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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REVIEW #71 | LAIR OF DREAMS by Libba Bray (The Diviners #2) (Mini Review)

Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2)

Title: Lair of Dreams

Author: Libba Bray

Series or Standalone?: The Diviners #2

Pub. Date: 5 September 2017

Synopsis:

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to “read” objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners’ abilities…

Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer?

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • homophobia
  • xenophobia
  • racism
  • ableism
  • character death
  • sex trafficking

Representation:

  • gay MC
  • Black MCs
  • mixed (Chinese and Irish) disabled (childhood paralysis; uses crutches) ace lesbian MC
  • (Note: it isn’t declared on-page that the MC is an ace lesbian until the next book, Before the Devil Breaks You)
  • Jewish MCs

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5/5 stars

  • after the events of The Diviners, New York has something else to fend against: a mysterious “sleeping sickness” that’s killing citizens; Evie and the other Diviners have to figure it out before it’s too late
  • I don’t really know what to say outside of….it was great!
  • Ling! Ling! Ling! Ling! I love her so much, and I’m so glad she’s a Diviner
  • her relationship with Henry is amazing, and I enjoyed seeing it develop throughout the novel. I love seeing platonic m/f relationships!
  • Evie was getting on my nerves at times, but her behavior is understandable when you think about what she’s been through
  • I thought the ending was a bit anti-climatic, but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book; it really starts to set things up for the later books while also being interesting in its own right

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REVIEW #68 | NOW I RISE by Kiersten White (The Conqueror’s Saga #2) (Mini Review)

Now I Rise (And I Darken Series, #2)

Title: Now I Rise

Author: Kiersten White

Series or Standalone?: The Conqueror’s Saga #2

Pub. Date: 27 June 2017

Synopsis (Goodreads):

She has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself.

After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada Dracul is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.

What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won…and souls will be lost.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • I don’t…know all of them because I forgot to keep track, lmao
  • character death
  • blood and gore
  • sexism

Representation:

  • sapphic side characters
  • men loving men characters
  • Muslim characters
  • characters of color

⭐⭐⭐⭐
4/5 stars

  • Now I Rise takes place shortly after the events of And I Darken. Radu is ordered by Mehmed to live in Constantinople as a spy, and Lada is working on gaining support in order to take back Wallachia
  • Listen, going in, I didn’t think I would be rooting for Radu so much, but here we are. I love him, Nazira, and Cyprian, and I would probably die for all three of them
  • Lada’s development and story are super intriguing, and I can’t wait to see what the third book will bring for her
  • This was such a fun read for me — I have to get the third book ASAP!

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REVIEW #53 | THE GIRL IN THE LETTER by Emily Gunnis (Review Copy)

Title: “The Girl in the Letter”

Author: Emily Gunnis

Series or Standalone?: Standalone

Publishing Date: 30 July 2019

Pages (paperback): 384

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Read her letter. Remember her story…

“Gripping. Mesmerising. Haunting. Heart-breaking. Once you’ve heard her story, you will never forget The Girl in the Letter.

“Perfect for fans of Kate Morton, Rachel Hore and Kathryn Hughes, this page-turning, moving novel of separation and long-buried secrets will stay with you for ever.

“In the winter of 1956 pregnant young Ivy is sent in disgrace to St Margaret’s, a home for unmarried mothers in the south of England, run by nuns, to have her child. Her baby daughter is adopted. Ivy will never leave.

“Sixty years later, journalist Samantha stumbles upon a series of letters from Ivy to her lover, pleading with him to rescue her from St Margaret’s before it is too late. As Sam pieces together Ivy’s tragic story, terrible secrets about St Margaret’s dark past begin to emerge. What happened to Ivy, to her baby, and to the hundreds of children born in the home? What links a number of mysterious, sudden deaths in the area? And why are those who once worked at St Margaret’s so keen that the truth should never be told? As Sam unpicks the sinister web of lies surrounding St Margaret’s, she also looks deep within – to confront some unwelcome truths of her own…”

Trigger/content warnings:

  • Institutionalization

Representation:

  • N/A

⭐⭐⭐
3/5 stars

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

The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis follows two characters: Ivy, a young woman who is institutionalized in a home for unmarried mothers in the 1950s and Samantha, a journalist from present-day who found Ivy’s letters. Sam is attempting to figure out what happened to Ivy before the home is torn down for remodeling.

While I did not enjoy The Girl in the Letter as much as I wanted, it was definitely more of a “it’s not you, it’s me” mentality. I ended up not finishing it and only reading about a third of the novel. However, I still gave a 3-star rating because I thought it had potential and because it seems like a good novel for those who regularly enjoy historical fiction. Though, I did have a couple issues that were mostly personal.

Most of the characters seemed one-dimensional, and I couldn’t connect to any of them. I am a person who needs to connect to the characters — if I don’t, it’s an automatic downside for me. It could have been because I wasn’t that far into the novel, but I didn’t really like Sam as a protagonist. She just seemed flat to me. And her mother, as well as…literally any other older “granny” type character? They all seemed to have the same way of talking, and it constantly reminded me of a stereotypical grandma from a children’s cartoon. I’m sure other readers don’t have a problem about the characters and are more invested in the plot, but it didn’t work for me. As for the writing itself, well…

Even though the initial plot sucked me in, I grew increasingly bored the more I read. I’m not quite sure if this is an example of just trying to read something at the wrong time, but. Eh. When I first read the book’s description, I was pretty excited, especially for learning about the horrific institutions that were apparently set in place to send single mothers away when they become pregnant out of wedlock. But while the first quarter of the novel was engaging enough for me to continue, I quickly grew bored the longer I read. Most of it, again, connects back to the fact that I don’t feel connected to the characters. But it is also because I thought Sam’s chapters were incredibly…bland? I suppose? I personally wasn’t getting what I wanted from the novel, and I grew bored. So, I decided to DNF the novel.

The book itself is probably pretty good within the context of the genre itself, and, again, I want to reiterate that it’s much more of a “me” problem. I’m going to be honest: I don’t read a lot of historical fiction. I usually gravitate more towards fantasy and science-fiction, along with contemporary if I want something that isn’t speculative. Historical fiction is a bit out of my reach, though I thought I’d try it out this time since The Girl in the Letter sounded intriguing. In terms of comparing the novel to others within its genre, it’s probably pretty average, if not better. It just wasn’t for me, and that’s why I still rate it three stars instead of something lower.

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MONTHLY TBR #9 | December 2018 TBR

Hi, everyone! So for my TBR, I usually just pick a bit of whatever sounds good and make a list out of it. But for December, I tried something different: I allowed the denizens of Twitter to choose my TBR through polls! Although, I do have to say, there were a few books I knew for certain I was going to read no matter what. If you want to look through the thread for yourself, here’s the link! To make it extra fun, I created categories for the polls, as you will soon see. Most of them are self-explanatory, but the last one, “Set in Stone,” is for the few books that I know I’ll read.

Now, let’s get into it!


Storm Front by Jim Butcher

VS.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

It…wasn’t very close at all. Out of 23 votes, 87% were for A Darker Shade of Magic and 13% for Storm Front.

Continue reading “MONTHLY TBR #9 | December 2018 TBR”