Book review: Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings

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Change happens through understanding, and one of my biggest hopes is that our next generation of kids will grow up in a world with more compassion.

Jazz Jennings began transitioning from male to female at the age of five. She was lucky enough to have accepting parents who wanted nothing more than for her to feel safe, loved, and happy, and this is her story.  At the time of publication, Jazz was only fifteen years old.

I’m not going to get into the writing (it’s at the level you’d expect from a teenager) or the medical issues brought up in the book (someone more experienced in dealing with anxiety and depression is welcome to do that), but I do want to talk about how this book made me feel.

On the one hand, it made me so sad. Jazz has lived a good life.  That much isn’t even debatable. She’s lucky to have grown up in a liberal family, to have lived in a more or less accepting community, and to have attended schools that focused on making her feel welcome. But living a good life doesn’t mean that everything has been sunshine and rainbows for her.

I think that it’s easy for people to say things like, “I don’t mind transgender people but I don’t want to share a bathroom with one.” This is a mentality that I don’t really understand, which is a story for a different day, but the point I’m trying to get at is that nobody really thinks of the consequences of that mentality. Like an eight-year-old kid who isn’t allowed to use the boys or girls restroom, who’s been told that there are two bathrooms they’re allowed to use in the entire building, one of which doesn’t lock and the other in a part of the building they’re never in. Nobody thinks about this little kid who ends up wetting their pants on a regular basis because adults are uncomfortable.  Not the kids they’d share the bathroom with, but the adults.

Also sad is all of the struggles Jazz went through with sports. She loves playing soccer, but it was a battle to get there. She was allowed to play on co-ed rec teams, but not single-gendered travel teams. While rec teams allowed her to play a game she loved, she knew that she wasn’t getting the same level of coaching and experience that she’d get on a travel team. Again, because it made some adults uncomfortable. The kids rarely cared.

But what made me happy was that Jazz has spent so much of her life advocating for transgender rights. That she’s had the opportunity to meet people like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, who’ve accepted her for who she is. It made me happy to see her family supporting her – her parents, her grandparents, her brothers, and her sister – and although there was certainly an adjustment period for some of them, they never stopped loving her and never wanted anything but the best for her.

What made me happy was that Jazz is really, aside from all the advocacy work, just a normal teenage girl. She worries about relationships and fights with her friends. She tries to balance homework with extracurriculars. Sure, sometimes she has to fly to California to meet with Oprah or give a keynote speech at a big conference, but, all things considered, she’s a teen like any other. This gives me hope for a new, more accepting generation.

The moral of the story? Spread love, not hate.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

#mm18: diversify your reading

Book review: Prince Player by B.B. Hamel

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Stranded in Polovia after being mugged, Hazel takes a job as a maid for the royal family in hopes of earning enough money to fly back home to the States. When she unexpectedly walks in on a half-naked Prince Nolan, she expects his wrath, not a marriage proposal.  It turns out that Nolan, otherwise known as Prince Player, needs to clean up his reputation if he doesn’t want to lose his title of crown prince. A wife and children is just the way to do that in his traditional country, and he likes Hazel’s look and her sass.  Their marriage will be a business transaction and nothing more, entirely fixated on his public image and creating an heir.  But what happens when Nolan and Hazel end up liking each other more than they’d expected?

I could instantly tell that this was going to be better than Best Friend With Benefits, the last BB Hamel book that I read. Nolan and Hazel had a lot of chemistry (and the book actually follows the plot summary in its blurb), so I ended up flying through this one in a matter of about two hours. It’s the kind of mindless, smutty fun that I expect when I pick up one of BB’s books.

On the more negative side, I can tell that I’ve read far too many of her books (nine so far) because I can just about predict everything that will happen. Her books can be very formulaic, especially within the same subgenre. There are a lot of similarities between Prince Player and Royal Rock. It’s not necessarily a bad thing because I did enjoy Royal Rock, but it is something that makes me glad BB’s books are all on Kindle Unlimited.

While I did enjoy reading this mostly lighthearted royal romance, I think I’ll take a little break before reading another of BB’s books. I think they’re best enjoyed with some time in between.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten books I liked but can’t remember

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! It’s time for another post already! Today’s theme is ten books I really liked but can’t remember much of anything about. So, this is actually my everyday life and I had a lot of fun with this topic!


Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark: ♬ Coming out of my cage and I’ve been doing just fine but I don’t think that’s what this book is about ♬
❔ The Deal by Elle Kennedy: I know I loved it. I remember Garrett and a smart girl and I know I want to read the rest of the series, but that’s it.
❔ Beyond the Stars by Stacy Wise: You can see where my priorities are in life because all I remember is that either the famous guy or the personal assistant had a dog. I think?


❔ The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre: I think the boy lived in a trailer park and that was some sort of issue? I think I also cried.
❔ My Sister’s Secret by Tracy Buchanan: Yeah, I literally remember nothing.


❔ Under My Skin by Shawntelle Madison: I think she gets possessed? Or someone pays to possess her? There’s something with possession. I think?
❔ The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin: Honestly, all I remember is that it was a hassle to get the protected ARC file to open in my Nook.
❔ The Spirit Keeper by K.B. Laugheed: All I remember is that this was one of the very first ARCs I ever got and I think it takes place in the 1700s.


❔ The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg: Literally all I can remember is that she can bewitch paper and I’m pretty sure I shipped her with the professor.
❔ The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma: The girls were in some kind of prison, right?

What books did you love that you can’t remember anything about? Did my memory deceive me here? Are the bits and pieces I remember about these books totally wrong? Let me know!

Book review: Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

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Let It Snow is one of the first books I ever added to my Goodreads TBR way back in the summer of 2012.  I don’t know why it took me so long to read it, but I was browsing currently available ebooks at my library and decided to finally jump in and go for it.  This book contains three interconnected love stories that take place during one very large blizzard.


The Jubilee Express by Maureen Johnson: ★★★★★

Jubilee Dougal’s parents are obsessed with the Flobie Santa Village, a set of limited-edition collectible buildings and figurines.  When the Flobie manufacturer announces that they’re only releasing ten of that year’s collector’s item, Jubilee’s parents race off to the sale and end up involved in a riot of sorts.  Carted off to jail for Christmas, they make arrangements for Jubilee to spend the holiday in Florida with her grandparents.  Things don’t always go as expected, though, and a blizzard derails Jubilee’s train in the sleepy town of Graceland.

This story was adorable. Just the cutest.  It was quirky and crazy and still somehow relatable, which is the best combination of adjectives for a Christmas romance.  I haven’t read any of Maureen Johnson’s books since I was in high school (though I am highly anticipating Truly Devious) but clearly, I need to remedy that.


A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle by John Green: ★★☆☆☆

Tobin’s parents are snowed into their out-of-town conference, but he’s fine at home with his two best friends.  They’ll have a James Bond marathon before he heads over to the Duke’s house for Christmas festivities.  Everything’s set until his friend Keun calls, saying that a train full of cheerleaders just descended upon the Waffle House, and Tobin and company had best get there asap. Chaos ensues as the teenagers attempt to drive, run, and sled their way through the blizzard. Amid the adventure, Tobin begins questioning his feelings for the Duke, who he’s always seen as just one of the guys but is now clearly and definitely a girl.

This short story is very vintage YA, and I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way. There’s a lot of sexism and awkward jokes that didn’t age well.  This is probably my least favorite John Green story of all time, which is so disappointing because I really have loved almost everything of his that I’ve ever read. Sure, it had some cute parts and some moments that made me smile, but by and large, it just wasn’t that great.


The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle: ★★☆☆☆

Addie’s spent Christmas absolutely miserable after things ended with her boyfriend, Jeb.  You see, Addie got drunk at a Christmas party, she was feeling lonely and neglected, and she happened to make out with a boy who was most certainly not Jeb.  She feels guilty, Jeb is angry, and now she can’t seem to get in touch with him to let him know that it was the biggest mistake ever and she’ll do whatever she can to re-earn his trust. Her best friends tell her that she needs to stop focusing on her own emotions and start focusing on other people, but Addie’s never really thought of herself as self-centered.  A quest to find a teacup pig for her best friend brings everything to a head and might just lead to a turning point in Addie’s life.

So, first off, I don’t think I hated this story quite as much as most readers.  I think Myracle definitely had the hardest job of the three writers – redeeming Addie, a horribly self-centered teenager who’s just broken her boyfriend’s heart by cheating on him, is a bit more difficult than writing about someone stranded on a train or venturing to a Waffle House mid-blizzard.  Still, it was definitely the weakest story of the bunch.  Addie is just such an annoying character, always turning everything into her own personal drama (”The Addie Show”) and completely disregarding everybody else’s feelings in the matter. The pig thing was kind of weird and, let’s be honest, I felt zero chemistry between her and Jeb. Jeb deserved better and Addie honestly just needs to take some time to work on herself.  The resolution felt forced and this was the only one of the three stories where I was actively rooting for the love interests to stay apart.

Overall final rating: ★★★☆☆

Book review: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely

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If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

All American Boys is the story of Rashad, a black teenager who is assaulted by a white police officer. It’s told in dual-POV with Quinn, a white teenager from the same high school, who both witnessed the event and knows the police officer. Throughout the book, the authors examine Rashad’s place at the center of a movement and Quinn’s struggle with his own passive racism and privilege.

If I can be perfectly honest for a second, I truly expected to love this book.  I thought it would be another The Hate U Give and probably went into it with my expectations too high.  The book is good, but, in my opinion, it’s not as jaw-droppingly amazing as THUG.  If anything, it’s an almost lighter version of that story.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book.  (If enjoyed is even the right way to describe how I felt while reading it.)  I think that it raised interesting, important, and timely points, but I felt like it could have been more.  And, again, don’t get me wrong – it’s not like Rashad needed to die or something more dramatic needed to happen for it to be more. But there are loose threads at the end of the book and I could have done with a bit more closure.

Another thing that kept this book from a full five stars was that it felt like it was trying to teach me a lesson. Whereas THUG told a story with police brutality as the backdrop, All American Boys seems to exist solely to preach to teens about current events. And while it’s most certainly important for teens to be able to read a book that forces them to examine their prejudices, I couldn’t help but feel that the characters were a bit one-dimensional and the plot lacked depth.

Still, All American Boys is a wonderful choice for teens (and adults!) who are looking for another perspective into America’s police brutality problem.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

#mm18: diversify your reading
#rtr: indigo