Blur Havok: Paragon War (#1) by Failus E. Washington

Blur Havok: Paragon War (Blur Havok #1)

Blur Havok: Paragon War by Failus E. Washington

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very fast paced sci-fi war adventure. This book discusses the factions between Blur Havok and his arch-nemesis Ryze. This book is full of adventure, love, friendships, war, action, blood shed, robots, and cyborgs.

We learn about Alastor Hacon, Bria, Ozzie, Melonie, and Mason (the core of Blur Havok) as they embark on defending their name to resist Ryze and his army, the Synthetic Legion, and the race of Arachnoid and the Ski’tal race, and ensuring the safety of all citizens of the New City of Valhalla. Ryze is also fighting to free his race (Ski’tal) of oppression and slavery that befalls his kind.

However, in previous times, we find out that Alastor has done something to affect Ryze terribly, and Ryze is deadset on getting revenge and unleashing his spawn to ensure that his kind is able to take over everywhere.

The fighting in this book is action-packed, fast, and thrilling. I was fascinated by the story and was kept on the edge of my seat as I turned the pages to learn more about where this story was taking me.

I could envision this book as a graphic novel to be honest. I think it would work well seeing that this is more like an Iron Man meets Guardian of the Galaxy type book series.

Although I wish there was more detail, character development and backstory in this novel, I was thoroughly impressed with this debut self-published book series. I look forward to the next installment of Blur Havok.

Special thanks to the author Failus E. Washington, for a free, physical copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Lakewood by Megan Giddings

Lakewood: A Novel

Lakewood: A Novel by Megan Giddings

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I finished this book, all I could think about were the experimentations that were forced upon black men in the Tuskegee experiment of untreated sphyilis in black men. Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male was a clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service. The study initially involved 600 black men – 399 with syphilis, 201 who did not have the disease. The study was conducted without the benefit of patients’ informed consent. Researchers told the men they were being treated for “bad blood,” a local term used to describe several ailments, including syphilis, anemia, and fatigue. In truth, they did not receive the proper treatment needed to cure their illness. In exchange for taking part in the study, the men received free medical exams, free meals, and burial insurance. Although originally projected to last 6 months, the study actually went on for 40 years.

Lakewood is reminiscent of how the government and/or entities like the government entice the poor, minority, disadvantaged, underserved community of people into “research studies” to glean medical research without telling the willing participants what the research is supposed to truthfully do or not do. The people, unfortunately get sucked in by the promise of benefits that they would not ordinarily be able to obtain because of their socioeconomic status in life.

The story is told from the perspective of Lena, who has just recently lost her grandmother to cancer and now has to take on the financial responsibilities of her disabled mother. Her mother, who does not have healthcare insurance and needs her much needed medication, Lena, decides to sign up for a research studies program that guarantees her healthcare coverage and enough money to be able to support herself and her mother. However, Lena cannot disclose this program or its details to anyone, and she has to lie to everyone about what she’s doing in order to stay in the program and reap the benefits. She is told: “You give of yourself to make your country a better place. You give of yourself to keep us safe.” However, Lena knows something isn’t right.

This book was eerie and spooky. To think that our US government could be performing research studies to test medications, side effects, untreated diseases or worse on people is beyond my own understanding. However, the US government has done this before on more than one occasion. We are just now publicly acknowledging the vast effects and benefits that Henrietta Lacks and her uninformed consent of the harvesting of her cervical cancer cells did for modern medicine. Her family has yet to see any financial recoupment for the taking of her cells and the advances medicine has made because of the illegal harvesting of her cells.

This book was hair raising, spooky, eerily familiar and fascinating. I would definitely recommend reading this book when it hits the shelves. Don’t miss out! Rating 4/5.

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Trailblazer by Dorothy Butler Gilliam

Trailblazer: A Pioneering Journalist's Fight to Make the Media Look More Like AmericaTrailblazer: A Pioneering Journalist’s Fight to Make the Media Look More Like America by Dorothy Butler Gilliam
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a bookclub read for me. Reading the synopsis of the book, I might have been intrigued to read it for recreational purposes, but seeing that I knew nothing of Ms. Dorothy Butler Gilliam, I may not have picked this book to read on my own.

Ms. Dorothy Butler Gilliam was the “first black woman” to be hired by the Washington Post in 1961. During that time, the country was divided tumultuously between blacks and whites. African Americans at that time were living in the Jim Crow “separate but equal” days. Segregation was everywhere, and Blacks could not vote freely or without discrimination. Being the “first Black” to do anything was exceptionally historical, and it allowed other Blacks to be able to follow in the footsteps of that first Black. Understanding that significance of being the first Black journalist for a white newspaper is significant.

I was ready and interested in learning all about this integration of Ms. Gilliam’s opportunity to be the first Black woman as a journalist for Washington Post. The beginning of her book in her section ‘Coming to the Washington Post 1961’ was enthralling. I couldn’t imagine being the first Black person or woman trying to integrate something. Doing so takes a great deal of courage, tenacity, bravery, and patience when dealing with the racial tensions during that time. You have to remember, Black people were highly discriminated against, dogs were attacking them for voting, water hoses were used on them for trying to eat dinner in the same place as a white person. Any form of fighting for equality met African Americans with staunch resistance and violence. Ms. Gilliam talks about not being able to eat in the same restaurants as her coworkers. She discusses how she was unable to catch cabs to get to appointments to write her reports or conduct interviews. Learning how she navigated to get around those obstacles intrigued me. I was rooting for her success.

Those first 120 pages were quite impressive! Unfortunately, the rest of the book kind of fizzles out from there. She tells and retells parts of her life in multiple sections of the book. The timeline isn’t all the way linear, and you can easily get lost as to her chronology that she’s telling her story in. The writing is very difficult to get used to. I can see her reporting style of writing in this memoir, but as a reader I don’t want to read a report, nor do I want to feel as if I’m reading a history book. Yet here I was struggling to digest all of her information she shared with her audience. It seems that there are large sections of the book where it seems like this is almost a self-righteous brag book, all while name-dropping and ensuring her readers that she knows people. I felt disconnected in many places because these people that she listed, I just don’t know or have the curiosity to know. I wanted to know about her and how she was a pioneer as the first black woman and what her experiences were, but I had little to no interest in the people she was determined to list in her book.

There are sections and sentences in her book that are contradictory. For example, on the first page she talks about how conservative she was… asking that more be done for people of color, but later in the book she’s almost reprimanded for being so liberal. She also talked about her project of getting more youth of diverse backgrounds interested in a career path of journalism. She talks about how a friend of hers introduced her to a concept program and gave very appealing information that would help her bring more young people into a career of writing and journalism. However, she was hesitant and slow on deciding. Yet, later on she writes how quickly she came to that decision, as if she was just waiting for an opportunity to come along. She also talks one way with the reader, but if she has to write something about that same subject, she gives it a better appeal and makes it to sound as if it was a great idea.

There were a couple of instances in which I thought to myself that I believe Washington Post just kept her on as a writer because of her historical accomplishment of being the first Black woman. Although she may have been good with reporting and her journalistic style, it sounds as if she was a timid/shy woman who didn’t stand up to aggression easy, which may have been one of the key reasons as to why she was hired in the first place. I had a hard time with her stand on criticizing The Oprah Winfrey Show because a local show was cancelled. Here, Ms. Gilliam lost me because she was supposed to be an advocate for successful women of color, and here is one making national syndicated news, and she didn’t like that. I was baffled!

After awhile I was counting down to when I would be done with the book. The ending was really not my style and was full of name dropping and accomplishments with them. It was reporting heavy, and not an easy style to keep readers engaged. While I loved her story of integrating on the behalf of Black Women, I didn’t care for the huge emphasis she placed on others’ accomplishments.

The ending of the book dropped this rating down to a 3. Sorry! I know our stories are important as women of color, I just cannot recommend this book to others knowing how I feel about this feeling.

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The Oceans Between Us by Gill Thompson

The Oceans Between Us

The Oceans Between Us by Gill Thompson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Special thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a free, electronic ARC of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication date: March 21, 2019

The idea of this story was very heart-wrenching! However, the execution of the story was not very polished. The writing was too simple and unremarkable, and I truly could not get into the book in the first 3-4 chapters. I literally went searching how to ‘DNF’ this book in Netgalley, but seeing that I didn’t feel like going through the hassle, I pushed through to read it to the end.

This is a story about how a mom loses her son, when he is 5 years old, during the WWII blitz and how both of them go on through life wondering about the other. The story is a bit sad when it talks of Jack losing his mother, him being an assumed orphan, and him feeling lost or pulled apart involuntarily by circumstances that befall him. I was heartbroken for the mother who had to go through her life not knowing where her son was, or if she would ever see him again in her lifetime. I was confused in the first part of the book trying to figure out voices, and who was speaking and telling their story. However, about halfway, the story picks up and smooths out, and I’m glad I finished. Jack and his mother’s love is very powerful, and you see how being separated across the ocean motivates them to live life despite not knowing whether the other was alive or not. They both work tirelessly to see if they can find each other no matter the length of time and circumstances that have separated them.

There is a lot of mysogenic views and male chauvinistic perspectives throughout this book by some of the male characters in this story. Furthermore, I was actually quite offended by the way black people were depicted and treated in this book. Classism and racism was heavily prevalent in this time and I felt sorry for Reggie and Rosie in this book who represent the minorities that exist in both Australia and England.

I did learn some historical information that I wasn’t aware of; however, it was a bit hard to swallow. Seeing that Australia had an ongoing project to bring white people to their country so that they could outbreed/eliminate the Aboriginals is sad and horrible. However, I am very appreciative in the way the author brought both Jamaicans and Aboriginals into the story to show how both minorities were able to live and survive in this environment despite the racism that they experienced.

Overall, I would rate this book a 3. I had a tough time getting through the first part of the book, and the writing is not very polished, in my opinion. The book does appear to be realistic in nature and that it was well researched, but the writing is just too simple and not memorable enough to have a lasting impression on me. The beginning is very confusing and it takes about halfway through the book to get to a point where the writing smooths out to be able to tell the story of Jack and his mother. The ending can also be seen as predictable, but it was a very moving story line to work with.

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Bone Black by bell hooks

Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood

Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood by bell hooks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had been looking for anything by bell hooks for awhile. For some reason she was calling my soul… and I’m so glad I found this book. It speaks to me in ways I can’t fully articulate. I am grateful to have found this work now.

Written in concise 3 paged chapters, bell hooks takes us on a journey into her childhood. The chapters are all in various points of view (i.e., first, second or third), as readers are taken down this bumpy chronological ride about her upbringing. As a reader, you are thrust headlong into her memories, as she remembers things, and told in the most confidence about her upbringing as a “bone black” feminist. She tells readers how she is to write her memoir: “Writing imagistically, I seek to conjure a rich magical world of southern black culture that was sometimes paradiscical and at other times terifying.” (p. xi)

She describes her roots of early feminisim, discovering her sexuality, and understanding her blackness, and her personal feelings all throughout this book. bell hooks shows you things as if you were a fly on the wall of her thoughts, dreams and aspiration. With this memoir she encourages young black girls to stand up for what is innate and organic to self despite the outside world fighting against her.

I was able to relate many times to things that she wrote about happening to her that also happened to me. I often read and reread sections of this book over and over, grasping and understanding what was written and comparing it to my upbringing as a black girl child. To say that I enjoyed this memoir is an understatement. I could and reread this book any day of the year and be happy with that. I would rate this book a 5 and recommend it to others who enjoy bell hooks as an author.

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