Tag Archives: Children of virtue and vengeance

A Look Back: Four Star Books

2020 is coming to an end, and for my own curiosity, I thought I would share the books that were good books, but not quite my favorite in the last 12 months. I count December 2019 in this collection since I’m obviously not done with December 2020 yet. This is a long one, but I divided by continuing books in a series (like book 2 or 3), the first book in a series or a standalone, collections (of devotionals, poems, or essays), and nonfiction.

Continuing Books in a Series

Vengeful – the second book in the duology by Victoria Schwab. The two scientists continue to wield their powers. Other characters with their own powers are introduced. It wasn’t as good as the first book, but the story is beautifully written as a whole.

The Toll – The final book in the Neal Schusterman series. In a world where death is no longer a threat, society has created a job that culls the growing population. The series is quite the ride, and while I wasn’t crazy about the ending, it still wrapped up things well.

The Hand on the Wall – The perfect end to the murder mystery by Maureen Johnson. This is the last book of the Truly Devious series. Set in an elite private school in Vermont, Stevie has been invited to attend because of her detective skills and unique interest in a murder mystery that happened at the school during the 1930s. But after she arrives, strange things happen and there is more than one murder mystery to solve.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance – Second book in the Legacy of Orisha series by Tomi Adeyemi. Based in African mythology, magic has disappeared and those who used to wield it have been cast aside as second class citizens or worse. But when the chance to restore magic is presented to Zelie and possibly a chance to level the playing field, the threat of war hums in the air. This book especially, but the whole series, shows how prejudices can blind even the best of intentions. This particular book wasn’t as strong as the first, but it definitely seemed more like a bridge to a final book.

The Night Country – This is the second book in the Hazelwood series by Melissa Albert. 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. Not as great as the first one, but still a pretty stellar read.

The Queen of Nothing – The final book in the trilogy by Holly Black. Jude and her sister watch their parents’ murder and are whisked away to the land of fairies where they have to learn to survive. She learns about true power and true love. There is a bit of problematic aspects in her relationship with Cardan, but overall, her character transformation is well done.

A Gathering of Shadows – Second book in the Shades of Magic series by Victoria Schwab. After the events of the first book, the characters are once again connected but this time, it’s a tournament of magic. Alucard Emery is introduced as well as new revelations with the other main characters.

Standalones or First Books in a Series

The Ten Thousand Doors of January – Magical story by Alix E. Harrow about writing and books and believing in yourself. January is a young girl with an absent father and doting guardian. Her father works for her guardian, and one day she finds a door on the estate. After the door appears, she can summon it in the written word. And the adventure, and her true identity, emerge.

Parable of the Sower – One of the books I read for a book club that scared me. What a book to begin reading in 2020! Octavia Butler writes a dystopian future set in 2024 after a global climate crisis and a socioeconomic collapse. It was interesting to see how much people tried to hang on to their old lives as the world collapsed. I saw parts of this played out in real life only months later. It probably add to my anxiety.

The Bear and the Nightingale – First book in a trilogy by Katherine Arden. Set in Russia and, I believe, based on Russian myths, Vasya comes from a line of magical and crazed women, and when she starts to connect to the supernatural creatures, the whole world gets turned upside down. Good bit of violence and heavily uses 14th century Russian history which lost me at times.

All Systems Red – Science Fiction read by Martha Wells. The first part of the book was a bit slow, but it really took off in the end. The book is written through the perspective of an sentient AI robot that is acting as security for a research team. But when things go amiss, the team starts to realize that someone is sabotaging them and the robot, SecUnit, is all that stands between the success of their mission or their death.

The Space Between Us – This was a book club pick by Thrity Umrigar. 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. Really appreciated the connection of mental health and pregnancy loss.

The Gilded Wolves – First in the series by Roshani Chokshi based, I think, on Eastern mythologies, particularly Hindu practices. It is a heist book with magical realism aspects, though the characters didn’t seem as well-rounded as I would have liked. It definitely ends in a cliffhanger so it is obviously part of a series.

Blonde Roots – Really good book by Bernardine Evaristo answering the question, what if white people were the enslaved instead of black people. It changed the geography, what was defined as beautiful, and really showcased the microprejudices and how they affect day to day living.

An American Marriage – Tayari Jones is a hard author to read because I don’t agree with her characters’ choices. But the reason I am so uncomfortable really comes from the fact I never have had to make these hard choices because other opportunities were available to me. Really exemplifies privilege in many forms. Roy is imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, and his newly-wedded wife Celestial must make hard choices that will affect both their futures.

The Last Train to Key West – Historical Fiction by Chanel Cleeton that follows three women as they face a terrible hurricane in Florida during the Great Depression era. In addition to this deadly storm, each woman is also trying to navigate their own stormy lives which come together in unexpected ways. There is mention of pregnancy loss and abusive marriage in this book.

Station Eleven – Another pandemic-related apocalypse book by Emily St. John Mandel. This was a flu-type of pandemic so it was perfect for 2020. After 99% of the world’s population dies, the ones left have to learn to survive on no electricity, internet or running water. There is a traveling symphony that shares the classics of Shakespeare and others to various towns, which is quite a dangerous job since they don’t know just what they are walking into, even if they have been there before. There is a lot of loss and sadness in the book, which the author beautifully explores from different perspectives.

We Hunt the Flame – First book in a series by Hafsah Faizal. The second book is on my list to purchase. The land has become cursed, and Zafira the secret Hunter and Nasir, the Prince of Death, must come together to try to restore magic and heal their land. Another story based in culture and mythology.

Silver Sparrow – Another book by Tayari Jones (the hard author to read because I don’t agree with her characters’ choices). This book, though, explores privilege more directly. James Witherspoon is a bigamist, but his secret family is the only one that knows. First part comes from his secret daughter’s perspective and the second part is from his other daughter.

Collections

Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter – Really good collection of writings from different authors (including C.S. Lewis which drew me to the book in the first place) about Lent, Jesus, and Easter. It didn’t line up to the 40 days of Lent, but it was still a nice devotional to read during that time.

Space Struck – A collection of poems written by Paige Lewis. Lots of really incredible lines, though some of it did go over my head. Clever observations, Biblical references and chances from perspective from poem to poem

Nonfiction

The Self-Evolved Leader: Elevate Your Focus and Develop Your People In a World The Refuses to Slow Down – This book was sent to me by the author, Dave McKeown. It is well-written and easy to follow with lots of journaling and practice throughout the book. But I was not its target demographic. Still rated it pretty highly.

How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7 – Book by Joanna Faber and Julie King that was empowering, validating, and helpful, though not the only parenting book you should have on your shelf. It deals with rage and frustration (which all parents can identify with) and some tools to help.

How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Calmer, Happier Parent – This feels like a trend that I read this year, but it was different than the above parenting book in that Carla Naumburg focused directly on anger management. I felt that though this was directed towards parents, it is helpful for any relationship.

Chasing Vines: Finding Your Way to an Immensely Fruitful Life – Beth Moore’s new book that compares our life in Christ with viticulture (or growing grapes on vines). It was informative and inspiring, though not my favorite study of hers.

On Immunity: An Inoculation – Another timely read book by Eula Biss. This is a collection of thoughts about immunizations, vaccines, and being a member of a community. Fascinating history of how vaccines started, how they have evolved, and why people may be hesitant to take them. Also why it is ultimately important to take them if you are able.

What are some of your 4 star books this year?

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.

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?