[748]: Home After Dark by David Small

A coming of age novel that’s hauntingly real and furiously fierce. David Small’s graphic novel packs an emotional punch as 13-year-old Russell Pruitt navigates a cruel world in the mercy of strangers.

Home After Dark
by David Small

Set in 1950s, Home After Dark is the story of a teen boy who will go through the most tumultuous changes and challenges of adolescence. Soon after his mother left them for another man, his father upended their lives for the greener pastures of California. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out. Russell’s father soon left him on his own, living in the mercy of a Chinese couple that generously took him in.

In California, he would meet the people that will eventually shape his life and dictate the course for which he would take.

His first friend was a boy who lived with his grandma. He was kind to him, accepted him when other kids shun him. He was also generous.  But his friendship came with a price. One that Russell couldn’t quite grasp at such a young age. Needless to say, the friendship didn’t last.

Russell then finds himself in the company of three boys who were, for the most part, good company. But there’s always going to be bad seeds.  They bullied a boy who was a loner. One of the boys planted evidence that would eventually lead to him committing suicide.

Life in California wasn’t how it’s cracked up to be. His relationship with his father went from bad to worse. His drinking accelerated, leading to his being let go at his job. In the end, he too abandoned Russell.  The friends that he thought were genuine turned out to be false. And the one friend that he thought wanted something from him that he couldn’t give because he doesn’t understand killed himself. He stole from the only people who were willing to take him in when he was all alone in the world. Life for him wasn’t only hard, it was confusing, and sometimes, unforgiving.

Home After Dark is a graphic novel so the effect can be limited at times. I find myself staring at the series of drawings as I try to decipher the extent of emotional impact the author is trying to convey. But still, I found this book to be easy to read, with a protagonist that’s equally easy to empathize. It’s a coming of age novel and boy, did Russell go through so much.  It’s also a dark novel but somehow, someway, it wasn’t nearly as hopeless. David Smalls captured the despairing side of adolescence, but italso offered hope. Hope that he will eventually grow out of it – get pass it. It only depends on how he would take the life lessons each day gave him.

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[737]: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

A dark, suspenseful dive into small town shady cover-ups starring a complex and flawed character.


Bonfire
by Krysten Ritter

It took me a while to realize that the author of this novel is none other than the Jessica Jones. But it sure didn’t take long for this book to get its hooks on me, no matter how frustrated I was with the heroine.

Historically speaking, I’ve always had a difficult relationship with deeply flawed characters. Complex though as they may be, I found myself wanting to reach into the book and shake the living daylights out of them. But perhaps that feeling is clear evidence of the efficacy of one’s writing. Their ability to incite such an emotion conflates with the feeling of confusion or a battle within yourself to either root for the character or hate them altogether.

Such was my dilemma with Abby Williams.

Growing up in the town of Barrens, Indiana hasn’t been all that easy for Abby. She wasn’t so much as the paraiah, but more like the kid that everyone ignored. Her history with the town and its people was forgettable, humiliating, and hurtful. So when her next case as an environmental lawyer takes her back to her hometown, she was filled with trepidation and somewhat morbid curiousity. Especially since the case was against the very life force that kept the town going.

There, Abby will be reintroduced to her past – all the good and bad. The bullies that made her life miserable; her father with whom she’d had a strained relationship over the years. The boy who kissed her in the woods and made her promised not to tell. But most of all, she was forced to confront the one thing that ate at her after all these years: the disappearance of her former friend and enemy.

Reminiscent of Erin Brockovich, Abby Williams peeled the layers of secrets to get to the bottom of the swamp. Pay offs, teen prostitution/pornography ring, blackmail, and murder, were just some of the dark secrets the small town had been harboring. Optimal Plastics has been the only source of income for most of the residents of Barrens. People were hesitant to talk, but most could no longer ignore the unexplained illnesses, birth defects, and severe rashes that plagued the town.  In a way, Abby was the perfect character to unearth the truth. She has a built in connection with the town, as well an underlying need for revenge. Though that connection sometimes got her in trouble. It blinded her to the truth at times and made her transparent to her enemies. But she was strong minded and determined to make those who were responsible pay.

Krysten Ritter succeeded in writing a suspenseful novel. It was fast-paced and full of sinister vibes. Other than the obvious culprit (Optimal Plastics), she did very well in hiding all the town’s secrets and specific perpetrators. I’ve had my doubts with celebrities publishing fiction but I must admit, this was an outstanding debut.

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[692]: Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

A personal and political account of what it’s like to grow up in South Africa.


Born A Crime
by Trevor Noah

It is sometimes weird to see him at the desk where Jon Stewart used to slay conservative politicians and pundits alike. In all honesty, I’ve never really acclimated to seeing him there. I’m a big fan of Jon Stewart. He is the one who got me interested in American politics after all. Satire or not, The Daily Show was even more educational than any other cable news on air.

When I learned that Stewart was quitting and was being replaced by this unknown comedian, I was saddened. Because I knew things will never be the same. I’m not gonna lie, I have not watched a single episode of the show ever since he left. Aside from snippets shown on their Facebook page, I’ve never actually sat through a full episode. So when the opportunity to read and review this book came my way, I had to grab the chance. Because I wanted to know a little about this man. I wanted to know how a South African comedian charmed his way into the annals of a sometimes entertaining, more often frustrating American political satire arena.

During the presidential election campaign, he’s become more prominent because he assumed Jon Stewart’s role with great gusto. He was funny and candid; harsh and honest. But as I observed him during the few moments that I’ve seen his shtick, there’s still a bit of him that’s a little uncomfortable. Like, he couldn’t fully play the role of a man commenting on the absurdities of the American politics and life. Like he doesn’t belong.

 I’ve never seen his comedic act before hosting The Daily Show, but it is more or less in this book where he recounts the tales of growing up during and after apartheid. And the stories are funny, sometimes bleak, and in turns, alarming. He tells us that because he was born out of wedlock and a “half-white”, “half-black”, he didn’t really find acceptance.

The only way he could spend time with his Swiss-national father was away from the scrutiny of the public. And because he’s light-skinned, they sometimes resorted to pretending his mother was his nanny. His world was inside the gates of their home because his grandmother feared he would get abducted. He spent most of his time alone but he claimed he was never lonely. He read a lot of books and was perfectly comfortable being in the company of himself. Language, he learned early on, was the key to hiding the fact that he didn’t belong in either white or black community. Because if he could speak a variety of languages, kids could respect him.

If you spoke to me in Zulu, I replied to you in Zulu. If you spoke to me in Tswana, I replied to you in Tswana. Maybe I didn’t look like you, but if I spoke like you, I was you.”

His mother was, by all accounts, the constant figure in his life that made him the man that he is. A woman who never lost faith in her God no matter the odds. The woman who took her kids to three churches on Sundays, whom at one point, threw Trevor off the bus, then jumped with his brother in her arms, to get away from an inevitable rape, and worst, death. She was a woman with conviction who knew what she wanted even if it meant a lifetime of ridicule and persecution because she’d “born a crime”, a half-white child whose Swiss-German father could never really own him. And amidst poverty, hardship, and violence, raised Trevor and his brother with the same dreams and hopes as any loving mother would do.

“For my mother. My first fan. Thank you for making me a man,”

he writes in his dedication. It is true that without his mother and her defiant spirit, he’d never be where he is right now. One of the biggest South African exports, a boy who grew up in small towns and one who was always looking for a place to belong.

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[616]: The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

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While I’ve been a fan of reading Romance in Regency London, there is something about this kind of London I’m not too enthused about: Evil lurking in the dark alleys, soul-sucking demons on the prowl, and a secret society tasked to stop this darkness from spreading. While that may sound enjoyable to some, I found my attention straying a number of times whilst in the cusp of this 496-page tome from Alison Goodman.

All told, I was bored. There was no sense of urgency given the severity of what was facing this exclusive club (and the world for that matter). Steampunk has never been my strong suit. And since you can taste a bit of that in this book, it added to the overwhelming feeling of ennui. The story moved in the most sluggish pace that I could tolerate. I kept hoping that there would be something great to look forward to around the bend, but everything was irritatingly flaccid and predictable. There were no valleys or peaks. Even the confrontations between Reclaimers and Deceivers fell in a resounding thud.

If you’re looking for any romance, it might be best if you look somewhere else. The characters held no personality whatsoever, and at times, the tensions between Lady Helen and Lord Carlston seemed forced. I admire the struggle that Lady Helen went through in order to make a decision on what she needed to do, but it took her forever and a day to come to a conclusion. Her waffling didn’t help any either.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m so glad I don’t live in that time when I’m expected to be subversive, mild-mannered and dependent on the menfolk. I probably would’ve ended up in the dungeon if it were the case.

REASONS TO READ THE DARK DAYS CLUB

  • If you’re a fan of Regency London.
  • If you like reading about demons and the secret society that can defeat them.
  • If you wouldn’t mind waiting for a heroine to come into her powers (which might happen in the next book because she was sorely disappointing in this one).
  • If you like slow burn romance.
  • If you enjoy steampunk(ish) reads.

    GOODREADS SUMMARY | Viking Books for Young Readers | January 26th, 2016 | Chapters | Amazon


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