Book Review: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: December 31, 2019
Source: Borrowed
In the midst of a family crisis one late evening, white blogger Alix Chamberlain calls her African American babysitter, Emira, asking her to take toddler Briar to the local market for distraction. There, the security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Alix’s efforts to right the situation turn out to be good intentions selfishly mismanaged.
 

Going into Such a Fun Age, I knew two things. First, that it was incredibly, incredibly hyped. And second, that it had something to do with race. I assumed, given the title, that it also had something to do with a toddler, because whenever someone says, “that’s such a fun age!” they’re always talking about toddlers. (Clearly I did not read the synopsis, or I would have seen it right there.)

This book is somehow a light, fun read about a bunch of interesting characters and an incredibly important, well-written commentary on the white savior complex and performative allyship. It all begins when Emira, a Black woman who babysits for a rich white couple, is called in late one night to watch the couple’s three-year-old amid a crisis. She’s been out at a party, she’s been drinking a little bit, and she’s not dressed like a normal babysitter, but her boss doesn’t care. She just wants Briar out of the house. So Emira arrives, whisks Briar away to a grocery store (one of her current favorite places), and attempts to distract her until it’s safer to go home. All is fine and good until a security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, a bystander captures the incident on camera, and everything begins to change.

There are so many levels to this book that I’m not entirely sure where to start. On the surface, we have the blatant racism that led to the accusation against Emira. Everyone agrees that this is wrong. But there are also much subtler incidents of racism in this book as well as people trying so hard to prove that they’re not racist that they end up doing some pretty questionable things. Reid is not afraid to call out people who try to prove that they’re not racist by having the “correct” number of Black friends. She’s not afraid to comment on the use of the N-word by non-Black people. She shows, rather than tells us, how awkward and inappropriate it is to “save” someone who doesn’t need or want saving. And aside from discussions of race, there’s also a great commentary on parenting in this book! Emira’s boss, Alix, treats her two children very differently. While she dotes over her infant daughter, she constantly brushes Briar off on Emira. It’s so heartbreaking to read about her different reactions to Briar and Catherine, and very telling, I think, that she never really leaves Catherine with Emira. There’s also a discussion of Alix’s past and how it’s shaped her into this person who needs to prove that she’s not racist. All in all, there’s a lot going on in this book, but in a really good way.

There were two things that kept me from giving this book five stars, one big and one small. The small thing is that I felt some of the dialogue could have been tightened up. There are some conversations that seem to go on forever when they really don’t need to. The big thing was the ending. I don’t want to spoil it, but it just felt… over the top. I’m not sure that such a dramatic ending was really necessary, but I also can’t think of a better way to have ended it, so it’s still a four-star read.

Side note: I will protect Briar at all costs. That girl is perfect and her random comments were my favorite part of this book.


Have you read Such a Fun Age? Is it on your TBR?
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Mini-Reviews: Beach Read, Get a Life, Chloe Brown, & Twice in a Blue Moon

Beach Read by Emily Henry
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 19, 2020
Source: Borrowed

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

Beach Read was one of those very, very (very, very, very) hyped books that I was kind of afraid to read but picked up anyway because I had to know if the hype was deserved. I think that because of that, my expectations were a little high and that impacted my opinion.

I do love a “we were obsessed with each other but both thought the other didn’t care” storyline, and that’s one thing that Beach Read does really well. Another thing that the book does really well is the exploration of January’s complicated family life and the way that we learn more about our families as we grow older.

I loved January and Gus individually, I loved their history and their banter, but their actual relationship wasn’t my favorite. And, no spoilers, but that ending really left a lot to be desired.


Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…

Another book that I was kind of scared to read was Get a Life, Chloe Brown. So many people have adored and recommended this book!

I loved how cute and bantery this book was. The writing is really lighthearted and it flows really nicely. The dialogue feels really natural and Chloe absolutely felt like she could be a real person. (Red was possibly too good to be true.) The romance did end up coming together really quickly, though, and I’m not sure how I felt about that.

In the end, I liked the first half of this book more than the second half, but I had a good time with this book overall.


Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 22, 2019
Source: ARC via Netgalley

Sam Brandis was Tate Jones’s first: Her first love. Her first everything. Including her first heartbreak.

During a whirlwind two-week vacation abroad, Sam and Tate fell for each other in only the way that first loves do: sharing all of their hopes, dreams, and deepest secrets along the way. Sam was the first, and only, person that Tate—the long-lost daughter of one of the world’s biggest film stars—ever revealed her identity to. So when it became clear her trust was misplaced, her world shattered for good.

Fourteen years later, Tate, now an up-and-coming actress, only thinks about her first love every once in a blue moon. When she steps onto the set of her first big break, he’s the last person she expects to see. Yet here Sam is, the same charming, confident man she knew, but even more alluring than she remembered. Forced to confront the man who betrayed her, Tate must ask herself if it’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason… and whether “once in a lifetime” can come around twice.

With Christina Lauren’s signature “beautifully written and remarkably compelling” (Sarah J. Maas, New York Times bestselling author) prose and perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner, Twice in a Blue Moon is an unforgettable and moving novel of young love and second chances.

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners and the “delectable, moving” (Entertainment WeeklyMy Favorite Half-Night Stand comes a modern love story about what happens when your first love reenters your life when you least expect it…

I was so excited to be offered an ARC of Twice in a Blue Moon, and then, for some reason, I had absolutely no desire to read it. I finally convinced myself to pick it up about nine months after it was originally published, and I can definitively say that it’s not my favorite of this duo’s work.

On the positive side, I can say that Christina and Lauren are great at writing emotional scenes. I felt everything that Tate was feeling. I was right there with her in London, I was on the movie set, I was in that truck. Their writing is always good. Even when I don’t particularly like one of their stories, I can admit that their books are well-written.

The thing that didn’t work for me in this one, unfortunately, was the premise. I love a good second chance romance, but regardless of how good Sam’s excuse was, I don’t think there’s any forgiving him for what he did to Tate. I kept waiting, but I never felt like he truly redeemed himself.

Onto the next Christina Lauren book…


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.


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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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