Seven Days in June by Tia Williams

Seven Days in June

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book made me text my ex and thank him for the memories.

It was that deep.

Talia Hibbert reviewed this book and she mentioned that this had a Romeo and Juliet vibe, and I can definitely see/feel that. This book was intense! Hot, fiery, passionate, full of tension, and just damn good.

I will be the first to tell you that I do not read Romance novels on a regular basis. But this one?! OMG! I’m undone!

The reason that I’m undone is because bits and pieces of this story was true for my life. I had the guy who “had no direction” in his life, let my mother tell it. She secretly drove the love of my life away from me claiming that he was distracting me from college. Because he loved me so much, he disappeared so that he wouldn’t be a distraction. He left to go ‘better’ himself, and I didn’t hear from him for over 5 years. At that point it was too late. Too much life had interfered and I was stuck without him in my life. We ended up trying to get back together at some point, but it was a mess, literally. He didn’t want to be the cause of a broken home, nor did he want to do long-distance, so… we parted ways.

I’ve never forgiven my mother to this day about how she interfered in my life and caused my soulmate to leave me. The trajectory of my life would’ve been different had we stayed together. We still communicate, but it’s not the same. He’s married with a kid, and I’m married with kids. He lives in my hometown, and I’m halfway across the country in another timezone. I barely stay in touch because I can’t trust myself with my emotions with him. He knows me inside and out and totally understands my whole being. He’s the only one who I’ve given my all to, and most likely will be the only one. I feel like he was made for me, and I for him. However, as struggles arise in my current marriage from time to time, I can’t help but think, what if…

Anyways, this book completely unraveled me. Shane and Genevieve (ha! my mother’s name) are high school lovers who shared a week in June, 15 years ago, in an intense, hot, passionate, fiery, unapproved situationship. Shane disappears and Genevieve hasn’t forgotten or forgiven his absence. Matter of fact, she’s created an entire fictional book series around this mysterious chemistry they shared while in high school. Meanwhile, Shane, also rocked by this out of nowhere romance, is a highly acclaimed writer who has written a book series about Genevieve in a way that is communicating in some way with Genevieve across decades, in his novel series with a female protagonist by the name of Eight.

Shane, one day decides that enough is enough, and he has to face his fears about Genevieve and tell her what happened and apologize for that fateful day where he disappeared. In the middle of all this drama and memories, Genevieve (aka Eva Mercy) is also looking to break out of a shell she’s been hammering together for 15 years. With the advise of her “wise beyond her years” daughter, she decides to finally live her best life, and do things she never would’ve done before. The results are so worth it.

The message I heard in this book was so loud and clear:
– Fuck what ya heard, and live your life babygirl!

If you can relate to any part of this story, you are in for a real treat. The writing is just sooo good!! The banter, the playing, the fighting, the emotions, the tugs and pulls, the tension, the mystery, the discovery, the thrill, the let downs, the everything… this book pulls on every heart string you have.

Genevieve (Eva) has debilitating migraines, and I loved how the author depicted her ‘invisible disability’ so well. I felt like I could feel the pain of the migraines myself as I was reading. She gave those migraines a real lens, and as a reader who suffers from headaches and a husband who has migraines, I could totally relate to how she felt. The author talked about the stigma, the stress, the shame, the ignorance that others have regarding disabilities that aren’t quite visible. She let the migraines speak for themselves, and allowed people who suffer from debilitating migraines a platform to share their experience and educate others as well.

Shane also has a crutch/vice. He’s relied on alcohol to numb the pain of so many things in his life, but he’s slowly coming to realize that in order to grow up, he needs to be sober. Throughout this book, we watch him manage his sobriety and find ways to be healthy and learn to live without being addicted to self-destructive behaviors.

Tia Williams also discusses in detail the harm that generational curses have on families. Eva is able to dismantle the generational curse in her family, but it was WORK. However, Williams shares this, I believe, in hopes that people can see that you can break generational curses. You can find the truth and let that set you free from continuing the same dysfunction, and having this knowledge allows you to filter things so that you don’t have to fall into the same trap if possible.

This book also shares the behind the scenes portion about book writing in general, and all the things that go into writing books. The fandom, the creative process, the stress, the deadlines, the barriers, the sexism, the influencers, booktube, bookstagram, booktok, the publishing and marketing ordeal, all that… The celebs, the haves and the have nots in the writing world. I mean, Williams just does an excellent job about the actual writing process and what it takes to get a book out into the world.

Some of the topics that this book shares:
– Sexism in publishing
– Invisible disabilities
– Stress
– Writing process
– Generational curses
– Soulmates
– Single mom/motherhood
– Work/life balance
– Teenage love
– Communication
– Truth telling
– Self-discovery
– Mentoring/involvement
– Commitment
– Stereotypes/misconceptions

I could literally read this book again right now. It is just that good! For anyone who doesn’t really do romance novels, this one might just be up your alley. 5 stars.

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Egg Marks the Spot by Amy Timberlake

Egg Marks the Spot (Skunk and Badger 2)

Egg Marks the Spot by Amy Timberlake

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve never read a book as clever as this! Such a great story and message to the young kids! I was totally enthralled by this book. I took to heart both Badger and Skunk in very different ways, but they both clung to my spirit because I am a bit of both.

Badger; the Type A, serious, matter of fact, organized planner is a Rock Scientist, and unbeknownst to him, will be embarking on an epic journey.

Skunk; the free-spirited, book review reader, brilliant chef, procrastinator, and social butterfly is Badger’s roommate. They are as opposites as opposites get, but are also two very supportive friends.

This book will take you on a wild adventure, as you clamber through the days with Badger and Skunk, find yourself turned around in a cave, have you hooting and hollering with the rats and cats, and cheering on both Badger and Skunk as they both get out of their comfort zones.

Some of the topics that stood out to me were:
– Friendship
– Opposites attract
– Support
– Bullying
– Self-determination
– Preparedness
– Time management
– Networking
– Solidarity
– Trust
– Gratefulness
– Sincerity
– Conflict Resolution
– Problem solving

Very positive messaging, and I really enjoyed the scientific facts that I learned about rocks, chickens, and dinosaurs. I was also very amused at both Badger and Skunk’s personality; they both packed quite a punch. I enjoyed the way the author addressed bullying, and invoking the discomfort one feels when a bully is present. I hope that young kids who read this and may be a bully feels guilty and quits bullying people after reading this book. Or that a kid will read this and decide to step up the next time they see someone in a bully situation. I really appreciated the support Badger and Skunk played in each other’s lives although they were different. It allowed people to see how you can work together with someone who is different from you in look, background, or even smell. We all bring something to the table, and it’s important to support people who care about you, be there for them when they need it the most, give people space and grace, and fight the good fight for the oppressed. Different is good. Learn to work through adversity and challenges, and standing up for yourself.

Highly recommend; middle grade – 5 stars. Definitely going to find and buy Skunk and Badger #1!

Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers and Amy Timberlake for this book in exchange for a fair and honest opinion.

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A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom by Brittany K. Barnett

A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom

A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom by Brittany K. Barnett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is not an easy read. Back up, and read that again. This is not an easy read. This book is HEAVY. EMOTIONAL, HEART BREAKING, and FILLED WITH HOPE, DESPAIR, DESPERATION, and SACRIFICE.

Brittany K. Barnett is living out her passion and heart work. She is putting her money where her mouth is and she deeply cares for people’s lives. This memoir is so important and necessary, everyone should read this book.

Her memoir far exceeds what you would think as a memoir. Brittany has intertwined her life and experiences along with pursuing her ultimate passion of helping people get off life without parole sentences for non-violent drug offenses. She explains the draconian laws and the War on Drugs, and how they intercept with people’s real lives and how mass incarceration has been fueled by sentences that do not match the crime. Combating the “war on drugs” from the federal side looks like an unmarked van pulling up into the Black/Brown communities and kidnapping people for their entire lives. The federal government and prosecutors have teamed up in genocidal kidnapping of Black people especially, and discarding them into prison like they are nothing but trash. Prosecutors have historically went after Black people in such a horrific way, that they don’t even need to prove anything to put us in prison. They can make stuff up, get someone to agree to snitch, and have you in jail for life, all on little to no evidence. The burden of proof is not on the court, but on the person who’s been indicted on federal drug charges, specifically crack cocaine. They are the ones having to prove themselves innocent, versus the nonexistent premise of ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ That is not a luxury afforded to Black and Brown people. Black and Brown people have been treated as guilty for just being Black, for just surviving, for just being…. hell, for as little as association.

“But the notion that one is innocent until proven guilty is long gone from the American criminal justice system.” (p. 290)

Brittany shares her life experiences, sharing how her mother was impacted by drugs in the 90s. Her mother was sentenced to an 8 year prison stint for possession of drugs, crack cocaine to be exact. Her mother served 2 of those years before she was released on probation, but she had to serve time for being addicted to a controlled substance. Instead of receiving medical attention, care, and treatment, they sent her to prison instead. Now, in the age of opioid addiction in the white community, the disparities of drug abuse is quite evident. White people are led away to treatment facilities, while Black people are corralled up and sent off to prison.

“We punish addiction in this country, treating it as a moral flaw instead of an illness. Prison does not bring redemption, and it does not cure or treat addiction.” (p. 74)

Whole cities have turned into prison towns, just to continue the influx of putting Black people away. Mass incarceration is real. Prosecutors have been reaping the benefits of mass incarceration in ways that should be a heinous crime. Especially with the use of the 851 enhancement, people just go to jail forever. Literally. Prosecutors have sole discretion in pursuing the 851 enhancement and judges literally have their hands tied when it comes to sentencing these matters. The 851 enhancement allows prosecutors to issue mandatory life sentences that are set in stone, which are wielded to coerce guilty pleas and allow the accused to snitch in order to receive a lesser sentence. If they do not snitch/cooperate/or are adamant in invoking their right to a fair trial, they are retaliated on and the prosecutor then imposes the 851 enhancement sealing their fate into prison for life. It is a sick and dreadful disease, the abuse of power that prosecutors seemingly have, and the laws need to be replaced with something more equitable across the board. Prosecutors act in revengeful ways to lock up Black bodies, solely unchecked. Black people are essentially punished for merely surviving.

Brittany’s memoir is filled with care and compassion. Her book showcases that she cares about people. A memoir is usually about self, but this memoir is more than just about Brittany’s life. She shares with us all her deep passion and commitment to saving the lives of people who don’t have a life to live. She is working to save those in virtual death sentences to have a chance at a life. To unshackle those imprisoned to give them some chance at seeing the free world, to help them continue to engage and lead productive lives, and help mothers and daughters continue having a connected relationship despite the separation prison doles out mercilessly.

People keep saying that the justice system is broken. It is not. The system is doing exactly what it was designed to do. Pick up where slavery left off. The laws and regulations that have been molded and shaped to such fine precision that there doesn’t even need to be evidence to send people to jail for life. Black people have been the unfortunate recipients of these laws. Black people who get caught up in the drug ring (selling or using), “exemplifies the role that extreme poverty, intergenerational trauma, and societal neglect plays in both the War on Drugs and the mass incarceration crisis.” (p. 282) Judge Sharp, a former federal judge who resigned his lifetime appointment because of the laws, says this: “There [is] no justice in [these] courtroom[s] [today], as long as these laws are on the books, there never will be.” (p. 295)

Brittany is a champion and a fighter who is helping to push back on these draconian laws. Doing what she can legally to get people out of prison, be it through the long shot of a clemency grant or through the courts in reduced sentences. However she can do it, she’s working to get people out of living death sentences. Brittany is making things happen between her organizations like G.E.M. (Girls Embracing Mothers) and her Buried Alive Project, she is living out her passion and heart work in rescuing people who are being sent away for life on “ghost dope charges,” and the like. Brittany is trying to change the narrative of so many people, men, women, and also the children who are living with parents locked up.

“… the suffering of children with parents in prison is unspeakable, and the threat of lasting damage from that trauma – emotional, social, personal, is very real.” (p. 169)

I applaud her for being brave, for stepping out on faith, and for listening to her heart. We need more Brittany’s out here stepping up for the Black community. Aiding and providing knowledge, expertise, and legal consultation for those disadvantaged and living without a chance of parole. If this book doesn’t propel you forward in a motivated way to get active or help in some way, I don’t know what could move you. This book is truly moving! You are on the edge of your seat hoping with Brittany about her clients, like Sharanda, Mike, Corey, Wayland, De-Ann, Chris, Keyon, and Donel, rooting her on in her work with G.E.M., screaming at the top of your lungs when someone gets their second chance at life, and holding your breath for those going through the process of seeking clemency or reduced sentences. This book shines a light on everything wrong with the laws of our land. It shines a light on prosecutors who abuse their unfettered power. This book shines a light on Critical Race Theory, and how racism is ingrained into the very fabric of America’s beginning and the current society, which is NOT UP FOR DEBATE. It is the TRUTH!

We need more champions, we need more Brittany’s, we need more hope, and we need laws changed, NOW! We need hope, justice, and freedom. 5 stars. Required reading.

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The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna (Deathless #1)

The Gilded Ones (Deathless, #1)

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So I’m on the fence with this one. I slowly came to the realization and feeling that I felt like I was reading a movie. The story moved slow in the beginning and only picked up slightly towards the end. The whole time though, I felt like I was watching a movie in slow motion.

I really enjoyed the overarching themes in the book:
– Fighting the patriarchy
– Feminism
– Oppressed fighting back
– Diversity
– Equality
– Sexism
– Misogny
– Racism
– Colorism
– Female friendships
– Biological family vs Acquired family
– Nobility, classism, royalty, matrons, elite, etc.
TW: blood/gore, rape, mutilation, torture, grim/dark violence

The messaging was really loud for young girls and I am here for all of that. We do need to fight the patriarchy and also demand our worth. You should not shy away because of your differences. We should embrace the differences and use them to your advantage. However, I got too much Handmaid’s Tale meets War Girls meets Black Sun. from this story. The love interest trope was cute, but unnecessary. In their attempt to fight back the patriarchy and show their worth without needing men in their lives to guard them in all aspects, the MC goes and gets emotionally caught up with the male uruni that she is partnered with. For me, that was a bit annoying, but it wasn’t bad bad. It just leaves the question of, if the women are making a stand saying that, “we don’t need men to rule our lives,” why would she go and fall in love with the type that used to kill their kind?

Additionally, the book doesn’t really answer all the questions I had by the end, which I guess is because there is a second book coming, but I also feel like the book was a tad bit too long and drawn out. The world building was decent, but still felt a bit incomplete. The YA tropes that were used were generic and common. Gaping holes in the narrative/plot. Too much dark violence for a YA novel, but yet the writing was geared towards teens. The pacing of the book was slow, and I almost couldn’t get out of the first part of the book because the story was just dragging and an endless amount of detail was clogging up the story.

For the majority of YA readers, this book is probably going to be good for them, but for high fantasy YA connoisseurs, this book is not top shelf reading material. This book does wrap up in a way that doesn’t make you feel forced to read the second book, but also leaves an opening for more story to come, seeing that there are unanswered questions and a whole kingdom to unite. So, there you have it! I would rate this book a 3/3.5.

Just to point out one more thing: The praise in the beginning of the book says that the author could be the next Toni Morrison of YA? Umm… I don’t agree with that statement. Though her storytelling in this debut novel was fairly good, I can see how her experiences as a screenwriter played in this book, and for some they will like that, but for others, it may not work too well because of the pacing that is involved with trying to write out every single thing that happens. There was more telling than showing in some areas, and for YA fantasy, I want to use my brain a bit with my imagination to figure some things out instead of telling me everything.

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The Last Nomad by Shugri Said Salh

“Like an archeologist desperately excavating a forgotten world, I want to bring the details of my nomadic upbringing to life before it is lost forever. I don’t want the library of my past to die with me. The resilience I learned from surviving life in the desert carried me through the unexpected death of my young mother, being chased from my country by civil war, and defying my clan’s expectations after I dared to fall in love with a man from the “wrong” country.”

The memoir of Shugri Said Salh is remarkable. She has survived the nomadic life in the desert. She has run from civil war in her home country. She lived life as a refugee in Kenya. She has gained her freedom and independence by escaping to Canada. She is finally living a life of purpose, and hoping to leave a legacy of stories behind her to give to her children and her children’s children. She does not want her story to die with her. She wants her life and her culture to be remembered.

“Somalia is known as the nation of poets, and creating poems is considered a sign of intelligence in our culture,” Shugri writes. “…poetry is a major form of communication among the nomads.”

I was deeply enthralled by Shugri’s memoir and all that she faced as a young girl, leading up to her coming of age in the Somali culture. The nomadic lifestyle she endured during her childhood helped to shape and mold the very person she is today. Shugri details how living in a nomadic community built her, and how her resilience and independence came from watching her mighty ayeeyo (grandmother) and her commanding presence, which set the tone for her life.

Shugri Said Salh, details life in Somalia, educating her readers about the culture and life as a daughter, in the Muslim faith. She discusses the burdens that are placed on young women in the Somali culture and how she navigated life in this very patriarchal/patrilineal society. We learn about how she developed a strong sense of self and self-reliance from her beloved grandmother. How she fought to not lose herself when troubles came her way. How she learned and navigated in foreign countries. How she continued to evoke the spirit of her nomadic grandmother whenever she came across trials she felt was unavoidable or harsh. I loved Shugri’s spirit of being able to figure things out and how she learned to move on and not dwell when things don’t go your way, but to use those shortcomings and deficiencies into something worthwhile and meaningful. Shugri has a powerful voice and story to share with the world, and her children should be proud to know that their mother is a strong and fearless elder.

Salh recounts tales from her youth, even depicting the graphic FGM (female genital mutilation) that her culture embraced for young girls coming of age. She talks about how social standing for men is the highest form or only form of currency in their culture. How women are treated as inept in keeping their own virginity sacred. She discusses how extremism in her religion is destroying her country’s culture.

There were several themes and topics I gathered from reading her memoir:

⁃ Feminism

⁃ Gender roles

⁃ Survival

⁃ Gratitude

⁃ Life cycle

⁃ Fearlessness

⁃ Bravery

⁃ Courage

⁃ Heroic women

⁃ Head of household

⁃ Death/grief

⁃ Nomadic lifestyle

⁃ Patriarchial/patrilineal society

⁃ Rape culture

⁃ Self-sufficiency/independence

⁃ Tradition/culture

⁃ Religion vs extremism

Being a woman in the Somali culture, from Salh’s perspective sounds harsh and unfair. Women basically are responsible for everything. By the age of 16, young women are expected to know how to run a household efficiently. How women are only valued if she is obedient or subservient. How women had to be the burden carriers of their families honor. However, this culture shaped and molded Salh into an indomitable person, who strives towards honor and respect in every aspect of her life. I am in awe of her story, and I’m very thankful that others are able to read and learn about her life growing up in Somalia. Her rich detailed history allowed me to gain curiosity in this North African culture. I was curious about the civil war in Somalia in the 1990s, and how the country is doing right now. I was enthralled by the many anecdotes she told about how she matriculated into North America.

I wanted to learn more about her grandmother’s life, and how she survived 90 years in the desert, searching and living day to day. I was saddened to learn about her mother’s death at a young age. I was curious to learn about how she found herself in an orphanage with some of her siblings. Salh’s storytelling abilities was very much appreciated, and I’m sure her mother and grandmother would be proud to hear her sharing her life and ensuring that their legacy doesn’t die out without it being recorded.

“When an elder dies, a library is burned.” – an Old African Proverb

“Keeping our stories alive provides us with a living history lesson.”

Thank you so much for sharing your story with the world Shugri Said Salh. Your voice is needed! Thank you to Algonquin Books, Libro.FM, and the author, Shugri Said Salh for providing this book in exchange for a fair and honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Walls by L. M. Elliott


Walls by L.M. Elliott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a historical YA fiction novel that details a period of time in history regarding the surprising overnight build of the Berlin Wall in the 1960s. The story is told from Drew, a 15 year old, who’s had to uproot and move 6 times in his life. He finds himself in Germany because his dad is an Army soldier who is stationed in the American Sector in Berlin. His mother, is also a person who has a deep and sincere calling to help out, and is a volunteer translator to ensure those who are seeking freedom and asylum can be sent to safer places, and also helping to seek out enemy spies. She introduces Drew and his siblings to their cousin, Matthias, who lives in East Berlin, and is also 15, but has been indoctrinated into ideology of Communism. Drew, who is reluctant to befriend his “commie” cousin, finds himself wary and questioning as he’s trying to navigate this new country and help protect his sisters and mom from the obvious and not so obvious enemies.

This book tells the story of Drew and his cousin in a series of episodic chapters that is for each month leading to the building of the Berlin Wall. I was deeply fascinated in how this book was set up. There are real life photos of what’s happening around the world during the same time frame, so that the reader can get a deeper perspective on the world events and how these series of events happened after WWII, while leading into the Vietnam War.

This book is definitely good for a reluctant reader and for any kid who wants to know/learn about history but is scared to read a non-fiction book about the same subject. This book will educate and entertain with so much ease, that you will be shocked to know that you actually learned something and liked the book at the same time, and it’s about HISTORY! The minute I finished this book, my daughter wanted to read it, and she hates books that are not graphic novels. She hasn’t stopped reading the book since she picked it up, and for that alone, is a miracle! This book has such a good teenager vibe, that I was pleased with how Drew handled himself in this book. Even amongst war in Berlin, we see Drew be a teenager, complete with teenage love, sports, school, bullies, and just trying to fit in and come to grips with being in a new place.

This book is emotionally heavy, and showcases the world events during this timeframe in such a careful way, that I was really pleased how the author broached topics on politics, white supremacy, segregation/racism, feminism, military life, child abuse, family bonds, morality, and integrity.

Drew and Matthias find themselves on the opposites sides of democracy and what they feel is right or wrong. They both learn from either in such a way, that they start to look at each other differently. This story tests the boundaries of their friendship, loyalty, family, and secrets. During the tumultuous reign of terror of communism in Germany, you get to see this story played out from a teenager’s perspective, and see how they are confronted with life and death situations, and how they cope with the pressures of life during a military post overseas.

I really enjoyed this book and couldn’t put it down. I would rate this book 5 stars.

Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers, and the author, L.M. Elliot for this book in exchange for a fair and honest opinion.

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