March 21, 2021

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

 Synopsis:

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.


The Vanishing Half might end up being my favorite book of 2021, and it was the first book I finished. It's going to give every other book a run for its money. 

There are so many different storylines, and there is so much depth to each character. It was amazing to me how flawlessly they were all weaved together. Each chapter was another thread in the beautiful quilt that the end product turned out to be. 

The sisters were interesting, themselves. But the story got even better once their daughters grew up. 

You spend most of the book kind of wanting to slap Stella, but her difficult character really explains the trauma she went through as a child and the trauma that Black Americans have when they cannot pass for white as she was able to. It's very complicated and hit many different emotional spots. 

This is a fantastic book that lays out growing up Black in the American South. It also touches on the LGBTQIA+ community which I wasn't expecting. 

The Vanishing Half is a book that tackles trauma and pain in an extraordinarily gracious way. 

5/5 Stars. I absolutely recommend this one. 


Memorable Quotes: "She told her the truth, of course — that an assassination is when someone kills you to make a point.
Which was correct enough, Stella supposed, but only is you were an important man. Important men became martyrs, unimportant ones victims. The important men were given televised funerals, public days of mourning. Their deaths inspired the creation of art and the destruction of cities. But unimportant men were killed to make the point that they were unimportant —that they were not even men—and the world continued on." 

"Like leaving, the hardest part of returning was deciding to." 

"That was the thing about death. Only the specifics hurt. Death, in a general sense, was background noise." 

"You could drown in two inches of water. Maybe grief was the same." 



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January 21, 2021

Seven-Sided Spy by Hannah Carmack

Synopsis

In the midst of the cold war, the CIA’s finest and most fatal female agent, Diana Riley, vanishes. Kidnapped by the KGB and taken to the backcountry of North Carolina, she and her team of unsavory partners are forced to undergo illegal experimentation.

But, when the experiments leave them horribly deformed and unable to reenter society without someone crying monster, the previously glamorous and high-maintenance spies must escape KGB captivity and avoid recapture at the hands of Nikola, a ruthless KGB agent with an intense and well-justified grudge against her former flame.


To be honest, I started this book a couple years ago but only got one chapter in. This time, I restarted it and I was hooked from the beginning. Sometimes you just need to read a book at the right time for it to grab you. It’s funny how that works. 

This book was unique in the fact that I liked all of the major characters in their own ways. They were all, simultaneously, good and bad. It certainly made for an interesting reading experience. The end of the book was even better when their stories all intertwined and everything was concluded. 

The majority of this book takes place in the mountains, and it really made me want to go hiking. But, it’s winter here in the Midwest, so I enjoyed living through them. 

There isn’t much else to say other than if you like an interesting book about spies, government, and stretching the boundaries of reality – you’ll enjoy reading this one. 


4/5 Stars



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January 2, 2021

1st Case by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts

Synopsis

A computer genius pulls off her greatest hack yet -- and her skill might just get her killed.

Angela Hoot's government career begins with an ending. Her unorthodox programming skills get her kicked out of MIT's graduate school and into the Bureau's cyber-forensics unit.

A messaging app with sophisticated tracking capabilities surfaces. Its beta users, all young women, are only identified as they turn up dead in their bedrooms. As Angela races to crack the killer's digital code, their technical rivalry escalates. She must deny the killer access to her personal life, or risk losing her life to the underbelly of the Internet.


Angela is an interesting character. But, she is reckless – to a fault. I wouldn’t mind seeing her story made into a series. If she stays in her current career path, she sure could go through some interesting experiences. 

What kept my interest is that she deals with the virtual world which, as we knows, is always changing. While the app in this book would have sounded impossible in the not-so-distant past, it’s a horrifying possibility these days – maybe not in the exact way that it played out, but similar. 

I’m not sure that she would have gone without punishment had all of this actually happened. She made a lot of choices that could have severely messed up the investigation. But, I guess it’s fine if it works out in the end. 

The flirtation and attraction between Angela and Keats was a bit ridiculous right off the bat. But, just like the book I read previous to this, it’s just something you get used to when reading books with a female protagonist. 

I’m going to make a comparison - partly because these two are linked often, and partly because I’ve read a lot from both of them this year. James Patterson books and Dean Koontz books that have a female protagonist always have a male love interest. And there is often a “damsel in distress” moment which typically involves something along the lines of “thank god he got here when he did.” Oy. You get used to it, I guess. But, it does get old. 

That said, where they differ is what most of the descriptions are about. I’ve found in Dean Koontz’s books, most of the descriptions are about how beautiful the woman is. Especially in the case of the Jane Hawk series. It’s basically beat into the reader’s brain that Jane is ridiculously beautiful. It gets old. 

In Patterson’s books, I find that you see more of the admiration of the male love interest from the woman’s point of view. 

Not that it matters all that much, it’s just something that I found interesting. 

Overall, I enjoyed the ride. The story was interesting, and I liked the new angle of seeing cases from the tech side. 


5/5 Stars




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