Book Review: Sky in the Deep

Trigger/Content Warnings: Violence, graphic scenes of torture, animal sacrifice/death, sexual assault, discussion of sexual assault/rape.


41s62HDbBcL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Official Blurb:

OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient, rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield―her brother, fighting with the enemy―the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

“We find things, just as we lose things.” ~ Adrienne Young

SKY IN THE DEEP, for all its violence, is a bit of a quiet read. It moves quickly with its short chapters, but digs deep into the main character’s emotions. It deals with subjects that are heavy but poignant: family; loss; and most especially, the idea of othering. Who is really other, the book seems to ask.

At the core of the novel is an enemies to lovers romance trope, one of my favorites, but it goes beyond that, too. The story is about sacrifice and learning to realize how we define “enemy” and how flimsy that concept can be sometimes. It is a quiet reflection on the bias we hold because we were raised to hold it, a tough yet important subject set in a high fantasy world inspired by Viking lore, where it is perhaps easier to examine.

Sky in the Deep isn’t necessarily a book I would traditionally give five stars, because quiet books tend not to be my personal favorite, but this one was buoyed by a character who struck me deeply for one simple fact. She was not afraid to cry. Eelyn is a warrior, trained to kill her enemy without mercy since she was a toddler. Yet she cries on page–well, a lot–for lack of a more delicate way to say it. At first, I found it irritating, then I realized that by allowing her character this sensitivity, this vulnerability, Adrienne Young was doing something quite spectacular — she was giving us more than a warrior. She was giving us femininity in many of its possible forms, which is something I often find lacking in high-powered fantasy featuring lady warriors. Women warriors in literature tend to mirror their male counterparts by refusing to shed a tear. When they do cry, they are frequently critiqued by readers for doing so (NOT that I think that’s how men should be instructed to act, either), and I’ve often questioned this tendency. Are we being good feminists by making our females mirrors of men? Or are we being reactionary by saying, “I can do anything you can do.” Which is true, women can, but in my opinion, they should also do it in their own way. They should be strong in a way that is true to them. And Eeyln, remarkably, was.

So for this quiet book with a lot to say, I raise my glass and say well done. I cannot wait to read the next.

Question of the day: What’s the last quiet book you read and loved?

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❤ Aimee

Book Review: Spin the Dawn

Trigger/Content Warnings: War, PTSD, disabilities caused by war, fire, general mild violence.


51s0ENhtkLL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Official Blurb: Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

“Don’t become the kite that never flies.” ~ Elizabeth Lim

This review is long overdue because SPIN THE DAWN, Elizabeth Lim’s stunning debut, was my favorite read for the month of August. I was originally attracted to Spin the Dawn because of its beautiful cover but also the fact that it was blurbed by Tamora Pierce. Tamora Pierce is one of my favorite authors of all time and she does not blurb many books, so my curiosity was piqued seeing her praise of this one. So, even though I wasn’t 100% sure on the blurb (due to the fact that I’m not so into fashion), I grabbed a copy on sale at Barnes & Noble.

Guys, this book is not really about fashion. I mean, it IS. The main character’s main goal is to become the royal tailor. Problem is, she’s a girl, and only a man can occupy that position. But there is SO much more going on in this book than a Project Runway styled competition. This book is SO much more than a Mulan retelling (although it is that and it’s such an interesting take). When I was about one third of the way through, I understood why Tamora Pierce had blurbed it: the book is paced like one of hers. And if you don’t know what I mean by that, I mean it is FAST. Elizabeth Lim has a way with handling time. She manages to put a lot of information and time and action and adventure into not a lot of pages. It’s definitely what I admired most about this book.

My second favorite aspect of Spin the Dawn was the heart-pumping, butterfly-inducing, swoon-worthy romance. If you’ve been around here long enough you know I am a SUCKER for a good romance, and this one was excellent. I don’t want to spoil it, so I won’t go into details, but trust me, it was good.

Overall, I’d recommend this book to fans of Tamora Pierce and Sarah J. Maas, or anyone who loves Project Runway, or anyone who enjoys a great, high-paced fantasy with lots of romance, orrrrr anyone at all, really. Seriously, it’s good, go get it!

Question of the day: Who is an author you admire for his/her/their skills when it comes to pacing?

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❤ Aimee

Book Review: Nevernight

Trigger/Content Warnings: Extreme violence, gore, death. Violence toward children, child death, animal abuse and death, extreme brutality, sexual content, and prostitution. Emotional manipulation, use of sex as a weapon, torture, and slavery.


51PXn+wAl2LOfficial Blurb: In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, a sixteen year old Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic — the Red Church. Treachery and trials await her with the Church’s halls, and to fail is to die. But if she survives to initiation, Mia will be inducted among the chosen of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the only thing she desires.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

“The books we love, they love us back. And just as we mark our places in the pages, those pages leave their marks on us.” ~ Jay Kristoff

Mia Corvere, the main character of Jay Kristoff’s NEVERNIGHT, is the anti-heroine any writer worth his/her/their salt salivates over. Mia is feisty, strong, powerful, and murderous, yet she never loses her humanity (or her charm). Her motivation is clear, as are her goals. She is focused, but not mechanical. She makes mistakes and wrong choices. But we never stop rooting for her.

From almost the first page—actually—from the first page, I was hooked. Kristoff is a master of his craft. His writing is descriptive but not wordy, blunt but not boring, and darkly humorous. It sucks you in and spits you back out begging for more. More Mia, more Mr. Kindly, more violence and brutality and blood.

Nevernight was so good that as soon as I closed my Audible app on book one, I immediately began book two, Godsgrave. Yes, I did listen to it, and yes, I did love the narrator, though I have heard mixed reviews on him with this book. Personally, I thought Holter Graham gave the story a bit more magic and mystery. I felt like I was listening to a grand narrator of a play. He made it sound like theater, and for this particular story, I thought it was more than appropriate.

I will make a special note for this book, however, as I’ve seen this come up on multiple occasions. Nevernight is NOT young adult. It is an adult book with a protagonist who is a young adult. These are not the same thing. This book is incredibly violent, has explicit sex scenes, and is full of cursing and dark jokes. If these are not your cup of tea, I promise you, you will not like this book. Be warned.

As for me, September 3rd and the release of the final book of the trilogy, Darkdawn, cannot come soon enough!

Question of the day: What’s your most anticipated fall release?

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❤ Aimee

Book Review: The Hunger Games

Trigger/Content Warnings: Violence, violence toward children, child death, child mutilation, sexual assault, war, poverty, starvation, depression, suicidal ideation and thought, PTSD.


41ir9m8QQnL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Official Blurb: In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.

 

My Take: 5/5 Stars for overall series, 5/5 for The Hunger Games, 5/5 for Catching Fire, 4/5 for Mockingjay.

Stupid people are dangerous.

~ Suzanne Collins

I know, I know, I know. What rock have I been hiding under? To be honest, I hesitated to even post this review because … old news, seriously. However, I am a little lean on five star books these days (partly my fault for not making the time to read and partly a bit of a slump I think) and this series is really very good, so I wanted to post a Five Star Series Review.

The thing that works the best for me about this series is the subtlety of the evolution of Katniss’s character. It’s like a slow burn character arc that by book three makes you feel completely wrung out, right along with Katniss. But it’s magical the way it works because it sneaks up on you so you don’t even really notice it’s happening. With all the violence in this book, the character arc is very light-handed. It works brilliantly which is good because honestly, with all the violence this series brings to it, if a single other thing was heavy handed, I don’t know that the series would be readable.

In addition to the character arc of the whole series, The Hunger Games in particular, but also Catching Fire are brilliantly paced. I read them both in one day each because I could hardly put them down (even having watched the movies and therefore knowing what was coming). The world building is equally as interesting and dynamic, again, even having watched the movies. The contrast between the Districts, and the Capitol, and then the arena, is striking. I honestly wish we had a spinoff though that took me on a tour of some of the other Districts, particularly four and seven (Finnick and Johanna’s Districts). I guess this is what fanfiction is for!

But everyone who follows this blog knows the final word on “good book” is whether you have a book hangover when it’s all said and done. And let me tell you, by the time I got to the end of Mockingjay I felt like I might not be in any shape to read for at least a week. It was SUCH an intense ride. And if a series can do that to you when you know how it all ends, then it’s definitely doing something right!

What’s an older backlist series you really want to read but haven’t gotten to yet?

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❤ Always,

Aimee

 

 

 

Book Review: Mama’s Last Hug

Trigger/Content Warnings: Some discussion of animal abuse and animal testing/experimentation.


51Vq4GOKWLL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Official Blurb: 

Primatologist Frans de Waal explores the fascinating world of animal and human emotions.

Frans de Waal has spent four decades at the forefront of animal research. Following up on the best-selling Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, which investigated animal intelligence, Mama’s Last Hug delivers a fascinating exploration of the rich emotional lives of animals.

Mama’s Last Hug begins with the death of Mama, a chimpanzee matriarch who formed a deep bond with biologist Jan van Hooff. When Mama was dying, van Hooff took the unusual step of visiting her in her night cage for a last hug. Their goodbyes were filmed and went viral. Millions of people were deeply moved by the way Mama embraced the professor, welcoming him with a big smile while reassuring him by patting his neck, in a gesture often considered typically human but that is in fact common to all primates. This story and others like it form the core of de Waal’s argument, showing that humans are not the only species with the capacity for love, hate, fear, shame, guilt, joy, disgust, and empathy.

De Waal discusses facial expressions, the emotions behind human politics, the illusion of free will, animal sentience, and, of course, Mama’s life and death. The message is one of continuity between us and other species, such as the radical proposal that emotions are like organs: we don’t have a single organ that other animals don’t have, and the same is true for our emotions. Mama’s Last Hug opens our hearts and minds to the many ways in which humans and other animals are connected, transforming how we view the living world around us.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing

~ Frans de Waal

MAMA’S LAST HUG was recommended to me by my father, an environmental engineer who reads … well, not that much. Because of this, I was over the moon excited to get a book recommendation from him, and his recommendation did not disappoint.

This book is for animal lovers everywhere. While it focuses on primates and primate relationships and emotions (including the pivotal primate: us), it delves deep into the emotions (separate and distinct from feelings) of all mammals as well as birds and fish. As a dog lover, I especially enjoyed the bits about our canine companions, and it was interesting to see de Waal’s take on some research conducted by canine behaviorists whose work I’d read (such as Patricia McConnell and Alexandra Horowitz).

Mama’s Last Hug wasn’t all facts and research and science, though. Otherwise, it would probably have been a bit unreadable. Instead, the book hugged the science lightly around anecdotes, including some hilarious stories from de Waal’s years spent observing chimpanzees as well as an entire chapter comparing Donald Trump to alpha chimps (spoiler: the comparison isn’t particularly flattering for The Donald).

What lingered with me the most about this book, however, besides learning all kinds of new information, was the questions about animal welfare it brought to light. We still test products on animals in the United States. We keep chimps in cages, away from their family. We have beagles who spend their entire lives in laboratories, never feeling grass, or smelling the scents of the world. We slaughter animals inhumanely and without much thought. And how do we assuage our guilt and shame over these atrocities? We convince ourselves that animals can’t feel, that they don’t experience pain or terror or curiosity. They live in the moment, we often say about our dogs. They don’t know the difference between yesterday and today and tomorrow. But if Frans de Waal’s research is to be believed, that’s not entirely true. And if it isn’t, it raises some questions we might not like the answers to.

All in all, I would highly recommend Mama’s Last Hug to those who love animals, and to anyone who is interested in the most recent science into the animal (and therefore, human) mind.

Give me your favorite animal anecdote in the comments!

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❤ Always,

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!

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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?

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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: 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