Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson *****
The basics: Raised on a planation as the daughter of a slave woman and the white master, Pheby dreams of a life of freedom, which has been promised to her when she comes of age at 18. However, after the death of her father/master and mother, that freedom and the love of her life are both cruelly taken from her by her father’s wife. Pheby is then taken to the Devil’s Half Acre, a jail for slaves to be sold and tortured, to be sold into slavery. She is bought by the jail’s overseer and forced to be his mistress, her life of misery truly begins. However, the strong and fierce Pheby will stop at nothing to protect and free her family.
My thoughts: This is probably one of the most difficult books I’ve read, but so worth the read. Johnson is an expert with words and recreates for us readers this terrible time and place so that we know what it was like for so many slaves. This novel, based on a real story is heartbreaking, yet beautifully written and told. I feel like everyone needs to read it.
After you read: Listen to these podcasts featuring Sadeqa talking about Yellow Wife. I really enjoyed the one from the Free Library of Philadelphia!
Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline ***
The basics: Taking place moments after Ready Player 1 ends, we follow along as Wade makes another discovery left behind by Oasis co-creator, James Halliday. This journey will take Wade and all of his friends on a new adventure that invokes flashbacks and pop culture references of the 1980’s. But at the heart of it, Wade will have to make a crucial decision that could change the fate of mankind forever.
My thoughts: Having been raised on rom-coms of the 1980’s (i.e. Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, etc.) and having a husband that loves sci-fy (i.e. Lord of the Rings) I was able to make sense of most of Cline’s book that is heavy handed with pop culture references of the past. However, even having the basic background, I still felt myself lost in all of the specifics. If you’re going to read this, make sure you brush up on all the culturally relevant books, movies, and video games beforehand.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys ****
The basics: Set during World War 2 this books take a different approach than the typical. Our story is based on a family of four from Lithuania, who in the middle of the night are taken from their home and everything they love by the Soviets. Unsure of their future they spend weeks on end living in the railroad cattle cars, traveling the expansive land of Russia to an eventual slave servanthood.
My thoughts: Recommended by a colleague (who read this in high school) I was most interested in a different storyline than what I normally read from World War 2 books (i.e. Nazis). After mentioning Doctor Zhavigo, this book was brought up and I’m incredibly happy it was. One thing I love most about novels, especially historical fiction, is learning about events, people or places that are little known or talked about and this fit that criteria perfectly. For fear of the safety of themselves and their family, many that suffered under the hand of the Soviets have never spoken out, even to this day. The surprisingly reality of how hard Stalin was to not only his perceived enemies but to his own people as well is incredible. It is estimated that he murdered over 20 million people during his reign (Hitler murdered less than half of that).
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah *****
The basics: A beautiful, but tragic story of a woman and her family living in the midwest during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Kristin Hannah, with great detail, brings us along to perhaps one of the darkest times in American history, but is rarely written about. Following the life of our main character Elsa, we watch as she has to choose between the land she has come to love and work hard for, but is dying and failed her. Or the well being of her family that would take her to the unknown life in the heart of California during the Great Depression.
My thoughts: The Four Winds was one of those books that makes you really question everything – what does struggling actually look like, what is it to be American, and what human nature can do in the worst of times. Kristin Hannah is one of my favorite authors and while this wasn’t my favorite of her novels, its definitely in the top three due to her fantastic writing and her thought provoking message at the heart of it all. I will warn you though, do not expect a happy ending.
America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie ****
The basics: Written by one of my favorite authors, Stephanie Dray, who teams up with author Laura Kamoie we taken through untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph. From her childhood as the daughter of a revolutionary, to her youth in the prestigious and glamorous French court, all the way to adulthood as a wife and mother these two dynamic authors take us through every faucet of Martha’s life.
My thoughts: I think everyone in America grew a little curious about Thomas Jefferson after watching “Hamilton” however, he wasn’t all that he seemed. Owning thousands of slaves and having the responsibility of raising his daughters without his wife after she passes away gives two very different sides of one of our founding fathers. Told from his eldest daughter’s perspective we catch an inside glimpse of life as a Jefferson. There were times when I felt aggravated that Martha didn’t care as much about what was going on around her, which I would have liked, (especially in regards to the slaves her father owned) but I felt like the authors did a wonderful job of showing us the mindset of who Martha really was and how she might have truly perceived things. It was a rather long read, but I didn’t enjoy the history (which was very obviously researched thoroughly.
The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher ***
The basics: Everything is NOT as it seems in this thriller. While living in the Crouch home, Juno comes to learn that the family she thought was perfect in every way may have some dark and troubling secrets. But Juno also is not who she seems.
My thoughts: Definitely a lot of twists in this one. I will say, after reading it, it did take me some time to get over the paranoia it caused me. But perhaps that just means Fisher did her job….
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune ***1/2
The basics: Linus Baker, case worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth leads a pretty boring life. Every day is the same and no one seems to like him- not even his cat. However, he is given a new mysterious assignment which will take him to an “orphanage” for magical youth on a remote island in the Cerulean Sea. Unsure of what he is getting himself into, he fears the worst and is told rumors of the dangerous children he is about to encounter. What he finds will change his world and life.
My thoughts: **SPOLIER**
Recommended by a friend and bookstagrammer, I was excited to read this book, but a little worried it wouldn’t be my genre per se. However, I really liked it. The only thing that kept me from giving it more stars was that one of the dangerous children is the anti-christ and get this, he is actually super sweet (albeit also very messed up). As a Christian, it was hard to wrap my mind around this. But honestly, this was the one factor that got to me. The rest of it is beautifully written.