The Rift

Author: Rachael Craw

Published: October 8, 2019

Publisher: Candewick Press

Where I picked up my book: From the publisher (THANK YOU!)

Key Words: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Fantasy

My Rating: 3.5 stars

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My Thoughts: 

I should preface this review by saying that I’ve never read urban fantasy before. I know…how in the world have I gotten to be my age and never read urban fantasy before?! Well…I have no idea but I’m glad this was my introduction to the genre. I was completely swept up into the world and spit out when I read the last sentence.

First, the atmosphere of this island was so well written, I felt like I was on the island myself (and I didn’t steer away when my thoughts drifted to wanting to actually live on Black Water Island myself from time to time throughout the reading). Minus the rabid dogs, lack of technology, and slight creepiness that is 😉 What I really liked was that this is an island where people come together for one cause, and that wasn’t lost on me. But don’t be fooled by that description, it’s also an unsettling island full of intrigue and THAT is what made me take a deep dive into this book.

Second, the relationship between the two main  characters, Meg and Cal, reminded me of those young adult feelings that most of us have experienced. I rooted for them, felt nervous for them and wanted to cheer them along from my seat on the couch. Craw wrote these two characters so well (really all of the characters so well), I felt like I knew them by the end of the book. And bonues, the ‘childhood friends getting together later in life’ troupe is always a favorite of mine and here it was!

Third, corporate greed and interests were an underlying theme in The Rift and I’m ALWAYS here for talking about that more, seeing how it impacts all of us little ones, and how it will affect us in the future. Corporate greed is my nemesis (especially as a small business owner regularly affected by corporate greed) so for this reason alone-I was completely enamored by this book. More.talk.about.corporate.greed.in.novels.please.

Fourth, magical animals…need I say more?!

If you love adventure stories (especially island stories) mixed with sci-fi, fantasy and folklore along with strong characters, nature, mystery, relationships and a bit of scary-you’re going to enjoy this book! I kept thinking it contained a sort of fantasy, mysterious, Swiss Family Robinson vibes and I’m 100% in for that. The Rift has made me want to read more urban fantasy/fantasy books and I’m so thankful that this one came in my mailbox!

As always, let me know what you thought if you’ve read this one! Find me over on Instagram (@bookishfolk).

bookishfolk…read instead.

How to Review Books

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Even though the title of this post might make you think that I’ve got my shit together and I’m going to provide you with a list of 1-10 steps to review a book…you’d be mistaken. I have no idea what I’m doing when (and if) I review a book, and the more I talk to people over on Bookstagram about this, the more I’m learning there is no right or wrong way to go about reviewing books. When I first started this Bookstagram, I spent time only periodically mentioning books, what I was reading, or books I was buying, and that was pretty much it. Taking pretty photos was the name of the game. Then, once I started receiving books from publishers in the mail, I started thinking that I needed to up my game and write more reviews on my blog and Instagram and interact more professionally on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, my blog, or wherever else book reviews are valued. These publishers are reaching out because they want to generate some buzz about a book and we are the ones to do it. I wouldn’t call us smaller accounts ‘influencers,’ but publishers are definitely looking for some buzz when they send you a book and there is some responsibility associated with this. So, after about a year or so of being pretty serious on Bookstagram, I got my shit together and I created a spreadsheet where I itemized books I received from publishers, took note of what was asked of me, marked where and how I shared about the book, gave a star review, marked if I had mentioned it in Bookstagram yet, etc. All was good and I was feeling like I was finally in control of this thing called Bookstagram (PS this is a hobby. No one pays me to do this. Sometimes, I receive a free book in the mail, but that’s it. I think I forget that sometimes). Anyways, I digress…So all felt more organized and less chaotic for this hobby of mine and that felt good. That is…until I received a book in the mail from a publisher that I thought I was going to love, but ultimately, I found problematic parts that rubbed me the wrong way. I was all prepared to create that perfectly honest post, but all of a sudden, I went down a spiral of slight panic (if I’m being honest). Here is my dilemma (also-completely 1st world problems so take this anxiety with a grain of salt but still…). 1, I want to have good relationships with publishers who send me a free book and hopefully, generate more good buzz to get the word out 2, I want to make sure I never dissuade anyone from reading a book they may like and 3, I want to review books in a 100% authentic way for all of you reading my reviews. Is there a formula for that? Is there a way to organize my reading life that will accommodate all of that? The odds of me buying a book I don’t love are slimmer, but being given a book by a publisher that I wind up not loving is more possible. Will I piss off a publisher if I give their book a negative review and that’s it for my time of receiving books to read and review? Will a reader be turned off from a book that I didn’t love but they might?! I’m telling you-I went down a crazy rabbit hole of insecurity and a bit of anxiety with this one. BUT, my best end result from a lot of thinking was this…You do you Boo. A friend of mine on Instagram (@caseythereader) mentioned that publishers know that not all books are for everyone. And that’s so true. We all know that. I might recommend a book to a friend and they wind up reading it and not liking it. It’s a bit of a bummer, but we all move on (hopefully after a good discussion if it’s your friend). Obviously, this discussion doesn’t usually happen with a publisher, but still-I’m positive Casey was right. They know not every book is for everyone. Secondly, I never want to be dishonest in a book review. Or be deceitful in any way just to save face with a publisher and therefore continue to get free books. That was the overwhelming advice I received when I threw this question out to the Bookstagram community. Be honest! Thirdly, find some good things to mention in your review. There is always some good things in every book and they are worth mentioning. After all, this book is someone’s pride and joy that they created and it’s been through a lot of eyes before it got to me. If it’s published, odds are, there are some good things worth mentioning. Fourth, if there are problematic things in a book, they are worth mentioning in a constructive way too. And lastly, I don’t have to review every book I read. That’s probably not even possible anyways, and also-most books I receive from publishers do not mention HAVING to write a review about the book anyways. In fact, they oftentimes say, if you liked the book, feel free to rate and review it. ‘Liked’ being the key word. So there you have it folks! I have come up with a plan for myself in terms of how and when I rate, review and post about books. Here is it if you’re interested:

  1. If I receive a book from a publisher, write the info down and any details I might need (follow ups, emails, pub dates, requests for review, Instagram post dates, etc) and put it in my pile on ‘books from publishers’
  2. If I purchase or get a book from the library-I do me! (it will likely sit on shelf longer than I want it to. Story of my life lol)
  3. Post a photo on Instagram upon receiving a book, purchasing a book, or starting to read a book.
  4. If I enjoy the book, read, rate, post and give it all the love (with details why). Write a blog post too! THE BEST FEELING!!
  5. If I felt meh about a book, just give it a star review on Goodreads and move on. People don’t necessarily care about a meh book. It’s always hard to articulate why I felt meh about it anyways, so just move on (unless of course I made a promise to receive a book in exchange for an honest review. In that case, give an honest review). *this rarely happens
  6. If I personally found something problematic in a book, it might be worth mentioning (but again, I don’t have to). Be truthful, find the positives and be specific. A blog post is optional, but give it a few days before I write it. Time is think is always good 🙂 Same thing as #4-if I made a promise to exchange, do that.
  7. Remember this is not a job, it’s a hobby and I’m usually under zero obligation to review a book. It’s kind of part of the unwritten deal and best practice if the book was from a publisher, but, for the most part, I’m under no obligation.

So that’s my plan from now on. Praise the good, possibly mention the problematic and leave the meh alone. *this may all change tomorrow and I’m okay with that too 🙂 But also-this is a hobby and I need to stop worrying so much about this and start reading! That’s what brought me here to begin with.

What is your method of reviewing books? Do you feel you need to review every book you read? Are you more choosy with book reviews? Is my anxiety at fault for all of this?! 😉 Head over to Instagram and let’s chat! Find me @bookishfolk

bookishfolk…read instead.

August Wallpaper

Happy August! It’s my wife’s birthday this month and we both love to read so this one is for her! If you know her in real-life-wish her a HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Hope your month is going well! Check back for a few book reviews coming soon and as always, come over to bookishfolk on Instagram and say hi.

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bookishfolk..read instead.

Sabrina and Corina

Author: Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Published: April 2, 2019

Publisher: One World

Where I picked up my book:  My local indie

Key Words: short stories, Latina with indigenous ancestry, Denver/Colorado centric, feminist, heritage

My Rating: 5

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My Thoughts:

This collection was everything I wanted it to be and more! It’s centered around Latina women of indigenous ancestry and that is definitely the shining star in all of these stories and BRAVOOOO for bringing this into the spotlight. It felt refreshing, and I feel honored to have these words.

These stories revolve around women, mostly working class women, who are strong, courageous and determined humans. Their ancestors were here before America was America and I think people (mostly white people) forget this or unfortunately, choose not to care. History books tell us certain stories about the wild West and how America was discovered, but this collection shows us the truth and gives us a lens to see the West from something other than a white person’s gaze. Halle-frigin-lujah. It helps us remember and honor those cultures that were here first-and that makes me feel like I’m holding literal magic in my hands.

There is a depth to each story and always a sense that although things might be tough or hard, or let’s be honest, just real, cause this shit isn’t always easy…but that there is a way to progress and move forward. BUT THEN, add women-centered stories, culture, intimate portrayals, gorgeous sentence structure and storytelling and characters you fall in love with immediately (for both good and bad)-yes please! BUT WAIT,  you also get love, atmospheric descriptions where landscape and location plays a main character, thoughts about heritage and what that means, friendship, and family dynamics…screaming. BUT ALSO, most of the narrative takes place in Denver, Colorado (I’m only a short drive from Denver and so many references and places in the stories I could picture) and I nearly screamed with excitement as I frantically flipped pages while soaking it all in. This collection is that good.

These stories are tough, emotional and have a sense of sadness interwoven in each one. So when you read them, don’t expect happy, funny (although I laughed quite a few times), or a lighthearted read. What you need to expect is a connection with characters you may never make again (although I have high hopes we will start to see more of this from authors and from Fajardo-Anstine herself) and a sense that our true history is important and should be honored. This collection will make you laugh, cry, worry, think and ultimately, be a better person. I truly believe in the magic of this book.

Sabrina and Corina is beautiful collection of stories (even the cover is one of the most beautiful covers I have ever seen) and I would suggest you run and grab a copy of this book asap. I promise you, you won’t regret it!

P.S. I was lucky enough to meet Kali Fajardo-Anstine last week in Denver and I haven’t come down from the high since. I can’t wait to see what else she has to offer us-I know a book is in the works for sure and I’m thrilled!!!

P.P.S. Here are some Indigenous Latina heroines we should all know and love.

As always, come find me on Instagram (@bookishfolk)!

Summary (via Penguin Random House):

Latinas of Indigenous descent living in the American West take center stage in this haunting debut story collection—a powerful meditation on friendship, mothers and daughters, and the deep-rooted truths of our homelands. 

“Here are stories that blaze like wildfires, with characters who made me laugh and broke my heart.”—Sandra Cisneros

Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s magnetic story collection breathes life into her Latina characters of indigenous ancestry and the land they inhabit in the American West. Against the remarkable backdrop of Denver, Colorado—a place that is as fierce as it is exquisite—these women navigate the land the way they navigate their lives: with caution, grace, and quiet force.

In “Sugar Babies,” ancestry and heritage are hidden inside the earth but tend to rise during land disputes. “Any Further West” follows a sex worker and her daughter as they leave their ancestral home in southern Colorado only to find a foreign and hostile land in California. In “Tomi,” a woman leaves prison and finds herself in a gentrified city that is a shadow of the one she remembers from her childhood. And in the title story, “Sabrina & Corina,” a Denver family falls into a cycle of violence against women, coming together only through ritual.

Sabrina & Corina is a moving narrative of unrelenting feminine power and an exploration of the universal experiences of abandonment, heritage, and an eternal sense of home.

bookishfolk…read instead.

 

Red, White and Royal Blue

Author: Casey McQuiston

Published: May 14, 2019

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Where I picked up my book:  my local indie

Key Words: queer, political, romance

My Rating: 5

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Synopsis (via Macmillan website):

THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER that is a *MUST-READ BOOK* for US WEEKLY, VOGUE, NPR, OPRAHMAG.COM, BUZZFEED, and more!

What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.

My Thoughts:

Oooof…how do I put into words just how much I loved this book. I should start out by saying that at first, Red, White and Royal Blue wasn’t even on my radar. I thought it sounded a little too fluffy for my liking and maybe a little too youthful for my old lady status. BUT Ohhhh I was SO WRONG and anyone that might have these thoughts too-give this one a chance and I can pretty much guarantee, you won’t be disappointed!

First, I just can’t stop thinking about how gloriously queer this book is! When I think about representation in books or movies, I have trouble thinking of a single piece of fiction that I read or watched as a kid where I could see myself within the pages. Maybe that’s why it took me a long time to come out-to myself, or to my friends and family? Maybe that’s why in relationships, it always felt like something was missing from them? Maybe that’s why I felt like there was something off in my life, but I just didn’t know how to pinpoint what that was? After reading books as an adult, it’s so obvious-I was missing representation. I never saw myself  in the books I was reading or the movies I was watching. I saw white, straight couples on a regular basis and that’s all I knew, so I set out to make that straight life happen. (I was already born white, and with that comes the privilege of seeing my color at least represented in books or on the screen, but that is definitely not the case for so many people.) So I tried living that straight life I thought I was suppose to live. I tried, and I failed. I realized who I was. THANK GOD! But I can’t help but wonder what path I would have taken if I was able to see a lesbian couple creating a life for themselves in fiction. Or a gay couple raising a family. Or a teen working through their sexuality and coming out to themselves. All of that to say, representation matters and I am so so SO happy to see books like this now popping up all over the place. We are seeing representation all across the spectrum now (in terms of race, culture, religion, body types, gender, family structure, sexuality, etc) and I could scream it from the rooftops how happy I am about that. It gives me such high hopes for the future generations!

Second, the political talk in this book is real. It’s far from fluff, but instead, it’s true political commentary on our past and current state of political affairs here in the US, as well as what the British monarchy looks like up close and personal. I took a deep dive into that aspect of the book and loved every second of it.

Third, the character development is fantastic. By the end, these characters were my friends and I still think about them on a daily basis. “How is Alex doing today?” is a regular thought of mine since finishing up this book.  We get to immerse ourselves in a thought out and detailed relationship, we can imagine what it feels like to be the sister of a prince, we feel each character’s feels and have a good hold on their thoughts. Plus, the characters outside of the two main characters are not just there as props, but we know them equally as well, if not more, than the mail characters themselves. You will fall in love with them all-promise. Well…the maybe not the queen, but the rest of them, yes 🙂

Fourth, this book is seriously funny. I found myself laughing out loud multiple times while reading. All of the characters have a great sense of humor, banter and a deep friendship between each other and it was everything.  I was lucky enough to hear McQuiston speak last week at my local indie and I’m happy to announce, she’s just as funny in person as she is in her writing. It shows in her writing and I couldn’t have loved that more if I tried.

Fifth, and maybe most importantly, this book gave me hope for our future. After a hell of a rough election in 2016, I’ve had a feeling of dread and fear settle into my life. All of a sudden, I find myself constantly worried for my friends and anyone of color in this country. I fear that my own marriage could be taken away or that my wife and I could be put in harms way because we love each other. I dread what our future looks like when someone like Trump could be elected in the first place. I am nervous for all of my queer friends to travel outside of the safety of our own bubbles we have created for ourselves. I fear for immigrants in this country that are being torn away from the only home they know and deserve and for children being separated from their families at the border. I get nervous for all of us women at our jobs and walking down the street. I could go on about my fears and anxieties that have risen up in me since 2016, but for the first time in a long time, I’ve read something that has given me hope and helps me see that the future might be brighter than I had once thought. I am surprised that I found this hope in a rom com, humorous book that at first glance I thought I was too old for, but that’s what is magical about this book. I’m so incredibly thankful to McQuiston for that.

All of this to say, run, don’t walk to grab Red, White and Royal Blue. You won’t be disappointed and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be screaming it from the rooftops to anyone that will listen…”CLAREMONT FOR PRESIDENT” and “HISTORY, HUH?”

bookishfolk…read instead.