The Underground Railroad – Review

the underground railroad coverThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – 4/ 5 stars

The Underground Railroad is a powerful and haunting tale of slavery and trying to escape it. Whitehead’s writing is vivid and transports one into another time period and another person. This is a book that will stay with me for years; not only the message, but also the feelings the book evoked as I lived Cora’s journey.

The story primarily focuses on Cora, a slave on a Georgia Plantation where she was born and raised. Cora is an outcast on the plantation and lives a somewhat lonely life. During a day of celebration, a new slave, Caesar, approaches Cora and asks if she will run away with him. He considers her a good luck charm since her mother successfully ran away. While Cora initially refuses, she eventually changes her mind and the two set out to find freedom through the underground railroad, which is an actual railroad underground. Their journey to freedom runs into many complications as they are pursued by a slave catcher. Yet, this is about more than a slave’s journey to freedom; it is a story about the entire system, including the various actors.

In The Underground Railroad, we get glimpses into other characters’ lives. There are several brief chapters throughout the book which tell the backstory of a character or reveal something else about a character. These chapters are incredibly well-written and I was incredibly impressed with how well each character was written. To my dismay, I found myself relating to and understanding white characters who were apart of slavery in some aspect. It blows my mind that Whitehead was able to accurately capture this characters and give them so much depth. But now that I am familiar with his writing, it does not surprise me. He is an amazing writer.

The Underground Railroad covers more than the story of Cora; it also shows the reader all sorts of other forms of oppression of black people: slave, freeborn, or freed. Through use of symbolism and reference to actual historical events, Whitehead makes it clear what obstacles black people had to overcome, not just during slavery, but in the years to follow emancipation. These pieces are what made this book so powerful and haunting for me. It gave me the sense of how desperate and horrendous the plight of the black person was. It deeply conveyed why many black people to not trust government institutions, politicians, or some white people in general. The atrocities white people have committed against black people, both during and long after slavery have left deep, deep wounds which often will not heal because in a certain way, not much has changed.

But Whitehead did more than capture the oppression of black people; he also captured the fear of the average white person. Violence begets violence and thus, white people brought much of the violence upon themselves, the average soul was ignorant to that. They failed to understand that stealing a people from a land would cause them to violently try to change the situation. Many of the white people were not actively apart of slavery and many of them had not witnessed the slave trade, which had been banned by the time this story takes place. Instead, for every black uprising, white fear grew, and they responded with more violence, which only led to more violent response. The stories white people told themselves about black people being violent criminals came true because of the actions of white people themselves or at least the system at large. Whitehead captures this and has the reader glimpse for a moment what it would feel like to be a white person during this time period. But this glimpse is short because in the end, while the fear may have been real, it was irrational and the people that deserve sympathy and understanding are ones horrible damaged and broken by this irrational fear.

There are some incredibly disturbing scenes in this book, often worse than what I had understood of the horrors of slavery. Many of these depictions will stay with me for a long time. There is much truth in them, which is why it is not possible to easily shake them. But surprisingly, this book was less challenging than I expected. For example, while there were references to rape, the details were not given. Even the most gruesome scenes were told with only as much detail as necessary. Also, the narrator was a bit detached from it all, making it easier to digest. But this detachment is also what costs this book a half star because due to that attachment, this book will not stay with me in the same way it could have otherwise.

In terms of plot, I did not find the inclusion of an actual underground railroad to add anything to the story, though I did not feel like it took away from the story either. The plot was good, but not as strong as I expected. While the writing is fantastic, it still does not seem to provide enough to give the plot a full life. I will certainly remember many scenes from this book and some will stay with me in vivid detail, the main plot will likely be lost on me in due time. That is disappointing for me and cost the point another half point. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what is missing, except to say that it likely goes back to the detachment. Yes, I wanted the best outcome for Cora and the other characters, but I was not moved to cry when they ran into serious obstacles nor did I feel compelled to keep reading their stories. I greatly enjoyed the book, the overall plot just was not that interesting. I am not sure I will read more of Colson Whitehead’s works. His writing is fantastic and his symbolism and short “stories” within the book are superb, but if his other books suffer from the same uninteresting plot, I am not sure I want to read them. Only time will tell. However, I do recommend people read this book as it truly does add another layer of understanding to what it was like to live as a black person in America during slavery.

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Little Queen – Review: ARC

the little queen coverThe Little Queen by Meia Geddes – 4/ 5 stars

The Little Queen is a beautiful children’s story about a girl who becomes a little queen upon the death of her parents. She does not want to be a little queen and sets out on an adventure to try to find someone who would like to be a little queen. Along the way, she meets many characters whose names define what they do, but it is rude in the kingdom to ask someone what they do. The explanation is one of my favorite lines:

“Asking what one did was like asking who they were, and that was too simple a question for a very complex answer.”

There are many other beautiful lines that convey much depth and insight. For example:

“‘You must pay attention to your obsessions, where life and love intersect…’”

“…in the early morning there came a sliver of time in which everything was a beginning, a rebirth of dreams.”

“Walking and writing and running are very purposeful activities, but living we just happen to do regardless, … But most of us cannot not live and live, at least that I know of, so maybe the next best thing is to ponder not living and then to live.”

The Little Queen is part adventure, part philosophy, and part a reminder of embracing who we are. This makes it a wonderful children’s book, while also being an engaging and thought-provoking book for adults. It reminded me a bit of the Fairlyland series which starts with The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making. I would love to see more of the little queen.

There is a bit of lesbian instalove, but it is sweet and enduring in a way which makes it not feel like instalove. But this book is not really about romance or this love – the love story is another small piece of a book which provides so much more to its readers.

It is a bit hard to describe this book without giving away much of the story and likely ruining the joy of discovering its beauty for oneself. It is a book everyone should read, young and old, as a fun, whimsical, thoughtful change of pace. It is a very quick read, with beautiful illustrations and language. You will not be disappointed if you read it. I cannot wait to see what else Meia Geddes writes.

I received this ebook free from Netgalley and publisher Poetose Press in exchange for an honest review.

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Considering reading it? Check out a free Kindle preview! Ready to buy? Purchase on Amazon or Book Depository. Please note that Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and Book Depository Affiliates Program, affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through Amazon.com and BookDepository.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

A Man Called Ove – Review

a man called ove cover.jpgA Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman – 4 / 5 stars

I’ve struggled to figure out what to say about this book. I’m a bit late to reading it, so it feels as though there is not much I can contribute beyond what has already been said. This is an honest, raw, incredibly well-written book that will touch you deeply and sneak inside your heart. The description does not do it justice, but it’s nearly impossible to put into words what transpires throughout this book. I will do no better than the official description, but will try anyway.

In some ways, this is a story about a grumpy old man and why he is grumpy. But it is more than that. This book does not preach or harp about how we all have reasons for the way we are, though the human connection of sadness, loss, and challenges is part of what makes this book so amazing. But it would not be a great story if it was outspoken about it; its beauty comes in its subtlety, the way it slowly builds to this deep, rich, and full life picture of a grumpy old man. Yet, that is not the full picture of this story. It is also about how much impact we have on those around us without even knowing it. It is story on the powers of community contrasted with the desire for control. There are many layers here and it goes far beyond a grumpy old man having to deal with new neighbors. In the end, it teaches us all a little bit about accepting everyone around us and accepting all the beauties life has to offer.

This story is very touching, but also a little bit too perfect. The book is initially a bit challenging to get into because there is so much grumpiness and so little understanding of all the characters involved. The writing style is perfect, but there’s use of language that is a bit unsettling. This is a moving and touching story, but not one that changed my life or I will carry deep in me for eternity. For these reasons, it is not a 5 star, favorite book rating. But it is a book I highly recommend to everyone. I doubt there is any type of reader who will not like this book. So stop waiting to read it and pick it up today!

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Considering reading it? Check out a free Kindle preview! Purchase on Amazon or Book Depository. Please note that Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and Book Depository Affiliates Program, affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through Amazon.com and BookDepository.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

The Hour of Daydreams – Review: ARC

the hour of daydreamsThe Hour of Daydreams by Renee Macalino Rutledge – 4/ 5 stars

I wouldn’t call magical realism my genre, but I also wouldn’t say I dislike it. I’ve read a few books with magical realism and some have been good and some have been terrible. When the phrase, magical realism comes up, I hesitate and think, oh I probably won’t like that. When I read the description for The Hour of Daydreams I was intrigued, but hesitated because of the magical aspect of the book. I am so glad I decided to read this book.

I would not characterize this book as magical realism. I would characterize it as lyrical and a story about people who believe in alternate realities. This story did not feel like the magical realism was forced upon it, but rather that these characters live with a beautiful way of understanding the world. I loved how The Hour of Daydreams transported me to this world and showed me how rich it is. I loved feeling the characters grapple with reality versus what they wanted to believe and I felt I understood why these stories arise. For me, this type of story is simply another way of storytelling and I love it.

This is a story of Tala, a woman who none of the characters fully know as she is an outsider to the community. Her husband sees her as a fallen angel while others envision other possibilities as to where she is now. Ultimately, as the story unfolds, we learn that Tala is a woman with a complicated and painful past and the people who love her cope with this knowledge through myths and half truths. These are beautiful myths and half truths, which no one fully believes, but yet they hold power.

The story is beautifully told and unfolds at a solid pace which kept me engaged throughout the book. The point of view changes, but in a seamless way. The ending provided enough resolution to leave me satisfied, but enough uncertainty to make this feel a bit like a fairy tale.

My biggest complaint is that I would have liked more. I wanted to know so much more about everyone, but especially Tala and Manolo. They were incredibly rich characters I wanted to know deep down to their souls. The amount I learned about the characters was satisfying, but I would have been even happier had this book been longer.

Even if you think you do not like magical realism, I recommend this book for you as it is not magical reality so much as the stories we tell ourselves to get through what can often be a cruel life. It is a beautiful book and one fans of literary fiction will enjoy. I encourage everyone to give it a try as it’s likely not like any other book you’ve read before. For me, that was a beautiful gift.

I received this ebook free from Netgalley and publisher Forest Avenue Press in exchange for an honest review.

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Considering reading it? Check out a free Kindle preview! Ready to buy? Purchase on Amazon or Book Depository. Please note that Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and Book Depository Affiliates Program, affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through Amazon.com and BookDepository.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

The Judgment of Richard Richter – Review: Kindle First

I am breaking my review schedule to post this review because it is the first Kindle First book I’ve greatly enjoyed and it is currently free to Prime members through the Kindle First program through the end of August (you do not need to own a Kindle reader, but do need the Kindle app). If you are not a Prime member, it is currently on sale for $1.99 through the end of August. I wanted to make sure you can snag it if you’re interested in reading it (I will NOT receive compensation if you decide to download it). I will not be reflecting on this book.

If you enjoy this review, can you please consider liking it on Goodreads and/ or marking it helpful on Amazon? It would help drive traffic to this blog. Thank you so much!

the judgment of richard richter coverThe Judgment of Richard Richter by Igo Štiks 4/ 5 stars

Trigger Warnings: Suicide (not graphically depicted); suicide ideation (discussed at length); wartime violence (not graphically depicted); incest (discussed at length; not graphically depicted)

While I enjoyed this book more than I expected, it is not a book for everyone. It is a work of true literary fiction, in the style of Dostoevsky and Joyce, with long descriptive sentences, which often contemplate on the ideas of fate, war, destiny, and identity. Long passages in the book debate and reflect on these ideas, without really moving the plot forward. This style of writing can be boring to some, laborious to others, and enjoyable to readers like me.

The Judgment of Richard Richter is written in the first person with Richard Richter narrating and writing a personal memoir, thus going back and forth between his writing of the memoir and the actual story he is writing the memoir about, sometimes without clear transitions signaling the change in timeline. Richter is a writer who upon separating from his wife, moves back in with the aunt who raised him. It is here where Richter finds the information that upends the truth of his life and sends him searching for answers. To say much more would give away large sections of the plot.

In Richter’s search, there are plot points which become obvious before they are related to the reader and then other plot points which come as a surprise. Much of what is obvious is meant to be so as Richter himself greatly alludes to how certain parts of his story play out. This is connected to the theme of fate, as though it was inevitable for certain things to happen, and in the present, he laments on the cruelty of fate. These lamentations are often melodramatic and highlight Richter’s cynical nature. This follows the writing style of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, two of several authors whom Richter references in his writings and calls them friends.

The story unfolds slowly, spending time building up all the necessary pieces and giving enough depth to the main characters to make the reader more invested in their story. The tone throughout the book is foreboding and suggests there will not be a happy ending. Richter makes that clear as he sits in Vienna writing down the events which recently transpired. Yet, the story is not sad, it simply feels inevitable, and thus, one walks away with more satisfaction from having learned all the details than with sadness for all which has transpired.

This writing style is not for everyone as in addition to the long descriptive sentences and passages, Štiks makes uses of literary references and other languages. There are several specific references to several specific books and if one has not read those stories, it can be a bit challenging to understand the deeper symbolism, but one can still understand the plot. These references can at times be lengthy and used as explanation for what is happening in the scene. The story also makes use of many different languages including French, German, Bosnian, and Spanish and these phrases are only rarely translated. There are also times when one is not quite able to garner their meaning from the context. Richter argues that Simon’s use of all these languages mixed in with his English makes his speech richer. While for the most part, the use of untranslated language did add to the book, there were a few times it was frustrating and partly detracted from the book.

As one can garner from the trigger warnings, this subject matter is not for everyone. The theme of suicide and incest are throughout the book, making it advisable to pass on this book if discussions of such topics are triggering for you. The book is not graphic in its depictions of any potentially triggering scene, but the sheer length and depth of discussion around particularly incest could potentially be as triggering as graphic depiction. The theme of suicide is throughout the book, but it is not discussed to the same length or depth as incest is. In addition to the discussion of incest itself, there are several references to Oedipus Rex by Sophocles and Max Frish’s Homo Faber.

I found this to be a beautifully written book contemplating fate through a slowly developing story, but one of my favorite novels is Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky. I found the long contemplation on various concepts to be engaging, but I enjoy deep, intellectual conversations and reflections. I enjoyed the long sentences and long passages with descriptive, overly written language, though I appreciated that it was more accessible than Dostoevsky and Joyce. I did not mind that the book was long and that there was not much in the way of plot. This is the style of book I am looking for when it is labeled literary fiction and I am so glad this book satisfied. A decent number of books today do not live up to the literary fiction labels, but this one does.

I received this book free through the Kindle First program, though this did not affect the honesty of this review.

Sovereign (Nemesis #2) – Review: ARC

sovereignSovereign (Nemesis #2) by April Daniels – 4/ 5 stars

This book delivered! If you read my reflection last Wednesday, you know I was worried Sovereign would not keep me engaged, with my not liking superhero books and all. The book started slow for me and I had a hard time getting into as I wasn’t interested in the superhero conference or some of the other events early in the book, but as the book progressed, it hit on some tough issues in the same fun way Dreadnought tackled other issues.

Sovereign is the second book in the Nemesis series. It picks up several months after Dreadnought, which is nice as that book ended with a decent amount of chaos and I was happy the first part of Sovereign didn’t try to resolve all of it. Instead, much of it has been resolved in the months between the two books. Instead, the book starts with a superhero conference and an introduction to a few new characters, including Kinetiq, a nonbinary Iranian-American superhero, and Cecilia, Dreadnought’s publicist and lawyer. It was nice to have new characters, though I would have liked Kinetiq be more developed and play a greater role in the novel.

We see a different side of Danny as she has come into her new role and it’s a side I had a hard time reading, but it’s also a point of growth and I welcomed the honesty and vulnerability of that side of Danny. This book surprised me with its depth, particularly because in the beginning it did not feel like there was going to be much depth. For me, the build up to the heart of the story was slow, but once I ended up there, it was action packed and full of incredible depth. I’m incredibly excited to see where the next book in the series takes us.

I could talk about this book forever, and I certainly have to anyone who has decided to ask me what I am reading, but I do not want to give away too much of the plot and ruin Dreadnought for those of you who have not yet read the first book in the series. Know that this book is still on the cutting edge of diversity and intersectionality and that everything from book one is wrapped up by the end of this book.

My biggest complaint with this book, besides how slow the beginning is, is one particular aspect of how the book ended. Danny and Doc make a unilateral decision about something that ideally should be left up to a much broader public and do so by essentially stealing control over a system. Maybe this makes sense in the context of the world of superheroes, at least the gaining control over supervillain property, but it was not explained as such. Assuming that the collateral gain is standard for superheroes, I was still greatly bothered by the unilateral decision and greatly worry about the consequences said decision will have on the future of the world. But, to be fair, it also makes me want to read the next book in the series to learn whether I am correct in my apprehension about this decision.

Again, like Dreadnought this story has more than just superhero action scenes, making it a wonderful book for anyone who enjoys significant character development and insight. Like Dreadnought, this book caused me to look within myself and reflect on myself as well as caused me to look outside myself and reflect on the world around me. I am still amazed at how incredible April Daniels is as a writer and I expect great things from her in the future. I strongly encourage everyone to give this series a shot as you will not be disappointed. We need more writing like this, so please, support this writer!

I received this ebook free from Netgalley and publisher Diversion Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

 

Considering reading it? Check out a free Kindle preview! Please note that Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through Amazon.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

Dreadnought (Nemisis #1) – Review

Dreadnought CoverDreadnought (Nemisis #1) by April Daniels – 4/ 5 stars

April Daniels’s debut novel transports the reader into the life of a transgender teenager with incredible depth and humanity. If you have ever wondered what it is like to be a transgender teen, you need to read this book.

Danny (aka Daniel/ Danielle) is a transgender teen hiding her identity when a superhero dies right in front of her. As he is dying, he, Dreadnought, hands over his powers to Danny. When she receives the powers, she is transformed from an anatomical male to a female. Suffice it to say that this transformation causes all sorts of issues and the rest of the book is spent trying to address these issues.

The heart of this book is how Danny deals with her body transformation as well has how others react to her. There are some reactions that are hard to stomach, but very true to life. Here is where I really gained the insight into what it is to live in a transgender body and interact with the world. It is a constant challenge and struggle. But there are other struggles as well, like sexism and adjusting to powers. Watching Danny deal with these challenges are what made this book so hard for me to put down.

Which leads to an important point – I normally dislike the superhero genre. I was not excited by the superhero battles nor am I a fan girl, though Danny is. I deeply enjoyed this book because it was about so much more than superheroes. It is about the struggles of finding oneself and overcoming challenging circumstances. The superhero idea is simply a vehicle to share that experience and I loved every minute of it.

Well, maybe not every minute because there are some challenging topics in this book. Trigger warnings are necessary for verbal and emotional abuse (by others and towards herself), hate speech, and violence. For a book about a transgender person, there is little mention of body dysmorphia, which is likely because Danny is only in the male body for the first several pages, thus no trigger warning. There are other brief teenage situations which could be triggering, such as around eating disorders. But for the most part, the hardest part of this book to read is the abuse and hate speech and it is entirely because those moments are so authentic. This is an #ownvoices story and those moments are not sugar-coated, which is exactly how they need to be presented.

Overall, this was a fantastic book I recommend to superhero lovers as well as people who love to be transported into someone else’s life. But please do heed the trigger warnings as those moments can be pretty intense. I appreciated that other characters, including superheros were diverse, though race was a minor theme of the book. My biggest complaint with the book was the ending. It seemed like a typical superhero ending with several unbelievable moments. It wraps up well enough that it can stand alone without having to read the next in the series. But I will read the next book as I am curious to see how Danny comes into her own.

Considering reading it? Check out a free Kindle preview! Please note that Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through Amazon.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.