Drapetomania By: John R. Gordon | Book Review w/ Author Q&A

Drapetomania; or The Narrative of Cyrus Tyler & Abednego Tyler
By: John R. Gordon
Genre: History, LGBT, M/M, Slavery, Fiction, Literature
Rating: 5 stars
Publisher: Team Angelica
Release Date: May 17, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon| B&N

Synopsis: When house-servant Abednego is sold away south, his heartbroken field-hand lover Cyrus snaps and flees the estate on which he has lived his entire life. Leaving everything he knows behind him, evading dogs and patrollers as he heads north, in the midst of a dismal swamp Cyrus receives the revelation that Abednego is his true North Star, and, impossible though it seems, he determines to find and rescue his lost lover from slavery.

Ten years in the writing, Drapetomania, Or The Narrative of Cyrus Tyler & Abednego Tyler, lovers, is an epic tale of black freedom, uprising, and a radical representation of romantic love between black men in slavery times.

A riveting, masterful work. Set against the brutalizing, material captivity meant to break the soul, that came to define the chattel enslavement of Africans in the American south, Drapetomania tells the compelling story of two men whose love for each other reimagines the erotic contours of what was possible under the whip and scrutiny of catastrophic bondage. Here is a story of love so powerful, so achingly present, it dares to consider not just the past but the future, as vital to freedom; and in doing so, defies any notion of the black enslaved body as an ugly, unpalatable thing, unworthy of the sweetness of love. Gordon’s novel enters the company of such classic works as Edward P. Jones’s The Known World, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Barry Unsworth’s Sacred Hunger. We will be reading and talking about this extraordinary novel for years to come.

 

Book Review:

Reading this book was such an experience for me. Each chapter, character action, the accuracy in the details, the pacing; all of it reads like an epic.  I went through several stages of what felt like a symbolic, yet temporal, metamorphosis, both emotionally and consciously, by the lives illustrated by some of the enslaved characters in this book. So, I will try to keep my notes and thoughts on the story linear with this post.

Drapetomania is broken up into three books in this novel and told in a third person perspective that alternates between the lives and experiences of the two main characters, Cyrus and Abednego. Set in the late 19th century, where bristling talk and whispered rumors of a war between the Southern plantations faction of the United States, against the industrializing, forward-thinking North. However, unaware of the truth behind the rumors of a Civil War on the horizon, Cyrus, and Abednego, two enslaved men who live and work on the same plantation, have fallen in love.

I already knew a lot about the horrible treatment, abuse and dehumanizing conditions that enslaved Africans & African-Americans lived in, but to be placed in the middle it while reading this book took a whole other form and meaning.

During my Q&A with John, (the full interview is below) I asked about certain story themes and relative messages that he placed in the narrative. And one of those was the appalling suffering of enslaved African women, which I found one of the toughest aspects of this book I found to get through. Which is why I felt the practically spiritual connection and love between Cyrus and Abednego truly represented not only the light of this book but also the feeling of hope that pulled me through the story.

In book one, we follow Cyrus, a field-hand, as he runs away from the Tyler estate several months after Abednego has been sold away. He sets out for freedom and follows the North Star while being hunted until he realizes that he is running for a sense of freedom that he has only ever felt when with his lover, Abednego. Once Cyrus understands what he is truly missing, his character is driven by that singular desire of feeling whole once more—with Bed.

The journey we watch Cyrus go on to try to track down his lover’s potential whereabouts is anything but easy, clear or hopeful, but his compulsive need to try really resonated with me. I know it will with other readers as well.

And while I felt I was kind of on pins and needles reading this book with the tension engulfing Cyrus’ situation, I enjoyed the emotional connection I gain toward his character’s personal growth from one daring escape—each more intense than the last—to the other of the many hold-your-breath peril moments he encountered.

Cyrus’ shift from relying solely on his physical abilities, to quick thinking and blending in with other enslaved individuals really brought his character to life. In book two, the perspective shifted to Abednego and I love, love, loved that I was able to see Abednego’s point of view first-hand as all the information we have up until this point was from Cyrus’ s point of view.

And while book two depicts his life after Tyler’s estate and several months before Cyrus’s escape, it brought a validation to their relationship, their love for each other and their story all at once. As at the heart of everything that unfolds in Drapetomania, it was a reminder that it is a love story of one heart beating within these two men.

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Dragon Springs Road By: Janie Chang | Book Review

Dragon Springs Road
By: Janie Chang
Genre: Historical,  Contemporary Fiction, Chinese Folklore, Coming of Age, Fantasy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Release Date: January 10, 2017
Synopsis:

From the author of Three Souls comes a vividly imagined and haunting new novel set in early 20th century Shanghai—a story of friendship, heartbreak, and history that follows a young Eurasian orphan’s search for her long-lost mother. That night I dreamed that I had wandered out to Dragon Springs Road all on my own, when a dreadful knowledge seized me that my mother had gone away never to return . . .

In 1908, Jialing is only seven years old when she is abandoned in the courtyard of a once-lavish estate outside Shanghai. Jialing is zazhong—Eurasian—and faces a lifetime of contempt from both Chinese and Europeans. Until now she’s led a secluded life behind courtyard walls, but without her mother’s protection, she can survive only if the estate’s new owners, the Yang family, agree to take her in.

Jialing finds allies in Anjuin, the eldest Yang daughter, and Fox, an animal spirit who has lived in the courtyard for centuries. But Jialing’s life as the Yangs’ bondservant changes unexpectedly when she befriends a young English girl who then mysteriously vanishes.

Murder, political intrigue, jealousy, forbidden love … Jialing confronts them all as she grows into womanhood during the tumultuous early years of the Chinese republic, always hopeful of finding her long-lost mother. Through every turn she is guided, both by Fox and by her own strength of spirit, away from the shadows of her past toward a very different fate, if she has the courage to accept it.

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Orphan Train by: Christina Baker Kline | Book Review

Orphan Train
By: Christina Baker Kline
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Historical Fiction, Coming of Age, Literary Fiction
Release Date: April 2, 2013
 

Synopsis:

The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.

Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from “aging out” of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.

Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life – answers that will ultimately free them both.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

Book Review:

Told from two different perspectives between the past and the present, spanning from the early 1900s to 2011, I had certain  expectations when I started Orphan Train. However, I must admit that when I finished this book my thoughts were a mixture of empathy, scrutiny, disbelief and admiration in contrast to the two main characters Molly and Vivian.

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Hidden Figures by: Margot Lee Shetterly Book Review

hidden-figures-pb-coverHidden Figures
By: Margot Lee Shetterly
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, History, Science, Feminism, Space
Release Date: December 6 2016
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Synopsis: 

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.

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2016 Book Challenges Update: Month Five

I’ve finished so much this month! XD

Hiya, Guys:

May, for me, was a pretty good book month based on the material I got through. And just in case you haven’t seen them yet, be sure to check out my recent non-blog or reading challenge book review posts for, The Fold by: Peter Clines & Game of Fear by: Gledé Browne Kabongo. Two very different books with unique twists entirely their own.

I’d also like to mention that besides my #2016readingchallenge books, I will be reading The Mother by: Yvvette Edwards  for a June 15th blog tour date and Wander This World by: GL Tomas. (I love these girls) :-). Now without further ranting, I present to you the reviews for this month’s reading challenge books.

Organized in the order I signed up for each challenge.

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Book Review: Dead Wake: The Last Crossing Of The Lusitania by: Erik Larson

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of The Lusitania 
By: Erik Larson
Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical Literature, WWI, War/Military
Rating: 4.5 stars
Release: March 10th 2015

Goodreads | B&N | Amazon

Synopsis:

On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack.

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love.

Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.

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2016 Book Challenges Update: Month Four

So, I have a little bit of news….

Hiya, Guys:

So as I mentioned, my birthday is early this month (next Monday, to be exact) and things have kind of been a bit hectic (what with Mother’s day being Sunday). This reading challenges post, along with the book reviews will be brief and straight to the point because who likes to read/hear me ramble all the time? (To the pair of hands in the back of this vacant imaginary auditorium, I thank you. 😉 )

In all seriousness, I also thought I’d take the time to mention here that aside from the two (?) book tours I have scheduled for this month, I will be taking a break from book tour blogging for a while. Sadly, I’ve found that it’s taking too much effort to like a large majority of the books I have come across during the tours. Out of the 30 books I’ve read so far this year, I can name a handful (from blog tours) that were absolutely, full-stop fantastical.

Yes, I do enjoy the non-fictional, historical and comedy material better than general fiction and the romance/YA books, but I’ve been proven wrong a few times (and happily so) by a few romance/YA books this year. Now that I’ve just gotten back into the swing reading more fiction books, I’m desperate not to grow tired of the genre again.

So, from this point out, I will be exploring as many non-romantic centric books as possible, particularly with the books for my three reading challenges. Organized in the order I signed up for each challenge.

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2016 Book Challenges Update: Month Three

Hiya, Guys:

So here is my official book challenges wrap-up post. If you follow me on Twitter, you might have spotted a few of my tweets. IF not, needless to say, March was a weird month for me. I went on a short vacation in the beginning of the month and got sick. Like really, really sick to the point where all I could do was eat soup, cough or sneeze and sleep. For two weeks. I joked last time about not needing sleep or ignoring sleep for all of the books I try to get through and I guess karma decided to teach me a lesson with that cold. -___-

Unfortunately, because of that little lesson, I did not get around to my book list until last week (I even had to go back and re-read things because nothing was making sense while I was sick XD ) But I was able to get through most of the other books on my to-read list that were not a part of any challenges, such as: The Stone Legacy series (books 1-3) by Theresa DaLayne and Broken Politics by Janae Keyes just not The Fold by Peter Clines.

And I did start the Voyage Of The Defiance by S.E. Smith audiobook and made it past the half way point, but I had to hit pause on it because it has not been an enjoyable or attention holding story :-/

Without further a due, here are the books I completed for the month of March for the three book challenges I’m participating in this year.  Organized in the order I signed up for each challenge.

 

#2016TBRPile Challenge

This has been on by TBR pile for a while and it seems like an odd choice to do for this challenge considering I have not read books 1-4 of this series, but I won it in a giveaway a long time ago and I’ve been really curious about it.

 

HARD LOVE (Hackers Book #5) 18+
By: Meredith Wild
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance, BDSM, Computers, Hackers
Rating: 2.5/3 Stars
Release: September 15th 2015

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Synopsis:

Days after their wedding, Blake and Erica Landon embark on their honeymoon-a journey that deepens their bond and promises to fade the scars of their past.

Just when their troubles seem safely behind them, scandal surrounding would-be Governor Daniel Fitzgerald’s election threatens their newfound peace. Back home, Blake finds himself at the center of the controversy, haunted by the transgressions of his hacker past that he has no wish to relive.

With Blake’s freedom at stake and their future in peril, Erica will stop at nothing to clear his name. But when Blake defies the authorities and refuses to seek the truth, their world gradually begins to crumble. Will he let his past win? Or can Erica convince him that their life together is worth fighting for-now more than ever…

For my HARD LOVE review, click here.

 

#Rockmytbr Challenge

This book just helped to secure my admiration and love for Erik Larson’s writing and impeccable attention to detail.

 

THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY: MURDER, MAGIC AND MADNESS AT THE FAIR THAT CHANGED AMERICA
By: Erik Larson
Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical Fiction, Crime, True Crime, Mystery/Thriller, Biography, Architecture
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Release: February 10th 2004

Goodreads | B&N | Amazon

Synopsis:

Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book’s categorization to be sure that ‘The Devil in the White City’ is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair’s construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.

Burnham’s challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous “White City” around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair’s incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison.

The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World’s Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims.

For my THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY: MURDER, MAGIC, AND MADNESS AT THE FAIR THAT CHANGED AMERICA  review post, click here.

#2016audiobook Challenge

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN
By: Paula Hawkins
Narrators: Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey & India Fisher

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Adult fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Crime Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Format:  Unabridged Audio (Physical CDs)
Length: 11hrs
Released Date: January 13th 2015

Goodreads | B&N | Amazon | Audible

Synopsis:

A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

 

For my The GIRL ON THE TRAIN  audiobook review, click here.

 

BOOKS COMING UP:

I do have a few book tours coming up this month, but I should be another slow book month for the blog. I am dealing with a few personal and professional changes currently, but I hope to be reviewing Orphan Black again (since it’s premiering soon) and typing up the few movie reviews I’ve written out recently.

For the month of April, I decided to read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert for my #RockmyTBR challenge for some light and spiritual reading.  For my #2016Audiobook challenge this month, I chose Soundless by Richelle Mead and for my #2016TBRpile challenge I picked Half-Breed Queen (Book #1 Skatia Narratives) by L. A. Hendricks.

On top of those, I have three blog tours (that I know of) definitely happening this month and a few books from last month that were not on my reading challenge list that I want to get to. 🙂

As always, thanks for reading. I hope you liked reads this month and be sure to come back to check out what else I’ll be reviewing this month ^__^

Until next time,

Gia.