Category Archives: Book Reviews

Marion’s Favorite Reads of 2021

Christmas has passed and 2021 is coming to a close in a few days. I have seen people starting to post their favorite books of 2021 and thought it was my time add to those posts. I’ve read 35 books this year (I’m currently finishing up The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin to make it number 35.) and I had several standouts that made it a good reading year despite of the challenges with the pandemic.  Here are my favorite books of this year (click on the link in the title to read the full review):

 

1) Wild Woman and the Blues by Denny S. Brice: A debut, historical fiction novel that captures the 1920’s Jazz Age in Chicago from a dancer’s perspective told to a young and upcoming filmmaker. Bryce does an excellent job in bringing a slice of African American life rarely brought to prose.

2) Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby: This thriller about a small town Virginia auto mechanic trying to save his business and holding onto his family by not repeating the pattern laid down by his father was engaging and thought-provoking.  I’m looking forward to reading more of Cosby’s work.

3) Planting Stories (The Life of Librarian & Storyteller Pura Belpre) by Anika Aldamuy Denise & Paola Escobar: I read this book with my 12 year old daughter, Norah and I learned about someone I had never heard of before.  Pura Belpre was the first librarian of Puerto Rican descent in the New York City Public Library and this picture book gives a brief but important look of her career.  I love the cover!

4) Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine: My 2nd favorite read of 2021.  I will admit I don’t read a lot of short story collections by a single author (that will change going forward) but these eleven stories about Latinas from Colorado were jarring, powerful, thought-provoking, and delightful to read.  This is the best short story collection I have read since Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint.  A must for serious readers.

5) The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley:    I finally read this one.  Malcolm X’s life story shows how the power of personal transformation and tragedy can exist simultaneously. This is one of the most important books I have ever read and a must for all readers.

6) An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: This novel has been a favorite on social media and book clubs around the world.  The story of a marriage that is forever changed when a husband goes to prison on false charges and comes out to restore the connection to his wife. However, the marriage is not the same and Jones lays out the dynamic that emerges.

7) Furia by Yamile Saied Mendez: This debut YA novel about an Argentinian teenage girl and her dreams to becoming a futbol star was the surprised read for me in 2021. I cared about Camila Hassan and how she navigated her life with her parents, brother, and boyfriend Diego who had followed his dream as a futbol player before she did. I enjoyed reading this one and looking to read more of her work in the future.

8) Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner: This book was the 2nd surprised read of 2021.  Stegner’s quiet and touching novel about friendship and marriage amongst two couples was a welcomed change of pace unlike anything I had read for the entire year.  The interplay between the Morgans and Langs provided an unvarnished look at human connection.

9) The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton: My favorite read of 2021.  The story an unconventional black female singer from Detroit and a white male singer-songwriter from Birmingham, England forming a musical group captured my reading attention unlike any other book all year.  The perils of the music business were on display and seemed real.  I loved reading this one!

 

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 92: Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

Does a son have to repeat his father’s transgressions and life choices? It seemed like S.A. Cosby was trying to answer that question in his thrilling third novel, Blacktop Wasteland. I have seen this novel posted on my Instagram feed recently and several Goodreads friends posted about the book and I had to read it.… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 88: Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

“And so, by circuitous and unpredictable routes, we converge toward midcontinent and meet in Madison, and are at once drawn together, braided and plaited into a friendship. It is a relationship that has no formal shape, there are no rules or obligations or bonds as in marriage or the family, it is held together by… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 84: The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley

“Grace meets you exactly where you are and it doesn’t leave you.” I heard the author Anne Lamott say this quote on the Tim Ferriss podcast a couple of days ago and knew this would be the opening sentence to my latest book review.  Grace would be the proper view about Malcolm X’s life after… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 79: Respect-The Life of Aretha Franklin by David Ritz

Sometimes after reading one book will make you want another book with a similar topic. My previous review was a fictional music documentary in a novel titled The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton. Opal Jewel was one half of a groundbreaking punk rock duo from the early 1970s that nearly made… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 78: The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

“The easiest thing in the world is to be yourself. The hardest thing in the world is to be yourself.” Those two sentences were appropriate for one of the two major characters, Opal Jewel, in Dawnie Walton’s excellent debut novel, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev. Walton told the story of the early 1970s… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 76: Mama Day by Gloria Naylor

I have always been more of a backlist reader than a new release reader.  There are so many books published, and it is impossible to keep up as a reader.  However, on social media and throughout the publishing world, the new release books especially in fiction are celebrated and promoted.  I totally get it.  There… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 72: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

  If your spouse was wrongly accused of rape and went to prison for five years but gets released, would you remain married? That was the question An American Marriage by Tayari Jones attempted to answer in her popular novel.  An American Marriage was selected for Oprah’s Book Club in 2018 and has been a… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 57: Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera

Signs Preceding The End of The World by Yuri Herrera is the first novel about the US-Mexico Border I can remember reading.  I read Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy years ago but it did not deal directly with the current issues about the border. This book came to my attention during the controversy surrounding the novel… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 36: Binti Home by Nnedi Okorafor

Can you ever go home again? Binti Home by Nnedi Okorafor attempts to answer that question. Binti returns home after a year away on a spaceship at Oozma University. She brings her friend, Okwu, for support. However, the homecoming does not go as expected and the family treats Binti like a pariah. She discovers a… Continue Reading