What about Will by Ellen Hopkins Book Review

Book Description

Twelve-year-old Trace Reynolds has always looked up to his brother, mostly because Will, who’s five years older, has never looked down on him. It was Will who taught Trace to ride a bike, would watch sports on TV with him, and cheer him on at little league. But when Will was knocked out cold during a football game, resulting in a brain injury–everything changed. Now, sixteen months later, their family is still living under the weight of the incident, that left Will with a facial tic, depression, and an anger he cannot always control, culminating in their parents’ divorce. Afraid of further fracturing his family, Trace begins to cover for Will who, struggling with addiction to pain medication, becomes someone Trace doesn’t recognize. But when the brother he loves so much becomes more and more withdrawn, and escalates to stealing money and ditching school, Trace realizes some secrets cannot be kept if we ever hope to heal.

Review

CS: Addiction, Suicide Attempt, Sexist comments

Thoughts and Themes: I don’t recall reading any other books by this author but I am familiar with the books. I picked this one up because of the synopsis and since it is written in prose, I knew it would be a quick read which is what I was looking for. I am really glad that I picked this one and can’t wait to read more from this author.

This book deals with several tough topics such as absentee parents, prison, addiction, rehab, and more. I believe that they do this in a way that is appropriate for the age range that it is intended for.

In this book, we get to see not only how opioid addiction affects Will but also how it affects those around him such as his brother, Trace, and the rest of his family. In this book you get to see how Trace is trying to hold everything together and fix things that are out of his control, you get to see how his brother’s addiction is impacting him and how he feels throughout the progression of this addiction.

This book also shows the importance of having a support system in place for all ages. Through this book, you see the importance of Trace having a support system so that he doesn’t try to carry everything on their own. We get to see how important Will has a support system is and what happens when he pushes that support system away. We also get to see Trace realizing how important it is for his dad and grandfather to not be alone as he and his brother get older. We also see how Trace cares for Mr. Cobb as he realizes how he must feel being alone now, and also how he feels for Cat since she’s new to town and alone.

Characters: In this book, you get to meet several characters through their interactions with Trace. You get to meet his dad, his dad’s girlfriend, Lily, his friends, Bram and Cat, his brother, Will, his neighbor, Mr. Cobb, and a few others briefly.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the friendships between Trace, Bram, and Cat. I really appreciate how Cat is able to relate to Trace because her brother went down a difficult path that unfortunately leaves him in prison. I thought that being able to see Cat and Trace have this connect them shows how books that deal with these topics need to exist for younger children because they also deal with tough subjects. I liked how Trace points out the importance of having friends that supported him and never left his side throughout Will’s addiction.

Something else that I really enjoyed about this book was the adults who were a part of Trace’s life especially as his parents were absent. I understood his dad’s need to work and how that affected the amount of time he had for his children. I really liked the role that Mr. Cobb plays in this story and how he is a trusted Adult for Trace. I thought it was great to see how much Trace learns from Mr. Cobb and how much realizations come from this time he spends with him. I also like the way Lily fits into Trace’s life and how she doesn’t force him or Will to embrace her or think of her as a new mother.

Writing Style: This book is written in prose and told in first person through the perspective of Will’s younger brother, Trace who is 12 years old. I really enjoy books that are told in prose as you get to see a story be told in a different manner. I also really enjoyed getting this through Trace’s perspective because we get to see how addiction affects a child and what he needed during this time.

Author Information

Ellen Hopkins is the New York Times bestselling author of CrankBurnedImpulseGlassIdenticalTricksFalloutPerfectTrianglesTilt, and Collateral. She lives in Carson City, Nevada, with her husband and son. Hopkin’s Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest pages get thousands of hits from teens who claim Hopkins is the “only one who understands me”, and she can be visited at ellenhopkins.com.

Like most of you here, books are my life. Reading is a passion, but writing is the biggest part of me. Balance is my greatest challenge, as I love my family, friends, animals and home, but also love traveling to meet my readers. Hope I meet many of you soon!

The Last Chance Hotel by Nicki Thornton Book Review

Book Description

Seth is a kitchen boy at the remote Last Chance Hotel. His father has long ago left, leaving him imprisoned until he is old enough to set out on his own. If there’s any hope he has, it’s to be the greatest chef that ever lived… just like his father.

One night, a band of magicians begins to arrive to participate in a secret meeting — a Prospect Selection Procedure to determine the most talented magicians in the world, judged by their leader Dr. Thallonius. Seth has one task: to make Dr. Thallonius the greatest dessert he’s ever tasted. Then, maybe he will help Seth find a way to freedom.

But when the doors to the private meeting open, and Dr. Thallonius lay dead on the floor, the group blames the dessert, which means that it’s Seth who will pay the price. But Seth knows he’s innocent, and only has so much time to eliminate each suspect and prove his innocence.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I saw this at the library and winded up picking it up based on the cover and I’m glad that I did. I really enjoyed the murder mystery in this one with the magic thrown in there as well.

There were moments in which I thought I had it figured out but then something would throw you off the trail that you originally were on. I think that children ages 8+ would really enjoy reading this one and trying to put everything together. I also really enjoyed the way that the magic system was explained in this book as it was easy to follow and I can’t wait to learn more about it.

The ending of the book surprised me, not in who actually committed the murder but more so in the things that we find out about Seth. I had suspected other things about him but not what was revealed. I can’t wait to read more to see what happens to him and what else he discovers about himself and his past.

Characters: In this story, you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with Seth as well as with each other. I really enjoyed getting to learn about each of the mysterious characters who were there for the prospect and what “magic” each of them possessed. I also really enjoyed getting to learn more about Seth and loved his relationship with Nighttale, the talking cat.

Something that did throw me off while reading this is I don’t believe we got an age for Seth, is he a kid? Is he an adult? He read like a teenager figuring out things but then there were times that he read like an adult as he talks about leaving the place. I wasn’t so sure about a lot of things with him and the only reason I got an idea of what he looked like was the front cover.

Writing Style: This story is written in the third person through the perspective of Seth which made for a great story. I liked that Seth was very naive about a lot of things and that he really didn’t know much so everyone around him had to teach him things. I liked how Seth was oblivious to so much of the things around him and how patient the others are with him.

Author Information

Nicki is a former bookseller, and still lives in Oxfordshire where she ran a bookshop for more than ten years. She remains passionate about books, bookshops and anything that celebrates reading for pleasure and writes a regular Mystery Journal celebrating all things crime fiction for young people.

Nicki Thornton’s ‘wickedly funny and wildly original haunted whodunit’ The Last Chance Hotel, was selected as Waterstones Book of the Month October 2018 and has gone on to be an international bestseller, being translated into fifteen languages. Nicki Thornton’s debut won the 2019 Ealing Junior Book Award, was nominated for the Carnegie Medal 2019, was shortlisted for the 2019 CrimeFest Best Crime Novel for Children, the 2019 Oxfordshire Book Award Best Junior Novel, Shortlisted for the Warwickshire 2019 Junior Book Award and longlisted for the Specsavers National Book Awards 2018.

The Bone Spindle by Leslie Vedder Book Review

Book Description

Sleeping Beauty meets Indiana Jones in this thrilling fairytale retelling for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and All the Stars and Teeth.

Fi is a bookish treasure hunter with a knack for ruins and riddles, who definitely doesn’t believe in true love.

Shane is a tough-as-dirt girl warrior from the north who likes cracking skulls, pretty girls, and doing things her own way.

Briar Rose is a prince under a sleeping curse, who’s been waiting a hundred years for the kiss that will wake him.

Cursed princes are nothing but ancient history to Fi–until she pricks her finger on a bone spindle while exploring a long-lost ruin. Now she’s stuck with the spirit of Briar Rose until she and Shane can break the century-old curse on his kingdom.

Dark magic, Witch Hunters, and bad exes all stand in her way–not to mention a mysterious witch who might wind up stealing Shane’s heart, along with whatever else she’s after. But nothing scares Fi more than the possibility of falling in love with Briar Rose.

Set in a lush world inspired by beloved fairytales, The Bone Spindle is a fast-paced young adult fantasy full of adventure, romance, found family, and snark. 

Review

CW: Blood, emotional abuse, gaslighting, PTSD, sexism, violence, misogyny, confinement

Thoughts and Themes: It took me a while to really get into this book and I was ready to put it aside and decide to read it at a later time. I’m really glad that I stuck with it and didn’t just give up though because once you are about 40% into the book then it is hard to put the book down.

While it does take a lot of the book, I did enjoy the world building that we got throughout this story. I liked that this was a retelling of Sleeping Beauty but it was more than what I expected. I liked learning about Briar Rose kingdom and the curse that is over it as well as getting the back story of the two main characters.

I cried when I found out Fi’s backstory and recommend you proceed with caution on this one especially if you find emotional abuse triggering. When you find out about Fi’s curse and how that happened to her, you see into her past and see how she was emotionally abused, manipulated, and gaslit.

Characters: In this book you get to meet several different characters through their different interactions with Fi and Shane. You get to meet both of their love interests along with Fi’s ex.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Fi and Shane and the snarky banter between them. I liked how they both have to learn to trust the other but they both are the kind of people who want to accomplish everything on their own.

I liked the love interests that are included in this story for both of our main characters and how those relationships come to be. I liked getting to know more about Briar Rose throughout the whole story and through his interactions with Fi. I liked their interactions with each other and how snarky they are towards each other. I liked the way their romance develops throughout the story and how it wasn’t something that was immediate but took a while for Fi to even consider him as a potential love interest.

I do wish that we got more of a love story for Shane since I feel we didn’t get that relationship as developed as Fi’s relationship was. I do hope that we get to see more of this relationship in the next book and we get more of a romance arc for Shane since she deserves this too.

I was searching for a villain this whole time and I think while there’s some villainous characters, it was more about their adventure. I think that you really don’t get to meet the villains of this story until the last 20% of the book and even then it isn’t all about them.

Writing Style: This story is told in third person dual point of view, alternating between Fi and Shane’s perspectives. You also get a few sections with Briar Rose’s perspective thrown in there as well but those are shorter sections than the other two. I liked getting to see this story from all three of these perspectives as it adds to their adventure. I would have liked to hear more from Briar Rose though to see his story before this all takes place. There are also portions where I would have liked to see Shane’s point of view more too.

Author Information

Leslie Vedder (she/her) is a queer ace author who subsists primarily on coffee and cat snuggles!

She grew up on fantasy books, anime, fanfiction, and the Lord of the Rings movies, and met her true love in high school choir. She currently lives in Colorado with her wife and two ultra-spoiled house cats.

Her debut YA novel THE BONE SPINDLE is forthcoming in January 2022 from Penguin / Razorbill. Find her online at leslievedder.com.

January 2022 To Be Read

I had planned on finishing some of these during the last few days of December but just didn’t get around to it. I am about 80% into The Bone Spindle so I’m hoping to finish that before the end of this weekend. I also started Beasts of Prey a while ago but my library rental ran out so I had to put a hold on it again and it just came in. My reading goals for this year are a little different since I know school will pick up this year. I just hope to get through 1 e-book, 1 physical book, 1 audiobook, and 1 recommended from a friend off the 12 Challenge.

The Bone Spindle

Sleeping Beauty meets Indiana Jones in this thrilling fairytale retelling for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and All the Stars and Teeth.

Fi is a bookish treasure hunter with a knack for ruins and riddles, who definitely doesn’t believe in true love.

Shane is a tough-as-dirt girl warrior from the north who likes cracking skulls, pretty girls, and doing things her own way.

Briar Rose is a prince under a sleeping curse, who’s been waiting a hundred years for the kiss that will wake him.

Cursed princes are nothing but ancient history to Fi–until she pricks her finger on a bone spindle while exploring a long-lost ruin. Now she’s stuck with the spirit of Briar Rose until she and Shane can break the century-old curse on his kingdom.

Dark magic, Witch Hunters, and bad exes all stand in her way–not to mention a mysterious witch who might wind up stealing Shane’s heart, along with whatever else she’s after. But nothing scares Fi more than the possibility of falling in love with Briar Rose.

Set in a lush world inspired by beloved fairytales, The Bone Spindle is a fast-paced young adult fantasy full of adventure, romance, found family, and snark.

The Last Chance Hotel

Seth is a kitchen boy at the remote Last Chance Hotel. His father has long ago left, leaving him imprisoned until he is old enough to set out on his own. If there’s any hope he has, it’s to be the greatest chef that ever lived… just like his father.

One night, a band of magicians begin to arrive to participate in a secret meeting — a Prospect Selection Procedure to determine the most talented magicians in the world, judged by their leader Dr. Thallonius. Seth has one task: to make Dr. Thallonius the greatest dessert he’s ever tasted. Then, maybe he will help Seth find a way to freedom.

But when the doors to the private meeting open, and Dr. Thallonius lay dead on the floor, the group blames the dessert, which means that it’s Seth who will pay the price. But Seth knows he’s innocent, and only has so much time to eliminate each suspect and prove his innocence.

Beasts of Prey

Magic doesn’t exist in the broken city of Lkossa anymore, especially for girls like sixteen-year-old Koffi. Indentured to the notorious Night Zoo, she cares for its fearsome and magical creatures to pay off her family’s debts and secure their eventual freedom. But the night her loved ones’ own safety is threatened by the Zoo’s cruel master, Koffi unleashes a power she doesn’t fully understand–and the consequences are dire.

As the second son of a decorated hero, Ekon is all but destined to become a Son of the Six–an elite warrior–and uphold a family legacy. But on the night of his final rite of passage, a fire upends his plans. In its midst, Ekon not only encounters the Shetani–a vicious monster that has plagued the city and his nightmares for nearly a century–but a curious girl who seems to have the power to ward off the beast. Koffi’s power ultimately saves Ekon’s life, but his choice to let her flee dooms his hopes of becoming a warrior.

Desperate to redeem himself, Ekon vows to hunt the Shetani down and end its reign of terror, but he can’t do it alone. Meanwhile, Koffi believes finding the Shetani and selling it for a profit could be the key to solving her own problems. Koffi and Ekon–each keeping their true motives secret from the other–form a tentative alliance and enter into the unknowns of the Greater Jungle, a world steeped in wild magic and untold dangers. The hunt begins. But it quickly becomes unclear whether they are the hunters or the hunted.

In this much-anticipated series opener, fate binds two Black teenagers together as they strike a dangerous alliance to hunt down the ancient creature menacing their home–and discover much more than they bargained for.

The Wicker King

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

Pussypedia by Zoe Mendelson and María Conejo (Illustrator) Book Review

Book Description

Written by the creators of the popular website, this rigorously fact-checked, accessible, and fully illustrated guide is essential for anyone with a pussy.

If the clitoris and penis are the same size on average, why is the word “small” in the definition of clitoris but strangely missing from the definition of penis? Sex probably doesn’t cause yeast infections? But racism probably does cause BV? Why is masturbating so awesome? How hairy are butt cracks . . . generally? Why is labiaplasty on a global astronomical rise? Does egg freezing really work? Should I stick an egg-shaped rock up there or nah?

There is still a shocking lack of accurate, accessible information about pussies and many esteemed medical sources seem to contradict each other. Pussypedia solves that with extensive reviews of peer-reviewed science that address old myths, confusing inconsistencies, and the influence of gender narratives on scientific research––always in simple, joyful language.  

Through over 30 chapters, Pussypedia not only gives the reader information, but teaches them how to read science, how to consider information in its context, and how to accept what we don’t know rather than search for conclusions. It also weaves in personal anecdotes from the authors and their friends––sometimes funny, sometimes sad, often cringe-worthy, and always extremely personal––to do away with shame and encourage curiosity, exploration, and agency.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: When this book first arrived at my doorstep I was a little bit worried about reading it. I decided to put a hold for the audiobook with the library so I could listen to it and follow along with the physical book. I’m really glad that I did this because I think this is a book everyone should read at least once regardless of if you own a Pussy or not.

From the intro of this book I was really pleased with the gender neutral language that they used and how they pointed out understanding that there wasn’t a gender/sex binary. I like how this book addresses Trans and Non-binary people rather than keeping them separate. I thought it was great that they brought up the disparities that Trans people face in the medical world and how they continue to say that there is more information needed regarding this population.

Writing Style: This book is separated into different sections that discuss different aspects of a pussy. In each of these sections there are different art pieces that are included which I think really add a lot to the book. I listened to it on audio and followed along with the physical book so that I could see the images and also see how things were separated within each chapter.

I really liked how the author of the book doesn’t pretend to know everything about each of the topics that are discussed in this book. I liked that the author interviewed other people if it was a topic that she felt someone else would know more than her. I also liked that other books and studies were referenced throughout the book so that facts could be double checked or someone could go to those resources to learn more.

Author Information

Journalist, information designer, content strategist. Her writing has appeared in Fast Company, WIRED, Hyperallergic, Slate, Next City, the LA Times. Her projects have been covered by The New York Times en Espanol, New York Magazine, CityLab, PBS, Univision, and Buzzfeed. Previous projects include official emojis for Mexico City, a data narrative about drones, and a civic-engagement platform for nihilist millennials. Mendelson studied at Barnard College in New York City.

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.

November 2021 Wrap Up

I had thought that I didn’t get through too many books this past month but after reviewing the list I got through quite a few. Most of what I read this month was through audiobooks because I kept starting physical books and wasn’t able to get invested in them. I loved each of the books that I read this month and got to enjoy The Love Hypothesis for my third read.

The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren 

Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.

These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights #1) by Chloe Gong 

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

The Girls Are Never Gone by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Dare Chase doesn’t believe in ghosts.

Privately, she’s a supernatural skeptic. But publicly, she’s keeping her doubts to herself—because she’s the voice of Attachments, her brand-new paranormal investigation podcast, and she needs her ghost-loving listeners to tune in.

That’s what brings her to Arrington Estate. Thirty years ago, teenager Atheleen Bell drowned in Arrington’s lake, and legend says her spirit haunts the estate. Dare’s more interested in the suspicious circumstances surrounding her death—circumstances that she believes point to a living culprit, not the supernatural. Still, she’s vowed to keep an open mind as she investigates, even if she’s pretty sure what she’ll find.

But Arrington is full of surprises. Good ones like Quinn, the cute daughter of the house’s new owner. And baffling ones like the threatening messages left scrawled in paint on Quinn’s walls, the ghastly face that appears behind Dare’s own in the mirror, and the unnatural current that nearly drowns their friend Holly in the lake. As Dare is drawn deeper into the mysteries of Arrington, she’ll have to rethink the boundaries of what is possible. Because if something is lurking in the lake…it might not be willing to let her go.

Between Shades of Gray: The Graphic Novel by Andrew Donkin (Adaptor), Ruta Sepetys (Goodreads Author) (Original Author), Dave Kopka (Illustrator) 

Just in time for the 10th anniversary of Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys’s award-winning debut novel, and inspiration for the major motion picture Ashes in the Snow, is now a gorgeous graphic novel!

June, 1941. A knock comes at the door and the life of fifteen-year-old Lina Vilkas changes forever. She’s arrested by the Soviet secret police and deported from Lithuania to Siberia with her mother and younger brother. The conditions are horrific and Lina must fight for her life and for the lives of those around her, including the boy that she loves. Risking everything, she secretly passes along clues in the form of drawings, hoping they will reach her father’s prison camp. But will her messages, and her courage, be enough to reunite her family? Will they be enough to keep her alive?

A moving and haunting novel perfect for readers of The Book Thief, now available as a stunning graphic novel. 

Acoustics (Portland Symphony #1) by London Price 

My sister told me to stay away from her roommate. I promised I would.

But I didn’t.

I didn’t mean for this to happen…I mean, yeah, maybe it was predictable when I started asking about his AI research and finding reasons to hang out, even when my sister wasn’t home. Looking back, we never should’ve slow danced alone like that. But with Chance, goofing around melted into messing around easier than butter on hot bread. It’s not fair to keep our relationship a secret, but how can I tell my sister I betrayed her trust?

And when the truth comes out, how can I keep both the people I care about most?

Acoustics is the first book in the Portland Symphony series, a steamy trans romance series set in Oregon. It contains robot talk, found family, and a happily ever after. It’s not intended for readers under eighteen or readers who don’t want to read explicit LGBTQ sex scenes.

Passport by Sophia Glock 

An unforgettable graphic memoir by debut talent Sophia Glock reveals her discovery as a teenager that her parents are agents working for the CIA

Young Sophia has lived in so many different countries, she can barely keep count. Stationed now with her family in Central America because of her parents’ work, Sophia feels displaced as an American living abroad, when she has hardly spent any of her life in America.

Everything changes when she reads a letter she was never meant to see and uncovers her parents’ secret. They are not who they say they are. They are working for the CIA. As Sophia tries to make sense of this news, and the web of lies surrounding her, she begins to question everything. The impact that this has on Sophia’s emerging sense of self and understanding of the world makes for a page-turning exploration of lies and double lives.

In the hands of this extraordinary graphic storyteller, this astonishing true story bursts to life.

The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green 

A deeply moving and mind-expanding collection of personal essays in the first ever work of non-fiction from #1 internationally bestselling author John Green

The Anthropocene is the current geological age, in which human activity has profoundly shaped the planet and its biodiversity. In this remarkable symphony of essays adapted and expanded from his ground-breaking, critically acclaimed podcast, John Green reviews different facets of the human-centered planet – from the QWERTY keyboard and Halley’s Comet to Penguins of Madagascar – on a five-star scale.

Complex and rich with detail, the Anthropocene’s reviews have been praised as ‘observations that double as exercises in memoiristic empathy’, with over 10 million lifetime downloads. John Green’s gift for storytelling shines throughout this artfully curated collection about the shared human experience; it includes beloved essays along with six all-new pieces exclusive to the book. 

Her Honor: My Life on the Bench…What Works, What’s Broken, and How to Change It by LaDoris Hazzard Cordell 

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.

The Love Hypothesis (The 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.

Luz At Midnight by Marisol Cortez Book Review

Book Description

Deeply embedded in the landscapes of South Texas, Luz at Midnight tells the story of an ill-timed love that unfolds in the time of climate change. Booksmart but naïve, Citlali Sanchez-O’Connor has just been hired to organize a San Antonio campaign against “gleaning,” a controversial new mining practice that promises a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. In the process, she soon encounters Joel Champlain, a journalist struggling to hide his manic-depression as he uncovers the corrupt politics that surround gleaning. During a chance trip together to Texas’s Gulf Coast, Lali is struck by a love as powerful and sudden as the electrical storm that birthed Luz, the unearthly canine trickster who has thrown them together. But Lali—married with a baby, poised to leave town for an academic job, and trained to think everything is explicable—finds she must decide what their connection means, if anything, for a path already set in motion.

A genre-hopping narrative that layers story with reporting, poetry, scholarship, and teatro, Luz questions the nature of desire and power, asking: What throws us into the path of those we love, and what pulls us apart? What agency powers the universe—and do we have any agency of our own to create a world different from the one powerful others have planned for us? Along the way of considering these questions, Luz is about the humorous (and not-so-humorous) inner workings of the nonprofit industrial complex; about Newtonian and Quantum theory; about birds, and about dogs. It is also about what we call mental illness, and the possibility that love may be pathology, while madness may open some important window into the nature of reality. 

Review

Thoughts and Themes: When I started reading this book I was thrilled to find that it was hoping through different genres and that it was touching on climate change, but unfortunately the thrill wore off rather quickly. Halfway through the book, the switching of genres was just confusing me and I wasn’t able to follow the storyline anymore. I thought this was going to be a love story and not just between a man and a woman but also between humans and the earth.

I did get to a point in the book in which I was just skimming my way through it as it couldn’t hold my attention any longer. I thought that the build up of the story took way too much time in the book and I was a bit over halway and the love interest still wasn’t in the picture. It felt a lot like world building which was strange because it was taking place in our world but at the same time it felt like it wasn’t our world.

Characters: One of the things that I really did like about this book was all of the characters that you are introduced to throughout the book. I really did enjoy getting to meet each character at the start of the book as the story is being introduced to us. I liked how they all have their unique traits, connections with each other and the many things that they added to the story.

Writing Style: This book switched between genres a lot and that really was confusing to me. I do believe that people who are a fan of multiple genres in a book, environmental books, magical realism, etc would really enjoy this book. Something else that kept throwing me off was the research notes that were included in the story, I found that those took a way from the story as I couldn’t really build the connection. At first I thought they were outside notes being brought into the story until I realized that these were notes the main character was taking.

Author Information

From Marisol’s Website:

As a mentally-intense, mixed-blood Xicana weirdo rooted in San Antonio but formally coming of age in rural Central Texas, poetry was the first form of political agency accessible to me and also the first theoretical work I produced. Even after I found communities for political resistance and critical inquiry—for a time I strayed into an academic career, then later worked as a community organizer—I could never really get away from creative writing either in my scholarship or my activism.

These days, I understand myself primarily as a writer and community-based scholar, albeit one who feels most comfortable writing in the spaces between artistic, activist, and academic worlds, as well as across creative genres (poetry, fiction, essay, theory, manifesto). Much of my writing bears out all these tensions: I write hybrid, cross-genre, mixed-blood Xicana texts that can’t quite (and ultimately don’t want to) extricate poetry and storytelling from historical analysis and cultural theory from direct, on-the-ground struggle. As a writer grounded in the collective work of movement building for environmental and social justice, I find myself most often gravitating toward questions of place, power, and the possibilities proliferating at the margins. I write to remember the land and its pluriverse of inhabitants; to make visible colonial logics of displacement; and above all to give voice to those longings that might call forth new relationships of ecosocial interdependence and solidarity. I write for all the other borderwalking weirdos out there.

A mama of two, I currently juggle writing, full-time parenting, and co-editing responsibilities for Deceleration, an online journal of environmental justice thought and praxis. In 2020 I published my debut novel Luz at Midnight (FlowerSong Press 2020), which in 2021 won the Texas Institute of Letter’s Sergio Troncoso Award for First Book of Fiction. I’m also the author of I Call on the Earth (Double Drop Press 2019), a chapbook of documentary poetry, and “Making Displacement Visible: A Case Study Analysis of the ‘Mission Trail of Tears,’” which together bear witness to the forced removal of Mission Trails Mobile Home Community. Other poems and prose have appeared in Mutha MagazineAbout Place JournalOrionVice CanadaCaigibiMetafore MagazineOutsider PoetryVoices de la Luna, and La Voz de Esperanza, among other anthologies and journals. For more information on projects and publications, click HERE. 

The Girls Are Never Gone by Sarah Gleen Marsh Book Review

Book Description

Dare Chase doesn’t believe in ghosts.

Privately, she’s a supernatural skeptic. But publicly, she’s keeping her doubts to herself—because she’s the voice of Attachments, her brand-new paranormal investigation podcast, and she needs her ghost-loving listeners to tune in.

That’s what brings her to Arrington Estate. Thirty years ago, teenager Atheleen Bell drowned in Arrington’s lake, and legend says her spirit haunts the estate. Dare’s more interested in the suspicious circumstances surrounding her death—circumstances that she believes point to a living culprit, not the supernatural. Still, she’s vowed to keep an open mind as she investigates, even if she’s pretty sure what she’ll find.

But Arrington is full of surprises. Good ones like Quinn, the cute daughter of the house’s new owner. And baffling ones like the threatening messages left scrawled in paint on Quinn’s walls, the ghastly face that appears behind Dare’s own in the mirror, and the unnatural current that nearly drowns their friend Holly in the lake. As Dare is drawn deeper into the mysteries of Arrington, she’ll have to rethink the boundaries of what is possible. Because if something is lurking in the lake…it might not be willing to let her go.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I tend to quickly go through audiobook and not take notes but this one was one that I had to actually sit with and took so much notes. I needed to know what was going on in the story and follow along with everything happening.

I really liked the narrator of this story and found that they were easy to listen to and made it easy to follow the story. I really liked how the story builds up to the main scenes that occur later on. I think that the author did a great job building up the background of the house, the lake, and the previous owners of this house. I also really liked the explanation that was given towards the end of the story as to why certain things were happening.

While I wouldn’t consider this to be a scary book, I do think that it is quite eerie and creepy. If you liked House of Hollow, I believe this is one that you will also enjoy. I also can’t end this review without letting you all know that this is a sapphic book which was one of the reason that I read it. The relationship between Quinn and Dare is just so cute and I loved how protective each of them are of the other.

Characters: In this book you get to meet several characters through their interactions with our main character Dare. I really enjoyed getting to know Dare through this book and liked how we got Diabetes representation in her. I thought it was great to see how her diagnosis affects her daily life and how she navigates certain things because of this. I thought it was also great that the book wasn’t about her having diabetes but that it was more so here is this cool, badass girl who happens to have diabetes.

I really enjoyed the friendship that develops between Dare, Holly and Quinn. I liked getting to read as each of them learns to trust the others and how you get to learn more about them through their interactions with each other. I also really liked seeing how Dare and Quinn’s relationship develops throughout the story. I liked how that changed depending on the events that were occuring at the house and the lake.

Writing Style: This story is written in first person through the perspective of Dare which is something that I really enjoyed. I liked that we got to see everything through her perspective and how she was feeling in every moment. I think this really added to the story because for so long Dare didn’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural. I thought Dare wanting to find an explanation for everything that wasn’t a supernatural cause really added a great element to the story and instilled fear in the reader.

Author Information

Sarah Glenn Marsh writes young adult novels and children’s picture books.

She lives, writes, and paints things in Virginia, supported by her husband, four rescued greyhounds, three birds, and many fish.

If she could, she’d adopt ALL THE ANIMALS.

Oh, and she’d love to be your friend here on Goodreads, or over on Twitter http://twitter.com/SG_Marsh!