February Wrap-Up

It’s May, so why am I just posting my February wrap-up, right?

Well, I started writing this in February but then life got insane. So, here we are – in May, catching up on all the things I’ve read 3 months ago. That’s the beauty in books, though. If it’s good, that fact won’t change no matter what time of year you read it. So, I figured I wouldn’t waste a mostly-written post.

February is over [by a long shot] but Black history is still American history and on this blog, I will always elevate the voices of authors of color and others that are marginalized and underrepresented.

This February, I took a dive into Libby’s curated list of Black History Month reads and I’m glad I did! The first 5 reads are written by Black authors

The Sisters are Alright by Tamara Winfrey Harris

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Genre: Nonfiction, Social Justice, African American Culture

Themes: Changing the Narrative of Black Women

Description:

What’s wrong with black women? Not a damned thing!

The Sisters Are Alright exposes anti–black-woman propaganda and shows how real black women are pushing back against distorted cartoon versions of themselves.

When African women arrived on American shores, the three-headed hydra—servile Mammy, angry Sapphire, and lascivious Jezebel—followed close behind. In the ’60s, the Matriarch, the willfully unmarried baby machine leeching off the state, joined them. These stereotypes persist to this day through newspaper headlines, Sunday sermons, social media memes, cable punditry, government policies, and hit song lyrics. Emancipation may have happened more than 150 years ago, but America still won’t let a sister be free from this coven of caricatures.

Tamara Winfrey Harris delves into marriage, motherhood, health, sexuality, beauty, and more, taking sharp aim at pervasive stereotypes about black women. She counters warped prejudices with the straight-up truth about being a black woman in America. “We have facets like diamonds,” she writes. “The trouble is the people who refuse to see us sparkling.”

Review:

Before society can truly appreciate black women, they need to understand the harmfulness in the stereotypes placed on black women that have literally been killing us for centuries.

I’m tired of being automatically placed into a box. I’m either the “strong black woman” or the “sapphire.” Always a caricature first rather than a human being with complex emotions and realities.

This book is great for black women who are seeking validation for the frustrated state we exist in or anyone that calls themself

Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Genre: Nonfiction, Writing/Essay

Description:

“I gave birth to one child, a son, but I have thousands of daughters. You are Black and White, Jewish and Muslim, Asian, Spanish-speaking, Native American and Aleut. You are fat and thin and pretty and plain, gay and straight, educated and unlettered, and I am speaking to you all. Here is my offering to you.”

In Letter to My Daughter, Maya Angelou wrote a collection of essays on lessons she’s learned through life and dedicated it to all of the women in the world, since she never had a daughter of her own.

Review:

No surprise at all, I loved it. Maya Angelou is a wealth of knowledge and a pillar of the black female community. I learned a lot from Letter to My Daughter about her life that I never knew before.

One thing I’ve always known is that she has a way with words that causes just a few phrases to be profound.

I’m glad that she didn’t allow fear to keep her silent. Can you imagine a world where Maya Angelou had never spoken? I know I don’t want to.

I highly recommend this book to any woman and one day I will share it if/when I have daughters of my own.

For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington 

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Genre: Cultural, Adoption

Themes: Life as a black girl adopted into a white family.

Description:

I am a girl but most days I feel like a question mark.

Makeda June Kirkland is eleven years old, adopted, and black. Her parents and big sister are white, and even though she loves her family very much, Makeda often feels left out. When Makeda’s family moves from Maryland to New Mexico, she leaves behind her best friend, Lena―the only other adopted black girl she knows―for a new life. In New Mexico, everything is different. At home, Makeda’s sister is too cool to hang out with her anymore and at school, she can’t seem to find one real friend.

Through it all, Makeda can’t help but wonder: What would it feel like to grow up with a family that looks like me?

Through singing, dreaming, and writing secret messages back and forth with Lena, Makeda might just carve a small place for herself in the world.”

Review:

Makeda’s story covered not only the aspect of interracial adopted families, but also covered mental illness, racism, colorism, and identity.

As someone who wants to adopt in the future, I think stories like this can be very beneficial. I really enjoyed this book and have recommended it to numerous friend that have or are interested in adopting.

Everywhere You Don’t Belong by Gabriel Bump

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Genre: Fiction, Multicultural Interest

Description:

“Claude just wants a place where he can fit. As a young black man born on the South Side of Chicago, he is raised by his civil rights–era grandmother, who tries to shape him into a principled actor for change; yet when riots consume his neighborhood, he hesitates to take sides, unwilling to let race define his life. He decides to escape Chicago for another place, to go to college, to find a new identity, to leave the pressure cooker of his hometown behind. But as he discovers, he cannot; there is no safe haven for a young black man in this time and place called America.”

Review:

The MC is unimpressive and mediocre, as is the plot (if you can even call it that) of this book.

I get that the book is shedding light on the injustices of being Black in America, but I couldn’t get into the actual story line. Nothing truly happened in the book and there was never any character or story development .

Training School for Negro Girls by Camille Acker

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Genre: Fiction, Multicultural Interest

Description:

“As unapologetic and resilient as the DC neighborhoods they live in, these women challenge monolithic assumptions of black identity.
A TSA agent who has never flown, a girl braving new worlds to play piano, a teacher caught up in a mayoral race. In this debut collection of stories, each of them navigate life’s “training school”—with its lessons on gentrification and respectability—while fighting to create a vibrant sense of self in this love letter to Washington, DC.”

Review:

Black women are not a monolith and this book speaks to that very fact.

A few of the stories were inconsequential and I can’t say why they were necessary. A few of them made me reminisce or even cackle and nod my head in agreement to the MC’s actions.

I appreciate that Camille Acker used these varying perspectives to show that black women are not a monolith and that each and everyone of us have completely different experiences, even if we share similarities.

Love Her or Lose Her (Hot & Hammered #2) by Tessa Bailey

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Genre: Nonfiction, Self Help

Description:

Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.

Review:

I didn’t like this one as much as Fix Her Up, but it was still sweet. I am not a fan of the “last ditch effort therapy” concept – Therapy should be a first line of defense, not a last resort.

There needed to be more. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something missing that would have made this be a 4 or 5 star read for me.

However, I still enjoyed it as a light read in between some heavier books. Nothing wrong with a little hot romance to clear some anxiety!

Marriage on Madison Avenue by Hannah Orenstein

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Chick Lit

Themes: Friends to lovers, Fake engagement

Description:

Can guys and girls ever be just friends? According to Audrey Tate and Clarke West, absolutely. After all, they’ve been best friends since childhood without a single romantic entanglement. Clarke is the charming playboy Audrey can always count on, and he knows that the ever-loyal Audrey will never not play along with his strategy for dodging his matchmaking mother—announcing he’s already engaged…to Audrey.

But what starts out as a playful game between two best friends turns into something infinitely more complicated, as just-for-show kisses begin to stir up forbidden feelings. As the faux wedding date looms closer, Audrey and Clarke realize that they can never go back to the way things were, but deep down, do they really want to?

Review:

Marriage on Madison Avenue is my favorite of the Central Park Pact series.

Give me a Lauren Layne novel any day!

Audrey and Clarke have been best friends for a long time. Everyone around them has been shipping them for years – including their parents. So, when they find themselves in a fake engagement, they’re forced to act the part. But, of course, at some point, they’re no longer acting.

Another light, sweet, sexy, steamy read from Lauren Layne. Marriage on Madison Avenue had me grinning and curling my toes so much, I read the whole book in one sitting!

Highly recommend for those who love a good romance and a light read.

The Dating Charade by Melissa Ferguson

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Themes: Adoption, Child Neglect/Endangerment

Description:

Just when you think you’ve met your match . . . the charade begins.

Cassie Everson is an expert at escaping bad first dates. And, after years of meeting, greeting, and running from the men who try to woo her, Cassie is almost ready to retire her hopes for a husband—and children—altogether.

But fate has other plans, and Cassie’s online dating profile catches the eye of firefighter Jett Bentley. In Jett’s memory, Cassie Everson is the unreachable girl-of-legend from their high school days. Nervously, he messages her, setting off a chain of events that forces a reluctant Cassie back into the dating game.

No one is more surprised than Cassie when her first date with Jett is a knockout. But when they both go home and find three children dropped in their laps—each—they independently decide to do the right and mature thing: hide the kids from each other while sorting it all out. What could go wrong?

Review:

I give The Dating Charade a 2.75.

I enjoyed it but there were a couple reasons why it didn’t get a 3 or 4 for me:

First, BOTH characters hid massive secrets from each other and in some parts knew the other was lying but decided not to point it out. That annoyed me to no end. Not only because it’s a terrible way to start a relationship (like, if the secret is so bad that you think it will make the person run, what the hell makes you think that waiting for them to fall for you will make it any less of a blow?!), but they are both dealing with kids that are in traumatizing situations and need stability. So for them to be lying and sneaking around is very harmful to the kids.

Other than that, it was a decent read.

It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered by Lysa TerKeurst

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Genre: Nonfiction, Self-help, Religion/Faith

Description:

What do you do when God’s timing seems questionable, His lack of intervention hurtful, and His promises doubtful?

Life often looks so very different than we hoped or expected. Some events may simply catch us off guard for a moment, but others shatter us completely. We feel disappointed and disillusioned, and we quietly start to wonder about the reality of God’s goodness.

Lysa TerKeurst understands this deeply. But she’s also discovered that our disappointments can be the divine appointments our souls need to radically encounter God. In It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, Lysa invites us into her own journey of faith and, with grit, vulnerability, and honest humor, helps us to:

* Stop being pulled into the anxiety of disappointment by discovering how to better process unmet expectations and other painful situations.
* Train ourselves to recognize the three strategies of the enemy so we can stand strong and persevere through unsettling relationships and uncertain outcomes.
* Discover the secret of being steadfast and not panicking when God actually does give us more than we can handle.
* Shift our suspicion that God is cruel or unfair to the biblical assurance that God is protecting and preparing us.
* Know how to encourage a friend and help her navigate hard realities with real help from God’s truth.

Review:

I have a lot of mixed emotions about this book. And that may easily just be because of the season I was in when I read it vs where I am as I write this review.

While a lot of it had quotable, highlight-friendly prose, there was a little bit of it that made me roll my eyes. But, sometimes, I have to remind myself that we all have levels of privilege that are simply our reality and we can’t fault each other for that.

I appreciate the lessons of humility and surrender. We all need a reminder here and there that sometimes bad things happen to us and the best thing we can do is let go, give it to God, and move on rather than letting it destroy us.

With a Twist (Bad Habits #1)
by Staci Hart

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Description:

Love is somewhere near the bottom of Lily Thomas’ list of life goals, right next to competitive eating and underwater cave diving. She’s spent six years pirouetting and pliéing her way up the ranks of the New York Ballet with her eye on the prize and love in the back seat. But now that Blane Baker — Lily’s long time crush — is finally single, she’ll throw her rules out the window without thinking twice.

Reality with Blane isn’t as epic as the fantasy she imagined, and the truth sends her spinning straight into the arms of the man she never knew she’d always wanted.

“Because I have to believe that love isn’t always a choice. That there’s something about a love that deep that’s chemical, molecular. That’s the thing I’m waiting for.”

With a twist | Staci hart

Review:

Staci Hart has a way of writing that gets you completely lost in the book. I read With a Twist in one session without taking a break or ever setting the book down. I was hooked from the very first page – and I do not say that often!

Something Staci Hart does so well is creating dialogue that is realistic, fluid, and witty. I laughed a lot and even clutched my pearls a time or two!

Books like this are exactly why I love (and prefer) to read books in a series rather than a standalone. I love getting to know all about every character mentioned and I love that each book gives you a glimpse into each character so that you have a better understanding of the character;’s actions, even if you only read one book.

I’m excited to read the rest of this series – I know I’m going to love going deeper into each character’s story and background.

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Genre: Fantasy, Dark Fantasy

Description:

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

Review:

SNOOZEFEST.

I think I only finished this book so that I could form a complete opinion of it. I picked it up because some of my favorite book bloggers had been raving about it. So, I thought it must be good!

It was not. It was almost like sitting and watching a dark, cold, dreary rain storm for no reason. I’m undecided on whether I will read the sequel. But, it’s probably a no for me.

Have you read any of these books? If so, tell me what you thought!

How’s your yearly book reading goal progress?

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