Book Review #68: The Spy Who Raised Me

The Spy Who Raised Me by Ted Anderson, Gianna Meola (176 pages)

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The premise isn’t a bad idea, but the execution is like using Hello Kitty stickers instead of duct tape. I don’t mind silly or ridiculous stories, but I just didn’t get this one.

Josie’s been drugged and programmed all throughout her life, and the truth comes out after a fateful trip to Paris. But it’s so matter-of-factly. Her mom just owns up to it. While Josie is happy to be in control of her life again, I thought she didn’t have a strong enough reaction to basically being a robot, test dummy.

Also, Josie’s high school friend Zoe is prominently in the story. She doesn’t add much besides a joke or two, but I liked her.

The artwork is very simple and flat-colored. It can feel unfinished, at times, and there are few in-between shots of movement. But I liked the reddish-peach color scheme.

If you just want something fast-paced, action-packed, and nonsensical, then this isn’t a bad option. Just don’t expect to understand anything or connect with the characters on a deep level.

Book Review #67: Your Corner Dark

Your Corner Dark by Desmond Hall (384 pages)

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This was a bit of a rollercoaster emotionally, at least for me, because I was so upset to see Frankie pulled into some gangster-mess. It’s frustrating but also sad with Frankie dealing with his father, his wanting to study in the US, and keeping an eye on his friend Winston.

There are some sparks of romance, but ultimately, it’s in the background until the latter half. The love interest is an artist, but she’s no manic-pixie girl. She does political art and social commentary in her work and is very focused. I also loved that Frankie wanted to be an engineer. The few moments we see Frankie’s analytical mind work is well-done.

In this story, the familial relationships drew me in. I loved learning about Frankie’s Uncle Joe (who I want to stomp out!) and his Aunt Jenny. The relationship between Frankie and Samson, his father, was so interesting to me. I just wanted to know more about their strained interactions and how things were before Frankie’s mom passed.

Overall, I have had my fill of street-life and/or drug culture media, but I read this because it was set in Jamaica. A lot of mainstream books are in the US or UK, so it’s a welcome change of pace. I wasn’t aware that political parties got gangs to back them. I thought this was a good page-turner because you know everything’s going to go off the rails, it’s just a matter of when. I couldn’t put this down, so I had to finish this with sleepy, tired eyes in one night.

4.5/5 stars

SN: at times, Frankie seems overly hard on Jamaica, but I understand, when you’re a native of somewhere, you judge it harsher because you live there and understand the nuances.

Book Review #66: Patron Saints of Nothing

“Truth is a hungry thing.” (pg 29)

“There are moments when sharing silence can be more meaningful than filling a space with empty chatter.” (pg 123)

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Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay (323 pages)

A thrilling story with a crisp narrative that makes you think and demand change. Patron Saints of Nothing masterfully tackles the bystander who looks at injustice and says nothing. Of course, there are many gut punches and some of the best family moments/dynamics I have seen.

Click to View Spoiler this also acknowledges not to idolize a person/have unrealistic expectations. Jun was basically a good Samaritan/arguably a truly Christlike person, yet he was still human. Every character felt so realistic because people aren’t just black and white. A part of me wishes Jun would’ve died the upstanding radical activist, but him succumbing to drugs is also an interesting angle

Also, best love story that never was!

Click for Spoiler: Pfft… Not Mia and Jay *rolls eyes* I’m talking about Jun and Reyna. ;___; 

5 stars

Book Review #65: Wicked Fox

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This cover! *heart eyes*

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho (429 pages)

Well, this story was emotionally draining. You gotta know that upfront.

Good chemistry/banter between the two leads (2 months tho!?!) and morality, friendship/loneliness, and abandonment issues are baked into a loaf of delicious bread. However, toward the 300-mark the story began to feel so long, and the bread got stale.

I honestly enjoyed reading this before getting burnt out toward the end.


I think Jihoon brought up a good point with not pinning all your love and hope into one person because when they are gone, where does that leave you?

I would read a spin-off about Juun/the dokkaebi, but I’m not sure if I want to continue Miyoung’s journey.

SN: Gorgeous cover. Heads up! There is a Korean glossary at the end of the book, not that you’ll really need it. I wish books would highlight that at the beginning of the book.

Book Review #64: The Meet-Cute Project and The Firekeeper’s Daughter

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The Meet-Cute Project by Rhiannon Richardson (384 pages)

I liked this. It was fairly cute and lighthearted. I understand Sam, Mia’s older sister, felt slighted with how lackadaisical their parents got when Mia was born, but she seemed a little too fixated/clingy with her sister, at times. I’m super close with my older brother, but I can’t imagine monitoring his involvement with my wedding that much. As long as you show up, that’s all I need. Maybe it’s different from an older sibling’s perspective? Also, Black families are not a monolith, of course, but, sometimes, the way Grace be talking to her parents. Like??? Is it the Bridezilla effect?

Anyway, the meet-cutes, while predictable were nice. You can see where the story’s heading early on, but I didn’t mind reading it. Mia is fine; she’s a nervous rambler. Mia’s friends weren’t that interesting, but, at least, they could stand up for themselves. I’m glad that friends of the MC are standing up for themselves more often now in YA novels than being mistreated. I also really liked Gavin. 

Click for spoiler sometimes, I thought he got too mad too fast. He didn’t always communicate well, but I think that’s realistic for teens

Overall, I would definitely be on board for this to become a Netflix series. We need some cute YA movies with black leads. ❤

3 stars


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Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley (496 pages)

This was a good page-turner! Sometimes, I didn’t like Daunis. She seemed a little stuck up toward the hockey girlfriends though she matures over the course of the story. YA protagonists may seem irrational at times, but it’s more realistic for teen/young adults to not have it all together. I really enjoyed the tidbits about grief, forgiveness, and family.  I wondered why the story was set from 2004 – 2005. It was easily forgettable until a Blackberry of Superbowl 2004 halftime performance mention, you know.

Click for spoiler I LOVED the healthy ending conversation between Daunis and Jamie.

While the final reveal was fun, the “villians” seemed a little cartoony/too good to be true. Still, this is worth a read.

CW: Sexual assault (not detailed), of course, references to drugs

4 stars

Have you read either or both of these books? What did you think?

Book Review #63: The Knockout

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The Knockout by S.A. Patel (360 pages)

I thought it was interesting to have a female MC who did Muay Thai. That’s a martial art I hear/know very little about.

Kareena is a loving child to her parents who worries about their health and financial issues immensely. Muay Thai is not only her love but also a bit of a mental escape. All of Kareena’s insecurities about being shunned from the Indian community and the hating-chicks at her school got tiresome. But maybe that’s realistic to how some of us are when we are being too self-conscious and guarded? I thought Kareena’s worries about money were very relatable.

I don’t know about the pacing. It dragged to me. All of the school life filler and romance pushed Muay Thai to the back. Toward the end, it felt like the story would never end.

There’s a love interest here that feels too good to be true. I like decent male, YA leads, but he felt cheesy at times. It’s not because he respected the MC, didn’t brood, or have a tragic backstory. Maybe it was his delivery, always saying the right things at the right times. The boy is almost at saint-level status. 

Still, The Knockout is great for a light-hearted read. I loved how supportive her parents were as well.

Book Review #62: Charming as a Verb, Chlorine Sky, and Love in English

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Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe (328 pages)

I felt bad for Henri with all the pressure he had on his shoulders, but I also wanted to strangle him at one point. Overall, he was a lovely character. But I enjoyed Corinne too; she was awkward, smart-mouthed, flirty, and quirky.

I liked this more for the college admission shenanigans and Henri’s family (his mom’s a firefighter!) more so than the romance.

I can imagine the majority of this story might be stressful for students sending in college applications or doing SAT prep too lol


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Chlorine Sky by Mahogany L. Browne (192 pages)

“I’m not weak … I’m just tired of swinging” (59).

I’ve gotten a soft spot for books in verse recently. Chlorine Sky is vulnerable. I think this is definitely relatable for a lot of teens. There’s no teaching moments or hold-your-hand passages. The obvious undercurrent of colorism and sexism doesn’t have to be explained, it’s just there. Sky has insecurities and her best friend no longer acts like one. Lay Li is what Sky visually wants to be and what she thinks boys her age/society will accept better. The narrative reads well, and it’s filled with AAVE done right.

Certainly worth reading!

CW: Sexual harassment


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Love in English by Maria E. Andreu (336 pages)

I loved the language-learning process. The idea to use hashtags for words/phrases Ana doesn’t understand was great. Even when you think you’ve reached a level of fluency, there’s something you won’t understand.

Overall, I liked this story. It’s lighthearted and sweet. You already know what’s going to happen, but I still enjoyed getting there.

Yolk’s on Me – Available Now!

Yolk’s on Me by Destiny Henderson (60 pages)

I wrote my latest story over winter break, Yolk’s on Me. This is a short story about a teen named Mauve coming to terms with her attention-seeking. It’s lighthearted without any triggering or strong content.

Please give it a read! Or, buy the paperback!

Amazon link

Goodreads link

Book Review #61: The Year I Flew Away

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The cover’s by one of my favorite artists, GDBee/Geneva Bowers

The Year I Flew Away by Marie Arnold (256 pages)

Well, I never thought I would read “molesting the avocados” in a story, but here we are.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this. I almost read this all-in-one sitting. Normally, watching characters make mistake after mistake can get tiring, but I didn’t mind Gabrielle’s journey to self-acceptance. Gabrielle’s immigration experience is not easy and she feels othered in Brooklyn, New York. The weight of all of Haiti (though really, it’s just her fam back home) is on her shoulders to fit in and not cause any trouble. That’s a lot. I think many first- and second-generation and newly immigrated kids will find this story relatable. There is magical realism throughout this story, but the ending felt a little on the nose.

Still, certainly worth reading.

Book Review #60: Angel of Greenwood

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Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink (304 pages)

I have always heard about Black Wallstreet and I knew the unfortunate ending, but I liked seeing this fictional take on it. We get to see how life may have been for those living in this sort of Black oasis. The people in the community felt real to me. The Booker T. Washington vs. W.E B. Du Bois conversations where their two ideologies are contrasted were good as well.

For those more interested in the historical aspects, they may be disappointed by how much the story focuses on Isaiah’s development, Angel’s need to help, and innocent romance (slightly insta-lovey but fitting). The actual events don’t take place until the last hundred pages, choosing instead to focus on our main characters’ lives instead.

I enjoyed (as much as you can with the subject matter) reading Angel of Greenwood. This is a dual pov with Angel and Isaiah. Angel is the girl with a heart of gold who is always caring for others and not herself, while Isaiah is a secretly-decent guy led around by his nasty friend Muggy jr.

I did not know how early on would the book touch on the vile massacre, so there was an impending sense of dread for me. However, the lightheartedness of Isaiah getting his junk together and his beautiful, lovesick poems he wrote about Angel were a welcome distraction.

While I generally don’t read much historical fiction, I don’t regret reading this. We, descendants from North American chattel enslavement and black people in general, have truly had an enduring time in this country. Still, Angel of Greenwood shows that black life isn’t/wasn’t this all-consuming suffering. People had lives, aspirations, hopes and dreams and whatnot too.

Anyway, this is worth reading (and talking about!)

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