Review: After Life

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Rating: ★★★★★

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

Going into this book, I didn’t know that much about Alice. All I knew was that she was serving a life sentence for a non-violent drug offense and that Kim Kardashian helped her get commuted. When I saw this was available to review I immediately jumped on it because I wanted to learn more about her. 

Alice’s story is incredible. She truly is an amazing woman and a force to be reckoned with. Her attitude towards life is so admirable. 

I loved that she told her whole story, starting from when she was a kid. It was fascinating learning about her upbringing, her not-so-great choices that lead her to commit the crime, her trial (which had so many things wrong with it), and her life after her conviction. 

The writing style of the book was wonderful. It felt very conversational. It was like Alice was sitting down with you telling her story. When I got to the end, I felt like I was friends with Alice. She was so open about her experiences without being melodramatic. 

The subject matter of the book is so timely. America is in dire need of criminal justice reform and I hope this book can help inspire change by putting a face to the problem. There are so many people like Alice currently sitting in our system. 

Overall, this is a powerful book. It touches upon many themes such as family, faith, and life behind bars. Thank you Alice for sharing your story with the world and inspiring others. Also, kudos to Kim Kardashian West for her role in helping free Alice. Kim gets a lot of hate for various things but you can’t deny her role in this.  

Review: When I Walk Through That Door, I Am

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Rating: ★★★★

I received this book for free through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review.

This was a very powerful narrative poem that deals with immigration into the U.S. from South America.

I love narrative poems. I think they are such a creative way to tell a story and it worked well for this particular story and message The author really put you into the main character’s head and you got to know her thoughts and feelings in an intimate way. There are just some things you can do in poetry that you can’t necessarily do with prose, so this was a successful way of telling this story. 

I do have a few minor critiques of the book. One being that it felt a tad bit over the top and dramatic which made parts of it unbelievable. The second critique is that I wanted more. I was super into the story and then it just kind of ended. Certain parts could have been fleshed out more to give it even more depth.

Lastly, I loved the author’s note at the end where he talks about his experience with a Burmese refugee. It was a very touching story. I kind of wish that he had written the book about him instead of creating a something new. There was something very special about their friendship. 

Overall, this is an important and beautifully written read that highlights the difficulties that many South American immigrants face when trying to come into the U.S. 

Review: The War Outside

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Rating: ★★★★★

I received an ARC of this book for free from TheNovl in exchange for an honest review. Since I received an ARC, my quotes from the book are tentative. 

Last month I read a different YA novel about German American internment and was beyond disappointed by it. When I saw that TheNovl was offering a chance to read and review this book I jumped at the opportunity. Thankfully, The War Outside was a million times better than that other book I read.

This book was so heart wrenching and emotional. There was one incident towards the end that gave me chills and goosebumps. 

I loved the dual perspectives and how well the author put you into each girl’s shoes. I also enjoyed the author’s writing style. It flowed easily and sucked you into the story. 

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I’m glad that the book showed both Japanese American and German American internment. I particularly liked that it discussed how being called the enemy was different for each group. At one point Haruko tells Margot,

“I’m so sorry…that your father had to wake up and realize that you had become the enemy overnight. But a least you didn’t have to wake up and realize that other Americans had thought of you as an enemy all along” (148).

She then explains,

“the reason this imprisonment is hard to Margot’s father is because they didn’t know yet that this country was unfair…The West Coast Japanese had already given the government their shortwave radios, and they had already agreed to their curfew, eight PM to six AM, but it wasn’t enough, it was never enough. It was so easy for the government make those rules. You can’t hate someone all of a sudden. It takes practice. It takes a long time” (148).

This is an idea that Margot revisits later in the book when imagining what it would be like to go back home to Iowa. She ponders,

“Haruko was right the first time we talked. It was not like with the Japanese. where entire communities went away. With us it was like a scalpel: a German here, a German there, while the rest of the town went about their business” (207).

These quotes showcase the idea of how we are not  free in America until we’re all free. Everyone’s freedom is in jeopardy if one group loses theirs. 

The ending was…WOW. It was one of the best endings I’ve read in a while. It left you thinking about all that happened between the girls and the motives behind their actions.  

I liked that the author included a note at the end about the history behind the story. It is evident that she did a lot of research and tried to make it as accurate as possible.  

Overall, this was an amazing and powerful novel whose ending will leave you questioning it all. 

Review: The U.S. Constitution and Other Key American Writings

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Rating: ★★★★½

This is a hard book to write a review for because it’s just a collection of writings. 

The overall selection of writings was pretty good. Although I did find that the rules of baseball was an odd pick to include. I love baseball and all (it’s my favorite sport) but I don’t think it’s that important. Baseball isn’t that groundbreaking. I would have also loved to have seen more Supreme Court rulings since there was only one (Brown v. Board of Education). However, that’s just a personal preference because I love reading the Supreme Court Justices’ opinions. 

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One of my favorite writings was the Susan B. Anthony one. There were few female writings in here so it was nice to see Susan B. Anthony included. 

My least favorite by far was the Social Security Act. That was a total snooze fest. It was over 40 pages and so dry. I also felt that it could have been replaced by a few, more interesting writings.

All in all, this is a really solid collection of fundamental American writings. I definitely recommend it if you are looking for a comprehensive collection of American documents and speeches.