June Wrap Up 2021

I didn’t really get through a lot of books this month since I spent a lot more of my time watching tv and movies than anything else. I did read a lot of non fiction and books for younger readers this month that I really enjoyed. I also didn’t listen to as many audiobooks as I usually do which is why the amount of books that I got through this month is lower than others.

Girls at the Edge of the World by Laura Brooke Robson 

Set in a world on the edge of an apocryphal flood, this heart-stoppingly romantic fantasy debut is perfect for fans of Rachel Hartman and Rae Carson.

In a world bound for an epic flood, only a chosen few are guaranteed safe passage into the new world once the waters recede. The Kostrovian royal court will be saved, of course, along with their guards. But the fate of the court’s Royal Flyers, a lauded fleet of aerial silk performers, is less certain. Hell-bent on survival, Principal Flyer, Natasha Koskinen, will do anything to save the Flyers, who are the only family she’s ever known. Even if “anything” means molding herself into the type of girl who could be courted by Prince Nikolai. But unbeknownst to Natasha, her newest recruit, Ella Neves, is driven less by her desire to survive the floods than her thirst for revenge. And Ella’s mission could put everything Natasha has worked for in peril.

As the oceans rise, so too does an undeniable spark between the two flyers. With the end of the world looming, and dark secrets about the Kostrovian court coming to light, Ella and Natasha can either give in to despair . . . or find a new reason to live.

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides 

Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life.

Dino-Gro by Matt Myers 

From the New York Times bestselling illustrator of Battle Bunny comes a laugh-out-loud story of a little sponge dinosaur that keeps growing…and growing…and growing….

Cole is very excited about his new Dino-Gro toy. He can’t wait for it to reach its full size! But when Dino-Gro becomes much larger than intended, Cole goes so far as to put Dino-Gro on a liquid-free diet and an exercise regimen, which don’t seem to make a difference! As Dino-Gro becomes so big that he can’t fit in the house, Cole learns that growing up and getting bigger can have advantages too, even if you’re not a dinosaur.

For fans of Tiny T. Rex and We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, this sweet and hilarious read-aloud is fun for kids to learn the importance of growing up big and strong.

Kyle’s Little Sister by BonHyung Jeong

My name is Grace, not “Kyle’s little sister!”

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

What Fresh Hell Is This?: Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities, and You by Heather Corinna 

An informative, blisteringly funny, somewhat cranky and always spot-on guide to perimenopause and menopause by the award-winning sex ed/health educator and author of S.E.X.
If you don’t know award-winning sex educator and all-around badass Heather Corinna, let them introduce themselves and their new book:
“I’m going to do what I’ve done for millions of people of all ages with sex and relationships: to simplify and share solid, explicit information, to provide support and be sensitive, and to help make everyone feel less alone and get us all through hard, thorny, touchy stuff so we can make it to the other side. I’m going to do this in a similar way I’ve done it for sex and relationships in my work over the last couple decades for young people and adults alike: by talking out loud, shamelessly and frankly, about what others are afraid or ashamed to, much in the way your favorite loudmouth aunt might have if she made this kind of stuff her life’s work and if your family also didn’t always apparently forget to invite her to everything.”

Corinna has been on the cutting edge of health for more than twenty years, always talking about what people are most afraid, ashamed, or embarrassed of. What Fresh Hell Is This? is no different. It’s a companion for everyone who’s reached this “what to expect when you’re not expected to expect anything” time of life. It’s a health-forward, feminist, no b.s. (and damn funny) perimenopause guide for the generation that time forgot (aka GenXers), offering straightforward descriptions of our bodies, minds, lives and what’s going on with them during this time of hormonal chaos. Heather Corinna tells you what to expect and what to do, all while busting some myths and offering real self-care tips so you can get through this. With practical, clear information that also includes affected populations who have long been left out of the discussion, like those with disabilities, queer, transgender, nonbinary and other gender-diverse people, the working class and other marginalized folks, What Fresh Hell Is This? an accessible and inclusive guide for anyone who is experiencing the hot fire of perimenopause.

Impacted by Benji Carr 

With every trip he makes to the dentist, Wade’s pain only gets worse. His smile has faded. He’s clenching his jaw and grinding his teeth more, not because of bad oral hygiene or any mishaps in orthodontics. Wade’s teeth don’t need straightening out, but the rest of his life could use that kind of adjustment. Wade has fallen in love with handsome Dr. Emmett, and their office visits in the afternoon have become decidedly more personal than professional. And poor Wade is sure his girlfriend Jessa would punch him in the mouth if she found out.

After all, Jessa did just abandon her church and her family to be with him. And she did just have Wade’s baby. So their relationship has already caused enough gossip in the small Georgia town of Waverly.

When Wade tries to end the affair, the breakup takes a brutal turn, leaving Wade in a state of panic. His life is under threat. His secrets could be exposed, and his family may fall apart before he realizes what kind of person he wants to be. 

Zombies for Everyone: A Jenna Sutton Supernatural Cozy Mystery – Book 1 by Kimberly Wylie 

Jenna Sutton is nothing like the iconic vampire slayer of TV fame.

She’s the antithesis of a cheerleader. She’s not peppy. And she sucks at gymnastics. She has nothing in common with the fictional Buffy, other than being blonde and in high school…

Oh, and occasionally she kills vampires for a living as well as other things that go bump in the night

Following an attack on an English teacher at a nearby school, it becomes clear this wasn’t an ordinary coyote bite. The gray-green Lichtenberg-like webbing of streaks making their way up Ms. Pruett’s arm can mean only one thing—zombies.

But this isn’t a normal zombie attack. The victims seem to be hand-picked.

Can Jenna complete her investigation without the school administrators figuring out she’s actually a high school student from another school? Will Jenna be able to find out who’s behind these attacks before a full-scale zombie outbreak overtakes the town? And, perhaps most importantly…

Why did her best friend kiss her after all of these years? 

The Fashion Lover’s Guide to Milan by Rachael Martin 

Milan is the European fashion capital with one of the world’s most unique luxury fashion districts where the leaders of some of the most exclusive fashion houses are still living and working today. It’s the Italian city whose skyline has changed more than any, and whose fashion industry has extended to encompass the worlds of design, restaurants, bars, exhibition spaces, hotels and more. Whether you’re looking for designer labels within the city’s luxury fashion district, prefer to browse the city’s boutiques or pick up some quality vintage at the city’s vintage shops and markets, this is the guide that will tell you where to go.

Split into geographical sections along with relevant maps, cultural highlights and suggestions for where to eat and drink, it places Milan as the city of fashion within the context of Italian fashion history and a city, and brings the stories of its people to life. Why did Milan become Italy’s fashion capital? And what does it offer the fashion lover as a city today? 

Best Books of 2019

I read quite a few books this year that I really enjoyed and wanted to share those with you. Most of them are in the young adult genre just because that’s what I read more of but there was some great non-fiction published this year as well.

Young Adult

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity. 

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol’s mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a life like Aimee and Amber’s, the title characters of her favorite American TV show. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death and stealing across the US border as “an illegal”, but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi’s, life is also placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn’t be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn’t have been caught crossing the border.

But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She’s asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It’s a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.

The Grief Keeper is a tender tale that explores the heartbreak and consequences of when both love and human beings are branded illegal.

Cursed by Karol Ruth Silverstein

An #ownvoices contemporary/realistic YA debut. 14 year old Erica “Ricky” Bloom, is newly diagnosed with a painful chronic illness and pretty pissed off about it. Her body hurts constantly, her family’s a mess and the boy she’s crushing on seems completely clueless. The best coping mechanisms she can come up with are cursing and cutting school. But when her truancy is discovered she must struggle to catch up in school to avoid a far worse horror: repeating ninth grade. 

Ziggy, Stardust, and Me by James Brandon

The year is 1973. The Watergate hearings are in full swing. The Vietnam War is still raging. And homosexuality is still officially considered a mental illness. In the midst of these trying times is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins, a bullied, anxious, asthmatic kid, who aside from an alcoholic father and his sympathetic neighbor and friend Starla, is completely alone. To cope, Jonathan escapes to the safe haven of his imagination, where his hero David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and dead relatives, including his mother, guide him through the rough terrain of his life. In his alternate reality, Jonathan can be anything: a superhero, an astronaut, Ziggy Stardust, himself, or completely “normal” and not a boy who likes other boys. When he completes his treatments, he will be normal—at least he hopes. But before that can happen, Web stumbles into his life. Web is everything Jonathan wishes he could be: fearless, fearsome and, most importantly, not ashamed of being gay.

Jonathan doesn’t want to like brooding Web, who has secrets all his own. Jonathan wants nothing more than to be “fixed” once and for all. But he’s drawn to Web anyway. Web is the first person in the real world to see Jonathan completely and think he’s perfect. Web is a kind of escape Jonathan has never known. For the first time in his life, he may finally feel free enough to love and accept himself as he is.

Light it up by Kekla Magoon

A girl walks home from school. She’s tall for her age. She’s wearing her winter coat. Her headphones are in. She’s hurrying.

She never makes it home.

In the aftermath, while law enforcement tries to justify the response, one fact remains: a police officer has shot and killed an unarmed thirteen-year-old girl. The community is thrown into upheaval, leading to unrest, a growing movement to protest the senseless taking of black lives, and the arrival of white supremacist counter demonstrators. 

Slay by Brittney Morris

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.”

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

Adult Fiction

Red at the Bone by Jaqueline Woodson

Moving forward and backward in time, Jacqueline Woodson’s taut and powerful new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of the new child.

As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s coming of age ceremony in her grandparents’ Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, making her entrance to the music of Prince, she wears a special custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody’s mother, for her own ceremony– a celebration that ultimately never took place.

Unfurling the history of Melody’s parents and grandparents to show how they all arrived at this moment, Woodson considers not just their ambitions and successes but also the costs, the tolls they’ve paid for striving to overcome expectations and escape the pull of history. As it explores sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives–even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.

Non-Fiction

Crisis at the Red Zone by Richard Preston

This time, Ebola started with a two-year-old child who likely had contact with a wild creature and whose entire family quickly fell ill and died. The ensuing global drama activated health professionals in North America, Europe, and Africa in a desperate race against time to contain the viral wildfire. By the end–as the virus mutated into its deadliest form, and spread farther and faster than ever before–30,000 people would be infected, and the dead would be spread across eight countries on three continents.

In this taut and suspenseful medical drama, Richard Preston deeply chronicles the outbreak, in which we saw for the first time the specter of Ebola jumping continents, crossing the Atlantic, and infecting people in America. Rich in characters and conflict–physical, emotional, and ethical–Crisis in the Red Zone is an immersion in one of the great public health calamities of our time.

Preston writes of doctors and nurses in the field putting their own lives on the line, of government bureaucrats and NGO administrators moving, often fitfully, to try to contain the outbreak, and of pharmaceutical companies racing to develop drugs to combat the virus. He also explores the charged ethical dilemma over who should and did receive the rare doses of an experimental treatment when they became available at the peak of the disaster.

Crisis in the Red Zone makes clear that the outbreak of 2013-2014 is a harbinger of further, more severe outbreaks, and of emerging viruses heretofore unimagined–in any country, on any continent. In our ever more interconnected world, with roads and towns cut deep into the jungles of equatorial Africa, viruses both familiar and undiscovered are being unleashed into more densely populated areas than ever before.

The more we discover about the virosphere, the more we realize its deadly potential. Crisis in the Red Zone is an exquisitely timely book, a stark warning of viral outbreaks to come. 

Finding Chika by Mitch Albom

Chika Jeune was born three days before the devastating earthquake that decimated Haiti in 2010. She spent her infancy in a landscape of extreme poverty, and when her mother died giving birth to a baby brother, Chika was brought to The Have Faith Haiti Orphanage that Albom operates in Port Au Prince.

With no children of their own, the forty-plus children who live, play, and go to school at the orphanage have become family to Mitch and his wife, Janine. Chika’s arrival makes a quick impression. Brave and self-assured, even as a three-year-old, she delights the other kids and teachers. But at age five, Chika is suddenly diagnosed with something a doctor there says, “No one in Haiti can help you with.”

Mitch and Janine bring Chika to Detroit, hopeful that American medical care can soon return her to her homeland. Instead, Chika becomes a permanent part of their household, and their lives, as they embark on a two-year, around-the-world journey to find a cure. As Chika’s boundless optimism and humor teach Mitch the joys of caring for a child, he learns that a relationship built on love, no matter what blows it takes, can never be lost.

Told in hindsight, and through illuminating conversations with Chika herself, this is Albom at his most poignant and vulnerable. Finding Chika is a celebration of a girl, her adoptive guardians, and the incredible bond they formed—a devastatingly beautiful portrait of what it means to be a family, regardless of how it is made.

Book descriptions are all from Goodreads. You can find these books at Barnes and Noble or look for them at your local library. Click the links above to read my full review on each book.

Leah On the Offbeat Book Review

Summary: Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

Thoughts: I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t really enjoy this book since I wasn’t a big fan of Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. This one was better than that one but not by a lot. While I loved what they tried to do with Leah, with the Bi representation and the body positivity I think it was half done.

I was so disappointed with the characters in this one, I was so excited to get the chance to delve further into them but it was strange. I felt that these were not the same characters we were given in the first book and the relationships that they had with each other were also off.

This book had so much potential with Leah coming out, her relationship with her mother, and her mixed feelings about graduating but none of that was really explored.

I couldn’t stand the romance aspect of this whole book. Like poor Garrett who just gets used for the whole book because Leah isn’t ready to come out. Did that really have to be the way things happened? She could’ve not said anything but still not used someone. I think that was just so stereotypical that I couldn’t get on board. Then there was the relationship with Abby that I also wasn’t fond of. Like calm down Leah, there is no reason to put her down because she doesn’t have her sexuality all figured out like you do.

If you loved Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda then you might enjoy this book. I kept trying to think if I was 14 reading this book would I enjoy it, would I find comfort in the representation of someone like me. When my response to that was probably not, it would hurt me that being Bi wasn’t portrayed as something positive and was being shown in a character that kind of used her sexuality as an excuse to hurt others. Because of this I can’t really recommend it because I’m not sure who would enjoy this book.

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

December TBR

I actually don’t have a TBR for this month beyond two books for the book clubs that I’m a part of. Hoping to get through some of this though since they’ve been on hold for a while.⁠

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

I haven’t had a chance to keep up with TBAB’s book club so I decided since I didn’t have a TBR this month I’m going to give this one a try.

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

This is my library’s book club pick for the month. The last few books haven’t been that good but I’m hoping that I like this one.

This classic collection of journalism defined the state of America during the upheaval of the sixties revolution. The essays feature barricades and bombings, mass murders and kidnapped heiresses.

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

This book was in the Holiday display at my local library and I decided I wanted to read one holiday themed book.

On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn’t.

And then she died.

Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . .

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I’ve been meaning to read this book but just couldn’t make time for it. Now that one of the book clubs at my work are reading it decided I should read it too.

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

Educated by Tara Westover

This is another one that I’m reading as part of a professional book club that I am a part of.

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

WHAT’S ON YOUR TBR FOR DECEMBER?

November Wrap Up

Bug Boys by Laura Knetzger

This is such a cute collection of different stories about two bugs who go on so many adventures. It’s a nice quick read that you can read with your kids. It’s also a great read for children who are learning to read.

Aster and the Accidental Magic by Thom Pico, Karensac

Aster and the Accidental Magic tells the story of Aster who has recently moved to a new town in the middle of nowhere. She hates that she has to live there now and wants to stay indoors playing video games. Her dad forced her to go outside which begins these strange set of adventures she goes on.

I love the many characters that Aster meets and the stories that happen as she meets them. I think that each teach her a lesson and each of them make me want to read more.

I think this is a great middle grade read because of all the action and how quick paced it was. I also like that the ending kept you wanting to know what happens next.

Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi

I had high expectations of this book because of how much hype this book got. I have mixed feelings about this book though. The characters are well developed and I enjoyed how they interact with each other and the world around them. I wasnt a fan of the plot though and how slowly things moved. I was hoping there would be more action or something to keep me on the edge of my seat.

Cast Away: Poems for Our Time by Naomi Shihab Nye

While I thought these poems were written more for adults than young people I still found them interesting. I like how she wrote a whole book about trash and different types of trash. I thought it was interesting to really think about the way we throw things away and how careless we are with our things.

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

As I read this book I grew more and more invested in the lives of Sarah and Tassie. I loved their ever changing relationship with each other and the journey they were on together. When tradegy strikes Sarah’s household the story shifts and is about the everyday mundane life of Tassie. It was at that point that I no longer cared for the story. It’s like Tassie was no one without Sarah and Mary Emma.

I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones, Gilly Segal

I got this book because it’s the library’s big read and they had it available on audiobook. The audiobook is really good because they use two different people to read each characters chapters. I really enjoyed how there was a clear distinction between which character was speaking. I wonder if I would’ve seen the story any differently if I read it rather than listened to it.

I liked having this story told in both of the girls perspectives. I liked watching Lena be one way towards Campbell but be so frustrated with her. I also loved the revelation that Campbell comes to at the end and how she sees everything as she’s told off. And I love how things aren’t resolved at the end and it leaves you thinking.

I also really enjoyed how quick paced everything was. I liked that everything happened in the span of a few hours. I think that things had to happen that quickly for anything to have an impact.

Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon

I loved reading Jonathan and Web fall in love with each other in a world that only I’m privy to as the reader. It’s such a beautiful first love and placed me in my memories of my first real love. It reminded me of thinking I was in love but then actually being in love for the first time as I came to terms with my queerness and how beautiful that is. This book made me see that relationship as something different than I kept seeing it as and it helped me heal from the pain the ending of that relationship caused. I appreciate this book for giving me a new perspective.

I like how short the chapters are and how easily they blend into each other. The short chapters make the book feel like it’s passing a lot slower than it actually is. In the end you realize that this whole story took place over the span of 1 summer. It just reminds me how quickly things can change and it reminds me of the quote in the book “Overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now.” by Ricard Bach.

I really enjoy the moment Jonathan starts to be okay with being gay because it means he can be with Web. I love how he’s like nothing else matters because of that and just really knowing what that moment feels like. I enjoy how relatable so much of this book is even if it’s written in a different time period.

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

This book took me a long time to get through and not because I didn’t enjoy it. I just had to read other things in between. According to my photos I’ve been working on this book since July of this year and I finally was able to get through it though and I’m glad.

I like how there’s only two main characters and you get to know them really way. I like how the relationship that they have is always changing and is very tumultuous. I like how you you don’t really know what Em is thinking, only what Gyre thinks she’s thinking because the whole story is told in third person through Gyres perspective.

Something else I enjoyed was how descriptive each scene is. I read part in physical book and ebook and then listened to the rest. These descriptions made the book more interesting and I felt like I was in that cave with Gyre. The audiobook made things very eerie and I listened to it on my way to work and on my way home which made it even more creepier. I loved how scared this book made me not just because of the story but also for Gyre.

The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West

I loved how each chapter was a different topic but they all tied together well. I really enjoyed how it wasnt just a humorous book but I learned something in each chapter. I was forced to stop and think about things that I thought I hadn’t formed an opinion about.

I loved that it was dark humor. I liked that some of these were not things people find funny. And how the most humorous things were that it was sarcastic. So much of it was funny because it’s TRUE.

Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family by Mitch Albom

I love all of the books I’ve read by Mitch Albom and this one was no different. Mitch really captured how much of a beautiful child Chika was and I love how her personality shines through each word.

I loved the way this book was structured where he had segments where it was him and Chika speaking, then just him about his insights and then parts of the past and what she taught him. I loved hearing each lesson he learned through her and how fond he is of those lessons.
You get so attached to Chika and even if you know she’s going to pass away that moment still hits you hard. I cried as Mitch and his wife said their goodbye and felt honored to be allowed into such a private moment between the three of them.


I recommend this to those of you who enjoy any of Mitch Albom’s other books or who like to read heartfelt stories that’ll make you cry.

Crisis in the Red Zone: The Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History, and of the Outbreaks to Come by Richard Preston

This is just as great if not better than The Hot Zone which is my favorite book of all time. When I first read The Hot Zone it felt like a fictional story or another world I was being privy to so when this came out I couldn’t wait to read it. This was about an outbreak that I followed, this was a story that I thought I knew so well but was wrong. Ebola is the scariest thing in the world to me so reading about it terrifies me.

I love the way that Richard Preston tells the story of the doctors and nurses who risked their lives to treat their own and their patients. He really gives us some insight into their stories and so many of the behind the scenes things we didnt know about. I just love how his writing makes me feel like I’m reading a fiction story and have to remind myself that this is real. These are real people and others lives.

I think one of the most amazing things to learn about was the politics behind the two Americans who got the treatment to save them. That’s a story I remember so well on the news and recall my feelings toward it and this made me rethink that whole situation.

Reasons I’m Thankful for the Book Community

I kept thinking what I wanted to post for today since my typical posting days are Mondays and Thursdays. I was going to post a book review like any other day but I felt that this would be a great opportunity to thank all of you and the bookish community for what I’ve been given this past year. There’s so much I’m thankful for this year so ima highlight a few.

Reignition of my love for reading

I have always loved to read but there have been times when I put the books aside due to school and lack of motivation. The book community introduced me to so many new books and made me want to read a lot more to keep up with new releases.

A sense of Community and Belonging

As an adult who is no longer going to school and wasnt working I felt like there wasnt a place for me. The bookish community embraced me and gave me new friends. I feel supported and encouraged to keep making content.

New Perspective

As I kept reading so many books across many genres I gained new perspectives on different things. Things I had seen as negative or something harmful in my life are now seen as just something that taught me something. I gained new views on genres I wouldnt have picked up before.

Strength to Move Forward during Rough Times

I started my bookstagram and book blog when I was unemployed and struggling to land a job. The times I was engaging in bookish activities or with my new community I forgot that I was struggling. I was able to put that aside for a minute and return to the job search refreshed. It wasnt too long before i found a job and this community kept my spirits up.

I hope you all have a great holiday. What are you all thankful for?

November TBR

Since some of these are carried over from the last month I didn’t think that they should be included in the description portion. There are books not in this picture that I plan to read as well. I won’t put those on my list though since I’m too scared that I won’t get to all of them since they aren’t in my possession. Stay tuned for the end of the month so you can see what I actually got to read.

Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family by Mitch Albom

I won this book in a giveaway from Goodreads and decided to add it to my list this month since it’s publishing soon.

Chika Jeune was born three days before the devastating earthquake that decimated Haiti in 2010. She spent her infancy in a landscape of extreme poverty, and when her mother died giving birth to a baby brother, Chika was brought to The Have Faith Haiti Orphanage that Albom operates in Port Au Prince.

With no children of their own, the forty-plus children who live, play, and go to school at the orphanage have become family to Mitch and his wife, Janine. Chika’s arrival makes a quick impression. Brave and self-assured, even as a three-year-old, she delights the other kids and teachers. But at age five, Chika is suddenly diagnosed with something a doctor there says, “No one in Haiti can help you with.”

Mitch and Janine bring Chika to Detroit, hopeful that American medical care can soon return her to her homeland. Instead, Chika becomes a permanent part of their household, and their lives, as they embark on a two-year, around-the-world journey to find a cure. As Chika’s boundless optimism and humor teach Mitch the joys of caring for a child, he learns that a relationship built on love, no matter what blows it takes, can never be lost.

Told in hindsight, and through illuminating conversations with Chika herself, this is Albom at his most poignant and vulnerable. Finding Chika is a celebration of a girl, her adoptive guardians, and the incredible bond they formed—a devastatingly beautiful portrait of what it means to be a family, regardless of how it is made.

The Witches are Coming by Lindy West

I got this one in a giveaway from Shelf Awareness and since it’s publishing this month I thought what better time to read it.

What do Adam Sandler, Donald Trump, and South Park have in common? Why are myths like “reverse sexism” and “political correctness” so seductive? And why do movie classics of yore, from Sixteen Candles to Revenge of the Nerds, make rape look like so much silly fun? With Lindy West’s signature wit and in her uniquely incendiary voice, The Witches are Coming lays out a grand theory of America that explains why Trump’s election was, in many ways, a foregone conclusion.

As West reveals through fascinating journeys across the landscapes of pop culture, the lies that fostered the catastrophic resentment that boiled over in the 2016 presidential race did not spring from a vacuum. They have in fact been woven into America’s DNA, cultivated by generations of mediocre white men and fed to the masses with such fury that we have become unable to recognize them as lies at all.

Whether it be the notion overheard since the earliest moments of the #MeToo movement that feminism has gone too far or the insistence that holding someone accountable for his actions amounts to a “witch hunt,” The Witches are Coming exposes the lies that many have chosen to believe and the often unexpected figures who have furthered them. Along the way, it unravels the tightening link between culture and politics, identifying in the memes, music, and movies we’ve loved the seeds of the neoreactionary movement now surging through the nation.

Ziggy, Stardust, and Me By James Brandon

If you all recall I did an author interview with James Brandon not too long ago and that was when I decided I had to read this book. My hold from the library finally came in so I can’t wait to read this.

The year is 1973. The Watergate hearings are in full swing. The Vietnam War is still raging. And homosexuality is still officially considered a mental illness. In the midst of these trying times is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins, a bullied, anxious, asthmatic kid, who aside from an alcoholic father and his sympathetic neighbor and friend Starla, is completely alone. To cope, Jonathan escapes to the safe haven of his imagination, where his hero David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and dead relatives, including his mother, guide him through the rough terrain of his life. In his alternate reality, Jonathan can be anything: a superhero, an astronaut, Ziggy Stardust, himself, or completely “normal” and not a boy who likes other boys. When he completes his treatments, he will be normal—at least he hopes. But before that can happen, Web stumbles into his life. Web is everything Jonathan wishes he could be: fearless, fearsome and, most importantly, not ashamed of being gay.

Jonathan doesn’t want to like brooding Web, who has secrets all his own. Jonathan wants nothing more than to be “fixed” once and for all. But he’s drawn to Web anyway. Web is the first person in the real world to see Jonathan completely and think he’s perfect. Web is a kind of escape Jonathan has never known. For the first time in his life, he may finally feel free enough to love and accept himself as he is.

On Swift Horses By Shannon Pufahl

I received this one in a giveaway from Tiverton Books a while back but since It’s publishing this month I decided to add it to my TBR.

Muriel is newly married and restless, transplanted from her rural Kansas hometown to life in a dusty bungalow in San Diego. The air is rich with the tang of salt and citrus, but the limits of her new life seem to be closing in: She misses her freethinking mother, dead before Muriel’s nineteenth birthday, and her sly, itinerant brother-in-law, Julius, who made the world feel bigger than she had imagined. And so she begins slipping off to the Del Mar racetrack, to bet and eavesdrop, learning the language of horses and risk. Meanwhile, Julius is testing his fate in Las Vegas, working at a local casino where tourists watch atomic tests from the roof, and falling in love with Henry, a young card cheat. When Henry is eventually discovered and run out of town, Julius takes off to search for him in the plazas and dives of Tijuana, trading one city of dangerous illusions for another.

Author Interview: James Brandon

About the Author: James Brandon produced and played the central role of Joshua in the international tour of Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi for a decade, and is co-director of the documentary film based on their journey, Corpus Christi: Playing with Redemption. He’s the cofounder of the I AM Love Campaign, an arts-based initiative bridging the faith-based and LGBTQ2+ communities, and serves on the Powwow Steering Committee for Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) in San Francisco. Brandon is a contributing writer for Huffington Post, Believe Out Loud, and Spirituality and Health Magazine. Ziggy, Stardust and Me is his first novel.

Hello James

Thank you so much for taking your time to talk to me about your debut novel Ziggy, Stardust, & Me.

Let’s start by hearing a little about Ziggy, Stardust, & Me, how would you describe your book to someone who hasn’t read it?

James: Ziggy, Stardust, & ME is set in St Louis in 1973 when homosexuality was still considered a mental illness and crime. Jonathan, the protagonist, is working really hard to fix his illness and believes he has fixed himself. He believes that he has fixed himself until Web comes into his life. The story then becomes about these two boys discovering love in a time and a world that won’t let them.

What was your inspiration behind Ziggy, Stardust  & Me?

James: A friend of mine showed me the episode of This American Life- 81 Words which tells the story about how the American Psychiatric Association (APA) decided in 1973 that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness. It was about a moment in time in queer history where the APA and the Gay Liberation Movement were fighting each other because the APA had classified homosexuality as mental illness. The Gay Liberation Movement was fighting because they insisted that they were normal and they didn’t need to be treated. In December 1973 the APA removed homosexuality from DSM, and now LGBTQ+ people were suddenly cured from this illness. I didn’t know anything about history after being out for such a long time and this woke me up. I think that without being taught our history LGBTQ+ people don’t feel a sense of rooted ness and they feel loss without that. I want to help teach our history and give sense of connectedness to LGBTQ+ people.

What are your 10 favorite books and why?

James:

Ari and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz- is my classic go to.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson- has beautiful transportive writing

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian- is another beautiful queer historical documented piece of history

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi- is about a black trans girl and is a beautiful book.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong- is a spectacular book that has prose that is out of this world.

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante- is a beautifully written book.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens- is a beautiful book and extraordinarily written. It is a book that inspired me as a writer.

River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy- is her debut novel that is coming out in late October.

The Stand by Stephen King- his version wasn’t edited and is where I learned how to write character because his characters are so defined, rich, and full

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera- creates an immersive world that I loved getting lost in.

From those 10 books would you say that any one of those influenced your life greatly or is there a book you didn’t mention that has influenced you life?

James: I would have to say that all have to some degree. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was the first queer book I read. Before this I was not aware of queer books and I didn’t really seek them out but when this one came to me it inspired me to want to write a book. It really showed me the importance of having queer protagonist in a book, and gave me validity for someone who didn’t see that growing up. I would say that this book influenced my writing in a way too.

What would you say was the most surprising thing that you learned while writing your novel?

James: My editor, Stacey Barney is a genius, one thing she worked really hard on this book for a couple years, was pushing me on not believing the journey that Jonathan takes to self acceptance. After being out for over 20 years, this caused me to question my own journey towards self acceptance and question how much I really accept myself now. There’s a quote in the book “once the seed of shame is planted within it never goes away” that really is the journey into Jonathan and his soul, we have a choice to let that seed grow, strangle our soul and become miserable or acknowledge that seed and become better people because of it. This was a surprising realization to make and a beautiful surprise. Due to this realization and Stacey Barney’s notes, I am a more humble and awakened human.

What was something about Ziggy, Stardust and Me that you struggled to write or come up with?

James: There wasn’t anything easy about it, the struggle was really and something that me and Stacey worked on a lot was honing in on Jonathan and Web’s relationship. I wanted to create this bubble that their relationship stays in while the chaos of life goes on around them. I wanted to keep this bubble of love safe, pure, and for this to be their escape while they were not allowed to be gay and every faction of society was screaming to get their voice heard. It was important to pay attention and listen to the two boys and what they needed and wanted to make their relationships thrive.

Your story is set in 1973. Why did you choose that as the setting for your book? Do you think this book would have the same impact if it was set in a different time period?

James: If this was told in a different time period it would not have the same impact due to the APA decision occurring in 1973. In The American Life- 81 Words there is one doctor who changed his mind about homosexuality after meeting a gay boy who hugged him. I kept thinking about this and wanted to figure out who this boy was who was able to change the mind of an older males and this is how I created Jonathan. I wanted to show a time that younger people don’t recognize as an important part of our history. The Stonewall riots and this event marked a turning point for the current LGBTQ movement and more people of all ages need to know this was a real time and these are real things people endured just in their day to day existence.

How did you deal with the emotional impact the book might have had on you as you were writing the story?

James: There were intense moments in this book and intense moments when writing it. Jonathan experiences treatments that were experienced as a normality during this time period. I interviewed people who under went some of these treatments and I wanted to create a sensorial experience for the reader when Jonathan experiences these treatments. This was really the only way for the reader to feel some empathy as I felt empathy for these people. Because self-care and one’s own mental health is so important I was aware and clear of my boundaries when writing and made sure to separate my own identity from my characters. As I was immersing myself in these things, I let myself feel it and wrote through tears. Once words and tears pushed through I made sure to get away from the writing and come back to it later, allowing myself some space. It was important to feel those feelings, because as humans we have to do that in order to move through things we’re working on.

What do you hope your readers take away from reading Ziggy, Stardust, & Me? 

James: I want my readers to understand the importance of believing in yourself and embrace that which makes you different. The things that make you different, make you unique and that’s what we need in this world right now. Don’t be scared and don’t shy away from who you are and being you when people tell you you can’t, prove them wrong and be that. Recognize that uniqueness is why we are here.

Is there more in store for Jonathan or is there something else that you are currently working on?

James: There is currently no planned sequel to Ziggy, Stardust, & Me. I have written another book and what I do know is that each book I write will have some moment in LGBTQ history that has been lost or forgotten.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

James: There were so many times that could’ve given up and so many reasons why one could give up because writing is REALLY, REALLY, REALLY hard. If don’t go in knowing that it can feel daunting and overwhelming. It’s important to never give up, believe in what you need to say and don’t let anyone else tell you that what you are trying to say isn’t good enough because if you need to say it its important and we need to hear it.

About Ziggy, Stardust, & Me: In this tender-hearted debut, set against the tumultuous backdrop of life in 1973, when homosexuality is still considered a mental illness, two boys defy all the odds and fall in love.

The year is 1973. The Watergate hearings are in full swing. The Vietnam War is still raging. And homosexuality is still officially considered a mental illness. In the midst of these trying times is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins, a bullied, anxious, asthmatic kid, who aside from an alcoholic father and his sympathetic neighbor and friend Starla, is completely alone. To cope, Jonathan escapes to the safe haven of his imagination, where his hero David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and dead relatives, including his mother, guide him through the rough terrain of his life. In his alternate reality, Jonathan can be anything: a superhero, an astronaut, Ziggy Stardust, himself, or completely “normal” and not a boy who likes other boys. When he completes his treatments, he will be normal–at least he hopes. But before that can happen, Web stumbles into his life. Web is everything Jonathan wishes he could be: fearless, fearsome and, most importantly, not ashamed of being gay.

Jonathan doesn’t want to like brooding Web, who has secrets all his own. Jonathan wants nothing more than to be “fixed” once and for all. But he’s drawn to Web anyway. Web is the first person in the real world to see Jonathan completely and think he’s perfect. Web is a kind of escape Jonathan has never known. For the first time in his life, he may finally feel free enough to love and accept himself as he is.

Click here to find more about James Brandon and you can get Ziggy, Stardust & Me at Penguin Random House.

Slay by Brittney Morris Book Review

Thank You to Riveted by Simon Teen for the advanced copy of the book at Yallwest.

Summary: Kiera creates a world that she feels she can be herself in and embrace what being black means for her. The only downside is that none of her IRL friends know about this online persona she has created for herself and this game she’s made for black people. She thinks she can keep both worlds separate until a boy gets murdered for something from this game called SLAY. What happens next? Will she be able to keep her two worlds separate? What happens when the two worlds collide?

Thoughts: I loved this book the minute I opened it and was so sad every time I had to put it down, I was even sadder when it ended. I’ve been very intentional about what I read lately and want to make sure I get to read books by POC for POC and that is what this book is. This book covers so many important topics and I cant even begin to talk about them all here.

I kept thinking about how I wanted to write this review and how to express my feelings because I don’t want to overstep. I also kept thinking about how much I wanted to write I elaborate review but then I thought that wouldn’t be authentic. I couldn’t talk about this book in an academic voice and make my review inaccessible to others.

So after that spiel here goes my attempt at giving this book the review it deserves. This book is something that I was able to relate to on different levels but not all levels and that’s okay. I think that was the point of this book, for black people to be seen and validated first and foremost and also for others to learn that not everything has to be about them. You can love a book, relate to characters, and to the plot and have it not be about you. I struggled with whether I wanted to put that in this review or leave it out but it is so important here and it’s a part of my feelings towards this book.

I loved each and every one of these characters, even the ones we get a chapter for. They were all well developed and had complex relationships with each other and the world around them. I loved that there was a non-binary character because when I enjoy any type of media all I see are white non-binary people and I always think but what about POC, do we not exist outside of my friend groups? This book just reminds me of why representation matters and the importance of spreading books like this around to others.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you read it. I can talk about this book forever so please talk to me about it.

You can get this book at Barnes and Noble or at your local library. If your library doesn’t have it please recommend that they get it.

The Babysitter’s Coven Book Review

Thank You Penguin Teen and Random House Publishing for the advanced readers copy in exchange for my review.

Summary: Esme has a babysitting club that consists of just her and her friend Janis until the new girl comes to town. She begs to be able to join the babysitting club and fails at her job the first night, so why would she want to even be a babysitter? Does she really care for children? Does she really want to get to know Esme as she claims? Or is there something more to this babysitter’s club than Esme knows?

Thoughts: When I started reading I kept having to pause because of the random TXTing lingo that was included, while I knew what the words meant they just seemed very out of place. I liked how the book had a very 90s theme and tone to it and I think there were some times where modern things were brought into play that took away from that. I wasn’t a big fan of all the time jumping because it made it hard to figure out what time period was this book taking place in.

While this was marketed as a babysitter’s club/buffy the vampieish book I looked past any of that since I’m not familiar with either of those things. I think because I wasn’t familiar and read this book as something new I found it really entertaining. I loved each of the characters and how they developed throughout the story. I liked how their relationships with each other changed and how complex some of those relationships were.

Something I really enjoyed was the last few chapters as the action picks up and you can’t turn away because you need to know what happened. I’m glad this is a series because after that ending I”m left wanting more of this babysitters coven and of the girl’s parents.

I recommend this to those of you who like novice magic in your books or to teens ages 13-16.

You can find this book at Barnes and Nobles or look for it at your local library.