My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite *spoiler alert*

My Sister, the Serial Killer

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my end of the year palate cleanser book. It was a light, short, darkly humored mystery thriller that entertained me to no end. I consumed this book in 24 hours and I don’t regret a thing. I waffled between 4 and 5 stars because… I don’t know… I couldn’t find anything wrong with this book. I was laughing, I was serious, I was annoyed, I was sympathetic, I was apathetic… I mean I swung through the gauntlet of moods/emotions throughout this short mystery novel.

When I read: “We take him to where we took the last one – over the bridge and into the water. At least he won’t be lonely” on page 4, I knew I was going to be in for a wild ride! I was not disappointed at all. I also loved the somewhat poetic, staccato prose that I felt while reading this book. The language made for an easy short read, and I just flew through the chapters like I was eating Lays Potato chips (just can’t have one!).

There are a few dark undertones here that I feel the author wanted to bring out to light. Ayoola, the younger sister is (in my opinion) acting out in ways she could not do so when her father was alive. Her father, violently abusive, was allowed to wreck havoc in their lives with no regards. He even set her up to be possibly betrothed at the age of 14! He was brutal and unrelenting. I feel as though Ayoola was coming to grips with her father’s abuse in these murders that she committed of the guys she dated. There was also the undertone of how men, often times fraught with toxic masculinity, can behave in any way and get away with it. “The knife was for her protection. You never knew with men, they wanted what they wanted when they wanted it.” (p. 8) Ayoola was the one who tried to get them before they got her. However, there were a few things working for and against her… she was the favorite daughter, the beautiful one, the spoiled one, the one who got her way always, even if she had to kill for it, and the one everyone believed could do no wrong.

The oldest sister, Korede, is an unfortunate enabler. She loves her sister and has to protect her at all costs no matter the consequences. She feels responsible for her, especially as the oldest sister, she can’t let any harm happen to her sister. Korede may have learned the behavior of enabling through protecting her sister during her father’s raging abuse, and because her mother has told her before, that she’s the oldest sister and needs to protect her sister from danger. However, Korede is OCD, and needs to clean, everything, in order to gain back control/order. Ayoola knows this, and knows that her sister will protect her from anything at any cost, and clean up her messes. The two of them are a messy package to say the least.

The humor is dry in this novel, but it packs quite a punch. You are able to see everything for what it is, there is no hiding. No secrets. It is, what it is. You also kind of sympathize with them as they discuss their father and his horrific behavior. “We didn’t call him Daddy. We never had. He was not a daddy, at least not in the way the word “daddy” denotes. One could hardly consider him a father. He was the law in our home.” (p. 184)

Both sisters have flaws. Both need each other. Both are using the other as a crutch. However, Korede knows this, and wants to rectify this situation, but not sure if she can or should she, given the circumstances as to choosing family over a man’s welfare.

I was very interested in learning how Korede told everything to Muhtar, the comatose patient in room 313. It was funny that he would wake up and remember things that Korede confessed to while he was in a coma. However, the more she talked to him (when he was awake) the more she leaned towards doing the right thing and stopping her enabling. However, when she set fire to his number, it seemed like all of the right way of thinking went out the window, and they were back where they (the two sisters) started.

Enabling is a fierce disease. Something that becomes so engrained that a person feels guilty
for not being there for that person who’s being enabled. As the enabler, you basically are a co-conspirator to whatever they are doing because you are not stopping them even when you know they are wrong. Ayoola knew that Korede would do anything for her. “It’s him or me, Korede.” “Ayoola…” “You can’t sit on the fence forever.” (p. 207)

I’m so glad that I read this book. I kind of wished I had read this before, but seeing that it’s the end of the year, and I needed a light read before the new year, this came at a perfect time. I would rate this book a 5. You can easily read this book in one sitting or a day with no problem, and it will have you entertained with no problems through the whole of it. I can’t wait to read more from this author!

P.S. In the acknowledgment page, she gave kudos to Adeyemi Adebayo! That gave me super good vibes about Braithwaite!

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Conjure Women by Afia Atakora

Conjure Women

Conjure Women by Afia Atakora

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I finished this book yesterday, but I wanted to wait a day before I left a review. I wanted to see if I would continue to think about this book and/or let the book stew and simmer in my mind before I articulated my thoughts about this debut novel, Conjure Women, from Afia Atakora. I am still uncertain about what to say about this book. To be honest, it was not a remarkable read for me. Given the title, I was first intrigued because I figured this book had to do with some “magic”, vodun, healing, and conjuring. However, the more I read, the less and less it was about what I thought of as conjuring, but more of a complex host of situations that was happening in this non-sequential history of slavery before, during, and after the Civil War.

Conjure Women, follows the life of “Miss Rue,” who is the daughter of a conjurer. Miss May Belle, her mama, has learned the art of hoodooing, and there is where “Miss Rue” has learned her lessons of conjuring. A skittish and ‘stay out the way’ child, Miss Rue grows up with the lessons of conjuring from her mama, and we learn how Miss Rue grows up and comes of age within the boundaries of slavery and how she lives a life post-slavery. This book was both anti-climatic but engaging at the same time, and I was keen on seeing this novel all the way through. I may have the unpopular opinion about this novel, as I really didn’t like the way the story unfolded. The points of views changed constantly, the voice changed (back and forth from 2nd to 3rd), and the story dragged on endlessly. I thought this book had to do with the generations of conjure women in Rue’s family, but it more so dealt how Rue handled life, the consequences of slavery pre and post Civil War, and how she used conjuring to protect her ideas of life, liberty, and happiness. I also believe that Rue was institutionalized regarding slavery. She was free (post-Civil War), but saw freedom as useless, and didn’t want to leave her plantation. “Freedom seemed to them to be as useless as the currency of a nation that didn’t exist anymore.”

There was so much going on in this book to deal with… white women lying on black men. Black men being punished/killed for white lies. Black people trying to take control of the little they had by “protecting it,” through conjuring. Dealing with freedom. Learning how to deal with the devastation/plunder of black bodies under slavery. Passing for white. Being enslaved. Secrets. I mean the list can go on and on.

To be honest, I was very confused and disenchanted by this book about half way through, but I wanted to continue to get to the end to find out what was going to happen to Rue, Bean, Varina, Ma Doe, Miss May Belle, Bruh Abel, Jonah, and Sarah. Some backstories were not elaborated on, and left out some facts that I felt were pertinent to the story. Overall, was it a worthy read? Yes. I think this book will invoke some good discussions, especially around the institution of slavery and freedom, protecting what’s yours by any means necessary, and what white people’s entitlement means for black lives. For me though, I would rate this book a 3. I just wasn’t that impressed with the overall package this book brought, and I was hoping for more that just didn’t come to fruition.

Thank you to Net Galley, Afia Atakora and Random House for providing me with an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Remembrance by Rita Woods


Remembrance by Rita Woods

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is how a fantasy, historical slave fiction novel should be written. Beautiful, intense, mystical, and wrapped in magical realism.

Remembrance is a historical fiction/magical realism novel that takes place during two different time periods. The story follows three women in the pre-civil war era and one woman in the current day. Their stories intertwine in the novel, exploring the boundaries of physical space and stretching the limits of time, all while exploring the magic of vodun and other supernatural talents and abilities.

The women: Mother Abigail, Winter, Margot, and Gaelle. Somehow, each of these women are connected some way or another to each other in ways that go beyond time and place.

Remembrance is a place that was created in an attempt to take revenge on white slavers. Runaway slaves come to Remembrance in hopes of escaping life from their oppressors. This place is a sanctuary and haven to those who need safety, life, liberty and God-given freedom. This place, Remembrance, was created with vodun magic, in such a way, that the former enslaved people are living invisibly right under the noses of whites in a village near Ashtabula, Ohio. Created by the high priestess Mother Abigail, this little village houses black people who have fought for their freedom, have escaped a life of tortuous servitude, and has risked it all to live a life on the run.

Mother Abigail, a former slave from Haiti, has created Remembrance in an attempt of revenge against her and other white slavers. Her story takes us to find out how she created Remembrance, and how out of pure hatred and ultimate sadness, this place came to be.

Winter, as a baby, was brought to Remembrance. This is the only home she has. When situations arise at Remembrance, she has to decide if she’s going to fight for her home, or allow circumstances to destroy the only home she’s ever known.

Margot, a runaway slave, has found herself in Remembrance after nearly escaping re-capture. She, however, feels that things are not how they seem in Remembrance. She is curious as to how people are not caught or seen here, and she’s not going to quit until she talks to Mother Abigail about the strangeness of this place.

Gaelle, in modern day, has found herself somewhat connected and drawn towards an old woman at her job. When she discovers the old woman’s name as Winter, she becomes curious as to how she came to be at the place of her employment.

However, as time would have it, something is happening to and around Remembrance. It is up to the people of Remembrance to decide whether to protect what is theirs or live a life in the shadows fearing recapture.

The details in this book was impeccable. The timing, the flow, the pace, the plot lines, the twists, the ending!! Just a perfect read. I was literally caught on the edge of my seat throughout this book intrigued on what was happening. I swear there better be a part 2 because it ends on a cliffhanger! I would rate this book a 5!

If you didn’t like The Water Dancer, then this book is for you!

Thank you to Net Galley, Rita Woods and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for providing me with an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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