Sunday, February 7, 2021

(Late to the) Blog Tour: How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian

 Once again, I'm catching up with another (nearly missed) #BlogTourTuesday stop. This one is for How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian. 

The story focuses on Izzy. Since her father was tragically killed while deployed, she and her mom and brother have moved often and been trying to find someplace to call home. At their newest stop, Izzy loves her school. However, even though she finds friends and a boyfriend, she's doing this with a secret. She's on scholarship, and she doesn't have the privilege that the other students do. Her family has also been selected for a Habitat for Humanity build. While exciting, Izzy doesn't want to be the face of this project, especially because she doesn't want her classmates to find out who she really is. She especially doesn't want her boyfriend to know as she's never had a relationship like this. This book explores the complexities of one girl's story. She is in some ways living multiple lives and cannot live her full truth in any of them. Like many young adult reads, I think about when I was the target audience. This is definitely a story I would have been drawn to. I would have liked the love story overlayed with the difficulties of Izzy trying to find herself.

As for bonus content, here are some other people talking about this book. . . 


Children’s Book Council: “Hot Off the Press: February 2020”

Latinos in Publishing: “January 2020 Latinx Releases”

Kirkus Reviews: “11 Early Books We Love”

Kirkus Reviews: “16 Books We Can’t Wait For in 2020”

“A Pretty In Pink story about grief, family, class, and first love.”


“This is not a polemic about racism but an exploration of what identity means… The force of Padian’s storytelling, the pain of watching Izzy’s worlds collide, moved me to tears more than once.”

Portland Press Herald

“Padian creates a world that the reader can easily dive into. Anyone who’s ever been a self-conscious teen will see themselves in Izzy.”

Book Riot

“A balance of vivid description and witty, discerning storytelling [gives] a refreshing zeal to Izzy’s first-person narrative… Padian’s How to Build a Heart encourages us to embrace our authentic selves by letting go, not only of secrets, but of the desire to hide parts of ourselves in hopes that others will accept us.”

Cleaver Magazine

“A sensitively rendered story, but also a fun read, brisk and engaging… Padian’s book demonstrates the importance of home as a source of support and identity for teens.”


“Complex, heartrending, and beautifully explored, How to Build a Heart is a deeply poignant read that is not only deep enough to move you, but wonderfully engaging and quirky.”

The Young Folks

How to Build A Heart is, at its core, a contemporary romance. But it also strives to be more than that. It’s a story of family, friendship, and the bonds that get us through… The novel is simple, sweet, and bursting with hope.”

The Fandom

“A potent coming-of-age story about the courage often required for pulling together multiple threads of a life to create an authentic self.”


“Padian’s latest book delivers an enjoyable story about how Izzy eventually finds her place in her ever-changing world… This book effectively captured the chaos that can sometimes come with being a young adult.”

The Daily Free Press (Boston University Student Paper)

“Padian shows again and again that a story is always more complicated and more ordinary than it seems.”
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Padian masterfully portrays the internal struggles Izzy goes through in her Catholic faith… An absolutely enthralling depiction of family and self-discovery.”

Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“Padian creates a compelling world with relatable characters and deals with serious issues without feeling heavy-handed…An excellent classroom or book discussion starter. Hand this to readers who are ready to tackle these issues with a lighter touch.”

School Library Journal

“Padian takes a familiar theme—a girl hiding her background from others—and makes it fresh with her protagonist, Izzy Crawford… The characters around her are well-defined and support Izzy and the plot well. Throughout the novel, Izzy's strength, candor, and humanity shine through.”


(Late to the) Blog Tour: Girlhood: Teens Around the World in Their Own Voices by Masuma Ahuja

First off, this was supposed to be a #BlogTourTuesday post, and then life happened. So, here I am running after the blog tour train that's left the station trying to jump on at the last minute.


Girlhood: Teens Around the World in Their Own Voices by Masuma Ahuja is a glimpse into the experiences of girls around the world. Their stories are told in their own words through diary entries and question prompts. The stories are then overlaid with information about the realities of the countries where they live. Each girl is navigating some unique challenges individually and in the community/country around her. My only critique (in a good way) was I wanted more! I was so drawn into each girl's story that I wanted to know what was next for her, how she was doing, and just a general deeper dive into her life. That said, I think this book is also intentionally set up this way to be a conversation starter. The stories of each girl can show other girls similarities around the world while also showing what it's like to live in different countries through the experiences of a real-life person. I also dug that these stories include pictures. Again, you really get drawn into the worlds of these worlds in just a few pages. As a kid, this would have absolutely been a book I was captivated by, and I think it's great that girls today have this collection.

Given this is a book tour, I have some special "treats" to share. Here are a few excerpts from the book!

Book Reviews - Things to Think About

And here's another round! Three of the four of these had some great inspiration and reflection opportunities. So, let's go!

Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman is a book I heard about ages (like a legit decade y'all) ago, and I finally have read it! Yay, me? Anyway. The book was first published in the sixties, and almost sixty years later, it is still incredibly relevant. Told in a variety of correspondence methods, this is the story of Slyvia, a young teacher assigned to a metro high school. She very quickly comes to see the realities of this school, including the stories and challenges of her students, the lack of resources to do her work, and the frustrations of administrative demands. Throughout, she tries to do all she can to help her students, while also encountering a variety of barriers through them, her colleagues and the administration. This was such a unique storytelling technique, and it worked so well to really help me see Sylvia's struggles. I was so drawn in, and I was rooting for Sylvia and her students even though the obstacles were many. This is a book whose subject matter is timeless in its frustration, but also in its inspiration. It's one I could see myself revisiting as it's just so well-crafted and has so many messages that are so important to continue to hear about education.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig was such a beautiful, wonderful book. After being totally captivated by The Midnight Library, I needed more of this author in my life. This is a memoir focused on the realities and struggles of mental health told in an honest and authentic way. At times, the story is hard, but those are the parts that are so, so very important to hear and know. Even through the pain, this is above all else a story of hope. As the title says, this is about finding joy and perseverance even in the darkness. This was just a book that had me (predictably) in my feels, but also gave me so much to reflect on and sit with, too. It's another one I can see myself revisiting, and I'm also ready for more Matt Haig reads in my life.

I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers was a re-read in preparation for the two authors coming to an event at work. Y'all, this book is a must-read. I am so appreciative of how these two women are able to speak and explain politics/life. They are able to work through difficult topics with such intentionality and grace. Given I was re-reading, I took time to mark my favorite passages (and there were many), and these are words I will revisit. Also, if you're not yet listening to Pantsuit Politics, it's absolutely a podcast you need in your life. 

With so many of these quartets, you need to cue the "One of these things is not the other" music, and this last one is obvioulsy that!

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade was just a delight of a romance read focused on April and Marcus. Marcus Caster-Rupp is the star of Gods of the Gates (which is akin to Game of Thrones in its hype and fandom). While the show has made him a star, Marcus also isn't so much a fan of how the story has been adapted for TV from books. Wanting to re-write the stories, he finds connection and community in the fan fiction community. April is a member of that community. She finds particular connection with one particular user, and unbeknownst to her, that user is actually Marcus! April also loves cosplay, and she goes viral for one of her costumes. That post catches the eye of the real-life Marcus, and they end up on a date. Marcus learns that April is actually his fanfic friend, but he decides not to tell her. From there, the real-life and online relationships take different twists and turns given what Marcus knows (and April doesn't). I really liked the fanfic angle of this one. It's a dedicated community, and it was fun to see how this story was built around the world they live in and fandom they cultivate!

Onto the next ones!

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Book Reviews - Highly Recommended and (More) Time Travel

Hey, here are two books that helped me get through my endless advanced copy queue and two that came highly recommended that I also just LOVED.

A Forgotten Murder by Jude Deveraux was a book I've had in queue for quite some time. This is my first time reading this author, and it was an enjoyable ride - I'll be back for more! This story revolved around a cold case brought back to life. While I haven't read the earlier iteration, this is a missing persons mystery where an "old gang" is getting back together to solve the crime. That said, I didn't feel like I was missing out by not knowing these characters before this installment. Kate, Jack and Sara come together at Oxley Manor where two people went missing long ago. As those who were connected to these people back when come back to Oxley, the trio must determine what their stories were then and now to finally solve these cases. This was an interesting ride as the past and present became connected, and the trio tried to piece together the clues. Thanks to NetGalley for the (belated) look at this read!

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig was absolutely stunning. I don't even want to write too much about I because I can't even begin to do the beauty of its story justice. The book revolves around the concepts of "What if?" and regret in such a captivating way. The story is told through Nora. Nora has lost hope in life, then she is whisked away to a library. It's a library of her life. Each moment is cataloged, but also there are stories of what might have been. Nora is given the chance to explore those lives she never lives, but has wondered how they might have played out. I won't say much more because the joy of this one is in the journey. I absolutely loved this one and the messages and how it just made me think and feel. Read. This. Book.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Tayor Jenkins Reid was a story I absolutely loved. The way it was written sucked me in from the first pages, and then I literally couldn't put it down because it was so interesting, and I had to know all of Evelyn's story! Evelyn Hugo is a reclusive movie star. She gives no interviews until she reaches out to a magazine requesting Monique for an interview. Monique is not a well-known writer, so she is unclear why she has been chosen. Evelyn is adamant that she will tell her story to no one but Monique. Monique and Evelyn start meeting, and Evelyn walks her through her life/husbands. Each of these stories comes with truths that have never been revealed, including who Evelyn's true love was. This one was full of feels and a twist that got me to gasp when revealed. I just loved this one y'all!

The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris was a book I honestly didn't understand the scope of until the last pages. Once the story really clicked, it was so, so powerful. The story is about two brothers who have tragically lost their parents. Alex is a 16 year old just trying to get through life - his grief, his job, his relationships, and oh yeah, that thing where he can see the future. In his visions, he sees that his younger brother Isiaah is going to die. Alex decides that if this is the future, he still has time to change the story. He commits to spending as much time as possible with Isiaah and to righting the future that he doesn't believe is inevitable. Through this, Isiaah and Alex start to become closer, but Alex never forgets what his brother's fate could be. While this is about two brothers, it's really about what it's like to be a young black man today. The threads of this reality are woven through the fictional tale of these two brothers. While centered on an imaginary skillset, the real components of this fateful tale matter. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this powerful April 2021 release.

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Book Clubs and Time Travel!

For this round, I've got two books I read for book club and two advanced copies. Quite the array of reads in this quartet, but all had me in my feels in one way or the other!

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the Women Code by Liza Mundy was the fascinating story of a part of World War II that isn't well-known, and y'all, IT SHOULD BE. This is the story of the women who were code breakers during the war. That's right, women were doing this work. Recruited primarily on college campuses and because they were single (they definitely unpack this strategy), THOUSANDS of women did this work for the Army and Navy. This book is interesting to hear about the work they were doing, and it's even more interesting to hear the stories of who these women were. The book did interviews with the women who were still living, as well as archival research to share this story with the world. After the war, these women were told they had to keep this work a secret which is an interesting dynamic that is also explored. This was the first read for my sorority book club, and honestly, I'm not sure I would have picked this one on my own. However, I'm so glad I now know these stories, and the critical role women played in this war! There was also a recent PBS documentary that I'm excited to check out to continue learning these important stories.

Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis was a wonderful pageturner! It's told in two timelines (and y'all know I love a dual timeline/narrator set-up) revolving around the New York Public Library. In 1913, it's about Laura, a woman trying to figure out her place in the world. Her husband is the superintendent of the NYPL (where they live y'all!), and they are raising their two kids. She is also in journalism school, and she loves exploring her love of writing. Part of this writing brings her to the Heterodoxy Club, a world of women and way of thinking that draws her in. Meanwhile in 1993, there is Sadie, a curator of the NYPL. Also, Laura is her grandmother who is known as an esteemed essayist. Then, things start disappearing from Laura's collection. For one, Sadie hasn't shared her connection, and for two, she isn't sure what is happening. In both timelines, there is suspense about some curious happenings in the library, and the way each woman grows through her story is just wonderfully done. This is one that swept me up into its world, and I didn't want to leave. I loved the suspense and depth of the stories of these two women and loved how the mysteries were revealed!

Clues to the Universe by Christina Li was another one of those middle grade books that had me all up in my feels. The story was about Ro who has tragically lost her father and remains connected to him/his memory through their shared love of rockets. Ro finds friendship with Ben, who has realized his estranged father is the creator of his favorite space-based comic. Ro and Ben join up as science fair partners, and they start to navigate their school/life together as friends. Part of this means working through bullying, and this is some tough stuff. They are both also grieving for their fathers in different ways. What I appreciated about this one was that the emotions were so real. It really explored each of their challenges, as well as the rocky road that middle school can bring. It didn't hold back on those feels, and it wasn't always happy, but also these characters found joy in their connection. Thanks to Quill Tree Books for the early look at this recent release!

Muted by Tami Charles was a heavy read. I knew that was going to be case going on, so not a surprise, but a notation. Told in verse, it is the story of Denver. She and her best friends Dali and Shak have aspirations of being the next big R&B girl group. Then, in a dream come true, they are connected with Sean "Mercury" Ellis, a big name R&B artist. They really want to make their dream happen, so they agree to work with Mercury as much as possible. They soon realize this is far from a dream, and they are stuck in a world where this man has all these power and control. Denver wants to keep her dream alive, but she wonders if is worth these sacrifices and isolation. This was a hard and emotional read, but it's also important to know these stories are real. Thanks to Scholastic for the early look at this February 2021 release!

Onto the next ones!

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Book Reviews - Unexpected Reads

If I had to find a common thread for this round of reads, I'd say it's there was something unexpected in each of them. Read on!

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner was honestly not what I expected at all. Part of the way through this veered more into a thriller of sorts, and I just wasn't ready for that (literal) twist. The story focuses on two estranged best friends. Drue is an emerging social media influencer, and her former friend Daphne has a big wedding planned. Given the status of who she's marrying, it's all over social media and celebrity magazines. Drue is shocked when Daphne asks her to be her maid of honor, but decides to say yes. From there, she's thrown into Daphne's wedding planning experience - and y'all, it's definitely some kind of experience. As she is back in Daphne's orbit, she has to revisit why they drifted apart in the first place. This again was just so unexpected. I don't want to say too much about where the story goes because that's a big part of what reading this really is. I'm always in for a Jennifer Weiner novel, however I'll definitely steer you to others I love more first if you ask me for a recommendation!

Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins is about a woman starting over. After being hit by a vehicle, Dr. Nora Stuart is in a hospital bed recovering. While her boyfriend thinks she's in a coma, she's actually awake and discovers he's flirting with another staff member at the hospital over her body! Appalled and needing a fresh start, Nora decides to return home. It's somewhere she has not returned to since leaving (and the reasons why are shared along the way), but she feels like it's where she needs to go. So, she heads back to her mother and her niece who is staying there because Nora's sister is incarcerated. Returning home, Nora seeks to (re)build relationships, and she also comes head on to many aspects of her past - Y'all, some of these are really emotional and painful. This was a story that definitely is about some tough stuff, and there is also hope and love and new beginnings sprinkled throughout. Sometimes you just need a reliable novel with solid characters and a wonderful story, and this was exactly what this was!

Thornwood by Leah Cypress was a new spin on Sleeping Beauty. While I love a re-imagined fairy tale, I haven't read many focused on this one. Briony is the lesser known sister of Rosalin. As the story goes, Rosalin is put to sleep as part of a curse. When the kingdom wakes up, Briony wants to get to the bottom of what's really happening. She wants to help save her family's kingdom. This is one that had some twists and turns, including a solid one at the end I didn't see coming that added some depth and thrills to the story which made it much more captivating. It wasn't just about some girl falling asleep and needing a prince, but it was about what that process and the curse on the kingdom really meant and did. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this April 2021 release.

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour was a book that was definitely from a genre I don't normally read, AND I'm glad I got a chance to check this one out! The story is satire about a black salesman. Darren/Buck is working at Starbucks when an executive from a startup asks him to join his company. He thinks Buck has potential, and he wants him to take this next step in his career. Once onboard, Buck is quickly thrown into all the corporate tropes. There are additional layers given he is the only black man at the company. Buck is able to move up and find new opportunities, but with that comes more challenge. This was such an intriguing spin on the corporate world. It explored the realities and systems that still exist in such a creative way. It's one I almost need to read again just to really explore and understand what the underlying messages are. It's definitely a book that made me think, and while so unique, it's also a very real perspective on the "business world" today. Thanks to the publisher for an advanced copy of this January 2021 release!

Onto the next ones!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Book Reviews:The First Four of 2021!

 Y'all, if the rest of my year of reading is as strong as this quartet, it's going to be one heckuva year!

I Want To Be Where the Normal People Are by Rachel Bloom was an honest and hilarious memoir that I absolutely adored. I came to know Rachel Bloom through Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Note: After reading this, I realized I never finished the final season, and I proceeded to binge these episodes because I needed all the Rachel Bloom awesomeness in my life), and I was excited to learn more about her. Y'all, this is a memoir that digs deep. She shares her wonderful brand of humor humor, but she also talks about where she's found struggle. Specifically, she talks about some of the rougher parts of her childhood, including being teased and not feeling like she ever "fit in" with others. But she shares these stories to explain that is who she was and who she is, and each story is important in its own weird way. I absolutely loved this collection. I loved the way she was willing to talk about her mental health, abut challenges she navigated, and just how she's come to embrace all her weird. There were moments when I was laughing out loud, and I also ended the book in tears - This truly runs the gamut. This made me crave even more things from Rachel Bloom. She has such a unique brand of creativity and humor, and I need so much more of that in my life.

Also, I just have to say that this Lois Lowry sentence may be one of my favorite sentences in a book EVER. I felt this.

Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics by Dolly Parton was just a delight of a read on each and every page. Y'all should know this is a coffee table book - Really that means it's heavy, and it's full of so many great pictures and stories. The book shares Dolly's lyrics, and they are accompanied by stories about why she wrote each song. Y'ALL. These stories are incredible. This woman is brilliantly creative, and it was fascinating to read about her why and sparks of inspiration for so many incredible songs. There are also pictures included - Some connect to songs, and others are just her sharing her life with those who love her music. This book is beyond beautiful, and it was so wonderful to hear Dolly's story in Dolly's words and through her gift to the world - Her words and music. Now that I've read the whole book, I could see myself just flipping through a few pages from time to time for a spark of joy and inspiration. Also, if you haven't yet listened to Dolly's conversation with Brene Brown - You must do that, then go read thsi book, and just immerse yourself in all things Dolly.

Leave Out the Tragic Parts: A Grandfather's Search for a Boy Lost to Addiction by Dave Kindred was the story of a grandfather reflecting on the loss of his grandson. As he navigated the grief of his grandson's short life, he decided to learn more about who he was and what exactly happened to him. His grandson Jared left home at 18 and lived on the road as a train-hopper. With this, he struggled with alcohol addiction. The author reflects on Jared as a kid that he knew, then takes the time to explore Jared as the man on the run. Even in this, he is able to find good in what Jared brought to the friends he met along the way. He also finds the challenges he encounters throughout. This is a story of love told through loss. It's about a grandpa wanting to find answers, but knowing these will not bring Jared back. The story is honest as the author reflects on if he could have done more to save Jared, but also candidly shares this as a tribute to the life he did live. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this moving memoir due to be released in February 2021!

Dirt: Growing Strong Roots in What Makes the Beautiful Broken by Mary Marantz was a book my sister-in-law recommended to me after hearing the author on a podcast. The base of the story is about a woman who grew up in a single-wide trailer in rural West Virginia and ultimately graduated from Yale Law School. More than this story though, this is a story about a woman learning to embrace where she came from. She talks about her past not because she's better than that place, but because she is that place. She talks about it because it is her story, and that matters. Throughout, she also explores faith. As she shares her story, she shares the way this connects to her faith. She explains how she sees God in different moments and/or how she came to learn more about God/faith in these instances. This was just a beautifully written story. I really loved the way there were reflections on faith interwoven throughout, and they were simple, yet so powerful. I say often that sometimes books hit me at just the right time, and this was a wonderful memoir that was just what I needed as this year began.

Onto the next ones!

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Book Reviews - All in the Feels

Whew, y'all, this is a round that was so darn full of feels!

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones was a book I read in one sitting because I was so drawn into the story. The characters and relationships were so beautifully written that I just needed to know what happened. The story begins with Celestial and Roy. As newlyweds, Roy is arrested and sentenced to jail for a crime he didn't commit. The next 12 years are the couple figuring out their relationship in such difficult circumstances. They were just beginning a marriage, and now they have this unimaginable challenge standing between them. The story is told from multiple perspectives as the years pass, and as we all know, this is a storytelling device I love. It is especially powerful here as you see marriage and relationship and emotion from multiple perspectives. This is just masterful and wonderful storytelling that I absolutely loved. Even through heartbreak and pain, it is so beautifully done.

Breathing Underwater by Sarah Allen is a middle-grade novel just overflowing with emotions in such a wonderful way. The story is about two sisters on a road trip with their aunt and uncle. Olivia has seen her sister Ruth navigate depression her whole life. She sees Ruth's depression is especially bad, and she wants to help. She devises a scavenger hunt to remind Ruth of good times. She hopes these moments will bring joy to her sister as they search for treasures that allow them to reminisce. This was an honest and emotional look at what it's like to navigate someone else's mental health struggles. It was told in a way that was accessible to the target audience, but also got someone many years past that audience in her feels. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this March 2021 release!

It's Not Supposed To Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst is a book I read back in March just as the pandemic was beginning. Back then, I listened on audiobook, but I purchased a physical book, so I could mark my favorite passages. I do prefer the audio version as the author reads it in a way that had me all up in my feels. This was a book I loved revisiting because so much of 2020 was nothing like it was supposed to be.

Outlawed by Anna North was such a unique read! I mean, y'all, it's a feminist spin on a western! Admittedly, I don't read a lot of westerns, AND I really dug this one! The Hole in the Wall Gang is a group of women who have been fled and/or been shunned by their communities. For some of these women, it's because they can't bear children which is an expectation of them as wives and/or allegations of witchcraft. The story focuses on Ada who finds her way to this gang led by The Kid, and the story is then told from her point of view. With her story, Ada explores the dynamics of the gang and the stories she's able to learn about some of its members. It's sad to hear how they've had to leave their homes, and it's also about how they were able to find a community. With this gang, there is a risky plan that develops to gain some power, and it creates some divisions. Again, this was such a different way to experience the west, and it also had the added dynamics of identity and relationships to add more layer and depth to the story being told. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this January 2021 release!

Onto the next ones!

Friday, December 4, 2020

Book Reviews - Couldn't Wait To Read!

Said simply, this was a quartet that I was so very excited to have in my life. I'm going to keep this introduction short because I just want to rave about these reads.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle is a re-read as I first listened to this back in April. I bought a physical copy of the book because I wanted to bookmark and be able to return to my favorite passages. This book is incredible, and I cannot recommend it enough. The authenticity and vulnerability and truth that fills these pages is just the greatest gift of a read.

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ana Friedman was a book I heard about on an episode of the Terrible, Thanks for Asking podcast. I haven't ever listened to their Call Your Girlfriend podcast, so everything in this one was new to me! This book focuses on adult friendships centered on the two co-authors' friendship. While they were hosting their podcast together, they realized their actual friendship was suffering. This book is then a reflection of how they got to that point. So often we explore and reflect on romantic relationships forgetting there is care and concern and work that we need to do with friendship as well. These authors bring such honesty to exploring what their friendship has looked like, and they have some powerful individual and collective reflections. With this, they also share overall information on the realities of adult friendship. I love that they have given a voice to this because adult friendship can be hard y'all!

Promised Land by Barack Obama was quite the undertaking of a read in the best way! When I put this book on hold long ago, I definitely didn't know how long this was! With this length, I appreciated the level of detail that meant this book was as long as it was! President Obama brings an honesty to this memoir that makes it an especially captivating read. Rather than doing quick recaps of the events of his presidency or skipping the stuff where he was critiqued or had regrets, he takes the time to reflect and explain situations from his perspective. This is truly a window into Obama's presidency AND him as a human. He talks about policy, but also his marriage, his family, and just him as a person to give a complete picture of what these years were like. This is the first of two volumes, and I will definitely keep reading. Also, while I did/always enjoy reading a physical book, given Obama narrates the audiobook, I think this would be an even better way to experience this memoir!

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline was a book I have been waiting to read since the literal moment this was announced. While I then wanted to race through, I also wanted it to last forever. It was so wonderful to be back in this world. This one picks up literally right where the first book leaves off. It is the aftermath of Wade's win, and he's navigating what this means. With this, new technologies are also revealed. As Wade is now in charge, he has to decide what direction he wants to go. I won't say too much because part of the excitement of reading is seeing what is revealed. I will say this does focus more on the moral and ethical considerations around technology. Wade has to grapple with some tough questions, and there is variance in how his friends feel about the choices before them. Once again, this one was peppered with eighties nostalgia - Some I knew, some I didn't, but I love this thread throughout. When I re-read this one (and my book club has talked about reading this, so I may get the chance), I will definitely go audiobook. I first entered the world of Ready Player One with Wil Wheaton as narrator, and I feel like I need to have the experience of this book with him leading me through. Go into this one knowing it's going to be different, and it can never be the first book, but it's still a captivating journey!

Onto the next ones!

Monday, November 23, 2020

Book Reviews - Old and New Friends

Oh, hey there. For this round, I was able to revisit some stuff that was repackaged in a new way, and I had the joy of finding my way to some new stuff. I'm pretty sure that's just what reading is, but you know, I have to banter here somehow. Anyway. . .

Fangirl: The Manga #1 by Sam Maggs was a delightful re-imagining of Rainbow Rowell's book that I just absolutely love. My only critique of this book is I definitely didn't realize this was the first of several volumes. I was so drawn into the revisiting that I was so bummed to realize this oversight. That said, this is my first manga EVER. This is a format that's been on my list to check out, and y'all, there was truly no better way to do that than through this story. This story is such a delight, and to find my way back to it through these illustrations was an extra special treat. For me, this manga kept the humor, joy and emotion that is Fangirl while also adding something new and fun. I'm ready (literally, y'all, can everything be out tomorrow?) for the rest of these volumes to be released!

Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself by Jill Biden was an honest and wonderful memoir by the former Second Lady/incoming First Lady. What I loved about this was that this was truly her story. Obviously, Joe (as in the president-elect) is part of this story, but this centered her. In telling this story, she was also honest. She talked about her childhood, her young adulthood (including her first marriage), her career, and the family and love she found her way to with Joe and the boys - and then their daughter. What shines through in this is her love of being an educator. She isn't just someone who teaches, but she loves her students and learning, and y'all, what a beautiful thing that is. I also loved her commitment to causes, especially the work she's doing around veterans. I also loved her honesty around faith. She and the Biden family have experienced incredible tragedy, and she talked authentically about what that has meant for them, and specifically for her heart. This was just a wonderful read about a human who I wanted to learn more about, and I was offered a huge window into her world!

The Gifts of Imperfection: 10th Anniversary Edition by Brene Brown was a book I just loved revisiting. I mean, who doesn't fangirl over the amazing work of Brene Brown. While this is the tenth anniversary edition, the original content is here because y'all, her work endures. However, what I also loved is the new introduction where she reflects on how she's grown as a human. She also shares how she reads books for learning and growth. I don't feel like I have a lot to say about Brene Brown because she's just, well, Brene Brown. If you haven't read this in a minute, this is worth the revisit. I needed to hear these words and re-anchor in these guideposts, especially in 2020.

Meet Me in Bombay by Jenny Ashcroft was an incredibly emotional historical fiction read. Y'all, this one was some kind of ride with my feels. The story begins in 1913. Maddy is in Bombay, and she meets Luke. He isn't who her family might expect her to fall in love with (and in fact, there are some other individuals that come into play with the plot), but she is absolutely swept away by him. Their love is deep and true, and they are so enamored by each other. As they are finding love, the world is in turmoil as World War I looms. This has a huge impact on Maddy and Luke, and the story then explores what this means. This is a story that drew me in, as I was rooting for Maddy and Luke. However, being drawn in meant I was emotionally captivated, and this one put me through some twists and turns with that journey. This is one that kept me reading as I rooted for love, but also had to wade through the challenges they found along the way. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this January 2021 release. This is definitely one to get on your list!

Onto the next ones!