Nate Plus One By Kevin van Whye Book Review

Book Description

Two boys. Two bands. Two worlds colliding.

Nate Hargraves – stage-shy singer-songwriter – is totally stoked for his cousin’s wedding in South Africa, an all-expenses-paid trip of a lifetime. Until he finds out his sleazeball ex-boyfriend is also on the guest list.

Jai Patel – hot-as-hell high school rock-god – has troubles too. His band’s lead singer has quit, just weeks before the gig that was meant to be their big break.

When Nate saves the day by agreeing to sing with Jai’s band, Jai volunteers to be Nate’s plus-one to the wedding, and the stage is set for a summer of music, self-discovery, and simmering romantic tension. What could possibly go wrong . . . ?

Review

Thoughts and Themes: When I first started listening to this book I was quite worried that I wouldn’t enjoy it but I decided to keep listening since it was such a short book and I am so glad that I did. There were several moments in which I was listening to this book that I had to stop to take in what was being said.

This book is a cute rom com but it is so much more than that. I really enjoy how this ook talks about coming out, being a Queer Person of Color, Racism, and more. I like the way that this book puts all these things together and still manages to tell a cute best friends to lovers story. I also really enjoyed how this book takes place in South Africa for the majority of the story and how we get to see this portion of Nate’s family and life.

Characters: In this book you get to meet several characters through their interactions with Nate. You get to meet some of his family members, the love interest, Jai, his ex-boyfriend, Tommy, and more.

I really enjoyed the relationship that Nate has with Ouma Lettie who is his grandmother. I love the way she accepts him for who he is and also how she explains how her past affects her attitudes towards Nate being gay. There are so many moments that Nate has with Ouma Lettie that I highlighted in the book because of how impactful they are to the story.

I also really enjoyed the relationship that Nate has with Jai and how that differs from the relationship that he describes with Tommy. I like how we see Nate describe a relationship in which he was closeted and how that differs from this relationship. I also like how Jai is immediately immersed into Nate’s family and how he just seems to fit in.

Writing Style: This story is told in first person through the perspective of Nate. I really enjoyed that everything was told from Nate’s perspective because there were moments that we needed to be inside of his head. I really enjoyed that we got a chance to hear what Nate thought about everything and then when things fell apart we only get to see his thoughts and actions.

Author Information

Kevin van Whye was born and raised in South Africa, where his love for storytelling started at a young age. Kevin is the author of Date Me, Bryson Keller. He lives in Johannesburg, and when he’s not reading, he’s writing stories that give his characters the happy rom-com endings they deserve. Find him at KevinvanWhye.com.

Kings of B’More by R. Eric Thomas Book Review

Book Description

Two Black, queer best friends face their last day together with an epic journey through Baltimore in this magnetic YA debut by celebrated cultural critic and bestselling Here For It author R. Eric Thomas.

With junior year starting in the fall, Harrison feels like he’s on the precipice of, well, everything. Standardized testing, college, and the terrifying unknowns and looming pressures of adulthood after that–it’s like the future wants to eat him alive. Which is why Harrison is grateful that he and his best friend Linus will face these things together. But at the end of a shift at their summer job, Linus invites Harrison to their special spot overlooking the city to deliver devastating news: he’s moving out of state at the end of the week.

To keep from completely losing it–and partially inspired by a cheesy movie-night pick by his Dad–Harrison plans a send-off � la Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that’s worthy of his favorite person. If they won’t be having all the life-expanding experiences they thought they would, Harrison will squeeze them all into their last day. They end up on a mini road trip, their first Pride, and a rooftop dance party, all while keeping their respective parents, who track them on a family location app, off their trail. Harrison and Linus make a pact to do all the things–big and small–they’ve been too scared to do. But nothing feels scarier than saying goodbye to someone you love.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I was quite pleased when Penguin teen provided me with a copy of this book so that I could provide a review. While I haven’t seen the movie Ferris Bueller, I was intrigued because this book centered around two Queer, Black males, and their friendship which is something that I rarely see in books.

I tend to find Queer books focus so much on the romance that they leave the friendship piece out, or that if there’s another Queer person in the book it’s an automatic relationship so I loved that this book didn’t go that route. Throughout the whole time of reading this book, I was waiting for there to be some romantic gesture made and I just didn’t feel that spark between the two guys so I was happy that they didn’t have any romantic feelings toward each other. I do really love that this book talks about how this is different from a typical friendship and the love that they have for each other that is platonic but still so important and valid.

I love how this book was a take on Ferris Bueller and how the characters point out how different it is because they aren’t white, straight guys. I thought it was important that this was pointed out because some of the events that take place throughout this story are because they are Black, Gay guys.

Characters: In this book, you are introduced to several characters through their interactions with our main character, Harrison. You get to meet his best friend, Linus, his sister Corrine, his parents, and Linus’s dad, as well as some of their friends, Aparna.

I really loved the friendship between Harrison and Linus and how we see it develop throughout this book. I love that we get a chance to see how this friendship started and how they both feel about their friendship. I really enjoyed how they both didn’t have to say anything to just understand each other. This whole friendship reminded me of me and my best friend and how space and time don’t change things for us, it’s more than words can describe but this book put that friendship into words.

I also really enjoyed the relationship that Harrison has with each of his family members and how we see this throughout the book. I like how his parents explain why they are so protective of him and I like how close his sister is with him. I like that we also get to see her being protective of him throughout the book and how she also understands him.

Writing Style: This story is told in the third person through an outside narrator, and you also get some show notes from Aparna that are written in the first person. I really liked getting the chance to see both what Harrison and Linus were up to and what Aparna was getting into to keep their travels a secret.

I loved the pieces that were written by Aparna as I felt like she was the actual narrator for this whole story and she was retelling that day. I know that this isn’t the case but it’s nice to think that she just knows all because it fits her character.

I also really liked that this was told in the third person because we got to see what each person was thinking or what each of them was doing at different moments in time. While the majority of the book was focused on Harrison, you did get glimpses of Linus and his thoughts.

Author Information

R. Eric Thomas is a national bestselling author, playwright, and screenwriter. His books include, Here for It, or How to Save Your Soul in America, which was featured as a Read with Jenna pick on NBC’s Today, Reclaiming Her Time: The Power of Maxine Waters, co-authored with Helena Andrews-Dyer, and the YA novel Kings of B’more. For four years, he wrote “Eric Reads the News” a wildly popular daily humor column covering pop culture and politics on ELLE.com.

He has written on the Peabody Award-winning series Dickinson on AppleTV+ and Better Things on FX. Off the page, Eric is also the long-running host of The Moth StorySlams in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., and has been heard multiple times on The Moth Radio Hour, NPR’s All Things Considered and It’s Been A Minute with Sam Sanders. Website: rericthomas.com

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.

Her Honor Book Review

Book Description

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

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

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

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

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

Review

Thank you to Celadon Books for the gifted copy.

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

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

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

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

Author Information

From Judge Cordell’s website:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On The Hook Book Review

Book Description

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

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

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

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

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

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Information

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

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

Book Description

Title: Things We Couldn’t Say 

Author: Jay Coles 

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Publication Date: September 21st, 2021

Genres: Young Adult Contemporary 

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

Book links

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

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Information

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

Author Links

Website ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ GoodReads ~ Tumblr

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.

Cemetery Boys- Blog Tour Stop- Author Interview

Author Information

Aiden Thomas is a YA author with an MFA in Creative Writing. Originally from Oakland, California, they now make their home in Portland, OR. As a queer, trans, latinx, Aiden advocates strongly for diverse representation in all media. Aiden’s special talents include: quoting The Office, Harry Potter trivia, Jenga, finishing sentences with “is my FAVORITE”, and killing spiders. Aiden is notorious for not being able to guess the endings of books and movies, and organizes their bookshelves by color.

Their debut novel, CEMETERY BOYS, will be published June 9th, 2020.

You can find Aiden Thomas at:

  1. Website
  2. Twitter
  3. Instagram

Book Description

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

Author Interview

Thank you to Hear Our Voices Book Tour for the opportunity to host the author interview on my page. I’m very excited to share with you all what I learned from the author and more reasons why you need to get this book now. Another big thank you to Aiden Thomas for the opportunity to get to know more about them and their debut novel.Well let’s not wait any longer and jump right into the Q & A portion of this interview.

For those who are meeting you for the first time what would you say are 3 “Good To Know” Facts About You?

  1. I’m a Cancer sun, Leo rising! (I don’t actually know anything about astrology but whenever I tell folks they go, “that makes so much sense!” so I guess it’s important for getting to know me!)
  2. I’m 5’11”! For some reason, people always expect me to be short but I’m actually pretty dang tall in person!
  3. I’m totally obsessed with the anime Haikyuu!! and spend most of my time on Twitter looking at fanart. 

What would you say are your 5 favorite books – and why? 

  1. “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller because it has the most beautiful prose I have ever read!
  2. “Labyrinth Lost” by Zoraida Cordova because that was the first time I saw my culture reflected in a book. It’s because of The Brooklyn Bruja series that I realized I could write a book like “Cemetery Boys!”
  3. “When the Moon Was Ours” by Anna-Marie MeLemore because it was the first time I read a book with a trans character (and the book itself is so beautiful).
  4. “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins because the pacing and action is so good! I must’ve read that series close to a dozen times at this point.
  5. “I Hear the Sunspot” by Yuki Fumino which is technically a manga series, BUT it holds a very special and important piece of my heart! It’s a gay romance and one of the main characters is deaf. It’s the first time I saw deaf/H.O.H. representation in a book and it’s done so well! I recommend it to literally everyone.

Would you say that any of those books/authors inspired you to become a writer? If so, how? If not, what did inspire you to become a writer? 
They’ve all inspired parts of my writing, but I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in elementary school! I’ve always had really vivid dreams, especially nightmares, so when I was little as we had to do journaling for class, I’d write them down like a story. Then as I grew up, reading great
books made me want to write great books, so that’s what led me down the path of pursuing it as a life passion!

Tell us a little bit about Cemetery Boys and your inspiration behind the story? 
“Cemetery Boys” is a contemporary paranormal fantasy about a trans boy named Yadriel who is trying to prove to his family he’s a brujo. He decides, in order to do that, he’s going to summon the spirit of his cousin, Miguel, who died under mysterious circumstances and release him to the
afterlife. Unfortunately, he ends up summoning the spirit of Julian Diaz, the resident bad boy of his high school. The two have to work together to find out what happened to Yadriel’s cousin and what happened to Julian’s friends the night he was killed. As they go about trying to solve
these mysteries, Yadriel ends up developing feelings for Julian and that complicates everything. The inspiration for the premise actually came from a writing prompt I saw while scrolling through Tumblr! It said, “What would you do if you summoned a ghost and you couldn’t get rid of it?” and
instead of the creepy scenarios that other folks were coming up with, my mind immediately went to, “And what if he was CUTE??” I also really wanted to write a book with a trans main character where it was less about being trans, or figuring out his identity. I wanted it to be a fun adventure
where the main character just so happened to be trans.

Your story is set in East Los Angeles and takes place around the Day of the Dead. Why did you choose that as the setting for your book?
I was born and raised in California and I decided to have “Cemetery Boys” take place there because the city is really a central place where so many different Latinx communities come together. I wanted to reflect that in the brujx — how they all have this magical Mesoamerican lineage, but they also come from different Latinx countries and pieces of those cultures are
celebrated and make up the brujx community. I chose everything to center around Dia de Muertos because it’s my favorite holiday, but also because it all revolves around death and the afterlife, which perfectly aligned with the premise!

What was something about Cemetery Boys that you struggled to write or come up with?
I’d say the research part of writing “Cemetery Boys” was surprisingly challenging. The Latinx diaspora made it really difficult for me to have definitive research. I wanted to incorporate different Mesoamerican cultures — Aztec, Maya and Inca — to really establish that brujx were
around before and during the establishment of these cultures, that they have an ancient magic. The problem is that, due to colonization, indigenous Mesoamerican traditions and mythos have been destroyed or erased. Physical remnants of our history were widely destroyed, so we have
to rely on oral tradition and try to decipher the few artefacts we do have access to, most of which have been stolen from us and put into museums. I was surprised by how difficult it really was to find research, but, if nothing else, it did give me room to be creative and make my own mythos for my brujx. And, luckily, there’s no shortage of death gods in Mesoamerican myths!

What would you say was the most surprising thing that you learned while writing your novel? 
Honestly, learning the ropes of the publishing industry was a big crash course! I had no idea what publishing was like before I sold my first book to Swoon Reads/Macmillan. I didn’t even have a Twitter! So writing “Cemetery Boys” taught me a lot about what publishing is. I’m also constantly surprised by how wonderful and supportive the writing community has been.

What do you hope your readers take away from reading Cemetery Boys? 
I really hope readers will find connection and feel seen when they read “Cemetery Boys”. I wanted to create a story for readers to connect with Yadriel on universal truths that are basic to the human experience, things like struggling to fit in, feeling accepted for who you are, and being loved. A lot of queer teens experience their first sense of belonging or affirmation with queer bloggers, YouTubers, Tiktokers and, of course, characters in books — like Yadriel. Even if they can’t talk to them personally, seeing people with their identities, seeing themselves reflected in books, or internet stars telling them they’re valid gives them a sense of community and comfort. I really hope Yadriel can be that for some folks.

What is your next project? What have you been working on recently?
Right now I’m kind of dabbling in a bunch of different stuff! My second book is already ready to be published so I’ve been taking time to explore my writing and different genres I’m interested in. I’ve been working on a trans romcom, as well as a Maya myth retelling, and I’ve also got a dark fantasy idea that has to do with kids cursed by Aztec death gods! I’m going to have a lot of fun figuring out what my next book will be!

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
FINISH YOUR FIRST DRAFT! I feel like writers always ask for advice when it comes to improving their story, but you have to get that rough draft down before you can make it better. The hardest part is finishing that manuscript, and you can query or get published until you have a completed draft to work on!

Check out the rest of the stops on this book tour here.

Pre-Order this book now at:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Kobo | Google

Release Date: September 01, 2020

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them Book Review

Summary: Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.

Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.

Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.

Thoughts and Themes: I listened to this book on audio as I followed along with it through the physical book. I have found this is a better way for me to read and be able to keep up with everything.

I love that you get a scene that is packed with emotions right from the start of the book. I thought that Audre’s feelings as she is taken from Neri and forced to move to the U.S. were raw and real. I think that each scene that is included in this book that is meant to be emotional is realistic and you feel the characters emotions along with them. There is never a moment in which I question how Audre or Mabel are feeling as the author is transparent with the reader regarding their feelings.

I think it was impactful that this book included the complexity of having a relationship with God and being queer. It wasn’t until I started picking up queer books written by people of color that I started seeing the intersection of religion and queerness come into play. I always felt that it was a large piece that was missing in things that I read and I felt that queer people couldn’t have a relationship with God. I always felt that we had to choose one or the other so seeing characters who manage to hold both a religious identity and a queer identity really speaks to me and helps me re-examine my relationship with religion.

Something else that this book touches upon is health and what it means for a high school student to have poor health. I also thought that it was important to include that the doctors didn’t have a definitive answer to what was happening to Mabel. I thought that was a good way to show the disparity in the medical community when it comes to treating Black patients and how often times they are overlooked. I thought that the questioning of this illness and Audre’s thoughts on medicine are included and her distrust of the medical system in the U.S. I thought this was another good way to show the reasoning behind why Black people and other people of color have this distrust of the medical system and where it stems from.

Something else that I thought it was important to see was the way Mabel’s poor health affects those around her and see her perspective on this illness that is killing her. I thought it was important that Mabel asks for her space as she comes to terms with her illness and that her friends respect her boundaries in this time.

I like how you get an idea of what Trinidad is like and how you get a comparison of that country and the United States. I like how you also get commentary about how the schooling is very different. I also really enjoyed the conversation that Audre has with her friends about queer people back in Trinidad and how different it is to be queer back at her home and the U.S.

Characters: At the start of the book you get slowly introduced to Audre and the people who are important to her. I like how you see the relationships that she has with other people around her. I love that they show her close relationship with her grandmother, Queenie, and how accepting her grandmother is of her relationship with her girlfriend.

You also begin to get an idea of who Mabel is right from the start as well. I love that they include her questioning her sexuality through her relationship with a previous boyfriend. As you meet Mabel, her friends, and family you begin to understand her more and see why her thought process is the way it is.

Writing Style and Narrator: This book goes back and forth between Audre and Mabel’s perspectives. What I enjoy about this back and forth between the two characters is that it isn’t one chapter for Audre and then one for Mabel. It reads more as one moment for Audre and then one for Mabel, and sometimes those moments span over one chapter and sometimes it takes more.

Something else that I found interesting was that this book includes pieces of poetry from each of the different zodiac signs as it transitions between different portions of the book. I really enjoy all of the astrology references that are included through each of the characters.

I also liked how over halfway through the book as Mabel begins reading Afua’s book, the author included pieces of that book. I also enjoy how there’s parts of other books or poetry included as Audre does assignments in school.

You can get this book at Eso Won Books or look for it at your local library.

This is my America Book Review

GoodReads Summary:Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time—her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?

Thoughts: Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my review.

The reality for Black people is that the America that they live in is not the same America that others know. The reality is that their America looks completely different and at a young age they learn what it means to be Black and live in America. This is the story that Tracy Beaumont wants you to know, she wants you to recognize the difference in the America that her and her family is being forced to grow up in.

What I like about this book is that it is real and the author isn’t afraid to bring up topics that are important. You get to see the real time feelings of not only Tracy but her younger sister, Corinne who was born after her dad was in jail and is watching her brother be chased by the police. You get to see as Tracy’s friend, Dean, struggles with his mother’s racism and his own thoughts surrounding what is happening. This is one of my favorite scenes as Dean struggles with his privilege and his inherent bias towards Black people, while Tracy doesn’t comfort him and allows him to sit in his feelings.

You not only see Tracy’s father doing jail time on death row for something he didn’t do but you also see her brother trying to prove his innocence. You see how easy it is for the police to pin these crimes on Tracy’s family with no proof and how it cost the life of one Black man as he tries to claim he’s innocent. You watch as Tracy tries to continue on with her life and everyone around her tries to keep her from getting in trouble. You watch her struggle with not being able to just be silent about the injustice that her family and community has been and is being put through.

Something else that I found important was that this book shows the race relations between Black people and white people. We saw these relations through Tracy’s friendship with Dean, and his mother’s reactions towards Tracy after her father was sent to jail. I really enjoy reading as Tracy and Dean’s relationship develops and Tracy struggles with what it would mean for her to date Dean. We also saw these relations through Jamal’s relationship with Angela and how that relationship ultimately causes Jamal to be in trouble while Angela’s boyfriend doesn’t get questioned at all.

I recommend this book to those of you who enjoy Nic Stone’s Dear Martin or Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. This is a must read book for all and is a great way to show young adults the reality of what being Black in America means. I would highly recommend this book to white people who are looking for something to help them understand what Black people go through on a regular basis.

You can pre-order this book at Eso Won Books, or look for it at your local library coming out July 28.