be reading in the future, just because the writing was that damn good.
Read this book. Once you start it you won’t be able to put it down.
So I’ve decided to complicate my life here and start taking review requests. If you’re truly interested I’d encourage you to email first to discuss what your book is about, what stage of the publishing process it is in, and what kind of review you are looking for. When I read I take detailed notes and I usually begin writing the review right after I read it. I have no patience for underdeveloped characters and plot holes. Often times I find that when people give me something to critique they will claim that they want an “honest” opinion, but when detailed, constructive criticism is given, they don’t want it. Or the opposite scenario: they’ll listen to what you have to say and later on give you a published copy with the same questionable content still in there, flashing like a neon sign. Almost as if you wasted your time to begin with critiquing it in the first place. Personally I welcome all criticism if I ask for it; I would much rather a reviewer tell me what was wrong with my book before it went to print then have people post ridiculous things on Amazon.com about it, you know?
The details of my review policy are on the appropriate page.