REVIEW: A BURNING by MEGHA MAJUMDAR

What a debut! This book packed a seriously powerful punch in such a short amount of time. While this is not the genre that I am typically drawn to, I really enjoyed this read.

What made this book unique was the very different voices of the three POV’s. If I ever had to set the book down mid chapter, I very easily knew which character I was reading when I came back to the book. Their tones and personalities were easily perceptible through the writing, making this book about a heavy subject very readable and engaging.

An author that can really move me in just at 300 pages is a winner. I look forward to more from Megha Majumdar.

REVIEW: ONE TO WATCH by KATE STAYMAN-LONDON

Click here to read the book description on The StoryGraph and here to read the description on Goodreads!

Disclaimer: while this is book I am holding is from Book of the Month, I no longer support the company and have unsubscribed from their services.

Sometimes I escape into reality television when I need mindless humor and a good laugh. My life is pretty low key, low drama, not a whole whole lot going on…so I consume my drama on tv, then go back to my stay at home mom life of wiping butts and noses.

This book filled that same void that reality TV craziness fills, but with a sweet story to go along with it. This debut from Stayman-London kept me engaged, had me laughing, and filled my heart.

You know I love to keep my reviews as short as possible, so here is a pro/con list of what I loved/didn’t love about the book!

PROS:
➡️ A likable, believable main character! Bea had soul, wit, and charm.
➡️ Unique storyline – I don’t think I’ve ever seen reality tv basically written into a novel.
➡️ Engaging prose – I never felt bored and was totally able to get absorbed in the story!
➡️ Perfect level of romance cheesiness – and closed door! I love love stories but don’t like graphic sexual content, so I was happy this one kept the steam level low.

CONS:
➡️ In the beginning of the book, there were too many characters (which makes sense, since the lead was dating 25 suitors a la The Bachelor) and it made it hard to follow.
➡️ The ending was a bit inconclusive (don’t want to spoil it, but I would’ve loved another chapter)!

Content warnings:
Cheating/infidelity
Excessive body shaming
Internet bullying/cyber threats
Mention of rape
Parental abandonment

Overall: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

REVIEW: DEAR JUSTYCE (DEAR MARTIN, #2) by NIC STONE

Click here to read the book synopsis on Goodreads and here to read it on The StoryGraph.

When people ask me, “Do you like standalone novels or series more?” I always say standalone. I am not one to read sequels very often. My experience in the past has always been that the sequel pretty much never lives up to the first book. Nic Stone may have just changed my opinion with Dear Justyce. I read this book in one sitting and gave it 5 stars – the 6th book (out of 47) I’ve awarded 5 stars to this year.

The book can stand on its own without reading Dear Martin first, but I do think you will get more out of the story if you read them sequentially.

I loved Dear Martin – it opened my eyes to so many things by telling the story of a Black, middle class teenager that just wanted to do things right in life, but still kept getting a raw deal because of the color of his skin. But in Dear Justyce, we get an inside look at what life is like for a Black teen that isn’t given the opportunities that the main character in Dear Martin was given.

This book takes place immediately after Dear Martin and brings back some of the same main characters, but it gives us the unique perspective of a kid thrown into the juvenile detention system. The main character, Quan, details his life in jail and describes how differently the outcome is for kids based off the color of their skin. This is a story that needs to be read by all.

Click here to find a Black owned bookstore to preorder Dear Justyce! Current publishing date is set for September 29, 2020!

Adjectives to describe this book (arranged alphabetically):
Absorbing
Action packed
Bold
Compelling
Emotionally charged
Fast-paced
Gripping
Layered
Moving
Relevant
Suspenseful
Thought-provoking

Content warnings:
Brief description of a panic attack
Cancer
Death of a stepparent
Descriptions of sleep paralysis
Gangs
Graphic language (R rated, the F word and N word are used)
Juvenile imprisonment
Parental abandonment
Parental arrest/imprisonment
Police brutality
PTSD
Racism
Spousal abuse
Usage of the N word

REVIEW: DEAR MARTIN by NIC STONE

If you want to read the synopsis of the book on The StoryGraph or Goodreads, please click the links!

I picked up this book on a whim in the clearance section of Half Price Books nearly 6 months ago, and now that I’ve read it, I want to sing its praises from the rooftops. I want to shove a copy of it into the hands of everyone I know and say YOU NEED TO READ THIS.

Continuing with my desire to keep my book reviews brief and to the point, here are some adjectives I would use to describe this story (in alphabetical order):
Emotional
Engaging
Gripping
Heart wrenching
Poignant
Powerful
Riveting

This story is one that will stick with me forever. The truths in it are conveyed in a way that resonated with me so uniquely, so intensely, and opened my eyes to my world of privilege. Thank you, Nic Stone, for this masterpiece.

Content warnings:
Death of a friend
Graphic language
Misogyny
Police brutality
Racism and racial profiling
Violence

Breaking Up with Goodreads and Getting Together With the StoryGraph

If you follow my Instagram, then you have likely seen me complain about Goodreads in the past. As an avid reader that wants to connect with other book lovers in every way that I can, I really like the idea of Goodreads. It’s one place to keep all of my book information, to read a lot of reviews, and to connect with other readers. This post is not to bash Goodreads by any means, but to talk about a product that does all of the same things, but better – The StoryGraph.

Now, let me tell you 6 reasons why I love it.

1. You can import your Goodreads library.
You do not lose your stats or have to go back and manually enter everything you’ve ever read! It is easy and fast!

2. The “Find A Book” Feature
If you visit The StoryGraph, on the first page you will see a feature called “Find a Book.” Below is a demonstration of how this works.

This is a GAME CHANGER for mood readers. Not only can you search the entire database on The StoryGraph, but you can filter it by books that you own and don’t own.

3. The Review Feature
Obviously you can review books on Goodreads – that is one of the best features of the site. But The StoryGraph takes it a step further and asks all readers the same general questions about every book. These questions answered by readers create the blurbs shown for each book – including the pace of the book and some adjectives describing it.

You can also rate books with quarter stars! So no more rounding a 3.5 star book up to 4 stars just to be fair (something I hate doing because I want to be as straightforward and honest as possible with my reviews).

4. The Actual Graphs
I know people who make their own graphs about their reading every year on an Excel sheet. It’s time consuming and requires a lot of labor. What if I told you that a lot of these can be created FOR YOU? The StoryGraph has actual graphs that breaks down what you are reading – and you don’t have to do a thing to get them there.

5. Reading Challenges!
You can participate in them! You can track them! You can MAKE YOUR OWN! And they are all compiled into one handy little page.

6. The DNF (Did Not Finish) Button
This right here, folks, is what takes the cake for me – this is the MAIN THING that Goodreads is missing. Have you ever picked up a book and started it, thought, “This seems familiar…” then realized that it was a book that you put down in the past? This has happened to me – and Goodreads has no way to combat it. There’s no way to track the books you did not finish without counting them into your “read” total for the year. The StoryGraph remedies that with a handy little DNF button, then offers you the ability to put in why you put it down so you can jog your memory down the road if need be.

Are your ears perked up? Are you curious to join The StoryGraph? The great news is that the product is free and available to the public right now in beta mode! CLICK HERE TO JOIN! And don’t forget to follow The StoryGraph on Instagram – the creator, Nadia, is an absolute gem and wants all of your feedback on everything. She will respond to your direct messages and help you iron out any issues you may run into as you explore her new creation!

REVIEW: YOUNG JANE YOUNG by GABRIELLE ZEVIN

Adjectives to describe this novel (and why I chose them) :

Quirky – both the characters and their banter made this story both lighthearted and full of life.

Comical – I found myself laughing out loud as I read it! The narrators each had their own tone/voice and all gave me something to laugh about.

Witty – Zevin proved again in this novel that she can write intelligent, well spoken characters of all ages. The characters in this story were no exception.

Exuberant – the story jumped off the pages and into my mind with a pep in its step.

Charming – I could not help but root for the characters as I went throughout the book. Even several of the ones that started out questionable ended up being lovable.

Vibrant – this book was full of color and character. I never felt bored and loved every second from cover to cover.

Sarcastic – I wish I could meet the author in real life to see if she is anything like her characters, but each of them came with their own level of sass and cynicism that I very much appreciated.

This book surprised me in so many ways and the last section evoked surprising emotions in my soul. While the comedy is front and center for a lot of the book, is is a great coming of age story that I will remember for a long time.

My New Kindle Oasis – a Review

It felt like the wait of the century.

It all started in the beginning of April. I just learned how to load library books on my beloved Kindle Paperwhite that I got for Mother’s Day 2018 and found myself reading on it EVERY SINGLE DAY AND NIGHT. I loved it so much and it brought me new titles during a pandemic when I couldn’t leave my house.

Then, one night when I went to plug it back in…it wouldn’t charge.

I tried a new cord. A new cord in a different outlet. I tried twisting and turning it every which way. I tried ALL OF THE THINGS and could only get it to charge in a very specific position for short increments of time. My very smart and kind engineer husband told me that eventually it probably wouldn’t charge anymore, and that I should get a new one for Mother’s Day. Then, a friend told me that Amazon had a deal at the time where you could trade in your old kindle, potentially get some money back for it, and then get 20 % off a new one. So I jumped at the chance and the savings.

I packed up my beloved Kindle Paperwhite with some bubble wrap and a few tears and sent it off to Amazon. I checked the status of the return like a crazy person. Multiple times a day. When I woke up at 4am one night for a middle of the night nursing session and had an email that I received a $25 credit for my returned Paperwhite and 20% off a new e-reader, I immediately ordered the 8GB Kindle Oasis.

After a lot of delays, stress, and wondering if it would ever show up (lovingly nicknamed Kindlegate), I finally received it on Saturday, May 16, at approximately 4PM. You can SEE the joy on my face. Just look at that smile!

The anticipation was killing me!
Out of the box and ready for love!

I powered it up and immediately knew I needed a case for it. It felt so delicate in my hands – thin, sleek, and beautiful. I wanted something waterproof since I have a tendency to get everything soaked (mom life) and found this case on Amazon for a reasonable price. My husband wanted me to get leather, but I DO WHAT I WANT!

I named her Tine-y (pronounced Teen-y) since it was my favorite purchase during quaranTINE.

Now that you’ve read the saga, here are the things I LOVE about my new kindle:

❤️ I love the buttons. Plain and simple. It’s so much more convenient than swiping! I don’t have to move my hand to change the page which really enhances the experience – one handed reading is a necessity for me as a nursing mama.
❤️ The screen feels much smoother than the paperwhite did. It’s hard to explain, but it feels higher quality and the words look clearer and sharper.
❤️ The warm light is excellent and easy on the eyes.
❤️ The text rotates based off which hand I am holding the sidebar with – an excellent feature for a leftie that often rotates which hand I am holding it with!
❤️ The light on it can be set to automatically adjust based off room brightness, just like a smartphone. It saves me from having to frantically dim it when the room is dark and I don’t want to disturb my sleeping husband.

And the cons (because everything has at least one)!

👎🏻 The device doesn’t lay flat. I did however get a case for it that, when I open it and flip the front around to the back, fixes this issue.
👎🏻 Without the case it feels SO thin when holding it that it is almost uncomfortable on the hands. Both of my main cons were solved with a simple case!
👎🏻 The price. The Kindle Paperwhite is a much more attainable price point with a lot of similar features. Luckily I had the 20% off and $25 credit that made the Oasis a bit more attainable – I saved about $70 that way on the 8GB without special offers.

OVERALL:

I am very happy with my decision to upgrade to the Oasis. I am hopeful that Tine-y will be with me for a very, very long time!

REVIEW: MY DARK VANESSA by KATE ELIZABETH RUSSELL

Click here to read the book synopsis on Goodreads.

This review took way longer than the average review takes me to write. I actually considered not reviewing it at all because I know how upsetting the content of this book will feel to many readers. But as I sat on it a little more, I decided to write a very careful review.

To start out, I want to talk about the content of this book – the storyline, and why it may trigger people. This dual timeline narrated by our main character Vanessa Wye covers years in high school and some time in her early/mid 20’s. In her high school time, we learn about her ongoing “relationship” with an adult male teacher. The descriptions of grooming, manipulation, sexual assault/rape (disguised by the perp as “love”) will upset many readers. Anyone who has experienced these things in their life should likely NOT pick up this book – it will absolutely be triggering and won’t be helpful.

Now, to move onto the writing and the story itself. I read this book partly on audio and partly as a hard copy, and the audio kept my attention in a way no other fiction audiobook ever has. This book was nothing short of captivating. Kate Elizabeth Russell somehow managed to pull off one of the most difficult feats a writer can attempt – capturing the trauma of a very difficult subject while still compelling the reader to keep moving forward to find out what happens. I never felt like the story lulled. I put down the book at the end of reach reading session wishing that I could keep going. I felt like I needed to take 150 showers as I went because the subject matter was so heavy/dirty (I cannot think of a better word for the life of me) but I also didn’t want to stop reading it.

If you are interested in this book, proceed with caution. Know that it may feel heavy and disheartening, but that it captured something that absolutely happens in our world. As a parent, I felt like I needed to read this to better understand how to talk to my children about the reality of this matter. And I hope that the real life Vanessa’s bring their Mr. Strane’s to justice.

Content warnings:

Addiction
Alcohol abuse
Body shaming
Child abuse (sexual)
Death of a dog
Drowning
Emotional abuse
Gaslighting
Graphic language
Graphic sexual content
Grooming
Narcissism
Pedophilia
Repeated Sexual Assault
Suicide

TRIGGER WARNINGS: WHAT WE NEED IN BOOK REVIEWS

One of the personal goals I made for myself in 2020 included writing at least a one sentence review of every book that I read and to share it on Goodreads. So far, so good, and from it, another goal evolved: adding trigger warnings to book reviews so that other readers receive a fair warning about potentially hurtful topics before reading a book.

I am the first to admit that I am not a very sensitive reader. Very little subject matters upset me or maks me put a book down. That said, I do know that I am not the norm, and certain themes/events in books will cause people to not finish a book and potentially damage their psyche. I want to be cognizant of what I am encouraging people to read as I write my reviews and be aware that a book may not work for someone because of a specific type of content.

I asked my followers on Instagram the other day to help me out and tell me topics that they wish would be included in content warning lists that are often left out. Many reviewers add content warnings, but only cover the “big” topics (e.g. rape, gore, language) and forget to add other topics that can upset smaller (but just as important) populations of readers.

Below is my list of content/trigger warnings that people would like to see in book reviews. If I am missing one, please feel free to email me or comment on this post!

Ableism
Abortion
Animal abuse
Animal death
Body shaming
Cheating/infidelity
Child abuse
Child neglect
Chronic illness
Confinement
Descriptions of panic attacks
Divorce
Domestic violence
Drowning
Emotional abuse
Graphic sexual content
Health problems
Homophobia
Incest
Infertility
Loss of life to cancer
Medical trauma
Mental illness
Miscarriage/pregnancy loss
Pedophillia
PTSD
Racial surs
Racism
Self-harm
Sociopathy
Specify types of abuse (do not just make the content warning say “abuse”, but explain the type)
Steam level
Suicide
Unexpected death of family members
Usage of hard drugs

Another great resource for knowing what kind of content warnings to list is doesthedogdie.com – a website dedicated to all trigger warnings for all kinds of media.