Archives for February 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Reads of 2016

Hello, my bookworm friends! I have been meaning to write this post since the beginning of January. So there is no time like the present right? I had an amazing reading year last year, I read far and wide for myself and had so much fun doing it.

So I thought I would share 10 of my favorite reading experiences from 2016:

The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack – I first heard about this book on the Book Riot channel. Something about the description caught my attention and I am so glad it did. This debut novel kept me captivated from the first to the last page.

Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin – This was a review book. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading her story as she cooked her way “around the globe”.

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington – I remember seeing Ms. Huffington talk with Oprah on one of her shows and found her quite inspiring. This book was such a fantastic read that motivated me to take better care of myself. I think I used up an entire post-it flags in this book highlighting key points.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel – It had been so long since I read any science fiction and this one came across my radar and reminded me why I love that genre. Such a unique story that kept me so captivated. The second book was released recently and I intend on reading it. I also believe a movie is slated to be made from this book.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson – Oh this is my book. I first saw Mr. Stevenson speaking with Oprah on an episode of her Super Soul Sunday and just knew I had to read his book.  I found the audiobook on my Overdrive app and downloaded it once it became available. Oh my, what an eye-opener this book was and I still can’t stop thinking about it. I feel this book is so important that I am going to buy the book to have as a reference.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – This book had a bunch of hype prior to its release because Oprah endorsed it and put it on her reading list. I was resistant because you know me, I don’t like all the hype. I caved and bought the book. However, I ended up reading it and then switching to the audiobook because one of my favorite voice talents narrated it.

Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears by Pem Chodron – I own a few of Ms. Chodron’s books but this one was new to me. I checked it out on Overdrive and found it to be very helpful and refer to some quotes from it quite often.

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race Edited by Jesmyn Ward – Wowser!! A friend of mine recommended this book and I was blown away by it. It’s a fabulous and relevant book about race that I think everyone should read. I read it on Overdrive and will be ordering it in book form so I can refer to it often. It’s really an important book.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue – An immigrant story that is quite relevant in this current state of affairs. It was a new release and I dived right in. If you get a chance to listen to the audiobook, take it. The voice talent rocks.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly – I’m pretty sure most people have heard of the movie based on the book. I included this book because it is a vital part of history that was only recently uncovered. Filled with a lot of facts it can read slowly at times but worth the journey.

Well that’s some of the great reads of last year. I have already read some pretty amazing books this year. So I will definitely have to do a wrap up at the end of this year too.

Happy reading!


Happy Monday: School vacation has come to an end.

Good morning, everyone! Right this moment while typing this post, I’m sipping one of my favorite Tea Guys tea and it’s called peppermint chocolate vanilla, a yummy Rooibos blend. The store that I normally buy it from had been out of it for a while so I was really surprised to see it there today so I snatched it up so I could have a cup today. The aroma alone makes me happy.

It’s been a while since I’ve been in blog land. We had our February vacation last week and I took the entire week off from work to hang out with my family. As many of you may know, I work out of my home office. One of the many challenges is to not blur the line between work and play so I really made an effort this time to avoid my office and my laptop computer so that I could really be present for my family. It worked and I feel very refreshed and ready to get back to my work routine. That’s not to say that I’m happy vacation has ended because I really had a good time.

We had a staycation which included watching movies together at home and having friends come over for hanging out. We visited a new comic book store and even slept over my in-laws’ home for a few nights where we played games and of course ate her delicious food. One day, we took a drive and spent the day hanging out at Dave and Busters playing games and eating yummy burgers and fries. We took the boys and my in-laws to go to the movie theater to see the movie Hidden Figures which was a great activity for celebrating BHM with the kids. They learned quite a bit from the movie. You know me so I also had to make time to sit and have reading time with the boys. and we all read our books and comics. We took a ride to go and visit the new Apple store that opened near us.

I was so thrilled yesterday when both of my boys told me they had a great week.  This is very important to me because my goal was a relaxing week sprinkled with fun activities and I think we were successful.  The weather was so amazing for much of the vacation and on three of the days it was warm enough to be without a coat and our neighbor’s kids came over and played outside with the boys while Leao and I caught up on the local happenings with our neighbors.

I also managed to do a bit of reading and tried to wrap up some of the books and the things that I wanted to read during Black History Month. I didn’t finish them all so I will just read the remaining books throughout the year as normal. I do have a few book reviews from last month that I haven’t had the chance to post.  So you should be on the lookout for those reviews.

Spring is in the air, and with that, my mind just begins filling with ideas of home-improvement projects and garden planning. Stay tuned for more on that.

This week, I’ll get back onto a regular posting schedule, as well as, my regular work schedule first. I hope you were all well this past week and look forward to meeting up with you again here this week. Have a blessed day!


Belinda’s Book Nook Review: Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Title: Here Comes the Sun
Author: Nicole Dennis-Benn
Copyright: June 2, 2016
Genre: fiction
Format: book and audiobook Pages: 352

I have read so many books lately, particularly in the month of January and am very much behind sharing my thoughts on them. So in an effort to play catch up. I will be posting some reviews rather close together.   I read and listened to the audiobook edition of this book in January.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Nicole Dennis-Benn pens a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas. At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. Taught as a girl to trade her sexuality for survival, Margot is ruthlessly determined to shield Thandi from the same fate. When plans for a new hotel threaten their village, Margot sees not only an opportunity for her own financial independence but also perhaps a chance to admit a shocking secret: her forbidden love for another woman. As they face the impending destruction of their community, each woman fighting to balance the burdens she shoulders with the freedom she craves must confront long-hidden scars. From a much-heralded new writer, Here Comes the Sun offers a dramatic glimpse into a vibrant, passionate world most outsiders see simply as paradise.

My Thoughts:

This story is about a family in Jamaica the mother whose name is Dolores sells Jamaican keepsakes to tourists to raise money for her youngest daughter to go to college. Margo is the oldest daughter who works at a hotel and her sister’s name is Thandi. Margo is 15 years older than Thandi so she’s almost like another parent to her.

Throughout the book, issues of color are raised – the praise of lighter skin and dislike for darker skin. This is not a unique phenomenon to Jamaica. I went to Jamaica twice, and both times I do remember observing the distinct color difference in the work environments. Just as the book illustrated, the light skin people tend to hold the hospitality positions that are upfront with the tourists, as well as the more prominent jobs. While the darker skin people tend to occupy more of the labor intense jobs such as chambermaids and menial jobs.

As an African-American living in the United States, I am always curious to explore the experience of black people in other countries. One commonality is that residuals of slavery and colonization seem to have affected the psyche of the black people all over the world in very similar ways. Slavery may have ended in many places but the damage to the collective psyche remains and this book demonstrates the effects in Jamaica. When I read on page 21, how Thandi wanted to lighten her skin because she believes it will present more opportunities for her and make her “beautiful” I felt really sad. Because I believe that this is a reality for many people today. In the absence of mainstream validation and representation, some sadly fall into this state of mind.

When I completed the book, I was left wonder about the future of the three women in the story. I wonder what will happen to Margo as she goes on with her life? I wonder what will happen with Thandi now that all is been revealed? I wonder what will happen to their mother?  There is no explicit ending stated. However, after time away from the story, I am ok with that. It seems more a reflection of reality than a neat and tidy ending.

Another topic of this book is homophobia in Jamaica and how people are treated in that country. The author of this book is a lesbian and left Jamaica to live a better life than she would have if she had stayed there. So I feel she could put a very authentic spin to this story based on her own experience. It was very challenging to read how the homosexuals were treated in this story.

The book does a really good job of showing how poverty can lead to so much desperation. This isn’t a feel-good book about Jamaica and how it’s such a paradise. It shows a reality for many of the people that live in this country.  When tourists go to vacation there and look at that water all they see is beauty and the enjoyment of swimming in the beautiful water. While this book presents an alternate perspective of how a poor person living on this island may view the water surrounding them as trapping them from going elsewhere. It’s a totally different way of looking at the water. So in that sense, this paradise can turn into a prison.

As I’ve said I’ve been there twice now and after reading this book, I will be more mindful of my choices and interactions with the people during future visits there and as other countries.

It’s important to read books like this to give you a broader view of what life as a black person can be like on an island.  I definitely will give this book 4 1/2 butterflies and I look forward to more books from this author. Below I included a bit of information about the author and a link to her website.

About the Author:

Photograph by Jason Berger

Dennis-Benn has an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and has been awarded fellowships from MacDowell Colony, Hedgebrook, Lambda, Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Hurston/Wright, and Sewanee Writers’ Conference.

Her writing has been awarded a Richard and Julie Logsdon Fiction Prize, and two of her stories have been nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize in Fiction.

Dennis-Benn was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. She lives with her wife in Brooklyn, New York.

Read more about Nicole at her website.



Happy Reading!


Happy Monday – Trying to Keep the Ship Afloat!

Hello, everyone! How are you all doing? I apologize for my absence but this past week was a whirlwind.  Last Sunday, my team won the Superbowl and I was so excited and ready to celebrate. I had so many deadlines and things to do last week and bam – a major snow storm hit simultaneously with my oldest son, getting sick and then it’s been downhill since then. The photo above was taken during our first storm and we have had a lot of snow since. We have had three snow days (including today) which I secretly love. But then Leao got sick on Friday and now I am pretty sure my hands will fall off because of all the washing I have been doing to avoid going down with the ship.  You know moms can’t get sick so I am doing my best to stay ahead of this stuff.

Despite the sickness, we have been having fun. We read African American poetry, watched a great movie called “The Watson’s Go to Birmingham” which is based on a best-selling book of the same name that touched on race relations in this country and we watched the NAACP image awards on television together. So despite the occasional cabin fever, we have been able to celebrate Black History Month together.

I will cut this short because I have to get to work but I wanted to connect and wish you a blessed day!



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