Serendipity Ten Romantic Tropes Transformed Book Review

Book Description

Love is in the air in this is a collection of stories inspired by romantic tropes and edited by #1 New York Times-bestselling author Marissa Meyer.

The secret admirer.
The fake relationship.
The matchmaker.


From stories of first love, unrequited love, love that surprises, love that’s been there all along, ten of the brightest and award-winning authors writing YA have taken on some of your favorite romantic tropes, embracing them and turning them on their heads. Readers will swoon for this collection of stories that celebrate love at its most humorous, inclusive, heart-expanding, and serendipitous.

Contributors include Elise Bryant, Elizabeth Eulberg, Leah Johnson, Anna-Marie McLemore, Marissa Meyer, Sandhya Menon, Julie Murphy, Caleb Roehrig, Sarah Winifred Searle, and Abigail Hing Wen. 

Review

Overall: I really liked the many narrators that are included throughout this audiobook as there was someone different reading each of the stories. The fact that a different narrator was used made it feel like these were all different stories as well as different characters. This is a great book for those looking for more diversity in romance stories in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. I was so pleased to find that these stories had LGBTQ+ characters in them and their stories were happy stories where they also got to fall in love. I really enjoyed that these stories were not just all about romantic love but we also get to see love through friendships.

Bye Bye, Piper Berry by Julie Murphy

Trope: Fake Dating

I loved that this story gives us a fat protagonist who thinks that he isn’t deserving of love. I loved how his best friend points out how the reason someone wouldn’t be interested has nothing to do with his size but all to do with how he views himself and how he instantly assumes no one would be romantically interested in him. This was a cute story overall.

Anyone Else but You by Leah Johnson

Trope: Stranded Together

I really do love a good enemies-to-lovers story especially one that is set in academia so this one instantly got my attention. I liked that these two characters were so different from each other which caused the constant bickering.

The Idiom Algorithm by Abigail Hing Wen

Trope: Class Warfare

This story had so much in it that it would have done better as a full-length novel. I have read books that address the differences in class when being in a romantic relationship but they always end successfully for both parties. I was surprised to see this go differently and show the reality of classism for some people especially when their family gets involved.

Auld Acquaintance by Caleb Roehrig

Trope: The Best Friend Love Epiphany

This one I wasn’t too sold on and I kind of just had it playing in the background while not paying too much attention to it.

Shooting Stars by Marissa Meyer

Trope: One Bed

This was another one in which I wasn’t too sold on the love story. I love friends to lovers and a one-bed trope but this one passed through too many days for me to follow it. Due to me not being able to follow the story it really made it so that I wasn’t into the romance.

Keagan’s Heaven on Earth by Sarah Winifred Searle

This is told in storybook format and not included in the audiobook.

Zora in the Spotlight  by Elise Bryant

Trope: Grand Romantic Gesture

I really enjoyed this one but couldn’t find where the romance was supposed to be. I just liked that this one has our main character learning to let herself be loved and to love herself.

In a Blink of the Eye by Elizabeth Eulberg

Trope: Trapped in a Confined Space

This one was great because it was about romantic love but also friend love. I liked that we get to see our main character having had feelings for Tyler and get passed up for her best friend so she turns her feelings into hatred. I love seeing how she gets over that and they become friends because of how much Tyler loves his girlfriend and our main character loves her best friend.

Liberty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Trope: The Makeover

This was one of my favorites and not just because of the sapphic relationship but so much because of the main characters. I really enjoyed how this one points out how our main character feels like she doesn’t fit in because of her Latinx characteristics and then we see how Camilla doesn’t feel like she belongs because she is a Lesbian. It was great to see how their relationship develops over a short period of time and how that helps them learn to love themselves.

The Surprise Match by Sandhya Menon

Trope: Matchmaker

This one was just okay for me even if I felt bad for the character playing matchmaker as she puts everyone before her. This kind of tends to be a theme in a lot of these stories in which a friend is included.

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A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi Book Review

Book Description

Set against the backdrop of Karachi, Pakistan, Saadia Faruqi’s middle grade novel tells the story of two girls navigating a summer of change and family upheaval.

Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she wishes to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal.

The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen?

Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most. 

Review

CW: Classism, Poverty, Chronic Illness (Diabetes), absent father, theft

Thoughts and Themes: I picked this one up at the library but it was taking a while for me to get into it so I tried it as an audiobook and really enjoyed it. I like that the audiobook has two distinct voices for each of the girls which makes it easier to tell them apart.

There was a lot that I really enjoyed about this book but my favorite are the scenes in which Sakina and Mimi are teaching each other about their culture. I love how Sakina is hesitant at first to allow Mimi into her world and how Mimi doesn’t understand why Sakina responded to her in a way she deemed rude. I liked when Sakina would ask Mimi things about America and Mimi got to explain what was familiar to her and felt like she belonged somewhere.

I also really enjoyed the moments in which Mimi realized how different Sakina’s life was from her and the different expectations that were put on each of them. I also like that both of the girls are keeping things from their families and they trust each other with this information. It was nice getting to see them talk each other through things that they were struggling with.

Characters: This book centers around our two main characters, Sakina and Mimi, and through them you get to meet several other characters in this book. You get to meet both of their families as well as some other people they interact with while they are both navigating Pakistan.

I really liked getting to know both of our main characters and liked reading as their friendship develops. I thought it was great that at first they both needed something from each other which is why they were speaking to each other but that develops into more. I thought it was great that Mimi felt like she could open up to Sakina and share her feelings with her.

I also do enjoy getting to know each of the girls apart from each other and getting to see them act their age when they are with each other. There are times in which the girls are interacting with adults that you forget that they are still kids because they have been forced to grow up quickly because of the struggles their families are going through. I liked getting to see them react like children though and get to see them allow each other feelings that were messy and complicated.

Writing Style: This book is told in the first person through the dual perspectives of Sakina and Mimi. Sakina is a girl who works for Mimi’s mother’s family in Pakistan and lives in poverty, and Mimi is an American girl who is visiting her rich grandparents in Pakistan. I really enjoyed getting the chance to see this story unfold through both of their perspectives because when you first start reading you think that they are so different from each other and come from two different worlds. It isn’t until you keep reading and get to see them interact that you realize that they have some things in common.

Author Information

Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. She writes the children’s early reader series “Yasmin” published by Capstone and other books for children, including middle grade novels “A Place At The Table” (HMH/Clarion 2020) co-written with Laura Shovan, and “A Thousand Questions” (Harper Collins 2020). She has also written “Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan” a short story collection for adults and teens. Saadia is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose, and was featured in Oprah Magazine in 2017 as a woman making a difference in her community. She resides in Houston, TX with her husband and children.

How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days by K.M. Jackson Book Review

Book Description

Bethany Lu Carlisle is devastated when the tabloids report actor Keanu Reeves is about to tie the knot. What?! How could the world’s perfect boyfriend and forever bachelor, Keanu not realize that making a move like this could potentially be devastating to the equilibrium of…well…everything! Not to mention, he’s never come face to face with the person who could potentially be his true soulmate—her.
 
Desperate to convince Keanu to call off the wedding, Lu and her ride-or-die BFF Truman Erikson take a wild road trip to search for the elusive Keanu so that Lu can fulfill her dream of meeting her forever crush and confess her undying love. From New York to Los Angeles, Lu and True get into all sorts of sticky situations. Will Lu be able to find Keanu and convince him she’s the one for him? Or maybe she’ll discover true love has been by her side all along…

Review

Thoughts and Themes: After reading The Love Hypothesis all I wanted to do was read more romance book so I was happy to see this was a choice for BOTM. I also decided to put it on hold with audiobook since I know I prefer to read romance books in that format.

Throughout the whole story I didn’t really buy that there was anything between True and Bethany which made the romance portion strange for me. The only reason I knew that feelings were there was because of how often True would point out his feelings and then how Bethany began to question her feelings for him.

The portion of this book where Bethany is chasing after Keanu was a bit hilarious but also at times it was just too much. Her obsession with him felt a lot like reading a teenage girl obsessed with a celebrity and like Bethany just needed to grow up.

Characters: In this book you get to meet Bethany and True along with some side characters that you meet through their interactions with our main characters. I liked getting to know Bethany and found her obsession with Keanu really funny. I thought it was great to see

I really wished we got to know more about True than what we got from him. I wanted more of who he is and his backstory but we didn’t get much about him. I felt that the pieces that we got from him were just him being sexually attracted to Bethany and that was all. I didn’t get the sense that he loved her even if he kept saying that he did.

The problem with this one for me was the I wasn’t really invested in any of the characters. I was listening to both of their point of views but I wasn’t rooting for them. We know what will happen right from the start but at no point did I care for Bethany and True’s relationship. I didn’t really buy Bethany and True’s relationship throughout the book, I didn’t even see them as such close friends. I didn’t buy their friendship at all so it was hard to believe the friends to lovers plot line.

I was a lot more invested in Bethany and Dawn’s relationship than the love story in this book. I loved the parts where these two got together. I loved how supportive they are of each other and I loved how these two pick at each other when it is needed. I thought that their relationship was perfect and was just what they needed from each other.

Writing Style: This book is told in first person with dual point of view from Bethany and True. I loved having both of their perspectives in the story as we got to see how each of them were feeling about each other. I liked that we got to see how they felt about the things that were going on but I do wish that we got more chapters from True’s point of view.

Author Information

USA Today bestselling author and native New Yorker Kwana Jackson aka K.M Jackson spent her formative years on the A train where she had two dreams: (1) to be a fashion designer and (2) to be a writer. After spending more than ten years designing women’s sportswear for various fashion houses, Kwana took a leap of faith and decided to pursue her other dream of being a writer. A longtime advocate of equality and diversity in romance (#WeNeedDiverseRomance), Kwana is the mother of twins and currently lives in a suburb of New York with her husband. When not writing she can be found on Twitter @kwanawrites, on Facebook at facebook.com/KmJacksonAuthor, and on her website at www.kmjackson.com.

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao Book Review

Book Description

Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes.

Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries everything to forget him and the tragic way he died. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces back memories. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail.

And Sam picks up the phone.

In a miraculous turn of events, Julie’s been given a second chance at goodbye. The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam’s voice makes her fall for him all over again, and with each call it becomes harder to let him go. However, keeping her otherworldly calls with Sam a secret isn’t easy, especially when Julie witnesses the suffering Sam’s family is going through. Unable to stand by the sidelines and watch their shared loved ones in pain, Julie is torn between spilling the truth about her calls with Sam and risking their connection and losing him forever.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I kept starting this one and putting it down because of all the hype around it on booktok. I was also kind of worried that this one would make me cry and was waiting to get it on audiobook. I’m glad that I waited for this one on audio because I think it adds a whole other layer to the story.

Throughout this book something that I was always wondering was if all of this was in Julie’s head. I was wondering if any of this was really happening or if it was a dream, even after Julie shares with Mika about Sam, I still wondered if it was real.

The ending of this story just shattered my heart but I can’t tell you all about that or else it would ruin this whole story. It just closed really nicely and just was like a warm hug after putting you through the heartbreak of this whole book.

Characters: I loved each of the characters in this book as it is hard not to. You get to know our main character, Julie throughout the book as well as some of her friends through their interactions with her. You also get to briefly know Sam through Julie’s interactions with him.

I liked how you got to see each of these characters deal with grief in their own ways. I thought it was great to see how grief shows itself differently for everyone. I also loved the way that we got to see Sam grieve the loss of his own life. I thought this was really important to the story because it allows all the other characters to mourn his life alongside him.

Writing Style: This story is told in first person through the perspective of Julia. I thought it was great to hear everything from her perspective because its like you are escaping into a world that Sam made just for Julie.

Author Information

Dustin Thao is a Vietnamese American writer based in New York City. He graduated from Amherst College with a B.A. in Political Science, and is currently in a PhD program at Northwestern University. He writes contemporary fiction, and his debut novel You’ve Reached Sam will be published November 2021 with Wednesday Books.

Her Honor Book Review

Book Description

In Her Honor, Judge LaDoris Hazzard Cordell provides a rare and thought-provoking insider account of our legal system, sharing vivid stories of the cases that came through her courtroom and revealing the strengths, flaws, and much-needed changes within our courts.

Judge Cordell, the first African American woman to sit on the Superior Court of Northern California, knows firsthand how prejudice has permeated our legal system. And yet, she believes in the system. From ending school segregation to legalizing same-sex marriage, its progress relies on legal professionals and jurors who strive to make the imperfect system as fair as possible.

Her Honor is an entertaining and provocative look into the hearts and minds of judges. Cordell takes you into her chambers where she haggles with prosecutors and defense attorneys and into the courtroom during jury selection and sentencing hearings. She uses real cases to highlight how judges make difficult decisions, all the while facing outside pressures from the media, law enforcement, lobbyists, and the friends and families of the people involved.

Cordell’s candid account of her years on the bench shines light on all areas of the legal system, from juvenile delinquency and the shift from rehabilitation to punishment, along with the racial biases therein, to the thousands of plea bargains that allow our overburdened courts to stay afloat―as long as innocent people are willing to plead guilty. There are tales of marriages and divorces, adoptions, and contested wills―some humorous, others heartwarming, still others deeply troubling.

Her Honor is for anyone who’s had the good or bad fortune to stand before a judge or sit on a jury. It is for true-crime junkies and people who vote in judicial elections. Most importantly, this is a book for anyone who wants to know what our legal system, for better or worse, means to the everyday lives of all Americans.

Review

Thank you to Celadon Books for the gifted copy.

Thoughts and Themes: I was a bit worried when I got this book because the law doesn’t really interest me but I grabbed it on audio and am so glad that I did. This book covers so many different topics within the judicial system and also walks you through her journey through different roles.

I really enjoyed learning about the different laws that govern our country and also liked learning about the history of some of these laws. I think that each section in this book taught you something different.

When I think about this book there is so much to talk about because of all that I learned while listening to this book. I had to pause at moments to follow along with a physical copy of the book to make sure I was understanding what was being said. I also paused at moments since there were some funny cases and there were also some cases that warmed my heart. I loved hearing her thoughts on the name change cases that she worked on and how she handled Transgender name changes in a different manner than others for the protection of the individual and to spare them the embarrassment. I loved learning that Judge Cordell saw her cases as people and not just a case that was coming through her court.

Writing Style: This is a non-fiction story and the audiobook is read by the author which is something that I always enjoy. I really enjoyed how this book gives us parts of Judge Cordell’s cases but also informs us of the laws pertaining to those cases that are being discussed.

Author Information

From Judge Cordell’s website:

A 1971 graduate of Antioch College and a 1974 graduate of Stanford Law School, LaDoris Hazzard Cordell was the first lawyer to open a private law practice in East Palo Alto. In 1978, she was appointed Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at Stanford Law School, where she implemented a successful minority admissions program.

In 1982, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Ms. Cordell to the Municipal Court of Santa Clara County, making her the first African American woman judge in northern California. In 1988, Judge Cordell won election to the Superior Court of Santa Clara County. 

After 19 years on the bench, she retired and began employment at Stanford University as Vice Provost & Special Counselor to the President for Campus Relations until 2009.

In November 2003, Judge Cordell, accepting no monetary donations, ran a grassroots campaign and won a 4-year term on the Palo Alto City Council. 

Judge Cordell has been an on-camera legal analyst for CBS-5 television and a guest commentator on Court TV, The Week with Joshua Johnson on MSNBC, and The Mehdi Hasan Show on MSNBC. She has also interviewed several public figures before live audiences at the Commonwealth Club and at Stanford University. Her interviewees have included rapper Talib Kweli, reality TV star Kim Kardashian, New York Times columnist David Brooks, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, tennis star Billie Jean King, Professor Anita Hill, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, President Obama’s Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes, Caitlyn Jenner, and Jesse Jackson.  

Judge Cordell was the Independent Police Auditor for the City of San Jose for five years (2010-2015), having been appointed to that position after a national search. Under her leadership, that office gained national prominence.

In 2014, Judge Cordell chaired the Task Force on Racial Discrimination at San Jose State University in the aftermath of the racial bullying of an African American student. The Task Force made numerous recommendations to improve the racial atmosphere at the university.

In 2015, Judge Cordell was appointed Chairperson of the Blue Ribbon Commission that reviewed the conditions in the jails in Santa Clara County. Under her leadership, the Commission put forward several recommendations to improve the operation of the jails.

In 2015, Judge Cordell served on a Blue Ribbon Panel that reviewed operations of the San Francisco Police Departments and made recommendations after the racist texting scandal involving several San Francisco Police officers came to light.

In 2020, Judge Cordell conducted an audit of the Public Safety Services Department of Santa Clara University in the aftermath of a racial incident that went viral, involving a Black female professor and campus officers. All of her recommendations to improve the Public Safety Services Department were adopted by the university.  

In 2020, Judge Cordell was appointed to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Innocence Commission to review cases of individuals who claim to have been wrongly convicted.

Judge Cordell and the ACLU of Northern California led the successful fight to lift the residents-only restriction for admission to the City of Palo Alto’s Foothills Park. She is the co-founder of CA Parks for All:https://www.caparksforall.org/advocate

She was inducted into Stanford University’s Multicultural Hall of Fame in 2016 and received the Chief Justice Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award from the ACLU of Northern California. In 2017, Judge Cordell was inducted into the Silicon Valley Black Legends Hall of Fame and received the Crystal Gavel Award from the California Association of Black Lawyers’ Judicial Section.

Judge Cordell was featured in The Resistance issue of SF Magazine, February 2017: https://medium.com/@sanfranmag/the-resistance-2716cbd2fa24#.1t1jifkdc

She is the co-founded the African American Composer Initiative whose mission is to bring the music of Black composers, past and present to the world, and is a vocalist, pianist, and artist: www.aacinitiative.org

On October 5, 2021, Judge Cordell’s memoir titled Her Honor will be released by Celadon Books; a division of Macmillan Publishing: https://celadonbooks.com/book/her-honor

Judge Cordell is the mother of two daughters. She resides in Palo Alto with her partner Florence O. Keller.

On The Hook Book Review

Book Description

“You know I’m coming. You’re dead already.”

Hector has always minded his own business, working hard to make his way to a better life someday. He’s the chess team champion, helps the family with his job at the grocery, and teaches his little sister to shoot hoops overhand.

Until Joey singles him out. Joey, whose older brother, Chavo, is head of the Discípulos gang, tells Hector that he’s going to kill him: maybe not today, or tomorrow, but someday. And Hector, frozen with fear, does nothing. From that day forward, Hector’s death is hanging over his head every time he leaves the house. He tries to fade into the shadows — to drop off Joey’s radar — to become no one.

But when a fight between Chavo and Hector’s brother Fili escalates, Hector is left with no choice but to take a stand.

The violent confrontation will take Hector places he never expected, including a reform school where he has to live side-by-side with his enemy, Joey. It’s up to Hector to choose whether he’s going to lose himself to revenge or get back to the hard work of living.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: This isn’t the type of book that I would normally pick up just based on the cover of it. I’m really glad that I got sent this book and decided to listen to it on audio because I really did enjoy this book. This book was heavy in everything that it covered but it was also really a great story.

I really enjoyed the pacing of this book as the beginning of it set up the background for the story and then suddenly there is a shift and the story changes not just in theme but also in the mood. I think this is a great book for middle school students and its great to start many different and difficult conversations.

Something else that I really enjoyed in this book was the villain because there is more than one villain in this book. There is obviously the villain that we all know in Joey but then there is the villain that Hector becomes to himself. In his ploy for revenge, Hector becomes a villain to himself and gets trapped lost in his feelings of anger and his need for revenge.

Something else that I really enjoyed about this book is the way that it shows how hard it is for BIPOC to get away from violence regardless of the life they lead. I thought it was great that we see how everyone constantly points out how Hector is a good student and a good son. I thought them constantly pointing this out but having others ignore it and even Hector forget this about himself added to the story and the pain that you feel for this family. This book shows how sometimes we have false perceptions of youth who end up incarcerated or in reform schools.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with Hector. You get to meet some of Hector’s friends and family briefly, and then you get to meet Joey, and some of the people at Furmon Academy.

I really liked the different interactions that Hector has at Furmon Academy with all the different people that he gets to meet. I liked that we got to see a different side to hector through his time there and how different people change the course of actions that he takes. I thought it was great to see how the older generation had an impact on him and also the impact that this place was having on Joey.

Writing Style: This story is told in third person with the focus being on Hector. I liked that the narrator was telling us what was happening instead of hearing everything first hand from Hector. I think having the narrator see and tell all was a good way for this book to be told because we get to feel for each of the characters and not just Hector. I also think that this method allows the reader to take a step back though which sometimes isn’t always a good thing. I think its important that while this book is fictional, we remember that this is the life of many BIPOC youth.

Author Information

Francisco X. Stork was born in Mexico. He moved to El Paso Texas with his adoptive father and mother when he was nine. He attended Spring Hill College, Harvard University and Columbia Law School. He worked as an attorney for thirty-three years before retiring in 2015. He is married and has two grown children and four beautiful grandkids. He loves to discover new books and authors. His favorite books are those where the author’s soul touches his. He does not read reviews to his books so you should feel free to write whatever you want. Also, he is genuinely interested in learning about books and life from his friends on this site. He would love it if you find his books worthy to be read, but that’s not why he wants to be your friend.

Obie is Man Enough by Schuyler Bailar Book Review

Book Description

 coming-of-age story about transgender tween Obie, who didn’t think being himself would cause such a splash. For fans of Alex Gino’s George and Lisa Bunker’s Felix Yz.

Obie knew his transition would have ripple effects. He has to leave his swim coach, his pool, and his best friends. But it’s time for Obie to find where he truly belongs.

As Obie dives into a new team, though, things are strange. Obie always felt at home in the water, but now he can’t get his old coach out of his head. Even worse are the bullies that wait in the locker room and on the pool deck. Luckily, Obie has family behind him. And maybe some new friends too, including Charlie, his first crush. Obie is ready to prove he can be one of the fastest boys in the water–to his coach, his critics, and his biggest competition: himself.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I am always happy to see Trans books that are written by Trans people and especially when those books are meant for a younger group. I love that this book is written for middle grade and gives the experience of being Trans in middle school.

First off, I did find this book challenging to read at times as a Trans person as it does include instances of bullying and Transphobia both by Obie’s peers and adults in his life. While these parts are difficult to read, I did think that they are important topics that this book addresses. I think that the book portrays this in realistic ways and shows how difficult it could be for a Trans person to just exist much less thrive.

There was so much that I really enjoyed in this story and I am so glad that it exists for the younger generation. I loved that the author points out that there is no one way to be transgender and how this is only one story about a Transgender youth. I also like how the author constantly tells the reader through the story and in the author’s note to make sure we aren’t using other people’s words against ourselves.

Characters: In this story you are introduced to several characters through their interactions with Obie. You get to meet some people who are supportive in Obie’s life as well as others who are not as supportive.

I really liked the relationship that we get to see between Obie and each member of his family. I liked how each member of his family supports him and each of them are able to help him in different aspects of his life. I loved seeing how Obie would rely on his brother for relationship advice and loved how Jae-sung supports him through his first relationship.

I also loved the relationship between Obie and Charlie, and how Charlie was just so willing to learn. While I hated that Obie was outed to Charlie, I do like Charlie’s response in that moment and how she is able to walk Obie through that moment while allowing him to also have mixed feelings about it.

Writing Style: This story is written in first person and is told through Obie’s perspective. I really liked that we get to see everything through his point of view and follow along as he experiences different things.

Author Information

Schuyler is the first trans athlete to compete in any sport on an NCAA D1 men’s team, and the only to have competed for all four years. He is an internationally-celebrated inspirational speaker and a respected advocate for inclusion, body acceptance, and mental health awareness.

Schuyler graduated from Harvard College in May 2019 with a degree in Cognitive Neuroscience and Evolutionary Psychology. His studies focused on social emotional learning, emotional intelligence, and education. He is a tireless advocate for inclusion through speaking engagements and social media. Schuyler also holds on-going advisory roles with Monte Nido & Affiliates (the leading eating disorder treatment provider), USA Swimming, the Harvard Medical School Primary Care Review – among others – and is a research assistant at Harvard University.

When We Make It by Elisabet Velasquez Book Review

Book Description

An unforgettable young adult debut novel-in-verse that redefines what it means to make it, touching on themes of mental illness, sexual assault, food insecurity and gentrification, in the Nuyorican literary tradition of Nicholasa Mohr and the work of contemporary writer Elizabeth Acevedo.

Sarai is a first-generation Puerto Rican eighth grader who can see with clarity the truth, pain, and beauty of the world both inside and outside her Bushwick apartment. Together with her older sister Estrella, she navigates the strain of family traumas and the systemic pressures of toxic masculinity and housing insecurity in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn. Sarai questions the society around her, her Boricua identity, and the life she lives with determination and an open heart, learning to celebrate herself in a way that she has been denied.

When We Make It is a love letter to girls who were taught to believe they would not make it at all. The verse is evocative and insightful, and readers are sure to be swept into Sarai’s world and rooting for her long after they close the book.

Review

Thank You to Penguin Random House for the advanced copy of this book as well as the finished copy so that I am able to review.

Thoughts and Themes: I really enjoy reading books in verse because of how different the stories go and how much emotion can be packed in. I like how Sarai is questioning so many of the things around her in this book and her place amongst everything and everyone.

I really liked how this story took you around the places Sarai was living in but also introduced you to her culture. I liked getting introduced to her culture through each verse and learning more about her and her family.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with Sarai. You get to meet her mother, sister, and some of the other adults who briefly are in her life. While each character is introduced to you briefly, I think you get a good image of the role that everyone plays in Sarai’s life.

I really liked getting to know Sarai through the whole book and how she thinks of the world and of others. I also liked getting to see the relationship that Sarai has with her sister throughout this book. I thought it was great to see how she doesn’t want to be anything like her sister but she also really respects her sister. I liked that we get to see both Sarai and her sister’s relationship with their mother but also how far away their mother is from them emotionally.

Writing Style: This book is written in prose and I really liked that choice. I liked how none of the pieces were long and it gave you the sense of how Sarai was always going from one place to the next physically or emotionally. There were so many pieces that I really enjoyed in this book and it was just great to be able to explore Sarai’s world through poetry.

Author Information

ELISABET VELASQUEZ is a Brooklyn Born Boricua.

She is a mother of two.

Her poems are an exploration of her life. 

Velasquez has performed at Lincoln Center Out Of Doors, Pregones Theatre, Bushwick Starr Theatre, The Bowery Poetry Club, Brooklyn Museum, Museum Of Natural History, The Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Rutgers University, Williams College, Adelphi University, Pace University, Princeton University, James Madison University, Harvard University and The Amber Rose Slut Walk 2017. 

Her work has been featured on  TIDALNBC, Now This, Huffington Post, Latina Magazine, Vibe Magazine, Muzzle MagazineCentro Voces. She is a VONA Alum, 2017 Poets House Fellow. She is the winner of Button Poetry’s 2017 Poetry Video Contest. She is a 2019 Frost Place Fellow. Her work is forthcoming in the anthology : WHAT SAVES US Poems of Empathy and Outrage In The Age Of Trump edited by Martin Espada.

Things We Couldn’t Say by Jay Coles Blog Tour Post

Book Description

Title: Things We Couldn’t Say 

Author: Jay Coles 

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Publication Date: September 21st, 2021

Genres: Young Adult Contemporary 

Synopsis:

From one of the brightest and most acclaimed new lights in YA fiction, a fantastic new novel about a bi Black boy finding first love . . . and facing the return of the mother who abandoned his preacher family when he was nine.

There’s always been a hole in Gio’s life. Not because he’s into both guys and girls. Not because his father has some drinking issues. Not because his friends are always bringing him their drama. No, the hole in Gio’s life takes the shape of his birth mom, who left Gio, his brother, and his father when Gio was nine years old. For eight years, he never heard a word from her . . . and now, just as he’s started to get his life together, she’s back.

It’s hard for Gio to know what to do. Can he forgive her like she wants to be forgiven? Or should he tell her she lost her chance to be in his life? Complicating things further, Gio’s started to hang out with David, a new guy on the basketball team. Are they friends? More than friends? At first, Gio’s not sure . . . especially because he’s not sure what he wants from anyone right now.

There are no easy answers to love — whether it’s family love or friend love or romantic love. In Things We Couldn’t Say, Jay Coles, acclaimed author of Tyler Johnson Was Here, shows us a guy trying to navigate love in all its ambiguity — hoping at the other end he’ll be able to figure out who is and who he should be. 

Book links

Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Book Depository ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound ~ Indigo

Review

Thank You to Colored Pages Tours for having me on this blog tour for the book Things we Couldn’t Say by Jay Coles. Check our the tour schedule here.

Thoughts and Themes: There was so much that I really enjoyed about this story. There is not enough stories about bisexual boys and I loved that in this story both the main character and David are bisexual. This story handles a lot of different things, from Gio figuring out his sexuality to him dealing with his feelings about his mother abandoning him when he was younger.

I also really liked the different mental health issues that are brought up through this story. There was a lot going on for both Gio and his brother, Theo when it comes to their mental health and I liked how that was a part of the story. We got to see them have real emotions and I loved that everyone around them took those emotions seriously. I liked that Gio was given permission by those around him to be vulnerable with them and how important that vulnerability was for him to be able to cope with what was happening in his life.

Characters: In this story you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with Gio. You get to meet Gio’s younger brother, Theo, his best friends, Ayesha and Olly, the love interest, David, and Gio’s step mother, dad, and birth mom.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between Gio and his younger brother and how protective he is of him. I also liked how Theo develops throughout this story and how essential he is to the development of Gio. I like how they discuss their feelings with each other and help each other navigate their mom trying to come back into their lives after abandoning them.

I really liked the friendship that Gio has with Ayesha and Olly, and then eventually develops with David. I like how they all keep things real with each other an dhow Gio feels like he can trust his friends with his feelings. I like how we get to see a friendship develop between Gio and David before a romance plot is even explored.

Writing Style: This story is written in first person through Gio’s perspective which was something that I enjoyed. I liked that the story allowed you to be inside of Gio’s head at every moment. This perspective allowed you to feel for Gio and also understand why he was acting certain ways with different people.

Author Information

JAY COLES is the author of critically acclaimed TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE, a composer with ASCAP, and a professional musician residing in Muncie, Indiana. He is a graduate of Vincennes University and Ball State University and holds degrees in English and Liberal Arts. When he’s not writing diverse books, he’s advocating for them, serving with The Revolution church, and composing music for various music publishers. Jay’s forthcoming novel THINGS WE COULDN’T SAY is set to be released 9.21.21 with Scholastic! His novels can be purchased at Barnes and Noble or at Amazon. 

Author Links

Website ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ GoodReads ~ Tumblr

An Ordinary Wonder by Buki Papillon Book Review

Book Description

An Ordinary Wonder is a story of the courage needed to be yourself.

Oto leaves for boarding school with one plan: excel and escape his cruel home. Falling in love with his roommate was certainly not on the agenda, but fear and shame force him to hide his love and true self.

Back home, weighed down by the expectations of their wealthy and powerful family, the love of Oto’s twin sister wavers and, as their world begins to crumble around them, Oto must make drastic choices that will alter the family’s lives for ever.

Richly imagined with art, proverbs and folk tales, this moving and modern novel follows Oto through life at home and at boarding school in Nigeria, through the heartbreak of living as a boy despite their profound belief they are a girl, and through a hunger for freedom that only a new life in the United States can offer.

An Ordinary Wonder is a powerful coming-of-age story that explores complex desires as well as challenges of family, identity, gender and culture, and what it means to feel whole.

Review

I just received the finished copy of this book and got the ebook recently as well so I am about halfway through and will provide a complete review when I finish it. This review is up to the half way mark of this book as I wanted to make sure to spotlight it on my blog today.

I have yet to read any book that centers an intersex main character so that was something that this book did that I really loved. I liked that this book explores being intersex and how culture informs people’s responses to someone being born intersex.

I also really enjoy how this book explores familial love, education, gender, sexuality, belonging, culture, folklore, and more. I really like how this story goes back and forth between a few years back and the current time with Oto because we get to see what lead to the current circumstances for him.

I can’t wait to continue reading this and see what happens to our main character and what happens in his relationships with his family members. I think that was something that I really want to read more of to see if his mom and his sister change perspectives on how they feel about Oto.

Author Information

Buki Papillon was born in Nigeria, lived in the UK where she studied law at the University of Hull, and is now settled in the US, where she has learned to find inspiration in the long winters. She has in the past been a travel adviser, events host and chef.

Her debut novel, An Ordinary Wonder, is forthcoming from Pegasus Books in the US on September 7, 2021, and was published by Dialogue Books (Little, Brown UK) in March 2021. Her work has been published in Post Road Magazine and The Del Sol Review.

She graduated  with an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University. She has  received fellowships to The Key West Literary Seminars and Vermont Studio Center. She was awarded an Archie D. And Bertha. H. Walker Foundation Scholarship by the Fine Arts Work Center, and is an alumna of the VONA Voices Workshops.

In her downtime she loves taking long rambles in nature, making jewelry, cooking up a storm and, of course, epic levels of reading.

Her twitter account is @bukipapillon. Her website is http://bukipapillon.com.