Transient Desires by Donna Leon

Transient Desires by Donna Leon

Leon's Commissario Brunetti series is an easy one to jump in and out of. Each book stands alone well. Yes, reading them in order would probably give you a fuller picture of how the characters change, or don't change, over time, and let you meet new characters when they're introduced. I don't feel like I've missed much by skipping around. As always, Transient Desires take place in Venice. The city is almost a character in and of itself. The city is full of both beautiful, old architecture and dark, dangerous alleys. It relies on tourism, but Venetians are contemptuous of the tourists. The picture of Venice is very vivid, which is a part of this series that I always enjoy. This time, the mystery starts with two young American women left severely injured outside a hospital. Finding out who the men were that dropped them off is easy enough, but leads to a much bigger situation, one that requires...
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Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Set in the near future in Nigeria, Rosewater shows us a world where not much has changed. There are still the rough edges, violence, greed, poverty and prejudices. There are also aliens. Well, an alien. In 2012, a giant alien lifeform, known as “Wormwood,” landed in London and began moving through the Earth’s crust. America went "dark”, and in Nigeria a giant alien biodome popped up in 2055. It occasionally radiates healing rays that are also capable of raising the dead. A city, Rosewater, has grown up around the dome. The story unfolds in three separate timelines that can get a bit confusing. It's told throughout in the first person by Kaaro. He's a psychic, a former thief who now works for a secret arm of the government. He can read minds, replay past events, and even manipulate people. Kaaro and few others like him can connect to the xenosphere - a psychic link to what appears to be the...
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Passing by Nella Larsen

Passing by Nella Larsen

More of a novella than a novel, Passing starts with a chance encounter at a tea shop between Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry. Once childhood friends in Harlem, New York, Irene and Clare are separated when Clare decides to leave the Black community behind, to ‘pass’ for white, marry a white man, and live as a white woman. While the two women catch up, Clare asks Irene if she could come to one of her parties, explaining that she misses being around Black people. Irene agrees and then she meets Clare’s racist husband. Irene is shocked and angry. She lives within the African-American community, is married to a black man, and is anxious about passing though she does it when convenient, like at the tea shop. In fact, Irene’s biggest desire in life is for security, while Clare is a risk-taker. A couple of year later, Clare reaches out to Irene again, and begins spending more time with Irene, her family,...
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Broken Places by Tracy Clark

Broken Places by Tracy Clark

Cass is angry. Angry that Father Ray, Pop, is dead. Angry that an incompetent detective has caught the case and is ready to dismiss it as a murder/suicide, which Cass knows is not true. Cass is determined to get to the truth, no matter how many favors she has to call in. She's also got some friends who are ready to back her up no matter what. Broken Places is a riveting story full of action, but Cass isn't the loner she may seem to be. Yes, she's tough and willing to do things on her own, but she's got some loyal friends, both in the police force and on the other side of the law. She's brave and stubborn, but also vulnerable at times. She cares about people, her friends, the homeless man she meets, her former partner. I'm hoping though that she gets a little more time to be a person in the next entry in the series. This...
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Four Hundred Souls edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

Four Hundred Souls edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

In Four Hundred Souls, Kendi and Blain have assembled an outstanding group of 90 writers and poets to tell the history of African Americans. The collection begins with Nikole Hannah-Jones's essay on the 1619 arrival of 20 Africans in Virginia and ends with an essay by Alicia Garza on the Black Lives Matter movement. The essays and stories tell of history we know, but many writers focused on stories and people I didn't know, like Elizabeth Keyes who was the first Black woman in the American colonies to petition for her freedom, Lucy Terry Prince the poet who argued for her family's freedom before the Supreme Court, and David George who established the first Black Baptist church. Others touch on laws and events but they fit together, telling a history that we don't know well enough. Like any collection, Four Hundred Souls is uneven, but I don't think that's a negative here. Each of the writers has their own style, their...
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