Recent Reads 7

It’s time again for another round of recent reads! This time I’ll be talking about a presidential memoir, a lengthy epic fantasy with sapphics and dragons, and a historical fiction set in late 1400s England. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Release Date: November 17, 2020

Genre: Adult autobiography

Pages: 768

Trigger warnings include: racism, death, cancer, Islamophobia

Goodreads Synopsis

A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making, from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy.

In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office. Click here to continue.

Brief Review

“Perhaps most troubling of all, our democracy seems to be teetering on the brink of crisis—a crisis rooted in a fundamental contest between two opposing visions of what America is and what it should be; a crisis that has left the body politic divided, angry, and mistrustful, and has allowed for an ongoing breach of institutional norms, procedural safeguards, and the adherence to basic facts that both Republicans and Democrats once took for granted.”

I don’t know how to review this so I just want to talk about some thoughts I had while listening to this audiobook. First, I truly believe audio is the way to go. I don’t think I would have finished it without listening to the audio or it would have just taken me a lot longer to get through. Some parts simply were a little dry. That being said, this memoir made me really have to confront some frustrations I have with American politics that I knew but don’t particularly enjoy thinking about. It can all be summed up fairly simply as political strategy vs. doing what you truly believe. The games that are involved in politics in order to maintain or advance someone’s political career really get in the way so much of the time. And yes, I knew this was a thing but listening to hours of concrete examples really can make you frustrated. That’s not to say that this book was just a doom and gloom fest. I think Obama mixes in some stories that are hopeful and heartfelt and sometimes, just really funny in with the more serious aspects and that really helped keep me going. I especially liked hearing him speak about his family and the balance (or lack of) between being a father, son, husband, etc., and being the president during an economic crisis (among other things). This is also just a minor thing I noticed but the way he speaks about people who disagree with him largely with either respect or at least neutrality is a HUGE contrast to what we’ve been seeing the past five years or so and that was interesting to think about, as well.

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Release Date: February 26, 2019

Genre: Adult fantasy

Pages: 830

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door. Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tane has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel. Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

Brief Thoughts

“Piety can turn the power-hungry into monsters,’ Ead said. ‘They can twist any teaching to justify their actions.”

This book is LONG and I’ve been intimidated by it for a while not only because of the length but because I am still learning what I do and don’t enjoy when it comes to fantasy. My foray into this world was definitely successful. First and foremost, I loved the characters. Tane and Truyde were among my favorites. I think they both were so complex and my feelings about them were constantly challenged and changing (especially Truyde). I will warn you, the deaths in this book are heartbreaking and sometimes pretty brutal. There were nights I found myself sitting in bed, jaw dropped, rereading the deaths because I couldn’t believe what happened. While this book is long, I don’t think many words were wasted. There was one obstacle towards the end that I could have done without but overall, I think the length is necessary which isn’t true for every long book I’ve read. That being said, there were some places where I felt the writing was a little dry. I’ve found that a lot of European-based adult fantasy can be that way. This means I have to be in a very specific mood to pick up those types of books and it’s nothing against this one in particular.

As far as my personal journey with fantasy, I am in a place where I know the whole “white men in high/epic fantasy doing things” genre is usually my thing but Priory has shown me that a more female-centered approach can certainly work for me. I also know that I want to start exploring more fantasy by people of color that isn’t set in or inspired by European settings and/or societies. I adored The Broken Earth Trilogy and on the YA side of things, I’m hoping to pick up The Gilded Ones soon.

Princess of Thorns by Saga Hillbom

Princess of Thorns by Saga Hillbom

Release Date: March 1, 2021

Genre: Adult historical fiction

Pages: 390

Trigger warnings include: death of loved ones including a child, abuse by a partner, hanging

Goodreads Synopsis

1483, Westminster. The bells toll for the dead king, Edward IV, while his rivaling nobles grasp for power. His daughter Cecily can only watch as England is plunged into chaos, torn between her loyalties to her headstrong mother, Elizabeth Woodville, and her favourite uncle, Richard of Gloucester. When Elizabeth schemes to secure her own son on the throne that Richard lays claim to, Cecily and her siblings become pawns in a perilous game.

The Yorkist dynasty that Cecily holds so dear soon faces another threat: the last Lancastrian claimant, Henry Tudor. Meanwhile, Cecily battles with envy towards her older sister, who is betrothed to Tudor.

The White Rose of York has turned its thorns inwards, and royal blood proves fatal…

Princess of Thorns is a sweeping tale of loyalty and treason, ambition and family bonds.

Brief Thoughts

“There is a hefty dose of knowledge in her dark eyes, the result of a lifetime spend maneuvering as a woman through a political landscape torn to shreds by men.”

*I was sent an ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review*

I’ve always enjoyed historical fiction but have recently fallen out of it a bit but this story really sucked me back in and now I want more. Princess of Thorns has a phenomenal mix of giving historical context and information while crafting a story that allows me to form a connection with the characters, especially Cecily. I knew vaguely of the events during this time period so I knew some of the major political changes that would happen but, of course, I wasn’t sure exactly where this story was going. I kept going back and forth with my feelings about Cecily but I was desperately rooting for her to form a romance with a friend, Thomas. Their interactions were adorable and I felt so invested in their relationship. This story brings up tons of issues of the time but I was particularly compelled by the issues of class and of seeing how politics impacted women surrounding the inner circle. They knew what was going on but weren’t always able to be involved in the most direct way. That’s a topic I enjoyed exploring in my English degrees and this story renewed my interest. Lastly, I enjoyed the brief way Hillbom explores queerness during this time. It was a small moment but it was exciting to see. This book just came out last week so definitely check it out!

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

Books vs. Films

I know we’ve all heard “the book is always better” but is it? A lot of times, the answer is definitely “yes.” I know I get this feeling in my stomach when I hear about a book I love being adapted into a movie or TV show and it sure isn’t excitement. I get nervous because I’m afraid they’ll leave out my favorite scene or character or the casting will be AWFUL or they’ll try to force it to be something it isn’t. But sometimes… I think the movie is just as good, if not better and today I want to talk about three times when I was pleasantly surprised.

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.

Legolas and Gimli from the LOTR films.

The first adaptation that comes to mind is The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’m not talking about The Hobbit because those films just didn’t hit for me but LOTR is a different story. I grew up watching these films and I’m sure that has something to do with my opinion but I reread the series this past year and I don’t think my feelings come entirely from a place of nostalgia. It’s clear that in writing this series, Tolkien’s number one goal was to build his own world. He isn’t afraid to spend pages describing the history of places the fellowship travels to and through. He gives so many details and so much description and while I admire the hard work Tolkien put into his writing, sometimes I find it hard to keep reading for long periods of time. I get distracted and sometimes, a little bored. There’s also the way the second and third books are structured that makes the reading process a bit different than what modern readers might be used to. We end up spending SO MUCH time with one set of characters and don’t hear from the others at all. We get glimpses of what they’re doing but it isn’t until much later that we do a rewind and get to spend time with the other group. It’s just not a structure I’m used to reading and it makes it difficult to get through at times. The films choose to jump back and forth between groups and it just makes the story feel more fast-paced and enjoyable. 

This is not to say that I hate the books. I enjoyed reading this series and have a lot of respect for what Tolkien created. I certainly could never create something that complex. I also recognize it as having a huge role in the development of fantasy as a genre. I just think the films are much more accessible and fun.

Cecilia and Robbie in Atonement

The last two examples I want to talk about aren’t so much about thinking the adaptation is better but about me loving them equally. So that means we’re going to talk about Ian McEwan’s Atonement. I have mixed feelings about McEwan and his work but Atonement very well might be my favorite book of all time. It’s a WWII historical fiction that follows Briony Tallis after she accused the wrong man of a horrible crime and her journey to atone for that. The film, whose ending is slightly different and doesn’t work *quite* as well as the book’s ending, is overall just as great and I revisit it all the time. It’s difficult for me to explain why I love this story so much but I think it’s mostly down to the tragic romance. The man who was wrongly accused is, of course, separated from Briony’s older sister, his true love, and seeing what becomes of them just makes me so sad and if you’re new here, I like to consume sad media. It just really does it for me. The first time I read the book, I was shocked by the narrative twist towards the end and immediately had to text the only person I knew who had also read the book because I just needed to scream about it. I then went to watch the film which stars Keira Knightley and James McAvoy 😍 and was equally wrapped up in the tragedy and romance. I expected to be totally disappointed but I wasn’t. And for someone, again, who doesn’t really watch movies, this is one I regularly revisit and I’m thinking it’s time for a re-watch (and maybe a re-read but I’m scared lol).

Klaus, Violet, and Count Olaf in ASOUE.

The last adaptation I want to talk about is A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Now before you think I’m about the say that the film starring Jim Carrey is a valid adaptation, just note that I have eyes and I’m talking about the Netflix show. I grew up reading A Series of Unfortunate Events as the books were released and they will always hold a special place in my heart so imagine how I felt when I saw the 2004 film in theaters. Did I laugh? Absolutely. Did I spend the entire car ride home telling my mom how they changed everything from the vibe to the story order? You bet. Naturally, I was incredibly nervous about the show but I did have a bit more hope seeing as they were going to spend time adapting every book into a couple of episodes. As I sat down with my partner to watch the series, I was still a little iffy about it but halfway through the first season, I was sold on it. I just think it’s a fun way to revisit the story I loved so much growing up and I definitely recommend it.

As I was writing this post, I started thinking about some other adaptations, primarily of classics so I might do another post later on with some of those ideas if people want to see it!

What about you? What adaptations do you think are just as good or even better than the book?

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!

February 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. To be transparent, it was not a great month for me. My mental health usually takes a dive in February and this time was no exception. I truly spent a lot of time just listening to music and unmotivated to do anything but I do have a few things I want to talk about.

Books

Even though I read significantly less this month than I did in previous months and so many of them were just okay, I still had two books that really stood out to me. They probably won’t surprise you if you’ve been reading my blog but I’m going to talk about them anyway.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

I was INCREDIBLY lucky to receive an ARC of Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert this month. I’ve loved this entire romance series and immediately dropped everything to read this ARC. Obviously, I don’t regret it. If you want a slightly cohesive review, click the link above but I just want to use this space to gush about the one book that made me truly have a fun time this month. I don’t usually read romance but now that I’ve finished this series, I’m looking for more. I couldn’t stop smiling while I was reading about this grumpy/sunshine couple going from annoyed to in love while working together in an English bed and breakfast. The banter was *chef’s kiss* and so was the steam! I went from unsure about Eve to really relating to her in the end and I’m thankful to Hibbert for taking me on that journey with a character. I also loved all the music references. I think I want to compile a playlist of all the mentioned songs just for fun, but I’m sure someone has already done that. The books in this series can be read as standalones so I definitely recommend picking this up when it comes out on March 9!

The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin

I’m also going to talk about N. K. Jemisin again this month. I read the final book in The Broken Earth Trilogy, The Stone Sky and I’m just going to say this is absolutely my favorite series of all time and I don’t see how anything can top it. This is one of the last books I finished this month and I haven’t written my official review yet so this might be unorganized but I’m always unorganized so what’s the difference? This is how to end a story. There was so much action and the stakes were so high; I couldn’t put it down. It was both heartbreaking and beautiful. 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. There is SO MUCH going on and so much to think about and I’d really love to read the entire series again because this is one of those stories where I’m certain I’ll get something else out of it every time I read it again. I can’t recommend this series enough if you’re in the mood for a truly clever fantasy that takes a bit of work but is DEFINITELY worth it.

Music

I’ve still been watching Arctic Monkeys concerts but there are some other songs in my rotation. First, I showed up a little late to the Ashnikko party. Her DEMIDEVIL album is so much fun and I just feel so hyped when I listen to it. Both “Daisy” and “Deal With It” are standouts and I highly recommend. I also found an acoustic cover of Ariana Grande’s “God is a Woman” and I didn’t know that I needed it but I did. I am considering making playlists in future months but I need to check my privacy settings because I don’t want to expose myself that much 😂

TV/Movies

The Muppet Show opening.

I’m still rewatching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia but I’m also watching The Muppet Show. I grew up with practically no internet and limited television so I was constantly watching the couple of Muppet Show VHS tapes we had at my grandma’s house. It definitely shaped a lot of my early music taste and I was thrilled to see it available to stream this month. I still think it’s such an innovative idea for a variety show that showcased celebrities of the time with a combination of comedy and musical numbers. Is it cheesy? Absolutely. Is it sometimes offensive? Unfortunately. While it isn’t perfect, I have fun revisiting episodes I had on VHS and seeing ones I’ve never seen before. So far, Paul Williams from the band, Three Dog Night is my favorite. His version of “An Old Fashioned Love Song” on the show is better than the original. That might be controversial. I don’t know. But here’s a link to a low-quality video of his performance where he sings the song with two muppet versions of himself.

The cast of Knives Out.

I don’t really consider myself a person who likes movies if I’m being honest. There are some that I like, of course but it takes a lot to get me to sit down and watch one. I do like Knives Out, though. Knives Out is sort of a long movie – over two hours. I’ve watched it twice, in full and didn’t scroll through a single app during it either time. It’s a compelling, funny, mystery where the twists don’t stop. Phenomenal. I rewatched this movie a few weeks ago with my partner since he’s never seen it and I had such a fun time seeing him react to all the twists. I’m chasing the feeling of this movie in book form and I’m not sure I’m going to find it.

Hobbies

I had a difficult time enjoying hobbies this month but I did do a few things with my free time outside of reading and watching things. I’ve started making aesthetic journal spreads to review my favorite books each month. I am having a ton of fun planning out spreads and putting things together. I haven’t done one for The Stone Sky yet but I did for Eve Brown and I really like how it turned out (see below).

I’ve also been playing a few videogames. I got the remaster of Super Mario 3D World for Switch. Before Mario Odyssey came out, this was my favorite Mario game of all time. I’ve been trying to make it last and not play through the whole thing in just a few weeks but I’m approaching the end of the main game because I spent a couple of afternoons unable to put it down. It’s such a fun time.

I also started a new cross-stitch project but it’s much more complicated than the one I did before so it’s taking me a bit more time to finish. I’m really excited to show off the final piece.

So what have you been enjoying this month?

Recent Reads 5

It’s time again for another round of recent reads! I know it’s been a while. I’ve been in such a slump and can’t seem to get it together but no matter! I’ve finally read three books so here we go. This time I’ll be talking about a middle grade classic fantasy, a stunning historical fiction, and the second book in a beloved middle-grade series. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

The Emerald City of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Release Date: 1910

Genre: Middle-grade fantasy

Pages: 160

Here’s a link to the synopsis for the first book in the series. I did this, not because of spoilers but because the Goodreads synopsis makes absolutely no sense.

Brief Review

“To be angry once in a while is really good fun, because it makes others so miserable. But to be angry morning, noon and night, as I am, grows monotonous and prevents my gaining any other pleasure in life.”

I have a lot of thoughts about this book. To start with, the author’s note made me smile because Baum talks about the kids who have sent him letters with ideas for his Oz books. As I was reading, I tried to guess what the kids might have suggested and I’m so sure that the school pills, pills you take to learn everything you need at school, were their idea. I also think this book is incredibly funny. The Nome King and the Whimsies particularly made me laugh out loud. This book also included some more anti-capitalist themes but he is sure to say that the way Oz works would only work in Oz. I wonder if Baum felt that way or if he was saying it to appease someone else. 

I also was pleased to see Baum playing with a narrative structure he hadn’t tried before in previous books. He went back and forth between the Nome King and Dorothy and I was excited to see how these plot lines came together but they just… didn’t really. The ending felt a little cheap. I also think the VERY end of the book had some anti-immigrant rhetoric and I was a bit confused? I don’t want to spoil anything but it was strange. Baum made the ending seem like this is the last book in the series but clearly there’s at least eight more to go so I’m interested to see what’s going to happen next.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Release Date: June 2, 2020

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 343

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins. 

Brief Thoughts

“When you married someone, you promised to love every person he would be. He promised to love every person she had been. And here they were, still trying, even though the past and the future were both mysteries.”

I feel like everyone’s heard about and probably even read The Vanishing Half and I’m late to the party but as someone who loves multi-generational family stories, I’m glad to be here now. It took me a bit to get used to the time jumps but once I was into it, I was hooked. I found myself thinking about the characters even when I wasn’t reading. I especially thought about one of the twins, Stella, and the mystery surrounding her in the first half of the book. There is a bit of a cliffhanger before one of the first big time jumps that had me ready to keep reading. The characters are definitely the strongest part of this book. Bennett took time and care with developing every single character. The twins and their daughters were certainly interesting to watch change and think throughout the story but the side characters were just as interesting. I particularly enjoyed reading about Reese and his experiences being trans. I also liked that Bennett didn’t provide us with a neat ending for every character. It felt more realistic that way. I have mentioned before my love of stories about strained family relationships that aren’t just tied up in a bow at the end and this does that well. Those wounds take time to heal and I love authors who understand and acknowledge it. Bennett’s in-depth and nuanced look at not only racism but colorism is something I think everyone should read.

Also, if you like the “two women who are close come from the same town but make different choices” aspect of this story, please pick up Sula by Toni Morrisson. 

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Release Date: October 4, 2011

Genre: Middle-grade Fantasy

Pages: 513

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

“Life is only precious because it ends, kid.”

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump and I wasn’t loving the first bit of this book. I liked learning about a new setting and group of people but there was a camp games type event that went on a bit too long for me. After that, though, the action really took off and I was invested. I think Riordan does a great job and slowly introducing more aspects of the characters’ personalities. I felt really attached to Hazel and Frank. I also think Riordan is great at writing endings that get you so excited to see what happens next in the series. If I wasn’t already a bit burned out from fantasy, I would have a hard time not going ahead and picking up the next book. Also, Nico is in this one and that made me happy.

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

Books With Romances I Can Get Behind

If you’re seeing this the day I post it, it’s Valentine’s Day and while I don’t normally care much about this corporate holiday, it does make for a good excuse for me to talk about romance. Now, I don’t usually care about romance in my media. In fact, I often actively avoid it but there are instances where I not only have the patience for it but I also LOVE it. I want to use this day of corporate love to talk about five books with romances I can get behind.

First, I want to talk about a book that comes out next month and that I have a dedicated review scheduled for – Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert. This is the final book in the Brown Sisters trilogy but you can read them in any order. This is a romance so my enjoyment of the book really hinges on my enjoyment of the romance and while I like all the books in this trilogy, Eve Brown is definitely my favorite. I have a lot I could say about Eve herself but I’ll save that for my full review. What I want to talk about here is the perfect grumpy/sunshine (or annoyed – to – lovers) trope with two thoughtful people with wonderful banter that made me smile the entire time. Eve and Jacob really couldn’t be more opposite in manner but Hibbert made it work and I was rooting for them the whole time.

Not to completely change gears but my next recommendation is a YA contemporary romance called The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar. This soft romance between two girls, Nishat and Flavia. They develop a rivalry during a school competition all while Nishat is fighting her feelings Flavia. Their interactions balance that romantic tension and rivalry tension well and make for an intriguing story. The scenes with both girls alone are really heartwarming as they talk through serious issues such as homophobia and cultural appropriation. The whole time I was just hoping for them to be happy.

Next, I want to talk about a historical fiction called Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I know this is a film starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon but I’ve never seen it. I did, though, pick up this book early in 2020 and immediately found myself wrapped up in Jacob and Marlena’s story. They met at a circus which I think makes for an interesting backdrop for a romance. Marlena is married to a horribly abusive man and works together with Jacob to train an elephant named Rosie; of course, they fall in love. Readers get this story from Jacob as an old man reflecting on his life and that frame narrative really makes it an interesting story.

Speaking of frame narratives, I can’t not mention Atonement by Ian McEwan. I’ll start by saying that this book is heartbreaking. Robbie and Cecilia are in love but ripped apart by a false accusation and the second World War. There are a lot of other things going on in this story but the tragedy surrounding Robbie and Cecilia is something I think about all the time (I like sad books) and I kept wishing they could be back together again and waiting for that opportunity for them. I don’t want to say anything more because so much of the appeal comes from the ending but if you know, then you know.

I struggled for a fifth book. I really did. But I’m going to talk about a book everyone is probably tired of seeing and that’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab. While I’m a HUGE Luc fan (don’t come for me), I did really feel emotional at some points in Henry and Addie’s relationship. Addie just wants to be loved and that isn’t really possible when no one can remember her. Addie’s inner monologue at the end of her first date with Henry had me one emotional bitch and I DID NOT see that coming for me. I really liked how the circumstances of their lives worked together and had to be navigated in order for them to work as a couple. Additionally, I really liked the tension in the scenes with Addie and Luc. I know they’re not really the focus but there was *something* there and it was a good time for me.

I like tragic romances and soft romances and basically, romances that make me feel things so do you have any recommendations? How did you feel about these, if you’ve read them? Let me know!

January 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. so let’s get started!

Books

I have two stand-out books from this past month. If you’ve talked to me about books or read anything I’ve posted about books recently, this shouldn’t be a surprise because these books are from two of my new favorite authors.

First, I want to talk about The Obelisk Gate by NK Jemisin. This is the second book in the Broken Earth Trilogy and I loved it just as much as I loved the first book. This is rare for me. I typically don’t pick up a series because I’m afraid of investing time in something only to not like a large chunk of it. I also have never been a series fantasy reader but I think this series is going to be the thing to get me into fantasy and I am so excited for that possibility. I’ve really loved being able to jump into this world. It certainly takes a certain level of time and focus to read and get everything from Jemisin’s writing. As someone who zones out a lot, it can be difficult for me sometimes but for me, it’s totally worth it. I think Jemisin creates such interesting characters; I want to know what happened to them before and what will happen to them in the future. I also appreciate Jemisin’s narrative structure in both of these books. It isn’t linear and she has a way of bringing everything together in a way that seems simple but takes me by surprise every single time. 

I also want to give attention to Grown by Tiffany D Jackson. I never read books in one day. That’s just not my style, but Grown was impossible to put down. This book deals with some difficult subject matter and my heart broke for the main character, Enchanted. I had to know that she was going to be okay and the writing really lent itself to me being able to fly through the story in two sittings. If you’re familiar with Jackson’s work, you probably know that she tends to write hard-hitting YA contemporaries or thrillers. I read a fair amount of YA and enjoy it but it never quite ends up being a favorite but now that I’ve read two of Jackson’s books and they’ve become instant favorites, I’m starting to see what is possible in those genres. With Grown specifically, I appreciated the commentary on the way society doesn’t listen to women, especially Black women, when they have been abused. They are blamed or called liars when they speak up and while this story takes place in the music industry, it has messages that apply to the broader conversation surrounding women and sexual assault, grooming, stalking, etc. 

Music

I’m in a *very* specific mood musically. I’ve made a YouTube playlist to put on when I’m having a hard time focusing on anything that’s primarily live performances by Arctic Monkeys and Neck Deep. I really miss live music and since the seasonal depression is hitting hard, I’m reminding myself of better summer when I could go to shows. I’ll include a favorite performance for each band below in case you want to check them out. I wish I had something new and exciting to talk about musically but my brain just wants old, familiar sounds these days.

TV

There are two TV shows I’ve really been watching this month. First, I started getting back into One Piece. This is an anime that follows a group of pirates. The main character has a special ability that made him essentially made of rubber. It sounds lame but it comes in handy quite a bit. The trade-off – he can’t swim. If I’m not mistaken, this series is the longest-running anime and manga and I have a love/hate relationship with it. I’ll never catch up and I’ll never collect all the manga. It’s not feasible. But I love the story so much so I keep trying. Comedy is a must in my anime and while this one has plenty of action, it also makes me laugh all the time. Luffy is blindly confident and sometimes it gets the crew in trouble and a lot of times, it really pays off. Besides him, my favorite characters are Zoro and Ace.

I’ve also been watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Again. I can’t help it. I love this show so much. The main characters are totally unlikeable and are awful people and that’s the point. The creators make fun of the worst people you could meet and shows how ridiculous it is to act horribly and hold the worst beliefs. That being said, I do have a favorite character – Mac. He is incredibly religious and tries to use his religion to justify his ignorant beliefs all while struggling with his sexuality. And somehow, the writers turned this into something that is comedy gold (though I will say that the finale to season 13 takes a more serious look at his character and is just such a beautiful episode).

Hobbies

Especially at the beginning of the month, I was playing a lot of videogames. Primarily I was playing various Assassin’s Creed games. I am not great at finishing or sticking to one game so I’ve been switching between Valhalla, Origins, and Odyssey. I get really sucked in when I’m playing because I like tracking quests and traveling all over the world to accomplish small things that add up. I also played a ton of Kingdom Hearts this month. I played Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance the most. This is one of my favorite game series because I like the mix of Disney + Final Fantasy and how it’s kind of surprisingly dark sometimes. I think a lot about the conversations that were had that made Disney decide to agree. I made it all the way to the boss and then just didn’t finish the game. I’m really bad about that.

I also have been learning to cross-stitch. It’s really relaxing and helpful especially when I’m feeling anxious. Since I’m new to it, I really have to focus on what I’m doing which means I can’t think about everything else that’s going on in my brain. I finished this piece a week or so ago and while I left out the French knots (they’re *really* hard, okay), I’m still satisfied with it.

So what have you been enjoying this month?

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.

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

WWW Wednesday – October 7, 2020

I think I’m finally back into some semblance of a blogging schedule and I am glad to be in a place where I can create content and talk to you guys. So here I am with the WWW Wednesday tag hosted by Taking on a World of Words. I like having a chance mid-week to share what I’m reading and see what you guys are up to, as well.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

One of the books that I’m currently reading The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan. I’ve divided up so that I can finish it on the 15th. Since it doesn’t really fit into my spooky plans this month, I wanted to be able to read other spooky books while I’m reading this one. I just want to say, I love this book so much. There’s so much action the entire time and the tension is so high and it might be my favorite in the series so far. I’m already planning to get myself the next series in this universe for my birthday because I definitely need more.

I am also reading A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (which I realize was in my spooky TBR jar and not on my spooky TBR list). This book is about the modern, high school descendants of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and their mystery-solving adventures. I am having a really fun time reading this and going along for the ride. It’s dramatic; there are some dark moments, and excited to see who the killer is. I do wish the romantic vibes weren’t there actually because the main characters seem better as friends but maybe that’s just me.

Since last week, I finished two books. First, I finished This Bridge Called My Back. I really enjoyed this and it’s definitely my favorite nonfiction reading experience. I really took my time with this to be sure I could stop and underline and make notes in the margins as I went along. I talked about this collection of pieces written by women of color in my wrap-up and I had a ton to say so I’ll just leave that link here.

I also read my first spooky book of October – The String of Pearls, or you might know it as Sweeney Todd. I thought this was fine. If you’re familiar with the musical, the actions of Todd and Lovett are actually the big reveal in the book version so the structure is really different. There’s also this entire other main plotline with a necklace and the relationships between the characters aren’t the same as the musical so if you know the musical, I don’t think this will work for you in the same way. I didn’t hate it; it just was what it was, I guess.

I’m truly not sure what I’m going to pick up next and probably won’t for the next two months or so. I plan to randomly select all of my reads for October and November from my backlog of spooky reads but you can check out the potential list here!

Have you read any of these books? What are you reading? If you participate in WWW Wednesday, link me your posts!

September 2020 Wrap-up

September felt like the longest month in the world. I was able to continue teaching online and I was able to spend a little time with my family and it made me feel a lot better. I did have some struggles with my ability to focus on much of anything and that was difficult but I’ve been trying to get back to using organization methods and checklists to stay on top of things and feel a little more in control. October is my birthday month and I don’t want to spend the whole time unable to focus or enjoy it so towards the end of September, I made conscious efforts to get my life back in order.

I talked about the music I was listening to last month in my wrap-up and I am here to report that I’m still constantly listening to Arctic Monkeys but I was also incredibly surprised by Machine Gun Kelly’s new pop-punk album, Tickets to My Downfall. The song, “title track” feels really nostalgic for some reason (Travis Barker’s drumming) and I definitely recommend it if you were into pop-punk in the early 2000s.

Now for the books! I read a variety of genres this month and many of them were ebooks from my library so essentially, my TBR went out the window but that’s okay. I still read some fantastic books I’d been wanting to pick up anyway. I will say that I did listen to some Arthur Miller plays via audio and read some Oscar Wilde short stories but since there were so many and they were short, I’m not really going to talk about them specifically or include them in my stats, but I do want to say that All My Sons by Arthur Miller and “The Canterville Ghost” by Oscar Wilde are both fantastic and I want to recommend them generally.

Ratings:

3 five-star reads

6 four-star reads

1 unrated read

Format:

1 audiobook

7 ebooks

2 physical books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Much like August, I started September by listening to whatever audiobooks my library had available to me that also happened to be on my physical TBR. I listened to Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach over the course of two cleaning sessions and I’ll admit, it was a great time. This book follows James whose parents have been killed and he has to live with his two less-than-likable aunts. They treat him like Cinderella before the ball but when a magical, mysterious man brings him a bag of weird crawly things and one crawls into a peach, magic ensues and James goes on an exciting journey. Unlike my listening experience with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as soon as I started this audiobook, I immediately felt nostalgic for the movie (HAVE YOU HEARD THIS SONG FROM THE 1996 HIT FILM?). I don’t think I ever read this book as a child and I was really interested in the parts that were left out of the movie, particularly the cloud men. I also can’t quite remember what happened to the ladybug at the end of the movie but I think book-ladybug’s ending was interesting to think about. Dahl’s ever-present characterization of fat people is an issue to be aware of when picking this up.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was lucky enough to be sent Trust Me by the author, Nell Grey. I posted a dedicated review for this book here so head over and check that out! We love a good mystery/romance here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Early in the month, I had a hold come through from my library for Camp by L. C. Rosen. This book is a YA contemporary that takes place at a summer camp for queer teens. Randy has been going to this camp for a few years and has a crush on a guy named, Hudson. Hudson definitely has a type and it’s masculine. Randy reinvents himself as “Del” to try and get Hudson’s attention and we follow their relationship over the summer. This story is definitely messy but there’s so much more to it than that. Both characters really grow over the course of the story and I really appreciate that. I also think Rosen is able to tackle a variety of issues in this story and that gives Camp so much depth. Not only does Rosen deal with the issue of some people thinking there’s a right and wrong way to be queer, but they also tackle supportive and unsupportive parents, homophobia and bullying, and the importance of “queer-only” spaces. I think the biggest conversation surrounding queer-only spaces is the fact that while they are important and can build confidence to be yourself at all times, some people, especially teens living with unsupportive parents, don’t have the luxury of or are safe in being their true selves at all times. It’s unfortunate but I’m glad this was talked about. While this is a YA book, there is one fairly descriptive sex scene so if that’s not your jam, I just wanted to give that warning. Also, here’s a link for trigger warnings, if you need them.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Since I’m currently four books into this series, I won’t say a lot but The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan is action-packed and a great time. It was glad to see more of Nico and his journey and the tension between Percy and Annabeth is fun to read about even though I usually don’t care about romance at all in books that aren’t specifically in the romance genre. I was having a really hard time focusing and read along with the audiobook but that wasn’t because the book wasn’t interesting. My brain has just been all over the place. I am nervous and excited to see how this series will end and then hopefully pick up the other books in this universe early next year. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I got A Song Below Water from Libby after waiting for ages and I’m so glad I got a chance to read it. I wasn’t sure what to expect since I heard it was fantasy but that it wasn’t really or that it was confusing. I am so glad I didn’t let that deter me. This book follows Tavia and Effie, one is a siren and one pretends to be one at the Ren faire. When a suspected siren is murdered, things become dangerous and tensions run high as Tavia tries to keep her identity a secret and Effie is trying to figure out who she really is. This book takes place in our world but there are magical and fantastical elements revealed as if it’s completely normal. It reminded me of my recent read-through of Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go; I was given pieces of world-building and had to put things together for myself. I loved that aspect of the experience. Ultimately, this is a story about black girls finding and using their voices to stand up for themselves and bring awareness and justice to their community and I highly recommend it. Here’s a link to the trigger warnings, if you need them.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I know that I should be prioritizing my physical TBR but I’ve had to ebook for Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender for a few months and it was calling to me so I put it on my TBR for September. I don’t typically give five stars to contemporaries but this one certainly deserved it. Going in, I knew this book followed a black, trans, teen named Felix, and someone at his school posts old pictures of him as well as his deadname for everyone to see. There is so much more to this story, though. This is a story about acceptance and privilege and identity and love between friends, family, and partners. This book is emotional and funny and so much more than I expected. I know if you’ve seen anyone talk about this book, you’ve probably seen a lot of praise and I’m not sure that I have anything unique to add so I will just say that I highly recommend this beautiful book. Here’s a link to trigger warnings.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ever since I read Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert earlier this year, I’ve wanted to pick up the sequel. Plus, I’ve been listening to a ton of Arctic Monkeys and have been in the mood for a romance. Thankfully, Take a Hint, Dani Brown came through from the library and I was able to read it before the mood for a romance passed. As much as I loved Chloe’s story, I think I loved Dani’s even more. Dani teaches college English (I can relate) and has sworn off romance after some bad experiences but when a video of her being carried out of a building by a gruff security guard goes viral, they decide to fake a relationship and reap the benefits. The banter and pining were so fantastic in this story and I also appreciated the discussions surrounding grief and anxiety. It isn’t just a romance; Hibbert tackles some more serious topics and that’s what keeps me coming back to her romances. I’ll definitely be checking out Eve Brown’s story when it comes out. Here’s a link to trigger warnings.

This is another book I got from my library and I’m going to be honest, I’m still processing my feelings. This book follows Vanessa in the present day as she finds out her English teacher from about fifteen years ago is being accused of sexually assaulting his students. The chapters alternate to show what happened between Vanessa and her teacher when she was fifteen years old. I won’t say that I enjoyed this book but I do think it is incredibly well written and gives the reader a lot to think about. There were many times where I was frustrated with “present day” Vanessa and I had to stop and think about why she was doing the things she was doing. Kate Elizabeth Russell doesn’t shy away from showing not only what happens in the moment, but also the mental turmoil that lasts for years after it’s over. It gives a view that books such as Lolita don’t offer. There were times that I had to sit back and think about things that have happened to me and the way I responded to those things. I also appreciated the perspective and discussion about the trauma that comes with women speaking out against abusers and that many times, there’s not any/much justice served. This is a heavy read, for sure and I had to stop many times to really think about what was going on. I sometimes find myself reading books and not really thinking about the broader applications and implications to real life but this one certainly made me think constantly. There are quite a few heavy trigger warnings for this book, so here’s a link.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The last library book I read this month was Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson. This book follows Claudia who is concerned because her best friend, Monday, hasn’t contacted her all summer and hasn’t shown up to the new school year, and no one seems to care. That’s all I knew about the book going in but I will say that this is not just a simple mystery story. I think it is pretty clear early on what the general nature of what happened to Monday, but there is another twist that I didn’t see coming, so there is still an element of mystery. Even though I did have an idea about Monday’s mystery, reading the description and the way it impacted Claudia really punched me in the gut. I had to put the book down and just breathe for a minute. Even if you don’t normally check trigger warnings, I would definitely consider checking them before going into this book. Something about this one is particularly unsettling but it does shine a light on how systems that are put into place to protect people can fall short in the most horrifying ways and I appreciate this book for being able to do that. I have also seen some people talking about the structure of this book and that it can sometimes be confusing and I agree that it takes a while to get used to and doesn’t fully make sense until the less obvious reveal. That’s why I didn’t give it 5 stars but I still think it’s totally readable and makes sense if you just stick with it.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This Bridge Called My Back is a collection edited by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua and was BY FAR my favorite read of the month. This is a collection of poems, speeches, and essays written by women of color that deal with topics such as intersectionality and the dangers and failure of white feminism among other things. Even though many of these pieces were written in the 80s, there are points that are still totally relevant today and sometimes it’s frustrating that we are still fighting the same fight, but that’s definitely part of the process of reading TBCMB in 2020. Part of why I wanted to (and had to) take my time reading this collection is because I constantly wanted to stop and make notes and underline sections while I read. I’m not really sure yet how to best review collections of work by various authors but I do want to end this review by mentioning a few of my favorite pieces from the collection. One piece I really enjoy is the introduction to the fifth section, “Speaking in Tongues” which is written by Gloria Anzaldua. This is a letter to women of color writers that discusses the importance of women of color to continue to write and take control of their stories. She also acknowledges the danger and difficulty that can come with that. It is a fantastic letter and really makes you think about the importance of writing. Another piece I really enjoyed was Pat Parker’s “Revolution: It’s Not Neat or Pretty or Quick.” This speech talks about the fact that real change takes a ton of time and you can’t give up quickly. This piece feels incredibly relevant now and I’ll just leave this review with a quote from this piece. “To end Klan or Nazi activity doesn’t end imperialism. It doesn’t end institutional racism; it doesn’t end sexism; it does not bring this monster down, and we must not forget what our goals are and who our enemies are. To simply label these people as lunatic fringes and not accurately assess their roles as part of this system is a dangerous error. These people do the dirty work. They are the arms and legs of the congressmen, the businessmen, the Tri-lateral Commission.”

If you read the whole thing, thanks! I appreciate you for putting up with my rambling. So, come chat with me about any of these books in the comments!

Stay safe!

Sam