Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Color of Compromise : A Review

The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn’t always like history. All those dates and lists that I had to memorize. But as I get older, I find history fascinating. How the choices of a few, or the many, affected so much of how our world is today.

Going into this book, I knew the basics of the evolution of the church. From the Catholic church to Martin Luther to King Henry and the church of England. From the Pilgrims to the Restoration Movement. But I didn’t realize how much the church impacted so many social and government decisions throughout history.

This book reads similar to a history book, though with much more narrative. It includes both significant American events as well as the evolution of both white and black churches, racism, and slavery before the Civil War. It touches on that particular war, but continues to name the complicity of both the North and South in the 20s, 30s, and 40s.

Each chapter’s introduction includes a purpose for what it will try to explain in that chapter, and the chapter’s conclusion recalls that purpose and how it was met in the chapter. While this was a little repetitive, it served as an ebb and flow to the narrative. The book ends with a chapter challenging the church and culture to take action in a variety of ways.

The author doesn’t use profanity in the book. Sexual content includes descriptions of rape used in example situations and the sexualization of black people. Violent content includes lynchings and massacres as they happened throughout our history.

I really enjoyed this broad look at our nation’s and church’s history here in America. It was eye-opening to see the connections that were made. But I really liked the fact that the book ends with hope and actionable ideas to challenge the church, to encourage us to a better future for all.

Chasing Vines: A Review

Chasing Vines by Beth Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the most recent book that came out earlier this year.  Beth Moore, on a trip with her daughters to Italy, fell in love with the vineyard country.  She continued her research into viticulture and the symbolism used in the Bible.  She challenges the thought process that producing fruit in the Bible simply means baptizing others but is more about the health of all aspects of our lives.

The pruning chapter is so needed, especially in this climate.  Even when obstacles seem to put a stop to everything, God is intimately there, working behind the scenes.  The book ends with a lot of hope, encouragement, and challenge.  Our responsibility to stay connected to The Vine in order to bear fruit in our lives.

There is no profanity or sexual content in this book.  There is a chapter about the death of her dog which I had a hard time reading.  It was quite graphic, but in the end, there was comfort and hope.

I loved the symbolism of viticulture and theology.  Wasn’t quite sure how to decide whether we were dealing with manure or pestilence in certain points in life unless it was in hindsight.  Those were the two chapters I felt the need to reread several times.  Very encouraging book!

An American Marriage: A Review

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a contemporary fiction that was pretty popular a couple of years ago.  I believe it was an Oprah book club pick.  It is set in the south, mostly between a town called Eloe in Louisiana and Atlanta, Georgia.

The story starts with Roy being convicted of something he didn’t do.  While visiting his parents, he and his newlywedded wife, Celestial, are staying at a motel where an assault happens.  The victim pins the crime on Roy, and he is convicted, sentenced to 12 years in jail.  This conviction knocks Roy off the path he thought he was headed on – the good job, the house, starting a family. 

During this time, Celestial is now the wife of a convict.  She has to navigate the stigmas as well as find some path through the next 12 years.  Their relationship suffers, and she turns to a friend, Andre, to lean on, which develops into something more.

I really didn’t like Andre’s character.  I didn’t agree with a lot of the choices that were made in this book.  They made me feel uncomfortable.  Although, I also don’t know what it’s like to be falsely accused of a crime and have my whole life turned upside down.  And having to make my relationship choices through that lens.

But I don’t know if the relationships were really the focus, but more so being true to who you are.  Celestial, at the beginning, kind of just flows with whatever everyone wants her to be, and this story really follows her transformation.  Roy also transforms through the time he was in jail.  The story was very real and raw.

There is a lot of profanity.  Sexual content includes abortions, descriptions of naked bodies, talk of rape, implications of sex, with one detailed sex scene.  The violent content includes a fight scene, implications of suicides that happen in prison, as well as the assault/rape at the beginning of the book.

Overall, it’s about two people who faced an unjust justice system.  But it was also about people who were growing up, figuring it out, and letting go to find their settled good.  My favorite part of the story was Roy and his mother’s relationship, as well as the relationships of the older generation.  Interesting read.

We Hunt the Flame: A Review

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an engaging and incredible fantasy novel set in a mythological world based on Middle Eastern traditions.  The plot was well paced, the characters were intriguing and developed well over the course of the story.  There were twists and turns that I did not expect.

The world is set in the kingdom of Arawiya.  Many years ago, there was magic in the land.  There were the Six Sisters who wielded this magic.  Then, they all went away, taking the magic with them and leaving the land cursed.  Nafira lives in the snow-cursed land of Demenhur, where the people are starving.  She manages to keep them fed by hunting in the cursed forest of the Arz.  However, she does it secretly as The Hunter because if the ruler of her state knew she was a woman, she would be forced to stop.  Women were thought to be cursed and only good for marriage.

Nasir is the crown prince, but his cruel father, the Sultan, uses him as an assassin, killing innocents along with the guilty.  He and with the general Altair are sent through the cursed forest Arz to follow The Hunter to the island of Sharr, the last known place the Six Sisters went.  The Hunter (or Nafira) has been tasked by the Silver Witch to hunt for a book called the Jawarat that is supposed to restore the land of its magic, removing the curses that plague each state.

There is technically profanity in the book, but not the words we normally use in English.  The author provides a glossary of words online when you read the book (which is incredibly helpful), and some of the words mean words in our language that are profanity.  So, take that as you will.  There is a little bit of sexual content.  There is a kissing scene and a make out scene which is pretty heavy, as well as some talk about other characters and how beautiful or attractive they are, fantasies they have, etc.  But it’s kept pretty PG.  The violent content in the book includes torture – including starvation, whipping, removal of a tongue, hot pokers, etc.  Also, one of the main characters is an assassin, so there is a fair amount of murder, talking about killing, and things like that.

The reveals, whether plot twists or new characters, keep the story going.  I love a story based on other cultures or mythologies, and this was quite a ride.  I have already added the next book to my TBR list.  I’m hoping to read it before the end of the year!

Blonde Roots: A Review

Blonde Roots by Bernadine Evaristo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book as part of Life’s Library book club.  The basic premise of the book is an answer to the question, “What if it was white people who were enslaved by black people?”.  It was incredibly provocative and fascinating.  I had heard a lot of what was referenced in the book, but to see it from this perspective was both eye-opening and heart-breaking.

The story opens on a slave, Doris, who is escaping from her master.  During her escape, she has flashbacks to her original home, her kidnapping, and the journey so far.  It wasn’t just her freedom taken from her, but her very humanity and worth.  Towards the beginning of the book, she talks about how she has to look in the mirror, list her physical attributes (all things that are beautiful in our world), and convince herself that she is beautiful.

The book is divided into three “books” or parts.  The second book is written from the slave owner’s perspective in a series of letters to the reader, as well as small narratives in between to give context.  A lot of the techniques used in the book to justify slavery and the removal of the slaves humanity were familiar references to how slavery in America was justified and how slaves were scientifically removed of their humanity.

There was profanity throughout the book.  Sexual content included talks of rape, the parts of the body that were beautiful, and talking about slaves like animals, thus treated that way.  There is also violent content that included murders, beatings, and lynchings which were pretty detailed. What is really fascinating in this book is how all the characters find connection to each other in the end.  The book leaves you with a sense of hope, but not a perfect world envisioned at the beginning of the book.  Ultimately, no one really wins, which is truly heartbreaking.  But you feel for the characters, as flawed but incredibly resilient human beings just trying to make their lives better.  Definitely a good read, with the caveat of the heavy subject matter.

What I Read In May

Whereas April was a great reading month, where I felt like I was devouring book after book, May sort of slowed down. I still managed to read four books, so I’m not in a slump. I just learned what I like and don’t like in my books, honing my tastes even more.

Here are the books.

How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Calmer, Happier Parent. I read this right after “How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen” and I think they work pretty well together. This book focused more on anger management in parenting, how normal it really is and ways to prevent it. Of course, it also talked about how to deal with the aftermath when you do lose it with your kids, because it’s going to happen, but it did it in a nonjudgmental way. Carla Naumburg has a social worker’s background, which really drives the book. Also, as you can probably guess in the title, this book has a bit of profanity. I think most of the chapter titles included some form of a cuss word. However, if language bothers you, I urge you to look past it because this book has so many great points and tips on how to interact pretty much in any relationship. I realize that this is technically a parenting book, but it felt more like an anger management book that used parenting in its examples. Definitely a recommendation.

Journey to the Center of the Earth. This was my first Jules Verne book, which was a book I read for the Life’s Library book club. And I did not like it one bit. I can see why Verne is such a lauded author. He seamlessly interweaves real science with fantasy. In this particular book, it’s geology and mineralogy that are highlighted, but it really goes into the details of these sciences. I just wasn’t interested in the long paragraphs about gems and rocks and the tools that are used. Also, the narrator (the nephew of the professor who goes on the journey with him) is really dramatic and whiny. While I think it is meant to actually create drama and intrigue, I found myself just rolling my eyes a lot. I see value in the book, see why others might like it, especially if they find those sciences fascinating, but it was not for me.

Lovely War. Julie Berry tricked me. This was the May book for the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club, so it wouldn’t have been I honestly would have sought on my own. And when I realized it started with a conversation between Greek gods which transforms into a story of four people during WW1, I thought it would be slightly interesting (because I am a fan of mythology). Hazel and James are the first couple introduced and their pining love story was really sugary sweet for me. Little did I know, I was being lulled into feeling safe, like this was one of those sweet historical fiction romances with a little drama and action on the side. And then, bam! After meeting the other couple (Aubrey and Collette), the story roller-coasters me into racial injustices and death and loss and pain and mental health issues when I least expected it. By this point, I’m invested in these characters to the point that I literally threw the book down towards the end, disbelieving where Berry was taking me. It is so good, worth every page, even the sweet romantic ones. Usually I award 5 stars if the author makes me cry, but this author managed to pull a plethora of emotions out of me. If I could give more stars, I would. Big recommendation!

The Gilded Wolves. I bought this book last year because I loved the cover. I’ve never really bought a book for that reason, but it also was hyped at the time by booktubers I followed, so I thought why not? Roshani Chokshi pulls from various beliefs and mythologies to create a world set in the 1800s where people have “Forged” powers, the ability to create things from other things, whether with matter or the mind. Basically, the plot is a heist. The main characters all come from different backgrounds with different abilities (some can forge, others do not), and they are a part of the heist for different reasons. It was very Oceans 11 in that respect. I’m not actually a fan of the heist plot, but the book has other merits. Each chapter comes from a different perspective and the book ends on major cliffhangers. I definitely want to read the next one but only because I am curious how relationships will be repaired or completely broken. If you like a good heist book, this is definitely one for you!

Those are all of the books I read in May. Of course, this next month I’m going to be reading different books and sharing book reviews a bit more like I used to share them, one at a time. But that’s a discussion for next month. Happy reading!

What books have you read lately, or what books should I have on my next TBR?

Still Listening

Due to the climate in our country, I don’t feel like I can do what I normally do on the first Wednesday of the month and talk about what I read last month. I will move that blog post to next week. There are so many really great resources being shared right now that help describe and explain that Black experience in America, white supremacy, and systemic racism. One link that was passed around on Facebook and other social media sites was this list of various articles, books, and documentaries which is a great start.

Last year, I read two of the books that are being suggested (one of which is on the above list). I’ve already shared my thoughts on these books, so I will link those reviews here.

The first is I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown.

The second book I read last year was White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. I didn’t write a review for this book on my blog because I was taking a break at the time. I did, however, write a review on GoodReads which I will link here.

Both of these books are excellent. There are also some really good Black Fiction writers that I would recommend if nonfiction isn’t your genre. Tomi Adeyemi has written two books in her series, the first being Children of Blood and Bone which is based on African mythology. There is also The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and her second book (not a series but set in the same world), On The Come Up. And finally, If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson, which I read with the Life’s Library book club. It’s not her most recent or most famous piece, but it is really good. Her backlist is definitely on my TBR list.

Whatever you decide, I hope you enjoy a fresh perspective on the world. Diversity brings creativity and beauty to the written word. It can help us grow in empathy and understanding, prodding us on to action.

April Books

Well, it finally happened. I knew it was going to happen, and it finally did. I forgot what day it was. So, this book review of the books I read in April is going up a day late. And I’m okay with that.

And I somehow read 5 books this month, which was back up to the average I was reading at the beginning of this year. I think it is a sign that I’m finding my rhythm in this new normal (my husband says not to call it a new normal because it is temporary, but aren’t all new normals temporary to some extent?).

So here are the books I read in April (plus a few more):

Born in Fire by Nora Roberts – This was my first foray into the romance genre. I didn’t really enjoy it as a romance book, though I did like the sweeping descriptions of Ireland, its people, and some of the other relationships in the book. This book was written in the 90s and it has some very dated ideas about relationships and romance, especially in the “me too” era. I can see why she is an excellent writer, and I will try the romance genre again at some point, but this book wasn’t really for me. 3 stars.

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar (not pictured above) – This was the April book for the Modern Mrs Darcy book club. It was a heartbreaking, but the relationships were fascinating. There are also a lot of triggers – rape, abuse – both verbal and physical, abortion and loss. It is set in Bombay and follows the lives of two women in different classes, and the limitations and freedoms they find in their lives. 4 stars.

The Night Country by Melissa Albert – This is the second book in the Hazelwood series. This series has been either loved or hated by readers. I enjoy the story which is based on a series of dark fairy tales. It follows a girl named Alice who, in this book, is really trying to figure out who she is and what sacrifices she is willing to make to save the ones she loves. 4 Stars.

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black – The final book of the Folk of the Air trilogy. I was really hesitant to read this book because there have been a lot of people in my circles who did not enjoy it. But I actually liked it better than the other two. In this finale, Black closes all the loose ends and completes the arc that transforms the main character, Jude. It addresses themes of power and love in beautiful ways. 4 Stars.

How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King (not pictured above) – Since I’ve been on lockdown with a toddler these last couple of months, I should find it no surprise that I’ve started gravitating towards my parenting books again. This book is divided into two parts. The first part covers various tools and the second part uses these tools in common situations. I wouldn’t say it’s the only book a parent would need, but it is definitely a great resource when you feel like you have run out of options (or tools) in parenting. 4 Stars.

I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe. If you want to know what I will be reading in May, be sure to follow me on Instagram at katyslifestory!

What did you read in April? Let me know in the comments!

March Books

So, the last two months, I’ve been reading 4 to 5 books a month on average, but this month, I barely read 3 books, and two of those books I started at the end of February.

I think that’s indicative of how much has changed in just four(ish) weeks. As I was trying to figure out why my reading amount had gone down, I realized some of the differences this social distancing due to COVID-19 has brought to my life.

  1. Because my son no longer has outside activities, I no longer have that time to read, or really doing anything like write my blog, clean my house, plan meals, work out, etc. So, I have to pick and choose what I want to do during his nap times, or my early morning time or right before bed time.
  2. All of the “free” time I just mentioned is subject to change. Sometimes my son sleeps longer, sometimes he doesn’t. So, I make a list as quickly as I can and chip away at it throughout the week. Reading tends to be pushed to the bottom of the list or left off completely.
  3. And finally, the reason reading is such a low priority is that I simply don’t have the mental energy for it right now. There are bursts of time that I will read a lot, but the bursts are getting farther apart. It requires turning off the anxiety and the to-do lists that are constantly running in my head lately. Fiction seems to be a better fit for me at this time. Nonfiction can’t seem to keep my brain from wandering to a to-do list.

Now, overall, I’m doing okay, and I did manage to enjoy three books this month. Here they are:

All Systems Red by Martha Wells – This was the Life’s Library book club pick. I don’t usually read science fiction, especially set in space or dealing with half-human robots. The first half of the book (which was only 8 chapters) was a bit slow as it tried to build the world, history, and politics. But the second half of the book was amazing and well worth trudging through the first half. It follows a SecUnit who is assigned as security for a research team on an unknown planet. Several unexplained glitches happen and the team starts to realize that there may be someone or something trying to sabotage their mission. It was really good. I will definitely lend it to some of my science fiction friends who may not have read it yet.

The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson – Excellent ending to this murder mystery trilogy. There were so many reveals, even at the beginning of the book. And so many plot twists. I got so invested with these characters that I was even mad at Stevie at one point because I just wanted to shake her for some of the assumptions and decisions based on those assumptions that she was making. Which, to me, indicates a good book. Highly recommend this trilogy.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi – So, this is the second book in her series based on African mythology. As always, I don’t want to give any spoilers, but this book definitely gave me that typical second movie in a trilogy feel. It had a lot of war, a lot of politics, and a lot of information about the world. And it ended on an excellent cliffhanger. I did struggle in this book as well with a desire to throttle characters who made prideful decisions that could have avoided certain outcomes. Of course, pride does that, but it was done so well in this book. Looking forward to the next one!

I learned a lot about myself through my reading experience this month, or lack thereof. I think I will be focusing this next month on more of my preferred genre, since we are living in strange times. Thankfully, I have a few on my shelf I haven’t read yet. Here’s hoping to a better reading life in my new rhythm in April!

Have you noticed a change to your reading life in this social distancing world? What books have you read lately? Do you have a preferred genre?

February Books

My February TBR

So this was the stack of books I set out to read in the month of February. I actually read more than just these books, and I didn’t completely finish the stack. However, I knew I would be reading at least a few of these into March. Here’s how the reading month went.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.  This was a Life’s Library book club pick, and I knew nothing about it going into it.  I had never read anything by this author before, but I knew that she was very respected and lots of people enjoyed her writing.  I liked this book, but it gave me nightmares.  It’s a dystopian novel set in 2024 (the book was written in 1993).  It felt like our society would only have to take a couple of steps in the wrong direction to end up on the pages of this book.  It’s a heavy book, full of violence, sexual assault, promiscuity, and language.  But it will stretch you in much needed ways.

Followers by Megan Angelo.  I think I found out about this book either by Instagram or my local library’s website.  I believe this is a debut novel.  It is also a kind of dystopian future, but I didn’t feel as deep into this story as I did with the Parable of the Sower.  It follows two characters, Orla and Floss, in present day who are roommates chasing after fame and all the promises of being famous and then jumps every other chapter about forty years into the future after a big event called The Spill suddenly made people distrust the government and putting any of their information online (this reveal didn’t feel realistic, which it doesn’t have to, but it took me out of the story a bit).  In the future, we follow Marlow who lives in a town that is watched by millions of people (like a Truman Show type of town) and she begins to question the life that has been written for her by the powers that be.  All of the book centers around this idea of fame and the cost it takes to get it.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski.  I loved this book.  I heard about it on a podcast, and I’m so glad I picked it up.  It addresses stress, the science behind it, and how we can survive it.  It is directed to women and the stressors that most women face (including the patriarchy and the bikini industrial complex).  Everything was fascinating and challenging, and I felt like the authors really tried to take on this subject as clearly and with as much data as they could.  It’s definitely one that I will re-read at some point.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow.  The book for the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club. This was such a sweet story of fantasy and imagination.  January Scaller lives with a rich bachelor while her father hunts for priceless treasures all over the world.  One day, she manages to open a door into another world, but when she tells her guardian about this experience, she is locked away and convinced that she needs to put away such childish fantasies.  But these doors keep coming back into her life, and with a door comes change, she just has to have the courage to step through them.  Reminded me a bit of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern.

Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life by Anne Bogel.  This is the third book I have read by this author, and I was able to be a part of the launch team for this book (which let me read the book before it came out).  Anne is the kind of writer that makes you feel like you are chatting with a friend over coffee when you read her books.  The kind of friend who does excellent research on a topic that she can’t wait to share with you.  I made so many notes with this book, great points to remember and incorporate into my life.  Highly recommend!

Rhythms of Renewal: Trading Stress and Anxiety for a Life of Peace and Purpose by Rebekah Lyons.  This was a book recommended on Instagram by some other authors I follow.  I had been wanting a book about stress coming from a Christian perspective.  But I think I was expecting something a little different than what I read in this book.  I thought I was going to get more of “when this happens, it’s good to remember this” kind of language, but the book seemed to be a list of self-care options that worked for the author throughout her life.  Things that may help others.  I think I preferred Burnout because there was more science of why things work which is what my brain really likes.  It was still a good book, and the last couple of chapters raised my overall rating, but it wouldn’t be the first book I would recommend about stress or even Christian self-help.

I am currently reading Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi and The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson, both continuations of their series. So far, I’m enjoying them as expected, one being a book based on African mythology and the other a murder mystery (this is the book it will all be revealed!). Both are YA, and I will be sharing my March TBR (with these books included) on my Instagram, so check out that sneak peek there!

Did you enjoy any books in February? What’s next in your reading life?