1.14.2021

Favorite Books of 2020

 


Long Bright River by Liz Moore
This was one of the first books I read last year and the utterly suspenseful and human story of two sisters with divergent lives.
Original review here.

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
Such an impressive debut from Wetmore, I think Valentine deserves a bit more hype! It's pretty bleak, but perfect if you love a tense and compelling read.
Original review here.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
I escaped into this fantasy series last year, reading all four books, which is something I never do. If I DO read a series, I usually take my time. These books were such fun, and ACOMAF was definitely my favorite of the bunch.
Original review here.

Good Talk by Mira Jacob
Over the years I've been discovering how much I love graphic memoirs and Jacob's book was such a unique take on the genre with her collage inspired depictions of her life. The way she uses color and repeating pictures is so clever, and the writing is beautiful.
Original review here.

Go With the Flow by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann
Speaking of graphic novels, this was my favorite kids read this year by a mile. This book takes on all kinds of issues around the stigma of menstruation and was so uplifting and empowering. A must read.
Original review here.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Yes, I am late to this party! I understand now! I love, love, love a book that turns everything on it's head with an amazing ending. It left me breathless, and enraged, but mostly in awe.
Original review here.

Mexican Gothic by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia
Thrillers or horror are not normally my thing, but the buzz around this book had me so curious. I'm SO GLAD I read Mexican Gothic! So atmospheric, creepy, and with a great build up to a completely nutty ending that had my jaw on the floor. Such a fun ride.
Original review here.

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
This was definitely the best nonfiction book I read this year. Raw and eye-opening. A must read.
Original review here.
The hype was REAL with this book! I flew through the pages of this lovely story of an immortal woman who will never be remembered.
Original review here.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Last book of the year and one of the best books of the year! I loved The Mothers by Brit Bennett, too, and this one did not disappoint. A great story with thoughtful layers on what it means to be our authentic self.
Original review here.

1.11.2021

December Book Reviews

 


Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis
“She’d never lived in such a place before; the freedom dizzied her. It was strange, she thought, how you could live all your life in a home defined by people who loved you and took care of you and shared ancestors with you and yet did not entirely see you, people whom you protected by hiding yourself.”
This novel about a queer group of women who establish a home together, literally and figuratively, during the dictatorship in 1970s Uruguay was just beautiful and heartbreaking.
I am really glad that I waited until after our elections here in the US to start reading it, because it is quite terrifying how Uruguay went from a modern democratic society to a fascist rule (and back again). Definitely an eye opening read on that front, but mostly this was an epic character driven story about friendships and how they grow and change. I wanted to reach out and embrace each of these women, they felt so authentic. If a novel that follows beloved characters through decades of heartbreak and triumph appeals, definitely pick up Cantoras.

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
Adding my Holidaze post to the pile that has been all over the ‘gram! If you saw my book stack thoughts last week wherein I was hesitating on this one, I obviously went ahead and let curiosity get the better of me. The reviews seem to be all over the place, and it also seems that people are are all over the place on their CLo favorites! I have only read two of their books, one I loved (Love and Other Words) and one that I felt was meh (Josh and Hazel) if that helps give context for my thoughts on Holidaze.
I guess I have a soft spot for the childhood friend turned romantic interest, because I actually ended up enjoying this one! A lot of folks had issues with the time loop theme, but I thought it served the story, and the impetus for Maelyn’s decisions, very well. It reminded me of Groundhog Day of course, but also of the very excellent Netflix show Russian Doll, and Before I Fall: a fantastic YA novel by Lauren Oliver. Though, that book is NOT light in tone. Holidaze was a perfectly fun and light holiday romance, and I’m glad I dove in.
The second in the Bridgerton series is just as entertaining as the first. Julia Quinn does a fantastic job with setting a scene, witty and humorous banter, and most importantly, empathetic characters. I really felt for Anthony and Kate, especially as someone who lost a parent at a young age.
I have a love/hate relationship with great book series. Like Louise Penny, it’s wonderful to have a trove of reliably great books to read. But on the other hand, finding the balance of not binging and fitting in ALL THE BOOKS is painful.
This book seemed to come out of nowhere to win the Goodreads Choice award for fiction, and I’m glad I finally read it! It’s a lovely, albeit melancholy, novel about a character who gets the opportunity to explore the parallel lives she could have lived, while in a sort of purgatory after attempting suicide. So, fair warning on that front.
I found the idea of fixing past regrets and trying on different lives so compelling, and flew through this relatively short book, curious to see where Nora’s choices would take her. But somewhere along the way, I realized that I wanted more depth than breadth from the story. I mean, the existential themes of the book are DEEP, but my connection to the main character and her relationships were not. Although, one of the things I think Nora has to learn is that she needs to live for herself and not others, so delving into her relationships was not the focus. For me as a reader, a novel focused mostly on plot and messaging makes for a REALLY GOOD read, but not a GREAT one.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama
The longest it’s taken me to read an audiobook is now six weeks! But this behemoth, with another to come (!), was worth it and did not feel like a slog at all.
What can I add to the discussion on A Promised Land!? It’s deserving of all the accolades. I found that it bounced nicely between the political and personal, and there’s something for everyone - whether it’s foreign policy, environmental issues, or family life in the White House. Obama moves seamlessly through myriad of subject matter.
I am always glad to listen to the audiobook when the author narrates, and the emotion comes through in this memoir. I was especially moved when he talks about climate, as well as the anecdote about coaching his daughter’s basketball team.
I think I enjoyed Becoming a smidge more, probably because I could identify with Michelle more easily. But I miss Mom and Dad equally, and it was a joy to listen to his soothing ‘everything is gonna be okay voice’ for the last months of 2020. 

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
“You don’t have to explain anything to me,” she would say. “it’s your life.”
“But it’s not,” Stella would say. “None of it belongs to me.“
“Well, you chose it,” Loretta would tell her. “So that makes it yours.“
Last book review from 2020! And this is one of the reasons why I do not post my favorites of the year until well into January.
I was quite confident that I was going to love The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. The Mothers landed on my favorite books of 2016 - I even got to meet the author and get my book signed that year! And, of course, all of the reviews are glowing, rightly so.
The story of twin light-skinned Black women, one deciding to ‘pass’ as white, and how it reverberates with their daughters was propulsive, gorgeously written, and so thought-provoking. What does it even mean to be white? Aren’t we all playing a part in our daily lives? The way Bennett layers these ideas with each and every character is fantastic. I don’t know how much more praise I can add to the pile other than to absolutely recommend picking it up, and share another favorite quote...
“Her death hit in waves. Not a flood, but water lapping steadily at her ankles. You could drown in two inches of water. Maybe grief was the same.”

12.02.2020

November Book Reviews

 


The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
I blew through The Duke and I - it was the PERFECT brain candy distraction to take breaks from the real world. I really enjoyed the witty banter, the plot took some interesting turns before the happy ever after, and I thought it was interesting timing to read a fictional account of someone overcoming a stutter when we just elected Joe Biden. I can’t wait to devour more and watch the adaptation on Netflix!

Here is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan
Thank you to Little Brown for an early complementary copy of Here is the Beehive! I went into this book blind, and was pleasantly surprised to see that it’s written in verse. The writing technique is not something I seek out, but when I do read books structured this way, I inevitably find them so compelling.The pages flew by quickly not only because the words are sparse, but they packed quite a punch. I’m usually averse to books that delve into infidelity, as most seem to romanticize it in some way, rather than frame it as what I consider to be the lazy way out of a relationship, and a lazy way to create drama. This novel contains zero romance, and is actually a fascinating take on what might be inside the head of someone making such self destructive decisions. It is definitely not a cheery holiday read, as it kept getting slightly more awful as things progressed! But there was something so hypnotic and propulsive in the way Crossan structured the book. It felt reminiscent of the first season of Fleabag, in that truths are eventually dropped in your lap like a bomb. I do love a good ‘WHOA!’ in a book, or several, even if it is sorta terrible. I definitely recommend giving it a read if you don’t have a problem with “unlikeable” complex characters, and it can literally be done in a day or two - perfect for hitting those EOY reading goals.

The Self Driven Child by Stixrud and Johnson
I put a hold on The Self Driven Child pre-library closure and it came in the other week. I guess I was a glutton for punishment by going ahead and reading it, whilst we are all dealing with unprecedented learning challenges for our kids. Right now it’s pretty hard to be hands-off when grades, assignments, etc. are in our face constantly with systems in place to send updates while remote learning. 
Nevertheless, even if I read this pre-Covid, I still took the insights from this book with a huge grain of salt. Yes, I don’t interfere with my kids school work, they communicate with their teachers directly, and I let them fail while it is safe for them to do so. But, if they DO fail there are consequences beyond ‘natural consequences’. If my kids are not meeting our expectations on grades, they lose privileges. For the most part, this has motivated them and I don’t have to do it as often anymore. But to get to the point where you let them fail out of school altogether, instead of guiding them through failing grades seems over the top. I definitely agree with the scientific fact that it makes kids feel more self-sufficient when they do things for themselves, but for my family, I feel there is room for guidance.
And as much scientific evidence given about self-sufficiency in this book, there is a glaring lack of the data on children who fail out of high school or college and what that means for their future. Most of the rosy anecdotal stories used as examples, of kids turning things around after major failure, are statistically not the norm.
There are certainly great takeaways to be had, and it was a good reminder that grades are not the end all/be all of their future happiness. Also, not every approach fits every child. It’s also worth remembering that we as parents are the expert on our own kids.

Shit, Actually by Lindy West
After listening to a spate of audiobooks with heavier subject matter, I was SO PUMPED to finally get the new book by Lindy West from Libro.fm. I think she was also glad to get around to writing some lighter fare after taking on harassment (Shrill) and the patriarchy (The Witches are Coming). To be sure, those books still made me laugh, but with a large amount of righteous anger.
Sh*t, Actually is just straight up cackling over her spot on movie critiques. I love how she can totally rip apart a plot, but still have love for a film. She still finds comfort in Harry Potter audiobooks, but can still laugh about Dumbledore needing a put-outer when there are wands, or that there are ZERO grandparents in the wizarding world.
It’s totally in line with the way my husband and I watch movies, with a lot of fun and skepticism. (We agree heartily on her Twilight hot takes, especially the plot holes specific to the PNW, and yet we rewatch the series every year with glee.)
When she details her first time viewing of Terminator 2 without having seen the original, I had to pull my car over because I was cry laughing. Why would we put a limit on how fast a liquid metal man can run???
OK, I’ll stop giving away my favorite parts. If you have ever seen a movie in your life, this book is for you! Even if you’ve not seen the films she covers. I have never seen The Santa Clause and that chapter was just as entertaining as the ones about movies I’ve seen and loved, or seen and hated!

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
Even though I think ACOWAR could have been half as long, and I got a little lost amongst all of the politics and trying to remember characters from the previous books, this was still a delightfully fast read. Who doesn’t love a good Hero’s Journey tale? Maas writes such vibrant characters and world building. I definitely plan to breeze through A Court of Frost and Starlight this holiday!

11.10.2020

October Book Reviews

 


The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
Adding my praises to the pile for The Undocumented Americans. This book is an absolute must read. You think you know about the Flint water crisis? You don’t. You think you understand healthcare and immigrants? Nope. You think you know everything about 9/11? You absolutely do not. Well, unless you are an undocumented American, or have already read this book.
Villavicencio shares her personal stories and those of others as they are separated, exploited at every turn, and find defiant joy. The people in this book are absolutely Americans, contributing so much to this country and our daily lives, something that should be understood by all citizens.

Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West
“They fear our skin and we fear our power. It’s a perfect storm for destruction. Our destruction.”
This story of a murder on Chicago’s south side drew me in instantly, especially as a Chicagoan. I appreciated West’s perspective and the plotting was excellent - I was definitely surprised at a few twists and turns.
However, I think that was,in part, due to the characters being held at arms length. I never felt invested in the central relationship, Layla and Ruby’s friendship, or any other. Multiple POVs can often shed light on the dynamic between characters, but in this novel, they were all so introspective that it made each person seem like an island unto himself. There’s a lot of exclamation (!) in the actual dialogue and it felt heavy handed and angst-y, rather than nuanced and sorrowful.
I think I’d recommend this as a YA novel with it’s emphasis on plot and young people grappling with a legacy they want so desperately to break.

“It was messy. It was hard. It was wonderful, and strange, and frightening, and fragile - so fragile it hurt - and it was worth every single moment.”
As with most books I end up adoring, It’s hard to gather my thoughts about why I loved it so much. I just did, and you should read it too!
If I had to elaborate…It reminds me of how I felt when I read Circe (a cursed and timeless woman fiercely moving forward), My Name is Memory (immortal souls, melancholy, romance), The Time Traveler’s Wife (unique and magical love story full of longing), or Erin Morgenstern’s books (richly drawn love letters to art, to books).
This will fit perfectly next to those beloved books on my all time favorites shelf for all the reasons mentioned and more. Addie’s story was an unforgettable one about what matters most, to love and be loved, to be remembered.

Troubles in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand
So thankful that Little Brown sent me a gifted copy! I usually wait until December to read the Hilderbrand winter books, but this year is... different. Not gonna lie, October felt heavy. A trip to St. John was much needed and the novel delivered on all the usual things I come to expect from Hilderbrand: sense of place, dishy drama, lovable (and hate-able) characters, prose about mouthwatering food, and a heartwarming story.

Mexican Gothic by Silva Moreno-Garcia
SO pleasantly surprised by Mexican Gothic! I have seen many mixed reviews, and I have a terrible batting average with gothic novels, especially popular ones like Rebecca, but I do love Jane Eyre. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Mexican Gothic was a perfect slow burn, spooky and creepy - but not scary, with such immersive sense of place that kept me turning pages. I loved the main character Noemi and her fierce femininity. (Also, I cannot WAIT for all of the fab ‘50s costume design in the Hulu adaptation!)
As the novel comes to it’s climactic ending, it’s equally CRAZY and yet not so ridiculous of a denouement as some thrillers I have read in recent years. This book is absolute perfection for a rainy fall read to get lost in, and it actually grabbed my attention away from the news last week!!! So, I highly recommend.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
This was the pick for my local PNW bookstagrammers for October/Latinx heritage month, a sweet YA fantasy novel about a transgender boy navigating the process of becoming a part of the Brujex - people within their culture who can see and help spirits of the dead. I found the Brujo parts of the story to be fascinating, and it lent to the fraught tensions of how gender plays a role within cultural institutions, and how they can remain the same in ways that matter, while also growing with change. Although, the YA prose was pretty heavy and many scenes were drawn out unnecessarily. Several scenes that took me what seemed like ages to read were interludes that lasted mere minutes, and I am not a fan of long winded action scenes that feel like a sports play by play, which is how the book came to it's conclusion. Overall I am glad this book is out in the world though - if you are a YA fantasy fan, I would definitely recommend giving it a go.


10.06.2020

September Book Reviews

 


Sort of unpopular opinion on this one. Perhaps it was due to my super high expectations going into it - I’ve seen nothing but rave reviews, and decided to buy it for my Independent Bookstore Day purchase.
Alas... This story of a caseworker evaluating an orphanage of magical children (set in the future? The past? An alternate universe? There’s no clear indication.) was just too saccharine and vapid for my taste. The setup is exactly like X-Men, and I wish it had been similar: messy and imperfect characters instead of precious and unquestioning, real talk instead of platitudes, and real tensions when it comes to prejudice instead of a world where bigotry can be solved with a feel good bromide. IF ONLY.
For sure it’s a warm and fuzzy read, like cozy slippers and a mug of tea. Which is the PERFECT book for so many right now. So your mileage may vary! For me, it was if somebody spiked my tea with Splenda and hit me over the head with messaging.
I peeped the negative reviews on Goodreads, and many readers were fans of TJ Klune that felt disappointed with this particular novel. I definitely wouldn’t rule out reading his other books!

The Lager Queen of Minnesota  by J. Ryan Stradal
I put off reading The Lager Queen of Minnesota for too long! After adoring Kitchens of the Great Midwest, I was worried my expectations were going to be too high. I shouldn’t have worried!
This story of multiple generations of Midwest women struggling through different challenges, societal and familial, was utterly absorbing. Stradal poignantly conveys the obstacles that women and people in poverty so often encounter in our society. I love how he captures that quiet stoicism, as well as the petty grievances, that seem so prevalent and familiar to the part of the country where I come from. It resulted in laughter and heartache in equal measure while reading.
“...she wouldn’t leave the legacy she desired simply through prideful public displays, like some men did. There were advantages to a low profile. It was like a man to scratch his name on the banister of history, but Helen had come to believe that it was better to be the stairs.”

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Y’all. I absolutely get it now. This book blew my mind.
I thought I knew mostly what I was getting into, having some surface level knowledge of the unforgivable travesty of the real life Dozier School. The Nickel Boys is Whitehead’s fictional take on the life of one student and his, all too common, incarceration for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time while Black.
The story unfolds in the way I thought it would, given history and Jim Crow laws, and I put the book down to take quite a few breaks. But I’d pick it back up quickly, as I was so invested in Elwood and the other students with such vibrant personalities.
And. The. Ending. Of course I won’t spoil it, but a perfectly executed and emotionally resonant ending MAKES a book for me. Whitehead’s writing knocked my socks off. Perfectly illustrating that you don’t need flowery prose to create something so emotionally resonant. The use of a simple phrase like “this...or that” employed in different contexts throughout the novel echoes with meaning. Just.... All the stars. If you’ve been stalling on this one, hop to it.

How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
I don’t know if there is much more I can add to the conversation about how essential this topic continues to be. I appreciated Kendi’s passion in the narration of the audiobook and all of the salient points made with eye opening, detailed research while relating to his lived experience.
I will constantly be thinking about this book and the idea of lifting up individuality instead of assimilation into a fixed hierarchy, equalizing instead of ‘civilizing’, and the interconnection of racism and capitalism in our society. Absolutely a must read, but you probably knew that.

The Switch by Beth O'Leary
The Switch was a perfectly lovely little comfort read! This story of a twenty something city dweller switching lives with her nearly 80 year old grandmother was full of adorable humor and quirky characters. The romantic plots are completely transparent from the first pages, but it’s fun to see how O’Leary gets the story from A to Z. I think I liked The Flatshare a tad more, as it had much more depth than breadth. I got discombobulated a few times with who was who amongst the dozens of characters in The Switch. Still, a fluffy good time. I highly recommend this one for fans of Jenny Colgan’s books!

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
This was the one of Acevedo's three novels I had not read and it was lovely, as I expected it to be. Depending upon how you feel about YA stories, your mileage may vary. This story of a teen mom felt as if it was leaning very heavily into tropes of the genre. Obviously she's an outsider, parents are out of the picture, she has a spunky sidekick girlfriend, there's a mean girl and a love triangle with the perfect guy. But, I loved the cultural undercurrents and the way Acevedo brought intersectionality issues to light, as well as her characters to life. 












9.09.2020

August Book Reviews

 


Lovely War by Julie Berry
I usually don’t reach for historical fiction centered around a world war, as my reading experience with them tends to feel predictable and uninspired. But the buzz around Lovely War, plus a very original sounding plot device (the story is narrated by Greek gods) got my attention.
What held my attention were the adorable characters, I was really rooting for all of them, and the inclusion of Black narratives from that time period. Berry brings the story of many real historical figures into the novel, and had me googling afterwards - always an indication of a great book.
I will say that, despite the sweet and romantic storylines, it did fall into the category of a little predictable, a little tied up neatly with a bow. But it was a solid WWI historical fiction, and if you are a fan of the genre (which I think SO MANY are) this one is a must read.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Given my love for graphic memoirs, I felt like I needed to go and make up some back list titles. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (yes, of the excellent ‘Bechdel Test’) seemed like something I should absolutely read.
I knew it was adapted for the stage, and I remember the controversy around it being required summer reading for Duke University and, in my opinion, the baseless claims that it is considered pornography. I could absolutely see why it was assigned reading for new college students, given that a huge focus of Bechdel’s coming of age was at university. And, where the book lost me, it almost seems like a textbook on literature and philosophy.
The sections of the book where Alison delves into her family relationships, especially with her mother and her father, absolutely grabbed my attention and I found them heartbreaking and fascinating. But, for long swaths of the book, especially near the end, she becomes tedious drawing so many literary parallels. I really think I’ve had my fill of learning about Proust. Perhaps not for an incoming freshman, though?
I’m glad I read it, and I’m glad for more LGBTQIA+ literature getting attention. Just not my cuppa.

Check Please by Ngozi Ukazu
Caved to a non-memoir graphic novel I’ve been seeing alllllll over bookstagram! Check Please was super cute, fluffy, palate cleansing brain candy. I thought the main character Bitty was adorable and compelling (and he inspired me to finally start baking with our blueberry picking haul) but I really wasn’t wowed by the book overall. 
I did appreciate the point that cis-gender bro dudes being young, silly and fun can also be smart, empathetic, accepting and kind.
I would say that this would definitely be a great pick for the intended YA audiences! 

What We Carry by Maya Shanbhag Lang
One of the things I love about memoirs is how I automatically hone in on how my personal experiences relate to the author. I suppose that’s true of ALL books, but memoirs are special in this way. There was SO MUCH I could relate to in What We Carry - mostly about our relationships with, and expectations, of our mothers and as mothers. What are the stories we tell each other? Tell ourselves?
It was heartbreaking, affirming, and really a book that can be helpful during this sh*tshow of a world we live in - there is much to chew on about how the unexpected or unasked for can make us stronger, more the person we’re meant to be.
I could also strongly identify with her fitness routine being that time to connect with herself, time not spent taking care of others. I, too, tend to push myself, and it’s a good reminder that health is more important than fitness and I need to care for my body for the long haul.

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams
I REALLY enjoyed this novel! It has perfect summer vibes, vacationing with the wealthy on an exclusive east coast island. And throw in an innocent girl, a big ol’ family estate, and a murder for a Gothic mystery feel.
The narrative told in three different timelines (1930, 1951, and 1969) perfectly converged to keep me turning pages until the heart pounding conclusion. Some reveals I saw coming, but there were still perfectly plotted surprises.
If you’re looking for a beach read to squeeze into the last days of summer, this is a PERFECT choice.

Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand
It is September, and school has started, but it is still summer and I’m going to keep cramming summer reads until the 21st!
I finished Summerland over the weekend, and oh my heart.
She tackles heavy stuff in all of her books, but this one felt even more so. TW, especially for parents, it is about two families and how they navigate loss of a child - an infant in one family, a teen in another. Understandably, the frothy factor is dialed down compared with her other books. But the characters, in all of their heartbreaking fallibility, are as endearing as always. I flew through this novel, hoping for their happy ever afters and it tied together perfectly.


8.06.2020

July Book Reviews


The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare
 I was excited to see what all the fuss was about with The Duchess Deal and to read my first regency romance. Maybe my expectations were sky high, but I ended up skimming quite a bit.
There is definitely comfort in the predictability of reading romance, which must always end happily, but the journey to that end should keep me engaged. I just felt as if I knew how every single moment in this book would play out and got bored real quick. I also think the idea of using Shakespearean insults has been done already, and I certainly give points for humor on that score... to Shakespeare. I do think the main characters banter was fun, and it made me chuckle.
If anyone has a good regency romance to recommend that might fit a less predictable pattern, please do let me know! I might try reading the Bridgerton books/The Duke and I before the Netflix show comes out...

What You Wish For by Katherine Center
Thank you to St. Martin's Press for the complimentary copy! What You Wish For delivers on what I’ve come to expect from Center’s novels: sweet, funny, romantic, lovable and poignant stories of fallible characters figuring out their lives in the face of trauma.
Last week I posted about a romance novel that felt too predictable to keep me engaged, even though familiar narratives can be comforting. In this novel, and others I’ve read by Center, I generally know where things are going to shake out by the end. But the journey to that comforting ending involved many scenarios I could not have predicted, definitely keeping me on my toes and fully engaged!
If you are new to this author, I’d say that How to Walk Away is my favorite and a great way to get hooked, and What You Wish For has a timely feel that might be inspiring during these trying times we all find ourselves in...
”Joy is an antidote to fear. To anger. To boredom. To sorrow."

All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson
Adding my praises to the pile for George M. Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue. I love that this memoir covering gender identity, sexuality, toxic masculinity, structural racism, family bonds and Black joy is geared toward a YA audience. Johnson’s family love shines through on every page, and is one of the most honest and brave memoirs I have read. Definitely recommend the audiobook, too.

I can see why people are loving The Girl with the Louding Voice.
The story of Adunni’s coming of age, while surviving all kinds of abuse and oppression, felt familiar and not terribly complex. Though the plot did not grab me, the 14 year old Nigerian village girl who longs for an education absolutely stole my heart. It was eye opening to learn more about Lagos and Nigeria alongside her. I also thought that her non-standard English narration was the most compelling and unique aspect of the novel.
Overall, I found this to be an impressive debut and look forward to more of Daré’s writing!

Snapdragon by Kat Leyh
 A wonderful middle grade graphic novel about self discovery, family, friendship, magic and inclusiveness. LGBTQ+ representation is an integral part of the narrative, which is written so seamlessly and lovingly - it just all around warmed my heart. 

Crossings by Alex Landragin
Many thanks to St. Martin's Press for the gifted ARC of Crossings by Alex Landrigan! I haven’t seen this one on the early reader bookstagram radar, and I’m surprised because it’s a wildly fun premise...
A little bit fantasy, a little bit historical fiction, and a little bit mystery that can be read in two different ways. If you read it cover to cover, it is like reading the story from three separate, subsequent perspectives. If you decide to read in the “Baroness“ sequence, directions are given at the end of every section where to turn next, giving it an alternating perspective of telling of the story (and the nostalgia of Choose Your Own Adventure books). Naturally, I chose this method and thoroughly enjoyed watching the pieces of the puzzle come together. I also thought it would be easier to skim the opposite method of reading once I was done!
I won’t say too much about the contents of the book to avoid spoilers. But it felt reminiscent of Anne Brashares novel My Name is Memory, and the more recent Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow. I love the idea of souls destined to be together across time and space.
If that, along with Paris after the turn of the century, sounds like your cup of tea, definitely check out this book!

Go to Sleep, I Miss You by Lucy Knisley
Ah, Lucy Knisley just perfectly illustrates real life with her drawing and wit in every book she writes. I feel pretty far removed from the crazy baby days with a 10 and 13 year old, but ‘Go to Sleep, I Miss You’ made all those hazy memories rise to the surface. I even got out the baby books to peruse. Short and sweet, it’s a hilariously fun read for parents of any age!

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
This was as gorgeous, haunting, and of course, lyrical as I expected it to be. Usually I share a favorite quote from a book, but with  it is IMPOSSIBLE to choose. Her novels, written in verse, carry such emotional heft and absolutely captivate with her beautiful words.
It’s good going into this story about two girls who’s lives are mirror images, and yet worlds apart, without knowing too much. The way Acevedo masterfully lays out the plot and builds incredible tension, while also clearly illustrating the effects of race, class, misogyny and the power of women despite the patriarchy, is perfection.
Run, don’t walk to pick up this book. I’d also recommend The Poet X, and I’m so glad I already have With the Fire on High in my stacks at home!