The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass Book Review

Author Information

Ryan Douglass was born and raised in Atlanta, where he currently resides, cooking pasta and playing records. He enjoys wood wick candles, falling asleep on airplanes, and advocating for stronger media representation for queer Black people.

Book Description

Get Out meets Danielle Vega in this YA horror where survival is not a guarantee.

Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win.

Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for the advanced reader’s copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Thoughts and Themes: I had only seen negative reviews on this book so I went into this one suspecting bad and I wish I had’t. I actually really enjoyed this book and the multiple things that were happening in the story. I usually don’t like for there to be many side plot lines because I worry that they will be left unresolved but I liked the side things happening in this story. I felt that the side things happening helped move the story forward and also allowed you to learn about the characters.

I liked how this book brought up the intersection of being Black and Gay and how that was very different than being just one or the other. I thought this was a important piece that was brought up. I can’t speak on the intersection of holding both of those identities so I suggest that you all read own voices reviews as well.

Something else that I enjoyed about this book was that there were moments in which I felt the characters were coming off the screen. I loved the scenes in which there are supernatural elements involved since I felt these features brought the book to life. It was like this book was a ghost in my own living room.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to quite a few characters through their interactions with Jake and through the journal entries that are provided from Sawyer. I liked the way that we get to meet the people who were in Sawyer’s life and get to understand Sawyer through the journal entries and not just his haunting of Jake.

Something that I really enjoyed about this book is that both Sawyer and Jake are gay males. I thought it was great to see how that identity played into their daily lives and also their interactions with each other. I thought that them both being gay added depth to the story and added more to the reason Sawyer was haunting Jake. I felt that this fact made Sawyer feel like he could relate with Jake, and slowly it felt like Jake was able to relate with Sawyer.

I also really enjoyed the brief romance that we got through this book between Jake and Allister. While the romance wasn’t front and center in this story, I liked the glimpses that we get of their relationship and how it develops.

Writing Style: This story is written in first person point of view through Jake’s perspective and it also includes some of the entries from Sawyer’s journal. I like that this book goes back and forth between Jake’s life and Sawyer’s journal entries. I liked getting to know who Sawyer was prior to the shooting and try to see why that event occurred. I also thought it was great to see that this journal was being read by Jake and it was informing him of why this ghost was now haunting him.

Kyle’s Little Sister by BonHyung Jeong Blog Tour Post

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the KYLE’S LITTLE SISTER by BonHyung Jeong Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

Author Information

BonHyung Jeong (Bon) studied Cartooning at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and Kyle’s Little Sister is her debut graphic novel, made possible with the help of numerous people. She hopes to make connections with others through relatable stories. Currently living in Korea, she’s always busy playing console games – exactly like someone in the book!

Instagram | Goodreads

Book Description

Title: KYLE’S LITTLE SISTER

Author: BonHyung Jeong

Pub. Date: June 22, 2021

Publisher: JY

Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Pages: 240

Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBD, Bookshop.org

My name is Grace, not “Kyle’s little sister!” Having a good-looking, friendly, outgoing older brother sucks—especially when you’re the total opposite, someone who likes staying home and playing video games. Your parents like him better (even if they deny it!), and everyone calls you “Kyle’s little sister” while looking disappointed that you’re not more like him. I was really hoping I’d get to go to a different middle school, but no such luck. At least I have my friends…until he finds a way to ruin that, too…! Argh! What do I have to do to get out of his shadow?!

Giveaway Information

3 winners will receive a finished copy of KYLE’S LITTLE SISTER, US Only.

You can enter HERE!

Review

Themes and Thoughts: I really enjoy reading middle grade books and graphic novels are the best because they are quick to read and easy to get through. I really enjoyed how short each of these chapters are and how this book focuses on friendship and family relationships. I liked getting a chance to see the main character’s feelings about being Kyle’s little sister and loved how the characters read as their age.

While this book focuses on relationships with people and how those shift during middle school. I liked that both of our characters are in middle school so we get to see how siblings feel towards each other, both one being a younger sibling and the other as an older sibling. I also really liked how we got to see both sides of their sibling relationship, so we see them fighting but we also see the love that they have for each other.

Characters: I loved getting the chance to meet Grace and Kyle through this book and liked the interactions that we get of them with their set of friends. I liked how we see how Kyle’s friends see Grace as his little sister and even some of her new friends view her this way. I liked getting to see how Grace’s friends don’t view her this way even if she worries that everyone only liked her because of her relationship to Kyle.

Writing Style/Art: I decided that in order to keep my review style the same, I would use this area to comment on both the writing as well as the art style when talking about graphic novels. I thought that the art was really cute and I liked how child like the characters look. There was never a time in which I confused the age for the characters and I also liked how diverse the characters were. I liked how each of the side characters looked different from each other.

The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim Book Review

Author Information

Graci Kim is a Korean-Kiwi diplomat turned author who writes about the magic she wants to see in the world. When she’s not lost in her imagination, she’s drinking flat whites, eating ramyeon, and most likely hugging a dog (or ideally, many). She lives in New Zealand with her husband and daughter.

Book Description

Riley Oh can’t wait to see her sister get initiated into the Gom clan, a powerful lineage of Korean healing witches their family has belonged to for generations. Her sister, Hattie, will earn her Gi bracelet and finally be able to cast spells without adult supervision. Although Riley is desperate to follow in her sister’s footsteps when she herself turns thirteen, she’s a saram–a person without magic. Riley was adopted, and despite having memorized every healing spell she’s ever heard, she often feels like the odd one out in her family and the gifted community.

Then Hattie gets an idea: what if the two of them could cast a spell that would allow Riley to share Hattie’s magic? Their sleuthing reveals a promising incantation in the family’s old spell book, and the sisters decide to perform it at Hattie’s initiation ceremony. If it works, no one will ever treat Riley as an outsider again. It’s a perfect plan!

Until it isn’t. When the sisters attempt to violate the laws of the Godrealm, Hattie’s life ends up hanging in the balance, and to save her Riley has to fulfill an impossible task: find the last fallen star. But what even is the star, and how can she find it?

As Riley embarks on her search, she finds herself meeting fantastic creatures and collaborating with her worst enemies. And when she uncovers secrets that challenge everything she has been taught to believe, Riley must decide what it means to be a witch, what it means to be family, and what it really means to belong.

Review

Thanks Disney Books for the advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thoughts and Themes: As far as I can remember, I haven’t read a book about mythology so I was a bit skeptical going into this one. I wish I hadn’t been though because the minute I started reading this one, I couldn’t put it down.

I really liked the way that world building is done in this book, world building is usually one of the things that make it hard for me to read fantasy or sci-fi. This book does a great job of including the world building along with the story. I like how it is seemlessly inserted throughout, you get a bit of world building as the story progresses.

I also really like how this story takes place in Los Angeles, but it includes magic and hiding that magic from Saram (people without magic). I thought that the setting was perfect and liked how this magic was happening in front of others but Saram had no clue that this was happening.

I didn’t see the twist near the end of the book happening and I think that really made me want to read more of this story. I am glad that this is only book 1 of this series because I need more of the story and all of the characters.

Characters: Through this book you get introduced to a few characters through the interactions that they have with Riley. You get to meet Hattie, her sister and Emmet, her best friend, along with different members of her family. You also get to meet several mythical creatures, and people from the different clans.

I really liked getting to meet different people that are a part of the different types of clans. I loved getting to see how they all interacted with each other and how they all come together in the end for the greater good.

I loved our main character, I really liked how she developed through the course of the story, and how she came into her own. I really liked how she made certain decisions throughout the story, and how she used the motto of her clan for those decisions. I’m being very vague because a lot of the character’s development has to do with main plot points of the story that I don’t want to give away.

I also really liked all of the mythical beings that we got to meet throughout Riley’s adventure. It was so cool to learn about these creatures, and see the role they play in the story and RIley’s life. I have heard about these creatures before but never really knew what they meant to people and it was great to see what they meant to each clan.

Guest Post by The Seasonal Pages “5 Wonderful LGBTQ+ Graphic Novels to Read This Summer”

5 Wonderful LGBTQ+ Graphic Novels To Read This Summer

Hello readers of The Unconventional Quirky Bibliophile! I am Isaly, the owner of the stationery store The Seasonal Pages and I am guest blogging to tell you about a few books that I think you will love for this summer season. June is officially here and you know what means, it is PRIDE month. Pride Month is the perfect time to tell you about wonderful LGBTQ+ Graphic Novels to read this summer time. The books listed below are some of my personal favorites and I think you will enjoy them too!

Title: Bingo Love

Author: Tee Franklin

Genre: Romance

Synopsis: “When Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray met at church bingo in 1963, it was love at first sight. Forced apart by their families and society, Hazel and Mari both married young men and had families. Decades later, now in their mid-’60s, Hazel and Mari reunite again at a church bingo hall. Realizing their love for each other is still alive, what these grandmothers do next takes absolute strength and courage.”

Bingo Love is one of my favorite books to read every couple of years when I am in the mood for romance and a graphic novel. The characters are fun to read and the illustrations captured my art soul so much. You will adore this book with humor and romance. I had to add Bingo Love to this list!

Title: The Prince & The Dressmaker

Author: Jen Wang

Genre: Graphic Novel

Synopsis: “Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!”

This adorable story about a person finding themselves is needed on your next to be read list. Sebastian is a character that you want to learn more about and see what happens at the end, I highly recommend this graphic novel.

Title: You Brought Me The Ocean

Author: Alex Sanchez

Illustrations: Julie Maroh

Genre: Teen & YA Romance Graphic Novel

Synopsis: “Jake Hyde doesn’t swim-not since his father drowned. Luckily, he lives in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, which is in the middle of the desert, yet he yearns for the ocean and is determined to leave his hometown for a college on the coast. But his best friend, Maria, wants nothing more than to make a home in the desert, and Jake’s mother encourages him to always play it safe.

Yet there’s nothing “safe” about Jake’s future-not when he’s attracted to Kenny Liu, swim team captain and rebel against conformity. And certainly not when he secretly applies to Miami University. Jake’s life begins to outpace his small town’s namesake, which doesn’t make it any easier to come out to his mom, or Maria, or the world.

But Jake is full of secrets, including the strange blue markings on his skin that low when in contact with water. What power will he find when he searches for his identity, and will he turn his back to the current or dive head first into the waves?”

Between the ocean theme, the romance and the illustrations — You Brought Me The Ocean will not disappoint. It is a stunning story of self love, romance, and another world. I think that this graphic novel will leave you wanting more from the author and artist. This book introduced me to the author and the artist I have read before, so I recommend her books as well.

Title: The Banks

Author: Roxanne Gay Genre: LGBTQ+ Graphic Novel

Synopsis: “For fifty years the women of the Banks family have been the most successful thieves in Chicago by following one simple rule: never get greedy. But when the youngest Banks stumbles upon the heist of a lifetime, the potential windfall may be enough to bring three generations of thieves together for one incredible score and the chance to avenge a loved one taken too soon.”

Roxanne Gay is an author that I try to read more and more after reading some of her writing recently. I love the way she writes and how she tells such detailed plots that leave you on edge. The Banks is one of her newest books and it is a graphic novel that I think will be great for this spring season. The cover draws you in and the green tone makes you feel like you are going to enjoy a book that is fit for spring time.

Title: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me

Author: Mariko Tamaki Genre: LGBTQ+ Graphic Novel

Synopsis: “Laura Dean, the most popular girl in high school, was Frederica Riley’s dream girl: charming, confident, and SO cute. There’s just one problem: Laura Dean is maybe not the greatest girlfriend.

Reeling from her latest break up, Freddy’s best friend, Doodle, introduces her to the Seek-Her, a mysterious medium, who leaves Freddy some cryptic parting words: break up with her. But

Laura Dean keeps coming back, and as their relationship spirals further out of her control, Freddy has to wonder if it’s really Laura Dean that’s the problem. Maybe it’s Freddy, who is rapidly losing her friends, including Doodle, who needs her now more than ever.

Fortunately for Freddy, there are new friends, and the insight of advice columnists like Anna Vice to help her through being a teenager in love.”

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is perfect for a fun read that will lighten your mood. I enjoyed this story for the self reflecting and the teen in love trope. I think this book will be a great read for the summer time!

Since it is the beginning of June, I plan on rereading this 5 books for Pride Month and enjoy even more books with a focus on POC LGBTQ+ characters and/or authors. What do you plan on reading in June? Do you have a book that you really want to read for Pride month? Thank you so much for reading about my 5 chosen LGBTQ+ graphic novels that I think you will love during Pride Month. You can find me at The Seasonal Pages Stationery Shop anytime by visiting my website theseasonalpages.com or my Instagram page: instagram.com/theseasonalpages. Happy Reading!

The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons Book Review

Author Information

Isaac Fitzsimons is the author of The Passing Playbook (Dial BFYR/PRH, 2021). He
writes Young Adult fiction featuring intentionally marginalized characters so that every
reader can see themselves reflected in literature.

His background includes performing sketch comedy in college, learning how to play
three songs on the banjo, and, of course, writing.

His dream vacation would be traveling around Europe via sleeper train to see every top-
tier soccer team play a home game. He currently lives outside DC and works for an arts
advocacy nonprofit in the city.

Social Media Links:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/isaacfitzy
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/isaacfitzbooks/

Book Description

Fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris is a proud nerd, an awesome big brother and a Messi-in-training. He’s also transgender. After transitioning at his old school leads to a year of bullying, Spencer gets a fresh start at Oakley, the most liberal private school in Ohio.

At Oakley, Spencer seems to have it all: more accepting classmates, a decent shot at a starting position on the boy’s soccer team, great new friends, and maybe even something more than friendship with one of his teammates. The problem is, no one at Oakley knows Spencer is trans – he’s passing.

So when a discriminatory law forces Spencer’s coach to bench him after he discovers the ‘F’ on Spencer’s birth certificate, Spencer has to make a choice: cheer his team on from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even if it means coming out to everyone – including the guy he’s falling for.

Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This book is coming to shelves near you on June 1st.

Thoughts and Themes: I was a bit skeptical about starting this book because I don’t really like sports themed books but I’m glad that I kept reading on. There is so much more to this story than just the sports plot line.

I liked so much about this and my feelings were all over the place as I read this story. There are some heartwarming moments that I was just rooting for Spencer and Justice in, and then there were heart breaking moments too. There were moments in which I was angry along with Spencer but then sad for Justice. I just wanted to protect both of the main characters from enduring any harm, and give them the safe space that they longed for.

I liked how this book has being queer and belonging to a religious family. I thought it was good to see how Justice’s family being religious affected him being out and how that went into his relationship with Spencer. This was such a hard thing to read through and recall how my coming out experience was because of my religious upbringing.

I have so much to say about this book and all of the feelings that I had while reading it. This is definitely going to be added to my list of comfort reads as I loved it so much.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to several characters in their interactions with Spencer. You get to meet the love interest, Justice, the coach, another trans student, Riley, Spencer’s brother, Theo, Spencer’s best friend, Aiden, and several of the soccer team players.

I found each of the characters that you meet through this story to be lovable. I really loved the way the soccer team embraced Spencer when he comes out and how unexpected that is. I like how this shows a different side to sport team members, and how transphobia doesn’t have to exist in that space. I thought that was the most important thing that was shown, the book really shows that transphobia and homophobia have no place in sports, and that they don’t have to exist in sports.

I also really loved how supportive Spencer’s family is of him, I like how even if they struggle with the right thing to say or do they still support him. I liked getting pieces of Spencer’s brother in the story and seeing how Spencer tries to take up less space because of Theo being Autistic. I think seeing Spencer navigate being out and knowing how much attention that would bring to his family was good to see because we see him finally think about himself rather than everyone before him.

I really enjoyed Justice as our love interest and as a side character. I thought he was well developed and really liked the complexity he deals with being queer and having religion play a large role in his life. I thought this was really important to see especially as we see that both those identities can coexist, both peacefully but also negatively. I thought it was good to see the contrast between Justice’s families’ beliefs and what he believed. I also really liked how Justice just accepted that Spencer is trans and there was no dilemma with that.

Writing Style: This story is told in third person with a somewhat all knowing narrator. I tend to get frustrated with stories being told in third person but I actually liked this pov for this book. I liked that we got to read about so many different feelings and thoughts. I also liked that we got to follow different characters but I thought it was well done so that it didn’t feel like there was too many things going on.

All Kinds of Other by James Sie Blog Tour Post

I am so excited to get a chance to be a part of this book tour hosted by Turn the Page Tours. Make sure you check out the rest of the posts that are a part of this tour by looking at the schedule for the tour found here. 

Author Information

JAMES SIE is the author of STILL LIFE LAS VEGAS (St. Martin’s Press, 2015), a Lambda Literary Award finalist for Best Gay Fiction, and the YA novel ALL KINDS OF OTHER (Quill Tree Books, 2021) He is an award-winning playwright of literary adaptations, receiving a Joseph Jefferson Citation for his adaptation of ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS, and an After Dark Award for the original work THE ROAD TO GRACELAND. He has contributed essays for The Rumpus, Pen USA, FSG’s Book Keeping and The Advocate. In addition to writing, Sie can currently be heard as a voiceover artist in animation and audiobook narration.

Author Links:

Author Website ~ Instagram ~ Twitter

Book Description

Publisher: Quill Tree Books

Release Date: May 4, 2021

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT, Romance

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54798457-all-kinds-of-other

Book Purchase link: https://www.harpercollins.com/products/all-kinds-of-other-james-sie?variant=32260054155298

Book Description: 

In this tender, nuanced coming-of-age love story, two boys—one who is cis and one who is trans—have been guarding their hearts to protect themselves, until their feelings for each other give them a reason to stand up to their fears.

Two boys are starting at a new school.

Jules is just figuring out what it means to be gay and hasn’t totally decided whether he wants to be out at his new school. His parents and friends have all kinds of opinions, but for his part, Jules just wants to make the basketball team and keep his head down.

Jack is trying to start over after a best friend break-up. He followed his actor father clear across the country to LA, but he’s also totally ready to leave his past behind. Maybe this new school where no one knows him is exactly what he needs.

When the two boys meet, the sparks are undeniable. But then a video surfaces linking Jack to a pair of popular transgender vloggers, and the revelations about Jack’s past thrust both Jack and Jules into the spotlight they’ve been trying to avoid. Suddenly both boys have a choice to make—between lying low where it’s easier or following their hearts.

GIVEAWAY

Enter to win one finished copy of All Kinds of Other by James Sie! Open USA only. There will be 1 winner.

Giveaway starts: Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Giveaway ends: Tuesday, May 11, 2021 at 12:00 a.m. CST

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1e4a114d39/

Review

Thoughts and Themes: This one I had to sit on before writing the review because of how much I really enjoyed it. As a trans person there was several portions of this book that I had to just set the book aside because the Transphobia was too much. Our main character never really gets a break from all the transphobic people in his life and the first thing that I noted was see these things happen in liberal spaces too.

As soon as I started reading, my favorite thing was that this book took place in Los Angeles. I think the setting is really important for many of the events that occur throughout this book. I think the book shows how sometimes people like to think that transphobia and homophobia only exists in small towns and conservative places, but this book shows how it exists in what we think of as a safe town. I also really loved the setting because it felt like I was going to these places with the characters, I could picture all the places they went as these are the places I grew up going to.

Something else that I really loved that this book addresses is the transphobia within the queer community. I thought it was important that the lack of trans awareness in the school’s GSA was addressed and we also saw some of the LGBTQ+ characters having a hard time when Jack is outed.

The reveal of who outed Jack was so hard to read but also I kind of liked Jack’s response to the person who outed him. I thought it was nice that he took this as a teaching moment while still expressing his anger about what happened. I can’t speak much about this without giving spoilers but I have a lot of feelings about how it went down.

This book has so much packed into it and discusses many topics. This book also briefly goes into being mixed race, and we also see how Jack is treated because he is half Indian. While there is so many layers to this book, and so many different things going on, I don’t think that any of it takes away from the book.

Characters: Through this book you meet several characters through their interactions with Jules and Jack. I really liked getting to know Jack and Jules and thinks the book does a great job of letting you know them both with and without each other.

I really liked reading as the relationship between Jack and Jules developed and then what happens when Jules finds out that Jack is trans. I think this non-linear development of their relationship was realistic. I thought that their relationship was realistic for their ages and really liked how they both were figuring out themselves and what they wanted. I really liked that we do get a happy ending for their relationship because it felt wholesome and I love happy endings for trans people, we deserve them.

I thought that both sets of parents played an important role in this story and was really glad that they were included. I thought it was important that we see Jules’s mom being transphobic and read as how that figures into the story. The dinner scene was so hard for me to get through because of all the transphobia that is packed into just a few pages. It was hard to read as Jack’s dad didn’t stand up for his son, and Jules’s didn’t know how to make it all stop. I did think it was important to see Jack’s dad struggle in this moment and to also see Jack’s response to this.

Writing Style: The story is told through two perspectives and in first person. The book also includes some tumblr posts that Jack is making to Evie along with some video transcripts Jack and Evie made. I liked getting to hear both of their sides to the story and see what was happening for each of them as the story progressed. I really liked getting to see parts of Jack’s past through the tumblr posts and youtube videos because they show how he came to be who he is now.

The Forest of Stolen Girls Book by June Hur Review

Author Information

June Hur was born in South Korea and raised in Canada, except for the time when she moved back to Korea and attended high school there. Most of her work is inspired by her journey through life as an individual, a dreamer, and a Christian, with all its confusions, doubts, absurdities and magnificence. She studied History and Literature at the University of Toronto. When she’s not writing, she can be found journaling at a coffee shop. She lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter.

Her debut novel THE SILENCE OF BONES (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, April 2020) is a murder mystery set in Joseon Dynasty Korea (early 1800s), and also a coming-of-age tale about a girl searching for home. It was recently selected by the American Booksellers Association as one of the top debuts of Winter/Spring 2020 (Indies Introduce).

She is represented by Amy Bishop of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret LLC.

Book Description

After her father vanishes while investigating the disappearance of 13 young women, a teen returns to her secretive hometown to pick up the trail in this second YA historical mystery from the author of The Silence of Bones.

Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.

To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.

Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.

Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Children’s Publishing group for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Thoughts and Themes: This book has a very slow pace to it and it never really does pick up, that being said the pacing doesn’t take away from the story. I really enjoy the slow pacing of this story because it gives you time to think about all the revelations that occur as you read. This isn’t one that I would’ve picked up normally because of the fact that it is classified as historical but I am so glad that I read it. I really enjoyed a lot about this story.

I really enjoyed the way that the story was built and how you are right there with both of the sisters as they go on this search for the truth. I thought the way that this book was written allowed you to feel the suspense building up and also try and solve the case with them.

As I was reading this I kept forgetting that this was historical and written in a different time period. I thought that the time period was captured well in all the small aspects that were included as well as the back story of different people. I really liked learning about the different people involved in the case and the people that the two girls were interrogating.

I think it is very important to read the Historical note portion of this book because that lets you know that the story is based in real events. I thought it was interesting to learn about things that had happened in Korea in the past as I didn’t know about any of this. I really thought this book was a good way to learn about those things and liked the way facts were introduced to this novel.

Characters: This story is a lot more plot driven than character driven so I feel that we don’t get to know much about our characters. What I did like about this book is the relationships that we see between Maewol and Hwani, along with the relationship they each had with their father. I really liked watching as they learned about each other and reading as Hwani learned about her father. I thought it was good to see those relationships change and also watch the relationships that Maewol has developed with others as a result of the absence of her family.

Writing Style: This story is told through the perspective of Hwani which I thought was great. I think if the story had included any other perspectives things may have been muddied. I liked that we were watching everything unfold through Hwani’s viewpoint as she was a visitor to this place. I thought it was good that she didn’t have close ties to anyone there besides her father, and even her relationship with her sister was estranged.

Better Not Bitter: Living on Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice by Yusef Salaam

Author Information

In 1989, at just fifteen years young, Dr. Yusef Salaam was tried and convicted in the “Central Park Jogger” case along with four other Black and Latinx young men. The Exonerated Five spent between seven to 13 years behind bars for crimes they did not commit, until their sentences were overturned in 2002. Since then, they have received a multi-million dollar settlement from the city of New York for its injustice and have been profiled in award-winning films, including The Central Park Five documentary from Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon and most recently the Emmy award-winning Netflix limited series When They See Us, written and directed by Ava DuVernay.

Over the past two decades, Yusef has become a family man, father, poet, activist and inspirational speaker. He continues to utilize his platform to share his story with others and educate the public about the impact of mass incarceration and police brutality rooted in our justice system. He regularly advocates for criminal justice reform, prison reform and the abolition of juvenile solitary confinement and capital punishment, specifically restoring “humanity” of those incarcerated and those trodden down by the spike wheels of justice.

Yusef is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama (2016) and more recently has shared his story and stance on current issues on CNN, MSNBC, REVOLT TV, NPR Atlanta, FOX and more.

Book Description

This inspirational memoir serves as a call to action from prison reform activist Yusef Salaam, of the Exonerated Five, that will inspire us all to turn our stories into tools for change in the pursuit of racial justice.

They didn’t know who they had.

Better Not Bitter is the first time that one of the now Exonerated Five is telling his individual story, in his own words. Yusef writes his narrative: growing up Black in central Harlem in the ’80s, being raised by a strong, fierce mother and grandmother, his years of incarceration, his reentry, and exoneration. Yusef connects these stories to lessons and principles he learned that gave him the power to survive through the worst of life’s experiences. He inspires readers to accept their own path, to understand their own sense of purpose. With his intimate personal insights, Yusef unpacks the systems built and designed for profit and the oppression of Black and Brown people. He inspires readers to channel their fury into action, and through the spiritual, to turn that anger and trauma into a constructive force that lives alongside accountability and mobilizes change.

So begins Yusef Salaam telling his story. No one’s life is the sum of the worst things that happened to them, and during Yusef Salaam’s seven years of wrongful incarceration as one of the Central Park Five, he grew from child to man, and gained a spiritual perspective on life. Yusef learned that we’re all “born on purpose, with a purpose.” Despite having confronted the racist heart of America while being “run over by the spiked wheels of injustice,” Yusef channeled his energy and pain into something positive, not just for himself but for other marginalized people and communities.

This memoir is an inspiring story that grew out of one of the gravest miscarriages of justice, one that not only speaks to a moment in time or the rage-filled present, but reflects a 400-year history of a nation’s inability to be held accountable for its sins. Yusef Salaam’s message is vital for our times, a motivating resource for enacting change. Better, Not Bitter has the power to soothe, inspire and transform. It is a galvanizing call to action.

Review

Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my review. This book is coming to shelves near you on May 18, 2021 or you can go ahead and pre-order it now at:

Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ IndieBound ~ Indigo

Thoughts and Themes: This is another book that I can’t review in the same way I tend to review others. Honestly I find memoirs so hard to review because you can’t really review someone’s life. All I can really discuss with memoirs is the writing style and my feelings as I read through it. This is one that I really hope you all pick up and I will be recommending this to family which I rarely do.

If you enjoyed watching When They See Us on Netflix then I guarantee that you will enjoy reading this story. This not only gives you one of the exonerated five’s stories through the Central Park Five case but it shows you who Yusef was as a boy and who he is now as he is out of prison.

This book includes many of Yusef’s raw emotions and thoughts as the whole thing happens. I like that he mentions needing to get younger Yusef in order to really write this story. I thought it was greatly written because you see how Yusef wants to feel about everything but how he struggles with it all.

There is so much that I want to say about this book and how important it is but I don’t have the words to express myself. I thought it was important that Yusef talked about how naïve he was and how he also played into the notion that racism was in the past. I thought this was such an important part of the story and it resonated with me. I also was someone who thought racism wasn’t a thing anymore and my dad would explain otherwise but I didn’t believe it until I went to a private university and saw what my dad had been talking about.

I did put this book down several times because you can’t read this without pausing to take things in. You need to pause in order to really listen to this story and what Yusef is saying, there is no breezing through a book like this. I thought it was important that Yusef touches on the injustices that he faced and how these are injustices that all Black people have faced. I thought it was important that he discusses the prison industrial system and the inherent racism of that system. This book touches upon so many different subjects and I think it is important to learn about these things through non-fiction as we are given different and often times new perspectives.

Survival of the Thickest: Essays by Michelle Buteau Book Review

Author Information

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 10: Michelle Buteau attends the 2019 Glamour Women Of The Year Summit at Alice Tully Hall on November 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Glamour)

Michelle Buteau was born on July 24, 1977 in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, USA. She is an actress and writer, known for Always Be My Maybe (2019), Happiest Season (2020) and Isn’t It Romantic (2019). She has been married to Gijs van der Most since July 31, 2010. They have two children.

Book Description

If you’ve watched television or movies in the past year, you’ve seen Michelle Buteau. With scene-stealing roles in Always Be My MaybeFirst Wives ClubSomeone GreatRussian Doll, and Tales of the City; a reality TV show and breakthrough stand-up specials, including her headlining show Welcome to Buteaupia on Netflix, and two podcasts (Late Night Whenever and Adulting), Michelle’s star is on the rise. You’d be forgiven for thinking the road to success—or adulthood or financial stability or self-acceptance or marriage or motherhood—has been easy; but you’d be wrong.

Now, in Survival of the Thickest, Michelle reflects on growing up Caribbean, Catholic, and thick in New Jersey, going to college in Miami (where everyone smells like pineapple), her many friendship and dating disasters, working as a newsroom editor during 9/11, getting started in standup opening for male strippers, marrying into her husband’s Dutch family, IVF and surrogacy, motherhood, chosen family, and what it feels like to have a full heart, tight jeans, and stardom finally in her grasp.

Review

Thank you to Libro.fm for the advanced listening copy of this book in exchange for my review.

Thoughts and Themes: This review is a little different from my others because this book is different from what I usually read. For non-fiction books there really is no commenting on characters because there is none especially in a memoir. I love every memoir by a comedian that I have read to this date because they have the humor in each portion of their memoir, even in the moments that are meant to be sad.

I love how this book is separated into different essays that talk about different portions and aspects of Michelle’s life. I really enjoy reading memoirs from comedians when I don’t know them because the memoir tends to make me want to watch their acts. I only got through two of the essays and am already loving it and can’t wait to listen to the whole thing. I’m so interested in hearing more of this book and learning more about her through this book.

There are so many moments that I was just laughing or having to pause because my mom walked past and there was some inappropriate language. I don’t mind that but I don’t want my mom to question my reading choices, lol. I want to comment on each essay that is included in this book but then this review would go on forever.

I love that Michelle talks about the real things and doesn’t sugar coat anything. I really like her essay “Survival of the Thickest ” and its commentary on what we tell Big girls. I liked how she talks about what it is like to have a larger body as a child and how she was treated. She doesn’t go easy on this topic and she lays out her feelings right on those pages. I love how she talks about the shops that make her feel like worthy. I could go on and on on the relatability of this chapter.

There are so many other essays in this book that I really enjoy, I really liked the commentary that she made on the Catholic church. I related so much to this and loved what her stance was and how she kept her friends a part of the whole ceremony even if her family would’ve preferred otherwise.

Something that I think people may have issues with is that she brings her humor to even the hardest moments of her life. I think when reading you need to understand that this is the way she is comfortable with sharing this very intimate parts of herself with you as the reader. I was very appreciative of the fact that she was willing to share these moments with us.

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp Book Tour Post

I am so excited to get a chance to be a part of this book tour hosted by Hear Our Voices Book Tours . Make sure you check out the rest of the posts that are a part of this tour by looking at the schedule for the tour found here. 

Author Information

Laekan Zea Kemp is a writer living in Austin, Texas. She has three objectives when it comes to storytelling: to make people laugh, cry, and crave Mexican food. Her work celebrates Chicanx grit, resilience, creativity, and joy while exploring themes of identity and mental health. Her debut novel, SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BITTER & SWEET is forthcoming from Little Brown in spring 2021.

You can find Laekan Zea Kemp at:

Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Website ~ Goodreads

Book Description

Publisher: Little Brown

Release Date: April 6, 2021

Genre: YA Fiction

Book Info:

As an aspiring pastry chef, 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 new found family and himself.

Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong — both within their families and their fiercely loyal Chicanx community — in order to save the place they all call home.

You can find the book at:

Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble  ~ Bookshop.org 

Review

Thoughts and Themes: There are very few books that I take a lot of notes for and this was one of them. I was glad that Libro.Fm gave me an advanced listening copy so that I could listen to this story while following along with the e-book.

While this book cover and synopsis make it sound like its a romance book, it is so much more than that. I really liked the complexity of this being first love but also adding the feeling of hopelessness and the theme of found family. I thought it was great to see both of these themes played out through Pen and Xander’s storylines because you saw how it affected them differently.

I liked the idea that the restaurant is so much more than just a place that people go to eat at. I liked how it represented something to the neighborhood but also how we see the weight it had on the dad. I thought that it was important to include both of these points in the book because we see how much he wants to help but its to the point that it hurts him. I liked how this portion of the book resolves itself but I can’t say much about this or I’ll ruin the story for you all.

Something else that I loved about this book was the idea of found family both for Xander and for pen. I like watching them both be able to give this to each other and how Xander realizes family isn’t always just blood.

Overall this story was just so heartwarming and it just reminded me of how important community is. I just loved seeing how they all came together to support Pen when she needed them. It reminded me of times that I’ve been in community with others and how much my communities have supported me throughout my life.

Characters: There is not a character in this book that isn’t lovable, well…besides the villain of the story you know. Every other character that you met is just a great addition to the story. You have the main characters Pen and Xander and through them you are introduced to both of their families and the people who work with them.

I really enjoyed the way the relationship between Pen and her father was shown and how that relationship developed and changed throughout the book. I thought it was great to see things through Pen’s perspective and see what she thought her father was thinking of her. I really liked how Xander was thinking the tension between them was because they were the same person. I laughed when I read that piece because it reminded me of my relationship with my dad.

I really liked getting to know both Pen and Xander and seeing how their stories connected to each other. I liked seeing how the themes in both of their stories parallel each other in different ways. I also liked seeing how they slowly fall in love with each other as they learn more about one another.

Writing Style: This story is told through first person dual perspectives of Pen and Xander. It was great to be able to see both of their perspectives to know what was going on in each of their heads. I think the story would not have worked if we only got one side because it is about both of them struggling to belong.