Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

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Synopsis: In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept separate but equal.

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

Why I Chose This Book: With the tension going on in our country, it’s more important than ever to listen to perspectives other than our own and really examine our prejudices.

First Impressions: I love this cover so much. It’s sharp, clean, and shows almost literally what a target Sarah became in the school. In a sea of white faces, Sarah stands out, which could not be more relevant to the content.

What I Liked: Almost everything! The stories told in this book are different than mine both in race and sexual orientation, and it helped me see how terrifying it must have been to be alive in this time period when you vary from what is accepted.

You know how everyone says if they were in pivotal moments of history, they would have done the right thing, but there’s no way to really know. Today, similar things are happening. Not to the same degree, but it looks like we’re on that path. There was a moment, when Sarah describes how there are no white people helping them, standing up for them, or supporting them. And I saw that I would be on the right side of history. That felt like such a relief, and I’ll be grateful to this book for that.

One of the most surprising things about this book was the romantic story line. It doesn’t really mention it in the online synopsis, which is what I’d read before ordering the book. But the description on the back cover talks about it more explicitly, which I love. I really loved this perspective, and seeing a queer WOC as a lead character who is also incredibly smart, loving, kind, and strong was amazing. This book has great representation.

It was also incredibly well written. I made several notes in the margins and underlined quotes all over it.

What I Didn’t Like: The worst thing about this book was how easy it was to slip into Linda’s racist mindset while reading her perspective. When I went back to reality after reading for a while, I would randomly have racist thoughts. Thoughts I have never believed in the slightest! I had never understood how people who say, think, and do racist things can think they are correct, but this book showed me how effortless it is to subscribe to that way of thinking. I hated that realization, and I hate that now I can understand even a fraction of that mindset.

I also didn’t realize that Robin Talley is a white woman, and I’m not sure how I feel about a white woman writing the black perspective here. I’m an advocate of lifting up the voices of those who belong to the culture instead of telling them how it is, so I’m iffy on this. It’s something I need to discuss so I can figure out how I feel.

Ratings and Recommendations: Good for fans of historical fiction, current events, issue books, and diverse books.

2. Loved It

Final Thoughts: This is a book that everyone should read right now. We need to see what our future will be if we don’t get off this path of hate and ignorance. I cannot stress enough how doomed we are to repeat history if we don’t learn our lesson.

Sound off in the comments: What did you think of this book? Have you read something similar? What is your stance on Talley being white and writing such a huge part of black history? Let me know!

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Bookworm Quirks: Crying Over Spilled Ink, or, How Books Emotionally Manipulate Me

Crying Over Spilled Ink

Many bookworms know the struggle of ‘the feels’, when a book makes you feel a lot of emotions, typically unhappy ones. Being a Highly Sensitive Person, I’m very subjective to emotional manipulation. So being a reader is a tough gig.

Some books are about tragic things, such as The Fault in Our Stars. Others hit me in ways they shouldn’t, like Off the Page and Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer. Others have intense scenes that have gorgeous wording or imagery, as seen in Just Listen and Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen.

In TFiOS, characters meet because of their poor health. From page one, we know this can only end in tears. In my case, when I read it in one sitting in the back of a car on a road trip, I had nine separate sobbing sessions. It hurt. You know in Shakespeare in Love, how Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet to prove love could be portrayed on the stage? It felt like John Green wrote TFiOS to prove it would be accurately written. While Green is known for writing pretentious teenagers, these felt real. Like I could have known them from school or seen them at the movies. And that makes the ending hit so much harder. Anyone can get sick. Even people you know.

Have you ever seen that tumblr post that begs someone to write a novel where the main character falls in love with the reader? It’s already happened. Jodi Picoult teamed up with her daughter, Samantha Van Leer to create a duology about a prince stuck in a fairy tale and the reader who wants to help him escape. The second book deals with the falling out of their efforts. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it hit me so hard. I’m in a long distance relationship in which we only get to see each other once or twice a year. I was reading these books near the end of a visit to see him, and many of the feelings I was struggling with were reflected in the novel. I was crying and sobbing while he held me close, begging me to stop reading if I was so upset. But if I read it when he wasn’t there, who would comfort me? I still haven’t been able to reread the books since, even though they are among my all time favorites.

Sarah Dessen is the QUEEN of YA romance. She creates characters that feel real but don’t seem ordinary. And in Keeping the Moon, she tore at issues I’ve long fought with. Colie was a bigger girl that was laughed at, made fun of, and bullied terribly. She lost weight when her mom became a fitness guru, but still felt like that girl everyone was judging. I felt like Sarah Dessen was writing about me, but the sad reality is that many girls feel this way. In Just Listen, the main character has to get past her assumptions and judgements to find where her life is taking her after a huge life change. She feels like her world is ending, but in the grand scheme of things, they aren’t. I am so bad at that! Every tiny setback sends me spiraling, and I also have to learn the importance of this quote: “Don’t think, don’t judge. Just listen.”

All of these books broke and fixed and broke my heart. Among SO MANY MORE. So tell me: what books did you cry over? Why? Did you have similar reactions to these books? Sound off in the comments!

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Book Review: Brazen by Katherine Longshore

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Synopsis: Mary Howard has always lived in the shadow of her powerful family. But when she’s married off to Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, she rockets into the Tudor court’s inner circle. Mary and “Fitz” join a tight clique of rebels who test the boundaries of court’s strict rules with their games, dares, and flirtations. The more Mary gets to know Fitz, the harder she falls for him, but is forbidden from seeing him alone. The rules of court were made to be pushed…but pushing them too far means certain death. Is true love worth dying for?

Why I Chose This Book: I got this book as a prize for beating my sister at the 2015 PopSugar Reading Challenge last year. Being obsessed with historical fiction, specifically anything set in Henry VIII’s court, I have had this on my radar since it started getting publicity. As soon as it was in my hands, I started devouring it.

First Impression: My one disappointment with this GORGEOUS cover is that the jewel under the z is off center. This was so distracting!!! It drove me so crazy that I just took the dust cover off and left it on the shelf.

What I Liked: I loved that Anne Boleyn was such a large part of this book! She’s my favorite historical figure and I love seeing her from different perspectives because so much of her life is uncertain. Fitz was so sweet and I really grew to love Mary. Her poetry is gorgeous. She has a love of words that many bookworms will super relate to: “I flinch a little at the word. [Concubine]’s not as bad as whore. The round u and long i make it taste almost fruity. But the hard c’s are like seeds, puckering the mouth.” There’s so much of this almost tasting of words, and it’s such a gorgeous way of connecting to Mary.

There are many quotes I wrote down in my notes just so I could share them.

“There are some people who make an impact as soon as you meet them. Lodge themselves in your mind. Embed themselves in your very soul. Anne Boleyn is one of those people.”

“Power undetected is not the same as powerless.”

“‘What does love feel like, your majesty?'”
“‘It’s like music only plays when you’re together. Like the very air tastes of strawberries. And like one touch-one look-could send you whirling like a seed on the wind.'”

“‘And when he looks at her- have you seen it?'”
“‘It’s like his gaze is a nod. As if he agrees not only with everything she says but with everything she is.'”

SO BEAUTIFUL, AM I RIGHT?!

Another very cool thing in this book is that it describes how the Devonshire Manuscript came to exist. The semester after I read this, we actually studied the Manuscript in class and it was so amazing to see history and fiction combine. I highly recommend looking into the Devonshire Manuscript whether you read this book or not.

What I Didn’t Like: In the first few pages, Mary spends a whole paragraph describing her surroundings, and ends it with “My eyes never left him.” Sure, Mary. You just have all-encompassing peripheral vision. I had to put down the book for a little bit after that, but thankfully it got much better. It really took my breath away, and I grabbed Tarnish (Longshore’s book from Anne Boleyn’s perspective) as soon as I could afford it.

Ratings and Recommendations: Good for anyone that loves historical fiction, Henry VIII, Tudor court, or seeing history through the eyes of a young girl and her friends.

2. Loved It

Final Thoughts: I’m really excited to read more of Longshore’s work and see how she uses real events to bring history to life.

Sound off in the comments: Have you read this book? What did you think? What’s your favorite setting for historical fiction? Let me know!

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Month in a Moment: January 2016

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So I’m going to try and be more consistent this year, starting with monthly recaps. This will be where I catch you up on life and what I’ve been doing that may not be mentioned in regular blog posts.

Life Updates

School started back up this month, and it is hectic. I start MWF at 9 and get home around 6 with only one hour to rest, eat, and get to work. I now work in a Pre-K classroom by myself with about 14 kids, adding 6-7 kinders at snack. It can be super crazy, but I love it. And I sleep really well almost every night. Haha. I’ve been walking around more, hoping to get back in shape. And the boyfriend will be here in late May!! So I’m totally counting down to that. I’ve also been sick pretty much every day. Ranging from eye irritations to food poisoning, I have not had great health for a few months.

Books Read

I’m such a slacker here, y’all. I meant to read a book a week, but getting used to my new schedule has taken so much out of me. I’ve finished a book I started last year and I’ve gotten about halfway through a book my sister got me for Christmas. It’s so good! But by the time I get home I have no energy to hold up a book. But here’s what I’ve been reading, so look forward to these reviews coming up soon!

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Netflix Binges

I love Netflix so much, y’all. I’ve worked through shows pretty quickly since all I want to do is sleep and watch TV.

   

  

Movies

I don’t go to the movies very often, but this month I went to see a couple with friends. Sisters was SO FUNNY and not as awful as I thought it would be. It wasn’t Parks and Rec level humor, but there’s nothing wrong with mindless humor once in a while. This last weekend I saw The Boy, and it was predictable until ‘the twist’ that every horror movie tries to throw in. I didn’t see it coming, but it was really the only surprise in the whole thing.

  

Favorite Things

I recently rediscovered how much I love covers and music by Sleeping at Last. So gorgeous!! I recommend Every Little Thing She Does is Magic if you haven’t heard it. Heart eyes forever, y’all.

I also have new work friends that I love hanging out with. It’s so nice to have a group of girls that I can discuss faith and beliefs with. It really helps to renew my spirit after a long week and it’s nice to have a casual fellowship again.

I want to say I feel refreshed, but I’m currently running on a couple of hours of sleep after a SUPER FULL DAY, so it’s hard to feel honest while talking about new energy and excitement right now. But I do really like most of my classes this semester (does anyone feel psyched about Communication Law?) and I can’t wait to see how these few months go.

That’s it for this Month in a Moment! Tell me how your month went!!

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Temporary Hiatus 05.15.15

Hey y’all! I know I haven’t been very active in the last few weeks and there’s a reason for that: I’ve been insanely busy. And it’s not about to stop. This month I’m taking a May Minimester (a semester long course in three weeks, for the unacquainted), which is not for the faint of heart. By the time I get home after work, I just want to sleep, let alone read and talk. In a couple of weeks, my baby nephew is due (!!!!!) and I want to focus as much time on him before I head off to Minnesota. I’ll get to stay with the boyfriend for a month and since I won’t see him for a year after that, I don’t want to waste a second of time with something I can do alone and at home, like blog. I might work on some posts while he’s at work, and have a few things ready when I come back. But right after I come back, I move into my first apartment!! And that’s going to be super stressful on its own. So right now, I’m just stretched too thin to worry about blogging and I hope you all understand. This is such a fun hobby, and I want to continue thinking of it as such and not as an obligation so I still enjoy it. I love each and every one of you, and I’ll be back soon.

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Book Review: 21 Proms by 21 Authors

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Info: Paperback, 289 pages, YA, short-story anthology, published December 20, 2014 (original pub date March 1, 2007)

Synopsis: From many mega-bestselling authors, including John Green, Libba Bray, Holly Black, and David Levithan, 21 prom stories you’ll never forget.

From an amazing array of authors including John Green, David Levithan, E. Lockhart, Libba Bray, Ned Vizzini, and Holly Black…  Prom. It’s supposed to be one of the best nights of your life. Or, at least, you’re supposed to have a good time. But what if you’d rather be going with your best friend’s date than your own? What if a sinister underground society of students has spiked the punch? What if your date turns out to be more of a frog than a prince? Or what if he’s (literally) an ape?

There are ways you can fight it. You can protest the silliness of the regular prom by hosting a backwards prom – also known as a morp. You can throw a prom for fat girls. You can stay at home to watch old teen movies and get your cute neighbor and his cuter brother to join you. You can dance to your own music.

First Impressions: I really love this cover. Every outfit on it corresponds to one of the stories, which is an awesome way to connect the content to the cover. I hate when a book has a great cover that doesn’t match the content (I’m looking at you,  Say What You Will!).

Story by Story Breakdown: 

You Are a Prom Queen, Dance Dance Dance by Elizabeth Craft
– 1/5 stars
– I hated this narrator. I have never been able to understand people that hate on everyone just for the sake of being negative and different and cool. When you’re doing something to be different for the sake of being different and not being yourself, I do not want to be around you or hear a word you have to say. It’s boring and fake. This narrator ruins everyone’s night until the end when she FINALLY does something to make herself happy instead of trying to act like she doesn’t care. I know this is super common in high school, but it was not the right tone to start this book off. From the second I started reading it, I was put off and irritated.

All She Wants by Cecily von Ziegesar
– 3/5 stars
– I liked this one, but the list format threw me off. It’s never explained, and it really interrupts the flow of the story. I shook my head at the narrator when she invites guys over and answers the door in a ball gown. But honestly, if I had a closet full of fabulous ball gowns at my disposal, I’d wear them whenever I could.

In Vodka Veritas by Holly Black
– 4/5 stars
– So odd. I was left wondering if that really just happened, or if it was a metaphor or something. But after the initial shock wore off, I really liked it.

Your Big Night by Sarah Mlynowski
– 4/5 stars
– Oh, the honesty of this story. While I was initially irked by the second-person narrative, after a few paragraphs I didn’t notice it anymore. This girl does everything to try to get her ex back, and doesn’t realize until she’s in a limo on her way to the prom with a date she that she HATES that she is becoming someone she doesn’t want to be. So many girls go through this. So good. I really enjoyed this one.

Off Like a Prom Dress by Billy Merrell
– 3/5 stars
– This one was written in verse, and I think it paid off. Another story about a girl realizing she wants to do something for herself, rather than for a boy. I can always get behind that.

“Mom Called, She Said You Have to Go to the Prom” by Adrienne Maria Vrettos
– 3/5 stars
– This one was so cute!! The girl just has fun and doesn’t care what others think about her, and everyone is used to it from her so there’s no bullying or teasing, just laughing with her. Wonderful. Also, she was so sweet to her precious brother, and I love the way their relationship was handled.

Better Be Good to Me by Daniel Ehrenhaft
– 2/5 stars
– Ugh. Weird. SO WEIRD. This guy is supposedly telling his daughter about how he and her mom got together at their prom equivalent. But he talks about LSD all the time and how he wanted to jump her bones and how he was awful to her bestie and just…I would probably wear crocs before I let my dad tell me a story like this. And I loathe crocs.

Three Fates by Aimee Friedman
– 4/5 stars
– Cute story. Kind of reminded me of Crazy Stupid Love in that everything just connects and goes deliciously wrong but ends up well.

The Question: A Play in One Act by Brent Hartinger
– 5/5 stars
– THIS WAS THE CUTEST THING. I actually read almost the entire thing to my bestie over skype because it was just SO ADORABLE. I recommend picking this up from the library for this entry alone. Don’t read anything else, just this.

Shutter by Will Leitch
– no rating
– Honestly, I couldn’t focus on this story after the adorability of the last one. I didn’t read it.

Geechee Girls Dancin’, 1955 by Jacqueline Woodson
– 1/5 stars
– This was written in some dialect that was evidently supposed to be based on how slaves talked, but it’s set in 1955? It was incredibly hard to read and I’m still unsure of what actually happened.

How I Wrote to Toby by E. Lockhart
– 5/5 stars
– This was so good. If I was ever unsure about reading We Were Liars, I’m definitely not now. Lockhart’s writing style was perfect, the characters had depth and I would have read an entire book of this. So good.

A Six-pack of Bud, a Fifth of Whiskey, and Me by Melissa de la Cruz
– 4/5 stars
– Oh, Melissa. This was a true story of her prom story, and it was just so laughably bad. It showed how kids can overlook so much just because they’re excited about something happening. I want her to write a book of her bad experiences so I can cringe with her.

Primate the Prom by Libba Bray
– 1/5 stars
– HONESTLY, WTF WAS THIS?!?! I can’t tell if Libba Bray is supporting or condemning homosexuality with this?! I just…I have no words. Reading this story was how I imagine a bad trip feels. I’m wondering if I should keep her books on my TBR list.

Apology #1 by Ned Vizzini
– 3/5
– This was good, but forgettable. I expected more.

See Me by Lisa Ann Sandell
– 3/5 stars
– Again, good but forgettable. Cute, though. And I liked that she did what she wanted and found that the guy was a good match because of that. If that makes sense.

Prom for Fat Girls by Rachel Cohn
– 4/5 stars
– SO CUTE. I love Rachel Cohn and I was not let down. This made me so happy that I need to reread Dash and Lily for my reading challenge (Author with same first name, holla).

Chicken by Jodi Lynn Anderson
– 2/5 stars
– I totally understand how it feels to enjoy a friendship until someone reveals romantic feelings, and then feel awkward around them. It sucks. But this girl makes a conscious effort to get the friendship back, and I love that. Doesn’t mean this story wasn’t weird and hard to get through.

The Backup Date by Leslie Margolis
– 1/5 stars
– This girl. If I was friends with this girl, I would not have encouraged this ridiculous ‘charade’ of being drunk just to hook up with her secret boyfriend. Seriously, this girl has terrible ideas and she needs a cold dose of reality.

Lost Sometimes by David Levithan
– 4/5 stars
– Such a relatable story. You don’t have to have sex in crazy locations to relate to this. You just have to have wondered if what you’re doing is worth missing out on other things.

The Great American Morp by John Green
– 5/5 stars
– Maybe my second favorite, after the play story. So sweet. I really expected this to be an anti-prom story, but it was a backwards prom: crazy costumes, no dates, just fun. Also, it didn’t end with the parents coming home early and the kids getting in trouble!

Ratings and Recommendations: Average rating was three stars, but overall . I do not recommend this book unless you just…I don’t know. Don’t read this book please.

7. Never Reading This Again

Final Thoughts: Ugh.

Sound off in the comments: Have you read this? What were your thoughts? What was your reaction to Primate the Prom?!

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Bookworm Quirks: How Working in a Bookstore Has Changed Me as a Reader

This is my new feature, Bookworm Quirks. This week is about how working with books has changed my reading habits. If you’d like to join in on the fun, either leave a comment with the link to your post or email me at bookybunny@gmail.com and I’ll add the link to end the of this post. Thanks for reading!

In January 2014, my sister bought a bookstore and named it Dog-Eared Books. I started working when she had go someone once I got home from school, and at the end of summer I started working there full time. It’s been amazing and I never want it to end.


(My sister and I dressed up to work Hallo-read! She’s the Moose from If You Give a Moose a Muffin, and I’m Liesel from The Book Thief.)

Working at DEB has changed my reading habits a bit though. Part of my pay is 2 books an hour, and if we had the newer books, I would work for that alone. But since it’s a used bookstore in a small Texas town, we don’t get much of the books I typically look for in stores. Because of that, I’ve had to broaden my reading horizons and it’s opened me up to books I never would have looked at otherwise. I’ve gotten my first Jodi Picoult, Neil Gaiman, and Kristin Hannah books here, and while I’ve yet to get to their place in my TBR, I’m excited to try them out.

I’ve also added a bunch of childhood favorites to my bookshelves, from The Kid Who Ran for President to Help! I’m Trapped in a Vampire’s Body! I love walking through the kids room or middle lit shelves to find books I’d completely forgotten about since elementary school. I mean, hello, Phantom Tollbooth? Best book ever!

I’ve also gotten more open to books found at dollar stores like Dollar Tree. I’ve found really cute books there for a fraction of their cover price, and some are even in series that I already had started collecting!

But working in a bookstore isn’t all sunshine and pages. I’ve really started to resent romance and western books. Prolific authors like Nora Roberts, James Patterson, and Tom Clancy drive me crazy because we have tons of them and everyone brings them in without taking any out. It’s so frustrating when you have to move a whole shelf of books down just to make room for yet another Dan Brown novel. As a result, none of those authors or books will ever have a place on my personal shelves. Just thinking about them annoys me.

All in all, working at a bookstores has forced me to look at books I never considered before, as well as shown me avenues to find books that were completely off of my radar. But it’s also given me a bit of cynicism towards authors with a ton of books under their belt (I’m looking at you, Louis L’amour).

How have you been changed by working with books? Is your dream job shelving in a library or bookstore? What do you think it’s like? Do you have any pet peeves that make you think it’s not the job for you? Sound off in the comments!

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