Family Life

Joyful Reads with Joy from October

Hello! I’m Joy, and I love to read. I consider it my greatest talent and favorite hobby. Another one of my preferred pastimes is recommending reads to anyone who is the least bit curious. Seriously. I am always volunteering book recs to people near me, whether they ask or not. I thought it would be fun to bring this passion to Baton Rouge Parents Magazine. I will share with you every book I read month by month and what I think about them. You can also follow me on Instagram at @joyfulreadswithjoy

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris 
What a complete marvel of brilliant fiction. The Other Black Girl is a witty, sharp, twisting and captivating social commentary in the form of a precise novel. Zakiya Dalila Harris works real magic in these pages about New York publishing, workplace racism, Black identity, Black female friendship, and the burden on Black women. She does this with a razor tongue and memorable characters that kept me up at night. I have never read anything like this. I was glued to the pages, reading incessantly until that last page. Come for the social criticism and stay for the wild psychosocial thriller.

Nella Rogers has done everything expected of her and more. She is a hardworking assistant to an editor at a prestigious publishing house. As a Black woman, she has always believed and lived by the motto that she had to work twice as hard. After putting two years into the company, in walks a captivating young Black woman named Hazel May who charms everyone. Hazel seems to rocket up the ranks at Wagner, surpassing Nella suspiciously. Nella starts receiving alarming notes telling her to leave. All is not what it seems. At this point, we start getting other voices in chapters, and the mystery takes shape. The novel becomes a whole other creature. Think Stepford Wives, Get Out, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, or Thanatos Syndrome.

What I loved: honest and vulnerable prose on the varied identities of Black women in America, the transparent authenticity of Nella’s struggle, her conversations with her best friend, the bold truths of living in America as a Black woman, the humor, the pop culture, the bookishness of all the characters, the inside look into the book world, the mystery, the suspense, the development of the characters, the focus on hair and its power, New York City, the use of email/social media, the gorgeous words.

Different vibe, but fascinating and well done! 

The Wreckage of My Presence by Casey Wilson 
I ended this one in tears. The last chapter did me in. Casey Wilson is such a gifted writer. Her words are full of humor, honesty, candor, and genuine openness. This book is a collection of essays ranging from her childhood experiences to her internal struggles to her Real Housewives obsession to her grief over losing her mother. I laughed out loud multiple times and carried around my kindle constantly to read as much as I could. Sometimes a book hits you at just the right time, and this one did that for me. At a time when I have felt a little isolated and a little down, this book helped me feel less alone.

Casey Wilson is a comic actress and writer who has been through some things. She tells fantastic stories and is just honest enough to put her whole messy self out there. She talks about mother/daughter relationships, motherhood, career stuff, family connection, depression, grief, silliness, anger, and so much more in these essays. If you are looking for a memoir/nonfiction read that will also have you giggling and crying, this is a perfect choice. Honestly, this book felt very personal to me. So much resonated with me, and then the rest was just highly entertaining.

Five Stars. I loved it so much I have the audiobook on hold on Libby.

The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams 
What a kind and gentle read for this season. Sara Nisha Adams captures the power of libraries and books in this lovely account of two lonely Londoners who find connection and renewal through a reading list.

Aleisha is a brooding 17 year-old girl who is spending her summer working in the library and taking care of her ill mother. Mukesh is an elderly widower who is grieving the loss of his wife. These two cross paths in the local library. When Aleisha finds a mysterious reading list labeled “In Case You Need It,” she decides to start reading them and suggesting them to Mukesh. Along the way, books like To Kill a Mockingbird, Rebecca, The Kite Runner, Life of Pi, and Pride and Prejudice open up both of their lives to new experiences and hope.

This one gave me all the warm fuzzies. I was drawn to the vivid lives that Adams creates within these pages, and of course, the gravitational pull of books that change lives is a major theme for me. The narrative varies between Aleisha and Mukesh, but we also get small chapters about the reading list floating around the community. This book made me feel such tenderness and hope. Not all is happy, though. There is tragedy, so prepare for that. Highly recommend!

Warning: there is suicide in this novel.

The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman 
The Book of Magic was everything I needed and wanted it to be. This is the last installment of the Magic series that started with Practical Magic in 1995.

I know I am not alone when I say thank you to Alice Hoffman for creating the Owens family and giving us a fantasy world where women unite for love and sisterhood. The magic of these books is truly the development of Maria, Faith, Franny, Jet, Vincent, Sally, Gillian, Kylie, and Antonia. All of these beautiful and mystical figures have become a part of my fictional emotional attachments in a way like no other books. I really don’t “do” series, but Magic is another story. I started with Rules of Magic a couple of years ago, then Magic Lessons, and then Practical Magic. Deep is my affection for each of the four!

This novel picks up about 10 or so years after Practical Magic. When Jet realizes she is nearing the end of her life, she readies the Magic resources for her sister and nieces. Around the same time, a tragic accident changes Kylie’s path, and she sets out for England to break the tricentennial curse that has plagued all Owens women and men. The entire family joins together to rescue Kylie from a devious relative who has ties to the family heritage. Along the journey, Sally finds love, Vincent finds peace, Franny finds her purpose, and Gillian finds her true self. Mystery and magic blend to create an insatiable read. 

Alice Hoffman weaves the previous three books and the family histories together perfectly. All the storylines converged, and nothing was wasted from any volume. Every piece of the Owens family history factors into the plot whether the characters are in Massachusetts, Paris, England, or New York. I also really appreciated the depth of the new characters.

What I loved: THE HISTORY! The strength and power of women, the landscapes, the cures and herbs, the emphasis on love and connection, triumph of good over evil, family bonds, the mystery, the entire fantasy world of Alice Hoffman. A perfect end to an epic series! 

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