November Reads & Ratings

*All book descriptions taken from Amazon.com

The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby
Book Description*: The Color of Compromise is both enlightening and compelling, telling a history we either ignore or just don’t know. Equal parts painful and inspirational, it details how the American church has helped create and maintain racist ideas and practices. You will be guided in thinking through concrete solutions for improved race relations and a racially inclusive church.

1. Readability: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
2. Engagement: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
3. Emotional Investment: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
4. Originality: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
5. Insightful/Enlightening: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Overall: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Intimations by Zadie Smith
Book Description*: Written during the early months of lockdown, Intimations explores ideas and questions prompted by an unprecedented situation. What does it mean to submit to a new reality–or to resist it? How do we compare relative sufferings? What is the relationship between time and work? In our isolation, what do other people mean to us? How do we think about them? What is the ratio of contempt to compassion in a crisis? When an unfamiliar world arrives, what does it reveal about the world that came before it?

Suffused with a profound intimacy and tenderness in response to these extraordinary times, Intimations is a slim, suggestive volume with a wide scope, in which Zadie Smith clears a generous space for thought, open enough for each reader to reflect on what has happened–and what should come next.

1. Readability: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
2. Engagement:
⭐️⭐️⭐️
3. Emotional Investment:
⭐️⭐️⭐️
4. Originality:
⭐️⭐️⭐️
5. Insightful/Enlightening:
⭐️⭐️⭐️
Overall:
⭐️⭐️⭐️

Light for the World to See: A Thousand Words on Race and Hope by Kwame Alexander
Book Description*: From NPR correspondent and New York Times bestselling author, Kwame Alexander, comes a powerful and provocative collection of poems that cut to the heart of the entrenched racism and oppression in America and eloquently explores ongoing events. A book in the tradition of James Baldwin’s “A Report from Occupied Territory,” Light for the World to See is a rap session on race. A lyrical response to the struggles of Black lives in our world . . . to America’s crisis of conscience . . . to the centuries of loss, endless resilience, and unstoppable hope. Includes an introduction by the author and a bold, graphically designed interior.

1. Readability: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️
2. Engagement:
⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️
3. Emotional Investment:
⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️
4. Originality:
⭐️⭐️⭐️
5. Insightful/Enlightening:
⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️
Overall:
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Book Description*: At the end of the world, a woman must hide her secret power and find her kidnapped daughter in this “intricate and extraordinary” Hugo Award winning novel of power, oppression, and revolution. (The New York Times)

This is the way the world ends. . .for the last time.
It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.

Read the first book in the critically acclaimed, three-time Hugo award-winning trilogy by NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin.

1. Readability: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️
2. Engagement:
⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️
3. Emotional Investment:
⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
4. Originality:
⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
5. Insightful/Enlightening:
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️
Overall:
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ This was breathtaking and memorable!

The Talented Miss Farwell by Emily Gray Tedrowe
Book Description*: At the end of the 1990s, with the art market finally recovered from its disastrous collapse, Miss Rebecca Farwell has made a killing at Christie’s in New York City, selling a portion of her extraordinary art collection for a rumored 900 percent profit. Dressed in couture YSL, drinking the finest champagne at trendy Balthazar, Reba, as she’s known, is the picture of a wealthy art collector. To some, the elusive Miss Farwell is a shark with outstanding business acumen. To others, she’s a heartless capitalist whose only interest in art is how much she can make.

But a thousand miles from the Big Apple, in the small town of Pierson, Illinois, Miss Farwell is someone else entirely—a quiet single woman known as Becky who still lives in her family’s farmhouse, wears sensible shoes, and works tirelessly as the town’s treasurer and controller.

No one understands the ins and outs of Pierson’s accounts better than Becky; she’s the last one in the office every night, crunching the numbers. Somehow, her neighbors marvel, she always finds a way to get the struggling town just a little more money. What Pierson doesn’t see—and can never discover—is that much of that money is shifted into a separate account that she controls, “borrowed” funds used to finance her art habit. Though she quietly repays Pierson when she can, the business of art is cutthroat and unpredictable.

But as Reba Farwell’s deals get bigger and bigger, Becky Farwell’s debt to Pierson spirals out of control. How long can the talented Miss Farwell continue to pull off her double life?

1. Readability: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
2. Engagement:
⭐️⭐️⭐️
3. Emotional Investment:
⭐️⭐️⭐️
4. Originality:
⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️
5. Insightful/Enlightening:
⭐️⭐️⭐️
Overall:
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Neither loved or disliked it; it was good, but there was nothing new or exciting about it.

The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs
Book Description*: There is a book for everything . . .

Somewhere in the vast Library of the Universe, as Natalie thought of it, there was a book that embodied exactly the things she was worrying about.

In the wake of a shocking tragedy, Natalie Harper inherits her mother’s charming but financially strapped bookshop in San Francisco. She also becomes caretaker for her ailing grandfather Andrew, her only living relative—not counting her scoundrel father.

But the gruff, deeply kind Andrew has begun displaying signs of decline. Natalie thinks it’s best to move him to an assisted living facility to ensure the care he needs. To pay for it, she plans to close the bookstore and sell the derelict but valuable building on historic Perdita Street, which is in need of constant fixing. There’s only one problem–Grandpa Andrew owns the building and refuses to sell. Natalie adores her grandfather; she’ll do whatever it takes to make his final years happy. Besides, she loves the store and its books provide welcome solace for her overwhelming grief.

After she moves into the small studio apartment above the shop, Natalie carries out her grandfather’s request and hires contractor Peach Gallagher to do the necessary and ongoing repairs. His young daughter, Dorothy, also becomes a regular at the store, and she and Natalie begin reading together while Peach works.

To Natalie’s surprise, her sorrow begins to dissipate as her life becomes an unexpected journey of new connections, discoveries and revelations, from unearthing artifacts hidden in the bookshop’s walls, to discovering the truth about her family, her future, and her own heart.

1. Readability: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
2. Engagement:
⭐️⭐️⭐️
3. Emotional Investment:
⭐️⭐️⭐️
4. Originality:
⭐️⭐️⭐️
5. Insightful/Enlightening:
⭐️⭐️⭐️
Overall:
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Book Description*: Yaa Gyasi’s stunning follow-up to her acclaimed national best seller Homegoingis a powerful, raw, intimate, deeply layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama.

Gifty is a sixth-year PhD candidate in neuroscience at the Stanford University School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after an ankle injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive. Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief–a novel about faith, science, religion, love. Exquisitely written, emotionally searing, this is an exceptionally powerful follow-up to Gyasi’s phenomenal debut.

1. Readability: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️
2. Engagement:
⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️
3. Emotional Investment:
⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
4. Originality:
⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️
5. Insightful/Enlightening:
⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️
Overall:
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

~ ~ ~

📚 Next Reads:

768 pgs.

321 pgs

































































































































































* All book descriptions are taken from Amazon.com

My Book Rating System

I rate book with DNF – ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ stars based on each of the following:

1. Readability
– Well written?
– Strong chapter beginnings and endings
– Well developed characters
– Page turner?

2. Engagement
– Was I fully engaged? Did I lose myself in the read?
– Was it hard to put down?

3. Emotional Investment
– Was I emotionally invested in the characters? 🥺😱😳😡😳😝🤗

4. Originality 💡
– Was there something new, unique and exciting about it?

5. Insightful/Enlightening?

Overall:

Note: Books that I do not finish: I had a lot of issues with the book, characters and plot. I disliked it so much that I didn’t even want to rate it 1 star.

Book Review: Pale by Edward Farmer

Edward Farmer’s engrossing debut, Pale, begins in 1966 in the burning heat of Mississippi, when Bernice, whose husband left with all their savings and didn’t return, accepts her brothers invitation to join him in working on a cotton plantation.

She is slowly immersed into a household full of secrets, deception, revenge, and downright cruelty, which revolves around two young brothers who come to work on the plantation. One becomes a pawn to enact revenge, and the other is mistreated, lied to, and trapped by the choices of others. 

As the story slowly unfolds, we see that for some, there is a perceived thin line between servant and slave, and how revengeful choices can define and change lives through generations.

People who like novels set in the south, will love the author’s rich descriptions of rural Mississippi, including the cotton fields, jacaranda, cicadas, and pestering summer heat. What a great debut!

Thanks to #NetGalley for the ARC! https://www.netgalley.com/book/176864/review/625966

Book Review: The Missing American

Kwei Quartey’s newest novel, The Missing American, opens with a sniper assassination of a Ghanaian presidential candidate, and then we are introduced to Emma Djan, whose dreams of a promising career in the Ghana Police Service are dashed when she tearfully refuses an offer of a position in Homicide in return for sex.

The Deputy Commissioner of Police who relieves her of her duties, suspects “something happened,” and refers her to the owner of a detective agency where she is immediately hired.

Her first case is that of a missing American named Gordon Tilson, a lonely widower who has fallen in love with a Ghanaian beauty named Helen, whom he meets on the internet. Excitedly, he decides to go to Accra to see what destiny holds for the two of them. To his dismay, he soon finds out there is no Helen, and he has been scammed out of thousands of dollars. Then Gordon goes missing. 

Now Emma needs to solve this case for the client, Derek Tilson, and prove to her new boss that he made a good decision in hiring her as a private detective.  However, there are those who will not only thwart her efforts, but kill to keep their secrets.

The novel takes the reader deep into internet scams, fetish priests and corruption, while also offering a look into Ghana’s food, people and culture. This is not a fast-paced crime novel, but is deliberate, and the pieces all tie together at the end. 

I liked Emma and was glad to see that even with a new job where it was extremely important that she prove herself, she still made regular time to volunteer for a very special cause.

Crime fiction readers will enjoy the novel and be treated to the cultural rhythms of Ghana. I look forward to The Second Emma Djan Investigation.

Retiring From a Profession, Not Life….. With No Regrets.

Happy New Year!

For many, January marks the beginning of retirement and right now it feels like being on vacation. There are no more commuting hassles, meetings or deadlines to worry about, and plenty of time to work out or stop by the local coffee shop and read the print or electronic edition of their favorite news source. However, for some, the newness soon wears off, and the joy of unstructured time becomes a burden. Some begin to question their sense of purpose, self worth, and the strength of their financial portfolio.

However, there are those who embrace retirement with a strong sense of purpose, hobbies, and a lifestyle plan.

Meet Cindy Manley-Fields.

In May, 2018, I ran into Cindy while working on a project at UC Berkeley. Cindy and I met in junior high school in Southern California, then both of us moved north and ended up again at the same junior high and high schools in Oakland, California.

Cindy was beaming with excitement at having less than a week before she retired from UC Berkeley as a Student Academic Advisor.

I asked her  “How do you feel about retiring, and what now?”

Here is what Cindy had to say:

I believe attitude makes all the difference in the world.

Your conversation can be about getting old, hurting joints, and negative self talk or you can see it as new opportunities, and finding your voice; knowing what you like and dislike, and being able to express it without worrying about what others think of you or how they will react.  It’s called being grown.

I love being grown!  I can speak out and be who I am because I am all that! I have paid my dues, and now get to enjoy the fruit of my labor.  I always joke with folks, saying “I am a Queen and I love this Queen!” People sometimes look at me funny, but I don’t care, because I love myself and I love all of me!  When you love yourself, you are good to yourself, you are happy, and you thrive.

When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a 60 year old, I see Cindy, I see this vibrant woman who loves life, who loves doing things, staying busy and still learning every day.  I find conversations with my “gurls” exciting… a lot of “remember this and remember that.” Its all awe!
We know we are changing, because of the physical changes happening to our bodies, but we don’t let them change our spirit or our hearts.

Cindy5

A few months ago, I got together with a group of women from middle school, and it was so refreshing to hear about everyone’s journeys and struggles.  Our conversations went from family, marriages, divorces, infidelity, sex, and kids. Nothing was off limits!  We learned about each of us and how we have grown over the years.  Everyone was 59 or 60, and they all looked good and it appeared life was good.  That is all we can ask for.

Each part of our life is a journey… its like two roads not taken.  We never know what it has in store for us.  We pray for all sunshine,  but there is rain, which makes us grow stronger.  Each stages of life presents it’s own challenges.   My life changed drastically when I was in my early 20’s. My mother died when I was 23, and my dad remarried within 2 months of her death.  What I knew as a close knit family disappeared for a while. For the first time in my life,  I felt lost and alone, because my mother was the nucleus of the family and she was gone. I was also madly in love with my first love, who around the same time dumped me for someone else. Hard times, but it made me the strong black woman I am today. You never know your strengths until you are challenged.

In my 30’s I got married and had 2 children.  I married a man who had a large family, so I was back into family, and my immediate family started mending.  As I look back, I realize family and close friends are my joy.   My 40’s were filled with kids growing up, and lots of family events…. all good!

In my 50’s, my marriage was challenged, and it was then that I learned to love myself just the way I am. I think as women, we play so many roles that we discount how we feel and what is important to us because we are people-pleasers.  So here are my important learnings:

  • Don’t take things too seriously, and remember this too shall pass.
  • Don’t compromise who you are.   Love yourself the way you are, and treat yourself with kindness and love…. others will treat you the same.
  • Learn to forgive because it’s for you.
  • Enjoy your family and friends; spend time with them.

In 1981 I began working at UC Berkeley right out of college as the Equipment Manager for Womens Athletics (4 years,) then moved to the College of Engineering (1985), Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, where I was a Software Distribution Manger for 7 years, and then moved into Undergraduate Student Academic Advising for the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) and most recently for Bioengineering.  When I was in college I figured I wanted to be a PE Teacher or a counselor, yet I have been an academic adviser for over 20 years, with well over 1,000 students graduated.  It’s a job I have really enjoyed, and loved the fact that I was helping students navigate their way through college.

Cindy3 (2)

Planning for retirement is a must.  I started attending retirement classes at UC  when I was 45, 55 and completed my last class the fall semester before I knew I was going to retire. It helped me understand how social security works, and what kinds of benefits I would have once retired.  I also met with a financial planner at 55 to see if I was on track and if there was anything else I needed to do.

Deciding to work at UC Berkeley has paid off financially because I am able to retire with a pension.  For years everyone around me was making money, but in the end my glory is being able to retire and bring home about 90% of my salary which means I truly get to retire and do what I want.

I noticed when my husband retired he went through a depression, and seemed lost because I think his identity was tied to his job. 

 It’s really important to think about what would you like to do and set a goal for yourself.  I am retiring from my profession but not life.  I plan continue staying busy with photography, jewelry making, shopping and scrapbooking. For over ten years, I have been meeting with with a group of ladies once a month for scrapbooking, and that will continue. Its always a lot of fun! 

My passion is photography.
I always have a camera on me so I will be going on “field trips” to photograph and tell stories through my eyes. I also want to take water aerobic classes in the morning, possibly get an AA or BA degree in photography, take jewelry making classes, travel, and spend some quality time with my husband.  Perhaps in a few years I will teach some of my craft skills.  

I don’t want to be tied down to an obligation, I want to be able to be free to do things spontaneously-its called living.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Cindy is now retired, and I will be checking back with her in a few months to get an update on how the retired life is going.

In the meantime, I would love to hear about how you are embracing your retirement; whether you are still in the planning stages or are living the retired life now!

Faites-en une belle journée!