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

 

Diversity Check In

Hey guys! I haven’t had any blog topics lately (if there’s anything you want to hear about from me, let me know in the comments), but I have been reading a ton, so I thought it would be a good time to do another Diversity Check In. Click on the link to read more about what I mean by that! And why I’m doing these.

I don’t have super high hopes for this check-in because I honestly started to realize recently that I was reading a lot of books by white women lately without really thinking about, but that’s why we do these check-ins. And hey, good news is that I did a self check-in, too! So improvements. Honestly, this is the exact process my therapist uses with me to try and work on some of my ingrained trauma responses too. The first step to fixing a problem is recognizing the problem.

Anyway, here we goooooo!

Books Read in 2019: 35 (I am KILLING my Goodreads challenge. Thank you coworker who introduced me to Audible).

Books by Female Authors: 31 (This probably has more to say about the age group (YA) I read than anything else, really, see this post about my feelings about that).

Books by POC Authors: 11 (Yeah, see what I mean?)

Books by LGBTQIA Authors: 4 (Not all of these numbers may be accurate as some of these authors may choose to keep their personal lives out of the public sphere which I am 100% okay with)

Books by Authors with Disabilities: 1 (This is probably the hardest one to discern, but looking at my list at least, other than Leigh Bardugo, none of the stories I read really featured characters with disabilities, something I should definitely work on).

Books by Authors who are Non-Christian: 2 (Again, this is not any easy one to discern, especially since I read fantasy, but this is also a category I need to continue to work on).

So the lesson learned? When we don’t do these check-ins with ourselves, we fall back into our old habits. At least until we develop new ones! So onward and upward into a more diverse reading rhythm I go!

Wanna rec an awesome diverse read for me? Hit me up in the comments!

❤ Always,

Aimee human-2944065_1920

 

 

Book Review: Not That Bad

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


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

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

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

My Take: 5/5 Stars

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

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

Here it is.

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

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

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

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

Buy Links:

Amazon

Audible*

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

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

As always, be kind to yourselves,

❤ Aimee

Book Review: Born a Crime

Content/Trigger Warnings: Domestic abuse, attempted murder, gun violence, racism.


Born a CrimeOfficial Blurb: Trevor Noah, one of the comedy world’s fastest-rising stars and host of The Daily Show, tells his wild coming-of-age story during the twilight of apartheid in South Africa and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed. In this Audible Studios production, Noah provides something deeper than traditional memoirists: powerfully funny observations about how farcical political and social systems play out in our lives.

“Nelson Mandela once said, ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’ He was so right. When you make the effort to speak someone else’s language, even if it’s just basic phrases here and there, you are saying to them, ‘I understand that you have a culture and identity that exists beyond me. I see you as a human being.'” (Trevor Noah)

Attuned to the power of language at a young age – as a means of acceptance and influence in a country divided, then subdivided, into groups at odds with one another – Noah’s raw, personal journey becomes something extraordinary in audio: a true testament to the power of storytelling. With brutal honesty and piercing wit, he forgoes an ordinary reading and, instead, delivers something more intimate, sharing his story with the openness and candor of a close friend. His chameleon-like ability to mimic accents and dialects, to shift effortlessly between languages including English, Xhosa, and Zulu, and to embody characters throughout his childhood – his mother, his gran, his schoolmates, first crushes and infatuations – brings each memory to life in vivid detail. Hearing him directly, you’re reminded of the gift inherent in telling one’s story and having it heard; of connecting with another, and seeing them as a human being.

The stories Noah tells are by turns hilarious, bizarre, tender, dark, and poignant – subsisting on caterpillars during months of extreme poverty, making comically pitiful attempts at teenage romance in a color-obsessed world, thrown into jail as the hapless fall guy for a crime he didn’t commit, thrown by his mother from a speeding car driven by murderous gangsters, and more.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done in my life, any choice that I’ve made. But I’m consumed with regret for the things I didn’t do, the choices I didn’t make, the things I didn’t say. We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to. ~ Trevor Noah

In full disclosure, I am not a person who gets celebrity crushes, but Trevor Noah is an exception to that rule. I was skeptical (like most people) about the new host of The Daily Show after Jon Stewart left, but the minute I saw Trevor Noah, I was hooked. Which is why it’s almost surprising that it took me so long to read his book. But then you see my TBR pile and you’re like, “Oh, yeah, I see why she’s just now getting to this one.”

Anyway, BORN A CRIME, Noah’s memoir is, quite obviously, hilarious. If you like Trevor Noah’s comedy, you’ll like his book. Fun anecdote to emphasize how funny this book was: I listened to it, and like every other audiobook, I listened to it at the gym. When Chapter Three of Born a Crime started playing, I was on the elliptical. I was doing my thing, working up a sweat, listening to the beautiful lilt of the South African accent play over my ears. Then I got into it, really into it. Chapter Three of this book is so funny I could feel the laughter building up in the back of my throat. But I couldn’t let it out because on this particular afternoon, the small gym at my work was packed. I mean packed. Every single piece of equipment was being used, and two people were waiting for others to finish so they could hop on. I’m a relatively new gym-goer, but me busting up laughing while working out didn’t seem like proper gym etiquette.

However, the laugh did not care. It built until my throat burned. I tried to hold it in. I tried not to breathe, but, while breathing is critical at all times in your life, it’s especially so when exercising. I sucked in a breath because I had to, to live and all, and this high-pitched squeak of a laugh erupted from my burning throat. I sounded like a lizard someone had stepped on. I put my hand over my mouth and tried to contain it but another one came, and another, and another. People looked over at me. Honestly, I think they probably thought my workout was killing me, or that I was going to throw up on the elliptical they were waiting for. I tried to open my mouth to tell them it was just that this audiobook I was listening to was hysterical, but opening my mouth to say that made real, full laughs come shooting forth like the vomit I’m sure all these people expected.

I laughed so hard I had to stop my workout, wipe down the elliptical, and bust out of there, cackling the entire way. Because I mean, let’s be real, if something is making you laugh that hard, especially in today’s world, you choose the book over the workout.

Yet, despite it’s comedy, Born a Crime is also incredibly dark. There are things I laughed at that I had to sit back and think, “Wait, that should not be funny.” Then there were things I did not laugh at at all.

To be completely honest, before I read this book, I didn’t know much about Apartheid other than it was terrible, and Nelson Mandela ended it. Born a Crime gave me a peek into how terrible it was, both before and after. It also left me wanting to learn more, which is always a great thing to come away with.

All in all, this book had a little bit of something for everyone. It was funny, it was serious, it was informative, it had some good bits of life advice, and if you listen to it, you get the added bonus of a great narrator with a beautiful accent.

Buy Links:

Amazon

Audible

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

Anyone else have an embarrassing gym moment they’d like to share while I’m over here doing that? Make me feel less alone, will you?

❤ Aimee

Book Review: Heavy

Author’s Note: If you are into audio books, I highly recommend you listen to this one. 

Trigger Warnings: Child abuse, sexual assault, sexual violence, rape, gang rape, drug abuse, emotional abuse, racism, eating disorders. This book is called Heavy for many reasons, its contents are only a few.

Official Blurb: 

havyKiese Laymon is a fearless writer. In his essays, personal stories combine with piercing intellect to reflect both on the state of American society and on his experiences with abuse, which conjure conflicted feelings of shame, joy, confusion and humiliation. Laymon invites us to consider the consequences of growing up in a nation wholly obsessed with progress yet wholly disinterested in the messy work of reckoning with where we’ve been.

In Heavy, Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a hard-headed black son to a complicated and brilliant black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual violence, to his suspension from college, to his trek to New York as a

 young college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and ultimately gambling. By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, Laymon asks himself, his mother, his nation, and us to confront the terrifying possibility that few in this nation actually know how to responsibly love, and even fewer want to live under the weight of actually becoming free.

A personal narrative that illuminates national failures, Heavy is defiant yet vulnerable, an insightful, often comical exploration of weight, identity, art, friendship, and family that begins with a confusing childhood—and continues through twenty-five years of haunting implosions and long reverberations.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

“For the first time in my life, I realized telling the truth was way different from finding the truth, and finding the truth had everything to do with revisiting and rearranging words. Revisiting and rearranging words didn’t only require vocabulary; it required will, and maybe courage. Revised word patterns were revised thought patterns. Revised thought patterns shaped memory. I knew, looking at all those words, that memories were there, I just had to rearrange, add, subtract, sit, and sift until I found a way to free the memory.”

There is nothing I can say about HEAVY: AN AMERICAN MEMOIR before I first say it was one of the most beautifully written pieces of literature I have ever had the privilege of reading. I was also fortunate in that the co-worker who recommended this book to me, urged me to listen to it. It is narrated by the author, and it flows like a spoken word poem: in you, and through you, and out of you. It stays with you, both in content and in language, haunting and fresh.

I will also say that as a white girl, I won’t comment much on the content, except to say that white people should read or listen to this book. For us, this book is here to listen to, and think about, and stay silent, and do better. These words do not exist for us to analyze or dissect. They are not for us, for once. But they are lovely, and I am glad to have been able to hear them.

Kiese Laymon is a raw writer of a kind I can only hope we see more of. He writes with a courage that steals your breath. At times, his anecdotes are laugh out loud funny, and at other times, his stories left me with tears flowing down my cheeks. Laymon reached me in a way that I haven’t been reached in a good long while, and I am a better, rounder, fuller person for it.

Buy Links:

Amazon (audiobook)

iTunes (audiobook)

Barnes & Noble (hardback)

I feel as though I’ll be thinking about this one for a long while yet. I hope I’ve convinced some of you to listen to it!

❤ 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