August 2021 Thoughts and Wrap Up

The background features fresh green grass and sunlight coming from the top. The title of the post is at the top in green writing "August 2021 Wrap Up". A stack of books that were read is featured in the middle.

I feel like expressing awe at how fast 2021 is going is the way I could start every single wrap up this year. But truly, it’s going so fast! We are practically in fall now, I see pumpkin-related things popping up everywhere now as well as fall colors in decor at the stores.

Work was quite busy this month as well but it did get a bit better in terms of stress levels. I think things will stay busy for the rest of the year but nothing I can’t handle! There are cool projects coming up so that will also be something I’ll be looking forward to.

In terms of books I managed to finish reading 8 books!

  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: This was a super powerful and amazing book. Stevenson writes about his experiences working as a lawyer for people who have been sentenced to serve life in prison or given capital punishment. We follow the lives of people who were wrongly convicted as well as those who were given awfully harsh punishments that were not proportional to the crime they committed. Overall, amazing, highly recommend.
  • A Perfect Marriage by Jeneva Rose: I listened to this audiobook on a whim and it was fine. This is a thriller that deals with a man who is accused of murdering his mistress and ends up being represented by his wife who is a fairly famous defense attorney. Reading this right after Just Mercy was not what I had planned and it was unfortunate for this book. I couldn’t have much sympathy for the characters even though I’ll admit that I couldn’t stop listening to see what twists and turns would happen next.
  • Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi: Changing gears a bit I read this young adult fantasy book, a sequel to Children of Blood and Bone. It was cool being back in this magical world based on African mythology and seeing how the magic system evolved. I was a bit disappointed in the characters’ decisions and motivations but it was a fun read nonetheless.
  • An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn: Next I hopped over to a romance, again continuing the Bridgerton series! This time we followed Benedict’s story in a sort of Cinderella inspired twist. I can’t say that this was my favorite so far, it felt a bit meh but what saved it for me was all the interactions with the rest of the Bridgerton family. That’s where the real love was and I really enjoyed that aspect of the book.
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay: This book was the pick for one of my book clubs and I actually listened to the audiobook. This was narrated by Roxane Gay herself and it was so powerful and emotionally difficult to hear. However, it is a very valuable perspective about living as a black fat woman in the United States. Gay tells the story of her life but also gives us her perspective on what society and popular media have contributed to how we view fat bodies. Highly recommend it!
  • Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki: I’ve been dipping my toe into learning more about meditation for the past couple of years and this book really helped me learn a lot about a way to approach this education without letting my desire to learn cloud the actual meditation (if that makes any sense.) I’ll definitely be reading a couple of these talks from time to time as I continue my journey into meditation.
  • Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto: This book was so much fun! Murder, weddings, aunties, an ex! There was a lot going on in this book and it was just a riot reading about all the shenanigans that the characters got into. If you’re looking for a fun light read, this is the one!
  • The Sandman Omnibus Vol 1 by Neil Gaiman: I finally finished it! This collection of comics is only Volume 1 of 3 and I loved it! There were for sure some sections that were difficult to read, either because they were super violent or psychologically intense, but overall it was all very immersive. I am in awe at how Gaiman constructs his stories and I can’t wait to read Vol 2.

There was also technically the book about aliens…. but it was just not good at all so I didn’t even dedicate a review to it because I did not deem it worth that. So I guess technically I read nine books but I’d just as soon forget I read that last one XD. Other than that, it was a great reading month! Next month is going to be so fun, I already have my TBR ready so look out for that coming up soon.

How did your August go? Are you ready for fall/winter?

~Paulina~ written in casual cursive on a purple background.

Review: The Sandman Omnibus Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman

The background of the image is black ink in water, flowing and dissolving. On the right is the book cover and on the left the title of the blog "Review: The Sandman Omnibus Vol 1 by Neil Gaiman"

The Sandman comic series was created by Neil Gaiman in the 80s and 90s. I have so far loved just about everything that Neil Gaiman has written, from his novels, short stories, children’s books, and his collaborations with other authors and artists. I find his humor and craft of storytelling so captivating and just exactly my cup of tea. This comic series follows Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams. Morpheus is the guardian of the land of dreams, that place where we all go when we go to sleep.

Many years ago I started reading the Sandman comics on an iPad I owned at the time. It was a bit difficult to read it in that format because it was each individual comic that you opened up and scrolled through. Then, when I closed it and had to remember which file was next I’d always get mixed up and would be reading in a strange order that ended up being confusing. That’s when I decided that needed to own the comics in some physical form in order to fully enjoy them. And so, when I found the existence of the Sandman Omnibus I jumped at the chance to buy it…. until I saw the price T_T. I did not have a full time job back then so $150 for a book was quite steep for me. But when I got a full time job and there was a sale, I finally acquired the first volume!

I think I had the collection on my shelves for about 2 or 3 years before I actually started reading it this year. And that’s okay! I’m glad I waited because I think there are some parts of this series that I might not have been prepared to read two or three years ago.

Morpheus is such an interesting character. He is an Endless being who has the responsibility of taking care of people’s dreams. It might seem like an aspect of life that does not matter much; however, throughout the comics we learn that dreams really can have a big influence in our lives. If we have peaceful and inspiring dreams we can wake up and tackle the day much differently than if we had nightmares or if we never had dreams at all.

Take a look at Morpheus, isn’t he majestic? There’s a definite sense of drama and flare and power all around him. Love it!

Image of a man with pale skin, black wild hair, and a robe made up of large ruffles that look to be fluttering all around him. There is a bubble of text that says "I am back". He's coming out of a doorway that is filled with yellow light behind him.
The representation of Death is a woman with pale skin and wild black hair. She is wearing a fitted black top and a black tulle skirt that flares out. She wears black stockings and black heels.

Another character who is super interesting is Death, Morpheus’ older sister. She is a super sensible character who gives advice to Morpheus about decisions that he makes that might not have been the most fair or logical. She also is a caretaker of sorts to all the siblings (Dream, Destiny, Desire, Destruction, Despair, and Desire) since she seems to be the one who tends to try to keep the peace between all of them. We don’t see too much of the other siblings until the very end of this volume but I’m very interested to learn more about them and how they all interact with each other.

I also love her style, she’s very fashionable and the way she interacts with humans is also very compassionate and wonderful.

This might seem obvious but I also really enjoyed the art in these comics. There were so many creative ways that the panels are laid out. For example, here you can see how someone is falling asleep and the panels start turning until you are reading about what’s happening in the land of dreams.

As you can see above there are also some beautiful spreads showing the different lands featured in these comics. The artists are so good and I did find myself actually having dreams in these lands! Some of my dreams were definitely unsettling while others were fantastic and just full of great feelings.

Overall, this collection of comics is excellent. I loved all the stories that featured Morpheus. There were a couple of stories that were very difficult to read, some dealing with suicide, murder, abuse (of all kinds), and the endings for these were sometimes utterly heartbreaking. My favorite bits were the comics that dealt with historical figures and major historical events. I loved how Morpheus or Death would appear and interact with humans in these stories, which worked as a bit of background for why the main characters have made certain decisions.

I’d highly recommend this comic series if you are at all interested in mythology, history, dreams, and just awesome art and storytelling.

~Paulina~ written in casual cursive on a purple background.

Review: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto

The background features water in a pool with the branches of a palm tree in the foreground. The title of the blog is on the left in black letters and the book cover is on the right.
Cover for "Dial A for Aunties" The title is in white letters except for the A which is in bright red. There are 5 women depicted on the bright yellow cover, all wearing different shades of green. There is a white chandelier above them in the background as well as palm trees coming from the sides.

I received “Dial A for Aunties” by Jesse Q Sutanto in my monthly Feminist Book Club Box, which was all about beach reads! This month the FBC donated 5% of the proceeds to Students Against Voter Suppression, an organization of high school and college students dedicated to protecting voting rights.

This book was a lot of fun! While this book does involve romance, that’s not all in terms of a defining genre. There is the theme of immigrant family dynamics, accidental murder, all set at a brand new hotel, venue for a Chinese-Indonesian wedding between two very wealthy families.

We are following Meddy, a young photographer who works along with her Ma and aunties in order to provide wedding services, from the photography to the cake, flowers, makeup, and even the entertainment. The night before the wedding she is set up by her Ma on a blind date with the owner of the hotel where the wedding will take place. She can’t just not go of course, even though she’s not happy that her mother set her up, she will go and make sure that her family does not get fired from the wedding. Unfortunately, things go really badly and now Meddy and her family have to figure out a way to discard a body while working a wedding!

I think the main thing I loved about this book was the relationship between Meddy and her family. I mean they are all literally trying to get away with murder for each other. There are also these very interesting dynamics between Ma and her sisters, there’s jealousy, resentments, and condescension, all while still truly loving and protecting each other over anything else. These dynamics make for a very interesting project in trying to hide the body since all of them want to be the one to lead them to victory. All of this leads to some very hysterical moments throughout the book that truly had me laughing out loud.

The other aspect of the book is the romance. I tend to be frustrated by romances in some books because the characters tend to have silly reasons or misunderstandings about why they break up or why there is some kind of drama. In this case, Meddy’s relationship with her ex was not ended due to a silly misunderstanding. Meddy is Chinese-Indonesian, daughter of immigrants with big expectations on her shoulders. It isn’t about just becoming a big doctor/lawyer for her, it is about not leaving her family (like other young members of the family have done) and disappointing them by seeking her own life. This was something that really hit home for me. There is a sense of duty to family that exists in many cultures and what I read in this book was very close to what I’ve experienced in my family. The guilt of thinking of yourself first causes one to make certain life decisions that might not be the same if we were just thinking of ourselves. However, there is always the fortune that our families stand by us no matter what, and all of it tends to be a mind game that we trap ourselves in.

Something I really liked as well was the use of English, Indonesian, and Mandarin throughout the book. Ma and her sisters speak mostly in Indonesian and Mandarin but Maddy is not fluent in those languages so she has a hard time keeping up with them. Meanwhile Ma is not 100% fluent in English so some ideas are lost in translation (especially in regards to that date she set for her daughter! OMG). It’s amazing because in my family we speak both English and Spanish so there are definitely some times when I have to ask my dad to elaborate a bit on what some words mean or when my mom will ask about what some term means as well. Conversations simply last longer and we learn to be a bit more patient with each other when we chat.

Overall, I loved the journey that this book too me in, from the blind date, the twists and turns, the reveals, and all the family antics, this is a really fun book to read. I also loved that I identified with a lot of the relationship dynamics. If you’re searching for a book that takes you on a wild ride, this is one to check out!

~Paulina~ written in casual cursive on a purple background.

Review: Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

The background has a pond where shapes of fish can be seen under the water like white shadows. On the left is the title of the post "Review: Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki" and on the right the cover of the book.
There is a book with a grey cover held and illuminated by full sunshine. The title of the book is written in red at the top of the book with calligraphy for Japanese characters.

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind is a very unique book. This is a transcription of Shunryu Suzuki’s talks, which were recorded on tape by Marian Derby and then edited and organized by Trudy Dixon, one of Suzuki’s closest disciples. Suzuki was a Zen master who moved to California because he was very interested in how the people living there were so open to the Zen practice. The book is a collection of talks that Suzuki gave that address many aspects of the Zen practice.

I have attended some meditation classes/sessions before and, while I was able to sit through them, I always had so many questions and distractions that I concluded that it was just something that was just too hard for me. This book told me that, well, I’m clearly overthinking it! This book goes through what the posture, breathing, and sitting position should be in order to make the Zen practice the most effective. After that it is all a mental game. Overall it is all about simply practicing. It is about having that discipline to sit and face my own thoughts and everything that comes when I stop.

I highly recommend that, if you’re interested in meditation, you check out this book. I also saw that this is available as an audiobook, which would definitely add to the experience. These talks definitely feel like listening to a mentor and it will be a book that I will revisit time and time again as I continue my practice towards a Zen mind.

~Paulina~ written in casual cursive on a purple background.

Want To Read List Cleanup #3

The background is of bookshelves filled with books that look mostly older. The title is in light, bright blue letters as "Want to read list cleanup". There is an image of a woman in purple clothes sweeping the floor and a spray bottle under the title.

This is my monthly dive into my Want To Read List on Goodreads where I look at 10 random books on that list and decide which books stay and which ones go. Out of the ones that are left I will add the book that has been on that list the longest to my TBR for September. Let’s see what’s at play today!

  • Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I definitely want to read this book, a letter to future feminists that promises to be inspiring. Adichie gives advice to a friend on how to raise her daughter as a feminist. It is a necessary book for all of the future generations. This one stays on the list.
  • Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel: I honestly don’t know why this book is on my list. It is apparently a funny book about some kind of spies in Cincinnati that somehow end up in North Korea? Not interested at all so I’ll be removing it.
  • Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen: I also don’t remember why I added this book! This book follows Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose life is basically going downhill. She’s gone to a small town to start her life over and find some new purpose. It reminds me of a Hallmark/Lifetime movie, which I don’t normally love since they are so predictable. I will also be removing this book.
  • Girl at War by Sara Nović: This is a novel set in Croatia in 1991, right when civil war is breaking out. We follow Ana as she is forced to flee her home country to go to the United States. This is a perspective I don’t know much about and would love to read so I’ll definitely be keeping it.
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: This is one book I’ve seen everywhere since it came out, set in France and Germany in the middle of World War II. I’ve seen that it is told from three different points of view and that it is beautifully written. I’m definitely still interested so I’ll be keeping it on the list.
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi: This is a memoir that I’ve had for a while and actually started once but didn’t get too far. The reason was that I haven’t read some of the works that are talked about in this memoir. There were some clear parts that I was missing because I haven’t read or am not familiar with the books mentioned. I will keep it with the caveat that I will need to read some other books (or at least familiarize myself with them before I attempt it again).
  • The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge: A middle grade book that I added long ago and I don’t remember why. I am not interested in this one so I’ll be removing it.
  • The Diviners by Libba Bray: This is the first installment of a series that is set in the 1920s in New York City. This also delves into the fantasy realm so there’s magic and hidden worlds. I’m interested in checking out this series so I’ll keep this book.
  • The Next Species: The Future of Evolution in the Aftermath of Man by Michael Tennesen: The subject of evolution is very interesting to me. As a scientist I’ve learned about how humans have evolved and the various mechanisms. Looking at reviews it seems like this book focuses mostly on how humans have evolved in the past and not at what might happen next. I think I can find some more recent book that explores what our future looks like, especially since this book was published back in 2015. Therefore, I’ll be removing it.
  • Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll: I just added this book! This story includes characters who are neurodivergent involved in a plot surrounding a technology that recreates humans as AI. I’m definitely keeping it!

And that’s the 10 books! Out of 10 I removed 4 books that I’m no longer interested in reading. Now, which of the 6 remaining is the one that has been on this list the longest? Well, that would be All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which will be going into my September TBR.

Now, I am perfectly aware that I am not yet done with both Todos Los Cuentos and Emma, but that’s okay! I’m in no great hurry to finish them right away, I just want them in my TBR so I can pick them up as soon as it fits my mood. I’m enjoying Todos Los Cuentos, reading one or two stories each day, thinking about them for a couple of days and then going back to dive into the next story. I just started Emma and I think that once I get into it I’ll likely not want to stop.

Were you surprised by any of the books that showed up? That I either kept or removed? Let me know in the comments!

~Paulina~ written in casual cursive on a purple background.

Review: Hunger by Roxane Gay

A background of white and grey curvy shapes. On the left in black writing it says "Review: Hunger by Roxane Gay" and on the right is the cover of the book.
Cover of Hunger by Roxane Gay. The background is white and there is the prong end of a fork on the right casting a shadow on to the white background.

Every person in the world has a different relationship with their body, ranging from the most confident and self-loving to a toxic and painful relationship. As we age, our relationships with our bodies also change, from trying to be “healthy” or developing an illness or strengthening our perception of our bodies, this relationship is dynamic and can make us or break us. Of course, this does not happen in a vacuum, in fact, our perception of our bodies is formed from the moment we are born. We are determined to be of a certain sex, which then leads people to expect certain gender expressions, from the clothes we wear to what our bodies are supposed to look like. In Hunger, Roxane Gay tells us the story of her body, from her birth, her childhood, teenage years, all the way to her 40s.

Gay’s body has endured social expectations, trauma (both physical and emotional), and her journey has not been easy in the least. The world is not compassionate towards fat people, especially fat women. Women are expected to look pleasant for society to look at, like a nice painting or a bouquet of flowers. But we are not inanimate objects, we are people and we deserve respect and the ability to take up space without feeling like we shouldn’t.

I listened to this book, which is narrated by Gay herself and it really added to the experience to hear about her life right from the source. There is an emotional rawness in her voice as she talks about the trauma that she experienced, and continues to experience, that is very difficult to ignore. She is at her most vulnerable and it’s both heartbreaking and it also made me think about how so many people (including myself) change how they treat their bodies because they are afraid to just express themselves in their body as they are.

This is not an easy book to read or listen to but it is a very valuable book that I am glad Gay was able to write. I’d recommend it; listen and/or read with an open heart.

~Paulina~ written in casual cursive on a purple background.

Review: An Offer From A Gentleman by Julia Quinn

A background of water drops falling on water creating ripples. On the left there is the title of the post "Review: An Offer From A Gentleman by Julia Quinn" and on the right the cover of the book.
Cover of An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn. The background  is blue and features a pink shoe with a jeweled bow and clip.

I finished “An Offer From A Gentleman” a couple of days ago and well, Benedict wasn’t much of a “gentleman” now was he?

I was surprised that this book was a bit of a Cinderella retelling. Sophie is a young woman who is forced to stay as a servant (without pay) for her stepmother and stepsisters after her father passes away.

She’s an illegitimate child and so she doesn’t have much power to claim anything for herself or the credibility to seek a job on her own. It is a hard time for women to be individuals, standing on their own accomplishments means very little to the rest of the world. Therefore, when the opportunity arises to attend a masquerade ball at the Bridgerton house she takes it, knowing that it might be the only thing in her life that will ever be meaningful, fulfilling one of her wildest dreams. In that fateful night she meets Benedict Bridgerton who has almost given up on finding a suitable wife at all the balls he is forced to attend. However, since she is wearing a mask and never tells him her name, she is able to disappear, leaving him wondering who she is and where he could find her.

That’s kind of where the similarities with Cinderella end. Sophie is back to being a servant and Benedict doesn’t actually find her right away. He also doesn’t realize it’s her when he does! He thinks that it is simply another servant who he is very physically attracted to and he doesn’t even think for a minute that marriage is something that is an option between them. I’m willing to accept that in the context of this world, servants are seen as people of a lower social standing and so forth and so it is understandable that he does not consider marriage. However, he has very little respect for her as a person, he’s very condescending even when he knows that she’s a very smart woman and that was very disappointing.

Nevertheless, the one reason I thoroughly enjoyed this book is because we got to see more of the other members of the Bridgerton family. We get to see more of Violet and Eloise and the way they interact with people from other families. I absolutely love the unconditional support that Violet gives her children, as well as the love between all the siblings.

While Benedict was disappointing in the way he treated Sophie, this book was pretty fun and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the lives of the Bridgerton family.

~Paulina~ signature in casual purple cursive with purple background

Review: Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

The title of the post is in black letters with the book cover on the right side of the image. The background features smooth orange rock formations.
Cover of Children of Virtue and Vengeance. It features a black woman with a white afro, held back from her face by a red and blue head band adorned with conch shells and beads. She has gold scars on her face.

This book is the second installment in the Legacy of Orïsha series, which I’d been meaning to read for a while since it came out a few years ago. This series takes place in the land of Orïsha, a land that is based on African mythology. In this world, there are people who are born with magical gifts related to the diverse gods of Orïsha, which rule different aspects of life and death, the four elements, healing, animals, spirituality, etc. This magic has brought a lot of conflict between the people of Orïsha since the King killed all the maji as a way to control the kingdom. Now, in order to continue with this review I must spoil the first book so I’ll put a divider next, proceed with caution!

Map of Orïsha

Alright! Spoilers start now. Book one, Children of Blood and Bone, ends with Zélie bringing magic back to Orïsha except the magic is not brought back only for the maji, it also comes back to the nobles. The mythology of the series gets complex since now there are maji who have the inherited ability passed down from each clan elder, generation after generation and then there are the tîtán, or nobles, who just acquired magic from one of the gods but their magic is raw, uncontrolled, and overall seemingly more powerful. The way that the magic has evolved in the second book is what was most interesting to me. We get to see how Zélie is able to develop how the maji are able to use their magic in order to try to bring down the monarchy that has been oppressing the maji for so long.

Now, Zélie is not alone in this story of course, let’s take a quick look at the other characters:

  • Inan: The son of the king and heir to the throne. In the first book he learns that he is a Connector, with the magic to connect to people via their dreams. (The other parts about the connector magic was a bit fuzzy for me I have to admit) Inan and Zélie develop a relationship throughout the first book that is quite tense since they are fighting for opposite sides. Inan for me was frustrating, I had big hopes for him but he always came short of meeting those expectations.
  • Amari: Inan’s sister who actually started the events of the first book when she stole a scroll that was the first item that would bring magic back to anyone who touched it. In the first book Amari helps Zélie bring the magic back and, when everyone believes that she is the next in line for the throne, she does all she can to get back to the throne, no matter the consequences. Amari and Zélie seem to have something of a romantic relationship as well but it never goes further than intense friends, which was so disappointing! (To me this was a better match than Inan….that is until we get to the next character…)
  • Roën: Possibly one of the most interesting characters in the series and one I wish was featured more! He is a mercenary who takes no sides except for those who are able to pay him and his band of rogues. He is a tough guy who has fallen in love with Zélie and my absolute favorite scene in this series so far is between the two of them. He does not have magic but he does not need it, he has a heart of gold.

As you can tell, there are complex relationships, politics, war, magic, and characters who are willing to do just about everything to win. There are definitely some high risk moves and at times I was confused about the characters’ core beliefs since they seemed to go back and forth a lot at times. Of course, they are under immense stress but as the reader it was a bit confusing.

I do want to read the next (and final?) installment, which is still in the works, so hopefully it will come out soon. The ending of this second book left me a bit concerned about where the series is going but I’m hopeful that Adeyemi will wrap up the series and give me more of Roën, please! If you haven’t checked out this series yet, I didn’t completely spoil everything in this review so do check it out if you are interested.

~Paulina~ signature in casual purple cursive with purple background

Review: A Perfect Marriage by Jeneva Rose

White background with the title of the blog post on the left and an image of the audiobook on the right. The audiobook cover features two wedding rings with some blood splattered over a light beige background.

Yes, I strayed from the plans! I wanted to give audiobooks a try again (I’m not normally successful) and this one was a group read for Team 1 of the Enneagramathon, a readathon based on enneagrams going on on YouTube. I didn’t plan to join in the readathon but when I saw that the book I’m currently reading, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, fit the prompts I decided to go for it. (You’ll hear more about how it goes with this readathon as I write the reviews for the next two weeks.)

So, Team 1 is reading A Perfect Marriage and I saw people saying that they had listened to the audiobook and it was good… and so I got it! It was also free with the free Audible trial so I’m glad for that because, while it was interesting and fun at parts, I was not a huge fan.

You know those movies on Hallmark or Lifetime murder mysteries? Yeah, this was kind of like that. And just like with those (the bits and pieces I’ve seen) this was amusing and entertaining but hard for me to completely take seriously.

The premise is simple, Adam has been accused of murdering his mistress. He just so happens to be married to one of the best defense attorneys around and so now Sara, his wife, is the only one who can save him from the death penalty by defending him. Of course, all of this is complicated by a mother-in-law, a sheriff who is trying to help but nor actually helping? (confusing…), and alcohol, lots of alcohol.

It is definitely a book that’s fun to try to figure out who did it. The book is told from the points of view of Sara and Adam so the reader/listener can hopefully get more information and clues that way. It all added to the lack of communication between Sara and Adam which was at times very frustrating.

I can appreciate that the author was able to construct this story the way she did, putting some clear clues right in front of the reader but the reader not seeing them because they don’t have the context. I did not like how egotistical a lot of the characters seemed, it was just a bit too much at times.

Overall I’d recommend it for anyone who likes murder mysteries with big twists and very damaged characters.

Review: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

The background has grass with droplets of water, it is a dark grey or green color. The left side says "Review: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson" in white letters. The right has an image of the book with a double white border.
An image of the book, titled Just Mercy in black letters. It says "A Story of Justice and Redemption". The author's name is underneath "Bryan Stevenson" A blurb is at the bottom and it says "Every bit as moving as 'To Kill a Mockingbird', and in some ways more so...a stirring testament to the salvation that fighting for the vulnerable sometimes yields" by The New York Review of Books. The background image is that of grass with a misty or foggy day and branches coming down. The image is sideways so the grass is on the side of the spine of the book.

Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy” is a journey through some of the most heartbreaking stories of adults and children who have been sent to prison for life or sentenced to death. What is so unfair is that there were innocent people who did not have a proper legal defense or people who had a punishment that was not proper for the crime they committed. This book had me on the edge of my seat while also grabbing tissues because it really was upsetting.

These stories are not easy to read, in fact, this is one of the hardest books I’ve ever read. There are stories in this book that truly broke my heart. Adults and children sent to prison because it was easier for the officers and judges to do that than try to look for the real culprit, or sometimes simply because the laws set mandatory sentences that the judges couldn’t ignore. I would warn that there is a lot of violence described in this book, stories about difficult childhoods, mental abuse, physical abuse, isolation, and stress. I could feel Stevenson’s stress and anxiety through the page as he goes through all the hoops to get appeals, re-trials, as well as everything crumbles and he is faced the execution of the people he’s trying to help.

I highly recommend that you read this book or even watch the film if you have any interest in this subject at all. The film, starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx, is filled with great acting but also a lot of heart. Jordan and Foxx take some liberties with their characters but I felt that it was a good story overall, even if it became a bit more Hollywood than documentary. While the movie is not a 100% faithful reproduction of the book, it still translates the main message of the book and does introduce a lot of the issues with the legal system at the time. While some of those issues have gotten better, it’s not yet all great.

I’d also recommend that you check out the Equal Justice Initiative website where you’ll find a lot of information on the current state of the legal system with regards to capital punishment and different ways that you can get involved.