Books vs. Films 2

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about adaptations of books that I think are better or just as good as the books themselves. As soon as I published the post, I thought of a few other adaptations that fit the prompt. So I’m back for a part two. This time I have three movies to talk about so I hope you enjoy!

DISCLAIMER: I don’t really watch movies anymore and am just not a movie person in general so these are just my opinions don’t attack me lol.

The first adaptation I want to talk about is Pride and Prejudice. There is a lot of debate over which adaptation is the best but I’m really partial to the 2005 film. Pride and Prejudice, is the second Austen book I read and I really enjoy it. But sometimes, I want to spend a cozy afternoon with this story but not commit to rereading the book. This film scratches the itch almost as much as the book does. I think most people know what this story is about and I sometimes find Austen novels difficult to summarize but this is a romance between Elizabeth and Darcy. There are dances, family drama, and misunderstandings. It’s just a nice time. When I reflect on this film, the first thing that stands out is the scenery. The entire atmosphere is beautiful and feels so warm. It’s such a comforting movie to watch and even though you know most of what’s going to happen, it just makes me happy to watch unfold. I also just love the family dynamics in this story. In the film, Kitty is played by Carey Mulligan and she’s one of my favorites. I’m certain I’ll be watching this movie again really soon because just writing about it makes me want to experience it again.

The next film I want to talk about is also based on a classic novel. It also stars Kiera Knightley. And that’s the 2012 Anna Karenina adaptation. I read this book five or six years ago and it took quite a while to finish but I thoroughly enjoyed it. This story follows Anna who goes to visit her brother and try to save his marriage. While she’s there, she meets Count Vronsky and starts developing feelings for him. Her husband then says she has to choose between Vronsky, and her family. There’s a ton of characters and other side plots in this story but that’s the main gist. The film leaves out quite a bit because it has to but I still really enjoy the watching experience. I don’t think it will work for everyone, though. If you don’t enjoy stories involving extra-marital affairs or just Russian classics in general, then of course you might not like the movie but there’s also something about the way the story is told in the movie that is a little different. The film is framed in a way where it looks like it’s happening on a stage. I think it’s an interesting thing to watch and really compliments the dramatic nature of the story and the fact that the main characters are socialites performing for each other. I also appreciate most of the cuts the film chose to make because Leo Tolstoy talks at length about Russian politics at the time in a way that doesn’t always feel directly connected to the story so the movie allows you to enjoy the main plot and not trudge through some of the more tedious parts.

The last film I want to talk about is one that I watched before I read the book. I then read the book and realized just how much the movie improved upon the source text. Dumplin’ follows Willowdean, the plus-sized daughter of a beauty queen as she falls in love, mourns the loss of her aunt, and enters a beauty pageant to make a statement. Both Willowdean as a character and the overall plot are greatly improved upon by the movie. Willowdean is definitely more unlikable in the book and that’s fine for me but I know that a lot of people have issues with her in the book. I also just think the plot of the book is a little slow. The movie just feels a little more focused and moves a bit faster. I don’t know how to explain why I’ve watched this movie twice other than the vibes are just really great. The Dolly Parton songs, the small-town atmosphere that reminds me of where I grew up, and the strained relationship between mother and daughter really speak to me. I do think there’s some value in reading the book if you like YA contemporary that’s more character than plot-driven BUT if you’re unsure, I’d just recommend giving the movie a watch because it’s just a nice time.

I’m keeping a list of adaptations I want to talk about for this series but since I’m not a big movie watcher, it might be a while before I have another of these. Let me know any adaptations you really enjoy!

Recent Reads 15

I’ve been having so much fun reading recently since I have no real obligations for a while so I’m hoping to read more and maybe write a little more here if I can come up with some more ideas. Recently, I’ve read a YA fantasy with a ghost dog, a YA coming of age story about two friends who are very different, and a cute, cozy mystery. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

Release Date: August 25, 2020

Genre: YA fantasy, mystery

Pages: 362

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

Imagine an America very similar to our own. It’s got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream.

There are some differences. This America been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day.

Elatsoe lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered, in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect facade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family

Brief Review

“Maybe, sometimes, wants felt like needs. Because the alternative hurt too bad.”

This is SUCH a great YA book! The beginning of this story is so cute! A ghost dog named Kirby? Get out of here; I love it so much. I also really like the family dynamics in this story. It is refreshing to see parents involved in their child’s life in a positive way – they believe and trust Ellie. Thematically, this story brings forward so many discussions about microaggressions, white-washing and erasing history, stolen land, revenge, and exploitation by those with some degree of power. Darcie Little Badger is able to weave these themes into the story while still maintaining a fun and exciting atmosphere. I know people have been talking about this book since last year and I just want to add my voice to others who recommend this book.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Release Date: February 21, 2012

Genre: YA contemporary

Pages: 359

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship–the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Brief Thoughts

“I got to thinking that poems were like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn’t get–and never would get.”

This character-driven, coming-of-age story contains some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever read. It is heartbreaking and beautiful and I found myself rooting for Aristotle and Dante’s friendship. It isn’t an easy friendship and they go through so much but I still believed in it. I also loved the family dynamic of both boy’s families. They weren’t perfect by any means but they did accept Aristotle and Dante for who they are. I knew I would like this book but I didn’t think it would be something I absolutely fall in love with but I did. I know that I’m late to the party for this book but if you are too and enjoy YA contemporary, you should pick this one up. A sequel was announced not too long ago and I’m really excited to see where Ari and Dante are now.

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Release Date: May 4, 2021

Genre: Adult cozy mystery

Pages: 336

Trigger warnings in the front of the book: indications of evidence planting and police intimidation, drug use, fatphobia, racism, and domestic violence.

Synopsis

The first book in a new culinary cozy series full of sharp humor and delectable dishes—one that might just be killer….

When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She’s tasked with saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.

With the cops treating her like she’s the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila’s left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block…

Brief Thoughts

I’ve never read a cozy mystery before but I definitely think I want to read more. I loved the small town vibes and all the talk about food. I was constantly hungry and I think one of Lila’s later visits to a restaurant made me start wanting hush puppies. I also really liked Lila’s friendship with Adeema. They felt so realistic! There is a small, underlying romance developing in this mystery and it isn’t explored so I am interested to see what happens with the rest of the series. As far as the actual mystery, my second guess was the answer but I still really enjoyed the story. I don’t know if this is a cozy mystery thing, but the end happened so quickly and I might have enjoyed the discoveries slowed down a little more but I still really had a good time. I’ll definitely be checking out more from this author.

I’ve also read six volumes of manga so far this month! I’m still trying to figure out how and where to talk about them on my blog. It might end up being part of my larger monthly wrap-up with a special post on my Instagram giving my general thoughts. What are you guys reading now? Have you read any of these? Come chat with me!

Top Five Books on my TBR (eBooks)

A few weeks ago, I talked about some books on my physical TBR that I was most excited about. I didn’t include the books on my ereader in that post but there are DEFINITELY some exciting books there too and I’d like to talk about. As always, library books are preventing me from picking up the books I own, but I think about the books on my ereader all the time. These are in no particular but I tried to pick books from different genres so I can offer a mix.

The Poppy War

Without even looking at my ebooks, the first one that comes to mind is The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang. I think this will be everything I love. It’s based on actual historical events, namely the Second Sino-Japanese War. I know a bit about this time period and I think reading this book will be the catalyst to help me learn more. It also deals with shamanism and that is where the fantasy elements come in. I think the reason I keep putting this off is because it sounds so perfectly matched to my tastes. I love interesting takes on historical events and morally grey characters and just generally dark stories so if I don’t like it, I’ll be really sad and start to question my taste in books.

Sister Outsider

Most of my nonfiction is in ebook format so I definitely have to include one of them in this list. The one I’m most excited about is Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde. This is a collection of essays and speeches by Lorde, a Black poet and activist. I’ve read from her before in my favorite nonfiction of all time, This Bridge Called My Back and I’m so excited to read more from her. I have been a little detached from nonfiction recently but I want to get back into reading it. This might be the one to get me back into that genre.

Finlay Donovan is Killing It

In my last TBR post, I talked about wanting to get back into thrillers and a lighter thriller/mystery on my ereader that I think will help reinvigorate my interest is Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano. An author is overheard talking about her new book and someone thinks she’s a hitman so she gets caught up in this world. It just sounds fun! Like Arsenic and Adobo, which I talked about last time, I am hoping for something a little different from the thrillers or mysteries that I normally pick up. I’ve also just heard some great reviews for this story and I think it will make me laugh. That’s what I’m looking for in these warmer months.

The Only Good Indians

There are also quite a few horror novels on my ereader and it is really difficult to just choose one but I think I’m going to choose The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. This is a horror novel written by an indigenous author and follow a group of men who are being hunted by a spirit. I have a certain idea about what the social commentary will be and if that’s the case, I am excited to see how it is woven into the horror narrative. I am a really big fan of horror that offers some sort of social commentary and I think Jones will deliver on that want for me.

Parachutes

Lastly, I want to talk about a YA Contemporary that I’m really excited about. I’ve seen Ashley from Bookish Realm on Youtube discuss Parachutes by Kelly Yang a number of times and I really trust her taste in books so I’m excited to read this one. This follows Claire who is sent from China to American to live after getting in some trouble. The daughter of her host family, Dani, resents Claire’s privileged background and I think they will end up having to learn from each other. I know that the cover is really cute but I’ve been told it isn’t a super light story and that really intrigues me. I am participating in a readathon next month and I’m hoping that I can work this into my TBR since contemporary is usually good for readathons.

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I’d love to be able to read these soon because I’m just so excited about them. My library holds are still coming through constantly so I haven’t been able to pick up my own books but I’m going to try and use the “deliver later” feature on Libby especially in June during the Clear Ur Shit readathon. What are you excited to read that you just haven’t been able to get to yet? Let me know!

Recent Reads 14

The semester is over and I’m done grading so I’m hoping to pick up my reading pace a bit this summer. This week, I have a contemporary romance, a queer romance set in ancient Greece, and a short story collection that celebrates love and mythology. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Release Date: January 26, 2021

Genre: Adult contemporary romance

Pages: 336

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

Public radio co-hosts navigate mixed signals in Rachel Lynn Solomon’s sparkling romantic comedy debut.

Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.

When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it’s this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it’s not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.

As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.

Brief Review

“Sometimes I wonder if content is really just a synonym for complacent.”

I really love the setting and set-up for this story. It’s such a fun concept. I also found it interesting only being in her head and not knowing what her love interest, Dominic, is thinking. Speaking of Dominic, I think he’s an interesting hero with the cutest family ever. I wish I knew more about them. This romance deals with some serious themes of grief and loneliness and developing and maintaining friendships as an adult so while this is a romance, it also offers up so much more to think about. Shay is my age and seeing her having to think about what she wants to do with her life and work through the “what’s next?” in her late twenties is both relatable and refreshing. She’s also older than Dominic which is cute. It might have just been me, but I think the build up to the romance was a little slow but I didn’t really mind it because I like the payoff. Also, there’s a cute dog named Steve.

The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Release Date: September 20, 2011

Genre: Adult historical fiction, mythology, fantasy

Pages: 352

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

Brief Thoughts

“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”

Only a few pages into the book I made my first note and it says, “Oh, this is going to break my heart, isn’t it?” Even though I knew what was going to happen, it still had a deep impact on me. It was fun once I started remembering specific plot points of The Iliad, which I haven’t read since undergrad, because I could anticipate what would happen and how it would happen in Madeline Miller’s story. This story is a bit slow moving at the beginning but I was fine with it because I like getting to see Achilles and Patroclus get to know each other as well as explore the building tension between them and Achilles’ goddess mother. When the war started, I think it got a little tedious and I was really unsure of how I felt about Achilles but I do think the way Briseis’ character is explored really adds to that part of the story. I was overwhelmingly sad for Patroclus and really love this story.

Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola

Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola

Release Date: August 20, 2020

Genre: Adult romance, short stories, mythology

Pages: 278

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

Discover love from times long ago…

Join Bolu Babalola as she retells the most beautiful love stories from history and mythology in this stunning collection. From the homoromantic Greek myths, to magical Nigerian folktales, to the ancient stories of South Asia, Bolu brings new life to tales that truly show the vibrance and colours of love around the world.

The anthology is a step towards decolonising tropes of love, and celebrates in the wildly beautiful and astonishingly diverse tales of romance and desire that already exist in so many cultures and communities.

Get lost in these mystical worlds and you will soon realise that humanity – like love – comes in technicolour.

Brief Thoughts

“What matters most is that you feel like you are at your fullest.”

Short story collections are often hit or miss for me but this one just might be the best collection I’ve ever read. There isn’t a single story that bored me or that I didn’t like. The writing in these stories is so beautiful. It is so nice to see stories of joy and love for people of color rather than trauma. The women in these stories are largely powerful and have autonomy which you might not always get in older texts such as mythical tales. I wasn’t familiar with many of the source texts but I still really enjoyed reading these stories and want to look more into the stories I don’t know. The first story was a bit confusing but that might have been because I didn’t know the source material so looking up that story might help me fully appreciate it more. Some standout stories in this collection include Scheherazade which is based on 1001 Nights, Zhinu based on The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl, and Psyche. For Psyche, imagine your favs from Greek mythology working at a fashion magazine called Olympus! I am so excited to see what else Bolu Babalola writes because this collection is beautiful.

I’m still reading manga just at a bit of a slower pace from last month. I will probably wrap all of those up in an individual post since I’m just working through one series (Blue Exorcist). Have you read any of these? Do you want to? Come chat with me!

Recent Reads 12

I’m currently in the middle of a “30 days of manga” challenge but I’m not going to talk about all the issues individually but I have some other books I want to talk about. This week I have a truly feminist YA fantasy, a “meh” historical fiction, and a YA contemporary where the movie is better. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Release Date: February 9, 2021

Genre: YA fantasy

Pages: 432

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

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.

Brief Review

“My anger builds as I realize how thoroughly my mind has been poisoned that I would be shocked to see women in these positions.”

This book does not shy away from the brutality of war the mistreatment and gore Deka and others like her have to face. From the beginning, Forna makes this clear and gets to the point. Forna has also given YA audiences the truly feminist fantasy they need. Women are shown in positions of power at the training facilities and the girls have such a focus on protecting each other, working together, and friendships. While there is a budding romance in this story, Deka’s friendship with Britta (who is absolutely the cutest) is valued just as much if not MORE than her romantic interest. While I had an idea of what the twist was going to be, I still really enjoyed reading The Gilded Ones. This story is largely about building up the word and Deka discovering her powers and origin and sets up for an interesting series. I don’t usually have the urge to annotate fantasy but when I re-read this in preparation for the sequel, there are some places I’d like to go back and highlight.

Ross Poldark by Winston Graham

Ross Poldark by Winston Graham

Release Date: 1945

Genre: Adult historical fiction

Pages: 379

Goodreads Synopsis

In the first novel in Winston Graham’s hit series, a weary Ross Poldark returns to England from the American War of Independence (1783), looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his beloved Elizabeth. But instead he discovers his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth—believing Ross to be dead—is now engaged to his cousin. Ross has no choice but to start his life anew.

Thus begins the Poldark series, a heartwarming, gripping saga set in the windswept landscape of Cornwall. With an unforgettable cast of characters that spans loves, lives, and generations, this extraordinary masterwork from Winston Graham is a story you will never forget.

Brief Thoughts

“The greatest thing is to have someone who loves you and—and to love in return.”

I barely have thoughts about this book. It wasn’t bad by any means; I just listened to the story and had no thoughts about what was happening. It was truly the most middle-of-the-road story I’ve ever read. I usually find some enjoyment in books set in this time period but for some reason, I just didn’t feel any connection to what was happening. There is drama and our main character has some heroic moments but by the end, I was just upping the audiobook speed as much as I could. I might try and watch the BBC series and see if that makes me more interested because, by all accounts, this should have worked for me but it just didn’t and I wish I knew why. 

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Release Date: September 15, 2015

Genre: YA Contemporary

Pages: 371

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Brief Thoughts

“All my life I’ve had a body worth commenting on and if living in my skin has taught me anything it’s that if it’s not your body, it’s not yours to comment on.”

I was really unsure about this book, especially in the beginning. I found myself preferring the film in part because the plot is lacking and also because Willowdean is a bit judgemental of others. The more I thought about the story, the more I was okay with her being a bit unlikable in the beginning. I don’t need to totally love main characters and I think she learns too as the story continues. One of the major takeaways from the story is that people deserve to exist just the way they are. Whether they’re fat or have imperfect teeth or whatever, they don’t have to want to change. I think people expect people with physical imperfections to WANT to change them but sometimes they don’t And that’s okay.

Speaking specifically about the fat rep, I thought this was pretty good. There’s a balance between insecurity (mostly caused by her mother) and knowing that she doesn’t have to and doesn’t want to change. I really related to a lot of what Willowdean was feeling especially when she felt insecure about being touched. It’s like you become hyper-aware of what your body must feel like compared to what the beauty standard must feel like. While I think the plot was a bit slow, I’ll likely pick up the sequel from my library eventually because there are things I enjoyed about this story including, but not limited to, the Dolly Parton references. I was reminded of how good “Why’d You Come In Here Looking Like That?” is. Can’t stop listening to it.

What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these? Are you interested in any of them? Come chat with me!

Recent Reads 10

I guess my reading slump is kind of over because I feel like I flew through these next books!  This time I’ll be talking about a memoir about a Black man who infiltrates the KKK, a coming-of-age story told in verse, and a whimsical classic. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth

Black Klansman

Release Date: May 13, 2014

Genre: Adult memoir

Pages: 191

Trigger warnings include racism, racial slurs, and KKK imagery.

Goodreads Synopsis

In 1978 the community of Colorado Springs, Colorado experienced a growth of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) membership. One man dared to challenge their effort and thwart attempts to take over the city, Police Detective Ron Stallworth. He launched an undercover investigation into the Klan, gained membership into the organization, briefly served as Duke’s bodyguard, and was eventually asked to be the leader of the Colorado Springs chapter. The irony of this investigation was that Stallworth is… A Black man. In the process he battled internal departmental politics to successfully pull off this “sting.” Black Klansman explains how he overcame these obstacles and accomplished this almost unbelievable unique achievement.

Brief Review

“Publicly he would not talk about hate but about heritage and history. He spawned a new racism for the right-wing masses, one that melded the antipathy to blacks and other minorities to general dissatisfaction with government and fear of an ever-changing complex world.”

One of the first things that struck me about this story is that it doesn’t take place in the American south. So many times we want to relegate that kind of hatred to the south but it’s everywhere; just pointing at the south is not the way to talk and think about racism. This story is particularly interesting because it gives so much insight into some of their recruitment tactics in the late 70’s as well as about the ways they tried to push their message. It wasn’t just cross burning and making themselves known by rallying; the people Stallworth was dealing with were active politically and either trying to register their members to vote or even running for office themselves. They also had a lot of ties to religion which is something interesting to consider. I also appreciated the conversations surrounding media coverage and how that gives their group a sense of validation. This was in the late 70s so just think about what the advent of social media means for them. Beyond the serious and intriguing insight this memoir gives, Stallworth finds ways to include humor to poke fun at their ideas and how others perceived them. This is a short, easy-to-understand memoir and I definitely recommend it if you’re interested in this topic.

The Poey X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Genre: YA contemporary

Pages: 368

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Brief Thoughts

“I only know that learning to believe in the power of my own words has been the most freeing experience of my life. It has brought me the most light. And isn’t that what a poem is? A lantern glowing in the dark.”

I picked up the audiobook for The Poet X while I was on a walk and needed something to listen to. I was immediately drawn into Acevedo’s voice and storytelling and couldn’t stop listening even after my walk was over. This is a short story but one that packs so much into it. I remember thinking that if I’d picked this up at my local library when I was a teenager, it would have been one of those that I checked out over and over again. I really appreciated the discussion about religion and women’s bodies. Xiomara is made to see her changing body as something that will bring her trouble and something she needs to pray about. Seeing her struggle particularly with this aspect of religion was something I don’t think I’ve seen explored in a YA book before. At the end of the story, Xiomara comes to her own conclusion about religion that I think is beautiful and something that would have really stuck with me growing up in the US south.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Release Date: November 1, 1865

Genre: Children’s fantasy classic

Pages: 96

Goodreads Synopsis

After a tumble down the rabbit hole, Alice finds herself far away from home in the absurd world of Wonderland. As mind-bending as it is delightful, Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel is pure magic for young and old alike.

Brief Thoughts

“If you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison,’ it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.”

I picked this audiobook up because I was at a point where I needed a ton of audiobooks while I was working. This was a re-read for me as I’ve read this story countless times before but I always enjoy coming back to it. It’s probably the definition of whimsical and it’s certainly nonsensical but much like with Oz, I like seeing who or what Alice will encounter next. I particularly love the scene where she’s stuck in the house and the White Rabbit has to get Bill to help. That’s one of my favorite parts of the first Disney film, as well. My other favorite part of the film isn’t included in the book but I’ll share it below. I don’t remember having read the second part of this story before (though I might have as a small child) but I am excited to listen to it the next time I need a quick audiobook.

What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these? Are you interested in any of them? Come chat with me!

March 2021 Favs

Because I’m doing recent reads every week or so, it doesn’t make sense to do full wrap-ups the way I used to but I do want to have a place to reflect on the month overall so I’m going to start talking about some of my favorite things each month. I’ll start with books but I also want to talk about hobbies, movies, music, TV, etc. I had a MUCH better reading month than I did last month and it was just a better month in general so I have a bit I want to talk about.

Books

Honey Girl

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers really took me by surprise. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did, mostly because I thought it was going to be more romance-focused than it was. The romance the main character, Grace has with her new wife who she doesn’t know, is just part of a larger journey. Grace’s struggle to find her place and what makes her happy was something that really resonated with me. I just finished grad school and I found myself crying while listening to Grace explain the fear she felt about trying to do something important and prove she’s successful after finishing her degree. I also really related to Grace’s fear of really talking to her father. That’s something I’ve struggled with my entire life and it’s nice to see her dive into that aspect of her life. I’ve never truly connected with a character like I did with Grace and I was so surprised with what this book brought me. I even made a journal spread for this book.

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

Right after I finished Honey Girl, I picked up The Final Revival of Opal & Nev. This was compared to Daisy Jones and the Six (one of my favs), and I knew I had to have it. This follows Opal, a Black woman from the US who meets Nev, a musician from the UK and their music career in the 70s. The vibes were immaculate, as the kids say and I really liked being immersed in this chaotic rock lifestyle. But this story was more than that. Dawnie Walton tackles topics such as being Black in music and journalism, and racism in those scenes. The conversation surrounding racism in rock music has really ramped up in the past year and there are so many people who want to believe that it isn’t a problem and it really is. Not to mention, rock music is rooted in Black culture and I’m enjoying books about rock music that acknowledge those roots. I’m planning to make a one-page spread about this book very soon.

In the Dream House

The next book I want to spotlight is In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. This memoir about a a woman in an abusive, lesbian relationship has some of the best writing I’ve ever read. Machado doesn’t offer readers a linear memoir but instead offers short chapters that compare parts of her relationship to other things such as world-building, horror tropes, and even a choose-your-own-adventure story. I really felt like I was trying to make sense of what was happening along with the author and while this is a heartbreaking story, I really appreciated how it was delivered.

Last, I picked up Bunny by Mona Awad on a whim and I had SUCH a good time. I knew this was a weird book but I didn’t expect anything that happened. I share a name with the main character so that made certain scenes extra jarring to read. I haven’t written my full review for this book yet but I think the most enjoyable part of my reading experience was all of the theorizing you can do while reading it. I can read a thriller and just turn my brain off and not try to guess anything but when a book plays with my sense of reality in a BIG way like Bunny does, I have so much fun trying to figure out what’s real and what isn’t. I have some theories about this book and some of the themes Awad is trying to get at through this funny, gross, weird story but I want to think on it a bit more before I commit to anything.

Music

The music I’ve been really listening to has been all over the place recently. I made a playlist of songs I’ve had on repeat this month but I feel like I’m really exposing my taste here. Be warned, there’s everything from Hank Williams Sr. to Janis Joplin, to BLACKPINK, to Machine Gun Kelly + CORPSE here so maybe you’ll hate it all but maybe there will be something you’ll love too. I embedded it at the end of this post if you want to check it out since I hate how it looks in the middle of a blog post. I also made this playlist of songs from The Final Revival of Opal & Nev if you’re interested!

TV/Movies

Bridgerton

I only watched one new thing this month and I don’t know how I feel about it. I was in the mood for romance and I was scrolling Netflix and I watched Bridgerton. All of it. In less than twenty-four hours. I couldn’t stop watching it. I loved the costumes, the music, the chemistry, the DRAMA. Simon! Anthony and Colin! Eloise and Penelope! Wonderful. But I didn’t like Daphne after a certain event with some dubious consent about halfway through the show. I don’t want to spoil anything but her actions are appalling and irredeemable and I spent the rest of the show being angry with her and the situation. I think back on this show with so many mixed feelings and I’ve been seeking out some other people talking about it that specifically mention the event I had trouble with but I still don’t really understand why it was portrayed the way it was but I also understand they were working from a source material. I feel like I’m rambling but if you’ve watched this show, I’d love to discuss it with you because I put my thoughts on the backburner for a while and now they’re all resurfacing.

Hobbies

My hobbies suffered again this month. I’ve literally just been reading and listening to music (and grading) but I did go on quite a few walks since the weather is getting better. I’ve really enjoyed long walks in the afternoon to break up my work. I also had lunch outside early this week and I hope I can keep doing that in April. I know it might be boring to say that “outside” is my hobby right now but that’s just where I’m at. Walking and listening to audiobooks has been such a relaxing time and is something I’m always looking forward to. I’ve been using Scribd and if anyone wants to try it, here’s my referral code to get 60 days free (for transparency, I get a free month).

So what have you been enjoying this month? Don’t forget to check out my playlist for March!

Recent Reads 8

Sorry I didn’t have a new blog post up on Sunday. It’s midterm season and I’m behind on literally everything in my life but I hop to have a post up this weekend talking about star ratings and just rating books in general. In the meantime, I hope you’re not too sad to see another wrap-up from me!

It’s time again for another round of recent reads! This time I’ll be talking about a contemporary romance that made me cry on more than one occasion, a historical fiction surrounding 60s and 70s rock, and a memoir that explores abuse in lesbian relationships via an interesting writing style. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

Release Date: February 23, 2021

Genre: Adult contemporary

Pages: 241

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

A refreshingly timely and relatable debut novel about a young woman whose life plans fall apart when she meets her wife.

With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.

This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.

In New York, she’s able to ignore all the annoying questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.

Brief Review

“I wanted to be the best, even it if meant working myself into the ground. Even if it meant breaking my back to prove I deserved a seat at a table I had no desire to sit at.”

Books don’t often make me actually cry but as I was listening to the audio on my walks at the park, I felt myself tearing up more than once. I just finished what’s most likely my last degree during a pandemic so I definitely relate to that “what’s next?” struggle. I also enjoyed seeing Grace have to really think about what being the best and success even mean for her. I definitely have an idea of what being successful means but sometimes that’s not healthy or attainable without sacrificing health and relationships and that’s something that should be talked about more. Speaking of relationships, I really loved the relationships in this book. The friendships really stood out and it was great to see all the support Grace had from her friends. The romance with the woman Grace married was also so interesting to watch develop over time. It wasn’t easy and I appreciated seeing the dynamic between people who are married but don’t know each other. Lastly, I want to talk about the relationship between Grace and her father. It’s strained and she feels scared to really talk to him and TALK ABOUT RELATABLE. Their dynamic had me in tears and doing a lot of thinking about my own life.

This book also has phenomenal queer rep with so many characters and a positive, realistic portrayal of therapy and those were really the icing on the cake that is already such a great story. I highly recommend it.

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

Release Date: March 30, 2021

Genre: Adult historical fiction

Pages: 368

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

A poignant fictional oral history of the beloved rock ‘n’ roll duo who shot to fame in the 1970s New York, and the dark, fraught secret that lies at the peak of their stardom.

Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can’t imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job—despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records.

In early seventies New York City, just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth.

Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.

Provocative and chilling, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev features a backup chorus of unforgettable voices, a heroine the likes of which we’ve not seen in storytelling, and a daring structure, and introduces a bold new voice in contemporary fiction.

Brief Thoughts

“Oh, honey,” she says. “How we gon’ get anywhere, with you dreaming so small?”

*I was provided an ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.*

One of my first thoughts while reading this book was that a documentary-style movie or series about this would be phenomenal. I love watching documentaries about music regardless of the genre and this book certainly scratched that itch. I really enjoyed that this story shows parallels between Opal and the journalist, Sunny. They are both fighting to tell stories that are important to them in their fields. I also think that Walton does a great job at drawing from real music history. There is a scene where a riot breaks out at a music showcase and I was reminded of the heartbreaking events of the Altamont festival in 1969 where a Black man was killed at a Rolling Stones show where the Hell’s Angels acted as security. As soon as I made that connection, the author actually references it in a footnote and that was nice to see. There is a twist at the end of part one that really had me infuriated and gripped to find out what would happen next. Walton does a great job at capturing what I imagine the rock music industry was like during the 60s and 70s. I HATED the head of the record label, Howie; he was so money hungry that it didn’t matter who got hurt in the process. There is also a plotline that is happening in more modern times that I think is very interesting. There is a festival during that time and the way the beginning is described really made me miss concerts more than I already have been in the past year. She also nods to the groups of concertgoers who end up at places like the Waffle House after shows and that made me smile considering that’s exactly where I ended up after my last concert (Blink-182).

This book is a refreshing look at rock music that acknowledges its true roots and doesn’t shy away from the darker sides of the scene regarding racism and I will definitely be on the lookout for more books, fictional or otherwise, that truly dive into the history of rock music and really give credit where credit is due.

OH! I almost forgot to add this playlist I made based on the songs directly mentioned in Opal & Nev. While I was creating it, I found this playlist that’s made by the author so definitely check that out as well.

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Genre: Adult Memoir

Pages: 251

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

For years Carmen Maria Machado has struggled to articulate her experiences in an abusive same-sex relationship. In this extraordinarily candid and radically inventive memoir, Machado tackles a dark and difficult subject with wit, inventiveness and an inquiring spirit, as she uses a series of narrative tropes—including classic horror themes—to create an entirely unique piece of work which is destined to become an instant classic.

Brief Thoughts

“This is what I keep returning to: how people decide who is or is not an unreliable narrator. And after that decision has been made, what do we do with people who attempt to construct their own vision of justice?”


Apart from Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel memoir, Fun Home, this is the best and most unique memoir I’ve ever read. While the subject matter is difficult to read about, I found myself wanting to know how the story would be told in the next chapter. Very close to the beginning of the book, Machado discusses archives and who decides what gets remembered and how it is remembered. This discussion is then tied to abuse in queer relationships. Since grad school, I’ve been really interested in archives and who/how they are created so this was such an interesting way to think about this type of story. The narrative itself is broken into short chapters and reminds me of books I’ve read about pop culture studies where it’s broken down topic by topic. For example, there’s a chapter called ‘Dream House as World Building” and talks about the fact that abusers often isolate their victims and compares that to letting an isolated setting be a huge part of the story. There is also a chapter that operates like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story and it’s absolutely heartbreaking because there’s no way to get a happy ending. As far as the subject matter itself, definitely check out trigger warnings and make sure you’re in an okay place because there were some times I had to stop and focus on my breathing. Machado does a great job at capturing and conveying the slow progression of abuse while adding the nuance of this happening in a relationship between two women with some of the best writing I’ve ever read.

What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these? Are you interested in any of them? Come chat with me!

Recent Reads 6

It’s time again for another round of recent reads! This time I’ll be talking about an adult contemporary fiction about immigration, a YA contemporary with a thriller twist, and the conclusion to my new favorite series. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

Release Date: March 2, 2021

Genre: Adult contemporary/literary fiction

Pages: 191

Trigger warnings include: animal abuse, racism, violence, mention of forced sterilization, rape, loss of a loved one

Goodreads Synopsis

For readers of Valeria Luiselli and Edwidge Danticat, an urgent and lyrical novel about a Colombian family fractured by deportation, offering an intimate perspective on an experience that so many have endured—and are enduring right now.

At the dawn of the new millennium, Colombia is a country devastated by half a century of violence. Elena and Mauro are teenagers when they meet, their blooming love an antidote to the mounting brutality of life in Bogotá. Once their first daughter is born, and facing grim economic prospects, they set their sights on the United States.

They travel to Houston and send wages back to Elena’s mother, all the while weighing whether to risk overstaying their tourist visas or to return to Bogotá. As their family expands, and they move again and again, their decision to ignore their exit dates plunges the young family into the precariousness of undocumented status, the threat of discovery menacing a life already strained. When Mauro is deported, Elena, now tasked with caring for their three small children, makes a difficult choice that will ease her burdens but splinter the family even further.

Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself the daughter of Colombian immigrants and a dual citizen, gives voice to Mauro and Elena, as well as their children, Karina, Nando, and Talia—each one navigating a divided existence, weighing their allegiance to the past, the future, to one another, and to themselves. Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality for the undocumented in America, Infinite Country is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family—for whom every triumph is stitched with regret and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred.

Brief Review

“She told them her mother was abroad and sent her back to Colombia when she was a baby. But this particular family condition was so common it couldn’t possibly be considered trauma.”

While this book is less than 200 pages, it tells a powerful and important story that I found myself wanting to take my time with and that I think will stick with me for a long time. I was most struck by Engel’s writing. She sometimes is very straightforward and sometimes takes a few pages to give readers some folklore or legends that paint a picture of Colombia and its people and that adds greater significance and context to what the characters are experiencing. There are certainly some heartbreaking moments with this family and the fact that Engel is able to show the complicated dynamics of a family separated in so few pages is amazing. Something that my eyes were especially opened to through this story is the ways so many programs and opportunities in the US set up for immigrants can pose such a risk to those same people and their families. By trying to enter that system, they are bringing attention to themselves and those around them and that increases the risk of splitting up their families even more. I can’t say much else since this book is so short but I do want to end this with some recommendations of books I thought of while reading this one: Native Country of the Heart by Cherrie Moraga & Create Dangerously by Edwidge Danticat. These recommendations are partly to do with themes but mostly to do with the writing style.

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

Release Date: January 5, 2021

Genre: YA Contemporary, Thriller

Pages: 384

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

The Hate U Give meets Get Out in this honest and powerful exploration of prejudice in the stunning novel from sister-writer duo Maika and Maritza Moulite, authors of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine.

ISN’T BEING HUMAN ENOUGH?

When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic.

One of the good ones.

Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind—why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed?—Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there’s a twist to Kezi’s story that no one could’ve ever expected—one that will change everything all over again.

Brief Thoughts

“I know that existing as a human on this Earth should be enough to deserve respect and justice. But it isn’t. Instead, we focus on those who we deem worthy, for whom we allow ourselves to feel the weight of their loss.”

*I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

The only thing I knew about this book before going in was that it was pitched as “The Hate U Give meets Get Out” and that was enough to get me excited. I dropped everything as soon as I got a notification from Netgalley and found a compelling story and characters I really loved but aspects of the structure and writing didn’t work as much for me. I really liked the set-up of this story. Getting to know all the key players and their pasts that would become important later caught my attention and I especially enjoyed getting to know Kezi and her girlfriend. I also liked the multi-generational aspect of the story. You get to learn about Kezi’s family history and what sparked the road trip in the first place. There is also a mystery element that REALLY picks up in part three and was especially gripping. The ending provided some powerful commentary on how the media portrays Black people when they are killed and how they decide who is worth mourning – who is “one of the good ones” – and the impacts of those decisions.

The main aspect of the book that brought down my reading experience was down to transitions between scenes. Sometimes scenes would end and there was not really an indication we were moving to something else apart from a paragraph break and sometimes it took me a bit to realize what was happening. I would quickly get back on track but there were a few times when I felt like a couple of sentences might have been missing. I also felt like I wanted a little more from the ending. The peak of the action was very late in the story and then it was just over.

Overall, I still recommend this story as it deals with important themes of police brutality, who we decide is worth mourning, and what can happen when racism is passed down through generations. Even though I had some issues with the writing, I think the positives definitely outweigh any of that.

The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin

Release Date: August 15, 2017

Genre: Adult fantasy

Pages: 416

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

Since this is a series, here’s a link to the synopsis of the first book, and this one.

Brief Thoughts

“But for a society build on exploitation, there is no greater threat than having no one left to oppress.”


About halfway through this book, I knew that this would be my favorite series and that I would do a journal spread commemorating it. The stakes were so high and I loved and cared about all of these characters and while a ton of world-building isn’t exactly something that interests me, the way Jemisin does it kept me hooked until the end. I have been on a journey trying to learn what I like in fantasy and am so thankful for this series existing and showing me what I enjoy. What I really appreciate about this series are all of the real-world themes Jemisin covers in this fantasy world. This story is very much about surviving but it also contains discussions of environmentalism, blood relations vs. found family, prejudices, and slavery and exploitation. I was constantly thinking about current events and because of the intersection between environmentalism and oppression, I started thinking about how climate change disproportionately impacts communities of color and there are so many other topics to think about in relation to this story and that is something that usually comes along with books that I consider to be favorites. I don’t think I’ll stop talking about this series for a while and I definitely recommend it if you’re into adult fantasy and want something a bit different and complex to try. I’ll certainly be reading Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy in the future.

What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these? Are you interested in any of them? Come chat with me!

Recent Reads 2

Before I took a break from blogging, I did monthly wrap-ups and they were really long and took ages to write and put together so I wanted to try something different. I want to put out mini-reviews every time I complete three books. I think this will be more manageable for me and more readable for you guys so let’s get started! Find my last “Recent Reads” here.

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

Release Date: July 7, 2020

Genre: YA Horror

Pages: 352

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.

But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.

Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?

The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape. 

Brief Review

It’s been a little while since I finished this book but I still am not quite sure how I feel about it. I think it was incredibly atmospheric and I really liked Margot as a character. She wanted answers and something different from the life she had at home and there were many times growing up where I could relate. I also really liked Tess. She starts out pretty unlikable (or at least I was unsure about her) but I grew to love her more as the story progressed. The problem for me was that I felt that the first 75% of the book was really slow. I had some theories about the mystery that’s presented (I was wrong) and some of the early clues and reveals were exciting but overall, I just felt like it was so slow. I wanted something more but I can’t quite put my finger on it. The ending, on the other hand, was phenomenal. I really liked the direction the story took and I was satisfied with the ending. It was a wild time and I’ll never think about corn or apricots the same ever again.

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Release Date: October 12 2010

Genre: YA fantasy

Pages: 553

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

JASON HAS A PROBLEM. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up in a bus full of kids on a field trip. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper, and his best friend is a guy named Leo. They’re all students at the Wilderness School, a boarding school for “bad kids,” as Leo puts it. What did Jason do to end up here? And where is here, exactly? Jason doesn’t know anything—except that everything seems very wrong.

PIPER HAS A SECRET. Her father has been missing for three days, ever since she had that terrifying nightmare about his being in trouble. Piper doesn’t understand her dream, or why her boyfriend suddenly doesn’t recognize her. When a freak storm hits during the school trip, unleashing strange creatures and whisking her, Jason, and Leo away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood, she has a feeling she’s going to find out, whether she wants to or not.

LEO HAS A WAY WITH TOOLS. When he sees his cabin at Camp Half-Blood, filled with power tools and machine parts, he feels right at home. But there’s weird stuff, too—like the curse everyone keeps talking about, and some camper who’s gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist that each of them—including Leo—is related to a god. Does this have anything to do with Jason’s amnesia, or the fact that Leo keeps seeing ghosts?

Join new and old friends from Camp Half-Blood in this thrilling first book in The Heroes of Olympus series. Best-selling author Rick Riordan has pumped up the action, humor, suspense, and mystery in an epic adventure that will leave readers panting for the next installment.

Brief Review

The first thing I noticed about this book was the length. It’s over 550 pages but I still flew through it and enjoyed every moment of it. This has the same amount of action and excitement mixed with comedic moments that made me laugh out loud that were in the original series. I also really loved the characters we meet in this series. I really connected to both Leo and Piper and was really rooting for them to accomplish their goals and be happy. The ending was also phenomenal! That realization! That cliffhanger! I was so hype after I finished and excited to see what happens next in the series. Let’s GOOOOO!!

The Removed by Brandon Hobson

Release Date: February 2, 2021

Genre: Adult Contemporary

Pages: 270

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

Steeped in Cherokee myths and history, a novel about a fractured family reckoning with the tragic death of their son long ago—from National Book Award finalist Brandon Hobson

In the fifteen years since their teenage son, Ray-Ray, was killed in a police shooting, the Echota family has been suspended in private grief. The mother, Maria, increasingly struggles to manage the onset of Alzheimer’s in her husband, Ernest. Their adult daughter, Sonja, leads a life of solitude, punctuated only by spells of dizzying romantic obsession. And their son, Edgar, fled home long ago, turning to drugs to mute his feelings of alienation.

With the family’s annual bonfire approaching—an occasion marking both the Cherokee National Holiday and Ray-Ray’s death, and a rare moment in which they openly talk about his memory—Maria attempts to call the family together from their physical and emotional distances once more. But as the bonfire draws near, each of them feels a strange blurring of the boundary between normal life and the spirit world. Maria and Ernest take in a foster child who seems to almost miraculously keep Ernest’s mental fog at bay. Sonja becomes dangerously fixated on a man named Vin, despite—or perhaps because of—his ties to tragedy in her lifetime and lifetimes before. And in the wake of a suicide attempt, Edgar finds himself in the mysterious Darkening Land: a place between the living and the dead, where old atrocities echo.

Drawing deeply on Cherokee folklore, The Removed seamlessly blends the real and spiritual to excavate the deep reverberations of trauma—a meditation on family, grief, home, and the power of stories on both a personal and ancestral level.

Brief Review

This isn’t an easy read, not just because of the subject matter, but because the way the story is told isn’t a structure you might be used to if you tend to only read white, western authors. Though this book is only 270 pages, it takes time to process and think about. Without spoiling anything, there are chapters that do not take place in the real world. There are chapters told from the perspective of an ancestor of the family that don’t seem immediately connected to the main story but if you sit and think and maybe watch some interviews and do some outside research, the genius of this book starts to become more apparent. This story draws from Cherokee folklore as well as history. There are discussions about, not only the trauma that has impacted this family in their lifetimes but also intergenerational trauma. I am reminded of Toni Morrison’s Beloved when I think about this book. I really enjoyed it and if you’re in the mood for a book that forces you to take it slow and think, I’d suggest picking this up. Flying through it just because it’s short probably won’t give you the best experience and taking it slow is worth it. Please check out own voices reviewers for this book as I am not Indigenous and will certainly have missed some of the nuance and maybe even some important aspects of this story.

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