Book Review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo


Genres/Descriptors:
contemporary; YA; poetry (a novel in verse)

Why I read it:  A novel about poetry/a poet, written in verse? How could I not pick it up?

Who I’d recommend it to: If you’re into poetry at all or have enjoyed verse novels in the past, and/or if you enjoy YA contemporary stories, I highly recommend this one. Even if you’re not sure if a novel in verse is for you, I’d still recommend checking it out.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

 

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books a Million | IndieBound


What it’s about (from Goodreads):

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.


Review:

Are you screeching in excitement yet? Folks, I don’t know how this evaded me for so long (ok, I do know, it’s because I intentionally pulled back from the bookish world because I knew I couldn’t buy books for a long time, and I didn’t want to be sad). I didn’t hear anything about this until….well, actually until I happened across it on Over Drive and looked it up on Good Reads. Seriously, did I just miss all the buzz because I was getting my hermit on, or was there just basically none?

First up, let’s talk about that cover. So pretty, right?! That caught my eye first, followed quickly by the word “poet” in the title. The artist was Gabriel Moreno and I’m kind of obsessed. It’s just so gorgeous and perfect and I feel like it really goes with the book. Check out more of Gabriel’s art here, if you’re interested (I was, and I’m really loving it).

Ok, onward to the book itself!

As most novels in verse are, this was a pretty quick read. It’s a little over 350 pages, but I could have easily read it in one afternoon if I’d been able to sit long enough. (Don’t  you hate it when you’re really loving a book but things like laundry keep interrupting?) I tore through this book and I’m really thinking about buying a copy. I feel like I could re-read this one a few times.

Xiomara…oh gods, where do I start? This girl is a fighter, in more ways than one, and I feel like this book is very timely. I think teenagers today need more books like this in their lives, and I wish I’d had this book when I was 10-12 years younger, because it would have hit me even harder and inspired me even more. I can honestly see this making it onto reading lists at some point (I’m really not sure how that works, but I know it’s going to be on my kid’s reading list in a few years).

The home life Xiomara had really hit close to home for me in some ways. She grew up with a Catholic family, while I grew up in a Protestant home, but her relationship with her mother reminded me of my life a bit. I didn’t actually expect to relate a lot to anyone in this book, because their life experiences are very different than mine in pretty much every way, but it happened anyway and broke my heart. But Xiomara, wow. She handled things so well (I can’t think of a better way she could have handled anything, really), definitely better than I would have, and I felt so proud of her. There was this one scene with her mother that made me go cold all over because it brought back memories, and my heart ached for her. I had to take a break for a while after reading that bit.

 

I had so many feelings while reading this. I seriously laughed and cried, I cringed a little, I whispered “oh no,” I cheered internally (and might have had a little fist pumping at some point). So many feelings. It was a journey, and it was wonderful and so real. I felt inspired by Xiomara, and I feel like this book would have been amazing for teenage me. (It was amazing for adult me, but it would have been more amazing for teenage me.)

I enjoy more flowery writing with novels in verse sometimes (or poetry, or novels, in general, honestly), but the contemporary and sometimes very blunt writing in this novel, mixed with metaphors and imagery was refreshing and very well done. Which I guess shouldn’t be surprising considering Elizabeth Aceveda is an award-winning slam poet herself. This book was kind of a diary, and I feel like it read like that, if that makes sense. Like, this could have been a real diary, just written in verse. It felt very personal and raw a lot of the time, and it definitely (as I’ve said) gave me feelings

This book was just so good and I think I’ll be recommending it a lot.

 

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Must Read Mondays: August 14th

must-read-mondays

Must Read Monday is a weekly thing I do here to recommend books I’ve read and enjoyed. I might sometimes throw in something I gave 3 stars to, but for the most part they’re books I gave a 4-5 star rating to. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily amazing literature, but it does mean I liked them enough to recommend them to other people.


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cover; links to goodreads

When I read it: July 2014 and June 2016

Genres: YA; contemporary; romance

Recommended for: This is probably  the only contemporary I’ve liked enough to recommend to lots of people. I’d suggest it for older high school/early college students, especially if you have anxiety and/or are into things like fan fiction.

Trigger warnings: alcoholism/alcohol abuse (I think); mental illness. Let me know if I should add to this, please!

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


What it’s about:

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?


Eeeek, I’m so late posting this!

I’m not a great lover of contemporaries, so finding one that I actually adored was kind of a surprise for me. I got the Kindle edition of this back in ’14 because it was on sale and I’d never read any of Rainbow Rowell’s books before, and ended up loving it so much I bought the special edition hardcover.

Even though I don’t have a twin and I didn’t have the typical college experience, I related to this book (especially Cath) so much, and I wish this book had been out when I was younger.

Now, I recommend this a lot to people, even people who–like me–don’t really get into contemporary novels ever/very often.

First Lines Fridays: June 9th

first-lines-fridays

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

The Rules:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first

Finally… reveal the book!

 


I remember being born.

In fact, I remember a time before that. There was no light, but there was music: joints creaking, blood rushing, the heart’s staccato lullaby, a rich symphony of indigestion. Sound enfolded me. I was safe. 


 

 

Interested? Keep reading to find out which book this is from.

 

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Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

16054806What it’s about:

In the kingdom of Goredd, dragons and humans live and work side by side – while below the surface, tensions and hostility simmer.

The newest member of the royal court, a uniquely gifted musician named Seraphina, holds a deep secret of her own. One that she guards with all of her being.

When a member of the royal family is brutally murdered, Seraphina is drawn into the investigation alongside the dangerously perceptive—and dashing—Prince Lucien. But as the two uncover a sinister plot to destroy the wavering peace of the kingdom, Seraphina’s struggle to protect her secret becomes increasingly difficult… while its discovery could mean her very life.

(Cover links to goodreads)

 

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble


This book has been on my TBR so long I can’t even remember where I heard about it first. I’m guessing either booktube or booklr, but I’m really not sure. Anyway, the gorgeous cover and dragons caught my attention right away, and I’m hoping to maybe read it soon(ish).


Have you read it? What did you think of it?

 

Must Read Mondays: May 22nd

must-read-mondays

Must Read Monday is a weekly thing I do here to recommend books I’ve read and enjoyed. I might sometimes throw in something I gave 3 stars to, but for the most part they’re books I gave a 4-5 star rating to. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily amazing literature, but it does mean I liked them enough to recommend them to other people.

 

 

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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cover; links to goodreads

 

When I read it: April 2015

Genres: YA; contemporary; fiction>mental illness>depression

Recommended for: This is a tough thing for me to come up with for a list of reasons, but I cautiously recommend this to most people, excepting those who might be triggered by depression, suicide, attempted suicide, and/or abuse. Consider reading some reviews before deciding if this is for you.

 

 

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble


What it’s about:

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.


This book has been a bit controversial. Some people loved it, some hated it, some thought it romanticized mental illness, etc. I can see where they’re coming from with that, but I loved this book. I saw why people didn’t like it, but it struck a chord with me because I saw myself so much in Finch. I remember that I had to stop reading this a lot, put it aside, and do something else for a while, because it was getting to me. I’m not sure I’ve related so much to a character in a book before, or since, at least where the depression thing is concerned.

Maybe that’s a bad thing. Maybe I was a boring, cliched, depressed (sometimes suicidal) teenager. If I read this again now, maybe I wouldn’t like it as much as I did two years ago. I’ve changed since then, my perspective is different, I read a bit more critically. But this book has stayed with me, the good and the bad, so that has to count for something, right?

Is it a perfect book? No. But did it leave an impact on me? Yes. I suggest you check out some reviews, both positive and negative, if you’re not sure about it, or think it might be triggering for you.


If you’ve read it, what did you think?

Must Read Monday

must-read-mondays

 

23395680Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

 

When I read it: February 2016

Genres: sci-fi; YA

Recommended for: Sci-fi and/or YA fans, or someone interested in trying out sci-fi to see if maybe they’ll like it.

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble

 


What it’s about:

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.


Ok, I read this over a year ago and I still want to scream about it, because I loved it. In the interest of full-disclosure, I actually fell in love with this before it was released. First I saw it on YouTube, then I read a sample from Net Galley, and then, finally, I had the book in my hands. (I might have actually been misty eyed when I found it in a store and got to bring it home with me.)

First, this is such a nice book to look at. It’s weird and, I think, ergodic? (Is that what books like this are called?) If you haven’t seen pictures of the inside of this book, the text isn’t just left to right like English books are. It’s in shapes, it makes pictures, there are dossiers and IM-type messages, etc. It’s awesome and a super quick read for a book that’s right about 600 pages.

I’m not a huge lover of sci-fi (I like it, but I haven’t read much), but I think this would be a great choice for someone who’s unsure of whether or not they’ll enjoy the genre. Maybe I’m wrong about that, so please let me know if you disagree!

The characters and the plot and the format were all so well done, and I desperately wanted the next book as soon as I finished reading it. I came very close to immediately re-reading it, but trying to hit my reading goal stopped me.

Basically, I loved this book, I recommend it to everyone, and my husband might be on the verge of throwing it at me if I tell him he has to read it one more time because I haven’t shut up about it since before it came out 😛


Have you read Illuminae? What did you think of it?

Book Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by maeatdg cover green
Jesse Andrews

Genres: YA; Contemporary; Humor

Pages: 295

Published: 2012 (my edition with the green cover is the 2015 revised edition)

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Greg Gaines, highschool senior, thinks he has life figured out and under control. He has his grand scheme for escaping high school pretty much unnoticed, by never really being friends with anyone and keeping the lowest profile possible. He makes films with Earl, the one person you could kind of describe as his friend. He exists, but doesn’t really interact with other people. Greg is totally fine with this, and really wants to continue living this way. Things get more complicated (and at times absolutely mortifying) than he could have ever imagined when his mother interferes and gets him to become friends with a girl named Rachel, who has cancer.

This book was a delightful disaster from the first page until the last. The story is written from Greg’s perspective, and there were times when I wanted to punch him in the eye, and other times when I wanted to awkwardly hug him and pat his head. It was interesting to get the story from his POV, even if he was a bit of an ass at times. I don’t think he ever really meant to be an ass, but even he acknowledged that he wasn’t the greatest person. He wasn’t a horrible guy, though, just human. Honestly, it was a nice change from the “super amazing and wonderful underneath the asshole/badboy/whatever exterior” cliche.

I mostly loved Earl. He was fantastic in so many ways. Earl had serious anger and attitude problems (which was kind of hilarious sometimes), but he was pretty much Greg’s moral compass in a way. He was also responsible for waking Greg up a bit to the reality of what was going on. I really want to know more about Earl, especially how he’s doing now. My only serious complaint about him was when he made some biphobic comments to Greg at one point. That really irritated me.

Rachel (AKA The Dying Girl) didn’t play as big of a role as I expected. I don’t have any opinion of her, really, which is a bit disappointing.

I think my favorite character was Greg’s dad. He was such a stereotypical dad at times, and I thought every scene with him was really amusing. Greg’s mom really annoyed me, though. There was this one part that involved several adults doing a thing that made me want to shake them all and ask them what the hell was wrong with them. I think you’ll know which part I’m talking about if you’ve read this or do read it at some point.

If you like YA without romance, but with humor, I would recommend this one. Just don’t read it if profanity and other “strong language” offends you haha.

Book Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

walledcity

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
Published November 2014
Genres: YA; Realistic Fiction; Dystopian (kind of but not really, as I’ll explain)

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ (4.5/5)
Goodreads | Amazon

wow-reaction-gifs

That’s my reaction after finally finishing this gritty, captivating novel.

The Walled City is unlike anything I have ever read before. It was so beautifully written to have centered around such dark subject matter. In these pages we get an often times brutal look at the world the inhabitants of Hak Nam live in. There are the vagrants, criminals, brothels, drugs, and no shortage of violence. There is no real law in Hak Nam, but a Brotherhood exists that no one wants to be on the wrong side of.

This book has been shelved as “Dystopian,” but I disagree. While it is dark and disturbing, it is closer to realistic fiction in my opinion, because the events which take place could (and probably do, in part at least) really happen. Hak Nam (AKA “The Walled City”) is actually based on a real walled city–Kowloon–which once stood in Hong Kong, but was demolished in the early 1990s. But, it is not historical fiction.

The story is told from three perspectives (not something I usually enjoy).

Dai is trying to escape a troubled, haunting past and find some measure of vindication.

Jin is searching for her lost sister and living as a boy to stay safer.

Mei Yee has been trapped in a brothel for two years, dreaming and hoping for an escape, so she can return to the sister she loves.

I loved all three narrators, and I rooted for them from the beginning. All the characters were so real and well written, even the bad guys and minor characters. I could picture them all.

This book has quite a lot of action, but it’s well paced. I didn’t find myself tiring of it at all, but I did have to take a few breaks while reading, to pick up something lighter. This book has some heavy themes that might not be for everyone. However, if you can handle it, I would definitely recommend this book.

I wish I could add a “For fans of…” to this, but I really can’t think of anything similar. Based on the description, I was expecting something like The Maze Runner, but it is totally different.

Even though I received a free copy of this book, I still feel like this

take my money

**I received a copy for review from Net Galley**