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Title: Red Death
Author: Walter Mosley

Comments: This is the second book in the Easy Rawlings series. (I wrote about the first, Devil in a Blue Dress, earlier.) It was just as fantastic as the first. Easy’s investigational skills get better in this book (I love the way Mosley is developing this character so realistically), but the story gets much more complicated. The setting (just barely post WWII Watts in LA) is lively and thrilling and so interesting historically. Most of all, the mystery part was just so fantastic that I couldn’t wait to see how Easy would make everything work out in then end (since it wasn’t the last book in the series, I felt sure that he would). In fact, I was so involved in the story, that I finished the book in less than a day! (I was on vacation, so I had the luxury of reading for hours at a time.) I can’t wait to read the next one–which I plan to do over the Thanksgiving holiday, since my dad owns all Mosley’s books.

Title: She’s Gone
Author: Kwame Dawes

Comments: This is the story of a young, Black woman from the South who leaves a life in Academia to follow her reggae-star lover back to Jamaica. When she gets there, things are far from the vacation or paradise that she thought. The author does a great job of portraying life in the Low Country of South Carolina–both the good and the bad. I think he has done the same with life in Jamaica (though that part, I don’t know from personal experience as I do the parts about South Carolina); at the very least, he doesn’t shy away from portraying the poverty amidst a tourist destination. There are lots of hints about both Kofi’s (the male main character) and Keisha’s (the female mc) pasts, but so much of it seems cloudy or irrelevant. Overall, I thought it was a great story, but I absolutely hated the ending. It did not make sense in the grand scheme of the rest of the story, and it seemed to run counter to the characters’ development throughout the rest of the story. In other words, it was great until the very end!

Title: Fortunate Son
Author: Walter Mosley

Comments: Mosley is probably best known for his “Easy Rawlings” series of mysteries, but this book is a stand-alone novel that is very different from his other works. Like the Rawlings mysteries, Mosley’s best characters are the ones on the fringes of society. His juxtaposition of the abused, homeless child named lucky, and the supposed golden child who is depressed by things coming too easily to him, is beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. It was a fantastic read, and I found myself crying throughout the story as the children (and later young men) at the heart of this story faced loss, disappointment, and separation from each other with incredibly adult reactions.

(Sorry so short today folks… Just got offered free tickets to a Duke Basketball game, so I had to pull out a quickie, rather than the longer post I’d planned!)

Title: The Last Day the Dogbushes Bloomed
Author: Lee Smith

Comments: Lee Smith is one of my favorite authors. Her characters’ voices are so original and real. She portrays children especially well, and The Last Day the Dogbushes Bloomed is a perfect example of that. This story is so compelling, that of a young girl and her neighborhood friends, forming a secret society, losing innocence. Then there is her home life, and her creeping realizations that her mother is cheating on her father, that her mother has left her family, that maybe the only person who truly cares about her is the maid. All of this is told in the breathless narrative of this one little girl, spilling the details of her daily life, all mixed in with her private fantasies and fears. It’s a quick, fantastic read, and I’d recommend it to everyone!

Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author: J.K. Rowling

Comments: Ok, so I am way behind on posting this one, considering that I finished this book about two days after it came out in July. Still, I know people who haven’t read it yet, and I won’t be posting anything close to a spoiler.

Like the other books in this series, I found it totally captivating and an excellent story. I also believe it was the absolutely perfect ending to the overall story arc. I will say, that before I started reading HP7, I said to anyone who would listen, “I’d be totally ok with it if Harry dies–it would make sense. As long as he is reunited with his parents and Dumbledore.” Ok, but 100 pages before the end of the book, I was bawling hysterically and going, “Please, please, don’t kill off Harry!”

I know a lot of people felt that the Epilogue was cheesy and unnecessary, but I felt it was really good for the younger readers. (Though if it is setting up for “Hogwarts: The Next Generation”, I will be pissed about that.) I felt there was one death I thought was a little too much, and then there was continual hinting that another beloved character was about to die throughout the whole thing. That was exhausting. But it was nice to find out that I was right about Snape from the very beginning–what a relief!

And finally, I know there’s been a lot in the news over the past few weeks about Dumbledore being gay. And I just want to say I knew it! I knew it all along! (Or at least after some of that stuff about Grindlewald in HP7.)

I have been trying to read Freddy and Fredricka by Mark Helprin for like, forever. At least six weeks, anyway. I was really looking forward to reading it—I’ve heard a ton of reviews that said it was hilarious. All my friends who have read it think it is really awesome. But I think it is incredibly boring. And I think I may have to give up.

I can’t remember the last time I gave up on a book. Sometimes I’ve had a hard time reading a book, and I’ve put it away for a while, read a few other books, and then went back to it later. But I rarely actually give up on finishing a book. So I tried that with this book. When it was due back at the library, I renewed it. And then I renewed it again. It’s sitting on my nightstand, and every time I look at it, I am filled with dread. If I don’t have another book to read, I just don’t read, rather than try to read it. I just keep pretending that one night I’m finally going to be interested in it. But I really don’t think it’s going to happen.

I love reading, and so it’s hard for me to admit that I can’t finish this book. I was an English major, and I had to read Moby Dick over SPRING BREAK! (Tell me that professor wasn’t pure evil.) But I sat on the beach in Florida, with my Pina Colada, and I did what I had to do. I should be able to finish this book!

On the other hand, I read for fun. I’m not doing this for a class, so I should enjoy the things I read. I shouldn’t let it bother me or hurt my pride when I don’t finish a book. I finish plenty of others. And yet I feel guilty. Why?

Regardless of how guilty I feel, the book is due back at the library this week. And I refuse to renew it again. So you win, Freddy and Fredricka. I give up!

Title: Devil in a Blue Dress
Author: Walter Mosely
# of pages: ?

Comments: I’ve never been much of a fan of mysteries, but I recently read a review of Mosely’s latest novel in the Easy Rawlings series, praising the author for sharp writing, compelling storytelling, and a realistic portrayal of LA’s Watts neighborhood that makes it seem like another character in the book. Well, I was intrigued. And my dad collects Mosely, so the last time I was home, I swiped his (first edition, signed, of course) copy of Devil in a Blue Dress, the first in the Easy Rawlings series. It was fantastic. The voices of Mosley’s characters are distinctive, but they are not characatures. The story’s a little far-fetched, but the details are teased out in such an exquisite manner that I actually cared about whether Rawlings solved his mystery.

Title: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Author: L. Frank Baum, with Illustrations by W. W. Denslow
# of pages: 314

Comments: I have been wanting to read this book ever since I read Wicked several years ago. I had watched the movie a million and three times, but never read the book. When I read Wicked, I wondered how much of the politics and the types of characters were in the original. Turns out there are a lot of the characters, but not much of the politics. It really is a children’s book. The Denslow pictures are really charming, as the story always was. I know there are further books in the series by Baum, and I seem to recall reading one or two written by someone else when I was a child. I’d like to see how much of Maguire’s book is really based on these novels, and how much of it actually comes from his own imaginings. The world he created in Wicked and Son of a Witch was so intricate and had all the problems of a real world that I am somehow compelled to investigate further.

Title: The Annunciation
Author: Ellen Gilchrist
# of pages: 353

Comments: I have long loved Ellen Gilchrist’s short stories. Her characters are wild, impulsive, and hilarious, even when they don’t mean to be. This is her first novel, and also the first one I’ve read. The main character, Amanda, is lovely, like all her other characters, and her writing is beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though I didn’t love the ending. Not to give anything away, but it was a little too soap-opera-esque. And I did find myself chuckling when Amanda got sidetracked from her own writing by a love affair. After all, when I heard Gilchrist talk last fall, and she was asked to give advice to young writers, she complained that her students have all these amazing experiences–working with Teach for America in border towns in Texas, rebuilidng houses in New Orleans after Katrina, being airlifted out of a country on the brink of civil war–and yet every one of their stories starts with them waking up, hung over, in bed with their boyfriends. Just goes to prove, hindsight is always 20/20, even when you’ve written it down differently.

Title: Nancy Culpepper
Author: Bobbie Ann Mason
# of pages: 223

Comments: Nancy, the title character, is what ties this tale together, and she’s as bland as Elmer’s school glue. The story, told out of order, covers several generations of the Culpepper family on its farm. The other characters seem warm and real, but every time I got to a section where Nancy was featured, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. The most engaging part of the story is the oldest. Though each section deals with death and love and loss, it’s the deaths in this part of the story that seem the most true and the most deeply felt.