The Perfect Find by Tia Williams

The Perfect Find

The Perfect Find by Tia Williams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I inhaled Seven Days in June in about a 48 hour timeframe. So, you know I had to pick up her book that is being turned into a television series, “The Perfect Find.” Her most recent novel, Seven Days in June, was impeccable, so I just knew anything I picked up from her was going to be divine.

The Perfect Find, for the most part, is a really good standalone romance novel that can completely captivate a reader and pull them all the way into the story, like you are a fly on the wall. I was totally engaged, eyes wide open, fully immersed from the very first page.

Tia Williams is telling a story about a 40 year old woman who is trying to rejuvenate herself after a major break up and life change in her career. She also talks about several real world issues regarding older women, dating, late-stage career shifts, financial security, dating younger men and the cougar behavior, childbearing/rearing after 35, and haters. She covers the entire social stratum in this book and what it means to be a single 40 year old Black woman with no children, trying to make a comeback in her life. Imagine, How Stella Got Her Groove Back meets Living Single.

The story made for some really good drama and tension in this book. I was completely drawn in and on the edge of my seat as all the juicy details was just coming to life right before my eyes. The book had the right amount of tension, tea, and haterade coming to life in this book. I was hanging on for dear life for the majority of the ride. However, there came a part of the book , about 2/3rds in, where I felt like it was too drawn out and became boring, but it picked back up, and the ending was well worth it.

I really enjoyed the attention to detail that Williams had for this story. I gleaned a ton of various messages from this book, which provided a great deal of encouragement to women all around.

Some of the themes that I found in this book were:
– Independence
– Resilience
– Determination
– Starting over
– Dating, commitment, red flags
– Career women
– Feminism
– Late-stage parenting
– Relationships
– Friendships
– Cougar behavior
– Dating
– Sex

Overall, I enjoyed this book. The story had a perfect balance between wit, charm, and romance. My only critique is that about 2/3rds in, the story gets bogged down tragically with minutae, but it does recover, and the ending is definitely worth it and makes up for the portion of the story that tanked. 4.5 stars

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Feminist AF by Brittany Cooper, Chanel Tanner, Susana Morris

Feminist AF: A Guide to Crushing Girlhood

Feminist AF: A Guide to Crushing Girlhood by Brittney Cooper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the very beginning of the book, these wonderful feminists (AKA, the Crunk Feminist Collective) welcomes you with open arms and warm inclusive conversation. They tell you in the book that the advise they are giving should sound like something a hip aunt or cool older big sister could be doling out, without any pressure or admonishments that parents may contribute. This book is a safe place for womxn to learn from, to regale in, to nod your head and snap your fingers in agreement with the knowledge and wisdom that a reader could potentially soak up while reading this guidebook to becoming Feminist AF.

The book is geared towards those femmes who want to be feminists, for womxn of all nationalities, ethnicities, and those from all backgrounds to be included in this conversation about how to be a feminist, and what it means to be feminist AF in our society today.

The book is supremely intersectional, and covers a vast amount of information in 200 or so odd pages. I was impressed at how easy going, but also very meaningful the messaging was to young women.

The three authors discuss the pressures girls face from society, peers, parents, and the media, and how intense it can be for young women to navigate and not feel a bit lost. The topics that are discussed are handled in an intimate, thoughtful, and accessible way that haven’t been and cannot be addressed by white feminists texts, as white feminism leaves out womxn of color. The tone of this book allows the reader to feel seen. Allows the reader to drop their defense a bit because the Crunk Feminist Collective is coming from a place of love and understanding. The authors acknowledge the issues that young womxn of color face today, which are complex and overwhelming at times. This book is for everyone. This book is freedom.

#youareenough #youareworthy were big hashtags that I gleaned while reading this book. The authors also warn readers about the dangers of internalizing the lies that white patriarchy and capitalism tells us about ourselves. The authors want to make sure that us womxn value ourselves and believe in ourselves so that we can crush our goals, be successful, and smash the MF patriarchy on a daily basis.

I really appreciated this book, and will save it for my daughters when they come of age. In the meantime though, I will glean some of these lessons and teach myself and my daughters what it means to be Feminist AF as we go about our daily routines in work and school so that we can continue living our best lives, but also making sure there is room for other girls/womxn to do the same. This book is also interactive and engaging. Asking young readers to do some introspective work so that they can understand and know for themselves how to be Feminist AF, and what to do if they aren’t on the right track. The authors also tell personal stories about their rearing and how they came to know and understand the power Feminists have in making space for all to have a voice in our society.

The book comes from a secular intersectional world view that is divorced from religion. So, some of the ideologies that are in the book may not line up to some religious customs or belief systems that one may have. The language in this book definitely stems from the hiphop genre, so there may be some womxn who may not care for the explicit language that shows up in this book. However, the explicit language does present itself in proper context to get the right emphasis on what is being discussed in a manner that gets people’s attention.

The authors really did the damn thang in this book though to be honest. They covered a host of information in such a thoughtful and nonjudgmental way that this book will be talked about for generations.

The book covers YOU (the reader), beauty, family and friends, smashing the patriarchy, America, sex, health, race, class, chronically ill womxn, disabled womxn, and so much more.

Overall though, this book is FYE FYE! (In the words of Tobe) I would rate it a 4/5.

Parental advisory for language if reader is under 18

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Walking on Cowrie Shells by Nana Nkweti

Walking on Cowrie Shells: Stories

Walking on Cowrie Shells: Stories by Nana Nkweti

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nana Nkweti is an extremely gifted and prolific writer. Her writing is engaging, intense, and brilliant. Her stories went bone deep and definitely challenged my mind and thoughts while reading this collection of short stories.

Her stories are rich and dense, which requires one to slow down in their reading to decipher what Nkweti is trying to show you. If you read too fast, you could miss what she’s trying to say, as her writing can leave you a bit mesmerized and disoriented simultaneously. However, her stories cover an immense amount of detail and content, that you would want to fully immerse yourself into her world, if you allow yourself some time to really read her writing.

Some of the stories that really stuck out to me was:
– Rain Check at MomoCon
– It Takes a Village
– Schoolyard Canibal
– Dance the Fiya Dance

All of the stories were about Cameroonians and the entire diaspora of the country and continent, to include African Americans Cameroonians. Each story had its own unique style that really illuminated Nkweti’s range and expertise she has with being able to shift and bend genre’s.

Her stories are filled with real-world problems and issues within society. Her wit, charm, comedy, savvy, and relevancy showcases her exceptional skills in telling stories. I really appreciated the author presenting her characters in such a genuine way that allowed them to be realistic and 3D. Black girls were allowed to be Black girls, and that was magical.
Some of the themes I picked up on were:
– Human trafficking
– Adoption by white people
– Race
– Exploitation of land, resources, and people
– Elitism & social standing
– White saviorism
– Immigrant lifestyle
– Assimilation expectations
– Living vicariously through children
– Identity

I look forward to hearing more from the author, and I enjoyed reading this debut novel. 3.75/4 stars.

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White Smoke by Tiffany Jackson

White Smoke

White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had difficulty with this book in several places. First of all, I completely adore Tiffany Jackson’s work, and I love how she constructs her overarching messages for her readers and how it all integrates with the plot + current day happenings. She thinks about EVERYTHING! Leaves nothing out, and is a genius in her overall picture an execution of her stories leaving her readers in the lurch.

However, with this particular novel, I had to keep reminding myself, this is for YA, this is for YA, this is NOT FOR ME. Just to keep my angst down. I went back and forth on the rating between 3 and 4 stars, and I think I’m going to settle with 3, but I don’t necessarily feel its a 3. However, it’s not a stellar 4 for me either. This is where my dilemma lands.

The pacing and details in the horror elements started to feel unbelievable at times, and the littlest character, Piper, did not feel like a 10 year old’s personality. I have a 10 year old, and Piper felt much younger, like a 7 year old. Because of Piper’s personality and age issue, it colored my perspective on that character immensely because I was just aggravated by the very young childlike mannerisms that she portrayed as a 10 year old. Piper would run and jump in her dad’s arms like a 6 or 7 year old, hide behind her parents like a young child, and aggravate her siblings like a 5 year old, when she’s 10, and essentially a pre-teen. That gave off the unbelievability in that character alone, and then you have the rest of the story to deal with.

I am definitely here for Tiffany’s messaging though. She talked about the horrible ways in which gentrification affects Black communities. She talked about the “War on Drugs” that is essentially a war on Black people. She talked about mass incarceration. She talks about blended/biracial families. She talks about white male patriarchal societies. She talks about wealth gaps between white and Black communities. She talks about mental health issues and phobias. She talks about the stigma of marijuana. She talks about religious factions interfering with Black communities and preying on people’s desperation/poverty via spirituality like Creflo Dollar (i.e., prayer rugs, snake oil, garden seeds, etc.) She also talks about decaying neighborhoods and wanton neglect by the city because of Black bodies in the community.

However, there is just something that digs into my side with this story. Her main protagonist, Marigold (aka Mari) is a full fleshed out character. She has flaws, she is “troubled,” and she got issues, like a normal teenager. She also suffers from a debilitating bedbug phobia and has severe anxiety. She self-medicates with marijuana, and has had drug problems with prescription meds. She also doesn’t trust people and have an enormous amount of self-doubt and low self-esteem.

Her friends seem to care, but they aren’t wholly invested in my opinion. They are just there, on the fringes. Although she does let a couple of people get close, they are still like an arm’s distance apart from her because she can’t trust people.

The horror part of the story did give me the creeps and satisfied my horror hunger, but the plot wasn’t totally believable to me. It reminded me of Alyssa Cole’s book (When No One is Watching) and the outlandish ending. It seemed like a people under the stairs kind of story, but then it became outlandish. Jackson gave a nod to Devil’s Night, which in some cities had been very violent in the past, like Detroit, where homes were set on fire, and people were out of their mind rioting during that time committing crimes and whatnot. However, the story just didn’t become quite cohesive enough for me.

I don’t want to give away the story or any details, but I did enjoy the ‘horror’ aspect for the most part, there is just something I can’t put my finger on regarding the pacing and details. Some of it was spot on, and some of it was just too much. Overall though, I think teenagers who like horror may be really intrigued by this book. However, for us adults who indulge in YA fiction may have an issue with some parts of this book. 3.5/3.75 rating.

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The Archer by Shruti Swamy

The Archer

The Archer by Shruti Swamy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was art. It reminded me of a painting with large brush strokes, sweeping lines, and abstract images. You definitely have to be slow and patient with this book.

This book was about a young woman named Vidya, who is trying to embark on a life of her own. She doesn’t want to be shackled by the chains of tradition in her culture, but she also doesn’t want to be an outcast because of her ideas/behaviors.

In India, there is a patriarchal society that is heavy handed on everything. Women are raised to be good daughters, wives, and mothers. Girls’ whole upbringing is designed to be conditioned for marriage life and motherhood. The women who are fortunate enough to be able to go to school or have a career are looked down upon. Employers view women as liabilities; knowing undoubtedly that the woman will leave upon marriage or motherhood, and thus do not hire them or give them meaningful jobs to sustain themselves.

Vidya is embarking on a self-discovery journey and realizes that she does not want to play by the rules of patriarchy. Mixed in there are her emotions regarding her mother, especially as she gets older and life circumstances makes her see life possibly through the eyes of her own mother.

The book discusses several topics I thought were worthy of repeating:
– Feminism and independence
– Fighting/living with the patriarchy
– Motherhood
– Womanhood
– Caste/class system (poverty vs. elitism)
– Colorism
– Sociatial pressures vs Cultural norms
– Gender norms/roles
– Self-care and mental health
– Dysfunctional families

Vidya is a talented young woman who had been afforded the opportunity to go to college, and is majoring in engineering. She also wants to be a dancer of the most complicated Kathak dance that is performed in India. She spends her days practicing and dreaming of dance, hoping to have opportunities to dance in performances and please her dance teachers. She is also opening her eyes to friendships with other women and she tells of her friendship with Radha. We see the various social issues become discussed amongst them and how they are trying to navigate the societal pressures thrust upon them as young Indian women. We see Vidya bend a little towards what’s expected of her, but then we see her emerging as a formidable independent woman, making her own rules.

I was impressed with Vidya’s persistence and I was hopeful for her as she learned about herself and what she wanted. I loved how she took the reins of her life and made her own way despite the chance and opportunity of a life of ease. She made a bold statement to people in her life; having her own independence was worth fighting for rather than giving in to tradition.

I really enjoyed this book, as it provided a different tempo from what I normally read. This book was like a complicated dance, a form of abstract art, and beautifully written and immersive. 4 stars.

Thank you to Algonquin Books, Libro.FM, and the author Shruti Swamy for this book in exchange for a fair and honest opinion.

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Just as I Am by Cicely Tyson

Just as I Am

Just as I Am by Cicely Tyson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Ms. Cicely Tyson was an amazing human being. She has definitely lived an extraordinary life, and I’m so grateful to have been alive at the same time as she.

Ms. Cicely was a spunky, ingenious, compassionate, loving, hard working woman who captivated the hearts and minds of millions of people over a nine decades long life. She was definitely living her best life to the very last minute, and I’m so thankful that she finally let us in to her life behind the scenes.

Tyson came up during America’s most critical times, and she persevered every step of the way since she was born. She arrived on the scene with a purpose already foretold by God, and she intended to live her life according to God’s will and his purpose for her life.

Ms. Tyson set the record straight on numerous topics, including her actress work on the stage, her relationships with her family, her relationship with Miles Davis, and how she set herself up to live in God’s purpose as best as she could. Many people hail and look up to Ms. Cicely Tyson, but she reiterates many times how she’s a flawed individual and that she has made mistakes, just like we all have. She tells us that we all process life differently and that our experiences are not all the same. However, she encourages us with God’s words and his promises for our lives if we only submit to His will and allow him to work through us. Ms. Cicely Tyson was very transparent about her life and the decisions she made throughout, and I was deeply appreciative that she didn’t hold back, but was able to bare her soul and release the things she at long last wanted to say.

I learned a great many history lessons in this book, that really set me on a path to do more research about people she discussed that are/should be in our history books. This book also shared numerous gems that fell like gentle wisdom cascading down to my brain, and I imagined that I was sitting at the feet of an elder who was sharing not only intimate details, but life experiences that she went through to share wisdom, and to articulate how we are all just human beings and we experience the same/similar issues.

I loved how Ms. Cicely didn’t compromise herself, and that she always stayed true to herself. She made sure she was treated with dignity and respect, and deeply considered her platform and intentions with her morale compass on a regular basis. She was constantly well aware of her station as a Black woman, and how she had to fight and show up to prove that she could do the work. She never gave up on herself and truly put forth 110% on everything she did.

The section about her daughter was truly sobering and inspiring. Understanding the timeframe and immense pressure surrounding her circumstances we don’t know what we would have done in her situation. I’m glad that she got the opportunity to still be apart of her daughter’s life, I did feel a bit sad every time she was mentioned because you could literally feel the strain in the relationship by just the words used when her daughter was mentioned.

Ms. Cicely Tyson was a very spunky young lady. The way she talked about her relationship with Miles Davis, to the white male patriarchy that she had to deal with in Hollywood and on the stage was entertaining. I was laughing and crying right along with Ms. Tyson as she shared anecdotes and stories about everything she encountered.

To have lived 96 years, wow, her life was a life well lived. She shared a great amount of wisdom in these pages. I felt like there was a sheen of wisdom layered on top of the pages I read. You could just feel the wisdom and knowledge dripping out of these pages. As a reader, I felt like I was sitting at the feet of a dear ancestor, soaking up our history and stories and just relishing in their experience.

I thoroughly enjoyed her memoir, and the writing was phenomenal!

Many themes she expressed in this book was:
– Feminism
– Womanism
– Independence
– Spirituality
– Preservering
– Steadfastness
– Empowerment
– Black pride
– Humble
– Child of immigrants
– Watching addiction ravish a loved one
– Domestic violence/abuse
– Motherhood
– Generational trauma

I would definitely recommend this book to others. 5 stars.

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