Surviving Home by Katerina Canyon Book Review

Book Description

Concisely arresting and challenging the beliefs of family and the fantasies of tradition, the poems in Surviving Home show that home is a place that you endure rather than a place where you are nurtured. With unyielding cadence and unparalleled sadness and warmth, Katerina Canyon contemplates the prejudice and limitations buried in a person’s African American heritage: parents that seem to care for you with one hand and slap you with the other, the secret desires to be released from the daily burdens of life, as well as the surprising ways a child chooses to amuse herself. Finding resilience in the unexpected, this collection tears down the delicate facades of family. 

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I’ve been reading quite a bit of poetry lately so I was glad to get a chance to read this book. Each of these poems is filled with so much emotion and there were so many poems that I really enjoyed. So many of these poems captured the author’s love for their parents while also feeling betrayed by them, and expressing how those mixed emotions shaped her childhood and upbringing. There were two poems that really stood out to me and those were “My pain is sculpted into art for you to consume” and “I left out “bells and whistles” written with a little help from Webster’s dictionary”. I found that these two poems were really powerful pieces and a great addition to her story.

Writing Style: I like that Canyon used poetry to express her feelings about a lot of things from her childhood and what being Black means to her now and what it meant to her then. I like that while we are hearing about her childhood at no time do you believe that this could be told from a child’s perspective but it is rather an adult writing from painful memories. I really liked how this went from early years to later years and it took you through those moments in a chronological order. I think while each poem elicits different emotions and is a roller coaster ride, the story is tied together well.

Author Information

Katerina Canyon is an Award Winning Poet, Best Selling Author, civil rights activist, essayist, and poet. She grew up in Los Angeles and much of her writing reflects that experience.

Her first book of poetry, Changing the Lines, was released in August 2017. This work is a conversation between mother and daughter as they examine what it means to operate within the world as black women.

Katerina Canyon is a 2020 and 2019 Pushcart Prize Nominee. Her stories have been published in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and Folks. Her poetry has been published in CatheXis Northwest, The Esthetic Apostle, Into the Void, Black Napkin, and Waxing & Waning. From 2000 to 2003, she served as the Poet Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga. During that time, she started a poetry festival and ran several poetry readings. She has a B.A. in English, International Studies and Creative Writing from Saint Louis University and a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

Katerina moved to Seattle three years ago. She is currently running a civil rights campaign against police brutality. More information can be found at www.vdaycampaign.org.

Zara Hossain is Here by Sabina Khan

Book Description

Zara’s family has waited years for their visa process to be finalized so that they can officially become US citizens. But it only takes one moment for that dream to come crashing down around them.

Seventeen-year-old Pakistani immigrant, Zara Hossain, has been leading a fairly typical life in Corpus Christi, Texas, since her family moved there for her father to work as a pediatrician. While dealing with the Islamophobia that she faces at school, Zara has to lay low, trying not to stir up any trouble and jeopardize their family’s dependent visa status while they await their green card approval, which has been in process for almost nine years.

But one day her tormentor, star football player Tyler Benson, takes things too far, leaving a threatening note in her locker, and gets suspended. As an act of revenge against her for speaking out, Tyler and his friends vandalize Zara’s house with racist graffiti, leading to a violent crime that puts Zara’s entire future at risk. Now she must pay the ultimate price and choose between fighting to stay in the only place she’s ever called home or losing the life she loves and everyone in it.

From the author of the “heart-wrenching yet hopeful” (Samira Ahmed) novel, The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali, comes a timely, intimate look at what it means to be an immigrant in America today, and the endurance of hope and faith in the face of hate.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I don’t recall why I waited so long to read this book, I just know it has been on my shelves for a while before I decided to request the audiobook from my library. I’m glad that I finally got to this book because it covers a lot of important topics and I found that it handled those things quite well. There is the main plotline of this book in which a student, Tyler, is harassing Zara Hossain due to her race/ethnicity, and then there are side events that occur along with this.

This book covers Islamophobia, sexuality and religion, hate crimes, friendship, family, and more. While there is a lot going on in this book, I think that the transitions occur seamlessly and there is no moment in which you are overwhelmed with everything going on. Well you are overwhelmed because of events that happen just like the family in this story is overwhelmed but that makes you feel all the emotions of this book more.

I also really enjoy how this book discusses children following in the shoes of their parents due to their upbringing. I like how we get to see both discussions regarding this, with Zara explaining how she doesn’t agree that Tyler only did things because of his dad’s beliefs. I liked seeing how she points out how Tyler can think for himself and he only feels bad because he has gotten caught. I like that they point out how people of color are responsible for several generations when white people aren’t ever held responsible for their actions, it’s like there is always an excuse for the things that they do.

I also really like that we get to see white people’s reactions to Tyler and his actions including his attempt at an apology for his father’s actions. I thought it was important to see that alongside Zara and her family’s response as they aren’t able to just move past the events that took place. I also like that we get to see people who are on Zara’s side and those who believe her family deserved what happened. I thought it was good to see that these thoughts still exist even if people like to hide their beliefs and only let them out in microaggressions.

I really liked the way Zara has to explain why it was difficult for her to make a decision between staying in Texas or going back to Pakistan. I liked that she shows how it’s difficult regardless of what decision she makes. I think it was important that she shows if she stays in Texas she deals with racism but if she goes back to Pakistan she has to hide her sexuality and that is leaving a piece of her behind.

Characters: I really love all the characters that are introduced throughout this book as I felt that they were all well-developed and added something to the story. In this book, you get to meet several characters through their interactions with Zara. You get introduced to her family, her friends, her girlfriend, some teachers and staff at the school, as well as the kid who is bullying her.

I really loved the relationship between Chloe and Zara that you get to see developing through the beginning of the book. I liked how Zara was able to introduce Chloe to her family and they talked about coming out to their families. I also liked how both of their experiences with their queerness is different because of their family’s beliefs. I thought it was great to see Chloe try to explain how her parent’s religion dictates how they respond to things that she does. I also really like how while Zara doesn’t understand how Chloe’s religion impacts her being queer, Chloe will never understand what it’s like being a person of color.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Zara and all of the adults that are in her life. I liked seeing how much support she has from her family as well as other people in her life. I liked learning about the SJC and the instructor who is responsible for hosting them. I love the moment in which Zara’s mother defends her daughter against someone else talking about her daughter’s sexuality. I really liked how people come to Zara’s defense when it comes to her sexuality and religion, it was great to see what support should look like for LGBTQ+ youth.

Author Information

Sabina Khan is the author of the upcoming YA novel MEET ME IN MUMBAI, as well as ZARA HOSSAIN IS HERE and THE LOVE & LIES OF RUKHSANA ALI. She is an educational consultant and a karaoke enthusiast. After living in Germany, Bangladesh, Macao, Illinois and Texas, she has finally settled down in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, with her husband, two daughters and the best puppy in the world.

Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sabina_Writer
and Facebook:
www.facebook.com/SabinaKhanAuthor/
Find out more at
https://sabina-khan.com/ 

Heartbreak Symphony by Laekan Zea Kemp Book Tour Post

Book Description

Heartbreak Symphony by Laekan Zea Kemp

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance

Publishing Date: April 5, 2022

Synopsis:

Clap When You Land meets On the Come Up in this heart-gripping story about navigating first love and overcoming grief through the power of music.

Aarón Medrano has been haunted by the onstage persona of his favorite musician ever since his mother passed away. He seems to know all of Aarón’s deepest fears, like that his brain doesn’t work the way it should and that’s why his brother and father seems to be pushing him away. He thinks his ticket out is a scholarship to the prestigious Acadia School of Music. That is, if he can avoid blowing his audition.

Mia Villanueva has a haunting of her own and it’s the only family heirloom her parents left her: doubt. It’s the reason she can’t overcome her stage fright or believe that her music is worth making. Even though her trumpet teacher tells her she has a gift, she’s not sure if she’ll ever figure out how to use it or if she’s even deserving of it in the first place.

When Aarón and Mia cross paths, Aarón sees a chance to get close to the girl he’s had a crush on for years and to finally feel connected to someone since losing his mother. Mia sees a chance to hold herself accountable by making them both face their fears, and hopefully make their dreams come true. But soon they’ll realize there’s something much scarier than getting up on stage—falling in love with a broken heart.

Book Links

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

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I decided that I had to read this book as I loved the author’s debut novel. I was so pleased to find that while this book is also a romance like the first one it was significantly different but just as great. There are so many sections of this book that I highlighted on my kindle because of how these lines spoke to me.

Something that I really enjoyed about this book was how our main characters communicate with each other and the world through music. It reminded me of how I use songs to convey my feelings and sometimes only songs or books completely understand the way that I am feeling. I liked that these two main characters were able to pour themselves into music and how music shapes their lives.

Something else that I loved about this book was the way that it handled grieving and how we see different ways in which people are handling grief. I thought it was great to see both guys and girls dealing with grief, and how both Aaron and Mia lost their parents in different ways. I think because of the way that they lost their parents, the grief that they experience is different and while one of each of their parents is alive, they still are grieving because it is the loss of the parent they had before.

I really enjoyed how this book added the musician into the story and how he was an important part of Aaron’s life and grieving process. I thought it was a great way to show how everyone can have mental health issues and I loved the way he took care of himself. I don’t want to spoil that for you so I’ll let you read to see more about him.

Characters: There are several characters that you get to meet through their interactions with our main characters, Mia and Aaron. You get introduced to Mia’s siblings, friends, and family, and Aaron’s family and friends too.

I loved reading the interactions that Mia has with her brothers and how they try to heal each other. I liked getting to see how they raised her and also getting to see each of them show their grief in a different way. I really liked getting the chance to see how one of her brothers was healing through poetry but how he was still hiding and he only gets the courage to present to show her that it is possible.

I also really enjoy the theme of found family in this book which you really see through the people in the neighborhood. I loved getting the chance to meet Mr. Barrero who takes care of both Mia and Aaron when they need an adult figure in their lives. I really liked seeing how this man has shaped both of these people’s lives and how important he is to them. I also like how we get to see his back story as well to understand why he feels the way he does about Mia.

Writing Style: This story is written from a dual point of view that goes back and forth from our main characters, Aaron and Mia. I really liked getting to read this story from both of their perspectives since I think they both add different things to the story. I really liked getting to go back and forth between these two characters because they had things going on in both of their lives that weren’t intertwined with each other.

Author Information

Laekan Zea Kemp is a writer living in Austin, Texas. Her debut novel, Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet was a 2021 Pura Belpré Honor Recipient. In addition to writing she’s also the creator and host of the Author Pep Talks podcast, as well as a contributor to the Las Musas podcast. She has three objectives when it comes to storytelling: to make people laugh, cry, and crave Mexican food. Her work celebrates Chicane grit, resilience, creativity, and joy while exploring themes of identity and mental health.

Author Links

Website ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Goodreads

Tour Schedule

https://tbrandbeyondtours.com/2022/02/15/tour-schedule-heartbreak-symphony-by-laekan-zea-kemp/

Right Where I Left You by Julian Winters Book Review

Book Description

School’s out, senior year is over, and Isaac Martin is ready to kick off summer. His last before heading off to college in the fall where he won’t have his best friend, Diego. Where—despite his social anxiety—he’ll be left to make friends on his own. Knowing his time with Diego is limited, Isaac enacts a foolproof plan: snatch up a pair of badges for the epic comic convention, Legends Con, and attend his first ever Teen Pride. Just him and Diego. The way it should be. But when an unexpected run-in with Davi—Isaac’s old crush—distracts him the day tickets go on sale, suddenly he’s two badges short of a perfect summer. Even worse, now he’s left making it up to Diego by hanging with him and his gamer buddies. Decidedly NOT part of the original plan. It’s not all bad, though. Some of Diego’s friends turn out to be pretty cool, and when things with Davi start heating up, Isaac is almost able to forget about his Legends Con blunder. Almost. Because then Diego finds out what really happened that day with Davi, and their friendship lands on thin ice. Isaac assumes he’s upset about missing the convention, but could Diego have other reasons for avoiding Isaac? 

Review

Thoughts and Themes: When I first heard of this book and when I first started reading I thought it was going to be a romance book but I was pleasantly surprised. This book is about love but not just about a romantic relationship, it covers romantic love, familial love, and love between friends. There are a few easter eggs in this book from other LGBTQ+ books which I really enjoyed when I stumbled across the ones that were familiar to me.

Something that I really enjoyed about this book was the way that familial relationships were handled throughout this book. I think the author did a great job depicting how difficult change can be, and how hard navigating emotions can be when you don’t share those with others. I liked that a lot of the issues between Isaac and others came down to him learning how to communicate his feelings and asking questions rather than assuming the worst. I really did enjoy that this book included the way that Isaac’s social anxiety was impacting his relationships with others without directly telling you that this is what was going on. I was able to relate to a lot in this book because of how his social anxiety was manifesting itself.

I highly recommend reading this one if you liked Encanto since I got a lot of similar vibes from this book in terms of familial love and relationships. The minute I read the first few pages of this book I said “this is me, this story is just me.” and it is rare that I find a book where I feel the author just gets me.

Characters: In this book, you are introduced to several characters and at first I thought it was going to be too many to remember them all but I winded up loving each and every one of them. You get to meet Isaac’s family members and friends, as well as some of Diego’s family members.

I loved getting to meet Diego’s mom, dad, and brother, Ollie. I loved seeing the relationship that Isaac had with each of Diego’s family members and how they served as a support system to him as well. I also really enjoyed the contrast that we get to see between Diego’s parents and Isaac’s parents, and how it isn’t only the reader noticing this but also Isaac pointing it out.

Then we also get to meet several of Isaac’s family members. I liked how Isaac had a different relationship with each of his family members and how that changed throughout the story. I really liked getting to learn more about Isaac’s family and why he has certain images of different people. I liked the moments that we get to see Isaac interact with Iggy and see those two finally opening up to each other. I really liked that we got to see Iggy explain why certain things happened the way they did and realize how he was just trying to protect the family just like Isaac was trying to protect his mom.

Then there are all of Diego’s friends who wind up becoming Isaac’s friends as well and their main friend group. I loved each of those characters and how unique each one of them is. I was so intrigued by them and loved each minute that we got to learn a little more about them. I liked how awkward Isaac was around this friend group yet how accepting they were of him. I really liked that this friend group was the first time that Isaac felt he was being included in conversations and they went out of their way to try and make sure he felt included.

Last but definitely not least, I loved the relationship between Diego and Isaac, both when they were friends and even after. I liked that throughout the whole book we get to see these characters be affectionate with each other as just friends. I feel that we oftentimes don’t see boys show affection towards each other and especially not queer boys of color unless they are in a romantic relationship. I was yelling at both of them to tell each other their feelings throughout this whole book because it was so obvious to the outside parties but not to them. I liked the amount of time it took for them to become a romantic pair though because it allowed this book to be much more than just about them.

Writing Style: This story is told in the first person through the perspective of Isaac. I liked that we get to see this story through his perspective because we get to feel all of his emotions as they are happening. I liked that this book lets each of the characters have feelings and be messy without always needing a solution immediately.

Author Information

Julian Winters is the author of the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Award-winning Running With Lions; the Junior Library Guild Selections How to Be Remy Cameron and The Summer of Everything; and the forthcoming Right Where I Left You. A self-proclaimed comic book geek, Julian currently lives outside of Atlanta, where he can be found reading or watching the only two sports he can follow—volleyball and soccer..

Books to Read while on Vacation

It’s been a while since I’ve gone on vacation because of Covid but today I am on a plane to Walt Disney World. I thought about books to bring with me so that I could read while waiting in line or when I want a break but instead of physical books I decided just to load my kindle book so my luggage would have space. These are a few of the books I suggest taking with you on vacation to either read on the plane, in your hotel, by the pool or while you wait for things.

Kiss & Tell by Adib Khorram 

A smart, sexy YA novel about a boy band star, his first breakup, his first rebound, and what it means to be queer in the public eye, from award-winning author Adib Khorram

Hunter never expected to be a boy band star, but, well, here he is. He and his band Kiss & Tell are on their first major tour of North America, playing arenas all over the United States and Canada (and getting covered by the gossipy press all over North America as well). Hunter is the only gay member of the band, and he just had a very painful breakup with his first boyfriend–leaked sexts, public heartbreak, and all–and now everyone expects him to play the perfect queer role model for teens.

But Hunter isn’t really sure what being the perfect queer kid even means. Does it mean dressing up in whatever The Label tells him to wear for photo shoots and pretending never to have sex? (Unfortunately, yes.) Does it mean finding community among the queer kids at the meet-and-greets after K&T’s shows? (Fortunately, yes.) Does it include a new relationship with Kaivan, the star of the band opening for K&T on tour? (He hopes so.) But when The Label finds out about Hunter and Kaivan, it spells trouble—for their relationship, for the perfect gay boy Hunter plays for the cameras, and, most importantly, for Hunter himself. 

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times-bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other. 

Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan

 In this YA contemporary queer romance from the author of Hot Dog Girl , an openly gay track star falls for a closeted, bisexual teen beauty queen with a penchant for fixing up old cars.

Morgan, an elite track athlete, is forced to transfer high schools late in her senior year after it turns out being queer is against her private Catholic school’s code of conduct. There, she meets Ruby, who has two hobbies: tinkering with her baby blue 1970 Ford Torino and competing in local beauty pageants, the latter to live out the dreams of her overbearing mother. The two are drawn to each other and can’t deny their growing feelings. But while Morgan–out and proud, and determined to have a fresh start–doesn’t want to have to keep their budding relationship a secret, Ruby isn’t ready to come out yet. With each girl on a different path toward living her truth, can they go the distance together?

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp 

 A story of first love, familial expectations, the power of food, and finding where you belong.

Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans—leaving Pen to choose between disappointing her traditional Mexican American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she’s been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho’s who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she’s been too afraid to ask herself.

Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little boy. For him, a job at Nacho’s is an opportunity for just that—a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo’s, and to find the father who left him behind. But when both the restaurant and Xander’s immigrant status are threatened, he will do whatever it takes to protect his newfound family and himself.

Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong in order to save the place they all call home.

Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore Book Review

Book Description

Title: Lakelore

Author: Anna-Marie McLemore 

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Publication Date: March 8th, 2022 

Pages: 304

Genres: Young Adult fantasy 

Synopsis:

In this young adult novel by award-winning author Anna-Marie McLemore, two non-binary teens are pulled into a magical world under a lake – but can they keep their worlds above water intact?

Everyone who lives near the lake knows the stories about the world underneath it, an ethereal landscape rumored to be half-air, half-water. But Bastián Silvano and Lore Garcia are the only ones who’ve been there. Bastián grew up both above the lake and in the otherworldly space beneath it. Lore’s only seen the world under the lake once, but that one encounter changed their life and their fate.

Then the lines between air and water begin to blur. The world under the lake drifts above the surface. If Bastián and Lore don’t want it bringing their secrets to the surface with it, they have to stop it and to do that, they have to work together. There’s just one problem: Bastián and Lore haven’t spoken in seven years, and working together means trusting each other with the very things they’re trying to hide.

Goodreads ~ Blackwells ~ Amazon ~ Book Depository ~ Barnes & Noble

Review

Thoughts and Themes: There is so much to love about this book and just from the first few pages I knew that I was going to enjoy this book. I love that in this book we get two Trans main characters and that they are both neurodivergent. Also, I loved that Bastian is a boy and non-binary, I wrote so like me?!!! because I rarely see that in books. I don’t see many non-binary boys anywhere and it’s so nice to see one in something I am reading.

I can’t speak much about the neurodivergent representation since it isn’t the same that I have experience with but I really enjoyed getting a chance to read two characters that have ADHD and are dyslexic. I liked getting a chance to see how their neurodivergence shapes how they interact with others and how they navigate their surroundings.

There are so many sentences in this book that I highlighted because they were just beautifully written or because they spoke to me. I related so much to each of the main characters in different ways and just loved the world under the sea. I really liked getting a chance to see how Bastian resorts to making alebrijes and where that all comes from.

Characters: In this book, you get to meet several characters through their interactions with Lore and Bastian. You mainly get to meet some of Bastian’s friends, and both of their families. I loved all of the relationships in this story and really enjoyed getting to see how things change throughout the book.

I loved the relationship between Bastian and Lore and how it goes from friendship to much more but loved that Bastian made it clear that it didn’t have to be more. I thought it was great to have Lore experience that and I liked that they talk about how boys feel entitled to someone but Bastian wasn’t like that. I liked getting a chance to see how they just understand each other on a level that others just don’t get.

I also really loved all of Bastian’s friends and how they all support him but also are there for Lore when they need them. I loved getting a glimpse into each of these characters and seeing what they are like. I also really liked getting a chance to learn about Bastian and Lore’s families and how they shaped them into who they are now.

Writing Style: This book is written in dual POV through the perspectives of Bastian and Lore which I really enjoyed. I liked getting to see the way they both navigated the world and also how they navigated relationships with others. I liked getting a chance to see them both have reasons for holding parts of themselves away from others and see what happens when those parts are revealed to each other.

Author Information

Anna-Marie McLemore was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and taught by their family to hear la llorona in the Santa Ana winds. They are the author of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a finalist for the 2016 William C. Morris Debut Award; 2017 Stonew

all Honor Book WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, which was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature; WILD BEAUTY, a Kirkus Best Book of 2017; and BLANCA & ROJA, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. DARK AND DEEPEST RED, a reimagining of The Red Shoes based on true medieval events, is forthcoming in January 2020.

Website ~ Goodreads ~ Twitter

Bad Fat Black Girl by Sesali Bowen Book Review

Book Description

Growing up on the south side of Chicago, Sesali Bowen learned early on how to hustle, stay on her toes, and champion other Black women and femmes as she navigated Blackness, queerness, fatness, friendship, poverty, sex work, and self-love. 

Her love of trap music led her to the top of hip-hop journalism, profiling game-changing artists like Megan Thee Stallion, Lizzo, and Janelle Monae. But despite all the beauty, complexity, and general badassery she saw, Bowen found none of that nuance represented in mainstream feminism. Thus, she coined Trap Feminism, a contemporary framework that interrogates where feminism and hip-hop intersect.

Notes from a Trap Feminist offers a new, inclusive feminism for the modern world. Weaving together searing personal essay and cultural commentary, Bowen interrogates sexism, fatphobia, and capitalism all within the context of race and hip-hop. In the process, she continues a Black feminist legacy of unmatched sheer determination and creative resilience.

Bad bitches: this one’s for you.

Review

I had waited to listen to this book, and I don’t know why. I love reading anything on body positivity because it makes me rethink what I’ve been taught about beauty and women’s bodies. Thank you to libro.fm for the advanced listening copy of this book.

I find it hard to rate memoirs and review them because there isn’t a way to rate someone else’s life. Instead I talk about the portions that stood out to me and the structure in which they are written. In the case of this memoir, I really enjoyed many of the subjects that Bower touches upon and I love the way that it is organized since it keeps you wanting to learn more about her life.

This book talks about not just being a fat woman but being a fat, Black women with other marginalized identities as well with the backdrop of Trap music. Sesali Bower focuses on what being in different circles was like for her as a Fat, Black, Queer woman. She doesn’t discover her Queer identity until later on so there are some moments in which she navigates her life thinking that she is straight.

I really enjoyed the way that this book is structured and how each section is separated. This book goes over many different parts of Sesali Bower’s life from her youth up until now. In those different areas the book is further separated into different portions of her life that impacted the person she is now.

Something I enjoyed about this book is how direct the author is about her life and how vulnerable she gets with the audience. I listened to the audiobook that is recorded by the author so you could hear the anger in certain portions as she retells her story to us.

Author Information

SESALI BOWEN is a writer who curates events, writes for film and television, and creates elevated pop culture correspondence. Bowen is the former senior entertainment editor at Nylon magazine and senior entertainment writer at Refinery29. Focusing on Black pop culture, she helped launch Unbothered, R29’s sub brand for Black women. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and Feministing. Bowen lives in New Jersey.

The Wake Up: Closing the Gap Between Good Intentions and Real Change By Michelle Mijung Kim Book Review

Book Description

Waking Up to Our Capacity to Transform Ourselves and the World 

As we become more aware of various social injustices in the world, many of us want to be part of the movement toward positive change. But sometimes our best intentions cause unintended harm, and we fumble. We might feel afraid to say the wrong thing and feel guilt for not doing or knowing enough. Sometimes we might engage in performative allyship rather than thoughtful solidarity, leaving those already marginalized further burdened and exhausted. The feelings of fear, insecurity, inadequacy are all too common among a wide spectrum of changemakers, and they put many at a crossroads between feeling stuck and giving up, or staying grounded to keep going. So how can we go beyond performative allyship to creating real change in ourselves and in the world, together?

In The Wake Up, Michelle MiJung Kim shares foundational principles often missing in today’s mainstream conversations around “diversity and inclusion,” inviting readers to deep dive into the challenging and nuanced work of pursuing equity and justice, while exploring various complexities, contradictions, and conflicts inherent in our imperfect world. With a mix of in-the-trenches narrative and accessible unpacking of hot button issues—from inclusive language to representation to “cancel culture”—Michelle offers sustainable frameworks that guide us how to think, approach, and be in the journey as thoughtfully and powerfully as possible. 

The Wake Up is divided into four key parts:

Grounding: begin by moving beyond good intentions to interrogating our deeper “why” for committing to social justice and uncovering our “hidden stories.”

Orienting: establish a shared understanding around our historical and current context and issues we are trying to solve, starting with dismantling white supremacy.

Showing Up: learn critical principles to approach any situation with clarity and build our capacity to work through complexity, nuance, conflict, and imperfections.

Moving Together: remember the core of this work is about human lives, and commit to prioritizing humanity, healing, and community.

The Wake Up is an urgent call for us to move together while seeing each other’s full and expansive humanity that is at the core of our movement toward justice, healing, and freedom.

Review

Thank you to Hachette Books for providing me with an advanced copy and finished copy of this book. I winded up listening to this one on audio and really enjoyed it in that format. It is one that I hope to re-visit either on audio or through physical book because one read through isn’t enough to take in everything that was taught in this book.

As someone who went into education because I want to cause change, and I am continuously educating myself on social justice efforts, I found that this is a great book to introduce people to this topic. I thought this was a good introduction text as it was easy to follow and answered a lot of questions that I had.

Something that I found valuable in this book was the author’s identities, it was important that it was an author with multiple marginalized identities being included in diversity, equity, and inclusion work. Often times I see the same voices being uplifted in DEI work and I want to hear a variety of voices and opinions when it comes to this work. I was very pleased to have multiple intersectional identities be addressed throughout this book.

Something else that I loved about this book was the way that it was organized throughout different chapters. I liked that the book was separated into different sections that talked about different topics because it made it so that you can put the book down and return to it at a later time. I liked the four parts that this book separates things into because of what each portion focuses on.

I also really liked that within each chapter there is a way to pause and return later to a chapter so that you have time to reflect on that portion of the book.

Author Information

Michelle MiJung Kim

Michelle MiJung Kim (she/her) is a queer immigrant Korean American woman writer, speaker, activist, and entrepreneur. She is the author of The Wake Up (Hachette, Fall 2021). She is CEO and co-founder of Awaken, a leading provider of interactive equity and inclusion education programs facilitated by majority BIPOC educators, where she has consulted hundreds of organizations and top executives from Fortune 500, tech giants, nonprofits, and government agencies to spark meaningful change. Michelle has been a lifelong social justice activist and has served on a variety of organizations such as the San Francisco LGBTQ Speakers Bureau, San Francisco Human Rights Commission’s Advisory Committee, LYRIC nonprofit’s Board of Directors, and Build Tech We Trust Coalition. Michelle currently serves on the board of Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality (AACRE). Her work has appeared on world-renowned platforms such as Harvard Business Review, Forbes, The New York Times, and NPR, and she has been named Medium’s Top Writer in Diversity three years in a row. She lives in Oakland, California.

Romance Recommendations 2022

I don’t read a lot of romance books but I realized that most of the books that I read have some romance in them. I wanted to give you all a few books you can get lost in this valentine’s day weekend in case you don’t have any plans.

Serendipity by Marissa Meyer (Editor)

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. 

The Love Hypothesis (Love Hypothesis #1) by Ali Hazelwood

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding… six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland 

A romance starring a Mexican American teen who discovers love and profound truths about the universe when she spends her summer on a road trip across the country.

When her twin sister reaches social media stardom, Moon Fuentez accepts her fate as the ugly, unwanted sister hidden in the background, destined to be nothing more than her sister’s camerawoman. But this summer, Moon also takes a job as the “merch girl” on a tour bus full of beautiful influencers and her fate begins to shift in the best way possible.

Most notable is her bunkmate and new nemesis, Santiago Phillips, who is grumpy, combative, and also the hottest guy Moon has ever seen.

Moon is certain she hates Santiago and that he hates her back. But as chance and destiny (and maybe, probably, close proximity) bring the two of them in each other’s perpetual paths, Moon starts to wonder if that’s really true. She even starts to question her destiny as the unnoticed, unloved wallflower she always thought she was.

Could this summer change Moon’s life as she knows it?

Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk,Nicola Yoon 

Six critically acclaimed, bestselling, and award-winning authors bring the glowing warmth and electricity of Black teen love to this interlinked novel of charming, hilarious, and heartwarming stories that shine a bright light through the dark.

A summer heatwave blankets New York City in darkness. But as the city is thrown into confusion, a different kind of electricity sparks…

A first meeting. 

Long-time friends. 

Bitter exes. 

And maybe the beginning of something new.

When the lights go out, people reveal hidden truths. Love blossoms, friendship transforms, and new possibilities take flight.

Beloved authors—Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon—celebrate the beauty of six couples and the unforgettable magic that can be found on a sweltering starry night in the city. 

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp

A story of first love, familial expectations, the power of food, and finding where you belong.

Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans—leaving Pen to choose between disappointing her traditional Mexican American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she’s been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho’s who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she’s been too afraid to ask herself.

Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little boy. For him, a job at Nacho’s is an opportunity for just that—a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo’s, and to find the father who left him behind. But when both the restaurant and Xander’s immigrant status are threatened, he will do whatever it takes to protect his newfound family and himself.

Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong in order to save the place they all call home.

Right Where I Left You by Julian Winters

Kacen Callender meets Becky Albertalli in a deliciously geeky best friends-to lovers romance from award-winning author Julian Winters!

School’s out, senior year is over, and Isaac Martin is ready to kick off summer. His last before heading off to college in the fall where he won’t have his best friend, Diego. Where—despite his social anxiety—he’ll be left to make friends on his own. Knowing his time with Diego is limited, Isaac enacts a foolproof plan: snatch up a pair of badges for the epic comic convention, Legends Con, and attend his first ever Teen Pride. Just him and Diego. The way it should be. But when an unexpected run-in with Davi—Isaac’s old crush—distracts him the day tickets go on sale, suddenly he’s two badges short of a perfect summer. Even worse, now he’s left making it up to Diego by hanging with him and his gamer buddies. Decidedly NOT part of the original plan. It’s not all bad, though. Some of Diego’s friends turn out to be pretty cool, and when things with Davi start heating up, Isaac is almost able to forget about his Legends Con blunder. Almost. Because then Diego finds out what really happened that day with Davi, and their friendship lands on thin ice. Isaac assumes he’s upset about missing the convention, but could Diego have other reasons for avoiding Isaac?

No Filters and Other Lies by Crystal Maldonado Book Review

Book Description

Title: No Filter and Other Lies 

Author: Crystal Maldonado  

Publisher: Holiday House

Publication Date: February 8th, 2022 

Genres: Young Adult contemporary romance 

Synopsis:

You should know, right now, that I’m a liar.

They’re usually little lies. Tiny lies. Baby lies. Not so much lies as lie adjacent.

But they’re still lies.

Twenty one-year-old Max Monroe has it all: beauty, friends, and a glittering life filled with adventure. With tons of followers on Instagram, her picture-perfect existence seems eminently enviable.

Except it’s all fake.

Max is actually 16-year-old Kat Sanchez, a quiet and sarcastic teenager living in drab Bakersfield, California. Nothing glamorous in her existence–just sprawl, bad house parties, a crap school year, and the awkwardness of dealing with her best friend Hari’s unrequited love. But while Kat’s life is far from perfect, she thrives as Max: doling out advice, sharing beautiful photos, networking with famous influencers, even making a real friend in a follower named Elena. The closer Elena and “Max” get–texting, Snapping, and even calling–the more Kat feels she has to keep up the facade.

But when one of Max’s posts goes ultra-viral and gets back to the very person she’s been stealing photos from, her entire world – real and fake — comes crashing down around her. She has to figure out a way to get herself out of the huge web of lies she’s created without hurting the people she loves.

But it might already be too late. 

Goodreads ~ Blackwells ~ Amazon ~ Book Depository ~ Barnes & Noble

Review

Thoughts and Themes: When I saw that the author had another book coming out soon I knew that I had to read it since I enjoyed Fat Chance Charlie Vega so much. I loved this book just as much and think that Charlie and Kat would be such good friends.

I thought that this book does a great job of addressing the complications of social media especially for teenagers and what messages are being passed through social media. Kat first creates Max’s account out of spite and anger with Becca, he co-worker who didn’t want to attend a high school party. Kat only wants to get her art out there to more people but her own account isn’t working too well so she thinks that by using Becca’s face, she’ll have more luck. It doesn’t stop there though as Max/Kat starts speaking to Elena and Elena has a crush on Max who doesn’t really exist.

This book touches on not just social media and how so many things are fake on there but it also brings up being a person of color and being fat within the social media space. I thought it was great that we see Kat bring up how she’s pretending to be a white girl in order to gain popularity online. I also enjoyed seeing the interactions between Elena and Kat during their first photoshoot and how Elena points out photo editing certain parts of herself away.

This book takes a bit to get into what we know is going to happen which is Kat posing as Max but it does a good job of building this up. There are things that have to take place for this idea to pop into her head and there are also actions that need to happen for her to reach this point. I liked the build up that leads to this point and then I liked getting to read as this whole thing plays out. I felt bad for Kat as this whole thing plays out but I also felt bad for the people who were involved in this Max situation without their consent, such as Becca and Elena.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with Kat. You get to meet the members of her family, mom, dad, brother, and grandparents, her friends, Hari, Luis, and Marcus, her co-worker, Becca, and Elena her online friend.

I really liked all of the characters that you get introduced to in this book and enjoyed Kat’s dynamics with each of them. I thought it was great to see her be a different person depending on who she was interacting with and what each person brought out in her. I liked that Kat has people she can be herself with rather than the person she thinks everyone expects her to be.

Something that this book does a great job with and that I really enjoyed in particular was the friendship between Kat and Hari. There were so many times that it could’ve gone wrong and how it could’ve ended the way I expected it to, with a guy who has feelings for a girl throwing that girl away when she wants no more than friendship. I was so glad that they were able to have a conversation about their feelings and navigate these circumstances in a way that didn’t harm their friendship. I thought this was so important because Hari is Kat’s person and she was having such a hard time not having anyone to go to with her secret regarding Becca.

Something else that I liked about this book was the way that it portrayed Kat’s relationship with different members of her family. Kat has to lie about who she lives with and her relationship with her mom, dad, and brother in order to keep her mom happy so it only makes sense that she would want a little control over her life. I liked getting to see the role that Kat’s grandparents play in her life and how she was raised by them. I liked that this book portrayed family in a different way and made it something that Kat didn’t need to be ashamed of.

Writing Style: This story is told in first person through Kat’s perspective. I really liked getting to hear the story through Kat’s perspective because you don’t know how others are feeling. You get to only see what Kat is thinking and get to be in her head about the actions that she is taking.

I love that the only times you get to see how someone else is feeling or their thoughts is when they are interacting with Kat. I love that we get brief glimpses of Elena and her feelings but we never get everything because we only get what she reveals to Kat.

Author Description

Crystal Maldonado is a young adult author with a lot of feelings. Her debut novel, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega, is a 2021 New England Book Award winner, a Cosmopolitan Best New Book, and a POPSUGAR Best New YA Novel. Her next novel, No Filter and Other Lies, explores teenage life in the social media age—and the lies we tell to ourselves and others.

By day, Crystal works in higher ed marketing, and by night, a writer who loves Beyoncé, shopping, spending too much time on her phone, and being extra. Her work has also been published in Latina, BuzzFeed, and the Hartford Courant.

She lives in western Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and dog. 

Website ~ Goodreads ~ Twitter ~ Instagram 

Tour Schedule

February 7th

Unconventionalquirkybibliophile – Mood Board

Books_and_Dice – Favorite Quotes

A Bronx Latina Reads – Review Only

February 8th

Pastelwriter – Review Only 

Sanjariti – Review Only 

The Veronica Review – Review Only 

February 9th

Faydrielreads – Review Only 

@yanitzawrites – Review Only 

Metamorphodani – Review Only 

February 10th

CurlytopReads – Review Only 

A Cup of Nicole – Review Only 

The Cozy Archives – Review Only 

February 11th

@c.isbusyreading – Playlist

The Book View – Mood Board

@idleutopia_reads – Favorite Quotes

February 12th

Bookloversbookreviews – Reading Vlog

Love, Paola – Reading Vlog 

@aventuras.en.esl – Review Only 

February 13th

@jainnyreads – Review Only

@loveroflibros – Review Only

 Thecafeconlecheshow – Favorite Quotes