Hey Bookish Peeps! This week has been crazy and it isn’t even over! I don’t know how it is wherever you are in the world but it’s been pretty bananas in New York. I was really excited for this week with so many amazing books coming out and the launches of some anticipated reads along with my birthday (I’m even more of a grown ass woman y’all *shocked face*).
Each day, there has been notifications of cancellations of conferences, launch events and school visits; and if the event wasn’t cancelled, live signings weren’t/aren’t being done (This was done at The Strand and I was not happy about it, to say the least but I digress). This hurts both readers and authors. As a reader, I feel robbed of an experience to meet beloved authors, something that I look forward to and it’s the little adult social interaction that I get in a week (as awkward as I can be). I’m not an author but as someone who works on a per-hour basis, it has an impact to not do what both fulfills and pays the bills (oh shit, that rhymed).
So, in the midst of this crisis/chaos, what can we do to support each other? Of course, follow all the things that you can that is being advised but I’m speaking on a more emotional level as well as financial.
Reach out to each other via social media or if you have direct contact information. It’s important to still maintain some human interaction for the sake of sanity.
Read other blogs or watch other vlogs and leave positive comments. The world is looking like a hellafied dumpster fire right now so we need more positivity. Like our kindergarten teachers used to say “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all”, so keep that ish to yo’self-write it in your diary or whatever because at this point in time, no one got time for toxicity.
If the person has any sort of store, purchase something and/or share it to help bring in some business for them.
Be kind to yourself, if you feel yourself sinking from a lack of human interaction (I feel this at times), please take a break to breathe, read a page from the book you are reading, listen to your favorite song, watch a funny video, call your therapist or beloved person; anything that would lift your Spirit.
Buy books by your favorite authors, especially if they have books that recently came out or are coming out. They show up for us by writing these books and we should show up for them by purchasing them. If you already have their book, gift a copy to someone who you think would love it as well.
If an author posts that they are signing books at a store, please order from that store. Likely this whole situation is affecting your local Indie stores too.
If you aren’t in a place to financially support, talk up their books, post about them, write positive reviews on social media & book websites. Every effort truly counts.
Sending encouraging words to the authors could also be nice as well, especially if they are working on a new book. We can all use good vibes and virtual hugs.
Here are some books that either have come out or will be coming out.
The Only Black Girls In Town by Brandy Colbert
When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk
A Phoenix First Must Burn Edited by Patrice Caldwell
We Unleash The Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Meija (Sequel to We Set The Dark On Fire)
Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland (Sequel to Dread Nation)
Stamped by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi
Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown
Woke: A Young Poet’s Call To Justice by Mahogany L. Browne with Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko-April 2020 (I will be writing a reaction to this book because it’s fucking amazing)
Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova-April 2020
Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed-April 2020
These are just a few books that I could think of that recently came out or will be released next month. There are so many books coming out this year so if your TBR isn’t already redonkulous (like my mine is) then it is about to be! As Russell Simmons (I believe) would say “Take care of yourself and each other” in all this craziness.
Favorite Character: The Firebird… I think the Firebird is my spirit animal y’all because it cuts up without saying a word!
Favorite Quote(s): “I’m not a picky eater, but this looks like a llama just vomited into a tortoise’s regurgitated mashed potatoes, and that’s not meant as a compliment.”-Ken; one more “Guys like him are itching to be punched. In the Throat. With a car.“-Ken (I’ve definitely met a few that fit in that category)… Ken says some wild shit, Tala is hilarious too! I do live for this cast of characters!
BGM: I’m going to open this by saying you know that I love your work. We met while you were in New York and I had all your books ready to be signed. You saw me look at the ARC of Wicked As You Wish sitting with a stranger with Book lust in my eyes, asking how they got it and you didn’t know. It turns out that that look was hella warranted because I fucking LOVED that book! It makes me excited to get to the rest of the series but also into The Never Tilting World, which has unfortunately gotten pushed back in my TBR but you know I’ll get to it! Thank you for being my first interview for Bookish Girl Magic, by the way! Now, I’ll get to the questions and let’s keep this as spoiler free as possible, please and thank you!
BGM: How many books are set to be in this series? I need to know so I can get my coins together! RC: The HUNDRED NAMES FOR MAGIC series is a trilogy!
BGM: I gotta make sure I have my coins together then!
BGM:What is your favorite favorite fairy tale from your childhood? Have you ever cosplayed it? Are there pictures and can we see (LOL but really doe)? RC: Haha, I never even thought about cosplaying fairy tales before! My fairy tale would have been so obscure that no one would have been able to tell! I love two – Maria Makiling, whose story is very important to Tala’s bloodline, as she is a descendant, and this very obscure tale called The Traveling Companion. Both are actually integral plots in the series. It’s obvious as to what for Maria Makiling, but The Traveling Companion is about a man who did good things without expecting a reward, and as a result one of the people he helped in turn helps him gain a kingdom and a princess – but with a very poignant twist at the end, when it’s revealed that his companion was a corpse he’d saved from robbers, who regained life only long enough to aid him. This one plays a bigger role in the sequel, though I won’t say who this tale affects!
BGM: What event or person motivated you to finally sit down and write this book so I…I mean the world could have it in our hands? RC: I was bad at finishing books, because I felt disheartened (writing wasn’t a livable career in the Philippines) and so many people dissuaded me from even attempting. But then a local writing contest was announced that was being sponsored by a Big Name Author whose books I love. So for the first time ever I finished a short story, sent it in, and won third! Part of the prize was a dinner with said author, and when I mentioned feeling disheartened he told me writers ought to write – and since I was a writer, I should keep doing it. I wrote WICKED AS YOU WISH the following year! He was my main source of motivation for that. The author? Albert Einstein. (It was actually Neil Gaiman.)
BGM: Are there any people, in particular, that the characters are modeled after? This is such a diverse cast of characters & I’m not just talking about ethnic backgrounds! RC: For most of them it was about my identities, split into different characters. I’m Filipino, so that was obviously Tala. But I’m also Chinese, albeit one who’s removed from a lot of Chinese culture that I only relearned it when I was older, and that was Loki. I’m also enby like them (they originally had he/she/they pronouns, but I couldn’t figure out how to write it without being confusing, so I thought they/them was a good compromise.) West has a bit of Asperger’s, something I’m also familiar with, and both Alex and Zoe sort of channels my rage, though Alex is more obvious about it in the first book. A lot of the rest I based on friends! Ken was somewhat based on my husband (an amalgamation of him and me, really), who is also the most cheerful person on this planet. Zoe is based on my best friend, and Nya on one of the oldest and closest friends I have – the first ever one I befriended online when I was a teen.
BGM: Awwwwwwwwwww, now I’m a little in my feelings!
BGM: Which character is the most like you and in what way? *tents fingers together in anticipation* RC: The firebird! You know that if it could speak in human words it would constantly be sassing everyone and making sarcastic remarks about everything, which was very much teen me. Among the humans, I would say Ken is the closest with his constant needling and comebacks, though I’m not really one to have optimism and cheerful energy (that part was based on my partner!).
BGM: Why is the firebird the way it is? I mean, it’s my favorite character but you can’t take the firebird anywhere and Tala & the crew can’t seem to have nice things because of it! RC: That’s the biggest reason why I chose the firebird for this! In the original Ivan Tsarevich tales that feature the firebird, the implication always is that the firebird in the fairy tales represent something that is powerful and beautiful that everyone always wants to have, but that it will always bring misfortune to its owners in the process. And that’s the theme coming into the book: if you want to control the firebird, you’re going to get hurt a lot. Every spell in WAYW has an accompanying curse, and this is its curse. That’s the nature of firebirds – you’re always gonna get burned.
BGM: If you had to go on an adventure of any type to save a world from destruction, who would you pick to be in your crew? It could be characters from any of your books, celebrities, authors…sky’s the limit! RC: Every Marvel, DC, and anime character I know sounds like a great place to start!! If I’ve had to limit them to maybe three, though… I’d say Scarlet Witch, Son Goku from Dragonball, and Superman! And me with the Infinity Gauntlet! Or inside the Hulkbuster, at least!
BGM: Will Alex get his life together in book 2 or will I expect to be yelling at him/the book?… Because I really wanted to knock his ass out at times! RC: That was intentional! He’d been constantly on the run since he was a kid, he’d seen his parents killed, and he’s never really had anything to call home until meeting Tala. Before that he was always someone’s responsibility, being shuffled off from ally to ally and never getting the chance to bond with anyone. And then he sees how his whole kingdom has been wrecked and how nobody even seems to care that Avalon is gone, and all he hears is about other countries’ interest in the magic he technically owns, and how they can get at it… so naturally, there’s a lot of anger that’s building up there, and it also translates into his inability to trust anyone, even if it’s Tala, since he feels like he’s been used his whole life. Even the love interest he’d managed to have seemed to have given up on him so easily, plus he can’t manage a decent love life anyway because one of the effects of the destruction of Avalon was him getting cursed with the ability to turn people into frogs! I think I wanted to show the various reasons why he’s always so angry and mistrustful, even when you don’t always approve of his actions. I can’t say yet if it gets better in the sequel, but he’s definitely taking some steps toward stabilizing his life!
BGM: If you were to write any celebrity in the acknowledgements in this book (or future ones) like you did in The Bone Witch Series, who would it be? What would you say and why? (You know I love you for life for the Idris Elba mention but I’ll also fight for him…not his wife but other people, LOL). RC: I did write a celebrity into my acknowledgements for WICKED! Rory McCann is one of my favorite actors, and in my head he is absolutely my dream cast for Kay Warnock. I might be biased because he played Sandor Clegane, one of my most favorite characters, but I’ve adored him since Hot Fuzz!
BGM: What do you hope the biggest takeaway from this book will be for readers? RC: That it’s ok to sometimes feel like you’re an outsider, because it’s normal to worry about whether you belong or not, and that it’s more important to stay true to who you are. That mythologies and tales from other countries should be discussed on equal footing with Western fairy tales, and that your unfamiliarity with one doesn’t make them any less relevant or interesting! That diverse identities build a book up, not bring it down! BGM: *Allllllllll the Hearts*
BGM: What was you biggest lesson/takeaway/challenge from this book? RC: It’s all about perseverance. It took me ten years from writing thisbook to seeing it published, and it taught me that it’s more important to stick to my principles and do what I think is the best for the book than to publish it immediately and make bad compromises that will both make it worse and also make me regret agreeing to it! BGM: *Runs around victory lap style* YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
BGM: Last question…WHY YOU LEAVE US LIKE THAT with the ending Rin?! Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?! *lightly sobs* RC: =) In that case, you might also hate the ending of the sequel! BGM: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO *Falls out*
BGM: I hope you had a good time with these questions just as I have! And I do hope you come back to NY soon so I can have you sign yet another stack of books…also known as “your stuff”, lol!*And End Scene* LOL
I hope you all enjoyed my very first author interview! I seriously loved this book and I think you all will love it too! Go out and get it…and just make sure to let your people know you won’t be hanging out because you won’t want to put this book down, it is that good! Thanks for reading y’all! Bookish Love to you all!
Favorite Character: Isha! She is a real ass, down to Earth girl with a big heart who happens to be royalty! Isha lives her best life and tells it like it is…I’m just drawn to characters like her! Daphne Elizabeth came in a close second and Rahul (he’s hella funny, don’t sleep on him, y’all)!
Favorite Quote(s):“Mmm, no I’m totally listening. It’s just that I’m also having a foodgasm.”-Daphne Elizabeth (DE)… As a foodie, I felt this deep down in my Spirit…I will never forget the way my knees buckled when I took my first bite into a brownie bite from babycakes (I believe their name has changed doe)… NEVER! When you experience it, Savor that moment, my friends… saaaaaaaaavor it!
I’m going to preface this by saying that I am a HUGE Sandhya Menon fan. She had me wrapped around her literary finger from When Dimple Met Rishi and she has not disappointed me with her subsequent 2 books (From Twinkle, With Love and There’s Something About Sweetie) and her fourth, Of Curses And Kisses, which is pretty different from the others but enhances my love for her work! Sandhya is also a Hufflepuff, so that means that we totally get each other and she has my loyalty (#HufflesFoLyfe)! When I met her at Bookcon, I was doing flips internally because I love her work THAT much! She’s also a sweetheart & if you’ve met her, you would agree!
When Sandhya announced this project, I was 100% here for it. A fairy tale retelling with the main character being a POC, more specifically an Indian Princess…AB-SO-FUCKING-LUTELY (I’m lightweight obsessed with the Indian culture; you can thank my best friend of 20+ years Khaivchandra & a study abroad trip to India for that)! The works of L.L. McKinney’s A Blade So Black & A Dream So Dark (Alice And Wonderland Retelling with a Badass Black Girl as the main character) and Anna-Marie McLemore’s Dark And Deepest Red (Red Shoes retelling with brown girls at the center) really made me excited about retellings that I could see myself in. Sandhya adding to that list with Of Curses And Kisses really makes my heart swell with gladness (is that corny? It’s totally okay if it is).
OCAK is a Beauty And The Beast retelling that takes place at a boarding school in Aspen, Colorado. I’m not one for writing synopsis but for the sake of context (and blog tour purposes) here is a brief one: Sisters & Princesses Jaya and Isha Rao are sent to St. Rosetta’s Boarding school after a scandal *shocked face* hits their family. The intent of their time there is to dip out of the spotlight back home but that intent changed for Jaya when she discovers that her family’s centuries long rival (because Colonialism was a thing) youngest heir, Grey Emerson (Lord Northcliff if you’re nasty, lol) is there. Now Jaya plots out (to no one else’s knowledge) a way to bring the Emerson Name & Grey down in the most unconventional of ways…through his heart! Hopefully that synopsis has done the story justice, gave no spoilers and sold it for you *insert Angel face emoji here*!
Part of what I love about Sandhya’s work is how poetic she is in the building of her story, the characters and the scenery. I really saw the world of St. Rosetta’s (or St. R’s as Grey calls it) as I read the book, which says a lot because I’ve never been to Colorado or any sort of mountains (thissssss *points to herself* Black woman does not hike or ski and it’s really not a shocker if you’ve met me, lol). I also loved how she introduced each character and the timing behind each one coming into the story, it felt deliberate yet seamless. I’m a fan of DE and the crew (Leo and Rahul), how they ride for Grey despite his off-putting disposition (read: Grumpy cat in human form and really tall)…friends who are willing to see the Beauty in you (pun intended *drum beat*) and always show up for you when you aren’t even showing up for yourself are pretty rare. One time for the Real Ones of the world, outchea being true riders for their friends, EYE appreciate you! The build up between Jaya and Grey is also so good. I’m hella into rom-coms and it has some of that feel to it but doesn’t drop the ball when it comes to bringing aspects of Beauty And the Beast into it. It had its innocent moments along with some steamy mixed in there. I felt it was a great balance throughout! Sandhya did an amazing job with making this retelling her own.
Because I’m me and am a nerd of sorts, I have to take a moment to appreciate the fact that Sandhya brings in some history in the mentions of colonialism and how the British pillaged India (and really all of the countries it colonized). I feel like colonization gets glazed over, if it is brought up, but Jaya doesn’t ever forget what it/the British did to her country and her people. No, she doesn’t go into long winded rants about the wrongs of the Emersons and the British (though they would be valid) but she says enough that you get the point of the problems that this practice caused and really still hasn’t been fully atoned for (this is not even talking about in real life)…but I digress!
Seriously y’all, it is so easy to fall in love with this story and the characters. I finished this book in two days because I was so enamored with the world that Sandhya created. This book is the first of a series and I can’t wait to see where the other books go! The next book’s retelling and title hasn’t been announced yet buuuuuut good things come to those who wait, so keep watch of Sandhya’s pages (links are at the top of the page for your convenience) for those updates *wink* *wink*! Go pick up this book and get lost in the world of Jaya, Grey and St. Rosetta’s; you won’t regret it! Happy Reading y’all *waves as the screen fades out*!
So on instagram, I mentioned to a fellow book lover & educator, (shoutout to @woketeachersbelike) that I had read two children’s books last year but did not include them in the list in my I’ve Been Gathering Myself post. She asked why not and I didn’t have a good answer but I mused that I would do a separate post and thus, this is post is born! Here are some Children’s books that are written by Authors of Color that I either have in my personal collection, purchased for my students in the past or have found in searches!
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison
Freedom Soup by Tami Charles
Little Leaders by Vashti Harrison
Little Dreamers by Vashti Harrison
Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison
Think Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison
Little Legends by Vashti Harrison
Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy & Theresa Howell
Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter by Kenard Pak
Little Mole’s Wish by Sang-Keun Kim
The Kindergartener’s Handbook: Bilingual (English/Mandarin) by Dayna Martin
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
Festival Of Colors by Surishtha Sehgal
The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali
The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds
I’m A Pretty Black Girl by Betty K. Bynum
MMMMM! Soup Joumou by Carline Smothers
Fanmi Mwen (My Family) by Carline Smothers (in Kreyol)
Auntie Luce’s Talking Paintings by Francie Latour
Aisha the Great by Aisha Doris
Good Night, Wiggly Toes by Roda Ahmed
Mae Among The Stars by Roda Ahmed
ABC And Me by Roda Ahmed
Malcolm Little by Ilyasah Shabazz
Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz with Renee Watson
Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe
A Is For All The Things You Are: A Joyful ABC Book by Anna Forgerson Hindley
You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen by Carole Boston Weatherford
Zora And Me by Victoria Bond & T.R. Simon
Baby Goes To Market by Atinuke
Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee
Please, Puppy, Please by Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee
Giant Steps To Change The World by Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
I Am Enough by Grace Byers
So here are just a few books…hopefully I can come up with a more comprehensive list in the future, and I know more books are coming out this year! I hope this helps you find books for your [favorite] little ones or classrooms/centers! *kool-aid smile*
By the way, the title of this post is a Martin (the show) reference, in case you were wondering (*looking at those born after the late 90’s/early 2000’s*), lol! Have a great rest of your week!
Hey everyone! I started writing this post in the last minutes of 2019 so we can say that this is my last post of 2019 and the first of 2020 so depending on your time zone, HAPPY NEW YEAR and for my fellow Haitians, HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!
I know I have been quiet for a while, which I sincerely apologize for, adulting has been kicking my ass in the most major of ways! Everything has pretty much taken a back seat to my work but it doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about this blog or that I’ve stopped reading…I just didn’t want to post half assed or half hearted posts because work was draining the life out me & impacted my writing/brain! Hence the silence but I plan to do MUCH better in this new year! I figured I would share all the books I’ve read over the last year and hopefully, a title or two jumps out at you that you decide to pick up! I also completed the Free Black Women’s Library challenge to read 30 books by Black Female authors (the authors can use the pronouns She or They)! It was really amazing, I actually went on to surpass the 30, not to brag or anything, lol! Anyway, here goes the list:
Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America Anthology ARC Edited by Ibi Zoboi
Black Leopard/Red Wolf ARC by Marlon James
On The Come Up by Angie Thomas
A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney
The Field Guide To The North American Teenager by Ben Philippe
Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon
Binti: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor
Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths by Elizabeth Acevedo
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
Marley Dias Gets It Done And So Can You by Marley Dias
Internment by Samira Ahmed
Into White by Randi Pink
As Kismet Would Have It E-Novella by Sandhya Mennon
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Girls of Paper And Fire by Natasha Ngan
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
The Bone Witch #1 by Rin Chupeco
The Heart Forger #2 by Rin Chupeco
The Shadow Glass #3 by Rin Chupeco
The Girl From The Well #1 by Rin Chupeco
The Suffering #2 by Rin Chupeco
With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo
There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Mennon
I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
Front Desk ARC by Kelly Yang
Let Me Hear A Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson
My So Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma
Ash by Malinda Lo
Queen Of The Conquered ARC by Kacen Callender
Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Jackpot ARC by Nic Stone
The Jumbies #1 by Tracey Baptiste
Rise of the Jumbies #2 by Tracey Baptiste
My Life As An Ice Cream Sandwich ARC by Ibi Zoboi
Magical Negro Poems by Morgan Parker
There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker
Symptoms of A Heartbreak ARC by Sona Charaipotra
SLAY ARC by Brittney Morris
Color Me In ARC by Natasha Diaz
Who Put This Song On? ARC by Morgan Parker
Kingdom Of Souls ARC by Rena Barron
I’m Not Dying With You Tonight ARC by Kimberly Jones & Gilly Segal
Obviously ARC by Akilah Hughes
A River Of Royal Blood ARC by Amanda Joy
Girls Of Storm & Shadow ARC by Natasha Ngan
Riot Baby ARC by Tochi Onyebuchi
Ghost (Track Series #1) by Jason Reynolds
Patina (Track Series #2) by Jason Reynolds
Sunny (Track Series #3) by Jason Reynolds
Lu (Track Series #4) by Jason Reynolds
Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi
Crown of Thunder by Tochi Onyebuchi
The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert
Permanent Record ARC by Mary H.K. Choi
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite
The Jumbie God’s Revenge #3 by Tracy Baptiste
For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington
Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson
A Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai
The Vicious Deep #1 by Zoraida Cordova
The Savage Blue #2 by Zoraida Cordova
The Vast And Brutal Sea #3 by Zoraida Cordova
Dealing In Dreams by Lilliam Rivera
WarGirls ARC by Tochi Onyebuchi
A Dream So Dark by L.L. McKinney
The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis
Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds
The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring
I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Pride and Prejudice And Mistletoe by Melissa De La Cruz
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
Broken Places & Outer Spaces by Nnedi Okorafor
The Dark Fantastic: Race and The Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas
Children Of Virtue And Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
Daughters of Nri by Reni K Amayo
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett
The Epic Crushof Genie Lo by F.C. Yee
The Iron Will of Genie Lo ARC by F.C. Yee
Typing out that list made me realize just HOW much I’ve read this past year! I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have read all these amazing books and now I get to share my reactions with all of you! Which, from now on, I’m not going to call my posts Book Reviews, they will be Book Reactions because I’m reacting to these books rather than writing out reviews or ratings! I hope that’s cool with you all, I really just want to be authentic!
Anyways, here’s to another decade of reading and excitement over books! Bookish Regards to you all! Peace!
Favorite Character: Aketo…who doesn’t like a dude who is comfortable and confident in who they are?! Baccha comes in a close second!
Favorite Quote(s):“I used to hate my magick. For a long time, I couldn’t understand where my feelings ended and everyone else’s began. It was overwhelming. I spent most of my time alone until I was ten.”-Aketo As an empath, I feel this so hard. It’s REALLY rough when you are doing fine and someone around you starts to feel sad or angry…it sucks, especially with children because crying can come easy for some (I’m around them all day so I know) *deep sigh*! One more cause its so good: “I should warn you, Eva. I can feel you.”-Aketo…I think EYE blushed when I read that and I KNEW what he meant (see previous statement)! And THIS, My Gentlepeople is WHY Aketo is my favorite, LOL!
First, let me just say that I sincerely apologize for not having my post up on Thursday, As I’ve been doing to try to keep consistent…let’s just say that drama, adulting, pretty much life has been kicking a sista’s ass. I know I’m a day (or two) late but hopefully not any content short…I had a great fucking time revisiting all my feels (and DMs to Amanda) around this story to write this out and hopefully you get a chuckle or two out of it! Also, I curse A LOT in this one so if you are sensitive to that, proceed with caution (also know that I’m grown and as a grown woman, I curse a lot…I let all the words rip). So let’s get it, let’s GO!
A few months ago at the Schomberg Lit Fest, I was blessed with a copy of A River Of Royal Blood (ARORB, to keep it short from now on) at the Penguin Teen booth but prior to that, I had heard about this book and knew that I wanted to read it! Even if I had not, who wouldn’t be drawn to a cover with 2 dueling Black Girls, welding their magick like its nothing?! This cover is nothing short of fierce and it gave me every last bit of my life! Not only is the cover stunning but the story…GAH! I ate this book up in like 3-4 days staying up until unspeakable hours in the morning to read it as if I didn’t have adulting to do later…I believe I finished at like 2 am and you know what…#WorthIt!
As someone with a sibling…one that is not uncommon to have “spats” with, I felt this book so hard. Only difference is that I’m the older sibling (Eva is the youngest) & to my dismay, am not a royal (I am, in fact, a magical Black Girl *snap & neck roll combo*). I couldn’t imagine going after my sibling in the way that Isa did Eva because I’m of the philosophy of “Don’t Start No Shit, Won’t Be No Shit” but I’m also of the mindset of if I have to choose between me & you, I’m #TeamMe all day, every day & bitch, you gotta go like Isa…and that’s about where she & I’s similarities end because Isa was on some extreme hoe shit in this book! Like I told Amanda, Isa is a hoe x10 (so much like Efiya in Kingdom Of Souls…see post –>Here<–). You know I’m not about taking lives (I’m vegan for fucks sake)…though I will snatch a scalp or two when fucked with and thus was happy when Eva dug deep within her ovaries and started to fight back. Thinking about it, this book was like an episode of Snapped: Literary Sibling Edition because shit was BANANAS…*cues Gwen Stefani* B-A-N-A-N-A-S!
Not only was Isa on some hoe shit but so was her mom…like ma’am, you should be like all parents outchea on their “I don’t have a favorite” shit that we ALL KNOW isn’t true but know they say to make themselves feel better…like go change some shit so that Eva and Isa don’t have to you know attempt to kill each other. Also, Fuck her (yes, I’m still salty with her, let me be)…If I could’ve knocked her block off, I would have but she’s a character in a book so not possible! Side Note: What the fuck is up with these literary mothers?! I felt the same way about Arrah from KOS‘s mother, Arti…she’s a hoe ass hoe and don’t you ever forget that…*pauses…takes a deep breath* moving on. She, Eva’s Mom, genuinely pissed me off…I think my blood pressure skyrocketed in those scenes with her mother and it is rising thinking about her now…
I’mma switch to something that gave me all the feels which is Eva’s love for her daddy…as a former daddy’s girl (my sister stole that title), I felt like a meme where a heart is being squeezed into little pieces. The way Eva loves her daddy, just melts my heart. Her daddy & her love for him was so ingrained in this book that even though he wasn’t present often, it felt like he was because of how often Eva thought of & spoke about him. It was so clear that he was a positive influence to her & loved her very much…it was a little sickening…ly sweet. Their connection had me in my feelings, for real for real & made my eyes leak a little…I’m here for it doe.
Speaking of males in Eva’s world…Falun, Aketo & Baccha…they are like the holy grail of homies/road dawgs/besties! Like where do I sign up to find homeboys like them because I could surely use ride-or-dies like them! Falun is like the friend that knows you almost better than you know yourself, calls you on your shit but still let’s you know that he’s still gotchu no matter what…he’s like the best homie & you can’t sma- I mean cuddle & date, the homie (at least, you should not). We know he is beautiful but Eva gotta be careful outchea, especially when she know her sister is waiting for the time to come to kill her (which is not tah-day, Bish), so there is that.
While we are talking about beautiful and sma- I mean cuddling & dating because that would be a thing…AKETO! He stole my heart (what was left of it because Zan from Jackpot took a chunk of it & I’m still waiting for it back). I mean, who doesn’t love a dude who is confident, intelligent, has swagger for dayssssss, is a gentleman AND can talk with sexy double meaning?! I sure do! From the moment he set foot into Eva’s universe, I was like “ohhh, I like him” & “Eva betta claim him quick” (I know he’s not property, so calm down if you got in your feelings), you have to read the book to truly understand why I feel the way I do about Aketo!
Last, but certainly not least, Baccha is like that annoying but hella funny & dedicated friend you can’t stand at times but you love their ass so much you deal with their “moments”…sometimes Baccha made me want to fight him, like slap boxing fight because a magickal fight wouldn’t end well for me, but at other parts, I wanted to squeeze him until he awkwardly asks me to let him go or attempts to wiggle out. He has so many zingers in this book, which I think it a big part of why I like him, outside of the fact that he’s a fucking guru of sorts…and who doesn’t like a guru?! He’s far from the Yoda type but he gets the job done…dude is about his bizness! Eva’s squad is seriously some real ones!
Saving the best for last, Eva is such a great main character. She’s so kind and warm, yet she hardens the edges that are necessary to get through all the shit she has to deal with. It felt like all she wanted was freedom like a typical teen but she also was responsible & respectable as fuck! She never forgot who she was while discovering all these new parts of herself as she goes through this journey of self-preservation in dealing with a tradition that cared nothing for her life, just that blood flowed from someone (ah HA *lightbulb goes off*… just take some time to think about it and your AH HA moment will come too). I’m telling you, when you back a Black Girl/Woman in a corner, just know that earrings come off and asses will be beat! I’m so here for Eva though and she does have a dope ass crew that helps her get through all the shenanigans!
Needless to say, I loved this book & I need people to talk to about specifics with outside of Amanda soooooo please go get ARORB when it comes out (10/29/2019) or now if you are reading this after that date. Deadass, ARORB is SO GOOD & is such a worthwhile read (Amanda DID THAT)! I had dreams of various outcomes…so when a book world shows up in dreams, you know that book is good than a muthafucka. Now go get this book so you can get your entire life like I did!
While I still have your attention, I just wanted to note that this is my 10th review for this blog (BGM will be 2 months old soon) & I couldn’t be having a better time with it…I hope you are as well! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for joining me bookish and non-bookish boos! Now come, follow me on IG @bookishgirlmagic, twitter @bookishgrlmagic (I really cut up on there) and facebook Bookish Girl Magic if you haven’t already!
Favorite Character: Chinelo! I love how playful and funny she is but also how serious & kick ass she could be. I also loved how grounding she was for Onyii and how she complimented her. Chinelo is definitely “bout it, bout it” (TM Master P & Silk The Shocker).
Favorite Quote:“But Onyii, I already get high marks. Let me sleep-oh!”-Ify… Ify is me and I am Ify! I felt this quote on a spiritual level! I feel it every single morning, only I’m not in school anymore but I stay busy working/adulting/wishing I was a kid again.
For months, I’ve been trying to get my hands on the arc for War Girls. I kept missing it *hangs head and shakes slightly* and lightweight tantrummed about that fact around anyone who would listen (including Tochi but at least he knew I was serious about reading his book) when I would miss it yet another time (seriously, it happened on like 3 or 4 different occasions)! I had resigned myself to having to wait until Onyii was unleashed unto the world but fate smiled down on me at Brooklyn Bookfest when I answered book trivia questions at the Sneak Peek Panel! I was so excited to show Tochi that I got it (and there was a mini celebration had, at least in my mind there was) when I took it to him to sign! And you know what? War Girls was worth the effort and wait to obtain (I’m waiting to receive my finished copy because I believe in supporting authors)!
There was a panel (*taps chin* I think at Bronx BookFest, *cues TuPac* I get around-I’m not ashamed *shrugs*) where Tochi said “Onyii bodies EVERYBODY!” with great fervor. I believed him but I seriously underestimated his statement. Onyii seriously DOES body everybody…imagine an augmented Angela Bassett in Waiting To Exhale walking away from a burning car (Google for that gif/visual) but envision a mech…yea, she’s even more badass than THAT! She’s intense, loyal, a fierce protector and she will come for anyone that steps to her & her home girls sideways. I feel like Onyii is an awe-inspiring literary personification of what a Black woman is and a doper version of the Terminator had he been Black and female! I bit my nails A LOT while reading in anticipation of what would happen next, thought “What Would Onyii Do” (WWOD) and how she would body anyone who would dare challenge her. Seriously, Onyii was Ev.er.y.thing…a futuristic Oya really (Google her, she’s a badass Orisha that you would NOT want to go into battle against) and I’m here for it & her and all the souls she snatches throughout this book!
When I think of Ify, Onyii’s sister, I couldn’t help but think about Shuri from Black Panther…Shuri is my forever favorite of the characters I’ve experienced in the MCU thus far (I’m not a comic person so I have to say the movies but I’d wager that my feelings would would remain the same if I did read them). She’s extremely brilliant, talented, has a big heart for others and is slightly mischievous; which is a solid recipe for a great character, IMO. I loved how resilient she was though she was a bit naive at times (before you come at me, I know no character is perfect, I still love her like a sister from another mister). She had a rough time in this story but she handled so much of it like a G…other times, I wanted to shake her & scream to wake the f**k up because reasons… Ify’s still a teen so I had to show some compassion in those moments since our girls, real or fictional, deserve that. I couldn’t help but admire her tenacity, her fighting spirit, her magic, traits she definitely shares with her sister.
Something that I really appreciated about this book is that the war girls always felt present in the story, whether any one of them were in a scene or not. It could be in a memory or a situation that happens but no matter what, they aren’t forgotten. They are more than secondary characters…they are each other’s driving force. The war girls are a family brought together through war but also through Spirit and purpose. This group of warrior women not only fought for freedom, they fought for & beside each other, which is also a beautiful notion. They always had each others backs and were seriously about that life….they ARE #BlackGirlMagic! Onyii and her crew, her fellow war girls (and later, abd), were a reminder that family isn’t always people connected by name and blood line but also by commonalities such as the desire for the betterment of their nation, their fierceness, the blood they shed and the peace they really wanted. The war girls rode for each other until the wheels fell off or rather the mechs went down & their comm systems went black (read the book to learn about that) and even then, they didn’t abandon each other. They gave me just as much life as they took throughout this book! It truly spoke to the Spirit of a People who will fight to the very end for the preservation of their history & the longevity of their people (which remains true to this day).
Speaking of mechs, the setting of Nigeria in the future was brilliant! I felt drawn to the descriptions and felt like I was experiencing what the future could be…and it would be quite incredible (sans war but judging how the world is looking right now………..*sideeye emoji*) but equally as scary because of the reality we currently face. I also feel like so much of the advanced structures & systems are absolutely possible because well…Black people are amazing (all my bias is showing *shrugs*)… There are so many talented people in Africa (and around the world) that I believe can bring to life the tech in War Girls (and if not now, there will be). Though… I’m not found of the idea of mechs being used like common household appliances… so to the future geniuses that will make the advanced tech in this book possible, please create responsibly, thanks!
War Girls was an experience from start to finish… it was seriously one hell of a roller coaster that seemed to change its tracks at the most unexpected of moments! My eyes really stung at parts (okay, they leaked too)…which, I did not expect to happen. I felt the emotions the characters experienced and I felt invigorated & powerful as well. I hope that anyone who experienced the Nigerian War (or any sort of war, really) reads War Girls feels seen & validated that their history will not be ignored and their story will be told. Go pick up War Girls and launch yourself onto this roller coaster ride of an experience…it’s definitely worth your time and your coins!
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Favorite Character: Zan…what can I say? I’m a sucka for compassionate, funny, charming, intelligent guys who can play the Steve Urkel & Stephan card simultaneously (google it if you don’t get the reference)!
Favorite Quote: I had so many favorites but I’m going to go with ‘”Unfrosted?!” He looks up at me. “Jesus, Danger, you’re a Neanderthal!”‘-Zan from Rico’s perspective. I felt the same way as Zan did in this moment. I mean, I get why she got unfrosted but it still doesn’t change the fact that unfrosted toaster pastries are blasphemous (debate the person next to you if you disagree).
I’m a Nic Stone stan, periodt! When she announced that she had Jackpot coming out, it was like a gavel banged in my head and a declaration was made that I would read this book… I got lucky (blessed, really) when I got a copy of Jackpot at bookcon. It was like the heaven’s opened up and angel’s sang with voices like India.Arie (or whoever your favorite singer is) when it was placed in my hands. I’m pretty sure I clutched it to my chest at some point & I definitely referred to it as “the precious”…yea, it was that big of a deal to me. Jackpot did not disappoint and it is my favorite of her books thus far!
I adored Rico, she’s so persistent and devoted to her family which drove every action she took during this book…I know I’m down for my family but Rico is truly a real one. Her DNA test said she’s 100% that chick (Shout out to Lizzo). Rico is not only devoted but she is also intelligent, focused, resilient, sarcastic, funny and a fashionista of sorts (something I wish I was, I’m more in the vein of I put on clothes and hope they match whereas Rico makes whatever she wears work & it works out in her favor). She made me think of myself but also other girls/women I know… I also couldn’t help but think of Nic based upon Rico’s description and her voice which made this book a little more special. Who doesn’t want to imagine one of their favorite authors as a teenager?! Because of Rico’s drive to work and get through school, she was a bit of a lone wolf, something else I could relate heavily to…when you are a lone wolf in any way, it’s easier to have tunnel vision, to see what is in front of you, what your mission/goal is and for Rico, it’s taking care of her family. It was amazing to witness her development but also how she had moments to be a teen (truly, she deserved more but she handled those curveballs like a G, like so many Black girls/women would).
Another favsie of mine is Rico’s brother Jax who is flippin hilarious and adorable (I imagine)…if I had a little brother (and I’ve always wanted one), I’d want him to be like Jax…funny, witty, sweet and honest. If I were Rico, I’d do anything possible for him too! As Rico described Jax, it seemed like he’s the greatest balance of sweet and annoying…but if anyone were to mess with him, they would be laid out before they could finish their statement because no one talks about her sibling but her (that was me with my real life sibling)… so I totally get Rico’s protective nature of him (if he were real, I’d adopt him as my little brother & protect him too). I loved how Rico spoke about him with such love and affection (you could practically see the hearts popping out of the page), like he was her best friend and the most precious gift…it was really endearing and special (*insert heart eyes emoji*). I haven’t read a sibling relationship like theirs in a while, which increased my love for this book. Jax also said some funny ish in this book that endeared him to me even more…especially when he talks about certain dreams (*giggles to myself*). When you read this book, you’ll see/read why Jax is so lovable.
Now, let’s talk about the literary version of Stephan (no machine necessary) for a second- Zan! Who doesn’t love a nerdy, hot, hacker dude who is observant, charismatic, compassionate and attentive?! By the end of this book, I had quite the crush on Zan, to be honest (thank goodness he’s legal…I’m not a cougar though, I promise). Zan was so much more than the surface presented at the beginning. As Rico’s perceptions of Zan changed, so did mine and I began to understand him. I understood his need for his & Rico’s adventures (and loved how it brought out his mischievous nature), seeking out Rico’s attention and how helpful he wanted to be. Zan just took my heart and I’m still trying to get it back (*shakes fist* give it back man, I need it)! He was also well informed about money matters, thanks to his personal experiences, but he didn’t try to force it on Rico or anyone else…yet another reason to love him because he’s so respectful of others (outside of how many assumptions he made about other’s time). I just really loved his character, he’s definitely one of my favorites of this year (a position of honor, really)!
Another thing I loved about this book is about the element of different perspectives which I will not say what they were because I believe in the no-spoiler life and surprises. I think it added to the story in such a unique way and just made it funnier. Of course, I have a favorite perspective and I can’t wait for you to read Jackpot so you can share yours too (see what I did there? LOL)! I also really enjoyed the adventures that Zan and Rico went on and looked forward to them when they planned them. I loved their preparedness and what they learned about each other along with Rico’s persistence in finding what they were looking for. Their adventures made me wish I had adventures like theirs when I was a teen but I did basic teenager things (they were a little shy of hoodrat things) with my friends that was pretty close to home…I lived vicariously through Rico & Zan’s eyes (too bad there aren’t time machines, huh?). There is are so many other things that Nic touched on such as race, societal pressures/standards, perception of others/outward appearances, and even the dreaded question “what are you?” (if you have been asked that question, feel free to roll your eyes and let out a frustrated sigh with me) which I didn’t talk about but also appreciated.
Anywaysssss, you should take yourself to your local bookstore on Tuesday October 15th (or if you’re reading this after this date then go right now) and pick up Jackpot! I read it every spare moment I had and finished it in a few days (like 2 or 3). What can I say, I’m completely here for characters with a great sense of humor that spoke sarcasm as a second (or third) language. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did! Happiest of reading sessions friends!
Favorite Character: Noah, Simi’s BFF & ride-or-die fo’ lyfe! I love how invested he was in Simi and his friendship though there were times I wanted to shake him to wake him up! He’s a good friend and they are hard to come by!
Favorite Quote: “And it’s the Amandas of the world who choose who else should matter. But I’m tired of waiting around for someone to deem me worthy. Nope. This year, I’m taking it into my own hands, and so is Noah.“-Simi. *Slams Fist On The Keyboard* DAMN RIGHT SIMI! YOU BETTA TELL EM GURL! I felt this so much as someone who often felt like an outsider (I sometimes still do) and was bullied as a kid/teen. No one should determine your worth but you and you betta make the price high!
Before I go into this review, I have a fun story! While waiting on the signing line for Jason Reynolds at bookcon, Nandini was standing in front of myself and another lady. I don’t know what brought on the conversation but she casually mentioned that she wrote a book & I can’t remember if she just mentioned the name first or if I asked so I could look out for it but when she said “A Match Made In Mehendi“…Y’all…*dramatic pause* I almost screamed in this woman’s face but I kind of contained myself & was my usual excited self and told her that her book was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and even had it written on my dry erase board (I shit you not, I have a list of books with their release dates by the entrance of my apartment, LOL, #JudgeMe #IDC). Nandini was extremely cool and it made me even more excited to support her work. A Match Made In Mehendi was definitely worth the wait! You can find a picture from when we met at the end of this post!
A Match Made In Mehendi had me cracking up from start to almost finish. I felt like if Simi were a person, we’d be like close relatives or possibly sisters who actually got along. Where Simi is a visual artist, I was all about writing (I can draw but I’m not awesome at it). Her sense of humor, klutziness, resolve and love of bubble tea (she even said my favorite kind people) are aspects that I heavily related to. Like Simi, I also had my BFF for many years going into school that shared in my misery in high school and that would hype me up & I would do the same for her… we also were hardheaded about things we weren’t ready to accept so some epic disagreements were had (20+ years later, we are still best friends and I wouldn’t trade her; I imagine Simi & Noah would be the same). My best friend and her family also always fed me like Simi’s family did for Noah (I love to eat so this was okay by me as well). I saw bits of my own life in this story that made me think back on my high school days (mostly good ones because if I thought on bad ones, it would’ve really dampened this book’s lightheartedness).
I loved how Simi spoke about the hierarchy (as it seemed) of the school (see favorite quote for reference). So many of us have had our fair share of run ins with the Amandas-Of-The-World (as teens and as adults). The Amandas I faced when I was younger were actually not of the Caucasian persuasion but sometimes we are rougher and more cruel to our own…and later on in life (i.e. undergrad), I learned about Caucasian persuasion Amandas. To be honest, any of the Amandas I’ve encountered can catch these hands because…reasons *shrugs* =0/ Annnnnnd moving on. This story depicts the belief that so many kids have that their worth is hinged upon this one person or group of people and what that belief can do to a person. What I hope that teens gain from this book is knowing & recognizing your own worth is determined by you and ONLY YOU. Tell them bishes about themselves/read them for filth then tell them where they can put their unsolicited opinions of you. I was extremely proud, like big sister proud, of how Simi found her voice and how she used it in certain situations.
One of the things that also struck me is the level of dedication Simi & Noah had for their friendship (I know I talked a bit about it but I want to talk more about it). The way they held space for each other, rode for each other and kept it real with one another at the right moments (meaning that they knew each other so well that they knew when was a good & bad time to approach a subject). It was beautiful to read and see play out on the page. I stan for friendships like that because I have a few like that IRL (shocking, I know…or maybe not, I’m actually quite lovable once you get to know me, LOL..I’m a Hufflepuff for crying out loud)! The way they leaned on each other was also great, they saw each other’s strengths and pumped each other up so their weak points weren’t things that sent them spiraling. I’m all about the hype up so Noah has my heart on that. Moral of the story: Gas each other up, it makes the dark moments seem lighter! So if you have a friend going through a tough time, call them up or show up at their door step in a non-creepy way & hype them up…be the Noah to their Simi and let them do the same for you!
I also enjoyed the role that culture and tradition played in this book and how we may push back so much at it that we can miss the Beauty of it. We may not fall in line with it but it is ingrained in us, in some way, shape or form. For Simi, it’s the matchmaking gift/being a Vichole (which, if I liked being set up, I wouldn’t mind having someone like her in my circle but alas, I don’t so if you know me, you already know not to try it), for others it could be career fields or personality traits (which can be improved upon). I think there is immense strength in non-conformity because autonomy is a thing but if you have a palpable gift, don’t look it in the face and say “nah” then shut the door before seeing if it could work for you. You may not know how it could come in handy or help in the future…but if you try it out and then decide on that “nah” then #Respeck. I enjoyed the talk of food (we established that I like to eat already) and how it brought me back to times in my best friend’s (she’s Guyanese-Indian) kitchen or living room, eating some of the foods mentioned in the book, chatting or watching Bollywood Movies/Music Videos (my favorite movie is Devdas, in case you wanted to know…I miss my best friend and the days we did this *sigh* being an adult sucks a lot of the time). Being surrounded by your friend’s family is a very special feeling (when they are nice people… I’m lucky to have friends with lovely families) that is beautifully captured in this book…I felt like I was in their family kitchen with them!
To wrap this up because I can talk a lot longer about A Match Made In Mehendi, I seriously enjoyed this book and the characters (most of them; there are so many I didn’t talk about but know there are some really great people around Simi). I finished this book so fast because I wanted to know what happened next/how certain scenarios would play out. The pacing was great and it was super funny! Go out and grab this book so you can crack up…and also get hungry like I did (so maybe have snacks near by)! Happy Reading (and snacking)!
Favorite Character: Lena! Not just because she is Haitian (adopted from Haiti; there is a kindredness though) but because she keeps it real and she reminds me of myself (and maybe you can call me on my bias, LOL).
Favorite Quote(s): “I’M NOT WHITE. THAT’S JUST MY PARENTS.”-Lena…my response was “YOU BETTA TELL ‘EM LENA!” I think people forget that children are their own people, adopted or not…this is just an outward display of that. Also “Don’t ever forget that I am your #ashyforlife bestie and I will fight Katy (with my words) to defend your honor. You are a queen. A QUEEN I tell you.”-Lena. First of all, who told Mariama she could write my personality doppelgänger?! *claps* This *claps* is *claps* me *claps*! I would fight anyone for my besties (ask them, they will tell you I have) with words but I’ve been willing to throw bows. I also tell my students to use their words (but I be wanting folks to catch these hands) and I’m all about lifting folks up. This also shows how important it is for us as black girls & women to lift each other up… how we always have to…
When I was reading For Black Girls Like Me, I felt like I was reading a diary, and at parts, my own. As a black girl [grown woman], I related so much to Makeda and what she dealt with…both when I was younger and as an adult. With Makeda being adopted, she had some things to face head on that I couldn’t imagine dealing with…especially grappling with whiteness day in & day out and minimal exposure to her own culture & blackness. As a black girl, that exposure helps to serve as a bit of a roadmap of where you come from (there are universal themes in black girlhood & womanhood) and where you can go as well as understand the experience of being a black girl/woman.
There were so many incidents that made my jaw drop, where I just wished I could’ve screamed in the characters’ faces. The passive aggressive nature of her family was maddening for me so I can only imagine for Makeda could be even more bonkers (#NoCountryForPassiveAggressivePeople). The way her parents and sister spoke to her, the tasks they asked of her, the level of expectation on her showed a level of entitlement that was mind boggling but was not far fetched based upon my own past experiences…and I think other people of color could pick up on those things. It’s a reality that what we experience is different depending on racial background, location, gender identity, sexuality…it’s upsetting but the ish is what POC deal with, holla at your favorite POC (or don’t & do your own research) if you don’t believe me but make sure you LISTEN *cues “Listen, Linda, Listen” kid* or read carefully.
As a kid who has moved, I felt Makeda on another level because that ish is disorienting. You’re leaving your home (possibly the only one you’ve known), your friends and your school. At the same time, you may be developing…so that is like being tossed into a fire and being told “water doesn’t put it out so just let it die down on it’s own…it will eventually *shrug*” and the chuck the deuces as they walk away…WHAT?! You get my point, right? *raises eyebrow* The choice is taken away from you and so little can be done about it…ish is messed up dude (dude is gender neutral for me, by the way, think Kel’s Dude song in Good Burger)!
I moved when I was in 4th grade (around Makeda’s age) and I remember that heartbreak like it was yesterday so if I could hug Makeda IRL, I definitely would. The most painful part of moving seems to be leaving your friends…I feel like leaving your best friend is like leaving a piece of yourself…how, how, HOW can you do that and not fall apart (I did)?! Makeda is a tough one to go through that and not lose it completely…she also has a bomb ass BFF that wouldn’t let her. They were both so present for each other, despite their distance, that is heartwarming. Lena is that ride-or-die friend that you hope for and are lucky to find (shout out to all the ride-or-dies out there)!
I love how this book tackles blackness in white spaces, self-discovery & exploration, depression and mental illness…it is simply brilliant. I felt like Makeda was gut punched throughout the book but she was like a G, standing up after each hit (with some struggle) holding out her arms shouting “YOU HIT LIKE A B-WORD” (because she doesn’t curse, she’s a good girl y’all). Navigating blackness in white space is tough but doing it at home, I can’t even imagine and on top of that, not having someone around to help understand what it means to be a black girl and eventually a black woman *long, slow whistle* makes it tougher. I could talk about this forever but I want want you all to gon’ about your lives and come back next week! Mental illness is really difficult to understand and experience for the person going through it/with the diagnosis (from what I have heard from friend’s who are open about their diagnosis) but it is also difficult to understand from the outside, knowing how best to support that person as they work through it. Makeda was so compassionate and loving, showing a grace that was not always extended to her…I was incredibly proud of her!
For Black Girls Like Me was such a beautiful read, one that I could see myself in as a black woman but she also spoke to the experiences of girlhood universally. Mariama did an amazing job of giving black girls a platform…it was as if she pointed at them (us, really) and said “I see you” complete with a charismatic wink and a tight hug at the end of the book. Please get this book for any and all black girls that you know, any girls (and boys) who are adopted, and any & all kids that you feel could use a hug in book form…it’s a loving way to show them that you see them too! *Angelic Smiley Face*
Favorite Character: Ebony Grace also known as Cadet E-Grace Starfleet *Salutes*. I think she is dope and I loved how she let things roll off of her shoulders but also attempts to remind people of themselves/the person she knew in a positive light. She wanted to be a little girl & maintain her imagination station and she did…she dared to dream and dreamed really big!
Favorite quote:“Still, I don’t trust all that laughing and fun because ain’t nothing funny about No Joke City! “It’s a trap,” I whisper to myself.”-Ebony Grace talking about NYC (and she’s right). “I used a Jedi mind trick to sneak past the Funkazoids standing guard and make my way into the empty kitchen where our lunch plates are still on the table. Momma won’t be able to see how I didn’t clean up after myself, and Daddy doesn’t seem to care.”-EG…I love her stealth modes and her reasoning is totally what I would’ve come up with at her age.
I have to open this by saying that I’m a fan of Ibi Zoboi. It is because of her book American Street, that I was able to see a part of myself in a book since the main character is Haitian (which if you read my post about Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, you’ll recall that that means a lot to me) and that was (still is) a big deal for me. If you haven’t read American Street (or Pride where the main character is Haitian & Dominican), you need to fix that ASAP! Ibi is a dope writer and I’m grateful for the day I decided to pick up her book at Barnes & Noble on Court Street in Brooklyn (Brooklyn Stand Up! It’s one of the locations I frequent *Shrugs*…Judge Me If You Want).
When I started My Life As An Ice Cream Sandwich, I didn’t know what to expect but I was already down for whatever path Ibi was going to take me on. Just look at the cover, it’s dreamy and full of #BlackGirlMagic! Ebony Grace, Also Known As E-Grace or EG is a peculiar kind of girl but in the best of ways. She is intelligent, quirky, strong-willed, active in her imagination (her imagination station), loyal and is all about outer space. While I’m not a trekky like Ebony is, as a big Harry Potter/Wizarding World fan (I have been since freshman year of high school), I could relate to the love that she has for the vastness of space, the world/story that she and her grandfather created around it and how dedicated she was to it. She didn’t allow people’s comments about her impact her in a devastating way, she remained true to herself the entire time (#ShoutOut to her Uncle Rich for acknowledging her uniqueness in a positive way). Ebony held fast to her dreams and I appreciated that because too often, brown girls and boys dreams are too quickly snatched from them & other matters are shoved in their faces and down their throats. E-Grace dared to dream and it didn’t matter to her if others joined in or approved of said dream. I also love that her grandfather was a big contributor to her imagination & dreams.
One of the biggest things I related to in this story is her relationship with/closeness to her grandfather. This aspect was really personal to me since my grandpa is the reason I have such a love for reading, libraries, history (he’s a retired librarian) and he even taught me Ballet when I was younger (he’s a classical music and Ballet enthusiast). Like E-Grace’s grandpa, my grandpa told me stories and encouraged my sense of exploration & imagination. I loved their connection and how she would reach for her grandpa, whether it was over the phone or through her memories (I do the same…*nods* clearly). I believe it is important that we retain these connections to ourselves & our histories through our elders as they are a part of us and illuminate what maybe dark in our understanding. I hope young people read the relationship between EG & her grandpa and reach for that connection with their own grandparents/elders.
Throughout this book, E-Grace remained herself; she didn’t allow others’ to tear down her sense of Self like others would in real life (it was a total “sticks and stones” vibe). EG had this “forget chu den (then)” sort of outlook and I was totally here for it. *Steps On Soap Box* Our children are so easily influenced, forgetting or detouring from who they are evolving into…they become “too grown” (which is so overrated, what ever was I thinking wishing to become an adult *shakes head*) before they ever had the chance to be a child. Ebony is the epitome of Black Girl Innocence & that is so beautiful to me. I hope that we allow our little boys and girls to remain in that child-like space for as long as they possibly can, to see the world with fresh eyes and learn from there, maturing at a more organic rate. *Steps Off Soap Box*
This book was set a little more than 2 years before I was born but I could still see myself in the story. My father was a definite hip-hop fan so I grew up listening to some of the music of this time period. Dance and double dutch also played roles & tied in with the music in this story which brought my heart great joy. I could *shakes hand* kinda sorta hold my own (once upon a time because I have bad knees now & feel older than I look) and I could bust a move on the dance floor (not break dancing doe, I was never meant for that life, I’ll gladly put a $1 in a break dancer’s hat & let them be great…no dance battle challenges shall come from my lips) but not so much on Ebony Grace’s end! I love that Ibi was specific with the songs mentioned so you could look them up and feel even more apart of Ebony’s world. So if you want to dive a little deeper, look up music from 1984 and really get into the grove of the story (now I wish I had done that).
Ebony displayed the Beauty of embracing who you are and not giving a flying rocket (see what I did there, *kool-aid smile*) whether or not other’s accept you. Everyone has their tribe & while it may not be big, it would be authentic to them (in this case, her tribe is her grandpa, which I doubt is an issue for Ebony Grace). Another beautiful notion is that the members of said tribe may change or increase as you change and/or people gain an understanding of you and which is all good too…Ebony may or may not find out about this on this journey (her dad maybe included). A quote that applies here is “why fit in when you were born to stand out?”-Dr. Seuss (*sage nod* wise words). Ebony was clearly meant to stand out and stand out she did in the most splendid of ways! She didn’t fight for anyone’s acceptance nor did she try to fit into anyone’s box in the name of making friends (*coughs* looks at Bianca *coughs*). E-Grace seriously occupies a piece of my Blerd (#BlackNerd) Girl Heart!
I loved how Ibi approached this story, the pacing of it, the characters and how everything came together. She thought of that one (or few) kid(s) that sit to themselves with their book, science experiment or game cards…mentally pointed to them and said “I See You and it’s okay to be who you are”. Ibi made that part of myself feel incredibly seen. If you are the nerdy type *pushes up glasses* (#ShoutOut to all the members of #TheGlassesTribe), love outer space, 80’s era of Harlem, Ibi Zoboi or a combination of all of the above, you should go out and get this book! As you read, let Ebony Grace speak to your inner (or outer) nerd & use Wonder Woman‘s Bracelets of Submission to *pew* *pew* *pew* away any gibberish lasers that may come your way =0)! Happy Space Travels…I mean, Happy Reading!
Favorite character: It’s a tie between Alaine and her mother, they’re like mirror images of each other, stubborn, willful, snarky and super dope!
Favorite Quote: (Or in this case, quoteS) “(Seriously, I’ve done so much adulting these past few weeks I’ve been looking into retirement options.)”-Alaine…well, I’ll be damned if that isn’t how I feel every day! “I followed her suggestion to kiss the air and give each of her relatives’ cheeks a little bump.”-Alaine about greeting her friend Tatiana’s family (they are also Haitian)…one of the things I hate the most when going to someone’s house is this greeting… I don’t like people enough for that but I have home training (Grandma, Grandpa, Dad, If you are reading this, I give you all actual kisses on your cheeks, I promise I’m not a savage…Love Y’all!)! There are so many more statements I loved but I’m not going to give away more, read the book & find your own favorite quotes!
Alright, how do I kick this off…hmmmm? *Taps chin* I have to start by saying that I loved Dear Haiti, Love Alaine so flipping much…I loved it so much that I purchased multiple copies after finishing it (as a receipt, see picture above) & I know I will purchase more in the future! The last time I purchased multiple copies of a book was Children of Blood And Bone over a period of time but I’m definitely on track to purchase more copies than I did of CBB (I purchased like 7 copies). I purchased a copy for my grandparents (fun fact, my grandpa is a retired librarian), just to drive home the point that I really loved DHLA!
As you may or may not know, I’m half Haitian (*Biggie Smalls voice* If you don’t knowwwwwwww, now you knowwwww baybahbaby) so when I saw this book shouted out, it was instantly placed on my anticipated reads list. I missed the ARCs but I knew I was buying this book. As I read, DHLA proved why I was looking forward to it and why it was worth the wait but even more so, it became deeply personal for me. I grew up around my father’s side (the Haitian side) of the family, most holidays as well as lots of free time spent with them (my grandpa has attended every graduation of mine, he represented for my grandma who could not travel) and yet, I didn’t learn as much about the rich history of Haiti as I would’ve liked to and not to mention the language (I understand a little but I’m going to change that) nor have I been there (something I feel disappoints my Haitian grandma & you never want to do that so I must change that as well).
As a mixed kid (as previously stated in my post about Permanent Record), it bothered me that I was lacking in this arena but DHLA lit a fire under my ass after it broke me (my therapist thinks seeing it as enlightening rather than breaking is better way of putting it), made my eyes leak but also helped put me back together. I’m proud to be of Haitian descent, to have blood that runs through my veins of such a resilient & strong people and to have ancestors that would never let me forget the stock that I come from… This book reminded me of that as the acknowledgement of that part of myself had become dormant in my mind (but not my heart). I cried for like 20+ minutes after reading the acknowledgements though I did not expect to…this is because that piece of myself needed to be seen, felt and heard (well, in this case read; #RepresentationMatters). So so so so so many thanks to Maritza and Maika for that gift (I’m listening to Kompa as I write this :0), you should pull some up on youtube or the Kompa/Zouk Spotify playlist as you read this).
Enough about me, let’s talk about Alaine! Ole’ girl is HILARIOUS! She’s intelligent/a know it all, sarcastic (she spoke my language so beautifully), slightly awkward around boys (me too Alaine, me too), creative, a problem solver and determined. Though she didn’t always demonstrate it, Alaine also had grace…how she didn’t end up in juvie dealing with certain classmates is beyond me because I would be in prison rather than my apartment typing this right now (I really wanted to crawl into the book and snatch a few wigs y’all)…but in Alaine’s case, thank goodness for divine intervention (Baby Jesus wrapped in fleece) and a hyper vigilant Haitian Father that she wasn’t fated for that ending!
Another thing to note is Alaine’s love for peanuts & food (my grandpa used to make a chicken dish with peanuts he imported from Haiti that was everything to me but that was BV-Before Vegan [I will find a vegan way to make that dish some day])…Haitian food is amazing, especially djon djon/black rice (my favsies)… I feel like when it is home cooked, it’s a means of showing love & care, it was for my grandpa (but he’s passing the torch, he’s 93 y’all); I feel like Alaine captured that perfectly in how she spoke about food. I love how Alaine described food with such fondness in the details she gave, I could see it in my mind & could smelled it which triggered memories of my grandpa in the kitchen & my grandma asking if we ate (I seriously love my grandparents, if you haven’t noticed by now). When Alaine talked about her mom cooking/baking & throwing down or criticizing, she also made me think of my mom in the kitchen (my mom is Trini but moms/aunts/grandmas in the kitchen is like a universal language)… Basically this book felt like a love letter to family as well… like a heart beat that sounds melodic and comforting in its presence.
Alaine’s sense of humor, how she wrote and how she responded to people & situations reminded me a lot of myself at her age and now (aye, I’m still growing even though I’m technically a grown ass woman *shrugs*). Like I said, Alaine is hella funny and I laughed a whole lot throughout this book. I loved how she interacted with the people around her as well as her surroundings. When she was in Haiti, it was like a newborn seeing for the first time and since I haven’t been (yet), it was the same for me. As she described the sounds that she experienced, I felt just as overwhelmed as she seemed to be (this is why I wear headphones all the time out in these skreets…New York is hella loud y’all). I experienced it all as if I was standing right next to her!
There were various ways in which Alaine interacted with others such as emails, phone/text as well as in person. I really enjoyed how she communicated with her dad in various ways especially when he baked (who doesn’t love a man who can bake?!) and there is a hilarious text between them that had me rollin’ (read the book to see it). You can also see the different dynamics between Alaine and her mom, her dad, her aunt, etc. It’s really interesting how she communicates and how free she may feel in her expression based upon who she was speaking with. My favorite interactions are between Alaine and her Tante (aunt) Estelle, how her aunt would check her by bringing the receipts (I could feel the mic drops happening in my Spirit when she did that) but it was still very much the “cool” aunt and her favorite niece accompanied by the two finger tap on the shoulder vibe.
I loved and appreciated that there are different mediums throughout the book such as tweets, articles, letters, historical documents along with Alaine’s first hand account. With DHLA being co-authored, everything is seamless in how it reads, it felt as if one person wrote Alaine and the voices of others are distinctly different as if more than two people wrote them (as they should be…it would be weird in a Stepford Wives–Children of the Corn type way if all the voices were singular)…what I’m getting at is that there is no way to tell who wrote what because Maika & Maritza’s voices flowed together so beautifully. Each medium added to the experience, building rich layers in Alaine’s world, piecing together what is impacting Alaine and how it is impacting her without being super obvious (my jaw dropped a few times as the lightbulbs went off in my head). I enjoyed the letters the most since there is something so personal (to me) about the formatting of letters. Seriously, I just think this book was masterfully written!
There aren’t enough words in English, French or Kreyol that could express how much I loved this book. I learned new things about Haiti & it affirmed what it means to BE Haitian… Dear Haiti, Love Alaine was hysterical, heartwarming and it reconnected me to the pride of being Haitian. I seriously cannot say enough good things about this book. It was such a beautiful love letter to Haiti (#AyitiCherie), the ancestors and the people who are SO MUCH more than what the world thinks they are because of circumstances beyond their control & how those circumstances have been presented. Haitians are a people of strength, resilience, spirit & pride and there is so much Beauty in that…I hope that when people pick up this book (with this stunning Black girl on the cover), they feel that as they read Dear Haiti, Love Alaine. If you don’t have this book…*shouting emoji* GET IT NOW! If you have it but haven’t read it yet, move it to the top of your TBR ASAPually! Bon lekti (Happy Reading)!
My Favorite Character-Rudjek…what can I say, I’m a sucker for a charismatic, sarcastic, funny & charming man child!
Favorite Quote-‘”I’ll make do.” Then under his breath, he says, “I can be quite crafty.”‘-Rudjek from Arrah’s perspective (and he was right).
Months ago, Dhonielle Clayton told me about Kingdom of Souls so it had been on my radar. When bookcon came and I had the chance to participate in an ARC drop where KOS was one, I got in line as fast as I could and prayed I’d get a copy. When I tell you I clutched this book to my chest, I actually did (and also called it “the precious” in my mind, lol) and it was worth every moment spent waiting in line.
This book is like a roller coaster ride that I didn’t want to get off of (and I hate roller coasters in real life). I had a hard time putting this book down, opening it up every free moment I had & even slept with it next to me since I would read it late into the night as if I didn’t have work the next morning. I loved how Rena described the sceneries, the characters and the “situations” (which there were a lot of). I felt like I was seeing everything from Arrah’s eyes and felt her emotions as she went through her journey, which is my favorite type of book to experience/read. I LOVED the magic and the Orishas woven throughout the book. The Orishas were their own cast but was also very much so a part of the tapestry of the story. KOS was rich in the textures of the magic and the tribal traits as well!
Not only is Arrah this dope ass black girl that has a strong resolve and big heart; she has the best ride or dies to call her crew. Her friends are the types that would give you the two finger tap, tell you to have a seat and look at your life & your choices. Arrah’s circle are the type of people you hope to find in your lifetime because friends like those are hard to come by. On top of having the best friends anyone could ask for, she has this amazing and hella loving dad that is the type of dad you would want to hug & never let go of, he’s so full of wisdom & stories and is so cool & sweet. I could see why Arrah was so attached to him, I would be too (actually I am, lol).
As dope as so many of the people in Arrah’s story are, there are some not so awesome characters. Arrah’s mother & eventual sister are the antithesis of her…they are both hoes and a halves for their shenanigans! Seriously, if I could’ve slapped them, I would’ve happily done so…with bricks. I’m not about that spoiler life so you have to read the book in order to understand why I felt that way!
I loved this book so much and I have been talking about it to anyone who would possibly listen (or read). This book is worth your dollars or check outs (if you are about that library life), time, attention, and space on your shelves. Get this book for everyone you know because you will want to talk about it…with multiple people. Suggest it to your book clubs, your co-workers, teens and strangers on the street (if you are extroverted enough)! This book IS available for pre-order and is coming out soon so you won’t have to wait for very long! Hopefully, we won’t have a long wait for book 2 *crosses fingers*!
First, I’m not doing stars or number ratings. No shots at or shade to those who follow that system but that’s not what I’m about. Even as a teacher, I’m not in a field where I give grades. Authors work their asses off to put their work out into the world and feel some level of anxiety about how people/readers will feel once their books are in their (readers) hands and out of their (authors) control; I will not contribute to that anxiety. It isn’t my job, nor my place, to put that sort of judgement on their work, their art, their babies; and I want to respect the time and effort these authors put into their craft.
As a [fellow] reader, I can only share how their work made me feel and how I connected to their work. I also won’t post the book synapses/descriptions because I can share the links to those or you can pick up the book & read the covers/dust jackets. Hopefully, what I write will be enough to motivate you to pick up or pre-order the book!
What I will share is the authors’ background/heritage, if they are a debut or not, favorite quotes & characters, links & of course, how I felt about the book. I’m also going to be writing about books I have felt the most passionate about so that this blog stays positive…I’ve been lucky to read tons of books that I enjoyed but there are some that stand out more than others (such is life). I ask (which is bold being new) that you trust this approach and that my love for these books will make for a good review (if it can be called a review) *kool-aid smile & eye-lash flutter*. I’m not going to post about every book that I read because I read AHHHHHH LOT so this blog will feature more recent book releases and ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies for my new to the book world peeps)!
Soooooooo, with all that being said…Let’s Get It, Let’s Go…review/talk about some books!
If you asked me 2 years ago or even 6 months ago, if I could see myself writing a book blog…I would’ve likely laughed and said “whennnnnnnn do I have time for that?!” Clearly, a conversation or two stuck (shoutout to Tiffany D. Jackson & Glory Edim) and here I am…writing a book blog *Ye Shrug*. What is the reason? It’s in the picture above, to uplift (and celebrate really) the works of Authors of Color and amplify their voices. I also seek to be as positive and funny as possible in the process (I’m sure everything doesn’t land but hey, a sistas’ gotta try)! I was already part way there, going to as many book launches as I can, reading and talking about mad books…it was the natural progression…I guess *forehead scratch* but we in here!
As I’ve stated in a past blog post, I only read Authors of Color because it’s important to me to see myself in these worlds I’m immersing myself in. I didn’t have the luxury of that when I was younger (I was mostly into the Dear Diary Series and their Royal series which, if know you of those, they severely lacked characters of color but I loved the historical content) so I’m taking full advantage now…and I’ve been sharing that journey with my teenage Goddaughter by sending her books I’ve read (signed by authors when I can swing it, which is pretty often), sharing it through my personal instagram page & facebook, and now, here with the world through this blog in longer winded & impassioned posts about selected books. This is a very scary process for me, actually looking-over-the-edge-of-the-Empire-State-Building terrifying, but I’m putting myself out there anyway…
When I’m not blogging or at work, I’m reading a book or I’m talking to someone about books/going to a book launch or event somewhere…shit, I even talk about books with fellow yoga practitioners before & after class… this.is.no.game.to.me. My journey of reading these books has been an extremely healing one for me as well…I’ve been finding more of myself & comfort in the pages of these books. This experience has been life changing for me, pa egzanp (“for example” in Kreyol) reading Dear Haiti, Love Alaine literally launched me into learning Kreyol (shout out to my teacher Wynnie) and about my Haitian side (shout out to my paternal grandparents that came to this country many years ago. I am first gen, daughter to two parents who immigrated to the US). While I’m not seeking to change lives in the same way these authors are doing, I do hope that I’m assisting them by sharing their books with others & hopefully getting them a few more sales…I’m, deadass, invested in this mission that I accidentally started 2 years ago.
I say all of this to say that, whether or not you rock with me, I’mma keep reading these books and writing these posts. I’m going to be 100% myself in every post, authentic and transparent because this mission is so much bigger than me…it’s working towards making sure my students (who are all young children of color), my Godchildren (also beautiful Brown kids), my future children (who I hope to have and will be children of color) and future generations always have books that reflect them and their experiences as well as books they can feel proud to read.
Hopefully you support that, but if you don’t… welp, it was nice to e-meet you…*raps* you just do you, I’mma do me, I’mma do me *ends rap**shrugs* (house points to whoever knows that song reference) I’m going to hop off my soapboxes (I need multiple because I’m short like that) now so I can finish this book and go to sleep because I have to adult in the morning *groans*. Thanks for reading. You want to find me, I’m on IG @bookishgirlmagic, twitter @bookishgrlmagic and facebook Bookish Girl Magic. Love, Peace and Hair Grease y’all!
Favorite Character: Nana K! She’s the dopest, flyest, funniest literary Granny I’ve ever read (no offense to other literary grannies)! I love how real she is and though she isn’t a huge part of the book, she steals the scenes she is in.
Favorite Quote:“That better be Midge with an apology for talkin’ shit like she won’t get hers, or I’ll-“-Nana K (I really want to know how that statement ends though, like will she switch their Vick’s with Tiger Balm or trip their walker while they aren’t watching, what will she do?! LOL). Listen y’all, this is the type of granny I’m going to be one day. When that day comes and I’m poppin’ shit on my stoop or porch & you ask me why I’m like this, I’mma reference this post and say I warned y’all in advance! Seriously, Nana K is a whole ass mood, my Spirit person & I’m here for her! I would like someone like her in my daily life, please and thank you!
When I first heard heard of/saw A Blade So Black posted and the cover had a badass Black Girl on the cover, I was like “SIGN ME UP!” But also knowing that A Blade So Black had Angie Thomas’ stamp of approval on it only solidified my resolve to read it. I stalked Barnes & Noble until that glorious day that she was there…*shakes head in pleasant memory* so beautiful and brilliant amongst the others surrounding her…I don’t even remember the other books because all I saw was ABSB… And I tell you what, that book did not disappoint. So naturally after reading ABSB, I HAD to read A Dream So Dark, which gave me my entire life too! I was excited to run over to Books Of Wonder to get a copy signed by L.L. before the launch (I had class so I had to leave before the pardee started *deep sighs* but class was great, just in case you were wondering) along with getting my copy of ABSB & an ARC of the anthology A Phoenix First Must Burn, which she is a contributor of, signed.
Since this is a sequel, I’m not going to go into a ton of detail with this because there are quite a few new things, as there often are in sequels, and to share any aspect of them is a spoiler but this book was mindblowing! So much happened that I simply was.not.ready.for *wall slides*!
Alice went through it in this book, just as she did in ABSB but she definitely grew more into her dreamwalker role… I felt like a proud auntie! She was even more badass and I didn’t even know the shit was possible *shock face*. Alice owns the shit and in the most glorious of ways! She took her #BlackGirlMagic and amplified it x10! Ugh, I just love her in this book. She’s hysterical, sarcastic & witty but also caring, loyal & observant so she tells no lies. Alice questions a lot but she also gives some benefit of a doubt (something a lot of us do but maybe shouldn’t… I digress doe). She holds herself and the people around her accountable (herself more than anyone though), which is a great aspect of her character. What also spoke to me is her “Fuck it, I’ll do it” attitude on some things because I’m the exact same way (I have receipts but they aren’t necessary right now). There were definite moments where I was like “I need Alice to sit her ass down” but she’s a Black Girl in the U S of A and that shit rarely happens and thus, she gets shit done *shrugs*.
I also really appreciated how we got to see vulnerability from Alice that many Black Girls/Women don’t get the benefit of displaying. We are perpetually plagued with other’s thoughts/views of having to be so strong all the time, grin & bare it, “you can take it” notions of our personhood when we feel shit & bleed blood too muthafuckas! We are entitled to weak moments before we gather ourselves up & straighten out our crowns but we still need those moments *cues Jill ScottPause (Interlude)*. I’m so happy that Black Girls (and Black Woman too because I’m clearly a Black Woman reading YA) get to see that is okay to be vulnerable and not lose face in the process…they get to see that it’s okay to be a human through these stories, which is refreshing & healing. Suffice it to say that Alice is a straight up G y’all!
Speaking of G’s I love how much more present her mom and even her Nana K were in this book. It’s always amazing to have strong Black female/motherly figures depicted in literature because so many exist in the real world that don’t get the recognition they deserve. I lived for Nana K’s appearances in this book, though it’s not an ongoing role as Alice has shit to do but her presence & length of said appearance is perfection. We all need sage wisdom, no matter how it is delivered. On the real, Nana K’s wisdom is packaged in the right combination of seriousness & comedy that I think anyone would listen to and resonate with. If I she were my Nana, I’d want her around all the time just to hear about what shenanigans she got into back in the day or at the nursing home that week…you have to read to find out about what she allegedly did but no one has any proof of her involvement in said thing, LOL! If you have a granny like Nana K, could you share her with me? I promise to give her back, I’m not in the business of Grannynapping!
In ABSB, Alice’s mom was, Mrs. K, wasn’t super present though she loomed in Alice’s thoughts but in ADSD, she was actually more present. She felt like an anchor for Alice to her world, a reminder of who she was & what she is fighting to return to. Her mom is a no nonsense, “I said what I said” yet loving type of mom. She has a silent strength that I think Alice inherited. Mrs. K is also hilarious in her mannerisms and her threats, even EYE, as a grown ass woman, was like “Alice betta get her ass back home before her mama snatches her scalp clean and removes her soul from her body!”… Black mamas are just…like that, but there is a particular loving, caring & protective energy behind that aspect of them. I think L.L. captured that spirit beautifully. Mrs. K is a dope ass Black woman & mother, a literary homage to Black Mothers everywhere, in my honest opinion.
One of the biggest things I loved about this book is the colloquialisms used throughout this book. The expressions are unapologetically Black and it made my heart swell with gladness. I was super here for it all from the “the fuck…”s (a frequent term I use) to the usage of “petty” and “Don’t.Test.Me.” It all just spoke so deeply to my Spirit. I laughed so much because of the phrases used throughout the book and how they landed on the page…it all felt like shit I would say in those situations and are things I say on the regular! There is no doubt in my mind that Black kids will see themselves in this book.
Another thing that I appreciated was how this book, along with ABSB, tackles the topic of grief. How grief is different for everyone and how they process it. These books show that there is no set time period to experience grief, especially as this series takes place over a long (but not very long, if that makes sense) span of time. The Nightmare-Verse embraces and depicts the fact that the grieving process shouldn’t be rushed because the shit is traumatic depending on the event that has taken place, the person that was lost, etc. I hope that anyone who is in the process of grieving that reads these books know that they are seen and heard in what they are dealing with; that they should continue to take all the time that they need to process what they are experiencing. Shit, I’m still processing loses that happened years ago since they still feel fresh (therapy is helpful too, just to throw that in there). One step at a time my friends, one step at a time…and if anyone has a problem with that, then they need to step ASAPually.
If you haven’t read ABSB, you need to get on it so that you can read ADSD! It’s filled with so many shenanigans, new things that are discovered about the world of Wonderland and all that encompasses this series. Once you read ADSD, join me in the wait for Book 3, A Crown So Cursed…it’s going to be one helluva wait despite the fact that 2020 isn’t far but it is…know what I mean?! *Deep Sigh* I have a feeling that it will be worth the wait doe! Happy Reading Y’all!
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