Sunday, May 24, 2020

Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi


It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments - even the physical violence - she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.
But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her - they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds - and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.



This book has so much going on and I'm here for all of it. In a post 9/11 world Shirin is doing what she can to survive. She's incased herself in a hard unapproachable shell, because she's seen how vile the world can be. While at her newest school, one of many, is fairly similar to the others, teachers who assume she can't speak English, students who stare at her scarf, and no one can properly pronounce her name, there's a boy names Ocean who seems to really be putting in an effort. When Shirin, her brother, and a few new friends decide to start a breakdancing team things take a slight turn for the better.

I don't even know where to start. This book is one of the most accurate depictions of high school that I've seen in a while, and I REALLY feel like ghat because of what we send at the end of the book. I don't want to spoiler too much but seeing a school full of people (not just the children) pretend like they weren't awful to Shirin after she impresses them is... very real world.

I think what I liked most is that there are moments in the book where the reader may not like Shirin. She's very stand-off-ish and although her feelings are VERY valid and understandable as we lean about some of her past experiences. There are so many female protagonist out there who are... sassy but cute about it (AKA a good chunk of my own personality) but Shirin is 100% living her truth and it isn't always pretty.

Tahereh has done it again and this is why I am a life long fan!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Review: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee


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Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.



If this book is on your TBR list, please please please please please audiobook it. This book deserves every audio award and nomination that it has received.

This book has adventure, kidnapping, romance, petulant younger siblings, family, semi Frankenstein moments, and too much for me to keep typing.

Monty is a hot mess... sort of. He loves to flirt, drink, gamble, and he's the KING of talking himself into trouble. Monty is a lot of things but what I like most about him is that he does something a lot of people do. Even in the midst of these national movements of self love, body positivity, and black girl magic, he's hurting inside, he's struggling inside, and he's in serious need of support and love. He's also a pretty big goofball. lol.

I don't want to say too much about this book. The description does it all. I just want to encourage those of you who are fans of audiobooks to listen to this. It takes you on an adventure that I can't even describe.


Sunday, May 10, 2020

Review: Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett


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In a community that isn't always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love--and lust--for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon.

Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She's making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she's HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real--shy kisses escalating into much more--she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she's positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she's terrified of how he'll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone's first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on...


Simone has just started a new school and so far its not bad. She's in LOVE with musicals (like a certain someone) and she's student directing the school musical RENT (they could have chosen something else but alright). The guy she likes seems to like her and she thinks she may be closer to doing something she's been thinking a lot about. having sex. Responsibly of course, because Simone isn't just a new student. She was born with HIV and was forced to leave her old school when students and parents found out. When someone leave a note in Simone's locker saying that they know she's positive and will tell the boy she likes if she doesn't stay away, they'll tell him her secrete. 

Watching Simon, a black girl with two dad's manage this secret of her status, embracing her sexuality, doing so with more caution that most would consider. I'm also obsessed with the relationship she has with her dads although her friends kind of leave something to be desired. 

It's hard for me to put into feelings what I felt about this book but because I cam never truly feel what Simone feels in this novel, but I can tell you that the author did a great job to getting me as close as possible. 

While the themes of sex (a one fade in to a sexy kitchen scene) this book is probably more appropriate for older kids but I have to say I really appreciate the blatant discussion about sex, consent, and safety. 

Such a good book. 

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna



Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity--and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki--near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire's greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she's ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be--not even Deka herself.
 


*This book was sent to me by the publisher and is my honest opinion.*

Read. This. Book. Watching Deka grow from someone who's frightened and full of self loathing to a strong, confident, leader is such a beautiful thing. I love that while Deka's transformation is swift (the book isn't that long yall), readers understand what drives her and aren't forced to suspend our disbelief for a foolish plotline. I hate teaser books. Just tell me what you did and why you're full of angst. Thanks.

This book is the first in a series (didn't know that. What am I supposed to do for a year and a half while I wait. UPDATE: Just found out the pub date was pushed back to Feb. 2021) so there's still a lot I want to know but I was plesantly surprised by the characters Namina Forna surrounded Deka with. While I would have liked to see more of them, and there's definintly potential for chracter development they didn't seem like they were created from a google character generator. I'm looking forward to seeing more of them.

We watch Deka build a family, meet a boy (because why not), learn secrets about her mother, and about herself. Deka learns that she's not only alaki, she's much much more. Deka also learns that she's being lied to and that all the training shes recieved is being used to turn her into a monster.

Release Date: February 2021

It's COVID so I'm blogging again

Goodness gracious world. We are on lock down. No gel manicures, no brunch, no drinks and wings after work, no Disney trivia with the girls. I'm mostly a home body but this is a mess. Either way I'm working from home and grateful that I have a job that allows for that. While I've been home I haven't been reading as much as one would think when there's very little else to do but I have pounded through a few books and I've been doing A LOT of thinking about books, the publishing world as a whole, what it meant to be a Librarian in America (boy do I have a lot to say on that... but I won't) and what it mean to be a black Librarian and blogger and I'm ready. I'm ready to start blogging again. 

So, all of the reviews before this post I've migrated from my old blog All the Diversity. I realized that that title didn't properly convey what I wanted to do in this small corner of the world. I want to create a space that houses books and book reviews for everyone (although no joke, there will probably be more black authors featured here than anyone else because that''s my truth).

I've finally accepted that I'll never be one of those people who can publish 5 or even 3 reviews a week. That's just not who I am and that's okay. I also won't have a million readers, that's also okay. This blog is really by me, for me, but I'm happy to bring anyone who's interested along for the ride. So with luck I'll publish ever Sunday and I won't punish myself it I don't. I'm horrible at talking myself up on Twitter, but I'm going to try better because I hope to find other book blogger friends! We'll see I guess.

Okay, I'm done rambling to myself. Time to post that first review.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Book Review: Teen Titans Raven by Kami Garcia

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I was granted a digital copy of the book by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

When a tragic accident takes the life of seventeen-year-old Raven Roth's foster mom--and Raven's memory--she moves to New Orleans to live with her foster mother's family and finish her senior year of high school.

Starting over isn't easy. Raven remembers how to solve math equations and make pasta, but she can't remember her favorite song or who she was before the accident. When strange things start happening--impossible things--Raven starts to think it might be better not to know who she was in her previous life. 

But as she grows closer to her foster sister, Max, her new friends, and Tommy Torres, a guy who accepts her for who she is now, Raven has to decide if she's ready to face what's buried in the past...and the darkness building inside her.

From the #1 New York Times bestselling co-author of Beautiful Creatures Kami Garcia, and artist Gabriel Picolo, comes this first graphic novel in the Teen Titans series for DC Ink, Teen Titans: Raven.


I didn't know much about this book by Kami Garcia except the I really liked Teen Titans and that I really liked Kami Garcia. First, let me say that this book was beautifully illustrated. I have found that the more interested I am in the illustrations of a Graphic Novel, the longer it'll take me to read it because I was to take in each panel individually and appreciate it's contribution to the whole story.

The beginning of Raven's story finds us with Raven and her foster mother driving down a stormy road. Raven has just learned some frightening truths about herself and is struggling to adapt. As her foster mother does what she can to provide Raven with comfort, tragedy strikes. While trying to emerge herself in a new life, as well as trying to remember the old one, Raven begins to have frightening dreams, hear voices, and is followed by a strange shadow. With Raven's memory loss and these strange encounters, Raven struggles a bit to form bonds with those around her, except for Max, her new foster sister. It's when Raven opens up to Max that we really being to see bits of Raven's story unfold. We also begin to see that Max and her mother are full of secrets as well. By the time we finish this Kami Garcia title, we're struggling to trust those around us.

For those of us who watched Teen Titans (or read the comics I assume) we already knows Raven's big secret, but this graphic novel takes us on a journey different from what we were use to and full of fun and splendor. I loved seeing Raven gush over the boy who really wanted to get to know her, and Max struggle to take a friendship to the next level. I loved watching the girls pick out prom dresses and get to know each other. It was also interested to see New Orleans culture mentioned throughout the book. There were some great side characters and moments that fleshed out the book, and made it new and different, as opposed to and exact replica of what we already know about Raven.

I look forward to re-reading this book when it is released to take in the final illustrations and pass it along to the avid teen readers who make regular visits to the Graphic Novel section of my library!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Review: The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert


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Perfect for fans of Nina LaCour and Nicola Yoon comes a novel about first love and family secrets from Stonewall Book Award winner Brandy Colbert.

Dove "Birdie" Randolph works hard to be the perfect daughter and follow the path her parents have laid out for her: She quit playing her beloved soccer, she keeps her nose buried in textbooks, and she's on track to finish high school at the top of her class. But then Birdie falls hard for Booker, a sweet boy with a troubled past...whom she knows her parents will never approve of.

When her estranged aunt Carlene returns to Chicago and moves into the family's apartment above their hair salon, Birdie notices the tension building at home. Carlene is sweet, friendly, and open-minded--she's also spent decades in and out of treatment facilities for addiction. As Birdie becomes closer to both Booker and Carlene, she yearns to spread her wings. But when long-buried secrets rise to the surface, everything she's known to be true is turned upside down.







*I was given this ebook by Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.*
4 Stars

Oh Birdie, I get it. I promise you I do. 

You guys, Brandy Colbert has done it again. She brought us a black female character with depth, emotion, imperfections, and love, and she has provided a different narrative for a black female, similar to what she did in Little and Lion, check here to see my review. 

Readers follow Birdie as she learns that people aren't their past mistakes, as she learns that appearances aren't always what they seem, as she learns that it's okay to make mistakes, and as she comes to learn the secrets of her family. 

I loved this book. I definitely felt a connection to Birdie. As the oldest, the pressure to be perfect, or as near as possible, haunts me to this day even though my siblings are older. I can't make super big mistakes, or fall apart because that's their job. That being said, Birdie's mom was... a bit much, to say the least. Stop hovering mom. 

I loved that we really got to see how Birdie interacted with those in her life, her best friend, her mom, dad, aunt, and sister. Honestly, if there was anyone I hoped to see Birdie delve deeper with, it would have to be Booker, weird as that sounds. I feel like we saw them together, I knew that they had strong feelings for each other, but... I don't know... I just wanted to see more. I can't wait to re-read this book once it's finished. 

I'd recommend this book to older teens because there are a few... steamy moments, but recommend it I will!


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