Category Archives: Books

Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge Completed

A few days ago I completed my Goodreads Reading challenge goal. On January 1st I entered the yearly reading challenge hosted by Goodreads. I set my goal at 15 books. I set it at 15 because I wanted to give myself some leeway because of school and work. I certainly didn’t imagine I’d get through 15 books in only 6 months, but here I am. Yaay! Challenge completed ✔. The fifteen books that completed my challenge are listed below. I have reviewed some of them as well.

  1. Violent Ends by David Hutchinson- My Review
  2. The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
  3. Redeployment by Phil Klay
  4. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  5. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
  6. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara- My Review
  7. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
  8. Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison by Shaka Senghor
  9. A List of Cages by Robin Roe
  10. We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride
  11. Half of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  12. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
  13. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
  14. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  15. Boy, 9, Missing by Nic Joseph

A Little Life|Book Review

Book: A Little Life

Genre: Fiction

Author: Hanya Yanagihara

Synopsis: A Little Life follows four college classmates-broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition- as they move to New York in search of fame and fortune. While their relationships, which are tinged by addiction, success, and pride, deepen over the decades, the men are held together by their devotion to the brilliant, enigmatic Jude, a man scarred by an unspeakable childhood trauma. A hymn to brotherly binds and a masterful depiction of love in the twenty-first century, Hanya Yanagihara’s stunning novel is about the families we are born into, and those that we make for ourselves.

My Review: I have heard many positive reviews about this book. It was nominated for many awards in 2016 including the National Book Award and the Man Booker Prize. Upon first glance, I knew this book would be a whopper. It is 816 pages in total and I figured it would take me a while to read it. It took me 24 days.

The book begins shortly after the four friends, Jude, JB, Malcolm, and Willem, finished college and begin their careers. Jude was a lawyer, JB a painter, Malcolm an architect, and Willem an actor.

This book touched me on an emotional level. The characters shined on their own and through their friendship with Jude. Jude, the central character of the book, was the character I loved the most. His horrific childhood, marred by abuse and cruelty, was hard to read about but helped me understand his actions.

I found myself rooting for Jude throughout the book. I was happy when he was happy, I was sad when he was sad. I was boiling with anger when he discussed the atrocities performed against him as a child and I too wanted to find Caleb and kick his ass after what he did. I understood his desire to find the meaning of his life because I seek to find meaning in my own.

This book was long but worth the read. I felt connected to the characters and the relationships were well thought out and written, not haphazardly slapped together. The stories of each guy flowed with one another as did the stories of some of the other main characters. I enjoyed Jude’s relationship with Harold, his old law school professor, and I felt his relationship with Willem, Malcolm, and JB was genuine and deep.

This book is good. The content is sharp at times and hauntingly descriptive, some scenes may be very hard to read, but overall I enjoyed this book and the plot was easy to follow. I would recommend this book to readers of adult fiction, and for anyone who wants to read outside of their usual genres.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars

Purchasing Information: I bought this book for $17.99 at Barnes & Noble, paperback edition.

 

One Event, Many Lives Changed|Book Review

Book: Violent Ends

Genre: Fiction

Authors: Shaun David Hutchinson, Neal Shusterman and Brendan Shusterman, Beth Revis, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Courtney Summers, Kendare Blake, Delolah S. Dawson, Steve Brezenoff, Tom Leveen, Hannah Moskowitz, Blythe Woolston, Trish Doller, Mindi Scott, Margie Gelbwasser, Christine Johnson, E.M. Kokie, and Elisa Nader

Synopsis: It took only twenty-two minutes for Kirby Matheson to exit his car, march onto school grounds, enter the gymnasium, and open fire, killing six and injuring five others.

But this isn’t a story about the shooting itself. This isn’t about recounting that one unforgettable day.

This is about Kirby and how one boy—who had friends, enjoyed reading, played saxophone in the band, and had never been in trouble before—became a monster capable of entering his school with a loaded gun and firing on his classmates.

My Review: I bought this book on a whim. I was in my local bookstore browsing the must read section and this book caught my eye.

Told in seventeen different perspectives by 17 different YA fiction writers, are the stories of Kirby’s classmates, neighbors, bullies, and best friends. Each character tells of how Kirby impacted their lives and how they impacted his, before and after the tragic event.

This book was well written. I enjoyed the short little stories that intersected into the overall event. This book isn’t about what Kirby did on that fateful day, but it is about what he did to others, good and bad, and what others did to him.

Readers aren’t made to feel sorry for Kirby or see Kirby as the bad guy, they can see Kirby and the other characters for what they are: teens. Kids just trying to navigate through life. Kirby could have been any one of those characters and they could have been him.

Was there an event that made Kirby do what he did? A specific moment where he decided to kill people? Not exactly. Maybe it was a series of events. Maybe, Kirby did not have the will to live on. It isn’t alluded to in the book and that is OK. Often times in these situations there is no percipitating event, they just happen.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.

Purchasing Information: I purchased this book at Barnes & Noble for $10.99, paperback edition.

Righting the Wrongs of a Wayward Justice System| Book Review

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Genre(s): Nonfiction, Law

Synopsis: “From one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time comes an unforgettable true story about the redeeming potential of our mercy. Bryan Stevenson was a gifted young attorney when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending the poor, the wrongly condemned, and those trapped in the furthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillan. The case drew Stevenson into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinkmanship, and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.”

I first heard of this book two years ago as a university student. At the time I wanted to read it, but never got the chance. As I was browsing my local Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago I spotted this book and decided to purchase it.

Within its pages are the stories of many people who got lost and forgotten in America’s quest for a no-nonsense criminal justice approach. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, all swept up by the War on Drugs and tough on crime policies of the 1980s and 1990s. Bryan Stevenson, newly minted lawyer from Harvard, moved down to Alabama in the 1980s to represent the poor, incarcerated, and condemned.

Bryan tells the stories of Walter McMillan, his first client, and of Joe Sullivan, Anthony Ray Hinton, Marsha Colbey, and countless others he has represented and how each case altered his perspective on the criminal justice system and the ways race, poverty, and mental illness affected those in the system.

Through his work Bryan saw how truly broken we all are and how our brokenness lead to destructive and illogical decision-making in regard to how we deem justice served. This book was a welcome read in connecting our present approach to crime and punishment with our sordid, deep-rooted past of racism, classism, and obsessive need to be right at any cost.

Bryan’s organization, the Equal Justice Initiative continues to work on behalf of the accused and Bryan has spoken at various conferences and schools discussing criminal justice reform and sharing stories of hope and redemption.

This book gave me a deeper understanding and knowledge of the laws that drive our criminal justice system and how our past still heavily influences our present concerning what is fair and justice.

I give this book 5 stars and recommend that you all give it a read. Especially those interested in the criminal justice system and the effect on society.

If you are interested in purchasing this book it is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and through Goodreads. I purchased a paper copy for $16 at my local B&N.

Bryan Stevenson can be reached at his website. To inquire about a possible appearance, contact the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau at speakers@penguin-randomhouse.com or 212-572-2013.

Information about the Equal Justice Initiative can be obtained at their website or email them at contact_us@eji.org.