Mini Reviews of January Reads

Publisher: Viking 
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Source: Viking via NetGalley

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

My Quick Thoughts:

I think I expected too much out of this book. It was good. It was even great, at times. However, it didn’t completely sweep me away. I thought Hetty and Sarah were going to have an amazing and complex relationship. They weren’t even together for large portions of the book. 

Don’t get me wrong. I liked the book. I just didn’t love it. That might be on me. My expectations got the better of me.
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Source: Spiegel & Grau via NetGalley

For fans of Dave Eggers, Teju Cole, and James McBride, comes this extraordinary novel of morality and the redemptive powers of art that offers a glimpse into an African underworld rarely described in fiction. 

Meet Bingo, the greatest drug runner in the slums of Kibera, Nairobi, and maybe the world. A teenage grifter, often mistaken for a younger boy, he faithfully serves Wolf, the drug lord of Kibera. Bingo spends his days throwing rocks at Krazi Hari, the prophet of Kibera’s garbage mound, “lipping” safari tourists of their cash, and hanging out with his best friend, Slo-George, a taciturn fellow whose girth is a mystery to Bingo in a place where there is never enough food. Bingo earns his keep by running “white” to a host of clients, including Thomas Hunsa, a reclusive artist whose paintings, rooted in African tradition, move him. But when Bingo witnesses a drug-related murder and Wolf sends him to an orphanage for “protection,” Bingo’s life changes and he learns that life itself is the “run.”
A modern trickster tale that draws on African folklore, Bingo’s Run is a wildly original, often very funny, and always moving story of a boy alone in a corrupt and dangerous world who must depend on his wits and inner resources to survive.

My Quick Thoughts:

I enjoyed this book from the first page to the last. For a tale about a young boy running drugs it was awfully funny. At the same time it pulled on every heart-string. I found myself rooting for Bingo in a big way. Bingo’s Run was an eye-opener of a book that left me feeling culture-shocked, grateful, and amazed. 

Would I recommend it? Highly.

Revolutionary by Alex Myers
Publication Date: January 14, 2014
In 1782, during the final clashes of the Revolutionary War, one of our young nation’s most valiant and beloved soldiers was, secretly, a woman.

When Deborah Samson disguised herself as a man and joined the Continental Army, she wasn’t just fighting for America’s independence—she was fighting for her own. Revolutionary, Alex Myers’s richly imagined and meticulously researched debut novel, brings the true story of Deborah’s struggle against a rigid colonial society back to life—and with it the courage, hope, fear, and heartbreak that shaped her journey through a country’s violent birth.

Alex Myers

After years as an indentured servant in a sleepy Massachusetts town, chafing under the oppressive norms of colonial America, Deborah can’t contain her discontent any longer. When a sudden crisis forces her hand, she decides to finally make her escape. Embracing the peril and promise of the unknown, she cuts her hair, binds her chest, and, stealing clothes from a neighbor, rechristens herself Robert Shurtliff. It’s a desperate, dangerous, and complicated deception, and becomes only more so when, as Robert, she enlists in the Continental Army.

What follows is an inspiring, one-of-a-kind journey through an America torn apart by war: brutal winters and lethal battlefields, the trauma of combat and the cruelty of betrayal, the joy of true love and the tragedy of heartbreak. In his brilliant Revolutionary, Myers, who himself is a descendant of the historical Deborah, takes full advantage of this real-life heroine’s unique voice to celebrate the struggles for freedom, large and small, like never before.

My Quick Thoughts:

Hooray for historical fiction! Hooray for empowered women! Hooray for Revolutionary!

I had a great time reading this book. It’s based on a true story and those books are always a treat for me. In this case you could feel the love that the author had for the subject.

Revolutionary is a well-written labor of love about a fascinating woman. You can’t go wrong with this one.

44 thoughts on “Mini Reviews of January Reads

  1. It's been a while since I've read something by Sue Monk Kidd. I'm going to wait a few months before I read this one. My expectations are too high right now.


  2. Not you at all. I liked The Invention of Wings too, but I didn't love it. I thought Sarah was rather boring and too needy. I thought Handful, even though she was the fictional character of the two, was pure gold though. Her sections were my favorite parts and the reason I finished the book. Had it been just about Sarah, I don't know if I could have finished it.


  3. The blurb for the Invention of Wings looked really interesting but I wondered if it was going to be all I expected it to be…might give this a miss as the relationship was what really attracted me to the novel. Awesome mini review!


  4. Hooray for minis! I just love mini reviews. And I've never read Sue Monk Kidd. I've owned The Secret Life of Bees for YEARS, but we all know how that goes. So I'm glad I don't have ALL the expectations going into The Invention of Wings.


  5. I love your reviews and I love the books you read! I can't keep up, but I get some great ideas for books. Thank you. You have one of my favorite blogs. Oh, and I love your posts on facebook. Wasn't that cool that Michele Obama had a review of The Goldfinch? What did you think of it? I thought it was cool that she ventured into the book review world, but I was wondering if she had a ghost writer for the review (probably since most politician do). The only thing I thought was it sounded a little politicized. I guess you can't help that if you are the First Lady. But, I totally didn't get a connection with the White House Garden.


  6. Like your mini reviews, I sometimes just have to do these to catch up! I liked The Invention of Wings more than you, it might not have been her best work, but I was intrigued by both Hetty and Sarah's paths to making a difference. Great job.


  7. I think mini reviews are great, too! I liked Invention of Wings a lot, but I had the experience with Secret Life of Bees that you had here. I read it and liked it, but thought there was a bit too much fuss made over it! With Invention of Wings, I thought the author created historically accurate characters instead of putting contemporary thoughts and mindsets into characters from a hundred years ago, but that did make them seem to be at a remove from the reader.


  8. I loved The Invention of Wings because it made me feel like I needed to get up and DO something, to fight for something I believe in. But hey, each book isn't for everyone!


  9. Sorry to hear the Monk Kidd was a disappointment. Remember, though, when we used to read to find books that we liked? Or maybe that was just me. If I liked a book, I was happy but then my expectations were never as high as they are sometimes now. If I loved a book, it was a great surprise.


  10. I had a similar reaction to The Invention of Wings. I wanted more. It was good, and I've been recommending it to people who have never heard of Sarah Grimke, but it let me down. I'm eager to read Revolutionary but haven't gotten to it yet this month!


  11. Jen, thanks for the quickies! I was hoping for another really good book from The Invention of Wings' author. 😦 And although I've seen it around, I had no idea about Bingo's Run — sounds good. BUT I have Revolutionary on my Kindle — excited to read it now that I've read your review.


  12. I really loved the Invention of Wings. But you're right about them not being together through much of the book. I still thought it was amazing. Bingo's Run sounds really interesting.


  13. Both Revolutionary and Bingo's Run sound like great reads. I'm really curious about Sue Monk Kidd's latest, although I am a little reluctant to try it at the same time. I really enjoyed The Secret Life of Bees, and even The Mermaid Chair which not everyone liked, so I have no reason why to be nervous about this new book. I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment to Julie. Waiting until expectations aren't quite so high might be the key to helping alleviate some of my hesitation to read it too.


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