May 2021 Wrap Up

I waited till the last minute to see if I could finish one last book today as I only have a few hours left to listen to. I’ll give myself until I finish writing this post to see if I could finish listening to the book. I read some pretty great books this month and wanted to share those with you all. Reviews to come for several of these books, the links in the titles will take you to reviews for those books

The Ghosts We Keep by Mason Deaver 

When Liam Cooper’s older brother Ethan is killed in a hit-and-run, Liam has to not only learn to face the world without one of the people he loved the most, but also face the fading relationship with his two best friends.

Feeling more alone and isolated than ever, Liam finds themself sharing time with Marcus, Ethan’s best friend, and through Marcus, Liam finds the one person that seems to know exactly what they’re going through, for the better, and the worse.

This book is about grief. But it’s also about why we live. Why we have to keep moving on, and why we should.

Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders 

Tina never worries about being ‘ordinary’—she doesn’t have to, since she’s known practically forever that she’s not just Tina Mains, average teenager and beloved daughter. She’s also the keeper of an interplanetary rescue beacon, and one day soon, it’s going to activate, and then her dreams of saving all the worlds and adventuring among the stars will finally be possible. Tina’s legacy, after all, is intergalactic—she is the hidden clone of a famed alien hero, left on Earth disguised as a human to give the universe another chance to defeat a terrible evil.

But when the beacon activates, it turns out that Tina’s destiny isn’t quite what she expected. Things are far more dangerous than she ever assumed. Luckily, Tina is surrounded by a crew she can trust, and her best friend Rachel, and she is still determined to save all the worlds. But first she’ll have to save herself.

Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan 

In this YA contemporary queer romance from the author of Hot Dog Girl , an openly gay track star falls for a closeted, bisexual teen beauty queen with a penchant for fixing up old cars.

Morgan, an elite track athlete, is forced to transfer high schools late in her senior year after it turns out being queer is against her private Catholic school’s code of conduct. There, she meets Ruby, who has two hobbies: tinkering with her baby blue 1970 Ford Torino and competing in local beauty pageants, the latter to live out the dreams of her overbearing mother. The two are drawn to each other and can’t deny their growing feelings. But while Morgan–out and proud, and determined to have a fresh start–doesn’t want to have to keep their budding relationship a secret, Ruby isn’t ready to come out yet. With each girl on a different path toward living her truth, can they go the distance together?

Can’t Take That Away by Steven Salvatore 

An empowering and emotional debut about a genderqueer teen who finds the courage to stand up and speak out for equality when they are discriminated against by their high school administration.

Carey Parker dreams of being a diva, and bringing the house down with song. They can hit every note of all the top pop and Broadway hits. But despite their talent, emotional scars from an incident with a homophobic classmate and their grandmother’s spiraling dementia make it harder and harder for Carey to find their voice.

Then Carey meets Cris, a singer/guitarist who makes Carey feel seen for the first time in their life. With the rush of a promising new romantic relationship, Carey finds the confidence to audition for the role of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, in the school musical, setting off a chain reaction of prejudice by Carey’s tormentor and others in the school. It’s up to Carey, Cris, and their friends to defend their rights–and they refuse to be silenced.

Told in alternating chapters with identifying pronouns, debut author Steven Salvatore’s Can’t Take That Away conducts a powerful, uplifting anthem, a swoony romance, and an affirmation of self-identity that will ignite the activist in all of us.

May the Best Man Win by Z.R. Ellor

A trans boy enters a throw-down battle for the title of Homecoming King with the boy he dumped last summer in ZR Ellor’s contemporary YA debut.

Jeremy Harkiss, cheer captain and student body president, won’t let coming out as a transgender boy ruin his senior year. Instead of bowing to the bigots and outdate school administration, Jeremy decides to make some noise—and how better than by challenging his all-star ex-boyfriend, Lukas for the title of Homecoming King?

Lukas Rivers, football star and head of the Homecoming Committee, is just trying to find order in his life after his older brother’s funeral and the loss long-term girlfriend—who turned out to be a boy. But when Jeremy threatens to break his heart and steal his crown, Lukas kick starts a plot to sabotage Jeremy’s campaign.

When both boys take their rivalry too far, the dance is on the verge of being canceled. To save Homecoming, they’ll have to face the hurt they’re both hiding—and the lingering butterflies they can’t deny. 

The Last Fallen Star (Gifted Clans #1) by Graci Kim 

Riley Oh can’t wait to see her sister get initiated into the Gom clan, a powerful lineage of Korean healing witches their family has belonged to for generations. Her sister, Hattie, will earn her Gi bracelet and finally be able to cast spells without adult supervision. Although Riley is desperate to follow in her sister’s footsteps when she herself turns thirteen, she’s a saram–a person without magic. Riley was adopted, and despite having memorized every healing spell she’s ever heard, she often feels like the odd one out in her family and the gifted community.

Then Hattie gets an idea: what if the two of them could cast a spell that would allow Riley to share Hattie’s magic? Their sleuthing reveals a promising incantation in the family’s old spell book, and the sisters decide to perform it at Hattie’s initiation ceremony. If it works, no one will ever treat Riley as an outsider again. It’s a perfect plan!

Until it isn’t. When the sisters attempt to violate the laws of the Godrealm, Hattie’s life ends up hanging in the balance, and to save her Riley has to fulfill an impossible task: find the last fallen star. But what even is the star, and how can she find it?

As Riley embarks on her search, she finds herself meeting fantastic creatures and collaborating with her worst enemies. And when she uncovers secrets that challenge everything she has been taught to believe, Riley must decide what it means to be a witch, what it means to be family, and what it really means to belong. 

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston 

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.

Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop is a magical, sexy, big-hearted romance where the impossible becomes possible as August does everything in her power to save the girl lost in time.

The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons 

‘A sharply observant and vividly drawn debut. I loved every minute I spent in this story’ – Becky Albertalli

Fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris is a proud nerd, an awesome big brother and a Messi-in-training. He’s also transgender. After transitioning at his old school leads to a year of bullying, Spencer gets a fresh start at Oakley, the most liberal private school in Ohio.

At Oakley, Spencer seems to have it all: more accepting classmates, a decent shot at a starting position on the boy’s soccer team, great new friends, and maybe even something more than friendship with one of his teammates. The problem is, no one at Oakley knows Spencer is trans – he’s passing.

So when a discriminatory law forces Spencer’s coach to bench him after he discovers the ‘F’ on Spencer’s birth certificate, Spencer has to make a choice: cheer his team on from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even if it means coming out to everyone – including the guy he’s falling for.

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares (Dash & Lily #1) by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan 

“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.

Aetherbound by E.K. Johnston

Set on a family-run interstellar freighter called the Harland and a mysterious remote space station, E. K. Johnston’s latest is story of survival and self-determination.

Pendt Harland’s family sees her as a waste of food on their long-haul space cruiser when her genes reveal an undesirable mutation. But if she plays her cards right she might have a chance to do much more than survive. During a space-station layover, Pendt escapes and forms a lucky bond with the Brannick twins, the teenage heirs of the powerful family that owns the station. Against all odds, the trio hatches a long-shot scheme to take over the station and thwart the destinies they never wished for.

Just Pretend by Tori Sharp 

A graphic memoir, in which a young girl uses her active imagination to navigate middle school as well as the fallout from her parents’ divorce. 

Tori has never lived in just one world.

Since her parents’ divorce, she’s lived in both her mom’s house and her dad’s new apartment. And in both places, no matter how hard she tries, her family still treats her like a little kid. Then there’s school, where friendships old and new are starting to feel more and more out of her hands.

Thankfully, she has books-and writing. And now the stories she makes up in her head just might save her when everything else around her—friendships, school, family—is falling apart.

Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse 

The first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

May Wrap Up

I got the chance to read a lot of great books this month and I’m so glad for it. I also know that last year most of my favorite books came out in the second half of the year so I was waiting for those this year.

The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter by Aaron Reynolds

I recommend this to those of you who have children who are being introduced to chapter books or are looking for something to read with their kids. This is the perfect book to read with your kids or a great way to introduce a child to chapter books. It’s a great transition from picture books to books with less images.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

I only recently realized how much I love fantasy and sci-fi books. I just rarely read them because it takes me longer to get through them. It takes me a while to get all the characters straight along with getting the lay of their world. I didn’t let that keep me from reading this book though and I am glad for that. This was an original story and I loved that it borrowed from Persian culture which was something I had yet to read about.

The twist in this book is so unexpected and I love how it is done. It adds to the story and makes the characters even more lovable. This is a love story like no other that I have read in the past and I love that it wasn’t about a girl who needed to be rescued but about her rescuing herself and those that she loves.

I recommend this to those of you who enjoy fantasy, are looking for bisexual mcs, want action and adventure, or are looking for a young adult fantasy with a female lead.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

I have not read a book about baking yet so this was a nice change. I really liked how the whole book was more complex than just being about Zoe’s baking. I like how it includes her feelings about her dad being in jail and how this complicates her story. I liked how it turned into a story about family and friendship more than just baking. It’s a story about trust, hope, and more.

I recommend this to those of you looking for a book with a black main character and black author. I also think that children ages 11 and up would enjoy this book. Its a great book to introduce racism, injustice and the prison system to middle aged children.

The New One: Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad by Mike Birbiglia

As someone who fears having kids i found Birbiglia’s thoughts prior to having a kid relatable. I thought it was great to see his perspective before and after his kid and how even during that first year of his kids life he was still iffy about having a kid. This book was cute, light and fluffy which I read enjoyed during this time.

This Is My America by Kim Johnson

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

This is a beautifully written book that tackles difficult issues that Black people still face all over the U.S. There were moments that I had to put this book down to really take in the impact of a scene or to really let something sit with me. I cried along with Tracy and her family at the moments they were able to breathe a sigh of relief and also at the times where they were living in fear.

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

What I loved about this book is that it is a slow burn romance so nothing really happens between the two for the majority of the book. I find their back and forth banter and really charming. I actually really enjoy that this book has no sexually explicit material for the majority of the whole book. It really allowed me to focus on Jo and Emma’s stories apart from each other and enjoy it when they came together.

I also really enjoy the way that this book is written. You get to see the story from both Emma and Jo’s perspective. I like how you get to see their inner thoughts at every point of the book as I thought some of those moments were humorous. It also allowed you to feel a lot more tension between the characters and also be angry at how they wouldn’t just get together.

Grown Ups by Emma Jane Unsworth

The book starts off a bit slow and its just a woman’s daily life. Jenny is very immature and you can tell in the way she thinks and her actions. You also get a glimpse of how self-absorbed she is through her obsession with social media. Jenny wants her life to look a certain way to others and when she can no longer fake that ideal life, she starts breaking down.

It feels like your in her head with her and she’s a very nervous person so you feel all of her feelings. By giving you Jenny’s every thought with no filter, its as if you are there with her. This was something that I actually did enjoy. Reading through Jenny’s perspective made other characters stand out and I felt bad that they had to deal with her.

Lobizona by Romina Garber 

When I saw so many people raving about this book I knew that I had to read this book even if I hadn’t given magical realism a try. I knew that I loved fantasy and magical realism was more so people reacting to the magical things as if they were ordinary day things. The idea of magical realism fascinated me and I love the idea that it mixes reality and magic.

What I really enjoyed about this book was how it was about challenging the rules and what it means to deserve to live. I liked the way that it handled that topic both in our world and in the world built by the book. I think this book did a great job bringing the issue of what it means to belong somewhere to the surface.

Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett

Memoirs are a little difficult to review as I can’t really rate them on their characters or the plot. It isn’t as if those are features that could have been changed in a person’s life. What I can talk about though is the writing style and the way the story is told.

This memoir is split up into four parts each one documenting a different portion of Mike’s life. Each of these different parts is written with a distinguishable tone which is quite enjoyable.