Tag Archives: Book review

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.

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.

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!

My 5 Star Summer Reads

I read about 18 books this summer. I didn’t want to put all of the reviews on my blog because that would be a bit of an overkill. Plus, I have a September TBR list that will surely take up the normal review spots on my blog. But! I did read a few amazing books that I will mention today.

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. It seems like if you spend any time among fantasy book readers, you will hear about this author. I have wanted to read his books, but they are all thick and intimidating. And I didn’t know where to begin. So I began at the beginning. Since, apparently, all of his books are written in the same world, I figured I would begin with the first book he wrote. It was amazing. The characters were great. The world building was great. The plot flowed. Just amazing. I can see why so many love it. And apparently, this isn’t his strongest work, so that just excites me more. (For those of you wondering: No profanity, a little sexual content, a good bit of violence)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I don’t know if I was a closet introvert or my extroversion is something that disappeared, but I have begun to realize through this book and other conversations that I am a full blown introverted adult. And this book was so helpful in exploring all of the facets of being an introvert. I would recommend it to anyone – other introverts, people who don’t know what they are, and extroverts who are simply trying to understand the other end of the spectrum.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab. I’m going to be completely upfront and say that this is one of my top favorite authors. This was the first book she published that shockingly didn’t do well the first go round, so since she has been uber-successful since then, they re-published it. It’s about a town who has a legend about a witch that lived in their town. All the kids loved her until one of them showed up dead in her garden. That’s when she was killed. A new stranger has come to town, and children have mysteriously been disappearing. Is it the witch come back to haunt them or is it the stranger in their midst? Great story, reads like a fairy tale. (Profanity – not significant amounts, Sexual Content – only kissing, and Violent Content – one character gets shot, and other gets punched)

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum. This is one of the last reads of this summer. Story of David and Kit. David is on the spectrum, and Kit lost her dad in a car accident. It cover grief, autism, love, loss, relationships, and accepting others despite their flaws. It’s absolutely beautiful and I cried. (There is profanity, sexual content, and violent content, but it’s all fairly mild. Most of the sexual content entails some logical observations from David (that he can picture what people look like naked without having to remove their clothes, things that are inappropriate usually, but this is David processing things in his head). There is also some kissing and one of the characters cheats on another character which is processed throughout the book. The violent content involves one school fight (which is kind of awesome but I don’t want to give anything away) and of course, the car accident which has given Kit nightmares.)

I’m pretty happy with the amount of five star reads that I had this summer. I also like how varied they are (one’s a nonfiction, another a fantasy, one is more paranormal, and one is a contemporary). There are YAs and Adult fiction on the list which surprised me because I thought I would forever be magnetized to the YA section, but I’m slowly broadening my tastes and loving it.

So now that I’ve shared mine, what books have you loved this summer? Or if it’s been a slow summer or disappointing one, what was the last great book or movie that you consumed?

The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel: A Review

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my kind of parenting book. First, it gives a lot of interesting facts about the biology of our brains and how each part of our brain works together. And second, it gives some really practical advice on how to teach our children how to utilize each part of the brain together, called integration.
The one critique that I have is that some of the practicums are not as detailed or helpful as I wish they could have been. However in the back of the book, there are age specific suggestions for each of the different practical exercise has mentioned in the book.
Also at the end of each chapter, there are some suggestions for us as adults and parents or caregivers for ways to utilize this information for ourselves.
Usually in my book reviews, I mention whether or not there is profanity, sexual content, or violent content, but in this particular book it is really just information about how our brains work, the different parts of our brains, and how we can use this information to help our children become their full selves as well as being self-aware, empathetic, and have healthy relationships.
Personally, I have an 11 month old and I can get very focused on whether or not he is reaching Milestones like saying his first word or taking his first step and this book reminded me that there are so many other things that are better to focus on like becoming self-aware, decision-making, being a good friend, having empathy, and being confident in who we are as people. Having a healthy, happy baby should really be one of my top goals as a parent, and I’m thankful that this book was a great reminder for that.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: A Review

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I know I’m late to this party, but I really enjoyed this book. I’m not really a science fiction reader, but the format fascinated me.
The book is written as a collection of emails, messages, computer codes, and surveillance footage surrounding the event at Kerenza, an illegal mining outpost. There is a war between two mega-corporations and the people in this small outpost are caught in the middle. As the survivors of the attack escape, they are traveling in crippled ships, with a malfunctioning AI, and a deadly plague that is spreading. And in the middle of all this chaos are two people, Kady and Ezra.
At first, the format is a little disorienting. But once I got the hang of it, it was quite a fast read. I really loved how the authors used the space on the page to tell the story. It was more art than prose.
And there were some twists that I didn’t see coming, though there were some subtle hints when I read back through the story. It’s one of those books that once you get to the end, you want to reread it to see if you can catch the clues.

Profanity is dealt with a little differently in this book. There is some profanity but most of it is redacted. They make a comment about this at the beginning of the book. If you know the words, you can fill in the blanks.
There is sexual content, mostly in the form of lewd comments or innuendos in some of the chats.
There is a LOT of violence. Without giving any spoilers, there is just a lot of death. It is one of the themes of the story, how losing people and grieving can feel. But the violence is also quite explicit compared to what I usually read. There were some nights I would have to read something else before going to bed.

Overall, an excellent book and I plan to continue the series because I want to know what happens. Especially with all of the reveals at the end!

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green: A Review

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was really looking forward to this book, and it did not disappoint! The story revolves around this mysterious, large robot that shows up in Manhattan, New York in front of a Chipotle. Turns out that there are several of these robots all over the world. The main character, April May, gets thrust into the spotlight after she and her friend Andy make a video with one of the robots before it became big news.
Even though there is a mystery of these robots and why they are here, the real story was how April becomes internet famous and all the fallout from that experience. It was so eye-opening (and a little exposing) to me as someone who spends a lot of time on social media. It touched on the addiction to likes and comments, but it was more than that. It explored how good intentions can be twisted. It was an in-depth and honest look at a path so many people have taken online, especially in the YouTube community.
Although this is a fictional story, it does make me think twice about the amount of time I spend online and especially on social media. Which is really what makes this book awesome. It’s written in the first person from the perspective of April (except for the last chapter, but I don’t want to spoil anything).
There is a good bit of profanity in the book. A lot of use of the F word. There are some implied sex scenes, but nothing detailed. Her sexuality, as a bisexual, is a conversation throughout the book. It is even used to trap her in a debate. And there is some violence – terrorists try to attack the robots, and there is even a pretty graphic scene at the end, but April warns you that it’s coming and that you can skip it if you want.

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson: A Review

The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious, #2)

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second book in the Truly Devious series by Maureen Johnson. I read the first book towards the end of last year, so it’s not been too long between the books. However, the next book isn’t supposed to come out until next year, and this book still has questions left unanswered!
The story follows a girl named Stevie who is invited to study at a prestigious boarding school in the mountains of Vermont. The reason for her invitation was her interest in the kidnapping mystery of the founder’s wife and daughter back in the 30s. The wife’s body was found, but the daughter was never found. This intertwines in the first book with a murder mystery in the present day while Stevie is at the school.
The second book continues that plot, but it also focuses more on the 30s mystery as well. There are some questions, big questions, that are answered in this book, but some still left unanswered too. And there are new players introduced that may or may not play a bigger role in the next book.
I really enjoyed this book, maybe even more than the original book in the series. The plot seemed to move at a steady pace, and as I got to the end, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. There were so many secrets revealed and riddles solved. And the relationships between the characters really either strengthen completely or seemed to break apart.
There is some light profanity, I believe. There is one kissing scene, but nothing more explicit than that. And there is some violence. At one point someone gets beat up, and there is, of course, death and dead bodies mentioned. It is a murder mystery, after all. But the main part of the story is the solving of riddles and relationships, which is why I find the series so intriguing.
I definitely recommend the series. The next book couldn’t come soon enough!