The Hate U Give and Other Diverse Reads

September 29, 2017
***updated April 15, 2020

The Hate U Give (THUG) and Other Diverse Reads

Today I’m offering a challenge for some of us to read outside our comfort zones. Does reading from a different point of view appeal to you? Do you wish you could include more diversity in your reading life? Would reading fiction that mirrors what you sometimes see on the nightly news interest you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I urge you to consider reading The Hate U Give. All books reviewed and recommended in this post focus on the theme of diversity, especially from the African-American perspective.

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

The Hate U Give (THUG) by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (cover) Image: an African American girl holdinga large white poster with the book title

Genre/categories: YA fiction, racism, prejudice, social and family issues

Summary:

Our sixteen-year-old main character, Starr, lives in a poor inner-city neighborhood and her mother drives her to an upper-middle-class private school miles across town for her education. Starr’s parents can afford to move out of the poorer neighborhood, but her dad, a former gang member and convict, believes it’s important to stay in the neighborhood to help solve the problems there and to be a role model and support for the young African-American males who desire to leave the gang life and pursue better options. Starr’s mother would like to move across town to the middle class more diverse neighborhood where Starr and her siblings attend a (predominately white) private school and where the family attends a “diverse” church “(she nicknames it “the diverse church). Starr manages to live between her two worlds of the Williamson private school crowd and her neighborhood friends. This causes her some stress because she feels she can’t totally be herself in either place. One night Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her unarmed childhood best friend by a police officer. The officer-involved shooting and her friend’s death make national headlines. Starr is faced with opinions and actions from both sides. Some reporters and private school friends say that the victim was a thug and perhaps a gang member and drug dealer and deserved to die. Friends in the neighborhood, including Starr who really knew the victim, defend him. As Starr faces her role as a witness, interrogation by the DA, involvement in protests, and publicity, she and her family also endure intimidation by the local drug lord (because if she testifies, she might incriminate him). Starr summons up all her courage so that her testimony and answers are honest and truthful to the best of her ability. What she says could endanger her life and cause further protests in the community. How will she use her voice? Amazon rating (September): 4.8

My Thoughts:

This is a challenging review to write as THUG is full of controversial and complex issues that require careful thought and, combined with the circumstances (and profanity), it can be a difficult read. Also, even though I enjoyed the book and was challenged by it, I had to think seriously about recommending it.

Do I recommend this book?

Absolutely YES!

In bullet format, you will discover the reasons I’m recommending this book (in no particular order):

  • THUG contains likable, memorable, and multidimensional characters. Starr’s parents’ relationship is especially encouraging and inspiring.
  • This is an unforgettable, fast-paced, heartbreaking, thought-provoking, inspiring, tragic, and unputdownable story told from authentic voices.
  • I think it’s important to challenge ourselves to read diverse literature and to listen well.
  • The issues in this book occasionally appear in our nightly news.
  • Experiencing a situation from the perspective of others that are different from us and hearing their voices informs our opinions and deepens our understanding.
  • It gave me a new perspective on the allure of gangs.
  • The story presented an interesting dilemma (as presented by Starr’s father and mother): should African Americans leave their inner-city neighborhood if they have that option or should they stay (and risk the consequences) to help their communities?
  • I thought the author did an exceptional job of helping the reader understand code-switching. I was challenged with accepting Starr just as she was and wondered if I would have tried to change her if she were a part of my community. Particularly, I wondered as a teacher how accepting I was of African Americans (or my other students from other cultures) who brought their unique cultural expressions into my classroom. How much code-switching did my students feel was necessary? Did I try to change them to fit my (white middle class) idea of an ideal student? Or did I promote acceptance in my classroom and among their peers for them to be their authentic selves (hairstyle, clothing, expressions, etc.)? In Starr’s own words, code-switching is exhausting and she was an expert.

“I should be used to my two worlds colliding, but I never know which Starr I should be. I can use some slang, but not too much slang. Some attitude but not too much attitude, so I’m not a sassy black girl. I have to watch what I say and how I say it. But I can’t sound “white.” Sh*@# is exhausting.”  ~Starr

  • The Hate U Give contains important and hard-hitting themes such as the responsibility to our neighborhood, bravery, finding our voice, loyalty, racism, violence, poverty, helplessness, privilege, family values, anger, and hate.
  • I think from news reports of similar situations we often are not getting the true stories from both sides. Although this story was told from Starr’s first-person point of view, I thought both sides were represented. In particular, Starr has a white boyfriend and it was interesting to have his interactions and perceptions as an integral part of the story.
  • I thought religion was presented sincerely and authentically in this story and included as ordinary, natural, and meaningful in the life of the family and community. This was refreshing because often an author’s bias against religion is apparent.
  • In the story, there is an incident of a mild and offhand racist comment made to a Chinese girl, Maya. As a result, she was more sympathetic to Starr’s situation because she had been a victim of a thoughtless racist comment. This illustrated to me that if we’ve never experienced racist comments personally, maybe reading about it happening to a beloved character can build empathy, understanding, and awareness. Starr’s reflection that came from that experience caused me to think about all the times I’ve heard something and said nothing:

“We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?” ~ Starr

  • THUG is categorized as YA and I think it’s an important read for mature young adults and adults of any age. It opens the door to many important discussions and hard thinking about relevant topics. I think diverse literature is a great way to build compassion, understanding, and empathy for others.
  • There will be ideas you disagree with in this book and content that’s uncomfortable and that’s ok! I still think they are ideas with which we need to wrestle. If the language doesn’t offend you, I think this would be an excellent selection for your book club. Perhaps the intent of the book is to start discussions.
  • No matter how you feel about the Black Lives Matter movement, this book remains a worthwhile read. It’s important to hear from the African-American community in their own voices. #dontletthestrugglersbecomeahashtag
  • Finally, don’t most of us want to read the book before the movie?!
    The Hate U Give movie trailer.
    The Hate U Give Movie.

*Alert: language (profanity), racial tension

Recommended: I can highly recommend this for mature young adults and for all adult readers as a discussion starter, a diverse literature pick (for many of us), and a book with contemporary and relevant topics.

My Rating: 5 Stars

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (cover) Image: African American girl holding a large sign with the book's title

The Hate U Give Information Here

***This post is linked up with Puppies and Pretties.

Meet the Author, Angie Thomas

Author, Angie Thomas (head shot, dressed in a yellow cardigan and leaning against a wall)

Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She can also still rap if needed. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Myers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg set to star.


Flight Picks:

Following is a sampling of other diverse literature with a focus on racism that I’ve read and highly recommend. If I have reviewed it here on the blog, I’ve included the link. I’ve also included the Amazon link for additional information.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (cover)

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir

My Review Here

More Information Here (and a young reader’s version here)


The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare (cover)

Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction (5+ Stars)

A young Nigerian girl fights for education and the right to be heard.

My Review Here

More Information Here


The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Water Dancer by Ta Nehisi Coates cover

Genre: Historical Fiction (4 Stars)

Slavery and the Underground Railroad.

My Review Here

More Information Here


Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Lathan (two portraits of a boy and a girl in sepia tones)

Genre: YA historical fiction (5 Stars)

My Review Here.

More Information Here


Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Small Great Things cover (multi colored squares frame the top and bottom of the cover)

Genre: Adult Fiction (4 Stars)

My Review Here.

More Information Here


The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe

The Gilded Years cover (purple background with white wording and a white image of a university style building)

Genre: Women’s Historical Fiction (4 Stars)

The first African-American woman to attend Vassar (passing as white).

My Review Here

More Information Here


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi cover (yellow background with red and blue and black designs)

Genre: Historical Fiction (5 Stars)

Multi-generational saga tracing the impact of slavery for 2 sisters and their families from Ghana to America over 300+ years.

More Information Here


Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
(author of Secret Life of Bees)

The Intention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (cover) (white lettering over a goldish redish sky background) featuring a few small flying birds)

Genre: Historical Fiction (5 Stars)

An unputdownable story of the Grimké sisters (Sarah and Angelina) and their slave, Hetty, as the sisters wrestle with the ideas of slavery and join the early abolitionist and women’s rights movements in the North. One of my favorite reads of recent years and a great book club selection.

More Information Here


The Kitchen House and
Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House
by Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen House

Glory Over Everything

Genre: Historical Fiction (both 5 Stars)

In The Kitchen House, a 7-year-old orphan from Ireland is placed with the slaves on a southern plantation. They become her family and she is raised in the slave culture. This gives her a unique perspective and voice. Glory Over Everything is a sequel of sorts (but it can be read as a stand-alone) and it follows the life of her nephew (from her black adopted sister) as he leaves the South and passes for white.

More Information Here and Here


Stella by Starlight
by Sharon M. Draper

Stella by Starlight cover (two young African American girls watching a cross burn)

Genre: Middle School historical fiction (4 Stars)

If you’re looking for a diverse and historical fiction selection for middle-grade readers (ages 9-12), I recommend this poignant story of Stella’s experiences with racism and finding her own voice.

More Information Here


The Warmth of Other Suns
by Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns cover (black and white background picture of people sitting outside their apartment buiolding on balconies and the front porch))

Genre: Narrative Nonfiction (5 Stars)

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson shares the stories of three individuals representing the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South from 1917 to 1970 for northern and western cities in search of a better life. This is known as the Great Migration. My husband was a history major and thoroughly enjoyed this story.

More Information Here


Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (cover)

My Review Here

More Information Here



QOTD:

I hope you have found this recommendation list of diverse reads useful and have found a new title to add to your TBR! In the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughtful and respectful reflections on The Hate U Give or any of the other selections. I’m always eager to hear about what you’re reading and your thoughts about diversity in your reading life! Did you add a new book to your TBR list?



Extras:

Those of you who have read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, might enjoy this excellent review I stumbled upon this week: Read Review Here.

Do you like polls? Book Nerd Poll just for fun!

One last recommendation! I thought Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood by Lisa Damour sounded really good for parents or guardians or mentors/teachers of teenage girls!

Untangled by Lisa Damour (cover) headshot of a teenage girl above the heading and subjeading

Untangled Information Here.



Happy Reading Everyone!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’m looking forward to reviewing Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (author of Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray). In two weeks, I’ll review Little Fires Everywhere, the new release by Celeste Ng (author of Everything I Never Told You).

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (cover) Image of a yellow camisole hanging from a padded hanger above a suitcase

Out of the Easy Information Here

Little Fires Everywhere by Celest Ng (cover) Image: white lettering over an arial vew of a nice neighborhood

Little Fires Everywhere Information Here



Let’s Get Social!

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
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***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

© ReadingLadies.com

Castle of Water: A Review

September 22, 2017

orange and gold fall leaves

Happy first day of fall everyone!

Every now and then do you enjoy an escapist read? Are you looking for a vacation read? Do you need to get away from tragic histfic, a break from heavy nonfiction topics, a relief from diverse literature where we work hard to climb into the perspectives of others, or a time out from text books if you’re a student? Do you appreciate an enemies-to-lovers trope? Then this may be your next read! Sometimes you find a book at just the right time, and this is when this unputdownable book found me!

Castle of Water by Dane Hucklebridge

Castle of Water by Dane Hucklebridge (kindle propped against a softly muted floral pillow shows cover)

Genre/categories; fiction, survival, action & adventure, love story

Summary:

“And so it came to pass that two utterly disparate lives happened to overlap … bound together on an uninhabited island some 2,359 miles from Hawaii, 4,622 miles from Chile, and 533 miles from the nearest living soul.
Crap, as Barry liked to say.
Putain de merde, as Sophie was known to exclaim.”
― Dane HuckelbridgeCastle of Water

Sophie, an architect and honeymooner, and Barry, disillusioned with his career in finance and seeking inspiration for his love of art end up on one very small island when their plane is hit by lightning and crashes in the middle of the South Pacific. Strangers and sole survivors and as different as night and day, Sophie and Barry wash up on a small uninhabited island and survival becomes their primary objective. Sophie and Barry draw from each other’s strengths and skills and through harrowing experiences, keep the hope of rescue alive.

Amazon Rating (September): 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Escapist: Castle of Water found me at exactly the right time as I needed a break from reading tragic and heavy histfic. It is truly an escapist and/or vacation read with interesting elements of history and geography woven into the narrative.

Themes: At first glance, Castle of Water might seem like a classic castaway survival story, and it is….yet it’s so much more….. it’s a charming, witty, poignant, engaging, and beautifully told story that explores themes of home, love, loss, sadness, perseverance, heartbreak, hope, resiliency, friendship, and desperation.

Engaging: Castle of Water is easy to get into with memorable characters, unexpected humor, and it’s full of heart. The story alternates between the present and past timelines, and I devoured it in one day. Unputdownable.

Point of View: Even though Mr. Hucklebridge has a unique style of writing that was refreshing and at times exquisite, Castle of Water has a slightly impersonal feel to it and at times I wished that I could know what Sophie and Barry were thinking and feeling from the first-person point of view. The author’s decision to write from an impersonal viewpoint is at its most effective when he speaks directly to the reader because it allows us to become true cohorts in the adventure and we can appreciate all their joy and sorrow. The impersonal viewpoint is a minor concern because overall I enjoyed his masterful writing and simple telling of a complicated situation and relationship. I could easily reread this book and that is rare for me.

“He smiles and shakes his head, a smile that’s bewildered and content and still pursed by that same tender sadness that visited him by the arch, that trails him as doggedly as his gratitude and his guilt … the wonder of it all, the unknowable mystery, to serve as fleshy custodian to such a fragile flame.”
― Dane HuckelbridgeCastle of Water

Castle of Water is highly recommended for all adult readers who are looking for a masterfully written tale of adventure and survival, for those looking for an engaging vacation read, for readers who love the enemies to lovers trope, and for fans of unputdownable stories.

Rating: 5 Stars (rounded up from 4.5).

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Castle of Water

Castle of Water Information Here

Meet the Author, Dane Hucklebridge

Author, Dane Hucklebridge

Dane Huckelbridge was born and raised in the American Middle West. He holds a degree from Princeton University, and his fiction and essays have appeared in a variety of journals, including Tin HouseThe New Delta ReviewThe Wall Street Journal, and The New RepublicCastle of Water is his first novel, although he has also authored two historical works on American whiskey and beer, respectively. He lives with his wife in Paris, France, and New York City.

 



Extra:

Read an interview with Dane Hucklebridge here as seen on Top Shelf Text.



QOTD:

What have you been reading lately?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments on Castle of Water if or when you read it!



Happy Reading Everyone!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’m eager to review The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas (a YA diverse literature pick dealing with racial issues currently in the news) if you’d like to “buddy read.” Lots to discuss here. *Language alert

The Hate You Give

Get more information on THUG here.



Let’s Get Social!

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

© ReadingLadies.com

America’s First Daughter: A Review

September 15, 2017

America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

My bookish and dear friend Cheryl recently recommended this book to me knowing I love histfic. She appreciated its readability, the rich language, and the way the sentences were constructed….causing the story to flow easily from one thought or experience to the next.  She mentioned that she liked exploring characters and events about which she had been aware but didn’t fully understand the context….throughout the narrative, Thomas Jefferson became a person for her. Finally, she learned more about the culture of slaves and slave owners from both perspectives. SOLD! I downloaded it to my Kindle that afternoon!

***This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Sacrifice … Devotion … Hardship … Privilege … Grit

America's First Daughter by Staphanie Dray and Laura Kamoie (coveer)

Genre/category: Historical Fiction, Biographical, U.S. History, Founders

Summary:

A fast-paced read, this well-researched novel draws from thousands of letters and original sources as it tells the story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph. Patsy shares her father’s devotion to their country and becomes his partner, protector, and loyal companion after the death of her mother. As a young girl, she travels with him to Paris when he becomes the American minister to France, and it is here she eventually learns of his relationship with Sally Hemings, a slave girl about her own age. According to the authors, it’s during these Paris years that Patsy falls in love with William Short, her father’s assistant and protégé who is an abolitionist and aspiring diplomat. Patsy is torn between love, principles, and family loyalty, and she questions whether she can be married to William and remain devoted to her father. This is a story of sacrifice and grit as Patsy tirelessly protects her father’s reputation and supports him as he guides and leads the nation he helped found.

Amazon Rating (September): 4.6 Stars

My Thoughts:

If you’re looking for a highly readable narrative told from the first-person point of view or an engaging book club selection because of its various themes, America’s First Daughter might be an excellent choice! After my mother read it, we discussed it at length.  My review will consist of highlighting a few intriguing themes:

women’s lack of voice or choice/oppression of women

“And now I’d given up everything I’d ever dared to want for myself.
The convent. My dearest friends. William.

My inner feminist was raging during most of this story! It’s amazing to be transported back in time when women didn’t have a voice or certain rights or choices that we take for granted today (e.g. the father could simply decide to take the children if he were angry at his wife and sometimes this fact scared Patsy into submission). In addition, the lack of birth control certainly took a toll on women (Patsy had 11 children). To protect herself from having to bear more children, she considered arranging a mistress for her husband! Furthermore, if some men abused their wives, the women had very little protection or recourse because it was a man’s right to run his family as he thought was right.  It’s concerning to realize that women in some countries today don’t have the rights and protections that we have come to expect in this country. Another aspect of this theme is the idea that the primary avenue for women to find success, influence, or importance for themselves was to work under the umbrella of men in the family (a father or husband). Women could be influential as contributors but were not usually found driving agendas or enterprises of their own. As the story progressed, Patsy was able to exercise some voice: “My hand fell away from William’s grasp, and my voice no longer wavered. ‘I’m going to Virginia with my father, so if you love me, you’ll wait for me a little longer.’ ” A highlight is that Patsy did have two strong female mentors in Abigail Adams and Dolley Madison. The latter boldly stating: “There is only one secret to anything,” Dolley asserted, “and that’s the power we all have in forming our own destinies.”

privilege

Even though the Jefferson family suffered from bouts of poverty and misfortune, they were still speaking and acting from a position of privilege. In addition to having resources and support, their privilege also gave them the benefit of the doubt when their honor was at stake. Throughout the story, we explore inequality as it affects women, slaves, and the poor (non-property owners).

father/daughter loyalty and devotion to family

Patsy’s loyalty and devotion to her father affected every relationship she had and heavily influenced all the major events in her life. It was a sad thread throughout the story that a child would feel so obligated to take on the burden of her father’s grief and well-being. Even though Patsy dearly loved her father, I didn’t view the relationship as mutually beneficial. From Patsy’s perspective it was sacrificial and duty-bound; whereas, from Jefferson’s angle it was often controlling, manipulative, needy, selfish, and sometimes deceptive. Patsy did adopt some of her father’s deceptiveness however when she lied under oath in one circumstance (to protect family) and then manipulated other circumstances to keep her husband out of the military.  Finally, it was interesting to read about the sense of duty that grown children felt to care for their siblings (even as adults) when parents were gone. I wonder how many families today strongly hold that value.

sacrifice

We can identify several examples of sacrifice from multiple individuals throughout the story. Patsy definitely sacrificed over and over for her father and for the nation, her father sacrificed for the nation, Sally sacrificed the disclosure of her real relationship with Jefferson for his reputation, children sacrificed their own childhood to care for younger siblings, etc.

early stance on slavery

“Those slaves we knew, we saw their faces every day.
The idea of selling them was barbarous.”

It seems to me that keeping individuals as slaves must have seemed barbarous from the slaves’ point of view! Throughout the story, I wished that we could have heard from the perspective of Sally Hemings (and other slaves). So many of my recent historical fiction reads have been from the slaves’ perspective that I found myself missing that voice in this narrative. It was interesting that Patsy, even though she shared some of William’s abolitionist thinking, chose to buy her own slaves back in an act of compassion rather than free them or relinquish them to a worse future in the Deep South. Also astounding to modern-day readers is that Patsy couldn’t understand why the family slaves would want to be free since they were treated so well with the Jefferson family. The following justification for keeping Sally as a slave is offered:

“Someone with lighter skin she meant. Someone who behaved more like a servant so as to uphold the polite fiction of it all. Someone in the family.”

grit

Patsy Jefferson exemplifies grit and symbolizes the mindset of other women of the time as well. She expresses the following thoughts: “From tattered flags and uniforms to friendships strained to the brink, the women of my country had always been the menders to all things torn asunder. But now we’d do more than patch with needle and thread. We’d have to weave together a whole tapestry of American life with nothing but our own hands, our own crops, and our own ingenuity. And I would prove myself able to the task.”

deathbed promises

The deathbed promise that Mrs. Jefferson exacted from Thomas Jefferson and Patsy affected the rest of their lives. This promise was not taken lightly and their duty to keep it was admirable. In our modern times, it might be interesting to explore how the bereaved from different cultures might share this profound sense of obligation or if this is an old-fashioned value.

loyalty/devotion to country

A concern at the center of the Jefferson family’s decision-making was the welfare of the new nation. Patsy valued and supported her father’s efforts on behalf of the country, even agreeing to act as First Lady when Thomas Jefferson was elected President. I wonder what we are prepared to sacrifice for our country.

trials, triumphs, failures of a family

In America’s First Daughter, we are treated to an honest look at the Jefferson family, their successes, struggles, fears, flaws, and failures. In my opinion, one failure was Jefferson’s reluctance to weigh in on the abolitionist arguments and sentiments, preferring to leave that discussion to the next generation. However, he was a brilliant thinker and writer and I think the country might have benefited from his insightful reflections. It seems that it was a concern for his own reputation that made it difficult for him to reconcile his own personal use of slaves when challenged with the ideas of abolition. This was an issue he chose to ignore and I lost respect for that. Thomas Jefferson had a paralysis when it came to slavery and the author compares it to handling a wolf:

“He couldn’t safely hold it or safely let it go.”

Jefferson’s children with Sally had to run away rather than be freed by him which must have grieved Sally. However, throughout the story, I think we grow to appreciate that the largest issues are complex for multiple reasons and are never black and white.

saving face/a perfect image/honor

One of the most important values of the day was honor and projecting a perfect image of the self and the family. The slaves helped preserve that image as did extended family and relatives. In fact, protecting Jefferson’s reputation and image seemed to occupy a great deal of time in the story. It seems that without 24/7 media coverage, one had a much better chance of keeping secrets. What do you consider our culture’s greatest value?

HONOR
“In Virginia it wasn’t merely a matter of masculine pride–it was a matter of survival. Every loan for the farm, every advance of credit for seeds and foodstuffs, every public office and proposal of marriage depended on honor. Men would fight and die for it. And women would lie for it.”

imperfect people as leaders

Can imperfect people be good leaders and can they make important contributions to their country? Throughout America’s First Daughter, we gain an understanding of Jefferson’s faults and flaws. This is where I wish the authors had done more to point out his unique contributions, especially because so much sacrifice from family members was required.

My IRL book club is discussing this book in October and I look forward to an interesting discussion!

final thoughts

Some readers express concern about the fictionalization of the Patsy Jefferson/William Short romance. In the afterward, the authors discuss their reasons for including the romantic relationship. Even though there is a lack of letters that support the connection, the authors cite the amount of circumstantial evidence and widely accepted assumptions as their justification. I thought the romantic drama helped add interest to the entire story, and it was an intrigue that affected many of the events throughout her life. After all, it is historical fiction and I expect that some aspects might be more fictionalized than others. It did not affect my enjoyment of the story.

One area in which I did have a small reservation is the lack of information about the accomplishments of Thomas Jefferson. I realize that this was Patsy’s story; however, if someone lacked historical background regarding the accomplishments of the founding fathers, I think he/she would wonder why Jefferson is a celebrated founder. Here, we are certainly made aware of his flaws. I think in light of Patsy’s sacrifice it would have been helpful to know more specifically what this allowed her father to do for the country. This is not a reservation about what was included, rather it stems from a desire to know more.

I’m highly recommending America’s First Daughter for readers who enjoy an engaging, fast-paced historical fiction story with relevant discussable themes and for book clubs.

My overall rating 5 stars (4.5 rounded up to 5 on Goodreads)

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America's First Daughter

America’s First Daughter Information Here

Meet the Authors: Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

Stephanie Dray

Author, Stephanie Dray

Stephanie Dray is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the most anticipated reads of the year. Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer and a teacher. Now she lives near the nation’s capital with her husband, cats, and history books.

 

Laura Kamoie

Author, Laura Kamoie

A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction, Laura Kamoie has always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction. She is the author of AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER and MY DEAR HAMILTON, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowed her the exciting opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and two daughters. http://www.LauraKamoie.com



QOTD::

If you’ve read or think you might want to read America’s First Daughter, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section about the various themes.



Flight Picks

Sometimes if readers have enjoyed a story, they might want to read similar stories. Abigail Adams makes an appearance in America’s First Daughter. While I have not read Dearest Friend by Lynne Withey, my mother highly recommends this book about Abigail Adams. It’s on my TBR.

Dearest Friend by Lynne Withey (cover)

Dearest Friend Information Here

You might also be interested in My Dear Hamilton, the story of Eliza Hamilton (wife of Alexander Hamilton) by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie (cover)

My Dear Hamilton Review and Information Here



Happy Reading Everyone!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead!

Next week I’m thrilled to review Castle of Water by Dane Hucklebridge if you’d like to “buddy read.” It was unputdownable!

Castle of Water

Castle of Water Information Here



Let’s Get Social!

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

© ReadingLadies.com

Glass Houses Review & Inspector Gamache Series

September 8, 2017

Do you love a gentle mystery filled with memorable characters placed in an idyllic Canadian setting? Do you love immersing yourself in a good series? Do you admire a kind, honest, thoughtful, moral main character committed to integrity and filled with compassion for others? Do you appreciate irresistible descriptions of food and cozy settings? If you answered yes to some of these questions, you might already be acquainted with Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache Series, admire the beloved Armand Gamache, and dream of living in the imaginary setting of Three Pines. If not, please allow me to introduce you!

First, the Series

Glass Houses is the thirteenth installment in the series. The books in chronological order are as follows:

Still Life
A Fatal Grace
The Cruelest Month
A Rule Against Murder
The Brutal Telling
Bury Your Dead
A Trick of the Light
The Beautiful Mystery
How the Light Gets In
The Long Way Home
The Nature of the Beast
A Great Reckoning
Glass Houses

Buy the Series Here
(***edited to add that now there are 15)

Ratings:

I have rated all but one of the books in the series between 3  and 5 stars. As typical with any series, I think some are stronger than others. In general, readers consider that she hits her stride with book #4. #13 is one of her strongest yet, which is amazing for a prolific book series! You can check my Goodreads account (my “read” shelf) for my specific ratings of each book. Most Amazon ratings vary between 3 & 4+ stars.

Strengths:

The stories are so much more than good mysteries, they explore unique and complex characters who are a mixture of good and less desirable traits. The stories examine motivation, ethics, honor, courage, and compassion for others. Through reading the series, the characters become like friends. Some readers have loosely compared the setting of Three Pines to Stars Hollow (Gilmore Girls). The setting of Three Pines is symbolic in that it’s a place of comfort, safety, and solace for those who are hurting or who’ve lost their way (except when there’s a murder of course!). As with any good series, when a reader receives the next installment, it’s like coming home. It’s interesting to me that during a recent interview, Louise Penny reveals that she created the main character Armand (Inspector) Gamache to be like someone she’d like to marry (CBS Interview). Inspector Gamache is honorable, kind, courageous, nonviolent (except when others’ lives are at stake), thoughtful, well-read, and an astute judge of character and motives.

Brief Overview of the Book Series

Chief Inspector Gamache is head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec. He lives by a code of the highest ethics and seeks to provide justice for victims of crime. His team consists of people that he has hand-selected that have experienced failure in some aspect of their law enforcement career but in whom he sees great potential. Gamache adores and deeply loves his wife and soul mate, Reine-Marie, and they have two grown children. When we meet Chief Inspector Gamache in the first novel he’s a seasoned professional who sometimes clashes with his superiors at the Sûreté. Nevertheless, he has a reputation for solving even the most difficult cases. In Still Life (the first book of the series) at the scene of his current investigation, Gamache is surprised to discover Three Pines, a tiny, unmapped village in the forest. Throughout the series, Gamache returns again and again to Three Pines for various reasons, establishes friendships with the colorful locals, and eventually he and Reine-Marie move there and become an integral part of the community. Gamache is skilled at observation, determining motive, and at examining the emotions that lead to a crime. Author Louise Penny is a master at establishing a setting, describing delicious food, examining ethics and character, bringing us colorful and unique characters, and creating atmosphere and tension.

Can I read the books as a “stand-alone” or out of order?

Reading the series in order isn’t absolutely necessary because each novel presents a unique crime that is solved within its pages; however, there is an overarching storyline with the leadership of the Sûreté which is explored over the course of the series. Also, a reader would miss out on the character development that builds and deepens from story to story. For a richer reading experience, I highly recommend reading them in order.

What I wish…

Readers including myself are generally very happy with the entire well-loved and recommended series  (as evidenced by ratings) and Louise Penny has a huge following. However, some have mentioned and I sometimes feel that Louise Penny is somewhat negative toward the church. I wish that she would be more considerate of her readers who might think more positively about the church. In her recent release, for example, a character states, “No one goes to church anymore.” It seems to me that Penny’s own feelings about organized religion leak out from time to time in her character’s words and views. Penny doesn’t write from a Christian worldview but, even though I notice it from time to time, it isn’t enough for me to not read and enjoy her books. This is a personal opinion and observation and it may not bother other believers at all. It’s something I tend to notice. ***Edited to add that Installment #15, A Better Man, has more profanity than usual. I’m hoping this isn’t a new trend for her.

Glass Houses by Louise Penny

Glass Houses by Louise Penny (cover)

Genre/categories: fiction, mystery, detective, suspense

Summary:

  • A mysterious figure appears in Three Pines one cold November day. Even though Armand Gamache and the rest of the villagers are curious at first, they soon become wary. The figure stands unmoving through the fog, sleet, rain, and cold, staring straight ahead. Chief Inspector Gamache, now Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, suspects the mysterious figure has a unique history and a dark purpose. However, Gamache’s hands are tied because the figure hasn’t committed a crime, so he watches and waits. The villagers are tense hoping that Gamache will do something. The figure’s costume is historically tied to someone who acts as a “conscience” and comes to put pressure on an individual to pay a debt. Naturally, people in the village, including Gamache, start to examine their own consciences and wonder if the figure has come for them. Suddenly, the figure vanishes overnight and a body is discovered, and the investigation commences. This story is told in two timelines: the November timeline when the murder took place and later in July as the trial for the accused begins. In typical Penny style, more is happening on a larger scale than just the trial. Gamache wrestles with his own conscience, the decisions he has made, and the personal consequences he will pay.

Amazon Rating (September): 4.7 Stars

My Thoughts:

Glass Houses is a riveting story and is one of my favorites in the series. Whereas in other stories, Gamache analyzes the motivations and actions of others, this story finds him also analyzing himself and we observe him taking actions that are not in accordance with his highest ethical standards. Something larger is at stake here, and Gamache and his team have to take great risks and be willing to endure severe personal consequences to bring about justice for the greater good. Interesting ethical dilemma!

Symbolism of Three Pines

In Glass Houses, the following excerpts provide a bit of evidence for the symbolism of Three Pines as a safe place for the lost or hurting:

  • “People mostly come upon Three pines because they’re lost.”
  • “And then he went home. To Three Pines. To sanctuary.”
  • “I think everyone in this village believes that all shall be well,” Armand was saying. “That’s why we’re here. We all fell down. And then we all came here.”
  • And in the author’s own words: “The village does not exist, physically. But I think of it as existing in ways that are far more important and powerful. Three Pines is a state of mind. When we choose tolerance over hate. Kindness over cruelty. Goodness over bullying. When we choose to be hopeful, not cynical. Then we live in Three Pines.”

Image shows three pine trees

I’m recommending Glass Houses for readers who would love to find an engaging series, for those who like mysteries and detective stories without a lot of violence or disturbing descriptions, and for thoughtful readers who might want to consider character, motivation, and ethics.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars (rounded to 5 Stars)

Read a free excerpt here.

Glass Houses

Glass Houses Information Here

Meet the Author, Louise Penny

Author, Louise Penny

LOUISE PENNY is the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels. She has won numerous awards, including a CWA Dagger and the Agatha Award (five times) and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. She lives in a small village south of Montréal.

Click Here: CBS This Morning Interview With Louise Penny



QOTD:

I’m curious if you’re a Louise Penny fan or would consider checking out this series! Have you read any of her books? Please share your reflections on the Inspector Gamache series in the comments.



Happy Reading Everyone!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Next week I’ll review America’s First Daughter By Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie if you’d like to “buddy read.” In two weeks, I’m thrilled to review Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge, a likely contender for one of my favorite reads of the year!

America's First Daughter

America’s First Daughter Information Here

Castle of Water

Castle of Water Information Here



Let’s Get Social!

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest



Extras:

This post is linked up with Modern Mrs. Darcey’s Quick Lit for September.

Check out Top Shelf Text and her blog post: Best Books of Summer 2017 here.

My Husband Recommends!

As reviewed in this post, my husband just read News of the World and really enjoyed it! In fact, as we were at breakfast this morning, we discussed and debated who should play the lead in the film version (should there be one)! I need to also mention that he especially enjoyed the excellent reader for the audio version.



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

© ReadingLadies.com

Before We Were Yours: A Review

September 1, 2017

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (cover) Image: 2 young girls sitting (backs to the camera) on an old fashioned brown suitcase

Genre/categories: historical fiction, adoption, family

Summary:

Two timelines reveal this sad and heartfelt story that is based on one of America’s most tragic real-life scandals in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped, mistreated, and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country.

(more…)