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

Book Review: My Oxford Year

Trigger/Content Warnings: Death, grief, terminal illness.


My Oxford YearOfficial Blurb: Set amidst the breathtaking beauty of Oxford, this sparkling debut novel tells the unforgettable story about a determined young woman eager to make her mark in the world and the handsome man who introduces her to an incredible love that will irrevocably alter her future—perfect for fans of JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks.

American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is, until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day.

When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret.

Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

“He always said that waiting for me to learn how to talk was like waiting for his long-lost friend to arrive.” ~ Julia Whelan

I have a rule about my star system I haven’t had the opportunity to explain, because in the time I’ve been doing my five-star only reviews it hasn’t happened. The rule goes like this: if a book makes me cry (for the right reason), it is automatically five starred. MY OXFORD YEAR, a debut novel by Julia Whelan accomplished that. With the quote above, actually.

To be honest, I was surprised when I found myself entering this book on this blog. I expected it to be good, because (disclaimer) I know Julia, and I’d heard about the book before it was published, but I didn’t know it was going to make me write my first automatic five-star review. I mean… it’s contemporary new adult, which I read, well, none of, honestly. And it deals with grief which is a subject that usually turns me off. You see, I automatically five-star review a book that makes me cry not because I don’t cry (I do, ask anyone) but because books don’t usually make me cry. Neither do movies or TV shows. I compartmentalize well. I’m very good at separating reality from fiction. So if fiction manages to make me cry, it’s doing something very right.

My Oxford Year did grief right. It was quiet; it didn’t slam you in the face; it wasn’t big and swooping and too dramatic to be real. It was subtle, understated, but deeply moving. I found myself saying, “Yes, that’s exactly what that feels like, but I never had words quite like these.” It also made me think. While listening to the book (because Julia as I’ve mentioned, is a fantastic narrator and she of course narrated her own book), I found myself pondering over choice and what the difference might be between the path we always thought we were meant for and the path that finds us.

All in all, I found My Oxford Year to be a surprising delight. It was a soft read, not overbearing. The kind of book (or audiobook, you should listen to the audiobook), you want to curl up on the couch with and get lost in. It’s the kind of book that keeps even the best skeptics from waking from the dream.

Buy Links:

Amazon

Audible

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

Question: What is the last book that surprised you?

❤ Aimee

Book Review: Becoming

Official Blurb:

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

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

My Take: 5/5 Stars

“Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.” ~ Michelle Obama

First of all, I have to say that I’m really glad Michelle Obama narrated this herself. It gave the text an extra layer of richness, and really made me feel like I was getting a special insight into the words she’d written. Also, she just has a lovely voice. Second, this book was technically brilliant. Probably my very favorite thing about it was how it managed to capture so much in so little space. Every word seemed to be selected with care, so that without using many words at all, a huge world could be opened up for the reader. Even by the end of the book, I found myself marveling over how much story and information I’d received in such a seemingly short space. That’s something that everyone, but especially a writer, can certainly appreciate.

Technicalities aside, Becoming was everything I had hoped it would be. It was inspirational, emotional, moving, and empowering. I laughed (often), I cried (a couple time). I was amazed at the courage of the storytelling. Without giving anything away (because you should seriously just go read it yourself as soon as you can), I will say that Michelle Obama attacked this book with a fearlessness I admire. There was no subject she was unwilling to tackle, no door she wasn’t going to walk right through, carrying herself with grace, dignity, and honesty.

Everyone should read this book, but especially girls. All girls, but especially girls of color. Girls who are marginalized, who feel unseen and unheard. Girls who come from families that are broken or intact, from families who don’t have much money but have richness elsewhere. Girls who need a little push to see their power. Because though this was Michelle Obama’s story, I couldn’t help but feel those girls are the ones she wrote it for.

Buy Links:

Amazon

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

If you need a little bit of hope, do the thing. Read the book.

❤ Aimee

 

Book Review: Educated

Author’s Note: For this week’s 5 Star Review, I’ll be featuring a memoir, which you will likely see many of on here as the weeks pass. Though I write young adult fantasy, I also have a particular fondness for memoir, and you can usually find me reading a hardback YA fantasy and listening to a memoir of some kind. So with that caveat, here we go!

Trigger Warnings: Physical and emotional abuse of children, animal abuse, religious extremism, sexism and misogyny, use of racist slurs.

educatedOfficial Blurb:

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

“Guilt is the fear of one’s own wretchedness. It has nothing to do with other people.” ~ Tara Westover 

Tara Westover’s memoir EDUCATED has made all the lists. It’s a New York Times Bestseller. It was named one of the ten best books of 2018 (also by the New York Times, among many others). It won Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Memoir & Autobiography. It was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize for Best First Book. The list goes on. Long story short, this book has hype.

As a general rule, likely because I’m ornery, I do not flock to books with hype. Maybe it’s years of a being forced to read books I didn’t enjoy while I pursued my “classical” education in literature and creative writing or my genuine love for young adult fiction (fantasy in particular), but I tend to snub books with the critical acclaim of Educated. However, three things caused me to finally break down and read this book: 1. a free Audible trial; 2. a recommendation from a coworker I trust; and 3. it’s narrated by Julia Whelan who I once shared a room with and who I respect and admire greatly.

I am glad these three things fell in line. Because I am grateful to have read Educated. Tara Westover’s first book deserves every bit of acclaim, hype, and praise that’s been heaped upon it and then some. The book is bold, brave, and beautiful. Right from the first page, I knew I was in for a lush narrative. Within the first five minutes of Julia Whelan’s soft and smooth narration, I had to pause the book to say aloud (to an empty room), “My God, that’s beautiful writing.”

And it is. Educated is so beautiful that at times you almost forget how terrible it is. Westover transports you to her world so completely, you see everything through her young, and at times, naive eyes. You understand her so entirely that it’s not until you put the book down that you realize nothing makes sense in this place where this young girl lives. At least, not for me. And eventually, I think not for her, either.

Educated is one of those books that will make you think for days. It is triggering at times, especially for me, who has a history of abuse in my dark closet, too, but it’s not heavy-handed. It says what it needs to say without much judgment. It makes room for the reader to sit beside the author and stay awhile, and that awhile lasts long after the closing line.

Buy Links:

Amazon

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

Let me know your thoughts and feels by sounding off below.

❤ Aimee

 

Book Review: Legendary

Author’s Note: Hey! Look at me! Posting another review! I’ve had some new subscribers, so for any of you who are new here, welcome to my 5 Star Reviews. Here, you’ll only find books I LOVED. Want to know why? See the first 5 Star Review post here. Interested in learning more about my books? You can read their blurbs here and get the prologues here. Want to know what I’m reading/have read that didn’t make an appearance here, or what is next on my to-read list? Follow me on Instagram at: writingwaimee. And now, with all the business out of the way, let’s get on to this week’s 5 Star Review.

legendaryOfficial Blurb:

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more―and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about―maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…the games have only just begun.

My Take: 6/5 Stars

“Only those who persevere can find their true ending.” ~ Stephanie Garber

When I read Stephanie Garber’s debut novel, Caraval, I thought it wasn’t possible to like a book (besides my beloved Crooked Kingdom) anymore. LEGENDARY proved me wrong, which is why you will notice it has received a whopping 6 out of 5 stars on my rating index. Legendary is truly legendary. It breaks its own mold. The second book in the Caraval trilogy, Legendary takes all the good bits of Caraval and cranks them up a notch. It’s faster, bigger, bolder, darker, richer.

To accomplish this, Garber gives us a new lens by which to view this dark, dangerous “game.” She gives us Tella — the daring younger sister of Caraval’s protagonist, Scarlett. Tella was made for Legendary. She is not Scarlett cranked up a notch, but in many ways, is the opposite side of a perfect coin. She is all edges and distrust and brash, sometimes reckless bravery. But like Scarlett before her, Tella grows throughout the novel. And like Caraval, watching this growth happen throughout Legendary is equally as fulfilling as watching the game of Caraval unfold.

But this time… it’s much less of a game. This time, the stakes are higher. This time, the winner is not so clear.

Buy Links:

Amazon

iTunes 

Barnes & Noble

Who else is excited for Finale?! Because I know I am! Preorder it here.

Hope everyone is having a great week!

❤ Aimee

 

 

Book Review: The Belles

Author’s Note: Hi all! I know I haven’t been around a lot, life has been extremely hectic. However, I do have a few posts I’ve been chewing over I hope to get to soon, about agency (eek!) and failure (double eek!). In the meantime, I’ve decided that in an effort to support other authors, I’m going to start doing BOOK REVIEWS! Woo! They’ll be sporadic as I intend to ONLY review those books I think deserving of five stars. Why? Well, because: (1) I want to support other authors; but (2) I like to keep it honest here, and I don’t five star like every single book I read; but also (3) I’m also an author who empathizes with anything less than five stars. So! I bring you my five-star only book reviews. To begin, I offer a review of Dhonielle Clayton’s, The Belles, which was my most anticipated read of the year and which definitely did not disappoint. Without further ado, here we go!

23197837Official Blurb: 

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orleans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite, the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orleans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land.

But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie, that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orleans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide: save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles, or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

27783510_10105455140147238_344651365_nMy Take:

5/5 Stars.

THE BELLES, Clayton’s first high fantasy novel, is a stunning take on the concept of beauty in society. THE BELLES transports the reader to the world of Orléans, a place in which beauty is bought and bartered for and those with the power to give the people what they so desire, The Belles, are revered.

Clayton’s prose is warm and lush. It drips and flows, so I want to drink in every word. Beauty is reflected in every aspect of the piece, but so is the price that must be paid to obtain “perfection.”

In addition to the take on beauty that permeates the page, Clayton’s depiction of female relationships was something that had me thinking for hours after I left Orléans behind. Her characters were relatable but not perfect. Never perfect. Camellia Beauregard (“Camille”), the story’s protagonist, makes decisions I cringed at, not because I judged her, but because her choices forced me to examine myself. Put in Camille’s shoes, I might have done some of the same things, and Clayton’s intricate use of language allowed me to make that connection both instantly and deeply, leading to a greater appreciation of Camille’s situation and the world of Orléans.

In short, I highly recommend picking up a copy, and I can’t wait to see where this series goes.

Buy Links (click me and buy Dhonielle’s book because it’s so good, and I want everyone to read it and love it):

Amazon

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

That’s all for now! Hope everyone is doing well!

❤ Aimee

 

New Review of #TheBloodMage

Hi all!

Sorry I haven’t been around! If you’ve read my last two posts you’ll know I’m still struggling with mental health issues as well as trying to find a proper work/life balance. I think I’m getting my head back in the game slowly but surely and hope to come back to regular posts soon!

Because of everything going on I unfortunately didn’t get a newsletter out this month, but the next one will be sure to be action-packed! At least I hope 🙂 If you’d like to sign up  you can do so here.

In the meantime, check out this new review of The Blood Mage by My Life, Stolen by Books.

TheBloodMagePromo