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: Furyborn

Trigger/Content Warnings: Violence, parental neglect, emotional abuse (parental), sexual assault.


51cl1gq0zuL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Official Blurb:  When assassins ambush her best friend, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing herself as one of a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light, and a queen of blood. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven elemental magic trials. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

One thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. A bounty hunter for the Undying Empire, Eliana believes herself untouchable―until her mother vanishes. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain and discovers that the evil at the empire’s heart is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world―and of each other.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

Some say the Queen was frightened in her last moments. But I like to think that she was angry.

~ Claire Legrand

Those who know me know that I am a sucker for elemental magic. My own books are about elemental magic. The very first manuscript I ever wrote, at the tender age of twelve, featured a mage who could wield all six elements within my magic system, so when I read the blurb of FURYBORN, I was all in.

Furyborn turned out to have so much more intricacy than simply its magic system, though. The storytelling was impressive. The book is written from two points of view, two women with powers who live a thousand years apart. Yet, as their stories weave in and out of one another and start to come together, the reader has no choice but to find herself in awe of the net she’s been pulled into. It’s a book that unravels itself, and leaves the reader thinking about it long after the pages are done. One of those books that almost demands a reread now that you understand it in its entirety. It’s spectacularly well done.

In addition to the magical way the story unwinds itself, the characters are unique and dynamic. Their development through book one is smooth and well-integrated. Even knowing what the reader knows about the characters at the outset, she can’t help but be sucked into the dramas of their lives (and trust me, their lives ARE dramatic). Legrand pulls the reader along, wending through the twists and turns of the character arc of each of her point of view characters as they crisscross one another like comets shooting in opposing directions. As a reader, you want to know more about these characters. You want to follow them, so as a writer, Legrand definitely knocked this one out of the park.

Furyborn is dark, though, definitely at the upper spectrum of young adult into the new adult territory. But if you’re into elemental magic and inspired plotting, this book is for you.

If you could have only one elemental power, what would it be?

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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: Monday’s Not Coming

Trigger/Content Warnings: Domestic violence, child abuse, child neglect, homophobia, bullying, missing persons.


41xccpePQhL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Official Blurb: 

Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried.

When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.

As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?

My Take: 5/5 Stars

Rumors are born with legs that can run a mile in less than a minute. Rumors eat up dreams without condiments. Rumors do not have expiration dates. Rumors can be deadly. Rumors can get you killed

~ Tiffany D. Jackson

Tiffany Jackson’s MONDAY’S NOT COMING is outside my usual reading lane. I bought it on sale on Audible because it was recommended by Audible and because the blurb sounded interesting. It is proof that I should read outside my usual reading lane more often. It blew my mind and broke my heart.

Monday’s Not Coming is the type of book that lingers. It sticks with you, hovering there in the back of your mind. It is a cool chill against the skin. It’s the type of book that makes you wonder. What does it mean? What is it trying to say? It’s the type of book that you have to unpack and unravel slowly, over time. It’s a book made for discussion and debate. It’s a book full of characters you will want to hold close and protect. Mainly because you can’t.

This book is so full of love it hurts to turn the pages. Love and grief and twists. You know, in your heart of hearts, where it’s going. You know and yet… you wish you didn’t. You hope you don’t. You cling onto the fragile prayers of the main character as if they are your own. The only you want is to be wrong. It is beautiful and compelling and haunting in so many ways.

It’s really hard to talk about Monday’s Not Coming without spoiling anything because once I find myself talking about it I don’t want to stop. I want to pour out all my feelings and I can’t do that without explaining away so much of what gives this book its power. So I won’t. I will just say that you should read it. Then tell all your friends to read it, too, because you’re going to want someone to discuss it with.

What about you? Do you like a good discussion book? If so, who do you discuss books with?

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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: 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