Author Archives: Katy

A Song of Wraith and Ruin: A Review

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 star

If you enjoy mythology, competitions, and star-crossed lovers, this story has all three. Based in African mythology, the Song of Wraiths and Ruin is a beautiful story. It is written in a double POV of the two main characters on either side of the conflict. Malik is a poor Eshran boy. The Eshran people are very oppressed and abused. They aren’t even allowed sometimes to enter certain cities in the kingdom. Karina is the princess of the kingdom, but her mother who is the ruling Queen has been distant with her since Karina’s father and sister died in a fire.

Then both of their lives are turned upside down. Malik’s younger sister makes a wish that comes true, but in return she is stolen away by an ancient magic. In order to get her back, Malik must kill the princess by the end of the comet festival. While in the palace, another terrible tragedy happens, leaving Karina to make some hard choices and reveals truths about herself that change everything.

Other than the descriptive landscape the story unfolds, the strongest and most fascinating aspect of the book is the character development and transformation. Themes like realizing the power within and being stronger than one realizes. But also how grief may make you want to do terrible things but love can be strong enough to stop you from doing them. Really believing in who you are and what you are capable of no matter what odds are stacked against you.

The ending is a definite cliffhanger. The next book is supposed to come out this year, but I understand a lot has been delayed in the book world due to the pandemic. Still, I will be on the lookout for the next one in this series!

There is a profanity in the book. Sexual content is mentioned but not acted out and not graphic. There is kissing in the book. There is death in the book, death by falling, death by sword/stabbing, and there is fighting in the book. The author actually lists trigger warnings at the beginning of the book which was extremely helpful.

Silvie’s Love: A Review

Silvie’s Love created by Eugene Ashe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes you just want to watch a sweet love story. If you are looking for a simple storyline that is slightly predictable but absolutely precious, this is the movie for you.

The story takes place in 1950s Harlem (probably reaching into the 60s by the end of the film). It is a love story between a poor, but up and coming, sax player and a well-to-do girl engaged to a man from a prominent family (his father is a very successful doctor). The two have a summer fling, but as the summer comes to an end, something happens, choices are made, and the two are separated for years.

But fate brings them back together over time. Each time, life pressures will pull them apart, but no matter how hard it gets, they find each other again.

The cast is mostly made up of people of color, and while there are mentions of the civil rights movement, marches, the NAACP, and blatant bigotry, this isn’t the main focus of the story. In fact, neither of the main characters seem to have much involvement in the movement, though they have friends that are. Instead, the focus is on their own successes in their career and the way life bends at times, and how to move through it.

The costumes, the music, the carefree summer days bring a sense of romanticism that goes beyond just the love story. It was uplifting and simply beautiful. Highly recommend this if you have Amazon Prime.

There is some profanity. Kissing and sex scenes, though nothing too graphic. I don’t think there was any nudity. No violence.

Word of the Month: Charity

February is a month for love, since our culture celebrates Valentine’s Day about halfway through the month.

1 Corinthians 13 is used a lot during weddings as an example love, here are a few of my favorite verses.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:7

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:3

That last verse brings me to another word that can be used as a synonym for love, which is charity. I have been really blessed to have the opportunity to work with several charities over the years, through raising donations or volunteering my time or participating in events. While a lot of events have been placed on hold or have been done virtually this last year, I look forward to a time when I can play a more active role in the charities I love once again.

So, this month, I’m going to share three nonprofit organizations that are near to my heart. Also, let me know what charities you love and why you love them. I always feel uplifted knowing all the hard, tireless work being done to make this world and our community a better place.

8 Black Authors to Read This Month

February is Black History Month, and in recent years, I’ve been trying to intentionally share some Black authors that I have enjoyed. Last year, I mentioned a lot of these authors throughout the year, but here is a consolidated list for those looking for new authors to try this month.

Jemar Tisby – The Color of Compromise

The reason I loved this book so much was the way Tisby intertwined Black history in America with the American Christian Church. It was heartbreaking and frustrating at times, but fascinating to see fear seep into the pews of any denomination causing a more fertile ground for racism. It really helped me understand today’s issues with more context. (He also has another book that just came out in January that furthers this conversation, though I haven’t read it yet).

Ibram X. Kendi – How to Be An Antiracist

The journey that Kendi goes through in this book is both vulnerable and courageous. It teaches just how insidious and involved racism can be. It also is an encouraging reminder to give ourselves grace while still being vigilant within our own lives in seeking out the systemic and inherent racism that affects us all.

Tomi Adeyemi – Children of Blood and Bone

This YA book and her follow up book Children of Virtue and Vengeance are absolutely beautiful. Influenced by African mythology, the book follows Zelie as she tries to bring back the magic that was torn from her land, while Tzain, the son of the king, is bent on stopping her at any cost. This is an enemies to lovers story that doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending yet. I have heard that this series is being turned into a movie by Disney . The second book also indicates a third book should be coming out as well.

Angie Thomas – The Hate You Give

A contemporary YA that follows the aftermath of a shooting. Starr lives in two worlds, the private, predominantly white, school and her mostly black neighborhood. After she witnesses her best friend get shot by police, the tension of her two worlds come to a breaking point and she has hard decisions to make. This was also made into a movie in 2018.

Bernadine Ernesto – Blonde Roots

This book answers the question, what if it were black people who enslaved white people? It highlights all the ways that black people have been dehumanized both in small microaggressions like changing their name or defining beauty to bigger things like tearing them from their homes and raping them. It is eye-opening in such a unique way.

Octavia Butler – The Parable of the Sower

I read this book at the beginning of 2020, so it was more of a horror book for me than a simple science fiction. The world is collapsing, and Lauren Oya Olamina loses what little security she has when her gated neighborhood is attacked, forcing her to leave in search of a new home, if there is even a possibility for one. It is a heart-breaking look at how selfish a society can be, but also shows a glimmer of hope in how community can make all the difference.

Austin Channing Brown – I’m Still Here

I read this book in 2019. Brown’s memoir of growing up and living in America is beautiful, strong, honest, heartbreaking and encouraging. She talks about issues of race, racism, white supremacy, white fragility, and white guilt, as well as the beauty and power of Black women and Blackness as a whole. I was uncomfortable reading this book as a white woman because it felt like I was listening in on a conversation not meant for me, but one I really needed to hear.

Jacqueline Woodson – If You Come Softly

This is a timely, well-written novel. The story is about a white Jewish girl and a black boy who go to the same private school and fall in love. It’s about racial stereotypes, interracial couple stereotypes, family relationships, and how we become who we are. It was originally published in 1998 but manages to stay current. Beautiful, beautiful book.

What are some of your favorite books or series by Black authors? Are there any books you are looking forward to reading this month?

Soul: A Review

Soul directed by Pete Docter and Kemp Powers
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Absolutely beautiful Disney movie about life, death, and jazz. Joe is a part-time middle school band teacher with dreams of playing piano with some of the jazz greats. But when his opportunity finally comes, his life ends abruptly and he tries everything he can to get back to “his moment.” Mistaken for a mentor to a new soul who is not interested in going to earth, he finds a way back into the world, but accidently takes the new soul along. Hilarity and heartbreak ensue.

At first, the movie comes off a little psychedelic and woo-woo. But once 22 and Joe meet, it starts to get interesting. Lost souls versus souls that are in the zone were pretty cool. And defining passion for life versus the purpose of life was definitely beautiful.

The music is gorgeous. There are nods to black culture throughout the film, including the jazz but also the experiences at the barber shop. The twists are predictable but still beautifully laid out.

I would definitely recommend this movie. It gave me Inside Out vibes with both the illustrations and the emotion of the film. There are some slightly scary parts with death being the main topic, as well as the lost souls which were big, dark creatures. It’s a sweet film about death, but more importantly, about living life to the fullest.

No profanity. No sexual content. All of the death sequences are brief, like falling down a manhole, but nothing gruesome.

Moon Rhythms

I’m always trying to search for ways to incorporate sabbaths into my life. On Sunday, I try to stay away from the phone, particularly social media apps. But incorporating rest into my life feels counterproductive to American values. Then came 2020. We all had to stop at least a few things, and toward the end of the year, I started incorporating some very intentional rest periods each month.

Then I learned that some people use the phases of the moon to work on projects. To be fair, this is pretty woo-woo for me, but then I learned that the Hebrew calendar has lunar months. And also, we use the sun to dictate our schedules anyway so why not see if the moon cycles could be a benefit as well?

Photo by Alex Andrews on Pexels.com

I’m not following any one plan, and this is still quite new to me, but here is what I have done so far and I’m really liking it. So, each phase lasts 6-8 days on average.

  • So, from the first day of the new moon to the first quarter moon or Waxing Moon, this is my rest period. I don’t write my blog. I spend less time on social media and more time with family. I work hard during the other phases so that I can spend this time resting.

  • Then, on the first day of the first quarter moon, I start planning. I write blog outlines, plan out blog ideas, set up when I will watch certain shows, all the way through the following Full Moon (not the phase right after this one). I also work on social media posts, particularly ones that might need a little forethought like my flat lays. And, I make sure that I’m not overworking or overscheduling things in my days ahead, so I also take a look at Sam’s schedule and my home schedule to make sure I’m not overdoing it.

  • The Full Moon phase is when I really get to work. I write and finish most of my blog posts, finish up any social media pictures I may need to take, and just carry out the plan I set the phase before.

  • Finally, at the beginning of the third quarter moon or Waning Moon phase, I take some time to reflect. What worked for me? What didn’t? I make notes and will use them to plan during the next Waxing Moon phase. Sometimes I still have to write a few posts or blogs at this point due to timing, but the majority is done during the Full Moon phase, so I’m pretty much just winding down and reflecting. Then, it starts all over again with a rest period during the next New Moon.

The first time I did this, I worked hard for two weeks just to give myself the new moon phase off, but slowly my timeline has adjusted, and I’m enjoying the focused time each cycle. I especially like the fact that there is time in there just for reflection, and that there is rest between reflecting and planning so I’m not just diving into the next writing project. I don’t know how productive I will be, but I’m interested to see where these new rhythms will lead this year.

Do you have any weird rhythms that work really well for you?

Shadow and Bone: A Review

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 star

I have never read any of this author, despite all the hype I have seen over the years. But when Netflix announced that this series was getting a TV show, and everyone started to go crazy for the teaser trailer, my interest was piqued. So, I picked up the first book and I can see why this is a beloved series.

The world is very interesting. Hundreds of years ago, a part of the kingdom was covered in darkness and filled with these horrible monsters called volcra who would devour anyone who tried to cross to the other side. While some people made it across unscathed, most were hurt or killed trying to cross. This put the kingdom at a severe economic disadvantage since they couldn’t access their ports on the other side of this dark scar.

Within this kingdom are also people called Grisha who have magical abilities. These abilities fall into three categories, but mainly, the person can affect a particular element like metal or water. There are also some who can heal or kill using their powers. These grisha are treated like royalty, but really, they are servants to the king and used to protect the kingdom in various ways, especially with the wars that are waged in other countries.

Alina and Mal are orphans who were both tested to see if they were grisha at a young age. When both were found without magical abilities, they entered the military. Mal became an amazing tracker and Alina was a cartographer. But when their group attempts to cross the darkness, their ship is attacked. Only when it is found that Alina is actually a sun summoner (the only of her kind), they manage to make it back to the “coast” where they started.

Alina is then taken to live as a Grisha, leaving Mal and everything she knows behind. This story is mainly a transformation trope. Alina doesn’t believe in herself, isn’t really good at her cartography job, and then all of the sudden, she is this rare and powerful Grisha. Throughout the story, she is learning to trust herself and it’s in that trust that she becomes who she is meant to be.

This book is copyrighted back in 2012, so while it does follow a familiar formula, it was probably more groundbreaking when it first came out. Still, I think it holds the test of time, and I would recommend it to anyone who was intrigued by the Netflix trailer. Definitely worth the read.

There is no profanity in the book. Sexual content includes kissing and searching hands. Violent content includes the volka attacks and fight training. Some of the volka attacks are a little more detailed.

WandaVision: A Review

WandaVision created by Jac Schaeffer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disney+ has begun releasing their episodes of WandaVision. The first week, they released two episodes, and I assume that they will only release one episode at a time after that. I have missed the MCU in all its variety and fun, so I was really excited to watch this show.

It did not disappoint. It isn’t like anything else I’ve seen so far on in the Marvel Universe. But I’m a huge Donna Reed fan, so seeing a show in this format of a 1950s/60s sitcom was really entertaining. I loved all the silliness and catch phrases, but this isn’t a simple sitcom. Between the laugh tracks, there is something amiss in Westview.

Everything seems to be slipping clues as to what is really going on, from the commercials to the strange beekeeper scene to creepy one-liners from the supporting cast. And I feel like the show isn’t going to let on what is happening exactly any time soon, but like any good mystery, we are going to follow Wanda and Vision as they realize their broken reality and follow each secret door to the final reveal. And I’m living for every second of it.

The cast is also amazing. There were all sorts of familiar faces. Kathryn Hahn (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Bad Moms alum) is the perfect quirky neighbor, Agnes. Emma Caulfield Ford (who I loved in Buffy way back in the day) was the intimidating neighborhood leader, Dottie, in the second episode that had a very creepy scene. Teyonah Parris, from Dear White People, is the naive new friend, Geraldine (who may know more than she lets on). And Debra Jo Rupp must have felt quite at home in a period sitcom since she was from That 70s Show.

Overall, the first two episodes are entertaining, full of creepy clues, and keeps you just a little on edge all the way to the end. If you have Disney+ and you loved Marvel, I would definitely suggest checking it out. I am looking forward to the rest of the season for sure!

No profanity. Chaste kissing and romantic situations. May have some slapstick violence, but nothing detailed or graphic, at least not in the first two episodes.

Night Rhythms

As I said in my previous post, I’m a morning person, which is why my night time rhythms are so important. What I do the night before is what sets me up for a good morning. But I can’t stay up too late preparing for the next day, so the rhythms have to be concise and productive.

  • My rhythm actually starts with the kid’s bedtime routine. My husband and I each have our parts to play from bath time to the final bed time song. During the parts of the routine that my husband does, I am usually cleaning up the kitchen or the living room, or playing my piano, or getting in a chapter from one of the books I’m reading.

  • I get into pajamas, brush teeth, and get ready for the next day. This is when I lay out clothes, put my yoga mat into the closet and set up the nightstand for bedtime, including filling up all my water bottles for the next day (I find it easier to just fill up multiple water bottles to keep track of my water intake). I do one more look through social media and calendar, make any notes on a post-it for the next day which I stick on top of my phone, plug it in and place the devotional book on top.

Putting the devotional over the phone
  • Then, I grab my reading/media journal and make any notes for anything I read or watched that day. I usually do this while I’m watching or reading as well, but I look over what I wrote and make any clarifications. Then, I read at least one chapter in current read. Put on any lotion or calming sprays and go to bed. I use a sleep mask with headphones inside of it that I can play white noise or other calming sounds. I’m an extremely light sleeper and an early riser. My husband won’t be in bed for another hour or two (he is a night owl), so this usually helps me not hear him when he gets to bed.

Just like in the mornings, different events signify other events. I have a basket on my nightstand that houses only the things I need for morning or night. This includes books I’m reading for Bible Study, small group, the sprays or lotions I use, but if it can’t fit then it doesn’t belong in my routine. The only difference are the things I want to be in reach first thing in the morning (like my devotional) or last thing at night (like the current read or the eye mask). Simplifying it all really helps me not get overwhelmed with decisions and really focus on the things that are important to me.

What are some things that are a must for your night time routines or rhythms?

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue: A Review

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 star

I loved this book, like I thought I would. It is a beautiful, heart-breaking, clever story filled with intrigue and mystery with just the right touch of magic.

Addie Larue is a girl from the 1700s France who wants to escape from her mundane life on the day of her wedding to a man she doesn’t love. She makes a deal with a god of darkness who gives her immortality with a catch, no one who meets her remembers who she is after she leaves. Since both of her parents forget who she is, she is forced to strike out on her own, and there begins her adventure.

The god of darkness who she made the deal with continues to pop in and out of her life. You see, if she decides she no longer wants this immortal life of anonymity, he gets her soul. But when she enters a book store in New York City three hundred years after her deal, a man remembers who she is, and it begins a whole new exciting and heartbreaking journey.

The definitions of love, loss, death, and dying are what I am here for.

I really resonated with the character of Henry with his lack of direction and the full, big feelings he feels. I don’t get the storms he deals with, but I understood a lot of what drove his character and why he made the decisions he does. It is a beautiful depiction of mental health and depression.

If you like a little historical fiction mixed with magic and romance, this book is for you. It was a wonderful ride, one that I will definitely re-read in the future!

There is a profanity in the book. Sexual content includes kissing and sex scenes, not super graphic but definitely steamy. Violence includes stabbings, starvation, suicide attempts and of course, seeing others die around you, losing family members, etc.