Review// Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

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Author: Akwaeke Emezi
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: February 13, 2018
Book Length: 229 pages 
Publisher: Grove Press
Review: 4/5

My Review:

This is definitely one of the more interesting books I’ve read this year, and not only did I enjoy it in general, but I learned a lot while doing so.

Freshwater is about a girl named Ada born in Nigeria. In Igbo traditional belief, Ada is an ogbanje – a spirit child who dies and reincarnates over and over to the same parents, often causing them a lot of grief and trouble.

However, Ada does not die as a child, but makes it through to adulthood, though it is not without behaviour – self destructive or otherwise – which allows her to flirt with death: turbulent, mentally and physically abusive relationships; self harm; suicide attempts; an eating disorder; and binge drinking to name a few.

The trauma Ada faces awakens an ogbanje which she names Asughara. Asughara takes over most of the narration after Ada finds out she is being sexually assaulted by her boyfriend in her sleep. Though at times, Asughara insists that they are protecting Ada, they are also the driving force for many future self-destructive decisions Ada makes. Another spirit within Ada, Saint Vincent, encourages her to date women and explore her non-binary identity. It is very difficult for Ada to focus in on which ogbanje she should listen to, because they are often swaying her in different directions.

This was a great book about self discovery; it was very well written and thought provoking, and I can not recommend it enough.

– Catherine

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Review// The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Author: Angie Thomas
Series: The Hate U Give #1
Genre: Young Adult
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Book Length: 444 pages 
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

My Review:

If you are going to read one book this entire year, please let it be this one.

This was a very powerful, emotional, and important story that I think everyone needs to read. This book definitely opened my eyes to so many of the injustices faced by the Black community, as well as gave me a new perspective on how these injustices affect them. As someone who really enjoys books with believable characters, I was really impressed with how real the characters felt; from the second chapter I was already getting teary, even though I barely knew them yet, and I think that says a lot. Starr went through so much in this book, and her bravery and determination to stand up for what was right was inspiring.

This is not only one of the best books I’ve ever read, but also the best audiobook I’ve ever experienced, and I can not recommend it enough.

If you want to educate yourself and read an amazing story, READ THIS BOOK.

– Catherine

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Review// Captive Prince by C.S. Pascat

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Author: C.S. Pascat
Series: Captive Prince #1
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: February 2, 2013
Book Length: 270 pages 
Publisher: Berkley
Review: 2/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos. But when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative, and deadly, his new master, Prince Laurent, epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else…

My Review:

Me, when I found out that this book is supposed to be a slow burn romance:

Oh man, I mean, it was definitely slow, so they got that part down. It just felt like I was waiting forever for something to happen between the two main characters that quite honestly never did. Not to mention, neither of the two were particularly likable or interesting to me, so even if it had happened, I’m not sure I would have cared.

If I really think about it, I couldn’t even really tell you what the plot was – all I know is that the main thing that I can’t shake about this is that there was so much rape, sexual abuse, and paedophilia that I did not anticipate going into it as I knew nothing about the book before reading. There was one character, Nicaise, who is 13 years old but sexualized so much, it made me uncomfortable. The way he’s described is very adult-like, so you almost dismiss it, but then you remember he is a child and it all just feels gross. In addition, although I appreciate all the world building and a lot of it was great, at times the description was so dense and repetitive that it was hard to follow.

The book has very mixed reviews, and personally, it wasn’t for me, but if you’re into fantasy and suuuuper slow burn romances, I’d say don’t knock it till you try it – I have a feeling the next book in the series might even be better.

– Catherine

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Review// Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis

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Author: Dana L. Davis
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Book Length: 334 pages 
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Review: 2.5/5

Tiffany Sly is a 16-year-old girl living in Chicago whose mother has just passed away from cancer. After her mother’s death, she moves to California to live with the man she believes to be her father, Anthony Stone, along with his wife, Margaret, and four other daughters: London, Naveah, Heaven, and Pumpkin. Before she moves, a man named Xavier shows up at her door in Chicago claiming to potentially be her father, and he wants a DNA test within the next 7 days to prove it. Tiffany is conflicted on what she should do, and who she wants to be her biological father – will it be Xavier, or will it be Anthony?

As for my thoughts, let’s just say Tiffany isn’t the only one conflicted here – on one hand, I thought this was okay, maybe even good at some points, but on the other, there were some problematic bits that tainted my overall impression.

First, I will be starting with the things I liked:

Anxiety/ OCD rep was done well– Tiffany has anxiety and OCD for which she takes medication. A lot of her anxiety has to do with death; she is scared to fly in an airplane, gets anxious when the car she is in is going over the speed limit, etc. I think her internal monologue in these situations was well written and well represented.
Marcus– Tiffany’s neighbor and friend when she moves to California; he is such a sweet character and really added some feel-good moments to the book.
Naveah– she was definitely my favourite Stone sister; she was hilarious and basically the kid that had no filter but in a very endearing way.
How accepting Tiffany’s new stepmom is of her– I honestly thought Margaret was going to be the stereotypical ‘evil stepmother’, but if anything, I felt she had Tiffany’s back more often than Anthony did, and I liked that she was portrayed in a positive light.

Now for the things I wasn’t too keen about:

The way Anthony treated the family– he took away Tiffany’s anxiety meds; slapped her across the face; took away her phone for silly reasons; made her take out her braids even though she had alopecia; pretty much abused Pumpkin, his young autistic daughter, because he didn’t want to learn how to actually deal with her autism (which could be triggering for some to read); controlled who Tiffany could hang out with; barely took an interest in actually getting to know Tiffany at all in the 7 days this book took place… and I could probably go on, but I’m going to stop for my own sanity.
• The dialogue– some of it really did not sound believable. For example, the way that Tiffany’s half sister London was portrayed and the dialogue she spoke didn’t line up for me. There was a bit of a disconnect between the two that I could never quite get over. Not to mention, the way that Anthony spoke to his family in general was disgusting at times. I hated that he tried to hide behind his Jehovah religion to justify how he treated people. In addition, there were a few fatphobic comments, as well as a comment comparing one character’s movement to having Tourette’s, which I felt was inappropriate.
• The attempt at a redemption arc for Anthony– so Anthony does and says all these terrible things for the entire book, and then there comes a point where he shows a side of himself that actually seems human, and I think the reader is supposed to empathize and start to grow a soft spot for him, but I couldn’t. The redemption arc for Anthony could not be done by that point; I really didn’t care that he was nice that one time near the end, when for the other 300+ pages he was a complete asshole. I am all for forgiveness, but I needed a bit more than one positive instance in order to care.

I really wanted to like this, and at times, I did. But the negatives unfortunately overpowered the positives here which affected my overall view of the book.

– Catherine

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🌈Pride Month Reads: Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

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Author: Nancy Garden
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: July 1, 1982
Book Length: 234 pages 
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

When Liza Winthrop first lays eyes on Annie Kenyon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she knows there’s something special between them. Soon, their close friendship develops into a deep and intimate romance. Neither imagined that falling in love could be so wonderful, but as Liza and Annie’s newfound sexuality sparks conflict in both their families and at their schools, they discover it will take more than love for their relationship to succeed.

One of the first books to positively portray a lesbian relationship, Annie on My Mind is a groundbreaking classic of the genre. The subject of a First Amendment lawsuit over banned books and one of School Library Journal’s “One Hundred Books that Shaped the Century,” Nancy Garden’s iconic novel is an important story for anyone discovering who they’re meant to be.

My Review:

“What struck me most, though, was that, in that whole long article, the word ‘love’ wasn’t used even once. That made me mad; it was as if whoever wrote the article didn’t know that gay people actually love each other. The encyclopedia writers ought to talk to me, I thought as I went back to bed; I could tell them something about love.”

Happy Pride Month! I am going to try to read more LGBTQIA+ books, not only this month, but in this lifetime, and Annie on My Mind is where that promise to myself begins. I thought this was beautiful. The relationship between Liza and Annie felt really organic and honest, and I enjoyed the journey that it took me on as their relationship blossomed.

This book is about being true to yourself in a world where other people think they know what’s right for you, and even though other people tried to make her feel confused and guilty, I loved that Liza stayed firm and was true to herself and to her love for Annie.

I think this book is definitely suited for young readers, and especially those who are beginning to explore their sexuality. The homophobia in the book broke my heart, but the girls did have reliable, supportive allies to turn to, which I felt was important, because at the time it was written in 1982, I think the author was trying to show people that they could find support somewhere; if not in their real lives, then surely within this book.

The world has definitely changed since this was written, but we still have work to do, and my hope is that one day the ideals in here will be completely outdated and people everywhere can live without fear or judgement and just love whoever it is they want to love in peace.

If anyone has any LGBTQIA+ book recommendations, please let me know!

-Catherine

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