Historical Biography/Memoir

Imagine if you will that you are walking along the streets of your town. You’re young, healthy, able to work. You show up for a job each day, hang out with your friends on the weekends, maybe go see your mom on Sundays to get your laundry done and have a home cooked meal. You run your errands after work, drop off your Amazon returns at the post office, hit the liquor store, stop to buy some milk and bread. Life is normal, right? Just as you’re paying for your groceries, you and everybody around you is jumped by unknown assailants. The healthy and young are sorted out. The children, the females of breeding age, and the males who can do manual labor are separated from the aged and sick. You may very well being standing there with your family or your friends, and suddenly strangers appear and start picking out the best of the gathered prospects. Your children are ripped from your arms, your spouse is taken one way and you are taken another. Some people are killed outright in front of your very eyes. Off you go to parts unknown, and who knows where the rest of the people you know will end up. You are allowed no communication and have no way to ever find the ones you love or even know what happened to them. Most likely, you’ll never see them or your homeland again. You are forced into permanent cuffs and made to work as a slave for the rest of your life. Just like that. I can’t even wrap my mind around it.

This is the story we all think we know, but most of us think about it in the abstract. We know groups of people were enslaved, that slavery was a horrible blight on the history of humanity, and that it was fairly recent in American history when you compare us to the thousands of years of other civilizations. We know that slaves influenced music and food and other parts of American culture, especially in the Deep South. There are, of course, existing slave narratives telling the stories of the individuals who lived through such a horrific experience and lived to see themselves set free, but few are as engaging and personal as Hurston’s account in Barracoon.

Cudjo Lewis shared his story with Zora Neale Hurston in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Hurston was a fledgling anthropologist at the beginning of her career, an unknown name sent to interview Lewis by famed anthropologist Frank Boas. Lewis was 86-years-old and living in Alabama.

Look at this man’s face and imagine him as a young man, living his daily life. Kossula, the real name of Cudjo Lewis, was in his village admiring the young women and going about his daily routine on the day before his life was changed forever. He had been training as a warrior, his father was an officer to the King, his village had laws and traditions and a rich culture. He had a good and full life. The next day, another tribe raided his village, massacred many, and sold the survivors to slave traders. Kossula, about 19 at the time, watched as his village was overrun by the men of the neighboring King. This King dealt in slavery with white traders. Kossula was in the midst of terror, watching as people’s heads were ripped off, faces were ripped off, his own King was beheaded and much of this was done by women warriors. Kossula never saw his family again and was taken away, marched for days, and taken to a barracoon which was a holding area for slaves. Kossula had never slept on the ground before, he cried for his parents, and watched as the other villages either fought or surrendered to the King who conquered his people. Kossula boarded the last slave trading ship, the Clotilda, and headed for a strange land called America. His clothes were stripped off, and he was displayed to prospective buyers. He had never gone without clothing before and was aghast that he was assumed to be a savage because of a nakedness that was not his choice.

It’s an incredible story, and Hurston writes in the vernacular that was common practice at the time. She didn’t just interview Lewis, she built a relationship with him by taking him peaches or watermelon, insecticide for mosquitoes, or helped him clean his church. Sometimes Lewis didn’t feel like talking about his past, and he and Hurston either sat in companionable silence or talked of other things. I recommend the audiobook because I think the flow of language is wonderful – you’re right there on his porch, eating sweet, cold melon and hearing his stories of an incredible life.

If they are any blessings to take away, Lewis at least seemed to have happy memories for his first two decades of life. As much as Lewis suffered once he came to America, his remembrances of his old life and the life he should have had were still hard for him to bear when he had his conversations with Hurston. As this NPR article mentions, “That pain stayed with Lewis for his whole life… So often in the interview process, he would weep, or he would be so lost in the memories of what happened to him, he could not speak.” Lewis was a slave for five and a half years before slaves were freed. He worked hard to build a life for himself afterwards, married and had children, suffered indignities and slights, and had the grievous misfortune to suffer the loss of four of his children. His story breaks your soul and then heals it again with the humbleness of his own.

There’s a link to a news story on Lewis’s legacy here and another article on the history of Barracoon’s publication here. Do yourself a favor and read this book.

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Book About A Superhero

Ever give any thought to what your superhero name would be? If you woke up one morning with incredible powers or superhuman abilities, would you use your power for good or evil? Would you want to save the world or rule it? Oddly enough, I have given this some thought. I can’t decide what I would prefer my powers to be, but I definitely have a name. Glitter Bomb. I would walk that line between good and evil, choosing sides at random and leaving smoky, shimmery destruction in my wake.

I’m not weird. You’re weird.

Meanwhile, back to the book we’re here for. Karen Hashimoto is fresh out of maximum security Federal prison. She’s served her time and been released on parole for being a model prisoner. She’s having a hard time getting back on her feet, going through several menial jobs and cheap lodgings. Being fired and evicted repeatedly has done nothing for her parole agreement, and she ends up pressured into sleeping with her sleazy parole officer on a regular basis to avoid him turning her in for parole violation. After her latest bout of “serving time” underneath the creepy bastard, Karen gathers her meager belongings and heads out to find a place to sleep for the night and, hopefully, another job the next day. She stumbles across a brawl of epic proportions and finds herself helping one a superhero, Manpower, apprehend a gang of villains. Karen was trying to keep a low profile since her release from prison, but the fight reveals her as the former villain Crushette, partner and girlfriend to Doctor Maniac, the villain of all villains.

Karen isn’t able to fade back into the shadows without being approached by Manpower. He tells her how much he appreciates her help and invites her to apply for a job with Good Guys the next day. The Good Guys is real-deal the name of the good guys, a group Crushette used to terrorize on a regular basis when she worked with Doctor Maniac. Manpower does, of course, know who she is but he sees a good side to Karen and believes she can find redemption by fighting the good fight for a change.

Events transpire (you know I hate giving spoilers!), and Karen is reinvented as Kayo, a mashup of ‘knockout’ or K.O. and Karen’s Japanese heritage. In this world, people are activated and become enhanced in a somewhat random manner. To avoid duplicates of names, people have to register the name of their enhanced persona so there aren’t 10,000 Hulks running rampant. However, a new superhero name doesn’t erase Karen’s past as Crushette and she has an uphill battle to convince the world and herself that she can fight for the Good Guys.

Mostly, I liked this book and will read the sequel. There were several small plot points that were left unresolved, which I don’t mind. Not everything needs to be neatly tied with a bow. The story overall was good and held my interest all the way through. What I did have a problem with was the sex scene early on between Karen and her parole officer; it was a creepy Harvey Weinstein move that almost made me quit the story altogether. I’m glad I didn’t, so push through if it gives you the same reaction. Also, there was quite a bit of Karen fighting villains in either ripped clothing that revealed her underwear or fighting in just her underwear. It was funny in a couple of places in the story but was definitely pre-pubescent humor that went on a little too long. Overall, I would recommend this despite the minor flaws. You can read more about author S. J. Delos here.

Another book about superheroes that I’ve read a couple of times is Soon I Will Be Invincible, a story with a viewpoint split between a new superhero joining an existing group and the evil villain who feels very misunderstood. The author, Austin Grossman, is the twin brother of Lev Grossman of The Magicians fame. I had the pleasure of chatting with Austin Grossman through a Skype interview one time and he was delightful! Invincible is a great story and a little known gem that I think you’ll enjoy! This book was made into a musical, if you can believe that! You’ll find a clip here, and a book review here.

Book From Your Childhood

If you asked me who my spirit animal would be in children’s literature, one of the contenders would definitely be Ramona Quimby. She is fearless and creative and just totally full of…imagination. Not the word you thought I would use! (And that word would also fit.) Anywho, Ramona was hilarious and I admired her ingenuity in problem solving. Like that one time she lost her shoe and used paper and tape and a stapler, I think, to make another one so she could get through the school day. Who would think of that? She was the bane of her big sister, Beezus, and her parents were often at a loss to understand her, but they all loved her and everything was okay in the end.

Really, I also would have said that I read all of the Ramona books as a kid but looking back, I think I might have just read the same one over and over – Ramona the Brave. Apparently, I was unaware that there were more? Or, maybe I just couldn’t tear myself away from the book I loved for something I might not like as well? I was that kid who read the same books over and over if I loved them, so who knows.

Regardless, I decided to go back and read through the series from beginning to end and that’s when I started to realize that my Ramona experience was limited. I also realized that I might not have loved Ramona as much if I had started with Beezus and Ramona, because little 4-year-old Ramona was a terror!

If you haven’t been exposed to Ramona before, have patience. Beezus and Ramona may not endear her to you but stick with the series! Beezus is the central character in this book, not Ramona. Beezus is really named Beatrice, but Ramona couldn’t say that, so Beezus became the go to moniker for her. Beezus was named after her mother’s younger sister, the cool aunt who teaches fourth grade and drives a yellow convertible. Beezus is almost 10 years old. Ramona is four. (You can imagine some of the trouble right there.) Beezus and Ramona’s mom is a homemaker and dad works – pretty typical for the day when this was published back in 1955.

Being nine, Beezus has a lot more maturity than Ramona. She is quiet and responsible and aware of how to act in polite society. Ramona is the opposite in every way. Beezus does some basic sewing and likes to read and enjoys playing checkers with her neighbor, Henry Huggins, who comes over for the occasional visit. Ramona can’t stand to not be the center of attention and she especially wants the attention of big sis Beezus. Ramona goes out of her way to do the most outrageous things she can think of, like coloring on every page of a library book so she can keep it forever (unconcerned that her mother has to actually pay for the book); invites a bunch of kids over for a party (without asking her mom first); and eating exactly one bite out of half a crate of apples (without a care that she’s wasting the food). Again, she’s four and any attention seems like good attention. Poor Beezus, though. She always seems to be the most affected by Ramona’s behavior and Ramona is never regretful of what she does. She’s regretful when she’s sent to her room or ignored by her family, but not seemingly regretful of her actions.

Beezus is feeling guilty for not liking or even loving her sister when Ramona acts bad but she does also have times when she enjoys doing activities with Ramona. The big denouement comes on the day of Beezus’s tenth birthday. Ramona ruins not one, but two birthday cakes and Beezus has reached her limit. Beezus confesses to her mom and aunt that sometimes she doesn’t love Ramona. Beezus is ready for a shocked lecture from her two favorite women, and is shocked herself when the adult sisters laugh and laugh and confess that they had many times growing up where they didn’t love each other either and that it’s a perfectly normal part of growing up with a sibling. Beezus is so relieved and enjoys being regaled with stories of her mom and her aunt as children and the irritating things they used to do to each other. Beezus has hope that she and Ramona will grow up and be able to look back on their own childhood with the same love and laughter she sees from her aunt and mother. (Spoiler alert – the third birthday cake survives!)

From the three different covers shown, you can tell that the story of these two siblings remains relevant to generations of audiences. Ramona craves attention from her beloved big sister and Beezus admires and is jealous of Ramona’s free spirit and imagination. After Beezus and Ramona, author Beverly Cleary changes the focus of the series from Beezus to Ramona. As the character grows up, she doesn’t slow down any but she does mature as most children do. Cleary is still hailed as one of America’s most loved children’s authors and her series about the Quimby girls and Henry Huggins cross over frequently.

Cleary tuned 100 a couple of years ago and you can watch an interview here. She is still delightful and you can see the impish Ramona peeking through in her personality. For Cleary’s 102nd birthday, Vox took a look at Ramona’s “enduring appeal.” Cleary’s website lists her books, and many of them may be favorites of yours. If you. notice the image at the top of the post, you’ll see that it’s the cover of an audio book. Not surprising since I mention that I listen to audio books a lot, and this one does not disappoint. It’s read by the fabulous Stockard Channing which is an extra special treat because I’m a huge fan of hers, too!

Ramona and company are literature legends and I would highly recommend them to you and yours. There’s a great article from NPR here that lauds Ramona (during a publicity blitz for the feature film based on the books) and Mental Floss has some fun facts on Ramona here.

Novella with Protagonist of Color

Sorry, y’all! I’ve been trying and trying to read another book that has great reviews but I just can’t get into it. I decided to take a break from it and discovered this gem of a novella! Books come to you when the time is right, and the time was right for me to meet Binti.

Let’s talk about Binti, the accidental heroine of our story. (Aren’t they all accidental heroines in some form or fashion? I digress…) One of 10 kids, Binti is a 16-year-old Himba girl who leaves home in the dead of night to fulfill her dream of attending the renowned Oomza University. She boards a transporter that will take her to an interplanetary ship on its way to University.

Family is everything to the Himba and they are known for being reclusive, not mixing with other races or communities. Desert dwellers, the Himba love their land and go so far as to use it to cleanse and purify their bodies, continually marking themselves with the red clay of their region. Binti quickly feels conspicuous for the first time in her life, never having been away from her home city before. Her hair is thick and wild and plaited, dressed in the sweet oil and clay mixture from her land; she jingles from the steel rings she wears around her ankles (protection from snake bites); her clothing is different and suited for hot desert terrain. She experiences disdain and lots of side-eye from the others she while on her journey to her transport.

What would push Binti to leave home in such a devious manner? Her planetary exams score was so high in mathematics that she was admitted to Oomza University with a full scholarship no less. Even though she would be the first of her people to venture out and attend the University, her family is up in arms and don’t consider that to be an option. Knowing that pleading and reason are useless, Binti steals away in the dead of night to make her way through space to search out a new future for herself. Binti heartbreakingly knows her family will be furious and probably never accept her again, but she boldly follows the path she feels is best for her. You get a real sense of Binti weighing options that are not ideal and trying to make the best decision that will be true and honest and just, which bodes well for future events in the story

As Binti journeys with a space ship full of professors and other students to the University, she makes friends and learns to make her way in such a different culture. As she’s sitting in the lunch hall with her squad, admiring her crush, she is suddenly covered in a spray of blood. Her companion has just been killed by a member of the Meduse race who have surprisingly transported onto the ship. Everyone is killed but Binti (for reasons I won’t disclose here), and she is terrorized for several days as she hides in her room. Turns out, the Meduse race have a huge grudge to pick with Oomza University – an event that really has nothing to do with Binti and the other passengers. They are unfortunate collateral damage in a plan of revenge and possible war.

Binti and the Meduse finally find a way to communicate and Binti has to decide if she can rise above the need for revenge for a greater good or if the loss of her new tribe of people is too heart-wrenching to overcome. Either decision will come at great personal cost to Binti.

I really liked this book. I listened to the audio and the narrator has a lovely accent and inflection that drops you right into Binti’s point of view. The math and science emphasis is huge. Binti’s hair, for example, is braided according to a mathematical code that was designed by her father and identifies her place in the lineage of her family. Binti is a brilliant mathematician and comes from a long line of people who study the secrets of the universe, although the Himba study the universe from an internal rather than external perspective. It also has a feel of Star Trek about it with the disparate groups of people trying to come to terms with each other and live companionably, if not exactly friendly.

The book is short (the audio is only two and a half hours), so it can easily be finished in an afternoon, and is the first in a series. The shortness of the story by no means impacts the depth and is winner of both Hugo and Nebula awards for best novella. The author, Nnedi Okorafor, is American with Nigerian roots. No moss grows under her feet, and she has an impressive list of works before and after Binti. She has a Ted Talk here about sci-fi stories and the imagining of a future Africa, and also has a new comic series coming out about Black Panther’s Shuri. Another novel, Who Fears Death, has been optioned as an HBO series. It’s been in my TBR pile for awhile and may have to now move to the top!

Cookbook (As A Literary Work)

I’m working on a few books right now, as I often do, which is probably why it takes me so long to finish anything! However, I was wandering through my local library and came across a very well-used cookbook I couldn’t resist. As many libraries do, there was a display of books and materials on recent-ish cultural events and Appetities: A Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain was smack in the middle.

I know, I know. I’ve recently written about Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and don’t really need to add another title of his so quickly. But, here’s the thing. I’ve already said that I love cookbooks that tell a story (see my other cookbook post) and Bourdain’s does just that. I wasn’t really planning to post about Appetites here, but changed my mind after I had the time to sit down and look through it. The back cover touts the book as a repertoire of Bourdain’s personal favorites cooking and entertaining at home that are “translated into an effective battle plan that will help you terrify your guests with your breathtaking efficiency.” Who could resist that?

Appetites (2016) certainly tells a story. Bourdain’s story, but also the culinary story of many of us. High end and exotic options and ordinary church supper favorites. You read that right. Bourdain talks you through things like ‘Octopus Stock’ and ‘Malloreddus with Wild Boar Sugo’ (you got me!) and ‘Halibut Poached in Duck Fat.’ He also includes tuna salad, chicken salad, macaroni and cheese, chicken pot pie and deviled eggs. Impeccably presented, but basic fare by anybody’s standards. And, Thanksgiving! Bourdain has a section on Thanksgiving complete with turkey, gravy, stuffing, cranberry relish, and an assortment of sides.

The dark yet witty humor is there. ‘Chicken Satay with Fake-Ass Spicy Peanut Sauce’ is one of those “lowbrow items that even the most discerning guests go crazy for at catered parties…” as Bourdain states (or laments). He also includes the humble ‘Sausage and Pepper Hero’ that he admits he can’t resist at food trucks and festivals, even though he says “…within an hour of consumption, I’m shitting like a mink.” He knows this and proceeds anyway.

There are quirks, too, which are part of Bourdain’s don’t-give-a-rat’s-ass attitude. Exactly one page is devoted to desserts. The page has no recipes, but does have a diatribe on how much Bourdain does not like dessert. The first line is “Fuck desserts.” Basically, he says he could care less about desserts and prefers a cheese plate most of the time. That’s it. And then we move on. No fucks or recipes given.

The book includes short vignettes of Bourdain’s life and includes photos of Bourdain’s wife at the time of publication, their daughter, and his good friend, Eric Ripert. The book is sweetly dedicated to Bourdain’s daughter and he makes no bones about being delighted with fatherhood in the introduction of the book. He stresses that what we are about to read is a family cookbook and that cooking together is really a father – daughter experience for him at home. Bourdain also laments not being born Italian American, the “yelling and smacking” at the dinner table and getting “physically involved with your food.” Burgers are sacrosanct and should include a potato bun, no tomato or lettuce, thinly sliced onion, mass produced ketchup, maybe a slight bit of mayo, and definitely bacon. Don’t ask him if he wants ketchup made in-house – that harkens a fear that “Mumford and Sons suddenly emerge from the kitchen and begin playing tableside…” Breakfast is something he didn’t cook for a long time, equating it with his low times of working as a brunch cook; “the smell of breakfast to me will always be the smell of defeat…” But he got over it because he had a kid and kids like to eat breakfast.

Bourdain’s best advice for cocktail parties is, “Always keep some pigs in blankets in the freezer.” People love them and, when you start to run out of the high-end hors d’oeuvres, you can pull these out in a pinch. He is also a surprisingly considerate food planner for said cocktail party, including planning a menu around food guests have to eat standing up, will women ruin their lipstick eating these foods, can the food be eaten without making a mess? Most importantly, items like onions and garlic and lutefisk (yuck!) should wisely be left off the menu. After all, “…some of your guests will be having sex after the party. Hopefully with you…” and a good menu planner should be considerate of foods that would give negative “residual effects.” Advice that I’ve never seen in Martha Stewart’s books. It’s a good thing.

This book reminds me how much I miss this dude being in the world. Sure, there’s the occasional photo of dead or butchered animals that make me thisclose to being a vegetarian, and some of the recipes are things I would never try, but it’s also an interesting look at one man’s life based on his palate and reminds me of how much you can tell about a person from the foods they eat. I found an interesting review of Appetites when it first came out which you can read here.

Appetites is a hodgepodge but in the best possible way. There’s a photo in the book of the inside of a fridge that includes a pig’s foot, various meats and stocks, tomato paste, dressings, champagne and… a Fanta. Something for every appetite!

Book About A Bookstore or Library

Ummmmm…I am kind of at a loss for words on this one. The Bookshop started out as something I normally really like. A widow decides to open a bookstore in her tiny English village. I thought it would have some humor, some quirky characters, some very British perseverance in the face of adversity – and it did. It also had an overwhelmingly sad ending that I really didn’t expect and, as it turns out, I learned that people are just mean and you shouldn’t bother trying to bring some light into people’s worlds because they simply won’t appreciate it. Does that sound dark? It’s how I felt after listening to this book.

It’s 1959, and Florence Green has decided to open the only bookshop in her little seaside town. She picks an abandoned property that’s been vacant for seven years and falling into decay. Oh, and it’s haunted, a fact which plays a minimal role in the story. Florence fixes the place up, orders her inventory, and opens her business. Her main nemesis is the local rich lady, Mrs. Gamart, who, some day, planned to use the same property for a center for the arts and begins to put the squeeze on Florence to move out and move on. Never mind that this property has been vacant the last seven years and no move was made before then to do anything with it, or that the entire small village knew for a few months of Florence’s plan to buy and refurbish the place for a bookshop business. Mrs. Gamart is peeved that her pet project has been snatched away from her. Jealousy is the crux of poor Florence’s downfall.

The book is really too short to give much more of the plot without giving every spoiler. I wanted this book to be one of those cozy English village stories where everything works out in the end and this was not that story. However, it was very well- written and had parts that made me laugh out loud. It was charming in many ways and the fact that it didn’t meet my expectations was no fault of the book. It did feel like it skimmed over much of the story and characters because of the short length, so it seemed more novella than novel. I would have like more depth. As a parable for spectacular failure despite one’s optimism in life, it hit its mark.

As I said, it’s a short book. Amazon lists it at 192 pages and the running time on the audio was just under four hours. It was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize back in 1978 when it was first published, but didn’t win. I’ve included this review from Publisher’s Weekly that lauds the book’s bleakness and social message and I found another great review/discussion here. Author Penelope Fitzgerald did win the Booker Prize the next year for her novel Offshore. You can read more about Fitzgerald here.

A movie is due out in August 2018 which I didn’t realize until I finished the book and was doing my research. I’ve included a trailer here. It has already been released in other parts of the world and the reviews for the film are as mixed as reviews for the book. This link is to an article in Variety and I’ve included a few reviews below from Rotten Tomatoes.

I didn’t dislike the book and plan to explore some of Fitzgerald’s other titles. She is a new name to me. I’ll also catch the movie at some point to see how it holds up. I would recommend this book overall, just beware that it’s not what you might expect! Really, though, when is life ever what we expect? And that is the crux of this story.

Book Based on the Cover

Never judge a book by its cover, right? But we do. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but we still do it. In this book, they also judge a person based on their cover – tattoos on the skin, to be more exact. An appropriate book for the category, now that I think of it! It’s hard to see the details of the cover in this photo, but it’s flooded with coppery foiled images all over, much like a variety of tattoos. It’s really gorgeous and, honestly, what drew my attention to a book in a genre filled with imaginative covers.

Ink is a young adult dystopian fantasy, a genre I’m already over in so many ways. The protagonist, Leora, has just suffered the loss of her father. She and her mother are grieving but still have to forge their way through everyday life. Leora is about to graduate and has missed quite a bit of school while caring for her dying father. Her best friend, Verity, helps her with her studies and the two graduate with high marks, allowing them to obtain the jobs they’ve dreamed of for so long – Verity in the government, and Leora as an inker (aka tattoo artist in our world).

So, what’s so fancy and important about being a tattoo artist? In the world of Ink, people are marked with tattoos to recognize the events of their lives. Some tattoos are mandatory, like a name at two days old, a family tree on one’s back, lines and other symbols for accolades, accomplishments, or crimes. Other tattoos are self-chosen by individuals to reflect personal events or interests, and the inkers have to be talented and intuitive to bring all of these images together so that one’s life story can be read on the skin. It’s a really unique idea and I like that part a lot.

This is where it gets weird for me and I couldn’t shake the creepy factor for the rest of the book. When a person dies, like Leora’s father, the body is taken to a Flayer. This Flayer removes the tattoos carefully from the body and the skin remnants are stretched and bound like a page, and compiled in a book. So, the family has a book of the life of the deceased person and can remember them through the tattoos on the skin. The book as a whole is judged by the government and, if the person lived a good enough life, the book is placed in a library to be remembered. If the judgement doesn’t come out well, the book is burned and the person is forgotten. Turns out, Leora’s father is not who she thought he was and his book is brought up short in the judging process and burned. Leora finds that many people in her life are not who they seemed and she spends the remainder of the book trying to sort things out.

Because of who Leora’s father turned out to be, certain factions have been waiting for her to grow up and be used as a political pawn. The neighboring “enemy” are the Blanks, a group of people so full of shame and deviousness that they refuse to have anything tattooed on their skin and are surely working at this very moment to take over Leora’s world. So claims the government, anyway. There are the usual tropes of a young girl being plucked from obscurity and used in the name of rebellion and a 1984-style government that has fooled the people into believing everything they say. It’s done to death at this point. While I liked the idea of the ink telling the story of a life, the peeling off of the skin to be preserved in a book is just something I couldn’t get over. The end of the book was also very rushed and jumbled to me, with Leora vacillating very quickly from hating everyone who had deceived her and turning pro-government, to rebuking all of that and landing on the side of the rebellion. I just didn’t buy it and really never got on board for caring for Leora as a character. This is the first in a new series and one that I probably won’t be revisiting.

As always, read it for yourself and make your own conclusions. There are other reviews here, so you can see what others like and dislike about it. I found his link to an interview with Alice Broadway in The Guardian where she discusses her split with her faith that inspired Leora’s story, and another interview here where she discusses her writing process. I’m also including a link to some of the best in he YA dystopian genre. A few of them have been on my radar for awhile, and I’ll probably go ahead and read them despite being burned out on the category. You never know when the next great read will present itself!