Belinda’s Book Nook Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland






Title: Dread Nation
Author: Justina Ireland
Copyright: April 3, 2018
Genre: fiction
Format: book
Pages: 455


Summary (from Goodreads):

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

About the Author (Justina Ireland):

Image result for justina ireland

Justina Ireland enjoys dark chocolate, dark humor, and is not too proud to admit that she’s still afraid of the dark. She lives with her husband, kid, and dog in Pennsylvania. She is the author of Vengeance Bound and Promise of Shadows. But what you may not know about her is that:

 Over the last several years, Ireland and others in the YA world have been using Twitter to call out what they see as an enduring tradition of racist nonsense in publishing…As Ireland has repeatedly taken pains to point out, the world of children’s and young-adult literature is overwhelmingly, disproportionately white. Of some 3,700 books for children or teens that were published last year, just 340 were about children or teens who were black, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin. Of those, just 100 were written by black authors. Ireland argues that the industry should publish more books by nonwhite authors, and that white authors should think more carefully about how they represent black and brown people in their books.

My Thoughts:

This book was fantastic. I heard about this book from the Book Riot podcast and I was interested because I liked how it was an alternate history during the civil war time. I was also thrilled that the protagonist was mixed race.

The cover art grabbed my attention and it appealed to me that the author was a black woman. As I quoted earlier, there is a disproportionate amount of non-white authors published in the industry today. I’m always trying to make a conscious effort to support black authors.  Because if we don’t buy the books written by people of color then the publishers can say that they didn’t create or generate the sales that they need to be publishing books and we will miss an opportunity to experience diverse talent.

I won’t lie when I say that I was a little hesitant when I saw the word zombie in the description. But the idea of an alternate history where blacks during the civil war were trained in weaponry and etiquette. Well, I just had to see this book through. The story was easy to get into I really like the main character, Jane, who was very strong and smart.

Structurally, I like how at the very start of each chapter you would see an excerpt from a letter Jane wrote to her mother. Since she had to live apart from her mother at the boarding school, she wanted to keep in touch with her mother and we saw this represented in the letters she wrote to her mother.

Of course, you get to see the boarding school experience through Jane’s eyes and hear a lot about how she gets along with the fella girls. You also get glimpses of her past where she used to live on Rose Hill with her mother and the story unfolds really slowly chapter to chapter. I like that it is spread out throughout the story. The author doesn’t throw all the information at you in the beginning. It is delivered at a pace that really enhanced the experience of the book.

Although the story is a fantastical alternate history of the civil war era, the issues of race ring familiar today. We aren’t in that great “melting pot” that we often talked about when I was growing up. We can’t be when people have racial bias and laws that govern exacerbate those feelings. There were many action scenes much of which took place in the last quarter of the book and I just couldn’t put it down had to finish it. I believe it is the start of a series. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it and looking forward to the next one.

I give this book 4 1/2 butterflies.

Belinda’s Book Nook Review: A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate by Susanna Calkins

Title: A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate
Author: Susanna Calkins
Copyright: April 23, 2013
Genre: historical fiction, mystery, romance
Format: book Pages: 352

Why did I pick this book up in the first place? I enjoy historical fictions. I especially enjoy historical fiction series with female sleuths. I like using Amazon’s features especially when it comes to books. If you search for a book that you like, they will recommend similar authors.  I saw Susanna Calkins’ name and clicked on it to see what books she has written. I found this series and this searched for the first book and it sounded like a book I would enjoy. And let’s not kid ourselves, the cover was stunning.  So I switched to where you can find deep discounted on used books and I ordered a few of them, taking the leap of faith that I would enjoy them.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

For Lucy Campion, a seventeenth-century English chambermaid serving in the household of the local magistrate, life is an endless repetition of polishing pewter, emptying chamber pots, and dealing with other household chores until a fellow servant is ruthlessly killed, and someone close to Lucy falls under suspicion. Lucy can’t believe it, but in a time where the accused are presumed guilty until proven innocent, lawyers aren’t permitted to defend their clients, and—if the plague doesn’t kill the suspect first—public executions draw a large crowd of spectators, Lucy knows she may never find out what really happened. Unless, that is, she can uncover the truth herself.

My Thoughts:

 I read a bit about the author and it said that she has become fascinated with 17th-century England and she uses that in her stories. This story is about Lucy Campion who is the 17th-century English chambermaid serving in the household of the local magistrate. I won’t lie a little bit of me thought of Downton Abbey when I read the this so it also prompted me to give it a try. It says the book is a historical fiction mystery with romance. I would say if you enjoy historical romance this one only had a touch of romance. A bit of a slow burn romance and very G-rated. The beginning of the story gives you a sense of Lucy and the people she works for as well as the people she works with to maintain the house. Not too far in the book, the murder takes place and so begins the mystery to figure out what happened.

The author does a good job of giving a sense of what was going on during this time period in England in terms of social relations, social stations, and the political atmosphere. Religious fears at the time were also included in this book, particularly of the Quakers. The story also gives you a real sense of what it was like during the period of the plague in London. So while you’re experiencing the main story, she created an environment that allowed you to see what people did during that time and how people reacted and responded to the plague. I was curious about both irrational and rational responses to the fears of becoming sick and dying during a plague. This is where I find historical fiction’s lovely because it gives you an opportunity to learn a bit about different time periods and often inspires further research.

I think the author did a good job of the character development in the story I really was rooting for Lucy and I was very curious about the members of the household. Lucy was a strong heroine and sometimes got herself into situations that were definitely moments of nail-biting to read. I would find myself saying, “Oh no. No no no no.”

Being that this was Susanna Calkin’s debut novel might explain why I felt in the middle of the book the pacing really slowed down a bit much. Not to the point of discouragement but it picked up and the last I would say 100 pages the pacing picked up and I could not put the book down. I look forward to reading the next book in the series. I also looking to the evolution of this author’s writing. I am glad I bought a few books in the series. I would definitely recommend this book for the reasons mentioned and if you enjoy historical fiction. I would give it 3 1/2 butterflies.

Happy reading!!


Belinda’s Book Nook Review: The Orphan Keeper by Camran Wright

Title: The Orphan Keeper
Author: Camran Wright
Copyright: September 6, 2016
Genre: historical fiction
Format: book Pages: 432

Why did I pick this book up in the first place? I can’t remember where I saw a write up about this book but I think it was Book riot’s book blog. But when I saw this book in its physical form in the library, I saw a “chunker” and I had a moment of big book fear cross my path. I read a good share of books about or set in India in the past but thought I was due for another.  As part of my reading experience, I want to continue to read more books in that this region and around the world.

A few quotes that I liked from the book:

“Be honest, good son, be kind. You must, if he ever hope to see the end of your suffering and attain moksha. Moksha , a state of liberation where one could finally be free from the struggles of life and the cycle of reincarnation. ”

“Resentment, pity, shame … all were growing in the cracks of my soul like mold.” – The landowner (Mrs. Iyer) – what a great use of words to describe his mother’s feeling after losing her child to elements and becoming barren.

“it took me the entire day watching the sun part across the sky, but Lord Shiva helped me understand that my only journey of concern was to be like the sun, to make it through the day offering as much light and warmth and consistency for others as I could one single day. Each day. That was all.”
– the landowner (Mrs. Iyer)

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Based on a remarkable true story.
Seven-year-old Chellamuthu’s life is forever changed when he is kidnapped from his village in India, sold to a Christian orphanage, and then adopted by an unsuspecting couple in the United States. It takes months before the boy can speak enough English to tell his parents that he already has a family back in India. Horrified, they try their best to track down his Indian family, but all avenues lead to dead ends.

Meanwhile, they simply love him, change his name to Taj, enroll him in school, make him part of their family—and his story might have ended there had it not been for the pestering questions in his head: Who am I? Why was I taken? How do I get home?

More than a decade later, Taj meets Priya, a girl from southern India with surprising ties to his past. Is she the key to unveil the secrets of his childhood or is it too late? And if he does make it back to India, how will he find his family with so few clues?

From the best-selling author of The Rent Collector, this is a deeply moving and gripping journey of discovering one’s self and the unbreakable family bonds that connect us forever.

My Thoughts:

I don’t want to spoil any of the story, so I won’t tell of his adoption process. But instead, jump to his experience in America. At one point, his adoptive mother suggests changing his name to something easier to pronounce to avoid teasing so he is renamed Taj.  I had mixed feelings about this and the practice in general. It seems like many foreigners are forced to accommodate the lack of effort and exposure of the general American population to foreign names by changing their given name. This sort of “kid glove” approach only further assists in detaching people from their homeland and past. I admit, I am notorious for butchering many foreign names but I would like the opportunity to learn the proper pronunciations so that I can improve my literary, social, and international experiences. Why make it easy for us at the expense of a person losing a piece of themselves? After all, parents take the time to come up with a name for their child that often has special meaning. So why should I take that from both mother and child to make life more “convenient”?  I feel like we can’t grow with such handicaps.

A surprising revelation while reading this book, was how much this book made me reflect on my own experiences here in the United States. I am not an orphan, I am not Indian, and I was not adopted from another country; however, I noticed similarities with some of the experiences this character had in this book. I found myself sharing many of the feelings and experiences of Taj in this book. So it made the experience for me much deeper. It was no longer just a story about this particular boy and the conditions in India. It talked about the experience of being different, trying to find a way to fit in. All of these kinds of things were explored in this book.

An example of some of the social challenges is when, as a teen, Taj participates in a foreign exchange program and goes to London. When he meets his host family in London for the first time I felt so connected with him and sorry for him by the host family’s initial reaction when he first spoke. They asked him how his trip was to London. And after he said his trip was long. The father of the family says, “it’s true, then …You look Indian but sound American. ” Although the father may not have meant any harm in that statement it shows the narrowness of their thoughts. When I was growing up, I lived in a predominately white town and there were only a few minorities in the school. So when I went to college and I had the opportunity to be around so many diverse groups and spend time with African-American students they would always ask me “What are you? You talk like a white girl.” I was taken aback by the statement because I am black and this is how I talk. I didn’t think there was just one way to talk or look or act for that matter. In this book, Taj has no “typical” characteristics of an Indian person because he was raised by a white family in a culturally white American household in a predominantly white town so his Indian heritage, those cultural characteristics were lost.

While reading this book, I felt that I not only was learning more about the plight of the very poor in India but specifically a possible fate for some of the poor children. The possibilities of being kidnapped and sold into adoption systems. Things like that are alarming and I think that the book is a good story for people that are curious about some things that are taking place right now and want to provide help. I also think this book is good for people of color to find common grounds with other people of color through similar social experiences within the American context. I think this is also a great book for children that may have a similar situation is as Taj, the main character, that wants to find their family and to encourage them to never give up that pursuit.

So there are so many ways this book is helpful to so many as well as being a great story. I feel like the author did a great job providing depth of character and a good amount of details.

My rating:

I believe I have to give this book a five stars for many reasons that I’ve already stated but I’m a big chicken when it comes to big books I tend to look at them and try to get to them later but when I saw this one on the library shelf, I said well what do I have to lose? I picked it up and I kid you not it was such a fast read that I really can’t even believe that it was a big book. It’s written so well and very accessible to everyone. It’s not one of those books where you’re sitting there and you’re so depressed reading it and you’re in tears and you just feel hopeless it’s quite the opposite it’s filled with hope and some humor at times. It’s definitely a book that can inspire us all. It’s not a book filled with a bunch of dry facts. But there is enough information in there to start the wheels turning and the curiosity to learn more about the country and the plight of the people particularly the children. I don’t like to give five butterflies very often but I feel like this book really just moved me in such a way that I cannot give it less than five butterflies.

Happy reading!


On My Nightstand: Books, Ebooks, Audiobooks and Graphic Novels


Hey!! How are you doing? I have been away for quite some time. I have been working on spring cleaning projects around the house and loving the results. I have come to realize that I attach way too much sentimental thoughts to “things” in my home and this year, I am turning it on it’s head with my spring cleaning efforts. I began a few weeks ago and cleaned out my craft room and restructure it’s layout and I am more than half way complete and love the energy when I enter the space.  More on that later.

Despite my “Cleaning bug” I still have managed to keep my reading up. I am in love with all things books so it is easy for me to fit time even if it’s 15 minutes here or there.  So I thought I would update you with what’s “On My Nightstand”:


While in college I first came across literature that taught me about the Japanese Internment camps here in the US. I never came across this information prior to then and I was surprised. I had this first book on my TBR list for a while and while in New Jersey last month, I purchased it. The book is called, “When the Emperor was Divine” by Julie Otsuka. It is a historical fiction following a family to an internment camp in Utah.  The second book called, “Gaijin: American Prisoner of War” is a graphic novel I came across at the library and decided it would be nice to see another approach to the topic.

onmynightstandMay-16_2016cMy third read is a brand new science fiction release by Sylvain Neuvel called, “Sleeping Giants“. I put myself on the wait list for this book a while back and was so thrilled when it came in last week. I am really enjoying this story and just found out it is the beginning of a series. So if you don’t like long waits, then I would hold off a while since the next book is slated for the summer of 2017.

onmynightstandMay-16_2016dMy final book is an audiobook by Tessa Harris and is called, “The Anatomist’s Apprentice“. It is a the beginning of a mystery series set in eighteenth-century England featuring an anatomist and the first forensic detective. It sounds very interesting and I just started listening to it today at work. So I will keep you posted.

So those are what’s on my nightstand.  What are you reading right now?

Happy Reading!



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