Cinderella is Dead

Finished Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.”

This is such a fantastic book and I don’t think any review could do it justice.

It’s incredibly smart and incredibly feminist (I’m pretty sure that any book that’s described that way is a book that I’ll immediately want to read). And Sophie is wonderful. She’s Black and queer and is determined to change the status quo in her city and its kingdom. Women are treated horribly; they’re the property of their husbands. It’s been that way since Cinderella’s time, but Sophie knows that tradition is a horrible reason to do anything.

And it won’t surprise you to learn that, while Cinderella’s story is true, there are two different versions: the official, palace-approved one and the one that’s actually true.

This is a phenomenal book and I love everything about it. Highly recommended.

Surrender, White People

Finished Surrender, White People by DL Hughley. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In this follow-up to his “hilarious yet soul-shaking” (Black EnterpriseNew York Times bestseller How Not to Get Shot, comedy legend D. L. Hughley offers satirical terms for a peace treaty between white America and the rest of humanity.

For more than four hundred years, white America has been safely a majority and has used that power to f*ck with blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans. Now, however, the demographic tide has turned—and a reckoning is coming. On the eve of America becoming a majority-minority nation, D. L. Hughley advises, “Surrender, White People!” and offers his terms for reparations and reconciliation in this edgy book infused with his trademark blend of humor and cutting social commentary.

As Hughley explains, whites better make their peace with their black and brown brothers while the getting’s still good. There’s a lot to answer for: the United States has subjugated African-Americans and other ethnic minorities since its founding—from slavery to Jim Crow to modern police brutality. Under the terms of Hughley’s satirical agreement, white people will stop having their police officers kill young black men, stop poisoning the water, stop appropriating black culture, stop trying to prevent black people from voting, and more. . . . In exchange, black people will talk some sense into Kanye. And they shall keep their opinions of white people’s dance moves to themselves.

Surrender, White People! includes 25 black-and-white illustrations.”

This is a hard book to recommend. As you’d imagine from DL Hughley, it’s really funny and there are a lot of parts where I literally laughed out loud. And then there are parts that just as literally took my breath away. I’d never heard of Henry Smith (a Black man who was brutally murdered by a lynch mob) and it’s the worst thing I’ve ever read.

It’s a very effective tactic, because the humor drew me in and then there are parts that just felt like an assault. And it’s good. It should. We should feel shock and horror when we read about lynchings. I think a lot of times it’s sort of sanitized and glossed over, but there is nothing at all here that should be couched in polite terms. It’s a legacy of brutality and should be treated as such.

This book is both incredibly easy to read and incredibly hard to read. Maybe proceed with caution but definitely proceed. Highly recommended.

Love, Creekwood

Finished Love, Creekwood by Becky Albertalli.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Fall in love all over again with the characters from the bestselling Simonverse novels in this highly anticipated epilogue novella. Perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli, the movie Love, Simon, and the new Hulu series spin-off, Love, Victor!

It’s been more than a year since Simon and Blue turned their anonymous online flirtation into an IRL relationship, and just a few months since Abby and Leah’s unforgettable night at senior prom.

Now the Creekwood High crew are first years at different colleges, navigating friendship and romance the way their story began—on email.”

So first, I should probably apologize. I promised my friend Kathy that I would text her reactions in real time, but that didn’t happen. In my defense, that would’ve meant putting the book down, and I didn’t want to do that.

It’s such a sweet, fun story. It’s also very short (a novella, not a full book) but I love the fact that we got it. And I love the format: it’s told through emails. Mostly they’re between Simon and Bram or Leah and Simon, but there are a bunch of others. There are group emails scheduling meetups when they’re all back in town from college.

This is the loveliest book and I am so glad that we got it. Highly recommended.

The Voting Booth

Finished The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From Stonewall Award-winning author Brandy Colbert comes an all-in-one-day love story perfect for fans of The Sun is Also A Star.
Marva Sheridan was born ready for this day. She’s always been driven to make a difference in the world, and what better way than to vote in her first election?
Duke Crenshaw is do done with this election. He just wants to get voting over with so he can prepare for his band’s first paying gig tonight.
Only problem? Duke can’t vote.
When Marva sees Duke turned away from their polling place, she takes it upon herself to make sure his vote is counted. She hasn’t spent months doorbelling and registering voters just to see someone denied their right. And that’s how their whirlwind day begins, rushing from precinct to precinct, cutting school, waiting in endless lines, turned away time and again, trying to do one simple thing: vote. They may have started out as strangers, but as Duke and Marva team up to beat a rigged system (and find Marva’s missing cat), it’s clear that there’s more to their connection than a shared mission for democracy.
Romantic and triumphant, The Voting Booth is proof that you can’t sit around waiting for the world to change?but some things are just meant to be.”

Brandy Colbert is one of my favorite authors and I love the way that her stories are both fun and meaningful. I absolutely love Marva, whose driving goal is to make sure that people are registered to vote (and then that they actually do) because it’s the easiest way for any one person to make a difference. And so when she accidentally hears Duke not being allowed to vote, she swings into action and makes it her mission to ensure that he does actually get to cast a ballot that day.

But there’s a lot of other stuff to deal with, too. And that’s what saves this book from just being another “issues book.” (And no judgment there; I love issues books.) But this has so much going on, and it’s a complete joy to read. (As all of her books are.)

28 Summers

Finished 28 Summers by Elin HIlderbrand. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“By the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Summer of ’69: Their secret love affair has lasted for decades — but this could be the summer that changes everything.

When Mallory Blessing’s son, Link, receives deathbed instructions from his mother to call a number on a slip of paper in her desk drawer, he’s not sure what to expect. But he certainly does not expect Jake McCloud to answer. It’s the late spring of 2020 and Jake’s wife, Ursula DeGournsey, is the frontrunner in the upcoming Presidential election.

There must be a mistake, Link thinks. How do Mallory and Jake know each other?

Flash back to the sweet summer of 1993: Mallory has just inherited a beachfront cottage on Nantucket from her aunt, and she agrees to host her brother’s bachelor party. Cooper’s friend from college, Jake McCloud, attends, and Jake and Mallory form a bond that will persevere — through marriage, children, and Ursula’s stratospheric political rise — until Mallory learns she’s dying.

Based on the classic film Same Time Next Year (which Mallory and Jake watch every summer), 28 Summers explores the agony and romance of a one-weekend-per-year affair and the dramatic ways this relationship complicates and enriches their lives, and the lives of the people they love.”

Elin HIlderbrand’s books are so great and they really feel like summer to me. This one is no exception.

It owes a lot to the movie Same Time Next Year (which they reference many times; watching it is Mallory and Jake’s Labor Day weekend tradition). This is unfortunate because I really wanted to see it, and it’s not available streaming anywhere. :(

I enjoyed this story and I was hoping that there would be a way that they could end up together. (Even though we learn at the beginning exactly how this story will end.)

Like her other books, this felt like exactly the book I needed. It was fun and sweet and sad, and I felt like a read with all of those elements. Highly recommended.

The Vanishing Half

Finished The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From The New York Times -bestselling author of The Mothers , a stunning new novel about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passingLooking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise.”

I absolutely loved Brit Bennett’s debut novel, The Mothers. I mention that because this book is a whole new level of amazing.

I love everything about this book. I love the multiple perspectives and timelines, the idea of the way that we identify (and whether our identities can be changed if we try hard enough) and the way secrets can affect future generations.

I really wish I had read this for my book club, because I have a lot of thoughts and not many people to discuss them with.

I know this review is really vague but I don’t want to spoil any of this for you. Highly recommended.

Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing

Finished Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing by Allison Winn Scotch. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Politics is a test of wills in a sharp, funny, and emotional novel about truth and consequences by the New York Times bestselling author.

Cleo McDougal is a born politician. From congresswoman to senator, the magnetic, ambitious single mother now has her eye on the White House—always looking forward, never back. Until an estranged childhood friend shreds her in an op-ed hit piece gone viral.

With seven words—“Cleo McDougal is not a good person”—the presidential hopeful has gone from in control to damage control, and not just in Washington but in life.

Enter Cleo’s “regrets list” of 233 and counting. Her chief of staff has a brilliant idea: pick the top ten, make amends during a media blitz, and repair her reputation. But there are regrets, and there are regrets: like her broken relationship with her sister, her affair with a law school professor…and the regret too big to even say out loud.

But with risk comes reward, and as Cleo makes both peace and amends with her past, she becomes more empowered than ever to tackle her career, confront the hypocrites out to destroy her, and open her heart to what matters most—one regret at a time.”

I’ve been a fan of Allison Winn Scotch’s for years now, for so long that I don’t remember not loving her and her books. This one might be my favorite yet.

I love politics and political stories, and there’s some of that in this, but it’s more about Cleo herself. Cleo keeps a list of regrets, primarily so that she can learn from those mistakes. “Don’t drink bourbon,” for example, and I think a lot of people probably have one type of alcohol that they can’t drink anymore after overdoing it. (Moment of silence for me and martinis.)

And then Cleo decides that what she’s going to do is actually fix those regrets. (Well, to be fair, Cleo’s campaign manager Gaby decides that for her.) And what happens next is both delightful and very, very relatable. (I experienced a very, VERY strong secondhand wave of mortification at one of them.)

This book is a complete delight. I can’t wait for everyone to read and talk about it. Highly recommended.

What You Should Read

As I’ve mentioned, I’m doing a podcast now. My friends Julia, Rachael and I are doing a podcast about books (I mean, what else?) and it’s so fun.

In our most recent episode, we interview Angie Kim (she wrote Miracle Creek) and it was the best, most fun time.

We’ve been lucky enough to also interview Allison Dickson (The Other Mrs. Miller) and we have more planned.

You can find us here or wherever you listen to podcasts. We’re also on Twitter and Instagram as WYSR_Podcast.

Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice

Finished Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice by Mahogany L. Browne.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Woke: A Young Poet’s Guide to Justice is a collection of poems to inspire kids to stay woke and become a new generation of activists.

Historically poets have been on the forefront of social movements. Woke is a collection of poems by women that reflects the joy and passion in the fight for social justice, tackling topics from discrimination to empathy, and acceptance to speaking out.

With Theodore Taylor’s bright, emotional art, and writing from Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood, kids will be inspired to create their own art and poems to express how they see justice and injustice.

With a foreword by best-selling author Jason Reynolds.”

If you are like me and you find poetry a little intimidating or inaccessible, this is a great one to pick. I don’t mean that it’s easy or simplistic, because that’s not it at all, but it’s just things that need to be said and said in a straightforward way.

I’ve been trying to read more poetry and this is now one of my favorite collections. I wouldn’t at all present myself as an expert here, but I love how it can convey emotion in a way that prose sometimes doesn’t.

I love every poem in here, but my favorite is Rock the Boat. Elizabeth Acevedo wrote it (she’s a contributor) and it’s so great and so valuable. It’s a call to arms to speak up when things are wrong. It’s scary and potentially dangerous but it’s also the most valuable thing we could be doing.

Highly recommended.

Antiracist Baby

Finished Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism. Providing the language necessary to begin critical conversations at the earliest age, Antiracist Baby is the perfect gift for readers of all ages dedicated to forming a just society.”

I absolutely love this book!

It has nine easy steps to become antiracist and the pictures are absolutely adorable (Ashley Lukashevsky did the illustrations). Well, to clarify, the steps are easy at face value and complicated when you think about them.

One of my favorite steps is the second one: “Use your words to talk about race. No one will see racism if we only stay silent. If we don’t name racism, it won’t stop being so violent.”

I think this would make an excellent gift for baby showers or really for anyone who’s trying to be a better person. Either way, the next people I know to get pregnant are getting copies.

Highly recommended.