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[2/24] Read This Book: THE WEDDING DATE by Jasmine Guillory

Welcome to Read This Book, the newsletter where I recommend a book you should add to your TBR, STAT! I stan variety in all things, and my book recommendations will be no exception. These must-read books will span genres and age groups. There will be new releases, oldie but goldies from the backlist, and the classics you may have missed in high school. Oh my! If you’re ready to diversify your books, then LEGGO!!

Did you know February is National Wedding Month? Although the most popular months for weddings are June, August, and September, most proposals occur between Christmas and New Year’s Day, which leads to February becoming the most popular time for wedding planning. Also, thanks to Valentine’s Day, February 14th is a popular day for both proposals and weddings. 

The Wedding Date Book Cover

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Drew Nicols is still sans a plus one for his ex-girlfriend’s wedding where he also happens to be a groomsman. Then, on a chance encounter in an elevator, he finds the perfect solution in Alexa Monroe who agrees to be Drew’s wedding date for the weekend. Following the wedding, they both go their separate ways. Drew returns to his life as a pediatric surgeon in Los Angeles, and Alexa heads back to Berkeley where she works as the mayor’s chief of staff. However, after having more fun than they both expected, Drew and Alexa can’t stop thinking of one another. 

The Wedding Date was one of the first books I read during the first big COVID-19 quarantine. This delightful rom-com helped take my mind off of the uncertainty and panic I was feeling during that time. Like all of the romantic comedies I’ve read recently, I had a hard time putting down this book, and I finished it in almost record time. If you are looking for the standard rom-com fare with the cute boy meets girl meet cute, then this book is a must-read for you, too. 

I instantly loved Alexa and Drew’s connection. Even though the agreement was just the one date, I knew there would be more to this love story. Plus, I just wanted these two kids to work out as soon as they were flirting in the elevator. Since this is a literary rom-com, I was sure Alexa and Drew would be together in the end, but there were plenty of expected (and a few unexpected) bumps along the way. By the time I finished The Wedding Date, I knew I wanted to read more of Jasmine Guillory. With a debut novel that checks all of my romantic comedy boxes, I became an instant fan, so be prepared for more Guillory reading recommendations in the future!

Until next time bookish friends,

Katisha


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[2/22] Read This Book: LITTLE LEADERS: BOLD WOMEN IN BLACK HISTORY by Vashti Harrison

Welcome to Read This Book, the newsletter where I recommend a book you should add to your TBR, STAT! I stan variety in all things, and my book recommendations will be no exception. These must-read books will span genres and age groups. There will be new releases, oldie but goldies from the backlist, and the classics you may have missed in high school. Oh my! If you’re ready to diversify your books, then LEGGO!!

It’s the last week of Black History Month and the perfect time to share another must-read children’s book that will delight readers of all ages. Well, I have found a book that is both beautiful and informative. 

Little Leaders Bold Women in Black History Book Cover

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Featuring 40 trailblazing Black women in American history, Little Leaders shares their stories of breaking boundaries and achieving despite adversity. Along with adorable illustrations, both iconic and lesser-known figures in Black History from abolitionist Sojourner Truth to filmmaker Julie Dash, are immortalized for their bold actions and contributions. Although the leaders in this book are little, their big actions are sure to inspire future generations. 

Even though Harrison highlighted 40 amazing Black women, she ended the book with a few honorable mentions of several trailblazing Black American women including Madam C.J. Walker, the first woman in America to become a self-made millionaire, Dorothy Height who played a pivotal (yet often overlooked) role in the Civil Rights Movement, and the Willams sisters who transformed modern day tennis. 

Little Leaders has plenty of familiar faces like Harriet Tubman, Ella Fitzgerald, Oprah, and Octavia Butler. What I enjoyed most (besides the heart-warming illustrations) was being able to learn more about some familiar faces as well as discovering trailblazers from all facets of American culture, like Rebecca Crumpler who was the first Black American woman to become a physician or Alice Ball who developed the most effective treatment of leprosy in the 20th century. You may know Misty Copeland, but do you know Raven Wilkinson? She was the first Black woman to be a full-time dancer in a major classical ballet company. Wilkinson even danced until the age of 50, which is almost unheard of in the world of dance! 

Reading this book delighted the little Black girl in me. It’s a book I wished was available when I was a kid. I can’t imagine the bigger dreams I could have dreamed after reading about these women who looked like me. Little Leaders is essential reading for young Black girls. It will show them anything is possible for them. It is also essential reading for everyone else. It is time for all of these women to become household names. 

Until next time bookish friends,

Katisha


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Red This Book: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

Today I have a pick that was recommended to me by multiple readers when I was still working in the library, and I am so glad they all ganged up on me until I read it!

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

I read Unwind back when I was a teen (it was the first dystopian YA I remember reading and I was enthralled), but hadn’t picked up a new Shusterman book until no fewer than five different teens at my library insisted I read this, and it blew me away. It’s set a couple hundred years into the future, where death has been defeated. Modern technology has not only found a solution to aging (anyone at any time can “reset” themselves to age 25), but they can reliably bring back anyone from death, provided your body and brain aren’t completely destroyed. To compensate for the fact that death no longer controls the population, the Scythedom is founded. Scythes are humans who are revered and feared because they choose people at random to die a humane death. Rowan and Citra are two teens who have just been chosen as Scythe apprentices, but only one of them can ascend to the role of a Scythe. What they don’t know is that they’re about to be sucked into an epic struggle within Scythedom that will change their world forever.

I love a great premise, and not only is Shusterman’s world convincing and fascinating, but the plot he’s come up with for his two teen protagonists is riveting. As teenagers who have never had to comprehend their own mortality, their training mainly consists of lots of philosophy lessons (Scythes take a professional name and always choose from the great thinkers of history), and understanding what it means to be an empathetic human being, which provides plenty of moments for insight, but in a really engaging way. Of course, not all Scythes are noble, as readers see this “perfect” solution becomes inevitably twisted by corrupt Scythes who are grabbing power, unchecked, at an alarming rate. Rowan and Citra start out as competitors, but as forces beyond their control attempt to use them and pit them against their mentor, they find ways to team up and rebel against the system. The writing is smart and darkly funny–the perfect tone for a book about death, honestly–and the plot had some truly amazing twists that kept me hooked. This is a high concept book that will make you think, but in a fun way, I promise.

And I might as well advise you to just pick up the sequels, Thunderhead and The Toll. You’ll want them!

Happy reading!
Tirzah


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[2/17] Read This Book: LOVE by Toni Morrison

Welcome to Read This Book, the newsletter where I recommend a book you should add to your TBR, STAT! I stan variety in all things, and my book recommendations will be no exception. These must-read books will span genres and age groups. There will be new releases, oldie but goldies from the backlist, and the classics you may have missed in high school. Oh my! If you’re ready to diversify your books, then LEGGO!!

Tomorrow is Toni Morrison Day when we will celebrate the birth of literary titan Toni Morrison. Proving that publishing a book is not just for young people, Morrison’s first book The Bluest Eye was released in 1970. Instead of suffering the sophomore slump, Toni Morrison published Sula followed by Song of Solomon, which garnered critical acclaim and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1988, Morrison won the Nobel Prize in Literature for Beloved. Today’s recommendation is one of the books Morrison published later in her career.

Love by Toni Morrison Book Cover

Love by Toni Morrison

In life, Bill Cosey enjoyed the affections of many women. In death, his hold on these women: wife, mistress, daughter, granddaughter, employee, may be even stronger. Three generations of women in a fading beach town attempt to stake their claims on both the memory of Bill Cosey as well as his estate using anything and everything at their disposal including outright violence. 

The best part of reading Toni Morrison is always the way she has with words. No one does words the way Toni Morrison does words. Also like many of Morrison’s works, Love focuses on the many facets of relationships between Black women while highlighting how their intersections of race and gender influence their lives and the lives of those around them. Also similar to Morrison’s other works, Love uses non-linear storytelling while also blending narration from both the living and dead. What I enjoyed most about this story is I didn’t always know who was currently telling me their side of the story. Sometimes I could glean the narrator from the context clues, but I wasn’t always certain. No matter the narrator, there was an interesting story to tell about the lives of the many women in Bill Cosey’s life. There was also an American history lesson elegantly weaved throughout by Morrison.

When I read a Toni Morrison book, I never feel like I’m fully comprehending the entire story. Most of the time, it never really clicks for me until the end. However, I always enjoy every step of the journey. If that’s one of the reasons you also gravitate to Toni Morrison, then don’t hesitate to read Love. If you don’t tend to gravitate toward Toni Morrison, Love could definitely serve as your introduction.

Until next time bookish friends,

Katisha


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[2/15] Read This Book: BARACK OBAMA: THE COMIC BOOK BIOGRAPHY by Jeff Mariotte

Welcome to Read This Book, the newsletter where I recommend a book you should add to your TBR, STAT! I stan variety in all things, and my book recommendations will be no exception. These must-read books will span genres and age groups. There will be new releases, oldie but goldies from the backlist, and the classics you may have missed in high school. Oh my! If you’re ready to diversify your books, then LEGGO!!

Today is Presidents’ Day, originally established in 1885 in recognition of George Washington’s birthday. The holiday eventually grew to also be associated with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Now, it’s recognized as a celebration of all of America’s presidents, both past and present. For Presidents’ Day 2021, I’m celebrating my favorite president, the 44th President, Barack Obama.

Barack Obama The Comic Book Biography

Barack Obama: The Comic Book Biography by Jeff Mariotte, Illustrated by Tom Morgan, Len O’Grady, and John Hunt

Follow Barack Obama in comic book form from his childhood through the first 100 days of his administration after becoming the 44th President of the United States of America. This best-selling comic book documents how Barack Obama became a media sensation through his election on November 4th, 2008, inauguration, and first 100 days in office with bias. 

It’s pretty cool to read about a monumental moment in history when you actually lived through the events. That is often how I felt while reading the parts about Barack Obama’s historical 2008 presidential run. The entire book wasn’t a trip down memory lane since I haven’t read any of Obama’s memoirs, so the beginning about Obama’s childhood was enlightening and showed how young Barry was an outsider looking for where he belonged. Learning about all the bumps Obama experienced as a teen and young adult makes his accomplishment of becoming not only president, but America’s first president who wasn’t an old white man all the more astonishing. 

The best part of this comic book was getting to experience some of Barack Obama’s best speeches, like the one from the 2004 Democratic Convention that put Barack Obama on the map, as well as his inauguration speech that made everyone feel hope in the air and that anything was possible. The worst part of this book for me were the illustrations. Barack Obama was hit and miss, but those Michelle Obama renditions were no bueno. The ones of Joe Biden were not much better. Despite those gripes, this book is still worth reading for anyone who wants to take a stroll down memory lane or a comic book fan looking for an engaging historical read. 

Until next time bookish friends,

Katisha


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Read This Book: The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, I had to recommend one of my favorite romance novels in recent years! It’s a sweet and sexy f/f romance that is wonderfully written and so much fun!

cover of The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

Lucy is a young lady who has spent most of her young adulthood assisting her father, an astronomer, with his research. No one knows that she is the mathematician behind his groundbreaking research, but now that he is dead and Lucy’s former lover has married a man, she feels more alone than ever and is uncertain how to make a name for herself int he scientific community.

Catherine is recently widowed, and secretly relieved to have her freedom from her scientist husband, who was very exacting. She’s determined to see a manuscript he acquired before his death translated, and then she plans to step away from the scientific community for good. When she sets out to hire a translator familiar with with French and astronomy, she doesn’t expect Lucy to apply. But she can’t help but be intrigued by the woman, so she not only hires Lucy but invites her to stay with her while she completes the work…and it’s not long before they begin falling for one another.

I adored this book, because it’s not only an amazing romance, but an incredible historical novel. It’s set in the early 1800s and really captures the spirit of the time in London, when scientific discovery abounded and the art scene flourished and people were interested in and valued both. Lucy and Catherine have experience in both of those communities, but as women they aren’t always taken very seriously. I loved how this novel demonstrated the men weren’t the only ones interested in art and science and influencing those discoveries and movements, but women had to be smart and strategic about how they participated lest they be told they didn’t know what they were talking about.

The romance is also a delight! I think a lot of times people assume that queer people in history weren’t ever able to have their happily ever afters in the past, or that their lives must have been very sad, and I love how Waite shows that’s just not true. While it is true that queer people could not be open about their affections, and that they took to speaking in veiled meanings and perhaps struggled to connect with like-minded people, this series is overall light on queer-related trauma. There is grief and sadness and deep disappointment, but mention of horrible things happening off page in the past (content warning for some colonialist violence) have nothing to do with the women being queer. I think that’s so wonderful, and essential to reframing the narrative that all queer relationships before 1969 ended in tragedy or at the very least, separation and longing.

Overall, this is a delightful romance with lots of steam and tenderness, grounded in a fascinating time period with exciting artistic and scientific subplots! I highly recommend it if you want to fall into something happy this weekend!

Bonus: I read the audiobook narrated by Morag Sims, which was excellent. There is also a sequel that is equally delightful called The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, which is about two forty-something women in the early 1800’s finding love. The cover is an abomination–please don’t let that deter you from picking it up!

Happy reading!
Tirzah


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[2/10] Read This Book: THE COLOR PURPLE by Alice Walker

Welcome to Read This Book, the newsletter where I recommend a book you should add to your TBR, STAT! I stan variety in all things, and my book recommendations will be no exception. These must-read books will span genres and age groups. There will be new releases, oldie but goldies from the backlist, and the classics you may have missed in high school. Oh my! If you’re ready to diversify your books, then LEGGO!!

Yesterday the literary world celebrated Alice Walker’s 77th birthday! Here’s to many, many more. Ms. Walker is a poet, novelist, social activist, and blogger. She coined the word “womanist” and helped revive the life and works of Zora Neale Hurston and returned the once forgotten Harlem Renaissance titan into the forefront of American culture and literature. However, she is likely best known for her National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Color Purple.

The Color Purple Book Cover

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Mostly set in rural Georgia, The Color Purple focuses on Southern life during the 1930s for several African American women. Sisters Nettie and Celie are separated as girls but stay connected despite time, distance, and silence through letters. 

Despite having book nerd status, my first experience with the story from The Color Purple was through the adaptation starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. I absolutely loved it from the first time I watched it as a kid even though I didn’t fully understand all the dynamics at play. I didn’t actually read The Color Purple until my late 20s / early 30s. I’m both glad and disappointed about waiting that long to read this book. Reading it later in life allowed me to better understand those dynamics of race, gender, and sexuality present in the movie that my kid brain just couldn’t comprehend. However, waiting so long denied me the pleasure of reading such a rich and compelling story centered around Black women. 

If you have never read The Color Purple, then I implore you to add the book to the top of your reading pile. The violence against women may make you hesitant, but procrastination means missing out on a powerful story about family, sisterhood, and the resilience of Black women in America. 

Until next time bookish friends,

Katisha


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[2.8] Read This Book: JUST MERCY: A TRUE STORY OF THE FIGHT FOR JUSTICE by Bryan Stevenson

Welcome to Read This Book, the newsletter where I recommend a book you should add to your TBR, STAT! I stan variety in all things, and my book recommendations will be no exception. These must-read books will span genres and age groups. There will be new releases, oldie but goldies from the backlist, and the classics you may have missed in high school. Oh my! If you’re ready to diversify your books, then LEGGO!!

Tomorrow is Michael Bae Jordan’s birthday. Y’all know him. He’s Creed. He’s Killmonger. He’s People’s Sexiest Man Alive. He’s Lori Harvey’s latest boy toy. I’ve enjoy MBJ in everything from The Wire to Fantastic Four, but his recent role in Just Mercy as Bryan Stevenson is still top of mind and is as relevant as ever. 

Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults): A True Story for the Fight for Justice by Bryan Stevenson

Lawyer and social justice advocate Bryan Stevenson offers a glimpse into the lives of the wrongfully imprisoned and his efforts to free them from an unjust judicial system. Stevenson works to protect the basic human rights of America’s most vulnerable population–the poor, the disabled, and the marginalized. This adaption of the critically-acclaimed bestselling memoir for young readers is a call to action and compassion in the pursuit of justice. 

Proceeds from the book go toward charity to help in Bryan Stevenson’s work.

In this era where we increasingly hear phrases like “Black Lives Matter (too)” and “Defund the Police,” it is essential to see how our broken justice system and America’s original sin of slavery brought us to this place. Just Mercy does just that by highlighting some factors that led to the United States being the leader in the mass incarceration of its citizens. We spent decades executing adults (and even children) for their convicted crimes at an alarming rate. We spent decades sentencing children to die in prison for crimes they committed. Bryan Stevenson along with the other dedicated lawyers at the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) worked tirelessly to right those wrongs for as many death-row inmates as possible. Just Mercy shares the successes and failures of that journey.

Although this book is adapted for teen readers, I can easily see adults devouring it. The words are simplified for younger readers, but the story is still powerful. I didn’t bawl my eyes out, but I was constantly on the verge of tears. Of course, there was rage at the mind-boggling injustice ingrained within America’s justice system, but there was also joy when the EJI was able to give clients some long overdue justice. 

Just Mercy was named one of the best kids books to read during Black History Month by USA Today, and Kirkus Reviews called it required reading. I couldn’t agree more. 

Until next time bookish friends,

Katisha


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Read This Book: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is the sophomore novel by an amazing author whose debut I recommended last year…but I just can’t help it, I loved this book, too!

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

In this second standalone fantasy novel, Bashardoust revisits a Persian myth to shape the story of Soraya, a princess who was cursed at birth to be poisonous to the touch. The inception of her dangerous gift is told to her like a fairy tale, a constant reminder that she must be careful and forever on her guard so that she doesn’t hurt anyone. Now on the cusp of adulthood, Soraya’s existence is kept a secret to protect her brother, the shah. She lives in isolation in a private suite and garden of her family’s spring castle, and when her family returns with the news that her brother is about to be married, she’s devastated that life seems to be passing her by.

Soraya ventures out of her safe haven, determined to break her curse once and for all. Along the way, she befriends a young soldier in her brother’s army and learns that they have caught a monster and are holding her in the dungeon. According the legend, this monster may be able to help break Soraya’s curse, so she immediately behind scheming a way to get into the dungeons. But just as she thinks she’s about to find answers, Soraya realizes that everything she thought she knew about her curse is a lie.

I love the lush storytelling in this novel. The opening starts off like a fairy tale, and Bashardoust’s skillful writing brings this fantasy world and the characters to life in marvelous and rich detail. Soraya is a sheltered but determined heroine, but her naivety and inexperience threaten to be her pitfall. Nonetheless, when it’s clear that she’s caught up in a much greater struggle that spans decades and generations, she rises to the occasion with some ingenious twists. I loved that the political struggle is expertly woven in with Soraya’s emotional journey, making the stakes believably urgent, and that Soraya’s story builds in complexity and nuance as her world expands. Plus, there is a sneaky queer romance in this story that is absolutely wonderful! Read this book if you want an enchanting story that explores the idea of what makes a monster, the tension between goodness and evil, and how to forge your own path.

With this book, Melissa Bashardoust became an auto-buy author for me! Plus, if you missed it last year, make sure you pick up her first novel, Girls Made of Snow and Glass!

Happy reading!
Tirzah


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[2/3] Read This Book: AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE by Tayari Jones

Welcome to Read This Book, the newsletter where I recommend a book you should add to your TBR, STAT! I stan variety in all things, and my book recommendations will be no exception. These must-read books will span genres and age groups. There will be new releases, oldie but goldies from the backlist, and the classics you may have missed in high school. Oh my! If you’re ready to diversify your books, then LEGGO!!

One of the best parts of reading The Women of Brewster Place was reading the foreword written by one Tayari Jones. After I read that foreword, I knew it was time for me to stop procrastinating and start reading Jones’ most recently published book that has been collecting dust on my bookshelf. 

an american marriage book cover

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Newlyweds, Celestial and Roy, are the embodiment of the American Dream. As they settle into the routine of married life, their world is torn apart when Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. While Roy is away, Celestial finds comfort in Andre, her childhood friend who was also the best man at Roy and Celestial’s wedding. The longer Roy is away, the harder it is for Celestial to hold on to their love. When Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned after five years, he is ready to resume the life he once had with Celestial. 

If nothing else convinces you to read this book, then just know I read most of it in one day. Every time I thought I would take a break, I had to read just one more chapter. What I enjoyed most about An American Marriage was how the entire situation was mostly spent in the grey. It is obvious Roy is innocent of his charges, so the grey area comes through the dynamics of Celestial and Roy’s marriage during Roy’s incarceration. Reading each of their sides of this love story, I went back and forth about whether Celestial or Roy was in the wrong. In the end, I realized they were in an impossible situation where no one was ever really wrong. 

I also saw An American Marriage as an alternative version of If Beale Street Could Talk. I haven’t read the novel, but I saw the adaptation in theaters in the Before Times when we did those activities. The juxtaposition between the two couples was always in the back of my mind. While Fonny and Tish seemed to be brought closer, Celestial and Roy drifted apart. No one enters marriage thinking their spouse will one day be convicted of a crime they didn’t commit, but what would I do in that situation? Would I be like Celestial or Tish? 

Until next time bookish friends,

Katisha


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