New Book Review

Through Goodreads, I am a member of the Black Coffee community. In January 2021, our group read Deesha Philyaw’s novel, The Secrets Lives of Church Ladies. I was really excited to read this collection of short stories. Although there were a few short stories that I enjoyed reading, I am not able to say that I loved the book. Therefore, I encourage you to read the book to determine your feelings about it.

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Slavery in 1921?

This book focuses on a piece of history that Freeman’s friend found and shared with him. “A friend had been looking through some historical material on his family in the area of middle Georgia where these events took place, and he found a brief account of the killings in a local history book” (Freeman 92). Deeply affected by this story, it was one Morgan knew he had to tell. Read this story to learn about the concealed system of slavery. 

The year is 1921, and the places are Jasper and Newton Counties in central Georgia. These two counties become widely known due to the horrific murders of eleven plantation slaves. The accused, John S. Williams and Clyde Manning, are on trial for these horrendous murders. This loss of human life occurred as the result of peonage.

In 1865, the institution of slavery officially ended in the United States, but unofficially, it did not.  This unofficial form of slavery was known as peonage. Peonage was a system in which “blacks were fined for vagrancy or other supposed crimes and then forced to work off the debt on local farms for what often became a lifetime of brutal conditions” (Freeman 60). This was the situation for Clyde Manning and other African-Americans on the Williams’ plantation. For whatever “crime” they committed, these individuals wound up on the plantation and never left. 

Freeman allows his readers to clearly understand the racial dynamics between whites and blacks during the time in which these murders occurred. Also, the way Freeman describes these murders are quite vivid but not in a good way. The details are horrific, and heartbreaking. As a reader, this is what made this novel extremely difficult for me to read. In fact, I almost stopped reading this novel, but I was determined to finish reading it because I wanted to know the fate of these two men after the jury rendered its verdict. If you want to learn about a hidden piece of history, then this novel is for you.

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The Scars We Choose

Have you ever had a childhood sweetheart? The love of your life? In The Scars We Choose, the main character, Scarlett Elizabeth Nell Waverly, known as Lizzie Nell, has a love of her life. He is Julian Rose, who resides on the Florida Gulf Coast. When her family buys a beach house on this coast, she meets her prince, Julian “Hemingway” Rose. Although she is nine, and he is eleven, their puppy love begins. Lizzie Nell has vitiligo, and Julian has scars on his face. Lizzie Nell is white, and Julian is biracial. Sadly, while her parents prefer that she is only friends with peers of her race, this does not stop Lizzie Nell and Julian from becoming fast friends. 

Scarlett, as Lizzie Nell prefers to be called, is now living in Grand Isle, Louisiana, and it is the summer of 2013. Scarlett is telling her friends, Ms. Pinkie Perideaux and Genevieve, Ms. Pinkie’s adoptive daughter, about how she met Julian. But she does not just tell them about him, she also tells them about everything, meaning her life. 

As Scarlett divulges the details to Ms. Pinkie and Genevieve, she goes back and forth between her childhood and her present life. This style of writing will not allow Lee’s audience to lose interest in the story. In fact, it will keep them turning the pages. The more I read, the more I wanted to read, so I ignored my bedtime. I just could not and would not put down my iPad.

Also, I love Lee’s ability to allow her readers to broaden their vocabulary through Scarlett. Scarlett receives her first dictionary from her grandmother, Gramma Nell. Gramma Nell encourages Scarlett to learn a new word each day. Scarlett shares the new words that she learns, and explains their definitions in a clear manner. 

This novel deals with the themes of friendship, acceptance, love, race, and loyalty. The way Lee addresses these themes will make you think about the dynamics of life. In fact, it may make you think about your own life. If you want to read a great novel that you will not be able to put down, then read The Scars We Choose because you will not be disappointed. Let me warn you about the exciting cliffhanger at the end. It will make you want to read the sequel, which is currently in the works!

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Nat Turner: Mentioned but Not Widely Discussed

Always Forever Reading’s Rating = 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

“Nat Turner led a slave rebellion in 1831, and that it was a significant event…Who is this man who is so important enough to be mentioned in all the history books, yet is never spoken at length?” (Baker 6) This statement made me reflect on my school days. In school, I do not remember learning much about Nat Turner or, for that matter, any other black Americans until I had Mr. Andre Holmes’ 7th grade Social Studies class. He is the reason that my classmates and I learned about black history. We loved going to class his class every day. He made us want to know more about ourselves as young African Americans. His class had such a profound affect on me that I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, I was going to attend an historically Black College and University (HBCU).

This graphic novel tells the story of Nat Turner in a compelling way. The most unique feature is the lack of dialogue. In reading this story, I had to look carefully at the illustrations to comprehend the story. It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and Barker’s art work is a thousand words multiplied by infinity. These illustrations allow readers to understand the evils of slavery. He depicts this inhumane institution so well that readers can feel the intensity. If you want to learn about a part of history that is rarely discussed, then this graphic novel is for you.

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Carl Weber: Grand Opening 2

Always Forever Reading’s Rate = 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

How It Continues…

This prequel is unbelievable!!! Set in Waycross, Georgia, the Duncan brothers have made a name for themselves and are highly respected. But the drama begins when Miss Bettie, their mother, is kidnapped and found dead, but only Lou believes that she is still alive. I will not to write anymore because I do not want to reveal any spoiler alerts!!!

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Hurricane Song: Paul Volponi

Miles Shaw lives in Chicago, Illinois with his mother. But when she remarries, their household becomes a family of six, living in a two-bedroom apartment. Wanting a new environment, Miles, named after Miles Davis, decides to move to New Orleans, Louisiana to be with his dad.

As he is getting used to his new life, Miles has just one more thing to which he must adjust, surviving his first hurricane. On August 25, 2005, Miles, his dad, and his uncle prepare to evacuate New Orleans and stay in a hotel. But after his uncle’s truck breaks down, the best place for them to be safe is in the Superdome. 

Read about Miles’ Hurricane Katrina experience from the beginning to the end. Warning: Be prepared to experience many emotions as you read this novel because the details are graphic and make you question your own inner strength and survival skills.

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Naughtier Than Nice

Always Forever Reading’s Rate = 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

My favorite author has done it again. Dickey keeps his readers on pins and needles, forever catching them off guard. He kept me turning pages and even made me shed tears. However, those tears became joyful. Read this novel, but get your mind ready for the roller coaster!!!

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The Book of David

Always Forever Reading’s Rating = 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

I read the inside cover of this book. I read the back of this book. I immediately knew that I had to read this book. David is a high school senior at Hillside High School, and he is living a great life. He is the running back turned explosive quarterback on the football team. He has to make a decision about offers from Division I universities. He is well-liked by his classmates and teammates. He has a popular girlfriend.

Unfortunately this wonderful life could come to an end due to a secret that he harbors in the depths of his soul. No one knows this secret, not even his family, Tyler, his best friend, or Monica, his girlfriend. He knows that if this secret is revealed, his whole world will change forever.

He is doing an excellent job concealing his secret until Jon comes into the picture. Jon, a new student from Chicago, Illinois, captures his attention and has a profound effect on him. He is the one guy with whom David can see himself, but he has much at stake should he decide to explore a relationship with him; therefore, he has much to think about. What would his family say if they knew? Would they still love him? What kind of effect would this have on Monica? Would Tyler still be his best friend? Would Mrs. Harrison, his English teacher, no longer respect him? How would his church congregation feel? What would they say? Would he lose his scholarship offers? Read this book to find out the answers to these questions and more, should they arise. This is a novel worth reading.  

The Family Business 4 Carl Weber

Always Forever Reading’s Rating = 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Just when life is once again normal for the Duncan family, trouble looms around the corner. An unexpected foe tests this family beyond limits. Loyalty, betrayal, secrets, strength, perseverance, happiness, and a mother’s love are the explored themes of this book. Because this novel has unexpected twists and turns, readers will keep turning each page until they have finished reading it. 

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