Review: An American Marriage


An American Marriage

Thank you to NetGalley and Algonquin Books for the free digital review copy of this book. All opinions are my own!

Sometimes when you like where you end up, you don’t care how you got there.

Sometimes when there is a lot of hype surrounding a book, I put off reading it because I’m afraid it won’t live up to what everyone is saying. That’s what happened with An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. I put it off for awhile, and finally started listening to the audio version. And then I was mad at myself for waiting for so long to start it! I started with the audio (which is very, very good) and when my library hold on that ran out, I finished up reading the digital copy I had because I couldn’t stand to wait any longer to finish it. This book lives up to the hype and is truly an amazing book.

Celestial and Roy are newlyweds, just starting out on their journey. They’re both figuring out what they want out of life and starting out their careers. When Roy is falsely accused of a crime, he is sentenced to 12 years in prison. Celestial and Roy’s relationship changes unequivocally as a result of their time apart. When Roy is released after five years, nothing is the same for either of them, and they have to figure out how to make a life out of what they have left. The book alternates chapters between Roy, Celestial, and their good friend Andre telling the story of what happens through those years.

In my opinion, this is one of the best books written this year, although certainly not the most uplifting. And that’s ok. The relationship between Roy and Celestial is so very real, and Jones does not take lightly how people’s feelings for each other change over the years, especially during an exacerbating situation. The way they speak to each other, the way they interact with each other and each other’s families, and the way they behave as strong individuals rang so true to me, and I was heartbroken for the decisions they had to make. This story is about marriage, and what happens when you put a marriage through the ringer.

As much as this is about marriage, I can’t fail to mention that it is also about race and justice in America. The story lends itself to an honest discussion about being black in America and what that means, and how biased the justice system truly is. I think it’s an important topic, and this book is a great starting point for some of those difficult discussions.

An American Marriage lived up to the hype for me, and I’m so glad it did. I absolutely love books that really delve into personal relationships and how people react to hard situations. This book does that and more, and I guarantee it will make you wonder what you would do in the same situation if nothing else.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

EXTRA!

This book is very reminiscent of One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Check out my review of that book HERE.), and I think they would make great companion reads.

What My Kids Are Reading: Teacher Gift Edition!


The Boo-Boos That Changed the World The Caper of the Crowned Jewels (Secret Agent Jack Stalwart) My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella

I received a free copy of The Boo-Boos That Changed the World from Blue Slip Media and a free copy of My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella from the author. All opinions are my own! (And I bought additional copies of both books with my own cash money!)

Well, it’s that time of year! Teacher Appreciation, end of year teacher gifts, and feeling extra grateful for how much our teachers have done throughout the year. One of our teacher appreciation gifts was to add to each teacher’s classroom library. Can you guess how excited I was about this??? I think this is a wonderful idea, and if you’re like me and try to give more practical gifts to teachers throughout the year, books are great. These are the books I gifted to my boys’ teachers, and I truly think they’re all great books.

For Our First-Grade Teacher

The Boo-Boos That Changed the World: A True Story About an Accidental Invention (Really!)

I love non-fiction books for kids that are actually interesting and fun, and this one is fantastic. Who knew the history of Band-Aids could be so interesting? Earle Dickson worked for Johnson & Johnson in the 1920s. His wife was extraordinarily clumsy, and he needed to come up with an easy way for his wife to cover her wounds while he was at work. Using supplies from his job, he created a rudimentary version of what we now know as Band-Aids. His boss thought it was a great idea, and dedicated Johnson & Johnson technology to improving it. This is a perfect book for elementary aged kids, and a great read-aloud for teachers!

For Our Third-Grade Teacher

The Caper of the Crowned Jewels (Secret Agent Jack Stalwart)

My 9-year-old picked this book out at Murder By the Book in Houston, and it is SUCH a great series!! Each book takes place in a different country, and the beginning of the book reads like a secret agent file about the case and includes history and interesting facts about the country. This is the third book in the series and takes place in London. Jack has to figure out who has stolen the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London, and even gets to meet the Queen. This is an easy chapter book, and while my 9-year-old reads these pretty quickly, he still loves them because they’re fun and adventurous. If you know your child’s teacher has a thing for the royals (Don’t we all??), this would be a great addition to his or her classroom library.

My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella

This book might be my favorite of the bunch, and as soon as I finished reading it I ordered it for my son’s teacher. Seriously. (And I’ll be buying it and others in the series for other kids.) The Rotten Stepbrother series takes fairy tales and turns them on their heads, and I love it. In this one, Maddie’s stepbrother Holden ruins her report on her favorite fairy tale, Cinderella, and embarrasses her in class. That night, they are magically transported inside the fairy tale, where everything has gone wrong. The prince thinks he loves the evil stepsister, Cinderella is stuck cleaning her stepmother’s house (and gets thrown into the dungeons), and Maddie and Holden both become characters in the story. They have to fix everything so that Cinderella gets her happy ending, or the fairy tale might stay cracked forever. This book is funny, witty, and really well-written. There’s something for everyone, and I think girls AND boys would enjoy this one.

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Review: Prince in Disguise


Prince in Disguise

If you’re like me and can’t get enough of the royals (and yes, I’m setting my alarm super early on May 19th . . . but I’m also setting my DVR in case I sleep through it), you’ve been trying to read everything in that genre possible lately. Ever since The Royal We, I’ve been looking for a book that gives me the same feelings and is in a similar vein. I finally think I’ve found it in Stephanie Kate Strohm’s Prince in Disguise. It’s funny, charming, and just quirky enough to separate it from other YA romance novels.

Dylan is a Mississippi teen trying to live privately and quietly. Which is impossible to do when her big sister, Dusty, wins a reality show called Prince in Disguise and the entire family has to go to Scotland for the filming of the royal wedding. Dylan spends her days trying to hide from the cameras and keep some family secrets secret . . . and spend as much time as possible with Jamie, the cute groomsman who has an impressive knowledge of bookish quotes. If she’s not careful, the cameras will turn on Dylan and make her the center of attention.

This book is just what my heart and mind needed. A sweet YA romance with a little royalty thrown in and quirky, believable characters. While the plot is predictable, it’s predictable in a completely satisfying way, and the characters are so well written that I cared about what happened to all of them. This is such a fun book, and if you’re wanting to get in the mood for the royal wedding on May 19th, this book is the perfect way to do it!

Prince in Disguise has everything-great characters, a ridiculous reality show, impossible situations, and a cute romance. I wouldn’t change a thing about any of it (except maybe to see more of Florence, the royal mother in law, who is a force not to be trifled with), and I was a little sad when the book ended because I wanted the story to continue. I absolutely loved this cute book! It’s a YA romance that I think appeals to all ages.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Review: For Every One


For Every One

Thank you to Kid Lit Exchange for the review copy of this book! All opinions are my own.

The truth is
our dreams could be
as far away as forever
or as close as lunchtime.
Tomorrow you could
wake up and read
this letter on a billboard.
Or you could wake up
and have forgotten
who wrote it.

I have not read a lot of poetry or books in verse in my life. To be honest, I can’t even name one. But now I can, and it’s Jason Reynolds’ For Every One. I read this short book, a poem that started as a speech Reynolds gave at the Kennedy Center to celebrate the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, from cover to cover, not looking up once. It is that good, that moving, and that inspiring.

This is the most straightforward and honest poem (I’ll call it a poem, but it’s really a speech in verse) I’ve ever read, and I really think anyone can relate to it. It is about Reynolds’ own struggle with his dreams and how hard it can be to follow those dreams, but how important it is to keep going. He honestly states that he doesn’t hold the key to success, and isn’t quite sure how to make dreams come true. The most important thing is to have a dream and to keep going on the path towards that dream, no matter how beaten down you may become. Just having a dream is important, and sometimes holding on to that dream through life is the most difficult thing to do, and the most critical.

Whether you are about to graduate from high school or college or graduated 15 years ago, For Every One is an important book and a much-needed reminder that we should never stop dreaming. I recently bought a copy of this for a friend who is going through a hard time, and I really hope it helps her to remember that our dreams will never die as long as we keep holding tight to them. It was a good reminder for me, and inspired me to pick up a couple of dreams I thought were no longer possible. If you need some inspiration, know someone who needs a little push, or need an amazing bookish gift for a graduate, please consider this book. Reynolds gets it exactly right. And if, like me, you don’t usually read verse (and don’t usually enjoy it), I really think this will change your mind. It certainly changed mine.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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A Bookish Mother’s Day Gift Guide

I received several of these books from the publisher, either as hard copies or digital galleys. I’ve marked my partnerships with a second asterisk. I only recommend I love, and all opinions are always my own!

I love to give books as gifts, but that can be tricky. We all have different genre preferences, favorite authors, and reading mood changes. But if you have a mom who loves to read like I do, chances are you can make a pretty good guess as to what type of book they would enjoy. I’m featuring a few of my favorites that I’ve gifted to my mom, some that I’ve received, and some that I plan to gift to a few of my friends who are new moms. Let me know in the comments any book suggestions you have for Mother’s Day! Mom, if you’re reading here, just stop now!!

New Moms

These might seem odd recommendations for new moms, but I think moms worry enough about reading all the parenting books, and could really use more fun books to relieve some of that worry. With just a hint of motherhood (and friendship) thrown in, of course.

**Mama’s Belly by Kate Hosford, illustrated by Abigail Halpin (This is the sweetest book! It’s about a little girl and her mom, who is pregnant, and how the little girl is excited about meeting her new sibling, but also worried about there being enough love to go around. It’s perfect for brand new moms who are worried themselves about a new life, and for second-time moms–or third or fourth–who want to reassure their other little ones.)
*Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Read my review HERE. There are so many family dynamics, especially mother/daughter relationships, and it will give any mom a lot to think about!)
**The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews (This is her newest book, out May 8th, and it’s a fun book about scandal, secrets, and, most importantly, the friendship of a group of women, something that a lot of new moms might need reminding about.)

Historical Fiction

*The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck (Read my review HERE.)
**Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict (Read my review HERE.)
**I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon (This is Lawhon’s take on the Anastasia Romanov mystery and Anna Anderson, the woman who claimed to be her in the 1920s. I’m planning to get this and buddy read it with my mom!)

Wine

Do I need to explain why this is its own book category? Probably not! My mom loves to read about the history of wine and stories that take place in beautiful wine country. I gave her Cork Dork last year, and she may be getting another this year!

*Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste by Bianca Bosker (Bosker is a journalist who started researching wine to figure out why it’s such a big deal-I can definitely relate to that. I gave this to my mom last year and she and my dad both liked it!)
*The Wandering Vine: Wine, the Romans and Me by Nina Caplan (This one comes out May 8, so if you pre-order now it’ll definitely arrive in time for Mother’s Day. I just pre-ordered this and I know it’s one my mom is going to love. This also fits in the next category, as it’s Caplan’s story of traveling through various wine countries and learning about wine, drinking, and herself in the process.)
*Also, you know, a bottle of wine!!

Travel

*The Paris Effect by K.S.R. Burns (This sounds SO GOOD, and I’m planning to buy copies for my mom and myself! It’s about a woman who goes on a trip to Paris after the death of her best friend and how she learns to move past her problems and start living life.)
*Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta by Richard Grant (Read my review HERE.)
*The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific by J. Maarten Troost (Ok. Hear me out on this one. This is a book that my mom actually gave to me, and it is straight up hilarious. Troost moved to the tiny island of Tarawa for two years. Enter what it feels like for a Westerner to move to a place where dengue fever runs rampant and there’s no electricity, running water, buildings, or airplanes. If your mom likes travel memoirs, this one is sure to be a hit.)
*Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr (This is the author’s account of the year he spent in Rome writing All the Light We Cannot See, which would also make a great gift if your mom hasn’t read it yet! I think the title says it all!)

Fiction

*Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge (Read my review HERE. This is my favorite book this year so far . . .)
*The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Read my review HERE. This was one of my favorite books of 2017!)
*The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (My mom just got this book, and I’m waiting for her to start for me to start reading it! Kristin Hannah is one of my favorite authors, and this book has family drama, adventure, and the type of mystery that only Alaska can bring.)

Books to Buddy Read with Mom!

*A Quiet Life in the Country (A Lady Hardcastle Mystery) by T E Kinsey (This is the first book in the Lady Hardcastle series, and it’s just amazing. I bought this for my mom (Mom, hurry up and finish reading this!), and I’ve been listening to the audio, which I bought on Audible. The audio is so good, and I’m going to get the rest in the series this way. It’s one of the best cozy mysteries I’ve ever read.)
*Still Life, the Inspector Gamache series, by Louise Penny (Read my review HERE. This is the other cozy mystery series that I love. And it is amazing. If you and/or your mom haven’t started them, what are you waiting for??)
*Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (This is the first in a trilogy, and if you’re looking family drama and a more diverse shelf for your mom, this is the book to get! The movie opens in August, so it might be fun to read it together and then have a movie date!)

Extras!

*Carrot Top Paper Shop-Carrot Top Paper Shop makes my favorite bookmarks and prints, and if you’re getting your mom multiple books, you might want to add in a few bookmarks.
*Book Light-This was suggested by Colleen at The Sagging Bookshelf, and it’s such a great idea!!
*Bookshelf Tees-So these are my new favorite shirts. Seriously, they’re so cute and soft!
*Just One More Chapter Mug-To fill with coffee! Or wine!
*My Pretty Peggy-Erin makes the cutest peg dolls, both literary and custom. Whenever she’s taking custom orders, it might be fun to have some made to look like you and your mom!
*Book of the Month Club-Might seem obvious, but I have to include it because they’ve had some really good selections the past couple of months.

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