Mini-Reviews: Check Please! Book 2, Camp Spirit, & Spinning

Check, Please! Book 2 by Ngozi Ukazu
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Source: Borrowed

Eric Bittle is heading into his junior year at Samwell University, and not only does he have new teammates―he has a brand new boyfriend! Bitty and Jack must navigate their new, secret, long-distance relationship, and decide how to reveal their relationship to friends and teammates. And on top of that, Bitty’s time at Samwell is quickly coming to an end…It’s two full hockey seasons packed with big wins and high stakes!

A collection of the second half of the mega-popular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: Sticks and Scones is the last in a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

I loved that the second Check, Please! book dealt with some deeper themes while still being just as heartwarming and sweet as the first. Bitty and Jack are such a great couple, always communicating and being there for each other. Bitty’s baking is still front and center and I absolutely loved it.

In a possibly unpopular opinion, I thought the ending was really stereotypical and it wasn’t my favorite, but I didn’t dislike it enough for it to lower my rating.


Camp Spirit by Axelle Lenoir
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 23, 2020
Source: Borrowed

Summer camp is supposed to be about finding nirvana in a rock garden… But Elodie prefers Nirvana and Soundgarden. Can she confront rambunctious kids, confusing feelings, and supernatural horrors all at once?

Summer 1994: with just two months left before college, Elodie is forced by her mother to take a job as a camp counselor. She doesn’t know the first thing about nature, or sports, of kids for that matter, and isn’t especially interested in learning… but now she’s responsible for a foul-mouthed horde of red-headed girls who just might win her over, whether she likes it or not. Just as Elodie starts getting used to her new environment, though — and close to one of the other counselors — a dark mystery lurking around the camp begins to haunt her dreams.

This was a quick and easy read. The art was cute, the romance was done well, the story was… fine. I would have liked more elaboration on what was happening in the woods since it never felt fully explained. While I felt the actual camp counseling and the romance were fun to read about, I can’t say the same for the rest of the plot. The more supernatural aspects of this graphic novel were fun on the sidelines, but when they became front and center pieces of the plot, they fell short for me.

Overall, this was fun, but I’m not sure that I’d really recommend it.


Spinning by Tillie Walden
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Poignant and captivating, Ignatz Award winner Tillie Walden’s powerful graphic memoir, Spinning, captures what it’s like to come of age, come out, and come to terms with leaving behind everything you used to know.

It was the same every morning. Wake up, grab the ice skates, and head to the rink while the world was still dark.

Weekends were spent in glitter and tights at competitions. Perform. Smile. And do it again.

She was good. She won. And she hated it.

For ten years, figure skating was Tillie Walden’s life. She woke before dawn for morning lessons, went straight to group practice after school, and spent weekends competing at ice rinks across the state. It was a central piece of her identity, her safe haven from the stress of school, bullies, and family. But over time, as she switched schools, got into art, and fell in love with her first girlfriend, she began to question how the close-minded world of figure skating fit in with the rest of her life, and whether all the work was worth it given the reality: that she, and her friends on the figure skating team, were nowhere close to Olympic hopefuls. It all led to one question: What was the point? The more Tillie thought about it, the more Tillie realized she’d outgrown her passion–and she finally needed to find her own voice.

Spinning is the second graphic novel I’ve read by Tillie Walden (the first being I love this part), and I think I can officially add her to my list of favorite graphic novelists. There’s just something about her art style and the way she tells the majority of the story through the art rather than words that I love.

Spinning is the story of her years as a competitive figure skater. But it’s also the story of coming out, trauma, and growing up. This was an incredible book, and I can’t wait to devour everything Walden’s ever published.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
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Mini-Reviews: Spirit Hunters, A Dash of Trouble, & All My Friends Are Ghosts

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Source: Borrowed

We Need Diverse Books founder Ellen Oh returns with Spirit Hunters, a high-stakes middle grade mystery series about Harper Raine, the new seventh grader in town who must face down the dangerous ghosts haunting her younger brother. A riveting ghost story and captivating adventure, this tale will have you guessing at every turn!

Harper doesn’t trust her new home from the moment she steps inside, and the rumors are that the Raine family’s new house is haunted. Harper isn’t sure she believes those rumors, until her younger brother, Michael, starts acting strangely. The whole atmosphere gives Harper a sense of déjà vu, but she can’t remember why. She knows that the memories she’s blocking will help make sense of her brother’s behavior and the strange and threatening sensations she feels in this house, but will she be able to put the pieces together in time?

I don’t have very many thoughts on Spirit Hunters, aside from it being a lot spookier than I’d expected when I picked up a middle grade book! It left me, a fully grown adult, more than a little bit spooked. Harper is put into some intense and dramatic situations, and the book does not shy away from describing them in full detail.

Overall, I thought this book was really fun. I appreciated the diversity and the talk of accepting things that you might not understand. I don’t necessarily feel the need to read this book’s sequel, but I think it’s a great example of MG horror.


A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 2, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.

Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration—but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake.

Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business—even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet.

And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong?

I thought that this book was really cute! I love that it took magic and baking and The Day of the Dead and mixed it with strong family relationships, but I did feel that the middle part of the book dragged. There were multiple moments where I wanted to yell at Leo to just tell someone what was going on so they could fix it!

I will acknowledge that I’m more than double this book’s target age range, though, so what was an issue for me might not be an issue for actual middle grade readers. Although I don’t feel any desire to continue on with the series, I would still recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun, magical MG novel.


All My Friends Are Ghosts by S.M. Vidaurri
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 17, 2020
Source: Borrowed

Effie is lost and only feels like a ghost – till she discovers an actual ghost school in the nearby woods and begins an unforgettable journey of self-discovery.

Effie is lost, and feels like a ghost. She skips school because she doesn’t think anyone will notice, and doesn’t feel like she belongs, or that school offers her anything that she wants. Simply, she has stopped trying. One day, when she realizes no one will notice, she escapes from her every day life… and discovers a ghost school in the nearby woods. But just as she’s beginning to learn all about the amazing things that ghosts can do – like possession, poltergeist-ing, demon magic and more – Effie is asked by her new friends to help track down a mysterious spirit that’s been spotted. But if Effie’s going to succeed, she’ll not only have to show her friends that she’s got something special,but also learn to believe she’s got it too.

Award winning writer S.M. Vidaurri (Iron, Steven Universe) and artist Hannah Krieger (Psychic Mansion) present a new original graphic novel about discovering what makes you special and helping others be seen for who they are.

Finishing out my three supernatural middle grade books is a graphic novel about a girl who befriends a bunch of ghosts. It’s very rare for me to say that a book is too fast-paced, but this was way too fast-paced. We jumped from one thing to another so quickly and so frequently that I wasn’t able to form any attachments to the characters or have any emotional reactions to the plot.

I think that the premise of the story is great. The art is a lot of fun. The theme of not giving up on your dreams is wonderful. The story just needed to be a little more developed and the pacing needed to be more even. This wasn’t necessarily bad, but it didn’t live up to my expectations, either.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
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Mini-Reviews: Eloquent Rage, When They Call You a Terrorist, & This is Going to Hurt

Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 20, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Far too often, Black women’s anger has been caricatured into an ugly and destructive force that threatens the civility and social fabric of American democracy. But Cooper shows us that there is more to the story than that. Black women’s eloquent rage is what makes Serena Williams such a powerful tennis player. It’s what makes Beyoncé’s girl power anthems resonate so hard. It’s what makes Michelle Obama an icon.

Eloquent rage keeps us all honest and accountable. It reminds women that they don’t have to settle for less. When Cooper learned of her grandmother’s eloquent rage about love, sex, and marriage in an epic and hilarious front-porch confrontation, her life was changed. And it took another intervention, this time staged by one of her homegirls, to turn Brittney into the fierce feminist she is today. In Brittney Cooper’s world, neither mean girls nor fuckboys ever win. But homegirls emerge as heroes. This book argues that ultimately feminism, friendship, and faith in one’s own superpowers are all we really need to turn things right side up again.

White privilege works by making the advantages white people have invisible while making the supposedly “poor” choices of people of color hypervisible.

Eloquent Rage is a well-written, almost academic look at the intersection of Blackness and feminism. Although it includes many personal anecdotes, it also expands to paint a wider picture of modern American society as a whole and the way that race, class, and gender affect our perception of someone’s actions. If you (like me) are white, this book might make you a little bit uncomfortable. It might make you say, “Hey, I don’t do things like that!” But there is a difference between not doing those things and actively working against them.

My only criticism of this book is that it sometimes takes a while to get to the point. Aside from that, it’s interesting, informative, and important.


When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 16, 2018
Source: Borrowed

A poetic and powerful memoir about what it means to be a Black woman in America—and the co-founding of a movement that demands justice for all in the land of the free.

Raised by a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood in Los Angeles, Patrisse Khan-Cullors experienced firsthand the prejudice and persecution Black Americans endure at the hands of law enforcement. For Patrisse, the most vulnerable people in the country are Black people. Deliberately and ruthlessly targeted by a criminal justice system serving a white privilege agenda, Black people are subjected to unjustifiable racial profiling and police brutality. In 2013, when Trayvon Martin’s killer went free, Patrisse’s outrage led her to co-found Black Lives Matter with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi.

Condemned as terrorists and as a threat to America, these loving women founded a hashtag that birthed the movement to demand accountability from the authorities who continually turn a blind eye to the injustices inflicted upon people of Black and Brown skin.

Championing human rights in the face of violent racism, Patrisse is a survivor. She transformed her personal pain into political power, giving voice to a people suffering in equality and a movement fueled by her strength and love to tell the country—and the world—that Black Lives Matter.

When They Call You a Terrorist is Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele’s reflection on humanity. It is an empowering account of survival, strength and resilience and a call to action to change the culture that declares innocent Black life expendable.

In my notes, I summarized this book in one word: powerful. This is the absolutely heartbreaking story of Patrisse Khan-Cullors’ struggle to find justice for her mentally ill brother and the innumerable other Black men and women who have been treated despicably by a system that claims to help them.

This book touches on many important topics, such the disparity between how Black and white children are disciplined in school, the struggle that Black people face to find help for mental illness, and the criminalization of behaviors that would likely send a white person to a mental health facility. Her words are honest and direct and sometimes painful to hear.

The only reason that I didn’t rate this book five stars was that I found the timeline confusing, as she sometimes hops between time periods without making that clear. But really, this book is incredible. If you have any interest in how Black Lives Matter began, please give this book a try.


This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 7, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Adam Kay was a junior doctor from 2004 until 2010, before a devastating experience on a ward caused him to reconsider his future. He kept a diary throughout his training, and This Is Going to Hurt intersperses tales from the front line of the NHS with reflections on the current crisis. The result is a first-hand account of life as a junior doctor in all its joy, pain, sacrifice and maddening bureaucracy, and a love letter to those who might at any moment be holding our lives in their hands.

I’ve had This is Going to Hurt on my TBR for a long time and finally got a chance to pick it up from my library. I’ll start this with a warning: this book is a sassy, sarcastic, irreverent look at the daily life of a doctor. It’s filled with stories of patients that I probably wouldn’t believe if I hadn’t spent seven years working in a hospital. (Nothing surprises me anymore.) But beneath all of that sardonic humor, it’s clear that Adam truly cared about his patients and truly loved his work.

I liked this book a lot, but I will say that it gets a little… grating, maybe, at certain points. It’s kind of like, yes, we get it, sometimes patients are dumb. And yes, we get it, sometimes coworkers do stupid things. His reasons for quitting, though, become very obvious as the book goes on. I had, of course, heard that the treatment of medical professionals in the UK was terrible, but I hadn’t quite realized the extent of it until I read this book.

Highly recommended if you have any interest in medicine.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
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Book Review: You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle

You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Source: Gift

Naomi Westfield has the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family any bride would love to be a part of. They never fight. They’re preparing for their lavish wedding that’s three months away. And she is miserably and utterly sick of him.

Naomi wants out, but there’s a catch: whoever ends the engagement will have to foot the nonrefundable wedding bill. When Naomi discovers that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare.

But with the countdown looming to the wedding that may or may not come to pass, Naomi finds her resolve slipping. Because now that they have nothing to lose, they’re finally being themselves–and having fun with the last person they expect: each other.

When your nemesis also happens to be your fiancé, happily ever after becomes a lot more complicated in this wickedly funny, lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy debut.

I originally wanted to read You Deserve Each Other because of all the reviews I’d seen comparing it to The Hating Game (which we all know is one of my all-time favorites). And going off of that, I will almost certainly enjoy any enemies-to-lovers book, so I put a hold on this at the library. And I waited. And waited. And waited. And then my fiance, being absolutely amazing, bought it for me.

Unlike most enemies-to-lovers books, this one starts with the couple already engaged. Although they were madly in love at some point, Naomi and Nicholas’s relationship has devolved into arguments and pettiness. They don’t communicate at all, preferring to make assumptions and walk away from conversations. I wasn’t sure how I would react to this, but it ended up feeling really realistic and it was done with enough humor in the narration that it was still fun to read.

I can’t even tell you how many times I laughed while reading this book. I love some good banter, and this book has so much of it. Naomi’s internal monologue especially was so sarcastic and so entertaining that I read like 150 pages of this book without even realizing that time had gone by. But it’s also sad. It was a little bit heartbreaking to read about this couple that used to love each other so much turning down this path of intense dislike. That piece of the book made me really emotional and I had to go hug my fiance and tell him I love him many times.

I liked the first half of this book, but the second half is what really made it for me. Because in the second half, Nicholas and Naomi start making an effort. Taking all of that sarcastic and petty energy and turning it against other people instead of against each other just warmed my heart. I love a good love story, and it was so nice to watch Nicholas and Naomi fall back in love with each other.

The only thing that made me lower my rating of this book was that, in my head, I was screaming, “JUST BREAK OFF THE ENGAGEMENT IF YOU’RE SO UNHAPPY!” I know this is explained away by all of the nonrefundable deposits, but it was always in the back of my mind. I would have also liked to know a bit more about what Nicholas was thinking since he’s kind of an elusive character, especially at the beginning of the book. Everything we know about him comes from Naomi, and she’s so annoyed with him and makes so many assumptions that it’s hard to know where he stood on everything that was happening.

All in all, though, this book was a lot of fun. If you like romantic comedies and enemies-to-lovers, you’ll probably like this.


Have you read You Deserve Each Other? Is it on your TBR?
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Mini-Reviews: Pride, Beneath the Sugar Sky, & Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color, from Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award finalist and author of American Street.

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.

I hesitated to pick up Pride because of all of the mixed reviews I’d seen when it first came out, but I’m glad that I finally picked it up.

This ended up being a great modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and I absolutely loved that it was set in Brooklyn. Pride pretty seamlessly weaves in some commentary on issues like gentrification, class, and the leaking of nudes without coming across like a lecture. It’s easy to see the parallels with the original, but the book still feels like it tells its own story rather than being a direct copy.

As for negatives, I felt that some scenes went on for a little too long and got a little repetitive. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Zuri and Darius’s relationship since it went from hate to love very quickly, but I guess it also does in the original. But those are pretty minor complaints, and overall, I really enjoyed this book.


Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
Source: Borrowed

When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can’t let Reality get in the way of her quest – not when she has an entire world to save! (Much more common than one would suppose.)

If she can’t find a way to restore her mother, Rini will have more than a world to save: she will never have been born in the first place. And in a world without magic, she doesn’t have long before Reality notices her existence and washes her away. Good thing the student body is well-acquainted with quests…

A tale of friendship, baking, and derring-do.

Warning: May contain nuts.

As someone who absolutely loves baking, it probably comes as no surprise that my favorite world (so far) in the Wayward Children series is Confection. This nonsense world is filled with whimsical things like a moon made of frosting and a sea made of strawberry rhubarb soda. Not everything is perfect in Confection, though. Like the other worlds, it has its own undercurrent of danger.

Since I loved the world (and the writing) so much, I probably would have given this novella five stars if we’d followed characters from the original book. It is true that Christopher and Kade are here, but our main character is someone entirely new. While this was fine and ended up working out in the end, it did leave me feeling a little disconnected from everything at the beginning.

Overall, though, I’m a big fan of this series and would highly recommend it.


Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Lara Jean is having the best senior year.

And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks . . . until she gets some unexpected news.

Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

Possibly unpopular opinion time: I don’t think this needed to be a series. I really enjoyed To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but while the writing was still good in P.S. I Still Love You, I didn’t like the plot and it felt completely unnecessary. I feel the same about Always and Forever, Lara Jean. The writing was good, but let’s be honest. Did this book even have a plot?

This book also uses one of my least favorite tropes:breaking up because a parent tells you to. What a cop-out for drama. I’m still waiting to read a book that features a parent doing this and a main character that stands up to them, because what kind of nonsense is this? It makes me so angry.

In the end, all I can really say is that this is a cute series, but it really could have stopped after the first book.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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