Book Review

Paris for One & Other Stories

Publisher: Penguin Random House LLC
Genre: Fiction, Short Stories
Pages: 274
Format: Hardcover
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My Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary

Jojo Moyes, best known for her novel Me Before You and the film by the same name, waxes optimistic in Paris for One, a collection of nine short stories all told from the female perspective. Offering up relatable and recognizable female characters in the midst of change, Paris for One takes the reader on journeys of self-discovery, relationships gone wrong (and right), and the life-changing power of a pair of Louboutins.

Thoughts

Worn out from life in quarantine, and never ending political and civil strife, Paris for One is part female empowerment, part escapism, and could be just the distraction you have been looking for. I am a sucker for anything Parisian, and impulsively tossed this book into my online shopping cart without even bothering to read the reviews. My instincts ended up being right on, as this collection is a series of delightful, breezy reads that will help take the edge off a tough week of scrolling through social media and wondering where we all went wrong. 

Moyes seems fully aware that sometimes all you need is a little mental escape. She fills her stories with relatable, “every woman” type characters—which excuses her a little for placing some of them in pretty predictable situations. An excellent example of this comes in the form of the titular story where Englishwoman Nell’s failed Parisian getaway turns surprisingly into just what the doctor ordered for her overly stable existence. It’s a familiar theme, but who hasn’t dreamed of throwing caution to the wind, boarding that flight, and facing adventure head on with a brooding Frenchman on a scooter?

Another playful entry is the sweet and funny “Christmas List,” where a day of shopping leads to something you just can’t buy—a change in attitude. Neither story pushes the envelope in the genre, but they made me smile, and just because they are familiar doesn’t make them any less fun!  

Wisely though, Moyes does switch gears by adding a little drama and introspection into the collection with “Bird in the Hand” and “Love in the Afternoon.” Exploring the complexities of married life, these stories ground the collection from flying off into a Parisian cotton candy cloud filled sky. In both, Moyes reminds us that sometimes things do happen for a reason, and the grass may not be greener on the other side when it comes to life and love.

Moyes’s writing style is straightforward and uncomplicated, which makes this the perfect easy read for a lazy Sunday afternoon…or Monday through Saturday given the current state of the world! While these aren’t stories you will be pondering days later, it’s clear that they weren’t meant to be. So curl up in your favorite chair with Paris for One and indulge yourself with a few life-changing fantasies. My guess is you deserve just that! 

Book Review

Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light by Apryl Stott

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Children’s Literature
Pages: 40
Format: Hardcover
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My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary

This year has been exceptionally stressful. I’m not going to sugarcoat it—life has just hit every single person with a thick, hard, brick. However, in the “season of giving,” no book could be more suited to bring some light in the darkness than Apryl Stott’s Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light. This children’s book is a perfect holiday gift or family read both because of its winter-esque imagery, but also its message. As opposed to telling the stories of typical holiday novels and children’s books, this picture book takes the reader on the journey of a young girl named Coco and her best animal friend, Bear (who is also a bear). Coco and Bear go around the woods attempting to share gifts with the other forest friends to show how kind and loving Bear is, despite his grizzly appearance. However, when this doesn’t work, Coco and Bear discover that kindness and light isn’t about tangible gifts, but continuous selfless actions for others. 

Thoughts

I remember reading Christmas stories when I was a kid at school, or seeing The Grinch and A Christmas Carol on T.V. However, I didn’t really appreciate the value of such stories because they were continuously played. However, this Christmas I wanted to revisit my childhood and longed for a story that would bring light in the darkest of years and emphasize one thing everyone needs in life—kindness. 

For adults, this book may be simplistic—however, if you look deeper than the short script and thin pages, you’ll find characteristic artwork, a heartwarming plot, and an inspiring message. The truth is books like Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light are not just for children because it conveys a strong message in simple language; one that is too-often forgotten. Coco and Bear could not have been more different, but they were connected by their inherent friendship. That love is what ultimately allows the other forest animals to see Bear better: it wasn’t elaborate gifts or active promotion of how good Bear was, but their actions that demonstrated Bear’s character. I appreciated this message, not only because of the tense and stressful climate of the past year, but especially because it is the holiday season. It is not about what we physically give others, but how we show respect and kindness to our family, our peers, our neighbors, and most of all to strangers.

I’m not going to tell you how this book ends, but I will note that perhaps this holiday season we can all bring light and kindness to our friends, family, strangers, and most importantly ourselves. And remember this season and as we approach the new year—“When life gets dark as winter’s night, share some kindness, bring some light.”

Book Review

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

Publisher: Orbit
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
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My Rating: 4.7/5 stars

Summary

Ages ago, the Empire was saved from the clutches of the tyrannical Alanga by the ancestors of the current ruler. But a new evil looms over the islands.

The emperor is slipping. He is leaving more and more administrative responsibilities with his constructs—magical automata created from parts of human and animal carcasses. These constructs can be programmed to follow any sequence of commands. But they are powered by bone shard magic.

Every year, young children of the islands are rounded up for the Tithing festivals. A small shard of bone is taken from each child’s skull and stored in the emperor’s vault. One day the shard might be used to power a construct. Then the owner of the shard will start to feel their life leaking out of them slowly until years later they die.

On the Imperial Island, Lin, the emperor’s daughter, suffers from amnesia after an accident. She knows her father is failing to protect the people of the empire. She wants to become the next emperor and save the empire, but she must regain her memory before the emperor can trust her to be an effective ruler. Meanwhile, she has to wait and watch Bayan, the emperor’s foster son, get trained to be the heir.

Jovis, an infamous smuggler with a price on his head, is out on a boat after finding a clue that might lead him to his missing wife. He plans to search every island and every other boat in the Endless Sea till he finds her. But he inadvertently rescues a boy from a Tithing festival and finds himself the new face of hope for parents and guardians of young children.

On Nephilanu Island, Ranami and Phalue are struggling with their relationship. Ranami steps into a dangerous path to alleviate the condition of the people of the island; a path on which Phalue, as the governor’s daughter, cannot easily meet her. Phalue is empathetic but obtuse due to her privilege. She sincerely believes the tax and ownership rules imposed by her father on farmers are fair. But she is scared of losing the love of her life, so she decides to risk her position and her father’s trust by reluctantly joining Ranami in her mission.

Thoughts

As the first book in a trilogy, this post-adolescent fantasy novel is inviting and engaging. I found the concept of using bone shard magic to power constructs particularly fascinating because it sounded like an ancient form of artificial intelligence. The engravings on a bone shard determine the commands that the construct will follow. These engravings can be combined in different ways to form a more complex set of instructions. This is just like programming an AI agent!

The young adventurers in this story are all interesting in different ways. They have had a variety of experiences and each one has a unique skillset. Their names suggest their ethnicities also differ slightly, which is uncommon in a medieval-based fantasy novel.

The backdrop of the story is an empire on the verge of collapsing into anarchy. Against that, the dialogues on social justice and equality taking place in the story make it clear that the narrative has a strong inclination to democratic principles. The dynamics between the monarchy and the revolutionary element among the people will make the next two books interesting to read, especially if new forms of magic are introduced. It would also be interesting to meet new characters in the next book. I am looking forward to the sequel.



Thank you to Changing Hands Bookstore for providing an ARC
in exchange for this honest and unbiased review.

Book Review

Guantanamo Voices By Sarah Mirk

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Genre: Nonfiction, Journalism, Anthology, Graphic Novel
Pages: 208
Format: Hardcover
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My Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary

Guantanamo Bay is often regarded as the world’s most infamous prison. Some believe it to be a place of unspeakable suffering that America continues to justify. Others hold firm to the belief that those held in this former refugee camp are criminals who deserve to remain there. But what was it like for the soldiers, prisoners, and lawyers who worked closely with this infamous prison?

Sarah Mirk, a multimedia journalist whose work focuses on sharing diverse human-focused stories, shows us what it was like by detailing nine accounts from inside Guantanamo Bay. From the conflicting emotions of those who worked at the prison, to the abuse and daily struggles of the prisoners as they fought to return home, to the lawyers and advocates who fought day and night to free them, this anthology strives to provide readers with a nuanced perspective of one of America’s most complex and controversial institutions.

Thoughts

I came into this book with my own opinions on Guantanamo Bay already formed and fully expecting this book to agree with them—as such I was pleasantly surprised when this book not only subverted my expectations, but left me questioning my views. Sarah Mirk’s diverse collection of interviews allowed this book to address all aspects of Guantanamo Bay and brought a humanizing element to a story that is often viewed in black and white terms. I firmly believe that anyone, whether in favor of Guantanamo Bay or not, could benefit from reading Guantanamo Voices. Those who believe that Guantanamo Bay is a prison for only the worst of the worst would greatly benefit from hearing the story of Moazzam Begg, a Guantanamo prisoner who was held for three years without ever being charged with a crime while his wife and children were left behind. By the same token, those who condemn those who work within Guantanamo would benefit from hearing the story of Matt Diaz, a Navy Veteran who struggled with his duty as a soldier and his personal belief that what they were doing in Guantanamo Bay was wrong. Regardless of belief, Guantanamo Voices is written so that anyone can gain perspective into the controversial history of Guantanamo Bay.

One of the more unique aspects of this book is that it is written in a graphic novel format. This uncommon format for a nonfiction book is utilized to show the different perspectives of each interview, as each section has a slightly altered art style to reflect the different perspectives. This gives each interview its own sense of storytelling, allowing for the distinctions of each person’s story to shine through. This style also allows for a visualization of the treatment of the prisoners, allowing for some truly heartbreaking scenes. The one that sticks with me the most is from Moazzam Begg, who was imprisoned while his wife was three months pregnant. He breaks down crying after a soldier informs him that his wife gave birth without him present, and the imagery in the scene is incredibly powerful.

The first and last chapters of this book detail Sarah Mink’s personal trip to Guantanamo Bay. While not as emotionally stirring as the other stories told in this book, it does provide a look into Guantanamo Bay today. The secrecy and isolation of the base helped me to understand the isolation described in the interviews, and showed just how frightening Guantanamo Bay really could be. These sections also helped establish Sarah Mink’s journey from hearing about Guantanamo Bay to interviewing those who were involved, and finally visiting Guantanamo herself. Her personal journey comes full circle within these two chapters, giving the book a sense of narrative rather than just consisting of a collection of interviews.

Guantanamo Voices fully embodies the complicated factors that lead to places like Guantanamo Bay. It tackles the fears created by 9/11, the pain of the prisoners who lost decades of their lives, and the struggles of those on the outside to spark any policy change. I rarely step outside of my personal tastes in books, but I am so glad that I did, because Guantanamo Voices‘s human perspective on an often controversial and divisive topic truly touched me, and I look forward to seeing what other topics Sarah Mirk may choose to address.


Thank you to Changing Hands Bookstore for providing an ARC
in exchange for this honest and unbiased review.

Book Review

The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities into Soulful Practices

Publisher: HarperOne
Genre: Nonfiction, Spiritual, Self-Help
Pages: 224
Format: Hardcover
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My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary

Could walking your dog be a spiritual experience? Is it possible to turn your yoga or Crossfit class into a community? Can reverently reading the Harry Potter books or watching your favorite movie transform your life?

According to Casper Ter Kuile it can, and will. In The Power of Ritual, Harvard Divinity School Fellow Ter Kuile discusses why people have often flocked to religion for ritual, purpose, and community. Yet, with an increasing number of people listing themselves as “nones,” how can one find rituals and traditions to sustain, nurture, and fortify themselves? Ter Kuile explores how everyday activities such as eating, walking, showering, watching a movie, reading, and gathering are all powerful rituals that can heal and energize. From exercise and connection with nature to tech sabbaths, he provides ways to turn the ordinary into a transcendent experience.

Thoughts

There is a strong vein of religion and theology running throughout The Power of Ritual, which is understandable considering the topic of spirituality. For some, spirituality does look like what most of us visualize— going to church and participating in the corresponding rituals. This book, however, is not necessarily for those people. This instruction manual is for the “nones,” those without a dedicated denomination, who are remixing their lives by taking from the old and adding in the new.  

One of the many interesting rituals that Ter Kuile outlines within this book is the concept of a Tech Sabbath. Closely aligned with the Jewish tradition of Sabbath, his tech version involves shutting down digitally for a 24-hour period. Friday at sundown he stows away his phone and laptop, refusing to engage with them until Saturday at sundown. For a lot of us, this would require massive amounts of willpower, and even Ter Kuile admits to slip-ups now and again. Still, the clarity he receives from this practice (every week!) more than makes up for any type of FOMO, and he uses the time to journal, read, and reflect. 

If this seems too daunting a prospect, not to worry. I found his other suggestions to be far more manageable, and most of the time the activities are ones you already engaged in. All that is required to make an ordinary activity a “ritual” is to put intention behind it. This is something he discusses at length when it comes to building community, connecting to nature, and even watching a film. As one of the founders of the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast, Ter Kuile specializes in making a movie night a revelatory and ritualistic experience.

The Power of Ritual easily mixes in history and theology discussions with pop culture references to make the reading enjoyable without getting too mystic or preachy. It really is about turning what you are already doing into a tradition, ritual, or sacred experience. There are some action items on how to get started, and a framework for prayer (it may look a little different than you think!). Pilgrimages are discussed at length, changing my perspective on what that actually looks like. Spoiler: you don’t have to travel across the globe to complete one, just as far as your door!

I, myself, was surprised at how many rituals I am already engaged in. From my morning journaling to decompressing in the shower, Ter Kuile’s theories ring true. This book will certainly cause you to reflect on those activities, and help you reframe how you participate in them. I did balk at his suggestion to think about your own death. While I am not one to shy away from the eventuality of death, I am just a little apprehensive about telling myself “I might die today.” That statement’s purpose is to remind you (and yes, there’s an app for that) to be grateful for your life and the gifts you have. But I am still not sure I can, on a daily basis, tell myself this.

At this moment, many have found their spiritual practices being curtailed. The pandemic and all the uncertainty it brings has restricted many of the social gatherings, pilgrimages, exercise routines, and religious rituals. Yet, perhaps by utilizing some of the ideas set forth in The Power of Ritual, you may be able to bring some harmony and tradition back into your life!


Thank you to Changing Hands Bookstore for providing an ARC
in exchange for this honest and unbiased review. 

Book Review

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Publisher: Dial Press
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
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My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary

This story is about a set of fraternal twins, Noah and Jude, as they begin to navigate young adulthood. The two share a love for art—but  Noah is very open about sharing his artistic ability, while Jude tends to keep her talent to herself. Despite being extremely close as children, their relationship begins to shift as tensions rise in each of their personal lives. Further pressuring them is the impending application deadline for a prestigious art school that both twins applied to. 

As their lives progress, Noah and Jude are each faced with their own set of challenges that push them further away from one another. In addition, they begin to lose sight of their own identities. Just as it appears that things couldn’t get any worse, an unanticipated disaster strikes, changing both of their lives in the aftermath. Will something—or someone—bring them back together?

Thoughts

This novel was recommended to me by one of my close friends. I had never heard of it, and as such dove in without many preconceived expectations. To my excitement, the novel was not slow to start and it wasn’t long before I was fully immersed in the stories of each of the two protagonists. Both were very accessible characters, mostly because of the book’s multi-narrative format. Reading from each character’s point of view added a lot of relatability to the novel—I was able to empathize with both Noah and Jude and became invested in each of their stories. 

Perhaps one of my favorite components of this story was the way art was used to develop the theme of personal identity. Throughout the novel, art is something both of the twins use as a form of self-expression and communication. However, Noah and Jude are both dynamic characters—and their relationship to artwork changes as part of their development. At the beginning of the story, both use art as a way to express themselves, privately. By the end of the novel, each character has learned to use art to communicate who they are as people and as a mode to display how they want to be seen. I loved reading as each of the characters experienced this shift in perspective. It even influenced the way I viewed my own ideas concerning creative expression. 

Adding to the novel’s magic are many beautiful quotes riddled throughout. One of the most notable is “We were all heading for each other on a collision course, no matter what. Maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story.” In the context of the story, this signifies that fate may play a role in Noah and Jude’s relationship. No matter how hard they try to distance themselves from one another, they continue to be pulled back together by some unseen force. Although this may not be the case for all real-life relationships, I think it serves as an interesting examination of what causes some people to fall back into each other’s lives, no matter the circumstance.

I removed half a star from my rating of this book because it romanticizes life a little bit too much for my taste at some points. Although it was a great escape from reality, there are some parts of the story that are too overtly chauvinistic to take seriously. I do think the story offers a lot of profound insight on the meaning of life and relationships—but some are too whimsical to buy into. That being said, the moments where the book misses the mark are few and far between, and it didn’t impact the story’s readability at all. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a thought-provoking and heartwarming story. 

Book Review

How to Feed Yourself: 100 Fast, Cheap, and Reliable Recipes for Cooking When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing: A Cookbook by Spoon University

Publisher: Harmony
Genre: Nonfiction, Cookbook
Pages: 224
Format: Paperback
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My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary

It is back to school season—and whether this fact spurs feelings of fear or excitement, there is one unavoidable, and oftentimes frustrating, subject within everyone’s fall schedules: food. The COVID-19 pandemic has restructured dining halls for college students, tightened the budgets of families, and possibly even allowed time for new at-home hobbies. Spoon University’s How to Feed Yourself is a simple and comprehensive cookbook designed by college students, for college students.

It is incredibly flexible for anyone’s cooking level, desires, and situation. As we enter the fall with changing situations, How to Feed Yourself offers simple, cheap meals that don’t force the reader to buy a plethora of unknown ingredients, spices, and tools. The recipes are based on common ingredients to create plenty of simple, diverse, and healthy (but not too healthy) dishes. Spanning from “All-Day Breakfast Tacos” to a “No-Sharing-Required Mason Jar Banana Split,” Spoon University has prepared dishes for every occasion, every skill level, and every lifestyle.

Thoughts

This year I made the bold and, admittedly nerve-racking, decision to cancel my meal plan as I am sure many incoming and returning students are doing. As I ventured into my new reality of consistently cooking for myself, I wanted a cost-effective, nutritious (but not too healthy), and simple cookbook tailored to my novice skill set to help me out. I am usually apprehensive about cookbooks because they are often shrouded in mystery from complicated recipes, expensive and uncommon ingredients, and unrealistic expectations (because let’s face it—my food never turns out looking like the picture). However, I was very satisfied with this cookbook—it uses simple recipes, has consistent, colorful, and an easy-to-follow page layout, in addition to encouraging language. The ingredients needed for every recipe are basic, and the recipes are created with the expectation that the reader only has “an oven with a stovetop and broiler, a microwave, a fridge, and a sink.” The book is split up largely by chapters with recipes featuring some of the most common food items (eggs, chicken, pasta, fish, potatoes, toast, grains, veggies, and bananas). Later chapters provide recipes for occasions or habits, such as make-ahead meals, group recipes, date-night ideas, alcohol, and desserts. While this structure seems confusing, it allows you to find recipes based on what you have available. The book also outlines the most basic and important points of cooking and flavoring meats, using grains, and seasoning vegetables while offering flexible recipes which is encouraging and a helpful tool to understand the basics of food.

I’ve tried several recipes, including the “Not Your Average BEG,” the “Deconstructed Chicken Pot Pie,” and the “2-Ingredient Flourless Pancakes.” The recipes were fairly delicious and creative. The “Not Your Average BEG” used toaster waffles to create a kind of bun for the egg sandwich, and while the “Deconstructed Chicken Pot Pie” could have used additional seasoning, it was simple and a great dish to learn how to cook with chicken. My favorite recipe so far, however, are the “2-Ingredient Flourless Pancakes” because they offer different flavor suggestions and I had the freedom to get creative and substitute or add ingredients. As a beginning cook and novice cookbook reader, I am very happy to have taken a chance on this book because it is tailored to any cooking level, flavor pallet, and bank account. If you don’t eat meat or need a dairy/gluten free diet, the recipes offer substitutes and diet-specific recipes. Additionally, it has recipes for the lazy days, the single-parents, the working student, and the tired-of-ramen freshman.

We naturally come to food for community and enjoyment, and while our lives might be stressful in many ways right now—and our dinners might look different—our food shouldn’t be stressful. This book gives me hope in my ability to create a meal instead of spending that extra five dollars on the grocery store’s frozen meals section; it gives me hope that I can learn a new skill; and it gives me encouragement during this time—I hope it can for you, too.

Book Review

A House is a Body by Shruti Swamy

Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 201
Format: Hardcover
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Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary

A House is a Body is a bold and provocative collection of short stories from emerging author Shruti Swamy. Her collection contains twelve short stories that are set in India and the United States. Each one is an intimate dive into the human experience. Her narratives redefine the genre of domestic fiction, focusing on the tension of relationships and the inevitable isolation of being human. Swamy doesn’t hold back any punches. She navigates the challenging circumstances of birth and death, love and loss, betrayal and redemption as if she’s been writing for a lifetime. Swamy’s ability to craft authentic domestic turmoil within such a small space on the page is both impressive and unsettling.

Thoughts

I was beyond excited to pick up my copy of A House is a Body. I discovered Swamy’s collection on a list of exciting books to anticipate in 2020 and was intrigued by the description of her writing as a marriage between the realistic and the fantastic. I couldn’t wait to experience what promised to be a literary uprooting of the domestic. Her stories did not disappoint—each narrative was more compelling than the last, pulling me through the entire collection in a matter of hours.

One of my favorite stories in the collection is titled “The Siege.” The story is told from the point of view of a young queen who is married to a selfish and violent king attempting to steal the wife of another man. The circumstances are dramatic and devastating, yet I still had so much fun reading a story that was placed in a setting with royalty and wars fought over romance. Swamy’s depiction of the setting was fantastic—within just twenty pages she was able to build a world with complex characters and conflict. This story is a can’t miss for anyone who enjoys the fantasy genre.

Another one of my favorites was titled “Wedding Season.” This story takes on a very different tone from the one in “The Siege.” The story is centered on two young women, Teja and Al, who travel from the United States to India for Teja’s counsin’s wedding. The young women are forced to hide the romantic nature of their relationship for fear of being ridiculed for their sexuality. Swamy’s narration manages to be beautiful despite the tragic circumstances. The stark contrast between the beauty of India and the tension of the lovers’ secret makes the story captivating. This is definitely a story for the modern world. I was impressed by how Swamy addressed the subjects of sexuality and identity with such boldness. Her story left me trying to decide if the ending should be considered happy or sad. What I am sure about is that it’s worth reading to decide for yourself.

It’s not often that I find a collection of short stories where I can say I enjoyed every story, but I can confidently say I enjoyed every story in A House is a Body! I would recommend this collection to readers who enjoy strong female characters and the uneasiness of the mundane. In other words, if you like “The Yellow Wallpaper” or “The Story of an Hour,” Swamy is the contemporary voice you’ve been waiting for. This collection is an impressive and promising start to a young author’s career, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Shruti Swamy.


Thank you to Changing Hands for providing an ARC
in exchange for this honest and unbiased review.

Book Review

Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Thriller, Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
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My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary

The stage is set in pre-second-world-war New York with an oracle, an assassin, and an underworld gang about to lose its alpha—all thriving in a be-bop jazz bar, brazenly ignoring the Prohibition. Phyllis Green, blessed with saints’ hands, is mob boss Victor Dernov’s executioner. Known to some as Victor’s angel, and to most as Victor’s knife, she goes by Phyllis LeBlanc in downtown Manhattan, meting out mob justice with her holster of knives.

That is until she meets Dev. Playing judge, jury, and executioner turns out to be a lot more complicated when she falls in love. Devajyoti Patil, bartender at The Pelican, is also blessed with saints’ hands – he can detect threats on a single touch. But unlike Phyllis, he does not use them to throw knives. Just when Phyllis believes she can act on her promise to Dev of never killing again, she is given a task that forces her to go back on her word.

Someone is killing people with “the hands” and leaving the corpses behind with bleeding stumps and clear signs of having involved them in some form of dark ritual. It’s obvious—they’re trying to steal the power of these hands. Victor’s lieutenant, Red Man, tells Phyllis that the murderer is Trent Sullivan, and that she must take him out.

Having grown up in an all-Black neighborhood, Phyllis has spent her whole adult life trying to pretend that she’s not. Owing to her lighter skin, she passes scrutiny in most segregated places in 1930s New York. She has even taken care to change her name, so no one can trace her back to her old neighborhood—it’s how she has survived. But a decade after she executes Sullivan, and Dev leaves her for it, she finds that her heritage is about to be revealed, and that, suddenly, her life depends on her proving her whiteness.

A lot of factors wrestle for priority as Dev returns unexpectedly to her life as she’s simultaneously given a new assignment. Not to mention, the draft creeps up and starts upending the lives of everyone she holds dear.

Thoughts

The struggles of people of color before World War II that changed society in many irreversible ways are depicted in sincere detail in this book. Skin trumps economic status as Phyllis, Dev, and their friends find themselves increasingly vulnerable as they try to get away from the criminal element that has protected them so far.

It is really promising to find that BIPOC literature is finally making its way into the limelight. The story is set at a time when very few would think to write a novel with a black woman and an Indian man as the lead duo. Hopefully, we are at a time when we can look back at these immortal years from a different perspective than we are used to.


Thank you to Changing Hands Bookstore for providing an ARC
in exchange for this honest and unbiased review.

Book Review

Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis

Publisher: Atria/ Emily Bestler Books
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
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My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary

Dear Emmie Blue tells the story of Emmeline Blue as her life falls to pieces. When she was 16, Emmie released a balloon with a secret written on it, only for it to wash up on a distant shore and introduce her to her best friend, Lucas. Now in her twenties, she is hopelessly and irretrievably in love with Lucas, and thinks he is finally going to ask her out—only for him to announce that he is getting married. To make matters worse, Lucas wants Emmie to be his “best woman,” prolonging and magnifying her anguish. From her dead-end job, distant mother, and aloof landlady, Lucas’s engagement is the last straw for Emmie.

Despite all the loneliness and heartache, however, wonderful things are in store for Emmie Blue. Lia Louis’ novel pays homage to the idea that life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans, and reminds us that unexpectedly wonderful things could be waiting just around the corner.

Thoughts

I don’t know about you, but this year has been a doozy for me. This was a book that I desperately needed to help me cope with this unpredictable—and sometimes depressing—world we’re living in. This might seem to be an odd sentiment, given that Emmie faces heartbreak and calamity for a decent portion of the book. I would argue, though, that a book with a certain amount of despair is fitting, given the current state of things (so long as all ends well). While Louis undoubtedly forces the reader to empathize with the protagonist, there is a certain hope found in seeing a character continue pressing on, even when things look bleak.

I think a great deal of charm in this novel comes from Emmie Blue herself. She manages to be strong and fragile, resilient and weary, all at once. More so than this, you truly feel for her throughout the book. Especially when she divulges the details of a sexual assault in her youth, and wrestles with her broken relationship with her parents, you can’t help but root for her. It’s hard to not be in Emmie’s corner, especially concerning her relationship with Lucas—a kismet meeting if ever there was one. Both Emmie and us as the reader see these two as so obviously destined to be together, and it’s beyond frustrating that they aren’t. Even characters that I didn’t find very likable, such as Rosie and Marie, were appreciated insofar as they related to Emmie.

Dear Emmie Blue is an important reminder that life is unpredictable, and that sometimes that’s the best thing about it. If everything stayed the same, there would be no way for things to get better. It’s a cheesy sentiment, sure, but true nevertheless. The only complaint I had about this book comes from the predictability of the ending, but I would argue that even this lends a certain charm—knowing how something ends doesn’t make the journey any less meaningful, right? I would recommend this book to anyone who needs a mental reset, or a reminder that there are sunnier days ahead.


Thank you to Changing Hands Bookstore for providing an ARC
in exchange for this honest and unbiased review.