Black History Month

As we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and approach Black History Month, I wanted to curate a list of books focused on own voices books.

Though I am of the opinion that we should be reading as diversely as possible generally, considering that diversity is not a box we should be checking off for reading challenges.  I’d like to challenge all of you to step outside of your possible comfort zone and check out some of these amazing books that range in genre and message. I’d even suggest participating in the black-a-thon hosted by Jesse from the booktube channel Bowties & Books

Here are the details regarding the black-a-thon:

Black-a-thon will take place in February and is a celebration of black history, community, identity, and future. Join myself and my co-hosts as we read some fantastic own voices books with black protagonists!

Twitter Challenge: Movie watch along & IG/Twitter discussion on @Blackathon1 twitter DATES: FEBRUARY 7 @ 6PM CST: Coming to America (Comedy)
FEBRUARY 14 @ 6 PM CST What Men Want (Contemporary)
FEBRUARY 21 @ 6 PM CST Love and Basketball (Romance)
FEBRUARY 27TH @ 6 PM CST Black Panther (Celebration)

Twitter Blackout Dates. Black folks will post a selfie with hashtag #blackathon2020. YES mixed race/light skinned folks count! Feb 7th Feb 14 Feb 21 Feb 28th

Instagram Challenge: February 15 – 21nd
Day 1 – Mirror Image: Cover recreation or homage
Day 2 – Slept On: a book no one talks about
Day 3 – Call and Response: A Community Recommendation
Day 4 –
#BlackBoyJoy: A lighthearted comfort read
Day 5 –
#BlackGirlMagic: SFF with a black protagonist
Day 6 – POSE: Black LGBTQIA+ author or character
Day 7 – My Kitchen: Book covering black mental health or disability

Hashtag: #Blackathon2020 **MUST tag me in these IG posts (Lauren isn’t doing this challenge so just tag me)
If you post for all 7 days you can win our
#blackathon2020 giveaway!

Youtube Challenge:
TEAM SFF
Janelle Monae: LGBTQIA+ SFF book with black protagonist.
Nnedi Okorafor: A work of Afrofuturism centering a complex and advance society Feel free to use this Goodreads list for recs https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/…
David F Walker: A SFF comic/graphic novel by a black author with a black protagonist Dhonielle Clayton: A SFF book with a cunning and ambitious black protagonist

TEAM CONTEMPORARY/LITERATURE
Bassey Ikpi: A work exploring the intersection of mental health and/or disability in black folks
Marlon James: A work that isn’t set in the United States and does not center the black American narrative
Alexa Martin: A lighthearted work that doesn’t center “the struggle” (racism/poverty/drug use) and features powerful romantic or platonic bonds
Akwaeke Emezi: A work where a black protagonist challenges preconceived notions of blackness and what “black” means; a black revolutionary character

Blackathon Tag: (Same questions as the IG challenges)
Q1 – Mirror Image: Cover recreation or homage
Q2 – Slept On: a book no one talks about
Q3 – Call and Response: A Community Recommendation
Q4 – #BlackBoyJoy: A lighthearted comfort read
Q5 –
#BlackGirlMagic: SFF with a black protagonist
Q6 – POSE: Black LGBTQIA+ author or character
Q7 – My Kitchen: Book covering black mental health or disability

Afrocentric Books: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1k…
Afrofuturism Goodreads Shelf
https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/…
Googledoc of all the challenges:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/10…

 

Here’s a list of books I’ve enjoyed or would like to read this year!

-Stephanie

Teen Book Club

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The Teen Book Club (ages 12-18) will be held every first and third Tuesday of the month from 5:30-6:30PM in the teen area. Though we have a book club pick, it is not necessary to read the book to join these meetings. Each meeting consists of all types of conversations regarding books we have read, want to read, or are highly anticipating, as well as pop culture, television, movies, social topics, etc. There is no formal way to go about these book club meeting, we’re all just there to celebrate reading and books of all kinds. I hope to see you there!

–Stephanie

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

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Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead.

The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?

Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves

My Rating: ★★★★.5

Brief Review: The Bone Houses is the least of what you would expect and that’s probably for the best (unless you’re a big lover of post-apocalyptic-walking dead-type books). Simply put, I loved this book. From the very start, I didn’t want to stop reading. Emily has beautiful prose and witty banter and she can write a vivid fight scene (more important that one would imagine). Lastly, this book has so much heart, you’ll be invested in these characters until the very last page.

I went into this book with zero expectations, I didn’t even read much into what the book was about, just the overall gist and I came out of my reading experience with more than I could have ever asked for. While this is a book about zombies, it truly is so much more. This isn’t as spooky or scary as one would expect, but it touches on topics that are often scary for us to think about. Topics such as grief, loss, death, and acceptance, which is are topics I tend to lean toward in novels. There’s an emphasis on the idea of losing the ones we love and learning how to cope and go on with life, but also showcasing how we never truly move on from loss, we only move forward. Grief never ceases to exist as we continue to progress in life, it is a constant, but that doesn’t need to be seen as a negative and I think this story emphasizes this point well.

Another aspect of this story that I adored and never knew I wanted out of a book is the representation of chronic pain. One of the characters struggles through persistent chronic pain every day of their life and this isn’t something that goes unnoticed in the book if anything you feel their pain. Each time we are greeted with this character’s perspective they are struggling through day-to-day tasks that we take for granted. I appreciated this nuance.

Essentially, this book is magical folklore, and it is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

–Stephanie, Teen LTA

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

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Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.


Okay, I’ll be blunt, this was terrible, in the best way. I, by no means, love this book or deem it a work of literary art, but it was just what I needed and it was a page turner (and sometimes you just need a page turner).

Juliette’s past as well as the destruction of most of the world is shrouded in complete mystery, but don’t expect it to ever be cleared up (spoiler alert, it’s not). This is simply a paranormal romance disguised as a dystopian, which is probably why I was really confused by most of the plot.

Here’s the thing, Adam is annoying. I did not like him from the start, and I will not like him ever (haha). I only kept reading the series because Juliette’s supernatural power was so intriguing and I felt like there was more to Warner’s story. (And like any book merch I already knew a few things about where this book goes thanks to fan art, but in this case I’m not complaining… too much).

All I can tell you is to push through, it gets better.

3/5 stars!

–Stephanie, Teen LTA

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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Synopsis: Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

This week I finished Caraval by Stephanie Garber and when I first set out to write my review I considered my feelings about Caraval to be pretty middle of the road. I knew I didn’t like a lot of the plot holes or relationships, but I also didn’t hate the journey getting to the end, if anything it was pretty entertaining. But sitting down to write this, I realized I actually disliked a lot more of this book than I initially thought.

From the start of the story we are unceremoniously slapped in the face with an entire world/setting that is never set up nor explained in any way shape or form throughout the entire book. At points, we get snippets that there are different islands, colonies, territories, etc., but other than that we are never let in on how this world actually works. I don’t know what this world actually looks like, and I have no idea about the cultural dynamic. I am making the assumption that the world building was meant for Caraval itself, rather than the surrounding world. Even when we finally get to Caraval I felt as if we didn’t get the full grasp of how the magical system work or how the game functions. Even if the game changes with each new Caraval, this does not negate the fact that we should have some explanation as to how the rules of the game work, besides “not everything is as it seems, it is only a game.” Right, IT IS A GAME, HOW DO I PLAY LEGEND, HOW?

Once in Caraval, which was supposedly like this magical carnival, I found myself picturing a renaissance fair where people exchange secrets for information, goods, and services.There is so little magic and performances that I began to forget this place was magical. I suppose what gave me the renaissance vibe were the details about the inn/tavern called La Serpiente and the extravagant architecture, vendors, and stores. Honestly, it would have been pretty cool if it were a renaissance fair.

I felt that most, if not all characters felt flat and their motivations throughout the story were just not enough for me to appreciate their actions and the outcomes. To a degree, I almost appreciated Donatella’s motivation more than Scarlett, but we were only filled in on Donatella’s plans much later in the story—not to mention we barely know Donatella as a character. Since many of these characters were flat, it made it hard to care about much of what happened to any of them or to care about their feelings.

What was especially bothersome was the fact that this book was all about the sisterly bond, yet the sisterly bond is not really a healthy bond. If I am being completely honest, it seemed as if they couldn’t care less about one another, yet I am supposed to believe they have a strong enough bond that Scarlett will definitely win this game to save her? Scarlett is extremely judgmental of Tella’s actions and spends far more time thinking about her sister’s wrong doings than saving her.

Sorry, it is not all praise for Caraval, but it is still worth the read if you are looking for something quick and, for the most part, fun. I may move on with the second book to see if my feelings change or stay the same, so I’ll keep you guys updated!

2.5/5 stars!

–Stephanie, Teen LTA

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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I should preface this with; I do not often read contemporary teen romance, so if this is your genre, I highly, highly recommend checking out Fangirl.

I think I have a love hate relationship with Rainbow Rowell’s writing. Overall she comes up with interesting and compelling topics, but her execution is lacking for me. The thing is I didn’t dislike this story, I actually loved many parts and related completely to a lot of the issues Cath was facing, but something about Rowell’s writing was off. It could have been the Carry On inserts or the fact that there isn’t much resolve to big issues. Or it is possibly how Cath carried herself throughout the book, but I cannot put my finger on why this overall concept didn’t fully sit well with me.

Basically, for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

I didn’t see the the value in the Carry On inserts and honestly I would have skipped them had I not thought they might be important to the story, which in my personal opinion they were not pivotal to the story, they were just fun additions.

We are told about all of these huge plot points, plot points that seem significant and as if they should be resolved, but it is kind of forgotten about and only plays a roll in pushing forward the plot of “Cath, the struggling writer.” To me this was truly the downfall of the book because I really wanted resolve, not for myself, but for the sake of Cath as a character. I felt that she had struggled through so many changes and trying to find her own identity, while dealing with emotional turmoil from her past, as well as her present, yet none of this is dealt with. Had we seen these significant pieces play out Cath would have had major and awesome character growth.

As for characters, well, I’m not sold on our ol’ boy Levi. While I felt he was a decent influence in Cath’s life, I’m just not… convinced? I suppose the only way I can explain it is that Levi has “John Green Syndrome” meaning he seems utterly unrealistic and hard to relate to. Sure, I’m a reader, or a “lover of words” but I do enjoy to laugh and waste time scrolling through Instagram and meme’s. Whereas Levi is seemingly above all of that… he’s just unrealistic and at times problematic, especially in the ways he treats Cath. But for the sake of spoilers I will spare you the details.

But honestly, despite the flaws and my complaints, as someone who doesn’t enjoy YA contemporary to begin with, this would have to be up there with a more enjoyable YA contemporary reads. I had fun, I laughed, and I felt connected to Cath at times due to many of the struggles she faces. But I have mixed feelings about most of the characters and overall plot line. Though I’d be interested to read Carry On since it seems fun and it’s supposed to read like a Harry Potter fan fic!

Overall this was 3/5 stars.

–Stephanie, Teen LTA

Educated by Tara Westover

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This was a very difficult book to read more often than not. As a warning before going into this book you should know there is mental and physical abuse in abundance. There are also many graphic scenes describing accidents.

I was avoiding this book for no good reason, only to pick it up and devour it in a few days. It was captivating and beautifully written. It told a story of resilience and surviving in a life full of abuse and manipulation. It told the story of toxic masculinity and victim blaming. It told the story of what women must face in a world and religions dominated by men and their ideas about how women should act, feel, etc. It told a story of remaking ones self and going against the grain of what it means to be a woman.  But the truth is no matter how far we come, we will always hold the scars of our past and we will constantly be healing and changing.

Tara Westover comes from a religious Mormon family who does not believe in modern medicine, education, or the government. Tara’s father is paranoid and mistrusting of authority figures; he is also possibly dealing with an undiagnosed mental illness. Tara’s mother is manipulative in subtle ways and constantly chooses her husbands word over anyone else’s. Tara’s older brother is abusive. All the while Tara, as the youngest child, is battling her own beliefs and the beliefs of her family. Ultimately, Tara decides to gain an education against the will of her parents, all the while trying survive day to day among the constant abuse and manipulation within her home and religion.

At times, I wanted to scream and throw this book, at other times I wanted to curl up and cry with Tara. I had many visceral reactions to the people and situations described in this book. I have seen the criticisms on the legitimacy of this memoir and I’d like to believe that this book is as accurate as Tara’s memory. As she describes in the footnotes, these scenes and situations being described are how she recalls them, but admits that other family members opinions on these memories differ from hers. As it stands in my mind, Tara told her story the best she could and was as honest as her memory would allow.

Overall, this book captivated me immediately and I recommend if you are able to stomach the abuse and graphic scenes, because Tara’s story is an incredible testament to what it means to rise above the odds and cultivate a life outside of the only life you’ve ever known. 

–Stephanie, Teen LTA

The Mothers By Brit Bennett

“Grief was not a line, carrying you infinitely further from loss. You never knew when you would be sling-shot backward into its grip.”

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The Mothers punches you in the heart. A novel telling the story of American’s black youth, which is a fresh and much-needed perspective in today’s literary world. Based in Oceanside, San Diego, The Mothers tells a story of Nadia Turner, a girl coping with her mother’s suicide and her strained relationship with her father (especially after his wife’s death). Beyond her grief, Nadia is effortlessly smart, beautiful, and about to head off to Michigan to start her college career. Before she goes she begins a relationship with the pastor’s son, Luke Sheppard. Luke is a former football star with a promising future until he was seriously injured, now he waits tables and floats through life considering how things would have been if the accident never happened. Luke and Nadia’s relationship becomes complex and the truth becomes murky, especially for Nadia, who hides her feelings and truths from everyone she loves and cares for. In reality, Nadia is searching for her mother, especially in the last place she was seen before her suicide, Upper Room, their local church, the place her father spends the majority of his time and energy, and the place Luke grew up to seemingly hate.

The Mothers follows Nadia, Luke, and best friend Aubrey from teen into adulthood, shifting between their perspectives. This novel is interesting in that way because it would seem that the whole of the story is told in the third person, but we are introduced into The Mothers, who seem to be telling the story of their youth in comparison to Nadia and Luke’s youth. I liked the switching of perspectives, it added a depth to the story and brought meaning as to why the events that unfold are important to acknowledge and understand.

I really enjoyed the overall complexity and tone of this novel. I felt that I connected deeply to the story line as someone who lost my mother at a young and trying age. The importance of a mother figure, as well as motherhood, is heavily emphasized through Nadia and Aubrey’s growing pains. Each girl is motherless, both strong, but still yearning and searching for their mother’s approval, advice, and love. And the question remains making your way through this story, would our choices be different if we had our mothers there to help guide us? Or, are our choices even our own when a parent chooses to walk out on a child, as both Nadia and Aubrey’s mothers chose?

Aside from motherhood and frankly, relationships, choice is the underpinning of this novel. And this concept really opened my eyes to my own choices, failures, and successes, which is something I love in a book. Beyond Nadia and Aubrey’s choices or possibly lack thereof, how are their choices influenced by being black women? Or is their path of expectations set in stone?

Honestly, this was such a beautifully devastating and important read. I would recommend The Mothers to everyone and anyone looking to reevaluate life, friendships, love, and choice, but also, I would recommend this book as a painful look into being a black woman and the expectations and stereotypes pinned to you from birth.

Overall, I gave this book a 4/5 stars!

-Stephanie, Teen LTA

The Teen Book Club is Back!

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After a small hiatus the Teen Book Club is back, and a little bit different! Starting in March we will meet from 5:30-6:30 (right after Homework Help) on the first Tuesday of every month. The Book Club will meet in the Teen Area, with snacks, to discuss our current reads, favorite books of 2018, and to discuss our Book Club pick.

The Book Club is open to all teens (13-18 years old) with varying reading interests. We will try and dive into a wide variety of genres so as to include everyone’s reading taste. The meetings will be dedicated to discussing themes, characters, why or why not you did or did not like the book, etc. But this is also a space to discuss all sorts of books, as well as topics presented in our favorite and least favorite books.

On March 5th, 2019 we will be discussing On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, the New York Times Best Selling author of The Hate U Give.

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On the Come Up synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.

I can’t wait to see you there!
Stephanie, Teen LTA

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

“When you are who they expect you to be, they never look too closely. If you’re furious, let it be fuel.”

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I would like to preface this review by telling you I had been in a reading slump for the last three months, if not a bit longer. I basically tried to black it out of my mind. Suffice it to say, the moment I picked up The Gilded Wolves I was wholly immersed and happily so.

The Gilded Wolves is a multi-perspective book, following four different characters, set in 1889 Paris, France. It is delicious and dark and chock-full of historical and political intrigue. Though, I will admit the beginning of the book is complex and at times convoluted (meaning I found myself rereading passages in order to fully understand the magic system) I don’t feel it is completely off-putting or pulls you out of the story if anything it made the book richer.

In my opinion, I felt the best thing Chokshi did with this book is made subtle, but important commentary on Imperialism, racism/bigotry, and assimilation. Each of the four characters we follow throughout the story are all dealing with deeply rooted ideas about themselves and the world around them based on the color of their skin or the beliefs they hold. And honestly, this made them so much more real and relatable to me than most books I have read in the YA and Fantasy world. Plus, the banter between this unlikely group of friends is hilarious. I think you could find a piece of yourself in one, if not multiple characters.

Overall, I gave The Gilded Wolves a 4.5/5 and I highly recommend it for those who loved the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo, or readers who enjoy magic systems with a dab of historical fiction.

–Stephanie, Teen LTA