Book Review: Tell Me An Ending by Jo Harkin

Author: Jo Harkin
Series: None
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Scribner Book Company
Publish Date: March 1, 2022
Print Length: 448

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Black History Month: Recommended and TBR Books

If you live in the United States, then you’re probably aware that February is Black history month. For anyone who might not know, Black history month is a “tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society” (source). You can read more about it on the website for Black history month.

To participate in this tribute, I thought I’d first share five books by Black authors that I’ve enjoyed and/or learned from. I read most of these before I started my book blog, so I don’t have official reviews to share for all of them. But trust that I truly did enjoy them. The second half of this post follows with five books by Black authors that are on my TBR.

This also proved to be a good exercise for me because it made me realize I need to up my reading game with Black authors. I seem to have read a good amount of AAPI authors and Asian authors who aren’t American, but am embarrassingly low on Black authors’ books I’ve finished. Just being honest!

If you’re interested in any of the books below, consider purchasing them from a Black-owned bookstore, if it’s within your means. In Washington, D.C., which is a 45-minute drive away from me (on a good day), here are some Black-owned bookstores to order from: MahoganyBooks, Sankofa Video Books & Cafe, Loyalty Bookstore, and Solid State Books. I believe Harambee Books & Artworks, which is outside of D.C. in Northern Virginia, is also Black-owned, but it’s not explicitly stated on their website. (Yes, those of us who live in Northern Virginia often refer to it this way because it’s economically and politically different, and more populous, than the rest of the state.)

Please feel free to share in the comments books by Black authors that you recommend.

5 Books by Black Authors I’ve Read & Recommend

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen
See my review here.
A way to survive.
A way to serve.
A way to save.

Simi prayed to the gods, once. Now she serves them as Mami Wata—a mermaid—collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home.

But when a living boy is thrown overboard, Simi goes against an ancient decree and does the unthinkable—she saves his life. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy the gods.

To protect the other Mami Wata, Simi must journey to the Supreme Creator to make amends. But all is not as it seems. There’s the boy she rescued, who knows more than he should. And something is shadowing Simi, something that would rather see her fail . . .

Danger lurks at every turn, and as Simi draws closer, she must brave vengeful gods, treacherous lands, and legendary creatures. Because if she fails, she risks not only the fate of all Mami Wata, but also the world as she knows it.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

Becoming by Michelle Obama
In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.
 
In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson
In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.

But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.

5 Books by Black Authors on my TBR

Rosewater by Tade Thompson
Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry, and the helpless — people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumored healing powers.

Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn’t care to again — but when something begins killing off others like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer, facing his dark history and coming to a realization about a horrifying future.

Tade Thompson’s innovative, genre-bending, Afrofuturist series, the Wormwood Trilogy, is perfect for fans of Jeff Vandermeer, N. K. Jemisin, and Ann Leckie.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

The start of a bold and immersive fantasy series for fans of Children of Blood and Bone and Black Panther.

Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye
In bookstores on March 8, 2022.
This is what they deserve.
They wanted me to be a monster.
I will be the worst monster they ever created.

Fifteen-year-old Sloane can incinerate an enemy at will—she is a Scion, a descendant of the ancient Orisha gods.

Under the Lucis’ brutal rule, her identity means her death if her powers are discovered. But when she is forcibly conscripted into the Lucis army on her fifteenth birthday, Sloane sees a new opportunity: to overcome the bloody challenges of Lucis training, and destroy them from within.

Following one girl’s journey of magic, injustice, power, and revenge, Deborah Falaye’s debut novel, inspired by Yoruba-Nigerian mythology, is a magnetic combination of Children of Blood and Bone and An Ember in the Ashes.

The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
In The Disordered Cosmos, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein shares her love for physics, from the Standard Model of Particle Physics and what lies beyond it, to the physics of melanin in skin, to the latest theories of dark matter — all with a new spin informed by history, politics, and the wisdom of Star Trek. One of the leading physicists of her generation, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is also one of fewer than one hundred Black American women to earn a PhD from a department of physics. Her vision of the cosmos is vibrant, buoyantly non-traditional, and grounded in Black feminist traditions. Prescod-Weinstein urges us to recognize how science, like most fields, is rife with racism, sexism, and other dehumanizing systems. She lays out a bold new approach to science and society that begins with the belief that we all have a fundamental right to know and love the night sky. The Disordered Cosmos dreams into existence a world that allows everyone to experience and understand the wonders of the universe.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.
 
With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.

Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.

Blog Tour: Ark of the Apocalypse by Tobin Marks

Author: Tobin Marks
Publisher: Boyle & Dalton
Publish Date: March 24, 2021
Pages: 426
Type: Paperback
Amazon Link: Ark of the Apocalypse*

*This is not my affiliate link and I do not make a commission from any purchase made using this link.

About Ark of the Apocalypse
Earth is on the verge of becoming a dead planet.

The polar ice caps melted long ago, and it’s been decades since the last raindrop fell. Ocean levels rise a dozen meters, and forest fires rage on a global scale. Eleven billion people dying of thirst wage water wars against each other as extinction looms.

Humanity needs a new planet. As Earth deteriorates, the nation states desperately work together to build a mechanism for recolonization. And so the Magellan II is born, the first starship capable of interstellar travel.

The future of the human race is tasked to ten thousand colonists-now homeless but for the vastness of space and the decks of Magellan II. A distant planet offers hope of survival, but it’s a strange, watery world inhabited by giant reptiles.

Humanity is starting over, but survival isn’t guaranteed.

My Review
Thank you to Blackthorn Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Before the temperatures started rising and water became scarce, a seemingly unassuming family lived in Crimea. Anatoly Yanbeyev’s life obsession is to finish a curious family medallion while his wife, Tatyana, practices medicine as World War II rages on. One evening the Yanbeyev family suddenly find themselves torn from their home on charges of subversion. Eventually they’re transferred to eastern Siberia where they open a clinic on the remote Kamchatka Peninsula.

As times goes on, the Yanbeyev family business grows and their family prospers. While Siberia becomes more hospitable, the rest of humanity suffers. Political tensions are at an all time high with the everpresent threat of nuclear proliferation. As the world’s superpowers try to avoid another world war, there’s someone behind the scenes pulling the strings and writing the script for humanity’s future.

The Ark of the Apocalypse is a story that spans many decades, wars, and several generations. In Japan, a doctor works on a secret project for the Nazis that the United States believes is a weapons program. We learn early on in the story that certain Yanbeyev family members have visions that help them plan for the future, one generation at a time. As we hop through the decades, the United States and Russia play a game of thrones with China and India. Meanwhile, the Yanbeyevs work to ensure their family survives what’s ahead.

The first 40% or so of this book focuses on political and military strategizing, almost to the point of feeling like a political thriller. To be fully transparent, I expected more science fiction/fantasy through this point. Thus, I felt that the content during this portion was a bit of a mismatch from the book description and cover. I don’t usually gravitate towards heavy political/military content; so, I personally felt this portion of the book was a bit slow. However, though I’m no political/military strategist, Marks describes the tense interactions between heads of state with ease. The author avoids providing so much detail that might bog down a reader who’s not familiar with war strategy and weaponry specifics.

The science fiction aspect of the story comes more into play in the last half of the book. As the situation on Earth becomes more dire, the need for technological advances in off-world travel become increasingly important. Sacrifices must be made to ensure the survival of the human race. I’m not the right person to say whether the tech mechanisms described by Marks are feasible. However, the author certainly seems quite familiar with what could be possible (both with weapons and travel tech). Perhaps this may be related to his time spent observing NASA and NOAA projects.

This is a post-apocalyptic book, so I think we can all agree where the future of Earth is heading. I was genuinely surprised, though, at the events following the Magellan II’s departure from Earth. Specifically, without introducing any spoilers, the concept of fate and choice intrigued me. I quite enjoyed reading about the preparations for interstellar travel and what it’s like after they make it to a distant planet. At this point specific characters have the spotlight rather than world events, which as a readers allows one to connect more with the story.

My only critique is an editorial one. Within the digital copy that I received, there are punctuation errors, accidental word repetition, some instances of incorrect verb tenses, misspelling of some words, and consistent incorrect dialogue formatting (e.g., no commas, misplaced commas, misplaced periods). This didn’t detract from my overall positive experience of reading Ark of the Apocalypse. But as detail-oriented person I often spot these types of things. That said, I think the writing is succinct, yet provides enough detail to allow the reader to envision and world-build in one’s head. Overall, the pacing is good. As a reader, we don’t have an omniscient point of view. This leaves questions hanging and keeps pages turning as we seek to find out what will happen to Earth and the human race.

Overall, I recommend this book to those who enjoy reading post-apocalyptic science fiction, particularly if you’re also keen to read about the political decisions that lead to the demise of a civilization. If you’re interested in reading Ark of the Apocalypse, you can find it on Amazon.

Rating: 4/5
Content warnings: battle scenes, death
Reading format: e-book

About the Author
Marks is a world traveler who grew up in a household of rocket scientists. As a boy he had a front row seat observing many NASA and NOAA projects. He writes science fiction novels from his home in north west Baja, and you can usually find him on Twitter @tobinmarks.