What’s Your Story Wednesdays: Jeannine A. Cook of Harriet’s BookShop – She Came To Slay

Title: She Came To Slay

A new way to look at one of the nation’s most influential women, She Came To Slay, shares Filled rare outtakes of commentary, an expansive timeline of Harriet Tubman’s life, new photos as well as those already in public domain, and commissioned illustrations. She Came To Slay includes sections like, “Harriet By the Numbers”, detailing her life by the number of times she went back down south, approximately how many people she rescued, the bounty on her head etc.  as well as a section titled “Harriet’s Homies”,  dedicated to those who supported her over the years.  She Came To Slay is a insightful mix of pop culture and scholastic diligence proving that Queen Harriet  absolutely deserves her crown and her permanent place in our nation’s history.

Author: Erica Armstrong Dunbar

Very little is available about Erica Armstrong Dunbar outside of her professional and scholastic achievements. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, Pa.  Erica Armstrong Dunbar has had a notable academic career. Currently a CHARLES AND MARY BEARD PROFESSOR OF HISTORY at Rutgers University. Dunbar specializes in African-American and US History as well as Women’s and Gender History. After Attending University of Penn she then earned an M.A. and Ph.D from Columbia University. Her first book was A Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City, published by Yale University Press in 2008. Dunbar taught at the University of Delaware before joining Rutgers in 2017. In November 2018 Dunbar was named joint winner of the Frederick Douglass Prize for Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge.

 

 

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What’s Your Story Wednesdays: Yae Stratton – Honey I Love

Title: Honey, I Love

When this poem was first published in 1978 in Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems, Elois Greenfield reminded us that love can be found just about anywhere. Twenty-five years later, she and celebrated children’s book artist Jan Spivey Gilchrist re-released a stunning, newly illustrated anniversary edition  for children of a whole new generation to celebrate the simple joys of loving and living.

Author: Eloise Greenfield

Born Eloise Little in Parmele, North Carolina, she  grew up in Washington, D.C., during the Great Depression as the second oldest of five children. Eloise was a  shy and studious child, who enjoyed music and took piano lessons. Greenfield experienced racism first-hand in the segregated south, especially when visiting grandparents in North Carolina and Virginia.

  Dismayed by the depiction of blacks and black communities in popular media, Greenfield focused her work on realistic but positive portrayals of African-American communities, families and friendships.  These relationships are emphasized in books like Sister (1974) where a young girl copes with the death of a parent with the help of other family members, Me and Nessie (1975) about best friends, My Daddy and I (1991) and Big Friend, Little Friend (1991) about mentoring.

 

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What’s Your Story Wednesdays: Noel Bleu – God Don’t Like Ugly

 

Title: God Don’t Like Ugly

Annette Goode is poor, overweight and lonely. The only child to a single working mother in Civil-Rights era Ohio, Annette is living a terrible reality. The summer Annette turns thirteen, something incredible happens: Rhoda Nelson chooses her as a friend.

With Rhoda’s help, Annette survives her youth and grows into a slightly more confident young woman. When her best friend makes a shocking confession about a horrific childhood crime, Annette’s world is rocked to its core.

 

Author: Mary Monroe

The first and only member of her family to finish high school she is a self-taught writer who began writing short-stories around age four. She endured fifteen years and hundreds of more rejection letters before finally landing a contract for her second novel, GOD DON’T LIKE UGLY. It was published in October 2000 by Kensington Books.

 

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Harriet’s BookShop Opening!

 

I’d walked into Harriet’s bookshop on Saturday to the sound of African drums and a historic tale of Henry’s freedom box. The mixed crowd that spanned age groups 20200201_1157026340525499668199545.jpgsqueezed into the cozy space of Harriet’s to check out some books and experience a little of the culture this new bookshop is cultivating.

I enjoy a good bookstore. In fact I joke, every time a new bookstore opens a fan girl gets her wings, so my excitement was piqued when I got the Facebook event update that a new bookstore would be opening on 258 E Girard Ave.

Owned by local writer, Jeannine A. Cook, the journey from vision to Harriet’s wasn’t an easy road. She’d overcome the tragic set-back of losing her first bookstore 20200201_1151514109939006323868881.jpgto a fire.

I’m gonna be honest here guys. I’m a west Philly girl through and through so I’m not that familiar with the area. I can tell you that the bookstore offers a variety of books written by black authors and catered to people of color.

My favorite feature was the nook by the register. It’s set up with art work and flanked by gorgeous bookshelves. The children’s books also found right by the counter feature a variety of books for children. I even picked up one for baby Bleu.

I’ll absolutely be heading back to Harriet’s. I have a few books on my tbr that I spotted on her shelves. If you’re looking for a few new reads head over too, tell me what you think of the nook. 😁 Head over to the Blu Moon Fiction Facebook page to check out some of the books I’ll be adding to my #BookCollection!

 

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I caught up with one local shopper who stocked up on tons of books for his kids. His daughter is an avid reader. 🙂 

 

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Bleu Reviews: Renegades

 

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Rating: 4 out of  5

I have finally read a book written by Marissa Meyer and considering the page count, I’m very proud of myself.  I fell into a reading slump during this book, and had to switch to an audio book to actually complete the novel but I finished and i’m still on track for my 2018 Reading Challenge.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer is a YA novel all about superheroes. Very much in the way of X-Men, these “prodigies” (mutants, specials whatevs) were being persecuted for their gifts and were only free of that persecution after a revolt. What would later become the villains were originally the ones willing to fight to end the system that oppressed them. As usual with these sort of things, the power went to their heads and we were faced with a decade of anarchy.

My favorite parts of this book would be the plot and underlying message the book itself conveys. In Renegades, post anarchy, the Renegades are both the police force and  the governing body. Civilization has ground to a halt and prodigies are relied on for everything. It makes me think of the Powerpuff Girls, Too Pooped to Puff  (Season 2, Episode 3) it seems the non-prodigy citizens of Gatlon have fallen into the same boat.

The worst part of the read was really just the pacing, the action scenes were fast-paced, easy to get through but the delivery of backstory  d    r     a    g    g    e    d …  and it killed me at times to read. I finally caved and hunted down an audio book on YouTube.

20180624_152315I love that the two main characters have triple identities and that you can see where at times Nova truly believes in the intent of the Renegades mission while not necessarily agreeing with their existence.

Nova was my favorite character, her inner turmoil made getting through the slower parts more enjoyable. I especially love where the first book leaves her and I’m eager to find out what happens to her next. Sketch is easily overshadowed as far as characters go though he is very well written as the “all-american” golden boy, it feels pretty cliche at times and the only thing changing that was the introduction of the Sentinel.

There are definitely a few plot twists I hadn’t seen coming, but for now I’m only finishing the series because I started it and want to know what Nova plans to do next. I did hear that this was also going to be a graphic novel. I’m much more interested in seeing what the story looks like.
 

Who’s Your Favorite Villain?

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Bleu Reviews: Circe

 

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Rating: 5 out of  5

I spent the best part of my adolescence immersed in Greek mythology, it’s what started me down my path to fiction appreciation and is a large part of the genre I write. Whenever I can find a book that utilizes mythology, of course I want to grab it! I’d been hunting down  Circe  by Madeline Miller for months to add it to my collection dying to see if she’d keep true to the old myths. Though she definitely borrowed from bards I hadn’t even read up to this point Madeline Miller  was able to breathe new life into an old tale, her adaptation of Circe, elevating the character beyond her usual role as supporting cast.

With a cast as overbearing as the Olympians and the Titans themselves it is easy to see how she’s been relegated to clever witch of the magical isle. Even in the beginning of this tale she starts her journey as the plain, unimpressive eldest daughter of Helios and Perse. Circe is said to be named after a hawk or falcon as her voice sounds shrill to the ears of her divine parents. Overlooked and undervalued throughout the realms like a baby bird she wilts and shrivels beneath the brightness of her family; whom never see her as interesting, intelligent or crafty. She has a proclivity towards humans which to her family makes her weak. For a large part of the story she is often seeking love or approval, a desperation that makes her a target for the cruel whims of the Gods.

Circe through Miller’s eyes is less malicious and easily swayed as she appears in the tales of the Odyssey. She is neither damsel nor crone yet she is just as formidable, that peace of her Miller captures effortlessly.  Circe manages to hold onto her vulnerability wearing it around her the way the Gods wore their divinity. She rebelled against all things that made her divine and instead fought for her mortality every chance she got. Her refusal to conform to their societal norms where the Olympians were at present higher ranked and Titans bowed to their whims, Circe stood just outside of this bowing to no one and living in exile for it.

Throughout the book we see Circe test her boundaries with regards to her rebellion against her father and the Olympians. First when discovering her gifts and later in response to using them. She welcomes what they would call a punishment as a respite from years of internal isolation and grows into herself on the island of Aiaia. She clung to  fear hoping it would protect her from some untold wrath it was only when she released herself from those fears that she was able to finally free herself.

When the novel begins we see Circe as the abused eldest daughter who’s  eagerness to please and dote on strangers repeatedly becomes her undoing. She seeks out any form of connection because of the attention it provides despite how she is treated in return. Circe  endures these toxic cycles fashioned from her need to feel appreciated while others use her gifts, her insecurities and her hospitality to their ends.

On some level I feel we can all relate to the feelings Circe struggles with  especially afterfb_img_1528342945463658556408.jpg years of exile. The novelty of freedom wearing off she was faced with the abrupt and endless loneliness immortality forced her into. Couple that with years of eing mentally trained that you are worthless, useless and better off as a pillar of salt. That she found her inner power at all was a miracle.

Circe’s discovery of her powers is a pivotal moment in the book. Until this point she was a shrinking violet, withering away to nothing. Even the pace of the book was a bit slower during this period of her life. Until Circe meets Glaucos there is no real action. If Circe was a child before she begins a sort of puberty in the following chapters  experiencing her first crush, heartbreak and even envy. If it were not for this Circe may have never came into her powers and there would have been no tale.

Circe’s obsession with the mortality of humans is a motivation for her throughout the book. She seems always preoccupied with the withering years of the humans she encounters. It is the disposition that makes her the scapegoat. She is the most disposable or so they think. Circe’s discovery of her powers may have come as a happy accident but her evolution as a witch was a sheer force of will.

At first magic is described as means of bringing forth ones truest self. We see that Circe’s magic has that effect on everyone she seems to come into contact with. It revealed Glaucos to be as vile and cruel as any of the Gods. Showed Scylla for the monster she truly was. It even revealed the goddess herself to be more than the mere whipping-post her family had relegated her to .

Until that point, Circe  hadn’t bothered to stand up for herself or what she wanted in any way. She’d been a doormat, being browbeaten and berated endlessly. Her transformation of Scylla was the first time she did something out of spite and for her own benefit.  The aftermath of that one moment stayed with her throughout the book and it was considered her greatest regret. She was both physical punished and forced into exile because of this, yet her exile became her salvation.

It is on that island that she found her power.

The themes of women and power are heavily explored in Circe.  Throughout the novel there are several examples of women who use everything from looks to the ability to bear children as a means to carve out a place for themselves in the male dominated world they live in.

It is Perse’s womb that carried the witches, each child a new string of amber beads to brag about. Pasiphae uses both her magic and her womb to control Minos, a son of Zeus he is powerless against her succumbing to her will. Pasiphae in turn debases herself in unspeakable ways all in attempts to be remembered. All in pursuit of greater power.

fb_img_15283430110441541008710.jpgEven the Goddess Athena; who is as worthy an adversary as any male mentioned in this story, even mentioned more fearfully than males in this particular novel, requires the male heroes to do her bidding because it is there offerings she craves.

This novel also explores the varying concepts of power. There seemed to be a sort of Cold War between the remaining Titans and the Olympians which threatened to break into a new war at any minute. The Olympians understood that their victories were mostly won through the alliances forged with other Titans willing to stand by them. The Titans saw that they were greatly outnumbered at this point and for some they were fairly outmatched. Physical power and the power of wills are two very strong themes.

In witchcraft a spell is only as powerful as the will of the one casting it. The power to sway minds and souls. There are many striations of power and the lengths individuals are willing to go through to wield it. Circe seems to gravitate to her magic because it is the one thing that seems to make her less of a victim. She who spent all her life at the mercy of others was able to wield a power that even rivaled the goddess Athena.

If there was one thing that frustrated me with the character of Circe it was her love life. Even this trait is a testament to the development of the character, Miller did great work here in making her well rounded. Circe is a classic case of a young woman with “daddy issues”. Because she never received the love or compassion from her father, she takes any semblance of kindness towards her and runs with it.

We see it with Glaucos but we see it repeated with Hermes. Though she is aware he sees her as a novelty she entertains him anyway, losing herself in him for a time. He shares with her news of the world she is unable to experience for herself however for Hermes she is another story to tell.

She finds herself more interested in mortals.  First Daedelus, the talented builder, who was so enchanted by her he crafted the loom she’d kept in her home. Then Odysseus who’s stay on her island showed a different side to their encounter.

What’s most interesting is the way Odysseus himself is portrayed throughout the book, he is most certainly wily but there was a darkness in him that Circe seemed to quell. He brought her from the brink of darkness herself. They’d both been broken for so long at that point, she’d taken to converting any sailor unfortunate enough to grace her shores and he literally lost his way on the seas at the mercy of vengeful Gods. Their relationship29981ab05cb409815c35e0fce5b0d0fe1694326308.jpg was built on the hopes of a safe-haven.

Another really interesting turn in the book occurred when Circe discovered she was pregnant. Whether she intended to become that way or it was purely accidental i’m still not entirely sure. She chose to keep him secret finally having something of her own to love that couldn’t leave so easily. Circe had evolved many times up to this point but she  changes again. Motherhood made Circe her most fierce and her most fragile. She was willing to go to the depths of the earth and back for her son and to keep him she opened her heart and her home in ways she’d never expected.

Circe was so fearful of mortality despite coveting the human experience. She could walk with them sharing in their moments but never truly feeling what it was to be human. She possessed many of the qualities without realizing it, perhaps she finally comes to that understanding towards the end of the book. It may even be what inspired that final act on the island.

Circe’s exile seemed to be one of her own design. As her sister said once lapping at the feet of the Gods made her closer to their feet. When Circe finally abandoned the fear that held her back she was able to force her will and free herself from her exile. In some way her release of exile was like shedding the final layers of who she’d been. As she stepped beyond the shores she have truly evolved into her truest self. The best transformation was gradual but saved for the final moments of the book.

I have to give Miller special acknowledgement for her skillful remastering of heroes whom even Disney has had their hands on and still giving them an original flair worth reading further into. Every facet of this book was ingenious and it’s clear how this book made the NY Times bestseller List. It is definitely one of my many favorites, I’ve recommended more times than I can count.
 

What Is Your Favorite Modern Myth?

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Bleu Reviews: Children of Blood & Bone

 

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Rating: 4 out of 5

This is actually a slightly different review than what I posted on GoodReads but only because I’ve had some time to marinate on the book as a whole and I usually write my GoodReads review immediately after reading.

I’d really give this one a 3.5 but that’s still basically a 4.

The cover is gorgeous of course! The striking colors against the mottled black background share glimpses of red behind an opaque pitch; obscured by the shocking white of Zelie’s hair, scarves encircle the crescent of her forehead. Reminiscent of Storm from X-men, the young woman’s dark skin gleams from the cover, traces of tribal markings can barely be seen dancing around the edges of her steel gray eyes, calm but focused peering back at you.

Again, I love the overall concept of the book and Children of Blood & Bone  by Tomi Adeyemi, has a magical structure I can’t wait to see unfold. There seems to be elements to the story that indicate bringing magic back may have consequences no one was ready for. I’m looking forward to seeing what she does with the foundation she has set for us as the audience.

With that being said though,

Maji ClansI decided to read this along with a group and TBH, I must admit we all had the same kind of issue. If the main character was a girl you knew you’d probably have the “chill sis” conversation with her around page 348.

Some parts of the book were VERY predictable and it was easy to see where the author was working you for the sequel. As a rule of thumb, a novel in a series should be a complete story that fits snugly into a larger one. There are parts to this novel that feel like canyons we need to jump over to get through the book.

At times this book read like a harlequin romance novel. I’ll let you read it to find out which parts. 😉

Overall, I did thoroughly enjoyed reading it. There’s been so much build up around the book I was determined to scratch it off several TBR’s. It discussed cruelty and injustice that people experience when a government is against them. Touching on the civil unrest we (POC’s) experience today. The Author’s Note in the back goes a bit farther into Adeyemi’s feelings fb_img_15263592354151235954168.jpgon the historic and continued mistreatment of people of color and what really motivated her to write the book. 

*Side Note: The book has been getting critical acclaim by celebrities and press. With the help of  ICM Partners, Adeyemi landed a near seven-figure movie deal with FOX for her series as well as secured a pretty impressive publishing deal that recently closed with Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, making this 23-years-old first time author very wealthy. *

With all that buzz, at times I really had to consider if my opinion of the book was because I wanted to like the story or if I genuinely liked the story. Most days there was a mixture of both, but by the end of the book, I was certain of a few things.

As I said in my review of Song of Blood and Stone when magic is involved their are often only two outcomes. Those with it use that power to lord over those without or Those without it persecute those with it. In this instance those who should have it have been stripped of it and are still treated like vermin.

The thought and effort put into the history of the maji’s  was intense. The history of Sky Mother, the Gods and the 10 Maji clans is something I’m looking forward to exploring as she continues the series. The rituals, artifacts and language of the Maji was very believable. The history behind the royal family once revealed was also interesting, but I do wish to know more about what went awry that caused Saran’s “first family” to be murdered. 

So often is magic described as this never-ending thing, to think of a world in this sense where magic can and has been temporarily barred and the battle to return it is also what makes the book so captivating. I also really enjoyed all of the artwork associated with the book, that includes the names of the narrators, but, especially the world map in the beginning, I always love a good world map.

My favorite thing about this novel would have to be the characters, if Adeyemi did nothing else she developed the four main characters into tangible beings. Each person had a strength they didn’t realized they’d possessed and a vulnerability they were dsc_14621308978600.jpgdesperate to hide. The progression of the story exposes the weaknesses of Zelie, Amari, Inan and Tzain while challenging them to evolve into better stronger people or to perish beneath the weight of their doubts. The inner turmoil each character must overcome to truly fight for a better Orisha has been the most titillating part of the novel, at times it is the book’s saving grace.

I didn’t really care for the names of the animals there was no real difference between a Lionaire from a Panthenaire and a Gorillion is just a gorilla in my book. It seemed like a missed opportunity for the author to create creatures that truly added to the world they were in. The “Ryders”, are this world’s main source of transportation and the beasts are as involved in the story as their human counterparts. Yet they weren’t original nor were they that clever. They were merely the lackluster adjustments of existing animals. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the way the chapters were broken up, in fact at times some chapters were only three pages with no shift in narrator, a real distraction for me occasionally.

The book was a quick read  once I got into it, lasting it’s standard 4 days for it’s 500+ pages. Animal names aside, the language was also insightful as it taught me rudimentary Yoruba. The book seemed as true to facts as possible regarding the Orishan deities and their gifts. The clans as evidence of the Gods will was also a nice touch. Totally looking forward to the next installment. 

Though as rumors of the story now being stretched into seven books and the progression of the “fandom” takes hold I only hope this truly ends up being like Hogwarts and NOT like Shadow Hunters.

 

For more info about the Children of Blood and Bone movie click here.

 

 

What did you REALLY think about Children of Blood & Bone ?

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You can keep up with me, Noel Bleu and Blu Moon Fiction on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, GoodReads and Pinterest, or Shoot me an email @ BluMoonFiction@gmail.com