Saturday, August 29, 2020

Book Reviews - Four Kinds of Feels

Y'all, what a ride this quartet provided - literally four very different books that evoked four very different types of feels. Read on to learn more. . .

Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone was a fantastic middle grade read about the ridiculousness that are dress codes that unfairly target girls. I can even remember my own high school dress code from twenty years ago! That said, I'm glad there is a book girls can read that gives voice to how problematic these are. The story focuses on Molly. Molly has decided to start a podcast after Olivia is "dress coded." Olivia has to take her sweatshirt off and tie it around her waist. When she's asked to put it back on, she cannot because of something else that has happened. Due to this, their class trip is canceled as the deal with the administration was the class would get a special trip if no one was "dress coded" all year. Molly then connects with a number of other students who have had negative experiences with the dress code and spotlights them on the podcast. She and other students also look at another avenues to enact change. This was just such a smart and powerful story. It got real REAL about the damage these codes cause and how they impact girls. I love that there is a book for this age group about this important topic!

This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousins was a story about two people who'd always been connected. Quinn and Minnie (Cooper - yes, that's her real name) were born in the same hospital over New Years' Eve/Day. Minnie's name was actually supposed to be Quinn until Quinn's mother "stole" the name, so Minnie's mom had to go with something else. Minnie has heard this story for years, and it isn't until New Years' Eve 2019 that she finally meets Quinn. The story then progresses through "real time" with Quinn and Minnie, while also showing New Years' Eves and Days past. What the flashbacks reveal is there two stories have unknowingly intersected before, and it also shows where Minnie in particular has struggled with the day to the point she believes it's cursed. In real-time, Quinn and Minnie keep running into each other and build a relationship. I will say I could kind of guess how this was going to play out, BUT I still really enjoyed the journey getting to that point. Sometimes you need some love and predictability, and this so met that need for me. This was a delight of a read! Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this December 2020 release.

She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb is a book I've known about forever, but have not read until (obviously) now. I can even remember my mom buying this book when it was an Oprah's Book Club selection way back when. I do think it was a book best read by thirtysomething me. This is such an emotional journey with captivating writing. The story focuses on Dolores who goes through some stuff, then more stuff, and then even more stuff. Y'all therewas so much emotion and feels reading through this. I'm glad to have finally had the experience of reading this one even 28 years after its initial release.

Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom by Louis Sachar was such a throwback. I loved the Wayside School books as a kid, and I didn't even know there was a fourth in the series until my sister-in-law posted about it. To be honest, I probably should have re-read the others to reconnect with the source material, and I would recommend this for maximum enjoyment. However, it was still the same ol' Wayside shenanigans. It was ridiculousness and quirkiness, and it's just what made me as a kid love this series.

Onto the next ones!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Book Reviews - A Round of Feels

The Girls With No Names by Serena Burdick was kind of like the parts of Annie where she's in the orphanage, but there wasn't any music, and it was just really, really sad. The story focuses on two sisters Luella and Effie. One day Luella disappears. Effie suspects that Luella might have gone to the House of Mercy, a home for wayward girls in their neighborhood. So, Effie decides she's going to get admitted to the house to find and rescue her sister. Except here's the thing, she's not there. However, Effie cannot just leave the House. This is her new reality, and she must do the work expected of her. The environment of the House of Mercy is rough, and it was hard to read about this place that was offering anything but mercy. It was also hard to read about the anguish Effie's family felt as they tried to find her. This was a really, really heavy read. I knew this might be the case when I read the description, but it was also more feels than even that led on. Thanks to NetGalley for the look at this recent release. 

Happily Ever After and Everything In Between by Debbie Tung was another delightful comic set by this creator. I've read all three of her collections, and I just love everything about them. This one focuses on the realities of love and marriage. The beauty is in the way it spotlights the everyday love that is present in relationships. It spotlights the "lovey" stuff, but also the quirkiness and the laughs. These collections do such a fantastic job of giving voice/illustration to what life is like. There were so many of these vignettes where I nodded and chuckled as I read. These collections I turn to when I just need a smile, and yet again, this one hit the spot.

The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun King was spotlighted on a recent blog tour available here.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett was such a unique and captivating read. The story starts with twins - Desiree and Stella. As teenagers, they decide to run away from their small Louisiana hometown. With time, the sisters go different ways. The story then picks up years later. One sister has moved back to that small town with her black daughter, while the other sister is living a lie as everyone in her life believes she is white, including her husband and daughter. The story then goes through the years as these stories unexpectedly intersect. I'll be honest that this one started a little slow as I wasn't quite sure what I was reading, but once I was sucked in, I couldn't read fast enough! The story really built as it went, especially as the sisters' paths converged once more in ways I just did not see coming. This was such a wonderful story about identities - both the ones we have, the ones we choose, and of course, the ones we hide. This was also a story unlike any I'd read in such a great way. Also, I really, really wanted to know more. I was so drawn into their worlds that I wanted more of their lives, and I would love to know what's next! 

Onto the next ones!

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Blog Tour - The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

I'm excited to once again be hosting a blog tour stop. Today's stop is for The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim.

I went into this book not quite knowing what to expect. Was it more a mystery? Was it going to have some twists? Was it a drama? What is going to be full of secrets? The answer is it was a little bit of all of these things, and that's what made it work.

When Margot's mother won't return her calls, she begins to worry something isn't right. She drives to LA with her friend Miguel, and there she finds her mother is dead. The question is then of course, what happened? Margot feels there has to be more to the story, and she looks for answers.

In addition to Margot's present-day experience, there is the story of Mina's past. Margot never knew her father, and this backstory explores who that man was. In addition, the backstory is about when Mina first came to LA and what she left behind. The look into the past is really about who Mina was before she was Margot's mom. The reality is there were many secrets and stories Margot never knew. 

With the past and the present alternating, the story creeps closer to what the truth about Mina's death is. But more than that, it creeps toward an understanding of who Mina truly was. What I really liked about this is how it showed how much Mina hadn't told Margot. It was really about how much of her identity and story she had kept hidden. It was an interesting reflection to think about how we often have a "before" of who we are. Before we were in a relationship or have a family or start a new job and/or move somewhere new, we had another version of ourselves. We choose how that previous iteration of self is part of our new identity/experience, and this was a spotlight on what that looks like.

Y'all, this is a story full of feels. It is a daughter navigating tragedy, but it's also about a mother trying to find where she and her daughter fit into the world. It was an emotional ride for sure.

And as I often do, here's an excerpt to help you see more of this powerful story!

***

Margot's final conversation with her mother had seemed so uneventful, so ordinary—another choppy bilingual plod. Half-understandable. 

Business was slow again today. Even all the Korean businesses downtown are closing. 

What did you eat for dinner?

Everyone is going to Target now, the big stores. It costs the same and it's cleaner.

Margot imagined her brain like a fishing net with the loosest of weaves as she watched the Korean words swim through. She had tried to tighten the net before, but learning another language, especially her mother's tongue, frustrated her. Why didn't her mother learn to speak English?

But that last conversation was two weeks ago. And for the past few days, Margot had only one question on her mind: Why didn't her mother pick up the phone?

****

Since Margot and Miguel had left Portland, the rain had been relentless and wild. Through the windshield wipers and fogged glass, they only caught glimpses of fast food and gas stations, motels and billboards, premium outlets and "family fun centers." Margot’s hands were stiff from clenching the steering wheel. The rain had started an hour ago, right after they had made a pit stop in north Portland to see the famous 31-foot-tall Paul Bunyan sculpture with his cartoonish smile, red-and-white checkered shirt on his barrel chest, his hands resting on top of an upright axe.

Earlier that morning, Margot had stuffed a backpack and a duffel with a week's worth of clothes, picked up Miguel from his apartment with two large suitcases and three houseplants, and merged onto the freeway away from Seattle, driving Miguel down for his big move to Los Angeles. They'd stop in Daly City to spend the night at Miguel's family's house, which would take about ten hours to get to. At the start of the drive, Miguel had been lively, singing along to "Don't Stop Believing" and joking about all the men he would meet in LA. But now, almost four hours into the road trip, Miguel was silent with his forehead in his palm, taking deep breaths as if trying hard not to think about anything at all.

"Everything okay?" Margot asked.

"I'm just thinking about my parents."

"What about your parents?" Margot lowered her foot on the gas.

"Lying to them," he said.

"About why you're really moving down to LA?" The rain splashed down like a waterfall. Miguel had taken a job offer at an accounting firm in a location more conducive to his dreams of working in theatre. For the last two years, they had worked together at a nonprofit for people with disabilities. She was as an administrative assistant; he crunched numbers in finance. She would miss him, but she was happy for him, too. He would finally finish writing his play while honing his acting skills with classes at night. "The theatre classes? The plays that you write? The Grindr account?"

"About it all."

"Do you ever think about telling them?"

"All the time." He sighed. "But it's easier this way."

"Do you think they know?"

"Of course, they do. But..." He brushed his hand through his hair. "Sometimes, agreeing to the same lie is what makes a family family, Margot."

"Ha. Then what do you call people who agree to the same truth?"

"Uh, scientists?"

She laughed, having expected him to say friends. Gripping the wheel, she caught the sign for Salem.

"Do you need to use the bathroom?" she asked.

"I'm okay. We're gonna stop in Eugene, right?"

"Yeah, should be another hour or so."

"I'm kinda hungry." Rustling in his pack on the floor of the backseat, he found an apple, which he rubbed clean with the edge of his shirt. "Want a bite?"

"Not now, thanks."

His teeth crunched into the flesh, the scent cracking through the odor of wet floor mats and warm vents. Margot was struck by a memory of her mother's serene face—the downcast eyes above the high cheekbones, the relaxed mouth—as she peeled an apple with a paring knife, conjuring a continuous ribbon of skin. The resulting spiral held the shape of its former life. As a child, Margot would delicately hold this peel like a small animal in the palm of her hand, this proof that her mother could be a kind of magician, an artist who told an origin story through scraps—this is the skin of a fruit, this is its smell, this is its color.

"I hope the weather clears up soon," Miguel said, interrupting the memory. "It gets pretty narrow and windy for a while. There's a scary point right at the top of California where the road is just zigzagging while you're looking down cliffs. It's like a test to see if you can stay on the road."

"Oh, God,” Margot said. “Let's not talk about it anymore."

As she refocused on the rain-slicked road, the blurred lights, the yellow and white lines like yarn unspooling, Margot thought about her mother who hated driving on the freeway, her mother who no longer answered the phone. Where was her mother?

The windshield wipers squeaked, clearing sheets of rain.

"What about you?" Miguel asked. "Looking forward to seeing your mom? When did you see her last?"

Margot's stomach dropped. "Last Christmas," she said. "Actually, I've been trying to call her for the past few days to let her know, to let her know that we would be coming down." Gripping the wheel, she sighed. "I didn't really want to tell her because I wanted this to be a fun trip, but then I felt bad, so..."

"Is everything okay?"

"She hasn't been answering the phone."

"Hmm." He shifted in his seat. "Maybe her phone battery died?"

"It's a landline. Both landlines—at work and at home."

"Maybe she's on vacation?"

"She never goes on vacation." The windshield fogged, revealing smudges and streaks, past attempts to wipe it clean. She cranked up the air inside.

"Hasn't she ever wanted to go somewhere?"

"Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. I don't know why, but she's always wanted to go there."

"It's a big ol' crack in the ground, Margot. Why wouldn't she want to see it? It's God's crack."

"It's some kind of Korean immigrant rite of passage. National Parks, reasons to wear hats and khaki, stuff like that. It's like America America."

"I bet she's okay,” Miguel said. “Maybe she's just been busier than usual, right? We'll be there soon enough."

"You're probably right. I'll call her again when we stop."

A heaviness expanded inside her chest. She fidgeted with the radio dial but caught only static with an occasional glimpse of a commercial or radio announcer's voice.

Her mother was fine. They would all be fine.

With Miguel in LA, she'd have more reasons to visit now.

The road lay before them like a peel of fruit. The windshield wipers hacked away the rivers that fell from the sky.

Excerpted from The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim,
Copyright © 2020 by Nancy Jooyoun Kim Published by Park Row Books

***

About the Book

THE LAST STORY OF MINA LEE (on sale: September 1, 2020; Park Row Books; Hardcover; $27.99 US/ $34.99 CAN). opens when Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, doesn’t return her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, Los Angeles, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous and invisible strings that held together her single mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother.

Interwoven with Margot's present-day search is Mina's story of her first year in Los Angeles as she navigates the promises and perils of the American myth of reinvention. While she's barely earning a living by stocking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing Mina ever expects is to fall in love. But that love story sets in motion a series of events that have consequences for years to come, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death.



About the Author

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Nancy Jooyoun Kim is a graduate of UCLA and the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Guernica, The Rumpus, Electric Literature, Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s The Margins, The Offing, the blogs of Prairie Schooner and Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Her essay, “Love (or Live Cargo),” was performed for NPR/PRI’s Selected Shorts in 2017 with stories by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Phil Klay, and Etgar Keret. THE LAST STORY OF MINA LEE is her first novel.









Friday, August 21, 2020

Book Reviews - Reads Reimagined!

Y'all, what a round of reads! What I loved most about this quartet is that each of these reads was a topic, genre and/or a perspective that was a bit of a re-imagining. Each of these was so compelling, and I loved them. This is yet another one of those quartets where I absolutely loved and recommend each of the selections!

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman was phenomenal. There is no one who writes characters like Backman does. This one was such a unique premise, and it worked in such an incredible way. The book focuses on a botched bank robbery that intersects with a real estate showing. Fleeing the scene of the crime, the bank robber ends up at the showing and takes those who are at the showing hostage. This sounds like a total thriller, right? Plot Twist - It's not that at all! Instead this is a character-driven story that has both emotional and comedic spins. Part of what is shown during the hostage situation and investigation following is how the characters are connected. It is a truly fascinating web as their stories are literally woven together. Again, this was brilliantly done. While being the story of these strangers, there is also some great commentary on what it means to navigate life as an adult. I absolutely loved the journey that this one took me on. It was so, so, so very well done. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this September 2020 release. If you're a fan of Backman (or even if you're looking to see what the deserved hype is about), this is one you absolutely want to check out.

Beach Read by Emily Henry was an absolute delight of a read. I occasionally pick up a beach read, so this was actually not one of my "regular" genres, and I loved it. The story focuses on January and Augustus. After her father's death, January retreats to his beach house. While there, she realizes her neighbor is her former college rival. They are both now writers with January writing romance and Augustus writing literary fiction. As a continuation of their ongoing competition, they decide to swap genres for their latest projects, and things go from there! Throughout, secrets are revealed, obstacles are encountered, and Augustus and January explore their feelings towards each other and overall relationship. This is one that kept me reading as I wanted to know what was going to happen with the characters, but also with their projects. This was such a captivating story with compelling characters that had me drawn in throughout! 

Under the Black Hat: My Life in WWE and Beyond by Jim Ross was the continuation of J.R.'s recounting of where he's been in the wrestling industry focusing on 2000ish and beyond. What I appreciated about this one (which is not surprising given what I know of J.R.) was his candor and honesty throughout. He writes not just about what happened, but how he felt in those moments as well as what it feels like to reflect back on those days. There is a lot of this one that focuses on his dynamics with Vince McMahon and how he had to shift roles in the company. He did things because he knows and loves the wrestling business, but y'all, some of this stuff was an especially emotional read given the toxicity and actual harm involved. This is one I loved because J.R. is someone who has literally always had a connection to pro wrestling for me. I only wish there was more about what he's doing with AEW now! I'm hoping he continues his story because he writes and tells stories in such a captivating way just as he does when he calls matches!

Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron was a phenomenal retelling of Cinderella. Y'all it was so well done that I'm ready to adopt this story as the real deal. The story focuses on Sophia. As part of the ongoing legacy of Cinderella, all teenage girls are required to attend events to find suitors. Sophia is not interested in this arrangement, and she would much rather be with her best friend Erin. Sophia decides to take a risk and flee the event. During her escape, she runs into Constance. Constance is the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step-sisters. Constance reveals to Sophia that the true story is not the one that everyone has been told. With this reveal, Constance and Sophia join forces to reveal the truth and dismantle the oppressive power that's ruled the kingdom for over 200 years. Again, this was such brilliance. It's no small feat to re-imagine a fairy tale, and the way this one is done is just so, so darn good. 

Onto the next ones!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Some Days Are Just Hard.

So, truth be told, I never meant for this to be only a book blog. I thought I'd write some posts about life as well. In 2020, I have yet to write one post that was about me.

Since all of "this" began, I've been very mindful to not call anything a learning experience. For me, there are no lessons to be learned in all of this. Because, y'all, some days are just hard. 

Today is one of those days. 

I will spare you the list of reasons why today is that kind of day, but I'm a ball of anger and frustration and sadness and grief and anxiety and mess. 

I type that here because I'm letting today win. I'm naming that this isn't my day, and that's okay. It's really, really okay. Even though I really don't dig the feels I'm feeling today, it's okay because this is normal.

I'm not typing this to arrive at some lesson. There is no inspirational quote that digs me out of this. I'll say it again - Today. Is. A. Hard. Day.

Letting myself have bad days is hard. I want to fix, I want to filter, and I want to move forward. But there's a strange freedom in acknowledging I can't. 

Much of the last six months have been about giving myself grace. I've given myself grace that I don't have all the answers. I've reminded myself I am not in control. Honestly, much of my life has been a quest for control, for predictability, and for answers. It's how I best mismanage my anxiety! I would never have thought it would take a global pandemic to solidify these healthier practices in myself, but here we are.

Independent of all of "this" I'll be real that other hard things have happened in this time and space. While the big world has kept spinning, so have the happenings in my little world, and once again, that has meant hard days. 

Some days I cry for no particular reason, and others I cry because I am navigating some stuff - some really, really hard stuff. Yes, there are days I laugh, too, and days I find joy. I'm not sure what the ratios are, and I'm certainly not going to track, but all of these kind of days have happened.

As I was sitting here typing tonight, I thought about Angus. As in the mid-nineties teen comedy. I think about this scene a lot on hard days because I feel these feels. I share it with you now because a kid in a plum tuxedo being verbally and physically attacked by James Van Der Beek just gets me right now.


Naming hard days is a big step for me. In a world built on comparison, it's not always easy for me to be the one to paint the not so perfect picture of how I'm doing. I wanted today to better, but it wasn't. And I'll say it once more - That's okay. 

As I said, I didn't start this to arrive at any point. I just felt like putting out into my little universe that today was a hard day. The reality is tomorrow could be one, too. And if it is, I'll do my best to get through. Because if nothing else, I'm still here.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Book Reviews - Strong Leads and the Boys in the Band

Back with another round - as I always do. For this round, there were three books that had really strong main characters. Two of these were YA and one was a middle-grade. Honestly, I don't remember these books being so strong and real when I was a kid/teen. And even though I'm many years beyond the intended audience these days, I find I get so, so much from this genre. Oh, and I also read a book about boy bands because when I was an actual teen, that was my life. Well, let's be honest, that girl still very much lives inside of me. Now, let's talk books.


Running by Natalia Sylvester is a perfect "themed" read as election season is upon us. This is a wonderful story of a Cuban American teen finding her voice. Mariana's dad is running for president. As her father's campaign progresses, Mari begins to realize she might not agree with his political views and plans. What I loved about this was even though Mari couldn't yet vote, she was exploring issues in her community. She was also working through the dissonance of how she might disagree with someone she loves. Additionally, this was Mari figuring out how she wanted to be active and impact change. This was an amazing and important story centering an emerging and powerful woman. I loved reading about how Mari navigated not just being thrust into the spotlight with a campaign, but figuring out where she fit into the world.

The Black Kids by Christina Hammons Reed is a story about a black teen in LA in 1992. Ashley lives in a world full of privilege. Her parents have intentionally raised her in this way and area of the city. When the riots happen after the Rodney King verdict, Ashley begins to explore questions around her identity, as well as the relationships she has with friends and peers. I was in elementary school during this, so I honestly don't have a strong memory of what happened, so it was interesting to read a novel set in this time against this backdrop. Anyway, as the protests happen, Ashley begins to realize what she thought to be true is not. For all the work her family and she has done to "fit in" to the world of privilege, she is different. She starts to realize she is indeed a black kid, and she begins to learn what that means. It means some relationships aren't what she thought, and it means she has to figure out where she does have connection. This was such a captivating and emotional story. The characters were so authentically written, especially Ashley as the character who is centered in it all. While a fiction read, there was so, so much truth in this, and it is one that y'all absolutely need to read. Thanks to NetGalley for the look at this recent release!

Larger Than Life: A History of Boy Bands from NKOTB to BTS by Maria Sherman was always going to be my jam - Pun totally and completely intended. Y'all should know that I love boy bands. *NSYNC is my forever #1, and I continue to hold out hope for a reunion. I'd even take that reunion without JT. Anyway, this isn't about me. This book is for every human who ever loved a boy band. What I loved about this was that it covered my own #1, but I got the chance to learn about other bands. I found this especially interesting for the bands that have come after *NSYNC because I haven't had the chance to keep up. I knew much of the information about NKOTB (my first boy band love), BSB (which just kind of happened given when they were biggest), and obvs my guys, but the way it was all packaged together was just so wonderful. It was a definitive history, and I love the trips down memory lane, as well as the window into the experiences of other bands/fandoms. If you've been the one who had their walls plastered with posters, who knew more about the guys in the band than people you actually know in real life, and have spent all the money on merch/CDs/concerts, this book is clearly for you.

Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin focuses on an autistic boy named Jason. He knows he is living in a neurotypical world, and that can be hard for him. One place he finds he can connect and feel normal is the online site where he posts his stories. There he can just focus on writing, and there he finds connection with a girl with the username PhoenixBird. I loved that this was told through Jason's eyes throughout. He has an awareness of how he sees and feels differently, and he shares what that experience is like. Specifically, he shares his struggles as he seeks understanding, connection, and even normalcy. This was an emotional read at times because Jason wants so much to just fit in, find friends and belong. He knows what the barriers are to that, but that doesn't make him not still hope that can be his life one day. This was a middle-grade read with such heart. I found myself rooting for Jason so hard, and I loved the window into his world with all its ups and downs.

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Women Navigating All the Things

Each time, I read a quartet, I do really, really like to think of a theme to connect the quartet. This is really tricky because I just go where the pages take me. However, it's a good challenge each round, and I get excited when I am able to find that common thread. For this round, each of these books centered a woman. Each of these woman was navigating something, and each of those somethings was a lot. However, the journey they each went on was powerful and captivating. Read on!


Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore was a unique story built around time travel. At midnight on New Year's Eve, Oona will be turning 19. Midnight strikes in 1982, and Oona gets older - except she's significantly older. She's her 19 year old self, but she's been transported to New Years Day 32 years later where she is now 51. This then happens every year. She advances in order inside her body, but the outside experience is happening in non-sequential years. In each of these years, she has to figure out her relationships, her lifestyle, and who can help her figure out what the heck is going on. This also means understanding the impact of choices she's made. And through it all, she can't reveal she is a time traveller. This was such an intriguing premise as with Oona's birthday, you were surprised as the reader just as she was about where age was next. I'll be honest that I did have many logistical questions, but that's just who I am and not so much a critique of the book. I loved getting to know Oona through the literal years and piecing together her life alongside her!

Eat and Love Yourself by Sweeney Boo was a graphic novel with a message. It was suggested in a post by my local library, and I decided to pick it up! I'm so very glad I did. The story focuses on Mindy who struggles with body dysmorphia. She goes to get a snack at a convenience store one night and sees an Eat and Love Yourself bar. Intrigued by its message, she decides to buy it. Each time she takes a bite she's transported to a moment in time from her past. With that moment, it shows her how this impacted her feelings about her body. Y'all, these transports are powerful for her and for the reader. I loved how this was a novel that explored an important topic through a medium that's not often used for it. Mindy was given a superpower of sorts, but with that power, she also was given an opportunity for reflection and growth. This was a quick read, but also full of so many feels in its illustrations.

This Won't End Well by Camille Pagan was a coming of age story of sorts - except it was focused on an adult woman. Annie is a successful chemist who is fired due to her boss' deception. Additionally, her fiance Jon has gone off to Paris because he needs some space. With things she thought to be "for sure" Annie is now forced to figure out who she is. Along the way, she also befriends a neighbor and a private investigator. Throughout the story centers Annie's search for answers. In some aspects, she just wants things to go back to the way they were, but in others, she is wondering what more there is for her. For me, this was just a good character-driven story. I liked that Annie was an adult woman exploring these tough questions. Even as we get older, this is stuff we can grapple with, and I so appreciated there was a story to show that experience!

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson was an outstanding, amazing read. I have been continually amazed at the depth, beauty and power of middle-grade novels, and this was one of the most beautiful and powerful ones I've ever read. The story centers Jade, a black girl who has transferred to a predominantly white private school. As part of her scholarship to the school, she is assigned a mentor. Jade struggles with this program and her specific mentor. She questions the program, her mentor's connection, and overall just why this is a thing. It is powerful to see how she grapples with tough and valid questions through something that is touted as an opportunity. Additionally, Jade is navigating new friendships. With these, she is having to navigate her identities and how they are different from her new friends. This means some hard realizations and tough conversations. Y'all, this was an amazing story. I was so emotionally drawn in, and I appreciated its authenticity in exploring how Jade grew and found her voice. I am also hopeful there may be a continuation of Jade's story in the works? I was so captivated by her that I wanted to know more. Again, this is a middle-grade read, but readers of all ages should read this and will get so much from doing so!

Onto the next ones!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Book Reviews - What are my latest reads?

The answer is: These books.


Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann is a powerful piece on the tragedies that impacted the Osage tribe living in Oklahoma during the 1920s. I went into this book not knowing what to expect, and what I found is a true story that needed to be told and more people need to know. The Osage people (after being relocated from Kansas) find themselves on oil-rich land in Oklahoma. The land of the Osage is then "leased' by others so they can get the oil, and the Osage receive money from this. In the 1920s, several members of the tribe are murdered. It is widely suspected (and quite obviously) connected to their wealth. The local authorities do not do thorough investigations of what has happened to the indigenous members of the community. This where the FBI comes in to find answers because the murders are continuing. The book explores the work the FBI does to determine who is behind the continued tragedies. As I said, this book is so important to understand crimes against indigenous people. Already having been forced off their land, then being targeted for their land, and then finding no support in their pain is sad and infuriating, but again a story that needs to be told. Reading through, it's really important to remain grounded in the fact that this is a true story, as well as to acknowledge there is still violence against indigenous women occuring today.

The Kids Are Gonna Ask was a recent blog tour stop that you can check out here.

The Answer Is. . . by Alex Trebek was an absolutely wonderful memoir. I'm a long-time Jeopardy fan, and I love the wit that Alex has always brought to the show. This was his story, and what a wonderful story it was that was so true to who he is. What I really liked was that it wasn't just a chronological memior. Rather it kind of read like a collection of that banter he has with contestants on each show. Each story is so honest, and this book is again just overflowing with his trademark humor. In addition to the humor, he also is candid about the difficulties he's encountered, including his cancer diagnosis. Y'all I knew I was going to love this one, and as I read, I found my internal reading voice was Alex's which I anticipate other readers might find adds a little extra joy to the reading. I did not think I could love Alex more, but this book actually made that happen. If you're a Jeopardy watcher, this is absolutely a must read. 

The Art of Showing Up: How to be There for Yourself and Your People by Rachel Wilkerson Miller was an outstanding read. I checked it out from the library, but quickly realized I was finding so many good tips and ideas that I'm also going to purchase a copy for myself (Note: This will be from an indie bookstore!), so I can mark and return to all the good things that are throughout. Above all else what I loved about this was one was the intentionality of how it was structured. So often we jump to care and being there for others. This book starts with care for self. It doesn't just breeze through this either, rather it takes the time to ground everything in the individual. It works through this in a number of ways that are so helpful. The stuff for others is good, too, but I took so much for how it focused on me first. It also framed and offered considerations I haven't ever really given intentional space to considering and determining. As I read, I found myself nodding and reflecting and just loving so much of this one. I'm excited to own a copy of this, as I'm already ready to revisit and determine actionable steps!

Onto the next ones!

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Book Reviews - All the Feels (Again)


Well, hello there. I'm back with another quartet to share as I do. One note that won't impact things too terribly much is that in on my bookstagram (@clubbookmobile), I'm going to start sharing books as singles. However, I'm also going to keep up with quartets here and sharing on my personal page. We'll see how this goes. All things subject to change. And speaking of process, reading these gems was also a process in the best way. I learned through the experiences, and I felt so many feels. This is one of those quartet I love because I feel like people need to read all four!



Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West was a powerful piece on generational trauma. This type of trauma is something I've recently learned about and to further learn about through such an emotional read was powerful. The story begins with Ruby's mother being murdered. Her best friend Layla wants to be there for her as best she can, but she encounters some pushback on this from her father. This is particularly surprising given her father is a pastor. What then follows is an exploration of the stories and experiences that led everyone in the story to the place they now are. Some of this is told in the present, but the true power and revelations come in the stories from the past. Various narrators share their perspectives and pain. Of all the narrators, I actually found the most powerful one to be the physical church building. It was very much an "if these walls could talk" reveal, and there was much to reveal. This is an emotional story of the continued impact of secrets and trauma through relationships and years. Thanks to NetGalley for the look at this recent release!

So, You Want to Talk about Race? by Ijeoma Oluo is a book I'm working my way through with a volunteer team I serve on. I haven't read and learned in this way for awhile, and I've appreciated the opportunity to process and grow with a group. What I really gained from this book was the way it looked at different topics that are dimensions of the conversations about race. The book works through common questions and arguments then provides answers. With these answers, it explains complexities, statistics and lived experiences. Throughout, there is such an intentionality as she took the time to work through questions in multiple ways to further enhance understanding. Some of the ways she explained concepts I had not seen before, and they made so such sense! This book is outstanding and should be required reading for anyone wanting to learn about race. Also, this book isn't about how to always get it right, rather it's acknowledging sometimes you're going to get it wrong, and here's how to continue to do the work and have the conversation that matters. 

I Left the House Today by Cassandra Calin was an absolute delight of a comic collection. Y'all, I'm not sure how I've not known about this artist until now because I related so hard to so much of what she sketched. There was this comic about smudges on eyeglasses, and that is me every damn day! This was just one of those reads/looks that put a smile on my face. The humor was in the simplicity, relatability and honesty about everyday things. This one came into my life when I just needed happy packaged just like this, and I love, LOVE, LOVED it.

The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate was incredible in all the ways. I think I loved it even more because I now have a dog. This is the sequel to The One and Only Ivan, and just as that is told by a gorilla, this is told by a dog. Y'all, if a dog could write a book, this is absolutely the book he would write. It was a story just full of so much heart. I was drawn into this story, and again so much of that was because it was a dog telling his own story. It was truly the way he interpreted the world. I also loved that it gave some of his backstory, and that came into play at the end in a way that was just so, so wonderful. I could go on and on saying in all different ways that this is just the most amazing book. If you love dogs, and you just want to get all up in your feels, this is a book for humans of all ages to find their way to!

Onto the next ones!