A Song Below Water By Bethany C. Morrow: A Review

“Sirens, the say and anyone listening knows it’s a dirty word. Danger, they report and they’re talking about the danger she posed, never the danger we face.”

In her debut novel, Morrow tackles a plethora of black experiences in America such as racism, sexism, and the stigmatism of black hair, while simultaneously providing a colorful and deeply moving modern fantasy of two sisters navigating self-discovery and friendship. The story begins with the murder trial of an African American woman named Rhoda Taylor who was suspected to be a siren. Tavia, along with the rest of her family, is nervous about her safety as she sees Rhoda as herself: a black woman who is seen as a threat rather than a victim of violence. While Effie is determined to protect her sister’s secret, she too is secretly dealing with unexplainable magic of her own that is slowly threatening to reveal her true identity of which her family has prevented her from knowing since birth. Together, Tavia and Effie rely on each other more than ever as their community seeks justice for the many killings of unarmed black victims.

In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that incorporates Greek mythology, European mythology, fantasy, and American history all in one. Morrow took it upon herself to tell a very unique story that combines both mythical and supernatural creatures while weaving together real-life black experiences. She transports her readers to an unusual world with sprites and sirens, but she also adds very familiar issues. While effectively delivering an irresistible story of friendship and power, Morrow masterfully blends issues like the lack of media coverage of black female victims and the pervasiveness of racial profiling by police officers so as to educate her readers in a mild approach while still entertaining them. Her writing is powerful and the message is eternal. There were countless moments throughout this book where I was deeply moved and inspired.

“We’ve got a secret, and as far as my dad’s concerned, everything threatens to give us away.”


Along with her creative storytelling, Morrow uses alternating points of view which not only allows her readers to get a deeper insight into Tavia and Effie’s complicated issues but also highlights the world they live in, which mirrors our very own.

All in all, not only is this book timely, but I would also say it’s the first step to understanding a few important issues about black struggles for those who aren’t quite ready to dive headfirst into America’s complicated relationship with her African American citizens. It’s irresistibly compelling without shying away from the many painful truths within the black community.

Happy Reading!

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes: A Review

Framed. Bullied. Disliked. But I know I can still be the best.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In this book, Rhodes tackles the all too real pain of racial injustice, colorism, and prejudice faced by people of color in schooling systems, along with the common act of whitewashing in history. 12-years-old Donte Ellison is falsely accused by the captain of the fencing team, “King” Alan, of disrupting class by throwing a pencil at a fellow student. He is later arrested and suspended for his conduct. Though Donte is angry at the fact that no one would believe he’s innocent, instead of sulking about his situation, he seeks the help of a former fencing olympian, so as to confront his bully and the blatant racism that exists in his nearly all-white prep middle school in their own turf: fencing.

Although this book was written for a much younger audience, I am completely shocked at Rhodes’ ability to confront a very painful topic with such simplicity and grace. In addition to confronting issues like racial injustice, colorism, economic privilege, and prejudice, Rhodes mentions the fatal shooting of twelve years old Tamir Rice to also highlight police brutality against the black community, along with systemic racism and the school-to-prison pipeline. Such topics are often considered inappropriate for young children, yet Rhodes held nothing back. She uses Donte Ellison’s experiences as an example to show young readers the power in fighting for what you believe and surrounding yourself with people who will fight with you.

“Sitting, I stare at the black specks on the white linoleum. A metaphor? That’s what they’re teaching me in English. Metaphor. Except I won’t believe I’m just a black speck. I’m bigger, more than that. Though sometimes I feel like I’m swimming in whiteness. “


The other reason why I enjoyed this book immensely was the fact that Rhodes mentioned my favorite book: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. Rhodes took the opportunity to educate her young readers about General Alex Dumas and his heroic sacrifice. Like Dumas, she uses and gives voice to the many black athletes that are almost forgotten from the pages of our history.

In the end, this heartbreaking story is a must-read for anyone who would like a simpler understanding regarding the issues that have haunted the black community for centuries.

Happy reading!

Book as Refuge: What I Read During the Pandemic

“Indeed, who has a greater right to public respect than the man of color fighting for freedom after having experienced all the horrors of slavery? To equal the most celebrated warriors he need only keep in mind all the evils he has suffered.”
― Tom Reiss, the Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

I know it’s been some time since I last posted anything, and I am truly sorry for my disappearance. Towards the end of last year, work was both chaotic and stressful which led me into a massive reading slump. However, right when things started to calm down, the world stopped due to the Coronavirus. Like everyone else, I was a bit nervous and scared about this pandemic. Standing in long lines at grocery stores, being holed up at home, and receiving devastating updates from news outlets all had me craving for some kind of diversion from the unfolding crisis. And like a true bibliophile, I turned to books as my refuge during these trying times. To my amazement, I’ve read a total of five books last month! Now, I know that’s not an impressive number, but if you’re a slow reader like myself, you’ll agree that this is a colossal achievement. With that being said, here are the books that have kept me sane during this time, along with a brief review:

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory — This book was not for me. I didn’t enjoy it one bit. The plot was OK but the execution was very cliche. The characters were annoying and the romance felt cheesy and rushed. I normally don’t DNF a book — a bookish terminology which means Did Not Finish — and because I bought this book with my own money, I owed it to myself to finish reading it no matter how boring the story was.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter — This book should have been featured above as the second novel to the right but I grabbed the wrong publication for this photo. Oops. Anyway, this book was fantastic! Absolutely moving! I normally avoid any holocaust novels because I just can’t stomach the horrific truth. However, I accidentally purchased this book without reading the synopsis, thinking it was a romance novel. However, I am so glad that I obtained this amazing book! The author was inspired to write this incredible true story of a Jewish family that got separated at the start of World War II. Finding out more about what the Jewish community really went through in order to survive shocked me to my core. This book made me cry, laugh, and cry even more.

Continue reading “Book as Refuge: What I Read During the Pandemic”

If I Was Your Girl Review: Big-Hearted Novel About Being Who You Are By Meredith Russo

If I Was Your Girl Review: Big-Hearted Novel About Being Who You Are By Meredith Russo

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Eighteen-year-old Amanda Hardy is ready for a fresh start at Lambertville High School. After being severely bullied at her old school and ending up in the hospital with multiple injuries, Amanda wants nothing more but to survive her senior year and move far away from the south after graduation. However, unlike her life back in Smyrna, Georgia, Amanda is the new it-girl and is finally creating genuine friendships. Yet, she has a deep secret that she is desperately trying to keep from ruining her new life. In her old school, Amanda was known as Andrew. After meeting the cute and easygoing Grant, Amanda’s resolve is put to the test as she gets closer to him.

This book is absolutely a page-turner from the very beginning. However, what makes this publication so beautiful is that it is a fantastic work of fiction by an actual transgender author. In her debut novel, Meredith Russo perfectly communicates the experience of being a transgender teenager very clearly, while indirectly highlighting the importance of being true to oneself and maintaining a level of self-worth. I enjoyed this story so much because of what Amanda Hardy had to endure. In high school, bullying is a social norm, and Amanda—being as different as she is—makes for an easy target. Yet, it’s usually how one deals with being bullied that will either help them to push forward or lead them to fall apart. At the beginning of the story, we meet Amanda who is extremely terrified and shy, crumbling inside when she receives awkward looks or hurtful comments. But towards the end, Amanda develops the courage to be proud of who she is and refuses to apologize for choosing to live her true self.

Continue reading “If I Was Your Girl Review: Big-Hearted Novel About Being Who You Are By Meredith Russo”

Five Feet Apart Review: grab the tissues now!

Five Feet Apart Review: grab the tissues now!

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Seventeen-year-olds, Stella Grant and Will Newman are cystic fibrosis (CF) patients who meet in a hospital where they experience falling in love for the first time while dealing with the uncertainty of their future. Stella’s a rule follower and control freak who is determined to increase her lung functionality in order to be approved for a lung transplant. She is meticulous in taking her medications and treatments, efficiently. Will, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. He’s a rule breaker who is tired of medications, treatments, and drug trials, which are often unsuccessful. Since he has also contracted B. cepacia on top of having CF, Will’s goal is to travel the world and live life to the fullest until his very last breath. However, as the two get to know each other, feelings are developed and the physical barriers of remaining six feet apart are tested.

Continue reading “Five Feet Apart Review: grab the tissues now!”

This Middle-Grade Book will have you Sleeping with a Nightlight

“I would say it’s a pleasure to meet thee, Prosperity Oceanus Redding, but truly I only anticipate the delights of destroying thy happiness. . . ” –Alastor

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

12-years-old Prosperity –Prosper–, Redding is not like the rest of his famous and ambitious family members. He’s often bullied, doesn’t do well in school, and his relationship with his twin sister, Prue, is drifting even further apart. However, although his family is extremely wealthy and powerful, there’s a dark, hidden secret that is credited to the family’s fame. One of his ancestors made a deal with a demon many years ago for fame and glory in exchange for their souls. Like most contracts, the deal was broken. Now, the demon is hellbent on taking the family down. And Prosper is his first victim. 

Continue reading “This Middle-Grade Book will have you Sleeping with a Nightlight”

Circe By Madeline Miller

I had begun to know what fear was. What could make a god afraid? I knew that answer, too. A power greater than their own.” – Circe

Circe is an immortal coming of age story about Western literature’s first female witch. Similarly to her debut novel, The Songs of Achilles, Madeline Miller once again creatively explore the second major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. Miller beautifully responds to Homer’s Odyssey by retelling the encounter between the goddess of magic and wily Odysseus after the Trojan War.

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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

“There was a vividness to him, even at rest, that made death and spirits seem foolish.” —Patroclus

The Song of Achilles is a retelling of Homer’s “Iliad” which portrays the epic battle between the ancient Kingdom of Troy and Sparta. Madeline Miller, the author of this novel, creatively explores one of the most important events in Greek mythology from the perspective of an often forgettable, but equally vital, player of Achilles’ glory: Patroclus.

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The Wicked King by Holly Black

“You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring. The first lesson is to make yourself that strong. “

It’s been five months since Jude Duarte successfully secured the royal crown of Elfhame onto Prince Cardan’s head, which in turn bounded his loyalty to her for a year and a day. However, holding on to her new power and role as seneschal to the High King is proving to be difficult when Jude learns that someone close to her means to betray her and threaten the lives of everyone she loves. With the political climate of Elfhame growing increasingly dangerous, how will Jude uncover the identity of the traitor, protect those she most dearly cares for and maintain control over The Wicked King?

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Children of Blood And Bone By Tomi Adeyemi

“You crushed us to build your monarchy on the backs of our blood and bone. Your mistake wasn’t keeping us alive. It was thinking we’d never fight back.” –Zelie

Seventeen-year-old Zelie Adebola is tired of the injustices against her people. Seventeen-year-old Zelie Adebola is tired of the injustices against her people. Under the king’s rule, Majis are targeted and killed daily for merely who they are. With the help of her brother, Tzain, and an unexpected friendship with a noble girl, Zelie is determined to bring back magic to all Majis in order to fight back against all the injustices. Will Zelie be able to bring back change for her people in time or will she be killed by the king’s guard trying?

Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book was absolutely terrific and an emotional read for me. For one main reason, this is a West African fantasy novel. I think it’s safe to say there aren’t many books out there in this genre that focuses on black cultThis book was absolutely terrific, and an emotional read for me. I think it’s safe to say that there aren’t many books out there in this genre that focuses on black culture or history. Tomi Adeyemi did a fantastic job of presenting the Orisha mythology while weaving together an undeniable truth of African American struggles in a heart-wrenching story.

One of the many things Adeyemi does well is catching the emotions of her readers with her beautiful writing style. There are many parts in this book where the rawness of her description utterly wrecked me. Here’s an example:

” She hung from a tree like an ornament of death in the center of our mountain village . . .”

(P. 501)

Adeyemi doesn’t just write to tell a story—she writes to touch the soul. I cried, laughed, and screamed countless times while reading.

Also, Adeyemi brilliantly mirrors the condition of African Americans to that of the Majis people.

“We are the people who filled the King’s prisons, the people our kingdom turns into laborers. The people Orishans try to chase out of their features, outlawing our lineage . . .” (P. 27)

After magic disappears, Majis are targeted and killed. They are forced to live in poor conditions, and when they enter the “stocks,” or prison, it’s hard for them to leave. Today, African Americans are facing a similar plight, such as dealing with living restrictions due to gentrification within their communities and along with battling the statistics showing that the prison system is primarily filled with African Americans.

“Those stuck in the stocks toil endlessly, erecting palaces, building roads mining coal, and everything in between . . . It’s no more than a state-sentenced death sentence. An excuse to round up my people . . .” (P. 28)

It’s hard to overlook the significant message Adeyemi was sending to her readers. The hate that separates the people in this novel is the same hate we experience and give in reality today. I was entertained and educated. I was able to see how we perpetuate our negativity to justify survival and superiority. You’ll learn, if you haven’t already, why movements matter, why taking power back matters, why change is worth everything you have to give.

Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely! This is definitely my first five-star rating of this year! If you’re interested in rich history, power struggles, and fantasy, be sure to add Children of Blood and Bone to your reading list!