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 

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An Ordinary Wonder by Buki Papillon

Book Description

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

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

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

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

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

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I had started reading this book last year but I put it down because I couldn’t really get into it. I tried it on audiobook and on e-book as well. This time I decided to grab the audiobook version of this book and couldn’t stop listening to it. There are so many things that this book touches on yet it does it in such a way that it doesn’t overwhelm you. I also made the mistake of reading reviews before going into the book which kind of painted my expectations of this book.

I can’t speak to the accuracy in a lot of this book and that is the issue I found most people speaking on. I found that most people took issue with the book having many negative things occur in Oto’s life due to them being intersex but I am not sure if this also has to do with the setting of the book. I understand that different cultures have different views on intersex people and the time and setting of this book could have played a role in the reactions of the people in Oto’s life before he goes to International Secondary School (ISS).

This book discusses relationships between siblings, the role of education, gender, sexuality, belonging, culture, folklore, and more. I thought that the way each of these topics was addressed was done in a good manner, and I really liked how it didn’t feel like things were skirted over.

Characters: In this book, you are introduced to a few characters through their interactions with the main character, Oto/Lori. You get to meet Oto’s mother, sister, and some of Oto’s friends at the school that he is staying at.

I loved Oto/Lori throughout the whole book and I really enjoyed them as the narrator. I loved how we get to see them grow into themself and also get to see the change that happens as they interact with others at ISS. I also really loved Derin and the friendship that Oto/Lori has with him. I loved that Derin just accepted Oto as he is and without any question. That was really nice to see especially for teenage boys of that age as the other boys bullied Oto because he is different.

The other relationship that I liked even though the complexities that it caused for Oto/Lori was his relationship with Wura. Wura is Oto’s sister and at first, she is the one person he feels that he can trust. It is as Oto/Lori learns more about being intersex and starts exploring femininity that his relationship with Wura falters. I thought it was interesting to see this happen because it was not far from the truth, this is what several queer people experience in their familial relationships.

Writing Style: This book goes back and forth between Now and Before, focusing primarily on Oto’s teenage years. In the before years we get to see Oto’s life before he moved to ISS (International Secondary School) and it is in those years that you see how Oto’s mother abused him emotionally and physically due to him being intersex and the views of the village they live in. In the Now section we get to see Oto’s life at ISS as he navigates trying to blend in with the boys but feeling more like a girl and still feeling like something is wrong with him. It is in the now section that Oto/Lori starts learns about being intersex in a neutral way and learns more about himself.

Author Information

Buki Papillon: Writer, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Massage Therapist, Bead Artist. She/her.* TWITTER: https://twitter.com/bukipapillon *

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

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

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

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

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

Serendipity Ten Romantic Tropes Transformed Book Review

Book Description

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

The secret admirer.
The fake relationship.
The matchmaker.


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

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

Review

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

Bye Bye, Piper Berry by Julie Murphy

Trope: Fake Dating

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

Anyone Else but You by Leah Johnson

Trope: Stranded Together

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

The Idiom Algorithm by Abigail Hing Wen

Trope: Class Warfare

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

Auld Acquaintance by Caleb Roehrig

Trope: The Best Friend Love Epiphany

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

Shooting Stars by Marissa Meyer

Trope: One Bed

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

Keagan’s Heaven on Earth by Sarah Winifred Searle

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

Zora in the Spotlight  by Elise Bryant

Trope: Grand Romantic Gesture

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

In a Blink of the Eye by Elizabeth Eulberg

Trope: Trapped in a Confined Space

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

Liberty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Trope: The Makeover

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

The Surprise Match by Sandhya Menon

Trope: Matchmaker

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

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A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi Book Review

Book Description

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

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

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

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

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Information

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

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

Book Description

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

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Information

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

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao Book Review

Book Description

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

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

And Sam picks up the phone.

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

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Information

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

Her Honor Book Review

Book Description

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

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

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

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

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

Review

Thank you to Celadon Books for the gifted copy.

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

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

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

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

Author Information

From Judge Cordell’s website:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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