The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer ☆☆☆☆

donaldThe Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer ☆☆☆☆

I bought this book as soon as it came out in 2016, and it has taken me this long to read it. I knew the subject matter would be incredibly difficult to read, and I also knew it would make me a very angry person. So I put it off as long as I could, but when I saw that Hoopla had the audiobook, I knew it was time to give it a go. If you are squeamish, this book might not be for you. It is a history book, but there is a lot of violence and some very hateful, racist language.

The Lynching is the story of the murder of Michael Donald by the Klan in 1981 in Mobile, AL, but it is also an in-depth look at the rise of the KKK in Alabama, and its ultimate downfall. Michael Donald was only 19 when he was stopped on the street by two men, forced into their car, and driven to a remote area. He was brutally murdered and then tied to a tree in a mixed neighborhood. It took 3 years for his killers to be brought to justice, because the Klan had such a strong hold on the justice system.

The first few chapters walk through the murder — the high-profile court case in which a black man was found not quilty of killing a white man, the anger and resentment felt by the local Klansmen, the brutal details of the Michael Donald lynching, and the ensuing criminal trial. The book then takes a step back, way back to the formation of the United Klans of America and the rise of Alabama’s most prominent Klan leaders. It also takes a look at the rise of the Southern Poverty Law Center and its ties to the Civil Rights efforts in Alabama.

It took a while for me to see where the book was tying it all together. At first I was annoyed that so little time was given to the Michael Donald case itself and so much time in the middle was spent on the formation of the UKA. It wasn’t until Leamer got into the formation of the SPLC that it started to make sense to me.

The last part of the book delves deeply into the Michael Donald civil trial, which would ultimately bring down the UKA in Alabama. Morris Dees, lawyer and co-founder of the SPLC, used the Michael Donald lynching to make a case that the racial hatred constantly spewed by the UKA was the catalyst for and cause of Donald’s death, and that the UKA deliberately riled up its constituents to commit acts of violence against minorities. It set a precedent that inciting violence makes that person or organization complicit in that violence.

This court case may have happened in 1983, but it is still very relevant to our situation today. We still have people and organizations that are inciting violence and then distancing themselves from that violence as if they had nothing to do with it, touting their right to “free speech” as if it was their personal get-out-of-jail-free card. This book brings a powerful message about the limitations of free speech, and what can be done when people overstep the bounds of it.

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My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite ☆☆☆☆

sisterMy Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite ☆☆☆☆

Korede has a compulsion to clean, so when her sister Ayoola’s boyfriends keep turning up dead she cleans up behind her as best she can. When Ayoola visits her at work one day and catches the eye of the doctor Korede has been secretly in love with, does Korede continue supporting her sister or save the man she loves?

This short but compelling novel uses the complex relationship between “plain” Korede and “beautiful” Ayoola to dive into how men perceive women, how women support and degrade one another, and how family can be both close and distant often at the same time.

I’m not a literary critic or a professional blogger. I don’t have a fancy textual analysis of the book to offer. All I have are my feelings and they are this: this book made me examine how society views women, how I view women. “Beautiful” women (by society’s standards) have a whole set of problems that I personally do not have to contend with. I can more readily identify with Korede, who considers herself plain and views the world through that lens. She is the dutiful daughter with a well-paying job (she’s a nurse) that takes care of her household as best she can. Her sister stops both men and women in their tracks with her beauty, and Korede is disgusted when she realizes that people cannot see past her sister’s looks to notice how creative and smart she is.

The joy of reading about a complex relationship, for me, is that I never know until the end which way it will go. Will Korede continue to support and love her sister, even though she is a serial killer? Will she instead side with the man she loves to save him? I highly recommend you read this book for yourself to find out.

The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Loren ☆☆☆☆

ones whoThe Ones Who Got Away (The Ones Who Got Away #1) by Roni Loren

Twelve years ago, a tragedy struck Long Acre High School, and now the surviving students are reuniting to give interviews for a documentary. The school has been renamed and the original gym torn down for a memorial courtyard, but the ghosts still linger on for Olivia and Finn.

Olivia and Finn have not seen each other since that horrible night, and have a lot of unresolved feelings toward one another. Their history will combine with their current lives in unexpected ways and maybe lead to some level of peace and happiness if they can GET THEIR CRAP TOGETHER

Okay, I started off all professional, but excuse me if I go off the rails a little bit. Romance as a genre is inherently emotional, so I’m about to spew some emotion at you. Slight spoilers ahead, but I promise not to get too detailed on the plot.

School shootings are far too prevalent in our society, and I think everyone nowadays feels some connection to this issue in some way. It was difficult but also very fascinating to read about characters trying to cope with the aftermath. The characters feel so real, and their grief is so powerful even 12 years later. It added a richness to the story that was very compelling.

The chemistry between the main characters was very strong. Olivia and Finn were both fully fleshed-out characters and the side characters of Taryn and Rebecca also felt real to me. I think by giving Finn and Olivia a shared history both before and during the tragedy made their connection stronger and it brought it into the present in a very satisfying way. The author never trivializes school shootings in any way, but does not turn it into a kind of voyeuristic grief-porn either.

Immediately after finishing book #1, I downloaded The One You Can’t Forget (book #2). The One You Fight For (book #3) was published on January 1st.

 

2019 Reading Goals

2018 is out, and 2019 is in! I didn’t set any goals for myself in 2018 and I did really well (see previous post), so how well can I do if I set a couple loose goals for myself in 2019?

  1. First, I am setting my Goodreads goal for a nice, even 50 books. This is standard for me — I set it at 50 every year and I don’t worry about not meeting it.
  2. The Book Riot Read Harder Challenge!! I have already written down all 24 prompts and have filled in answers for all of them. I hope to actually complete it this year.
  3. I want to read more evenly across genres. I read majority romance in 2018, which was GREAT, but I want to be more diverse in my material. I won’t force myself — if I feel like a romance would fit my mood, I will read a romance. But I want to see more SFF and more mysteries in my reading for 2019.
  4. Reading my own books (or library books)! This is key for next year. I don’t want to have a book buying ban, per se, just limit the number of books that I buy. I want to focus on reading some of the unread books that I own and patronize my local library more often.
  5. More audiobooks! I listen occasionally in the car to and from work (I have a 30 minute commute both ways), but I would like to incorporate more audiobooks into my life while doing other things, like washing the dishes and cooking.
  6. More nonfiction! This is tied into number 5, because I listen exclusively to nonfiction on audio, but I would also like to read more nonfiction in general. I own several nonfiction books that I have not read yet (see number 4), so I think I can make this goal work.

It feels good to have goals for the coming year, and I hope to meet them all!

Christmas Romance Recommendations 2018

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone! I have brought you a couple amazing Christmas romance recommendations to cozy up with by the fire tonight.

fam for xmasA Family for Christmas by Jay Northcote

Shy Rudy has been nursing a crush on his coworker Zac, but Zac keeps himself closed off from his coworkers and does not really engage them. They become closer over drinks and Rudy invites Zac home with him for Christmas when he finds out Zac has no plans. Over the course of the Christmas holiday, Zac begins to open up to Rudy and a tentative friendship forms. When Rudy’s family assumes he is dating Zac, they fall into a fake relationship that may become more. (JK it totally does, this is ROMANCE.) This story has that slow, sweet, sensual romance that I prefer.

dukes stole xmas

How the Dukes Stole Christmas by Tessa Dare, Sarah Maclean, Sophie Jordan, and Joanna Shupe

A collection of four novellas from some of romance’s biggest names, all around dukes and Christmas. Each story also features a magical shortbread recipe that is supposed to bring the person who eats it the love of their life. I had read three of the four authors before, so I knew I would enjoy this collection. All of them are funny and fast-paced love stories.

xmas cookieHer Christmas Cookie (Welcome to Sea Port #4) by Katrina Jackson

You might need to read From Scratch (Welcome to Sea Port #1) to understand this one, but it revisits the trio of Mary, Knox, and Santos as they make their Christmas plans. Mary is very reluctant, but Knox and Santos convince her to make a vacation out of visiting all three of their families for Christmas. I loved this one because it really showcases how every family is different and sometimes even Christmas holidays cannot make a family work. The understanding and caring is plainly evident between these three and I was so happy to spend some more time with them.

Mr. Winterbourne’s Christmas by Joanna Chamberswinterbourne xmas

You do not need to read Introducing Mr. Winterbourne to understand this one, or at least I didn’t. I read this one first, then immediately went back and read the first because I loved this one so much. Lysander Winterbourne has been working for and been having a relationship with Adam Freeman for over a year, when Lysander and Adam are invited back to the Winterbourne estate for Christmas. They are used to being able to be free among their staff back at Adam’s estate, and so must deal with the issues that come from hiding their relationship from Lysander’s family. It is a trial on their relationship and a heartwarming m/m love story. Heartwarming historial m/m romances are a bit rare, so when I find one I will praise it as much as I can.

xmas angelChristmas Angel by Eli Easton

When John Trent finds an intricately carved angel floating in the Thames River, he uses his skill as a Bow Street Runner to find the artist who created her so he can return it. He meets Alec Allston, a quiet and sad sculptor, and they strike up a tentative friendship that slowly becomes more over the Christmas season. The story carves a cozy place for itself while never discounting the historically terrible reality of being different in the Victorian era.

I hope you enjoy at least one of these Christmas romances while the season is still upon us. I’ll see you all in the New Year!

 

My Year in Reading (so far)

*tap tap* Is this blog still on?

Uh, hi there. Remember me? Haha, of course not. It’s been over a year since I’ve written anything on it.

As I have a couple days off work for the holidays, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my reading over the last year.

At the end of last year, I set my usual Goodreads goal of 50 books. In 2017 I managed to read 74 books, the year before that I read 46 books, so 50 has always been a good, rounded number for me. I figured the year I read 95 books was a fluke and 50 was the perfect number for me.

Then I started reading majority romance novels. Whew.

As of today, December 23, 2018, I have read 210 books. That is more books than I have read EVER within the span of a year. That is INSANE. I never realized that romance novels would have this addictive effect on me, where sometimes I finish 2 or 3 in a day. I should have, based on how long I’ve been reading fanfiction (almost 20 years now, omg), which is basically romance starring the same characters over and over. I still love SFF and mysteries, and I did read a couple good ones, but romance was probably 95% of my reading this year.

I have no idea what next year will look like for me. In 2014 I read 95 books, after which I went into an extreme book slump and only read 67 books, followed by 46 books in 2016. I don’t feel like I’m about to hit a slump, but does anyone ever really know when a slump will hit? They just come out of nowhere and make you want to binge watch shows on Netflix for a couple weeks.

At any rate, I hope next year I keep up the momentum. I will still set my Goodreads goal at 50 books because I don’t need to turn a thing I enjoy into a chore, but maybe next year I will read 300 books. 400! 1000! Who knows?

Superior by Jessica Lack ☆☆☆☆

Superior is a novella by Jessica Lack from the point of view of Captain Superior’s intern, Jamie. It follows his life as he is repeatedly kidnapped by supervillains trying to hurt Captain Superior and as he falls in love with Tad, who is Terrorantula’s (what an amazing villain name!) apprentice.

I give this novella 4 stars for a couple reasons. It is highly readable and Jamie’s voice is enjoyable. The situations are believable, despite the whole superhero/supervillain angle. The author intentially blurs the line between “good” and “evil,” which adds so much depth for something so short.

The romance was also believable. I am not someone who enjoys insta-love romances, where the characters fall madly in love in 5 minutes and spend the rest of the book pining and moaning and being generally obnoxious. Jamie and Tad circle each other because of their jobs but their friendship and flirting come off as real. I am such a fan of these two.

I highly recommend this novella. It is an original concept with a sweet gay romance. Much love to the Galactic Suburbia podcast for mentioning it and bringing it into my life.

Okay, real question time

Bookshelves. An essential part of any book lover’s home.

I have seen some truly gorgeous bookshelf photos around the internet and on booktube. My envy levels skyrocket after every bookshelf tour.

Here’s the thing — none of my bookshelves match. I have a 6-ft and 3-ft red wood, two black 6-ft, and one 6-ft robin egg blue and gray bookshelf. I just moved into a new apartment and for the first time I will have all of my bookshelves in one room.

So I need to know– where are my folks at with the mismatched shelves? I know there are some folks out there who got a bookshelf from the side of the road, like me (it was a gift, okay). Where are the Good Will/thrift store/charity shop book lovers at?

Point me to their YouTube videos so I can feel better about my own mismatched shelves.

Not dead, just busy

Hi

I’m totally not dead! I’m still here! Kinda.

I’m moving in 10 days (eek!) and I’m packing all my books (more eek!) to bring to my new apartment. So many books, so much packing.

Do you ever look at your book collection and think DAMN I’ve got a lot of books!! That’s basically been my whole last month. I’m donating quite a few to the library, but so far I’ve packed 13 boxes and I’ve barely made a dent.

I love books, but man they take up a lot of space.

2016-09-05 16.15.20
Multiply this by like 1000

So here’s my question for you: is there a maximum amount of books a person should own? Do you feel there should be self-imposed limitations on the number of books you own? Do you limit your library or let it flow free?

Feel free to comment! I sincerely want to know.