Now Reading: Song of Blood and Stone

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Book Title: Song of Blood & Stone

Author: L. Penelope

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

 

Reread or TBR?

I have heard so much about this book, starting in 2017. I recently began seeing book reviews for this book and it was heavily reccomended on my GoodReads suggestions. I had to buy it, though I hadn’t realized I’d be buying an advanced Reader’s Copy. The book according to my book cover, will be going on sale May 1, 2018.  This book made it to the top of my TBR list. I just started reading it last night.

Goodreads Description

 

A treacherous, thrilling, epic fantasy about an outcast drawn into a war between two powerful rulers. 

Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive–an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart.

Jack’s mission behind enemy lines to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagamiri is about to fall nearly cost him his life, but he is saved by the healing Song of a mysterious young woman. Now he must do whatever it takes to save Elsira and it’s people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda’s Earthsong to do it. They escape their ruthless captors and together they embark on a perilous journey to save Elsira and to uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps.

Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation.

The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.

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First Thoughts On The Book

The very first thing I thought when I saw the book was how beautiful the cover was. Aside from the obvious use of blue, which I love, the character on the cover is a black woman. Looking beyond that it also looks like the universe is inside of her, which may hint to the story inside. The story was described as a Romeo & Juliet inspired tale with the promise of an Epic battle to rival the Lord of the Rings franchise; I’m most interesting to seeing that play out.

Now On Page…

I’m still on page one. This book came in the mail yesterday and is a part of my April/Springtime Book Haul. I previously started Moon Called by Patricia Briggs. Saw the release date for this book and decided that I wanted to have it read before the May 1 release date. I will be officially starting the book, today and hopefully, I’ll be finished by Sunday night.

 

Are you eager to read Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope?

Have you Already read it?  Leave a comment below!

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

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What We’re Reading: Tithe

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3 out of 5

The old saying, “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover,” and the following,  “Or the first few chapters,” was made for this book. I discovered Tithe on a GoodReads suggestion list because I enjoy both faeries, dark fiction and Urban Fantasy. It may have also been suggested by Amazon after I binged on Artemis Fowl. Either way, the 331 page book complete with twelve pages of White Cat (another Holly Black book) weren’t terrifying, the short and stout book may have even been shorter in a hard back with larger font and longer pages.

I remember the cover being what swayed my decision to buy it. What looks to be a butterfly missing a body is on the cover with green splattered font to display the title. Visually it is very pleasing, but reading it took a bit more time than I thought it’d would.

Having never read Holly Black I wasn’t sure what to expect, I haven’t read Spiderwick Chronicles and barely made it through the movie. What I did know was that Holly Black was the highly publicized “Queen of the Faeries”, so who better to read first?

My initial response to the book was that I was waiting. Waiting for the action to start, waiting for secrets to be revealed, waiting for the meat and potatoes of my book or I was waiting to get to the final page and be done with it. A move and getting settled back into my office put this book back on the shelf for two months, but when I finally committed I finished reading the book in about four days.

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What I Liked!

I absolutely love the playful romance between Kaye and Roiben, it is still a very cliched as Roiben the older more experienced magical being becomes an accidental protector of the fair young Kaye. That Kaye is not helpless and at times is even rebellious makes her a more enjoyable heroin. Their relationship as it develops throughout the book was one of few thing that kept me going.

Once I got into it I was also quite intrigued by the mystery and deception of the gentry. The multitude of layers beneath the story and the plan for Kaye during the Tithe all seemed to be buried deep until the very last pages. This book is full of twists and turns and I’m happy I stayed along for the ride.

This may be a little macabre but I’m happy that SOMEONE if not several people died. My interests in fiction are a little bit darker than most, I adore a good fairy tale as long as we can muddy it up a bit, the Fae in this story are not like Tinkerbell for sure and the wickedness that comes from that usually end in bloodshed. The lives lost during the escalation of the story were necessary “sacrifices” to give the book its edge and maintain realism.

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What I Didn’t Like…

It took a while for me to actually invest in the story. As a person from Philadelphia familiar with New Jersey I can say for certainty that despite a jab or two regarding my hometown the setting was perfect. However, the progression of the story din’t pull me in. I truly didn’t care for the book as whole until page 104. The book seemed to drag on in an attempt to subtly hint at the secrets and plot twists. It was almost as if Black didn’t trust the reader could pick up on the foreshadowing within the first few pages. I figured out Kaye’s brilliant secret by page 15 and spent the rest of the time wondering how long it would take for the rest of the world to find out if that was the goal. I don’t think there needs to be an 80 page gap between the inception of her “talents” and the actual declaration of them.

Spike…I didn’t like him. I applaud Black for her amazing development of her characters, no one entity was completely good or bad. For example even though Kaye was a high school drop out who smoked cigarettes and cursed, she was still brave and kind and a “good person”. The revelation that not all of those looking after Kaye were “on her side” definitely sucked me into the story and made Spike my second most hated, second only to Nephamael who was a piece of work in his own right.

*Minor note: I didn’t like that Kaye found her younger self, stuck at age 4. I’m not certain the significance of that particular scene besides adding evidence that Silarial was aware of her identity. Understanding that this is a series, I’d hope the explanation of baby Kaye could be explained or at least wonder if they plan to return her.

Overall I enjoyed the book a lot more than I thought I would, I’m officially interested in checking out Valiant and Ironside and will be adding them to my TBR list!

 

Have You Read Tithe by  Holly Black?

What did you think?  Leave a comment below!

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

Be Expo 2018: Children’s Books for Kids of Color

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My weekend was one to remember for sure!

A few weeks ago when I was obsessed with the flower show! I should’ve been researching and getting my hustle on for the 2018 Be Expo! I was fortunate enough to grab a ticket, even scored me some expo swag. 20180317_1711011066486878.jpg

The BeExpo was sponsored by Radio One Philadelphia, and is one of THE largest expose catered towards promoting diversity and empowerment in the city. The vendors were local, some were faces you may have seen at others festivals.

I have a weird relationship with crowds; as more people flooded the convention center’s walking space, I realized that it would soon be time to leave. Just before we ended our day however, I was able to snag a peek at the cover of a book. It was Pinnochio, and I didn’t actually by that book. Instead I purchased, The Adventures of Jahloni & Jahbril,  a story about two Rastafarian boys who become superheroes after finding a magical ancient book hidden under their parents bed. The book sends them 20180317_1717121960211158.jpginto another universe filled with Dinosaurs and new adventures. The Adventures of Jahloni & Jahbril is best suited for ages 6 to 9. Urban Toons will be expanding into the world of apps for kids, but started remixing common beloved fairy tales, and setting them in a locale that children from different backgrounds would be familiar with. Urban Toons is also based in Philadelphia, so I’m even more happy to show support.

 

The other hidden find of the expo was a booth I’d walked right by when we walked into the event. A circle of20180317_190439909092533.jpg people crowded my view and I wasn’t able to get a look at what was being sold. Luckily as we were leaving I was able to catch another author selling his children’s book. There was a series called “Aron’s Adventures” also featuring an african american as the main character.screenshot_20180322-1956041630791066.jpg

The author Nahjee Grant was kind enough to speak with me briefly about his series. He is also the creator and host of the children’s TV reading show Really Exciting and Delightful Stories and travels to various schools as a motivational speaker. His Cool Smart Kid books, are geared towards people of color and at risk youth.

My day at the BeExpo was one for the books, I met many more authors, but that’s for another post. If you missed out, be sure to grab your tickets early next year. The event featured workshops, panel discussions, health screenings, and shopping at vendor’s booths.

 

What’s Your Favorite Children’s Story?

Leave A Comment Below!

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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

Blu Moon Fiction Calendar: Coming Soon

I’m always looking for new ideas to promote literacy and to engage in my creative side. If I can find a way to promote local talent as well that is an added bonus. So while brainstorming ideas for my next fundraising project; I decided to put together a fantasy art calendar featuring local artists.

The fantasy art calendar will feature artists from Philadelphia and the surrounding area and money raised from the sale of the calendar will be donated to the local charity, Books Through Bars. I discovered the group, which sends books to inmates in the Mid-Atlantic region of the US, while looking for volunteer opportunities.

The organization is always in need of book donations, extra helping hands and donations of course. Which is what

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spawned the idea for the calendar, book drive and Read-Olympics all coming soon in the next few months.

I’m looking for local artists, in the Philadelphia and surrounding area. All submissions are welcome. Any interested artists should include two sketches for review. The first sketch should have the #WhatsYourStory theme.

#WhatsYourStory is Blu Moon Fiction’s call to action. It not only encourages creative’s to share their perspectives but also serves as a challenge to find innovative ways in expressing our creativity.

This sketch is a freestyle option, provided it includes #WhatsYourStory in the actual picture.

The only requirement for the second picture is that the central theme must be books or reading. If I get enough responses I’ll happily produce multiple calendars using everyone’s artwork. For now, I’m looking for 12 local artists interested in sharing their talents for a good cause. 10% of the proceeds from the calendar will be donated to Books Through Bars.

Check back with Blu Moon Fiction, over the next few weeks for more details on the Blu Moon Fiction 2018 Read-Olympics/ Book Drive. As well as for more info on how to get involved with the Blu Moon Fiction Fantasy Calendar. If interested in participating in either the Blu Moon Fiction calendar or The Read – Olympics, send all inquiries to BluMoonFiction@gmail.com Subject: Calendar

Know An Artist Who’d Love To Be In The Calendar?

Tag Them Below!

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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

What We’re Reading: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

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Rating: 5 out of 5

There are many inceptions of maidens being rescued from poverty by handsome princes. Most renowned is probably “Cinderella”. First recorded in 7 BC Egypt; the tale appears in Italy around 1634 and laid the groundwork for both Charles Perrault (1697) and the Grimm Brothers(1812). With Disney, sampling from Perrault in their 1950 animated movie. Though borrowing the french Prince Phillippe de Marsillac our tale takes place in Holland.

I have come to regard Gregory Maguire as one of my favorite authors. His ability to recreate and expand upon world’s I’m familiar with is refreshing. I aspire to his talents someday in my own writing pursuits.

After my experience with Wicked I knew he was a good author but my read through Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister gave me a newfound respect. Set during the 17th Century, the book was simple enough to read, I even learned a few new words no longer in common use.

A reimagining of the classic fairytale Cinderella, Confessions offers a look at the tale from the view of the stepsisters of the fairytale. One mentally impaired, oversized and unable to speak. The other extremely observant; clever in her own right, a talented painter if not heavy on the eyes. Two sisters thrust into our story by fate.

Murder…

Someone murdered Jack Fisher, and because of his death the widow Fisher and her two daughters Ruth and Iris fled to Holland for safety. Having read the story, I have my own ideas as to why Margarethe may have been in danger.

Once there we witness Cinderella, through Maguire’s eyes. The widow Fisher works as a scullery maid for room, board and meager wages to care for herself and her two daughters. Though she earns the affections of painter, Luykas Schoonmaker, she leaves for a position in the wealthier Van den Meer household. Initially they are servants, but Margarethe ensures that soon she is the mistress of the house.

I enjoy Maguire’s ability to add depth to his characters. He advises initially that the story of Cinderella had been embellished to disguise a families shame and proceeds to unveil the sordid details of how Clara “Cinderella” Van den Meer came to find her prince. There was almost nothing I would change about the novel except for the minor loose end that is discussed but not resolved in the epilogue.

**Spoiler Alert**

Echoing the traditional tale, widow Margarethe Fisher marries wealthy widower merchant Cornelius Van den Meer and is charged with caring for his home and his beautiful daughter Clara. Margarethe has two daughters of her own, though the eldest Ruth is oversized and mute, the youngest Iris is merely unbearably plain to look at. Despite her hopes, however, the Van den Meer fortune was not as secure as she’d speculated and the fate of of the household depends on attending the royal ball and wooing the Prince.

The Van den Meer fortune, has as big a role in the story as any other character and it was more impactful. It was their wealth that made the Vinckboons so notable in Haarlem, their wealth attracted Cornelius Van den Meer, Henrika’s dowry made him wealthy and kept him in line.

Their wealth drew the attention of the kidnappers, “Crows”, who took Clara and called Margarethe to their home. It was wealth Margarethe coveted, squandered and lost. The family fortune was restored and possibly exceeded when Clara ascended the throne. The Van den Meer fortune was the true magical force in the story.

Confessions is a story of transformations, altering the tale of “Cinderella” itself entirely but specifically regarding the characters. Margarethe is crafty, always moving she consistently changes her surroundings and her station in pursuit of “better”. Always looking for her next big opportunity.

It is then ironic that her sight is the very sense that begins to fail her, having been so sharp with her tongue regarding beauty and her observations of the world around her. We watch a gradual regression of her sight and its effects on her ability to manipulate her world.

The concept of sight is heavily discussed in the book with focuses on artwork, religion and beauty being mentioned frequently. We come to discover that though the story is full of artists, monstrosities, muses and fair maidens, each character lacked some form of beauty and was unwilling to see the truth of their world.

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Clara is both gifted and cursed with physical beauty. It is possibly what attracted the kidnappers to her in the first place, a reason the townspeople think she is a changeling, as well as the reason her father commissions, Girl with Tulips. Her beauty is her greatest asset and her biggest burden. She despises the attention she gets for being attractive, yet it is her looks that earns the affections of the Prince. She was blind to her strength but was willing to forsake her comforts for the safety of her family.

Iris is visibly hard to look at, but has a sharp mind and a keen eye.

She absorbs images like a sponge, a gift that exhibits itself in her painting and weakens itself when blurred by her emotions. She is blind to her own inner beauty, her resilience of spirit or how others perceive her.

She becomes so accustomed to being criticized on her outer beauty, she disregards her gifts entirely, only realizing after its too late that she too had a chance at the Prince. It is Iris who made it feasible for Clara to attend the ball. Her inability to see Caspar’s feelings for her is one of few annoyances throughout the story.

Margarethe was unwilling to see her future with Schoonmaker who may have truly cared for her once, her obsession with wealth corrupts her and she grows old and literally blind to the world around her. Everyone seems blind to Ruth as she is mute and perceived unintelligent, she actually happens to be the narrator, proving her to be highly observant in her own right and equally intelligent.

Beauty is seen both superficially in the obvious beauty of the tulips or Clara, but also in stark contrast to things seen as ugly. The the beauty of sorrow is addressed. The comparison of how uncomely Iris is in comparison to the wildflowers of the meadow as well as her step sister Clara. Clara has all the beauty and social graces that Iris lacks but is confined to the manor first by her mother and then by herself.

She is infantile and spoiled though she matures over time taking on the responsibilities of the kitchen and her ailing fathers health. Her looks occasionally currency for items Margarethe desires but can’t afford. Maguire uses the obsession with stereotypical beauty as a curse while elevating inner beauty to a higher standard. It is kindness that indicates true beauty.

This is the second book I’ve read, (since I haven’t finished the Wicked Years series) that Maguire reimagines with a less fantastical explanation to magical occurrences. The concepts of magic are considered to be childlike understanding that as you grow you create your own magic. Margarethe often says to let her cast her eel spear and to move out of her way. Clara sees herself and Ruth initially as changelings, Iris believes she sees imps and Margarethe flees England with the girls for fear of persecution of being a witch.

Maguire toys with societies superstitions and understanding of science during that time period to give a more realistic still very magical spin on the chain of events that control our story.

Margarethe’s gifts for herbs which suited her in getting her way was also her downfall, perhaps the price for trafficking in that particular sort of “magic”. The loss of her eyesight fitting for a woman whose hubris and vanity hinged on pride and appearance.

The imp that plagues Iris and the crows who “changed” Clara are metaphors, psychological projections of the evils of man. Clara rationalized the ‘crows’ as spirits who abducted her for misbehaving and returned her once she became a “good” child. In truth she was kidnapped probably by Von Stalk, (it’s never made clear if he’s definitely responsible). Iris feels the “imp” whenever she or another character are up to some form of mischief or another.

Having finished the book my only question is did Margarethe kill her husband or did she really flee because they thought she was a witch? I would love to know more of her backstory. It reminds me of Cora from Once Upon A Time.

Have You Read Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by

Gregory Maguire? What did you think? Which is your favorite retelling of Cinderella? Let me Know in the Comments Below!

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

WWW Wednesday  (Jan 17, 2018)

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Hey all…. it’s WWW Wednesday again! As always, it’s really easy because there are only THREE questions! WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words! Be sure to post your answers in the comments below and head over to Sam’s when you’re done!

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What are you currently reading?

confessions of ugly stepsister

While writing this post, I must admit I haven’t actually started reading this book yet. I probably will have read a few pages, once this has been published.

I’m finally getting around to reading Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire author of “The Wicked Years,” series. Based on the children’s story Cinderella. Maguire uses his typical flair to retell the classic tale from the perspective of the sisters left behind.

The story is set in 17th century Holland and since I’m not familiar with it at all. I’ll just have to read on to find out more about it.

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What did you recently finish reading?

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I finished reading Kindred by Octavia Butler, yesterday afternoon. The fantastical tale of a modern woman of the 70s transported to the antebellum South to save the life of a young boy named Rufus. Our heroine endures, the systematic abuse of the time period while trying to complete her mission and return home. This book will infuriate you, bring tears to your eyes and have you cheering for the unspeakable. But if you read it, you’ll be happy you did.

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I also recently finished Hart’s Hope by Orson Scott Card. I respect that man as a pioneer in the speculative fiction genre but regretfully disliked this book a lot. The reasons are endless and you can read more about them here. Definitely check it out for yourself before making your final opinions.

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What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m honestly not sure I’ve been meaning to finish reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman, but I also wouldn’t mind starting a new series…decisions….

What Are You Reading Right Now? Leave A Comment Below!

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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

What We’re Reading: Kindred

Rating: 5 out of 5

Written in 1979, Kindred by Octavia Butler has been on my bookshelf for at least a year without me so much as reading the table of contents.

I’d bought it at the suggestion of some writer friends who offered it as a title written by and featuring black people. The search led me to Butler as an author and Kindred as the first book to read from her long list of award winning novels.

The story of Kindred, is a massive trigger warning for people of color, descendants of slavery and oppression as well as women who’ve survived sexual assault as well as various forms of domestic abuse.

The most difficult parts of the book were the parts of the story that gave it it’s edge. A glimpse at the degradation experienced as a slave in the antebellum South.

As Dana traveled back and forth through space and time I too went on a journey of self discovery, though no stranger to the tales of slavery, this particular story had the added insult of having a free woman from the modern world transported to the past and told she had to act the part. In a time where slavery is a not so distant memory and injustice is an everyday publicized occurrence the similarities of the past and the present are undeniable.

I could’ve been Dana, transported from my Philadelphia home in 2018 to 1815 where my complexion merely meant I probably wouldn’t work out in the fields. I’m not sure if I could’ve rescued Rufus.

The title Kindred, could speak to the two couples most noted in the book. The juxtaposition between Rufus and Alice & Kevin and Dana is a connection I couldn’t quite explain.

During the reign of slavery, slaves weren’t able to marry, had no rights and weren’t even seen as people. Rufus exploited this in his pursuits to woo, abuse and eventually drive Alice a formerly free woman to kill herself. Though Rufus claimed to love Alice his actions showed he could only love her as much as he could any other property he possessed.

A stark contrast from the 70s, marrying outside of your race wasn’t common but occurred. Kevin waited 5 years for Dana and she returned to endure humiliation for him.

I personally don’t feel the title speaks to the story at all. I wouldn’t even say that Dana and Rufus are kindred spirits, their only connection being a bloodline established out of rape and systematic torture. Usually when thinking of the word, it elicits thoughts of fate and a connection that surpasses all boundaries.

This particular connection was to a place, time and person contradictory to the life Dana had built for herself. Beyond transcending time to save his own skin, Rufus Weylin exhibited none of the qualities of a kindred spirit.

It would be easy to create stereotypical characters and in some way Butler, manipulated stereotypes to tell her story however, I would say that Butler was able to cultivate well rounded life-like characters that I connected with and felt for. Dana for me was the most relatable. I am a black woman living in the modern era, it was as if I had been transported into the pass and as she was stripped of each layer of the modern world in a way so was I. There were times I felt physically sick from reading about her ordeal but I’m happy for having read it.

Octavia Butler must have a great mind to consider the conundrum she beset Dana. Without Rufus she would cease to exist, but how long is she to endure to ensure her own safety? She also forms a bind with the boy, once hoping to influence him for the better he evolves into the beast she dreaded despite her presence. I felt myself densely waiting on the arrival of her first descendant just so she could go home and never return.

Dana and Kevin are a biracial couple living in 1978 California at a time when race relations were tense but facing process. Their immediate transport to the antebellum South where white men used black slave women as bed warmers and breeders is a 180 degree switch from what they’re used to. Rufus, his parents and even the slaves had simply been playing the roles taught to them by society as a whole.

A part of the story I didn’t care for is the loss of her arm and the explanation behind it. Call me overly sympathetic to Dana’s plight but hadn’t she gone through enough? To then say that Butler, couldn’t have let her return completely, that some part of her had to remain in the past.

Personally, I feel by the end of the book that Dana had been altered enough and choosing to leave her with both arms wouldn’t have hurt. She’d been overworked, slapped, punched, kicked, whipped and had at one point slit her own wrists. Dana will forever be physically and psychologically altered.

I suppose one would have to wonder how Rufus survived without Dana prior to her birth, but I guess time paradoxes would suggest that she was always the one who kept him alive.

With more than 450,000 copies in print I can see why Kindred comes so highly recommended. The Book itself is a healthy blend of genres spanning across science fiction, fantasy, neo-slave narratives and historical fiction.

Kindred made me openly cry and wanna jump into the book and throttle the characters. I happily give this one a 5 out of 5.

Have You Read Kindred? What did you think? Let me Know in the Comments Below!


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