Spoiler Free Review: All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

Title: All Boys Aren’t Blue

Author: George M. Johnson

Pub. Date: April 28th. 2020

Genre: YA LGBTQIA+ Memoir

Format: Libro.fm/audiobook

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Pages: 304 Pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | LIBRO.FM

It’s no surprise to me by now the level of procrastination I take on whenever I’m to review a favorite book. I listened to this memoir told in a series of personal essays on Libro.fm & strongly believe this was the best way to go. I love when authors narrate their own books & this truly felt like I was sitting at the table with George listening to him recount stories from his childhood/young adult years. Going back to his childhood days spent with his grandmother & cousins, we see the support he received as he embraced his sexuality. We Journey with him as he goes through the awkward dating years & then ventures into the rites of passage that comes with Fraternities in college. George starts his story in New Jersey discussing some of the issues he experienced as a queer black boy. The shedding of toxic masculinity as well as exploring gender issues & the decision to change his name are just a few of the things shared in this memoir. There were also some personal essays on his first sexual encounters, the topic of consent, and the boundaries he learned to create while learning his body. Some of  my favorite essays were those that gave us an inside look to some of the cherished family members who supported George from the very beginning. They say it takes a village to raise a child & we definitely see that when meeting family & friends who left a lasting impression.

It is important when reading Queer Lit that we’re looking to also read books that speak on intersectionality. This memoir gives us a look at what it’s like to navigate the challenges of being a queer black man in America. There were moments I smiled at fond memories shared while other times I felt the pangs of grief when speaking on the loss of a loved one. I don’t believe I have ever personally read a memoir written for Young Adults but after reading All Boys Aren’t Blue, I wondered out loud how many teens could’ve found wisdom and/or solace in these stories. These often untold stories are the ones I want on my home shelves. Although I listened to this on Libro.fm (phenomenal service btw), I most definitely am hauling my own physical copy <3’s!


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Review: The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

Title: The City We Became

Author:N.K. Jemisin

Pub. Date: March 24th. 2020

Genre: Sc-Fi/Urban Fantasy

Format: Physical

Publisher: Orion

Pages: 464 Pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON

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I’m just going to preface this review by saying I can 100% understand now why so many are deeply awed and at the same time intimidated by N.K. Jemisin’s writing. This author doesn’t pull any punches & completely trusts you as a reader to keep up & decipher whatever she’s throwing at you which is a WHOLE lot! this story takes off running with the introduction of New York as an avatar which is essentially a soul. There are five boroughs in NYC: Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx and Staten Island. They are all repped in this book by an avatar for the city of New York that is in danger of never being born…yea I know, try wrapping your head around that one!

All five boroughs must find their way to each other & save the main Avatar which is NYC himself. At the very start they aren’t all aware that they’ve been chosen as avatars but as their paths cross, things start to connect. One thing is clear! they love their city & won’t let anyone/thing threaten its birth. This was my first N.K. Jemisin read but I had heard from other bookish friends that the real treat is the social commentary embedded which I can now attest to. We have a villain who is referred to as The Woman in White who I came to understand, represents a threat to all that which makes the city of New York culturally diverse. The five avatars that are each a personification of the boroughs, range in ages & cultural backgrounds. This alone makes this one hell of a unique story because of its inclusivity & diversity which is exactly what I’d like to see more of in the Fantasy genre. The Bronx is repped by a woman in her 70’s who is a Native-American Lesbian & art administrator, Brooklyn is a middle aged black politician woman who was once a Hip Hop artist, Manhattan is a black male who is in Grad school & arrives in the city to meet his Trans roommate. Queens is repped by a young female Mathematician/Immigrant & Staten Island is the daughter of a homophobic, racist, Xenophobic cop. She’s never left the Island & lives in fear of Manhattan since it represents all the evil her father has warned her about.

These characters are complex & multi-faceted, they come bearing the weight of many of the stereotypes placed upon them. This isn’t your average Fantasy/World-building either, we don’t see any specific magic being used. Instead, a lot of their power comes from within and from the positive & negative life experiences they’ve each had. We see them learn to manipulate their powers once they notice the city react & come to life to help them in their battle against the woman in white. I am still thinking about these characters & all of the possibilities of where this story could unravel. NYC is just one of the cities being birthed, we also met Sao Paulo and Hong Kong personified. It is the duty of the last city birthed to help along the next & on the very first page there’s a map with some other possible cities. I’m very intrigued to see this series grow & while I wait, can now finally pick up The Broken Earth trilogy which is also by this author & very well loved.


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WWW Wednesdays 6/17/2020

WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On a World of Words and to participate all you have to do is answer the three W’s listed below. Once you’ve posted your WWW, drop a link to your post in Sam’s comments <3’s!

The questions:
1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you recently finish reading?
3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Hello Bookworms! I’m currently trying not to think of how many reviews I’m behind *failing* cause the urge the read has returned & so I’m finishing books at lightning speeds. I’m also thanking the universe for Librofm which has been the only thing to keep me actively reading. As I slowly make my way back to my TBR’s & eARCS, I have it in mind to read and boost black voices. Most importantly to read books that highlight intersectionality since we don’t see enough of these being spoken about in the bookish community. We have made great strides recently but that’s just the beginning, I will always do my part here on Lair Of Books to read, review & boost Diverse books. June being pride month means there are some amazing recommendations posts & videos in the community I encourage you to seek out.

Earlier this month, a friend reached out with the purpose of doing her part in boosting black voices with a Giveaway on my Bookstagram. This giveaway will be running through the month of June Internationally, five winners will be chosen to select from any of the books listed below. If you’re interested in entering, please click on the link below & see the original post on IG for details:

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The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon– I am about 40% into this audiobook having received an early copy from Librofm’s arc program. I was STOKED up until a few of my trusted bookish friends started giving mixed reviews. I didn’t let that deter me from starting my copy but I can honestly say that I agree so far with them. I love the friendship that forms between Somaya, London, and Taylor which is why I haven’t DNF’d. I say this because although it has a strong start, the mid-section dips & now I’m just kind of wondering if it’ll pick up again. We shall see…

The City of Brass (The Daevabad trilogy #1) by S.A. Chakraborty– 70% into this wonderfully complex fantasy and loving every minute of it. I’ll admit I’ve been reading this book for a while now but tbh with the state of the world being what it is, escapism wasn’t something I felt I could indulge in. It wasn’t until recently when I took a step back for self care that I’ve managed to read this book in doses. It is no doubt worth all the hype it received back when it first released, full review to come.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta– I listened to this one on Librofm as well & loved it so much! narrated by the author, this is a coming of age story of a mixed-race gay teen. We follow Michael from childhood into college years where he finds a home within the Drag Queen club on campus. If you’re looking for more books with supportive families, this is definitely one to pick up. Full review to come.

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson– Another Librofm listen cause I will never not listen to an audiobook where the narrator is the author themselves. Here we have a memoir written as a series of short personal essays on the authors life as a black queer child up until his adult years. I cannot stress this enough! If you only read 1 book this year, please make it this one. I have a full RTC where I’ll try my best to get my reasons across for why this book is important. How there currently isn’t anything like this on YA shelves & yet there are many black queer teens who can & will relate to George Johnson. This is a definite for my Top 20 of 2020!

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson– I purchased this book from Librofm after hearing so many glowing reviews from my trusted few. I purposely didn’t read the synopsis but know this is a F/F contemporary that takes place in a small town in Indiana. Stoked to take this one on the road this weekend.

I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick– This may seem like an odd selection for this month however I was granted an eARC by Simon & Schuster that I’d like to review in time for its publication date. This book hits the shelves on June 30th & other than it being a YA Thriller that is reccommended for those who loved the Podcast SERIAL (it me), I didn’t look into this one too much. I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy the read *fingers crossed* but we shall see…


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Spoiler Free Review: Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters #2) by Talia Hibbert

Title: Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters #2)

Author: Talia Hibbert

Pub. Date: June 23rd. 2020

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Avon

Pages: 320 Pages

🖤ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review🖤

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLES | AMAZON

I’m tempted to just start GUSHING from the start but I guess we should start with a brief synopsis. This is the second book in The Brown Sisters trilogy where we follow Danika Brown who is Chloe Brown’s sister (Get a Life Chloe Brown Spoiler Free Review) & hands down my favorite of the three. Dani is a bi-sexual plus sized scholar and witch who loves the Goddess Oshun. On the fast track to being a star in her career, Dani doesn’t have time for relationships or really the desire to be in one. She asks Oshun to send her a friend-with-benefits when her current lover ends up catching feelings she is not quite ready for which leads to a break up. Prayers seem to get answered quite quickly but it’s all a matter of seeing what’s right under your nose. Dani gets stuck on a elevator during a routine fire drill on campus & the brooding security guard Zafir Ansari comes to her rescue carrying her out in an Instagram worthy moment. Soon enough they’re all the buzz & people want to know more about this hot couple who they’ve assumed are dating. It turns out Zaf runs a charity for kids that could really use the publicity in order to raise funds & Dani is more than willing to help her very attractive friend with this endeavor. She’s also behind the scenes plotting to propose to Zaf that they enter a no strings attached agreement as bed mates. It all seemed like a good idea until it wasn’t & Zaf turns out to be the one who can finally have her face her fears head on.

Dani – Dani’s inner monologue alone had me smiling from ear to ear but the banter between her & Zaf had me outright laughing. Not only was the chemistry intense but the dialogue was non-stop entertainment. Dani is a strong empowered black woman who knows where her focus lies & that’s on her career & field studies. She has had her heart broken & since then has taken partners in that she keeps at arms length. There is no room for feelings & besides, allowing anyone in has only led to arguments & guilt trips. Dani recognizes she isn’t the mushy type & that mental stimulation trumps romance most of the time. Getting someone to understand that however is too hard a task & that’s why she opts for friends-with-benefits.

Zaf – Perhaps the complete opposite of Dani in every which way except in the confidence sector. Zaf is lovable, he is attentive & caring in all the things that matter. He listens to Romance audiobooks while manning the security desk! *smiles* & YES it does lead to an awkward moment that I truly LIVED for! ❤ I can honestly say I’ve never looked at a male lead & called him Book Bae but Zaf would absolutely get the part. Not only does he adore Dani to pieces, is NOT intimidated by her intellect & confidence, but he also really cares to give back to kids through his charitable organization. Zaf struggles with anxiety & there is a on the page panic attack he copes with, this is something he’s had to deal with all his life. He found a way to help boys on the Rugby team talk about their feelings & shed toxic masculinity. Zaf can do NO wrong in my book peeps #jussayin

I thought Get a Life Chloe Brown was unbelievably funny but this book made me feel SO good! I laughed, smiled, teared up & cheered on my new fave characters. I don’t think I’ve ever read dialogue this good, Talia Hibbert will always have my support. These characters are so well developed leaving you with a sense of comfort & familiarity. In many ways I found that I could relate to Dani who has built her defenses pretty high so as to not get hurt again. I found Zaf to be endearing & just all around the ideal partner. One who is supportive but knows when to give space. One who is in touch with his emotions in a healthy manner & therefore can show vulnerability. I love that their story starts off with real friendship & slowly builds. The fake dating trope was done so well I now want to read more books like this one. It’s modern romance done so well it leaves you wanting more. My copy has already been pre-ordered & a special spot reserved on my shelves 🙂


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Friday Reads & Thangs…

Hello Book Lovers! It’s been about 2 weeks since my last post where I reviewed Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson. There has been very little to no reading on my part since then. Friday Reads & Thangs is usually where I check in & share life updates, what I’m reading, watching, or sight seeing. However, this past week it was more important to stand up for a movement. I’ve been more visible on my Bookstagram trying to do my part in uplifting Black voices as well as sharing resources as I come across them in my IG stories. I’ve always aimed to read diversely & boost marginalized POC voices for my personal growth as well as to share on this platform. As a mother of two amazing Afro-Latinx kids, I consider it my every day goal to seek out knowledge that I can share with them. The need to listen & uplift black voices in the book community shouldn’t be something that is only now being done. That it is being done (Finally!) is a step in the right direction. I will continue to boost on all platforms with hopes that our tomorrow looks nothing like our present. Below are some of the links I’ve come across & utilized, there are many more easily accessible online. The petitions listed below are very quick to sign & will only take a moment of your time. I’ve also attached links for some of the resources I’ve come across as well as a list of where you can donate if you’re able to. Whether you’re on the front lines battling injustice through peaceful protests or signing a petition, you are doing your part in the fight to bring down systemic racism.

PETITIONS

GENERAL LIST OF BLACK LIVES MATTER PETITIONS TO SIGN

Bryanna Wallace & Autumn Gupta

Stand with Breonna Petition

Justice for Ahmaud Arbery

Justice for Darius J. Tarver

Justice for George Floyd

RESOURCES

BLACK HISTORY MONTH LIBRARY

ANTI-RACIST READING LIST (NYT)

DOCUMENTARIES THAT ASSIST IN UNDERSTANDING RACISM, PREJUDICE & MORE 

9 CHILDREN’S BOOKS ABOUT POLICE VIOLENCE

BEING AFRICAN AMERICAN & LGBTQ

ANTI-RACISM RESOURCES FOR ALL AGES

A LIST OF BLACK OWNED INDEPENDENT BOOK STORES

22 BLACK-OWNED BOOKSTORES YOU CAN ORDER FROM ONLINE

20 BOOKS ABOUT ANTI-RACISM TO EDUCATE YOURSELF


Currently I am not posting any bookish content on any of my platforms. This week has been one to reflect & do my part. On Monday 6/8/2020 I’ll return with a Gush review for Talia Hibbert’s upcoming book Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters #2)

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Spoiler Free Review: Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson

Title: Real Men Knit

Author: Kwana Jackson

Pub. Date: May 19th. 2020

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Family/Adult Fiction

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Berkley

Pages: 320 Pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLES | AMAZON

Real Men Knit is a Contemporary Romance with a family dynamic set in a Harlem knitting shop. After the death of Mama Joy a foster-turned-adoptive mother, we see four brothers struggle to keep the shop open while also dealing with their own lives. We follow Jesse Strong who is the most lax of the brothers as he sets out to prove that he can save the shop. All of the Strong brothers have different perspectives on what should be done with the shop. They see eye to eye only in doubting Jesse can actually pull it off & save the legacy Mama Joy has left in Harlem. Determined & with the help of Kerry Fuller, a friend of the shop who has grown up alongside the Strong brothers…Jesse starts to breathe life back into the shop. All the while, his reputation for being a heartbreaker in Harlem seems to be on pause. For Jesse, its always been Kerry he imagined as “the one” but things have never passed the friendship stage. This is a super slow burn/friends-to-lovers romance that will leave you cheesy smiling by the end. I personally enjoy my romance books to have a bit of meat in their plot but it’s always the books that tackle social issues that I appreciate most. Set in Harlem, there’s social commentary on gentrification & the lack of funding for after school programs in less privileged neighborhoods. The Strong brothers themselves are all men of color from different ethnicities who in their youth were having no luck finding good foster homes. Mama Joy gave these young boys an opportunity in a good home & community where they were able thrive & succeed in life. For this alone, Mama Joy is GOALS! 🖤

Jesse Strong & brothers are all described as being very attractive and the type to break your heart on any given day of the week. We have Noah the Dancer, Lucas the Fireman, Damian the Corporate Financial Analyst & Jesse who hasn’t really found his calling yet & isn’t really in any rush. Jesse is laid back & non-non-commital both towards relationships and life itself. This is what made Jesse the brother Mama Joy looked over most which in turn motivated him to save the shop she dedicated her life to making a safe haven for many in the community. Kerry Fuller has grown up around the shop & grew attached to the Strong family. Kerry & Jesse are super attracted to each other but also have this big respect for their friendship. In many ways Jesse sees Kerry as off limits because she’s who he’s always considered to be a “good girl” it isn’t until he switches lenses & starts seeing her as a woman that he allows those feelings to take flight. Kerry in turn did manage to get under my skin at times because even though we know she has that Mother hen personality, it just got to be too much at times. I did just want her to back off Jesse at times on the judgment. I also wasn’t with her whole looking down on other females regardless of the nano second of sympathy she offered them. Although we primarily follow Jesse & Kerry, we get a healthy dose of all the Strong brothers. Enough to spike my curiosity & want/hope the author gives us separate story arcs for each brother. Well, primarily I’d like Damian & Lucas story arcs *a girl can dream* 🤞🏽

It’s been a while since I sunk into a good book with all the feels of a comfy sweater but that’s exactly how this book feels! I felt like an honorary family member in the knitting shop surrounded by brotherly love. I’m hoping this isn’t the last we see from the characters in this story. I may not have fallen in love with Kerry’s character but the supporting characters were EVERYTHING & they were well fleshed out bringing each one to life on the page. This has peaked my interest for their individual back stories & of course I’d love to visit the knitting shop again. All in all I enjoyed reading from the perspective from a fellow native New Yorker & look forward to whatever Kwana Jackson writes next.


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April Monthly Wrap-Up & Book Haul

April was a month FULL of bookish events online like the Social Distance Book Fest & YALLWEST that made it possible to attend Bookish events virtually. I personally was able to watch many panels for debut authors I’ve had on my radar as well as some favorites I’ve never had the opportunity to hear speak. For the Social Distance Book Fest, you can still watch the playlist on Youtube & they are ABSOLUTELY worth watching! My favorite panels included: Navigating Latinx Identity in Fantasy, New Voices in YA Science Fiction & Fantasy and Diversifying Romance. In the realm of books & what I watched, I’d say there really was NO method to my madness. I kinda just went with the flow & read when the mood hit vs. a more structured TBR. I also participated in Riley Marie & Ginger Reads Lainey weekend Smutathon as a last minute thing because by the end of the month my anxiety had seen a peak. Whenever this happens, I put the Fantasy heavy books to the side & go for some lighter reads. Now as far as what I watched…this has to be the STRANGEST month yet! Yes, Yes I did fall down the tiger hole that is the Tiger King & all things cats really smh! haha 😉

These are definitely not in the order I’ve read them but I figured I’d start with the steamy reads I p/u during Smutathon…

DESPERATE MEASURES – ✨5 STARS✨This reimagining of the Disney Princess Jasmine was NOT what I had expected at all in the best of ways! With her kingdom snatched away & her father thrown off the throne, Jasmine is at the mercy of Jafar who now claims ownership of their lands as well as Jasmine herself. This is a consensual non-consent steamy read that will never allow you to see Jafar in the same light again! I among fully invested in all Katee Robert books & can’t wait to read the follow up with Hades & Meg as the MC’s.

THEIRS FOR THE NIGHT – ✨4 STARS✨ Another Katee Robert novella, this was the Smutathon Group pick. HIGHLY enjoyable with A+ chemistry, this one sets the stage for a new series that features a M/M/F relationship. Our female MC is out for the night celebrating her birthday & trying to forget about her ever mounting debt. With her best wing mate she hits up a lounge where she meets two hella mysterious guys who look good enough to make her consider a threesome. SUPER intrigued to see where this goes seeing as there may also be a royal twist? we shall see!

YOUR DAD WILL DO – ✨4 STARS✨Ok so maybe it was an entirely Katee Robert weekend? SO WORTH IT! this author can write chemistry like no other! these short reads are packed with sparks that leave you wondering about the characters way after you’ve read the last page. This one features a taboo/age gap romance where the MC has just been dumped by her fiancé. Plotting her revenge she shows up at her exes dad’s house with a plan to seduce. That she does! but also she gets a lot more than initially planned. LOVED this!

MY DARK VANESSA -✨4 STARS✨ My darkest read yet! I don’t think any book has ever made me feel this uncomfortable. Following a MC in past & present tense, we get the story of Vanessa at the age of 15 as she is groomed by her teacher while at a boarding school. Present day Vanessa is still very confused about what to feel as she finds out she wasn’t the only one. That perhaps it wasn’t a special relationship she was having but actually a case of grooming. HEAVY trigger warnings for rape, suicide, drug & alcohol abuse.

RUTHLESS GODS – ✨4 STARS✨ (My ReviewThe follow up to The Wicked Saints took us to a very dark place! the characters we got invested in really show growth here & carry forth their battle wounds. The war between the Kalyazin & the Tranavians is reaching a climax with the underdog Kalyazin surprisingly flipping the script. There are some secrets that come to light & leave everyone questioning the Gods who may very well be more involved than ever. The war on land may just be a subplot to the real war taking place between the Gods. I’m READY for the final installment with will be mostly from Malachiasz’ POV…there is NO other villain in YA that currently holds a place in my heart like Mal! ❤

FROM TWINKLE, WITH LOVE – ✨3.5 STARS✨(My Review) This was an audiobook I’d say was just ok. I’ve heard from other fans of Sandhya Menon that this is their least favorite. I still plan on picking up When Dimple Met Rishi in the near future seeing as that’s an ongoing series with a strong fan base.

INCENDIARY – ✨5 STARS✨(My Review) Saving the BEST for last! Zoraida Córdova is my Favorite YA Fantasy author! bringing to our shelves Latinx representation in characters is something she’s been doing since the Brooklyn Brujas Trilogy. Here we have a Fantasy inspired by the Spanish Inquisition with a cast of characters that are being hunted & killed for their magical abilities. The Kingdom has turned its back on what they consider heretics & our MC Renata Convida at one point in her childhood was their most formidable weapon. Now that she’s back on the right side of the fence, it’s time to take down the Kingdom once & for all. BIG time page turner with tons of plot twists that will leave you jaw dropped!

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THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB’S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES | CHECK PLEASE! BOOK 2: STICKS & SCONES

 

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BEACH READ & VALENTINE

*These are all ebooks I found for either $1.99 or $2.99*

BLOOD HEIR | THE LIBRARY OF THE UNWRITTEN | GODS OF JADE AND SHADOW | ONLY FOR A NIGHT | WHEN WE LEFT CUBA | DOMINICANA | XENI | RAFE | BRING ME THEIR HEARTS | KULTI 

What can I say about the circus that is the Tiger King on Netflix? this documentary-series made me lose track how many times I asked myself & friends…Is this real? LMAO! SMH Joe Exotic is quite the unforgettable character & this is the story of how his Zoo of Tigers was shut down starting with Carol Baskin who is cat activist on a mission to “save the cats” or is she? the jury is still out on Baskin. I binged this in two sittings not for quality but just entertainment.

This documentary is three episodes that are also highly binge worthy. We follow a group of cat lovers as they track down & help in the ultimate take down of a cat/serial killer. If anything this opened up my eyes at just how easy it is to track anyone down as long as they’ve left an internet fingerprint. The Facebook group that pieced together this puzzle as the killer released videos of him killing cats was PERSISTENT! it became a game of cat & mouse that as a viewer is hard to look away from.


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Spoiler Free Review: Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova

Title: Incendiary (Hollow crown #1)

Author: Zoraida Córdova

Pub. Date: April 28th. 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Format: Physical

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Pages: 384 Pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLES | AMAZON

Its been some time since a book has kept me up past midnight like Incendiary did in two sittings.  I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough to get answers to the many twists & turns this story took. Set during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, our MC Renata Convida who was kidnapped by the Kingdom for her special abilities is now back with her people. Many have died at her hands when she was just a child & unaware that she was being used as a weapon. The ability to extract all of a persons memories leaving them behind a empty shell, a ghost of who they once were. With a huge chip on her shoulder, she feels she has a lot to prove to those that have labeled her a traitor to her own kind. In this Kingdom, those with special abilities are viewed as diseased Heretics. However, a rebel group called the Whispers has formed with intent to put an end to the persecution of their people. We follow Renata and a close few as plans are formed, thwarted, and secrets are uncovered. Court politics, revenge, and an unraveling web of lies come together in this high stakes new Fantasy by Zoraida Córdova.

“I know two truths: The King’s justice will stop at nothing to destroy its enemies, and we’re waging a war we cannot win. But I keep fighting, maybe because it is all I’ve ever known, or maybe because the alternative is dying and I can’t do that until I’ve paid for my sins”

When we first meet our MC Renata Convida she is out with her rebel group of Whispers on a mission to meet up with one of their spies. Renata was taken in by the Whispers where she is constantly trying to redeem herself for the sins of her childhood past. Renata has lost all memories prior to turning 9 years old. Utilized as a weapon by the Kingdom at a very young age, Renata has stripped many who have the same/similar abilities as herself of their memories. Now that she is back with her own people, those she was kidnapped from when she was just a child…Renata is deemed untrustworthy. A Robari like Renata need only to touch you in order to leave you a walking ghost of a human.

Renata is determined to earn her stripes & prove everyone wrong. That she can be trusted & is instrumental in restoring their people & their land back to a time where they lived freely with their special abilities. There are those who can create illusions, soothe/change the tides of emotions, healers and although rare there are others like Renata who can steal you of your memories. We follow our main cast of Whispers characters Renata, Dez, Sayida (fave), Margo, and Esteban as they plot to infiltrate & take down the kingdom starting with Prince Cas. LOVED this cast of characters so much! I honestly was left with my jaw hanging at some of their actions & can’t wait to see what’s in store for them next.

Zoraida Córdova is my favorite YA Fantasy author & that’s just a fact! after being introduced to her writing with The Brooklyn Brujas trilogy, I wanted to read everything she wrote/will write. Incendiary may be YA Fantasy but the Historical aspects really make it stand apart as a series that can be read by anyone really. I found myself unable to put this book down which is odd for me because I take breaks whenever reading world building that’s this fleshed out. I found myself immersed in the history, magic system, and plot schemes that I couldn’t stop reading. I kept thinking to myself that this is an author who is very versatile & can deliver a story for many audiences. Last but not least I’ll say that I’m all in for more Latinx inspired Fantasy! ❤


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Spoiler Free Review: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Title: Clap When You Land

Author: Elizabeth Acevedo

Pub. Date: May 5th 2020

Genre: YA Contemporary/Own Voices

Format: eARC

Publisher: HarperCollins/Quill Tree Books

Pages: 432 Pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLES | AMAZON

🖤ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review🖤

Where to start with what has easily become my favorite read of 2020 thus far? the author writes in her afterward that this story is inspired by the real life events of flight AA587. A flight routinely set from JFK airport to Santo Domingo aka the Dominican Republic. The flight that never made it & crashed in a Queens NY neighborhood was quickly forgotten about. Just two months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, news coverage was focused on other potential terrorist threats but the flight AA587 crash was not terrorist related. 260 Souls who were mostly of Dominican descent lost their lives on this flight.

Clap When You Land is about the ties that bind in a family, grief, and the sometimes messy secrets that cannot be kept hidden. Told in dual POV we follow Camino & Yahaira who don’t know about one another’s existence. They share the same father who travels between New York & Santo Domingo throughout the year. His absence is always explained as “business” & each of his daughters look forward to his arrivals after a long stay away. On his way to Santo Domingo to spend time with Camino his flight falls into the ocean taking the lives of everyone on board. The news of his passing makes waves both in NY & in Santo Domingo. Many of the family secrets their dad was keeping could no longer stay buried. Camino & Yahaira find out about each each other. This is the story of how they come together, see pieces of their dad in one another, and  work through all of the emotions these truths bring.

Content Warning: Death of a parent, plane crash, heavy grief, attempted rape (not detailed on the page, premature labor, Cancer, Dengue Fever

Camino Rios – Born & raised in Santo Domingo, Camino is described as having her fathers features with her mother’s  slightly lighter complexion. Camino is a strong swimmer with a passion for medicine & a dream to one day study in Columbia University. Camino lives with a aunt who is a Curandera (self taught medical healer) & spends her days as an apprentice taking care of the sick in the neighborhood. Their medicine is a mix of natural herbs for home remedies as well as a connection to the Santos. Camino’s aunt is a Santera who has instilled in her love & respect for the saints who open paths & light the way. Camino is a little rough around the edges as a result of where she’s been raised. Camino is my favorite character, she’s been through so much & still manages to have a nurturing touch and soothing presence.

Yahaira Rios – Born & raised in NYC, Yahaira is described as being a mirror image of her father. Dark complexion, tight curls, curvy and a Pro at Chess. Yahaira is a rule follower who connects to her dad by way of Chess, it isn’t necessarily her favorite hobby but she’s a natural just like her dad. Yahaira is a Lesbian with a girlfriend who was also her childhood best friend, I LIVED for their nerd/fashionista love! Yahaira also lives with her mother who is described as a beautiful Dominican bombshell who is the daughter of a very important General in Santo Domingo. Yahaira’s mother has been a keeper of her husbands secrets, my heart really broke for the levels of pain she was feeling.

Yano – Although the girls dad has passed away & we never get to see him on the page, his presence is deeply felt all throughout. The man who became very good at living a double life was complex in many ways but one thing was true, he loved his daughters.

Elizabeth Acevedo is my Favorite YA author & this book only further solidifies this in my heart. I knew the premise of the book but I didn’t expect to see similarities with my own father in these pages. I lost my dad to natural causes, flew with him to bury him in Puerto Rico and quickly started hearing the rumbles of secrets. Secrets kept from my own father which were very painful & also had to do with paternity. I cried, smiled, and sometimes outright laughed out loud reading this story. There’s something oh so satisfying when you open a book and are met with characters you can relate to. Characters with the same upbringings & even spiritual beliefs.

I appreciated the research that went into flight AA587 as well as Dengue fever & its effects on the island. With a return to Acevedo’s novel-in-verse Format, Clap When You Land is a vivid portrayal of the devastation of loss, grief, and forgiveness. It’s also a story that gives us a different perspective, that of the parents who sometimes may be idolized by their children but ultimately are still very humanly flawed. The backstory on Yano & how he came to live two separate lives was painful but not unheard of. This is one I’ll cherish for all the emotions it stirred up in me. Elizabeth Acevedo continues to be such a blessing to Latinx Book Community 🙌🏽


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Spoiler Free Review: From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

Title: From Twinkle, With Love

Author: Sandy Menon

Pub. Date: May 22nd. 2018

Genre: YA Contemporary/Own Voices

Format: audiobook/Librofm

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Pages: 330 Pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLES | AMAZON

This is the part where I tell on myself…I have not read When Dimple Met Rishi. I still don’t know If I missed an Easter egg or two reading this one first but it doesn’t feel like it. I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook version, this is a story of a young aspiring filmmaker who happens to be a self appointed wallflower. Twinkle Mehra has big dreams of becoming a big time film maker but she has yet to find her voice. We follow her as she makes mistakes, gets grounded/humbled in the things that matter most, and also falls in love. Twinkle is not a like-able MC, she managed to get a few eye rolls from me but I also smiled a ton. Having always been cast aside by the in crowd & her long time BFF, she can come across as a bit defensive. We see her take on the project of co-producing a film & navigating the changes in her closest relationships. Female/female friendship dynamics aren’t often discussed in YA books, I appreciated seeing the good & the ugly. Twinkle doesn’t seem to like change but her big dreams call on her to see things differently. Most of all, staying true to herself is the biggest challenge. This being a contemporary romance, we get introduced to Twinkle’s love interest. Unlike other YA Contemporary book boyfriends, I found Sahil to be very caring & just an overall nice guy. He values Twinkle for what she brings to the table the minute she expresses her ideas for the film they’re co-producing w/out hesitation. They work well together but above all else what makes him stand out is that he wasn’t with letting Twinkle stoop to lower levels. He stood up for his beliefs & let her know when she wasn’t being a good friend.

This book also touched on the effects of having two parents in the home that are more work oriented. Twinkle harbors some resentment towards her mother for her often times physical absence. She takes this to mean that her dreams in film making aren’t supported. there were some really good talks in there. My favorite side character is Dadi, Twinkle’s grandmother who has a whole VIBE to her. She believes in astrology & gives Twinkle subliminal advice/messages she received. Dadi is over all the cool grandmother I would’ve LOVED to have had. What I loved most about this story is that it’s told in the format of letters Twinkle writes to some of her favorite female film makers. This added a authentic feel for Twinkles love of film & everything that about that world. I absolutely will read When Dimple Met Rishi since I see it’s the first in a series & already got a look at the third book!  *Heart eyes*


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