An American Marriage by Tayari Jones || Book Review

When it comes to An American Marriage, it was my first jump back into the world of fiction. Books two through five of 2020 were non-fiction novels surrounding the criminal justice system and the CIA, so I thought I would lighten it up a bit and pick up a novel that was recommended to me by multiple people. This review is out of order of the books I read due to the complicity of this story and the time it took me to put my words on the page.

Roy and Celestial were a newly married couple who were quickly faced with an impending trial. Roy is arrested for a crime that he didn’t commit and is sentenced to 12 years in prison. What follows in this novel is a story of love, loyalty, and an exploration into the idea of marriage.

“Much of life is timing and circumstance, I see that now.” 

I would say that An American Marriage is an interesting read that left me thinking a lot about the meaning of marriage. I flew through this book – Tayari Jone’s descriptions of characters and emotions drove me to need to know how Celestial and Roy were going to react in certain situations.

“None of this proposing via billboard or at halftime at the Rose Bowl. Marriage is between two people. There is no studio audience.”

One aspect that really stood out to me was how incarceration can change relationships. A large portion of the novel was letters between Roy and Celestial. (I loved the style of this!) In the beginning of his incarceration, the letters are full of love and longing to be back together, but over time the letters become angry and eventually Celestial stops writing letters all together. When two individuals take vows to love each other — for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health — there is an expectation that this means forever.

An American Marriage was focused on relationships and communication, just as much as it was on race. Jones did an impeccable job at marrying the themes together to allow the reader to embrace the story. I loved the complexity of the relationships, and how it made me think about my own life. Originally, I rated this book a 4/5, however after reflecting on it, I changed my rating to a 5/5

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover || Book Review

Date: February 20, 2018

Publisher: Random House

Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir

Synopsis: Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.

Thoughts + Feelings: I began seeing Educated: A Memoir pop up on Goodreads back in February 2018 before I ever started Arguably Alexis. And I truly mean that I began to *see* it – I never clicked to see the synopsis. I wasn’t initially interested in what the story was about. From the cover I knew it was a real-life story about someone’s education, but I wasn’t immediately drawn to know the story.

I’m honestly a bit surprised by myself that I didn’t take an immediate interest. It combines several of my favorite things in life: memoirs, education and learning about survivalist (and people who compare themselves to Ruby Ridge/Waco). I should’ve picked this memoir up a year ago. I should have listened when it became known as a wildly popular book.

I was behind the band-wagon on this one, but let me tell you… I have hopped on the Educated bandwagon and I am not looking back.

Educated: A Memoir is the story of Tara Westover and her dysfunctional and extremist/survivalist family. Tara grew up in Idaho to a radically Mormon* family who did not trust the government, the medical establishments or the school system. Tara never went to school, nor was she home-schooled. Her first experience with our modern day education system was at age 17 when she entered her freshman year of college at BYU.

This memoir depicted a life in the United States that I cannot imagine existing in this country during the 21st century. I mean, I know that this happens. I know that there are other families of survivalists who don’t vaccinate their children, don’t have birth certificates and bury food, fuel and weapons under the ground near their homes. The abuse and mistreatment that Tara underwent at the hands of her family broke my heart each time. Educated was filled with beautiful, and painful memories. It’s quite remarkable the magic that she was able to include in this memoir.

“First find out what you are capable of, then decide who you are.”

The part that struck me as the most magnificent is how Tara began to educate herself, after following in the footsteps of her older brother. She taught herself enough grammar and mathematics to pass the ACT and be accepted into BYU. She beat the learning curve in college and learned how to study and retain information. She learned about her own ignorance and how inaccurate it seemed to many of those surrounding her. Tara had a desire for more. She didn’t want to work in the junk yard for her entire life. She didn’t want to become a midwife. She wanted something different for herself, so she built her life towards it.

I loved Educated: A Memoir. The story it told us was not only unique to Tara. Accessibility to education is not equal across the United States, or the world. Resources are not equal. Tara broke down the barriers to her own education, and I applaud her endlessly for that.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Recommend? If you haven’t had the opportunity to read Educated yet, don’t even wait on the list at the library. Just go out and buy this beautiful, powerful memoir. 10/10 would recommend.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng || Book Review

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Release date: June 26, 2014

Publisher: Penguin Press

Genre: Fiction/Mystery

Premise: So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.

A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

Thoughts + Feelings: I needed to take some time to compile my thoughts about Everything I Never Told You. Earlier this year I read Little Fires Everywhere, so I was going into this work of art with very high expectations. My expectations were met because Celeste Ng is a remarkable writer.

While reading this book, I had an overarching, burning feeling that growing up I felt like I was a lot like Lydia Lee – except that I put all of the pressure on myself, not necessarily my mother or father putting the pressure on me. It was still one of those stories that resonated deeply with me, as it seems it has resonated deeply with many readers.

Everything I Never Told You raises the question about how children handle parental pressure.

For me one of the most moving quotations from the book was: “That attention came with expectations that—like snow—drifted and settled and crushed you with their weight.” As a young adult, I know exactly how that feels. You/parents/supervisors pile on the attention and expectations of what you are to accomplish in your life or on a given day and sometimes the weight on your chest makes it hard to breathe.

With the parental pressure growing, we see the brother-sister relationship grow between Nath and Lydia. However, from a familial perspective, you can see the challenges of their relationship. All of the attention is given to Lydia because she is the favorite child; the child with the most potential. Nath and Hannah are the two other siblings who are almost always forgotten about. You can see that while they have each others back and care about one another, Nath has a sense of animosity towards Lydia because their parents seem to care about her more.

“Everything that she had wanted for Lydia, which Lydia had never wanted but had embraced anyway.”

As a daughter, Lydia wanted to become everything her parents dreamed of; She read the books and took the classes. She lost her friendships because she had to focus on her parents dreams and put her own off to the side.

Everything I Never Told You teaches us about sexism and racism without it being the entire story.

The plot flips back and forth between present day and the earlier lives of Mr. and Mrs. Lee. You can feel the angst that both of her parents felt growing up through their childhood stories and the expectations that their parents placed on them. Marilyn Lee abhorred her mother and the life she wanted for her. As a home economics teacher, Marilyn’s mother had a certain idea of what a woman should do with her life — but Marilyn wanted to be a doctor. In the 1970s, there were not a lot of female physicians so she faced oppression in the classrooms surrounded by men. James Lee became a private school student due to his parents working as kitchen staff and custodial members. He went on to study American culture, but due to his Asian identity he was never granted the same opportunities as his co-workers. These stressors from their lives translated down into the expectations they set forth in their daughter.

The way this novel was written was not just so that we, as readers, could visualize the story. It was written in a way so that we could feel the way the characters were feeling. Celeste Ng developed a set of characters with a deep, intricate background. I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered a novel where you feel the pain and grief of a family, as much as I did with the Lee family.

I would highly recommend Everything I Never Told You to all readers. It was a magnificent read that will make you question the pressure that you place on yourself. This was one of my favorite books of 2018.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris || Book Review

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Release date: January 11, 2018

Publisher: Zaffre

Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction

Premise: This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov—an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity.

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

Thoughts + Feelings: I want to start off by saying that I loved The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Sometimes I worry about reading books from this time period because of the pain and anguish that was caused in the millions of lives of Jews, Gypsies and other communities that were extinguished during the Holocaust.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a story of love and pain. Based on the very real life of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, we follow his journey through the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau where he ultimately becomes the tätowierer for the concentration camps. While tattooing the incoming prisoners, Lale meets Gita. You can tell from the moment that they cross paths that the story is going to turn down a romantic road, although its challenging to imagine as the workers are building crematoriums and housing for the thousands of individuals pouring into the camps.

This book was written as historical fiction and “based on a true story.” So while it appears that Lale may have remembered every detail of his life from the concentration camps, the books webpage makes it known that there was some creative license taken to fill in time space or delve into characters thoughts. It was also originally written as a screenplay, so there is a huge amount of dialogue.

The story is memorable. With a huge portion of the survivors passing way, it is not often that you hear stories of what happened in the camps. You don’t realize the tasks that these individuals were given. I asked myself – How could you possibly tattoo numbers on your own people and prepare them for death? Lale answers this throughout the text. You do what you need to do to survive. You bribe people; you help your neighbors if you can. While you may not believe in your faith, you believe that you will survive.

The authors note at the end provided an even better glimpse into the world of Lale and Gita. Prior to Lale’s death, he wanted to tell his story. He was connected with Heather Morris who took the time to listen, and question his story to truly understand how to connect the dots for the rest of the world. I can only imagine listening to the powerful story, but not getting it in one full swing. Heather Morris had to tie together the pieces from where Lale was comfortable and figure out what fit where. I am truly blown away by the piece of work that came out of their time together.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Hate U Give

Release date: February 28, 2017

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult

Premise: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Thoughts + Feelings:  This book hits you with every possible emotion. I cried on the metro, got angry at the ballpark and laughed on my couch. This was an incredibly powerful book.

Starr Carter’s character was so well-written. Angie Thomas was able to portray the extreme duality that a young woman would have to go through in her life if when she is torn between two very different environments. Starr describes herself as the Starr at Williamson and Starr in Garden Heights. She talks about the way she has to dress around her “other” friends and how she changes the way she speaks when she’s in Garden Heights vs her time at school. It became interesting to me during her car ride with DeVante, Seven, and Chris. Chris asks a question about the ‘normalness’ of the black people’s names.

“Anyway Chris,” Seven says, “DeVante’s got a point. What makes his name or our names any less normal than yours? Who or what defines ‘normal’ to you? If my pops were here, he’d say you’ve fallen into the trap of the white standard.”

BOOM. White Standard. I was thrown by Seven’s response to Chris’ question merely because I have felt like Chris before. I’ve wanted to ask questions but I’ve never known the way to approach my questions that may come across as ‘socially/racially unjust.’ I’ve never wanted to offend anyone – but I can imagine how hard it is for Chris to ask his question, but I can also feel the strain that Seven, DeVante and Starr have when answering the question.

I felt my white privilege showing while I was reading The Hate U Give. I was embarrassed by the actions of the police officer. Starr and Khalil were just kids. They were sitting in the car hanging out and one of them gets shot and killed. They were just kids. I don’t ever feel afraid when I see a police officer driving behind me. That is my white privilege. I do not have to change the way I speak or dress in situations so that I am not judged or stereotyped. That is my white privilege.

My heart broke for Starr when I read her identity struggles. As a sixteen year old girl, how are you supposed to focus on being the best version of yourself when the best version of yourself is different in your daily life. This is a book about race. There is no doubt about it. It was painful to read about the reality that other people face on a daily basis – old people, young people, wealthy, poor, African American, Chinese. I recognize that these biases occur throughout the world on a daily and regular basis.

Prepare yourself to be uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable reading it. I was uncomfortable carrying it around because I felt like someone was going to judge me. But that’s life. There were many moments throughout the book that I had to stop and think about my actions and words that I’ve said to my friends – Did I come across as racist or insensitive? I’ve seen reviews that call this book anti-white and reviews that do not acknowledge how the Carter family discusses white people. I do not think that this is an anti-white book. Angie Thomas has forced me to think outside of my little bubble; to put myself in someone else’s shoes that doesn’t have white skin. Is that uncomfortable somethings? Absolutely, but by reading and talking about this book, we can make the world a better and more understanding safe space for everyone.

I don’t want to go into any more specifics of the story-line because I think it’s important that everyone reads this book. I flew through Starr’s story, but it’s only one of many like it. This was a work of fiction, brought on by the real life happenings of police brutality and killings of unarmed children in the United States. We can do better. We must do better.

The quotes that punched me in the gut:

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”

“At an early age I learned that people make mistakes, and you have to decide if their mistakes are bigger than your love for them.”

“That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Recommend? In today’s society, this is a book that we all need to read. We hear about police shootings every week. We hear and see bias against people who look different than us. We cross to the other side of the street when we see someone who we stereotype as threatening. This is a book we can all learn from, whether or not you are ready to acknowledges your own personal weaknesses. I’ve seen comments that this is now a required reading in high school – I don’t know if that’s true or not because I’m way out of high school, but I think it’s a good point in the student’s lives to read this and learn from it.

ARC Review: The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton

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Once again, I’m a little behind on completing my ARC readings/reviews. I’m still getting through them and they each deserve love and attention.

Release date: March 27, 2018

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir

Official Synopsis from Goodreads: A powerful, revealing story of hope, love, justice, and the power of reading by a man who spent thirty years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit.

In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder in Alabama. Stunned, confused, and only twenty-nine years old, Hinton knew that it was a case of mistaken identity and believed that the truth would prove his innocence and ultimately set him free.

But with no money and a different system of justice for a poor black man in the South, Hinton was sentenced to death by electrocution. He spent his first three years on Death Row at Holman State Prison in agonizing silence—full of despair and anger toward all those who had sent an innocent man to his death. But as Hinton realized and accepted his fate, he resolved not only to survive, but find a way to live on Death Row. For the next twenty-seven years he was a beacon—transforming not only his own spirit, but those of his fellow inmates, fifty-four of whom were executed mere feet from his cell. With the help of civil rights attorney and bestselling author of Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson, Hinton won his release in 2015.

With a foreword by Stevenson, The Sun Does Shine is an extraordinary testament to the power of hope sustained through the darkest times. Destined to be a classic memoir of wrongful imprisonment and freedom won, Hinton’s memoir tells his dramatic thirty-year journey and shows how you can take away a man’s freedom, but you can’t take away his imagination, humor, or joy.

Thoughts + Feelings: I felt my heart break into hundreds of pieces several times throughout The Sun Does Shine. I cried. I got angry. Why do we think it’s okay to treat people like this? What happened to innocent until proven guilty? I studied criminology in undergrad so this wasn’t completely shocking, but it still hurt to read a first-hand account of Ray Hinton’s life as he spent thirty years in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit.

It amazes me how much bias we still have in our society today. Some people scoff and think that the bias that existed in the 60s, 70s and 80s (and earlier) no longer exists, but The Sun Does Shine shows how the world hasn’t changed as much as we would’ve hoped it had.

(These are my own thoughts that I have developed during my lifetime. I know that other people have other beliefs and that is wonderful! I understand if you disagree with me. Let’s talk about it!) I’ve thought about the death penalty a lot. I’ve thought about what it means for our country and our society. Does taking someone’s life make up for the life that was already taken? I am of the belief that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Putting someone to death doesn’t make their previous actions go away. Their crimes still occurred. The following quote also brought up another issue: No one is born a killer. Killers are a product of teaching, whether intentionally or unintentionally. We need to do a better job socializing our children to become ethical, honest, moral and kind human beings. We need to teach ourselves (adults, teenagers, the elderly) that it is okay to be different, that not everyone is going to look the same and that it’s okay to love whomever you want to love. We need to learn to appreciate our differences instead of being intolerant towards those who don’t share the same beliefs.

When you took a life, it didn’t bring back a life. It didn’t undo what was done. It wasn’t logical. We were just creating an endless chain of death and killing, every link connected to the next. It was barbaric. No baby is born a murderer. No toddler dreams of being on death row someday. Every killer on death row was taught to be a killer – by parents, by a system, by the brutality or another brutalized person – but no one was born a killer.

This memoir awakened something in me. I’m angry for those who are innocent who are locked away in jail/prison for a crime that they didn’t commit. I’m heartbroken that many of the innocent men and women will never have a chance to explain their innocent. I also understand that not everyone is innocent – there are people who have truly committed crimes who deserve to be punished.

Ray Hinton was a unique individual in several ways. He was one of the lucky innocent men who was removed from death row for crimes he clearly did not commit. But he was also unique because he took his thirty years of imprisonment and time spent on death row and made it an experience we can all learn something from. You can learn about unconditional love + friendship, faith in God and staying true to yourself.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Recommend? Read it and embrace your feelings. Feel the anger and the compassion. I think everyone should read a story like this so that they can see that there is still bias in the world. So that they can see that there are wrongful convictions all the time.

Book Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio


Release date: February 14, 2012

Publisher: Knopf

Genre: Fiction / Young Adult

Premise: “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” August Pullman was born with facial difference that kept him out of mainstream school until entering fifth grade at Beecher Prep. August (Auggie) just wants to be a regular kid. This young adult book is told from Auggie’s perspective, along with his sister and a few of his classmates.

Thoughts + Feelings: Always be kinder than necessary. I didn’t expect to love Wonder as much as I did. Having heard great things about it over the last couple years, I finally got my hands on an OverDrive copy from the library. I don’t often say that I love a specific book. I have a hard time picking favorites and saying that a book has inspired me, but that feeling completely disappeared with Wonder.

I think the main reason I loved Wonder so much was because of how simple and beautiful R.J. Palacio made kindness and friendship seem. I remember being the out-of-the-ordinary little kid in school – that one kid where school came pretty easily, but making friends was a whole different thing? The moral of this story was to be kind and accepting. We learn through Jack Will what it means to use your words and how powerful they can be – even if you don’t mean for someone to overhear. Summer teaches us that no matter how hard it is to be brave, you may find a friend sitting all alone at a lunch table. We learn the best lessons in life through kids — at least, that’s how I think we learn the best lessons. They’re willing to be accepting, if we give them the opportunities to be accepting instead of running away scared.

I was moved by the power of R.J. Palacio’s words: “The things we do are the most important things of all. They are more important than what we say or what we look like.”

In my mind I’m thinking… ‘well yeah, obviously the things we do are going to get us remembered,’ but to a child (and honestly, some adults), the idea that our actions are more important than anything doesn’t hit home. This is something we have to work on as a society. We need to be more welcoming and less assuming.

“no, it’s not all random, if it really was all random, the universe would abandon us completely. and the universe doesn’t. it takes care of its most fragile creations in ways we can’t see. like with parents who adore you blindly. and a big sister who feels guilty for being human over you. and a little gravelly-voiced kid whose friends have left him over you. and even a pink-haired girl who carries your picture in her wallet. maybe it is a lottery, but the universe makes it all even out in the end. the universe takes care of all its birds.”

Sometimes I (we) feel like the universe is out to get us. Things feel out of our control and overwhelming — it feels like nothing is going is our favor. I love the above quote because it serves as a reminder that the universe is a good place and is on our side. And at the moments when it seems like nothing can go right, we have to remember all of the people who love us and support us through the hard times.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Recommend? If you haven’t read this book, I suggest adding it to your library holdings immediately or order it off Amazon or run to your brick & mortar store or Barnes & Noble. Get this book, read it and think long and hard about how you treat your fellow classmates, friends and colleagues.

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I was actually able to finish a seventh book for the month of February while I was traveling to Phoenix yesterday. With that I present my first official complete book review of Arguably Alexis!

Premise: Shaker Heights is a suburb of Cleveland, OH where everything is planned. It’s described as a utopian-like society where everything has a place and purpose. Mia and Pearl Warren find themselves moving to Shaker Heights where they rent a small apartment from the Richardson family. Pearl becomes friends with all four (mainly 3) of the Richardson children. Their relationships develop and their lives are intertwined. Friendships, love and motherhood are all called into question as secrets of some of Shaker Heights residents lives are brought out.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thoughts + Feelings: I waited 3+ months for my turn to borrow a copy of Little Fires Everywhere from the library and it completely worth the wait. I read Little Fires Everywhere in a 24 hours time period — Once I started, I was hooked and never wanted to put the novel down. Celeste Ng’s writing was engrossing and powerful drawing me into the seemingly simplistic world of Shaker Heights.

“One has followed the rules, and one had not. But the problem with rules, he reflected, was that they implied a right way and a wrong way to do things. When, in fact, most of the time there were simply ways, none of them quite wrong or quite right, and nothing to tell you for sure which side of the line you stood on.”

That was one section of the novel that I found incredibly moving. As a child, I would always ask whether something was good or bad and my parents would always answer that it just *was*. There is not always going to be a good or a bad; a right or a wrong. Mr. Richardson was approaching on a topic with Mrs. Richardson that was the opposite view of how Shaker Heights was established. It’s not always black and white in the world, especially when there are people involved. Based off our each of our own personal experiences, we’re bound to view life through different lenses. Ng does an incredible job showing these lenses — To the world, Izzy seems like an outsider who is standoffish and rude; someone who doesn’t listen. However, to Izzy, she’s just misunderstood because she feels as if no one is taking a chance to listen to her. Mrs. Richardson is hardest on Izzy because she is her precious child, while Izzy feels personally attacked and thinks that her mother hates her.

Celeste Ng did such an excellent job switching lenses and letting us see the world from each person’s perspective.

My only criticism of the novel is the chapters that details Mia’s middle life — While it was not entirely out of nowhere, and it was an aspect of the story that was absolutely necessary, it kind of just appeared in a strange perspective.. not quite Mia’s, and not quite her parents.

This was the first novel that I’ve read by Celeste Ng. It also one of the best literary fiction books that I’ve ever read. It’s no shock that this was one of Goodreads Best Books of 2017.

Recommend? Absolutely. I think those who love Jodi Picoult novels would LOVE Little Fires Everywhere.

February in Review

Over the last month I’ve come to realize that writing an in-depth review for each book I read in unnecessary. As mind-boggling as it seemed in the beginning, it’s honestly saved me gobs of time throughout February. (How is February already over??) I was finding it challenging to write an honest, heartfelt review of each book, when quite a few of them just haven’t been that great.

Even though February is a short month, I am absolutely killing the reading game. I’m five books ahead on my Goodreads 2018 challenge and right on track with the ATY challenge. I just love that I have found so much more time for reading this year — In the in-between stage I’m living in right now, it gives me comfort to accomplish a solid task each week.

Below are the books that I read this month:

American Sniper by Chris Kyle


Premise: Chris Kyle is a US Navy SEAL with the most recorded sniper kills in United States military history. This is the book that he wrote about his time as a Navy SEAL.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thoughts: This was a good book if you don’t think a lot about war and how many people have died from our overseas excursions. I may not agree with all of his perspective, but it’s his perspective from his experiences. And I’m thankful for his service to our country.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson


Premise: A journalist and a girl with a dragon tattoo work together to solve the mystery of what happened to a rich man’s niece.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


The first ~80 pages are a little slow, but are completely necessary to set up the rest of the novel. But once it gets started, wow does it get started. There are twists and turns, love and loss. I’ll admit that I tried reading this book about 5-6 years ago, but never passed page 45. I wish I would’ve powered through the first little bit sooner. I can’t wait to read the next books in the series and I hope that they are as enticing as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown


Premise: “True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.”

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thoughts: Brené Brown hit the nail on the head with this one. In the beginning, it looked like it was going to be written from a privileged perspective, which in reality, it was… but from a researchers perspective.

The quest for true belonging is a journey that each of us in on, even if we think we know our true belonging. It’s ever-changing and looks different to each of us. Brené Brown defines a way to help us on this quest with using the letters B-R-A-V-I-N-G. Boundaries. Reliability. Accountability. Vault. Integrity. Non judgment. Generosity.

There’s a difference between lying and bullshitting. I wonder how many people truly pretend to be educated on any topic brought up when it doesn’t hurt to ask questions to try to understand.

Common Enemy Intimacy. We’ve gotta stop this. I have to stop this. We all have to stop binding to people and having relationships based on gossip and hate. This doesn’t bring us together in a time when we need to be brought together.

The Practices:
– People are hard to hate up close. Move in.
– Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil.
– Hold hands. With strangers.
– Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.

Recommend? 10/10 would recommend to anyone who can get their hands on it.

Twist of Faith by Ellen J. Green


Premise: Ava doesn’t know who her real mother is. There’s a big conspiracy within her adoptive family. A lot of people die.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thoughts: I really, really liked this book until the end… There was mystery, relationships, never-ending questions. It was everything I needed in a thriller novel. However, it seemed to have ended abruptly. According to Ellen J. Green, there is going to be a sequel titled Absolution which may help to further explain the ending of Twist of Faith, but I felt like it was very rushed in the end.

Bonus: I received this book for free through Amazon First Reads for the month of January 2018.

In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero


Premise: The star of Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin presents her personal story of the real plight of undocumented immigrants in this country.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thoughts: I was moved by how Diane Guerrero continued to grow up and power through the seclusion and difficulty of having her family deported as a teenager. It brings up important issues around immigration and deportation that need to be discussed in our current political climate. I just didn’t particularly care for Diane’s writing style.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold


Premise: The spirit of fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon describes her murder, her surprise at her new home in heaven, and her witness to her family’s grief, efforts to find the killer, and attempts to come to terms with what has happened.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thoughts:  I truly wonder how this novel became such a wide success. It’s slow and boring. As a reader, you are waiting to see where there is going to be a twist in the story. After all, you read the best part of the entire novel in the first chapter. I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t love it.

What do you think? Do you have any suggestions for what I should read in March?