Born a Crime

29780253by Trevor Noah
Nonfiction
5 of 5 stars

This is an incredible story that I couldn’t put down! Part history lesson, part autobiography, full of dry humor and even more grit.

Chronicling his childhood and teenage years in South Africa before his career on the comedy circuit, this is as much his mother’s story as his. A single woman raising a child with a white father during the final years of apartheid, her faith in Jesus was the only constant in a life spent hiding and running.

Noah holds nothing back–the darker stories of his upbringing and the racial tensions are only occasionally lightened with humor. The details of surviving through pirating music and DJ-ing parties are thrown together with his abusive stepfather, and continually searching for a group to belong to as a mixed race child. (Because even with everyone stringently categorized, he is alone). He examines all the aspects of white privilege as deftly as family dynamics and religion. Every chapter is riveting! This should be taught in high schools.

I’ll be recommending this to everyone! It presents the complexities of identity in a compelling, honest way with vivid language, the emotions bleeding through the carefully thought out anecdotes.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Born a Crime is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari – A study of how romance has changed in the last few decades, with plenty of humor! See my review here.
  • The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey –  This is an excellent illustration of the sacredness of life in any state or size and has similar insights into knowing and accepting yourself as you are. See my review here.
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler – A funny and inspiring autobiography about being a woman in comedy and television. I really enjoyed her perspective! See my review here.
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Warcross

29385546by Marie Lu
Science Fiction
5 of 5 stars

This book blew me away! Some stories are just FUN to read and this is one of them! It’s completely different from Lu’s last trilogy (which I loved) and I was sucked in the same way. I’ve never wanted to be a part of a sci-fi world before, but this one is as addictive as the virtual reality game at its heart!

Emika Chen has been a coder, hacker, and bounty hunter since her father died. Warcross is the biggest game in the world, and gambling on it is illegal, but commonplace. Emika hunts these gamblers for the police to pay her debts, but it hasn’t been going well. When she accidentally glitches herself into the Warcross tournament, she catches the eye of the game’s creator, Hideo Tanaka. He wants her to be his bounty hunter, because someone else has been expertly hacking Warcross, and he wants to catch them.

There’s a lot to explain about this world, Warcross, and the tournament, but Emika takes us through it all with ease, filling you in yet keeping her own secrets (good and bad) from you until she chooses to divulge them. Although Emika’s voice is very matter-of-fact, there are surprising emotional moments that punch you in the gut.

The pacing is perfect, and the reveals are satisfying. Each beat tugs your heart in just the right way, like a perfect popcorn / spy / adventure flick. Even the cover clicks into the story in the best way. It was an absolute pleasure to read and I can’t wait for the sequel!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Warcross is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Want by Cindy Pon – In the future, air pollution is so bad that the elite wear specially designed suits to protect their health, enabling them to live longer. Jason Zhou suspect Jin Corp, the maker of the suits, is manufacturing the pollution that makes their product necessary. He infiltrates Jin Corp, but falling for Daiyu, the CEO’s daughter, is not part of his plan to bring the company down. See my review here.
  • Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh – This debut explore futuristic Korea through the eyes of Jaewon, a soldier commissioned to guard a girl in a test program for people given superhuman abilities. Jaewon will have to guard his heart as well as Tera if he wants to succeed–but success means choosing to support a regime that goes against everything his parents fought for.

Race to the Bottom of the Sea

33799086by Lindsay Eagar
Children’s Lit
4 of 5 stars

I’ve been looking forward to her next book since Hour of the Bees, so I was so excited to get my hands on this! It’s completely different, but I enjoyed it and it showcased the same great writing and layered characters.

When Fidelia’s parents die in a submarine accident, her life falls apart. Her family, her future, her love of the ocean, her dreams of scientific discoveries, gone. Then she’s kidnapped by the devilish pirate Merrick the Monstrous to use her knowledge and inventions to help him find some lost treasure. Treasure that will easily outlast the gravely ill pirate. Fidelia isn’t sure about anything anymore, especially her ability to perfect her one failed invention–an underwater breathing device–but she has to find some answers fast if she ever wants to see her home again.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this story’s balance of grief, guilt, and humor, but there were quite a few aspects I enjoyed! Fidelia is a charming protagonist, a girl with a love for sharks, and a passion for science and invention. She is used to proving her worth to overcome her youth, and I liked how she awkwardly interacted with adults as she tries to grieve and grow into the person she’s meant to be. Merrick’s backstory is one filled with darkness and sympathy, and we are left to form our own thoughts on him, which I liked. The world is our world turned on its head (nine seas, different countries) during a time when exciting new discoveries are happening every week (circa the early 1900s). Fidelia’s determination to make her mark on the world is contagious and inspiring. The subject matter is heavy but dealt with as lightly as possible. In contrast to her debut novel, science is the magic here, making everything turn and come together and pushing Fidelia toward answers.

In short, I loved this! The threads of this story tie up nicely, but the bones of the book are strong enough to support that.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Race to the Bottom of the Sea is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary – After accidentally cursing her family during Obon, Saki Yamamoto has just three nights to undo it with the help (and mischief) of the spirits. See my review here.
  • Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt – When her sister disappears, Jules is left to wonder how to pick up the pieces of her old life, while a fox in the forest watches her, knowing it is meant to help the sad girl. See my review here.
  • The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell – When her mother is taken, Feo and her trio of half-domesticated half-wild wolves go on a journey to rescue her. See my review here.

The Sun and Her Flowers

35606560by Rupi Kaur
Poetry
5 of 5 stars

I have wanted more of her poetry since I read her first book, and this was exactly what I hoped for! Another heartfelt collection of inspiring poems about hurting, healing, and reaching out to others with your story. This book is broken into five parts: wilting, falling, rooting, rising, blooming.

It’s a journey that examines abusive relationships, femininity, and grappling with what it means to be a child of immigrants. These lovingly crafted pieces and illustrations hold nothing back, and I’m so grateful she has chosen to keep sharing her life with thousands of readers! I know I will be inspired by her work every time I read it. Everyone should have these small books on their shelf to turn to whenever you feel like you aren’t enough, so that you can hear the reminder that yes, you are.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Sun and Her Flowers is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur – This emotional journey is tragic, beautiful, hopeful, and inspiring. I’ll be reading this many, many times.  Highly recommend – these simplistic and raw verses can speak to anyone! See my review here.
  • The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace – A story of a girl finding the courage to love herself, and how that vanquished the witch and the dragons. See my review here.
  • The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey – Although it isn’t written in verse, this is an excellent illustration of the sacredness of life in any state or size and has similar insights into knowing and accepting yourself as you are. See my review here.

American Street

30256109by Ibi Zoboi
YA Contemporary / Magical Realism
4 of 5 stars

This cover grabbed me and the story inside is just as vibrant and layered.

Fabiola and her mother arrive in New Jersey from Haiti as they journey to join her aunt in Michigan. But her mother is detained, and Fabiola arrives in Detroit with their luggage to meet their family for the first time in years. She’s alone, adrift, and unsure what to make of her three cousins, Chantal, Donna and Pri. The American dream isn’t what she expected. Fabiola clings to her vodou faith as she tries to get her mother to Detroit and make a place for herself in a birth country she barely knows.

Young adult novels are full of insecure characters learning to find and use their voice. Fabiola was a refreshing new perspective! She is confident in herself and her faith. Her decisions revolve around how and when to use her voice, not finding it, and her self-assurance in the face of everything unknown is inspiring. She learns that the money sent to her and her mother over the years might not come from a legitimate source, and she has to face uncomfortable truths about her aunt’s business, her cousin’s boyfriend. What she chooses to do with this information and a curious detective that claims she can get Fabiola’s mother to Detroit could destroy her newfound extended family.

The complexity of family relationships and loyalty is explored in humorous and horrifying situations. Fabiola struggles to discern whether her spirit guides are opening doors or whether she’s seeing what she wants to see. All of the women in this story fight for their dreams despite everything that tries to claw their hopes out of their hearts. I highly recommend this!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, American Street is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – Starr is the only witness to her friend Khalil’s death, and her testimony could destroy her community or bring it together. See my review here.
  • Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quinetro – Gabi is caught between two worlds, trying to please her traditional Mexican American family, and trying to fit in at school. Both worlds give her nothing but stress: college apps, one best friend coming out to his religious family, her pregnant sister, her father’s drug habit, and her mother’s constant advice to lose weight. Finding her voice through poetry might be the only way she survives. See my review here.
  • When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – Lush prose that draws you into a small town filled with magic, secrets, and romance. Sam and Miel have been best friends their whole lives, but when the Bonner sisters decide they want the roses that grow from Miel’s wrists, protecting Miel could reveal all the secrets Sam and Miel have kept from each other and themselves. See my review here.
  • Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali – Janna is constantly balancing her family’s expectations with forming her own beliefs, which is complicated enough. But only Janna knows the dark secret of the golden Muslim boy in her community, and telling the truth could alienate her friends and family for good. See my review here.

Modern Romance

23453112by Aziz Ansari
Nonfiction
4 of 5 stars

This came highly recommended to me and I loved how in-depth it is! This is a funny but well-researched book on how dating and romance have changed in the age of the Internet, and I found myself fascinated. I grew up right in the middle of the transition–in high school, it was unusual to have your own cell phone. Then in college it was uncommon to have a smartphone. Now of course, they are omnipresent, and Aziz’s observations tended to line up with mine.

There are a lot of “rules” people almost instinctively observe (if you don’t have the instinct, you will fall in line pretty fast don’t worry) when it comes to response times, length of messages, punctuation / emojis and subtext that I had been taking for granted until I saw it laid out in bullet points. That quickly cleared up why communication is exhausting! When you add the hopes and fears of starting a romantic relationship, it’s mind-boggling in its intensity. I definitely share the fear of commitment to meeting up in person, but apparently the only cures for social anxiety or nerves is to just do it. Everyone else is just as nervous as you!

Basically, we’ll all be happier if we choose to live more in the real world than in the phone world, so it’s worth remembering that no matter how much fear you have of missing out on something online, the sure way to miss out is to ONLY be present online.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Modern Romance is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler – A funny and inspiring autobiography about being a woman in comedy and television. I really enjoyed her perspective! See my review here.
  • The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass – If you want an interesting contrast between the relationships we see in media and the relationships in your life, check this out. It’s all about what evokes emotions within us, and how we manipulate those emotions when we can pull all the strings. I feel like romance and friendship are both idolized on screen and in books and maybe Aziz’s book can help you pick apart why that is. See my review here.

What’s new this month

A few awesome reads to wrap up this year!

11/7 – The November Girl – by Lydia Kang33509082

On an island in Lake Superior a half-human half-elemental named Anda chooses to shelter runaway Hector. Anda is the daughter of the Lake, and the sailors that perish in her storms keep her island alive. Hector is fleeing violence, but Anda is not a safe harbor for humans despite her human heart. I love any story featuring magical beings born from nature and this sounds like an icy clandestine romance perfect for a cold winter night!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


3356687111/7 – The Speaker – by Traci Chee

This series comes highly recommended and I can’t wait to see where it goes! Sefia and Archer are on the run from the Guard and planning their next moves. As Sefia continues to decipher the Book’s secrets, Archer focuses on freeing boys from impressors. But as his need for battles and blood grows, Sefia fears she will no longer recognize him. If they want to avoid a war, they must subvert the Guards’ plans before it’s too late, but Sefia has a lot of mysteries to solve before they stand a chance. There’s a lot happening in this series and I’m sure many more puzzles to look forward to!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


11/14 – City of Brass – by  S.A. Chakraborty32718027

A con-woman named Nahri with healing abilities accidentally summons a djinn warrior who whisks her away to the mythical (very real) City of Brass where legends live and fierce court politics threaten both of their lives. Nahri must uncover what her connection is to this strange city before it’s too late. The inspiration and research behind creating this world reminds me of Alex Bracken’s attention to detail, so I’m sure this will be equally immersive! This debut sounds rich in world-building and mythology and I can’t wait to explore it!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


3156398211/14 – Whichwood – by Tahereh Mafi

This companion to last year’s Furthermore is set in the same whimsical, dangerous world of magic, color, and adventure. But Laylee has none of that: her job is to wash the bodies of the dead to prepare them for the afterlife. It is depressing, lonely work. She can barely remember earlier times with her father and happiness and laughter. That is going to change when some familiar strangers arrive and offer their friendship. I adored Furthermore and I’m so excited to return to this world with new characters!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

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