Book Babble || Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Published 2018 by Saga Press
285 pages
ISBN: 978-1-5344-1350-4

This is San Francisco Public Library’s On The Same Page book for January/February. One of my unofficial reading goals for this year is to read every OTSP book for 2019.

Synopsis

via Goodreads
While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.
Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine. Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.
As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.
Welcome to the Sixth World.

Rating
★★★★☆

Thoughts

It’s taken me a while since reading this book to formulate my thoughts about it. On one hand, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the slow world-building, the character development, and the majority of Roanhorse’s writing style, occasionally the story read a little bit too YAish for me. I loved the emergence of the magic system and how Roanhorse draws lines between tradition and mythology. It’s beautifully done.

One of my favorite things is how realistic Maggie is as a character. Roanhorse inserts you inside Maggie’s mind and her thoughts, emotions, and actions are all things that match what she’s been through. I don’t want to give too much away, but I do want to give Roanhorse major props for showcasing the aftermath of subtle emotional abuse and survivor guilt. Maggie goes through an incredibly traumatic event when she’s sixteen and that’s how her powers awaken. It’s at the moment of her “rebirth”, that she encounters exactly the wrong type of person whose main desire is the mold her into something that they want her to be. Her growth throughout the novel is slow, but it’s a realistic type of slow and one that I can appreciate.

My main hangup with this novel was the pacing of the plot. This is the first book in a series, so of course, I don’t expect for everything to be nicely tied up. With that being said, I felt as if the speed of the first half of the novel was perfect, while the second half was far too rushed and missed out on far too many opportunities to further develop the characters and the world. There were events that occurred during the first half that I felt sure would be further explored in the second but alas, they just fell to the wayside. I actually wouldn’t have minded for the end of this book to be the beginning of the second in the series if it meant that things could have been more flushed out.

All in all, I do plan on reading the next book in this series. I’m now emotionally invested in Maggie, and the medicine man Kai, along with several of the other characters. I’m also going to be on the lookout for more fantasy by Native American authors (especially women!).

I Would Recommend This To…

  • people who want to transition from young adult to adult fiction
  • people interested in Native American culture and tradition
  • fans of urban fantasy
  • fans of post-apocalyptic fantasy
  • people who enjoy Neil Gaiman’s”American Gods” and/or “Anansi Boys”
What culture’s mythology and traditions do you admire the most and love seeing in works of fantasy? Personally, I love seeing Chinese, Egyptian, and Native American mythologies in works of fantasy as written by authors from that background.

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Book Babble || White Lines by Tracy Brown

White Lines by Tracy Brown
Published 2007 by St. Martin’s Press
497 pages
ISBN: 978-0-312-33648-6

One of my reading goals for 2019 is to read and review at least one Urban Fiction book a month. Obviously, this is January’s Urban Fiction pick.

Synopsis

via back cover of novel:
Jada left home at the age of sixteen, running from her own demons and the horrors of physical abuse inflicted by her mother’s boyfriend. She parties hard, and life seems good when she is with Born, the neighborhood kingpin whose name is synonymous with money, power, and respect. But all his love couldn’t save her from a crack addiction. Jada goes from crack addict and prostitute to survivor and back again before she finds the strength to live for herself and come out on top. And her stormy romance with one of the fiercest hustlers on the streets makes White Lines one of the most unforgettable urban loves stories of the year.

Rating
★★★★★

Thoughts:

This was actually a reread for me. I read this book back in 2007 when I was 16 and when it was first published. Whenever someone mentions that they want to read Urban Fiction I always recommend this book because of how much I loved it when I was a teenager. I figured that since I’m an ‘adult’ now I should give it a reread and make sure that its withstood the test of time. Thankfully it has.

Brown is one hell of a writer and it shows in how much time and thought she puts into the creation of her characters. I admire authors who take the time to explain the backstory of supporting characters and Brown does that excellently. Every one of her characters exists in the story for a reason, which (on my hippie chick vibe) mirrors my attitude toward the people who I encounter in my life so perfectly so it’s a bonus to me when I see that reflected in a story.

“White Lines” is a story about drugs (both from the addict and the pushers perspective), redemption, self-love, and perseverance. The majority of the story takes place in the ’90s, the emergence of the crack era, and goes through several New York boroughs primarily following the lives of Jada (addict) and Born (pusher). One of my favorite things about this story is how deeply it examines the causes behind why Jada and Born move through life the way they do. The situations that they both go through and the way how they handle those things was so realistic that occasionally I felt like I was reading someone’s reflection of their life. I also appreciated that Brown focused on the importance of change being effective and positive when one truly wants to change for themselves and how important self-love is in that process.

I Would Recommend This To…

  • People who want to start reading urban fiction but have their reservationsPeople who want to transition from urban fiction to mainstream but, also, have their reservations
  • Fans of urban fiction
  • People who want to read a book featuring strong female characters
  • People who have an interest in fiction that covers topics such as drug use and ‘hood’ life

Do you have a favorite Urban Fiction book or author, let me know who! Also, if you’ve read this before let me know what you thought about it!

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Book Babble || She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore

She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore
Published 2018, Greywolf Press
294 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55597-817-4

Synopsis:

In the West African village of Lai, red-haired Gbessa is cursed at birth and exiled on suspicion of being a witch. Bitten by a viper and left for dead, she nevertheless survives. On a plantation in Virginia, June Dey hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. And in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Norman Aragon, the child of white British colonizer and a Maroon slave, can fade from sight at will, just as his mother could.
Gbessa, misunderstood by her own people, finds a new life with a group of African American settlers in the colony of Monrovia. When she meets June Dey and Norman Aragon, it isn’t long before they realize that they are all cursed – or perhaps, uniquely gifted, but only Gbessa can salvage the tense relationship between the settlers and the indigenous tribes. The all-seeing spirit of the wind weaves together their extraordinary stories. “If she was not a woman,” the wind says of Gbessa, “she would be king.”
In her transcendent debt, Wayetu Moore illuminates the tumultuous roots of Liberia, a country whose history is inextricably bound to the United States. A spectacular blend of history and magical realism, She Would Be King is a novel of profound depts from a major new author.

Rating:
★★★★☆

Thoughts:

One of my favorite things about this book was that it reminded me of a spiritual mixed with “survival music” (essentially songs that helped those enslaved and those living through Jim Crow survive and continue to move forward). Moore’s writing style was so smooth and flowy that she makes magical realism feel as if it’s a part of everyday life and history seem as if it’s the fairytale.

The layers to this story were absolutely mesmerizing as it was told from the perspective of a wind spirit watching over the three main characters who each have different, yet similar, experiences with colonization and slavery. I thought it was a fantastic way to grapple with how widespread and connected the ideas of colonization and slavery are/were. The story travels from Africa, to America, to Jamaica and back to Africa showcasing each character’s experience and journey.

I was fascinated with the portion that covered Liberia since I hardly know anything about Liberia outside of it being set up by the American Colonization Society so that free blacks could have a better chance at life. It was fascinating reading about the ‘society women’ in Monrovia and how much of their livestyle and the way in which they carried themselves were similar to how Southern woman carried themselves. It was also interesting realizing that the free blacks who helped the ACS colonize Liberia were also colonizers by extension; that the land had one belonged to other tribes/people and was being taken from them by people who both looked like them and didn’t look like them. It was just an emotional trip.

Who Should Read This?

  • fans of magical realism
  • people looking to read historical fiction about Liberia
  • people who want to read magical realism but are unsure if they’d like it or not

What do you think of magical realism and what’s your favorite book from the genre? Also, if you’ve read this before let me know what you thought!

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Book Babble || Passing by Nella Larsen

Passing by Nella Larsen
Originally published 1929 by Alfred A. Knopf
Edition read published 2004 by Dover Publications
94 pages
ISBN: 978-0-486-43713-2

Synopsis:

(from back cover)
Married to a successful physician and prominently ensconced in Harlem’s vibrant society of the 1920s, Irene Redfield leads a charmed existence – until she is shaken out of it by a chance encounter with a childhood friend. Clare Kendry has been “passing for white,” hiding her true identity from everyone, including her racist husband. Clare and her dangerous secret pose an increasingly powerful threat to Irene’s security, forcing both women to confront the hazards of public and private deception.

Thoughts:

The concept of “passing” is one of those things that I’ve always been intrigued by and is honestly a concept that I could dedicate an entire blog post about concerning myself, my own biracialness, and what it’s like to “pass for respectable” in modern American society.

With all that being said…

I couldn’t find myself actively enjoying this novel (which sucks for a first read of 2019). There was something lacking in terms of the characters’ depth and reading about how Larsen had a half-sister who was white and who shunned Larsen when she tried to connect her made me look too deeply into (and expect too much from) the relationship between Irene and Clare.

The dynamic between Irene and Clare was intense. I loved how vividly Larsen wrote about Irene’s feelings toward Clare and I loved how deep into Irene’s mind she let the reader wander. The undertone of obsessiveness, insecurity, and jealousy that wove through Irene’s story made her actions seems plausible and to a certain extent, relatable. However, I felt as if Irene’s motives were only understandable through her reactions to Clare and I wonder as to what type of woman Irene was without those emotions driving her.

As for Clare, you never truly get to delve into her mind. You get to see her as Irene sees her and get her story as it’s given to Irene which drove me slightly mad. I would have loved to read a chapter or section that focused on Clare and examined what it felt like to constantly deny a part of yourself for the sake of external comfort.

There was a part of this short novel though that made me cock my head to the side as I read it and made me think about it for essentially the remainder of the novel. Irene is addressing a man named Hugh who’s been admiring Clare at a benefit that Irene organized.

“[…] It’s easy for a Negro to ‘pass’ for white. But I don’t think it would be so simple for a white person to ‘pass’ for coloured.”
“Never thought of that.”
“No, you wouldn’t. Why should you?”

Today, white people attempt to ‘pass’ as biracial, black, or ‘colored’ almost all the damn time and it was only a few months ago where us PoC actually were confronted with the evidence that average white women were pretending to be PoC. You should give this article a quick glance if you have not the slightest clue what I’m talking about.

I mean…how crazy is it that 90 years after this book was written that instead of black people trying to pass as white we got white people trying to pass for black but the actual relations between the two races is still insanely tumultuous?! It’s one of those things that constantly has me scratching my head.

Rating:
★★★☆☆

Who Might Enjoy This?

  • people interested in reading about racial identify
  • fans of literature written during the Harlem Renaissance
  • people who want to read “classical” literature that goes beyond “To Kill a Mockingbird” and other famous white authors.

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Mount Tamalpais Adventure I.

If you’ve read my 2019 Adventure Goals post, then you know that this year I’m embarking on two hiking challenges; the 365 Mile Challenge and the 52 Hike Challenge. I’m hoping to share my entire journey with you guys here!

Started off the New Year right with a little 5.4 mile hike on Mt. Tam with my cutie.

First off, let me just say that Mount Tamalpais State Park is huge. It covers roughly 6,300 acres (as told to me by a ranger) and has over 60 miles worth of trails. So my little hike in no way, shape, or form encompasses the enormity of the park.

We started off at Pantoll Campground which has an $8 cash/check only parking fee. I would strongly advise arriving as early as possible because the parking lot is small and does fill up quickly. We had to wait about 5 minutes for a space to free up and we got there around 11am. If you bring a refillable water bottle there are water fountains where you can fill up and there are also bathrooms!

We started off on the Steep Ravine Trail which runs along Webb Creek and features a lovely stand of redwood trees. I would strongly suggest wearing layers if you plan on hiking along the creek since the temperature can get to be quite chilly. Also, leaving on the Steep Ravine Trail means the majority of you’re hike you’ll be going downhill – which to me always makes me feel a lot colder.

The trail also features a 10 foot ladder that you’ll have to either climb up or down to continue with the hike.

Honestly…the ladder was probably my favorite part of the trail. Since we left Pantoll on the Steep Ravine Trail we ended having to go down the ladder; however, if you’re returning to Pantoll via the Steep Ravine Trail you’ll go up it.

I’m an absolute sucker for wood bridges and the trail does feature quite a few of them.

In order to get back to Pantoll Camp we ended up taking the Dipsea Trail to Deer Park Fire Road. Taking the Dipsea Trail back is tough since the entire hike is essentially uphill. Those stairs were no joke.

I spent the majority of the uphill portion of the hike slowly dying and chatting with Gabe so I didn’t take anywhere near as many pictures as I did in the beginning. BUT! The view from the top was absolutely worth it, if not a little bit startling suddenly being thrust into open skies.

We followed the Dipsea Trail to the semi paved Deer Park Fire Road and then we were back at the car.

All in all, it was a super lovely hike that I deeply enjoyed and I can’t wait for more Mount Tam. adventures. What are some of your favorite hikes, parks, etc? Let me know!

Challenge Check-In
5/365 Miles
1/52 Hikes

2019 Adventure Goals

I spent what feels like the majority of 2018 exploring and loving every second of it. I went to a different country (England) for the first time by myself and went to an entirely different state with my boyfriend. I went to an amazing assortment of both national and state parks and hiked to my heart’s content both alone and with friends. Honestly, 2018 set the bar for me in terms of adventuring, exploring, and just living my happiest life.

In order to keep that momentum, I’m setting three “adventure” goals for myself for 2019 and they are as follows;

I. Hike 365 miles and complete 52 hikes.

As mentioned, I hiked a lot in 2018. I didn’t keep amazing track of the miles I trekked over the year nor how many hikes/trails I did, but I know I did a lot! In order to keep the motivation going, and to showcase that PoC and WoC are also out doing outdoorsy I signed up for both the 365 Mile Challenge and the 52 Hike Challenge. I’m hoping that by accomplishing one I’ll also be accomplishing the other which is why they’re lumped under the same goal!

II. Go to Yosemite or Yellowstone National Park

If I could afford to go to both I would. I haven’t been to Yosemite since I was in 6th grade and its been on my list of places to go ever since and Yellowstone I’ve just always been incredibly intrigued by (probably because it was the other national park option for the trip). However, money, transportation, and shitty relationships have always prevented me from actually going and for the first time in a hot minute; I’m actually in a good place with all three of those things!

III. Go to at least one new country and one new state.

Currently I have travel plans to go to Cairo, Egypt in March with the boothang and potentially Pennsylvania, but why stop there? If I can afford it and if the fates allow it, I would love to go to more than one of each. I have dreams of being able to cross off having been to a national or state park in each state before I’m 50.

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Aaaand, that’s it for my 2019 adventure goals! Let me know if you accomplished any travel/adventure goals in 2018 and if you have any for 2019! Also, if you want to keep up with my travels feel free to follow me on Instagram under the username PuffDaddyRae!

2019 Reading Goals

Daaaaamn, it’s already that time of year where I start thinking about what my goals are going to be for 2019 (I started writing this post on Dec. 23rd). The only goals that I set by the New Year are my reading, and adventure goals (which is going to potentially get their own blog post). All of my other goals I set by my birthday (Feb. 27th) because that’s my “new year”.

My 2019 reading goals are far less extreme than the ones that I’ve set for myself in the past. I’m focusing more on the goals that I actually want to accomplish instead of the goals that seem easy/popular (read “x” number of books, finish series, read “x” number of classics, reread series etc). I’m not knocking anybody who does have those reading goals though! It’s just taken me a while to realize that those aren’t my goals or even goals that I’ve ever wanted to accomplish. Occasionally I feel like the bookish community causes one to get caught up in setting particular goals because it feels like damn near everyone is setting those goals.

This year my goals are definitely my own and they are as follows;

I. Read, and review, at least one urban fiction book a month.

Y’all, when I was a teenager I absolutely loved Urban Fiction. It was my jaaaaaaam. I learned more about sex, inner strength, drug addiction, and how to not deal with bullshit from those books than I ever did from anything else. I don’t know at which point in life I started to feel ashamed for reading Urban Fiction, but I do remember leaving it behind and pretending that I had never even set foot in the genre. I want to attack the stigma surrounding Urban Fiction so my goal is to read at least one Urban Fiction book a month and review it on this blog, my channel, and BiblioCommons (a library catalog service). I’m actually really excited about jumping back into this genre and I’m looking forward to seeing if it’s changed since my abrupt departure. 

II. Read my way through my AncestryDNA results.

I did the AncestryDNA test around this time last year and now I actually feel like doing something with that information. Since I first took the test my results have changed; apparently, AncestryDNA has been adding more regions and improving the precision of their results.  I want to read one fiction and one non-fiction book about each of the areas where I’m potentially from. I’m probably going to skip the England, Wales & Northwestern Europe portion along with the France portion; just because I’ve read so much about those areas already. No disrespect, I just spent my entire undergraduate history career focusing on those regions.

III. Read Black history and Black stories as told by Black authors.

Not even gonna lie, I’m insanely tired of reading stories about Black men and woman told through the eyes of white people. It’s been leaving a sour taste in my mouth and I’m just not going to do it anymore. I’ve always felt as if there’s something missing from those stories; almost like the soul of the story isn’t even there. The closest I can come to describing the feeling is if you were to imagine a robot playing a beautiful piece of music, it sounds great, but in its perfection its utterly lacking the humanistic value. There’s just something off about reading a white author attempt to understand and rely the inner struggles of being Black; especially during slavery and in America.

As for the history, it always starts and ends with how white people saved the day and I’m just not interested in that. There tends to be a level of blame as to how African cultures lost their history and how thankful Afrcian cultures should be that white people are coming along and regifting their traditions and stories to them, but never a mention of how those cultures truly got “lost” in the first place *cough colonialism/slave trade/genocide*. There’s something deeply upsetting about that to me. I want to support the reclaiming of Black history and stories by supporting more of the Black authors who’ve dedicated themselves to reclaiming those parts of our collective past and heritage. 

Do you have any reading goals, and if so what are they? Also, if you’re an Urban Fiction reader – leave me some recommendations!