First and foremost, I have written this story as a way of seeking healing and keeping my son’s memory alive. I also hope that parents who have lost their children will find some comfort in knowing they are not alone in their grief. And to the kidney patients, may they be informed that there is hope in medicine and in the development of the newest methods of treatment. Donating a kidney may seem a big deal but to me, it was the solution and the best I could do. To all doctors that take care of our patients, I extend my heartfelt gratitude for their priceless sacrifice in working long hours to see that their patients get back their good health.
These past two weeks I have had the privilege of working on an extraordinary book called, I Once Had A Son by Felicita Churie. She reached out to me on this blog and asked for assistance to get this book ready to publish on Amazon’s KDP. After we agreed on deadlines, I got to work on the story and fell into quite a unique experience.
You see, there is a profound sense of awe and inspiration in discovering a story about a mother’s unconditional love for her family, in particular, her son.
In I Once Had A Son, Mrs. Churie lays out the very personal journey she took with her son, Tobiko. She and Tobiko spent thirty-three inspiring years in a medical battle that would stun most. She describes the joyful nature of Tobiko’s birth, the joy of his growing up years, and the dreaded discovery of a struggle with kidney failure. Mrs. Churie and her family then embark on a long journey filled with love, camaraderie, a strong community that holds them down during the worst of storms, and a family bond forged like no other. She opens up and highlights the experience of donating a kidney to Tobiko. In the hope that her surgery experience will give others in similar situations courage and strength to get to the other side.
This book is an emotional rollercoaster. I learned from Mrs. Churie and Tobiko that strength can be found even when it seems like there is none left to find. There is no love more profound than a mother’s love. Truly!
Written by Damian White / Illustrated by Francesco Orazzini
What if I told you the golden rule of speech is to speak when spoken through?
This poetry collection explores a number of themes, ranging from spirituality and religion to perseverance and humility. The poems in Damian White’s debut book dwell less in the realm of imagistic and narrative impulses and more so strive for a “higher order statement.”
In I Made A Place For You, we experience the turmoil unearthed from daring to make a place for our inmost curiosities.
I Made Place For You is Damien White’s debut poetry book. This short compilation of poems speaks on spirituality, inner thoughts, and their power on our souls. Each poem is matched to a colorful, thought-evoking illustration done by Francesco Orazzini.
I Made A Place For You starts with a poem named ‘Post Mortem’ in which White discusses the consequences of the human need to tell white lies. We hide flaws at the detriment of losing our true selves or decaying inside. White hopes in the distant future, his headstone shall read ‘…here lies a man who never died inside’.
I especially loved the poem I Am Innocent, in which White says, ‘…we build a fortress/of validation/and guillotine/our most precious birthright: Innocence’ A phrase filled with impact, and perhaps a eulogy to the innocence that is often stripped from us when we’re too young.
In Good Mourning, White alludes to our human existence, arguing ‘…we are soil/…vital and better suited/ for sunshine’. Regardless of where we are, who we are, and what we wish to be, we are creatures that need nurturing. A moment of sun, vitalizing food, and especially good information to cultivate our thoughts. We are not a lump of ash.
White spends a few words discussing spirituality and the importance of looking to a higher power. In Playing God, he says, ‘…to be Godly/ is not to be God’. I found this poem to be the most powerful in terms of exploring our spiritual relationship with God. No matter what we do, how godly we are, we shall always answer to the one who made us.
The illustrated pictures had me going back to read the poem they represent. There is this moment that plays out as you read a poem, looking at the illustration to see if it matches your interpretation. Then, looking at the poem again to make it work with the art. This back-and-forth is such an important part of engagement with the words.
My favorite, the one that worked perfectly for me, illustration and poem, is called ‘Written in Blood’. In this poem, White says, ‘…As Ink bleeds/ I bleed‘. Francesco Orazzini captures the essence of turning ink into words, and the masochist nature of a writer, with absolute precision. I love it.
I Made A Place For You is a debut poetry book filled with amazing little gems of words.
The worlds brought to life by a book series can be epically amazing (LOTR), hard to forget (HP), or a bit hard to imagine (Twilight). The one thing they all have in common is the adventures and characters that live through a number of books. I have always been a LOTR and HP fan. Because I’m a fan of these two, I confess to falling into a continuous search for that feeling of discovering a new amazing and hard-to-forget series. So, this year I fell into two worlds that almost came close, each with its own unique charm.
1. The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness.
This series follows the story of Diana Bishop, who is a historian and a reluctant witch. She works to solve the mystery of Ashmole 782, falls in love with a very mysterious vampire named Mathew Clairmont, and learns how powerful one can be after accepting who one truly is.
A Discovery of Witches
A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.
Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.
Shadow of Night
Picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night.
As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey.
The Book of Life
Bringing the magic and suspense of the All Souls Trilogy to a deeply satisfying conclusion, this highly anticipated finale went straight to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. In The Book of Life, Diana and Matthew time-travel back from Elizabethan London to make a dramatic return to the present—facing new crises and old enemies.
At Matthew’s ancestral home, Sept-Tours, they reunite with the beloved cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency.
I enjoyed reading these three books. The story is solid, and the adventures Diana goes through are quite entertaining. There is a lot of descriptive prose to get through, but once you get over the start, the flow is good. All three books are complete and available. If you prefer not to read, there is a TV Series called ‘A Discovery of Witches’ with 3 seasons.
The Shadow and Bone Trilogy is the story of Alina Starkov, a soldier in the kingdom of Ravka who discovers she possesses magical abilities. Training with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite, Alina falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes she is the only one with the power to defeat the forces threatening the kingdom–forces that will test old alliances and challenge the very limits of magic, one that will forge a leader from a frightened girl.
Shadow and Bone- Book 1
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near-impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
Siege and Storm – Book 2
Darkness never dies.
Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.
The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her—or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.
Ruin and Rising – Book 3
The capital has fallen.
The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.
The Grishaverse was interesting to get into and is a fun read. I have various complaints about the darkling and Alina. Lots of complaints, however, if you can get over these two or don’t mind them at all, the grishaverse is very fun to explore. Once again, if reading is not your thing and you prefer watching, check out Netflix’s Shadow and Bone series. It only has one season at the moment, but rumor has it another season is on the way.
With this list of six books, my Goodreads 2022 Reading Challenge ends at 53 books. To be honest, a few of the books I read on the list did not give me the review-it-now vibes, it happens. However, I’m excited to have gotten through the challenge and to get through all these books. It was nice having this one constant easy goal to get done through the year. The fun part comes with finding books to put on the list, hahaha. I had a few that I really could not finish and had to replace with others. It turns out I am a huge series fan. I’m quite sure 2023 will have quite a few of these series books too. Here’s looking forward to 2023.
Combining magic, mysticism, wisdom, and wonder into an inspiring tale of self-discovery, The Alchemist has become a modern classic, selling millions of copies around the world and transforming the lives of countless readers across generations.
Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.
Quotes to remember:
“If what one finds is made of pure matter, it will never spoil. And one can always come back. If what you had found was only a moment of light, like the explosion of a star, you would find nothing on your return.”
“No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.“ – The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
Nearly every time you see him, he’s laughing, or at least smiling. And he makes everyone else around him feel like smiling. He’s the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, a Nobel Prize winner, and an increasingly popular speaker and statesman. What’s more, he’ll tell you that happiness is the purpose of life, and that “the very motion of our life is towards happiness.” How to get there has always been the question. He’s tried to answer it before, but he’s never had the help of a psychiatrist to get the message across in a context we can easily understand. Through conversations, stories, and meditations, the Dalai Lama shows us how to defeat day-to-day anxiety, insecurity, anger, and discouragement. Together with Dr. Cutler, he explores many facets of everyday life, including relationships, loss, and the pursuit of wealth, to illustrate how to ride through life’s obstacles on a deep and abiding source of inner peace.
To Note: this book is written by Dr. Howard C. Cutler. However, I find His Holiness The Dalai Lama IXV’s thoughtful answers to Dr. Cutler’s questions give this book its heart. I loved his words on life situations the most.
Interesting notes to nourish the soul include: “…I think that to a large extent, whether you suffer depends on how you respond to a given situation. For example, say that you find out that someone is speaking badly of you behind your back. If you react to this knowledge that someone is speaking badly of you, this negativity, with a feeling of hurt or anger, then you yourself destroy your own peace of mind. Your pain is your own personal creation. On the other hand, if you refrain from reacting in a negative way, let the slander pass by you as if it were a silent wind passing behind your ears, you protect yourself from that feeling of hurt, that feeling of agony. So, although you may not always be able to avoid difficult situations, you can modify the extent to which you suffer by how you choose to respond to the situation.”- His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Gilbert offers insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.
On Being Creative: I’ve found myself struggling with two big monsters. They are fear and imposter syndrome. I have to work past the barriers they create to put out work at times. It is not easy, and there are times these two things do cripple creativity. So, I’ve found my solace, and inspiration from the words I read in Big Magic. Here is a literal paragraph I resonate with when I’m not at my best:
Are you considering becoming a creative person? Too late, you already are
one. To even call somebody “a creative person” is almost laughably redundant;
creativity is the hallmark of our species. We have the senses for it; we have the
curiosity for it; we have the opposable thumbs for it; we have the rhythm for it;
we have the language and the excitement and the innate connection to divinity
If you’re alive, you’re a creative person. You and I and everyone you know
are descended from tens of thousands of years of makers. Decorators, tinkerers,
storytellers, dancers, explorers, fiddlers, drummers, builders, growers, problemsolvers,
and embellishers—these are our common ancestors.
The guardians of high culture will try to convince you that the arts belong
only to a chosen few, but they are wrong and they are also annoying. We are all
the chosen few. We are all makers by design. Even if you grew up watching
cartoons in a sugar stupor from dawn to dusk, creativity still lurks within you.
Your creativity is way older than you are, way older than any of us. Your very
body and your very being are perfectly designed to live in collaboration with
inspiration, and inspiration is still trying to find you—the same way it hunted
down your ancestors.
All of which is to say: You do not need a permission slip from the principal’s
office to live a creative life.
Or if you do worry that you need a permission slip—THERE, I just gave it to
I just wrote it on the back of an old shopping list.
Consider yourself fully accredited.
Now go make something.
- Elizabeth Gilbert,
Big Magic : Creative Living Beyond Fear.
You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself. That’s the message from Austin Kleon, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere, creativity is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, Steal Like an Artist is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side.
This short and sweet book is meant to act as a reminder of what to focus on when you’re hoping to find ideas for your next project. How to get through that project, and deal with the aftermath of said project. Snippets of Wisdom include: “..Amassing a body of work or building a career is a lot about the slow accumulation of little bits of effort over time. Writing a page each day doesn’t seem like much, but do it for 365 days and you have enough to fill a novel. One successful client pitch is a small victory, but a few dozen of them can get you a promotion…” – Austin Kleon
The Lean Startup approach fosters companies that are both more capital efficient and that leverage human creativity more effectively. Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, it relies on “validated learning,” rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of counter-intuitive practices that shorten product development cycles, measure actual progress without resorting to vanity metrics, and learn what customers really want. It enables a company to shift directions with agility, altering plans inch by inch, minute by minute.
Rather than wasting time creating elaborate business plans, The Lean Startup offers entrepreneurs – in companies of all sizes – a way to test their vision continuously, to adapt and adjust before it’s too late. Ries provides a scientific approach to creating and managing successful startups in a age when companies need to innovate more than ever.
The Lean Startup is a book filled with a strategy on how to bring business ideas to life. The book explains the lean startup strategy and explains how you can implement it in your small business, if you have one or are trying to start one. It is not a fast read, but a book to take chapter by chapter. The best way to see if the ideas work is to implement them, try them out in a small scale and see what works. Pivot in time.
October is here! My favorite month. I’m also over excited because the creators of Bleach are blessing fans with a new final arc calledBLEACH: Thousand-Year Blood War on October 10th, 2022.This blog post is going to take a minute to celebrate VIZ Media by taking a moment to gush over the awesome manga titles I’ve read from them as a rabid manga fan.
Here is a look at the new trailer, premiering on October 10, 2022. Ichigo Kurosaki coming your way with some Bankai! Don’t miss out. This show was really fun to watch. The characters going through multiple levels of growth, and the visuals only improved with each arc. Check out the full series if you can before you find the new arc.
VIZ has had some great releases. Here are a few of my fave preferences
In the late 19th century, Great Britain rules over a quarter of the world. Nobles sit in their fancy homes in comfort and luxury, while the working class slaves away at their jobs. When young Albert James Moriarty’s upper-class family adopts two lower-class orphans, the cruelty the boys experience at his family’s hands cements Albert’s hatred of the nobility he was born into. He asks the older of the two boys—who has a genius mind and a killer instinct—to help him rid the world of evil, starting with Albert’s own family!
Storyboards by Ryosuke Takeuchi, Art by Hikaru Miyoshi
Learning to destroy demons won’t be easy, and Tanjiro barely knows where to start. The surprise appearance of another boy named Giyu, who seems to know what’s going on, might provide some answers—but only if Tanjiro can stop Giyu from killing his sister first!
As his classmates celebrate their middle school graduation, troubled Mirai is mired in darkness. But his battle is just beginning when he receives some salvation from above in the form of an angel. Now Mirai is pitted against 12 other chosen humans in a battle in which the winner becomes the next god of the world. Mirai has an angel in his corner, but he may need to become a devil to survive.
Story by Tsugumi Ohba, Art by Takeshi Obata | ImprintSHONEN JUMP | Platinum End is complete at Volume 14
Having fought his way into the top grade of Mechanical Martial Arts, Levius faces an ever-changing world that grows more threatening by the day. The shadowy megacorporation Amethyst wields its military might across the world through advancements in the arena. Can Levius be the fighter who changes the course of the world’s fate?
Formerly titled The Hill We Climb and Other Poems, the luminous poetry collection by #1 New York Times bestselling author and presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman captures a shipwrecked moment in time and transforms it into a lyric of hope and healing. In Call Us What We Carry, Gorman explores history, language, identity, and erasure through an imaginative and intimate collage. Harnessing the collective grief of a global pandemic, this beautifully designed volume features poems in many inventive styles and structures and shines a light on a moment of reckoning. Call Us What We Carry reveals that Gorman has become our messenger from the past, our voice for the future.
I fell into this poetry book on a Saturday afternoon. I love so many poems in this book. I wish I could share them all, but that would spoil the fun of you discovering them for yourself…hahaha. So, I can only share the little gems I found between the many pages filled with Miss Gorman’s poetry.
In There’s No Power Like Home, she says:
‘…we were sick of home/Home sick. / That mask around our ear/ hung itself into the year.’
The pandemic year so aptly described and our time at home certainly felt like forever. We became homebodies.
In Good Grief, she says,
‘…All that is grave need not be a burden, an anguish/ Call it, instead, an anchor…/ What we carry means we survive/It is what survives us
There are many grave experiences that touch our lives, the most profound one being the loss of those we love. In the storm that follows, the grief we carry makes us, defines who we are, who we become…Ms. Gorman argues it can be called good grief. Something that anchors us to what matters.
In the poem, Call Us, she says,
‘…at times over half of our bodies are not our own/…we are, a boat of a being/ A country/ A continent/ A planet / A Human/ We are we/ Call us/ What we carry
We are never the one thing, no matter how much one thinks so. If not from the country’s viewpoint, even at home we are a child/siblings/parents/aunts and uncles/friends/coworkers…so many parts of us. I love this poem.
In the Lighthouse, Miss Gorman quotes Terrence’s Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. (I’m human, I consider nothing that is human is alien to me.) Then writes of a year lived in isolation mode.
‘…this year was no year/ when next generations ask, we will say/ it went something like this: / the empty/ creaking playing grounds/…gatherings and people, gone to rust/’.
Describing the endless months of not meeting loved ones, coworkers, friends, and family. This poem ends with a bucket of hope that our harsh memories from that year will pass.
‘…hope is no silent harbor, no haven still/ it is the roaring thing that tugs us away/ from the very shores we clutch/…
We move forward despite the hard patch. We meet others now, pushing the fear of the pandemic away, after all, nothing human is alien to us.
In What We Carry, she says,
‘…children understand/ even grime is a gift/ what is mired is miraculous/ what is marred is still marvelous/
This poem reminds us of our childhood days, of running around with no care in the world. Playing in the dirt and lying on the grass staring at the clouds for hours. How we saw beauty before we grew up and our opinions and perception hardened. She speaks of emerging from the pandemic era.
‘…we have recalled how to touch each other/ and how to trust all that is good and all right/’.
How we must look beyond. Carry our hopes forward.
'…We have learned our true names—/ not what we are called/ but what we are called to carry forth from here/ what do we carry, if not/ what and who we care most for/…’
Ms. Gorman ends this poem with a call to let go, to discard, ‘…our rage, our wreckage/ our hubris/ our hate/ our ghosts/ our greed/ our wrath/ our wars/ on the beating shore.’ She hopes we find a haven in what we have left after the ravaging storms we have faced.
‘…what we have left/ is all we need/ we are enough /armed only/ with our hands/ open but unemptied/ just like a blooming thing / we walk into tomorrow/ carrying nothing/ but the world.’
Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.
But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.
Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.
Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.
Deka is hoping to undergo the purity ritual and earn acceptance among her people. However, an unexpected event in her village makes this dream impossible. She soon discovers that the people she has cared for, loved, and leaned on can turn on her in a second. Her blood runs gold, marking her as impure. In a society rooted too deep in patriarchy, this impurity dooms her to death without trial.
Deka’s people believe in Oyomo’s teachings. Communities revere this religion, and anything that ventures away from the teachings becomes impure. A girl with gold blood in her veins is judged impure on sight. For “…an impure girl is despised by Oyomo, her very existence an offense to Him. Her murder is sanctioned by the Infinite Wisdoms, and who can argue with the holy books? Who would dare even try? All the families can see from then on is the demon that somehow invaded their bloodline. The sheer wickedness of it stings…” – The Gilded Ones.
Deka is doomed to die until an opportunity finds her in the hole the elders have placed her. A hole where they kill her repeatedly in an effort to end her. This opportunity gives her a chance for a new life. A chance to discover if there is more to her gold blood, and may give her a reason to live. For Deka must learn how to live with impurity as she views it. She is a believer in Oyomo too, and hopes for salvation, even as she is the very thing this Oyomo condemns. It takes great effort to get her past these beliefs and the torture and pain she endures to find herself beyond the Infinite Wisdoms can only be called a rebirth.
The Gilded Ones is not an easy fantasy read. It is full of torture and abuse of women, born from the weight of religious extremism. The religion in question is Oyomo’s holy book called the Infinite Wisdoms. The priests who teach these pearls of wisdom persecute young girls and women like Deka born from what they call The Gilded Ones. The truth of the Gilded Ones is therefore hidden in the persecution that soon turns the cruelty toward the gold-blooded women into a common occurrence.
Deka fights these injustices, trying to find the truth behind her existence. Who she is and why she is persecuted. In time, when she learns the truth, it becomes clear that she must survive and earn a life for herself.
This book is an absolute ride. I love the characters, and the world-building. I do wish there was less torture, and in the end, I feel that Deka has serious mental health issues that need resolving in time. However, I also know there is a second book and perhaps she will get to address her ghosts then.
Wash Day Diaries tells the story of four best friends—Kim, Tanisha, Davene, and Cookie—through five connected short story comics that follow these young women through the ups and downs of their daily lives in the Bronx. The book takes its title from the wash day experience shared by Black women everywhere, setting aside all plans and responsibilities for a full day of washing, conditioning, and nourishing their hair. Each short story uses hair routines as a window into these four characters’ everyday lives and how they care for each other. Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith originally kickstarted their critically acclaimed, award-winning slice-of-life mini-comic, Wash Day, inspired by Rowser’s own wash day ritual and their shared desire to see more comics featuring the daily lived experiences of young Black women. Wash Day Diaries includes an updated, full-color version of this original comic—which follows Kim, a 26-year-old woman living in the Bronx—as the book’s first chapter and expands into a graphic novel with short stories about these vibrant and relatable new characters.
In expanding the story of Kim and her friends, the authors pay tribute to Black sisterhood through portraits of shared, yet deeply personal experiences of Black hair care. From self-care to spilling the tea at an hours-long salon appointment to healing family rifts, the stories are brought to life through beautifully drawn characters and different color palettes reflecting the mood in each story.
So, I love, love this graphic novel. I love the illustrations with the different types of natural hair we have. The texture, the complexities of taking care of our hair, and yes, how sometimes it does take a day to get it just the way we want. Wash days are a large part of us. They can be easy and/or hard. They can take all day, or half a day, if you’re getting braids, it’s an event packed in with a movie session. These natural coils may frustrate us or bring us joy, there are tears, and sometimes laughs. It’s a day that pushes very personal buttons, and I love how this graphic novel touches on subjects like depression, mental health and relationships. Because washday is that day that will pull and tug at what is going on in our lives.
All plans do gotta stop, take time and revitalize. I wish this book was longer, but mostly, I loved the representation. I felt seen and acknowledged in a comic, which is awesome.
The thrilling conclusion to an epic fantasy about a throne cruelly stolen and a girl who must fight to take it back for her people.
Princess Theodosia was a prisoner in her own country for a decade. Renamed the Ash Princess, she endured relentless abuse and ridicule from the Kaiser and his court. But though she wore a crown of ashes, there is fire in Theo’s blood. As the rightful heir to the Astrean crown, it runs in her veins. And if she learned nothing else from her mother, she learned that a Queen never cowers.
Now free, with a misfit army of rebels to back her, Theo must liberate her enslaved people and face a terrifying new enemy: the new Kaiserin. Imbued with a magic no one understands, the Kaiserin is determined to burn down anyone and everything in her way.
The Kaiserin’s strange power is growing stronger, and with Prinz Søren as her hostage, there is more at stake than ever. Theo must learn to embrace her own power if she has any hope of standing against the girl she once called her heart’s sister.
Ember Queen is the last book in the Ash Princess Trilogy. Theodosia is no longer unsure of who she is to the people of Asteria. She has taken on the mantle of leadership and there is no longer doubt. She is also stronger, which is a very different Theo from the one in the first book. It was nice to see this growth in her, a movement from being unsure, to a powerful, decision-making individual.
The cast of characters supporting Theodosia also took center stage. Some of the losses were hard to take, and I suppose that’s what makes a great tale. The sadness that grows from the death of a great character. In all, I suppose Theodosia’s own grief is enough to mark the passing of these great characters.
I died the Queen of Peace, and peace died with me…But you are the Queen of Flame and Fury, and you will set the world on fire.”
I enjoyed reading the Ash Princess Trilogy. The story is good, but not epic. It is very character-driven, told primarily from Theodosia’s perspective. I felt that it would have been great to know what the other characters are thinking and what is driving them. Dragonsbane is a character I would have loved to discover more about. The Ash Princess Trilogy is definitely a journey about the Ember Queen’s quest to get back her throne.
The Kaiser murdered Theodosia’s mother, the Fire Queen when Theo was only six. He took Theo’s country and kept her prisoner, crowning her Ash Princess–a pet to toy with and humiliate for ten long years. That era has ended. The Kaiser thought his prisoner weak and defenseless. He didn’t realize that a sharp mind is the deadliest weapon.
Theo no longer wears a crown of ashes. She has taken back her rightful title, and a hostage–Prinz Soren. But her people remain enslaved under the Kaiser’s rule, and now she is thousands of miles away from them and her throne.
To get them back, she will need an army. Only, securing an army means she must trust her aunt, the dreaded pirate Dragonsbane. And according to Dragonsbane, an army can only be produced if Theo takes a husband. Something an Astrean Queen has never done.
Theo knows that freedom comes at a price, but she is determined to find a way to save her country without losing herself.
I enjoyed Lady Smoke more than the first book of this series. Theodosia is free of the Kaiser and is on the run. She is set to take on her title as the Queen of Asteria, but her people are still enslaved. She has no allies, no army, no means to fight for her people’s freedom. She is a queen with only hope, and good friends.
This book is about Theodosia finding out where she stands with her people. She works to gain power, and enough strength to fight for her people’s freedom. She must also convince her people who have been long enslaved to fight for their freedom. That there were will be a time they will be able to feel and hold that freedom. In many ways, Lady Smoke describes that coming-off-age stage perfectly and finding inspiration to fight for a worthy cause.