Follow Me to the Land of Sweets! Baking Glazed Lemon-Thyme Poppyseed Cake

Hey, friends! I touched on wanting to include more than just book posts on my blog. It won’t be an all-the-time thing, but I’d really love to share my journey of baking with you all. It’s another hobby I dabble in quite often, and it’s something I’m passionate about outside the land of books. I totally understand if you aren’t interested, but for those who are, let me share with you my successful baking experience.


Before I get into the post, I also want to let you all know that I have created a Medium. I shared an article on there about my baking experience. If you’re interested in following me there you can. I’ll probably share about my baking journey on there more frequently than on here.


If I’m being honest, these didn’t really scream ”cake” to me as they lean more toward the banana bread side of things. I don’t know if banana bread is considered cake in the baking world. I’m pretty much clueless when it comes to most baking terminology.

I’d like to preface this by saying that I did not create this recipe on my own. I love learning recipes from Bake From Scratch! The photos that I post on here are my own, however.

I’m so glad this was a success! I think my only qualm was with the glaze. I have a feeling I may have added too much lemon juice. I’m not 100% sure, but I’m aware of the issue and plan to resolve it in the future.

I’ve had lemon poppyseed muffins before, but I’ve never had them mixed with thyme. I think the combination is chefs kiss. The pairing is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. I also didn’t realize how tasty thyme was. Why didn’t anyone tell me?

If you’re interested in making this, please make sure you have all of the items and ingredients. I actually had to go out and buy certain items—some for convenience (lemon squeezer) rather than necessity. I bought all my ingredients from Walmart, but I’m sure you can find them in whatever store is close to you. If not, there are places online you can order ingredients from.


If any of you bake, I’d love to see pictures of desserts you make. If you make this one, then definitely let me know what you think. Again, this won’t be something I do all the time. If you want to see everything I bake, I will be posting on Medium (linked above).


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Goodreads Choice Awards Predictions

I personally don’t vote in the GR Choice Awards because it’s typically the popular books that end up winning. I don’t really talk about it much, but I think it would be a fun blog post if I predicted which book I thought would win and which one I would choose. I think I saw a blogger post something like this recently…I’m sure many have. You can tag them below if you know other people who have. I’d love to see everyone’s predictions. I probably won’t do all the categories since there are many that I don’t read from. I’m just doing the main ones.

Fiction

The final nominees are hard to pick from because I know most of them have been raved about lately. It’s sad that I haven’t read any of them, but most of them are on my TBR.

I’m going to predict that good ol’ Nicholas Sparks will take the cake. The Wish has been pretty popular at my library. Everyone is wanting to read it and there just isn’t enough copies to go around.

If I were to pick one that I wanted to win, it would probably be The Guncle by Steven Rowley. This one just seems like so much fun. I’d say it’s a fantastic book to read in the summer. It has great ratings/reviews. I also love the cover.

Mystery / Thriller

I have read a few good ones in this section. I automatically assume that Billy Summers by Stephen King will win, and I’m sure that’s what everyone else thinks.

I hope that Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby wins. I read that earlier this year and really enjoyed it! It has a lot more violence than I was expecting. There were some parts where I couldn’t really believe, but I recommend it if you can handle that.

Historical Fiction

It won the BOTM Book of the Year, and I’m just assuming it’ll win this category, and that is The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah.

I’ve only read one book out of the category and it was The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles. It wasn’t really my cup of tea as far as historical fiction goes. So, if I had to pick one it would probably be The Four Winds. I read The Great Alone by her and really enjoyed it. I think she’s a pretty good writer.

Fantasy

I want T.J. Klune to take the cake for this one, but I know that Sarah J. Maas will beat him. I’m sure she does every year.

I, of course, want Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune to win. I absolutely loved The House in the Cerulean Sea. It was such a loved book when it came out.

Romance

I think my prediction and my choice would be the same judging by all the hype surrounding the book recently. It’s The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood. I just ordered this one as an add-on to my BOTM box. I’m super stoked to get to it!

Science Fiction

My assumption is that Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir will be the winner.

I love Becky Chambers and Martha Wells, so these two choices were hard to pick from. They’re both close in ratings too, but I think I’d rather Becky Chambers take the cake. I’ve heard great things about A Psalm for the Wild-Built.

Horror

I’m going to go with The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix as the winner of this category. It’ll probably be Stephen King, but I’m trying to be positive.

I haven’t read any of these in the horror category, but I think it would be cool if My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones won.


I think that’s where I’m going to stop. There are categories after this that I just don’t know anything about. This is just supposed to be fun so don’t take anything seriously or to heart. If you have any predictions, please let me know in the comments. I’d be interested to see different opinions!


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Book Review of How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith

How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith

336 pages

Published in 6/1/21 by Little, Brown, and Company

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Nonfiction / History / Social Justice

Amazon | B&N

*click on photos to view original source.


Poet and contributor to The Atlantic Clint Smith’s revealing, contemporary portrait of America as a slave owning nation

Beginning in his own hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader through an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks-those that are honest about the past and those that are not-that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history, and ourselves.

It is the story of the Monticello Plantation in Virginia, the estate where Thomas Jefferson wrote letters espousing the urgent need for liberty while enslaving over 400 people on the premises. It is the story of the Whitney Plantation, one of the only former plantations devoted to preserving the experience of the enslaved people whose lives and work sustained it. It is the story of Angola Prison in Louisiana, a former plantation named for the country from which most of its enslaved people arrived and which has since become one of the most gruesome maximum-security prisons in the world. And it is the story of Blandford Cemetery, the final resting place of tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers.

In a deeply researched and transporting exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history, How the Word Is Passed illustrates how some of our country’s most essential stories are hidden in plain view-whether in places we might drive by on our way to work, holidays such as Juneteenth, or entire neighborhoods—like downtown Manhattan—on which the brutal history of the trade in enslaved men, women and children has been deeply imprinted.

Informed by scholarship and brought alive by the story of people living today, Clint Smith’s debut work of nonfiction is a landmark work of reflection and insight that offers a new understanding of the hopeful role that memory and history can play in understanding our country.”



“The sky above the Mississippi River stretched out like a song.”

As the whitest person to exist in America, I feel it is my responsibility to educate myself as much as I can on social justice issues that have taken place in the past and present. The goal, of course, is to prevent future issues from coming up. I like to share what I learn from what I read, and there’s a lot to unpack with this one.

I’ll start by discussing my reasoning behind my rating. I’m sure there are people throwing shade my way for not giving this five stars. First, just because someone doesn’t give an important book a five-star rating doesn’t make it any less important. There’s more to a book than the content that makes it a phenomenal read. Second, I shouldn’t have to explain myself. It didn’t hold my attention the entire time, there were naming off fact after fact, and I had to take a break from the book, sadly. If I rated books with decimals, it would be a 4.5. Anyway, let’s get to the review.

There was information I didn’t know about places I’ve learned about before. The Monticello Plantation is the best example. I remember learning about that in school, but not like I learned about it in this book. The tour guides want visitors to understand what kind of person Jefferson was in his entirety, but visitors were offended claiming they were trying to change history. There were also people who didn’t think slavery was a thing. I don’t know if they just deny it completely, really didn’t know, or they’re messing with the tour guides. That’s why educating yourself on the topic is important!

Yes, he contributed great things. Yes, he gave us the Declaration of Independence, and the university where I got my degree, but he also owned people. He owned ancestors of people I know. That’s reality. I think in order to really understand him, and to fully understand him, you have to grapple with slavery. You have to grapple with [physical] violence and psychological violence, and family separation. We would not be doing the story justice if we don’t tell those stories.

Niya Bates – Monticello’s director of African American History.

Smith also visits Angola Prison (Louisiana State Penitentiary). A location I have never heard of, but it’s so interesting (and horrifying) to learn about. The Red Hat Cell Block (restrictive and harsh housing in Angola Prison) holds cells that are 5 x 7 ft. It got extremely hot in there with no air. Prisoners would just lay on the cement floor in misery.

The execution bed was built by PRISONERS. They actually went on strike when they found out.

The guide would often pivot the conversation to bring positive light to the prison while Smith visited there. How could you even see this place in a positive light? It was nothing but horrifying, disgusting, and cruel. I’m happy that Smith discusses what the prison actually did.


There was talk about how women would kill their own children because they didn’t want them to grow up in the same situation. There’s a lot of talk about the Confederacy and the Lost Cause. You really just have to read it yourself to fully enjoy all the things you learn. I definitely won’t do the book justice from doing a WordPress blog review. Go read it for yourself!


About the Author

“Clint Smith is staff writer at The Atlantic. He is the author of Counting Descent, which won the 2017 Literary Award for Best Poetry Book from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. Clint has received fellowships from New America, the Art For Justice Fund, Cave Canem, and the National Science Foundation. His writing has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review and elsewhere. He currently teaches writing and literature at the DC Central Detention Facility. His debut nonfiction book How the Word Is Passed, which explores how different historical sites reckon with—or fail to reckon with—their relationship to the history of slavery, will be published by Little, Brown in June 2021. He received his B.A. in English from Davidson College and his Ph.D. in Education from Harvard University.”


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Guess Who’s Back!

Hello, friends! I know it’s been a while, but I finally feel up to the task of writing a blog post. Since I’ve left I haven’t read many books. To let you really know how it’s been going this year, I’ve only read 29 books. Unfortunately, at the end of April / beginning of May, I went through a pretty tough breakup just a week shy of our 5-year anniversary. I don’t want to go into much detail since that is pretty personal, but the two months following that were probably two of the hardest months for me mentally, physically, emotionally, etc. It took everything I had in me to function. I finally feel like myself again, and I’ve been occupying my brain with other positive outlets. I have a few odds-and-ends I’d love to share with you all.

I’ll just start with a little reading update!

I believe I’ve finished six books since I last wrote a blog post. It’s been a lot of non fiction and historical fiction. I think I read one thriller.

The Hunting Wives by May Cobb – two stars

News of the World by Paulette Jiles – five stars

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline – four stars

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – Not rated (assume it’s a five-star read.)

Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby – four stars

Maid by Stephanie Land – three stars

I’m honestly happy with the books I have been reading, even though I haven’t read that much. I’m currently in the middle of How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith, and I’m still truckin’ through A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. That’s pretty much my goal for the rest of the year. I’m not going to pressure myself too much.


Now I’ll talk about the other hobbies I’ve picked up since I last spoke to you. As many of you know, I tried to get into digital art, specifically digital planning, and it didn’t go as planned. Etsy wasn’t really the best place to start off with. I pretty much stopped doing that very quickly. I’ve moved to Redbubble just as somewhere to put my art without having the pressure of paying a renewal fee with Etsy every so many months. It’s book-ish art that I want to share with you all, but I’m willing to create other content. I’d love it if you all checked it out. I think if you have any friends who love bookish items, these might be good little stocking gifts!

Redbubble Shop

Books & Coffee
Excellent Library

One other little hobby I’m working on is sugar cookie decorating. I’m very much a newbie, and it’s crazy hard to do. It is fun to learn and I’m hoping to continue making progress. I just wanted to share my very first decorated cookie. It looks silly, but there’s something about it being the first one that makes me smile.


Thank you to everyone who has stuck around even after I basically fell off the face of the Earth for half a year. I can’t guarantee I’ll make steady content, and I’m honestly thinking of changing up my blog to more than just books. Let me know what you think about it. I just appreciate all of you, and I’m hoping you all have a wonderful end to your year!

Book Review of Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

336 pages

Publication date: 6/29/21 by Dutton Books

ISBN: 9780593183168

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Amazon | B&N

*Click on photos to view original source.

“It’s November 1991. George H. W. Bush is in the White House, Nirvana’s in the tape deck, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.

Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father. Or so he says. Like the Hitchcock heroine she’s named after, Charlie has her doubts. There’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t seem to want Charlie to see inside the car’s trunk. As they travel an empty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly worried Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s suspicion merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse played out on night-shrouded roads and in neon-lit parking lots, during an age when the only call for help can be made on a pay phone and in a place where there’s nowhere to run. In order to win, Charlie must do one thing–survive the night.”


Since this isn’t a finished copy, I’m not able to post a first line.


Thank you to Dutton Books and NetGalley for the early digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

I guess I’ll start with what I actually did like about this book.

I enjoyed the uneasiness this made me feel in the beginning. I thought Josh was such an odd character. He definitely served those serial killer vibes. He seemed almost robotic and cold. I actually loved his character when I first started the book.

I can also say that it’s very fast-paced. I probably could have read all of it in one day if I didn’t work all the time.

Okay, that’s about all for the pros.

I don’t want this to be super negative because I respect Sager as an author. He definitely has some great books, but this one just didn’t work for me.

This gave me I’m Thinking of Ending Things vibes when Charlie first got into Josh’s car. Obviously they’re not in a relationship, but it was the uneasy driving scene that made me think of it. This book just didn’t deliver the craziness that is Reid’s book.

I really, really didn’t enjoy the ending of this one. There was so much going on that I just didn’t care. I didn’t predict it, but at one point it all clicked in some weird way.

I don’t want to give any spoilers, so that’s about all I have to say. Even if I did spoil it, there’s not much to the book. It’s mainly one long car ride with some flashbacks and movie-filled daydreams. I just didn’t find the story thrilling in any way. I wouldn’t recommend this to Riley Sager fans or anyone in between.


Riley Sager is the award-winning pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name.

A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he’s not writing, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favorite film is “Rear Window.” Or maybe “Jaws.” But probably, if he’s being honest, “Mary Poppins.”


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Book Review of The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

464 pages

Published 2/6/18 by St. Martin’s Press

ISBN: 9781250165619

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*Click on photos to view source.

“Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.”


“That spring, rain fell in great sweeping gusts that rattled the rooftops.”


Content warning: PTSD, Abuse (physical, verbal, emotional), murder, death, grieving (loss of loved one / parent), cancer, description of broken bones / wounds, toxic family relationships.

As a first time reader of Kristin Hannah, I can safely say that this won’t be the last book I read from her. She seems like a good fiction author and storyteller. This was hard-hitting, but it wasn’t anything I haven’t read before in other books. Just be cautious going into it, and make sure to read the content warnings if you’re unsure.

Meet the Allbrights: Ernt, Cora, and Lenora “Leni”

Ernt, the father of this story, is a Vietnam veteran with PTSD. He watched a lot of bad things happen, and in return they’re impacting his present day life. He has moved his family five times in four years because he just wants the next best thing. The problem, he’s a toxic man who is feared by his wife and daughter. They’re afraid to speak up.

He receives a letter from the father of the man he watched die, and it states that his son wanted him to have his land in Alaska. Ernt doesn’t hesitate and drags his family to “The Great Alone.”

“Alaska isn’t about who you were when you headed this way. It’s about who you become.”

Even before they moved to Alaska, you can tell that Ernt isn’t a nice man. He’s very finicky and becomes upset easily. His actions in this book are very inexcusable regardless of his condition. I absolutely hated him. I almost put the book down because of how he treats people. I’m not sure of another way to tell you I hate him lol.

ANYWAY.

Leni and Matthew Walker’s relationship is honestly goals. They both have traumatic things going on in their lives, but they never judge one another. They help each other through it. They’re precious gems that should be protected at all times! They are also very smart kids. They can see the reality of any situation they’re in.

Cora. Cora, Cora, Cora. I know she is married to an abusive man, and hindsight is 20/20, but I just wanted to shake her! I wanted to tell her that she needs to get her and her daughter out of there. All she did was smoke and agree with Ernt. The occasional motherly scold came from her mouth, but nothing that would change Ernt’s mind. I know I shouldn’t hate her for anything, but her daughter should have been the first person she protected in their situation. I guess it’s one of those “easier said than done” situations.

The only problem I had with this was the transitions between events. Most of the time there was no warning, things just happened. I’m not going to spoil what made me drop the star rating, but I’m sure you probably have some inkling of what I’m talking about. Maybe I’m the only one with the problem. Either way, it wasn’t a five-star read for me. It was good but not that good.

I will definitely continue on reading Hannah’s other novels. I think if you read the content warnings about this one and are still interested, then go ahead and give it a go. It’s not perfect, but it’s fast-paced, action-packed, and the characters are well done. If you do pick it up or have already read it, let me know your thoughts.

Kristin Hannah is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, which was named Goodreads Best Historical fiction novel for 2015 and won the coveted People’s Choice award for best fiction in the same year. Additionally, it was named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, iTunes, Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, Paste, and The Week. Her novel, The Great Alone, was also voted as Goodreads best historical novel of the year in 2018.”


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6 Books Written by Women About Women: Women’s History Month

Happy Women’s History Month! I thought I’d write about women writing about other empowering women, whether they’re based on facts or fiction. Are there any books you’re specifically reading this month for Women’s History Month? Are there any you’ve read and would suggest to other curious readers? This list is curated from my TBR shelf on Goodreads.


Circe by Madeline Miller

If you’re unsure of who Circe was, I’ll go ahead and briefly summarize her. She was the daughter of Helios. She can turn mortals into animals, and is banned to a secluded island for turning a nymph into a sea monster. She was described as walking to the beat of her own drum. Circe was a free spirit, and didn’t really care whether what she was doing was good or bad.

This book is about her having to rise up and fight for what she loves most. She also has to choose if she belongs with the Gods or with mortals. I’ve heard so many great things about this one, and I’m hoping it’s just as good as The Song of Achilles by the same author.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

This book follows Beryl Markham, a Kenyan aviatrix, who flew solo over the Atlantic Ocean. She didn’t stop there, though. She trained racehorses and wrote her own memoir. She was raised by her father and was a wild child, throwing her into many disastrous relationships. She attracts a community called the Happy Valley who also live by their own rules, and amidst the community is a man who changes her life . . . Denys Finch Hatton.

You’ll see that I have another Paula McLain book on this list, and that’s because I love her writing. I’m so excited to see how she writes about an aviatrix rather than someone who’s dealing with war. Beryl just seemed like a tough woman who chased her dreams when it seemed impossible. I’m all about that!

Euphoria by Lily King

This is loosely based on the famous Anthropologist, Margaret Mead. It follows three anthropologists (a married couple and another random man) in the jungles of New Guinea. They begin to create their best work, but it doesn’t come without fierce love and jealousy, threatening everything they have.

I recently finished King’s newest novel, Writers & Lovers, and I really enjoyed it. I know the writing style isn’t for everyone, but Lily King does such a great job at creating flawed, passionate characters. I’m hoping that this is no different! Beyond further research, I’m not entirely sure that this is 100% about empowered/empowering women, but it’s based off a famous, powerful figure, so I thought I’d add it.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

This novel is about Janie Crawford, a fictional character, who is determined to become her own woman during the ’30s. It takes her through a journey of three marriages and going back to her roots.

I read this in high school, and as a book that I was forced to read, I really enjoyed this one. I definitely want to reread in sometime soon. I guess this month would be as good a time as any. I just think Janie is a strong woman, and I highly recommend you give this a read.

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

Martha Gellhorn, one of the many wives of Hemingway, also happened to be a journalist and travel writer. This book follows her relationship with Hemingway and how it impacts her own dreams and aspirations during the Spanish-Civil War. Although, she does become one of the greatest war correspondents.

I loved this book when I read it back in mid-2018. I’d love to reread it and see if my thoughts have changed. I do remember her going through such turbulent times with Hemingway while also being an independent woman.

Leonora in the Morning Light by Michaela Carter

This novel is based on Leonora Carrington, a famous surrealist artist during the ’30s. She actually just died in 2011, which I had no idea she lived to see the 2000s. The novel also includes other artists of that era. She creates work that is based on her own life, and is recognized by her real name. Unfortunately, war looms over her and impacts her life greatly. The love of her life is taken away from her, and they have to find a way to reunite. They stumble upon an art collector who helps artists escape to America.

This just sounds so good, and it’s right up my alley. It’s historical fiction involving art. I don’t think I’ve read one that has let me down, yet. Leonora just seems like a strong woman who can handle anything, at least I hope so! This one actually isn’t out until April 6th, but I definitely want to read it. I’ll let you all know what I think when I do.


That’s it for this post. I hope you all are lifting each other up! Let me know if you have read any good books that would work well for this month! Thanks for reading.


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Book Review of The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

400 pages

Published: 1/5/21 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

ISBN: 9780593085684

Genre: Historical fiction

Rating: 4 out of 5.

B&N | Amazon

*Click on photos to view original source.

“A singular and stunning debut novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation, the refuge they find in each other, and a betrayal that threatens their existence.

Isaiah was Samuel’s and Samuel was Isaiah’s. That was the way it was since the beginning, and the way it was to be until the end. In the barn they tended to the animals, but also to each other, transforming the hollowed-out shed into a place of human refuge, a source of intimacy and hope in a world ruled by vicious masters. But when an older man—a fellow slave—seeks to gain favor by preaching the master’s gospel on the plantation, the enslaved begin to turn on their own. Isaiah and Samuel’s love, which was once so simple, is seen as sinful and a clear danger to the plantation’s harmony.

With a lyricism reminiscent of Toni Morrison, Robert Jones, Jr. fiercely summons the voices of slaver and the enslaved alike to tell the story of these two men; from Amos the preacher to the calculating slave-master himself to the long line of women that surround them, women who have carried the soul of the plantation on their shoulders. As tensions build and the weight of centuries—of ancestors and future generations to come—culminate in a climactic reckoning, The Prophets masterfully reveals the pain and suffering of inheritance, but is also shot through with hope, beauty, and truth, portraying the enormous, heroic power of love.”



Triggers: Rape, abuse (physical, mental, emotional), lynching, death / murder (adult and child), animal sacrifice, slavery, racism, manipulation, loss of a loved one. Proceed with caution.

This was a difficult book for me to rate, not that the rating of a book like this is important. The importance comes from the incredible messages this story delivers. The main issue, and probably the only issue, I had with this book was the confusion I felt after finishing a few of the chapters. I’m not a critical reader, and sometimes I feel like because of that I shouldn’t review books. There’s always a little bit of impostor syndrome in me. Regardless of what kind of reader I am, I couldn’t give this five stars due to the reason mentioned. I couldn’t quite catch on to the concept. I don’t know if I should know more biblical references to understand it, but this book didn’t really do anything to ease the confusion. But, it’s incredible other than that.

There are a lot of characters to follow with this one, so taking notes couldn’t hurt the reading experience. I didn’t get them confused at any point, which I can always appreciate with a story of this stature. I will note that you don’t only follow the slaves. Following the whites of the story is very cringe and rightfully so. It’s also hard to read as far as content. There were points where I wanted to put it down for good, but not in a “I hated the book” way. It’s just so heartbreaking that these events happened/still happen. If I could snap a finger and make it go away, I would.

I don’t want to forget to mention the highlight of the book, the LGBTQ+ representation. That’s mainly what the story is about—Samuel and Isaiah (The Two of Them). I don’t think we got to see enough of them and their relationship because there are so many characters, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t deeply care for them. They didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but the love and admiration they had for each other was commendable. Oh, the ending will get to you if you end up loving these characters. It’s a tragedy, for sure. I was actually prepared for that, and I hope that I can prepare you for that if you haven’t read this yet.

This won’t be a book that everyone will enjoy based on how it’s written, and the fact that it’s character-driven. Sometimes character-driven books aren’t for me, but this one was well done. It wasn’t my favorite part of this novel just because there were so many characters. I just appreciate the message and the honesty. It’s heartbreaking, harrowing, brutal, admirable, and powerful.

Is it revolutionary?

I would think that’s also based on preference. It’s not for me but it’s damn near. It just seemed so original from anything I’ve read. The writing itself isn’t hard to understand. There’s great description and dialogue. I read that some people thought it was slow, but I was flipping pages like a madman. The relationships between the characters are incredibly fleshed out. I think it’s an important novel for our modern day, and whether or not you enjoy it subjectively, it undoubtedly packs a punch.

My favorite quotes:

“She knew that they purchased everything except mercy.”

“The scars lined them the way bark lined trees. But those weren’t the worst ones. The ones you couldn’t see: those were the ones that streaked the mind, squeezed the spirit, and left you standing outside in the rain naked as birth, demanding that the drops stop touching you.”

“Water done wore away at her stone, and the next thing she knew, she was a damn river when she could have sworn she was a mountain.”

“Whenever and wherever nothing encounters something, conflict is inevitable.”

“But how? How could they not need more of everything: more love, more life, more time?”

“How dare nature continue on as though his suffering didn’t even make a dent, like the bloodshed and the bodies laid were ordinary, to be reduced to fertilizer by insects and sucked up by crops. No more than cow dung in the grand scheme. Same color, too.”

“There could never be peace, only moments in which war wasn’t overwhelming.”

“I ain’t rotten fruit; I a man.”

“No one would remember her name, but she had become a larger spirit now: head bigger, hips wider, and whatever the hurt. All the ones who had come before her simply pumping through her heart and they had found a place to be in the caverns of her throat. There, she recalled her voice.”

“Only one question: What to do when the cavalry arrives? Only one thing to do: With every drop of blood: Rebel!”

“Robert Jones, Jr., was born and raised in New York City. He received his BFA in creative writing with honors and MFA in fiction from Brooklyn College. He has written for numerous publications, including The New York TimesEssenceOkayAfricaThe Feminist Wire, and The Grio. He is the creator of the social justice social media community Son of Baldwin. Jones was recently featured in T Magazine‘s cover story, “Black Male Writers of Our Time.” The Prophets is his debut novel.”

His website


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Book Review of The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi – New All-Time Favorite!

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

248 pages

Published: 8/4/2020 by Riverhead Books

ISBN: 9780525541608

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Amazon | B&N

“What does it mean for a family to lose a child they never really knew?

One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings. As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships with the warm, boisterous daughters of the Nigerwives, foreign-born women married to Nigerian men. But Vivek’s closest bond is with Osita, the worldly, high-spirited cousin whose teasing confidence masks a guarded private life. As their relationship deepens—and Osita struggles to understand Vivek’s escalating crisis—the mystery gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of exhilarating freedom. 

Propulsively readable, teeming with unforgettable characters, The Death of Vivek Oji is a novel of family and friendship that challenges expectations—a dramatic story of loss and transcendence that will move every reader.” 



Triggers: Cheating, mention of rape, sacrifice of an animal, homophobia, physical abuse, bullying, sexism, rioting, miscarriage, death.

When I started this book I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as everyone else. It took me a minute to really get into the story. However, that ending made tears fall from my eyes, so I knew it was either going to be four or five stars. Upon further thinking, it was definitely a five-star read! If you’re looking for black authors to read for Black History Month, this would be a fantastic place to start.

The amount of heartbreak that happens while reading this novel is extreme. The control and oppression that Vivek is shown makes me so upset. His family / community never give him a break. He could never truly be who he wanted to be. You only get glimpses into Vivek’s brain, understandably, but you’ll want more as the story progresses. It’s hard only seeing through the lens of his family. You mainly get Osita’s point of view, and you’ll understand why if / when you read it.

It’s mind blowing to me that men with longer hair are even seen in a different light. It’s just hair, but different cultures assign it different meanings. This one gives men with long hair a bad connotation, but I’m so proud of Vivek for standing up for himself. I’m also happy that his mother, Kavita, sticks up for him as well. She struggles to understand what’s going on with Vivek, but she tries to see where he’s coming from. She just wants her baby to be okay. Sadly, he’s taken from the Earth far too early.

He was hiding in everyone else’s house as if he didn’t have a home. We didn’t know anything about our own child’s life.

There are parts in here that involve the two cousins, Vivek and Osita, that made me uncomfortable. I just didn’t expect it to happen. It’s a very intimate relationship, but you have to understand that Osita is one of the few people who allow Vivek to be Vivek. Osita obviously wants to protect his cousin, but he knows he’ll end up doing what he wants to in the end. Emezi definitely explores this relationship and turns it up a notch.

Can we talk about Mary and Ekene? I hated them with every fiber of my being. After reading about what happened when Mary took Vivek to church, I could have thrown the book (my iPad) across the room. I wanted to rage through my town. I just wanted to give Vivek a big hug.

I’m so happy I gave this book a chance. It explores so many kinds of relationships (familial and romantic). There’s so much sadness and heartbreak, but there’s a light at the end of the very dark tunnel. Some characters even experience growth—Kavita mostly. I just want everyone to experience this book, but I know it’s probably extremely triggering for so many people. I just think it’s so important to read. I haven’t read anything quite like it. If you think you can handle all of the triggers, then I recommend you read it with an open mind and open heart.

Akwaeke Emezi (b. 1987) is an artist and writer based in liminal spaces. Their art practice is located in the metaphysics of Black spirit and uses video, performance, writing, and sculpture to create rituals processing their embodiment as a nonhuman entity/an ogbanje/a deity’s child. 


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Book Review of The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang

The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang

654 pages

Published: 8/6/19 by Harper Voyager

ISBN: 9780062662637

Genre: Adult fantasy

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Amazon | B&N

*Click on photos to view original source

“In the aftermath of the Third Poppy War, shaman and warrior Rin is on the run: haunted by the atrocity she committed to end the war, addicted to opium, and hiding from the murderous commands of her vengeful god, the fiery Phoenix. Her only reason for living is to get revenge on the traitorous Empress who sold out Nikan to their enemies.

With no other options, Rin joins forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who has a plan to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new Republic. Rin throws herself into his war. After all, making war is all she knows how to do.

But the Empress is a more powerful foe than she appears, and the Dragon Warlord’s motivations are not as democratic as they seem. The more Rin learns, the more she fears her love for Nikan will drive her away from every ally and lead her to rely more and more on the Phoenix’s deadly power. Because there is nothing she won’t sacrifice for her country and her vengeance.”


Trigger warnings: Rape, self-harm, vivid descriptions of the dead (adults and children), drug use, vivid murder scenes, war scenes, PTSD, abortion, human experimentation, sad animal death, loss of a loved one. Just proceed with caution if you pick up this series. It’s pretty dark and brutal.

Wow, this book was one heck of a feat.

If I thought the first book was a lot to handle, this one really turns it up a few notches. It’s very action-packed and fast-paced, yet it’s not at the same time. It felt like it took me eons to finish, and that’s one of the reasons I gave it a lower rating than the first book. I’ll get into my other reasons later. Let’s get into my review.

I guess I’ll start with why I enjoyed this one, and why I’ll be finishing the series. I don’t know how I couldn’t finish this series considering how invested I am after reading 1,000+ pages of it already.

The writing is pretty much the same as the last book. The writing is well done and pretty easy to understand, as I said in my review for the first book in the series. There’s a lot of character development and world building to be had with this one. You may want to take notes if that’ll help you.

My favorite characters ended up being Kitay, Suni and Baji. I will tell you to not fall in love with any characters because Kuang doesn’t care about your feelings, apparently. She really ripped my heart out a few times throughout the novel. Now I see what everyone was talking about. I’ve read this one before and all of it went over my head. I’m happy I paid attention this time around.

It’s not about who you are, it’s about how they see you. And once you’re mud in this country, you’re always mud.

Rin really gave us the run-around with her development. I would be so proud of her one moment and so frustrated with her the next. I can’t believe how much she didn’t see what was happening within the Dragon Republic. Like, did she meet Vaisra? I could tell the moment she spoke to him that he would drag her through mud! Oh, it made me want to throw the book. I can’t tell if I’m going to like Rin by the end of the series. Only time and 640 pages will tell.

Okay, moving on to what really got under my skin with this one.

First off, “Tiger’s tits.”

THAT PHRASE GIVES ME SECONDHAND EMBARRASSMENT. STOP USING IT. I swear it was on every page. Every page. It’s not funny, and it never was. Can we all agree?

There are so many characters introduced in the book that my head was spinning. They were all connected / related / whatever else you can be with another person. I almost gave up. I couldn’t tell who was against who because it would change so quickly. It’s just many pages of back-and-forth between armies, warlords, Gods, etc. I just couldn’t get with it.

What had seemed like an easy victory was about to turn into a bloodbath.

And, for the grand finale that we all saw coming……..it was too long. Maybe I’m not used to long fantasy novels since I don’t read them. I’m also in for a rude awakening when I read The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson. Like I said, it felt like a lot happened yet nothing at all. I was wishing for it to be over with. I loved the beginning and the end of the book. Let’s just condense the middle and I’ll be a happy camper.

Overall, I think this had middle book syndrome. I think it’s preparing for one heck of a finale. Well, that’s all I can hope for. It may take a bit of a break before jumping into that one, though. I read the first two back-to-back. I will say that I could probably read this series a third time and learn something new each time. That’s another positive that comes from this series. If you can handle the brutality of it, then I say go pick up the first one!

Side note: When Rin is learning how to use the fire inside her, and she hurts Kitay, it reminds me of when Aang hurts Katara in Avatar: The Last Airbender when he’s trying to fire bend.

Rebecca F. Kuang is a Marshall Scholar, translator, and the Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award nominated author of the Poppy War trilogy. She has an MPhil in Chinese Studies from Cambridge and an MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies from Oxford; she is now pursuing a PhD in East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale. Website: rfkuang.com


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