Book Review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
Source: Borrowed

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

I tend to avoid hyped books like the plague. Show me a book with 33,760 ratings and a 4.43 star Goodreads average and I will probably be very apprehensive about reading it. When averages are that good, I get scared away. What if I’m the only person on the entire planet who dislikes it?

Well, that fear is what happened with The Poet X. I knew it was supposed to be amazing. I’d read countless reviews saying so. So, naturally, I didn’t read it for a good year and a half. And then the mood struck, and I checked out the audiobook, which is narrated by the author and is absolutely incredible.

I am blown away. I loved this so much.

Xiomara’s struggle with religion really reminded me of my own feelings when I was her age. I’d been raised in a religious family, I’d gone to 13 years of Catholic school, and all of a sudden it was like these things I’d grown up taking as fact were now questions in my mind. I think this is a 100% normal and healthy thing that happens in your late teenage years and it was so nice to see that struggle showcased in such a well-written book.

Another thing that I thought the book addressed well was sexism and underlying misogyny. I appreciated that, more than anyone else in her life, it was Xiomara’s mother who perpetuated the idea that women needed to be pure and perfect in order to be desirable for marriage. (Because, of course, heterosexual marriage is The Most Important.) Even seemingly innocuous things that Xiomara does, like using a tampon instead of a pad, cause issues. And when she’s caught kissing a boy? Oh no.

I can really go either way with books that are written in verse. A lot of the time, it just feels like sentences broken up into several lines, but it really, really worked here. The emotion was right there, in every word, and Xiomara just felt so real. I already have a hold on With the Fire on High and can’t wait until I have the chance to experience that book too.


Have you read The Poet X? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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ARC Review: Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi

Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Source: ARC from BookCon

After a year of college, Pablo is working at his local twenty-four-hour deli, selling overpriced snacks to brownstone yuppies. He’s dodging calls from the student loan office and he has no idea what his next move is.

Leanna Smart’s life so far has been nothing but success. Age eight: Disney Mouseketeer; Age fifteen: first #1 single on the US pop chart; Age seventeen, *tenth* #1 single; and now, at Age nineteen…life is a queasy blur of private planes, weird hotel rooms, and strangers asking for selfies on the street.

When Leanna and Pab randomly meet at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn, they both know they can’t be together forever. So, they keep things on the down-low and off Instagram for as long as they can. But it takes about three seconds before the world finds out… 

In case you weren’t already aware, Mary H.K. Choi’s Emergency Contact is one of my favorite books. From the characters to the message to the excellent texting, I loved everything about it. Permanent Record was at the top of my most anticipated list for 2019, and I was lucky enough to get an ARC while at BookCon.

This book was not Emergency Contact, Part Two. Part of the blame is on me for thinking it would be. But instead of loving this book, I was really, really disappointed in it. So disappointed that I’m really just sad thinking about it. I won’t get into any spoilers in this review, but here are some bullet point reasons why I didn’t like this book:

  • The slang. In Emergency Contact, Penny and Sam talked like actual teenagers. In Permanent Record, the amount of slang Pab and Lee use is almost embarrassing. Nobody talks like that. Nobody.
  • The lack of responsibility. I get that it’s one of the main conflicts of the book, but I could not get over how literally every single one of Pablo’s problems could be solved if he’d just take some responsibility for his actions. You can’t ignore your problems until they go away, Pablo!! Life doesn’t work like that!!
  • I didn’t really see a point to it? I slogged through all 417 pages of this book only to get a non-ending. That’s not even mentioning how bored I was the entire time I was reading this book.

Am I mad that I took the time to read this book? I guess not. Did I enjoy it even a little bit? No. I’m just disappointed, but since I loved Emergency Contact so much, I’m still planning to read whatever Mary H.K. Choi publishes next.


Have you read Permanent Record? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black

Doll Bones by Holly Black
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Source: Borrowed

Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice.

But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity . . .

I’ve read a few of Holly Black’s books now and I think that I can safely say that I really enjoy her writing style. Her books are always really readable (or, in this case, listenable? is that a word? I’m a linguist and I just made it one) and Doll Bones is no exception. I found this book while scrolling through my library’s Overdrive and figured it would be the perfect book to listen to during Spooky Season.

I was pleasantly surprised that Doll Bones is about more than just, you know, the doll bones. More than anything else, it’s a coming-of-age story about Zach, who, along with his friends, loves crafting stories featuring his action figures, until his father decides he’s too old to play like that and throws out all of Zach’s toys. While Zach’s flat-out refusal to communicate with his friends about why exactly he wouldn’t be playing anymore was frustrating, I had to keep reminding myself that he’s literally twelve years old. I couldn’t expect him to act like an adult, and I don’t know many twelve year old boys who are tuned into their feelings enough to openly discuss them with their friends. (That said, I admittedly don’t know many twelve-year-olds in general.) There’s some really good commentary on what it means to grow up and how scary it can be.

Then there’s the actual spooky story about a bone doll made out of the bones of a little girl who was murdered under mysterious circumstances. A number of things happen that could be real or imagined, and it’s never really clarified, which just makes things spookier.

One small critique is that I don’t think the romance was even remotely necessary and I was a little bit disappointed to see it even factor in to the plot. I guess a few people had paired off when I was twelve years old, but it definitely wasn’t a big part of my middle school life. More than anything, I think that particular plot felt a little forced.

Overall, I think this was a really well-written middle grade book! As an adult, there were a few things that rubbed me the wrong way, but I really can’t hold that against the book since I’m far from its intended audience.

Previously: The Cruel PrinceThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown


Have you read Doll Bones? Can you recommend any spooky MG books?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: Lost At Sea by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Lost At Sea by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: December 22, 2003
Source: Borrowed

Raleigh doesn’t have a soul. A cat stole it – at least that’s what she tells people – at least that’s what she would tell people if she told people anything. But that would mean talking to people, and the mere thought of social interaction is terrifying. How did such a shy teenage girl end up in a car with three of her hooligan classmates on a cross-country road trip? Being forced to interact with kids her own age is a new and alarming proposition for Raleigh, but maybe it’s just what she needs – or maybe it can help her find what she needs – or maybe it can help her to realize that what she needs has been with her all along. 

A couple years ago, I read the first volume of Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley. I enjoyed it, just as I’d enjoyed its movie adaptation, but I kind of ignored everything else he’d written. Fast forward a few years and Lost At Sea showed up at my library. I walked by it a few times before finally deciding to take the jump to read it.

At the beginning, my feelings toward this graphic novel were something like, “Hmm, this is fine.” As it went on, though, I began to love it so much. I’m not even sure how to describe what I loved about this book because it kind of snuck up on me. It’s like I was reading it, enjoying it but not feeling any strong feelings, and then all of a sudden my heart was exploding with love.

This isn’t a cute graphic novel. It’s sad and emotional and it deals a lot with the struggles of growing up. Emotionally, Raleigh has a lot going on, which is revealed piece by piece as the book continues. I appreciated that none of what’s going on was terribly dramatic — it was relatable, coming across like a story that could be about almost any teenager.

I loved the writing, I loved the art, and I loved all of the cats. I loved Raleigh and her new friends, and I think this book single-handedly pulled me out of my post-BookCon slump.

Highly recommended if you’re looking for a good graphic novel.

#romanceopoly: library


Have you read Lost At Sea? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia

Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: December 4, 2018
Source: Borrowed

The children of Alexandria are just trying to live like normal teens, and Ben Schiller is no exception. But her relationship with her best friend is changing, her sister is hiding a dark secret, and tragedy looms. Also: where are all of the parents?

Filled with teenage loves and fights and parties, Sacred Heart is part summer vacation, part End Times anticipation, and a landmark coming-of-age graphic novel. The punk-infused, character-driven storytelling and innate cartooning talent heralds Suburbia as a major new voice in comics.

I popped into my library a couple weeks ago to pick up a different book and saw Sacred Heart sitting on the YA graphic novels table. Since I am, in general, pretty into graphic novels these days, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to check it out. Well, I was wrong.

It hurt a lot to check it out, because this was just… not good.

Let’s start with the most basic of things you need in a book: the characters. So many of the characters looked so similar that I had a hard time telling them apart even by the end of the book. There are also so many characters involved that I had trouble keeping them all straight! Every character was a different “annoying teenager” stereotype.

Moving on to the actual plot, or maybe I should say the lack of plot: I’m not really sure what the goal was here. There are a number of plot threads here. There’s the fact that all of the adults have disappeared. The constant murders happening throughout the town. The typical sex, drugs, and alcohol mindset of the punk rock scene, which is only intensified because of the lack of parental supervision. There’s a friends-to-lovers plot going on that takes up a big chunk in the middle of the book and is then kind of forgotten about. Any of these ideas could have made for an interesting book, but the problem is that they’re all just kind of left hanging. Even at the end of the book, nothing is resolved.

The only other thing I want to address here is whether this book is age-appropriate for YA. I’m definitely not in favor of any kind of censorship, but I do think it’s important to know that this book is definitely upper, upper, upper YA. Like, constant references to alcohol and drugs. A ton of sex, including full nudity. A pretty steady stream of profanity. I’m a little surprised that my library shelved this in the YA section.

I’m really struggling to find something positive to say about this book. The only thing I can come up with is that it was nice that the main character had a dog. I just can’t recommend this graphic novel at all.


Have you read Sacred Heart? What’s the last book that really disappointed you? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini reviews: Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List, La Belle Sauvage, & The Wedding Date

Naomi and Ely’s No-Kiss List by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 28, 2007
Source: Borrowed

Naomi loves Ely. And she’s kinda in love with him.

Ely loves Naomi. But he prefers to be in love with boys.

Naomi and Ely have been inseparable since childhood – partially because they’ve grown up across the hall from each other in the same Manhattan apartment building, and also because they’re best friends. Soul mates. Or are they? Just to be safe, they’ve created a NO KISS LIST – their list of people who are absolutely off-kissing-limits for both of them. The NO KISS LIST protects their friendship and ensures that nothing will rock the foundation of Naomi and Ely: the institution.

Until Ely kisses Naomi’s boyfriend. And a fateful piece of chewing gum in the wrong place at the wrong time changes everything.

Soon a rift of universal proportions threatens to destroy their friendship, and it remains to be seen whether Naomi and Ely can find their way toward new soul-mate prospects…and back to one another.

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story about love of all kinds, one that reminds us that any great friendship can be as confusing, treacherous, inspiring, and wonderful as any great romance.

Despite the barrage of negative reviews, I decided to pick up this book based solely on my love for David Levithan. To my surprise, although I did have some definite criticisms, I didn’t hate it. I think it helps to view this book not as a romance, but as a coming of age story in which the characters have to come to grips with the idea that their lives might not turn out the way they’d expected. The book isn’t going to win any awards for groundbreaking fiction, but it’s a quick and fun read.

I don’t think that Naomi or Ely are supposed to be particularly likable characters. They’re both self-centered teens who could stand to do some soul-searching. I thought Naomi’s attitude throughout much of the book was pretty gross (her wish that Ely would just set aside the pesky fact that HE LIKES BOYS and just HAVE SEX WITH HER ALREADY rubbed me the wrong way) but Ely really grew on me. Yeah, he’s selfish and he’s an idiot, but he owns up to it. I just wanted him (and Bruce the Second) to be happy.

Side note: References to the Myspace community and Napoleon Dynamite took me right back to my high school days.

Previously: Dash & Lily’s Book of DaresThe Twelve Days of Dash & Lily

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
Series: The Book of Dust #1
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 19, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy…

Malcolm’s father runs an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his dæmon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue.

He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust–and the spy it was intended for finds him.

When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, Malcolm sees suspicious characters everywhere; Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; an Egyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a dæmon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl–just a baby–named Lyra.

Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm.

The book starts really slowly but picks up around the halfway point. It’s a good start to the series, I’m sure, but leaves a bit to be desired as a standalone. I ended up not finishing it within my library loan period, but I was lucky enough to snap up the audiobook in the half a millisecond that it was available. The book was much better on audio and I finished it within the day.

Maturity warning: LBS contains quite a bit of violence, a decent amount of foul language, and frank discussion (and description) of sex crimes. It’s for an older audience than HDM.

Previously: The Golden Compass • The Subtle Knife • The Amber Spyglass

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 30, 2018
Source: Borrowed

A groomsman and his last-minute guest are about to discover if a fake date can go the distance in a fun and flirty debut novel.

Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn’t normally do. But there’s something about Drew Nichols that’s too hard to resist.

On the eve of his ex’s wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend…

After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she’s the mayor’s chief of staff. Too bad they can’t stop thinking about the other…

They’re just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century–or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want…

This is a cute, light, sometimes witty romance. The action all happens in the first third or so of the book — I felt like it could’ve stopped then and I wouldn’t have really missed anything. The middle third of the books is highly focused on the sexual relationship between Alexa and Drew and it feels almost like PG-rated erotica, if that makes any sense. (The sex scenes are very fade-to-black.) The last chunk of the book is just a mess of miscommunication. The book is probably worth a read for romance fans, but I didn’t like it nearly as much as I thought I would.

Bonus points: interracial romance, fake dating that turns into real feelings, real lives outside of the relationship, great tacos

ARC review: The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

Goodreads ⭐ Amazon ⭐

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

The Way You Make Me Feel has been at the top of my Most Anticipated list for 2018 ever since I saw the cover way back when. I don’t even know what it is about this cover, but it drew me in and I knew that I had to read this book. I can’t say that I really loved the story, but I do still love the cover.

The book turned out to be a much younger YA than I was expecting. You know how in some YA books, the characters act like mini-grown ups? Not the case here. Clara and her gang of friends act like stupid, immature teenagers through most of the book. Clara herself is a little jerk who never thinks of anyone aside from herself. She and her friends live for pranks, always dreaming up something bigger and better for next time. Clara’s nemesis is Rose, also a little jerk, but one who thinks that Clara and her friends are beneath her. The characters fit into very specific molds which reminded me very much of the YA of my youth.

This is billed as a young adult romance, but I think of it more as a coming of age story than anything else. This is a book about Clara learning to think of someone other than herself. It’s a book about consequences. It’s about family and appreciating what your parents have given you. It’s about friendship and analyzing whether the connections you’ve made are really going to benefit you in the long run. The romance is the least important part of this book. In all honesty, it’s pretty forgettable.

Sometimes, a YA book will make me look back on my high school days with rose-colored glasses. Oh, to be young again, I think, as I sit here preparing for my ten-year high school reunion. Other YA books make me very glad to be grown and away from that drama. The Way You Make Me Feel falls firmly into the second category. I have no desire to go back to the petty arguments and stupid feuds of high school. I connected more with Clara’s dad, Adrian, than I did with any of the teenage characters. Adrian is actually one of the best and most present YA parents in recent memory, so bonus points for that!

This was my first book by Maurene Goo. I might not have loved it as much as I’d expected, but I did have fun. I have I Believe in a Thing Called Love on my TBR for later this year.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

I received a free advance copy of The Way You Make Me Feel from the publisher (via NetGalley) in exchange for my honest review. The Way You Make Me Feel releases on May 8, 2018.