Contemporary · Fiction · Magical Realism · Paranormal · Romance · Science Fiction · Young Adult

Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything

Title: Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything

Author: Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

Page Count: 432

Series: Unknown

Publishing Date/Publisher: August 20, 2020 by Simon Pulse

Format: eBook

Review: I went into this book without reading the synopsis, so to say that I was blindsided by the science fiction angle would be an understatement. This book has very strong undertones of magical realism for the first half of the book and them BAM!…it hits you with aliens. Admittedly, the concept was clever…aliens abducting illegal aliens. It takes a strong stance on immigration issues, and is a clear reprimand for how immigrants are treated by the United States government.

Although I found this to be an enjoyable read, I feel that the author tackled too many issues with her story line. I can appreciate a good genre crossover – combining magical realism and science fiction was creative – however, the plot became very convoluted for the last half of the book. I think I would have enjoyed the story more if the author had tightened up the plot a bit. In addition to the magical realism elements, extraterrestrials, and social commentary, there is also a romance that plays out between the main character, Sia, and the hot new guy at her school. Through the lens of this relationship the author explores trauma, first love, racism, family dynamics, and abuse. Combined with all the other elements of this story, it’s just a lot. Perhaps if these additional elements had been more subtle, it would have worked, but I felt that taking on so much detracted from the flow of the story.

It is very unclear to me whether this book is meant to be part of a series or a standalone. The author leaves the readers with a cliffhanger, but I cannot find any references to a sequel.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
Contemporary · Fiction · Romance

Normal People

Title: Normal People

Author: Sally Rooney

Performer: Aoife McMahon

Length: 7 hr, 34 min

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: 2019 by Random House Audio

Format: eAudiobook

Review: This is a very different romance than the one I last reviewed, but I enjoyed it just as much in different ways. There are so many layers to this story and the relationship it portrays. The magnetism between the two characters in palpable, and it is fascinating how they orbit in and out of each other’s lives. Connell and Marianne are soulmates, but both are so damaged and have so much self-loathing that neither of them can really see it, even as they act on it. To say their relationship is complicated is a vast understatement because there is so much nuance to their every interaction. They show each other parts of themselves that they show no one else, while at the same time shutting each other out from the aspects of themselves that they freely give other people. At the end, I was left with the sense that despite their tumultuous history, they will always find their way back to each other. I found this satisfying in a way, even as it left me feeling slightly bereft.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
half star
Contemporary · Fiction · Romance

The Intimacy Experiment

Title: The Intimacy Experiment

Author: Rosie Danan

Page Count: 336

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: April 6, 2021 by Berkley Books

Format: eBook

Review: All. The. Feeeeelz. This is the romance I didn’t know I needed after reading The Roommate (which I also thoroughly enjoyed). And darn it, Rosie, if you didn’t make me fall in love with these characters. This romance has a refreshingly wholesome quality given the fact it is about a red hot relationship between a former porn star and a rabbi. This isn’t to say it doesn’t have it’s fair share of smut, but it is really more about all the ways intimacy is more than just sex. This book also tackles a lot of the social issues touched upon in The Roommate, and shows them from another angle.

Well done, Rosie. A truly exhilarating romance all around. I hope to read more from you.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
half star

Contemporary · Fantasy · Fiction · Paranormal · Romance · Young Adult

Cemetery Boys

Title: Cemetery Boys

Author: Aiden Thomas

Page Count: 352

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: September 1, 2020 by Swoon Reads

Format: Hardcover

Review: This was a unique coming-of-age novel with a very diverse cast of characters.  My favorite elements of the book were the rich descriptions of Dia de Muertos traditions and the relationship between Julian and Yadriel.  The romance that developed between Julian and Yadriel felt very organic, and served as a great mechanism for character development.  I also loved the paranormal spin to the story, with Julian being a ghost, and thought that overall it was very creative.  

My biggest qualm about the book was the very cliché villain reveal at the end. I had hoped my predictions were wrong and that the author would surprise me, but unfortunately this was not the case. The ending also wrapped up a little too nicely in my opinion, especially given how dark a lot of the content was following the climax of the story.

Reader: Bekah

Rating:

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
Contemporary · Fiction · Romance

The Authenticity Project

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Title: The Authenticity Project

Author: Clare Pooley

Performer: Anna Cordell

Length: 10 hr, 25 min

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: February 4, 2020 by Penguin Audio

Format: eAudiobook

Review: Some books come to you at the right time, and this was one such book for me. I really needed something fun and uplifting, and this truly was a “feel good” read. The writer’s style is very similar to one of my favorite authors, Liane Moriarty, though the content is lighter. We really get to delve into the feelings of the characters and join them through their introspection and personal growth. I liked the way the book was divided into many POV chapters, and found that it made the story very fast-paced and engaging. I enjoyed the uniqueness of each character voice, and though I found some of the premise to be rather far-fetched, I still found it relatable and I wanted to believe in the characters. This book really brings into focus the importance of authenticity to build meaningful relationships, and had an interesting focus on how we as individuals create our own narratives and truths. It was very fascinating and gave me much to ponder.

Really enjoyed this book in audiobook format. It was smooth and well narrated. I felt the performer really added depth to the characters.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold

Contemporary · Fiction

Such a Fun Age

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Title: Such a Fun Age

Author: Kiley Reid

Performer: Nicole Lewis

Length: 9 hr, 58 min

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: 2019 by Books on Tape

Format: eAudiobook

Review: It took me a long time to decide how I feel about this book, and to be honest I still don’t really know. Lewis is a fantastic writer, so I didn’t dislike the book, but at the same time I felt very unfulfilled by it. She addresses some very timely topics, yet in the end I did not really take anything away from story. I found many of the conversations between characters to be very cringey (probably intentionally so) and the twist at the end was not as shocking as I think it was intended to be. Some elements of the story were interesting, however, I don’t think this book will be one that sticks with me in the years to come.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
half star

Contemporary · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

Felix Ever After

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Title: Felix Ever After

Author: Kacen Callender

Page Count: 368

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: May 5, 2020 by Balzer + Bray

Format: Hardcover

Review: First off, can we take a minute to appreciate that cover…gorgeous! I would have picked this book up for the cover alone if it wasn’t already in my TBR pile as a Mock Printz Committee selection. In the novel, Felix is an artist with a penchant for painting self-portraits. I like to think that this would have been one of those portraits.

But anywhoo, this book was a nice coming-of-age story filled to the brim with tropes. Misunderstood teenager? check. Angsty art school students? check. Mysterious online admirer? check. Confusing feelings about an attractive best friend? check.

Tropes aren’t necessarily a strike against a novel. When done well I enjoy them, however, I can’t say that about all the tropes in this book. I thought the romance angle in particular was weak. There was a weird quasi-love triangle that I didn’t feel did justice to either of the love interests. I could have cared less if Felix ended up either or neither of them.

So in summary, do not read this book for the romance, but rather for the character arc of a trans teen achieving self-acceptance and figuring out that it is ok to not have it all figured out.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold

Contemporary · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

Second Chance Summer

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Title: Second Chance Summer

Author: Morgan Matson

Page Count: 468

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: May 8, 2012 by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Format: eBook

Review: If you love nostalgic beach/lake house in the summer vibes, this book is for you. It is a sweet story filled with friendship, romance, and above all, family. True to it’s title, this story is all about second chances. So if you are into that sort of thing, check it out. I personally found it to be an enjoyable summer read. I didn’t have to think too hard and I was satisfied by the ending. It had a tone very similar to The Summer I Turned Pretty (just with less angst), so I would definitely recommend it as a read-alike to Jenny Han fans.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
Contemporary · Fiction

American Dirt

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Title: American Dirt

Author: Jeanine Cummins

Performer: Yareli Arizmendi

Length: 16 hr, 43 min

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: 2020 by MacMillan Audio

Format: eAudiobook

Review: This was a book club pick that interested me mainly because of the controversy surrounding it.  When a bestselling book gets a lot of criticism, it makes me curious, even if it falls into a genre I do not typically read.

I went into reading this book with an open mind, because I like to form my own opinions.  I personally found the content of the book to be very stressful, so at this point in my life it was not my favorite read.  It did, however, make me more conscious of the seemingly insurmountable challenges that migrants face as they make their trek to the United States.

After reading the book for myself, and browsing through the reviews of critics, I personally find most of the controversy to be unwarranted.  I won’t address every aspect of her work that has been criticized, but it seems that the primary criticism stems from Cummins being elevated as a White author over authors of color who have written about similar topics. I understand the argument, but the truth is, it is a very well-written book.  Regardless of her own experiences, it felt like a very well-researched work of fiction and after discussing it with both my book club and a Latina friend who read it with her book club, it seems that Cummins portrayal of hardship, corruption, and abuse is true to the experiences of many migrants.  Perhaps she tried to pack too much drama into one story, but I do believe that the journey to the border can be very dangerous, especially for young women.  I’m not saying that #ownvoices works should not also be elevated, but as one person in my book club pointed out, the popularity of this book could have been used as a platform to recommend readers to books on similar topics written by people of color.  As with any novel, it is not perfect and some criticisms are likely valid (particularly about the use of Spanish language throughout the story), but I think it is great that a book that inspires empathy and raises awareness about the challenges faced by illegal immigrants is reaching such a wide audience.  To say that someone cannot write characters or settings of another ethnicity or culture would essentially be saying that most works of fiction should never have been written.  I think it is great that the new publishing trend is embracing #ownvoice stories and authors, but it is absurd to say that someone cannot write fictional works about something they have not personally experienced or to hate on them for doing so.  I hope this does not discourage Cummins from writing more in the future.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Goldhalf star

Contemporary · Fiction · Romance

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler

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Title: The Overdue Life of Amy Byler

Author: Kelly Harms

Page Count: 328

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: May 1, 2019 by Lake Union Publishing

Format: eBook

Review: This book can be summed up in one word: tedious.  I completely understand mommy guilt.  I’ve experienced it many times myself, so Amy’s resistance to doing something nice for herself made sense to an extent, but at some point it just became frustrating.  It took WAY too long for Amy to just accept the process of her “momspringa”.  I wanted her to have fun, but she moped through the majority of the great experiences that were basically handed to her and I just found it to be exhausting.  Also, has she never heard of the concept of a long distance relationship?  Just another thing she resisted to an extent that made zero sense to me.

The one aspect of this book I really enjoyed was her daughter’s journal entries.  Absolutely hilarious.  I looked forward to coming across them throughout the book.

Honestly though, if this had not been a book club pick, I would most likely have DNFed it and saved myself a few hours of rolling my eyes.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold