Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Bookolutions 2017

I am terrible at sticking to my New Year's Resolutions. In fact, I can't really remember one that I've carried out the entire year. Last year I was going to lose weight (ha!), stop smoking (I did... but not until like October), completely paint my house (that didn't happen in any shape, form, or fashion), and I was going to stress less (double ha!). This year I'm making more manageable goals in my personal life. I want to treat myself with more respect, surround myself with like-minded people, and get back to doing the things I love. That includes reading.

It seems silly to include reading, right? Obviously I have been reading since my GoodReads Challenge is sitting at 175 as we approach the last few days of 2016. But a lot of my reading habits has turned reading from a hobby I love to something that almost feels like a job at times. It wasn't until I talk to my girlfriend about it that she pointed out I was letting things like bookstagram, reading challenges, and other bloggers reshape my way of buying and reading books. After a lot of soul searching, I realized she was right and that this needed to change in 2017. I want to get back to a very simple love of reading and books and I want to connect with people who don't think reading is a contest.

So, here are my Bookolutions for 2017:

1. Avoid book challenges or readathons. I think book challenges and readathons are great for people who want to participate in them but I am extremely competitive and get caught up very easily in numbers. I had originally planned to participate in #DiversityBingo2017 but a few things kind of turned me off from it. One of them is personal and I won't be sharing because that's not fair to the creators but the thing I will share is... I don't like most Sci-Fi. It's a personal preference but I really can't see the point in participating in something that I'm either going to have to leave the space blank (and lose) or force myself to read something I'm just not into. I will be setting a GR challenge just so I can easily keep up with how many and which books I've read during the year, but I probably won't set the goal over 100 so that I'm not pressuring myself and I'll feel like I have more time to enjoy some of the bigger books on my TBR.

2. Speaking of TBRs, mine is out of control. This year I want to reduce my TBR by either getting rid of the books or reading them. Seriously, I have books on my shelf that I've been holding on to for YEARS. As my Grandma says, "It's time to piss or get off the pot." (she's very eloquent.) I started culling books back in the summer but I'm definitely serious about getting rid of what I don't plan to read this year.

3. Limit myself to 3 brand new books a month and spend more time at the library/used book shop. I'm not sure when I got so vain about having brand new hardbacks, but it's kind of an issue. I used to spend hours and hours combing through used books at the library rummage room or going through boxes of used books in the back room at the used book shop (the owner had gotten to know me so well that I got first dibs). This was an every weekend thing. People knew where to find me on Saturday afternoon. But I went to the used book shop this past Monday and the owner was like "I thought you had died!" It had seriously been that long. I don't know when or why my mind started thinking that I had to have brand new books in order to fit in with other bookstagrammers or bloggers. I think used books are beautiful (not to mention affordable) and I love discovering little notes and markings left in them by their previous owners. I have to get out of this "Keeping up with the Joneses" mentality.

4. Read more freely. This connects directly with #1 but this year, I felt very cramped with my reading. I want to get back to reading middle grade books. I love weird, horrible, trashy romance and cozy mysteries and all the books I pushed to the side because I wanted so badly to fit in more with the YA community. I feel like I missed so many great MG books in the last half of 2016 because I was so worried about keeping up with YA.

5. Support more Native American/Indigenous authors. I stated on my twitter earlier in the month that I was terribly disappointed to see so many people excluding Native and Indigenous voices from their diversity lists. While I can't force people to read these authors, I can make sure that I'm reading more than my portion and uplift their (and in return, my) voice.

And this isn't a goal because it's who I am as a reader and as a Queer Mvskoke, but I will of course be pushing forward in promoting diversity books and literacy in our communities. I've been asked to partner with our community action board as a liaison to the libraries and schools in my county. I'll be helping them set up reading programs and securing more diverse books for our expanding community. I'm really honored to be blessed with this position and I'm looking forward to moving my activism into a place that I love.

What are your Bookolutions for 2017? Or just goals in general?

Have a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Review: Juliet Takes a Breath

Juliet Takes a Breath Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review through NetGalley**

This has honestly been the hardest review I have ever had to write. To the point that I thought about not writing it because I have so many conflicting emotions about it.

First, this is an incredible book. I loved how the racism in white feminism was pointed out, I loved that Juliet started to decolonize and had a good taste of the Queer PoC community. The characters were well thought out, the plot was strong, the writing was nearly flawless. I loved how Harlowe even understood her privilege and was still learning how to break the cycle of white women using PoC. I loved how the book challenged white feminism and it's minimal space for WoC and Transwomen.

But there was one passage that ruined it all for me. If you follow me on twitter, you've seen it and if you don't, here it is: Like wasn't once with the Native Americans enough and didn't that kind of happen by accident? The pilgrims didn't mean to kill the Indians with yellow fever or whatever, right?

It happens early on in the book and I spent the rest of my reading experience with those two sentences running non-stop in my head. I kept expecting for the author to correct the information but it never happened. In fact, while the book explores Latinx and Black oppression, the author never once circles around to talk about Native folks which I found troubling. You can bring us up but you can't correct it in later text?

Someone reached out to the author on my behalf and while they did apologize and said that they meant no harm, I can't help but feel, well, harmed.

This would have been a powerful read for me but instead I felt very othered by it. Brown and Queer but not the right kind of brown to be respectfully acknowledged.

Due to this, I have chosen not to rate this book because it doesn't feel fair to the author to rate their book when I have such conflicted emotions about it. I also can't pick myself apart and rate this book based on its Queerness while ignoring the hurt it caused to my Nativeness.

Thank you for the opportunity to read JULIET TAKES A BREATH. While I have written a review for this book, I will not be rating it due to a conflict in emotions about this book. It is beautiful, yes, and powerful but I can't accurately give a rating to a book that has two very callous lines about the genocide of my people. ("Like, wasn't once with the Native Americans enough and didn't that kind of happen by accident? The pilgrims didn't mean to kill the Indians with yellow fever or whatever, right?") A friend reached out to Gabby Rivera on twitter on my behalf and while Gabby did apologize, it doesn't erase the text or the fact that it is never corrected at any point in the book. I understand that the passage was meant to show Juliet's lack of understanding about the whitewashing on American history, but if the author was going to choose to use Natives as her example (which I have no idea why she would do that since she was looking up Latinx history) then the text needed to be corrected at a later date or at least challenged by another character. While Gabby might understand that's not what happened to Native American tribes during the brutal conquests of early America, the reader might not. Too many times the displacement, slavery, and genocide of my people has been swept under the rug and chalked up to disease. I am terribly disappointed that anyone writing a book or publishing a book that includes decolonization and unlearning White History would think that 2 glib lines about genocide would be ok.

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#DiversityBingo2017 starts on January 1, 2017! The goal is to fill in all the squares for a complete black-out bingo. I've seen a lot of posts asking for recs and I thought I would try to give y'all a little hand up on the categories.

Romance with a Trans MC:
- IF I WAS YOUR GIRL by Meredith Russo
I've removed my rec for Elliot Wake's book due to his anti-blackness. I promise to replace it with a more deserving rec soon.
MC with an Underrepresented Body:
- DUMPLIN' by Julie Murphy
- THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED by Becky Albertalli (out 4/11/17)
MC of Color in SFF:
- AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir
West Asian Setting:
- ROOFTOPS OF TEHRAN by Mahbod Seraji
Black MC:
- THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas (out 2/28/17)
- THIS IS HOW IT WENT DOWN by Kekla Magoon
Indigenous MC:
- IF I EVER GET OUT OF HERE by Eric Gansworth
- KILLER OF ENEMIES by Joseph Bruchac
Non-Binary MC
- EVERY DAY by David Levithan
Neurodiverse MC:
- MAGGOT MOON by Sally Gardner
- M IS FOR AUTISM by The Students of Limpsfield Grange School
Own Voices Latinx MC:
- GABI, A GIRL IN PIECES by Isabel Quintero
Arab MC:
- IT AIN'T SO AWFUL, FALAFEL by Firoozeh Dumas
- WHEN THE MOON IS LOW by Nadia Hashimi
MC on the Ace Spectrum:
- RADIO SILENCE by Alice Oseman
- WE AWAKEN by Calista Lynne
Diverse Non-fiction:
- FRESH OFF THE BOAT by Eddie Huang
SFF with Disabled MC:
- THE IRON TRIAL by Holly Black
Retelling with LGBT MC:
- ASH by Malinda Lo
- THE DARK WIFE by Sarah Diemer
Free Choice:
I highly recommend anything by Louise Erdrich or Thomas King.
MC with a Wheelchair:
- PUSH GIRL by Chelsie Hill
LGBTQAI+ MC of Color:
PoC on the Cover:
- SHADOWSHAPER by Daniel Jose Older
Practicing Jewish MC:
Bisexual MC:
- THE GALLERY OF UNFINISHED GIRLS by Lauren Karcz (out 7/25/17)
Non-Western Real World Setting:
- IN ORDER TO LIVE by Yeonmi Park
Book by Author of Color:
- THE MARAUDERS' ISLAND by Tristan J. Tarwater
- PURPLE HIBISCUS by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Visually Impaired MC:
- BLINDSIDED by Priscilla Cummings
- NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST by Eric Lindstrom
D/deaf MC:
- EL DEAFO by Cece Bell
- WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick
Indian MC:
- WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon (out 5/30/17)
- BORN CONFUSED by Tanju Desai Hidier
MC with Invisible Disability:
- DEAD GIRLS SOCIETY by Michelle Krys
- KISSING DOORKNOBS by Tony Spencer Hesser
Own Voices:
- OF FIRE & STARS by Audrey Coulthurst
Biracial MC:
Book Set in Central America
- THE WEIGHT OF ALL THINGS by Sandra Benitez
Immigrant or Refugee:
- THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR by Nicola Yoon
- THE HOUSE ON MAGO STREET by Sandra Cisneros
Displaced MC:
- DISPLACED PERSONS by Ghita Schwarz
Anaphylactic Allergy
- THE TIDAL ZONE by Sarah Moss
MC with Chronic Pain:
-THE BODY BROKEN by Lynne Greenberg
- FAR FROM YOU by Tess Sharpe
Pansexual MC:
- SEVEN WAYS WE LIE by Riley Redgate
- OUT ON GOOD BEHAVIOR by Dahlia Adler
Arranged Marriage:
Hijabi MC:
- DOES MY HEAD LOOK BIG IN THIS? by Ronda Abdel-Fattah
- LOVE IN A HEADSCARF by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed
And there you have it! This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the wonderful diverse and own voices book available, but it is a nice little springboard if you aren't sure where to get started!
Happy reading!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Review: Alice & Jean

Alice & Jean Alice & Jean by Lily Hammond
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**Disclaimer: I received a free ebook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

Alice & Jean tells the story of Alice Holden, a war widow with two small children, who has fallen in love with Jean Reardon, the woman who delivers her milk every morning. The story starts off very fast with Alice already being head over heels for Jean (and vice-versa) so the reader doesn't get a very good sense of why Alice has fallen for Jean until near the end of the story when both women confess when/how they fell in love with the other. The pair face a lot of obstacles together- from Alice's overbearing and downright evil mother, to the whispers of the neighbors about Alice being seen with that woman, to the stereotypical man who feels jilted and can't stand women being together.

Which brings me to things I didn't like about this book: I feel like Big Jim was overdone. I do realize that there are plenty of men like him the world, but I really feel we could have done without his macho homophobia. And I understand that his actions were the means to the happy end of the story but just once I would like to read a f/f love story that didn't include alpha males or rape.

I also wasn't that impressed with Jean. The story definitely fell into that stereotypical "one is very femme and the other is very masculine" trope that I'm very, very burnt out on in f/f fiction. And maybe it wasn't the character herself as much as it was the way people treated her (Alice saying she wishes Jean were a man so they could get married, Tilly saying she wishes Jean could be her father, the men treating Jean like a man, etc.,) I think gender expression and fluidity is great and amazing (I myself am nonbinary) but I feel like Jean was only a stand-in for a man in the story. We don't get a sense of how she feels about her gender, only that she likes to wear trousers and enjoys jobs that are traditional more masculine. I would have felt more comfortable with her if there had been more discussion on how she identified or how she felt about having people continuously treat her like a man.

I did like the story, though. I loved the way the group of women came together to protect Alice from Big Jim because we have a severe lack of solid, powerful, and protective female friendships in LGBTQAI+ literature. I also loved the fact that Alice does not forgive her mother in the end but does reach a compromise with herself that makes her happy.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a quick f/f read with minimal sex scenes, strong female friends, and a HEA ending.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Diversity in YA (HOLIDAY GUIDE)

Putting this list together was incredibly hard because there are so many GREAT diverse book in YA. Here are just a few to get you started!

SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo

Summary: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price--and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction―if they don't kill each other first.


LABYRINTH LOST by Zoraida Cordova

Summary: Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation...and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can't trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.
The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland...


*NOTE: This is not an own voice story but Becky Albertalli has done a wonderful job with her characters and with the situations they face.


Summary: Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he's pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he's never met.


ALL AMERICAN BOYS by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Summary: A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galluzzo, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement?

There were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.


IF I EVER GET OUT OF HERE by Eric Gansworth

Summary: Lewis "Shoe" Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he's not used to is white people being nice to him -- people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family's poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan's side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis's home -- will he still be his friend?


THE WRATH & THE DAWN by Renee Ahdieh

Summary: Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all


A TIME TO DANCE by Padma Venkatraman

Summary: Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes dance—so when an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. For a girl who’s grown used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling. But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers. Then Veda meets Govinda, a young man who approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit. As their relationship deepens, Veda reconnects with the world around her, and begins to discover who she is and what dance truly means to her.


SHADOWSHAPER by Daniel Jose Older

Summary: Sierra Santiago planned to have an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears... Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.

With the help of a mysterious fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one -- and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family's past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for herself and generations to come.


KILLER OF ENEMIES by Joseph Bruchac

Summary: Years ago, seventeen year old Apache hunter Lozen and her family lives in a world of haves and have-nots. There were the Ones (people so augmented with technology and genetic enhancements that they were barely human) and there was everyone else who served the Ones.
Then the Cloud came, and everything changed. Tech stopped working. The world plunged back into a new steam age. The Ones' pets — genetically engineered monsters — turned on them and are now loose on the world.
Lozen was not one of the lucky ones pre-C, but fate has given her a unique set of survival skills and magical abilities. She hunts monsters for the Ones who survived the apocalyptic events of the Cloud, which ensures the safety of her kidnapped family. But with every monster she takes down, Lozen's powers grow, and she connects those powers to an ancient legend of her people. It soon becomes clear to Lozen that she is not just a hired gun… Lozen is meant to be a hero.


CHALLENGER DEEP by Neal Shusterman

Summary: Caden Bosch is on a ship that's headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.
Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.
Caden Bosch is designated the ship's artist in residence to document the journey with images.
Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.
Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.
Caden Bosch is torn



Summary: Joanna meets the perfect girl for her and must decide whether to break a promise that could change everything for her and her family or lose out on love in this charming young adult romance that’s perfect for fans of Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ and Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.
Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees.
Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?


And that wraps up my first ever holiday guide series! I hope y'all found something you like and may this be the jumpstart to a new year of diverse reading for you!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Review: Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case

Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case by Patricia Hruby Powell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was unfamilar with the Loving vs. Virginia case until a few months ago when I saw an ad on YouTube for the upcoming movie. While I am excited to see how it plays out on screen, I was even more excited to see a book about the case.

Not just a book, really, Loving vs. Virginia is a carefully crafted novel of blank prose, photos, pieces of legislation, illustrations, and other excerpts that bring to life the case that changed laws regarding interracial marriage. At its heart, though, this is a wonderful story about two children who grew up together and fell in love despite the laws and prejudices that were set against them and ultimately tried to tear them apart. Despite the obstacles they faced, Mildred and Richard shared an unflinching love.

I can’t wait to have an actual physical copy of this book to add to my collection.

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Good versus Diverse

I keep seeing this discussion of good books versus diverse books.

"I want to read diversely but I also want to read good books."

"I value quality over specific topic." (yes, that was a real tweet but a real live white person trying to defend their decision to not read diversely.)

Brace yourself, here's some shocking news for y'all not in the know: Books can be good and diverse. At the same time. Can you believe that?? Is your mind blown?

Let me explain to you what I hear when you say that you want to read good books instead of diverse books. When you tell me that you prefer quality books over diverse books, you're telling me (and every other PoC, Queer, or marginalized voice) that you think our stories are boring. You're saying that you think marginalized authors are not capable of writing good books. You are playing into every white fantasy of white people being smarter, more articulate, more creative than any PoC in the room. You're saying that a marginalized author can't possible build a fantasy world as rich and deep as your favorite white authors. You are continuing centuries of oppressing marginalized voices.

I hear people say that they don't want to waste money on books (diverse books) because they might not like them, but you'll gladly spend cash on white authors that booktubers have promoted that you've never read. If you're willing to invest money in unknown white authors but hesitate to invest in marginalized authors, the problem isn't that you're afraid of the book not being good. The problem is that you think marginalized authors are not worth your money or your time. That's racism. That's sexism. That's ableism. That's homophobia.

In the last few weeks, I've been given a few books for review. The only one that was any good was by an unknown diverse author (Tristan J. Tarwater to be exact and I highly recommend you check her out here). The best books I've read this year have been by diverse authors.


I can't force anyone to read more diversely. I can't. But I'm also not going to turn my head and let you pretend that you have "standards" that just happen to include only reading cishet white authors who write about cishet white characters. You might not read diversely but trust me when I say that everyone in the room has their eyes on you and have figured you out.

Monday, December 12, 2016


Author: Chelsea Sedoti
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Lizzie Lovett is missing and Hawthorn Creely has a theory...

I'm always a fan of books that involve mysterious disappearances and teenager misfits so I thought that THE HUNDRED LIES OF LIZZIE LOVETT was going to be the book for me. It only took 20 pages for me to realize that was definitely not true.

I have never been opposed to unreliable narrators. Usually they add depth to a story but Hawthorn is not really an unreliable narrator as much as she is a privileged, spoiled brat who probably has a mental illness that her hippie mother and look-the-other-way day had ignored her entire life. The reason I think Hawthorn is mental ill is the fact that she clearly suffers from delusions. We're told of an instance where she thinks her teacher is a terrorist and when Lizzie goes missing, she genuinely believes this wild and utterly unbelievable story she's concocted in her head.

From the beginning of the story, Hawthorn wants us to believe that Lizzie was a mean girl in high school but when we get the backstory of why Hawthorn hates Lizzie, the reader starts to see how unreliable Hawthorn's POV is. She built this huge friendship in her head with Lizzie after they had one tiny conversation and was crushed when Lizzie didn't remember her weeks later.

The title of the book itself is misleading. There are no 'hundred lies' in Lizzie's life. I actually think it's pretty problematic to act like Lizzie's depression and the way she tried to hide it was a 'lie'. She was clearly a girl trying to survive high school and trying to make herself feel better. That's not a lie- that's life. Hawthorn saying that Lizzie was "always changing" after she found a middle school yearbook where Lizzie had died her hair black (presumably she was goth or emo) struck me as odd because yes, people do change as they age and grow.

I'm still unclear if Sedoti meant for Hawthorn to be as unlikable as she was. There were moments where Sedoti tried to write redeeming parts for the character but after all the awful things she did and said, the efforts fell very flat. I was horrified that Hawthorn thought it was ok to approach people who were clearly grieving over Lizzie's disappearance with her absolutely ridiculous theory about what had happened to Lizzie, even more horrified when her parents didn't swiftly punish her for such behavior.

- The sexual relationship between a 17 year old girl and a 25 year old man. YA authors really need to move away from this.
- The casual use of the slur 'g*psy' to describe a caravan of white hippies.
- Hawthorn calling another girl a slut. There were a million things she could have insulted Mychelle about but she instantly goes in to calling her slut and degrading her for being sexually active which was extremely funny to me since Hawthorn was sleeping with a grown man she barely knew. We need to be steering teenage girls away from calling each other sluts or whores instead of encouraging them to do it in books.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely not. The plot was flimsy at best, the pacing dragged (the first 100 pages were absolute filler), and the only character that was even likable was the best friend who we were clearly not supposed to like that much.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Review: Challenger Deep

Challenger Deep Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Deads kids are put on pedestals, but mentally ill kids get hidden under the rug.

So many times I have picked up a YA book about mental illness and realize with horror that the books is romanticizing it (*cough* All the Bright Place *cough*). But Neal Shusterman has done an excellent job showcasing mental illness as it actually is: painful and embarrassing. He shows not only the descent of Caden's mental state but also the start of the uprise and all the messy moments in between. From lashing out, to disturbed cognitive behavior, to hurt friends and family, to vomiting because sometimes the medicine just make you do that.

As someone who has been hospitalized due to mental illness, who has suffered through that mental collapse, I can honestly say that I've never read a book that got it this right.

I was I could write a review that would do this book justice, but I can't. There's no words to describe how much I loved and appreciated every moment of this text.

I will say to keep an eye out for the drawings in the book. They were drawn by Brandon Shusterman, the author's son, during his own hospitalization!

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Review: The Marauders' Island

The Marauders' Island The Marauders' Island by Tristan J. Tarwater
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm really not even sure where to begin with this book.

No, I do know where to begin. If you haven't read this book, you need to go do so. Right now. Buy this book.

I hadn't heard much about The Marauders' Island until I saw it on twitter and even though the person had given it a glowing review, I didn't think that I would be as entertained by the book as I was. You will fall in love with these characters as you get to know them but there will also be times where you dislike their actions. I mean, these are well-rounded, fleshed out characters, so that's how it's supposed to be.

This book follows Azria, a teenage mage, as she is reunited with her mother Apzana, a runaway pirate with a ragtag crew and pretty sweet pirate ship. It seems like a simple adventure story when you realize what Apzana wants Azria to do but as you read the text, you will discover that above the adventure is a story of a mother and daughter healing old wounds and mending their very frayed relationship.

My favorite things about this book is how gender roles play no part and the easy with which sexuality is discussed. There is no big 'coming out' for any of the characters, just casual mentions of their same-sex partner or partners ("His husband and wife pine for him...") and it was so refreshing to have a story that involved Queer characters without their Queerness being front and center stage.

There were a few times the dialogue seemed clumpy, mostly in the beginning when the author was trying to develop the back history of Miz but it honestly took nothing away from the story to me.

I am very, very excited to see where Tristan Tarwater takes us in the next book!

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Diversity in Middle Grade Books! (HOLIDAY GUIDE)

Continuing with my diversity holiday guide, I present to you: Middle Grade Books!


Summary: Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria love working with cars. You name it, they can fix it. But the team's favorite cars of all are lowriders—cars that hip and hop, dip and drop, go low and slow, bajito y suavecito. The stars align when a contest for the best car around offers a prize of a trunkful of cash—just what the team needs to open their own shop! ¡Ay chihuahua! What will it take to transform a junker into the best car in the universe? Striking, unparalleled art from debut illustrator Raul the Third recalls ballpoint-pen-and-Sharpie desk-drawn doodles, while the story is sketched with Spanish, inked with science facts, and colored with true friendship. With a glossary at the back to provide definitions for Spanish and science terms, this delightful book will educate and entertain in equal measure.


THE TURTLE OF OMAN by Naomi Shihab Nye

Summary: Praised by the Horn Book as “both quiet and exhilarating,” this novel by the acclaimed poet and National Book Award Finalist Naomi Shihab Nye follows Aref Al-Amri as he says goodbye to everything and everyone he loves in his hometown of Muscat, Oman, as his family prepares to move to Ann Arbor, Michigan. This book was awarded a 2015 Middle East Book Award, was named a Notable Book by the American Library Association, and includes extra material by the author.
Aref does not want to leave Oman. He does not want to leave his elementary school, his friends, or his beloved grandfather, Sidi. He does not want to live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where his parents will go to graduate school. His mother is desperate for him to pack his suitcase—but he refuses. Finally, she calls Sidi for help. But rather than pack, Aref and Sidi go on a series of adventures. They visit the camp of a thousand stars deep in the desert, they sleep on Sidi’s roof, they fish in the Gulf of Oman and dream about going to India, they travel to the nature reserve to watch the sea turtles. At each stop, Sidi finds a small stone that he later slips into Aref’s suitcase—mementos of home.


GEORGE by Alex Gino

Summary: When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl. George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part . . . because she's a boy. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte -- but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.



Summary: A Choctaw boy tells the story of his tribe's removal from its Mississippi homeland, and how its exodus to the American West led him to become a ghost --one able to help those left behind.


BAYOU MAGIC by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Summary: A magical coming-of-age story from Coretta Scott King honor author Jewell Parker Rhodes, rich with Southern folklore, friendship, family, fireflies and mermaids, plus an environmental twist. It's city-girl Maddy's first summer in the bayou, and she just falls in love with her new surroundings - the glimmering fireflies, the glorious landscape, and something else, deep within the water, that only she can see. Could it be a mermaid? As her grandmother shares wisdom about sayings and signs, Maddy realizes she may be the only sibling to carry on her family's magical legacy. And when a disastrous oil leak threatens the bayou, she knows she may also be the only one who can help. Does she have what it takes to be a hero? Jewell Parker Rhodes weaves a rich tale celebrating the magic within.


MOVING TARGET by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Summary: Cassie Arroyo, an American studying in Rome, has her world ripped apart when someone tries to kill her father, an art history professor at an Italian university. Is she their next target?
Cassie sets out to uncover what is happening, only to learn that she is a member of an ancient bloodline that enables her to use the Spear of Destiny--a legendary object that can shape the future. Now running from a secret organization intent on killing those from her bloodline, Cassie must--with the help of some friends--decipher the clues that will lead her to the Spear. Her life--and the fate of the world--depends on it.



Summary: Jimmy McClean is a Lakota boy—though you wouldn’t guess it by his name: his father is part white and part Lakota, and his mother is Lakota. When he embarks on a journey with his grandfather, Nyles High Eagle, he learns more and more about his Lakota heritage—in particular, the story of Crazy Horse, one of the most important figures in Lakota and American history. Drawing references and inspiration from the oral stories of the Lakota tradition, celebrated author Joseph Marshall III juxtaposes the contemporary story of Jimmy with an insider’s perspective on the life of Tasunke Witko, better known as Crazy Horse (c. 1840–1877). The book follows the heroic deeds of the Lakota leader who took up arms against the US federal government to fight against encroachments on the territories and way of life of the Lakota people, including leading a war party to victory at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Along with Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse was the last of the Lakota to surrender his people to the US army. Through his grandfather’s tales about the famous warrior, Jimmy learns more about his Lakota heritage and, ultimately, himself.


THE GREAT WALL OF LUCY WU by Wendy Wan-Long Shang

Summary: Lucy Wu, aspiring basketball star and interior designer, is on the verge of having the best year of her life. She's ready to rule the school as a sixth grader, go out for captain of the school basketball team, and take over the bedroom she has always shared with her sister. In an instant, though, her plans are shattered when she finds out that Yi Po, her beloved grandmother's sister, is coming to visit for several months -- and is staying in Lucy's room. Lucy's vision of a perfect year begins to crumble, and in its place come an unwelcome roommate, foiled birthday plans, a bully who tries to scare Lucy off the basketball team, and Chinese school with the annoying know-it-all Talent Chang. Lucy's year is ruined -- or is it?



Summary: Naomi Soledad Leon Outlaw has had a lot to contend with in her young life, her name for one. Then there are her clothes (sewn in polyester by Gram), her difficulty speaking up, and her status at school as "nobody special." But according to Gram, most problems can be overcome with positive thinking. And with Gram and her little brother, Owen, Naomi's life at Avocado Acres Trailer Rancho in California is happy and peaceful...until their mother reappears after seven years of being gone, stirring up all sorts of questions and challenging Naomi to discover and proclaim who she really is.



Summary: Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he’d settle for seeing a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune? With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There’s an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom.


Stay tuned for my Diversity in YA Holiday Guide!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: Labyrinth Lost

Labyrinth Lost Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought Labyrinth Lost on Kindle and 20% into the book, I ordered a hardback copy. It’s that good.

Labyrinth Lost revolves around Alex, a bruja living in Brooklyn with her mother and two sisters who also have magical abilities. The problem is that Alex doesn’t want to be a bruja and on the day she’s supposed to receive her blessing from her ancestors, she tries to wish her powers away- and ends up exiling her family to Los Lagos. Realizing her mistake, she sets out to bring them back but runs into a dark and sinister force in this other realm.

When this book first came out, I saw it everywhere. Twitter, tumblr, blogs… I could not escape this beautiful cover. I decided to wait and give it a few weeks to let the hype settle down before I read it because I feel like a lot of times we get swept up in other people’s exuberance for a book and miss the experience for ourselves. What I realized was that the hype around this book isn’t actually hype- it’s just that good.

The plot is strong and the pacing flows. There were several parts where the author could have bogged us down with details and chose not to which kept the plot pushing forward. I’ve seen reviews where people are criticizing the handful of answered questions we were left with and that cliffhanger ending, but hello! Sequel!

I loved all of the characters and I think the author did a pretty good job on hashing out their personalities… except for one character and it was almost enough for me to drop a star from the rating. Alex has two love interests in this story- Nova and Rishi. Nova is fleshed out and given an entire backstory and has a very strong personality. Rishi, on the other hand, we don’t get much about her besides the fact that she likes Alex and she jumped into a portal. That’s it. I can give you all sorts of facts about Nova but really nothing about Rishi. Which was terribly disappointing to me. I felt like I was forced to want Alex to go for Nova because I know all these things about him. Rishi felt very bland and dry and I really didn’t care if anything happened between her and Alex. And this is coming from someone who generally always prefer f/f ships to m/f ships.

There is also PROPER BISEXUAL REPRESENTATION in this book. None of this “half gay” stuff or “gay for you” or “straight for you”. PROPER. BISEXUAL. REPRESENTATION. Let that sink in.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes magical girls, magical boys, sarcasm, and ancestors being sassy.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Diversity in Children's Picture Books (HOLIDAY GUIDE)

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that I have six godchildren. Three of them are under the age of 5 and every year, I struggle to find picture books that depict them (as Native children) or even promote diversity. The holidays are always an incredible busy time and I know a lot of people don't have the time or energy to invest in searching for these books... so I figured I'd do that for you! I hope you find something you like!


Summary:In this Choctaw variant of Aesop's fable "The Tortoise and the Hare," master storyteller Tim Tingle reveals some unexpected twists and expands the cast to include a wild turkey, a colony of ants, and a cheering squad of Little Bitty Turtles as well. When Rabbit boastfully challenges Turtle to a race, he gets his comeuppance and Turtle gets a little assist from his winged friend, Turkey. In the process, we learn why Turtle's shell is cracked and why you never see Rabbit racing Turtle today. The bold and vibrant illustrations capture not only the grasslands of the High Plains but also the demeanor of its animal inhabitants and the humor of the tale. 


LITTLE YOU by Richard Van Camp

Summary: Richard Van Camp, internationally renowned storyteller and bestselling author of the hugely successful Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns, has partnered with talented illustrator Julie Flett to create a tender board book for babies and toddlers that honors the child in everyone. With its delightful contemporary illustrations, Little You is perfect to be shared, read or sung to all the little people in your life—and the new little ones on the way! 


DESMOND AND THE VERY MEAN WORD by Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams

Summary: When Desmond takes his new bicycle out for a ride through his neighborhood, his pride and joy turn to hurt and anger when a group of boys shout a very mean word at him. He first responds by shouting an insult, but soon discovers that fighting back with mean words doesn’t make him feel any better. With the help of kindly Father Trevor, Desmond comes to understand his conflicted feelings and see that all people deserve compassion, whether or not they say they are sorry. Brought to vivid life in A. G. Ford’s energetic illustrations, this heartfelt, relatable story conveys timeless wisdom about how to handle bullying and angry feelings, while seeing the good in everyone.



Summary: Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.


JUNA'S JAR by Jane Bahk

Summary: Sometimes a simple, everyday object can take you away on great adventures. Juna and her best friend, Hector, have many adventures together, and they love to collect things in empty kimchi jars. Then one day, Hector unexpectedly moves away without having a chance to say good-bye. Juna is heartbroken and left to wonder who will on go on adventures with her. Determined to find Hector, Juna turns to her special kimchi jar for help each night. She plunges into the depths of the ocean, swings on vines through the jungle, and flies through the night sky in search of her friend. What Juna finds is that adventure and new friends can be found in the most unexpected places. Coupled with dreamy watercolor illustrations by Felicia Hoshino, Juna's Jar is a heart-warming and whimsical tale about the power of the imagination.


KOHALA KUAMO'O: NAE'OLE'S RACE TO SAVE A KING by Kekauleleana'ole Kawai'ae'a

Summary: When a prophecy proclaims that the inborn Kamehameha would grow to overshadow the ruling chiefs, his life from birth is in danger. Naeole races with the helpless infant across the Kohala district of Hawaii Island to bring Kamehameha to safety.



Summary: Trickster Coyote is having his friends over for a festive solstice get-together in the woods when a little girl comes by unexpectedly. She leads the party-goers through the snowy woods to a shopping mall -- a place they have never seen before. Coyote gleefully shops with abandon, only to discover that fi lling your shopping cart with goodies is not quite the same thing as actually paying for them. The trickster is tricked and goes back to his cabin in the woods -- somewhat subdued -- though nothing can keep Coyote down for long.



Summary: Sassy is a long-legged girl who always has something to say. She wants to be a ballerina more than anything, but she worries that her too-large feet, too-long legs, and even her big mouth will keep her from her dream. When a famous director comes to visit her class, Sassy does her best to get his attention with her high jumps and bright leotard. Her first attempts are definitely not appreciated, but with Sassy's persistence, she just might be able to win him over. Dancing in the Wings is loosely based on actress/choreographer Debbie Allen's own experiences as a young dancer.



Summary: When Tai Shan and his father, Baba, fly kites from their roof and look down at the crowded city streets below, they feel free, like the kites. Baba loves telling Tai Shan stories while the kites--one red, and one blue--rise, dip, and soar together. Then, a bad time comes. People wearing red armbands shut down the schools, smash store signs, and search houses. Baba is sent away, and Tai Shan goes to live with Granny Wang. Though father and son are far apart, they have a secret way of staying close. Every day they greet each other by flying their kites-one red, and one blue-until Baba can be free again, like the kites.



Summary: It's Christmas in San Juan, New Mexico, and young Luz worries that with her grandfather sick and her father in the hospital, wounded from the war, their usual Christmas celebration will not be. Then Luz decides to make her own little lanterns or farolitos to light the path for the oncoming celebration, and for her father, who returns home in time for the holiday.


I hope you find something in here that will interest both you and your children. It's never too early to start teaching kids about diversity and how important it is for them to understand, care for, and fight for people who live outside of their own experiences.