The Midnight Library: A Review

You see, doing one thing differently is very often the same as doing everything differently. Actions can’t be reversed within a lifetime, however much we try . . . [t]he only way to learn is to live.”


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Nora Seed is deeply depressed about both her life and the numerous regretful mistake she has made along the way. Saddened by how her choices have affected just about every relationship in her life, Nora decides that the best way to solve everything is to self-destruct and leave this world for good. Yet, she finds herself stuck between life and death in a bizarre library with infinite numbers of books, detailing a completely different version of her life. Nora must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

As The Midnight Library is a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Fiction, I am almost certain you have either heard or have already read this stunning book. Yet, despite its popularity in the book community, I wasn’t all that interested in reading it at first. Thanks to a friend of mine who, too, was eager to devour this novel, persuading me to purchase my copy for our next No Name Bookclub read, and I decided to give it a try. Yes, I was secretly dreading to start this book since it’s totally out of my comfort zone, yet, I am happy to admit that this publication is so worth the hype!

This book has a philosophical tone about existence and choosing a lifestyle that’s meaningful, and provides true happiness to oneself – but with a creative twist. Matt Haig reminds us that although most of us might not be battling with severe depression, we all have a considerable amount of regrets that we wish we could change. However, the interesting question Haig poses in this novel is not whether we would correct our mistakes if we had the chance to, but instead, whether the outcome would be any different. Like many of us, Nora Seeds regrets many decisions she has made in her life. She strongly believes she is a major disappointment to both her friends and family. With an extraordinary opportunity to experience different versions of her life, Nora teaches us that we try our best to choose the right choices, but we can never choose the outcome.

In the end, Haig encourages readers that life, itself, is a gift and that instead of worrying about past mistakes or regrets, we should focus on the fact that we are all full of infinite potential. Life is worth living regardless of our flaws. We should never give up on ourselves.

Happy reading, friends!

A Song Below Water By Bethany C. Morrow: A Review

“Sirens, the say and anyone listening knows it’s a dirty word. Danger, they report and they’re talking about the danger she posed, never the danger we face.”

In her debut novel, Morrow tackles a plethora of black experiences in America such as racism, sexism, and the stigmatism of black hair, while simultaneously providing a colorful and deeply moving modern fantasy of two sisters navigating self-discovery and friendship. The story begins with the murder trial of an African American woman named Rhoda Taylor who was suspected to be a siren. Tavia, along with the rest of her family, is nervous about her safety as she sees Rhoda as herself: a black woman who is seen as a threat rather than a victim of violence. While Effie is determined to protect her sister’s secret, she too is secretly dealing with unexplainable magic of her own that is slowly threatening to reveal her true identity of which her family has prevented her from knowing since birth. Together, Tavia and Effie rely on each other more than ever as their community seeks justice for the many killings of unarmed black victims.

In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that incorporates Greek mythology, European mythology, fantasy, and American history all in one. Morrow took it upon herself to tell a very unique story that combines both mythical and supernatural creatures while weaving together real-life black experiences. She transports her readers to an unusual world with sprites and sirens, but she also adds very familiar issues. While effectively delivering an irresistible story of friendship and power, Morrow masterfully blends issues like the lack of media coverage of black female victims and the pervasiveness of racial profiling by police officers so as to educate her readers in a mild approach while still entertaining them. Her writing is powerful and the message is eternal. There were countless moments throughout this book where I was deeply moved and inspired.

“We’ve got a secret, and as far as my dad’s concerned, everything threatens to give us away.”


Along with her creative storytelling, Morrow uses alternating points of view which not only allows her readers to get a deeper insight into Tavia and Effie’s complicated issues but also highlights the world they live in, which mirrors our very own.

All in all, not only is this book timely, but I would also say it’s the first step to understanding a few important issues about black struggles for those who aren’t quite ready to dive headfirst into America’s complicated relationship with her African American citizens. It’s irresistibly compelling without shying away from the many painful truths within the black community.

Happy Reading!

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes: A Review

Framed. Bullied. Disliked. But I know I can still be the best.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In this book, Rhodes tackles the all too real pain of racial injustice, colorism, and prejudice faced by people of color in schooling systems, along with the common act of whitewashing in history. 12-years-old Donte Ellison is falsely accused by the captain of the fencing team, “King” Alan, of disrupting class by throwing a pencil at a fellow student. He is later arrested and suspended for his conduct. Though Donte is angry at the fact that no one would believe he’s innocent, instead of sulking about his situation, he seeks the help of a former fencing olympian, so as to confront his bully and the blatant racism that exists in his nearly all-white prep middle school in their own turf: fencing.

Although this book was written for a much younger audience, I am completely shocked at Rhodes’ ability to confront a very painful topic with such simplicity and grace. In addition to confronting issues like racial injustice, colorism, economic privilege, and prejudice, Rhodes mentions the fatal shooting of twelve years old Tamir Rice to also highlight police brutality against the black community, along with systemic racism and the school-to-prison pipeline. Such topics are often considered inappropriate for young children, yet Rhodes held nothing back. She uses Donte Ellison’s experiences as an example to show young readers the power in fighting for what you believe and surrounding yourself with people who will fight with you.

“Sitting, I stare at the black specks on the white linoleum. A metaphor? That’s what they’re teaching me in English. Metaphor. Except I won’t believe I’m just a black speck. I’m bigger, more than that. Though sometimes I feel like I’m swimming in whiteness. “


The other reason why I enjoyed this book immensely was the fact that Rhodes mentioned my favorite book: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. Rhodes took the opportunity to educate her young readers about General Alex Dumas and his heroic sacrifice. Like Dumas, she uses and gives voice to the many black athletes that are almost forgotten from the pages of our history.

In the end, this heartbreaking story is a must-read for anyone who would like a simpler understanding regarding the issues that have haunted the black community for centuries.

Happy reading!

Book as Refuge: What I Read During the Pandemic

“Indeed, who has a greater right to public respect than the man of color fighting for freedom after having experienced all the horrors of slavery? To equal the most celebrated warriors he need only keep in mind all the evils he has suffered.”
― Tom Reiss, the Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

I know it’s been some time since I last posted anything, and I am truly sorry for my disappearance. Towards the end of last year, work was both chaotic and stressful which led me into a massive reading slump. However, right when things started to calm down, the world stopped due to the Coronavirus. Like everyone else, I was a bit nervous and scared about this pandemic. Standing in long lines at grocery stores, being holed up at home, and receiving devastating updates from news outlets all had me craving for some kind of diversion from the unfolding crisis. And like a true bibliophile, I turned to books as my refuge during these trying times. To my amazement, I’ve read a total of five books last month! Now, I know that’s not an impressive number, but if you’re a slow reader like myself, you’ll agree that this is a colossal achievement. With that being said, here are the books that have kept me sane during this time, along with a brief review:

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory — This book was not for me. I didn’t enjoy it one bit. The plot was OK but the execution was very cliche. The characters were annoying and the romance felt cheesy and rushed. I normally don’t DNF a book — a bookish terminology which means Did Not Finish — and because I bought this book with my own money, I owed it to myself to finish reading it no matter how boring the story was.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter — This book should have been featured above as the second novel to the right but I grabbed the wrong publication for this photo. Oops. Anyway, this book was fantastic! Absolutely moving! I normally avoid any holocaust novels because I just can’t stomach the horrific truth. However, I accidentally purchased this book without reading the synopsis, thinking it was a romance novel. However, I am so glad that I obtained this amazing book! The author was inspired to write this incredible true story of a Jewish family that got separated at the start of World War II. Finding out more about what the Jewish community really went through in order to survive shocked me to my core. This book made me cry, laugh, and cry even more.

Continue reading “Book as Refuge: What I Read During the Pandemic”

If I Was Your Girl Review: Big-Hearted Novel About Being Who You Are By Meredith Russo

If I Was Your Girl Review: Big-Hearted Novel About Being Who You Are By Meredith Russo

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Eighteen-year-old Amanda Hardy is ready for a fresh start at Lambertville High School. After being severely bullied at her old school and ending up in the hospital with multiple injuries, Amanda wants nothing more but to survive her senior year and move far away from the south after graduation. However, unlike her life back in Smyrna, Georgia, Amanda is the new it-girl and is finally creating genuine friendships. Yet, she has a deep secret that she is desperately trying to keep from ruining her new life. In her old school, Amanda was known as Andrew. After meeting the cute and easygoing Grant, Amanda’s resolve is put to the test as she gets closer to him.

This book is absolutely a page-turner from the very beginning. However, what makes this publication so beautiful is that it is a fantastic work of fiction by an actual transgender author. In her debut novel, Meredith Russo perfectly communicates the experience of being a transgender teenager very clearly, while indirectly highlighting the importance of being true to oneself and maintaining a level of self-worth. I enjoyed this story so much because of what Amanda Hardy had to endure. In high school, bullying is a social norm, and Amanda—being as different as she is—makes for an easy target. Yet, it’s usually how one deals with being bullied that will either help them to push forward or lead them to fall apart. At the beginning of the story, we meet Amanda who is extremely terrified and shy, crumbling inside when she receives awkward looks or hurtful comments. But towards the end, Amanda develops the courage to be proud of who she is and refuses to apologize for choosing to live her true self.

Continue reading “If I Was Your Girl Review: Big-Hearted Novel About Being Who You Are By Meredith Russo”

Five Feet Apart Review: grab the tissues now!

Five Feet Apart Review: grab the tissues now!

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Seventeen-year-olds, Stella Grant and Will Newman are cystic fibrosis (CF) patients who meet in a hospital where they experience falling in love for the first time while dealing with the uncertainty of their future. Stella’s a rule follower and control freak who is determined to increase her lung functionality in order to be approved for a lung transplant. She is meticulous in taking her medications and treatments, efficiently. Will, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. He’s a rule breaker who is tired of medications, treatments, and drug trials, which are often unsuccessful. Since he has also contracted B. cepacia on top of having CF, Will’s goal is to travel the world and live life to the fullest until his very last breath. However, as the two get to know each other, feelings are developed and the physical barriers of remaining six feet apart are tested.

Continue reading “Five Feet Apart Review: grab the tissues now!”

This Middle-Grade Book will have you Sleeping with a Nightlight

“I would say it’s a pleasure to meet thee, Prosperity Oceanus Redding, but truly I only anticipate the delights of destroying thy happiness. . . ” –Alastor

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

12-years-old Prosperity –Prosper–, Redding is not like the rest of his famous and ambitious family members. He’s often bullied, doesn’t do well in school, and his relationship with his twin sister, Prue, is drifting even further apart. However, although his family is extremely wealthy and powerful, there’s a dark, hidden secret that is credited to the family’s fame. One of his ancestors made a deal with a demon many years ago for fame and glory in exchange for their souls. Like most contracts, the deal was broken. Now, the demon is hellbent on taking the family down. And Prosper is his first victim. 

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Circe By Madeline Miller

I had begun to know what fear was. What could make a god afraid? I knew that answer, too. A power greater than their own.” – Circe

Circe is an immortal coming of age story about Western literature’s first female witch. Similarly to her debut novel, The Songs of Achilles, Madeline Miller once again creatively explore the second major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. Miller beautifully responds to Homer’s Odyssey by retelling the encounter between the goddess of magic and wily Odysseus after the Trojan War.

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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

“There was a vividness to him, even at rest, that made death and spirits seem foolish.” —Patroclus

The Song of Achilles is a retelling of Homer’s “Iliad” which portrays the epic battle between the ancient Kingdom of Troy and Sparta. Madeline Miller, the author of this novel, creatively explores one of the most important events in Greek mythology from the perspective of an often forgettable, but equally vital, player of Achilles’ glory: Patroclus.

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The Wicked King by Holly Black

“You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring. The first lesson is to make yourself that strong. “

It’s been five months since Jude Duarte successfully secured the royal crown of Elfhame onto Prince Cardan’s head, which in turn bounded his loyalty to her for a year and a day. However, holding on to her new power and role as seneschal to the High King is proving to be difficult when Jude learns that someone close to her means to betray her and threaten the lives of everyone she loves. With the political climate of Elfhame growing increasingly dangerous, how will Jude uncover the identity of the traitor, protect those she most dearly cares for and maintain control over The Wicked King?

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