my {not so review} of the parking lot attendant by nafkote tamirat

I’ve been wracking my brain on how to write this review because how do you write a review for a book that had you completely lost while you were reading it? In fact I’ve deleted this post twice, before publishing, but here we go. It’s difficult for me to say I liked or disliked this story because for half of it I had no idea what was going on, then it got sort of interesting. Then I was lost again by the ending. This is the first time I read a book & had to start a few chapters over & over to understand what was actually happening. I am not in the habit of bashing authors and I won’t start now, but my thoughts after I closed the last page went something like “Is this what’s called “complex literature”!? Because this story went right over my head. Am I not an advanced enough reader and I missed significant things in the narrative; the development of these characters? I’ve never had this type of reading experience. Has my brain turned to mush?”

SO if this “not so” review seems all over the place, it is a 100% authentic reflection of my brain as I weaved in and out of the chapters of this story.

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I could very easily give you the synopsis, but let me test my book blogger chops and see if I can sort of tell you what I THINK this story is about. Get ready for a lot of question marks (me questioning my own thoughts that is). There is an unidentified narrator & her father who are Ethiopian immigrants. There is some location hoping between an island, also unidentified, and Boston. Boston is where she meets Ayale, the parking lot attendant & the antagonist of this story (?) I want to call Ayale a narcissist. He is very good at presenting himself one way, but our young narrator is already hooked on his charismatic charm even though she started to notice changes in him. A lot of truths, stratagems and questionable behaviors starts to reveal themselves in Ayale. There are a string of murders that begin to occur in the small Ethiopian community where she lives in Boston (?) and unfortunately for her she is deeply connected to the person most likely connected to them? Ayale.

I was restless reading the first half of this book. Okay, okay…I was bored. It didn’t get super interesting until almost the end as I started to peel back the layers on our friend Ayale. However, even with the plots of Ayale, I couldn’t find a plot in this narrative lol which is actually not a bad thing depending on what you’re reading. It goes from zero to sixty in the most unorganized way. What I like about this story is what SEEMS to be the rocky (?) relationship between the narrator and her father. It doesn’t seem whole but it doesn’t seem unstable either. I’m probably analyzing that incorrectly as well. I also liked the voice of the narrator. She is young but seemed to be able to hold her own in conversation. She’s smart.

However, drawn in by Ayale, she does some things for him that she shouldn’t be doing which lands her in the hot seat. She and her father flee back to the unidentified island (?) and then my blank stare continues. I am not the kind of reader that gets pulled into the whole “…because it’s on a list” (It’s on the Tournament of Books list btw) and “…because everyone thinks it’s brilliant,” I do too. I then shifted my thinking from all the aforementioned questions I asked at the beginning of this post to, “You know what? I just didn’t get it and I’m okay with this and I will never question myself as a reader again.” To be clear, I liked Tamirat’s writing style, but writing style, for me, doesn’t out weigh purpose in the narrative, plot or no plot. I don’t need to relate to characters but I need to understand their development and HOW they fit into the overall story. I found these characters and story, with the exception of Ayale (AND NOT UNTIL ALMOST THE END) to be lackluster.

I don’t know the author’s intentions or motivation and I most certainly don’t want to assume, but the way it’s written seems solely focused on convolution than being a fluid story. Note: both can exist. I can deal with convoluted stories, but not when I cannot identify what is actually happening and my brain is spinning from complete confusion. I will say, this book is short so you will breeze through it if you choose to read it. This one wasn’t a satisfying read for me!!

Rating: 2/5

long way down by jason reynolds

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Often times as a reader you come across stories that leave you staring off into the distance after you’ve read the last page and closed the book. In fact, you’re still thinking about it days later. It sits with you and makes you ponder what you THINK you know or understand. Jason Reynold’s Long Way Down is one of those books! What I love most about this book is that Reynold’s decided to take a non traditional route in writing this heartbreaking story of the never ending cycle of street life. Rather than write in standard chapter form, he chose to write in poetry which I thought was brilliant. It was raw and real but poetic and beautiful. This is a story that flows so easily, it can be finished in one sitting not just because of the short form, but because of the desire to know where all of the people in his life are taking him - introspectively.

What Reynold’s did was wrap a very layered narrative in staccato. Yet, was able to do so where there were NO spaces. NO slow parts. NO disconnection. There was a rhythm. He wants the reader to understand the “code” of street life; the toll it takes on families and communities. He wants the reader to feel the pain of each character - the consequence of impulse. From a personal perspective, I chose to live a different life from the environment I grew up in. I grew up in Englewood on the South Side of Chicago {unfortunately coined ChIRAQ} and to date is still probably the worst district, not just in Illinois, but in all of the United States. It is on the low-income to impoverished end of the socio-economic spectrum which of course leads to hopelessness. Subsequently leaving communities riddled with gang violence where there are multiple lives taken daily living under the very “street code” Reynold’s story is focused on - one life for another often resulting in innocent bystanders losing their lives as well, but it is the reality in which we live and Reynold’s left no stone un-turned in defining what it means to be fully caught up in it.

Above: Long Way Down Illustration by Chris Priestley

The entire story takes place in sixty seconds on a smoky elevator. Will, the main character, is struggling to deal with the murder of his brother Shawn. Young will steps onto the elevator with his brothers gun tucked in the waistband of his pants and dead set on going after Riggs, a childhood friend of he and Shawn, whom he believes murdered his brother, but what proof does he have? What I thought was one of the most important ideas in this story, and there were many, is that within the hell bent revenge of Will there was uncertainty yet he was willing to take a life without undeniable proof. He only had speculation and pain to fuel him. It’s how the cycle starts. One life is taken. Revenge is born and retaliation destroys everything and everyone.

There are seven floors down to the first and at each floor a new character is introduced; someone who is directly or indirectly connected to Will. The one that wrecked me the most was Dani. Will doesn’t recognize her, but she recognizes him. He only remembers her as his childhood friend when she takes a picture from her wallet of them as kids. However Dani, like the others who enters the elevator lost her life to the unforgiving streets, but Dani was just a young child caught in the crossfire. The others who enter the elevator - Will & Shawn’s Father {Pop}, Buck, Uncle Mark, Frick and eventually his brother - began to unravel a story that left Will shocked and confused. What he thinks he knows about their murders turns out to be untrue. This is where you decide to grab this book to discover how it all went down ;-). Shawn always told Will, “No crying. No snitching. Only revenge,” but as he learns the truth about the deaths of everyone he loves, his brother does the thing he told Will NEVER to do. Cry.

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Will loses everyone he knows and loves by the time he is 15 years old and everyone on that elevator was trying to steer him down the right path. They were trying to stop him from making the mistakes they made, with the exception of Dani, for doing something that could not only alter, but ultimately end his life. I had all of these thoughts swirling in my head about the elevator. What was it? What did it represent? Was it a coffin being lowered into the ground? Was it a dream or just the deep recesses of Will’s mind as he was getting ready to take a life? Had Will already made the decision to seek revenge and the reason he could see his loved ones is because he was dead as well? I loved that Reynold’s did not answer any of these questions definitively and that it’s left to the reader to sort of decide Will’s fate. He could’ve succumbed to the same violence he saw growing up or not. In the end when his brother stepped tearfully off of the elevator and asked, “You coming?” I felt it could’ve went either way.

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Will either already made his decision to seek revenge and his life was lost or with all of the information he had been given, he had an opportunity to answer his brother and tell his brother, “No. I’m not coming”. It ended perfectly because the ending was unclear. It only takes a split second to decide which path you will take in life. I feel like that’s why Reynold’s ended the story the way he did. He wants the reader to weigh in on that decision. Long Day Down has to be one of my absolute favorite reads of this year. I highly recommend you read it!!!

Rating: 5/5

uninvited by lysa terKeurst

Greetings & Blessings,

I had heard so many wonderful things about Uninvited, but had never gotten around to picking it up and finally at the top of the new year, I’ve finished it!! It’s my first read for 2019. I like that Lysa’s voice is plain and relatable. Where a lot of reviewers of this book found it “fluffy”, I think it’s important to note that everyone’s internal struggles are different. There aren’t levels to insecurity meaning one kind trumps another. It’s based on our environment, our personal perspective, but more importantly it’s based on the fact that we don’t seek God for wisdom in our circumstances. In the book, she references being stared at and not being liked by another woman on the treadmill at the gym or so she thought. This could very well come off as a privileged, petty experience, but dealing with feelings of not being liked by others and consumed by what others think is a very real thing that anyone can relate to. I know I can and PRAISE JESUS that I was freed from that. When we look to the world for approval and don’t see ourselves the way God sees us, we create scenarios in our minds about the people around us without facts. I didn’t

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perceive Lysa’s transparency about her feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, insecurity and low self self esteem as her being self centered and self absorbed at all but rather how she was freed from those feelings in Christ. We’re all wrecked and the there is a testimony in everyone’s struggle no matter if it’s micro or macro. I think she WANTED you to feel how some of her thoughts were illogical and how they caused her to spiral so that you could reflect on your own rejections and brokenness and how there’s redemption from our Heavenly Father.

This book does make you think about a lot of your own circumstances, but I am so pressed into Jesus that the enemy cannot use my past to define me so there were no old wounds open for me as I was reading. I won’t allow it because I use the Word as my source of strength. I think this next point is incredibly important to mention too. With any faith based biography you read, use discernment. What happens a lot of times with books that are one part faith, one part self help is that the emotions of the author can start looking like Biblical truth/doctrine. I think that would be the only hiccup I had while reading. Some of the scriptures/parables that were used to drive home Lysa’s feelings about rejection seemed more of her interpretation than actual biblical truth. This is why I always say use discernment and seek ye first. Never read these genres of books without grabbing your Bible as the MAIN source.

This did not take anything away from what I thought was such a well written and honest book. I saw myself in a lot of her experiences; thoughts that a lot of woman have. I am praying for women’s ministries all over the world as we connect through our trials and celebrate our triumphs. Although towards the end it seemed a bit repetitive, I think Lysa was passionate in wanting you to find your confidence in Jesus. The bonus chapter & life assessment were excellent. If you decide to read this, definitely grab a friend or loved one to help you identify areas that you need to work on. Self checking is important too so that you can clear out the clutter and allow Him to work through you. He can’t move when there’s a bunch of stuff in there.

It’s definitely worth cozying up with a cup of coffee or tea. You will breeze through it!! Below are some of my favorite gems. Hope wherever you are reading this that you have a beautiful blessed day!