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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I’m pretty sure this is the first book I’ve read by a Black author. I decided I wanted to read something in honor of Black History Month and asked the library to recommend some authors to read. When Maya Angelou came up, I remembered I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was on my TBR list and decided that would be the one I was reading.

I cannot say I was blown away by the book, but I found it to be a very interesting cultural study. Having grown up after desegregation and the civil rights movement, a lot of the information and events in the book weren’t surprising. However, it was still fascinating and moving to see the world through the eyes of a young black girl.

I thought the most powerful part was her graduation from eighth grade. She discussed how the speaker was talking about the white school getting new microscopes and such but the black school was going to get a paved field. She explained that to a black girl she felt he was telling they could only have athletes as heroes, they could only hope to work in the trades but that was all – there was no hope for them to get into any other field. I found that very interesting. I had never seen words from that point of view before.

I thought the book was going to be more emotional for some reason. There was quite a bit of emotion and there were several heart-rending events, but it always felt somewhat detached. I’m not quite sure why. I almost wanted to get further in her head and see more of her thoughts than was in the book. It did give me insight into African American traditions (not sure that’s quite the right word…maybe habits?) and mindset. It was also a glimpse into a different era in a way you don’t often get to see (a child’s view as opposed to an adult view).

For anyone interested in a cultural study or African American history, this is a great read. For someone looking for an interesting book or memoir, this is also a good read. As for someone looking just for a book to read, I’d have to say you need to either be interested in memoirs, history, or culture in order to fully enjoy it.

My rating:

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Florence Grace by Tracy Rees

Florence Grace by Tracy Rees

I was somewhat torn on how to review this particular book. Let me begin by saying the audio book narrator was fabulous and the book was actually a lot longer than I had expected. The beginning and end of the book were wonderful. It was the middle of the book I had some issues with.

The story follows Florrie Buckley, a young girl from the wild moors of Cornwall being raised by her grandmother. She is a special girl with a strong intuition that is taught by a London born school teacher and the local wise woman. Before her grandmother dies, Flory learns her mother comes from a powerful London family, called the Graces, that disowned her when she married a low-born Cornish man. Florrie is then sent to live with the Graces.

In London, Flory meets her extended family members. The Graces are obsessed with power and status and to that end are not easy on Flory as she transitions from Florrie Buckley to Florence Grace. Some of their actions are downright cruel. She is close with her cousin Sanderson and feels a very close kinship with her other cousin Turlington. Turlington is the heir to the family, but is also the black sheep that is disowned on a regular basis. Florrie is miserable in London until she meets to people – Rebecca, the daugther of the local cheese shop owner, and Jacob, an orphan boy Florrie becomes friends with. These two people, along with Turlington, become the sole sources of comfort in her life. There is love won and lost, and the rediscovery of who she is and what she wants out of her life.

I’m not going to put any spoilers in here. However, my biggest issue with the book was Florrie’s relationship with a man that is no good for her. Like her friends point out, there is not way she can be with him. When she is with him, she is so torn by her feelings she loses sight of who she is and has become. Most of the middle of the book I was regularly annoyed with her for her actions with the man. Unfortunately, it’s nothing I haven’t seen with actual women and men who are bad for them. That being said, it’s still annoying.

This book is written as a historical fiction and follows the dynamics and societal rules of the day, but primarily focuses on Florrie and her emotions. You don’t see the flashy balls or the verbal batting that is so interesting in Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters novels. Additionally, the vocabulary, phrasing, and topics are definitely not the same as if it was written in the time period.

I was going to give the book three marks, but I feel like this is a book I’d read again. It has some sage advice and some very interesting parts. It also teaches lessons about being true to yourself and admitting what you really want in life. It awakens ideas of what some people will do in order to achieve power. For people who enjoy drama, this is a great book. Those who don’t enjoy drama may not like this. A good way to recommend it is if you like Emma and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, you’ll probably like this book.

My rating:

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Eldorado

Eldorado

I found out yesterday that a poem in one of my favorite John Wayne movies, El Dorado, was actually written by Edgar Allan Poe. I hadn’t actually thought about it before. I thought it had been written for the movie. However, my husband and I bought a copy of the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe for our home library yesterday. I flipped through the table of contents on the drive home and stumbled across Eldorado in the list of poems. When I flipped to it, imagine my surprise when I read the exact poem from the movie. It was a good day.

Eldorado

By Edgar Allan Poe

Gaily bedight,

a gallant knight,

in sunshine and in shadow,

had journeyed long,

singing a song,

in search of Eldorado.

 

But he grew old –

this knight so bold –

and o’er his heart a shadow –

fell as he found

no spot of ground

that looked like Eldorado.

 

And, as his strength

failed him at length,

he met a pilgrim Shadow –

‘Shadow’, said he,

‘Where can it be-

This land of Eldorado?’

 

‘Over the Mountains

of the Moon,

Down the Valley of the Shadow,

ride, boldly ride,’

the Shade replied,

‘in search of Eldorado!’

The Pitbull Dog Breed: A Comprehensive Pitbull Owner’s Manual, Including Breed Specific Techniques by Edward Stenson

The Pitbull Dog Breed: A Comprehensive Pitbull Owner’s Manual, Including Breed Specific Techniques by Edward Stenson

I actually found this book to be somewhat pointless. It’s only 40 pages long (which I didn’t realize when I bought it offline). The book gives you a brief overview of the breed history and breed characteristics. It gives the general training methods for the five basic commands, not breed specific. You can find the same instruction in any training manual. That’s pretty much all, there isn’t any depth to the book. It’s literally just an overview. I have no idea why it’s labeled “comprehensive owner’s manual”. As a new pitbull owner I was really hoping for more. There are better books out there – I found them. Some are much more in-depth on the training side and some much more in-depth on the history side but most fall into a good mix that’s more than just an overview.

My rating:

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And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

My husband and I listened to The Orient Express last year and it made me realize how much I liked Agatha Christie. Her Ms. Marple series and And Then There Were None have been on my TBR list for a while. When we had another trip last week, we downloaded And Then There Were None to listen to on the way. I am no longer surprised by how great her books are.

The story begins describing the journey of eight people as they travel to Soldier Island. Each person got a letter from someone they knew inviting them to spend a week for various reasons. Each person accepted. When they arrive at the island they find a butler and a maid…but no one else. There hosts are not there. Just after dinner, the group gathers in the parlor for after dinner drinks. A mysterious voice booms into the quiet room accusing all ten people in the house of a murder. Shortly after, people begin to die and not die simply. Their deaths follow a pattern set forth in the poem Ten Little Soldier Boys poem that is posted throughout the house. What follows is a series of confessions, old memories, deaths, suspicion, and confusion. The book is so well written it is difficult to determine who the killer is and why. You learn all the stories of the accused crimes and determine for yourself if they are guilty or not.

The characters are well developed and thought out. Even the characters who die early you still get a really good feel for who they are. The background stories are interesting and give a great depth to the story line. You never feel like you are back in time reliving the events, but are getting a synopsis from the people that were there with all the emotion and clarity they choose to offer. This makes the retelling even more interesting as each one has been accused of murder. To be able to see if each character views him or herself as guilty is fascinating. Furthermore, you get to see how fear and suspicion affect people in a given situation. The things people do and the way they change under stress and constant fear was very interesting to see as well. I actually think the ending was the most brilliant part.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes murder mysteries or wants to get in to mysteries. It’s a completely clean book – no sex, no drug usage, no foul language, and the murders almost all occur ‘off screen’; the ones you do read are not gruesome, cruel, of violent in any way. The language is interesting without being confusing. The mix of characters unique and adds to the story. All-in-all are wonderful read.

My rating:

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Wait Until Dark (Night Stalkers #3) by M. L. Buchman

Wait Until Dark (Night Stalkers #3) by M. L. Buchman

So this is were I thought the Night Stalkers series began to lose some of its interest for me. I’d have to say the main female character was not as developed or as interesting as I’d hoped. The male lead and supporting characters were fantastic, but the Connie, she was just kind of blah to me.

Connie joins the Night Stalkers as a mechanic & gunner. She appears in I Own the Dawn briefly but she doesn’t really say anything. When she is introduced in this book, she is a quiet introvert with an amazing mind and skill as a mechanic. She comes off as very robotic actually, something the other mechanic (and love interest) Big Jim Wallace remarks on. You find out she drove herself to SOAR in search of answers about her father’s death (he died in a secret helicopter crash when she was eight). Because she was left alone at such a young age and because she is so smart, she never fit in and now is having trouble becoming part of the crew and dealing with getting close to people. That’s pretty much the story. Big John is great. He’s interesting and unexpected throughout the book and loved being able to see a different side of him. Emily Beale is present as well which is nice, but Kee and her husband are not really in the book until the end.

Overall the book was good. I just could never connect with Connie. She just seems kind of blank to me. You have her background and her emotional struggles, but she just never felt like a solid, deep person to me like John, or Kee, or Emily did. The story line was also different. Most of it didn’t occur in the middle east like the other books did. It didn’t feel like there was as much action as there was in other books, not nearly as rough-and-ready. More a smooth jazz to a rock beat. It is a good book, just not the best in the series.

My rating:

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I Own the Dawn (Night Stalkers #2) by M. L. Buchman

I Own the Dawn (Night Stalkers #2) by M. L. Buchman

This is probably my favorite book in the Night Stalkers series. It is the second in the series, but I think it’s probably the most interesting. The story follows Kee Smith, a mixed race tough girl who survived the Street – capital S and as she describes in the book, it’s a place you survive not somewhere you live. The love interest is Lieutenant Archibald Stevenson III. A really nice all-around guy who comes from high class but is down-to-Earth and really likable.

The story picks up when Kee is assigned to the D Battalion of SOAR. Right off the bat she makes it clear she wants nothing to do with Emily Beale and helping to create a “girlie-chopper”. It’s funny to watch her go from thinking Emily Beale is just a cute little waif who has no skills to being terrified and impressed by her. Kee takes her place as gunner in Emily’s chopper and seeks only to do her job and prove she belongs there. On one of her early missions, she helps to rescue Dilya, an orphan refugee from a gun battle. The girl clings to her and Kee becomes her guardian without even realizing it. The story then begins to be told by Kee, Dilya, and Archie. The author blends seemlessly through the three, giving different points of view and interesting insights into what is going on in each person’s head. The love story between Kee and Archie is almost a battle developing as it grows between the two individuals – Kee fighting with everything in her to not get close to people and Archie just wanting to love her and Dilya.

The book is emotional, tumultuous, and wonderful. I loved the addition of Dilya. She is a fascinating character and it’s interesting to see how her culture clashes with that of her new guardian’s. The relationships in the story that Kee develops are fraught with hair-thin trust and emotional baggage all over the place, but the author makes her coming to terms with emotions and attachments believable and not awkwardly rushed. As always, the battles and military lifestyle add an interesting and realistic backdrop to the entire story and provides insight into the different characters. I also enjoy learning the small tidbits of middle eastern life that appear in the novels.

My rating:

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