The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap by Mehrsa Baradaran
Rating: 5/5 stars
#52Challenge prompt: a book recommended by a friend
The Color of Money should be required reading. Certainly, for anyone in economics, social justice, or who really wants to understand the mechanisms of money in America, particularly for black Americans. Often we forget — especially those of us born in the “colorblind” 1980s and 90s — that the United States is a young country. Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction (and its failure) aren’t ancient history. Jim Crow and the 1960s Civil Rights movement were basically yesterday. And that all those things have lead to mass incarceration, extreme poverty, and broken economic systems of today.
What Baradaran’s book does is connect all these things together through money and formalizing of banking. Though the advent of the American economy — slavery — through how the economy operates up to the recent Recession. She breaks down assumptions and failed methods (both ones with good intentions and bad intentions) to build black wealth with cold, hard facts.
The Color of Money lays out how trickle-down economics has worked for no one, especially those at the bottom. Continue reading “The Color of Money Is a Must-Read — a Book Review”
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
Rating: 1/5 stars
#52Challenge prompt: a book that challenges your viewpoint
Don’t waste your time reading this book. Watch Sinek’s TED talk on this instead; it covers everything you need to know. Start with Why is the talk stretched from 18 minutes to 256 pages, and wow, Sinek doesn’t have anything new to add.
I will up front admit that I only read part of this. Life’s too short for bad books, and I subscribe to the Nancy Pearl method of when to put down a bad book. Take your age subtract it from 100, and give the read that many pages. I’m at 66 pages, but I cannot remember how far I got into this book before skimming ahead to see if it got any better. (Okay, Pearl says to wait until you are 50 to do this, but given the current world, life seems short for any of us.)
I don’t entirely blame Sinek for the book’s horribleness. Continue reading “Not Enough in Start with Why — a Book Review”
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Rating: 5/5 stars
#52Challenge prompt: the first book in a trilogy
Note: Attempting a spoiler free review here.
Sci-fi and fantasy are both genres that sometimes blend together in ways that I’m unsure what to call a book. Binti is that way. Though perhaps Binti is sci-fi with a mix of magical realism. Magical realism for an invented world, invented peoples, and magical realism because racism never made the people of this universe think beyond a tradition.
I used to read quickly, especially when I was still in school. My partner handed me a Kindle — which I don’t usually read on, preferring like lots of folks paper — and told me Binti would take me 30 minutes to finish. The Kindle clocks you. It took me slightly over twice as long to read Binti. Continue reading “Taking My Time with Binti — a Book Review”
Alpha by Greg Rucka
Rating: 2/5 stars
#52Challenge prompt: an adventure/espionage novel
My initial impression: Rucka went on a vacation to Disneyland, got disgusted by the ridiculous capitalism, and wrote a book about terrorism in “WilsonVille,” a Disneyland-like place by a Disney-like company. I will admit this didn’t put me on the right foot with Alpha. I greatly enjoy going to Disneyland.*
However, Rucka is not wrong in that theme park terrorist attack would be eye capturing and make for a good thriller setting. Many other reviewers referred to Alpha as “Die Hard, but in Disneyland.” Which is why I won’t be talking too much about its plot details. And warning, Alpha is set up to flow into a sequel.
Rucka plays to many of his strengths here with precise detailing and his incredible knowledge of the workings of the military, intelligence organizations, terrorist cells, and weapons. He gives credit in the back for a park map drawn to assist his writing, but not shared in my paperback version.
So, why the 2 stars? (And yes, my rating isn’t about Disney.) Continue reading “What’s in a Lady?: Review for Rucka’s Alpha #52Challenge”
Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler
Rating: 4/5 stars
#52Challenge prompt: a sci-fi novel
This wasn’t what I expected. Of course, I can say that of most any Butler book I’ve read so far. Wild Seed is both the first and the last book in her Patternist series. It’s chronologically first in the universe and set between the 1600s and the 1800s, and it’s chronologically in Bulter’s real world publishing, the final book she wrote for it.
Having read a couple of Butler’s later and more famous books, it’s interesting to see how she evolves as a writer. She plays with themes around freedom, slavery, genocide, genetic manipulation, and gender, but they don’t stand as deep meditations on them like the later books. I appreciate being able to see how Bulter grew as a writer.
The biggest theme here is freedom and slavery. While Wild Seed is set against the backdrop of the very real African slave trade — both on the African continent and then in pre-Civil War America — Anyanwu seeks freedom from Doro, who becomes both her master/husband and her only companion. Continue reading “It’s a Trap: Review for Wild Seed #52Challenge”
Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain
Rating: 5/5 stars
#52Challenge prompt: a mystery novel
Chelsea Cain’s Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell novels are perfectly dark and twisty. Evil at Heart (#3) is no exception to this rule. In fact, this book may be the grossest and most over-the-top yet. Which is truly saying something.
This series follows Archie, an FBI detective who specializes in catching serial killers, and Gretchen, the first serial killer Archie caught. Spoilers: book three sees Gretchen on-the-run, having escaped prison in the previous novel, but still with her promise to Archie not to kill anyone.
Evil at Heart literally starts at a rest area on Oregon’s I-84 highway — pretty sure I’ve peed there — featuring a toilet clogged with a spleen (a Gretchen favorite), eight human eyeballs, and hearts drawn on the walls (usually Gretchen carves hearts in her victims’ chests). I was glad I hadn’t eaten anything. Continue reading “Eyeballs in an I-84 Toilet: Evil at Heart #52Challenge”
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Rating: 4/5 stars
#52Challenge prompt: A novel that is considered classic
Virginia Woolf, where do we start? This is the third Woolf novel I’ve read. I place it in the middle, having adored Mrs. Dalloway and having struggled to read To the Lighthouse. Orlando is funny in ways those other books are not. It also features avenues of fantasy — namely Orlando’s ability to change genders at will and their extraordinary long life — that Woolf’s hyperrealistic other work doesn’t dare venture into.
(Arguably, Woolf wrote this for her girlfriend, Vita Sackville-West, and speculation is that she didn’t mean to have it published to the world. Woolf like realistic books. Orlando is not one.)
For the purpose of this review, if Orlando’s gender is specific, I will use those pronouns, and if unspecific, I will use “they.” Continue reading “Gender Theory before Gender Theory: Woolf’s Orlando #52Challenge”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Rating: 3/5 stars
Prompt: A childhood favorite #52Challenge
This was perhaps a bit of cheat when it comes to nature of the challenge. I’m not one to go back and reread books at the moment. (I have reread my three favorite childhood books as an adult.) Instead, I picked a book that I wanted to read, which I’d never read the proper version of. Of course, I’ve watched Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, the animated children’s movie from 1952, and read books based on that telling.
Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland reads like a surrealist novel for children. Or the beginnings of what would become fantastical surrealism. Carroll definitely foreshadows future literary techniques, but I’m still a little puzzled over Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’s continuing popularity, and I’d bet Disney has helped with that. Disney is certainly why I read it. Continue reading “A Cat Lady Named Alice in Wonderland: Book Review”
The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
Rating: 4/5 stars
The Price of Salt asks a lot of questions:
- What does lesbian romance look like?
- Are there happy endings for queer relationships?
- Do adult women still have romantic attraction to each other?
- How do you know you’re attracted or in love with someone?
- Can you be a grown up and queer?
- Does romantic love formed before growing up or major life events continue after them? Or do we change so much to make it unstable?
- Can femme and femme romance be a thing? Or do queer relationships need to mirror heteronormative gender roles?
Continue reading “The questions of lesbian romance in The Price of Salt”
The 2017 Goodreads clock-in is 119 books. I’m continuing on my quest to read more books from diverse authors and books on my shelves. Though I also needed comfort books, which also meant I finished up some series I’ve been enjoying or leaned on authors who I knew would deliver stories (or had a higher likelihood to do so).
By the numbers — 76 (+9% compared to 2016) were written by women, 54 (+4%) drawn by women, 45 (+16%) written or drawn by people of color, and 28 (+5%) written or drawn by queer people. (The latter two categories may be slightly off.) 19 had been sitting on my shelves for at least one year, which is not a stellar number.
I’d like to say for 2018, I’d like to read more prose. However, I also want to clean off my comics to-read pile, meaning those two goals are at odds with each other.
Here are the books I highly recommend and rated 5/5 stars:
Genre: crime, serial killer, thriller
Recommended for: those who enjoy the PNW rain, the twisty inside
Holy crap, this book was great. I’d wanted to read more of Cain’s writing since her Mockingbird comic, and this didn’t disappoint. The plot features a Portland-based FBI detective who hunts serial killers. The case he’s working on features dead high school girls. But you also find out that the last serial killer he tracked and how he was captured by her and continues to visit her in prison. It gets twisted in the best ways. Continue reading “Books I Read in 2017 & Think You Should Read in 2018”