Book Review: The Weight Of Our Sky

weight of our skyThe Weight Of Our Sky
by Hanna Alkaf
Young Adult/Contemporary Fiction
277 pages
Published February 2019

I’ve seen this book absolutely raved about online, as an amazing, diverse book with an #ownvoices author, and I knew I wanted to read it, I just kept having other things come up with higher priorities. I finally settled down to read it, and….it’s exactly what everyone has said. Absolutely fantastic.

Melati, our main character, is struggling with OCD, but as this is set in 1969, it’s never diagnosed. She thinks a djinn has taken up residence in her brain, and is giving her horrifying visions unless she does his will. And then riots break out and she and her mother are separated. This book covers an event we were never really taught about here in the US; in 1969 politics in Malaysia reached a boiling point and massive riots broke out between the Chinese and Malaysian populations. It’s an event that rips Melati’s world apart, and that she fights to survive in this book, while still fighting the djinn in her own head.

The Weight Of Our Sky is a young adult book, but it covers some very weighty topics. Between Melati’s mental illness, the death and violence that surrounds her, and the prejudice and bigotry driving it, it’s a book to read mindfully. The author includes a content warning at the beginning of the book, as well she should. The detail with which she describes Melati’s experience (both in her head and outside of it) is stunning.

Melati is Malaysian, but she somehow finds herself with a Chinese family, and together they confront the tensions between the two groups of people, both their own prejudices and the violence from the roving mobs outside the little house they’ve holed up in. All the while, she’s trying to hide the counting and tapping that keeps the djinn quiet in her head. The book is an extraordinary look at untreated mental illness, and the toll it takes to act normal when your brain is lying to you.

Fantastic book.

From the cover of The Weight Of Our Sky:

Melati Ahmad has imagined her mother’s death countless times. Plagued by gruesome thoughts she believes are put into her head by a djinn, Melati has developed an intricate set of tapping rituals to tame the monster within and keep her mother safe.

But there are things that Melati can’t protect her mother from. On the evening of May 13, 1969, racial tensions in her home city of Kuala Lumpur boil over. The Chinese and Malays are at war, and Mel and her mother become separated by a city in flames.

With a twenty-four-hour curfew in place and all lines of communication down, it will take the help of a Chinese boy named Vincent and all of the courage and grit in Melati’s arsenal to overcome the violence on the streets, her own prejudices, and her djinn’s surging power to make it back to the one person she can’t risk losing.

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Friday 56 – The Weight Of Our Sky

weight of our skyThe Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

This week’s quote is from The Weight Of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf, a book that’s gotten a lot of buzz for its diversity, #ownvoices rep, and subject matter. My full review will be up tomorrow, as I sat down and read this book straight through!

After the failed trip to the doctor, Mama read the Quran to me each night, determined to chase away the mischievous spirits wreaking havoc on my brain. No longer was she the scientific-minded nurse, once so skeptical of djinn and the supernatural; with no other options, my increasingly worrying symptoms had turned her firmly into a desperate, faithful believer. I didn’t mind her doing it – I’d always found the verses beautiful, after all, and soothing – but I knew it wouldn’t work. He had forsaken me.

There’s a lot of heavy topics in this book, but it’s really, really good. I’ll explain more tomorrow!

Book Review: The Suburban Micro-Farm

suburban micro farmThe Suburban Micro-Farm: Modern Solutions for Busy People
by Amy Stross
Nonfiction/Gardening/ Homesteading
347 pages
Published 2018

I’m going to buy my own copy of this book. It is stuffed full of useful information! It focuses on growing food in your yard when you don’t have much time to spend on the yard, so there’s a lot of permaculture techniques and gardens that are largely hands-off once you get them set up, which is exactly what I want. With the chronic fatigue, I often don’t have the energy to get outside and work on a garden, and Maryland summers exhaust me simply by stepping outside. I really want to garden and grow food, but I need easy ways to do that.

The Suburban Micro-Farm delved into planting hedgerows, which is something we’ve been thinking of, rain gardens (which we probably should do, we have a couple places in the yard that do not drain well), and tree guilds, which are plantings that go under trees to work together in little micro-environments. One of the tree guilds Stross specifically talks about is a Black Walnut tree guild, which I was excited to see because we have a huge, beautiful mature Black Walnut that I’ve been trying to figure out how to plant around. Black Walnuts produce juglone, a chemical that kills a lot of plants, so you have to be very mindful of what you plant near them.

This is an excellent reference book for suburban gardens, and she has lots of extra resources on her site, The Tenth Acre Farm. I will be exploring those as well, but I’m definitely going to buy my own copy of this book!

From the cover of The Suburban Micro-Farm:

Yield abundant harvests from your own yard with only 15 minutes a day!

Do you long to find the secrets of gardening with the time you have?
Are you ready to feel more connected to your home?
Would you like the satisfaction of growing healthy food for your table?

Author Amy Stross talks straight about why the suburbs might be the ideal place for a homesteading lifestyle. If you’re ready to create a beautiful, edible yard, this book is for you.

In these pages you’ll learn how to:
-Stop letting your garden overwhelm you
-Develop and nurture healthy soil
-Use easy permaculture techniques for stress-free, abundant harvests

Library Loot Wednesday

So this is the first week I’ve picked up books from my new county public library! It’s a much larger branch than my old one, and in a different county. I’m not convinced it’s a better selection than my old county, but we’ll see. I also still have my old library card, so if I really want something, and don’t to wait to have it shipped over through the statewide loan system, I can just check their system too. (And I still have access to their ebooks!)

 

 

 

I picked up four books this week. The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson, Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal, for YARC, The Food Forest Handbook, and Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist.

TTT – Audio Freebie

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and she has a linky on her page for everyone participating this week. I can’t wait to see what everyone did for this week, as it’s an “audio freebie.” Anything to do with audio – audio books, music, etc. I don’t listen to audio books – I can’t pay attention to them – but I do listen to a lot of music. So I’m doing ten songs inspired by books, or that remind me, personally, of books. (Usually because they featured heavily in the soundtrack of a movie adaptation or something.)

We’re going to start with songs inspired by books. Some are obvious, some less so.

Elton John’s Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road was obviously inspired by The Wizard of Oz. It’s also just a lovely song.

Katy Perry’s Firework was actually inspired by Kerouac’s On The Road! There was apparently a passage referring to people that are buzzing and fizzing and full of life and like fireworks.

Another one I just discovered was It’s All Coming Back To Me Now (recorded by Celine Dion and later by Meatloaf) was inspired by Wuthering Heights. I haven’t actually read Wuthering Heights. But I love that song, so maybe I should!

Phil Collins’ Take Me Home was inspired by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, another one I never would have guessed.

Muse’s Resistance (the entire album!) was actually inspired by 1984specifically, about how loving who you want to love is an act of resistance on its own, which is a very GLBT+ theme.

S. J. Tucker is a favorite artist of mine, and she has several songs inspired by books, but the most well-known book she was inspired by is probably Peter Pan, which inspired her Wendy Trilogy.

Branching into songs that simply remind me of books, the first one is Regina Spektor’s The Call, which always reminds me of The Chronicles of Narnia, I think because it was on the Prince Caspian soundtrack. It always makes me think of the Pevensies leaving Narnia but promising they’ll come back if called. I just love the song in general.

I don’t know that I could write this without including Misty Mountains and I See Fire from The Hobbit! Both songs are absolutely excellent, whether they’re the originals, or Peter Hollens’ covers, which I’m linking here because more people need to follow Peter (And Tim Foust). They’re both awesome.

And the last spot on my list has to go to #1 Crush by Garbage. It was on the soundtrack to Romeo + Juliet, the movie that took Romeo and Juliet, set it in modern times, but kept that Shakespearean language and cast Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo and Claire Danes as Juliet. I’m honestly torn on the movie itself, but the song? The song is ABSOLUTELY Romeo & Juliet.

Book Review: Fire & Heist

fire and heistFire & Heist
by Sarah Beth Durst
Contemporary Fantasy/Young Adult/Urban Fantasy
290 pages
Published December 2018

I picked this up off the library shelf for the title; I took it home for the description. Were-dragon thieves? Awesome. It turns out it’s not that simple. For one, the were-dragons have lost the ability to transform over the years – the last dragon to transform was Sir Francis Drake, and the book is set in modern times, so, at least a couple hundred years have passed. And humans know the were-dragons exist! I suppose without the ability to transform, they’re little more than rich celebrities with parlor tricks. (Immune to fire to certain temperatures, ability to breathe fire.) What humans don’t know is how much the wyverns tend to steal to enrich their hoards. And that some of them can do limited magic.

We open on Sky, sixteen, rattling around her mansion, dealing with her now dysfunctional family of three brothers and their father. Her mother went missing not very long ago, during a heist. The kids have been told she’s gone, she’s alive, she’s not coming back, and to drop the matter. Were-dragon society almost exiled all of them for whatever their mother got into, so they’re all on thin ice. Sky, of course, is having none of this. When she stumbles on a lead for where her mother went, she pursues it, and learns all kinds of secrets.

The book was okay, I suppose. I was a little appalled at were-dragon society, and that the dragons just – bow to the authority of the Council. Dragons should have more spine. The heist part was pretty cool, with Sky and her friends figuring out how to take apart every layer of security piece by piece.

I don’t know. It was a fluffy book, but not a feel-good book, and I just wasn’t that enthused.

From the cover of Fire & Heist:

Leading your first heist is a major milestone in Sky Hawkins’s family – even more so than learning to talk, walk, or do long division. It’s a chance to gain power and acceptance within society. But stealing your first treasure can be complicated – especially when you’re a wyvern, a human capable of transforming into a dragon.

Embarking on a life of crime is never easy, and Sky’s mission uncovers deep secrets about the mother who recently went missing, the real reason her boyfriend broke up with her, and a valuable jewel that could restore her family’s wealth and rank in their community.

With a handpicked crew by her side, Sky knows she has everything she needs to complete her first heist – and get back the people she loves in the process. But instead, she ends up discovering a dark truth about were-dragon society – a truth that is more valuable and dangerous than gold or jewels could ever be.