When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

When No One is Watching

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When No One is Watching wasn’t a “thriller” to me. Although I vacillated between psychological thriller and maybe mystery, in my mind, this book wasn’t a thriller for me. Although it was a bit mind-bending in places, and definitely different as far as what this author normally writes, I came off of this book feeling like something was missed, a bit off, and left me with more questions. The execution of the plots in this book felt kinda limp.

The book is about how a Brooklyn neighborhood is going through gentrification and mysteriously the Black neighbors are disappearing. Although for Black people, gentrification is more aggravating, infuriating, and disrespectful, but not a thriller. Cause we already know things like this can happen to us every day of the week. It don’t even have to be gentrification involved.

I have to be honest though, this book made me angry and lose hope in some white people. Cause to be honest, the history of redlining and segregation, and denying loans to Blacks is all too recent for me to be comfortable with white folks moving into my neighborhood. That’s what gentrification is doing. The government, and states, and cities all came together and forced Black people into sections of neighborhoods, denied them home loans, refused to put money into the neighborhood for generations, allowed the neighborhood to fall into disrepair, then when “they” (white people) feel like taking it back, they raise the rent, raise the prices of buildings for small businesses, force people out due to rising costs, and then push billions of dollars into renovations, and put white people in place selling them dreams of “urban living”, causing historically Black neighborhoods to be lost to those who’ve always lived there and pushed them out with nothing. Then, push the police on them when they refuse to leave.

“The American flags attached to them flapping darkly in the wind, signaling that they came in peace when really they were here to destroy. To remake.” (p.10)

The pace of the book was a bit slow in the beginning. I was confused and lost, and there were so many unanswered questions and so much vagueness in the first half of the book. Then the last quarter of the book I’m racing through at a break-neck speed turning page after page to see what’s happening. I felt like the ending was a bit rushed, compared to the first half of the book. Some of the questions I had, are still unanswered. The book also felt kind of predictable in places, but there were some soft twists and turns in there that kept you guessing, but the ambiguity up front and at the end, left me feeling unsettled and unresolved. The whiteness, the “Karen’ish” and “Brad’ish” things did entertain me a few times, but I was so perturbed by the caucasity of some of the characters. Sadly, although this is fiction, the caucasity does happen frequently in real life.

“I hadn’t thought of [Black people] as real people… I hadn’t really been seeing them.” (p. 63)

Overall, this book was good. I say that with caution. The heavy-handedness of the topic of race, racism, and gentrification can be a bit triggering or overwhelming to some people who have witnessed, lived through, or experienced how racism and gentrification can consume neighborhoods. The book does a good job in trying to educate white people on what gentrification actually does to Black people and Black communities, and how white privilege is seen in full regale and Christopher Columbus-ing on what Black people have had to manage, maintain, and sustain without viable resources. However, I think one of the biggest messages here in this book was, you can’t benefit from the systemic racism, see things happening, but don’t speak up about it because its working in your favor and not be racist.

However, it is a good book to read, the writing was well executed as far as the story-telling, and the book was a page turner. Rating: 3.5/4

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The Black Traveler’s Guide To Incheon, South Korea by The Blerd Explorer

The Black Traveler's Guide To Incheon, South Korea

The Black Traveler’s Guide To Incheon, South Korea by The Blerd Explorer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Traveling internationally can be a bit daunting for any newbie who wants to start globetrotting across the world in which we live, but it can be even more intimidating if you traveling as a Black person, and/or traveling solo.

This travel guide will help any new Black traveler to Korea (Incheon, to be exact) help them find places of interest, restaurants, the sights, the sounds, etc. This book helps individuals how to assess their surroundings, how to get around with or without transportation, where to find the best food, and how to strike out for adventures. The book is filled with photos of food, markets, attractions, parks, transportation options, and other tourist hangouts which shows what you can do while you are in Korea. The author also adds some cultural expectations and responses that one may find while Black and traveling through Korea, and how to navigate these situations.

I found this travel guide to be a bit on the basic side, geared towards Blacks who have maybe never traveled internationally, or ever traveled east to Asia. The guide gives a good starting point for those who are looking to visit Incheon and other parts of Korea, but it should be used as an entry point to gaining more information, and not as a one stop shop. Although there are photos of local cuisine, and places tourists could visit, this is not a detailed guide for someone who is looking for a very comprehensive reference to help them navigate their surroundings down to a minute detail, or those who may be more versed in international travel, or someone who frequents Korea often.

I would liked to have seen a Table of Contents, which would make navigating the book more engaging and helpful to a potential traveler, as well as an Index. I also would prefer if the usage of the term “COVID-19” was used instead of the “you know what” vernacular, since people may pick this book up years to come and not understand the impact COVID-19 had on traveling during this time. Overall, I think this travel guide is a great starter for anyone looking to visit Incheon and surrounding areas of Korea. Reading this book definitely made me have an interest in possibly considering traveling to Korea. I would absolutely recommend this book for any new Black traveler looking for a guide to help familiarize themselves with Korea if they plan on visiting. 4 stars.

Thank you to The Blerd Explorer (https://theblerdexplorer.com) for providing me with this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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This is Only a Test by Chris-Tia Donaldson **spoiler alert**

This Is Only a Test: What Breast Cancer Taught Me about Faith, Love, Hair, and Business

This Is Only a Test: What Breast Cancer Taught Me about Faith, Love, Hair, and Business by Chris-Tia Donaldson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ok, so here goes… I must be the only person in the world who didn’t like this book according to Goodreads.

Now I read some Goodreads reviews after I hit “I finished the book” and I was wowed seeing all of the 4 and 5 star reviews. In all actuality, I wanted to rate the book lower than a 3, but I felt that would not be a friendly thing to do seeing that she is a cancer survivor and she talks about God a lot in this book, which I can understand.

However, it brings me to this point. Why did she write this book? Who was her audience? What did she hope to accomplish by writing this? All of these questions and more, floated through my brain as I read this book. About half-way through I put the book down and didn’t pick it up for 4 days. I didn’t think I could stomach anymore to be honest.

Truth be told, I didn’t/don’t like her at all. I too, lived in Detroit for a spell, and her personality is all too familiar of the people that reside there or come from there. Many Michiganders are opportunists… especially some Detroiters, unfortunately. I feel like Chris-Tia took advantage of a gap in the natural hair care world and capitalized on this opportunity. We all know Detroit is the hair capital of the world, so it’s not surprising to see this girl from Detroit try to come up in Chicago with her natural hair care ideas. She says many times in her book that she knew nothing of natural hair, nothing of the beauty and hair industry, but yet, after doing a big chop and looking for resources on how to take care of her hair and seeing there was no real place to turn, decided to use this opportunity to pursue a career in natural hair care products and educating the masses on hair. She also says, that she gleaned other people for information so that she could educate herself about natural hair, and then she used that information to write a natural hair care guide for the masses, mind you, with no experience or knowledge about natural hair care. She also contends that she was always fascinated with hair and always doing her hair and obsessed with hair her whole life, BUT, it’s only when she did the big chop that she explains that is when she decided that she was going to capitalize on this opportunity where people were searching for “how-to’s” and there was a lack of information. Mind you, she also wore wigs while transitioning from permed to natural because she didn’t know how to take care of her hair, and because she felt that her natural hair wasn’t professional enough to rock on its own in her corporate law arena. So while she’s trying to learn about hair care and has this idea about teaching women about their hair, she’s wearing wigs.

She also admits that she treated people horribly, and she talks with great candor in the fact that she was basically an asshole to people for much of her life. She talks from a place of privilege and disdain for those not at the same station of life she is, and it is pretty evident that she would walk all over you for the money or if a man was involved. She seems pretty shallow and superficial in this book, and I just didn’t like that or appreciate the haughtiness she seemed to exude in these pages.

She starts off by explaining how she took a trip to Bali and had a getaway for weeks, but then tries to inspire other women who wants to start a business by telling them how to do so. However, the average Black woman isn’t able to sponsor herself on an endless vacation to Bali for weeks on end, to find herself and regain her motivation and inspiration to come back bigger and better for the future. Most women I know don’t have connections to chemists and warehouses, and manufacturers, and the like to get their business off the ground. Most women I know don’t have a 6-figure income during the day, like she had, with the ability of having enough capital to start a product line. Most women I know also didn’t belong to high societies of upper echelon people who went to Ivy League schools so that they could be a phone call away from the next big break.

Most women I know didn’t go to private schools their whole life with the ability of living in the high middle class area surrounded by lawyers and doctors and accountants… mixing and mingling with the right “type” of people so that when an opportunity is available, you are in the right place at the right time. This book isn’t relatable, in my opinion, to the average Black woman who is hustling on the side, making ends meet and staying up late creating their visions at home while the family is sleeping.

What I gathered from this book was this:
– She was a horrible person who dealt with people on a short leash. She let you go at the drop of a hat and didn’t look back no matter what.
– She edged her way up through the ranks of being a corporate lawyer, not being mindful how she got there, and didn’t care either way, long as she made it
– She abused her friends and relationships to the point where she lost many of the friends in her life due to her being narrowly focused and out for self
– She also treated her family members like they were people off the street
– She then gets humbled by breast cancer at a young age and gets knocked down a peg or two in the pride category
– She realizes that life should be cherished instead of hawked down, as she considers she could have died or could still relapse into a bout of cancer and fully understands the phrase “life is short.”
– She then understands that God allowed this to happen to her and is now using this place in her life as an opportunity to speak to other women about how to start/run a business, but also keep in mind that you can’t be an asshole and still win because the body keeps count
– Then she writes a book that talks about this low period in her life, all the while trying to educate women on things that happened to her specifically, about love, hair, career and breast cancer and “teaching” them what to do about life and how to navigate situations, as if she’s an expert.

Although I pushed myself to read and finish this book, I didn’t enjoy it, not one bit. It is unfortunate that she got dealt a blow of breast cancer at 36. I understand that can be very traumatic and stressful, but Chris-Tia seems to downplay the harsh reality that comes with having cancer. She says in her book many times that things were simple, stress free, normal, but then in another chapter talks about how brutal and traumatic and tragic this whole experience was for her. She plays up how great she was in getting through her cancer, but then also wants sympathy for having cancer in the next breath.

There were too many things I disliked about this book and her as a person that I can’t really provide an objective review. We haven’t even touched on the hair care products! Chris-Tia doesn’t seem like someone you could befriend in an elevator, or library or coffee shop. She seems too haughty and unapproachable. Cares too much of what others think and say, and hasn’t really found that balance within herself to be seen as someone who is less than the best or her achievements. Although she does admit to her faults, and provides some inspirational quotables, it seems disingenuous and superficial, as if she’s writing this book to clear her conscious, and that is a bit off putting to say the least. The writing is simple and easy to read, but the content, I just couldn’t relate. I had hoped that I would be able to relate seeing that I have a side-hustle/business, work a 9-5, and have faith, visions, and ideas of bigger things for my life, but sadly, her book just didn’t do it for me.

Rating 2.5/3 at best.

Thank you to Miracle Press and Chris-Tia Donaldson for providing me with this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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My Sister’s Lies by S.D. Robertson

My Sister’s Lies

For a decade, Hannah’s life has been pretty close to perfect – she has a great job, she’s married to Mark, and her child-free existence means she’s free as a bird. The only sadness in her life is a fall-out with her sister Diane, who hasn’t spoken to her in over ten years. But now Diane is on her doorstep – and this time, she’s got her teenage daughter Mia in tow. When Diane asks if Mia can stay with Hannah and Mark for a few days, Hannah is glad of the chance to get to know her niece. But as the days turn into weeks and Diane doesn’t return, Hannah begins to worry. Why hasn’t her sister been in touch? Diane is carrying a devastating secret that will destroy Hannah’s carefully constructed life. But how much is she willing to reveal – and when will she pick her moment?

I really didn’t want to like this book. I mean, it’s a white male, writing chick-lit… two women to be exact. But, it wasn’t a horrible read, just wasn’t my genre of fiction that I would normally select. To me, this book is a palate cleanser. Something you can pick up and read fairly quickly while on the beach, on a cruse, on vacation, or just for fun.

The book is supposed to be a mystery thriller, and it has some of that going on, but it’s lite and very anti-climatic. The author kind of sets you up in the beginning as to how the story is going to go, which for most readers, may bug you about the predicability of it all, but there are some nuances that are introduced that keeps you barely hanging on to see what’s going to come next. There are a few gaping holes that don’t really get ironed out or closed, but there is a tidy ending, and no dramatic cliff-hangers.

What I was really disappointed in was the lack of substance in the backstories. The backstories didn’t really answer any questions that I had while reading, nor did they satisfy my curiosity once they were revealed. There was also no real mystery to figure out per say, and the entire premise seemed very shallow and forced. People who enjoy chick lit may love this book. Others who may be looking for a fast-paced thriller to keep you guessing and at the edge of your seat, this ain’t it. 3 stars.

Come On In by Adi Alsaid

Come On In

Come On In by Adi Alsaid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It has taken me 9 days to read this book. A collection of short stories that delves down deep into the lives of young adults who have had to leave their home of origin for higher pursuits, because of circumstances or because they had no choice. It took me 9 days to finish, not because the book was long, but because the stories were so intense and emotional that I could barely read more than 1 story at a time. It was so heartbreaking, gut wrenching, stressful, and godawful to see these people, human beings, be treated like filth or worse just because they crossed a border or their parents had to cross a border to survive.

To me, this books shines a light on how the US has become an embarrassment for immigration. Certain people in power have forgotten how this country of the United States came to be because of immigrants. The US, the melting pot of the world, is somehow now the armpit of the world due to the policies and laws/regulations that some want to enforce or terminate because people are seeking the US as a safe haven… as a land of opportunity… as a chance to get ahead and make something of themselves, and to have a chance for their children to grow up without fear or famine.

“They do not come from families of sitters or stay-putters. They come from a family of fence hoppers and explorers. Some, like Reynaldo and Marlene, are pats de per and were born to wander. Others left out of necessity. In either case, their families are a mix of people who can come and go as they please to the country of their birth and ancestors, and of people who are trapped by an inefficiently run and racist system. A system that has enacted laws and physical structures that get people killed for simply trying to leave poverty and reunite with family.” (Quintero, Isabel)

This is such an important book right now, as we embark on electing a new president. This book makes you want to vote right now for change. For hope. For doing right for others. For keeping the DREAMERS here. For not punishing a family for choosing to flee war torn countries for a better life. This book is so important to humanize those who do cross the border. These are PEOPLE! Children! Human beings! Separating children from their families is evil and should be stopped! This book makes me sick in a way that invokes change. To help those who are in situations like these that are shared in this anthology. I’ve personally known a family who has gone through similar situations, and to be a witness to all the obstacles it takes just so that the family can be together is life changing. They have had to lose people forever just because of the policies in place that keep them apart. It is sick that the leadership in this country is so against progression and immigration and humanity that they are willing to go lengths so that people from different parts of the world cannot come here.

“Fleeing, leaving, moving. The world seemed to have very different reactions to each, somehow hating people more the less choice they had. If the only choice you had was to leave or die, to maybe die in the act of leaving, to live a harder life than everyone else in the new country, well, then, you were a scourge.” (Alsaid, Adi)

I laughed, cried, contemplated long and hard throughout reading this book. These stories make you feel apart of the journey long after you’ve read them. You hold on, hoping for better, hoping that deportation doesn’t happen, hoping that these young individuals are able to live a better life… hoping that the sadness doesn’t linger always, but knowing that it’s impossible to forget what’s been left behind. There is so much to lose in comparison to what they are hoping to accomplish in this new country. They only hope to hear the words, “Come On In,” and with that the experiences that come and being able to live their life without fear is all they desire.

This book is a must read. Please share it with your friends and everyone you know who has no idea what it takes for someone to give up their home and all they’ve known just to have a better life, more options, education, medical technology, and love to cross a border. The risk is worth it to most, and as as an American minority, this books speaks volumes about how people are judged by the way they look first than by who they are. Our country was founded by immigrants, and it’s because of immigrants that we have what we have. We should be able to say, “Come On In,” but yet… here we are. (4.5 stars)

Thank you to Inkyard Press and Adi Alsaid (editor) for providing me with this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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