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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Book Review: Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews

Save the Date

Synopsis: A wedding florist finds love and trouble in this delightful new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of Ladies’ Night.

A Savannah florist is about to score the wedding of a lifetime—one that will solidify her career as the go-to-girl for society nuptials. Ironically, Cara Kryzik doesn’t believe in love, even though she creates beautiful flower arrangements to celebrate them. But when the bride goes missing and the wedding is in jeopardy, Cara must find the bride and figure out what she believes in. Maybe love really does exist outside of fairy tales after all.

Why I Chose This Book: I received this book in a Bookish Secret Santa gift in 2014, but hadn’t gotten around to it. When I’m not sure what to read, I grab the first book on my shelf that I haven’t read, and it was this one’s turn.

First Impressions: While I really like the aesthetics of this cover, it doesn’t really fit the book. For a story about a florist, there’s not a single flower. And this whole book revolves around the flower business, so this was really a nice cover that could have been slapped on any old romance novel.

What I Liked: I really liked seeing the business side of the flower shop, and seeing someone else struggling with money really reassured my heart. I found myself wishing there were pictures of these gorgeous bouquets being described! And if anyone can show me the infamous Martha Stewart bouquet they talk about, PLEASE help a girl out! I googled for half an hour before I gave up and went back to reading.

I also feel so much better when I see adults struggling with the same things I’m fighting with, and that was very much the case here. It reminds me that I don’t have to have everything figured out right now. I’m 23, for crying out loud. I’m supposed to be a mess at this point. But to go from feeling so confident and secure to drowning in the blink of an eye, and read about someone with a decade on me feeling the same way reminded me that it’s a universal feeling, and I’m not a total failure.

What I Didn’t Like: Not too far into the book, I realized that this was one of those books that could definitely be in the romance section but had too nice of a cover to be sorted with them, instead falling into what I call the ‘Target Cover’ section. Now, these tend to be my favorite covers, and I don’t mean it negatively at all. But they’re the very pretty, typically floral covers that most ‘Chick Lit’ books about adult women have. 90% of the time, these are the books I buy, because the plot and cover usually have all my favorite things (The Language of Flowers, I’m looking at you). But this one totally should have been in the romance section, not the Target Covers section.

I know most of that seems like it should have gone in First Impressions, but it’s more about the way the story was written. It was fairly predictable in a way that romance novels are known for, and I wouldn’t have read it if not for the cover. This is one of those books that I always hear about and get rec’d, but it’s not one that I’ll read twice.

Rating and Recommendations: If you like you want an easy, adult lit book about a grown up having the same struggles poor new adults are having, this is the kind of book for you!

4. Pretty Good Read

Final Thoughts: This was a good book, but not one I’ll be returning to in the foreseeable future.

Sound off in the comments: Have you read this book? What did you think? Who would you recommend it for? Let me know!

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Book Review: A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

A Vintage Affair

Synopsis: Every dress has a history. And so does every woman.

Phoebe Swift’s friends are stunned when she abruptly leaves a plum job to open her own vintage clothing shop in London—but to Phoebe, it’s the fulfillment of a dream, and her passion. Digging for finds in attics and wardrobes, Phoebe knows that when you buy a piece of vintage clothing, you’re not just buying fabric and thread—you’re buying a piece of someone’s past. But one particular article of clothing will soon unexpectedly change her life.

Thérèse Bell, an elderly Frenchwoman, has an impressive clothing collection. But among the array of elegant suits and couture gowns, Phoebe finds a child’s sky-blue coat—an item with which Mrs. Bell is stubbornly reluctant to part. As the two women become friends, Phoebe will learn the poignant tale of that little blue coat. And she will discover an astonishing connection between herself and Thérèse Bell—one that will help her heal the pain of her own past and allow her to love again.

Why I Chose This Book: I love any book that combines England, something lovely, a young woman taking a risk, and a hobby I would love to know more about. In this case, it was vintage fashion. This book has ‘Rachel’ written ALL over it.

First Impressions: I love the illustrated style of this cover. The other versions of the cover are way more generic and dreadful, but this one is warm, inviting, and relaxing. I would like it if the dresses drawn were the ones that played an important role in the book, like the cupcake dresses! But I’m being picky at this point, so I’ll move on.

What I Liked: SO MUCH. From the beginning, it was clear that there was more to her story, and I couldn’t wait to see what she wasn’t telling. Typically, I hate books that rely on deliberately hidden information for suspense, but this was so organic. Phoebe was grieving, and wasn’t in a place to address aspects of what happened until other things happened first. It was such an interesting look into the world of vintage fashion, and within the first few chapters I had mentally added it to my list of dream careers. Also, the love interest was unclear, and I love that.

What I Didn’t Like: This is less of a ‘didn’t like’ and more of a ‘would have been cool’. The dresses are described in such lovely ways, that I would have LOVED to see pictures of the pieces mentioned, even in a gallery in the back. I hated Roxy so so much, and Miles because of his terrible parenting. I wish we’d seen more of Emma, and I would so read a book about her and her hats!

Rating and Recommendations: For fans of The Language of Flowers, fashion, and tastes of WWII accounts.

2. Loved It

Final Thoughts: It reminded me so much of Language of Flowers in that I instantly wanted to know more about this world and history. I’m looking forward to adding more of Wolff’s work to my shelves!

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Book Review: Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen

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Synopsis: Colie expects the worst when she’s sent to spend the summer with her eccentric aunt Mira while her mother, queen of the television infomercial, tours Europe. Always an outcast — first for being fat and then for being “easy” — Colie has no friends at home and doesn’t expect to find any in Colby, North Carolina.

But then she lands a job at the Last Chance Cafe and meets fellow waitresses Morgan and Isabel, best friends with a loving yet volatile relationship. Wacky yet wise, Morgan and Isabel help Colie see herself in a new way and realize the potential that has been there all along.

Why I Chose This Book: This follows my tradition of reading clearance Sarah Dessen books while waiting for Half-Price to tally up my book offer. It also follows the tradition of getting me so caught up that I use some of the money they offer me to buy it.

First Impressions: At first, I didn’t love the cover. It’s generic, fits any early 2000’s summer romance book. But the sunglasses, svelte body, and flower all tie into the story, so I’m not mad about it. Just wish it could have been done in a more deliberate way?

What I Liked: This book is so relatable. Most girls struggle with loving their bodies/fitness/weight/self-image. It’s so empowering, it has amazing friendships, different kinds of love, there’s tons of art and music involved. I just love so much about it! Kiki wasn’t the stereotypical absent mom, and truly cared for her daughter. Also, there are some gorgeous quotes that pull on a subtle recurring theme of universes, and how everyone has a different view of the world. Mira and Norman had me heart-eyeing at them the whole time. And there’s a bad-for-you love subplot that I totally understood and hated that it was so relatable! But it was accurate and true.

There’s also a character that says mean, snide things and is just such a mean girl. And this book had a lesson that was all too true: (MINOR SPOILER ALERT)

 

 

 

 

 

We don’t always get to tell off our Bea’s. And that’s something we have to find peace with.

 

 

 

 

SPOILER OVER

What I Didn’t Like: How short it was! I always want more from Dessen. Also, I hated Mark and Bea!!!

Ratings and Recommendations: Fans of summer romance, YA, coming-of-age stories, feminist messages that don’t hit you over the head with it

2. Loved It

Final Thoughts: Loved it! It made me cry a couple of times. I can’t wait for my next Dessen book!!

Sound off in the comments: What did you think of this book? What’s your favorite Sarah Dessen book? Did you relate to Keeping the Moon? Let me know!

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Book Review: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Tiger Lily

Synopsis: Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair…

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

First Impressions: I think this is a gorgeous cover. But Tiger Lily is not the girl in the beautiful dress. She is never that person, and not being that person is a huge part of who she actually is. And I think the cover designer really did a disservice to the book and character by not making a more honest cover.

Why I Chose This Book: My sister got me this book, knowing my love of retellings and Peter Pan. I will always be grateful to her for this. (Thanks, Sis!!)

What I Liked: SO MUCH. From the get go, this book is dedicated “For the girls with messy hair and thirsty hearts.” (Book hasn’t even started and the cover is already wrong, but whatever I’m not bitter.) This book is so gorgeously written, and it really keeps with the dark tone of the original work. Peter Pan has become so watered down in mainstream media, so I love seeing his portrayal in things like Tiger Lily and Once Upon a Time. He is so scary! And Anderson did a great job of staying true to that. Also, I’m not much of a Tink fan. Never have been. But this book is told from her perspective as she follows the characters around. And I love her!! She provides a more impartial view while still staying involved. I’ll include a few of the quotes I wrote down, but here’s one of the first things Tink says about Tiger Lily. “She was the most interesting girl I had ever seen, and I couldn’t resist staying near her to see what happened next.”

This book also covers some really intriguing commentary on current issues, such as the gender binary, murder, self-love, traditional gender roles. For example, Tiger Lily is cared for by Tik Tok, who “was born to be two genders…that’s the way he was made.” Smee kills those he admires most, and the more he admires, the more creative he gets. Tiger Lily struggles with loving herself so much, y’all. And it kills me. The whole tribe is pretty much against her because she doesn’t fit quite in. Here are a few quotes I wrote down just about that.

“…opinions by the dozen landed in each hollow track left by her feet.”

“Still, the longer I was around her, the more could see the colors of her mind and the recesses of her heart. There was a beast in there. But there was also a girl who was afraid of being a beast, and who wondered if other people had beasts in their hearts too. There was strength, and there was also just the determination to look strong. She guarded herself like a secret.”

“I’m not myself.” “You can never say that. You’re just a piece of yourself right now that you don’t like.” (Which I think is a crucial lesson for people to learn. You must address the aspects of your being to improve and be self-aware!)

“Everyone will think I’m ugly.” “That’s true. But we are a small village. We have narrow tastes. There’s no telling who else in the world would think you are beautiful.”

“Tiger Lily wanted to say it back. But she held on to the words greedily, too caught in the habit of keeping herself a secret. And Peter – half sadly, half expectantly – let her go.”

“I could never leave. Because I think people must be the same everywhere. Only these people are my bones.”

“She wasn’t sure what love was, but maybe she was supposed to bend.”

ISN’T IT SO BEAUTIFULLY WORDED, Y’ALL? I can’t handle it. I have so many pages of quotes from this book. Okay, fine, one more. But this one is about Peter.

“He never seemed to think over a decision, but merely plowed ahead, and somehow the earth always caught him in her soft hands. No one thought of doubting him.”

Also, the way Anderson included pieces of the original work brought so much happiness to my heart. Like the neverbird nest? I’m still swooning over how it was included. And if you know me, you know friendship love is my favorite kind. And we get a great BrOTP in Tiger Lily and Pine Sap!!

What I Didn’t Like: Not much, really. Oddly enough, I hated Wendy in this. And I am SUCH a Wendy, guys. Giant, the man TL is to marry, IS THE WORST. Ughhhhhh. But yeah, that’s all I don’t like. And they’re really just characters I didn’t like, not the actual book.

Ratings and Recommendations: For fans of Peter Pan, Once Upon a Time. For girls that don’t quite fit into what society expects them to be.

1. New Favorite Alert

Final Thoughts: This book is a love letter to girls that don’t fit in and refuse to change just to do so. I can’t wait to give this book to my kids.

Sound off in the comments: Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Did you love it as much as I did? What’s your favorite retelling/alternate perspective book? Let me know!

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Book Review: Conversion by Katherine Howe

Conversion

Synopsis: It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.

First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.

Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . .

Inspired by true events—from seventeenth-century colonial life to the halls of a modern-day high school—Conversion casts a spell. With her signature wit and passion, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe delivers an exciting and suspenseful novel, a chilling mystery that raises the question, what’s really happening to the girls at St. Joan’s?

Why I Chose This Book: 

First Impression: Intriguing cover. What does the yellow bird mean? The thorny branch  gave off a feeling of danger and mystery without being too cliche. I really liked this cover.

What I Liked: I’d never heard of the confession that came years after the Salem Witch Trials and revealed everything to be a prank. It was very interesting to read. I also didn’t know about the Mystery Illness of 2012, so this book showed brand new history to me, both older and recent. I liked that we didn’t get a straight answer at the end. It felt very real.

What I Didn’t Like: The two narratives didn’t mesh well to me. I think the stories would have been better as two separate novels or maybe if it had been written by someone more YA-oriented? It could have been 100 pages shorter and had a much stronger impact instead of dragging on. There’s a taboo relationship that almost felt condoned by the author/plot. Colleen felt like someone trying too hard to be a teenager.

Ratings and Recommendations: I honestly don’t know? I’m still trying to figure out how I feel.

6. Not Sure How To Feel

Final Thoughts:  I really needed to read this with a book club so I had a group of people to help me figure out what I thought of it. I went back and forth on so many aspects, that I don’t know how many stars to give or who should read it or anything. I’m very conflicted with this book.

Sound off in the comments: Have you read this book? What did you think? Let me know!

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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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