Well Met Review

image2Title: Well Met
Author: Jen DeLuca
Genre: romance; contemporary; fiction; women’s fiction; chick lit *according to Goodreads* <– what does that even mean??
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

Review: 4 stars.  Well met, indeed! This book was as advertised. Jen DeLuca delivered a laugh out loud, fantastic romance with sweet little moments between sisters and friends throughout. A Boston girl lost, is found in a small town through the Faire of all things.

After the first line, I started tweeting about it — I tweeted through chapter 5, a preview of sorts — you can view those HERE — just because I kept laughing about things and wanted to document my experience as I was reading.

I didn’t just lol, like one does in a text. I actually laughed out loud at parts of this book. I found so much of it not only witty, but also hilarious. Like, there’s the wit between English teacher Simon and Emily, and the banter between them and their Faire personas is great. But then there’s the hilarity of Mitch and his Faire persona, Marcus. He’s just all muscle and heart.

The juxtaposition of Simon and Mitch is good, and well written. It’s not a love triangle. It’s not the typical anxiety driven, cringeworthy fight over the girl — although. They do actually physically fight over her — male centric triangle. It’s actually so much better.

All the characters lift each other up. They are a real small town. Like, the last small towny books and stories I read were Where the Crawdads Sing, and The Lottery. Not such good small town vibes in either. Like, they don’t always treat people the best in those stories, right? Spoiler for WtCS and TL, but like, people literally die in those small towns. But Willow Creek, like, owns it and wins.

April and Emily is a fun sister dynamic to read. They kind of learn sisterhood as the chapters progress. I’ve not read anything like that before, and I really liked it. I liked Emily’s dynamic with her niece too. Like with April, Emily has to learn how to be an aunt too. It’s fun to see her take on these roles.

When Simon fucks up, as all men in romance novels are wont to do, (trust me, they all do), DeLuca does something really, really good. In fact, I’d say she handles it better than any other romance writer I’ve ever read before. I love when Emily puts her foot down, and April backs her up. The bonds of sisterhood, no matter how new, are still strong.

This is a perfect summer read. I am eager to see what else comes from this author!

Be warned. You WILL go googling renaissance faires after. You will look for your local one, and you will try to get tickets if it’s close enough. Just saying.

Moxie Review

Title: Moxie
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Genre: contemporary; feminism; ya; realistic fiction
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Moxie girls fight back!Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Review: 4 Stars. I read this book on the heels of Samira Ahmed’s Internment. (You can read that review HERE). To say Moxie was a departure from that would be a gross understatement. However, this book was fun and a delight to read. Vivian was a strong and caring and carried the book the whole way through. She was a three dimensional character and really well written by author, Mathieu. She was nerdy and unsure, but strong and caring when she saw others needed her to be so.

Inspired by her mother’s glory days, she creates a zine for her school to empower the girls to fight back against the patriarchal structures in place that hold them back.

What I like is that Mathieu brings up events that are relevant for all girls in all high schools. Dress codes, rape culture, inappropriate groping, lack of administrative support… these are all things girls face in countless high schools.

What’s more, these girls, through their collective coming together because of the zine get actual results. It’s really cool.

The boyfriend character is interesting. He keeps doing this “not all guys” thing and I think I get that he’s trying to learn, and Mathieu is trying to make a point, but his repetitive “I’m not those guys, I’m sensitive, look at me, I get it, you’re cool,” schtick didn’t really sit well with me. I’m wondering if she did this to point out how annoying it is, but the fact that Viv and he stay together in the end makes it all the worse. Like, sure, he’s trying, and sure, he’s quasi-supportive, but like… just because he’s the first guy that ever showed interest in her doesn’t mean she has to stay with him and teach him how to be “not all guys.”

I don’t think it was Vivian’s job to teach him how to be a decent guy. It’s not her job to teach him to shut up and just listen. It’s not her job to realize that girls who say the administration tried to cover up a rape or attempted rape aren’t lying.

/rant
Either way, this book was GOOD. Really good. That boyfriend piece is really just a small part of the plot and the rest of it is really female empowerment centered. The female friendships are strong and the driving force of Vivian’s kickstarting Moxie in the first place. The girls in this high school stand proud and tall together, even when they aren’t sure how to do so, and it’s really remarkable. This book is inspiring. And quick. It was fast paced, fun, well-written, and going in my classroom library.

Moxie girls fight back!

Internment Review

image1Title: Internment
Author: Samira Ahmed
Genre: contemporary; ya; science fiction; dystopian
Synopsis: Rebellions are built on hope.
Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.
With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.
Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.

Review: 5 Stars. Internment was exactly as described. Chilling. It was haunting and hard to read, and yet, I couldn’t put it down. I was transfixed by Layla’s horrible reality in our too-close future. Ahmed writes that it’s fifteen minutes into the future of America and it did indeed feel that way.

My heart was in my throat as I turned each page, hoping for a decent ending for the people in Mobius. Not a happy ending, because there could be no happy ending for this book, I knew that for certain.

This book was HARD. I hated every single thing this book made me witness. Every single horror I had to be complicit in, almost. You know? Like… it made me think about what I would do after the 2020 census, if things played out like they did in the book. It makes me wonder if I’m doing enough now. People are literally in cages at the border right now.

Samira Ahmed wrote this book in response to the 2018 refugees being taken from their children (see Author’s Note). Layla and her family were in a liberal town, in a liberal state, and her neighbors, her friends, they just let them get captured and taken and stamped with a permanent barcode, and put in an internment camp.

Where there are unspeakable horrors and atrocities, there is Hope. Layla and the people of Mobius do the unthinkable in the face of the unknown, because the fear helps them focus on the end goal. Her bravery and her endless faith was inspirational.

This is the type of book that makes you think about what side of history you need to be on. It reminded me of The Hate U Give (see my review for that one HERE), of Night by Elie Wiesel.

It was painful and hard, but necessary to read it. It wasn’t my usual book, but I needed to read it, especially right now. Ahmed’s use of timely political rhetoric, unfortunate and unpresidential rhetoric, and current events makes this book a must read in this day and age.

The Author’s Note is something I want to make copies of and read with all of my classes. Often I tell my classes that if we don’t read our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Ahmed writes that we look back to our history to use its rhetoric for instances like this.

As hard, horrifying, and raw as Internment was to read… it was worth it. I would recommend this book to everyone.

The Poet X Review

THE-POET-X-e1542251351500Title: The Poet X
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Genre: poetry; ya; contemporary; fiction
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Review: 5 Stars. Have you ever read a book and literally read every single word? And focus on every single word? Maybe you have, but I haven’t. I read really fast, I mean, fast, and so I go through words like… Pop Rocks. You don’t just eat one Pop Rocks piece at a time, you pour the package into your mouth and get the experience that way. I take in full sentences like that, not word over word, but full sentences at a glance.

It’s really hard to explain. I understand everything I read, with amazing clarity but I’ve never focused in, really looked at the words used in every single sentence in a book until The Poet X.

Of course I’ve analyzed literature and poetry for school work, and I read words out loud of course, but if I think about words on the page, The Poet X, made me think about the economy of words, and the precision with which to use them.

The whole book is poetry, told in narrative, about Xiomara, a Dominican girl growing up in a strict home, trying to find her voice. She uses this book as her journal so readers gain insight to her as she writes her feelings down about her family, religion, growing up, boys, and poetry.

Acevedo has a powerful way of expressing the thoughts and feelings of a girl growing up in a stifling home. Of a girl growing up in a body she has no control over. She’s got so many powerful poems in this book.

My favorite is “Unhide-able” because Xiomara is trying to come to terms with her body in a house that wants her to cover up her body, in a neighbor that wants to catcall her body, in a generation that wants to speak out about her body and the jealousy that comes along with it. She writes:

“I am I unhide-able.

Taller than even my father, with what Mami has always said / was “a little too much body for such a young girl.” / I am the baby fat that settles into D cups and swinging hips / so that the boys who called me a whale in middle school / now ask me to send them pictures of myself in a thong.

The other girls call me conceited. Ho. Thot. Fast. / When your body takes up more room then your voice / you are always the target of well-aimed rumors, / which is why I let my knuckles talk for me. / Which is why I learned to shrug when I name was replaced by insults.

I’ve forced my skin just as thick as I am” (7).

So many women go through this same thing. So many teenagers and women alike just have to take this kind of criticism and this kind of rumor gossip mill stuff and Xio captures it perfectly here in this one poem. Xio learns to shrug the gossip off, like many of us do, but at 16 — what kind of message is she internalizing?

At the climax of the book, Xio writes, “The world is almost peaceful / when you stop trying / to understand it” (223). It’s so powerful, right? Acevedo has such a gift for language. If you’ve never heard any of her actual spoken word, please do yourself a favor and go (HERE) now. She’s so amazing.

The story Acevedo weaves through her poetry is one about self acceptance more than anything but it takes a huge family detonation to come about. That hit home for me. I think it does for a lot of people. It’s so relatable and honest. It’s hard to find out what we’re meant to be when we aren’t allowed to be ourselves, right? I think Acevedo captures that so well in this book.

Do yourselves a favor. Get this book. Binge it. You’ll thank me.

 

** I don’t have any affliation with Barnes and Noble, buy it anywhere you want, just buy it.

I Thought it was Just Me Review

51Nu-VjkudLTitle: I Thought it was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough.”
Author: Brene Brown
Genre: nonfiction; self-help; psychology; feminism;
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Shame manifests itself in many ways. Addiction, perfectionism, fear and blame are just a few of the outward signs that Dr. Brené Brown discovered in her 6-year study of shame’s effects on women. While shame is generally thought of as an emotion sequestered in the shadows of our psyches, I Thought It Was Just Me demonstrates the ways in which it is actually present in the most mundane and visible aspects of our lives—from our mental and physical health and body image to our relationships with our partners, our kids, our friends, our money, and our work.

After talking to hundreds of women and therapists, Dr. Brown is able to illuminate the myriad shaming influences that dominate our culture and explain why we are all vulnerable to shame. We live in a culture that tells us we must reject our bodies, reject our authentic stories, and ultimately reject our true selves in order to fit in and be accepted.

Outlining an empowering new approach that dispels judgment and awakens us to the genuine acceptance of ourselves and others, I Thought It Was Just Me begins a crucial new dialogue of hope. Through potent personal narratives and examples from real women, Brown identifies and explains four key elements that allow women to transform their shame into courage, compassion and connection. Shame is a dark and sad place in which to live a life, keeping us from connecting fully to our loved ones and being the women we were meant to be. But learning how to understand shame’s influence and move through it toward full acceptance of ourselves and others takes away much of shame’s power to harm.

It’s not just you, you’re not alone, and if you fight the daily battle of feeling like you are—somehow—just not “enough,” you owe it to yourself to read this book and discover your infinite possibilities as a human being.

Review: In 2016, I found a TEDtalk about being vulnerable by Brene Brown and I used it in my classroom for a PBL Project on character development. In it, she says, “Courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” And it’s something I’ve never forgotten. But I thought that Brene Brown was just a researcher who did that one totally transformative TEDtalk and then disappeared back into her research lab.

I use that talk with my classes and I use that quote daily. It’s the header on my class website, it’s how I try to go into the world, it’s how I try to teach.

Then I had an extra Audible credit and needed to use it. (I don’t really use Audible as much as I should, FYI, there are so so so many good choices out there right now.) And then a familiar name popped up Brene Brown. I clicked purchase and started listening.

It’s almost 11 hours of content was just as transformative as her TEDtalk. She talks about guilt and shame and how they’re different. But most importantly, she does this for women. How these things apply specifically for and to women. In the work place, in the home, in relationships (all kinds of relationships too, sisters, mothers, husbands).

She provides readers with terms and definitions, with scenarios, and with questions you can ask yourself and journaling prompts so you can go through things at your own pace.

I bought the physical book too. I wanted to go deeper into some of the things she talked about with my therapist. Some of the things she talked about hit different for me. Like, they made me think about my own situation differently and I wanted to take specific passages into sessions so that we could work through them.

This book really is titled perfectly.

Everyone thinks they’re alone in shame.

They aren’t.

The Education of Margot Sanchez Review

image1Title: The Education of Margot Sanchez
Author: Lilliam Rivera
Genre: ya; fiction; contemporary; realistic; own voices
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:
Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot
Sánchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moisés—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

Review: The Education of Margot Sanchez was pretty dang cool okay. It starts out with this bratty little girl who thinks she’s too good for all these BS family “the more you know” teachable moments, but then she gets educated in multiple ways.

She makes all these lists of all the things she thinks she knows or hates in the moment, but as she goes along through her journey, these lists evolve right along side her.

Margot’s real journey begins because she’s trying to follow advice from her mother. She’s reminded of her mother’s own struggles coming to the US from Puerto Rico when she begins her high school career at a fancy rich private school. She’s immediately an outsider and she does everything to change herself— changes her physical appearance and her personality.

I tend to shy away from stories like this because they irk me. I hate female characters who do this, but because the author writes in this part of Margot’s backstory as her justification instead of me having to read her going through it in the present, I could buckle down and get through it. For a long time, Margot sees no issue in this— which is part of her education.

I love the way Lilliam Rivera writes Margot in this book. It feels authentic. She doesn’t automatically learn her lesson the first time. If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you know I love a character that falls down a lot. I think any real reader does. I don’t like the character that does everything right. Who can like a character like that?

Rivera’s Margot reminds me a lot of Zoraida Cordova’s Alex in Labryinth Lost. (You can check out my review for that book HERE.) She’s a bit on the whiny annoying bratty teenager side, but it so fits her character. She doesn’t get it right or do the right thing every time. She’s real. And so are her relationships and friendships.

I like the way the author brings out the real world issues just as clearly as she brings up the more intimate family and cultural issues. Gentrification comes up right along side machismo and gender roles. Rivera makes it clear in her text that YA readers can handle these mature topics just as easily as they can handle school yard crushes, fitting in, and broken hearts.

 

Spotlight: Policy of Truth

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Synopsis: (from Amazon) Five years ago, Tamra “Durty” Simon’s life was falling apart, and she had a one-way ticket to six-feet under. And if it hadn’t been for the Death’s Angels Motorcycle Club swooping in, dusting her off, and transforming her into the badass biker she is today, she’d be taking a dirt nap. Now, she has everything she ever wanted–or so she thought.

Brett “Sting” Jackson is on a mission, and nothing is going to stop him–not even the sexy, enticing female biker who makes him hard with a single look. Too bad he’s lying and keeping secrets from her. But the alternative could get her killed, and that’s not a risk he’s willing to take.

It took Sting crashing into her life to make Durty realize there’s something else in this world she wants to ride as hard as her bike–too bad fate has other plans for them. When a rival club makes a move against the Angels, all hell breaks loose. Lives will be lost, secrets will be revealed, and lies will be exposed. Because in the motorcycle world, lies may get you hurt, but the truth can get you killed.

Available on February 22, 2019

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Don’t want to wait? Check out a Rafflecopter giveaway for Policy of Truth.

You can connect with author, Scarlett Holloway, via social media here:

 

Don’t miss the last stop on the Blog Tour:
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