I’ll Be the One | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: I’ll Be the One

Author: Lyla Lee

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 336

Categories: Contemporary, Young Adult, K Pop, Entertainment Industry, Body Image, LGBT+, Romance, Parent Relationships, Celebrity, Singing Competition Shows

The world of K-Pop has never met a star like this. Debut author Lyla Lee delivers a deliciously fun, thoughtful rom-com celebrating confidence and body positivity—perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Julie Murphy.

Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.

She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.

When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.

But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself. 

My Attention: full attention

World Building: SoCal

Writing Style: light hearted, humor

Bringing the Heat: 🔥

Crazy in Love: not so crazy, it’s a slow burn and love is love

Creativity: love how a girl who is not the right “size” for the entertainment industry inspires people around her

Mood: happy

Triggers: emotional abuse, bullying, body image shaming, parental issues

My Takeaway: Love yourself and wear your crown! And love is love.

  • Skye Shin is awesome! She’s confident (but she had to work for that confidence), she stands up for what she believes in and she keeps going even when things get hard. I couldn’t help but cheer her on from start to finish. I love how Skye tackles body shaming straight on, even when it makes her cry (because people are trolls), but she knows she’s talented and it’s what should matter in this competition.
  • Yes to all the diversity – Skye herself is bi. There is also a f/f relationship with Skye’s new friends in the competition. The characters themselves are diverse since this is a Korean tv talent show so that was great.
  • Skye’s relationship with her mom is…typical, I feel, because I related SO MUCH. I’m Filipino American but all that body shaming and ideals is the same in my culture. It was sad to see Skye and her mom’s relationship because of the emotional abuse and Skye not knowing that it was emotional abuse. I kept thing, SAME. SAME. SAME.
  • I love the humor in the book! I found myself trying not to laugh out loud because it was late at night but this book made me feel happy.
  • Skye and Henry’s relationship is super cute. It’s a slow burn, and their flirting was fun. Henry is a hottie Korean model and she’s talented and overweight but really, they were just good people. Glad they had a happy ending!
  • Snowball made me miss my fur baby who was a husky also 😭, she’s been gone two years now and her name was Sky. I loved that Snowball was in this story it was just perfect for the whole mood of the book.

I read this book so quick and it left me feeling happy so it did it’s job! From the vibrant book cover to Skye with her confidence, she’s living her best life. This story is heartwarming, funny, sweet, a little sad and plenty inspiring.

Black Girl Unlimited | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Black Girl Unlimited – The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard

Author: Echo Brown

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 304

Publisher: Holt/Ottaviano

Categories: Young Adult, Coming of Age, Racism, Misogyny, Socioeconomic, Drug Abuse, Mental Illness, Sexual Abuse, Magical Realism, Own Voices, Violence

Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side, where apartments are small and parents suffer addictions to the white rocks. Yet there is magic . . . everywhere. New portals begin to open when Echo transfers to the rich school on the West Side, and an insightful teacher becomes a pivotal mentor. Each day, Echo travels between two worlds, leaving her brothers, her friends, and a piece of herself behind on the East Side. There are dangers to leaving behind the place that made you. Echo soon realizes there is pain flowing through everyone around her, and a black veil of depression threatens to undo everything she’s worked for.

Heavily autobiographical and infused with magical realism, Black Girl Unlimited fearlessly explores the intersections of poverty, sexual violence, depression, racism, and sexism—all through the arc of a transcendent coming-of-age.

My Attention: it had my full attention but I had to read it in sessions to process what I was reading

World Building: this is contemporary, set in the early 90’s, but with magical realism

Writing Style: so poetic and unconventional – there are times when author is writing about an even and it jumps (connects) to another event in her mind

Bringing the Heat: there is heat for the character as she processes new sexual feelings 

Crazy in Love: nothing romantic, Echo has a few crushes in her life

Creativity: Echo and it seems most females in this book are wizards! She lists the wizard rules in this book as she tells you her story. The rules are more like a guideline on how to survive challenges in your life.

Mood: Absolutely inspired!

Triggers: rape, beating, abuse, drug use, thoughts of suicide

My Takeaway: We are wizards and we can get through our hardships!

  • This story cover some hard topics. It is Echo’s story and her parents use drug users, they live in poverty, and she feels ugly because she is black. Echo is also sexual abused, raped, bullied, beaten and yet she is a wizard and she recognizes this darkness that descends upon people who have internal struggles which is almost everyone around her. She learns to defeat the darkness.
  • This story has a lot going on. It explores…everything from drug abuse, racism, poverty, self-esteem, rape, sexual molestation, parenting, religion, oppression, it covered so much! But for me it worked, it made the conclusion so powerful when Echo perseveres over her dark times.
  • The author wrote this book in a way at first jarred me and I had to wonder if it was a mistake because I was reading an ebook. So I thought the formatting was WAY off..but nope – Echo would talk about something and slip into another memory, as they were connected in some way that you didn’t think it would be! I thought it was fantastic after realizing it wasn’t a mistake.
  • The writing is so powerful and strong, I was highlighting so many sentences or phrases in the book!
  • Echo’s voice is so strong. Her life shocked me – the sexual abuse, how she was living and surviving, and still being the smartest and most accomplished kid in school. I felt her fear, her anguish and pain. I felt her joy too. But I loved her speech in the end and the notes she and her friends wrote as well! No matter what Echo went through, I’m glad she had her friends beside her and she did have help. But this wasn’t only about Echo, it was about her friends, and her family too!
  • The magical realism was interesting, I don’t know that it fully worked and that my belief was suspended enough to believe Echo and some of her friends and family were wizards. I actually thought it was a metaphor or that Echo and her mom had a mental illness and being a wizard was the way to explain it but they are wizards. I think the wizard rules was an awesome guideline of survival though and that it applies to wizards and non-wizards alike.
  • There are so many topics and themes that arise in this story, I thought it would be too much but honestly, I thought it made for an impactful reading experience that I won’t ever forget.

Echo’s personal coming of age story is absolutely powerful, fearless, important, and inspirational. It is poetic, and raw. I cheered Echo on as she struggled through events that killed the light in her but what doesn’t kill her made her oh so much stronger. I admired her determination, strength and capacity to forgive. This is an amazing story full of despair but also full of hope, friendship, forgiveness and yes, wizards.

Today Tonight Tomorrow | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Today Tonight Tomorrow

Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: July 28, 2020

Categories: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Today, she hates him.

It’s the last day of senior year. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been bitter rivals for all of high school, clashing on test scores, student council elections, and even gym class pull-up contests. While Rowan, who secretly wants to write romance novels, is anxious about the future, she’d love to beat her infuriating nemesis one last time.

Tonight, she puts up with him.

When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan has only one chance at victory: Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle, a farewell tour of the city she loves. But after learning a group of seniors is out to get them, she and Neil reluctantly decide to team up until they’re the last players left—and then they’ll destroy each other.

As Rowan spends more time with Neil, she realizes he’s much more than the awkward linguistics nerd she’s sparred with for the past four years. And, perhaps, this boy she claims to despise might actually be the boy of her dreams.

Tomorrow…maybe she’s already fallen for him

Thank you to Simon Pulse and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

My Reactions:

My Attention: caught

World Building: landmarks in Seattle – I’ve never been, so it was nice to learn the favorite local spots

Writing Style: loved the dialogue between Rowan and Neil

Bringing the Heat: whoa…🔥🔥🔥, definite sparks between them – and then some awkward teenage sex (which was actually sweet)

Crazy in Love: enemies to lovers

Creativity: love the HOWL game incorporated into the story

Mood: story made me go awww

Triggers: anti-semitism

My Takeaway: That boy you been hating so hard on might be the boy that you love. Also, it’s okay to love romance novels!!

  • It’s a feel good, last day of high school, emotional, and yet sweet story! This author made me feel like I was in high school again and yeah…that’s been a little over two decades for me so I loved how happy this story made me feel.
  • Enemies to lovers is my favorite trope and although this story takes place in one night, it works because Rowan and Neil have MAJOR history. They have competed against one another all throughout high school. They have been trying to best one another until the very end of high school! 😅 I loved their dialogue and I how the love to hate on each other. But I enjoyed seeing how finally for one night they can truly enjoy one another’s company. It was so cute and these two have sparks, I loved it!
  • Rowan is a romance novel lover (YAY). She wants to be a romance novel writer but see people put her down about her love of the genre. I felt her on all of it. Why do we have to be shamed for reading what we love? It was nice to see her share her fears about what she really wanted to be.
  • Neil…aww I like that he wasn’t the drop dead gorgeous hunky jock that’s the usual love interest. Nope, he’s a nerd, ambitious, competitive and loves his family. But there is a lot going on under his persona of co-president and valedictorian.
  • This is a sex positive book which is really refreshing. Rowan has open dialogue with her parents about sex, isn’t afraid about knowing and having sex, she is informed and it’s awesome. Neil is the virgin in this case haha, which was sweet (when he blushes). I liked that their first time together was awkward and not perfect but sweet because they are so into each other.
  • Another issue that was addressed in the book was Rowan being Jewish and how she dealt with it in school. I liked hearing her experiences because my kids are being raised Jewish (dad side), though I am Catholic, but we celebrate both holidays.
  • Incorporating a Senior game on the last day of school called HOWL where they had to go around Seattle to do a scavenger hunt was awesome – it gave me so much insight into the city of Seattle, which I don’t know much about since I’ve never been. I felt the love for the city in this story.
  • This is a sex positive book which I love so there is sex in it which totally fits the story – it’s awkward, sweet and realistic! But it appears right at the very end of the book and I think by then, even without that scene, the story would have been great. For me it wasn’t needed – I could already feel the fire between these two the moment they kissed. 😍 The sex scene is fairly quick and not very descriptive though. The kiss was what made my heart pitter-patter!

I love that this book took place in a span of 24 hours but so much happened with the HOWL game giving me a tour around Seattle, the fun bantering between Rowan and Neil, the enemies to lovers trope, Rowan sharing her experiences about being Jewish and her feelings about wanting to be a writer – at times I was wondering how these kids fit ALL of this activity into one night, ah…youth! And speaking of youth, this book gave me all the feelings of last day of school, wondering about summer and going off to college (and it got me thinking about it all in this time of a pandemic where graduations were altered drastically 😞). All those feelings combined in this one book worked so beautifully.

The Black Kids | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Black Kids

Author: Christina Hammonds Reed

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 368

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Categories: Racism, Los Angeles History, Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Family, Friendship, Rodney King Riots, Coming of Age, Identity

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Los Angeles, 1992

Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of high school and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

But everything changes one afternoon in April, when four police officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them? 

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

I had to request this book because of the cover and it’s subject matter. It did not disappoint!

My Reactions:

My Attention: caught

World Building: Los Angeles, California 1992

Writing Style: slow beginning but the message is strong

Bringing the Heat: 🔥 the heat of the riots – yes, the sex or romantic scenes, not so much

Crazy in Love: not so crazy, there is a growing relationship but it’s in the second half of the story

Creativity: during the Rodney King riots, Ashley is coming of age and dealing with family problems/history, friendship problems, dating problems and being black in an affluent part of Los Angeles

Mood:  eyes opened to Los Angeles history

Triggers: racism, bullying, violence

My Takeaway: When Ashley’s world comes crumbling down she finds out the truth about her friends, family and herself – and that’s a good thing.

  • This was the book I needed to read because I went to college in Los Angeles, back in 1996. I was only there for four years but this book opened my eyes very wide to the history of Los Angeles that I never knew about! I was unaware of the segregation of Santa Monica and the coastal towns but it explains what I see on the news today when I see white supremacist that are prevalent there! Also, this story takes place in 1992 and I was a high school freshman back then but the time setting definitely made me nostalgic for the music, which is tied into Ashley’s story.
  • Ashley is friends with the popular white girls in her school, and some of them use racial slurs around her casually. She likes fitting in but at what cost? Throughout the story she starts to question her friendships with these girls. It was a relief to see her venture out and talk to other people outside her group.
  • Speaking of Los Angeles history, another important history that Ashley explores is her family history. It’s so powerful when she says the history she knows starts with slavery in America…and that’s what was robbed from black people when they were taken from their motherlands and sold into slavery here in America, their true histories…histories that began in Africa, lost. At times Ashley doesn’t seem to care, she’s a teen going through friend and boy problems and the world outside doesn’t seem to matter. How much does it affect her that her grandma’s vacuum shop gets looted in the riots? She’s not close to that side of the family or it’s history, so how much should she care? So many of the mention of history in this story is powerful.
  • Her family problems are realistic. Every family has drama, and they are going through it with her older sister, who becomes part of the riots. Her parents have their marriage problems, her uncle and cousin being affected by the riots also appear in the story – so I felt like those issues were relatable. Also, I love her relationship with her nanny, Lucia – she was someone super close to her it seems, the one real friend she had maybe.
  • This story builds – at first it feels superficial being in Ashley’s head, in her life with her perfect white friends as they do whatever they want to do. But that’s what I think is great about this story, Southern California has that beach, casual, blasé, and Hollywood vibe. But this story gives us a history lesson about Los Angeles. I was waiting for this story to make an impact on me and it snuck up quietly, it was a crescendo. And though this was in 1992…it happened again in 2020, except the riots took over more than one city. It’s what makes this story so important today.
  • This is set in the 1990’s but at times I thought it was set in 2020! The racism, the violence of the riots, it was a repeat this year and on a bigger scale.
  • Another issue that was big in the 80’s and 90’s was HIV/AIDs. It does appear in this story very briefly. Also the teens in this story are out doing all kinds of things like smoking pot, drinking or doing drugs like E at prom. There is even a quick sex scene memory but it’s not graphic.
  • Ashley comes off superficial, especially in the beginning because of the friends she has and where she lives but it’s important that we are in her head. We do see growth throughout the story.

Ashley’s experience with the Rodney King riots, living on the outskirts of the rioting has a powerful and unexpected impact on her. She thinks the issues don’t affect her until she realizes it really does. She’s black. The racism against her and her family, her people, it affects her deeply but she’s been trying to fit in or blend in – but she can’t. I loved watching her change and grow as she confronts all the issues converging on her at once. This is a powerful story of an important time in history that’s absolutely relevant and relatable today.

The Lost City | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Lost City

Author: Amanda Hocking

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: July 7, 2020

Categories/Themes: Contemporary Fantasy, Mystery, Identity, Coming of Age, Paranormal

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Nestled along the bluffs of the forested coast lays the secret kingdom of the Omte—a realm filled with wonder…and as many secrets. 

Ulla Tulin was left abandoned in an isolated Kanin city as a baby, taken in by strangers and raised hidden away like many of the trolls of mixed blood. Even knowing this truth, she’s never stopped wondering about her family.

When Ulla is offered an internship working alongside the handsome Pan Soriano at the Mimirin, a prestigious institution, she jumps at the chance to use this opportunity to hopefully find her parents. All she wants is to focus on her job and the search for her parents, but all of her attempts to find them are blocked when she learns her mother may be connected to the Omte royal family.

With little progress made, Ulla and Pan soon find themselves wrapped up in helping Eliana, an amnestic girl with abilities unlike any they have ever seen before—a girl who seems to be running from something. To figure out who she is they must leave the city, and possibly, along the way, they may learn more about Ulla’s parents.

Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

I heard of Amanda Hocking years ago but I have never read her books. When I got asked to join the blog tour, I jumped at the chance to finally read one of her books.

My Reactions:

My Attention: It had my attention but it took me a few days to read this book, which isn’t a bad thing.

World Building: Wow. This world she created is so detailed, and it’s build into our modern day society. I mean it’s so detailed that at the end of the book she lists the history of Troll monarchies.

Writing Style: the pace of the story is slow but it reads like a mystery – despite that, I was so engrossed in this fascinating world that Ulla lives in.

Bringing the Heat: none – some VERY mild flirtation 

Crazy in Love: none so far

Creativity: the world Hocking has built is so rich, it makes me want to read the other series she’s written

Mood: impressed but also wish there was more 

Triggers: prejudice towards half breed species, for example Omte/Human, Troll/Human

My Takeaway: Ulla is trying to find out who her parents are and in the process finds out way more about the world she in live and the people in it.

  • The world building is very imaginative and creative. Unfortunately I never read any of the other series before The Lost City. I love how the trolls are explained as if they are a different race of people, with their own tribes. The detail about the tribes, their histories and characteristics was like I had just discovered this in a history book or something. They seem real!
  • This paranormal world is an alternate Earth where trolls exist. Their neutral space is called the Mimirin, where Ulla is headed to do work and research to find out who her parents are. Mimirin is a whole city where scientific research is being done to find out more about the Trolls. It was fascinating to me.
  • Ulla is an interesting character. Personality wise, she’s open-minded and always gathering information. She’s not rash and very level-headed. Ulla hasn’t had the best education with her upbringing but she makes up for that with determination. She’s on a quest to find out who her parents were. While on this quest though she deals with some challenges and makes friends along the way.
  • There is an array of characters, some who are mixed Trolls like Ulla is. One character named Eliana is a total mystery for most of the book but she’s a big part of the story. I liked Hanna, Ulla’s charge and Dagny who is an ACE character. Pan is an ally and maybe a romantic interest as well? We shall see as the series continues.
  • There is a lot of information to digest, especially for me, because I come into this series very new and never having read any other book set in this world. So even thought it was slow going – I still enjoyed it. But really I think reading the other series before this book is a must.
  • This story reads like a mystery. I just wished we got to discovering more about Eliana a bit quicker. She was quirky with her lost of memory but sometimes it was frustrating.

Overall, the thing that impressed me about this book is the writing and world-building. I was lost in the world and I loved learning about Trolls and the differences between them. There are many unanswered questions, since this is only book one of the series but I do wonder about what Ulla will find out about herself and Eliana. I look forward to reading more books from this author.

BLOG TOUR} In the Neighborhood of True by. Susan Kaplan Carlton

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: In the Neighborhood of True

Author: Susan Kaplan Carlton

Format: Paperback (gifted for review)

Pages: 314

Categories: Young Adult, Social Justice, Racism, Antisemitism, American Southern History, Religion, Romance, Identity, Historical Fiction

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

A powerful story of love, identity, and the price of fitting in or speaking out.

After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.

Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes. 

Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for a copy of this book and giving me a chance to join this blog tour!

My Reactions:

My Attention: engrossed

World Building: Atlanta, Georgia, 1958

Writing Style: to the point, story was a quick read, flowed wonderfully

Bringing the Heat: 🔥 some make out scenes

Crazy in Love: there is love, but not so crazy

Creativity: I like how this story is coming from a girl who is Jewish and moves from New York to Georgia at a time when racial tensions are high

Mood: contemplative

Triggers: bombing, lynching story, racism, antisemitism

My Takeaway: We have to know history so we don’t repeat it and this story reminds us how are civil rights history isn’t so far in the past. It weighs heavily on our country today.

  • I honestly didn’t know the story about Stone Mountain in Georgia until the Black Lives Movement protests just recently after George Floyd was killed. I learned even more about it in this book through Ruth’s eyes. I also didn’t know about Leo Frank, so this book was eye-opening to me. The setting of the 1950’s south comes through in this story. As a kid I was listening to 1950’s music because that was my parents’ childhood songs and they played it a lot in the house. The description of the clothes, and the way they talked felt authentic. When Max is described as looking like Buddy Holly haha, I had an imagine in my mind right away!
  • This is a coming of age story of a girl who is grieving, falling in love, and wanting to be a Southern Jewish Debutant Belle. But is that allowed? She wants to belong, but if her friends knew she was Jewish, what would they do? She learns the hard way that she needs to pick a side, but which side will she choose?
  • I love how quick and to the point this book is. It’s a fast read, showing this world Ruth is thrust into but…Ruth has moments where she also questions some parts of her life in New York as well. Did she know many black people when she was living in New York? I like that the author reminds us racism is everywhere even if you think it’s not around you.
  • I like Ruth’s family – her mom who is a reporter and tries to get the truth at things and her sisters are awesome. If she didn’t have any true friend, at least she had her sisters! Also her family isn’t perfect. Her grandmother is always pushing Ruth to hide being Jewish, to be a true southern belle and I get it…it starts with family, so her grandma was raised that way with prejudices even though she doesn’t think she is. I have family like that too, so that’s realistic.
  • For a book with heavy topics I think I wanted more emotion to come through. I felt Ruth falling in love, it’s insta-love but it was the 1950’s! People were falling in love and marrying quick back then. Sometimes I felt her grief, but that was shielded by her new life and friends. Ruth is who she is – and she did like the dressing up and shopping. So maybe her being a little shallow at times is why I wanted more emotion.
  • The ending with the bombing felt rushed. That’s a big event! But I think because the story starts off in the court room, I was expecting more courtroom drama? But that was quick.
  • Also – there is no love triangle. It’s hinted in the blurb but, nope.

Though this story takes place in the 1950’s, it is so very relevant today. Here we are in 2020, still fighting racism, antisemitism, sexism and all kinds of hate. I’m glad I learned about a few things in this book like the history of Stone Mountain, Leo Frank and antisemitism in the American South. At the heart of this story is Ruth’s search for her identity and I’m glad to see her choose to fight hate.

Opposite of Always | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Opposite of Always

Author: Justin A. Reynolds

Format: ebook (borrowed)

Pages: 451

Categories/Themes: Young Adult, Romance, Time Travel, Death, Illness, Friendship, Family, Black Lead Characters

When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack.

But then Kate dies. And their story should end there.

Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind.

Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do to save the people he loves.

This is a time travel love story that kind of lost me at time travel. 😕

My Reactions:

My Attention: lost it when the time travel kicked in and that’s a ME thing, it doesn’t make the book bad

World Building: it’s Jack’s world and he is in love with Kate

Writing Style: lots of dialogue, so it moves quick

Bringing the Heat: no heat

Crazy in Love: oh, Jack is crazy in love

Creativity: it got creative with the time travel

Mood: mixed feelings 

Triggers: death, illness

My Takeaway: “almost” is good enough ❤️ because that meant you still had some time with that person

  • Jack is the sweetest kid ever. I love his charming personality, I wanted to protect him from heartbreak. He is a nice guy and he has been in love with his best friend, Jillian, since forever until Kate comes along. But he’s an all around good guy, he’s the average nerdy guy, comes from a nice family and has good friends around him.
  • Friendship is a big deal to Jack and it shows with his two best friends, who are dating, Franny and Jillian.
  • The dialogue between the characters is really good and I could always tell who was speaking because their voices were distinct.
  • Jack is so in love with Kate, it’s the sweetest and saddest thing. And the book cover is the cutest and makes a lot of sense after reading the book.
  • I don’t mind death and illness in a story but darn, the time travel just took me out of it. I thought okay…let’s see what happens, but by the time it starts over again, I felt a disconnect. That’s mostly because I tend to be that way with books with time travel, especially when it keeps repeating itself! I understand why it was in the story though because it shows in each scenario how things could have turned out.
  • This book revolves around Jack’s love for Kate. And because it is a time travel story, his love for her is on repeat. I think it would have been great to learn more about Kate, not so much his love for her because we all knew he was crazy about her.

Unfortunately the time travel aspect made me disconnect from the story. I loved the beginning, where we meet Jack, Kate and all the people that make up his world but after Kate dies (the first time), I lost interest in the story. I think many people will enjoy this sweet love story though, especially if you don’t mind a story with time travel.

Color Me In | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Color Me In

Author: Natasha Diaz

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 373

Categories: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Black Lives Matter, Bi-racial, Romance, Own Voices

Who is Nevaeh Levitz?

Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom’s family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time. 

Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but one of her cousins can’t stand that Nevaeh, who inadvertently passes as white, is too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices they face on a daily basis as African Americans. In the midst of attempting to blend their families, Nevaeh’s dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. Even with the push and pull of her two cultures, Nevaeh does what she’s always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent.

It’s only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom’s past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has a voice. And she has choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she find power in herself and decide once and for all who and where she is meant to be?

I’m adding more black authors to my reading lists and I knew I had to read this one because it’s about a girl who is half-black and half-Jewish. This story helped opened my eyes to the struggles someone who is biracial could experience.

My Reactions:

My Attention: had my whole attention

World Building: a girl from Harlem and White Plains, New York

Writing Style: main character has such a strong voice, at times story moved slowly

Bringing the Heat: 🔥- Nevaeh’s love story is sweet 

Crazy in Love: it wasn’t the focus of the story, which was nice

Creativity: beautifully done with poetry from Nevaeh’s voice

Mood: open minded 

Triggers: bullying, racism, divorce, depression

My Takeaway: Nevaeh doesn’t know where she fits in and families, marriage, and people in general – are complicated.

  • I love how layered this story is. Nevaeh is struggling to keep it together while her parents go through a divorce. But she is also having an identity crisis because she feels like she doesn’t belong anywhere. The Black Lives Matter movement has begun and protests have been occurring in the streets of NYC, and she’s living at her aunt’s in Harlem because of the divorce. Living with her aunt has awoken a desire to know about that part of her.
  • This is an Own Voices story and I respect Neveah’s struggle to accept both sides of her cultures. She’s always been told by her father that she never had to go to Temple…until now. He’s also telling her she is going to have a Bat Mitzvah. So Neveah feels lost with all these changes happening in her life. I felt her stress – I was stressed out for her! I can see why she acted out at times, but I also wanted to sit down and have a talk with her. Neveah expresses herself beautifully with writing poetry which is included throughout this story.
  • Her romance with Jesus is really cute. I liked that it wasn’t the focus of the book, but that he was there for her.
  • The divorce is a big part of Nevaeh’s life and her mom goes through severe depression. I like when Nevaeh finds her mom’s diary and we get a glimpse of how she met Nevaeh’s dad.
  • I love how Harlem comes alive in this story. I can visualize the street, hear the neighborhood and that festival scene was amazing.
  • We see a lot of instances where prejudice and racism are on display in the streets of New York, and so much at her school with that especially one classmate of hers, Abby. 😒
  • Both Neveah’s parents neglected her while they are separated and going through a divorce. Her mom is depressed and is in bed a lot, which is understandable and her dad…wow, her dad is barely there for her! And he takes the side of his new girlfriend? Like what was that? That frustrated me so much but I know it is realistic. I just wished he realized how much he hurt Neveah with his actions. He comes through somewhat in the end for her but other than that…😞.
  • Neveah makes a lot of mistakes and has to check herself at times. People around her are good at telling her things point blank like her aunt, her twin cousins and her best friend, Stevie. She doesn’t always get it right away but that’s part of the struggle she is dealing with.

Neveah is not perfect, she is struggling, but she is also learning so much and most importantly learning to accept the parts of her that don’t feel like her. The characters in this book from Neveah’s mom, Jesus and Neveah experience many instances of racism in this story which is important to see. This book gave me a full experience through Neveah’s eyes and I think that makes it a wonderful Own Voices story.

ARC Review | The Mall

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Mall

Author: Megan McCafferty

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 320

Publication Date: June 9, 2020

Categories: 90’s Nostalgia, Young Adult, Romance

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

New York Times bestselling author Megan McCafferty returns to her roots with this YA coming of age story set in a New Jersey mall.

The year is 1991. Scrunchies, mixtapes and 90210 are, like, totally fresh. Cassie Worthy is psyched to spend the summer after graduation working at the Parkway Center Mall. In six weeks, she and her boyfriend head off to college in NYC to fulfill The Plan: higher education and happily ever after.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans…

Set entirely in a classic “monument to consumerism,” the novel follows Cassie as she finds friendship, love, and ultimately herself, in the most unexpected of places. Megan McCafferty, beloved New York Times bestselling author of the Jessica Darling series, takes readers on an epic trip back in time to The Mall. 

Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

Talk about taking me back to the 90’s and basically my childhood! This story which is mostly set in a mall, is all nostalgia and fun. Cassie Worthy, is actually dealing with a few things in her life like breaking up with her boyfriend of two years, not having a place to work and then dealing with her parents divorce. But she finds herself a new job and getting through this disastrous summer by going on a treasure hunt. A treasure hunt in a mall you say? This story is a fun homage to “the mall”, which was our social hub once upon a time, a long, long time ago…in the 1990’s.

  • The cover and it’s neon pink color just captures the feel of the book. Love it.
  • I may be a little biased, but I was a pre-teen/teen in the 90’s! So everything in this book, like the Sam Goody music store 😂 (cassette tapes and cd’s – wow), the food court, ALL of it just took me down memory lane. The mall was the place to be!
  • I really enjoyed the characters like: Drea Bellarosa, Cassie’s not-so-new summer friend, is pretty awesome. She pops off the page, I could see her in her fashions and hear her honking laugh. They made unlikely friends but they were good for each other. “Sam Goody”, who’s name we don’t know until the end was so reminiscent of my love of all things music back in the 90’s and discovering bands – etc. Love that Cassie had a summer fling with him and Gia’s mom was fantastic too, she had such personality!
  • The treasure hunt in the book is such an 80’s/90’s adventure – like the movie Goonies. But it added a fun element to the story, and it helped Cassie concentrate on something other than her life seeming to fall apart. It brought Cassie and Drea close together and I’m glad Cassie earned a friend through it all.
  • Cassie transforms during the summer with Drea’s friendship, the treasure hunt and hooking up with boys. I’m glad she found her backbone when it came to her douche of an ex-boyfriend Troy and the plan. Cassie’s a smart girl and was definitely not someone who was going to sit back and take Troy’s treatment of her, but from a lot of nudging from Drea, she learned to love her true self.
  • This is a really light-hearted quick read – at times I thought maybe too light hearted but I think the focus on Cassie and Drea’s friendship was the right call. I was more interested in their relationship than Cassie finding a new boy to be a rebound. I like that though she had all these changes during the summer, it never changed her plans for college and her future.

The Mall is a nostalgia filled read for us who grew up in the 90’s. I think for readers today who are fascinated with that decade, this book would definitely give them an insight to our days gravitating to the mall. The book is a fun, quick read and will make the perfect summer read. I could definitely see this as a tv show and I’d totally watch it.

Book Review | Starfish

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Starfish

Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman

Format: Paperback (owned)

Pages: 352

Categories: Coming of Age, Young Adult, Contemporary

A half-Japanese teen grapples with social anxiety and her narcissist mother in the wake of a crushing rejection from art school in this debut novel.

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin. 

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves.

Starfish is a story about a girl named Kiko with a narcissistic mother, a broken family and a talent for art. She is dealing with being bi-racial, half white and half Japanese in a mostly white town. Kiko is ashamed of herself but through her art work she learns to express what she feels and hopes one day she can heal.

  • This family is broken – Kiko and her brothers aren’t close, they have a narcissistic mother which was portrayed very well, and her father is remarried with a family of his own. I genuinely felt scared for Kiko because her mom didn’t believe her about a certain situation and there seemed to be no one Kiko could really turn to.
  • Thank goodness for Jamie her best friend coming back into her life. Talk about having a life line! And thought their relationship went from a friendship to a crush to something more, I liked that she took a step back to fix other things happening in her life that took precedence.
  • The events that happened in Kiko’s life was something she blamed herself for and that was heartbreaking to think all of this burden was on her. The truth does come out though but still…so much heaviness. Kiko also deals with social anxiety on top of everything else and it just made me hope she gets help with everything one day. I love the sections of the story where Kiko thinks what she wants to say, but what she says instead. 😞 She censors herself so much.
  • She meets someone who appreciates her talent and helps her face some truths about herself. I love that she had a mentor in her life.
  • Kiko’s mom – 😒 she clearly has problems and needs help. When Kiko leaves her mom’s house (thank goodness) I was already worrying about her brother Shoji who was so quiet (all siblings dealt with their mother a certain way to cope) – and I was afraid no one was worrying about him enough.
  • It’s a heavy book. Kiko deals with self-esteem issues and anxiety exacerbated by living with her mother. Kiko’s mom didn’t even believe her about what her uncle did to her – it made me so angry but also I understood, this is reality, parents don’t believe their kids sometimes. Honestly it’s heartbreaking but I put myself in Kiko’s shoes and I felt like this story to be very realistic.
  • Triggers: racism, attempted suicide, anxiety, depression, sexual abuse

Starfish is not a light read, but I think Kiko’s story is important and will make an impact with many teens out there. I was raised in a place where the more mixed race you are the more special or beautiful you are and I wished so much Kiko had this experience. I felt such sadness for Kiko about her feelings of being trapped in her bi-racial body and in her home with a mother who thinks the world revolves around her. I wanted to break all those kids out of her custody. This story covers abuse (parental and sexual), anxiety, depression but it is also about strength too and the courage to embrace yourself and break free.