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.

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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. 

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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 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!