Tag Archives: Book review

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.

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?

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.

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.

A Conjuring of Light: A Review

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 star

This is the third book in Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy. Since I try not to reveal any spoilers for the entire series, this review will be short.

The book begins right where the last book left off, which was expected since that is how the first and second book transitioned as well. It was action-packed, everything from the previous books are coming together and this one took off running.

There are some character deaths, both main and secondary characters. In retrospect, I did find that the author really honed in on a lot of these characters in this book so that when their abrupt end happened, I felt emotion. But she weaves them all together beautifully, and I cared for all of the characters in the end.

The ending was messy but so good. Imperfect, but filled with hope. Not saying I would have wanted it to end in another way, but the author doesn’t tie up everything neatly, allows the characters to still have flaws at the end that affect their relationships, and I really liked the lack of a happily ever after for everyone. It worked well for this story.

Of course, I loved these books. I love this author. I love what she does with her characters. I love the fast moving plot. I love the world she created. She is one of my favorite authors, and I look forward to continuing to read her backlist as well as any future stories she may create.

There is a profanity in the book. Sexual content includes kissing and roaming hands, described genitalia and suggested oral sex, but nothing is too graphic or steamy. Violent content includes lots of death, either by sword or magic. There are also mentions and displays of familial abuse.

Come As You Are: A Review

Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski
My rating: 5 of 5 star

I really enjoyed this author’s book, Burnout, which she wrote with her sister, so I wanted to ready her other well-known book. I am so glad I did. This book was really informative and research/science based.

The chapters on body image and cultural influence were my favorite. They are vital and necessary for everyone to ready. Even though this book is directed primarily towards women, even men can benefit from the information in this book, namely those chapters.

The only critique I have of the book (which obviously didn’t affect my rating) was that she keeps referring to future chapters, and that was quite distracting. I can understand referring to past chapters but it was just confusing at the beginning.

This book is so needed. I recommend it especially to every woman in my life. In fact, I already have recommended it to a few. It is supporting, encouraging, and challenging. A definite book that will stay on my shelf for future reference.

There isn’t any profanity in the book. But there is definite sexual content since the book is about sex. There are some sexual traumas that are addressed as well, but not described in detail. She has a whole section specifically meant for those who are coming out of or have had sexual trauma in their life. So that is the closest to violent content that is there.

A Look Back and A Look Forward: Book Reviews

Looking Back

At the beginning of the year, I was doing quick recap reviews of all of the books I was reading each month. I didn’t want to put a lot of pressure on myself to read so many books in a single month in order to write a review of each book. But by June, I was back to writing out my reviews, one book at a time. I prefer that format.

Especially since I spent the majority of this month making lists of the books that I read in the last 12 months: 5 star, 4 star, and 3 star books. I know that the rating format can be very subjective, but I hope that the reviews speak for themselves and explain why the books received their ratings. I’ve tried to challenge myself to dig deeper into why I didn’t like some things about books. I’ve also learned a lot about my tastes

For example, I learned that I gravitate towards fantasy and psychology/self-help kinds of books. And I haven’t really been a fan of books written in the first person. Not sure if that’s just a coincidence or something I actually don’t like.

Looking Forward

Last year, I made a goal of reading 48 books, which I completed. This year, I’m challenging myself to read 50 books. Not knowing what this year will bring makes me slightly nervous, but I’m just going to take it one book at a time.

My 2021 Media and Reading Journal

Like this year, I’m also going to keep a handwritten journal of what I read (as well as what I’m watching). I hope this will help hold me accountable as well as hone my reviewing skills. I still plan to share reviews with you on Wednesdays, and in an effort to give myself a head start on the reviews, I’m going to review the books I read in December and continue from there.

It’s hard to make any goals or resolutions after a year like 2020, so instead of making a new goal, I plan to keep doing what I’m doing, and hopefully get better at it and learn some things in the process. That’s really what I hope for in the new year – more growth, more passion, more pursuing the things that bring me joy and letting go of the things that are no longer working. And perhaps learn a little more about myself along the way.

Silver Sparrow: A Review

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
My rating: 3.5 of 5 star

This was the pick for November for the Modern Mrs Darcy Book club. I had read her other book, An American Marriage, which I reviewed here. So, I knew what I was getting into when reading her novels.

Her books make me feel uncomfortable. They are full of very flawed characters and sad situations. But what she does well is she shows how people survive in flawed, sad situations. It’s not an optimistic worldview, but there is still some hope.

James Witherspoon is a bigamist, living in Atlanta. His first wife and daughter don’t know about his second family, but Dana Lynn and her mother know about them. It affects Dana in so many ways throughout her life. And when revelations come to light, there are no winners.

The book is divided into two parts, the first from Dana’s perspective and the second part is from the perspective of the second daughter, Chaurisse. The limitations in these perspectives really reveal the truth that we don’t know everything that is going on in another person’s life. At one point in each part, the girls talk about each other and better the other life or person, not knowing all the pain that they have gone through.

It is well-written, but very sad. I’m not sure if the book is one for me because of how frustrated I get with the characters and the situations. It’s amazing how emotionally connected and invested I get, but the end, I just get depressed. So, I really struggle to rate these books because they are amazing works of literature, but they don’t lift my spirits, so they aren’t books I would willingly gravitate towards. Still, I think they are important to read to understand people around us who may not be like us.

There is a profanity in the book. There is also sexual content. I made note when reading this that said, “Everyone has sex in this book.” But sexual content played a significant part in explaining plot and character flaws. There is also a little violence, mainly in a story that is told throughout the book about this famous, or infamous, girl who pours grits on Al Green. Other than that, there is a little pushing people, but no real serious violence. There is some mention of rape, but not violent, yet a significant plot point.

Middlegame: A Review

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 star

This book was in a Page 1 Subscription box. If you haven’t tried this subscription, I highly recommend it. They send a carefully selected book based on your reading interests, wrapped in brown paper, along with a few bookish treats. Check out my instagram (@katyslifestory) for more, as I frequently share my monthly treats.

The world in this book is based in alchemy, but even if you aren’t completely knowledgeable in alchemy, the world is so well-written that it’s hard to get lost. There are a lot of twists and turns that feel like getting lost, but everything gets revealed and explained down to layman’s terms. Outside of that, the plot is a bit difficult to explain.

Roger and Dodger are two kids, around seven years old, when they are introduced. The book follows them as they grow up on opposite sides of the country. Roger is a language prodigy and Dodger is a genius with numbers. When they are very young, they are able to talk to each other through what is described as quantum entanglement. As they grow up, they realize that they are two parts to an even bigger, more nefarious plot, which they must figure out before it is too late.

The book moves back and forth in time, specifically forward in time to one specific point which is done over and over, and each time a little more is revealed. Until finally we reach that same point towards the end of the book. McGuire expertly leads the reader through the maze of knowledge and discovery without revealing anything too early.

The characters are relatable in the loner, coming of age, kind of way. It is easy to root for them, to feel for them, to understand their loss and pain. They connect with the reader really well. Erin is also a relatable character, specifically to those who have a penchant to organize life around them.

The story is a quest, both to a specific place and to learn more about oneself and grow confident in who a person is meant to be. The plot is fast-paced, especially in the last 100 pages, which seemed to fly by as each action brought on another action until the finale. The rules in this world were interesting, and there were references to scientists and authors who used a lot of metaphor in their writings, connecting that they were all alchemists. Some Easter eggs might be lost on a reader who doesn’t know much about alchemy, but it is still a fun ride regardless.

There is a substantial amount of profanity in the book. Also, there is some sexual content, as this follows two people from about the age of 7 to almost 30 so there is sometimes sex, however not explicit or steamy. There is a significant amount of violence in this books. Trigger warnings for suicidal attempts. There is murder, horror movie style, described fear. The books opens with the words “There is so much blood.” It is a bloody book.

A Gathering Of Shadows: A Review

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 4.5 of 5 star

This review is going to be short because it is the second book of the series, and I don’t want to spoil anything if you decide to pick it up.

The book focuses on a lot of character growth, particularly with Delilah Bard. There is a pirate storyline in this book, which was really fun. Plus, the tournament in this book is used to pull all the characters together, explaining how they are all growing as characters and relating to each other. There is also a lot of processing through the outcome of the last book, and it’s used beautifully in this book as a bridge to the final book.

There are also a few more characters introduced in this storyline, Alucard takes a fairly large role in the book, though only the original three main characters – Lila, Kell, and Rhy – have the story told from their point of view. Still, the author does a beautiful job of seamlessly introducing these characters without too much of an information dump.

It is a fun second book, but was slow in some parts, mainly because I wanted to get back to plot lines I preferred, but all of the book makes an impact by the end. All the seemingly small pieces of information become big plot points by the end. I loved the ride and look forward to the last book in this series.

There is not a strong amount of profanity, but it is present. There are a few kissing scenes in the book, but nothing too graphic or steamy. There is a lot of violence. The tournament involves attacking each other with magic, but there is also murder and death and physical harm throughout the story. Nothing too descriptive, though.