Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Fiction Review: The Verifiers

One of many outstanding books I read for this year's Booktopia event (see my video wrap-up here) was The Verifiers by Jane Pek. And I not only got to meet the author and hear her speak at Booktopia, but she sat at our table for dinner Friday night, so I got to know her a bit (she is excellent at book trivia, by the way!). Her debut novel is a fun, suspenseful mystery with a great sense of humor.

Claudia Lin is sort of the black sheep of her "model minority" family, so it makes sense that she hasn't told her mother, brother, or sister about her new job (or that she quit the big corporate job her brother got for her). This new job is a bit ... unconventional. She works for a small start-up company called Veracity. Clients can hire them to look into their "matches" on the various dating sites, to see if they are lying or hiding something about themselves. One of Claudia's first clients is Iris, who is hiring Veracity to look into two men she's met online. One of them seems like a great match but refuses to meet in-person (big red flag!) and the other is a man that Iris is actually seeing and really likes, but she wants to be sure he isn't too good to be true. Claudia does indeed learn some interesting things about both men, but Iris dies suddenly, under what Claudia feels are mysterious circumstances. Her bosses at Veracity tell her in no uncertain terms to forget about Iris, but Claudia just can't. As a huge fan of mystery novels, especially her favorite Inspector Yuan series, Claudia launches her own secret (supposedly) investigation, but things soon turn dangerous ... and even more mysterious. The more Claudia digs, the more complex and intriguing Iris' story becomes. Along the way are plenty of dead ends, red herrings, and other mystery-novel-like aspects to keep Claudia engrossed, but the danger grows.

This is such a fun novel! There is the mystery, which is wholly unique and twisty, but also Claudia's relationships with her immigrant family, which have emotional depth but are also very amusing. In fact, the entire story is imbued with a wonderful sense of humor, as Claudia applies her mystery-novel knowledge to the case and stumbles through both her detective work and her family interactions. The mystery itself has some technical aspects to it, as the algorithms used by online dating websites are a big part of it, but even when I couldn't completely follow the details, I got the gist of it ... and kept laughing with almost every page!

To give you an idea of the humor woven throughout the novel, here is an early scene with Claudia's family:

"As always, I'm the second-to-last person to arrive at Golden Phoenix, befitting my role as the feckless youngest child of the Lin family. Charles and his girlfriend, Jessie, and our mother are already there, sitting side by side at one of the large round tables in the middle of the room. Charles is frowning down at his phone. Jessie is trying to make small talk with my mother, who is blatantly uninterested in anything she might have to say. Also befitting their roles.

"Hi, Mom," I say as I drop into a chair across from the other three of them. I smile at Jessie, who looks at me the way the Spartan three hundred might have at reinforcements making it to Thermopylae in time. She and Charles have been dating for the past several months, and Charles has recently started subjecting her to Lin family events. They matched on Bubble Meets Tea, an invitation-only matchmaker for overachieving Asian Americans. My primary impression of her so far is that she's too nice for our family."

I absolutely loved reading this novel, filled with humor and suspense and a wonderfully unconventional female heroine, and have moved it into my husband's stack on our bookcase. And I learned at Booktopia that the publisher has requested 2-3 more books from Jane, so I can't wait to see what's in store for Claudia next!

354 pages, Vintage Books

Random House Audio

This book fits in the following 2022 Reading Challenges:

Diversity Challenge, plus May mini-challenge: Southeast Asian

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.


Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

 

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible. It's a fun excerpt, including the passage above, where Claudia considers the interesting aspects of her first case.

 

You can buy the book through Bookshop.org, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!

 

 

Or you can order The Verifiers from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


 

Monday, May 23, 2022

It's Monday 5/23! What Are You Reading?

Hosted by The Book Date

Ahhh ... it was such a relief to have a full week at home, after taking four trips in three weeks! Even though my chronic illness is much better, after finally recovering from the lingering effects of COVID with treatment from my doctor, all that travel was still a lot for me! I feel like I am back to my "normal" baseline, which still requires a lot of sleep and a daily nap, but my stamina is quite low after almost two years of relapses for various reasons. So, I am enjoying being in my own house, sleeping in my own bed, and just starting to begin some short walks and other very light exercise.

My main kind of activity lately is weeding our gardens (a little at a time)! They'd gotten a little overgrown after that hectic month. Overall, though, I've been absolutely thrilled this spring with all the lovely flowers here! Last spring, I got a little carried away after my neighborhood book group read Nature's Best Hope by local author Dough Tallamy, all about the importance of planting native plants. I bought a LOT of plants last May at our local nature center's annual native plant sale, and it took us a month to get them all into the ground! All that hard work paid off this spring, though, as they all came back up--some of them so much bigger than last year!--and bloomed beautifully. A little peek:

Blue phlox and white anemone, planted last spring

New blue phlox and older yellow daffodils

Amsonia blue ice, planted last spring - finally blooming!

My sad little azalea! About 15 years old & still tiny but blooming!

Our purple irises have gone crazy this year! Love them!

The other big deal in my life is ... my annual Big Book Summer Reading Challenge, which kicks off this Friday, May 27! This is the10th anniversary of the challenge, so I have some fun surprises planned, including a double end-of-summer giveaway and some cool Big Book Summer products that I will unveil on Friday. In the meantime, you can see the new logo I created this year:


In case you're not familiar with Big Book Summer, it is a fun and very easy-going challenge that anyone can participate in (even if it's Big Book Winter where you live!). A Big Book is 400 or more pages, and you can read just one over the whole season or two or however many you want. I like to choose a whole stack, including one classic, and devote my summer to Big Books, even though I never get through them all. The details will be explained in my post on Friday here on the blog (and I'll post a video on YouTube, too), but in the meantime, you can check out my post from Big Book Summer 2021

So, look through your bookshelves and your to-be-read list and see if there are any Big Books you've been wanting to read!


Oh, and Big Book Summer and I will be featured on the Book Cougars podcast this week! Their new episode drops on Tuesday, May 24. The hosts, Chris and Emily, interviewed me when we were at Booktopia together, so check that out - besides, it is an awesome book podcast!

I uploaded two new videos to my YouTube channel last week:

Booktopia 2022 at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT - a recap of our fabulous bookish weekend, complete with books & authors featured, photos, and video clips.

Friday Reads 5-20-22 - my brief weekly update of what I'm reading, in print and on audio

 

And here's what we are all reading this week:

I finished The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michelle Richardson for my book group and absolutely loved it! In 1936, nineteen-year-old Cussy is working as a Pack Horse Librarian, as part of the WPA, bringing books via mule to her isolated neighbors in the Appalachian hills of eastern Kentucky. Cussy is the last living female of the Blue People of Kentucky, a family whose genetic defect that caused blue skin was passed down through generations. I had to go to Wikipedia to look this up, and it is all based on fact, including the setting of Troublesome Creek. It's a wonderful historical novel that delves into both things--the pack horse librarians and the blue people, who suffer horrible discrimination. Cussy is a fabulous heroine, spreading literacy and the joy of books through her very poor and insulated community. The poverty depicted here, during the Depression, was horrifying, so there are some very sad scenes, but there is joy as well and it ends on a hopeful note. My book group gave it an average rating of 7.5 (of 10) , and I'm still thinking about it, five days after finishing it!

 

I also finished The Year of the Horses by Courtney Maum, one of our Booktopia selections, which I had to set aside briefly to read my book group book. This memoir is about the author's personal battles with severe depression. She was married with a two-year-old daughter when her insomnia and other symptoms finally got bad enough for her to seek help. Looking back, she realized she had struggled since childhood. With the help of therapy, she turned back to her childhood passion, horses and riding, to help herself heal. She eventually became immersed in the world of polo. It's an interesting and engaging story.

 

Now, I am fitting in one short book before I begin to tackle my Big Books this summer: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu, a Christmas gift from my husband. I heard about it on a BookBub list of "uplifting science fiction" novels. I love anything to do with time travel, so this sounded perfect for me. It's definitely a very unique book so far! For starters, the main character is named Charles Yu, and he is a time machine repairman. He goes wherever (and whenever) people have gotten themselves into trouble and need help. His main goal in life, though, is to find his missing father, who was one of the early inventors of time travel before he disappeared. It's odd and twisty so far, and I'm enjoying it.

 

On audio, I started listening to a new book: again, trying to fit in one more short one before I switch to Big Books (yes, audios count, too!). I'm listening to The Final Six by Alexandra Monir, a post-apocalyptic YA novel. In this near-future world, climate disasters have finally passed the tipping point; the seas have risen and are quickly moving further inland, and it is now impossible to save the Earth. Plan B is to send a team of six teens out into space to set up a colony on Europa, one of Jupiter's moons that looks like it could support human life. A group of 24 of the best and brightest teens have been chosen to attend International Space Camp. Of those, the final six will be chosen. The story focuses on two of the 24 in particular: Leo, an Italian championship swimmer who is grieving the loss of his family and Naomi, a brilliant science/computer student whose life goal is to find a cure for her brother's heart defect. I'm completely engrossed in the story so far, as the teens train and compete for the top six positions.

 

My husband, Ken, finished reading Afterland by Lauren Beukes. I picked this one out for him because we both liked Shining Girls, by the same author, and we are very excited about the new TV adaptation that started recently on Apple TV, starring ... Elizabeth Moss! It's amazing so far! Meanwhile, this newer novel from Beukes is a post-apocalyptic story about a world where most of the men are dead. A twelve-year-old boy named Miles is one of the few boys left, and his mother will protect him at any cost, from the many women who want a piece of him: as a scarce reproductive resource, a sex object, or a substitute son. It's described as a high-stakes thriller that Stephen King said is "smartly written," so it should be good! Ken enjoyed it.

 

Ken is also preparing for the launch of Big Book Summer on Friday! So, he's reading some short stories in the meantime, from the collection Machine Learning by Hugh Howey, a book that I loved! There are some great stories in this collection of mostly science fiction and fantasy (I'm still haunted by the one about the Roomba that learned a little too well). The collection also includes three new stories from the world of Howey's best-selling Silo trilogy (all three books are perfect for Big Book Summer) that begins with the novel, Wool, one of my top books of all time. I hope he enjoys it as much as I did.

 

Our son, 27, told me this morning that he finished reading book 1, The Choice of Magic, of a new-to-him series, Art of the Adept by Michael G. Manning. He said he loved it so much that he immediately bought and started book 2, Secrets and Spellcraft. He thinks my Big Book Summer Challenge is hilarious because he doesn't normally read any book below 400 pages!

I am way behind on reviews, so just one new blog post last week:

Fiction Review: The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn - fascinating historical fiction, about a Russian woman sniper in WWII

What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, so head over and check out her blog and join the Monday fun! You can also participate in a kid/teen/YA version hosted by Unleashing Readers.

You can follow me on Twitter at @SueBookByBook or on Facebook on my blog's page.  

What are you and your family reading this week?

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Fiction Review: The Diamond Eye

I've been hearing great things about Kate Quinn's historical novels for years now, and I finally had a chance to try one myself. Her latest, The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn, lived up to my expectations. This fascinating, engrossing story kept me riveted on audio.

Mila Pavlichenko is a young single mother in Kiev in the 1930's, going to school for her history degree and working part-time in a library while caring for her young son. She worries about her son lacking a father-figure, as her ex-husband is rarely around. One thing her son wants his father to do is teach him how to shoot when he gets older, so Mila takes shooting lessons and gets certified. It turns out that she is actually quite good at it, but it's just a fun pastime ... until the Nazis invade Russia. Like many women of the time, Mila signs up to serve in the Russian Army and though she is first assigned to lesser jobs by her male superiors, they soon recognize her exemplary shooting skills and promote her to sniper. Mila becomes one of the best snipers in the Russian Army, soon killing over 300 Nazis on her own. It's horrible at times, being separated from her son and becoming a killer, but she knows she is helping her country.

In 1942, Mila and others in the Russian Army are sent to the United States to meet President Roosevelt and hopefully convince him to join the war effort and create a Western front to help Russia fight off the Nazis. Though Mila is more at home huddled in a ditch in camouflage than in a dress meeting foreign dignitaries, she does her best to represent her country and their needs. She is pleasantly surprised as she gets to know Eleanor Roosevelt better and a bond begins to form between the two women, especially when the Russian contingent goes on tour across the U.S., to drum up support for the war. The narrative shifts back and forth between Mila's wartime experiences and her growing friendship with Eleanor on the American tour, while the danger to her life--and others'--grows, as enemies old and new converge.

It's hard now for me to believe how much I hated history class in school because I love reading historical fiction and narrative nonfiction. This engrossing novel is a great example of how an author can take a small, hidden corner of history and bring it to light. The result is a fascinating and suspenseful reading experience that was excellent on audio, with first-person narration by Saskia Maarleveld who perfectly embodies Mila. As unusual and intriguing as Mila's wartime experience was, I was even more engaged by her time in the U.S. and her friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt. Mila was an extraordinary and complex woman: both a loving mother and a deadly killer. Quinn weaves a captivating narrative thread around the historical facts that was absolutely riveting on audio, building to a suspenseful and thrilling ending.

448 pages, William Morrow

HarperAudio

This book fits in the following 2022 Reading Challenges:

Alphabet Soup Challenge - D

Travel the World in Books - Russia

Literary Escapes Challenge - District of Columbia

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

 

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.


Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

 

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible.

 

You can buy the book through Bookshop.org, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!


  
  

Or you can order The Diamond Eye from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

 

Monday, May 16, 2022

It's Monday 5/16! What Are You Reading?

Hosted by The Book Date

Ahhh ... a quiet Monday at home. I need this! I finally finished my whirlwind four trips in three weeks. It's all been fun--but exhausting!--and now I am ready to just hunker down at home and recover for at least a few weeks. This week's adventures included my father-in-law's 97th birthday and a family gathering in Connecticut for my mom's birthday.

Friday, my father-in-law turned 97, so my husband and I visited him in the nursing home at noon. We brought him a McDonald's vanilla shake, a homemade lemon meringue pie (his favorites!), and a few gifts to open. He was pretty out of it (his dementia is severe now), but he woke up enough to enjoy it. He loved the treats and had fun opening his gifts. And it's a good thing my husband took time off to visit with me at lunchtime because by dinner, he was in another world (and not a happy one). So, we're glad we could give him some treats and pleasures on his birthday.


Saturday morning, we drove to Connecticut for our first full family gathering since 2019! I'd seen individuals once or twice (except my niece), but this was the first time in years my immediate family was all together. It was so wonderful to see my niece and nephew again and spend time with them--they are both so grown up! And it was great spending time with my own sons--we're rarely all together these days. It was pretty exhausting for me, after the flurry of activity the past few weeks, but I managed it. We got home about 3 pm yesterday and have no plans to leave the house! (Well, my husband's at a doctor appointment, and I'll be visiting my father-in-law in an hour, but we're not traveling anywhere for awhile.) I promised I wouldn't post photos online (some are sensitive to that), so here's the delicious BBQ dinner we had on Saturday night.


And, all of a sudden, it's May 16! Wow. As I suspected, we jumped from rain and cool 50's right into mid-80's, but we should get some nicer weather later this week. The trees around here are finished blooming, but the ground last week was carpeted with pink blossoms outside of the nursing home!


And my annual Big Book Summer Challenge starts next Friday!! It sort of snuck up on me, with all that's been going on, but I do already have a stack of big books set aside. If you're new to the challenge, you can check out my post from Big Book Summer 2021 (this year's challenge page will go up on Friday, May 27). The challenge runs until early September, and the idea is to use summer (or winter, if you're in the southern hemisphere) to tackle a bigger book (or two or more!). A Big Book has 400 or more pages, and you can just choose one to read or devote the whole season to Big Books, like I do. 

So, get ready! Start looking through your shelves and your TBR list for those bigger books you've been putting off reading, and set them aside for Big Book Summer 2022! And this is the 10th anniversary of the challenge, so I will try to make it extra special, with a new logo, an extra giveaway, and some cool Big Book Summer products!

I uploaded two new book videos last week:

April Reading Wrap-Up - a quick recap of the five great books I read last month

Friday Reads 5-13-22 - my brief weekly update on what I'm reading


And here's what we've all been reading this past week:

I am still reading a Booktopia selection, a memoir called The Year of the Horses by Courtney Maum. I didn't get to her author session, but she gave a hilarious wrap-up talk about publishing a novel at the end of Booktopia Saturday night. This book, however, is about her personal battles with severe depression. She was married with a two-year-old daughter when her insomnia and other symptoms finally got bad enough for her to seek help. Looking back, she realized she had struggled since childhood. She turned back to her childhood passion, horses and riding, to help herself heal. I am about 80% finished now, but I did something I almost never do and set it aside briefly when I realized my neighborhood book group meets this week!

 

Luckily, I was able to get a library copy pretty quickly of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michelle Richardson for my book group. I didn't get much reading done at my mom's, but at bedtime last night I was able to get immersed in the story, and it is already so compelling! In 1936, nineteen-year-old Cussy is working as a Pack Horse Librarian, as part of the WPA, bringing books via horse or mule to her isolated neighbors in the Appalachian hills of eastern Kentucky. Cussy is the last living female of the Blue People of Kentucky, a family whose genetic defect that caused blue skin was passed down through generations. I had to go to Wikipedia yesterday to look this up, and it is all based on fact, including the location of Troublesome Creek. It's a wonderful historical novel so far, and Cussy is a fabulous heroine, spreading literacy and the joy of books through her very poor and insulated community.

 

On audio, I am still listening to The Hollows by Jess Montgomery, book two in the Kinship series, historical mysteries set in 1920's southeastern Ohio and featuring the first female sheriff in the state. This is also historical fiction (strange that I ended up by chance reading two books set in the Appalachians in about the same time period!). In book one, The Widows, Lily's husband dies and she is asked to take over his position as sheriff of the rural county, with her first job to investigate her husband's murder. Now, Lily is running for election on her own when an elderly woman is found dead on nearby train tracks, clearly having plunged from the tunnel overhead onto a moving freight train. As Lily begins her investigation, she starts to suspect this was not an accident. The story delves into the mystery, the sheriff's race, the difficult decision Lily's best friend must make, and even the KKK beginning to infiltrate their area. It is wonderful on audio and completely engrossing; I'm really enjoying it. 


My husband, Ken, is still reading the new book I put in his Easter basket, Afterland by Lauren Beukes. I picked this one out for him because we both liked Shining Girls, by the same author, and we are very excited about the new TV adaptation that started last week on Apple TV, starring ... Elizabeth Moss! We can't wait to watch it. Meanwhile, this newer novel from Beukes is a post-apocalyptic story about a world where most of the men are dead. A twelve-year-old boy named Miles is one of the few boys left, and his mother will protect him at any cost, from the many women who want a piece of him: as a scarce reproductive resource, a sex object, or a substitute son. It's described as a high-stakes thriller that Stephen King said is "smartly written," so it should be good!

 

I was able to catch up with our son's (27) reading this weekend! He finished reading The Written by Ben Galley, book one of the Emaneska series. It is fantasy, of course--his favorite genre. It's described as Game of Thrones meets Diehard and "an explosive epic fantasy."He said the plot was good but the characters felt a bit shallow to him. He's heard the second book is better, so he may try that. In the meantime, he has started reading a new-to-him series, Art of the Adept by Michael G. Manning, with book 1, The Choice of Magic. He's enjoying it so far. 

 Blog posts from last week:

Fiction Review: Black Cloud Rising by David Wright Faladé - Outstanding historical fiction about an all-Black regiment of freed slaves in the Civil War

Fiction Review: The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle - science fiction from the famous author, about an expedition that finds dinosaurs still alive in the modern world

What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, so head over and check out her blog and join the Monday fun! You can also participate in a kid/teen/YA version hosted by Unleashing Readers.

You can follow me on Twitter at @SueBookByBook or on Facebook on my blog's page.  

What are you and your family reading this week?

 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Fiction Review: The Lost World

Looking for a classic among my huge audio book backlog, I was quite surprised to find The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle. I was surprised because this novel, published in 1912, is not about Sherlock Holmes. In fact, it's not even a mystery; it's science fiction. I had no idea that Doyle ever wrote science fiction, but apparently, this book was the start of his Professor Challenger series. The intriguing premise, action, and suspense of this unique novel kept me rapt.

The book is narrated by Ned, a journalist who wants to impress the woman he loves by embarking on some sort of rugged adventure. Just that kind of opportunity presents itself when he attends a scientific conference and hears Professor Challenger talk about his astounding discoveries. While on an expedition to a remote region of the Amazon basin in South America, Professor Challenger claims to have seen prehistoric animals--including dinosaurs--still living and thriving on a huge, isolated plateau. When his scientific colleagues laugh at his claims during the talk and don't believe him, he proposes another expedition, including another scientist (one of his detractors). Ned jumps at the chance to accompany them as a journalist, to document their findings ... and impress his beloved. The small group sets out and once in the region, hires a group of men to accompany them and help them on their journey through the rugged terrain. Following Professor Challenger's instructions and memories, they do indeed find the plateau, populated by strange and wondrous--and very dangerous--creatures unlike any that exist in modern times elsewhere. Their story is told through Ned's writings and drawings that he sends back home with native messengers, as they encounter strange beasts and even an entirely new kind of human.

This story was suspenseful and compelling on audio, as the team encounters one challenge after another and Ned documents their astounding findings. There is plenty of action and adventure in the novel, and it's easy to see how this story--originally serialized in a magazine--captured and held the attention of its 1912 audience. It's also interesting from a historical perspective, since the prehistoric creatures they encountered were based on the paleontological findings of that time. My one complaint was the racism throughout the narrative, that was, of course, a product of its time but is cringe-worthy nonetheless. The hired helpers on the expedition were referred to as "swarthy half-breeds" and described in unflattering terms, while the one African man hired to help was constantly described as "huge and ever-loyal," more positive terms, perhaps, but no less stereotyped and cringey. Despite these flaws (which many classics carry), I was engrossed in the action-packed and suspenseful narrative and fascinated by the descriptions of the creatures they encountered.

230 pages, Seawolf Press

FNH Audio

NOTE: While I listened to the audio book and normally recommend using Bookshop, which supports indie bookstores, for book purchases (links to both below), in this case, I recommend the 100th Anniversary edition from Seawolf Press, available from Amazon, which includes 50 original drawings that accompanied the book's original publication in magazines. From the "Look Inside" feature at that link, the drawings look detailed and gorgeous.

This book fits in the following 2022 Reading Challenges:

Monthly Motif - April - a book adapted into a TV series or movie (but, wow, this one looks so bad, complete with cheesy special effects and a busty, semi-clad woman--there's no woman on the expedition in the book.)

Back to the Classics Challenge - 20th century classic

2022 Alphabet Soup - L

Travel the World in Books Challenge - Brazil

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.


Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

 

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible.

 

You can buy the book through Bookshop.org, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!


 

Or you can order The Lost World from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Fiction Review: Black Cloud Rising

I know I've been talking here non-stop about Booktopia, which was held last weekend at Northshire Bookstore in Vermont, but it is just such an extraordinary and unique event! One of the many great things about it is the incredible books and authors that the booksellers choose to feature and invite to the event. One of those eight authors this year was David Wright Faladé and his powerful historical novel, Black Cloud Rising. This unique Civil War story was immersive, engrossing, thoughtful, and fascinating.


The novel begins when its narrator, Richard Etheridge, is just a young boy on Roanoke Island, near the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Richard was born into slavery, but his father is the master of the house, John Etheridge. John has adopted his nephew, Patrick, who is the same age as Richard, so the two boys--one a black slave and the other a white slave owner--grow up together like brothers. As Richard gets older, though, he realizes they are not equals and never will be, that Patrick enjoys privileges he never will and that, though John clearly likes Richard, he can never be his "real" son. When the boys are twenty-year-old men, the Union Army comes through their area, freeing slaves and offering them the opportunity to join the Union forces. Much to John and Patrick's dismay, Richard joins up and becomes a part of an all-Black regiment. In fact, Richard soon becomes a Sergeant, thanks to the education John allowed Richard to gain through his daughter's tutoring. The regiment, including many of Richard's childhood friends, are all freed slaves, led by a few white officers committed to abolition. They march through the Eastern marshlands of Virginia and North Carolina, going from house to house and farm to farm, fighting Confederate rebels and freeing slaves from sometimes-uncooperative slave owners. Through it all, Richard remembers times from his childhood and muses about how he will fit into society in the future.


On its surface, this is historical fiction about the Civil War--and it absolutely does illuminate a little-known aspect of the war--but it is so much more than that. There is such emotional complexity here that it is also a very intimate story, about Richard and his fellow newly-free soldiers. All of the characters are fully fleshed out, providing different viewpoints for these extraordinary events. Richard's family background adds to the thoughtful intricacies of race relations laid out here, as some white officers see the Black soldiers as mere physical force, while a few come to realize their full potential as thinking, feeling men. These thought-provoking details echo in the race issues we are still experiencing today. This novel is also beautifully written, with plenty of action and suspense folded into a captivating story. As with much historical fiction, I was fully absorbed in this small piece of history I knew nothing about, but I was also riveted by the rich emotional lives of Richard and the other characters. This was the author's first adult novel, and I can't wait to see what he writes next.


290 pages, Atlantic Monthly Press

Recorded Books


I fully enjoyed meeting David Wright Faladé at Booktopia and listening to his intriguing discussion of his book. For a small glimpse into this interesting author, watch this brief 12 Things with David Wright Faladé video from Bookfinity:

 


This book fits in the following 2022 Reading Challenges:

Diversity Reading Challenge

(that's it - believe it or not, this was my 3rd book read so far this year set in North Carolina!)

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.


Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

 

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible. It sounds great!

 

You can buy the book through Bookshop.org, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!    

 

Or you can order Black Cloud Rising from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.