The Deep and Dark Blue by Niki Smith Book Review

Book Description

After a terrible political coup usurps their noble house, Hawke and Grayson flee to stay alive and assume new identities, Hanna and Grayce. Desperation and chance lead them to the Communion of Blue, an order of magical women who spin the threads of reality to their will.

As the twins learn more about the Communion, and themselves, they begin to hatch a plan to avenge their family and retake their royal home. While Hawke wants to return to his old life, Grayce struggles to keep the threads of her new life from unraveling, and realizes she wants to stay in the one place that will allow her to finally live as a girl.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I am so glad that I picked this book up randomly at the library when I saw it. I really enjoyed so much about this book and am glad I took the chance with it. I really didn’t expect a middle-grade novel to be this emotional and hard-hitting.

I really enjoyed the way this book covers Grayce’s exploration of her gender. I thought that this was done in a good manner and I liked how supportive everyone was of her exploration.

I liked the magic elements that are include din this story but I wanted more of the world-building. I wanted more of why the Communion of Blue exists and the different types of girls that are in there. This is a short book so I understand that it couldn’t cover everything, so I hope that we get to see more of these characters and this world.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to a few different characters through their interactions with the main characters, Grayce and Hawke. I liked each of the characters that you meet in the Communion of Blue and how they worked with Grayce and Hawke to avenge their family.

Writing and Art Style: I really enjoyed the colors that were included in this story and how distinct it was when they were in the Communion of Blue vs being in other settings. I loved how vibrant the different shades of Blue were and how using only a few shades of colors, really catches your eye.

Author Information

Artist, writer, lover of fine comics (and some pretty trashy ones too). Niki Smith grew up in Kansas and now calls Germany home, and is dedicated to filling the world with queer and diverse stories.

The Best At It Book Review

Thank you to HarperCollins for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my review.

Summary: Rahul is struggling because he wants to find something that he is great at but he falls short in everything that he tries. But in trying all of these things so many more issues are showing up that he doesn’t know how to deal with, such as his OCD, his sexuality, bullying, and racism. Much of the bullying that Rahul is facing at school is due to his perceived sexuality by one student, and because Rahul is Indian. Throughout the story, Rahul learns to embrace who he is despite what others may say and come to terms with all of the differences. Will Rahul be able to find something that he is great at? Will he overcome the bullying he faces at school? What will Rahul learn about himself through this whole process?

Thoughts: I loved the way that this story dealt with so many topics without it being overwhelming for the age group that it was intended for. I loved how each of the topics was addressed by Rahul’s friends and family and how intertwined his race was with these discussions. I really liked the characters that were included and how they each made Rahul’s differences stand out more than he liked. I thought that was a great way to show the reality of situations like Rahul’s for people his age.

I thought it was so great to read about how Rahul’s Indian background informed his thinking and the things that he did. This is the first book that I’ve read in which the main character is Indian and it was great that this was an #ownvoices book because it read really authentically. I enjoyed the relationship that Rahul had with his family, especially his grandfather, Bhai, and really appreciated that the relationships he had with his family’s friends were included.

While the book was written for ages 8-12 I think that up to ages 14 would enjoy this book as well as educators who would read with their classes. I think it is also a book that adults who read middle grade would enjoy because of the topics that it covers, it really opens up those discussions with younger audiences.

You can get this book at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library.

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph Book Review

Thank you NOVL for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my review.

Summary: Birdie (Dove) has her life already set out for her, she’s just planning on following whatever her parents have set out for her. Unfortunately for Birdie falling for Booker was not part of this plan and she knows her parents would never approve of him because of his past. Carlene, her aunt, has now come to stay in the apartment with her family and things suddenly start changing for Birdie. Will Birdie tell her parents about Booker? Will they find out on their own? What secrets are her parents trying to keep from her?

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this coming of age story and how complex each of the character’s lives were. I loved how Birdie is hiding her boyfriend from her parents but she’s surrounded by people who all have secrets of their own and little does she know her parents have secrets to hide from her too.

I really enjoyed how everything pieces together and how things develop over the whole story. Carlene becomes my favorite character as you see everyone doubt her and question her motives when all she wants is to get closer to her niece. It’s heartbreaking to watch her family turn away from her and not believe in her because of her past.

The twist at the end of the story really tied things up nicely in my opinion and I never saw it coming. I thought many different things when everyone was being secretive but never what we find out.

Something else I enjoyed in this book was the amount of LGBTQ+ representation that was there. Finally I have read a book where a character is ace and I put the book down in that moment because I had to take in the beauty of that.

I recommend this to those of you who like reading YA and who want to read a good coming of age story.

You can purchase this at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Book Review

Summary: (Borrowed from Barnes and Noble) Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Thoughts: I have been meaning to read this book for quite a while since everyone kept singing its praises. The only reason that I kept putting it off was because it was in the classics section of the library and I dread reading classics. I regret not picking it up sooner though because this book was such a great read.

It’s really hard for me to explain how much I just loved this book and the reasons behind it. As I was reading it I was crying just because of how beautiful I found the writing and I’m not sure if it was the stylistic choices I found beautiful or if it was the story of two Mexican boys learning about themselves through each other.

Honestly, it was both, I loved the first-person narrative and how we only got to see things through Ari’s eyes. I thought that being able to just see his perspective added to the mystery of who Dante was, and I really enjoyed that there was not much dialogue in the story. I usually hate having little dialogue but this story called for that, there were no words needed to describe the love that was between everyone in the story. 

Something else that I loved was that here were these two Mexican boys who struggled with feeling not Mexican enough and also not enough of a boy/man. I loved watching them struggle to figure themselves out because of that and watching them compare themselves to their mothers and fathers. I thought this story was so great because of the family’s impact on the boys and their reaction to so many things.

Something else I thought that was beautiful about this book was that the boys still responded to emotions as teenagers would but I found them relatable. While their struggles were ones of young adults I think that some of the struggles they had were not only for that age category.

I recommend this to those of you who love young adult, classics or who are looking for a good LGBTQ+ read.

You can buy this at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library.

My Sister, The Serial Killer Book Review

Summary: This is the third time that Korode has to clean up her sister’s mess and she is hoping its the last time. Karode is starting to believe that her sister is a serial killer and now she has set her eyes on the man that Karode was after. Will she be able to get to him on time or will it be too late? Is Ayoola actually telling the truth?

Thoughts: I started reading this since I kept seeing it all over bookstagram and then on my Goodreads as well. I decided since it was a short read I might as well pick it up. I didn’t hate but also it wasn’t a 5 star read for me. I knew that some things were already going to go over my head because of the satire but I found that I still enjoyed some aspects despite that.

Something that I actually enjoyed in this was the stark contrast between Korede and Ayoola. Not only were the differences in their looks mentioned often but you also saw the difference in their personalities. I really enjoyed getting to see

Something that I was not a fan of was the short chapters because each chapter felt like it was starting a different story. There were some chapters that I felt didn’t really add to the story and others that I wanted more of. I also felt that there were no transitions in between the chapters so it read like a book without a plot even when the plot was intriguing.

The ending has two twists which redeem this book for me. I really thought and was hoping that it would go in one direction when suddenly it went in a direction that I didn’t even picture. Once that happened I was like oh for sure I know what’s coming next but nope that isn’t what happened either. I was quite pleased with both of these twists.

I recommend this book to those of you who enjoy a short quick read, or who enjoy mystery/thriller books.

You can purchase this book at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library.

Dark Matter (Contagion) By Teri Terry Book Review

I got a advanced reader copy of the book at yallwest. Thanks to Charlesbridge Teen and Netgalley for the free copy in exchange for a review.

Summary: Callie has gone missing and her brother, Kai is starting to believe that he is never going to find her or know what happened to her. Just as he is about to lose hope he meets Shay who recalls a girl who fits the description of Kai’s sister. While on this search to find his sister, Shay and Kai wind up encountering an epidemic that is quickly making its way through Scotland and they are in a race against time. Will Shay and Kai be able to bypass this epidemic and find Callie or will it be too late?

Thoughts: I will read anything that has to do with contagions, epidemics, viruses, and diseases so this was no exception. I was very pleased by so many things in this book but I will say that it isn’t for everyone, as much as I want to have everyone read this book. If you’re a bit squeamish I would say you might want to pass on this book but if not then read on.

When reading books about epidemics and contagions I always enjoy a map being included in the beginning because it makes it easy for me to follow the disease, virus, parasite, or whatever else is causing people to die in large quantities. I love being able to refer back to the map anytime that a character mentions their location or what is happening to people in different parts of Scotland.

I love how the story is told in the perspective of two characters and both of them are talking in first person. I was worried it would get confusing or that they would distract from each other’s story but it was quite the opposite. I felt that hearing from both of their perspectives really adds to the story and is has more of an impact when you find out small details about both of the girls.

Something else that I enjoyed was the explanation for what this epidemic really is. It was a bit difficult for me to understand and I had to read it more than once to get it but I loved that it was different from others I have read in the past. I love that it was something completely out of the norm and something that really made you think.

If you would like to read this book you can find it on Amazon or look for it at your local library.

Cursed by Karol Ruth Silverstein

I got a ARC of this book at Yallwest and was so excited to read it since it was a #ownvoices book. I hardly see own voices when it comes to books about chronic illness, chronic pain, or disabilities so I love that this is one of those books.

Summary: Ricky has been recently diagnosed with a chronic illness and is pretty angry about it. Not only does she now have to deal with constant pain but her family is a mess, and the boy she likes doesn’t even know she exists. The only way she can think of to cope with this is through cursing and skipping school. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for her through her lashing out it is reveled to her parents that she has been skipping school and has a lot to make-up for if she plans on not repeating the 9th grade. Is Ricky going to make-up for lost time and is she gonna learn the importance of asking for help?

Thoughts: I will always appreciate a #ownvoices book because I don’t have to wonder if you know what the character feels like. While I know this is one person’s experience at least it is someone’s experience rather than information gathered from the internet that can sometimes be inaccurate.

I really enjoy how angry Ricky is at the world and how sometimes she even recognizes that her anger is misplaced. I know that this can sometimes throw you off as a reader but more me it made me find her relatable. She reminded me of having to go through multiple doctors and many tears before someone finally realized that the problem was asthma and that it wasn’t going away.

I love when she doesn’t want her arthritis to keep her from enjoying things and how hard she tries to keep doing things even if she’s in pain. In addition to this I love how she keeps thinking of others as brave and how this book shows her looking at other people with disabilities because I think that’s very realistic. This book does a great job at portraying the different levels in identity development when it comes to disability and it reminded me of my process through that.

Something that I loved and couldn’t get enough of was the friendship between Ricky and Oliver, and the relationship between Ricky and her public speaking teacher. Oliver and Ricky, WOW those two made me laugh, cry, and smile. I love the complexity and simpleness of their friendship and how that develops over time and becomes much more than just a friendship due to understanding pain.

Overall this book is an amazing read and I love so much about it. It was just something that made me feel less alone even if the disability is different than mine. I read it after I got too sick to enjoy a baseball game with my friend and hated myself for having to pace myself and take it slow in the heat. I told myself I should’ve known better, that it’s happened before and the doctor already warned me but I was still upset that I missed out. This book was my companion as I sat out the game and then as I had to stay in bed the next day to let my body recover, so thank you Karol Ruth Silverstein because during that time your book made me feel like I was gonna be okay and I didn’t ruin anyone’s day.

I recommend this to those of you who want to know about chronic illness and chronic pain, and for those of you who enjoy books about illnesses, here is one that doesn’t romanticize any of it.

You can purchase this on Amazon or look for it at your local library. I would love to talk to all of you about this book.

Athena’s Choice by Adam Boostrom Book Review

I received this book from Adam and CO in exchange for an honest review.

4 out of 5 Stars

Summary: Athena is just like every other girl living in the year 2099, a year that exists without men due to a outbreak that killed off all men including Trans men and even some woman. It’s been years since men have existed in this world and many people think it’s time to bring them back. There is one problem though, someone stole the genome that was going to help with this process. Athena’s help is enlisted in finding out who stole this genome and through this process she comes to find the truth about things that lead her to a choice that can alter her future forever.

Thoughts: I love all books that deal with a virus, outbreak, disease, contagion, etc. so I expected to love this book just as much as the others. While I enjoyed this book I kind of wanted a little more about this virus in the beginning, like at least a scene to get what actually happened to these men. I like that they include a little more of it the further you get into the book but I still wanted more so that I could feel bad for the men.

The first half of the book takes a while to set everything up but what I was fascinated by was the advanced technology. I love how there’s mock Wikipedia pages included for some of the more important pieces of technology in order to explain how things work. I thought it was cool because if I lived in that time I would be searching to see what these things are, and I liked how some AI systems are described throughout the book.

Something else that I enjoyed was the changes in font that were included throughout the book. It made it so that the transitions were smooth and I was able to follow who was speaking or whose perspective you were reading. It also made it easy to see which portions came from Wikipedia, the government, or the newspaper and that added to the story.

While I really enjoyed this book and the commentary that it makes about the future and technology there was one part that I wasn’t a fan of and that is the ending. I know that the author explains himself in the closing of the book but I still longed for a more conclusive ending. I do understand though that this book was more about what do we decide to do versus what Atena is going to do.

I recommend this to those of you who enjoy Science Fiction or books that are about technology and the consequences that it can have on our lives.

You can purchase this book on Amazon or look for it at your local library.

In the Deep End Book Review

Thank you to Kate Davies, HMH Books, and Bookish for sending me an advanced reading copy of this book.

I had the chance to read a short excerpt from In the Deep End on Bookish and then write my first thoughts in order to enter a giveaway for this book. I read that first chapter and instantly wanted more, that first chapter grabs you and already has you rooting for Julia before you even really know her. I was glad to receive a copy so that I could read more instead of waiting for so long to find out what ever happens to Julia.

This book tells the story of a woman, Julia, who was looking for love in a all of the wrong places. Fortunately the wrong places were just men and after a one night encounter with a woman Julia declares herself a lesbian. She instantly emerges herself into the Lesbian scene where she meets Sam, her soon to be girlfriend.

TW: Abuse, Drugs and Alcohol

Before I begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this book I think something I kept in mind when reading was that this was meant to be humorous and not taken seriously. I think at first I started taking some things seriously and had I not reminded myself of that fact I would’ve put this book away. Julia suddenly becoming a lesbian was taken as a joke not just by Julia but by everyone around her. So when you read it just know it’s an enjoyable light not to be taken seriously.

Normally I would read the description of this book, get embarrassed and put it down looking for something a lot tamer but after reading one chapter I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t even put it down once I read more so I put my embarrassment aside and read it everywhere that I went. Who cared that my face would betray me and let everyone know that I was reading something that made me blush? When you enjoy a book you want the world to know and read along with you.

I love how the author describes each scene as if you are a fly on the wall watching Julia’s every action but not only do you see the scenes you even get to know what’s happening in the mind of Julia. I really liked the fact the story was told in first person because it made everything sound so personal, it was as if I was reading this woman’s diary entries.

Now these thoughts were all my opinions based on the first half of the book, you know before things got serious with Sam. Let me give you all what I think about the book during the second half.

There were red flags from the instant that Julia got with Sam and all of the people surrounding her were warning her about the way that Sam was manipulating her. Julia failed to see any of this because she was so in love with Sam and while I was disturbed by Sam’s actions I understood Julia’s feelings. It was a good portrayal of what it is like to be enamored with someone to the point that you excuse their abusive tendencies and manipulative behavior.

While I understood Julia’s response to Sam’s behavior I still wasn’t fond of it. I found those parts difficult to read because it sounded very much like things were taken as a joke, like you were supposed to find humor in Sam’s behavior and Julia’s response. I did not like how so much of the sexual scenes were not based on consent from Julia and how the novel made it seem that this was just the way it is for poly-amorous couples and anyone in the BDSM scene.

There’s a scene near the ending of the book that actually stuck with me and I was glad it was included. Julia talks about having nightmares about Sam and she says “it’s hard to accept that you’re the villain in someone else’s story.” I really resonated with this scene and found that it was a nice way for Julia to deal with that break up.

I think that people will enjoy this book if they can ignore some of the parts that made me cringe and just take it for a light read. I think you need to make sure that you just read this as a humorous novel before anything else. Don’t take any of what you learn about polyamorous couples or BDSM from this book to heart because this is one fictional experience and while it may mirror some people’s experience in the end it still is 1 experience.

About the Book: A fresh, funny, audacious debut novel about a Bridget Jones–like twenty-something who discovers that she may have simply been looking for love — and, ahem, pleasure — in all the wrong places (aka: from men)

Julia hasn’t had sex in three years. Her roommate has a boyfriend—and their sex noises are audible through the walls, maybe even throughout the neighborhood. Not to mention, she’s treading water in a dead-end job, her know-it-all therapist gives her advice she doesn’t ask for, and the men she is surrounded by are, to be polite, subpar. Enough is enough.

So when Julia gets invited to a warehouse party in a part of town where “trendy people who have lots of sex might go on a Friday night”—she readily accepts. Whom she meets there, however, is surprising: a conceptual artist, also a woman.

Julia’s sexual awakening begins; her new lesbian life, as she coins it, is exhilarating. She finds her tribe at queer swing dancing classes, and guided by her new lover Sam, she soon discovers London’s gay bars and BDSM clubs, and . . . the complexities of polyamory. Soon it becomes clear that Sam needs to call the shots, and Julia’s newfound liberation comes to bear a suspicious resemblance to entrapment . . . 

In at the Deep End is an unforgettably frank, funny, and racy odyssey through the pitfalls and seductions we encounter on the treacherous—and more often, absurd—path to love and self.

About the Author: Kate Davies was born and brought up in north-west London. She studied English at Oxford University before becoming a writer and editor of children’s books. She also writes comedy scripts, and had a short-lived career as a burlesque dancer that ended when she was booed off stage at a Conservative club, dressed as a bingo ball. Kate lives in east London with her wife. In at the Deep End is her debut novel.

About the Book and About the Author are borrowed from Goodreads.

You can purchase this book on Amazon or look for it at your local library.

On The Come Up Book Review

On The Come UP

5 out of 5 stars

I read The Hate U Give a while ago so when I saw that Angie Thomas had come out with a new book I knew I had to read it. I’ll admit that it did take me a while to pick this book up and that was mostly because it took me a month to get through The Hate U Give. I didn’t really want to pick up a book that was going to take me the same amount of time as that one did. I am glad that I finally decided to pick this book up though and give it a try.

Now it isn’t that these books take long because they are difficult to get through or I don’t enjoy them but the subject matter that they cover is heavy. I take a while to read her books because I want to take everything in and really see things rather than brush past them. I think that when books are discussing heavy topics you owe it to the author to spend some time thinking about the things that are brought up in their books.

On The Come Up is about a young girl, Bri, who is an aspiring rapper like her father who died before he made it big. Bri lives in Garden __ but goes to school in a different neighborhood. She lives with her mother, a former drug addict, and her brother but they are struggling to pay the rent and keep food on the table. Bri is hoping that her rapping career will take off and she can help her family escape poverty and the neighborhood. Unfortunately being successful may come at a cost to Bri and she might have to change who she is to fit the public’s image of her. Will she do that?

I think something I found hard about this book was watching Bri struggle through everything. She wants to succeed so much to be able to save her family and it was so hard to watch others take advantage of that. While I found it hard to read those parts I thought they were good and very realistic and that’s what I love about Angie Thomas’s books. I love how she’s real with you and while this book is set in the same place as The Hate U Give it is a different story. You see two different girls growing up in different circumstances and how that affects their lives.

I love the way Thomas writes each of her characters including minor characters. Each of the characters that are introduced throughout the book develop even if it’s only by a little bit. I love how they develop through interactions with each other and how much Bri develops not only due to positive things but negative things that happen to her.

Something that I wasn’t fond of was the amount of questions that this book left me with. I want to know so much about what happens next and hope that there is a sequel to this book. The questions didn’t make me like the book any less though it just made me disappointed that they weren’t answered and longing for more.

I found it hard to write a review on this book because I have nothing to critique and no words to say how beautifully written I find this piece.

About the Book: Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.

About the Author: Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She can also still rap if needed. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Meyers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction and will be published in spring 2017. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg set to star.

About the Book and About the Author are borrowed from Goodreads.

You can find this book on Amazon or look for it at your local library.