WWW Wednesday – The One Where I Had Homework To Do

Thank you to Book Sparks and LibroFM for my ARC and ALC of Mona At Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James and PRH Audio for my ALC of Portrait of A Scotsman.

Greetings, bookworms! We made it to Wednesday, which means it’s time for my weekly check-in for what I’ve been reading on this wonderful 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?

This week’s wrap-up is going to be shorter than my other ones since I’m supposed to be prepping for a presentation in one of my MLIS courses. 

*Fingers crossed 🤞🏿 I do well!*

What did you read last?

Mona At Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James

I’m still working through my books from last week. But, by the time you read this, I’ll have finished the last forty minutes of the audiobook from Mona At Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James.

Mona At Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James book cover

If you’re not familiar with this title, check out last week’s #BookishMeme post to hear more about it and other books I received as a Book Sparks Ambassador, or you can click the photo to your left.

So far, I’m enjoying Mona At Sea. I would recommend it for anyone who loves a “coming of age” story and characters who have just enough snark in them to keep you laughing and rethinking how you see the world. Fair warning, though, there are mentions of self-harm and body dysmorphia that can be triggering to some readers if they go into the book unaware.

What are you currently reading?

While I’m super close to finishing Mona At Sea, I’m still trying to stave off residual “slump” feelings. So, all my decisions about reading are still preliminary at best.

I’ve been jumping in and out of Portrait of A Scotsman by Evie Dunmore, and I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest, and my favorite doorstopper, The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

However, TJ Klune’s newest book, Under the Whispering Door, just came out, and I’ve been excited to read it all summer. The House in the Cerulean Sea has been one of my favorite books since last year. You can read my review of it here.

What will you read next?

At this point, I’m at the mercy of my reading slump to decide what I’ll read next. 

If you have any good recommendations, I’d love to hear about them since my TBR List is forever growing! 

Drop them in the comment section below and tell me what you’re currently reading!

If you enjoyed this post, I’d love it if you like, comment, and subscribe. #AllOfTheThings

Happy reading!

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

The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch & The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner (#BookReview #WWWWednesday)

Happy Hump Day, bookworms! We made it to the halfway point of the week, which means it’s time for my weekly check-in for what I’ve been reading with a WWW Wednesday.

Today is special because it’s the start of Hispanic Heritage Month. So, shoutout to all my Latinx friends on the Bookternet!

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?

For the last few weeks, I’ve been in a miniature reading slump. I’ve started tons of books. But, haven’t had the desire to actually finish any of them. 

Because of that, I’m going to be talking about some older books I finished for what I read “last” and will share a few in my bookish queue for the ones I plan to read “next.”

What did you read last?

The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch is the first book I was able to finish from my slump.

I raved about Aaronovitch’s series two weeks ago in my last WWW Wednesday and have since purchased almost all of the books in the series secondhand.

My top requirement for fantasy novels is that they must have a top-notch cast of characters with loads of personality and a well thought out magical system/world-building. These things make it easier to sit through the chunkers that dominate this genre.

Aaronovitch’s series delivers on all fronts! 

From the setting of London to the characters, the author holds no punches (literally in the case of the villain) in this series opener. The book follows probationary constable Peter Grant, who meets the ghost, Mr. Punch, while staking out the scene of a mysteriously gruesome murder on a late-night assignment.

Up until then, Grant has lived an ordinary life up. So, getting thrust into the company of Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving “magic and other manifestations of the uncanny,” is a bit of a shock. What’s more, having dealings with gods and goddesses and the other creatures in Nightingale’s world keeps Grant on his toes.

There’s so much to love in Aaronovitch’s series.

Aaronovitch is one of the few white authors who seems to understand what it means to write characters of color in a way that gives them depth and brings them to life as human beings instead of to being caricatures. In Peter Grant, readers find an amateur detective who all most anyone can relate to if they’ve ever felt set adrift in life while everyone around them is succeeding.

The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Like most 20-something year old’s, Peter is trying to find his “thing.” Once a great science student, he has a knack for seeing the finer details in situations. Yet, he fails to grasp the bigger picture all too often, leaving him two steps behind the mass murderer who is terrorizing the citizens of London. This is the least of his worries because Father and Mama Thames are at war, and all hell is about to break lose if Grant can’t figure something out.

Even though The Rivers of London series takes place in modern-day London, the addition of magical beings and the supernatural adds a solid element of world-building to the mix. In this series opener, readers see Aaronovitch setting the stage using elements of world religions, such as the Yoruba’s Orishas and European Paganism, alongside magical spells that blend modern science with the uncanny. These all work well and make it the series’ setting believable that this “version” of London could exist counter to the world that readers may know.

In addition to excellent setting and character development, Aaronovitch’s series has really good dialogue and banter between the characters. This makes it a must for those who love audiobooks. Ghanaian-British actor, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who does a phenomenal job distinguishing each of the characters’ voices in The Rivers of London series.

If you’re a lover of Neil Gaiman or multi-layered books, read this book!

The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner

My second read is from my #Backlist TBR pile.

This book is called The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner.

The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner

While Zentner’s book has an extensive cast of characters and is rich in background lore about lobster fishing on a Canadian island, it falls short in every other department.

The drama of this novel is set around the Kings’ family, who live and fish for lobster on Loosewood Island. This story is through the eyes of Cordelia, the first female “lobster king” in her family, as she fights to be seen as the legitimate heir to her family’s empire. 

Zentner takes his cues from Shakespeare’s King Lear. However, he jumbles so much of the Bard’s original intention in his interpretation that I, as a reader, was left simultaneously under and overwhelmed.

For starters, the author has too many timelines happening at once

Cordelia, the main character of The Lobster Kings, bounces between being her present-day reality, her tumultuous childhood, a random side plot about an artist who lived on Loosewood Island in the past and who could’ve been one of her distant relatives, and a weird magical realist subplot about selkies. Cordelia’s character is monotonous in her narration. This means that even with things that might have been interesting, like the tortured artist and magical selkies subplots, it all becomes boring. 

Even extensive world-building doesn’t save Zentner’s book. Nor does the promise of feuding drug lords and Loosewood’s fishing community. 

At times, it feels like Zentner over seasoned The Lobster Kings by trying to be too literal with referencing his source material. 

Where Shakespeare understood how to meter out his gloomy and depressing story, Zetner leans too heavily into it and makes a mess. Topics, like death by suicide, death by drowning, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, substance abuse, infidelity, and animal violence, are rife in The Lobster Kings. It eventually got to a point where I found myself wondering what the point of any of this violence was. Furthermore, I wondered why Cordelia would even want to run the fishing empire when it seems to be mired in painful memories for her.

Needless to say, I didn’t love The Lobster Kings, and I can’t say I’d recommend this book at all.

What are you currently reading?

Portrait of A Scotsman by Evie Dunmore

I have a ton of current reads because of my reading slump. But, I’ve mainly been focusing on reading Portrait of A Scotsman by Evie Dunmore and I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest. Both books are from the romance genre, with one from the Regency era and the other being a contemporary romance.

Portrait of A Scotsman is the third in Dunmore’s A League of Extraordinary Women series. I’m currently taking a Women’s Studies course for my Master of Social Work degree, and we’ve gotten to the suffragette period in our module, so this read paired nicely with my lesson.

Dunmore’s book hinges on the “marriage of convenience” trope with two main characters from vastly different social standings who have paired together thanks to a breach in social etiquette. Hattie, a young artistic socialite with dyslexia, finds herself married off to the rich but scrappy Lucian as a tradeoff to help bolster her family’s wealth. Lucian, though rough around the edges, needs an “in” with polite society and settles on marriage to Hattie as a way to get revenge on the rich men who once terrorized his community in his youth. 

I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest

My favorite romance trope is the marriage of convenience novels, so I’m enjoying Portrait of A Scotsman so far.

I’m also enjoying the YA contemporary romance, I Wanna Be Where You Are. Similar to Dunmore’s book, the idea of “convenience” is present in this road trip-themed book. But, Forest also has elements of the “friend to lover” trope with her romance about Chloe, a teenage ballerina, and Eli, a budding artist, who are trying to beat the clock to get to North Carolina for an audition and college tour before they’re parents notice their gone.

Unfortunately, everything that could go wrong with these warring friends does go wrong. Nevertheless, Forest will keep you turning the page to find out what trouble her young pair and Eli’s dog, Geezer, get into.

What will you read next?

As a mood reader, I can’t say what I’ll read next.

Drop down below and tell me what you’re reading! 
And like, comment, and subscribe. #AllOfTheThings

Bookish peeps, I hope life and your TBR Lists treat you well as you finish out your week.

Happy reading!

The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey, The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, & The Rules of Arrangement by Anisha Bhatia  #WWWWednesday (Mini #BookReviews)

What I'm Reading This Week #WWWWednesday

Created by @IntrovertInterrupted

Happy Humpday, Readers!

I hope you’re all having a good week! 

I wanted to do a weekly check-in about my reading this week, so I’m coming to you with a WWW Wednesday post.

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

  • What did you read last?
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What will you read next?

What did you read last?

In addition to taking part in the #TheSealeyChallenge, I’ve been finishing books that I’ve had in my TBR queue for over a year now.

Two books I recently finished were The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey and The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. 

The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey

The Everything Box Kadrey’s book is the answer to anyone who is a fan of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and eagerly awaiting season 2 of the Amazon Prime series.  

The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey

Kadrey’s book follows a thief named Coop, who specializes in stealing magical items. Desperate for a quick payday, Coop agrees to help an old friend steal a mysterious box only to find himself smack dab in the middle of two doomsday cults, an exiled angel who’s been searching for the box for millennia since it’s his ticket back into heaven, and a shady government group called The Department of Peculiar Science or DOPS for short that oversees the magical world. Unfortunately for Coop, he has no choice but to fight all of them to get his big payday.

I started The Everything Box on Scribd last year and was loving the dry humor and shenanigans from the cast of characters. But, my subscription expired before I could finish it. Thanks to winning a year subscription from Lupita (@Lupita.Reads), I was able to finish, and boy was Kadrey’s book a hoot. 

From the high jinks to the backstabbing of each faction trying to one-up each other, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. Kadrey did a good job of making each of his characters stand out. And the voice actor, Oliver Wyman, was phenomenal in distinguishing each character from the other. This is especially important because while Coop is one of the main characters, Kadrey tells his story from seven other characters’ perspectives. So, having a voice actor that is good at accents and altering his voice for female and male characters was a nice touch.

My only problem with the book is it had one too many “backstabbing” plot twist near the end. And this made the ending feel like it was being dragged on forever and a day.

Nevertheless, if you love mysteries, dystopian novels, or comedic books, I’d highly recommend this book.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Goblin Emperor, on the other hand, is a book from my TBR that holds sentimental value for me. It was the first book I got to check out to a patron when I was a student librarian. Ever since then, I’ve been curious about Addison’s fantasy series.

This first book from the series follows Maia, the exiled half-goblin son of the deceased Emperor of the Elflands. As his father’s youngest and most hated son, Maia is completely clueless when he is called to take the throne in his murdered father and older brothers’ place. Learning on the go, Maia is made to face plots to kill him, an unwanted marriage proposal, and dodge those who see him as incompetent and wish to replace him as Emperor.

Like Kadrey, Addison does an excellent job creating a world of magic that sucks the reader in immediately (Maia literally learns his father has been killed on page 2) and doesn’t let go until the end of the 400-page epic. This was another audiobook read from Scribd, and the audiobook voice actor, Kyle McCarley, was another talented narrator who does voices well. This talent makes the epic fly by.

The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

Each book in Addison’s series is balanced between being “action-packed” and hinging on being “character-driven.” ThGoblin Emperor looks at how Maia reacts to his newfound power and explores the power dynamics he experiences as he becomes a part of his new world. If you’re a lover of books about court dramas and people in power, Addison’s book will be one you’ll love. I’d definitely recommend getting the audiobook and checking out the second book in the series, ThWitness for the Dead, which follows Thara Celehar, a reoccurring character in the series who helped Maia discover who killed his father in The Goblin Emperor.

ThRules of Arrangement by Anisha Bhatia

My final recent read was an Indian romance novel called ThRules of Arrangement by Anisha Bhatia that I found while browsing Goodreads. For anyone in need of a quick read that has various love pairings in it, Bhatia’s book is a must read.

The Rules of Arrangement by Anisha Bhatia

ThRules of Arrangement follows Zoya Sahni, a well-educated, career woman who’s hitting her “expiration date” for being of “marriageable age” in Mumbai. With her mother and Bua plotting together, Zoya is set up with a childhood friend, and from there, Bhatia explores the complex emotions that go into dating and finding your love match. With Zoya also being plus size and having a darker skin tone, Bhatia also tackles things like fatphobia, colorism, and the role of education in how women in Indian are “valued” as they come of age.

I will caution that for readers who are triggered by constant references to a character’s weight or the constant devaluing of women, you may not find this book to your liking. However, for readers who are willing to place Bhatia’s exploration of character into the context of the story, you will find joy in the plot and be able to understand the inter-monologue of Zoya as she fights to stand up for herself and choose her own destiny.

What are you currently reading?

The Age of Phillis by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers.

I’m currently focusing on my second Sealey Challenge read, The Age of Phillis by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. This poetry collection examines Phyllis Wheatley as a political, philosophical, and religious figure in American history. 

Jeffers’ work is one that I am finding a little harder to read than Hafizah Geter’s Un-American, which I read last week. So, I will to have to re-read it more than once and do a little background work to help put Jeffers’ poetry and Phyllis Wheatley’s life in perspective.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

I’m also reading Jeffers’ upcoming novel, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois. In this novel, Jeffers follows Ailey Pearl Garfield as she struggles to come to terms with her identity as a mixed-race woman of Indigenous, Black, and white heritage in the deep South. To uncover her family history, Ailey Pearl depends on the stories of women in her family throughout history to guide her.

Both these books were provided by the publishers (Wesleyan University Press and Harper) for free for honest reviews. So, I will have full reviews up soon. 

What will you read next?

I’m a big “mood reader,” so I can’t say for sure what I’ll be reading next. However, I’ve been on a Fantasy and YA genre binge. 

Drop down in the comments and tell me some of your favorite Fantasy or YA novels from your 2021 wrap-up!

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

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender #BookReview #UnpopularOpinion

Disclaimer: All opinions that follow in this review are my commentary on the fictional characters I name and not the social groups that the characters represent regarding gender identity or ethnic cultures

I checked Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender out from the library almost four times and tried to finish it to no avail and eventually ended up DNFing it at about 57% because through Felix’s actions and verbal and internal dialogue made this character out to be a horrible person as a friend and a son.

Cover of "Felix Ever After" by Kacen Callender
Cover of “Felix Ever After” by Kacen Callender

How Felix was able to idolize the parent who left while treating the one who stayed and sacrificed so completely for him was beyond me. This character treated his dad like crap and didn’t allow him the grace that Felix so readily demanded for himself, and that made me so angry at Felix since his dad was literally jumping through hoops trying to give him the most comfortable lifestyle (e.g., expensive tuition & hormone therapy) he could on a limited budget.

Unlike Felix’s mom, the dad stayed and was trying so hard to support Felix every step of the way. He made one mistake in mentioning Felix’s dead name through a Freudian slip, and Felix went off the deep end. Int hat moment, Felix didn’t offer his father the grace of trying to understand that just as he was questioning his new reality, his dad was also getting used to having a son who had transitioned. The dad even immediately apologized right after making a mistake, but Felix leaves the house and doesn’t until chapters later and the discussion is never really resolved.

Callender also does this thing where diversity appears to have been inserted into their novel to check boxes as opposed to adding depth to their story which causes the characters to be caricatures and only written at surface level.

For example, Felix’s best friend is a “Patel.” This allows him to make him generically rich, as is the stereotype in America for people with this last name (at least where I live). They add that the BFF is also generically pansexual and just “bonds with the soul” of his lover while being promiscuous. This promiscuity bleeds into the stereotype the author writes into the LGBTQ+ characters in their book. Here, Callender leans heavily into making most of the queer characters they write avid drug users and has them all swapping sexual partners within their friend group throughout the book. These tropes all feel very generic and lazy when executed in Felix Ever After because the author doesn’t examine any of these topics further in the narrative and just leaves it up to readers to chalk these tropes up to teenage angst.

Author, Kacen Callender
Author, Kacen Callender

My biggest issue, though, is nothing about Felix feels concrete ethnicity-wise. He’s supposed to be Latinx and African-American. Yet, the way he back talks and runs away constantly without his dad even trying to put boundaries on him or at the very least acknowledging the disrespect of the house rules feels unauthentic. I’ve yet to meet anyone in a Latinx or African-American household who’d ever be able to get away with this regardless of our class level. And while I admit my reality is not indicative of the Latinx or African-American experience in its totality, Felix’s character felt very surface level and as if it was built around racial tropes.

My major issue with Callender’s book, though, is Felix’s entitlement. Felix spends over 3/4 of Callender’s books feeling entitled to an art scholarship to Brown University over his peers when he RARELY goes to class and is never shown creating any art of quality. Yet, he constantly harps on others who are creating art and being praised by their teachers. 

And this is where this book started to fall apart for me. 

Felix has this thought process that only he is deserving of grace. He doesn’t extend it to his nemesis, who is a better artist than him, because he puts in the effort and time to work on his craft. He doesn’t extend it to his best friend who didn’t ask to be rich or get to choose his parents and the opportunities he’s been given. Nor does he extend grace to his father, who breaks his back to provide him with all the comforts, like hormone therapy and the ability to live as his true self without ridicule, that other transgendered teens would kill to have.

In spite of all this, Felix feels everyone should extend grace to him regardless of how foul he treats others.

My last straw with this book came when Felix decided to catfish his nemesis without proof and attempted to ruin the other boy’s life out of jealousy and spite. Even when his BFF pointed out that he had no obvious proof that his nemesis outed him, Felix doesn’t back down. Instead, he blames the nemesis for no other reason than his nemesis has been “mean” to him by pointing out the obvious fact that Felix is never working toward his goal of a Brown acceptance by creating any actual art. Why no one ever backs the nemesis up on this obvious point is beyond me.

I know many people will counter the above points by saying Felix is a teenager, and this book has meant so much to the Trans community. And I want to speak to the latter point, I understand how comforting this book is, and I take nothing away from that. However, no one should be allowed to be so selfish and emotionally violent toward others regardless of how marginalized their voices are. 

Felix is a toxic character that gets given unfathomable amounts of grace to wreak emotional havoc on his community because of his character’s background of trauma, which is not healthy in the least. 

I truly wanted to love this book as much as the hype, but Felix’s behavior left a bad taste in my mouth, so that I couldn’t recommend this book to anyone in good faith as a mental health advocate.

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Now, if you want a book that gets trans and Latinx representation correct, check out Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Cover of "Cemetery Boys" by Aidan Thomas
Cover of “Cemetery Boys” by Aidan Thomas

Thomas’ book follows Yadriel, a young wannabe brujo, as he attempts to complete a ritual to join his family and participate in the Brujeria traditions. Unfortunately, not everyone in his family accepts his decision or his identity as a transgender male. To prove everyone wrong, Yadriel attempts to complete his ritualistic rite of passage alone and inadvertently summons the ghost of Julian Diaz, his school’s resident bad boy.

Cemetery Boys gave me everything I wanted in a book! I especially loved that the trans representation was multifaceted and layered. The Latinx representation and aspects of Brujeria culture also had me hype. I was also happy to see that Thomas handled the “toxic” traits in his characters, like Yadriel’s family not accepting his trans identity with care. Moments where Thomas shows Yadriel’s family not accepting his identity felt nuanced and realistically on the family and Yadriel’s end, which was my biggest gripe with Callendar’s book.

Now, I will say that I guessed who the villain in Cemetery Boys was within the first 30 pages or so and their motivation for committing the killings. However, it didn’t take away from the story or the tension between the two main characters. 

Regardless, read this book now! 

Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury #BookReview

Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury is the type of book I’ve been waiting for for over 25 years.

This futuristic fantasy about a family of Black witches made my inner tween squeal with joy when I first heard about its publication. From the practice of calling on the ancestors to guide you as you come into your magic to being reliant on the connection with family, Sambury weaves together a tale that’s Blackity Black Black Black.

Book Cover for "Blood Like Magic" by Liselle Sambury
Book Cover for Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury

Blood Like Magic follows Voya Thomas, a newly “called” teenage witch, who is given the task to “destroy her first love” to secure her family’s magic for generations to come. This task comes from her ancestor, Mama Jova, a New Orleans witch who suffered the trauma of being enslaved and wants Voya to learn from the past.

Unfortunately, Voya has two problems: she is plagued with anxiety making it hard to make decisions, and she’s never been in love before. This immediately lets her know that her task will not be an easy one to complete. 

Interpreting “destroy” to mean “kill,” Voya decides to scout out a love match using a “genetic matchmaking” program from the futuristic tech company, NuGene. And this is where she finds a match in Luc, a NuGene intern that’s being sponsored to work by the CEO, Justin Tremblay.

And this is where Sambury’s story got good…

As a lover of magic-themed books, Blood Like Magic is one of the few Black fantasy novels that I’ve encountered that not only centers on the Black experience but also provides a complex magic system. This system exists in a world much like ours where real-world issues, such as violence against the Black community, the plight of Black girls who go missing, and gentrification take place. 

The way Voya’s family is written reminded me of growing up in a multi-generational household with my grandparents, parents, and siblings. Like Voya, this made me hyper-aware of being a part of a family unit and being in tune with everyone around me. To see this aspect of my family reflected in Blood Like Magic made my heart sing.

Author, Liselle Sambury
Author, Liselle Sambury

The author was also obviously careful in easing the reader into her dark fantasy by giving content warnings early on in the print description. This showed me that Sambury cared about her reader’s experience. This extended to the author being mindful of being fully inclusive in the future she dreams up. At various points in Blood Like Magic, readers are shown a positive representation of different types of bodies, sexualities, and ethnic groups all living together harmoniously. 

The only thing that really gave me pause in this novel was the idea that even in the future that Sambury has imagined, being Black is still seen as a threat. 

The violence that came with reading about Voya’s friend, Lauren, who we learn early on has gone missing, is something that frustrated me. Same with the feelings of mistrust that happen between the Black witch families who are marked as “pure” and don’t use violence to yield magic versus the “impure” families who do. In these moments of the narrative, I became frustrated. Even though Sambury does try to clear this up by the end of the novel, it gave me pause when juxtaposed against the solidarity shown for other racial groups in the novel who shun Black witches for their aforementioned violent natures and discord that happens in their community.

When these scenes came up, It made me think that if Black people can’t get along even in the future, what does this say about us?

Overall, though, listening to Blood Like Magic on audiobook was a great way to pass my weekend. Joniece Abbott-Pratt delivers Sambury’s words in a way that had me glued to my headphones.

This book is one I’d recommend for everyone. 

If you enjoyed this novel, I’d recommend reading Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper Cypher trilogy and watching the online show, Juju.

Book Cover for "Shadowshaper" by Daniel José Older
Book Cover for Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

Older’s series, like Sambury, pairs ancestral knowledge with urban life and Caribbean magic to create a masterpiece. Shadowshaper follows Sierra Santiago, a teenager from Bed-Stuy whose family safeguards magic that connects them to spirits via paintings, music, and stories. When disappearances start to happen in her neighborhood and her Abuelo falls ill, Sierra powers are unearthed. This power is tied to a supernatural order her Abuelo is a part of. The only thing is that the anthropologist, Dr. Jonathan Wick, is now after Sierra and her newfound power.

For anyone who’s a fan of audiobooks, grab Older’s series on this medium. Anika Noni Rose performs the series.

If you have access to YouTube or Amazon Prime, check out Juju, a “mystical, dark fantasy” that Jhé “Moon” Ferguson wrote. Following three best friends, Ferguson’s script is a mix between Charmed and Insecure.

Juju is about Ally, Gigi, and Yaya, three Black millennials tackling “Adulting” and being Black women in America. On Ally’s 28th birthday, the women learn that they are the descendant of Yoruba witches who must break a generational curse placed on them by a Salem witch. 

Author,  Daniel José Older
Author, Daniel José Older

Ally is played by Cydni Jenkins and is a descendant of women who practices Santería from Cuba. Her character speaks to anxiety-ridden Millennials who compare themselves to each other. 

Nedge Victome portrays Gigi. This character is a powerful voodoo priestess from Haiti and Louisiana bayou. She’s a seductress who’s not afraid to speak her peace while tearing down the patriarchy. 

Yaya is played by Cassandra Borgella and is the backbone of her friend group. Her character is a descendant of an Obeah woman in the Jamaican mountains. By nature, she is a giver and empathetic healer.

Juju web series trailer

This series showcases the many facets of being a Black woman across the Diaspora with each of the main characters. Featuring themes, like Black mysticism, Black ancestral magic, Black sisterhood, and Black culture, Feguson’S show is a masterpiece.