My Favorite 2021 Emmy Outfits as Books – #BookishMemes 

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

How it works:

She assigns each Tuesday a topic and then posts her top ten list that fits that topic. You’re more than welcome to join her and create your own top ten (or 2, 5, 20, etc.) list as well. Feel free to put a unique spin on the topic to make it work for you! Please link back to That Artsy Reader Girl in your own post so that others know where to find more information.

Happy Tuesday, bookish peeps!

I didn’t come to you on Sunday for our weekly chat thanks to recovering from being ill, trying to finish my weekly homework, and keeping one eye on the Emmy’s.

This may sound strange, but after the disaster that was 2020, I honestly felt as if American television got some of the best screenwriting and acting that I’ve seen in a long time. So, I was looking forward to the Emmy’s this year.

I had so many hopeful wins for the awards, but fate had other plans.

To hold on to the Television and “Red Carpet” Magic a little longer, I put together a possibility pile for my Fall TBR list based on my favorite looks from the Emmy’s red carpet.

Have a peek!

Did you watch the Emmy’s? 

Nicole Byer

Host of “Nailed It!” and Comedian, writer, and actress, Nicole Byer, wore Christian Siriano and looked stunning from head to toe! This was by far my favorite look of the night.

Byer’s look has been paired with Fiebre Tropical by Juliana Delgado Lopera. Lopera’s novel recently won a Lambda Literary Award in 2021. This novel is a bildungsroman about a Columbian teenager uprooted from Bogotá to Miami and has a sexual awakening while also dealing with mental health issues and questioning her faith.

Olatunde Olateju Olaolorun “O-T” Fagbenle

Olatunde Olateju Olaolorun “O-T” Fagbenle, from “Handmaiden’s Tale,” wore my second favorite look of the night, a modernized traditional Nigerian agdaba in black and red making a bold statement with the simplicity of his look and the richness of the outfit’s color.

I paired Fagbenle’s outfit with Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark, a historical fiction horror novella that rewrites the history of the Ku Klux Klan, adding a supernatural twist. It’s perfect for the spooky season and giving a giant middle finger to racism. Clark’s novel is peppered with awards, such as the Locus and Nebula Award for Best Novella in 2021 and a nominee for the Hugo and Shirley Jackson Award in 2021 and 2020, respectively.

Taraji P. Henson

My favorite auntie in my head, Taraji P. Henson, wore a showstopping black & white sheer number from one of my favorite designers, Elie Saab.

To continue with the theme of the drama, her outfit has been paired with Fernanda Melchor’s cult favorite from the Bookternet, Hurricane Season. Melchor’s work was translated from Spanish by Sophie Hughes. Equal parts mythology, horror story, and mystery, Melchor tackles how violence is visited on women’s bodies and how hate spreads in a community.

Awkwafina & Michaela Jaé “Mj” Rodriguez

The next two stars had my favorite color palettes of the night. Awkwafina looked stunning in her deep-V neck Turquoise Monique Lhuilier dress while presenting at the Emmys. Michaela Jaé “Mj” Rodriguez (who was robbed of her Lead Actress in a Drama Series) wowed in a one-shoulder light turquoise Atelier Versace dress.

I paired Awkwafina’s look with the memoir, The Magical Language of Others by E.J. Koh and MJ’s look with Island Queen by Vanessa Riley. Both books are high up on my TBR List and have breathtaking covers, just like these two women’s beautiful gowns.

Write the tale that scares you, that makes you feel uncertain, that isn’t comfortable. I dare you — in a world that entices us to browse through the lives of others to help us better determine how we feel about ourselves, and to in turn feel the need to be constantly visible, for visibility these days seems to somehow equate to success — do not be afraid to disappear from it, from us for a while, and see what comes to you in the silence. ... I dedicate this story to every single survivor of sexual assault. - Michaela Coel, Acceptance Speech 

Michaela Coel

The win that I was most excited for outside of MJ’s category was Michaela Coel, who took home an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie. Not only did Coel star in the award-winning show I May Destroy You, but she also created, wrote, and co-directed this masterpiece.

I can’t even express how much care Coel and her cast and crew took with I May Destroy You. It tells the story of sexual trauma about a group of Millennial friends in the UK who are combatting the aftermath of being in sexual relationships that have left them scarred. Spanning a range of emotions, Coel’s limited series should be watched in small doses if you want to protect your feelings. This is like Marlon James’ first novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, which also has a rich and diverse cast of characters.

Winner of the 2015 Booker Prize and American Book Award, A Brief History of Seven Killings spans several decades from the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, in the 1970s to New York in the 1980s and back to Jamaica. Like Coel, James is a visionary and deserves all the accolades he’s been given. So, read this book pronto.

Jon Batiste & Leon Bridges 

Honestly, I’m really just here for the multi-talented musician Jon Batiste’s suit, which was custom-made and had images from the horrific 2005 storm, Hurricane Katrina, in a mosaic. This is a moment in history I’ll never forget as a resident of the Gulf states. 

Batiste and fellow musician Leon Bridges sang “River” as a part of the “In Memoriam” tribute at the Emmy’s. Bridges is one of my favorite singers because of the silkiness of his voice. Check out his new album, Gold-Diggers Sound!

To mirror Batiste’s suit, I chose a mosaic book cover of Jagua Nana by Cyprian Ekwensi. Ekwensi’s story speaks to the aging of the title character as she starts to enter her twilight years in Lagos even though she is still bent on having a good time.

Robin Thede

Robin Thede is the best part of HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show with her transformation from “homegirl” to a “zombie” to the being a member of a financially literate gang. Whatever her character, you best believe she keeps me laughing. Thede exchanged her comedic duds for this showstopping seafoam green Jason Wu dress.

Much like the newly released mystery Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia, Thede’s dress’ silhouette is giving me just a hint of drama while staying classic, and I adore it!

Dan Levy

Dan Levy’s royal blue Valentino Haute Couture suit made me stop and question where he was going in this ensemble. The lines! The draping! The color! Fashion-wise, Levy is giving a lot more than most of the men at the Emmy’s gave for me. So, he made this list by default. 

I also love that this cover so effortlessly matches Dream Country by Ashaye Brown. Brown’s story about the feuding siblings who also happen to be the gods of sleep, dreams, and nightmares is a top TBR pick for me. As we’ve already established, fantasy novels are my jam. But, Brown’s blend of Kenyan, Brazilian, Caribbean, and Grecian cultural references is just calling me to pick up this book sooner rather than later.

Yara Shahidi 

Yara Shahidi wore an emerald green Dior Haute Couture dress in a classic off-the-shoulder silhouette, and I lived! It’s rare, though, that her stylist, Jason Bolden, ever gets her looks wrong. Of course, because this look is so iconic and effortless, I had to pull a book off my shelves that could match it tit for tat. 

This book is Minutes Of Glory and Other Stories by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong ’o. Thiong’o is a master memoirist, novelist, and playwright from Kenya. This writer’s short story collection spans from “the period of British colonial rule and resistance in Kenya to the bittersweet experience of independence.” If you love getting a story in short bits that pack a punch, get this collection!\

Do you see any books or looks you like?

Don’t forget to comment, like, and subscribe! #AllOfTheThings

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le & Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp (#BookReview #WWWWednesday)

Thank you to Libro.fm for my audiobook copies of A Pho Love Story by Loan Le and Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp.

Thank you to Harper Books for my ARCs of The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers and Tor Books for the ARC of She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chen.

Finally, thank you to Wesleyan Press for my finish copies of She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chen copy of The Age of Phyllis by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

We’ve almost made it over the hump of another week, bookish peeps. I hope you all’s week is going well!

I’m coming to you with my weekly check-in of what I’m reading and a few mini book reviews for WWW Wednesday.

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words and ask readers to answer the following questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What did you read last?

The theme for this week’s mini review wrap-up is foody books and characters who cook.

Books about characters who cook are my all-time favorite type of reads. Coming from a family that enjoys food and trying new recipes, reading about characters that share this passion is always enjoyable.

Food is not only an extension of one’s culture, but it also gives the authors the ability to express a character’s identity and to have them work through complex topics without weighing their book down too much.

A Pho Love Story

For example, Loan Le does a great job expressing his characters’ desires and showing the tension between the rival families in A Pho Love Story through the Vietnamese culture.

Book cover of A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

Bao Nguyen and Linh Mai are teenagers whose parents both run rival pho restaurants on the same street that are struggling. Both characters are set to graduate from high school soon and struggle to figure out their lives’ path. 

Bao is unsure what his “thing” is and worries that time is running out to figure his next step out. On the other hand, Linh loves art and secretly dreams of being an artist like her aunt. However, she gets her dreams crushed trying to live up to the expectations of her parents, who immigrated to the U.S. during the Vietnam War. It’s not until the pair are sent on assignment for their school’s newspaper to review local restaurants that they can realize their individual dreams, sort out their feelings for each other, and unearth why their parents hate each other so much.

Initially, I went into this book expecting a Vietnamese Romeo & Juliet. However, the story hinges less on being a romance built around teenager angst and instead hinges upon the theme of self-discovery and combating the expectations of being born a first-generation child to parents who have migrated from another country. Through Le’s description of the food, readers can see the Ngyuens and Mais’ pride in their food preparation. Each family honors the pho dish in their preparation and its role in their immigration tale.

My favorite part of the story is the “reconnaissance missions” Bao’s father takes the family to collect intel on other restaurants in the area. In these scenes, Le pays particular attention to detail for how Bao’s father studies the menu, orders their meal, and then evaluates each dish. Le also shows Linh’s parents meticulously preparing to leave for work at their restaurants in detail each night, which shows how labor-intensive the food service industry is. These scenes also show how the Ngyuens and Mais take the utmost pride in their dishes and ability to use their cultural dishes to provide for their children.

If you’re a foodie and love hearing about family secrets and food preparation, read this book! However, have a snack next to you. Le’s descriptions of food in this book were so descriptive and lush that I found myself getting hungry just listening to the audiobook.

The same advice goes for Zea Kemp’s book, Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet; snacks are a must!

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Where Le’s story is PG/PG-13, Zea Kemp’s book is a bit more mature since it deals with mental illness, self-harm, abandonment, and violence.

Zea Kemp’s book revolves around Penelope Prado and Xander Amaro, who are young adults of Mexican heritage working at Penelope’s father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. Penelope dreams of working with her father to improve their family restaurant’s menu. Her father, however, has other dreams for her. To him and his wife, having a a college-educated daughter is much more important. So, when they learn that Penelope has been lying about being registered for nursing school and attending classes, they flip, and Penelope is pushed out on her own to discover her dreams.

As for Xander, he dreams of having someone like Penelope’s parents to dote on him and look after him. Abandoned by his father as a child in Mexico, Xander was forced to make the trek to America on his own. He now lives with his paternal grandfather and secretly longs to know what became of his father all those years ago when he left Xander and his mom behind to immigrate to America. For Xander, as an undocumented immigrant, working at Nacho’s is one of the few times where he feels as if he is a part of a loving family and not going it alone. Unfortunately, for Penelope and Xander, things take a turn for the worse when Nacho’s is threatened by the local loan shark.

Like Le, Zea Kemp uses food in her novel to show the depths of community and tradition in her story and build Nacho’s Tacos into a community staple. 

Book cover for Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp

Nacho’s provide a meal and protection for its community and acts as a source of comfort and family for Penelope, Xander, and other characters. In this way, Zea Kemp does a good job of tending to her novel’s setting and building it into its own character that compliments Penelope and Xander’s desires without having the happenings of the restaurant overshadow these two characters’ development.

For instance, Penelope’s love for cooking and baking is strong because she uses this hobby as a lifeline when she experiences mental health issues. Zea Kemp’s positioning of Penelope in the restaurant reveals her character traits little by little. Here, readers will get to see Penelope explore the question of what happens when your proximity to community changes and your only coping mechanism/safe space is torn away from you. 

On the other hand, Xander is forced into understanding how to build community ties for the first time in his life after being abandoned for so long. His growth as a character hinges on learning how to embrace a new way of life as he becomes a part of the restaurant family and finds his place in his new community.

While A Pho Love Story is a somewhat sweet and simple YA novel with some family drama thrown in, Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is a novel that feels very “New Adult” without the possessive love story. Penelope and Xander do have a sweet romance that gradually builds, but it is not the main point of the story. Instead, finding and holding onto community is at the center of Zea Kemp’s book. Be warned, though, this novel deals with several difficult topics, such as depression, self-harm, anxiety, loss of a parent, and police brutality, amongst other things. Due to this, I’d say read it at your own peril.

What are you currently reading?

Just like last week, I’m still reading the poetry collection, The Age of Phyllis, for the #SealeyChallenge and the novel, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, both of which are by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. If you haven’t already picked up Jeffers’ novel, it came out yesterday. I would definitely recommend picking up a copy!

I’ve also been reading are Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin.

book cover of Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin

I previously reviewed Jalaluddin’s 2018 book, Ayesha at Last, as one of my top books of 2020, and Hana Khan Carries On is right up there with its hijinks and laugh-out-loud moments. Jaluddin’s writing is fun to read because she gives readers an eye to Muslim culture without having her books feel like “guidebooks” on Muslim living. Instead, these characters just exist and struggle to find love, job fulfilment, and keep their families together just like everyone else around them.

Hana, for example, is a woman who wants to break into broadcast journalism while also helping her mom and sister who run the restaurant, Three Sisters Biryani Poutine. As a hobby, Hana runs a podcast while also working at the local radio station and fighting off a shiesty coworker and a white feminist boss who’s fluent in microaggressions in the workplace. 

The one bright spot is that Hana has a mystery listener who she chats within the comment section and occasionally flirts with. Things change when she seeks the mystery guy’s help in finding the approaching opening of a rival Halal restaurant owned by the infuriating Aydin and his cranky father. 

I highly recommend Jalludin’s novel.

What will you read next?

Of course, you all already know that I’m a mood reader, so I don’t have a clue what I’ll read next. More than likely, I will be continuing Jeffers and Jalludin’s novels and trying to finish She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chen.

If you all have any recommendations, drop them in the comment section or just tell me what you’re currently reading!

Don’t forget to like, comment, share, and subscribe! #AllTheThings

How much does it cost to make reading your hobby?

Sunday Chat: What Is the Hidden Cost of Being a Reader

Welcome to another Sunday on the Bookternet, friends! I hope you’re having a wonderful day!

Today is the last day of Summer Break for me, and I’m feeling a little sad about it.

Come Monday, I’ll be back on my grind, balancing work, school, and reading. Even though I’m excited since I love my job and going to school, I can’t lie and say it’s not all just a little bit overwhelming for me.

Majorly because this is my first semester back in-person for school since the COVID-19 Pandemic hit in March of 2020, and I’m attending school in the state of Florida (insert a deadpan stare into the camera here). While my school is requires masks to attend, this level of tackling the unknown in a state where people love to be rebels against reason at the risk of themselves and others is putting me on pins and needles.

On the other hand, I’m a little saddened that my leisure time for reading is coming to an end.

In last week’s Sunday Chat post, I discussed the constraints of time for readers when deciding what to read and inevitably DNFing or unhauling our books. And some of your responses across social media pushed me to think even more about how much of a taxing hobby reading is.

Society often paints reading as this calm hobby where you’re sitting in a comfy chair with your book and drifting off to exotic mental landscapes.

But that’s only a piece of it.

Reading, in my opinion, is a full-bodied hobby that requires access, time, and to a degree, money.

How much time do Americans spend reading?

In a study done by the Pew Research Center, it was found that since 2012, “7 in 10 U.S. adults” in America have made reading their hobby. And of this group, the mean number being read steadily ranged from 4 to 12 books in a given year. In addition, the average time devoted to reading for Americans uncharacteristically rose from 2019 to 2020 overall based on the Department of Labor’s American Time Use Survey

A consistent trend, though, was that the rich and white demographic of people were still able to read more than their BIPOC and economically impoverished counterparts thanks to increased free-time.

For example, people “earning less than or equal to the 25th percentile” of “full-time wage and salary” dropped in their free-time for reading from “0.15” in 2019 to “0.11” for the average hours per day they read. While people “earning in the50th to 75th percentile” had the greatest leap in their averaged reading time from “0.16” to “0.37” hours per day and those in the “25th to 50th percentiles” also had a slight adjustment in their average from “0.13 to 0.17.” Those earning greater than the 75th percentile stayed the same with an average of a “0.20” for both years.

African-Americans saw the most significant leap in free-time for reading with a “.14” average from 2019 to 2020 average increase putting them at “0.24” average hours of reading time per day. But, they still trailed way behind white readers who clock in at “0.37” average hours and slightly behind Asian readers who are at “0.25” for their leisure reading time. Hispanic and Latinx readers are dwarfed by all parties at a steady average of “0.10” hours for both years. Unfortunately, there was no data I could find on Indigenous and Native American readers.

Looking at this data from the Department of Labor’s American Time Use Survey made it clear that even in a year as stressful as 2020, the idea that we’re all on an equal playing field when it comes to reading isn’t necessarily true.

Reading cost money as well as time.

How much do Americans spend on reading a year?

As a working-class student, whenever I see a #BookHaul or stack of books on the Bookternet, I immediately feel myself tallying up the cost. 

Thanks to this, reading the School Library Journal’s (SLJ) report for the cost of books in 2021 left me floored.

According to the SLJ, the average Adult Hardcover in 2021 is projected at $27.45 for fiction and $28.49 for non-fiction. Trade paperbacks are going to run you about $21.04 for non-fiction and $17.89 for fiction. 

Young Adult books cost slightly less at approximately $19.13 for a hardcover fiction copy and $21.15 for non-fiction. This genre’s trade paperback are slightly less than adults, though, at roughly $12.66 for fiction and $17.25 for non-fiction.

And all this is before the discounts hit and you find that sweet coupon code or worn copy in your charity shop.

If you’re an e-reader, you’re going to have to factor in the cost of internet services and a compatible electronic device to hold your e-books.

In short, for some people who lack access to a public library and are short on funds, reading requires a lot of hidden costs to feed their reading habits.

While reading is a type of self-care, I never forget that it’s a privilege that not everyone has at their disposal. 

I’m blessed to have access, but I know the average cost for a reader adds up real quick.

So, I never take my love of this hobby for granted.

Sunday Vibes Banner

Enjoy your week, bookish peeps!

Let me know what you think is the driving force behind your reading hobby.

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim, We Are Inevitable by Gayle Forman, & Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean #BookReview #WWW Wednesday

Thank you to Random House Audio and Penguin Teen for the e-galley and ALC of We Are Inevitable by Gayle Forman and Random House Audio for the ALC of Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim.

Thank you to Tor Books for an e-galley of She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chen.

We made it to the halfway point, bookish peeps! Give yourself a round of applause!

I hope you’re all having a good week! I’m here with my weekly check-in for WWW Wednesday.

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words and ask readers to answer the following questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What did you read last?

This week has been a slow reading week for me. I finished Stardust by Neil Gaiman and will have a book review and movie review up soon.

I also got the chance to read Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim, We Are Inevitable by Gayle Forman, and Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean.

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

As a lover of mythology and fairytales, Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim was a book I enjoyed. Playing off East Asian folklore and The Six Swans by the Grimm Brothers, Lim’s story feels familiar and deliciously fresh at the same time.

In this novel, readers are introduced to Shiori’anma, or Shiori for short, the only princess of Kiata, as she tries to hide her forbidden magic from her family and stave off an unwanted marriage to a rival nation’s prince. Things do not go according to plan, and Shiori finds herself cursed and banished from her kingdom by her evil stepmother, Raikama, along with her six older brothers who Raikama turns into cranes.  Cursed to hide her face and not speak of the Raikama’s curse less one of her brothers dies as punishment, Shiori finds herself finding solace and help from the last place she ever wanted to be.

Cover of Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

Illustration by Tran Nguyen | Cover Design by Alison Impey
Lettering by Alix Northrup

Lim’s novel had all the magic of a Disney Princess film mixed with the danger of your classic fairytale, and I loved every second of it.

Shiori is a princess who is comfortable using her wits to solve her problems once the comforts of being a “princess” is stripped from her. This is important because Shiori’s brothers are stuck in crane form doing the day and are basically rendered useless in helping her break the curse. So, Shiori is left to do the heavy lifting for much of the story.

What I love most about this book is that Lim does an excellent job of building Shiori’s character up from a naïve girl who only wishes to shirk a marriage to a young woman who is willing to risk life and limb to rescue her family. The author also paces her story to the point where it really does feel as if I’m watching the sequence of events play out in long form as Shiori and her brothers become separated, travel to new lands together and apart, and ultimately have their fates decided based on what they are willing to risk for one another.

My one gripe with this book is that the reveal for the villain felt as if it was being drawn out for too long. Lim did manage to surprise me in who was behind the shenanigans. However, it felt like she hid it within a set of nesting dolls, and by the time it was revealed, I was feeling pretty “meh” about that particular plot point.

If you love this book, I’d suggest reading Stepsister and Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelley. Both these books offer a similar approach to breaking down fairytale as folklore as Lim does in Six Crimson Cranes and will be enjoyed by adults and children alike.

We Are Inevitable by Gayle Forman

My next read bought me careening back into the real world. 

In her newest book, We Are Inevitable, Gayle Forman presents us with the story of Aaron Stein, a curmudgeon teenage bookseller who is trying to offload his sinking family’s bookstore. Plagued by crippling debt, Aaron is convinced that selling is his only option to help his family move on with their lives after the death of his brother, Sandy, who was addicted to drugs. The only issue is the townsfolk won’t let him and the bookstore move on in peace.

Cover of We Are Inevitable by Gayle Forman

Where We Are Inevitable most shines is Forman’s use of dialogue and banter. As a lover of the Gilmore Girls tv show, I love when an author has their characters consistently keep a conversation going about the mundane while also revealing character development and making me laugh. The delivery of the characters’ banter in especially well done in audiobook form, thanks to Sunil Malhotra, the audio narrator. Malhotra nails all the accents and does a wonderful job making sure listeners can differentiate between who is speaking.

I also appreciated that Forman was inclusive in her cast of characters and included individuals who were differently-abled and living with addiction. When speaking about these two topics, Forman handled each character she battled these issues with care. Never did these storylines feel preachy or overwritten. Instead, they seamlessly fit into the story Forman set out to tell in We Are Inevitable.

The downside of this book, though, is if you are a person who struggles with addiction, has lost anyone to drug overdoses, or find either of these topics to be too sensitive, We Are Inevitable may not be the book for you.

Due to this, I highly suggest reading Forman’s novel at your own pace.

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

Finally, I recently read one of my favorite Young Adult romances of the year – Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean.

Cover of Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

If you’re like me and were an avid Princess Diaries reader, you’re going to la-ove Jean’s series.

Like the renowned series by Meg Cabot, the first book in Jean’s series follows Izumi Tanaka, a normal California teenager, as she finds out that she is the daughter of the Crown Prince of Japan. Raised by a single mother and believing herself to be hopelessly “average,” Izumi flounders as she finds herself learning that she is a long-lost princess and entering into a forbidden romance.

Jean’s book tackles issues like the class divide, not feeling “Asian” or “American” enough, and the mental strain of experiencing microaggressions and racism growing up. 

Like Mia Thermopolis in the 00s, Izumi is a character that feels authentic to Gen Z. Her reliance on technology, the way she speaks to her friends, and attempts to fit in with her Japanese family by Googling helpful “tips” to blend into her royal life, and approach to this new lifestyle was very on the nose for how I expected a teenager to act when finding out they’re royalty. In addition to this, Jean also makes Izumi relatable to readers of all ages in her simple desire to be accepted by her father.

Needless to say, I’m eagerly awaiting the next book in Jean’s series.

What are you currently reading?

Cover of She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chen

I am still reading The Age of Phyllis for the #SealeyChallenge and The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, both of which are by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. 

Jeffers’ novel, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, will be out next Tuesday, August 24. Don’t forget to pre-order your copy!

I’m also trying to finish She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chen. This epic is described as “Mulan meets The Song of Achilles.” So far, I’m having a tough time getting into this book. Mulan is one of my favorite stories. However, the repetitive usage of the theme of “nothingness” when referencing the main character, Zhu, who is the forgotten daughter of her family, is repetitive and causing me to want to find the cliff notes for the story.

If I finish Parker-Chen’s novel, I will report back with my thoughts by doing at least a miniature review in a future WWW Wednesday post. 

What will you read next?

As a mood reader, I can’t honestly tell you what I Mini #BookReviewsam going to read next since I just like to pick up a book and start reading.

If you all have any recommendations, I’m all ears!

Drop your current reads down below in the comments.

And if you can, Like, Comment, and Subscribe. #AllTheThings

The Nightjar Series by Deborah Hewitt #BookReview

Thank you to Tor Books for the e-galley of The Rookery.

The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt book cover

As a child of the 90s, I have been swearing my literary allegiance to Harry Potter for years. Because of this, I have spent a reasonable amount of time chasing the high that reading each of J.K. Rowling’s books gave me when it comes to dark academia and fantasy novels set in Europe. Deborah Hewitt’s Nightjar series has to be the first time in a long while that I’ve gotten really close to that feeling.

Set in between alternate versions of London, Hewitt’s series follows Alice Wyndham, who is plagued by a life-long hallucination of birds. Made to believe that these manifestations are simply her mind’s way of coping with past trauma, Alice tries extra hard to focus on being “normal.” 

Unfortunately for her, this plan falls to pieces when her best friend is involved in a hit-and-run accident. On this day, Crowley, a mysterious visitor from another London better known as The Rookery, shows up to tell Alice that she is an aviarist and in danger.

Photo of Deborah Hewitt
Author, Deborah Hewitt

As an aviarist, Alice’s ability to see someone’s nightjar means that she can identify the person’s “soul” and can pull their secrets from that person’s soul bird at will. This aspect of magical lore is carefully crafted to allow Alice to pull secrets from those around her right when the plot is stalling a bit, and it seems the author is hitting a wall. However, it also helps in giving the world-building of The Rookery a touch of uniqueness that makes Hewitt’s story stand out. The story begins when Alice sets out to find her best friend’s nightjar

The cool thing about The Nightjar series is that it not only uses magic in a way that I’ve never seen before, but it also creates a cozy atmosphere in its alternate setting of The Rookery and its cast of characters. For example, the slow burn romance that percolates between Alice and Crowley is believable and naturally written. Character interactions like this meant that even when nothing happened in Hewitt’s duology, I was engrossed in the characters’ lives and the world Hewitt built.

This ability to be content and at ease in a series that’s full of murder, backstabbing, and mystery can only be chalked up to Hewitt’s ability to tell a well-crafted story. Hewitt goes full out in her plot of murdering cults, long lost children of “purebred” magical bloodlines, and the quest to outrun death. 

The Rookery by Deborah Hewitt book cover

The only problem is that The Rookery, which is the series finale, leaves so many things unfinished. Where I loved the quirkiness of Alice and her “found family” in The Nightjar, the one-liners and banter between her and her friends and side adventures the gang of friends went on in the sequel felt as if it was a plot device by Hewitt to keep readers from noticing that loose ends weren’t being tied up as neatly as they should be. 

In fact, whole plot points get thrown to the wayside in The Rookery. At certain points in the second novel, it almost felt as if Hewitt purposely left out chunks of backstory that were needed to tie her story up. This lack of closure breaks my heart since The Nightjar was a solid opener.

I do want to give major props to Hewitt for her originality, though. For once, I felt that the red herring an author throughout about who was the bad guy in a series was actually good enough that I was flabbergasted when the reveal came out. This is saying something since after years of reading fantasy books, being thrown off by a book or surprised by an original concept is something I have deeply been craving. Because of this, I tip my hat off to Hewitt and would highly recommend this series to others.

Yellow & white "WHAT TO READ NEXT" banner with @introvertinterrupted logo on left handside

If you have read The Nightjar duology before and are looking for another original fantasy series, I’d recommend the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty.

Like Hewitt, Chakraborty tells the story of a young woman, Nahri, who has her life shaken by the realization that she has magical powers and is a part of another world other than the one she grew up in. The only thing is that the Daevabad Trilogy takes place in a desert setting in the Middle East instead of Europe.

Chakraborty tells her story from three points of view following the main characters Dara, Nahri, and Ali. Dara is a disgraced warrior who has been enslaved for years and ends up trying to right the wrongs of his past throughout the series. Nahri is a con-woman and a healer from Cairo who longs for a family and connection to her past, which she’s forgotten. And Prince Alizayd, who is my favorite character, is the youngest prince of the tyrant King Ghassan of Daevabad.

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Throughout her series, Chakraborty did a fantastic job crafting a world with complex characters and a fascinating magic system. Each of her characters felt like a person you would want to know in real life. And, the overall atmosphere of political intrigue, action-packed scenes, and magical world-building makes it obvious why Netflix has ordered a series based on the Daevabad books.

If you’re a fan of slow-burn reads, the first book, The City of Brass, will draw you in. If you’re like me and prefer up-tempo books, you’re going to really hit your reading stride with the second novel, The Kingdom Of Copper, where Chakraborty starts to lay the foundation for an awesome conclusion in The Empire Of Gold.

Have you all read Hewitt or Chakraborty’s books?

Anna & The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins Book Review

I gave this book 4 stars.

After reading Lola & The Boy Next Door, I was a little skeptical about the hype surrounding Stephanie Perkins’ novels. However, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised in reading Anna & The French Kiss.

Anna is a rising senior from Atlanta, Georgia who’s father sends her off to spend her last year in high school at the American School of Paris. Crazy as it sounds, Anna is UPSET that her father would do something as wonderful as give her an all expensive paid YEAR in Paris! So grudgingly, she enters her final year of high school in a distant land where she doesn’t speak the language. However, once Anna is there, she meets a group of amazing friends and starts off a year full of new beginnings. There’s just one problem….she ends up falling for a boy who is already taken.

While Anna’s’ character is somewhat cliche, her storyline isn’t overly unbearable. Perkins adds depth to the storyline by pairing Anna’s trials and tribulations with different viewings of cinema or books that the character studies in school or goes to see in her free time. I really enjoyed this maneuver by Perkins because unlike in Lola’s story, Anna’s dream of becoming a film critic are acted on subtly instead of drastically. This allowed me to not feel overpowered by the extraness of Anna’s character. The interweaving of movie knowledge within Anna’s story also gave me something to draw comparison’s to in Anna and St. Clair’s (i.e., her French crush) encounters.

In addition to this, I enjoyed the fact that Perkins’ novel was set in the romantic atmosphere of Paris, but she didn’t try to beat readers over the head with too much romance too quick. She spoonfeeds her readers Anna and St. Clair’s story in a way that isn’t tedious or too overbearing. ***SPOILER*** Yet, I was a little peeved that one of Anna and St. Clair’s other friends was hurt in the process of the two becoming a couple. I would’ve preferred if Perkins didn’t insert an extra girl for Anna to have to compete with within her own circle of friends to date St. Clair. This just seemed extra brutal in terms of the standard rules of friendship do’s and dont’s.***SPOILER***

This being said, while this book isn’t fully original in plot or theme, I did truly enjoy it. I would definitely reread and recommend this book to others. I’m seriously really looking forward to Isla & The Happy Ever After to come out in September after reading this novel.

If you’re a lover of Netflix’s Emily of Paris tv series, you’ll love Perkins’ novel!

This book was finished on April 13, 2013.

Unhauling Books: Letting Go of The Reader I Used To Be

"Sunday Chat" in Black rectangle with "Unhauling Books: Letting Go of The Reader I Used To Be" larger white rectangle 

All of the text is set against a boarder of book stacks.

Happy Sunday, bookish peeps! I hope you’ve been enjoying your weekend!

I’ve spent the last week rearranging my shelves and ended up unhauling over 153 books from my personal collection. While this was a small portion of my books, it got me thinking about how we as readers are constantly in this frame of mind where we feel like literary Pokémon trainers in our quest to buy and read all the books.

As an avid reader who shares a living space with others, my desire to read often outweighs my ability to acquire as many books as I would like. Not to mention, the constraints on my free time to read are limited when it comes to working and completing assignments for my grad school courses.

These two things end up leaving me in a bind.

According to Alexis C. Madrigal in an article for The Atlantic, as of 2010, Google calculated that there were approximately 129,864,880 books in the world. Likewise, based on a study the Pew Research Center did about the reading lives of Americans and a follow-up calculation from the Literary Hub website, I came to the conclusion that I, as a voracious reading 30-year-old woman, am only likely to read about 4,480 more books in this lifetime.

Meme:

"how many books are there in the world = 129,864,880" (man stares with tears in his eyes)

"how many books can you read in a lifetime" =4600 (man closes eyes and cries even harder)

Via: @FeministPress
Me realizing the number of books I can read in a lifetime

To see my reading life laid out in such bare terms, it finally clicked why so many people refuse to waste time on books that don’t excite them.

Taking all this into consideration, I finally decided to let go of books I always knew deep down in my heart that I was never going to read again. And from my collection of about 1500 books, I culled the teenage fiction, new adult, and non-fiction books that “didn’t spark joy” for me anymore.

What I found most interesting about the books I unhauled was that the majority of these books were from those early days of BookTube and high school. 

In 2010, when BookTube became popular, I would often buy books that were trending in the bookosphere with the intention of reading the books and just never get to them. This meant that when it came time to unhaul books from this era, I had a bunch of books that made me think of specific content creators I hadn’t watched in a while because they’d left YouTube (shout out to Tiffany from @Fat Shopaholic who put me onto Kiese Laymon’s books before they became a cultural staple) or from creators I just outgrew as I got older. Specific books that I found myself unhauling in this category were John Green books, dystopian YA fiction, and a lot of women’s fiction.

On the other hand, my unhauled books from my high school years mainly consisted of books from authors I no longer vibed with or just had outgrown (do you sense a theme?). This was interesting to see because, as a teen, I read an author’s entire backlist before moving onto the next author. So, when I got to unhauling books from this phase of my life, I noticed how much my taste had changed. Where I used to love a bubblegum YA romance or mystery book, I now find myself being much more selective in what I read.

While it was hard to let go of so many books, I couldn’t help but feel giddy at refocusing my mind to start enjoying more books that interest me on my TBR.

Drop down in the comments and tell me if you’ve unhauled any books lately or just how your reading taste have changed over the years?

Don’t forget to check out last week’s Sunday Chat on taking a break from social media when you get a chance and to like, comment, and subscribe!

Happy Reading! 

Sunday Vibes: “Fool For You” (Cee Lo Green cover) by Alice Smith & Dignity (ft. Yemi Alade) by Angelique Kidjo

Un-American by Hafizah Geter #BookReview #TheSealeyChallenge

#TheSealeyChallenge: Un-American by Hafizah Geter 

Created by @IntrovertInterrupted

What is #TheSealeyChallenge?

August marks the start of the #SealeyChallenge, a month-long reading challenge where participants set a goal to read 31 poetry books or chapbooks. And for once, I remembered that the challenge started on August 1st!

Named after Nicole Sealey, a renowned poet and educator, the challenge started in 2017. Sealey began the challenge after becoming the executive director at Cave Canem and realizing she wasn’t reading as much as she liked. She ended up sparking a movement when she put out a call on social media to her fellow poetry lovers to join her in her personal challenge to read more poetry.

Poet and Educator, Nicole Sealey
Poet and Educator, Nicole Sealey

After four years, the Sealey Challenge has been transformed into “a movement of poetry lovers reading a book a day and sharing their reads with the cyber world.” This has led to readers forming lasting bonds through their love of poetry.

My Goals for The Sealey Challenge

To keep things simple for myself, I set out a goal to read a minimum of four poetry books (or a book a week) in August to complete the Sealey Challenge just to factor in time constraints and it being my first experience with the challenge.

My first read for the challenge is Un-American by Hafizah Geter.

Published in 2020, Un-American is an attempt by Geter to make sense of the personal tragedy she and her family suffered when her mother died of a stroke when the poet was nineteen. The collection was nominated for a 2021 NAACP Image Award, long-listed for the 2021 PEN Open Book Award, and received a Starred Review from Publisher’s Weekly.

In an article on Poets & Writers’ websites, Geter states that she used Un-American as a means to “make [her] and [her] family’s wounds metaphorical because up until then, they had been so physical, so palpably devastating” for them. The collection also served as a way for Geter to connect to her Nigerian homeland after losing her mother and to better understand her father, a Black man who grew up in Alabama and Ohio “in a country that doesn’t much care for Black boys and men.”

Un-American by Hafizah Geter book cover
The cover image is a painting by Geter’s father, Tyrone Geter, who did a painting of Geter’s mother when she was pregnant with her older sister

Introduction to Hafizah Geter and Section One of Un-American 

For me, reading Un-American felt cathartic. 

Geter writes about her personal experiences from the vantage point of a casual observer. Using pithy lines to create charged scenes, she invites readers into her memory while shrugging off any notions of being overly sentimental about what she’s referencing even when it is painful to recall. 

Take the closing lines of the poem, “The Break In,” for example:

Tonight the distance between me, my mother, and Nigeria
is like a jaw splashed against a wall.
I close my eyes and see my father
sulking like a pile of ashes,
his hair jet black and kinky,
his silence entering a thousand rooms.
Then outside, trimming hedges as if home
were a land just beyond the meadow,
the leaves suddenly back.
When I close my eyes
I see my mother, mean for the rest of the day,
rawing my back in the tub
like she’s still doing dishes.

Here, Geter relays the story of having her house broken into. Flitting between the perspectives of her mother, father, and self, Geter sifts through their collective memory to present a cohesive picture of the traumatic event. 

Listing each person’s emotions in the poem’s lines, Geter masterfully uses snapshots to show her readers how her interpretation of events is filtered through her parents. But, what’s more, Geter tells her story through an antiseptic lens, as if she is one step removed from the story she is relaying.

While personal, Un-American also draws on the complex history of America and interrogates what it means to be “American” while simultaneously being labeled as “other.”  

With the collection’s first poem, “The Pledge,” Geter speaks of the division between her mother and father and shows the difference in her understanding of being American in contrast to her parents’ knowledge of this identity. Geter builds on this theme in the second section of Un-American

In this section, she weaves together her parents’ story and sets the foundation of their life story up against tributes to Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner in her four “Testimony” poems. 

The poet, Hafizah Geter.
(Nigeria/USA), New York, New York, February 7, 2020.  Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan
The poet, Hafizah Geter (Nigeria/USA), New York, New York, February 7, 2020. Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan

Second Section of Un-American

With the second section, Geter takes an interrogative stance drawing on the political and cultural perspectives of being Black in America and gives voice to the layered experience of being Black and American. 

In this section, if a reader is too focused on only seeing Bland, Rice, Brown, and Garner as martyrs or civil rights figures, they’ll miss the way Geter uses each of the “Testimony” poems as transitions and layers her parents’ story over each poem to make sense of her own life story.

Geter shows intimacy mixed with tragedy to develop her family’s story in the reader’s mind’s eye and connect it into the tapestry of American heritage. This approach is fitting since the poet consistently shifts her focus from using a macro lens to tell a story of being an “American” to a microlens when she tells pieces of each member of her family’s story. 

For instance, she mentions Sandra Bland’s death in Wallace County, Texas in the first “Testimony” poem focusing her pen on showing a wider angle of brutality against Blacks in America:

As if the humiliation can never be done,
there were typos in your autopsy report.
The words:no signs of struggle.I thought, my body is your body,

is a temple on fire, is a blinded mask,
is a jail cell, is light as a paper bag,
is the sound my father makes
when, after so many years, he says my mother’s name.

And then Geter swiftly switches focus to tell her father’s story in “Alabama Parable,” giving readers a close up look at her own heritage:

My father looks down the barrel

of a shotgun house,

sees in my grandmother

hurt like prayer

is a kneeling position,

sees that fearing

the wrath of God can make you

name any angry man, King.

Finally, the poet fills in the narrative again and connects her father’s story to the larger story of Eric Garner in “Testimony (for Eric Garner)” using contemporary persona poetry and using the symbolism of kings and a blue-collar upbringing:

This love is blue-

collar work, this exile,

heritage. I don’t regret

the kings and queens I’ve made,

though police keep fucking

up. Keep kicking

down the door

inside me. Master’s tools steady

trying to burn our cribs down.

my children search mirrors

For suspicious activity. Marker 4:40.

the hourglass imitates

me. Judge, the wolves,

they multiply.

This second section also holds my favorite poem, from Un-American, which is “The Leaving,” 

Of all Geter’s collection, if I could get you all to read any poem, it would be “The Leaving.” 

As a lover of Warsan Shire’s poetry, I immediately gravitated toward this poem’s imagery of immigrants transitioning between space and place.

A Nigerian proverb

that when you lose your bridge,

climb down the mountain.

Instead, my mother grabbed

the Atlantic. Enough for a path

to carry daughters. 

“The Leaving” is where Geter’s work shines as it draws together the intricate familial mythology she writes about throughout Un-American. In this poem, Geter folds all her themes into a neat bow showing how difficult it is to be Black and immigrant and woman in America. 

This poem also touches upon the prevalent theme of mother-daughter relationships and being a family of mixed citizenship status. Drawing on her own experiences, Geter tackles the inherent harm that Black people face to their personhood through state-sanctioned violence alongside the everyday occurrence of being alive in America.

Section Three of Un-American

The third and final section of Un-American is about going through the motions of healing after tragedy strikes and returning home to your country of origin once you’ve set up roots elsewhere.

Where section one sets up the themes of Un-American and introduces readers to Geter’s family, and section two positions the family’s story into the wider frame of the American narrative, Geter turns her focuses inward for section three while connecting her family’s story to Nigeria. 

In this third section, she moves on from talking about state-sanctioned violence against all Black bodies in America to switch gears to the violence these bodies experience in Nigeria. Here, Geter writes about trying to build up her identity as a Nigerian American finding herself in-between the respective cultures of her parents. 

Poems like “Out of Africa” and “Three-Hundred Girls” track Geter and her sister’s journey back across the Atlantic to connect to their Nigerian heritage. Lines from “Out of Africa,” such as:

Something in my sister knows

it is easier in China than America to give her children 

uncolonized language, easier to raise black boys to be men

Who never forget duty or home.

Or, lines like the following from “Three-Hundred Girls” draw the reader’s attention to how Geter and her sister must go outside the U.S. to gain access to that security and proximity to power that alludes to them in their father’s country of origin. 

We eat fufu, efo, and egusi soup.

My sister, bowl after of jollof rice.

Like a woman no longer living

outside the language of her happiness

Yet, even in this moment of security that Geter and her sister enjoy for this brief sojourn in Nigeria, the poet intersperses violence into the sisters stay in “Three-Hundred Girls” juxtaposes the safety the sisters feel against the kidnapping and subsequent violence the Nigerian girls from the Zamfara school face:

Fourteen Hauwas, like me,

she says, as though I’ve forgotten

mothers in Chibok are still

weeping on the floors of classrooms

burned into burial grounds.

My Nigerian passport

expires.

Using “harm” as a constant theme in Un-American is understandable since being Black across the Diaspora carries with it a specific brand of harm that the average Black person knows intimately. However, it is often harder to understand when the danger comes from within our own bodies instead of from an external source.

In section three, along with the images of her and her sister reconnecting with their Nigerian roots, Geter conjures up images of the diseases that ravaged her parents. To me, this depiction of illness, besides self-discover, illustrates the cyclical nature of existence Blacks around the world are forced to live within when facing state-sanctioned violence and balancing just trying to exist peacefully.

For example, poems in section three oscillate between global depictions of violence, Geter remembering her mother, and the poet attempting to care for her ailing father while grieving and crafting her own multi-hyphenated identity.

This raw depiction of emotions in these snapshots of her poetry is what made in Un-American a cathartic read for me. While her writing is terse and to the point, the images she crafts with her poetry are full of life and well-honed to hit readers right in the feels.

At its core, Un-American is an introspective look at Geter’s family. However, the collection also asks readers to consider who gets to be a part of the American story while calling us to bear witness to the trauma and pain that comes with being labeled as the “other.” 

All that being said, Un-American is a poetry collection I would highly recommend.

Are you all participating in #TheSealeyChallenge?

Thank you to Wesleyan University Press for the gifted copy! All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Perks of Taking a Social Media Break

Sunday Chat: The Perks of Taking a Break

@IntrovertInterrupted

Between 2019 and 2020, the Statista Research Department found that the average social media user spends approximately 145 minutes per day online scrolling on social apps. In the U.S., citizens’ online time clocks in at about 2 hours and 6 minutes per day.

As a person who came of age when the Internet was just taking off in the 90s, I can’t help but think about how drastically my world has changed as the Internet became more accessible.

Growing up, “computer time” was a “sacred” thing regulated to my middle school computer or the precious amount of minutes that came from hoarding those trial CDs from AOL’s dial-up in the 90s. For me, this meant Internet time was spent trying not to die of dysentery on the Oregon Trails and fighting to keep my Neopets alive or catching up with the boys from B2K in the 90s.

After the time ran down on the AOL free trials and my computer class ended, I put away my virtual ambition and penchant for celebrity gossip and went about my life. But, with the Internet being a 24 hour/365-day thing, it’s hard to disconnect time from virtual reality and recognize when it’s time for a break.

Snapshots from my Break collage:

-Photos from sitting by the Gulf of Mexico (palm trees by the water & a sunset with water in the distance)
-a sun hat with "do not disturb" embroidered with book laid vertical & sunglasses
-a white flower overlaid
-cup of tea & "We Are Inevitable" by Gayle Forman laid on top wood table
-Two album covers: "Pink Noise" by Laura Mvula & "Frontiers" by Journey

This past month, with the exception of live-tweeting the Olympic Games, I haven’t felt the motivation to be active on social media like I once was. And this is saying something since, according to my phone log, I average roughly 9.3 hours a day (way above the average American I know) of screen time thanks to my job and being a micro social media “influencer” in the book-o-sphere.

Having this time to sit and reflect has been nice.

For instance, I recently hit my Goodreads Challenge goal and have been enjoying my Summer Break by resting and sitting by the Gulf of Mexico with my Mom and brother or lazing away time in our family’s sunroom. Getting this moment to disconnect and realize that there’s more to life than your subscriber and like count has helped put things in perspective for me.

Sunday Vibes: “Be Good to Yourself” by Journey & “Safe Passage” by Laura Mvula

Drop down below in the comments and let me know what’s up with you, bookish peeps!