Author Archives: Katy

The Fifth Season: A Review

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 4 of 5 star

Last year, in 2020, N.K. Jemisin showed up on my radar with her book “The City We Became” which was a big hit among some of the readers I follow online. But before I read that book, I wanted to read something off of her backlist first. So, this is why I picked up The Fifth Season trilogy.

I’ve only read the first book, but so far I am hooked. To be honest, I wasn’t quite hooked until after 100 pages. There is a bit of a learning curve with this book. It is a science fiction that is based in geology and seismology. The world keeps have these cataclysmic events that set everyone back to a more primitive time. If they prepare for it well enough, then they or their children might survive the dark years when the dust from volcanos cover the entire earth.

Not only does it have a vocabulary learning curve, but it’s a book that throws its reader into the middle of the story. There are different types of people in this world. Stills, who are just normal, every day people. Orogenes (or the derogatory name Rogga) who can create, quell, or monitor the earth’s movements and volcanos by using the energy and heat around them. This makes them dangerous to stills because that energy and heat could come from them, leaving them dead. Finally, we have the Guardians, a strange group of people who care for, train, and monitor the Orogenes.

The story follows three women (whose connection is revealed toward the end of the book). Damaya is a young girl whose powers have gotten the attention of the Fulcrum (a training facility for Orogenes). When a child shows orogene abilities, there is fear in the community. Some parents or community members can kill the child, though they are encouraged to contact the Fulcrum and have the child removed and trained. Damaya’s point of view is one who is new to the Fulcrum and to training.

Syenite is an orogene Fulcrum member who has been attached to a mentor, Alabaster. Not only does Alabaster continue her training, but they are also supposed to breed together. It really exemplifies the animal type treatment that these people receive.

Finally, Essun (her story is written in the second person which was jarring at first since each chapter basically changed POV) is a middle aged woman who is an orogene but hides her abilities. She lives in a small town with her husband and two kids. Her kids are both orogenes, but she hides that fact as well, until one day she comes home to find her son murdered and her husband and daughter disappeared. She knows that her husband killed her son and kidnapped her daughter, possibly not knowing that her daughter was also an orogene, which means she is in danger. Essun sets out on a quest to find her daughter.

It touches on dehumanization in a hierarchal society, something that evolved over time through each of the cataclysmic events (called seasons). In addition to all of the story and character development, there is also the mystery of these huge obelisks in the sky and the stone eaters, something that will probably be revealed and discussed in the following two books.

The book is excellent. There was no real information dump. The reader is just dropped into the middle of everything and must patiently pay attention to the details in order to catch up. But it is well worth it. Looking forward to the next books.

There is a profanity in the book. Sex is used for the purpose of breeding, especially among orogenes, further dehumanizing them. There are some hints to child abuse. Also there are multiple sex scenes, some described in detail, but I wouldn’t say they were steamy. There is also a lot of death. The son of Essun is very young when he is killed. There are stabbings, death by losing the heat in your body, mentions of cannibalism and turning to stone. This book is heartbreaking. I originally thought it was YA, but after reading it, it definitely felt more of an adult genre book.

Canvas: A Review

Canvas directed by Frank E. Abney III
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a nine minute short film on Netflix about love and loss and art. It is beautifully illustrated and for all ages.

None of the characters have names, but it opens with a 2-D animation of a painter in front of his canvas, painting the perspective of a woman sitting against a tree. But as she turns around, the painter wakes up in a 3-D animated world. He is alone. His granddaughter comes to visit. She is a little of an artist herself and sets out to create her own drawings while visiting him. But she comes across a place that has been shut off, and once she opens that door, it gives the painter an renewed opportunity to open his heart once again.

It’s gorgeous and sweet. It’s emotional, and the music adds to that emotion. Highly recommend this precious little film for everyone and anyone who enjoys a story of love, loss, and finding love once again.

No profanity. One chaste kiss. There is a death implied, but there is nothing too heavy in this short film.

Charity: Alzheimer’s Association

As I wrote about last week, this month I am sharing some of my favorite nonprofit organizations that I have had a personal connection to. Since this is the month of love, I thought talking about the charities I loved fit into this month perfectly.

We have been participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Disease since 2010. I saw a commercial while watching a show on Hulu which is how I found out about this organization. My father-in-law had, at that point, been diagnosed with dementia and I knew from my own family experience the long road ahead for my husband. I thought getting involved in an event like this over the years could give him some support and encouragement to know that he wasn’t alone in his experience.

Our first Walk experience

But the Alzheimer’s Association is more than just a walk on a (hopefully) sunny day in the fall. They provide information and support for families and caretakers walking this journey with their loved ones. They lobby government officials for policy and budget lines dedicated to finding both treatment and a cure for this disease.

They host other events throughout the year that provide people with education, even entertainment. One year, they hosted a viewing of Still Alice, a film based on the 2007 novel by Lisa Genova, about a linguistics professor who contracts the disease and how she and her family journey through her inevitable decline. It included a small Q&A at the end of the movie by the organization about new policies and research happening at that time.

But, for the most part, the biggest event for us is the Walk. We have been all over the DFW metroplex for the Walks over the years. Last year, because of COVID, we did a virtual walk, using the app created by the Alzheimer’s Association that included testimonies at different points in the walk and other information and encouragement. It was a creative way to make last year special despite having to be apart.

This year, we are planning on continuing the tradition of participating in the Walk. We will be fundraising more as we get closer to the end of the year and building our team in the meantime. We are so thankful for this organization who has provided such encouragement and support for our family as well as many other families in our community.

If you are interested in participating in the walk this year or getting involved with this organization, please visit them at alz.org.

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.