POVone: The First Person Perspective

Rants and Reviews on Novels Written in the First Person Point of View

Book Review: God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

Author: Toni Morrison
Title: God Help the Child
Genre: Literary
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Random House
Number of Pages: 192
Narrator: Sweetness, Bride, Etc.
Quality Rating: 80.52

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

What’s It About?

Sweetness is a light-skinned black woman married to a light-skinned black man. They’re so light-skinned that they can pass as whites, and they live in such a time that it is beneficial to do so. Everything is going perfectly in their relationship until Sweetness gives birth to a baby girl who has extremely dark skin. Embarrassed, her husband leaves her to raise the girl on her own.

As the little girl grows, she feels the constant contempt of her mother. When she is six years old, she falsely accuses a woman of child molestation and sends her to prison for fifteen years–simply because she wants to gain her mother’s approval. The moment she reaches adulthood, Bride–as she comes to call herself–abruptly leaves the mother by whom she’s always felt scorned.

As an adult, Bride has become incredibly successful as an entrepreneur in the beauty industry. She is in a serious relationship with a man whose past demons make it difficult for him to commit. When the man suddenly leaves her, Bride begins to investigate how her mother’s abuse has shaped her own disposition in life. As the story unfolds, child abuse is explored in a myriad of ways through the lens of several characters.

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy the prior work of Toni Morrison, this book–though set in the modern day–carries her signature style. The story is about racism–but not really about racism. It’s really about child abuse, and Sweetness’s contempt for the color of her daughter’s skin is just one of many examples in the novel of how children are exploited, abused, and ruined by the adults they trust. If this topic is important to you, you would probably find this book very helpful in understanding the impact abuse has on children as they claw their way into adulthood.

Links and References

Author Information: Wikipedia, The Toni Morrison Society

Book Reviews: New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian, LA Times

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Toni Morrison: Paradise (1997), Beloved (1987), The Bluest Eye (1970)

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Book Review: Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbo

Author: Jo Nesbo
Title: Blood on Snow
Genre: Suspense
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Knopf (Random House)
Number of Pages: 224
Narrator: Olav
Quality Rating: 68.34

Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbo

What’s It About?

Olav is a “fixer.” He works on commission for a wealthy man who gives him assignments that he carries out with precision. Olav has no family and no connections. He is a ghost…and that’s what makes him the perfect contract killer.

Despite killing people for a living, Olav has somewhat of a soft spot. He expresses pity toward some and indifference toward others. When his boss offers him a large sum of money to kill his adulterous wife, he at first thinks it’s going to be just like any other job.

While preparing for the execution, Olav watches his boss’s wife and is drawn to her. Then, he discovers they her “lover” is more of an oppressor. The man is raping her. She keeps quiet, he assumes, because he has information on her that she doesn’t want her husband to know. Instead of killing the boss’s wife, Olav decides to kill the man exploiting her.

When Olav tells his boss about what he did, he discovers the man isn’t just any man. He is someone important. Suddenly, Olav and his boss’s wife find themselves on the run. As he eludes people who are trying to kill him and falls in love with the woman whose life he’s spared, Olav must use all of his cunning to survive while he gets to the bottom of a conspiracy he’s been drawn into.

Should You Read It?

I haven’t read other books by Jo Nesbo, but I’ve heard this one is quite different. The narrator is somewhat of a mentally disturbed and semi-psychotic individual. He is driven by an ambivalence toward human life that manifests itself in many philosophical musings throughout the development of the story. The tone reminded me a lot of Normal, with the crazy narrator being a contract killer rather than a serial killer. While there is much introspection, there are also several interesting plot twists. So, if you enjoy a good thriller with somewhat of a philosophical bent, you might appreciate this story.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Interview with NPR

Book Reviews: Boston GlobeThe Guardian, Paste Magazine

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Jo Nesbo: The Son (2014), Phantom (2011), The Leopard (2009), The Snowman (2007)

Book Review: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Author: Stacey Lee
Title: Under a Painted Sky
Genre: Young Adult; Historical; Literary
Publication Date: March 17, 2015
Publisher: GP Putnam’s Sons (Random House)
Number of Pages: 384
Narrator: Samantha

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

What’s It About?

Samantha is the sixteen year old daughter of a Chinese immigrant living in mid-19th century Missouri. Trained in the violin, she has dreams of becoming a musician in an era that frowns upon female musicians and in a land that frowns upon non-white foreigners. Her father, with whom she is very close, has plans to move them out west to explore new possibilities in a land with less settlement and–as a result–less discrimination.

Then, in one moment, Samantha loses everything. She returns home one day to find the building in which she lived engulfed in flames–and her father trapped inside. Upon losing her father, her landlord takes pity on her and gives her a place to stay at his hotel. But what first appears to be pity soon shows itself as something else entirely.

Shortly after arriving at the hotel, Samantha is confronted by her landlord and told that she is responsible for the debt incurred by the loss of the building that had apparently burned due to her father’s negligence. To work off her debts, he informs her that he will be taking her in as a prostitute but, first, he needs to “test out the goods.” When he attempts to rape her, Samantha kills him.

Knowing she is sure to be put to death for the deed, Samantha goes on the run out west with a black slave girl from the hotel. To avoid suspicion, they disguise themselves as men heading out west in search of gold. As they journey along the Oregon Trail, they meet new friends and seek to avoid run-ins with the law as they claw their way to freedom.

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy a good young adult adventure story, you’ll love this book–particularly if you enjoy history of the American south or the American west. The author captures the racial tension of the time, as well as the early notion of the American Dream that transcended ethnic lines. The story can be likened to Huckleberry Finn–including the themes of travel, race, and companionship. If enjoy that sort of historical adventure story, I would definitely give this book a shot.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: Kirkus Reviews, Pop Goes the Reader, The Social Potato

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Stacey Lee: Under a Painted Sky is Stacey Lee’s debut novel.

Book Review: In a World Just Right by Jen Brooks

Author: Jen Brooks
Title: In a World Just Right
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Number of Pages: 432
Narrator: Jonathan Aubrey

In a World Just Right by Jen Brooks

What’s It About?

When he was a young child, Jonathan Aubrey lost his family to a plane crash in which he was the only survivor. The accident left him burned and scarred–rendering him a social outcast throughout his childhood. Now on the verge of adulthood, he has fallen in love with a girl who barely notices him. But Jonathan has a way of remedying this situation.

Ever since the crash, Jonathan has been able to create worlds. When he wants to escape the real world, he simply closes his eyes and then opens them again to a world of his own fabrication. At his pleasure, he travels back and forth between his worlds–the latest of which is a reality in which the girl of his dreams is his girlfriend…and she is deeply in love with him.

But, there’s a problem. When he creates a world that so closely mirrors the real one, his dream girl starts to notice him in real life. Suddenly, he finds himself torn between reality and the fantasy he has created. When he receives an unexpected visit from his past, he discovers that there might be a way to merge his worlds together. Or, on the other hand, he might just lose them all…

Should You Read It?

At first, the novel seems to simply be a story about a kid dealing with tragedy through escapist fantasies. But the reader quickly discovers that the “fantasy” is real, and Jonathan really does have the power to create worlds. Or, does he? This is one of those stories that leaves the reader wondering what’s real and what’s imagined. If you enjoy that sort of metaphysical ambiguity, you might find this novel interesting.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook. Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: Kirkus Reviews, YA Midnight ReadsAfterwritten

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Jen Brooks: In a World Just Right is Jen Brooks’ debut novel.

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Author: Sabaa Tahir
Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Genre: Fantasy
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill (Random House)
Number of Pages: 464
Narrators: Laia and Elias
Quality Rating: 87.98

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

What’s It About?

Laia is a “Scholar,” the oppressed class in a world divided between masters and slaves. When the remainder of her family is slain by her oppressors and her one remaining brother is taken captive, she goes out in search of the only people she believes can help–The Resistance. This ruthless band of rebels agrees to help free her brother with one condition: she must become a spy for them. Secretly working for the Resistance, Laia must become a personal servant of the most feared woman in existence–the cruel and merciless commander of the oppressive regime that slaughtered her family.

Meanwhile, Elias is graduating from the military academy to become a “Mask,” the murderous infantry of the ruling class that oppresses, exploits, harasses the slaves of the land. Elias hates the violence and despairs over the blood which will inevitably fall on his hands. Not only is he destined to become the very thing he despises, but he also has the misfortune of being the son of a mother who hates him–the commander of the army. Despite risking torture and execution, he plans to desert the empire before they can make him a muderer.

Just as he is about the leave, he is persuaded to stay by an Augur–the empire’s class of wisemen, in order to fulfill an obscure destiny. Shortly after deciding to remain, Elias and several of his classmates are selected to perform in the Trials–a prophesied and long awaited event whose victor becomes the next emperor and losers are promptly executed. As the Trials begin and Elias’s world becomes interwoven with Laia’s, both characters must fight to overcome their bleak circumstances and attain their own forms of freedom.

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy darker young adult, dystopian fantasy, you will probably love this book. It’s a lot like Red Queen and The Fire Sermon in terms of class divisions, but the divisions are less on genetic lines and more simply on political lines. Although there is a vague semblance of a love triangle, the attraction between characters is less composed of flighty romance and more composed of shared identity and purpose. The story is told in alternating narration between the two protagonists–giving the reader insight into what it’s like to be both the oppressor and the oppressed. Themes include the interplays of betrayal and friendship, slavery and freedom, cruelty and mercy, and death and survival. While classified as YA, the realities of an oppressive regime are not hidden–and the resulting tone is somewhat dismal. And, while there are certainly dystopian and fantasy elements, the writing is layered and somewhat complex–so it would also be appealing to those interested in more literary works. If this sounds appealing to you, I would definitely pick this book up.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Book Reviews: New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, Redeye Chicago

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Sabaa Tahir: An Ember in the Ashes is Sabaa Tahir’s debut novel.

Book Review: Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

Author: Claire Fuller
Title: Our Endless Numbered Days
Genre: Literary
Publication Date: March 17, 2015
Publisher: Tin House (Bloomsbury)
Number of Pages: 382
Narrator: Peggy
Amazon.com Reviewer Grade: A, Excellent; of the first 48 reviews, the average reader rating was 96.67%.

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

What’s It About?

Peggy is an eight year old girl whose mother has gone off to work in Germany. After witnessing an argument he has on the telephone, she is abruptly taken from her home out into the wilderness to live alone with her temperamental father. After a torrential storm occurs shortly after their arrival at an abandoned cottage in the woods, Peggy’s father informs her that the rest of the world has been destroyed. The two of them are the only ones alive and, just over the hill across the forest, the world melts away into nothingness.

Peggy’s father teaches her to take care of herself in the wild, at times coming to the brink of starvation. To alleviate his anxiety and boredom, Peggy’s father comes up with endless projects–from creating a makeshift piano for Peggy to rebuilding the cottage they’ve come to call home.

Over time, Peggy’s father slowly loses his mind. To escape his violent and mercurial outbursts, Peggy begins to venture off into the woods by herself. Soon, she meets another man who has been living in the forest. As she develops a relationship with this mystery man, he becomes a refuge from her father. As she grows into her late teens, Peggy’s father reaches his wit’s end–leading to a dramatic showdown between Peggy, her father, and her new secret lover.

Should You Read It?

If you like a good psychological mystery, you’ll love this story. Told through the lens of a child, the author captures the world–not as it is–but as it is seen through damaged eyes. The narrative and tone leave the reader wondering what’s real and what’s imagined–all the way up to the dramatic and cathartic conclusion. If you enjoy a good survival story, you’ll probably like this book as well–as it is set in an isolated wilderness. While the writing style creates a strong sense of mystery and movement, the themes are darkly and deeply literary. So, whether your tastes tend more toward the high brow or the nitty gritty, this story will likely appeal to you if enjoy a good tale of mystery and madness.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: The Guardian, The Socratic Salon, The Chicago Tribune

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Claire Fuller: Our Endless Numbered Days is Claire Fuller’s debut novel.

Book Review: The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman

Author: Anna Freeman
Title: The Fair Fight
Genre: Literary
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Publisher: Riverhead (Random House)
Number of Pages: 480
Narrators: Ruth, George, and Charlotte

The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman

What’s It About?

Ruth is born into a European brothel toward the end of the eighteenth century. Although relatively unnattractive, her tenacity quickly gives her another use with her benefactor–as a fighter. At a young age, she begins competing with both male and female fighters in public fights for the entertainment of eager onlookers.

Meanwhile, George is a gentleman in the more elite class, struggling to find his place in society while maintaining a relationship with his male lover. His lover’s sister, Charlotte, is the only other survivor of a family stricken by small pox.

Worlds collide when Charlotte is married to Ruth’s benefactor. Each character, in seeing the predicaments of the others, begins to see their worlds in a new light and must struggle to find their place in a world full of social expectation.

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy historical fiction, particularly that of post renaissance and pre industrial Europe, you’ll probably greatly enjoy this story. It is very much setting-driven, with rich descriptions of the era down to comments on the landscape, social structure, and forms of dialogue. Aside from that, this work has minor feminist underpinnings–with subtle commentary on female repression. While most of the story consists of dialogue and introspection, there are a few action-filled “fight” scenes. So, while there is a bit of movement, I would recommend this primarily for those who are interested in more high brow literary works.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, The Independent

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Anna Freeman: The Fair Fight is Anna Freeman’s debut novel.

Book Review: Still Waters by Ash Parsons

Author: Ash Parsons
Title: Still Waters
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Philomel (Random House)
Number of Pages: 320
Narrator: Jason

Still Waters by Ash Parsons

What’s It About?

As a senior, Jason is known by all as the tough guy from the wrong side of the tracks. He gets into a lot of fights and has a scary reputation among his peers. But, in his view, he doesn’t start trouble; he is simply very efficient at finishing it. Defending himself and his sister against the abusive tirades of his father, experience has taught him to stand and fight rather than to walk away.

Jason is a loner. He is guarded in his relationships and only has one friend that he really opens up to. So, when he is approached by the most popular kid in school with an odd proposition, he is naturally suspicious. Seeking to build his reputation for an undisclosed reason, this other boy offers to pay Jason to hang out with him. Reluctantly, Jason agrees–because the money may just give him and his sister their ticket to freedom.

As Jason begins to hang out with the popular crowd, he senses that something is off. The more time he spends with them, the more he feels like he’s being set up. As new people come into his life, he isn’t sure who he can trust. Suddenly, the lines aren’t so clear. Who will he need to fight? And who will he need to fight for?

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy the kind of young adult story that centers on a kid dealing with a bad home life, you’ll probably really love this book. For a YA novel, it was really gritty and disturbing–so it’s not for the faint of heart. The focus on a disadvantaged kid trying to make the most of the situation reminded me a lot of Where All the Light Tends to Go. There is a lot of mystery and intrigue built up throughout, leading to a dramatic conclusion. Also, there’s a good balance of introspection and fast-paced action–so it would appeal to lovers of both literary and genre works.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: Dee’s Reads, Bibliophile Gathering, Book Reviews and More by Kathy

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Ash Parsons: Still Waters is Ash Parsons’s debut novel.

Book Review: Becoming Jinn by Lori Goldstein

Author: Lori Goldstein
Title: Becoming Jinn
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Number of Pages: 384
Narrator: Azra Nadira

Becoming Jinn by Lori Goldstein

What’s It About?

Azra Nadira has just turned sixteen and, as is the custom set by the governing council of Jinn, she receives her powers as a genie. Although she begins to gain magical powers such as the abilities to teleport and conjure things into existence, she is resistant to the change because she knows it means she will eventually become a slave to another’s wishes.

Along with gaining magical powers, Azra’s sixteenth birthday blesses her instantly with stunning beauty. As such, she gains the sudden interest of the coolest guy in school. While she enjoys the new feeling of being desired, she is torn between this new love interest and that of a childhood friend. This love triangle forms much of the conflict throughout the story.

Most of the story, however, focuses on the relationship between Azra, her mother, and her mother’s Jinn friends–known to Azra as “the sisters.” This group of ladies guides Azra into understanding her powers and her place as a young woman in the world of Jinn.

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy the newer genre of young adult genie literature, you’ll probably enjoy this–as the author goes to great lengths to describe and develop the rules of the world Azra inhabits. That being said, if you’re looking for a fast-paced adventure story with lots of twists and turns, this probably isn’t for you. I would describe the story as relationship-driven rather than plot-driven. It’s more or less a teenage “chick lit” story set in a world of genies. If that sounds like it’s up your alley, I would give it a shot.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: Dark Faerie Tales, Snuggly Oranges, Fiction Fare

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Lori Goldstein: Becoming Jinn is Lori Goldstein’s debut novel.

Book Review: The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

Author: Francesca Haig
Title: The Fire Sermon
Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Date: March 10, 2015
Publisher: Gallery (Simon and Schuster)
Number of Pages: 384
Narrator: Cassandra

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

What’s It About?

Cassandra has been born into a post-apocalyptic world in which all people who procreate give birth to twins–one who is perfectly normal and another who is plagued with some sort of deformity. The parents keep the healthy offspring, called Alphas, and exile the unhealthy children, called Omegas to live in poverty and subjugation.

Omegas cannot procreate, but they do have one advantage that keeps the Alphas from getting rid of them altogether. The Omegas stay connected somehow to their Alpha counterparts such that when one twin dies, so does the other. The ruling party of the Alphas, called the Council, is on a perpetual search to understand how to exterminate Omegas without affecting their Alpha Twins.

Cassandra is an Omega–but a rare and special kind. Called a Seer, Cassandra receives premonitions about the future. Though her “deformity” gives her certain advantages, she is still cast out by the Alphas and even finds it difficult to be accepted among the Omegas. At the beginning of the novel, Cass is taken captive by her Alpha brother–who has risen to a position of influence in the Alpha Council.

After months in imprisonment , Cass finally receives the opportunity to escape. Freeing another prisoner as she flees, Cass ventures out in search of a fabled Island–in which Omegas are allowed to live in freedom and safety. As they travel from town to town, avoiding the Council, Cass and her companion begin to understand the political upheaval going on in the Council and the sinister role her brother is playing in the future of Alphas and Omegas.

Should You Read It?

If you are a fan of the post-apocalyptic dystopian genre, you will probably enjoy the book. The story takes place in the future after an alleged nuclear holocaust at some point in the distant past. In this dystopian future, people are divided into two classes–much like in the recent Red Queen. The storyline also has a genetic element–some akin to that of the movie Gattaca. The writing is straightforward, with a lot of movement and little introspection. If this sounds like an interesting read to you, I would try it out.

Links and References

Author Information: Author Page (Publisher), Goodreads, Twitter

Book Reviews: Kirkus Reviews, That’s Normal, Civilian Reader

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Francesca Haig: The Fire Sermon is Francesca Haig’s debut novel, but she has written a collection of poetry called Bodies of Water (2006).