Book Review, Fiction, Review

Book Review Round-Up: December 2020

5.00 avg. rating (99% score) - 1 vote

Review of ‘One of the Good Ones’, by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite—Must Read

Overall, “One of the Good Ones” was a great book, with engaging characters and a plot constantly pushing ahead.  Some parts read too much like a history lesson, so if I had any such power, I would recommend the authors do a bit of editing to make those sections a little easier to read—only one or two though, which is why I still consider this a must-read book.  Now the review gets tricky, because I don’t want to spoil the book; so suffice to say that there is something completely unexpected that happens around the two-third mark of the book which shifts it from one type of book to another.  I would have thought such a shift would annoy me to no end, but something about the main characters engaged me at such a profound level that I not only accepted this twist like I have never accepted such a twist before, but I totally welcomed it.  And while the twist seems superficial at first, even a bit out of the blue and just provocative, but it offers a lot to unpack about the relationship between people of colour and white wannabe allies who are actually doing more harm than good.  Plus, sparse hints about this twist were available, so stay aware.  The ending felt a little abrupt; there was a lot I would have liked to know about Happi’s reaction to the twist, and its effects on the project, but this is still a great read and certainly an eye-opening one.

Review of ‘The Castle School’, by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

“The Castle School” was such an engaging book, and way too easy to slip into—in a good way when it comes to the writing but a bad way when one has a child and work and other such things.  I really liked the journey that the main character, Moira, went through.  Her mind and vision broadened throughout the book and with it, her understanding and ours increased in scope.  Both the reader and the character gained insight at the same time, and the sense of clarity that descends on someone after a long journey struggling emotionally was beautifully conveyed in the pacing of the book.  There is something very powerful when a heavy topic such a grief is approached in a hands-off sort of way, without any long winded (or even short!) explanations.  The ending wasn’t too perfect, just heart-warming with the hints of major work that still needs to be done long after we turn the last page, and that makes it all the more realistic (and important).

Review of ‘The Code for Love and Heartbreak’, by Jillian Cantor

Lessons in life and friendship might come in different looking packages but they often remain constant through time and at different ages.  While Jillian Cantor’s book is solidly set in our current times, the lessons about love, friendship, and family are a constant through time and through stages of life.  What I found most refreshing about this book though was the awkward and at times quite clueless genius lead character.  It made me want to reach into the pages and just hug her—although she would not have appreciated that at all.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the group of similarly slightly awkward nerds that are also members of her Coding Club.  It’s partly because I myself am still that slightly awkward nerdy adult, more comfortable with the outliers and outsiders than I ever was with the popular cheerleaders and jocks.  But it’s also partly because Cantor weaves a seamless tale of love between people, the kind that is realistic, real, and carries us through our darkest days.

Review of ‘The Book of Two Ways’, by Jodi Picoult

Picoult always writes a riveting tale, and she does it yet again in “The Book of Two Ways”.  I have to admit that I did find this one a lot heavier than her recent novels.  I first thought it might be because we are in the midst of a pandemic and lighthearted YA reads have been my go-to pandemic-crutch.  But in retrospect, it truly is one of the heavier tomes she has written, thick with details about the fascinating world of Egyptology—which brought up the mixed emotions of fascination at the amazing civilization Egyptians built to disgust at the sacrilege of opening not just tombs, but sarcophaguses and mummies.  I also have a tough time with the bonds of marriage not being treasured and respected, even if one reconnects with one’s old love, and **especially** when there is a child involved.  Once I was able to identify these personal discomforts of mine, the genius of the research that Picoult yet again weaves into this book hit me hard, and I do recommend it as a journey of discovery of Ancient Egypt, of the process of dying, but also, the concepts of family, love, and the bonds that connect us.

Review of ‘You Should See Me In A Crown’, by Leah Johnson

Yet again the nerds win the day, and as a former—ok, fine, as a nerd, through and through, I found myself wishing for a high school experience a little more like the one in the book I was reading.  Johnson explores the difficulties of being both a young black woman and a young queer woman in a very white Southern town, making some heavy points in an overall lighthearted book that remains uplifting throughout.  The focus isn’t only on the brewing romance; a big chunk of the book explores friendships and the bonds of family.  Of course it ends well, because life ends badly way too many times.  But it’s nice to read something that ends well while helping us discover aspect of life that we need to continue working on improving.

Review of ‘Clap When You Land’, by Elizabeth Acevedo

It was really hard getting into this one, as it is written in verse.  But it is also well worth the effort of learning how to read—of getting the rhythm of reading verses in your head and being able to sink into the story.  It is heartbreaking in many parts and terrifying in other parts—Acevedo has left me with a lingering sense of dread for all the young women out there who are in danger of being raped and/or forced into sex work.  But at the same time, it is an unfortunate reality we have to somehow rally against, and ultimately, Acevedo’s story ends well and uplifts the heart, making readers hope that we can build a world where a happy ending is always the way things will go.

Review ‘The Meet-Cute Project’, by Rhiannon Richardson

I have a love-hate relationship with romance books.  On the one hand, I love the story of a couple coming together, especially since, to me, a strong marriage is the foundation of a strong family, a strong community, and a strong world.  No, really, just imagine if every marriage was strong, how insanely positive of a change that would be?  On the other hand, I’m tired of the pressure that is put on anyone to find that special someone.  We shouldn’t have to be in a relationship to not be alone.  Why aren’t we putting more effort into our friendships?  But look here, we are going to come full circle—a lot of romance books can teach valuable lessons not just about romantic relationships, but also about relationships in general.  Richardson’s exploration of a guy’s interest in a girl solely due to the fact that she has invited him to an amazing wedding touched some still-sensitive nerves of mine that have been crushed by toxic relationships.  A sweet read that offers the opportunity to learn about healthy relationships with siblings and friends, Richardson’s book might be a great pandemic Valentine’s Day read.

Review ‘All Adults Here’, by Emma Straub

The idea of perception is one that had long fascinated me.  I mean, it was one of the reasons for my obsession with the TV show Fringe (and its heavy X-Files worthy moments in its earlier seasons).  Straub does a really great job exploring the relationship between three generations of the same family—a matriarch, her three children, and her oldest grandchild—inviting us to see these characters from various points of view.  In some ways, this book can be taken as a meditation on the different ways we are seen by different people, and how to use these different perspectives to gain a better understanding of ourselves, which will help us in our path of life-long personal transformation.

Thank you to Raincoast Books and Simon & Schuester Canada for the physical Advanced Reader Copies, and thank you to all the publisher who sent me electronic advance copies through Netgalley!

5.00 avg. rating (99% score) - 1 vote

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