Review: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1)

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Rating: ★★★★

I received a copy of this book for free as part of an Instagram tour (Storygram Tours specifically) I did to promote the book. 

So first off I just want to say that it is incredibly refreshing to read a book about mythology that isn’t Greek. I know very little about African/African American mythology so it was fun to learn about it through reading this book. 

Since this is the first book in a new series, it is a little slow. That is understandable since there is a lot of world building and set-up that needs to be done. The one thing it could have done better was developed some of the supporting characters more. Like I wanted to know more about Ayanna. I can tell there is more to her. However, I am sure this will be revealed in the coming books. 

I really liked that there was a map included. Maps are always so helpful in reading fantasy books and makes it easy to follow the heroes on their journey. 

I also liked how the author would slip in some important messages throughout the book. At one point John Henry is talking about the Jim Crow laws and states, “A lot of times those little facts get smudged cutoff the history books. If you gon’ tell a story, you better be sure you’re telling the right one” (pg 108). At another point the main character muses, “it was my job to carry the stories of the land to its people. All the stories. If we ignored the past, how would we learn from it” (pg 426). Both of these quotes are so important because they show the importance of learning history, both the good and the bad.

Overall, I thought this was a Strong start to a new Own Voices series. I am intrigued to see what happens next. 


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Review: The Lion’s Den

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Rating: ★★★★

I received a copy of this book for free from the Publisher (Grand Central Publishing) in exchange for an honest review. 

Wow. What a crazy ride! This book really took me on an adventure through the lives of the rich.

This is a summer mystery novel that kept me guessing until the very end. All throughout the novel you know something is up, but it won’t all be revealed until the end. The way it all came about was very smart and clever. I liked how there were small little mentions of things that would later become integral to the plot and mystery. 

One small issue that I had was that the book felt a little slow in the beginning. It took a bit to really get the book rolling. This was in part due to the flashbacks. The flashbacks were very important, but in the beginning I was super eager to learn more about the present day situation. As the book went on, I enjoyed the flashbacks more because they provided more insight into what was happening. 

Additionally, I wanted to know a little bit more about what happened to some of the supporting characters afterwards. The book wraps up everything with the main character, but not for the supporting characters. 

Overall, I recommend this book for anyone looking to get lost in a fun summer read! 


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Review: Opposite of Always

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Rating: ★★★★

I received this book for free free as part of an Instagram tour (Storygram Tours specifically) I did to promote the book.

This was such a fun YA book!

I absolutely loved the premise. The time loop aspect was so interesting. I liked how you saw the consequences to Jack’s actions throughout every go around. 

In a way this book is kind of sad because the love interest is continually dying. But at the same time it is still full of hope. 

I loved the characters. Since this book is a time loop you spend a lot of time with them and get to seem them react to different scenarios. I loved the friendship between Jack, Jillian, and Franny. They were so supportive of one another and were like a tight knit family (most of the time). 

The only downside to the book is that it is a bit repetitive because of the time loop. Luckily, after a few times through, it does not rehash the same events. 

Lastly, this book is Own Voices which I loved. The book even mentions the importance of it. The main character states, “I’ve always loved reading. But there aren’t a lot of books about kids like me. And I just think every kid deserves a book that looks like them” (pg 34). Amen to that! 

Overall, I really enjoyed this YA debut! 


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Review: The Places We Sleep

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Rating: ★★★★

I received an ARC of this book for free from Books Forward in exchange for an honest review.

I was really intrigued by this book because it centers on 9/11. I was only 6 years old when it happened so I never truly felt the magnitude of it. 

This book did an amazing job detailing how 9/11 rocked everyone’s world. You saw how 12 year old Abbey felt. You saw how her mom reacted to finding out her sister went missing during the attack. You saw her dad’s military response to it. You saw how regular civilians felt about the possibility of war. You saw racial prejudices exhibited by Abbey’s classmates to a fellow student. The book covered a range of experiences.

This is a novel in verse so the entire book was written in poetry. As a whole, I thought the poems were well done. However, I would have loved if the poems had titles. Instead, they were numbered. Sometimes titles can help enhance the poem and create a bigger impact. But on the flip side, having no titles made the book more novel like. It reads very smoothly because of that. At times, it didn’t even feel like you’re were reading poetry because you get sucked into the story. 

Plot-wise, I wanted a little more, especially towards the end. I wanted there to be a little more development with some of the supporting characters. Even though this book centers on 9/11, it is also a coming of age story. One of the things that gets explored is periods. I am happy that this book did not shy away from showing girls getting their period for the first time. 

Overall, I recommend this book to anyone looking to learn more about the American reaction to 9/11. This book is aimed towards middle grade readers but can still be enjoyed by adults. 


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Review: The Summer Demands

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Rating: ★★★

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher (Catapult) in exchange for an honest review.

Going into this book, I was very excited to read it because loved the premise. It’s exactly the type of book I like to read. However, the execution left much to be desired. 

I didn’t become hooked into the book until about halfway through. That is when things got interesting due to an arrival of a new character. Once that happened, the book ended rather quickly. It felt like there could have been a lot more development in that second half. There was a lot of potential for things to get more complex. I was waiting for it to reach a breaking point, but it never did. 

When it came to the characters, I felt like the supporting ones were not fully fleshed out. For example, I never felt like I truly knew much about the main character’s husband, David, and how he felt during the whole thing. I expected there to be more tension surrounding him. 

As for the writing, I did like the prose. There was something special about it and it really helped set the tone and mood of the story. The prose also highlighted the mystique of the camp well. 

Overall, this book had a lot of potential but it ultimately fell flat. 


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Review: Walk With Wings

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Rating: ★★★★★

I received a copy of this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

This was such an inspiring poetry collection! 

The book is divided into 5 sections each with its own theme. My favorite was Monsoon Love, which was the shortest section but it was filled with love poems. I have a thing for romantic poems. I am such a sucker for them. A lot of poems from this section reminded me of Michael Faudet and Lang Leav’s poetry. The following sections were very reminiscent of Rupi Kaur and Amanda Lovelace’s poetry. So if you like any of those poets, you’ll probably like this one. 

I had a lot of favorite poems. Here is the list of my favorites:

  • I Write To Heal (pg 5)
  • Missing You (pg 9)
  • Synchronization (pg 10)
  • Love Song (pg 13)
  • Forever (pg 17)
  • True Colors (pg 24)
  • Makeup (pg 33)
  • Heartbite (pg 34)
  • Masking Pain (pg 36)
  • Dying Love (pg 38)
  • Almost Right (pg 39)
  • Caged (pg 40)
  • Numb (pg 47)
  • Still I Dream (pg 51)
  • Bitter Trials (pg 53)
  • Blessings (pg 61)
  • A Letter To My Natural Hair (pg 65)
  • Celebrate Yourself (pg 71)
  • No Ordinary Woman (pg 75) 
  • Rejection (pg 78) 
  • Girl Power (pg 87)
  • Girl Boss (pg 98)
  • Irreplaceable (pg 107)
  • Love Hurts (pg 108) 
  • Shit Happens (pg 109)
  • Inner Battles (pg 111)
  • Situationship (pg 114)
  • Dignity (pg 118)
  • Love Exists (pg 123) 
  • Someone’s Favorite (pg 124)
  • Introvert (pg 131)
  • Self-Development (pg 151)
  • Partnership (pg 160)

It’s a lot, I know! I just loved all the bits of wisdom in these poems. The whole collection was very uplifting and positive. It’s a great book to read after a heartbreak or just when you’re down. 

Overall, I loved this collection! 


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Review: You Brought Me The Ocean

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Rating: ★★★★½

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher (DC Comics) in exchange for an honest review.  

This was a heartfelt origin story that tackles identity and sexuality. 

Prior to reading this, I had no idea who Jake Hyde (aka Aqualad) was so I had no expectations going in about his origin story. I was pleasantly surprised. The superhero element was a lot more subtle than I thought it would be. Jake trying to figure out the mystery behind his powers and coming to terms with his sexuality were both given equal weight. I liked that the book didn’t go too overboard with the superhero aspect because that could have easily overshadowed the coming-out story. 

The plot is very basic (it’s not the most exciting superhero comic you will read), but it works well for what the story was trying to accomplish. Sometimes less is more, and this book proves that. 

As for the characters, I loved Kenny. He was hands down my favorite character. I also loved the diversity in the characters. Jake is black. His best friend, Maria, is Latina. Kenny is Asian. The teacher, Mrs. Archer, is Native American. 

At first I wasn’t a fan of the artwork. I saw a sneak peek of this in another DC Comic and I was a little hesitant. The artwork seemed a little incomplete. But as I started the book and kept reading, I grew to love and appreciate it. There was actually a lot of detail in the sketches. I loved that at the end of the book there was sketches from the illustrator explaining the thought process behind them. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this beautiful superhero comic and its coming-out storyline! #RepresentationMatters 


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Review: Good Things Happen to People You Hate

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Rating: ★★★½

I received this book for free free as part of an Instagram tour (TLC Book Tours specifically) I did to promote the book.

This was an interesting collection of personal essays. As with many essay collections, I liked some of them, but didn’t like others. 

This book is a pretty typical account of a millennial woman in New York City so there wasn’t anything ground breaking or new about it. I’ve encountered similar stories before. That being said I did relate to the author quite a few times. 

For example, the essay, “Real Men Will Disappoint You, Date Fictional Men Instead,” was so relatable. I took one look at the tile and went, isn’t that the truth! Also, all the essays had funny titles like these. Another relatable essay was “Sometimes Your Irrational Fears Come True and Fire Destroys Your Home.” That scenario (thankfully) hasn’t happened to me, but I related to her childhood fears. As a kid, I worried a lot over things other kids would never worry about (ex. car accidents, dangerous criminals, etc.) 

The writing style is very blogger like which I enjoyed. It worked well in telling her stories. 

I did feel like some of the essays fell a little short. Like they didn’t quite live up to their potential. Sometimes they just ended when I was expecting her to say a little more.

Overall, this was a quick essay collection with some hits and some misses. I did find it entertaining so if you just want to read something fun, go ahead and read it! 


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Review: Beauty Mark

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Rating: ★★★★

I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher (Candlewick Press) in exchange for an honest review. 

I’m a fairly new Marilyn Monroe fan. I’ve only seen “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and “How To Marry A Millionaire” and loved her in both of those. I was so excited to read this because I wanted to learn more about her. I knew she had a tragic life and this book dove right into it. 

This novel in verse goes through Marilyn’s entire life, starting from when she was a kid to a few weeks before her death. All aspects of her life are explored, painting a stunning portrait of this complicated woman.

As for the poems themselves, some of them were amazing but some fell a little flat. A novel in verse is a little harder to write since it does tell a story, so that is forgivable. 

Some of my favorite poems were:

  • Stand Still (pg 2)
  • From Wonderland to Oz (pg 26)
  • Baby Siren (pg 56)
  • Dare I Wish? Dare I Dream? (Pg 75) 
  • Blondes Prefer Gentle Men (pg 106)
  • No Pink Tights But a Gold Band (pg 114)
  • I Got Rhythm (pg 124)
  • Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover (pg 128)
  • Living Up to My Name (pg 136)
  • No One Malady (pg 137)
  • Miscarriage Blues (pg 150)
  • Dogs Are a Girl’s Best Friend (pg 162)
  • Secrets of Style (pg 164)
  • Rx: “Vitamins” (pg 169)
  • The Kennedys (pg 175)
  • Who Is Marilyn Monroe? (pg 178)
  • Epilogue (pg 181)

I really liked that there was a poem about how she helped Ella Fitzgerald (I Got Rhythm). I am happy that was highlighted. I also loved the whole poem dedicated to Marilyn’s love of reading (Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover). I’ve always loved that she was a bookworm. Lastly, the last poem (Epilogue) was a clever way to end the book. That poem just consisted of a series of headlines relating to Marilyn after 1962, which gave you a glimpse of her lasting legacy and mystique. 

Overall, this was a fascinating take on the life of Marilyn. If you’re Marilyn fan, or just want to learn more about her, I recommend reading this book. It’s a quick read but it does leave a big impact! 


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Review: Somebody Give This Heart a Pen

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Rating: ★★★★★

I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher (Candlewick Press) in exchange for an honest review. 

This book of poetry was written by a performance poet and it shows! 

I’ve never read a collection by a performance poet before, so it took a little getting used to at first. But once I got the hang of it, I loved it! Just reading the poems on paper doesn’t do it justice.  I actually ended up watching some of her performances on YouTube, including a few of the poems from this book. She really is a talent! 

I had a lot of favorites, especially from the Break section. My favorites were:

  • Excerpt from a Letter to My Little Black Girl (pg 12)
  • the leaders won’t (pg 23)
  • Fearmongering (pg 25)
  • Risky Nostalgia (pg 41)
  • How We Got Here, Part 20 (pg 49)
  • Whipped on You (pg 54)
  • Trust Issues (pg 58)
  • Slow Sky, Move On By (pg 63) 
  • Scary Everyone (pg 64)
  • Fidgeting (pg 66)
  • Let Hurt (pg 68)
  • from God (pg 81) 
  • When to Write (pg 98)

I loved how authentic her poems felt. I could feel her emotions and experiences very vividly. I liked that some of the poems touched upon being black in the UK. In “the leaders won’t,” she name checks Black British people (Damilola, Stephen Lawrences, and Mark Duggan specifically) who were all killed in racially motivated attacks. #BlackLivesMatter everywhere. Being an American I had not heard of these deaths before so I’m so glad she said their names. 

Overall, this was a phenomenal collection and I look forward to seeing what else Sophia Thakur puts out. 


Below are some of the poems from the book performed by Sophia Thakur herself!


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