“Blacktop wasteland” Shawn A. Cosby

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Flatiron Books. To be published July 14, 2020.

Blacktop WastelandBeauregard’s father was involved with shady business dealings but taught him about life and fast cars before he disappeared, leaving his son to mourn his loss. Bug now had a wife and kids of his own, and carved out a life at his own car repair shop. Things were going well until a competitor started taking away his business. Now the bank refused to extend his loan because a developer wanted him to fail so he could take the land. His daughter didn’t have money for college, his young boys needed glasses and braces, his wife wanted a real house, and the nursing home had bills due for his mom’s care. Everything, and everyone, seemed to be conspiring against him.

In desperation Beauregard took on the role of getaway driver for a jewelry store heist. Even though he didn’t trust his partners he needed the money, and they needed him because of his skills behind the wheel. What Bug didn’t know was that a gangster owned the jewels they stole, and what he had planned for him and his family would need him to use every arsenal in his power to survive.

Wow! This good vs. bad guys action packed book is filled with car chases, and flying bullets. Our hero is hurt many times, but gets up and gets the job done. I was on the edge of my seat, turning pages as I read. It would make a GREAT movie, so I hope some movie producers or screenwriters read it and realize its potential.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“With the fire on high” by Elizabeth Acevedo

Rated 5 stars ***** 2019.HarperTeen. 392 p.

With the fire on highSeventeen-year-old Emoni Santiago has been living with her grandmother since her father abandoned her after her mother died in childbirth. At age fourteen she got pregnant but, with her ‘Buela’s help, has been raising little Emma who she calls Babygirl. She struggles with school, work, and her relationship with Emma’s dad and her father. The fear she feels for the unknown after graduation, and her feelings for handsome Malachi combine to complicate her life.

Ever since she was a little girl Emoni has loved to cook and has gotten so good her grandmother insists she’s magical. All she’s ever wanted is to become a chef so, when a culinary arts class starts up at school, she’s fearful she won’t be able to handle the extra work load. Through sacrifice, hard work and stepping out in strength not fear, Emoni learns that maybe dreams can come true as she works towards keeping an even keel in her life despite her circumstances.

As Emoni walks a fine line between her many responsibilities, the love she has for family and her Afro-Boricua culture shine through in her story. Though written in prose, “With the fire on high” has its own poetry in sentences like “…Babygirl is front and center, the candlelight we read the world by.” (p. 53) and “The world is a turntable that never stops spinning…” (p. 60) Acevedo fans will relate to Emoni’s voice, and the beautifully designed book jacket is an added plus.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Big lies in a small town” by Diane Chamberlain

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. To be published Jan. 14, 2020. St. Martin’s Press.

Big lies in a small townIn 1939 twenty-two year old Anna Dale was excited to have been chosen by the government to paint a post office mural in the little town of Edenton, North Carolina. When she moved there from New Jersey she was excited to learn more about the town, but soon learned not everyone was happy she’d gotten the job. She took on three teens to help her, but Southern tradition soon began to raise its ugly head. Young Jesse Williams was amazingly gifted, and Anna knew if he went to art school he could set the art world on fire. She was happy to mentor him while he helped her, but townspeople were spreading rumors because she was working with a colored teen.

In 2018, Morgan Christopher had been in jail for a year. She was surprised to get a visit from the daughter and lawyer of the famous artist Jesse Williams, telling her his will stipulated she must restore a Depression-era mural within two months. Desperate to get out of jail, she agreed to the strange transaction. As she began to work on cleaning the mural, Morgan began to discover strange things, leaving her to wonder if Anna Dale, the mysterious artist, had become insane.

Chamberlain seamlessly wove through time in alternate chapters, as she told Morgan and Anna’s stories. As more and more of the mural’s clues were revealed, what had been happening while she painted was described through Anna’s point of view. This chilling story of betrayal, murder, vindication and hope will keep readers turning pages until its very satisfying conclusion.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“March: Book three” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Rated 5 stars ***** 2016. Top Shelf Productions. March #3. 246 p.

March book 3Death, White mob mentalities, racism, police brutality, and violence fill the pages of “March: Book three” as John Lewis and thousands of  volunteers nonviolently protested for the right to register to vote in the White strongholds of Mississippi and Alabama. Hundreds were arrested, beaten and intimidated. Some were even murdered by policemen, and other White supremacists.

Day after day, month after month, year after year nonviolent protests continued as their basic American right to vote was continually denied in these states. Lewis’ accounts of that time, along with detailed black and white illustrations, will bring even the most stoic of readers to tears. The evils perpetrated on the marchers by Jim Clark, Sheriff of Selma, as well as the struggles they faced that led to the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act are closely laid out in this amazing book.

During the present and past narratives Lewis employs, he’s with Obama at his 2009 inauguration. He presents the President with a commemorative card to sign, and Obama wrote “Because of you, John.” That phrase struck a deep cord in me. Barack’s rise was because of John, and others like him, who endured years of beatings and imprisonments to get out the Black vote. They showed that going out to vote is important. I have to add that if you’re reading this, and are old enough to vote and haven’t, please vote. Our country needs your vote.

The second moment that moved me to tears took place that 2009 evening when Lewis received a call from Ted Kennedy. Ted’s words of reminiscence, along with the names of those who were part of the battle but had been murdered for the cause, also made me emotional.

As a reminder to the reader, everything John Lewis writes about his time fighting for Civil Rights is educational. Maya Angelou once said (and I paraphrase): “We need to remember where we’ve been to know where we’re going.” The March series tells our history, no matter the color of your skin. It’s AMERICA’S history, and we’re all part of it.

RUN and get all 3 copies of this amazing series. I will repeat what I said in my review of “March: Book two” because it’s very important: All books in the March series are important to be read, not just by young adults, but also by all adults. 

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

PS – Below is the picture I took of John Lewis as he got ready to speak to the thousands and thousands of us marching in the 2017 Women’s March of Atlanta. I was proud to shake his hand before we set off on that rainy, chilly day in January. 

John Lewis


“March: Book two” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Rated 5 stars ***** 2015. Top Shelf Productions. March #2. 187 p.

March book 2In “March: Book two,” Congressman John Lewis continues the story of his fight for civil rights. When Book one ended, Lewis and groups of fellow students had defeated segregation at Nashville’s lunch counters. Now, in between glimpses of the present time where he’s attending Barack Obama’s 2009 Inauguration, Lewis continues to describe ways he and others worked to stop segregation in the 1960’s.

One among many who worked to end segregation, Lewis talks about the Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.). Together with members of C.O.R.E. he rode buses through the south as Freedom Riders, and his powerful descriptions of their treatment by White mobs and the police are carefully detailed. Readers are also told about the thousands of children who marched in Birmingham, the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and many other struggles in which he and others partook. The bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in 1963 paves the way for “March: Book three.”

Readers who may not be aware of important events in the struggle for civil rights for all Blacks will be educated in Lewis’ latest March installment. The black and white illustrations convey, sometimes without words, the horror of those dark days during the Jim Crow era. All books in the March series are important to be read, not just by young adults, but also by all adults.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.



“March: Book one” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Top Shelf Productions. March #1. 121 p.

March book 1The Edmund Pettus Bridge. Marchers attacked by police officers. The page goes dark.

So opens the powerful graphic novel memoir of Congressman John Lewis and his march towards civil rights.

The next scene opens on January 20, 2009, where Lewis is supposed to be getting ready for an event in Washington, D.C. Instead he finds himself welcoming visitors and two young children to his office. As he shows them around he travels back in time, sharing details of his life as a little boy growing up loving chickens on his father’s sharecropper farm in Alabama, and tells how he wound up meeting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When he and other students had sit-ins to integrate Nashville, Tennessee’s segregated lunch counters in 1960, he reveals how the comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story,”  was an important part of their training. He describes the troubles they endured from Whites who wanted the status quo, and details how the protest resulted in his first arrest. Though the group ultimately won the integration of lunch counters in Nashville, there was still much work to be done for segregation to meet its end, as evidenced by the book’s open ending.

Lewis’ powerful award winning memoir teaches about the power of words, the power of action, and the power of nonviolent resistance. The illustrator’s black and white drawings, shadowing techniques, profiles, strong facial expressions, and full-page panels convey Lewis’ story in a powerful way.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“This promise of change: One girl’s story in the fight for school equality” by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy

Rated 5 stars ***** 2019. “Special 2019 ALA Annual Edition.” 310 p. (Includes an “Introduction,” “Epilogue,” “Writing this book,” “Scrapbook,” “Timeline of school desegregation and civil rights landmarks,” “Quotation sources,” “Selected Bibliography,” and “Further reading.”)

This book was published January 8, 2019, but a special edition was given to attendees at the June 2019 American Library Association (ALA) Conference in Washington, D.C.

This promise of changeJo Ann Allen and her friends attended a Negro high school 20 miles away from their town of Clinton, Tennessee because they weren’t allowed to attend the all-White school where they lived. Though the Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that schools were to be integrated, the law of the land was not applicable in Clinton. Their restaurants, theaters and buses were segregated, and rules that applied only to Blacks continued to be applied.

In 1956, when a judge decreed the town had to integrate the high school, Jo Ann and 11 of her friends became the first Black students to attend the school. They were known as The Clinton 12. Their first few days integrating the school seemed to pass quietly until outside agitators, local protestors, and the KKK arrived. Soon controversy and attacks on the students and Black residents began, as did demands to keep the school segregated.

Racial insensitivities of the time are chronicled in this extensively researched book and very moving book as Jo Ann tells her story in verse. Readers learn about the few White supporters they had in their quest for integration, as well as the support given to them by their church as well as their families and friends. The extensive back matter lends support to Jo Ann’s story, teaching readers more about their struggle, and the struggle of many Blacks to integrate schools across the South. There is also an important reminder that many schools in the United States remain segregated today, 65 years after the Supreme Court decision of 1954.

Highly recommended for ages 18 and older.