All posts filed under: Reviews

Teenage Nostalgia

I knew fairly little about this book before starting. I was surprised to find how much of it I related to. It’s the story of Jessie. She and her father move from Chicago to Southern California just as she’s starting her junior year of high school. Not too long before this move, they’ve lost her mother to cancer, and now her father’s moving them across the country to live with his new wife, and her son. Their new home is grand and pristine. She feels unwelcome among the richness, and dramatically out of place at her new private school where money rules. The only welcome she receives comes via email from “Somebody Nobody;” an anonymous classmate of Jessie’s who volunteers his knowledge of all things Wood Valley High School. Granted I didn’t move to Southern California after such a loss as Jessie experienced, but I did move from Chicago to Southern California as I started my junior year of high school. And formerly a student of public schools, I started at a private school in …

A Balance of Grit and Comedy

I hadn’t heard of Michael Arceneaux’s I Can’t Date Jesus until taking a poll on Instagram for reading suggestions. We asked our followers for suggestions on what to read in 2019, and this came through as an April recommendation. I think mostly because of the title, all of us Bookly Katherines were immediately intrigued. I mean, titles don’t get much better than I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyoncé. I also hadn’t heard of Arceneaux until reading this, his debut essay collection. But this is one of my favorite experiences, uncovering a new (to me) author and their work. His essays cover a range of raw experiences from flawed family dynamics, growing up in Texas, living in an oppressive culture as a gay black man, dating, to faith and Christianity, etc. I found all 15 essays raw, humorous, self-aware, and immersive. His vulnerability enriched each story. And as a privileged, hetero white female who grew up mostly overseas my life experiences have little in common with …

Injustice Laid Bare

Since reading The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin nearly 15 years ago, I’d been looking forward to reading more of his writing. In the past, life and other books had gotten in the way, but with If Beale Street Could Talk as Bookly’s March selection I finally revisited Baldwin. James Baldwin was an author, activist, and queer black man at his creative peak in 1960’s / 1970’s America. His words have a power that’s lasted generations. He wrote works of fiction and nonfiction that channeled the voices of the oppressed. And in his novel If Beale Street Could Talk (1974) he tells the all too familiar story of a young black man in America. Fonny is living his life among family and first love, pursuing his creative passions in New York City. And yet all that, and much more, is stolen away. Framed for a rape he didn’t commit, Fonny is imprisoned with little hope of freedom. Even after discovering that Tish, the woman he loves, is carrying his child, we bear witness to the desperate and near hopeless decay …

Steam Fest

In true Drew and Alexa form, I’ll get right to it… this one kinda fell flat for me. I think that’s an unpopular opinion, so if you disagree with me you’re probably in the majority. I had high hopes because I know a lot of others really liked The Wedding Date. But maybe my hopes were too high? Romance or love stories aren’t usually my first pick, but Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren and One Day in December by Josie Silver are two I really liked. And I’d heard Guillory’s debut would be similar. But before reading it I read a review that basically hit the nail on the head: “The book is also unexpectedly raunchy, since Alexa and Drew’s connection starts as a purely physical one and they only later develop deeper feelings. The characters never find a situation that doesn’t turn them on at least a little bit” (Kirkus Review) I’m fine with some steam and a good love story, but for me things were a bit unbalanced. I liked the …

A Classic Power-house of Women’s History

Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis has been on my list for a few years. I’d heard the name Angela Davis before, but it wasn’t until Ava DuVernay’s Netflix documentary 13th that I gained better context as to the living legend that she truly is. As someone who believes in the pursuit of equal rights and social justice, and that we’ve been failing at both for a long time, I also know that my part in that includes continuing my education. As a privileged white female my pursuit of equality and justice comes much more easily than it does to most. But as it’s said, “until we are all free, we are none of us free” (Emma Lazarus). To achieve these goals reading a book won’t do the job. But book after book, and year after year, if we can strive to know more and do more with what we know maybe we’ll get a little bit closer in this lifetime. Don’t you think? Angela Davis has been a memorable part of my continuing education, and …

An Important History Lesson in Feminism

Angela Y. Davis’ work is historically honest and somehow succinct but incredibly expansive at the same time. Unwrapping the complicated nuances of race and gender narratives and their gross entanglement with societal class structure both historically and in more modern ways, Davis evaluates several dark corners of our country’s past ranging from slavery, education, rape, and reproductive rights. She details how women’s empowerment movement has been dissected internally by complicating issues of race and class. Her book is, in many ways, a love song to the fight for equality but sharply draws into focus the consistent impedance to success. Historians not only inform our pasts but, when doing their job correctly, should guide our future. By informing our past failings, perhaps we can alter how we choose to proceed going forward. My innate response to historical themes of race and gender had generally been “yep, I know its bad.” That’s not because I don’t care but because I don’t know how to help or admittedly really understand the scope. Davis’ work has given me a …

Loving Elvis Babbit

Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett (our November selection) has flown somewhat under the radar. I’d not heard much about it until voting on what to read for Bookly in 2018, and I feel like that’s somewhat the norm. Not many have heard too much about this one, but those who have seem to have really enjoyed it. It’s the story of Elvis Babbit and her family after her mother’s drowning during a routine sleep swimming episodes. Survived by 11-year-old Elvis, her sister, and her dad, the family goes down an odd path of grief involving world record baking, talking birds, seashell jesus sculptures, zoological metaphors, and more sleep-driven chaos. For all its quirks, Elvis, the Babbit family narrator, brings a bright and young perspective of hope to her family’s tragedy. Her voice was entirely unique and a pleasure to read. I will say, this is the type of book/story that isn’t usually my first choice. A character-driven family drama where nothing much happens except a quirky familial arc. However, Harnett didn’t drag it along. The pacing …

Special Review: The Hiding Place

While doing some light research on our October book (The Chalk Man) and its author C.J. Tudor I read that she has a second book coming out this winter. So I took a chance and asked for an early copy to review along with The Chalk Man. THANK YOU to Crown Publishing for sending along the advance copy of Tudor’s next thriller The Hiding Place! It did not disappoint. Not all four of us read it, just me, Katherine C. Although you can bet I’ll be recommending it to all of our Bookly Katherines as soon as it’s released. SYNOPSIS Joe never wanted to come back to Arnhill. After the way things ended with his old gang–the betrayal, the suicide, the murder–and after what happened when his sister went missing, the last thing he wanted to do was return to his hometown. But Joe doesn’t have a choice. Because judging by what was done to that poor Morton kid, what happened all those years ago to Joe’s sister is happening again. And only Joe knows who is really at fault. …

Great Mysterious Confusion

I’m always game for a good thriller or scary story. I think it goes back to why I first started loving to read. I remember watching my cousin devour R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series and telling me how scary it was. I was sure books couldn’t be scary. How could words on paper come close to a scary movie or haunted house? I wasn’t quite Fear Street ready so I started with Goosebumps. To my surprise Welcome to the Dead House was actually scary. Who knew words could have such power?! I know, give me a break, I was young. Then came Fear Street, all things Mary Higgins Clark, and any good scare I could get my hands on. And that hasn’t changed. C.J. Tudor’s The Chalk Man was exactly what I was in the mood for, especially this time of year. Written by an English, author set in an English town, it tells the story of four young friends— Eddie, Mickey, Hoppo and Fat Gav— and how the horror of one summer haunts their lives. Playing with chalk …

Seven Brief, Though Thorough and Therefore Sort of Difficult to Follow, Lessons on Physics

If you read Katie C.’s review, you already know that I gave her a heads up that I found this hard to read. And it was. Despite being brief, the lessons were still lessons on physics, and physics was never really my subject. HOWEVER. I still very much appreciated Rovelli’s “brief” book of essays. I highlighted more passages in this book than I expected to and than I have in most other books. And I highlighted for a lot of reasons. In some places I highlighted words, like “phantasmagorical,” because I simply can’t think of a better word, or phrases, like “Genius hesitates,” because they were awesome. Sometimes I highlighted because the prose is simply beautiful. For example: A reality that seems to be made of the same stuff that our dreams are made of, but that is nevertheless more real than our clouded, quotidian dreaming. I highlighted because I felt gobsmacked by what I read, because I certainly had no idea that “If a person who has lived at sea level meets up with …