Review: Nowhere Girls

Review: The Nowhere Girl by Amy Reed

It’s taken a while for me to get my thoughts together about this book. I won’t lie, it’s a lot. This book is emotional and powerful and hopeful and heartbreaking. It’s also so well written and has amazing characters that are so real it’s easy to be immersed in the story. The story centers around rape culture, a specific rape and the group of high school girls attempting to fight back. 
There are several different sets of characters, the actual “Nowhere Girls” start as a threesome of quirky high school girls who don’t fit into any clique or really fit in at all. Grace is a transplant to Oregon from Kentucky where her pastor mother was run out of town for being too open-minded at the altar of their church. Erin has Aspergers and not only defies the wildly inaccurate stereotype that people on the autism spectrum lack empathy, but she is the one who probably has the best handle on her emotional needs. And Rosina is her mother’s oldest (and only) daughter in an extended Hispanic family, where she babysits cousins, works in the family restaurant and defies the family’s expectations because she’s a free spirit and also dates girls. 
The Nowhere girls expand to include a few dozen other students in their high school, all joining together to seek justice for a classmate who was brutally raped the previous year and everyone in town knows who did it. Also included are the girl’s parents, a mixed bag of well-meaning but flawed, teachers and a principal who are definitely part of the
Problem not the solution and the truly despicable boys who perpetrated at least the one rape that everyone knows of, and who write an anonymous, predatory how-to blog encouraging men to take whatever they want from women. 
I found this book nearly impossible to put down and the sensitive and realistic approach to these characters and situations was so well done. There is so much to love and so much to loathe. This book makes me sad yet proud to be a woman, cautiously hopeful but realistically frustrated with our misogynistic culture and it makes me want to raise my sons in a way that they never think it’s OK to be anything at all like the boys in this book. 
This is an excellent read but it’s an emotional ride, and I definitely needed a break to decompress after it was over. 5/5 stars ⭐️ 

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Review: The Kiss Quotient

Review: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

I read this book in a 24 hour period following a very heavy emotionally taxing book and it was perfect. I seriously loved the Kiss Quotient and it was exactly the book I needed at the time. I ADORE the characters in this book and couldn’t get enough of Stella and Michael and Michael’s family. I love the neurodivergent protagonist Stella and how her autism is not something that needs fixing, it’s part of her like her brown eyes. Michael is an escort Stella hires to show her how to be better in the bedroom,
and this being a romance novel, of course they fall for each other.
This book isn’t my usual wheelhouse, I’m not generally much of a romance reader and it’s quite a bit steamier than I expected, but it explores relationships, personality and social differences, family dynamics and consent in a way that’s refreshing and unexpected. At its heart is understanding, communication and acceptance. I can’t wait to read what Hoang writes next. 5/5 stars ⭐️

Review posted on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/BvPtdyzH86-/

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Review: Black Klansman

Review: Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth

This is a fascinating story — a black detective who infiltrates the KKK in early ’70s Colorado Springs. Honestly that was the biggest draw for me, I grew up in CS and was truly interested in that aspect of the story, as it’s certainly not a story I’ve heard about my home town, nor really expected. The undercover investigation and the dealings with the various KKK members was interesting but I would have liked to have more. It just sort of ended without any resolution, no followup, no afterward about what became of those Klan members or the Organization in Colorado.
Good premise, sort of lacked a culmination I think. 3/5 stars ⭐️

on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bu7RWXaACm-/

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Review: Less

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

This book wasn’t what I expected, which is fine, for some reason I had it in my mind that it was a comedy, which it’s not (though there is some humor.) It is, however, an exquisitely written mid-life crisis, told through the misadventures of Arthur Less, a character on the verge of his 50th birthday, traveling the world to escape the heartache of his long-time, not-really-boyfriend’s impending wedding.
Arthur isn’t a particularly likable character, he’s sort of a perpetual plus-one, having lived his life in the shadows of (mostly) men who are beloved, admired, attractive, and larger than life.
The writing in this book is outstanding. Several times I found myself admiring a description or passage in a way I don’t often experience, even in books I enjoyed more than this one. I enjoyed this book, the writing especially, and the way it wraps up at the end. 4/5 stars ⭐️

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Review: The Eagle Tree

The Eagle Tree by Ned Hayes

This is the sweet story of a boy named March who loves trees and his (mis)adventures exploring and climbing them. Last year I created a neurodiveristy reading list to read more books with neurodivergent characters and this was recommended by some other book lists. March is on the Autism Spectrum so he does have some challenges with personal relationships and social thinking, but he’s smart and passionate, he is surrounded by people who care about him and who want to see him thrive. His uncle taught him to climb trees and he hasn’t stopped since. Now he’s 14 and adjusting to his parents separation and moving to a new house, but from this new house he finds The Eagle Tree, a giant old-growth tree, hundreds of years old and unusual for the area, which is slated to be knocked down to make a new home development. He becomes obsessed with the tree and his desire to climb it and it pushes him out of his comfortable routine and he has to face fears and challenges to try to save it.
The author is not on the autism spectrum but said in the afterward that he’s worked several years with kids who are, and I found his portrayal of autism’s quirks to be genuine and not too stereotypical. I truly enjoyed this book and March’s inner dialogue, it is a little heavy on details about trees but I think that perfectly illustrates how unwavering and all-encompassing fixations can be with those on the spectrum. 4.5/5 stars ⭐️

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Review: On the Come Up

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

This month’s pick from Book of the Month — finished the same month it arrived, even! This is Angie Thomas’ much-anticipated followup to the sensational The Hate You Give, same universe but different, unrelated story. Thomas does an amazing job immersing the reader in the world and its characters and illustrating how society is designed to keep some people from succeeding. Systematic racism, poverty, violence, drugs, all work against families who like everyone just want the best for their children.
Like THUG, the main character is a teenage girl, Bri, who is trying to survive and thrive in a neighborhood rife with gangs and drugs and despair. She’s also balancing high-school life at a fancy arts school across town where she and her friends are bussed to increase diversity (and therefore grant money.) Her dream is to be a rapper and make it big to help her family escape the neighborhood that killed her father in a gang-related murder and hooked her mom on drugs.
Her mom Jay is clean and doing her best to provide for Bri with help from her older brother Trey. After Bri is physically detained and thrown to the ground by school security guards, she turns her anger into a song that goes viral in her community. What follows is a series of pretty poor choices on her part in effort to make it big, but she alienates her friends, lies to her family and incites a gang war.
I really enjoyed this book and it’s definitely a world very different from the one I live in. Bri’s
Mom and Brother are the outstanding characters in this book, they both do everything they can to give Bri the best life they can. (Even when she manages to do everything she can to sabotage their hard work.) The family has been through it all and still hold the heads high. All the characters are complex and human trying to make their way in a complex world. 4/5 stars ⭐️

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Review: The Light of the Fireflies

The Light of the Fireflies by Paul Pen

Review This book was… something. It was this month’s pick for my IRL book club so it’ll be interesting to see what others thought. I found it sad and creepy and unsettling. The main narrator is a little boy who lives in a basement with his family, they don’t go out, ever, so he’s never seen the outside world. His family was disfigured in a fire and have literally walled themselves off from society.
The writing is good, it’s apparently translated from
The original Spanish. The characters don’t have names, they’re referred to as mom and sister and grandma, etc which is unusual I think. The story was troubling but kept my interest all the way through. I feel like it is one of those stories that will sit in your brain for a while. It’s a quick read and definitely an unusual book. 3.5/5 stars ⭐️

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Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This is the kind of book you wish you could read again for the first time. The writing is beautiful and the characters are deep and complex, and the story is riveting as it weaves in and out of timelines. There is so much detail in the writing it’s easy to feel like you’re right there in the marsh with Kya, you can feel her isolation. The Marsh is as much a character as Kya. This story explores the differences between loneliness and being alone, resilience, survival and human connection. Kya lives alone for most of her life in a shack in the marsh, as each member of her family leaves in turn. She survives and thrives through the friendship of the man named Jumpin’ who sells her gas for her boat (and his wife who both become surrogate parental figures for her) and Tate, a local boy who knew her brother and who, unlike most of the town, doesn’t see her as a freak. Tate teaches her to read and Jumpin’ sees that she can support herself by buying mussels she digs up in the wee hours of the morning.
Along side Kya’s survival story is the mysterious death of the local football star / golden boy, Chase Andrews, found by two local kids without any indication of what happened. No one can agree, was it murder or an accident?
I couldn’t put this down until the end. There are some things in the plot that I am sure are implausible but I was able to suspend my disbelief and enjoy Kya’s world wholeheartedly. It is simultaneously sad and hopeful, emotionally uplifting and heartbreaking. This is a book that I’ll be thinking about for a long time. 5/5 stars ⭐️

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Review: Scythe

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Thanks to the polar vortex and temperatures colder than, oh, everywhere, I hunkered down and finished this in 3 days. It was long but moved at a good pace, I think. I’m not sure this would have ever landed on my TBR list if not for my YA book club. It’s dystopian/sci-fi ish and the first of a series, which isn’t my usual thing.
The Scythe are a select group in the post-mortality world where humans no longer die naturally, who are tasked with culling the population by randomly selecting people to kill. There was a lot of great writing and the characters were deep and complex. I can’t say I 100 percent buy the concept of the future where all the world problems are solved and managed by the cloud, which has evolved to contain all human knowledge and allegedly maximized efficiency of all resources. Except of course, the Scythe, who function on the outside of the society with their own rules.
The main plot involves two teenage apprentices as they complete the year-long training and transformation to scythedom. There are likable and loathsome characters and plot twists, and it t kept my interest to the very end. I enjoyed it but I don’t know if I will continue the series, I liked the ending but don’t feel drawn to continue the story. 4/5 stars ⭐️

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Review: We Are Okay

Photo: Amazon.com

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

This book is a short, quick read that contains so much depth and emotion it’s hard to believe it is all contained in so few pages. This is a story of grief, trauma, identity, friendship and love. Marin left out the side door of her life and moved across the country to start new. When her best friend comes to visit, she must make peace with abandoning her old life, face her past and figure out whether she is okay. This is a brilliant YA book that is emotional and heartfelt from the first page to the last. 4/5 stars

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