Friday, November 6, 2020

Review: A Shot at Normal by Marisa Reichardt

Dr. Villapando told me to get a good attorney. He wasn't serious. But I am. I'm going to sue my parents.

Juniper Jade's parents are hippies. They didn’t attend the first Woodstock, but they were there for the second one. The Jade family lives an all-organic homeschool lifestyle that means no plastics, no cell phones, and no vaccines. It isn’t exactly normal, but it’s the only thing Juniper has ever known. She doesn’t agree with her parents on everything, but she knows that to be in this family, you've got to stick to the rules. That is, until the unthinkable happens.

Juniper contracts the measles and unknowingly passes the disease along, with tragic consequences. She is shell-shocked. Juniper knows she is responsible and feels simultaneously helpless and furious at her parents, and herself.

Now, with the help of Nico, the boy who works at the library and loves movies and may just be more than a friend, Juniper comes to a decision: she is going to get vaccinated. Her parents refuse so Juniper arms herself with a lawyer and prepares for battle. But is waging war for her autonomy worth losing her family? How much is Juniper willing to risk for a shot at normal? (Goodreads)

I obtained this book through the publisher via Netgalley inexchange for an honest review.

Juniper and her family have always been an unusual family. Juniper's family grows most of their own food, use home made deoderant, and despite living directly across the street from a school, Juniper and her siblings are homeschooled. They are homeschooled not because they choose to turn their backs on consumerism and live off the land, but because Juniper's parent's don't believe in vaxinations. When Juniper catches the measles and accidently passes it along to a baby who dies, she becomes desperate to be vaccinated. As the knowledge of Juniper's status flows through the community and her want for vaccinations begins to tear their family apart,  she gets an unexpected taste of the "normal" world as she develops a relationship with Nico, the cute boy who goes to school across the street, and his beloved film club friends.

For some reason when I read the description of this book Ithought Juniper was middle school age, I was prepared for something very a la My Sisters Keeper but I was very wrong. What I liked about this book was also what I wanted more of. I wish there had been more of a conversation between Juniper and her parents. Let me preface this by saying, I am in support of vaccinations. I don't have kids, I don't plan to have kids, but if I did have kids, they would absolutely be vaccinated. I've heard a few of the same reasons people choose not to support vaccinations. I've heard people say vaccines cause autism (false by the way. I'm a librarian. I'm overly trained in obtaining accurate information), I've heard people say that a child's immune system is enough to fight these illnesses and/or they want to strengthen their child's immune system. I've also heard folks say that they didn't want to fill their child's body with foreign chemicals. Fine I guess. These were the same arguments that Juniper's parents used when they were willing to talk about their decision not to vaccinate at all, which... often they weren't. There may not be any additional reasons for white parents to choose not to vaccinate, but I wish there were. I wish I was satisfied but I wasn't. I liked this book. I liked this girl who knew that she could legally get an abortion without her parents consent and demanded answers to why she couldn't get vaccinations without their consent (good question by the way). 

Now some of my readers (all 2 of you) might wonder why I specified white parents, and that's because the only "excuse" for non vaccinations that I heard, that I couldn't immediately respond to, was from a black woman. A black friend of mine with two kids said she was choosing not to vaccinate her children because her family was directly affected by the Tuskegee Experiment, they were being compensated to this day, and she couldn't bring herself to risk her children with doctors that we have data to verify their prejudice against black families. She was right. I had no response. Heck I don't go to doctors until HEP forces me too because of negative experiences, such as the time I was told I didn't look sick enough to have the flu. Not only did I have the flu, SURPRISE,  I had mono too, but because I didn't "look sick enough" I had to beg for a test. I don't blame my friend.

I liked this book. I actually plan to buy it for my library collection, but I wish we saw more interaction between Juniper and her parents. I think it would have invigorated the story. 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Blog Tour: Some Other Now by Sarah Everett


Book Info: 

Publisher: HMH Books

Release Date: Feb 23, 2021

Genre: YA Fiction


Book Info:

Before she kissed one of the Cohen boys, seventeen-year-old Jessi Rumfield knew what it was like to have a family—even if, technically, that family didn’t belong to her. She’d spent her childhood in the house next door, challenging Rowan Cohen to tennis matches while his older brother, Luke, studied in the background and Mel watched over the three like the mother Jessi always wished she had.


But then everything changed. It’s been almost a year since Jessi last visited the Cohen house. Rowan is gone. Mel is in remission and Luke hates Jessi for the role she played in breaking his family apart. Now Jessi spends her days at a dead-end summer job avoiding her real mother, who suddenly wants to play a role in Jessi's life after being absent for so long. But when Luke comes home from college, it's hard to ignore the past. And when he asks Jessi to pretend to be his girlfriend for the final months of Mel’s life, Jessi finds herself drawn back into the world of the Cohens. Everything’s changed, but Jessi can’t help wanting to be a Cohen, even if it means playing pretend for one final summer.


Goodreads| Amazon | Books-A-Million | Bookshop.org





Author Info:

Sarah Everett is the author of No One Here is Lonely and Everyone We've Been. She remembers growing up in enchanted forests, on desert islands, and inside a magical wardrobe. She would only ever erase her memory of past karaoke performances and certain fashion choices. She lives in Alberta, Canada.


Twitter | Instagram | Website | Goodreads


Review

I received an advance copy of this book from Publishers on behalf of Hear Our Voices Blog Tours. All thoughts in this review are my own.

After the death of her best friend, the loss of her boyfriend, waiting to lose the woman who's always acted as a mother to her, and struggling with the "return" of her actual mother who's spend the last 18 years in bed battling depression, Jessi moves through the world as a shell of a person filling ever hour of her day to keep the darkness at bay.

Jessi and Rowan Cohen were best friends for 10 years. Older brother Luke Cohen and Jessie spent a few beautiful months as more than friends, finally, but all of that died the night Ro did. Mel Cohen had always been the mom Jessi craved but as she dies slowly from cancer, Jessi, Ro, and Luke begin to fall apart as well. 

A year after Ro's death and the end of Luke and Jessi, Luke reappears out of nowhere, insisting that he and Jessi pretend to be dating again, for Mel's sake, Jessi can't say no, she;d no anything for Mel and has never forgiven herself for hurting Luke. As Jessi and Luke walk the tight rope between pretend and the flame that never actually burned out, Jessi is forced to deal with the gradual loss of Mel, her need for Luke but aversion to close relationships, her parents who pretend as if the last eighteen years never happened, and what she did to Ro. 

I feel like I traveled with Jessi on this journey. Moving between Then and Now was so fantastically jarring because, although Jessi's life was never "perfect" we were able to see what she "had" with the Cohen's, and what her life turned into when she lost them. Having recently had my own family loss this summer, the darkness of it can act as an accelerate in a world that's tough and unforgiving in the best of circumstances (let alone during Covid and this circus of an election season).  

I love that we are beginning to see more books that tell stories of black suburban families. While Jessi's story isn't exactly exploding with joy, the addition of books like Some Other Now with The Hate You Give, I Am Alfonso Jones, and Dear Martin begins to show the world that there is more than one black narrative. While the history of African American's begins with some of the most oppressive moments in American history, we are more than oppressed people. We will always walk through the world with dark skin, and there will always be some that hate us for it, but we're allowed friendships, love, family. We're allowed to play tennis, go camping, bake cupcakes, and live our lives with all the joy we can carve out of this world. 

Favorite Quotes

Just don't wait too long. Eighty years flies by.
There's always hope... as long as you're willing to try.
Happy, grateful, well-dressed, brave. Alive.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Review: Find Layla: a novel by Meg Elison

 

A neglected girl’s chaotic coming-of-age becomes a trending new hashtag in a novel about growing up and getting away by an award-winning author.

Underprivileged and keenly self-aware, SoCal fourteen-year-old Layla Bailey isn’t used to being noticed. Except by mean girls who tweet about her ragged appearance. All she wants to do is indulge in her love of science, protect her vulnerable younger brother, and steer clear of her unstable mother.

Then a school competition calls for a biome. Layla chooses her own home, a hostile ecosystem of indoor fungi and secret shame. With a borrowed video camera, she captures it all. The mushrooms growing in her brother’s dresser. The black mold blooming up the apartment walls. The unmentionable things living in the dead fridge. All the inevitable exotic toxins that are Layla’s life. Then the video goes viral.

When Child Protective Services comes to call, Layla loses her family and her home. Defiant, she must face her bullies and friends alike, on her own. Unafraid at last of being seen, Layla accepts the mortifying reality of visibility. Now she has to figure out how to stay whole and stand behind the truth she has shown the world. (Goodreads)

One sitting. I finished this book in one sitting. Layla lives in an apartment riddled with fungus, black mold, a refrigerator that’s not to be opened at any cost, and the most absent of absent mothers. Layla didn’t understand what deodorant was of why it should be used, and at 14, had only ever owned one bra. Layla has had to create mental escape plans, find hiding places in town, discover ways to access electricity, learn to care for her 6-year-old brother, master avoiding school bullies, and so much more.

When the details of Layla’s home life are reported to CPS, and Layla’s brother is taken into foster care. Layla goes on the run. She makes sure to turn in her homework, wanders the city, and keeps in contact with the adults and students looking for her using the hashtag #FindLayla.

I feel like a horrible person saying this but what I love the most about this story is that it isn’t necessarily a happy one?? Without too many spoilers, Layla’s mother (who seems to have some type of disorder) doesn’t seem to want her children. Layla discovers that her mother didn’t put any effort into keeping CPS out of their lives, and walks away from Layla knowing that Layla couldn’t return to their home and was living on the streets.

As social media always does, it continues to be a place where Layla is bullied and belittled even though at that point, the story of her home condition, the fact that she is currently homeless, is known by everyone.

While Layla’s story isn't as heartbreaking of a story as it could have been (it is a MG story, there has to be some hope) it doesn’t have the Hallmark feeling that some books are known to have. It makes Layla real, her story real, and her situation real.

I love this book and I would recommend it in a heartbeat.


Monday, October 12, 2020

Don't Read the Comments by Eric smith


 We all need a place to escape from the real world.

For Divya and Aaron, it’s the world of online gaming. While Divya trades her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay rent, Aaron plays as a way to fuel his own dreams of becoming a game developer – and as a way to disappear when his mom starts talking about medical school. After a chance online meeting, the pair decides to team up – but soon find themselves the targets of a group of internet trolls who begin launching a real-world doxxing campaign, threatening Aaron’s dream and Divya’s actual life. They think can drive her out of the game, but Divya’s whole world is on the line...

And she isn’t going down without a fight.

And yet again I read a book that reminds me how cool it could be to chill in the MMORPG (looking at you Slay) world until I remember I have ZERO gaming skills. I tried to play this game once and when I couldn't figure out how to make my character look like me I quit. I tried another game but the map was confusing soooo…. I guess that means I’ll have to suck up all the excitement and keep it between the pages of my books.


“The only safe place for either of us has been online. In these games. With beautiful strangers that make the world worth living. And now I’m going to set this world on fire.”


It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this book, in addition to being a fun work of fiction, speaks to the racist and sexist nature embedded in the gaming world. While that space, like many others, is full of kind, people looking for a world to escape into for a few hours, there are also people bend on destruction for reason I will never understand. Just kidding. Yes I do. They're a*******.


This book also speaks to what the online world can give us. Many month ago (over a year… what is time) I met a girl on Twitter who I honestly consider a friend. Someone who I check in with. Someone who I wish the best for. Someone who lives in a different time zone. We had no reason to meet. No reason to talk. But technology and social media brought us together and I’ll always be grateful for that.


This book is such an interesting one to read during a time when so many of us have been forced deeper into the virtual world. The Internet can be a dark place bent on destruction. But it can also build community that otherwise may never have been.  

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Blog Tour: Daughters of Jubilation by Kara Lee Corthron




 


Daughters of Jubilation

by KARA LEE CORTHRON

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: October 13, 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy / Historical Fiction

Amazon | Barnes & Noble  | Bookshop.org | Book Depository

From the award-winning author of The Truth of Right Now comes a stunning, grounded fantasy in the vein of Dread Nation that follows a black teen as she finds her place among a family of women gifted with magical abilities.

In the Jim Crow South, white supremacy reigns and tensions are high. But Evalene Deschamps has other things to worry about. She has two little sisters to look after, an overworked single mother, and a longtime crush who is finally making a move.

On top of all that, Evvie’s magic abilities are growing stronger by the day. Her family calls it jubilation—a gift passed down from generations of black women since the time of slavery. And as Evvie’s talents waken, something dark comes loose and threatens to resurface…

And when the demons of Evvie’s past finally shake free, she must embrace her mighty lineage, and summon the power that lies within her.


=========


Kara Lee Corthron is a playwright, author, and TV writer based in Los Angeles. Her full-length plays include AliceGraceAnon (New Georges),  Holly Down in Heaven (Forum Theatre, DC area), Listen for the Light (Know Theatre of Cincinnati), Welcome to Fear City (CATF and Kansas City Rep, Kilroys’ List 2016), Etched in Skin on a Sunlit Night (InterAct Theatre, Philadelphia), What Are You Worth?, and Time and a Half. Kara is the author of the young-adult novels, The Truth of Right Now from Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse and Daughters of Jubilation from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, coming in October 2020.


  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kara.corthron

  • Twitter: https://twitter.com/KaraLeeCorthron

  • Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kara.corthron/

  • Website: https://www.karaleecorthron.com/



Review

Speculative Fiction. Black Girl Magic. Historical Fiction. Only a greedy troll would ask for more. Evvie was born with Jubilation or the Jube, all the women in her family were. She has the ability to manipulate the world around her, to break, to fix, to create. Her powers seem to be limitless. When Evvie begins to learn to control her magic, her timing is impeccable because a man from her past has resurfaced, a man Evvie’s mind won’t allow her to remember.When Virgil re-enters Evvie’s life forcing memories that no mind should ever have to hold and Evvie has to learn to not only control her ability but make herself whole to rid him from her life once and for all.


*Sigh* I think it will be easier for me to not so much review the book, as drip all of the feelings it cause onto this piece of virtual paper. 


I like this book. I honestly do. I have to say that it makes me unbearably sad and kind of hopeless. While reading the end of this book I couldn’t help but wonder… How much suffering does a group of people have to endure? How much trauma? How much pain? How much angst? Do we ever get a plain and simple happily ever after? Then I could imagine some troll coming out of the folds saying something about how everyone has trails and tribulations but then I thought of the Margaret Atwood quote.


“Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.” 



Which leads me to some of my favorite quotes from the book. Black people, particularly black women are know to be strong, stubborn, straight forward, you will not win an argument (all a little problematic if I’m being honest but that’s another post entirely), Queen. We’re that way because we have to be. We’re that way because the world has forces us to be. We will get you before you get us. Again a little problematic but I’ve had a rough day so I’m here for it. Which leads me to…


“Quit it with the sorries! It’s weak. Don’t be sorry. Do better.”


My second favorite quote…


“In defiance of their mutilated bodies, they all smile at me, and I think I smile back. This is my family, and they’re beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. Like me.”


 As I sit here, on a rough day after having listened to a woman tell me about a “woke reading challenge” turning my pain and the pain of those before me into a unit of study worth a grade or worse crappy fidget spinner prize, I almost want to cry. And I guess that’s what makes a good book. A book that makes you feel not only what you want, but what you dread. A book that chews you up and spits you out and boy. The last few chapters of this book did exactly that while they did sprinkle a little bit of hope, so I leave you with one final quote to shed a bit of light on this dim dim world some of us live in.


“You will not win every battle. Any victory is a gift to be cherished.”

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Can't Wait Wednesday: Twins by Varian Johnson Illustrated by Shannon Wright

                                             

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme (that will help me remember what to buy for my library) that's hosted by Wishful Endings. It's based off the weekly meme Waiting on Wednesday that was hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

Come through Middle Grade graphic novels! I can't wait to read this!




Coretta Scott King Honor author Varian Johnson teams up with rising cartoonist Shannon Wright for a delightful middle-grade graphic novel!

Maureen and Francine Carter are twins and best friends. They participate in the same clubs, enjoy the same foods, and are partners on all their school projects. But just before the girls start sixth grade, Francine becomes Fran -- a girl who wants to join the chorus, run for class president, and dress in fashionable outfits that set her apart from Maureen. A girl who seems happy to share only two classes with her sister!

Maureen and Francine are growing apart and there's nothing Maureen can do to stop it. Are sisters really forever? Or will middle school change things for good?
 

Publication Date: October 6, 2020

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Can't Wait Wednesday: Hide and Seek by Daka Hermon

                                             

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme (that will help me remember what to buy for my library) that's hosted by Wishful Endings. It's based off the weekly meme Waiting on Wednesday that was hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine


I honestly can't remember where I got this book and it actually published about a week ago. Some Middle Grade love!!


 went up the hill, the hill was muddy, stomped my toe and made it bloody, should I wash it?

Justin knows that something is wrong with his best friend.Zee went missing for a year. And when he came back, he was . . . different. Nobody knows what happened to him. At Zee's welcome home party, Justin and the neighborhood crew play Hide and Seek. But it goes wrong. Very wrong.

One by one, everyone who plays the game disappears, pulled into a world of nightmares come to life. Justin and his friends realize this horrible place is where Zee had been trapped. All they can do now is hide from the Seeker.

Publication Date: September 15, 2020

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