Tag Archives: genocide

Review: Three Summers by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess with Laura L. Sullivan

Three Summers by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess with Laura L. Sullivan

Three Summers: A Memoir of Sisterhood, Summer Crushes, and Growing Up on the Eve of War
Amra Sabic-El-Rayess with Laura L. Sullivan
Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
Published April 9, 2024

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About Three Summers

An epic middle-grade memoir about sisterhood and coming-of-age in the three years leading up to the Bosnian Genocide.

Three Summers is the story of five young cousins who grow closer than sisters as ethnic tensions escalate over three summers in 1980s Bosnia. They navigate the joys and pitfalls of adolescence on their family’s little island in the middle of the Una River. When finally confronted with the harsh truths of the adult world around them, their bond gives them the resilience to discover and hold fast to their true selves.

Written with incredible warmth and tenderness, Amra Sabic-El-Rayess takes readers on a journey that will break their hearts and put them back together again.

My Review

This memoir is broken into three sections, one for each of the summers Amra spends with her cousins. Before that first summer, her family experiences a terrible loss, and Amra sinks into a dark depression. As she gets to know her cousins, she begins to have hope again, confidence in herself, and the courage to form friendships with others.

Her love for her family is so clear in the pages of the book. It celebrates familial bonds, especially those between a child and their parents, and the bonds between siblings and cousins.

This is the first book I’ve ever read about the Bosnian Genocide, though it isn’t the author’s first memoir about that time. After reading this book, I ordered a copy of her YA memoir, THE CAT I NEVER NAMED, so hopefully I’ll be ready to share my review of that book soon, too.

Technically, this book focuses on the years leading up to the genocide, in which the government becomes more and more hostile, one slow step at a time. I’m not gonna lie; it is harrowing to read a story like this and see parallels in some of the dehumanizing rhetoric certain political leaders are using right now.

Those comments make stories like this critically important because we need to remember that genocide doesn’t begin with the targeted deaths of a group of people. It begins with the systematic dehumanization of them.

I’m so glad Sabic-El-Rayess continues to write about her experiences in a way that kids can read about. The scenes in this book stay focused on Amra’s experience as a child, looking through her eyes. This is an important book, especially now. I hope that many people will discover and read it.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Amra and her family are Muslim. Amra’s older brother has Marfan syndrome.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
References to different faith practices of different groups around Amra.

Violent Content
Death of a sibling on scene. References to Islamaphobia. References to torture and execution.

Drug Content
One teen character smokes cigarettes.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use but help support this blog. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3)
Laini Taylor
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published April 8, 2014

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About Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Two worlds are poised on the brink of a vicious war. By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera’s rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her.

When the brutal angel emperor brings his army to the human world, Karou and Akiva are finally reunited – not in love, but in a tentative alliance against their common enemy. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves.

But with even bigger threats on the horizon, are Karou and Akiva strong enough to stand among the gods and monsters?

The New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy comes to a stunning conclusion as – from the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond – humans, chimaera, and seraphim strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

My Review

At last! The final book in the series. This is my second read-through, and there were so many moments in this one that I really looked forward to.

There were also some pretty dark things I had forgotten about. Karou experiences some trauma that’s pretty graphic. See the trigger warnings below.

I think what I love best about this series is what it says about the power of love to heal a breach caused by hate. The story shows how destructive hate can be, not only to between two groups that hate each other, but the way nursing the hate causes its own corruption, too.

While the earlier books in the series introduce the idea of the star-crossed love and the two groups at war, DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS focuses on the process of healing that must happen in order for the warfare to truly end.

And okay, all that is really awesome, and I’m totally a fan, but the characters make the series truly memorable. Karou and Akiva. Zuzana, Ziri, Leroz, Issa, and Brimstone. All completely unforgettable.

So yes. I loved all three of these books, and I would probably read them all for a third time at some point. It’s the kind of story with the kind of characters that you just want to revisit every so often. The kind of story that reminds you about the power of love and the fact that it takes courage and work for those good things to triumph over evil, but it can and does happen.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 16 up.

Most characters are chimaera or angels.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content – Trigger Warning
Kissing between boy and girl. References to sex and nudity.

One scene shows a character trying to rape another character. It’s graphic and intense. There are some references to other rapes, but those are not shown on scene.

Spiritual Content
Chimaera and angels each have myths about their origins involving the gods and goddesses they worship.

Some characters have magic, though the magic comes with a price, usually a toll in pain. Other characters have coins that represent wishes, in large or small denominations.

Violent Content – Trigger Warning
Some descriptions of battle or fighting and situations of peril. References to war. References to some grisly murders and mutilation of bodies. Some references to torture.

One scene shows a character trying to rape another character. It’s graphic and intense.

Drug Content

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Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone
Tomi Adeyemi
Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
Published on March 6, 2018

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About Children of Blood and Bone

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

My Review

I have heard SO MUCH about CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE and really looked forward to reading it. I love the story world. It felt really different than anything I’ve read before. Very fresh. I love the maji system even though it’s a little complex. Not too bad, though. I never felt lost in reading scenes.

Amari quickly became my favorite character. Her bravery and her love for her best friend totally endeared her to me right from the get-go. It took a little longer for me to warm up to the powerful Zélie who made some selfish choices at the beginning of the story. But as I got to know her true nature, I couldn’t help rooting for her and wanting her to succeed. I’m kind of wondering if there’s not a love triangle ahead for her? I felt some sparks between her and a pretty minor character who seems poised to have a larger role in the next book. We’ll see what happens!

Zélie wants freedom for her people more than anything, but she hesitates to use her power to fight at first and she has a strong moral sense of good and evil. Inan seems more mixed up. His need for his father’s approval made him a sympathetic character to me, but his relationship with violence and the lengths to which he was willing to go to get his father’s love were a challenge for me. He also seemed to flip flop a little quickly where one minute he’d be thinking he could disregard his goal and the next reversed his position.

On the whole, I loved the originality of the tale and both of the female leads. This is a rich, immersive story and a great start to a new fantasy series.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Characters are brown-skinned.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used with moderate frequency.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. One romantic interlude progresses further and hints at sex. No graphic descriptions of it.

References to a relationship the king has with his mistress.

Spiritual Content
Each god or goddess is connected to a type of magic. Zélie uses reaper magic which connects with dead spirits to create animated helpers that she controls.  Inan’s magic shows him things about a person’s inner life, like memories and emotions.

Violent Content
Lots of battles, sometimes involving civilians. Some pretty graphic descriptions of combat and death. Zélie worries about being placed in slavery, a common fate for a maji. Men sometimes threaten her with harm or make vulgar, suggestive comments about harming her sexually.

Inan especially seems to view violence through a kind of morally gray lens. He desperately wants his father’s approval and is willing to do almost anything to get it, including harming people he otherwise wants to protect. He’s also desperate to hide his magic, and willing to harm anyone who will out him.

At one point, Zélie and her crew end up fighting in a sort of gladiator arena style match where only the winners come out alive. They watch a match first and are horrified at the bloodshed, but still decide to enter.

Drug Content
References to wine.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links which cost nothing for you to use, but which generate a small amount of support for this blog.