REVIEW #80 | WHAT WE DEVOUR by Linsey Miller (ARC)

*I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

What We Devour is a YA dark fantasy standalone that follows Lorena, a young girl who holds a secret close to her heart. When she makes a deal with the Crown Prince to help him in researching a special Door that just barely holds back murderous gods known as Viles in exchange for human sacrifices, she will be stretched to her limits. Not only does she have to help with the Crown Prince Alistair’s research, but she is also tasked with finding information to prove Will’s (her partner Julian’s father) innocence when he is arrested for treason. However, the further Lorena goes with either task, the more she learns that neither is what they appear to be.

I’ve been following Linsey Miller ever since her first book, Mask of Shadows, came out, and I’ve been floored with her work every time. Requesting an ARC for her most recent book seemed the logical next step, and I was ecstatic when I saw it come in the mail. My whole time spent reading it was a thrill, and I was simultaneously heartbroken and blown away when I finished reading it. It’s been days, and I’m still in a bit of a bookish hangover.

I’d like to say that I try not to have any preconceived notions going in, but I’d be lying. What We Devour was one of my most anticipated reads for this year, and it absolutely destroyed the (admittedly, quite high) expectations I held for it. The commentary surrounding asexuality and capitalism was superb, and it truly was one of the book’s strengths. The characters? *chef’s kiss* I loved seeing everyone’s interactions with one another, especially Lorena and Alistair. Everything just clicked into place for me, and it was an absolutely amazing experience.

This is also coming from someone who doesn’t read a ton (if any?) dark fantasy! I didn’t think I was going to like that aspect so much just because the genre never seemed to be something that I would be interested in. I’m very glad that Linsey proved me wrong. ☺️

Just. This whole reading experience was me screaming about…basically everything? The writing really set the tone; the plot (while it seemed to be placed on the back burner at times) was exciting; the characters??? are everything I could ever ask for and more???; the world-building needed a bit of thought and was absolutely captivating; and the THEMES, oh my goodness. The themes (and the characters, tbh) is where this book really shines.

To put it simply, the writing was all around very good. It did a wonderful time setting (and keeping) the tone of the book — it was dark and tense and it had me flying through the pages as fast as possible. To me, the gore wasn’t all that bad (YMMV, however — it is a dark fantasy novel based partially around sacrifice, after all), but the writing really shines with character’s emotions, especially Lorena’s since we’re in her headspace for the whole novel.

I thought the 1st person POV did a great job of centering in on how Lorena starts off in the beginning of the book as a girl who already knows of the horrors the world and those in power can bring and then shifting to the morally grey protagonist we see at the end. Not only that, but the reader gets to see firsthand her dilemmas regarding her feelings toward both Alistair and Julian, as well as Will. Seeing her struggle with how she feels about the three of them was very intriguing to read through, and there are no easy answers.

Throughout the book, there’s a constant stream of darkness. It’s bleak, all the cards are stacked against Lorena and the others, nothing seems like it will work out. But through it all, there always seems to be this undercurrent of hope, no matter how weak. The characters are constantly up against roadblocks, but there’s always this feeling that at the end of it all, our dear protagonist and her friends will come out on top, even if it isn’t exactly the way we want them to. And this bit did a wonderful job at making me root for not only Lorena, but the side characters such as Basil and Mac (and yes, even Carlow). There is always this feeling of, “The world can be — and needs to be — different. And we’ll help get it there.” and it made the story not as dark as it could have been, which I personally enjoyed.

In terms of the more technical aspects, I found it very easy to read. While the world-building was a bit much at first — requiring me to sit with a few sections and think on them sometimes — it didn’t make for anything particularly rigorous, and in fact, I had a bit of fun with it. There are some time-jumps that, to me, seem to come out of nowhere and a few awkwardly-ending chapters, but that didn’t take away from my personal enjoyment whatsoever. I also wish we had more time with the world-building — it seemed a bit crunched in at times — but I’ll get to that later on in the review.

Overall, I thought that the writing made for a dark and tense reading experience, which I very much enjoyed. It drove the plot along, and it made me anxious to see what would happen next.

Like I said earlier, What We Devour follows Lorena when she, as a deal to prove her partner’s father’s innocence, agrees to help the Crown Prince Alistair with his research that involves the Door, the entry to the world beyond that holds powerful gods known as the Vile (those who destroy) and the Noble (those who create). However, she has her own secret: she is a dualwrought. Being dualwrought means having both a vilewright (the ability to destroy in exchange for sacrifices) and a noblewright (the ability to create in exchange for sacrifices). Dualwroughts are extremely rare — the only other known dualwrought is the queen of Cynlira, Alistair’s mother.

Not only does Lorena have to worry about the Door, as it needs an increasing amount of human sacrifices to stay closed recently, but she also has to find a way to prove Will’s innocence when he is charged with treason. Both of these, however, become more and more challenging because nothing is as it seems. Lorena will have to not only work with her newfound allies to find a solution, but also with Alistair, the symbol of everything Lorena hates in Cynlira.

I fucking loved this story, y’all. Like I said earlier, it seemed to take the back burner at times in order for us to connect with the characters, but it was still magnificent in the way that it circles back around to encompass said characters. Whether it’s the moral questions surrounding the Door or the questions surrounding Will, Lorena, and what family means, I thought the plot gives the reader a good foundation to explore the themes that pop up throughout the book. If you’re into stories about anti-capitalists attempting to take down the systems that oppress them, I think you’d really vibe with What We Devour.

I will say that it seems to take a bit for the ball to start rolling in the beginning, but when it does…be ready. When it picks up, it picks up quickly, but it didn’t feel rushed to me. The ending and resolution could seem a bit too open-ended for some, but I thought it was a perfect ending for the story: very rarely do things end with a neat bow on top, and it can be messy and complex — all you can do sometimes is weather it.

I have so many favorite scenes, but I’m adamant in keeping this review spoiler free. In the meantime, just know that I was on the edge of my seat for the last third or so of the book — there were so many memorable scenes and character development (regression?) that had me doing a lil excited dance in my chair (or bed, depending on where I was reading, lol).

I will say, though, that while I enjoyed the plot immensely, the characters are what really sold me on What We Devour. Let me tell you…Linsey Miller knows how to create some real interesting characters.

…Where do I even start with the characters, y’all? Lorena was simply amazing. Starting right out of the gate, she is a brave and outspoken girl who isn’t afraid to point out other characters’ bullshit. She is manipulative, and lying is her safeguard. Her relationships with the other characters were so interesting to get into (especially Alistair! omg!), but what really intrigued me was her relationship with her wrights. I don’t want to go into too much detail to avoid spoilers, but compared to other noblewrought and vilewrought, she treats her wrights in a much different way. I loved seeing the dichotomy between how Lorena communicates with her wrights and how Alistair does. It was very interesting to see, and I think it gives just a bit more depth to who they both are as people.

I really liked seeing Lorena’s development (regression?) throughout the novel. She isn’t afraid of doing what she thinks she must in order to protect Cynlira as a whole, which usually means doing some pretty gruesome things. At the end of the day, though, I still rooted for her. For years, the nobility class sat back and ignored the anguish and break-backing labor the lower class has put in for the hopes of scraps because, simply, they think they can have their cake and eat it. They force the masses into grueling work so they can reap the benefits for themselves and throw people away when they become just a bit too loud in their protests. I suppose Lorena isn’t a likable character in the traditional sense, but I loved her regardless.

And Alistair…just. My goodness. He respects Lorena and the other wroughts that are working with him, and he isn’t afraid of being corrected by them, which is miles better than how many of the noble people treat “regular” folks throughout Cynlira. It was charming to see.

However, it still had a bittersweet bite to it: he respects Lorena and the others as far as he sees their use and value. He likes them because they’re as invested in the research about the Door as he is, but beyond that…he is still the vilewrought Prince. If they were just regular joe blow on the street, he wouldn’t think twice about them. He is still a bloodthirsty person who won’t stop to get what he wants. To see Lorena struggle with this side-by-side with her budding feelings (platonic, romantic, or otherwise) had me eating this book up.

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget the side characters! They were all delightful; I just wish we could see them more. Creek and Carlow — a noblewrought and a vilewrought who have also been cursed by a Noble and Vile respectively — were fun to read, especially when they were together. Basil was adorable, and I would protect them with my life, no questions asked. The three of them working for/with Alistair on the Door was an interesting dynamic I wish we got to see more of, honestly. Let’s be real, though, these characters could be reading the back of a cereal box, and I would lap it up because I simply love them that much.

Julian, Lorena’s friend, and his father Will were characters that I just loved to hate. They’re the kinds of people that we all know, the ones who make it seem like they care about everyone, when they truly only care about themselves and maybe closest to them. In truth, they would let the whole burn if they were able to live, even if they have to do exactly what their oppressors have done to them.

All of the characters really shined (yes, even the characters the reader is supposed to hate — they shined in being the most annoying characters ever), but I think what really intrigued me was the world-building.

What We Devour takes place in a country called Cynlira, where the rich thrive and everyone else is left to the wolves. Or, in this case, the Door, the gate between the mortal world and the world in which Vile and Noble exist. The Door must be given human sacrifices in order to satiate it. Otherwise, it risks opening and thrusting the Noble and Vile upon the nation. Recently, the Door has become increasingly insatiable, needing more and more sacrifices more frequently to stay closed.

There are people throughout Cynlira known as noblewrought and vilewrought — people who can do certain types of magic thanks to having parts of the Noble and Vile gods. Some folks also have the ability to be both, a dualwrought. However, many of them do not have the freedom they wish for — most wrought are found and forced over to the Crown in order to be bound to some nobleman so they can do their dirty work magic and nothing else.

I will be straightforward in saying that the world-building can be A Lot when first starting out. It can be confusing, and I had to re-read passages sometimes in order to fully understand what was being conveyed. However, I will also say that this may be the first book where I was excited to learn more about the world. I was actively looking forward to when the characters discuss more about the Door and the Vile/Noble. The noblewrights, vilewrights, noblewroughts, and vilewroughts. Dualwroughts.

Outside of the characters, this is why I wish there was a sequel planned. Or, better yet, that it was going to be part of a 12-book series where I could get lost in the world and characters. I always had this craving for more. If someone had to twist my arm and ask what I thought the weakest part of the book is, it probably would be the world-building simply because I never felt like I got the full picture. Functionally, yes, I did get enough that I understood what was going on, but damn, I wish I could’ve gotten a whole encyclopedia to pick through. A whole Cynlira: A History to read. That would’ve really topped the cake and make this book a step above the “absolutely phenomenal” it already was.

In all honesty, even though I just said the world-building is probably the weakest thing about What We Devour, it was still plenty enjoyable for me, and it kept me captivated throughout my whole reading experience. And ya know what? You wanna know what really made this book shoot up to my top 3 favs of the year? Ya ready for this? It’s the themes. The themes, oh my goodness, y’all. You’re not ready for the themes.

Let me just say that if I still have any brain cells left after I’m finished with grad school, the first thing I’m doing is writing an academic-level essay on the themes in this here book, y’all. I just. What We Devour has it all: the harsh realities of capitalism! asexuality and how many ace folks constantly have to “prove” ourselves! the moral dilemma of how far is too far if you’re trying to tear down the existing system and build something new! and more!

Excuse me as I scream because the way these were all executed throughout the book was…so good. The anti-capitalism themes were immediately apparent throughout every strand of the story. The exploration of asexuality and acephobia through Lorena and her relationship with Julian was very validating to read and absorb. Seeing an ace character so damn confident in their identity right off the bat was something I didn’t know I needed until I saw it in action, and it was amazing to see.

The discussion surrounding how far is “too far” when creating a new society was interesting for me because I’m constantly thinking about what we could do in our current society, how we could tear shit down to create something better. Is there a limit to what we should or should not do in order to create a just world? Are there needed sacrifices, or are all sacrifices unjustified? Who gets to choose these things? It was compelling to think about, at the very least.

So, yeah, if you couldn’t tell already, I really enjoyed What We Devour. If you’re into dark fantasy, anti-capitalist themes, ace girls who will stop at nothing to save the proletariat and watch the rich suffer, monster gods….well, you’re in for a treat with this one. While the plot can be subtle and the world-building a bit confusing, I feel like the characters and themes definitely make up for it. I just can’t put into words how much I love this book, y’all.

I can’t exactly end this review by saying “be ace, do crimes, eat the rich”….except I totally can, it’s my review.

Be ace, do crimes, eat the rich.

✨✨✨

SO. This is set up a lot different than my previous reviews, huh? I have CW and the Quiet Pond to blame for that (except not really blame because it helped a lot!). They have a blog post chock-full of review prompts that have really helped me flesh this review out! Here is the post in question, and this is their Ko-fi page if, like me, you’ve found this post super, super helpful. I just wanted to give credit where credit is due!

(Also, lemme know how you like the new set-up, please? I think I’m gonna tweak a few things going forward, but I’m always open to hearing new ideas!)

  • Death
  • Mention of cannibalism
  • Blood and gore
  • Self-harm for magical purposes
  • Human sacrifice
  • Acephobia (moderate amount)
  • Ace girl MC
  • Wlw SCs
  • Non-binary SC
  • Side characters of color

Title: What We Devour

Author: Linsey Miller

Pub. Date: 6 July 2021

Genre: Dark Fantasy

About (via StoryGraph):

“Undertaker Lorena is comfortable in her quiet life. She knows what her future holds, anonymity and a marriage to her best friend Julian. But when the notorious Crown Prince Alistair arrives at her doorstep with an arrest warrant for Julian’s father, her life changes in an instant.

“The Prince immediately recognizes that Lorena is powerful and whisks her away to the capital in exchange for Julian’s father’s freedom. With Alistair she learns more about her power, as well as the danger facing the entire country.

“As a rebellion between the rich and powerful and the poor and downtrodden erupts, Lorena becomes less sure of her loyalties. Should she trust the boy she thought she loved and the world she thought she knew? Or should her faith lie with the boy she barely knows who has everything to lose?”

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WRAP UP #17 | (a very late) Quarterly Wrap-Up: January — March 2021

Quarterly Wrap Up: January to March

Hey, all! Sorry for uh….basically falling off the face of the Earth. I just haven’t been in the mood to blog, and I didn’t want to force it. Ergo, blog hiatus. I can’t say I’ll be all that regular with my posting, but I will post when I feel like it, so maybe that’ll mean the quality of my work will increase since I won’t feel pressured to do so. ☺️

Anyway, on to the subject of this here post: a wrap-up! I’ve decided to try out a new way to do my wrap-ups: instead of doing one monthly, I figured I’d try out doing one quarterly. I’m not sure how it’ll go or if y’all will like it, but I wanted to try something new! So, without further ado, here’s what I’ve been up to the first three months of the year ☺️

Books Read

January

I’m really happy with my reading in January! I was able to read 8 books, which honestly, is my monthly goal if I had to have any. And I only DNF’d one of them!

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?: Police Violence and Resistance in the United States — Maya Schenwar, Alana Yu-Ian Price, and Joe Macaré | 5⭐️ | Review | I was so happy this was my first read of the year: while I already knew a lot of what was talked about, I still learned a great bit of information, too.

Eragon — Christopher Paolini | 1⭐️ | Review | Lol, I knew this whole thing was a train wreck going in, and yet. I did not think it could possibly worse, and it did, time and time again. Only three more books to go, I guess?

Such a Fun Age — Kiley Reid | 4⭐️ | StoryGraph Review | I really loved this one! I didn’t know anything about it, but I snagged it when I noticed it was available on Libby. The social commentary was great, but I wasn’t ready for all the fatphobia (internalized and otherwise). It was pretty rough. Either way, though, I still thought it was a great book!

Mornings in Jenin — Susan Abulhawa | 5⭐️ | Review | I don’t know what to say except this book wreaked me, my god. Nothing else (so far) can compare.

Pages I Never Wrote — Marco Donati | 2⭐️ | StoryGraph Review | This book…really wasn’t for me, which stinks because the MC and LI were actually pretty cute together! (Let’s also forget about the “there will be a review on my blog soon!” Statement because that’s around when I went on hiatus accidentally, lol)

Dowry of Blood — S.T. Gibson | 5⭐️ | Review | So I got an eARC of this, and HOLY SHIT it was so, so good. If you’re wanting some gothic horror with a splash of bi polyam characters, I cannot recommend this enough!

A Woman Is No Man — Etaf Rum | 2⭐️ | StoryGraph Review | I owned this book for a few years, and I finally got around to reading it. I…really wasn’t impressed (and I ultimately ended up DNFing). Just wasn’t a fan at all, so I pretty quickly put it down and refused to read on.

Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them — Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers | 3.5⭐️ | StoryGraph | Meh, it was alright. I’m glad the students were able to find a community in the classroom, but being bludgeoned with “tolerance for EVERYONE” almost every essay was tedious. Also, it was kinda hard sometimes to discern the different voices — they all pretty much sounded the same.

February

I go from being super happy about January’s reading to bombing in February, lol. I think I was in a really bad reading slump, though, so it’s a miracle that I was able to get these three books done, tbh.

Haikyuu!! (Vol. 1) — Haruichi Furudate | 5⭐️ | StoryGraph | I’m so glad that I finally succumbed to peer pressure and got on the hype train for this series! I absolutely fell in love with all the characters, and I can’t wait to see where the story will take me (if I can ever grab the second volume from a library 😭)

Nimona — Noelle Stevenson | 5⭐️ | StoryGraph Review | This was a library loan that was super quick and fun to read! I enjoyed all the hijinks Nimona and Blackheart got into, and I really wasn’t anticipating that ending. Definitely bitter sweet, and I can’t wait to read Noelle Stevenson’s other work.

Uzumaki (Vol. 1) — Junji Ito | 4⭐️ | StoryGraph | This was my first work by Junji Ito, and I really enjoyed it! It was freaky and spooky and everything that I wanted in a weird horror manga.

March

And we’re back at it with 8 books this month! Granted, two are manga and one is a book I DNF’d, but I’m still counting them, lol.

Uzumaki (Vol. 2) — Junji Ito | 4⭐️ | StoryGraph | This one was just as good as the first one, if not a bit spookier.

Uzumaki (Vol. 3) — Junji Ito | 3⭐️ | StoryGraph | Meh, for all the build-up in the first two volumes, this conclusion let me down. It just got…kinda weird, and not in a good way. That ending was really out of left-field, too, and I wasn’t a huge fan.

Jade City — Fonda Lee | 5⭐️ | StoryGraph | I really wasn’t prepared for how much I was going to love this book. Just…y’all. If you haven’t picked it up already, believe the hype and go read it. It’s amazing.

Gender Mosaic: Beyond the Myth of the Male and Female Brain — Daphna Joel and Luba Vikhanski | 3⭐️ | StoryGraph Review | This book was just kinda…eh. I already knew most of what the authors proposed, and even with them stating that gender, sex, and “male”/“female” brains are not strict binaries, they still basically upheld them. It was incredibly frustrating.

Dragon Pearl — Yoon Ha Lee | 3.5⭐️ | StoryGraph Review | While the pacing was a bit funky, I still enjoyed myself a ton and would recommend it!

The Never Tilting World — Rin Chupeco | 5⭐️ | StoryGraph Review | This was the March/April read for the Celestial Book Club and while everyone else…really didn’t like it lol, I ended up enjoying myself a ton!

Kill the Farm Boy — Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne | DNF | StoryGraph | The sarcasm and satire were just too on the nose for me, and it got annoying real quick. I didn’t even last 20 pages, lol.

My Dark Vanessa — Kate Elizabeth Russell | 5⭐️ | StoryGraph | Oof, this was so hard to read. It was heart-breaking and had me gritting my teeth, but it was such a good exploration of the different ways people accept or deny victimhood. But please take head of the trigger/content warnings, there’s some real heavy shit involved. But wow, what a way to end the month.

VIDEO GAMES PLAYED

January

Unfortunately, I didn’t play anything this month 😭

February

February was yet another month of video game disappointment, lol.

March

…There really was no video game playing in the first three months of the year, huh, lmao.

TV SHOWS AND MOVIES WATCHED

January

I didn’t watch anything for January, either :/

February

Let’s just say I didn’t really do much in February.

March

😦

BOOKISH CREATOR SHOUT-OUTS

January

I may not have watched or played anything, but I did watch quite a bit of BookTube! (…we’ll just ignore the fact that I didn’t read many book blog posts 😅). This month we have:

February

I didn’t even watch or read bookish content this month, what was I doing? 😭

March

I didn’t read many posts, but I did watch a few videos that I really enjoyed!

And there you have it, y’all! While I haven’t been around blogging much this year (yet), I have been reading quite a bit and (trying) to find time for my other hobbies, lol.

What has everyone been up to so far? What sort of books are you loving or hating? Let me know!

Kait | sixcrowsbooks

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REVIEW #79 | A DOWRY OF BLOOD by S.T. Gibson (eARC)

Review: "A Dowry of Blood" by S.T. Gibson
Review: “A Dowry of Blood” by S.T. Gibson
A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson
A Dowry of Blood – S.T. Gibson

Title: A Dowry of Blood

Author: S.T. Gibson

Series or Standalone?: Standalone

Pub. Date: 31 January 2021

Synopsis (via StoryGraph):

A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.

With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • fantasy/supernatural violence
  • blood
  • gore
  • incest (mention)
  • emotional and psychological abuse
  • physical abuse (minor)
  • character death
  • self-harm
  • depressive symptoms

Representation:

  • bisexual MCs
  • m/f/f/m relationship (but let’s be real…the f/f/m relationship is better)

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5/5 stars

*I received an eARC in exchange for an honest review*

This is my second gothic horror novel — and my first S.T. Gibson book — and let me tell you, it won’t be my last for either of those things!

A Dowry of Blood follows a young woman renamed Constanta, who is turned into a vampire by an unnamed man (but who the reader understands to be Dracula), throughout centuries as she lives and travels with said sire. The story is told as a series of letters/diary entries written by Constanta to the lord who created her after the events have occurred.

So I’ve never read a Dracula re-telling (or anything related to Dracula, tbh), mostly because I wasn’t a huge fan of Dracula when I first read it. However, when I saw that A Dowry of Blood was a polyam book centered around the vampire partners of Dracula, I decided that I had to request an ARC from the publisher. And uhh I loved it. It was so good, omg.

The characters! Are amazing! Constanta is a wonderful narrator, and it was really interesting to see her development throughout the story. Her relationship with the other partners, Magdalena and Alexi, was amazing, and I loved seeing the subtle differences in how Constanta interacts with the two of them and vice versa.

At this point, I do want to point out that while the relationship between Constanta, Magdalena, and Alexi isn’t abusive, their relationship with Dracula is. Amongst other things, A Dowry of Blood is a study of an emotionally and psychologically abusive relationship (at some points, it is physically abusive, but it isn’t graphic or often). It starts from the moment Constanta is turned and it doesn’t stop until the (very tense, very “grips you and never lets go”) climax. I thought the exploration was done wonderfully, with extra care given since the subject matter is sensitive. But if the depiction of an abusive relationship can be triggering for you, it’d probably be a good idea to keep that in mind if you make the decision to read this.

With that being said, though, the writing was gorgeous. It’s dark and loving and amazing all at the same time, and I know that seems overwhelming to some people but I swear it makes sense when you read it, lol. It’s just…so pretty. So good. It was very easy to read, especially once Magdalena and Alexi get introduced. And that climax? I know I mentioned it before, but that was probably one of the best climaxes (and build up to said climax) I’ve ever read. I even had to put the book down for a time because I was getting so worried over the trio.

I just had such a wonderful reading experience with this book, and if it sounds like something you’d be interested in (even if it’s outside your reading comfort zone, like it was for me!), I would highly recommend it. I can’t wait to see what S.T. Gibson does next!

Kait | sixcrowsbooks
Kait | sixcrowsbooks

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REVIEW #78 | MORNINGS IN JENIN by Susan Abulhawa

Review: "Mornings in Jenin" by Susan Abulhawa
“Mornings in Jenin” review
Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa
Mornings in Jenin – Susan Abulhawa

Title: Mornings in Jenin

Author: Susan Abulhawa

Series or Standalone?: Standalone

Pub. Date: March 2006

Synopsis (via StoryGraph):

Forcibly removed from the ancient village of Ein Hod by the newly formed state of Israel in 1948, the Abulhejas are moved into the Jenin refugee camp. There, exiled from his beloved olive groves, the family patriarch languishes of a broken heart, his eldest son fathers a family and falls victim to an Israeli bullet, and his grandchildren struggle against tragedy toward freedom, peace, and home. This is the Palestinian story, told as never before, through four generations of a single family.

The very precariousness of existence in the camps quickens life itself. Amal, the patriarch’s bright granddaughter, feels this with certainty when she discovers the joys of young friendship and first love and especially when she loses her adored father, who read to her daily as a young girl in the quiet of the early dawn. Through Amal we get the stories of her twin brothers, one who is kidnapped by an Israeli soldier and raised Jewish; the other who sacrifices everything for the Palestinian cause. Amal’s own dramatic story threads between the major Palestinian-Israeli clashes of three decades; it is one of love and loss, of childhood, marriage, and parenthood, and finally of the need to share her history with her daughter, to preserve the greatest love she has.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • child abuse
  • war
  • bombing
  • kidnapping
  • death (both human and animal)
  • child sexual assault/rape (inferred)
  • execution
  • trauma (and the effects of it)
  • torture
  • sexual content
  • ableism (including internalized ableism)
  • genocide

Representation:

  • Palestinian cast (MCs and SCs)
  • Jewish SC/MC

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5/5 stars

Everyone go thank Jia for rec’ing this book for as long as I’ve known her. She’s the entire reason I even knew about this book’s existence. And because of that, she’s also the reason I’ve cried so much within the past two weeks (for book-related reasons, obviously, lol).

Mornings in Jenin follows four generations of a Palestinian family, from the time of Al Nakba to after 9/11. Center stage through most of is Amal and her older brother Yousef as they grow up in a refugee camp in Jenin, as well as beyond, and deal with the trauma thrust upon them from such a life.

So, I want to be super upfront about this book: it doesn’t pull any punches. While there are happy moments throughout the book, it’s meant to pull at your heartstrings, and it’s an extremely emotional read. Please take care to read the trigger/content warnings, especially if war, genocide, trauma, and the effects of such things could potentially trigger you.

With that being said, however, I loved this book. It is very much character-focused: while Abdulhama uses the Israeli occupation of Palestine as a backdrop, the story centers around Amal and her family as they live through this tumultuous and traumatic time. The reader is thrust into their lives and experience what they experience alongside them. The writing very much helps with this — the purple prose is both beautiful and heart-breaking at the same time, especially when it comes to the tragedies that befall the characters. The reader connects with them quickly, and just as quickly it seems that something happens to them that break’s their heart.

Along with that, the narrative switches between the past and the present. This might put some readers off from reading Mornings in Jenin because it could be confusing for some folks, but I thought it worked very well. I liked how it flowed between the different times and characters. I’m not sure if I can put into words how it worked, only that it did. If that makes sense?

I also want to point out that even though tragedy and trauma are a constant in this book, I don’t think the book would be considered trauma porn. What happens to the characters isn’t purely for the emotional effect it has on the reader, but instead, it has a purpose. It’s supposed to show the atrocities of war and occupation, very particularly when it concerns the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the subsequent attempt of pushing Palestinians out of their own country. The book is supposed to humanize a community that has been simultaneously dehumanized and ignored for so long, to show that in the face of oppression, loving one’s family, one’s culture, one’s country is an act of resistance when the oppressors want to eradicate you and pretend you don’t exist for their own gain.

If you’re into sad books, but still aren’t convinced enough to try this one out (assuming the reasons are outside any triggering content, of course)? Let me just say that this book made me cry within the first fifteen pages, and it is now the book that has made me cried the most while reading it. I wasn’t really keeping track, but it was at least five, lol.

So yeah, if you want a book that has the potential to make you super emotional and pull at your heartstrings — especially when you think about how many of the events throughout the book are based on events that actually happened (or described exactly events that happened) — and one that encompasses a family story four generations in the making, I’d give Mornings in Jenin a shot. It may become a new favorite like it did with me!

Kait | sixcrowsbooks

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2021 Reading Journal | General Spreads

2021 Reading Journal: General Spreads
2021 Reading Journal: General Spreads

Hi, everyone! Today, I wanted to start something new on my blog: a series on my reading journal for the year. I started my first reading journal last year and had a blast with it. After a year of experimenting to figure out what I liked and didn’t, I figured I would try my hand at making blog posts to show them off and maybe give others ideas! I will say that this is the first time I’ve photographed anything, and since my phone doesn’t have the best camera and I haven’t edited anything majorly before, the pictures might be a bit…not good, lol. I also don’t have a good place to take pictures that don’t have shadows visible. But I’ll be describing everything, so hopefully that’ll help!

For this post, I’m going to be focusing on the general spreads I have, spreads that span throughout the year or are just cute ones that I did in the beginning of the year that I liked. I hope y’all enjoy!

The "title" page of my reading journal. On the left side is a postcard glued in. It has "Read more books" in front of a mass of leaves, a fox looking up at them while sitting on a stack of books in the bottom left. Underneath the post card is orange washi tape layered on top of yellow washi tape. Cartoon fox stickers are stuck to the top left and bottom right corners of the post card.

On the right, in the middle, is space to put one's name. In black ink is "KAIT | SIXCROWSBOOKS". In the top left is a Pikachu sticker. In the top right is a sticker of Louise Belcher laughing evilly, fire blazing behind her. In the bottom left is a rainbow unicorn, and in the bottom right is a rainbow name tag that says, "Hello, I'm Gay".
Really love the chaos of this opening spread, tbh

This is the spread when you first open the journal! The postcard is from RedBubble (you can snag it here!) from when I had my Patreon — it was going to be a tier gift thing. Didn’t pan out, so I figured I’d use it here! I felt like the lil fox stickers and the washi tape added a lil color to it, too. I have no idea where those came from. They were gifts, I think, from my parents. Probably from Michael’s!

The Pikachu and Louise stickers were both gifts from my brother and sister-in-law. They gave me a bunch of stickers for Christmas. Aren’t they cute? As for the two gay stickers, I decided I needed to add a lil queer to my reading journal, lol. They were also from Michael’s, when they had a bunch of pride stuff last June or the June before.

A two-page spread, with 20 written in black ink on the left and 21 written the same way on the right. On both pages is a smeared gradient-like pattern of blue and purple. It looks like watercolor.
Look how pretty this turned out! I love it.

The year page! I love how this turned out. I first did the year in black ink (with a Micron pen, I believe) and left it at that. But then I felt like it was a little drab, so I decided to try something I found on Pinterest. I grabbed blue and purple Tombow brush pens and used them on a plastic sandwich baggie. Once that was done, I sprinkled a bit of water onto it and stirred it around to mix the two paints/inks. Afterwards, I then smeared it across the each of the pages, having to do the process again for the right page. I really love how it turned out! The colors didn’t blend as much as I wanted, but it’s still very pretty to me, and I’m glad I tried it out.

A 2-page spread. At the top in black ink, in cursive, is "Twenty-One Books to Read in 2021". There are two book stack stickers, one on the left page and one on the right page.

Below that is a list of 21 titles, with a space to check them off and indicate the dates they were read. The first one is already highlighted in a peach color, indicating it has been read.
Look, I already finished one this year!

Finally got on the bandwagon and doing a “[blank} books to read in 20[blank]” spread. I normally don’t like to do these types of lists, but I figured it’d be a good way to get my owned TBR down! I just wrote the title out in cursive across the two pages. The two stickers are, again, from a sticker pack that was a gift from my parents. I thought they looked cute, and they fit the space perfectly! Below, I wrote out twenty-one of the books I own that I want to make sure I get to throughout the year. Most of them are random books I’ve had on my shelves, but others are also ARCs that I’ve had for an embarrassing amount of time.

A 2-page spread. In the middle is "reading" on the left page and "goal" on the right page, both in boxes. There is a red, yellow, and orange water color-like pattern over both. Surrounding them are boxes with numbers in them, from 1 to 96. The first five boxes are colored in with red.
Here’s to hoping I can fill this whole thing up, lol.

I’m at it again with the pretty watercolor-esque designs! This time I used red, yellow, and orange for my reading goal spread, and I think I liked how this turned out more than the year page. It just looks very pretty to me. The number is a bit arbitrary — my official goal is 80 — but I wanted to push myself to read between 80 and 100, and 96 made it look even, lol. Also, I’m changing the colors every three rows: the first three will be red (as shown), the next three will be orange, and the final three (and more, if I need another row) will be yellow.

A 2-page spread. At the top, on the left page is "Bookish" and on the right page is "Goals", both in cursive purple ink. Surrounding them are hand drawn purple stars, as well as star, moon, and planet stickers. Below the title is a list of eight goals, four on each side. Next to each goal is either a moon with stars, a planet with rings, an asteroid, or a planet with no rings.
Ya know, for being my least favorite spread, I still think it looks alright.

I wanted to do a spread of my bookish goals for this year, but I didn’t really like how this turned out. I love the purple, the stars, and the stickers, but I don’t like how the title looks, and I hate the layout of it. (also? there may be a lot of spelling errors) But once I fulfill a goal, I’ll color in the corresponding planet/moon/asteroid, which I think will turn out really cute. I’m not sure what I’ll use to color them yet, though.

A 2-page spread. At the very top is a skinny band of rainbow washi tape across the two pages. Below that, in lowercase cursive black ink, is "general" on the left page and "tbr" on the right page, with swoops connecting them.

Right below the title, from left to right: a circle colored in purple with "library (physical)" next to it; a circle colored in blue with "library (audio)" next to it; a circle colored in green with "library (eBook)" next to it --- all on the left page. On the right page: a square colored in red with "owned (physical)" next to it; a square colored in orange with "owned (eBook) next to it; and an X with "DNF" next to it.

Below it are titles of books with their authors.
Don’t worry, my general TBR is larger than this!

I love having my TBRs separated by general, owned, and ARCs, and so I thought it’d be nice to have the whole list in my journal. I love the simplicity of it, and once I finish a book off this list (or DNF it!), I’ll color it in to match the key. If you can’t read it very well, from left to right, it’s: purple circle = physical copy from the library; blue circle = audio copy from the library; green circle = digital copy from the library; red square = owned physical copy; orange square = owned digital copy; X = DNF. This particular spread lasts for five and a quarter pages in total, with another two and three quarter pages left blank in case I need them.

A 2-page spread. At the very top is a skinny band of rainbow washi tape across the two pages. Below that, in lowercase cursive black ink, is "owned" on the left page and "tbr" on the right page, with swoops connecting them.

Right below the title, from left to right: a circle colored in purple with "physical" next to it; a circle colored in blue with "eBook" next to it; an X with "DNF" next to it; a triangle colored in with green with "re-read" next to it -- all on the left page. It is the same on the right page.

Below it are titles of books with their authors. Three of them have already been marked.
Very blurry picture of my owned TBR, but like…at least it’s here?

Basically the same format from my owned TBR, but it’s simple enough, which is why I chose not to change it up too much. As you can see, it’s…very blurry, but hopefully you still get the gist! The key is pretty much the same as well: purple circle is for physical books, blue circle is for digital books, “X” is for anything I DNF, and a green triangle is for any re-reads. I have two and a half pages in all of books I’m trying to read or re-read and about a page and a half left for any that I plan to buy this year. Since I’m on a buying ban through June, I don’t think I’ll be snagging a ton, which is why I don’t have a ton of space allocated.

A 2-page spread. At the very top is a skinny band of rainbow washi tape across the two pages. Below that, in lowercase cursive black ink, is "ARC / Review" on the left page and "Copies" on the right page, with swoops connecting them.

Right below the title, from left to right: a circle colored in purple with "physical" next to it; a circle colored in blue with "eARC" next to it; an X with "DNF" -- all on the left page. It is the same on the right page.

Below it are titles of books with their authors, their release date, and the date the book was received. Two of them have been crossed through.
Well, at least I’m not drowning in ARCs?

Here I have a spread for my ARCs/any review copies I receive! Again with the simple layout and the rainbow washi tape (which, by the way…I think was a gift? Most of the washi tape I have now is, lol). It has the same key as my owned TBR, minus the re-reads. I only have these two pages for the spread — I don’t see myself needing anymore space, especially since I deleted my NetGalley account.

A 2-page spread. On the very top is a reflective washi tape with pink, blue, white, red, and more colors shaped into small arrows pointing to the right.

On the left side, in small cursive writing, is "books to buy". Right underneath it is a purple square with "physical" next to it and a blue square with "eBook" next to it. Below that is a list of titles and their authors.

On the right, below the washi tape and in small cursive lettering is "video games to buy". Swirls connect the two titles. Below the title, are two squares. The red one had "Switch" next to it, and the orange one had "PS4" next to it. Below that were titles of video games, two of which already with orange squares next to them.
My two favorite hobbies, books and video games.

I like to keep track of the books I want to buy — nowadays, unless I have a gift card or it’s super cheap, most of the books I buy are ones I’ve already read and see myself in re-reading in the future. Basically any favorites, new or old. Now that I have a PS4 and Switch (and hopefully time to play them), I’m hoping to play them more often, and I’ve set up a list of ones I want to try out, too. It’s just the one page each for these, too. I don’t find myself buying a ton of books, or wanting to buy a ton of them, and I’m pretty picky about what games to buy.

A 2-page spread. At the very top is a skinny band of washi tape with pencils across the two pages. Below that, in lowercase cursive black ink, is "massive leftist" on the left page and "reading list" on the right page, with swoops connecting them.

Right below the title, from left to right: a circle colored in purple with "library (physical)" next to it; a circle colored in blue with "library (audio)" next to it; a circle colored in green with "library (eBook)" next to it --- all on the left page. On the right page: a square colored in red with "owned (physical)" next to it; a square colored in orange with "owned (eBook) next to it; and an X with "DNF" next to it; and a triangle colored in yellow with "online" next to it.

Below it are titles of books with their authors.
Y’all there’s…so many to read. So much to learn. I’m hyped.

So this spread is based on a Google doc from someone on Twitter. It’s basically a master document of all sorts of leftist texts, books, online resources, documentaries, and more. I skimmed through and copied down all the books, and I’ll pull from it throughout the year to read from because leftist theory is something that I’m personally super interested in. I have about six and a half pages worth of titles, and two more blank pages. Problem is, the books I have so far aren’t even half of what’s in the Google doc. But, I guess that’s not a bad thing — it’s not like I’ll be able to read through all of these this year, lol. The key is basically the same as the one for my general TBR, except there is an added yellow triangle that stands for any online resources I read.

A 1-page spread. At the top in cursive lowercase letters is "video games I own". Right underneath is a line of four columns, from left to right: TITLE; CONSOLE; DATES PLAYED; and RATING. Below that, there are titles of video games with the console they are on. Every other line is lined in yellow highlighter.
I am absolutely overwhelmed with all of these.

And this is another spread I did after I became overwhelmed with all the games I have, not only for my Switch, but also all the games my boyfriend left on his PS4 when he gave it to me. I…may have also bought a few more, lol. To try and keep track of them, I made this spread so I’m more cognizant of what I have yet to play and to help me keep track of how long it’s taking me to play something. I tend to play something for two days straight and then not touch it for two months. For the yellow, I used a Zebra Mildliner!

And that’s it for today! Comment below if you’re doing your own reading journal or if you have any specific books you plan on reading this year!

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REVIEW #77 | ERAGON by Christopher Paolini (The Inheritance Cycle #1)

Review for "Eragon" by Christopher Paolini
Review for “Eragon” by Christopher Paolini
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Eragon — Christopher Paolini

Title: Eragon

Author: Christopher Paolini

Series or Standalone?: The Inheritance Cycle #1

Pub. Date: April 2005

Synopsis (via StoryGraph):

One boy…
One dragon…
A world of adventure.

When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon soon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself.

Overnight his simple life is shattered, and he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic, and power. With only an ancient sword and tge advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds.

Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders? The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • fantasy violence
  • gore
  • character death
  • fatphobia
  • torture
  • massacre
  • imprisonment
  • beheading
  • attempted rape (inferred)
  • ableism
  • grief

Representation:

  • N/A


1/5 stars

I don’t even know where to start. My god.

For those of you that don’t know, Eragon is a YA fantasy novel that follows a 15-year-old boy Eragon and the dragon Saphira whose egg he finds in the forest near his house. When mysterious creatures called the Ra’zac destroy his home and kill his uncle, Eragon and Saphira go on a quest with storyteller Brom to hunt them down.

Let me be blunt: this books is one of the worst I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot. For starters, the writing is almost impossible to read through. Yes, I understand Paolini was a teen when he wrote it, but I’m quite certain his editor wasn’t (assuming he had one). So like. They could’ve made it so much better. The reader doesn’t need an adjective or adverb every three words to understand what is going on in the story, and they definitely don’t need every single detail spelled out for them. On top of that, I had the feeling that Paolini was trying to write like some sort of pretentious classic literary author, but it did not work whatsoever. Instead of wanting to submerge myself into the story, the writing pulled me out of it so many times, I just started to skim for most of it.

The same can be said for the dialogue. It was written as if the author was trying to pull off Tolkien’s or some other “classic” high fantasy author’s style of dialogue, but at the end of the day, it just sounded like a rip-off. I just couldn’t get behind the writing whatsoever.

Second of all, the world-building. I just…what the fuck was that? Having Brom (or any other character, for that matter) monologue to Eragon about any world-building of importance — dragons, Riders, Galbatorix, etc. — is. not. world-building. It was boring and tedious, and it makes the reader want to skim. Two or three or four pages of a character talking to the ~naive protagonist~ is definitely not needed, and if the reader actually needed the content of the monologue, the author should have figured out some other way to include it that wasn’t info-dumping. Taking a five minute break to tell the reader the entire history of the world through Eragon’s perspective isn’t world-building, either! Please, I beg, find another way.

And now…the characters. The characters, the characters, the characters. I cannot put into words how utterly underdeveloped and boring these characters are. Let’s start with Eragon, the most Gary Stu protagonist ever to Gary Stu. Learns sword fighting quickly, learns magic even quicker (and is then somehow able to manipulate it to do basically whatever he wants). The other characters around him are practically there only to give him Important Life Lessons. He’s the perfect protagonist with the perfect morals because all he wants to do is avenge his uncle and go home…or something. Let’s ignore how his morals make no sense — “why would you kill a slaver who sells human beings for a living? He wasn’t armed!” — and that he totally crushes over a random elf girl he saved from prison even though she’s in a coma with no clue where she is or who he is. Oh! And on top of that, he later questions said elf girl why she is on the battlefield with everyone instead of fleeing with the women and children when she beat him in a sword fight twenty pages earlier. I think this was yet another way for Paolini to show that Eragon ~cares about her~, but it was….pretty sexist and ridiculous, lol.

And speaking of Arya… Y’all. If there’s one thing I hate more than the “I went through traumatic things, and ✨ it made me stronger ✨” trope with woman/girl characters, it’s mixing it with the fact that there are no solid, re-occurring woman/girl characters until three quarters of the way through the novel. On top of that (…as if this book wasn’t bad enough), Arya doesn’t even count until about 90% of the way through the book because she was comatose for the majority of the time the reader knows her. And Eragon’s out here getting a crush on her without even knowing her name or if she’d even live.

Going on to the other characters… Brom was the “wise old teacher with a mysterious past” trope, and that was it. Saphira starts out interesting, but turns into the “wise old dragon” trope real fast for ~plot purposes~ so that got boring quick. Murtagh was somewhat intriguing, but Paolini doesn’t understand subtle foreshadowing, which kinda ruined his character. Angela and Solembum were actually pretty interesting characters, and I hope they stay around. They made this whole ordeal…somewhat tolerable, I guess.

But I think what gets me the most about the characters…well, there’s a couple things. One, specifically regarding Eragon, but it could pertain to basically everyone else: there’s little to no character development. Sure, Eragon (…pretty effortlessly…) learns magic and fighting and all, but he never seems to learn from his mistakes throughout the book. The other characters are constantly left to pick up after him. Even with a certain character’s death, I…didn’t feel like it really changed Eragon as a character. Sure, he says that he’s sad about said death, but because the connection didn’t seem to be there to begin with, his thoughts/feelings/actions read as extremely shallow.

I think most of it boils down to the fact that, at the end of the day, the characters are so incredibly flat. They don’t inspire any positive connection or emotions within me, and because of that I didn’t see any connections between the characters. Even between Eragon, Brom, and Saphira, the relationship/connection just seemed…fake? manufactured? The reader is told that they care about one another (at the most — sometimes, not even that), but they aren’t often given any evidence that such a deep connection exists at any meaningful level. The fact that these three major characters have such little connection with one another was extremely frustrating to read, and I really wanted to DNF.

But yeah, this book was…horrible, lmao. The writing was bad, the world-building was dry, and the character development was non-existent. And yet I am forcing myself to read the rest of the series because I own them…y’all better thank me for this, and keep your eyes out for the rant reviews for the rest of the series in the coming months ✨

Kait | sixcrowsbooks

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READING THE RAINBOW #3

Reading the Rainbow #3 | the third one, yay!

Hi, everyone! I’m back again with another Reading the Rainbow this week. I hope you find a colorful, new queer book!

Red

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Her Body and Other Parties — Carmen Maria Machado

Rep: queer/sapphic women characters

StoryGraph

Orange

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Felix Ever After — Kacen Callender

Rep: Black trans demiboy mlm MC; Black Bengali mlm LI; Black, Puerto Rican, and white gay SC; sapphic SCs; non-binary SC; gay SC

StoryGraph

Yellow

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
More Happy Than Not — Adam Silvera

Rep: gay Brown MC

StoryGraph

Green

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
Rubyfruit Jungle — Rita Mae Brown

Rep: lesbian MC

StoryGraph

Blue

Dreadnought by April Daniels
Dreadnought — April Daniels

Rep: trans girl lesbian MC; queer Latina SC

StoryGraph

Indigo/Violet

Ruinsong by Julia Ember
Ruinsong — Julia Ember

Rep: queer/sapphic MC; queer sapphic LI

StoryGraph

And that’s the third round of Reading the Rainbow! I hope y’all enjoyed it. If you read any of these books, let me know what you thought of them! See you next time. 😊

Kait | sixcrowsbooks

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BLOGGER AWARD #3 | Ideal Inspiration Blogger Award

Ideal Inspiration Blogger Award
Ideal Inspiration Blogger Award
Ideal Inspiration Blogger Award logo

Hi, everyone! I was nominated for the Ideal Inspiration Award back in September by Anna over at Anna’s Book Nook, and I figured I should, ya know…finally get around to it, lol. Thank you to Anna for nominating me! Lemme just point out before we begin that this award was originally created by Rising Star @ Ideal Inspiration Blog.

Content warning: I wanna forewarn y’all that I do talk about alcohol in the second question I answer, in case that can be sensitive for anyone!

Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to his/her blog.
  • Answer their questions
  • Nominate up to 9 other bloggers and ask them 5 new questions
  • Notify the nominees through their blog by visiting and commenting on their blog.
  • List the rules and display the “Ideal Inspiration Blogger Award” logo.
  • Provide the link of the award creator of Ideal Inspiration Blogger Award as Rising Star from https://idealinspiration.blog/

Why did you start blogging?

I wanted an “official” spot to talk about books and create bookish content!

What is your favorite fall tradition/activity?

So I love watching all the scary Halloween movies, but I also enjoy trying all the new hard cider flavors my local apple orchard makes every year.

If you could live in any book, what would it be?

Priory of the Orange Tree! I loved the world-building and the aesthetic. Not to mention the characters! (but let’s be real, I’d most likely die from…something. pretty easily, lol)

Are you more of a coffee or tea person? Cold or hot?

Cold coffee and hot tea!

If you could change the ending of one book, what would it be and why?

Crooked Kingdom. Y’all know why.

Nominees (Please don’t feel pressured to do it! If you don’t want to, that’s totally okay 😊)

Questions

  • what was your last 5-star read or read that you loved?
  • any reading resolutions or goals for 2021?
  • what books are you hoping to get to this year?
  • do you have any comfort meals or foods?
  • if you read or were read to when you were younger, what was your favorite childhood book? if not, what book(s) got you into reading?

And that’s it! I hope y’all enjoyed this award post. I’m curious — let me know what sort of fall, winter, spring, or summer activity/tradition you love to do! See y’all next time. 😊

Kait | sixcrowsbooks
Kait | sixcrowsbooks

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REVIEW #76 | WHO DO YOU SERVE, WHO DO YOU PROTECT? ed. by Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, and Alana Yu-lan Price

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? edited by Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, and Alana Yu-lan Price
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States by Joe Macaré, Alana Yu-Lan Price, Alicia Garza, Maya Schenwar
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? — Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, and Alana Yu-lan Price

Title: Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States

Editors: Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, and Alana Yu-lan Price

Pub. Date: 10 May 2016

Synopsis (via StoryGraph):

What is the reality of policing in the United States? Do the police keep anyone safe and secure other than the very wealthy? How do recent police killings of young black people in the United States fit into the historical and global context of anti-blackness?

This collection of reports and essays (the first collaboration between Truthout and Haymarket Books) explores police violence against black, brown, indigenous and other marginalized communities, miscarriages of justice, and failures of token accountability and reform measures. It also makes a compelling and provocative argument against calling the police.

Contributions cover a broad range of issues including the killing by police of black men and women, police violence against Latino and indigenous communities, law enforcement’s treatment of pregnant people and those with mental illness, and the impact of racist police violence on parenting, as well as specific stories such as a Detroit police conspiracy to slap murder convictions on young black men using police informant and the failure of Chicago’s much-touted Independent Police Review Authority, the body supposedly responsible for investigating police misconduct. The title Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?is no mere provocation: the book also explores alternatives for keeping communities safe.

Contributors include William C. Anderson, Candice Bernd, Aaron Cantú, Thandi Chimurenga, Ejeris Dixon, Adam Hudson, Victoria Law, Mike Ludwig, Sarah Macaraeg, and Roberto Rodriguez.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • police brutality
  • mentions of torture/torture devices (both historically and currently)
  • racism (anti-Black, anti-Brown, and anti-Indigenous)
  • medical abuse/neglect

Representation:

  • a collection of essays about police brutality that centers Black women, LGBTQ+ folks, pregnant folks, indigenous folks, and migrants

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5/5 stars

I was able to get an e-copy for free through the publisher Haymarket Books because they offered it for no charge sometime last May. As of the day this review is being written (7 January 2021), the eBook is still free! Here is the link to snag it (even if it isn’t free, I would still recommend buying it regardless!). Anyway, it was something I was interested in, and who doesn’t like free books? So here I am.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? is a collection of essays surrounding police brutality, its impact against marginalized communities (especially Black folks), its connections to imperialism, and how to combat it and be less dependent upon police. While most of what was written I already knew about or wasn’t a surprise to me personally, I know that it’ll help educate and inform many other readers who may be in a different place in their learning. I could tell, throughout every single essay, how angry these writers were about police brutality and the system it upholds. But I could also tell how much these contributors love and care for their communities and wish to see them thrive. I can only hope that this book can motivate and/or radicalize folks in order to make that happen.

There was an essay that did bring up some new ideas for me, and that was the one that focused on pregnant people in prison/under arrest: “Your Pregnancy May Subject You to Even More Law Enforcement Violence” by Victoria Law. While none of what was written was particularly surprising — I’m not shocked that prison guards often ignore pregnant people’s concerns until it’s too late, for instance — it brought a new lens to my understanding of police brutality. While theoretically, it makes sense that pregnant people would be at risk of violence, I didn’t consciously think about it until I read that essay. And it isn’t only pregnant folks — anyone who needs regular medical attention or medicine is often looked over by guards and cops. It just adds another layer to one’s understanding of how heinous police brutality and the prison system are.

On top of that, I really appreciated the second half of the book, which focuses on helping one’s community without police input. I thought many of those essays were enlightening, especially one that delved into how community members and EMS could serve the community better without the police butting in and escalating things like they often do. I found myself feeling hopeful for the future, knowing that there is a history of becoming less dependent upon police. I’ll be excited to see what community organizers can do on this front in the future.

Overall, I thought Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? is a wonderful, knowledgeable book and everyone should pick it up if they’re at all interested in learning about police brutality and what we can do to minimize our dependence on the cops. Again, here is the link so you can get a free e-copy (if they still offer it for free by the time you get around to reading this review, lol).

To end this review, here is something new I want to try with reviews from now on: a few quotes that I like from the book! I know a lot of reviewers splash them throughout the review, but I’m way too indecisive for that, so y’all get a block at the end, lol. Enjoy, and I hope you liked this review! Let me know your thoughts by commenting below 😊

(also, quick note, there’s only three quotes because this new thing was a split-second decision made right before I scheduled this post, lmao. but expect more in other reviews in the future!)

Fav Quotes ✨

When cops bully them, scare them, fuck with them, it’s because our children aren’t seen as part of the future. Our children are disposable.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?

If we seek to dismantle the police state, we must also dismantle the military.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?

Self-preservation of the state is the primary priority.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?
Kait | sixcrowsbooks
Kait | sixcrowsbooks

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BOOK TAG #19 | Rocky Horror Picture Show Book Tag

Rocky Horror Picture Show Book Tag
Rocky Horror Picture Show Book Tag

Hey, y’all! I hope you’re having a great day/night and getting through the first full week of 2021. Today, I’m doing another book tag ’cause I need to ease myself back into blogging, and tags are easy. This one is the Rocky Horror Picture Show book tag brought to us by Rach over at Anxious Nachos. That link leads y’all to Rach’s original book tag post, in case you want to do the tag yourself! She actually tagged me for this back in…uh…October? So here we are, three months later, lmao. I swear I wasn’t ignoring it, I was just in a blog hiatus. But let’s get into it now!

Science fiction, double feature: a book that has been made into a TV show or film

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

I haven’t watched the series on Hulu or read the book, but it sounds interesting! I’ll have to pick it up sometime soon and watch the adaptation.

Damnit, Janet: a YA romance

Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Let’s Talk About Love – Claire Kann

While it’s not my favorite book (I think I rated it 3 stars?), I thought Let’s Talk About Love was cute! It was the first YA romance (the first romance ever, even?) that I read that had an asexual protagonist.

Over at the Frankenstein Place: your favorite gothic fiction

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I don’t read much gothic fiction — in fact, Mexican Gotchic might be the only gothic book I’ve read outside of the Poe I read for high school. And honestly, I think I need to read more because, while I didn’t finish Mexican Gothic (I ran out of time on my library hold 😭), I absolutely loved the vibes of it all.

Time Warp: your prettiest book cover

Six of Crows: Collector's Edition
Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo (Collector’s Edition)

Aaron gifted me the UK collector’s edition of Six of Crows for Christmas one year, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. This picture really doesn’t do it justice. I love the read on black and how shiny it is. Definitely one of my prettiest books, along with the collector’s edition of Crooked Kingdom.

Sweet Transvestite: an iconic queer book

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
Girls of Paper and Fire – Natasha Ngan

I read this one last year and fell in love. Such a good book! The world-building is super interesting, and I love the characters, especially Wren. Can’t wait for the third one to come out this year!

I Can Make You a Man: a book set in a medical setting/about medicine/with a doctor or nurse main character

Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington
Medical Apartheid – Harriet A. Washington

This is a non-fiction book about the history of medical abuse, neglect, and racism against the Black community in the United States, from colonial times to more recently. While it was hard to read at parts, it was a phenomenal book that I definitely recommend.

Hot Patootie: a book set in the 1970s or 1980s

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
The Miseducation of Cameron Post – Emily M. Danforth

This prompt was a bit challenging: I don’t know many books set in the ’70s or ’80s. I eventually found The Miseducation of Cameron Post; I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard others liked it. I may read it in the future, when my owned TBR isn’t so high…

Toucha Toucha Told Me: a book where a character loses their innocence

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, from left to right: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay.
The Hunger Games trilogy – Suzanne Collins

It was hard for me to think of a book for this prompt, too, but once I did, it seemed like a “duh” kind of moment. Prim in the Hunger Games trilogy seems like a character that loses her innocence, but doesn’t lose hope. I could be wrong, it’s been a minute since I read the series, but that was the impression I remember.

Eddie: a book where one of your favorite character dies

Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan
Girls of Storm and Shadow – Natasha Ngan

I included GOPAF already, so it’s only right that I include its sequel. No spoilers, but let’s just say I do not forgive Miss Ngan for what she did. 😤

Rose Tint My World: a book that makes you happy

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee
Not Your Sidekick – C.B. Lee

I read this book twice already, and I absolutely love it. It’s just a cute and fun superhero book that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Ant the romance? Adorable! I definitely recommend it if you want some (not Marvel) superhero media.

Don’t Dream It, Be It: a book by a trans, non-binary, or gender diverse author

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
Dragon Pearl – Yoon Ha Lee

I haven’t read Dragon Pearl yet, but! It’s definitely one that I want to get to, especially since it’s from a trans man. I’ve been wanting to get more into sci-fi, especially middle grade sci-fi, so this book seems perfect for that, too.

Wile and Untamed Thing: a book that makes your heart race

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray
Before the Devil Breaks You – Libba Bray

Out of the four Diviners books, I think Before the Devil Breaks You is the one that had me on the edge of my seat the most. I thought it was the best out of the series, partly because the stakes seemed to be the most personal. And oof, that last quarter of the book? It almost gave me a heart attack. Definitely recommend the series!

I’m Going Home: a book with the found family trope

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

Yet another book I haven’t read, but I own it, so…half points? My friend Makenzie recommends it big time, and literally all I know about it is that it’s one big, queer found family book. Which, I mean…what more do you need?

Superheroes: a book with one of your favorite villains or monsters

And I Darken by Kiersten White
And I Darken – Kiersten White

So this may be cheating a little bit because Lada could be considered a grey character, not an outright villain, depending on the perspective. But! I absolutely love Lada’s development throughout the first two books of the trilogy, and I cannot wait to read the final book to see how it all ends.

And that’s the Rocky Horror Picture Show book tag! Like I said in the beginning of the post, feel free to do this tag if you’re interested. Below will be a list of the prompts, and link back to Rach’s original post if you want her to see it.

See y’all next time!

Kait | sixcrowsbooks

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