The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

“Scars are just another kind of memory.” ~ The Light Between Oceans

It seemed that the book community was hot or cold about The Light Between Oceans There was no grey area. People either really loved this book or hated it. What really convinced me to read it was the film so when my wonderful friend Brisni suggested we buddy read it I was all in. Historical fiction is probably my favorite genre so my expectations for this book were very high. This book is broken down into three parts so I will tackle each part and then a full summary in the end. 


Australia, 1926. After four harrowing years fighting on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns home to take a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day's journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby's cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. 

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom's judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them. 

M. L. Stedman's mesmerizing, beautifully written debut novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel's decision to keep this "gift from God." And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another's tragic loss.


Part one was a bit slow for me. The prologue gives a glimpse into what specifically happens to the two main characters, Isabel and Tom, that is the basis of the entire story. Tom and Isabel are married and live on Janus Rock. Tom is a lighthouse keeper who I'd describe as an "upstanding citizen." He is a person who operates on morals and principles and takes his position as a lighthouse keeper very seriously. I would describe his wife, Isabel, as very confident, sort of snarky and spoiled. When they first meet she is very forward with Tom. Even when he left Janus Rock after they met, Isabel wrote him a 'thinking of you' letter with just enough hints that let Tom know she was thinking of him. Back to the prologue. One day Isabel was standing on a cliff overlooking Janus Rock when she sees a boat drift ashore. She and Tom take it upon themselves to investigate only to find a deceased man and a baby which Isabel wants to keep as her own after having several miscarriages. This creates a dynamic between the two of them; both morally and personally.

Tom is mentally suffering like many of his comrades after the war. He WANTS to make Isabel happy. It is clear that he loves his wife, but what stands in his way is always doing what's "right" so he is dealing with an internal struggle regarding a baby that does not belong them and constantly wondering if there is a distraught mother somewhere. I am not much of a romance novel reader so for me if there is romance in a story I need it to read authentically. Prior to Tom and Isabel getting married, some of their "flirty" scenes made me cringe. I do understand their longing desire for one another as she is a 20 year old young woman and he is coming home from war having missed the soft touch and attention of a woman, but for some reason I envisioned in my mind a cheesy 80s film where the girl is running across a field of lilies into the man's muscular arms with the music playing in the background. I didn't want to envision this but I did. 

I also think Part I is overly detailed in describing Janus Rock. I loved that in it's description I felt like I was standing on the beach wrapped softly in a sarong with my eyes clothes daydreaming with the summer breeze. It's very atmospheric. Obviously setting the visual for location needs to be established but a chapter and a half is overkill and slows down the story completely.  

  “If a lighthouse looks like it's in a different place, it's not the lighthouse that's moved.” 
― M.L. Stedman, The Light Between Oceans

photo cred: cici ford

photo cred: cici ford


Part II

Honestly this part of the story is where I began to really clinch my teeth and develop a slight dislike for Isabel. My heart and natural empathy for human despair tells me to feel sorry for her. She is a woman who has experienced great loss and wants nothing more than to be a mother; to love and be loved. However, my logical side tells me that this woman is incredibly selfish in her desire to keep a baby that does not belong to her knowing that the mother of this child is desperately seeking her. Tom is plagued with guilt and expresses to Isabel that it is wrong, but Isabel in all of her morally grey glory makes Tom feel incredibly guilty about wanting to do the "right thing."

She rages at Tom when he challenges her decision to keep "Lucy" and uses her miscarriages to persuade Tom to see things her way. Although I like Tom's vulnerability in this part of the story, he seems trapped under the guise of his affection for his wife. It makes me think about defending loved ones behavior even when it's wrong because of feelings of guilt and obligation. In part II "Lucy's" (named by Isabel) biological mother, Hannah, is introduced and her attempt to find her daughter. The man who Tom and Isabel found dead on the boat with the baby was Frank, Hannah's husband and Lucy's biological father. Their backstory is given which I won't spoil you too much on.


There are secrets between Tom and Isabel and it turns out they know Hannah from past encounters. Isabel wonders if Tom had an affair with Hannah and now the dynamics of their situation have heightened. Not only are they raising a child that does not belong to them, but the child of a woman they both know. 

Part III

And here we have arrived at the "magnum opus", so to speak, of this incredibly annoying story. This is where I have developed a true disdain for these characters. Not only is Tom arrested, but he lies about burying Frank's body in order to protect his wife. To make matters worse Isabel is so distraught about Tom telling the authorities the truth in all of her selfish and psychotic behavior, she let's the police think that Tom actually committed murder to get back at him for "ruining her life" by not being quiet and keeping a child that doesn't belong to her. She ends up having run ins with "Lucy" whose actual name is Grace and her biological mother Hannah. Isabel is the only mother that Lucy has ever known and she struggles to connect with Hannah and let's Hannah know that she is not her "Momma" which tears Hannah apart. Enter Hannah's annoying sister Gwen who thinks it's a good idea to sneak Lucy to see Isabel, as she explains it, for the child's "own good." Isabel in the end finally has to tell the truth which allows Tom to go free and after learning all the details, Hannah, tired and weary, just wants everything to be over so she can go home with her daughter so she doesn't press any charges against Isabel.

I cannot recall ever (not exaggerating) reading a book that enraged me more than this one. Although I found this book to be incredibly atmospheric and rhythmic, I could not stand ANY of these characters. I am not a reader that needs to connect with characters to love it, but these characters were extremely absentminded, selfish, assumptive etc. Tom was not written with an admirable vulnerability that I actually like in most male characters. He was weak and a complete pushover. I, in no way, thought that him hiding that keeping Lucy-Grace was Isabel's idea and lying for her while he was wilting away in a jail cell was a reflection of his "love" for her. In fact, I thought it was completely insane. Isabel was actually quite wretched. She called keeping Lucy-Grace "a miracle". When Hannah said that she would give Lucy-Grace up if she swore that everything Tom said was true and that he would be prosecuted, Isabel quickly said, "I swear". She cared nothing about him. Later could not live with herself. 

I have absolutely know idea how to rate this book. It had such good pacing but it made me angry. I like that this book tackles so many flaws and questions about our human existence; mental illness, insecurity, "right" and "wrong", personal morals and principles. What happens to a person's psyche when they experience loss {death} in succession the way Isabel did? What really happens to a person when they've experienced death in war and them come home to more death? This book completely threw me for a loop. 



2018 Anticipated Reads

Another new year...

...means another batch of reads to curl up with and devour with every turn of the page. I think that it is safe to say that most readers have a TBR pile that stretches around the Earth two fold.

This blog post will be pretty large. I have SOOOOO many books I want to read, but I thought I'd list the ones I am most excited about. Included will also be already released books. Hopefully you can add a few of these to your pile.

These books are a mix of different genres with authors of color, lots of women, essays, thrillers, classics and overall an array of eclectic stories and storytellers. I have taken the time to write out the mini synopsis for each, but if you click on any image of the book you are interested in, it's linked to its respective goodreads page so that you can quickly  add it to your want-to-read shelf. Happy reading!

Graphic by: cici ford

Graphic by: cici ford



Feel Free by Zadie Smith 

Release date: February 6, 2018

Arranged into five sections--In the World, In the Audience, In the Gallery, On the Bookshelf, and Feel Free--this new collection poses questions we immediately recognize. Feel Free offers a survey of important recent events in culture and politics, as well as Smith's own life. 


Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

Release Date: May 2, 2018

In this groundbreaking history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein, a leading authority on housing policy, explodes the myth that America’s cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregation—that is, through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, The Color of Law incontrovertibly makes clear that it was de jure segregation—the laws and policy decisions passed by local, state, and federal governments—that actually promoted the discriminatory patterns that continue to this day.


No One Is Coming To Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts

The Great Gatsby brilliantly recast in the contemporary South: a powerful first novel about an extended African-American family and their colliding visions of the American Dream.


The Thirst by Jo Nesbo

In Police—the last novel featuring Jo Nesbø's hard-bitten, maverick Oslo detective—a killer wreaking revenge on the police had Harry Hole fighting for the safety of the people closest to him. Now, in The Thirst, the story continues as Harry is inextricably drawn back into the Oslo police force. A serial murderer has begun targeting Tinder daters—a murderer whose MO reignites Harry's hunt for a nemesis of his past.


Her Very Fear by Peter Swanson

Told from multiple points of view, Her Every Fear is a scintillating, edgy novel rich with Peter Swanson’s chilling insight into the darkest corners of the human psyche. 


Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper

Release Date: February 20, 2018

Eloquent Rage takes up this politics of critical dissent, asking: How do Black women resist stereotypical portrayals of them angry, aggressive, scary and violent? How do Black women dissent from a national narrative about heterosexual Black intimacy that says we are undesirable, unlovable, and unfit for partnerships or marriages? How do we dissent from religious patriarchy? How do we use our participation in politics to resist the march of fascism? How does our embrace of Beyonce act as a kind of dissent against those who would dismiss as frivolous Black women's pursuit of pleasure and joy? Drawing together her funny, poignant, and often heartbreaking experiences of friendship, family, and intimate relationships, with insights from her career as a professor of women's and gender studies, Cooper writes compellingly about how Black women's critical dissent shows up in the everyday lives of women.


The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk

Release Date: March 6, 2017

Autumn always knew exactly who she was—a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan always turned to writing love songs when his love life was a little less than perfect.

But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.


This Will Be My Undoing Morgan Jenkins

Release Date: January 30, 2018

Morgan Jerkins is only in her twenties, but she has already established herself as an insightful, brutally honest writer who isn’t afraid of tackling tough, controversial subjects. In This Will Be My Undoing, she takes on perhaps one of the most provocative contemporary topics: What does it mean to “be”—to live as, to exist as—a black woman today? This is a book about black women, but it’s necessary reading for all Americans.

Doubly disenfranchised by race and gender, often deprived of a place within the mostly white mainstream feminist movement, black women are objectified, silenced, and marginalized with devastating consequences, in ways both obvious and subtle, that are rarely acknowledged in our country’s larger discussion about inequality. In This Will Be My Undoing, Jerkins becomes both narrator and subject to expose the social, cultural, and historical story of black female oppression that influences the black community as well as the white, male-dominated world at large.


Love In a Fallen City Eileen Chang

Eileen Chang is one of the great writers of twentieth-century China, where she enjoys a passionate following both on the mainland and in Taiwan. At the heart of Chang's achievement is her short fiction—tales of love, longing, and the shifting and endlessly treacherous shoals of family life. Written when Chang was still in her twenties, these extraordinary stories combine an unsettled, probing, utterly contemporary sensibility, keenly alert to sexual politics and psychological ambiguity, with an intense lyricism that echoes the classics of Chinese literature. Love in a Fallen City, the first collection in English of this dazzling body of work, introduces American readers to the stark and glamorous vision of a modern master.


Everyday People, The Color of Life: A Short Story Anthology by Jennifer Baker

Release Date: August 28 2018

In the tradition of Best of American Short Stories and Langston Hughes’s classic The Best Short Stories by Black People comes Everyday People: The Color of Life, a dazzling collection of contemporary short fiction.

This gorgeously wrought anthology represents a wide range of styles, themes, and perspectives on a variety of topics. The carefully selected stories depict moments that linger—moments of doubt, crossroads to be chosen, relationships, epiphanies, moments of loss and moments of discovery. A celebration of writing and expression, Everyday People brings to light the rich tapestry that binds us all. 


We Are Taking Only What We Need by Stephanie Powell Watts

Fiction. African American Studies. African American women protagonists lose and find love, confront sanity and craziness, and strive to make sense of their lives in North Carolina. A Jehovah's Witness girl goes door-to-door with an expert field-service partner from up north. At a call center, operator Sheila fields a caller's uncomfortable questions under a ruthless supervisor's eye. Forty-something Aunt Ginny surprises the family by finding a husband, but soon she gives them more to talk about.


Still Me by JoJo Moyes

Release date: January 30, 2018

Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She is thrown into the world of the superrich Gopniks: Leonard and his much younger second wife, Agnes, and a never-ending array of household staff and hangers-on. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her job and New York life within this privileged world. 

Before she knows what's happening, Lou is mixing in New York high society, where she meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past. In Still Me, as Lou tries to keep the two sides of her world together, she finds herself carrying secrets--not all her own--that cause a catastrophic change in her circumstances. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places?



Children of Blood & Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. 

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. 

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.


Where the Line Bleeds by Jesmyn Ward

Set in a rural town on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Where the Line Bleeds tells the story of fraternal twins Joshua and Christophe, who are graduating high school as the novel begins. The two boys both anticipate and dread their lives as adults. Joshua finds a job working as a dock laborer on the Gulf of Mexico, but Christophe has less luck: Unable to find a job, and desperate to alleviate his family’s poverty, he starts to sell drugs. Joshua does not approve, but his clumsy concern fractures the twins’ relationship. When their long-missing addict father reappears, he provokes a shocking confrontation between himself and the brothers—one that will ultimately damn or save them.

Where the Line Bleeds is unforgettable for the intense clarity of how the main relationships are rendered: the love but growing tension between the twins; their devotion to the slowly failing grandmother to raised them, and the sense of obligation they feel toward her; and most of all, the alternating pain, bewilderment, anger, and yearning they feel for the parents who abandoned them—their mother for a new life in the big city of Atlanta, and their father for drugs, prison, and even harsher debasements.


House of Stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

The book has a microcosm of characters, I’m not sure I can summarize everything, but at the centre of the novel is our boisterous, wall-eyed narrator, Zamani, who, desperate to unshackle himself from an unsavory past and become a self-made man, rewrites and inserts himself into the history of a family he has become attached to, the Mlambos. And you know, he’s just obsessed with the past, he’s trying to reconstruct a self, he’s telling histories he has wangled out of others, and he’s an exposer of others’ ugly secrets, though he has secrets of his own he doesn’t want found out.


Obsidio (#3 in Illuminae series) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Release date: March 13, 2018

Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they'll find seven months after the invasion? 

Meanwhile, Kady's cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza's ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha's past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. 

With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heros will fall, and hearts will be broken.


Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Release Date: April 3, 2018

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.


See What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticism and Commentary by Lorrie Moore

Release Date: April 3, 2018

From Lorrie Moore's earliest reviews of novels by Margaret Atwood and Nora Ephron, to an essay on Ezra Edelman's 2016 O.J. Simpson documentary, and in between: Moore on the writing of fiction (the work of V. S. Pritchett, Don DeLillo, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Munro, Stanley Elkin, Dawn Powell, Nicholson Baker, et al.) . . . on the continuing unequal state of race in America . . . on the shock of the shocking GOP . . . on the dangers (and cruel truths) of celebrity marriages and love affairs . . . on the wilds of television (The Wire, Friday Night Lights, Into the Abyss, Girls, Homeland, True Detective, Making a Murderer) . . . on the (d)evolving environment . . . on terrorism, the historical imagination, and the world's newest form of novelist . . . on the lesser (and larger) lives of biography and the midwifery between art and life (Anais Nin, Marilyn Monroe, John Cheever, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Eudora Welty, Bernard Malamud, among others) . . . and on the high art of being Helen Gurley Brown . . . and much, much more.


Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

Release date: March 20, 2018

When Marvin Johnson's twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.

The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it's up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.


The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevado

Release date: March 6, 2018

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.


Tiffany Sly Lives Here by Dana L. Davis

Release date: May 1, 2018

For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mom to cancer has her a little bit traumatized and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known.

Anthony Stone is a rich man with four other daughters—and rules for every second of the day. Tiffany tries to make the best of things, but she doesn’t fit into her new luxurious, but super-strict, home—or get along with her standoffish sister London. The only thing that makes her new life even remotely bearable is the strange boy across the street. Marcus McKinney has had his own experiences with death, and the unexpected friendship that blossoms between them is the only thing that makes her feel grounded.

But Tiffany has a secret. Another man claims he’s Tiffany’s real dad—and she only has seven days before he shows up to demand a paternity test and the truth comes out. With her life about to fall apart all over again, Tiffany finds herself discovering unexpected truths about her father, her mother and herself, and realizing that maybe family is in the bonds you make—and that life means sometimes taking risks. 


Ten After Closing by Jessica Bayliss

Release date: June 5, 2018

10PM: Closing time at Cafe Flores. The door should be locked, but it isn't, Scott Bradley and Winsome Sommervil are about to become hostages.

TEN MINUTES BEFORE CLOSING: Scott's girlfriend breaks up with him over the phone while he's in the cafe's basement storeroom because he's late picking her up for the big end-of-the-year party. Now he can't got to the party, but he can't go home, either--not knowing his dad will still be in a drunken rage. Meanwhile, Winny wanted one night to let loose, away from her mother's crushing expectations. Instead, she's stranded at the cafe after her best friend ditches her in a misguided attempt at matchmaking.

TEN MINUTES AFTER CLOSING: The first gunshot is fired. Someone's dead. And if Winny, Scott, and the rest of the hostages don't come up with a plan soon, they may not live to see morning.

Told from both Winny and Scott's perspectives, and alternating between the events leading up to and following the hold-up, Ten Past Closing is an explosive story of teens wrestling with their own challenges, thrown into circumstances that will test their very limits.


Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

Release date: February 13, 2018

An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born "with one foot on the other side." Unsettling, heartwrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities.

Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asụghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves--now protective, now hedonistic--move into control, Ada's life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.

Narrated by the various selves within Ada and based in the author's realities, Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.


The Tunnel at the End of Light: Essays on Movies and Politics by Jim Shepard

The Tunnel at the End of the Light argues that some of our most persistent and destructive assumptions, in that regard, might come from the movies. In these ten essays Jim Shepard weaves close readings of film with cultural criticism to explore the ways in which movies work so ubiquitously to reflect how Americans think and act. Whether assessing the “high-spirited glee of American ruthlessness” captured in GoodFellas, or finding in Lawrence of Arabia a “portrait of the lunatic serenity of our leaders’ conviction in the face of all evidence and their own lack of knowledge,” he explores how we enter into conversations with specific genres and films—Chinatown, The Third Man, and Badlands among others—in order to construct and refine our most cherished illusions about ourselves. 

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

"People have started to leave, packing their bags quietly, as though no one will notice. This should mean more for us, but others arrive daily, filling the shelters with their breath and pains." ~ Megan Hunter

This book was sent to me from the lovely folks over at Grove Atlantic . It is only 134 pages but probably one of the most beautifully written stories I've read in a long time. The story itself it not an unfamiliar one. It's a story of a personal account of life after a catastrophe, but the way Hunter writes it in such a unique poetic way kept me transfixed on every word which was a complete surprise.

photo cred: cici ford The End We Start From by Megan Hunter hard cover, 134 pages Published May 18th 2017 by Picador Sent from Grove Atlantic

photo cred: cici ford

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

hard cover, 134 pages

Published May 18th 2017 by Picador

Sent from Grove Atlantic



In the midst of a mysterious environmental crisis, as London is submerged below flood waters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, the family are forced to leave their home in search of safety. As they move from place to place, shelter to shelter, their journey traces both fear and wonder as Z's small fists grasp at the things he sees, as he grows and stretches, thriving and content against all the odds.

This is a story of new motherhood in a terrifying setting: a familiar world made dangerous and unstable, its people forced to become refugees. Startlingly beautiful, Megan Hunter's The End We Start From is a gripping novel that paints an imagined future as realistic as it is frightening. And yet, though the country is falling apart around them, this family’s world – of new life and new hope – sings with love.

Typically after I finish a book I never head over to Goodreads to see what others rated it, but because this is such an unusually written dystopian novella, I was curious about what others had to say. Interesting enough, what most didn't like about this book I loved. Sparse and note-like were terms I saw frequently used to describe this book. Some readers didn't like that Hunter used only letters instead of full names to identify her characters. For me, all of these elements made this story a very unorthodox written literary tale and kudos to Hunter for taking such a leap in telling a post apocalyptic tale with such alluring prose.

This book starts with a nameless woman, the main character, giving birth to a baby and subsequently caring for this child, Z, as London is almost swept away by the deluge. Hunter evocatively writes this woman's struggles with being a mother during this time; breast feeding, what seems to be postpartum depression, connecting with her baby and connecting with the other mother's that she encounters along her journey to safety and refuge. This book does read as if the main character is jotting metrical notes in a journal about what has happened. It's spotty in a way, but I think it's an accurate way for this story to be told considering the circumstances. If I were in the middle of a post apocalyptic world chronicling what was happening, what I write would certainly be broken and sparse and emotional.

photo cred: cici ford 

photo cred: cici ford 


I thought her relationship with R, her husband, was interesting. His thoughts were more about keeping his family safe so he left to find safety and security. The main character often reflected frustration about caring for Z alone, but also understood what her husband needed to do and she thought about him constantly.  "I see R's face in the following objects: empty drink cans, rain splash on river, the heads of spoons." In the end he found safety for his family as Z continued to grow and develop unaware of the chaos around him.

This book was quick and scanty but fully packed at the same time. I implore you to go into this novella with an open mind. It is not written in the style you may be used to dystopians being written in, but it is so lyrical. I cry. I finished in an hour or so. If you loved Station Eleven or  The Earthseed Series  you will love this. 

My Rating 4/5

White Bodies by Jane Robins *trigger warning*

photo cred: cici ford White Bodies by Jane Robins Hardcover, 297 pages Purchased Published September 19th 2017 by Touchstone

photo cred: cici ford

White Bodies by Jane Robins

Hardcover, 297 pages


Published September 19th 2017 by Touchstone

Two genres I've become completely enamored with this year is crime fiction and psychological thrillers mostly because of Abby @crimebythebook on Instagram. To say she is inspiring would be a complete understatement. After she, and my good friend Patience,  @inkandfable ,said they enjoyed White Bodies by Jane Robins I decided to give it a go.

I have such a range of emotions about this book. It began with a really great pace and had me intrigued enough where I turned each page eyes wide and mouth open with anticipation of getting even a sentence closer to what was actually happening in this story. Somewhere in the middle towards the very end it got EXTREMELY EXTREMELY slow. Yes I had to type that twice. I found myself huffing breaths of frustration reading unnecessary details that seemed to be there to stretch a not so strong plot.

I feel that this is one of those "has so much potential" books. I cry. A story encompassing the lives of two sociopathic twins could be epic, but it just fell short for me.   


Felix and Tilda seem like the perfect couple: young and in love, a financier and a beautiful up-and-coming starlet. But behind their flawless façade, not everything is as it seems.

Callie, Tilda’s unassuming twin, has watched her sister visibly shrink under Felix’s domineering love. She has looked on silently as Tilda stopped working, nearly stopped eating, and turned into a neat freak, with mugs wrapped in Saran Wrap and suspicious syringes hidden in the bathroom trash. She knows about Felix’s uncontrollable rages, and has seen the bruises on the white skin of her sister’s arms.

Worried about the psychological hold that Felix seems to have over Tilda, Callie joins an internet support group for victims of abuse and their friends. However, things spiral out of control and she starts to doubt her own judgment when one of her new acquaintances is killed by an abusive man. And then suddenly Felix dies—or was he murdered?

Where do I begin? Twin sisters Tilda and Callie's dysfunctional relationship is obvious from the very beginning. Throughout the story Robins injects flashbacks from their childhood that indicate their narcissistic, obsessive and compulsive behavior. Callie was insanely obsessed with her sister. She saw, in Tilda, something that she did not see in herself; beauty, confidence, star quality and the adoration of others. When they were young girls Callie would try to eat Tilda's things almost as if she consumed them so she, too, could be like her sister; to embody her seemingly redeemable qualities.  Tilda in all of her self absorbed glory basks in her sisters obsession through their younger years and into adulthood.

Tilda is an actress; a fitting career for her personality type. She is married to Felix and not realizing the manipulative and conniving behavior of Tilda until later in the story, Felix is presented as controlling, short tempered and physically abusive to Tilda. Subsequently, Callie spends the majority of the story desperately wanting to discover the truth about her sister's relationship with Felix and protect her from him. She begins to frequent a website dedicated to supporting women who are in physically abusive relationships  and befriends a shady character by the name of "Scarlet". Scarlet convinces Callie that Felix should be murdered after Calleie shares her sister's story on the site. She'll murder Felix if Callie murders her "abusive" and "drug addict" boyfriend Luke, an idea birthed from the film Strangers On the Train. Felix dies mysteriously in a hotel room and Scarlet convinces Callie that she did it and that Callie needs to return the favor.

photo cred: cici ford 

photo cred: cici ford 

The plot twist, which I didn't think was strong at all, is that Tilda was the mass manipulator. She manipulated Callie by leaving her cryptic letters as clues to make her think she was being abused by Felix. Tilda also connected with Scarlet at some point and here's where I honestly felt a bit lost. I was uncertain if Felix had met Scarlet on a "sex specialty" website and Tilda found out about it. Callie did not hold up her end of the bargain with Scarlet so "Scarlet" may or may not have murdered Luke herself. Fast forward, Scarlet ends up drowned in an LA pool where Tilda was but all in all, Tilda could be tied to the deaths of Scarlet, Luke and Felix's. She couldn't be directly connected through physical evidence but she was a socio-path void of human emotion and had manipulated her way to stardom by being connected to these murders which, in turn, made her more famous. This is what she was after all along because she lied about her failing career to her sister and to everyone. Tilda eventually confesses to Callie and Callie still obsessed and protective, lies naked with her in her hotel room as she prepares to film a movie in LA and listens to Tilda blueprint how diabolical she really is. She accepts her sister as the selfish and emotionally vacant human being she is vowing to never tell anyone the truth.

The story of twins is what really intrigued me to read this book. I knew there would be some obsessive behavior and an unconventional sister relationship. I like the idea of this bizarre and unhealthy relationship between them. I loved the overall tone and atmosphere of the story as well. This, for me, is a story of obsession; obsession with what is seen as perfection whether it's within another human being or an obsession with self, success and fame in addition to the lengths people will go to gain it. I thought that Tilda and Callie were very well developed characters, but this book just got way too slow for me to give a high rating. 

My Rating 3/5



The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam

photo cred: cici ford

photo cred: cici ford


Quiet quaint cafe's make the perfect atmosphere for heart wrenching, beautifully written reads. I was sent The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam  from the lovely folks over at Flatiron Books . At first when I received the email about being sent this book, I was hesitant. I thought, from the title, that it would be some sort of adult contemporary romance novel, but after reading the synopsis, I realized the profundity of this story and I was right. (never judge a book by its cover haa haaa)


Two and a half decades into a devastating civil war, Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority is pushed inexorably towards the coast by the advancing army. Amongst the evacuees is Dinesh, whose world has contracted to a makeshift camp where time is measured by the shells that fall around him like clockwork. Alienated from family, home, language, and body, he exists in a state of mute acceptance, numb to the violence around him, till he is approached one morning by an old man who makes an unexpected proposal: that Dinesh marry his daughter, Ganga. Marriage, in this world, is an attempt at safety, like the beached fishing boat under which Dinesh huddles during the bombings. As a couple, they would be less likely to be conscripted to fight for the rebels, and less likely to be abused in the case of an army victory. Thrust into this situation of strange intimacy and dependence, Dinesh and Ganga try to come to terms with everything that has happened, hesitantly attempting to awaken to themselves and to one another before the war closes over them once more.


Although this book takes place during the ongoing civil war in Sri Lanka, it is vastly different from any book I've read that attempts to capture the viciousness of war. In fact it is the opposite. It captures a more personal account of what it's like to survive the night and live one more day. Arudpragasam wrote, exquisitely, what the main character, Dinesh, was feeling on the day he fled from government forces and a violent Liberation. My heart bled for him. This story made me reflect on how we take so many things for granted like breathing, eating, bathing, moving about freely without hinderances and basking in the presence of those around us everyday.

As the story progresses, Dinesh eventually marries a girl named Ganga. The marriage is arranged. Ganga was offered to Dinesh because her father could no longer care for her. I understand that arranged marriages are an important aspect of certain cultures, but I cannot fathom being thrusted into a marriage with someone I don't know and that I have to learn to love or possibly even like. The most interesting particular about their marriage is that it was incredibly brief, but during this brief time Dinesh develops all the feelings of emotional responsibility to Ganga even though she treated their marriage in a desultory way.

He wanted his wife's approval even through their silence and awkward interactions. I got the sense that Dinesh needed her approval and he needed to feel that he could reach her in some way; that he could connect with someone. His work consisted of burying the dead at a camp so I can only imagine that he felt numb inside, desensitized to death and had a longing for life and all that it meant. He was going to put in every effort to have a life with Ganga regardless of how she became his wife.  

photo cred: cici ford Paperback 208 pages Published September 6th 2016 by Flatiron Books Sent from Flatiron Books

photo cred: cici ford


208 pages

Published September 6th 2016 by Flatiron Books

Sent from Flatiron Books

“What it would be like to be separated from all these things he did not know, he could not envision, but the more he dwelled on it the more he understood that it was not so much fear of being separated that he felt as sadness at the idea of parting.” 

Arudpragasam's writing is incredibly poetic and Denish is such an impassioned character. I felt everything he felt. The author wrote, in an evocative way, the act of breathing as a way to note how even in the heart of chaos and unrest to try to take a moment and inhale the smallest moments that matter. If you follow me on Instagram, you know I have been vocal about searching for equanimity when there seems to be none so Dinesh's need for self reflection, compassion and understanding while experiencing and being surrounded by heinous conditions touched me personally.

 This book would almost be a five star rating for me if it were not for what I thought to be extremely overly detailed parts of the story. I think because this book focuses on one day the author had to stretch Denish's every emotion and thought. There is Denish's repeated acknowledgment of feces and towards the end he is obsessing over a dead crow for almost an entire chapter. I recognize the symbolism in both - Denish's connection to the morbid and vile - but I feel it took away from the overall narrative.

I love how with each turn of the page, it's like following a spiritual road map into the recesses of Dinesh's mind. Arudpragasam writes an up close and personal account of one man and peeled back his layers perfectly. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. 

My Rating 4/5

Behold the Dreamers by Ibolo Mbue

“But the Universe gives us different sources of Love to unite us all as One. Who are we to decide what the source of our Love should be at any given time? Love is Love, and at any given point we have everything we need.” ~ Behold the Dreamers

Photo cred: cici ford Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue Paperback PUBLISHED March 15, 2016 Random House Trade PACING 3/5

Photo cred: cici ford

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue


PUBLISHED March 15, 2016 Random House Trade


Honestly. I had super high expectations for this book because this is a diverse story written by a woman of color. I REALLY wanted to love it but it has come down to being just a satisfactory read for me. Although I appreciate the advocacy in the book community for more diverse stories, I still feel there is a lack of representation of it. Not only a lack of representation, but the hype is not there as well. There's definitely a push for more diverse stories, but there also needs to be a push for stories written by diverse authors which is why I was excited for this. Imbolo's writing is vivid and heartfelt, but overall the pacing was incredibly slow.

I kept noting the similarities between this and Americanah by Ndichie Not that they are similar tales in context, but they both encapsulated, very well, the struggle immigrants face when assimilating to a new environment unfamiliar to them. There's the adjustment to learning a new way of life, a new way of thinking, habits and language that are not embedded in their consciousness. It is a complete shift. Check the synopsis below.

The story is focuses on Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades.

When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.



“People in this country, always

worrying about how to eat, they pay

someone good money to tell them:

Eat this, don’t eat that. If you don’t

know how to eat, what else can you

know how to do in this world?” 

~ Behold the Dreamer

photo cred: cici ford

photo cred: cici ford

This story focuses on Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian native attempting to gain permanent citizenship in America. He leaves his homeland in order to make a better life for his wife, Neni, and his son Liomi. He secures a job with a wealthy executive, Clark Edwards, in Harlem, New York and after two years sends for his family.  What I liked most about the way Mbue wrote the two main characters is that she kept them both sort of balanced about family even in the midst of chaos. The underlying idea is always family enrichment. Neni had dreams of becoming a pharmacist all while being the matriarch and on her own journey of self discovery. Jende, although frustrated, with not being able to easily reach the American socio-economic status that he desired, he mostly kept a level head and always kept his family first in mind.  

Considering the current political and racial climate, what I also loved about Mbue's writing is that she was unafraid to tackle the topic of men of color and their relationship with law enforcement. I tabbed the page where Jende’s immigration lawyer says, “The police is for the protection of white people. . . . but not black men.” I think African American males have a full understanding as well as acute situational awareness when it comes to engaging with law enforcement. This made me ponder about men of color who immigrate here, particularly those of African descent, who may not be familiar with or have knowledge of this particular fiber of America. 

I actually had difficulty identifying the plot or maybe I did and was just underwhelmed by it. Jende  finds out that his boss Mr. Edwards, whom he chauffeurs for, mishandles finances and  filed for bankruptcy (If I'm remembering correctly) which left Jende wondering about unemployment in his future. I think the sequence of circumstances that Jende and Neni faced were natural consequences of acculturating themselves in America. The minutiae's of Jende's job put strain on their marriage. Neni who eventually worked for the Edwards, as well, in the Hamptons also added more stress and the anxiousness felt by Liomi because he didn't understand why he couldn't have the simplest thing like a toy truck.  It reads more like an overarching theme of dealing with life's hardships so some grand climactic plot/plots weren't present. No matter the genre of book I'm reading, I enjoy that. 

In addition, I felt Mbue could have expounded more on the things her characters were encountering. This probably would have made for a more a thrilling plot in my opinion. What could Jende have done when Mr. Edwards filed bankruptcy? What could have been his course of action or something that could have put fire under his belt? I wanted more from him, not just the notion of taking what life throws at you and accepting the destiny of trouble, but doing something with it. Mbue doesn't necessarily detail this in the story, but I love the subtle way these characters represent class in the American ethos - those that have and those that have not.

I still would recommend this book even with some of my displeasures. I love Mbue's writing, but I wish the pace of it was better.

My Rating 3/5