REVIEW: YEAR OF YES by SHONDA RHIMES

To read the book synopsis, click on the links to Goodreads or The StoryGraph.

Ever read a book that felt like it was speaking directly to your soul? That’s how I felt when I read Year of Yes!

To be honest, I live under a rock with pop culture, ESPECIALLY with television. I had no idea who Shonda Rhimes was when I picked this up, I only read it because I saw an Instagram post of what books to read for Black History month based off your enneagram number – so I guess, in Shonda’s words, I SAID YES and picked this one up (on audio) on a whim. And I LOVED IT.

Shonda is nothing short of brilliant and I think everyone who wants a good laugh, a good story, and something uplifting should absolutely read this book. Shonda is inspiring, hilarious, and wise. Her year of saying yes to everything taught me so much and also felt like a hug in a book.

In general, I don’t give star ratings to memoirs anymore, because I don’t think it’s fair to rate a persons life journey. But just know that this is one of the best memoirs I have read.

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REVIEW: BEFORE THE EVER AFTER by JACQUELINE WOODSON

To read the book synopsis, please click the following links to guide you to Goodreads or The StoryGraph.

Every time I read a middle grade novel, I think to myself, “I need to read more middle grade!” This book was no different for me. It’s also my first read by Jacqueline Woodson, and I will absolutely be picking up more by her in the future. I have a copy of If You Come Softly on my shelf and I will be bumping it up on my priority list.

Here are four things that I loved about this book:

  • The main character’s voice is incredibly strong. I felt like I was in ZJ’s head and feeling his emotions.
  • The friends that ZJ has. I thought it was a beautiful portrayal of good friendship in young kids, something that a lot of YA books lack – another reason that I love middle grade!
  • The pacing of the book – while it’s definitely slower paced, it has great buildup and rising action.
  • This book contains heavy subject matter written in a way that is digestible and understandable for kids. I think this book will open up conversations and allow parents to educate kids on the dangers of sports related head injuries.

One thing I didn’t love about this book:

  • The ending. Can’t spoil it, but if you’ve read it and want to discuss, let me know!

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REVIEW: THE EX TALK by RACHEL LYNN SOLOMON

Click the following links to read the book synopsis on Goodreads or The StoryGraph.

You know that feeling when you are reading a book and you can just tell from early on that it’s going to be a special one? That was the feeling I got while reading The Ex Talk.

Let me preface the rest of this review with saying that I am NOT a romance reader typically. I don’t dislike romance, per se, but I definitely don’t seek it out and read copious amounts of it. While I do enjoy a good love story, a lot of times I struggle with how unrealistic they can feel or how easily a character forgives something that another character does. But somehow, this one evaded all of the things that I hate and proved to me that I CAN read and enjoy romance in a way I didn’t think I could.

While this book had more steam than I typically prefer, I found that, since I loved the characters and their relationship, I didn’t find myself as bothered by it. So while I usually prefer closed door romances, this one worked for me (and yes, it is open door; with about 3-4 sexy scenes, for those wondering).

Here are 5 things I loved about this book:
1. This book explored MULTIPLE tropes instead of just being a one and done. Like the fake relationship trope? It has it! Enemies to lovers? It’s in here too! What about forced proximity? YEP! Workplace romance? You best believe it’s here. I thought Rachel Lynn Solomon weaved all of them together perfectly in a seamless work that felt like a warm blanket on a cold winters day.
2. The characters were a super diverse cast that had me angry and laughing and loving them all at once.
3. The banter! A good rom com needs ALL the banter, and this one NAILED IT. 
4. The portrayal of so many kinds of love – love after loss, love that “felt too quick”, first love, old love, etc.
5. The ending. An ending for a book is KEY for me, and I didn’t feel like this one left anything to question. The loose ends were tied up perfectly, but not so much that it felt like OVER resolution, you know?

I will 100% be adding Rachel Lynn Solomon to my MUST READ list.

Content warnings below:
Loss of a parent
Graphic sexual content
Grief
Misogyny
Sexism
Graphic language (but not overdone)

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REVIEW: FIREFLY LANE by KRISTIN HANNAH

Click the following links to read the book synopsis on Goodreads or The StoryGraph.

“Motherhood at time like this – most times – was about the steel in your spine, not the bend.” – Kristin Hannah

My heart felt so heavy as I finished this novel for the second time. I purchased this book years ago when I was in high school, and it sat on my dresser for probably a year. I never picked it up. Eventually, I donated it to Goodwill and forgot all about its existence. But then I read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, and I knew I needed more of her writing in my life. Naturally, I gravitated back to Firefly Lane, the book I never started so many years ago.

In hindsight, I am happy that I didn’t read the book when I originally bought it in my late teens. It means so much more to me now in my mid 20’s as a mother and a friend. I feel like I relate on so many levels to Kate’s character – the good girl, the rule follower, the one who seems to always have bad things happen to her despite every effort to live life as wholesomely as possible.

TullyandKate’s story is turbulent and action packed, and the characters are really brought to life with their witty dialogue and jokes they make between each other. I found myself wishing I could be a fly on the wall during their conversations so I could see how best friends of so many years act around one another. Their chemistry seemed so natural and strong, the kind of best friends everyone hopes they can have at some point in their lives.

By the end of the novel, I loved Kate and hated Tully. Kate was the strong mother that was dealing with real life scenarios – as a stay at home mom, I feel her feelings on so many levels. Tully, while originally bright, funny, and kind, turned out to be nothing short of a backstabber by the end. While she did eventually come back around, I found myself wanting to scream at Kate, “What are you thinking? She was so awful to you!”

But this is what a good book does. It evokes emotions you didn’t know you could feel, it makes you think about things that may scare you. Firefly Lane did all of those things and more. Definitely recommend. 

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REVIEW: SERENA SINGH FLIPS THE SCRIPT by SONYA LALLI

Click the following links to read the book synopsis on Goodreads or The StoryGraph.

Thank you to Berkley for allowing me to read this early on Netgalley! This book releases to the public on February 16, 2021.

This book was a fun ride, and I was engrossed from beginning to end in Serena’s story. I found her character to be unique, entertaining, likable, and strong, and her inner narrative had me invested in her form the very beginning.

Told in a dual perspective (one being Serena in 1st person and another being her mother in 3rd person), it really made for a slow burn as we learned about some of the past heartaches in both of their lives. The character development was slow and steady, and Serena’s perspective almost felt like a “coming of age” story despite the fact that she’s nearing 40.

Another thing I loved about this book was the portrayal of the different cultures. As immigrants, Serena’s parents bring tradition to the story – everything from them speaking Punjabi to the foods that they cooked (I 100% Googled roti as I read to find out what it was, and it sounds delicious). Raised in America, we watch Serena grapple with wanting to honor her parents while still living out the dreams she has for herself. The dual perspective allowed us to see insights into both sides of this reality for many first generation immigrant families in an eye opening, heartwarming, and tender way.

I had two overall complaints about this book, the first being that we didn’t get enough from her mother’s perspective. I wanted to know more of her back story. The second complaint I had was that the love story that played out felt a bit forced for me. I would’ve been happy just seeing Serena come into her own without ending up with a man by her side!

Overall, a solid story that I think many will enjoy! 3.75 stars.

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REVIEW: PUNCHING THE AIR by IBI ZOBOI and YUSEK SALAAM

Click the following links to read the book synopsis on Goodreads or The StoryGraph.

 I have read a handful of novels written in verse in the last year by Jason Reynolds, Elizabeth Acevedo, and now Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam.

This compelling, poignant novel had me angry, sad, engrossed and on edge. Knowing that Yusef Salaam, one of The Exonerated Five, weighed in and helped write this book felt like a punch to the gut. This work of fiction could easily be changed up a bit and become a non fiction story about his experience being wrongfully convicted and put in prison.

My ONLY complaint about this book is that the ending cutoff too early for me – as a reader, I would’ve liked another 30 pages or so.

Reminiscent of Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, I would file this book into the “required reading” section of my imaginary syllabus.

Please see @bookswithsyd recent post of this book for an #OwnVoices review (and let it be known that her picture absolutely blows mine out of the water, you don’t have to tell me because I already know)! I will share her review in my stories today as well.

4.5 ⭐️ and a whole lot of tissues.

Content warnings:
Racism
Violence
Racial slurs
Police brutality
Forced institutionalization
Hate crime
Grief
Bullying

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MY FAVORITE READING ACCESSORIES

Collecting books is a hobby of mine, and reading accessories are definitely part of being a huge reader. I wanted to put together a list of some of my favorite bookish accessories that I use all the time!

*please note that some of these links only are affiliate links and will provide me with a small commission at no cost to you *

Kindle Oasis

I love my Oasis so much and use it every single day. I also have this case that keeps it safe and helps it lay flat.

This thing is a dream for people with tendinitis, carpal tunnel, or are just dang tired at the end of the day. It can hold any size book open and makes it easy to turn pages without ripping them

Page Holder

This thing is great for those stiff books that you don’t want to crack the spines of!

This is great not only for reading novels, but for cookbooks! It’s a simple solution for when you want to read hands free.

Book Sleeves from Happy Go Lovely

These keep my books safe in my bag and also are super cute. Use the code BOOKSTA20 at checkout to save 20%!

Sudio Headphones

I am always listening to an audiobook. On and off all day long! I have 3 pairs of Sudio headphones, but the Elva model is my favorite. They block noise, have a great Bluetooth connection, and are comfortable in my ears! You can use my code JENNA15 to save 15%.

Library Book Cart

I love this thing so much! It is such a cute accessory and makes it really easy to organize my TBR.

Birthdate Candle

I ALWAYS burn a candle when I’m reading – it just sets the mood for me. Birthdate candles are crafted specifically for those with your birthdate in mind. I love the fragrance of mine and I will be sincerely sad when it is burned out! You can use my code READING10 to save 10% off your purchase on their website!

REVIEW: THE PUSH by ASHLEY AUDRAIN

Click the following links to read the book synopsis on Goodreads or The StoryGraph.

I binged this book in 3 days and have no regrets. When I finished, I immediately wanted to restart it, and see if there was anything I missed, anything that would make my head spin a little more or a little less than it already was. I cannot believe this was Ashley Audrain’s debut. I’ve read so many great debuts over the last 6 months or so, and this one definitely falls in the top 5, earning it 5 ⭐️ from me!

Here’s what I loved about this book:
❤️I couldn’t stop listening to it. I was squeezing in 5 min everywhere I could – while I was in the bathroom, while I was washing dishes, whatever I could because I was on the edge of my seat.
❤️It was compulsively readable. I had to know what was going to happen.
❤️It had me questioning my own sanity – did I miss something? Was I wrong about my gut instinct about certain characters? Only an excellent writer can give me these feelings, and while unsettling, I love a book that can evoke emotions from my cold heart.
❤️I related to some of the feelings that our main character had about motherhood – as a mom who struggled with postpartum depression both times I had a baby, I completely related to some of the dark, scary thoughts Blythe had.
❤️The ending had me saying “WHAT DID I JUST READ?” And immediately made me want to restart the book and listen again.

While some classify it as a psychological thriller, I wouldn’t say anything about this book was really “thrilling”..it was just compulsively readable. Mysterious. I had to know what was going to happen. I had to know the truth. The feelings I got while reading it reminded me of how I felt when I read All the Ugly and Wonderful Things – while the books are completely different from one another, I had that same tense feeling in my chest every time I was reading and for a long time after.

Content warnings – I did my best to list them all below, but feel free to message me with questions about them:
Child death
Self harm
Mental illness
Miscarriage
Toxic relationship

If you would like to purchase this book, I would love if you would consider using my Amazon or Bookshop.org links. These provide me with a small commission at no cost to you.

REVIEW: CHARMING AS A VERB by BEN PHILIPPE

Click the following links to read the book synopsis on Goodreads or The StoryGraph.

Please note that this post also features my December 15 candle from Birthdate Candles, and if you use my code READING10, you save 10% off your purchase!

I read CHARMING AS A VERB for #ReadingForSanity book club this month, and our main character was just that – CHARMING! It was really nice to read a story of two teens just trying to figure so much out – high school, college, and love.

5 THINGS ABOUT THIS BOOK:
I LOVED Henri, our main character, and the development of him as a whole. He grew and changed a lot throughout the story.
I LOVED the setting in an advanced/gifted high school in NYC.
I LOVED how easy this was to read – it was conversational and fun!
I didn’t love the pacing. I found the beginning to be super slow and repetitive, but the second half was explosively fast. I would’ve preferred a more even pacing throughout.
I didn’t love the lack of resolution at the end of the book.
Overall – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

If you would like to purchase this book, please consider using my Amazon or Bookshop.org links. These links give me a small commission at no cost to you!