Book Review: Finale

Official Blurb: 91xyJ8LjggLWelcome, welcome to Finale, the third and final audiobook in Stephanie Garber’s number one New York Times best-selling Caraval series!

A love worth fighting for. A dream worth dying for. An ending worth waiting for.

It’s been two months since the Fates were freed from a deck of cards, two months since Legend claimed the throne for his own, and two months since Tella discovered the boy she fell in love with doesn’t really exist.

With lives, empires, and hearts hanging in the balance, Tella must decide if she’s going to trust Legend or a former enemy. After uncovering a secret that upends her life, Scarlett will need to do the impossible. And Legend has a choice to make that will forever change and define him.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win and those who will lose everything.

Welcome, welcome to Finale. All games must come to an end….

My Take: 5/5 Stars

Occasionally, there are minutes that get extra seconds. Moments so precious the universe stretches to make additional room for them.

~Stephanie Garber

FINALE was my second most anticipated read of the year (right after KING OF SCARS) and it did not disappoint even a little bit. By page 55 my heart was thumping, and I was in a frenzy. I squealed in glee, I gnashed my teeth in anticipation, I growled in frustration. I would put the book down so I could savor it only to start twitching, desperate to pick it back up. I read it, naturally, in one sitting. I was frustrated with myself for being unable to read faster yet irritated with my need-to-know nature because I knew I would be devastated by the time the book was over and my hands were empty.

Predictable. I am so, so very predictable. Because I did read it too fast, and I was upset when I had no more book. I felt like that inquisitive yet sad character in one’s mind who picks up the book and shakes its pages a little, hoping more story will fall out. Sadly, this was the end of the legend of Legend and Donatella and Scarlett. But I look back and realize that I loved every single moment of following them, which is surprising considering (in my humble opinion) it is hard to pull off a good close. This was a good close. Yet it left enough open that I thought about it and thought about it and considered reopening my fanfiction.net account for some good old fashioned wish fulfillment. Because, I don’t do spoilers here, but there was one someone I wanted to see more of. (As an aside, when you want to write fanfiction about a book, the author has done it right).

The world of Caraval has been magical, but the thing that pulled me back every time were the characters. Especially Tella. Fierce, stubborn, brilliant Tella. When I read Caraval, I loved Scarlett so much I could barely contain myself. I loved her because she was something you don’t see often in YA fantasy: she was soft and cautious and agency came slowly to her. Tella, in a nutshell, is a girl like me. So when I opened up Legendary, I was nervous at first to see it was from Tella’s point of view. But then I realized Tella was amazing in a different way. Tella was the girl I want to be. And seeing them both evolve and shift and grow and change has been a complete joy. Stephanie Garber is the kind of writer I aspire to me. The kind of writer who is unapologetic and honest. Whose characters draw you back time and time again.

I have no idea what is in store next for Stephanie, but whatever it is, you can be sure I’ll be lining up to get my hands on it.

This week’s question: What’s your favorite (finished) series?

To Enter Caraval Read These First: 

Caraval Buy Links:

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To Finish the Legend of Legend Read These:

Finale Buy Links:

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❤ Aimee

 

Book Review: Shortest Way Home

9781631494369_p0_v5_s550x406Official Blurb: Once described by the Washington Post as “the most interesting mayor you’ve never heard of,” Pete Buttigieg, the thirty-seven-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has now emerged as one of the nation’s most visionary politicians. With soaring prose that celebrates a resurgent American Midwest, Shortest Way Home narrates the heroic transformation of a “dying city” (Newsweek) into nothing less than a shining model of urban reinvention.

Interweaving two narratives―that of a young man coming of age and a town regaining its economic vitality―Buttigieg recounts growing up in a Rust Belt city, amid decayed factory buildings and the steady soundtrack of rumbling freight trains passing through on their long journey to Chicagoland. Inspired by John F. Kennedy’s legacy, Buttigieg first left northern Indiana for red-bricked Harvard and then studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, before joining McKinsey, where he trained as a consultant―becoming, of all things, an expert in grocery pricing. Then, Buttigieg defied the expectations that came with his pedigree, choosing to return home to Indiana and responding to the ultimate challenge of how to revive a once-great industrial city and help steer its future in the twenty-first century.

Elected at twenty-nine as the nation’s youngest mayor, Pete Buttigieg immediately recognized that “great cities, and even great nations, are built through attention to the everyday.” As Shortest Way Homerecalls, the challenges were daunting―whether confronting gun violence, renaming a street in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., or attracting tech companies to a city that had appealed more to junk bond scavengers than serious investors. None of this is underscored more than Buttigieg’s audacious campaign to reclaim 1,000 houses, many of them abandoned, in 1,000 days and then, even as a sitting mayor, deploying to serve in Afghanistan as a Navy officer. Yet the most personal challenge still awaited Buttigieg, who came out in a South Bend Tribune editorial, just before being reelected with 78 percent of the vote, and then finding Chasten Glezman, a middle-school teacher, who would become his partner for life.

While Washington reels with scandal, Shortest Way Home, with its graceful, often humorous, language, challenges our perception of the typical American politician. In chronicling two once-unthinkable stories―that of an Afghanistan veteran who came out and found love and acceptance, all while in office, and that of a revitalized Rust Belt city no longer regarded as “flyover country”―Buttigieg provides a new vision for America’s shortest way home.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

“Good policy, like good literature, takes personal lived experience as its starting point. At its best, the practice of politics is about taking steps that support people in daily life—or tearing down obstacles that get in their way. Much of the confusion and complication of ideological battles might be washed away if we held our focus on the lives that will be made better, or worse, by political decisions, rather than on the theoretical elegance of the policies or the character of the politicians themselves.”

~ Pete Buttigieg

This book was actually hard to give a rating if I’m honest. It was excellent, but not in the way I usually expect excellence from a book. It wasn’t fast paced and action packed. It wasn’t moving or emotional. But it was smart, extremely smart, and it was thoughtful. It made me think… a lot. It made me lift my head and pause my audiobook and go, “Hm.” It made me slow my regular jaunt on the elliptical and stare out the window at my office gym in silent contemplation. And for that, I give it five stars.

I caveat my five star rating with that introduction, though, because even for memoir, this book was different. Memoir, in my experience at least, usually involves some kind of riveting subject matter: fanatical religions; conversion therapy; abusive parents; famous figures; hilarious anecdotes; and cooky adventures, things of that nature. SHORTEST WAY HOME features exactly none of that. Yet, it still held me. It held me in a way Michelle Obama’s book Becoming held me. It held me because it was smart and thoughtful and… normal. It held me because Mayor Pete has good, sound ideas, and because he is refreshingly honest. He is human in a way that is endearing, as anyone who has seen him do an interview probably already knows. His memoir is quiet and contemplative, yet not without passion. In fact, it has a surprising amount of passion for a surprising array of subjects. Interestingly enough, this book had me excitedly texting my father (an environmental engineer) about its extensive discussion of how South Bend, Indiana, used the minds at nearby Notre Dame to help develop a new sewer system which saved not only the environment, but also money. But it’s this fact––that the book makes the ordinary seem extraordinary––that made it deserve all the stars.

In addition to that, Mayor Pete himself is startlingly impressive, though I bet he is too humble to claim such an adjective. Yet, there is no other that fits him quite right. He is only 37 years old (six years older than me, but who’s counting?) and he’s already accomplished so much. He went to Harvard, then was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. He worked for a big consulting firm, worked on various campaigns (including for John Kerry and President Obama), then before he was even thirty, was elected mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He was also an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserves, serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan (while he was mayor, people). Oh, and he wrote and published this book I’m talking about. P.s. he’s also running for President of the United States as the country’s first openly gay candidate. Like… what? This man, I’m telling you.

Anyway, like I said, you might not be glued to your seat, eyes wide as your fingers tremble to turn the next page, but Shortest Way Home is a must read for any policy nerd who loves America and wants to be challenged into rethinking some of our most deeply held beliefs. Oh, and I listened on Audible and Mayor Pete narrated it himself and for a first timer, he did a great job!

Today’s Question: Tell me about a book that was really good but for a different-than-usual reason!

Buy Links:

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Hope you’re having a great week!!!

❤ Aimee

 

 

 

Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone

Trigger/Content Warnings: Violence, sexual assault, physical assault, murder, themes of racism/brutality against black bodies, emotional abuse, parental abuse, slavery.


A1agLFsWkOLOfficial Blurb:

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

I teach you to be warriors in the garden so you will never be gardeners in the war.” ~ Tomi Adeyemi

I feel like I have to premise this post by telling you about how much I admire Tomi Adeyemi. Number one, she’s a Harvard grad which always impresses me (I’m a snob, I’ll admit it). Number two, she was only 24 years old when this book, her debut, came out and hit the NYT Bestsellers List at NUMBER ONE. It’s been on The List for 61 consecutive weeks. And she was even YOUNGER when she landed her record-setting, three-book deal. Also, I’ve listened to her on several podcasts and the like, and she’s brilliant and inspirational.

So why did it take me so long to get to this read if I admire her so much and KNEW this book would land on my Five Star list? Well, because I’m kind of a jerk about big books these days (I know, it’s ridiculous, I used to adore big books but as I get older I just… hesitate), and this book was a TOME on my front door. I had it pre-ordered (naturally) and was so excited when it arrived. Then I opened it and… it was bigger than I expected.

Anyway, I have been trying to break myself of this stupid, new fear over big books by getting them on audiobook, which I did for CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE, and I’m actually SUPER glad I listened to this one. It’s narrated by Bahni Turpin who is one of my favorite audiobook narrators in general, but this was the best performance of hers I’ve heard thus far. It was magical. Bahni SINGS in this book, and I seriously never wanted her to stop. I wanted her to sing me the entire book. I wanted someone to put her on a stage and make this into a single-player performance. It would be long, I admit, but maybe we could do like a fifteen-part series? Please? I know the book has sold movie rights, but can someone cast Bahni? It was such an amazing listen. Also, I just looked Bahni up to see who I’d cast her as, and she’s gorgeous and would TOTALLY be an amazing mom to Zélie, just saying. If anyone at Fox 2000 stumbles upon this gushing rant, you can take this idea.

Ahem… back to the book. Children of Blood and Bone was as magical as Bahni’s performance of it, naturally. It had me from page one. One of the hardest things about writing a book, somewhat weirdly, is finding the right place to start it. This book had about the best starting point of anything I’ve read in recent memory, which made my writing brain happy.

That wasn’t all, either. Stylistically, this book was smart. Because I don’t do spoilers here, I won’t get into anything too complicated, but I will say that there are creatures in Adeyemi’s book that are constructed in a way that had me going, “Wow, that’s really brilliant what she did there.” The way she constructed her world, and her characters, had me really thinking about how much work she put into the writing of this novel.

Yet with all its smart style and flashy world building, what resonates probably the most with the reader is characterization. Adeyemi’s characters stick with you. They’re delightfully messy, fully rounded, and totally relatable. Even the villain. This book is written in three points of view and each one brings you a different worldview, all as understandable and complicated as the next. Through the different lenses she uses, Adeyemi brilliant fleshes out the complications of her world, and ours. Again, smart.

Needless to say, I adored this book. But forewarning, it did end on an aching cliffhanger. Good news though, the next book Virtue and Vengeance, is slated to release in December of this year. And yes, I have it preordered already!

Tuesday’s Question: Who is your favorite audiobook narrator?

Buy Links:

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❤ Aimee

 

Book Review: ???

Hi guys! I have no Five Star Only Review today because I ran out of backlog! I’ve read a lot of four star books lately, but nothing that made me go WOW.

Accordingly, I’m now seeking recommendations for books you think are Five Star Only Review worthy! If you’re new here, you can read some of my previous Five Star Reviews in particular genres by clicking the links below. The genres and age groups I read in most are as follows:

Young Adult Fantasy: I like my fantasy books with strong female characters (but not necessarily warrior-types, I like to explore different kinds of female power, including magic and emotional strength, not only badass lady warriors, though I like those too!) and a romantic element. The more romance the better to be perfectly honest, and I don’t care what kind of romance (either in trope or sexual orientation/gender identity). That means I’m good with love triangles, friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, cis romances, LGBTQ+ romances, whatever as long as it is fluffy and makes my heart flutter!

Young Adult Contemporary: I don’t read a ton of contemporary, and it isn’t usually what I go for first, so for me to really love it, it has to shine. If I’m going to read contemporary, I want it to be diverse (like the world around us), and usually like to see romance here, too, though I don’t necessarily expect it. I also really like authentic teen voices and problems in my YA Contemporary, because it’s a break from the fantasy I read wherein “save the world” is usually the task at hand.

Memoir: There are two kinds of memoir that intrigue me: The kind that deals with subject matter I know well; and the kind that deals with subject matter I know nothing about. For me to really love a memoir, the writing has to be moving and lyrical. This is where I go to read something heavy and deep that will stick with me for a long time after I’m finished.

Diverse Stories: I am always looking for diverse stories in any and all genres!

Though I hate to say there’s anything I won’t read, there are some things I won’t read. It is as follows:

Sci-Fi (any age group): I know fantasy and sci-fi are usually lumped together, but in my mind they could not be further apart. I am not interested in space, aliens, robots, tech, or dystopian futures. Sorry sci-fi fans! It’s just not my thing.

Erotica: I won’t lie, I’m a bit of a prude when it comes to sex. I think it has something to do with my trauma/touch aversion, but whatever it is, erotic is not for me. I love romance, just not the uh… culmination of it, I guess.

Middle Grade (any genre): I have tried to read a bunch of middle grade (again, no shame, but I’ve done this to boost my Goodreads numbers and get some more books knocked out quicker) but it’s just not for me.

That’s about it though! Otherwise, I’m willing to give anything a shot, so hit me up with your favorite books in the comments, and maybe you’ll see one featured here in an upcoming Five Star Only Review Tuesday!

❤ Always,

Aimee

P.s. My boyfriend and I are buying our very first house on Friday, and I am SO HYPE.books-4136388_1920

 

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes

Trigger/Content Warnings: Violence, rape/sexual assault, physical assault, domestic violence, slavery.


27774758Official Blurb: Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.

~ Sabaa Tahir

I am late to this party, I know. AN EMBER IN THE ASHES has been on my TBR for so long that the book I own still has the above cover. It was bringing me actual shame to pass by it on my shelf, but I was also daunted because my days have been busy lately and it seemed so… large. But I finally decided to tackle it and WOW.

In some previous blog posts, I talked about a few of my automatic five star rules. I said if a book makes me cry it gets an automatic five-star review. I also said if a book makes me want to create it gets an automatic five-star review. Now, I introduce you to rule number three: the book that makes me stay up past my bedtime to binge read. Because despite the fact that An Ember in the Ashes initially daunted me with its size, I read it in one sitting, staying up well past my bedtime to finish it.

Dynamic. That’s the word that kept running through my mind as I raced through this book. It’s dynamic. This book moves. I could barely wait to get to the end of each page, desperate to turn another, to follow these characters, to know more about them. When we talk about a character-driven story, we should certainly talk about An Ember in the Ashes. The two main characters of this book push it forward in a fast-paced whirl of a song. And I loved every single second of it.

What seemed daunting at first didn’t turn out to be in the least. It was a quick read, if only because I became lost in it. It took me to a place where time no longer mattered. A brilliant story crafted by a brilliant writer. My only regret is that it took me so long to jump on this train!

Tell me about a hyped book that lived up to its hype!

Buy Links:

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❤ Aimee

Book Review: Muse of Nightmares

Trigger/Content Warnings: Child abuse, discussion of systematic rape, child neglect, child murder, physical violence, domestic violence, homophobia.


41c28whhx5L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Official Blurb:

Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.
She believed she knew every horror, and was beyond surprise.
She was wrong.
In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.
Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice–save the woman he loves, or everyone else?–while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.
As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?
Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this gorgeous sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer.
My Take: 5/5 Stars
Laini Taylor’s first book in this duology, Strange the Dreamer, was a slow starter for me. I had to pick it up and put it back down three times before I tried it on audio. I had heard AMAZING things, and I wanted to give it the chance it deserved. It took me probably between 6-10 hours of listening before I started to REALLY care. But by the end, I was so hooked I could barely click on the download button for MUSE OF NIGHTMARES fast enough.

The slow start made me waiver between 4 and 5 stars for Strange the Dreamer but by the end of it and the beginning of Muse of Nightmares, I was fully committed. I wanted to know everything there was to know about this world Laini had created. I wanted to know more about the gods, about the magic, about the landscape. I wanted to know the backstory of every single morally gray character she created. I wanted so much more Minya. And Laini Taylor did not disappoint.

I loved this book so freaking much, that on the first day I downloaded it on audiobook, I stayed at the gym for TWO HOURS just so I could listen. Then, limping up my apartment steps, I kept it on. I found odd jobs around the house to do so I could continue listening. I finished the 15-hour audiobook faster than any I’ve listened to before: in just two days.

Laini’s characters are complex, deep, interesting. I was rooting for them, ALL of them. Because an interesting thing about these books is that there are no living villains in this world, just people who make bad decisions. That concept is simple and in its simplicity is brilliant and beautiful. I was swept away into her dreamscape, and into Lazlo’s.

Yet by the end, I found myself sated. I don’t want or need a spinoff. A Muse of Nightmares told me everything I wanted to know. This book (the duology really) is buttoned up. It’s as though Laini knew every question I might have and answered it right there on page. As an author, I found that more than impressive. In one word, I found it magical.

This series is magical, and comes highly recommended from me.

Buy Links for STRANGE THE DREAMER:

Amazon

Audible

iTunes

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Buy Links for A MUSE OF NIGHTMARES:

Amazon

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What was the last book you read that left you feeling truly satisfied?

❤ Aimee

Book Review: Not That Bad

Trigger/Content Warnings: Rape, sexual assault, sexual violence, physical abuse, emotional abuse, domestic abuse, homophobia, transphobia, incest, child molestation.


Not that badOfficial Blurb: In this valuable and timely anthology, cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay has collected original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are “routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, and bullied” for speaking out.

Highlighting the stories of well-known actors, writers, and experts, as well as new voices being published for the first time, Not That Bad covers a wide range of topics and experiences, from an exploration of the rape epidemic embedded in the refugee crisis to first-person accounts of child molestation and street harassment.

Often deeply personal and always unflinchingly honest, this provocative collection both reflects the world we live in and offers a call to arms insisting that “not that bad” must no longer be good enough.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

I was seventeen when I was raped. I was a virgin. A straight-A student, headed to a good university, one of the best. I wore hoodies and jeans and skater shoes and gloves, always gloves, helped with the touch issues I’d been manifesting but was silent about. I had only had one sip of alcohol in my life, that time when I was eleven, and I found hers stashed away under the sink. It was disgusting. I wasn’t any of things I’d been trained to believe girls who got raped were. I was safe. I thought I loved him, and that made me safe, too. But I had no idea what love was. Love is not rape, though I was confused by that for a long while, too. It was confusing because someone like me could not be raped. That’s what they told us. And certainly not by someone like him. We could only be raped if we stumbled home drunk and alone down a dark alley wearing a short skirt with our underwear showing. Otherwise we were safe.

How ridiculous that sounds. But it’s what we’re taught. And we need books like NOT THAT BAD to dispel this disgusting farce. None of us are safe. That’s a terrifying, gut-wrenching fact, but it’s a fact. And this is a terrifying, gut-wrenching read to go with that fact. A read that was triggering as all hell. I said in a past post about why I use trigger warnings that I had not yet reviewed a book that triggered me.

Here it is.

And though it did trigger me and it was a slog of a read, and I had to take my time with it, it helped ease some of my suffering, too. This compilation of essays is powerful, raw, real, and diverse. Across the spectrum of race, gender, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, women and men are raped. Over and over and over again. We are not safe, this book screams at the top of its loud, vibrant, varied lungs. None of us.

Yet we are also not alone. The stories contained in this book were hard to swallow, but they made me feel less alone. The words helped me, after I waded through the shock of hearing them, begin to untangle the knot of emotions left behind when you are raped. Shame and guilt and rage and despair and confusion and loneliness and doubt. God, so much doubt. To hear all these emotions I didn’t think I deserved to feel echoed in the voices of others eased a pain I didn’t know I’d been nursing.

So to those considering this book, but especially rape survivors, I say this: This book is hard and it is heavy and it hurts. If you’re not ready yet, I understand. If you’re not ready ever, I also understand. Choice is yours here, and I want you to claim it without shame.

As for me? I will never not 5-star this book. I will never not recommend this book, with the aforementioned caveats, because it brings forward stories to shine light onto the dark narrative of safety we’ve crafted for ourselves. And I think it’s time that narrative was torn asunder.

Buy Links:

Amazon

Audible*

iTunes

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*I listened to this book on Audible and each story was narrated by its author. It was incredibly powerful in this format.

As always, be kind to yourselves,

❤ Aimee

Book Review: Graceling

Trigger/Content Warnings: Child abuse, child molestation, incest.


3236307Official Blurb: Graceling tells the story of the vulnerable-yet-strong Katsa, who is smart and beautiful and lives in the Seven Kingdoms where selected people are born with a Grace, a special talent that can be anything at all. Katsa’s Grace is killing. As the king’s niece, she is forced to use her extreme skills as his brutal enforcer. Until the day she meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, and Katsa’s life begins to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

Awards: Winner of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, winner of the SIBA Book Award/YA, Indies Choice Book Award Honor Book, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, 2008 Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, 2008 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Amazon.com’s Best Books of 2008, 2008 Booklist Editors’ Choice, Booklist’s 2008 Top Ten First Novels for Youth, 2009 Amelia Bloomer List, BCCB 2009 Blue Ribbon List

My Take: 5/5 Stars

When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else? ~ Kristin Cashore

GRACELING, Kristin Cashore’s 2008 debut novel has been on my to be read list for about three years. Maybe more. Allowing it to linger there for so long turned out to be a mistake. I berated myself almost the entire read for taking so long to actually read this book. I couldn’t put it down.

This book did young adult fantasy right. The main character was strong and well-rounded, someone you could connect with and root for right away. The story was well-crafted and high-paced, a real page turner. The romance (because if you know me, I like my fantasy with a heavy dose of romance) was the best I’ve read since Kaz and Inez (yes, technically this came first but I didn’t get there first). But I think the thing that blew me away the most was how revolutionary this book was for its time.

Graceling debuted in 2008. To some people that might not seem that long ago, but in terms of publishing and where publishing has come in the past decade, it’s AGES ago. Honestly, the feminism in the book smacks of 2019, not 2008. I mean here we have a character who is in her late teens who says, with certainty, that she does not want to get married or have children, and she is never convinced out of it. I swear, the entire book I kept waiting for that moment when she would cede this decision, or hedge. I waited for the collapse I was certain was coming.

When it didn’t? I seriously almost whooped with joy. We made it through an entire book from a decade ago without the main (female) character ever renouncing her desire to not get married and not have children. For teens today, that may not seem revolutionary, but in 2008? It sort of was. Even more so that the love interest was 100% okay with that decision and never once questioned it. I mean… wow.

My only regret is that I loved it so much I finished it in a day. Wait, I take that back, I have two regrets: not reading it sooner, then reading it too fast. Still, if you haven’t read it and are worried you’ll be disappointed because it’s “old,” don’t worry. You’ll love it.

Buy Links:

Amazon

Audible

<a href="http://Graceling – Kristin Cashore“>iTunes

Barnes & Noble

Question: What’s the last book you had on your TBR for ages then read it and was like, “Why did this take me so long to get to?” Because honestly, I want it on MY TBR 🙂

❤ Aimee

Book Review: The Poet X

Trigger/Content Warnings: Body shaming, homophobia, sexism, religious zeal.

Author’s Note: I have recently switched my “trigger” warnings to be trigger/content warnings. I say this with particular care now because a lot of these books (I feel) deal with their tough content beautifully. This one is no different. That said, as one with C-PTSD, I understand that sometimes when we’ve been exposed to trauma, it doesn’t matter how well the thing that traumatized us is dealt with; sometimes, we just don’t want to read about it. It can be triggering even if it’s handled in the most appropriate way imaginable. I note this because I do not want anyone to believe my inclusion of some of these issues is a statement on the author’s handling of such issue. It is not. It’s simply there for those who may wish to avoid certain subjects. 


5121FXJUF1L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Official Blurb:  Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.

With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

“She tells me words give people permission to be their fullest self.” ~ Elizabeth Acevedo

I won’t lie, I am not a poetry person. I have read more poetry than I care to think about. It just wasn’t really my thing. Except for the Pre-Raphaelite Poets. I like them a lot. They talk about love and everyone dies. Anyone who has read my writing knows that’s sort of my brand. But other than that, I’m not someone who is going to pick up a book of poetry. Except I did, in this instance. And I’m really glad I did.

The reason I picked up this book was because it won the National Book Award and also because everyone is raving about it. Additionally, I haven’t read near enough books by Latinx authors and if you follow this blog, you’ll know I’m trying to make an active effort to read more diversely. Anyway, it’s a good thing I did pick up this sharp, smart, emotional not-as-little-as-I-was-expecting book of poetry because it was mind blowing, and it’s now going to give me a reason to introduce you to another one of my automatic 5-star rules.

A couple weeks ago, I talked about how if a book makes me cry, it gets an automatic 5-star review from me. I have a few of these rules, and THE POET X, a stunning book of poetry by Elizabeth Acevedo, brings me to another: If the book makes me want to create, it gets an automatic 5-star review.

This book made me want to write. Just the titles of the poems if read by themselves could tell an emotional story. It was clear to me that the author, as well as her main character, were head over heels in love with the written word. The book felt like a winding, twisting experiment in verse. It was a kind of playful, unabashed exploration in writing I haven’t felt since before I went to college, since before a “serious” pursuit of craft. When I put that book down, I sat in silence for a long while. Then I took a shower, and while I showered, all I could think about was how desperate I was to write. How much I wanted to redefine myself, to reconnect with the love I’d once felt. Until then, I hadn’t even realized I’d lost some of my passion. But I had. And this book made me want to get it back, to pursue it with the same reckless abandon I had before. It made me want to fall back in love with the written word, and there is literally nothing more powerful than that.

In a reading slump? Try this book. Writing slump? Give it a read. Haven’t painted or drawn or written a new song in a bit? Pick it up. It is a quick read and well, well worth the effort.

Buy Links:

Amazon

Audible

<a href="http://The Poet X – Elizabeth Acevedo“>iTunes

Barnes & Noble

What are your thoughts on poetry? Do you have a favorite poet? Or era of poets? Hit me up in the comments or on IG @writingwaimee

❤ Always,

Aimee

Book Review: On the Come Up

Trigger/Content Warnings: Gang violence, gun violence, poverty, drug abuse/addiction.

Author’s Note: So I finished listening to this book awhile ago and wrote a post to be scheduled, that apparently disappeared. Or I didn’t save. I’m unsure which but when I went to refer a friend by linking to the post and found it wasn’t there, I realized it was something I must rectify immediately. Sorry for the delay!


35068618Official Blurb: Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill.

But it’s hard to get your come up when you’re labeled a hoodlum at school, and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral…for all the wrong reasons.

Bri soon finds herself at the center of a controversy, portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. But with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri doesn’t just want to make it—she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.

Insightful, unflinching, and full of heart, On the Come Up is an ode to hip hop from one of the most influential literary voices of a generation. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; and about how, especially for young black people, freedom of speech isn’t always free.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

All these folks I’ve never met became gods over my life. Now I gotta take the power back. ~Angie Thomas

ON THE COME UP, Angie Thomas’s second novel, coming on the heels of her heartbreaking and powerful debut, THE HATE U GIVE, did not disappoint. In fact, if I’m honest, ON THE COME UP was better than THUG in a lot of ways, which is saying a lot.

The book, which I listened to, and which is narrated by the oh-so-talented Bahni Turpin, features an honest main character who is so true it’s almost painful. She’s funny, she’s sassy, she’s smart as can be, and she has a deep, deep heart hidden beneath a steel exterior. She’s a character the reader cannot help but fall in love with almost from page one.

Though The Hate U Give and On the Come Up aren’t related in the sense that they’re a series, they are intrinsically linked. On the Come Up takes place after the closing scene of THUG and does have references to the incidents peppered throughout the book, though you would not need to read The Hate U Give to understand On the Come Up. Yet the most brilliant way in which they are linked, for me, is the order in which they were published. It felt like THUG had to exist first, before On the Come Up could be brought into this world. It felt like Starr made a path for Bri in the world of publishing, and while that hurts to even type, I couldn’t help but be reminded of it throughout the work. As a white person, both books made me question myself and my biases and further examine things I thought I knew but didn’t. But I don’t know if the questions I asked in On the Come Up would have been the same had I not read THUG first. The order in which these books were written is not necessarily something an author should have to think about or concern herself over when writing the books of her heart, but the fact that Thomas did should also not be glossed over. It further highlights her brilliance in capturing a moment and a life and peeling away layers of humanity.

The thing I loved most about On the Come Up, however, is Bri’s voice. Bri is a rapper and she travels throughout the world of the story in a melodic way. Even her insults have a certain song to them. The language of this book tripped and flowed in a way that was deeply pleasing to listen to (and I’m sure read). It was also what made me enjoy this second novel of Thomas’s even more than her first. Good language will almost always win me over, and this language was stellar.

THUG was always going to be a hard act to follow. Everyone knew that. But Thomas, much like Bri, was sure to tell the world and its expectations of failure that she would not be silenced, and thank God for that.

Buy Links:

Amazon

Audible

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

For those who have read both, which did you prefer?

❤ Always, Aimee