It’s “What are you reading?” Wednesday!

I’ve seen a lot of bookish memes and list ideas here on the book-blogging circuit, and I wish I could do all of them! One of my favorites has been a trend of bloggers posting their current reads on Wednesdays.

This week I’ll be taking inspiration from Taking On a World of Words, and trying out their “WWW Wednesday!”

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What I’m currently reading:

The Betrothed by Kiera Cass

I am a huge Kiera Cass fan.  I absolutely flew through The Selection series and have recommended it several times.  So I was so excited when I heard she had a new book coming out! I really like that it shows the hardships and politics that go into picking a queen. This book is chock-full of strong, complex women who are navigating a system determined to keep them down. I am positive I’ll  be finished with the book by the end of today!

The Witches are Coming by Lindy West

The Witches are Coming is a biting cultural critique from the creator of Shrill, Lindy West.  The book is specifically a commentary on the #MeToo movement and the new reality it finds us in.  She is thought provoking and funny, and has a great tone that is accentuated if you listen to the audiobook like I am currently doing.  Her irreverent humor brings a lightness to often dismal topics such as sexual abuse and everday sexism.  I am really enjoying this book and can already tell I will be recommending it to lots of people!

What I’ve recently finished:

The Wysman by Dorothy Winsor

I was so excited to be selected to read this YA fantasy ARC, and was able to read it in less than a day. It is a story of elemental magic, mysterious abductions, and outcasts looking to find their place. The characters were complex and relatable, and the world is one I hope to return to again.  I definitely recommend this one!

The Book Of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

I was so excited when I saw the premise of this book- a story from the perspective of Ana, the wife of Jesus.  I was fascinated by the idea of hearing some of the tales of Christian mythology through the lens of a woman. The book is full of fantastic characters, including several strong women who struggle to find their voices in a society that reduces them to nothing.  Ana lives an amazing life of her own, and is more than just the dutiful, obedient daughter and wife her family demands her to be.  This book was gorgeously written, and I recommend it very highly! 

What I think I’ll read next:

Mother Daughter Widow Wife by Robin Wasserman

A woman, given the name Wendy Doe, is discovered on a bus with no memory of who she is, where she is going, or where she came from.  Wendy, her doctor, and a woman claiming to be her daughter must work together to determine who she is and how she came to have amnesia.  Sounds like a mystery that is right up my alley and I can’t wait to get into it!

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

I really loved the Hunger Games series and devoured them when they were originally published.  I have longed to return to Panem and I was super excited to hear another book would be joining the series.  I will admit I am a little unsure of a prequel about Snow, but I am excited to see where the story takes us.  Snow was a perfect villain, so it will be interesting to learn about his backstory.  I guess I will just have to see where the story takes me!

See you all with a new review soon! x

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Special Guest Review: Citizen

Hey reading friends! Today I have the privilege of being able to give platform to a brand new voice in writing and blogging, my friend Seyi Osundeko. Her older sister and I have been friends for years and because Seyi and I both share the same passion, I’ve been hearing about her writing journey for a while too. Seyi is branching out on her own now at a new blog, found here, but we are lucky enough to be hosting one of her reviews this week also.

Its a difficult time to jump into creating content, especially with all of the tension and stress in the world, but when Seyi sent me her review I was impressed and so happy to host it. Not only that she chose a powerful book that I love, but that she also chose to offer her own vulnerability and truth in her review, which is so much harder than it seems. She is a great writer, only just getting started, and I hope you enjoy her review below as much as I did.

Look to see Seyi featured on our blog again from time to time! We are so happy to have her. x

Hello everyone! My name is Seyi Osundeko (Shay-ee Aw-shoon-deh-kaw). I’m a Christian, a writer, and starting a PhD at Stanford in the fall. I like old movies, Broadway shows, and ordering more dumplings than I should. 

This is a strange time to join Storyeyed. I had intended to have my first review be of my favorite book: Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy. However, since this month has a Black Lives Matter (or if you prefer, All Black Lives Matter) theme as well, I’ll instead start with a review of Citizen by Claudia Rankine. I also wanted to share a bit of my own experience as a black woman.

I was almost stumped on what to add to Alison’s post (Ibram X. Kendi’s books are my go-to for essential American reading – read Stamped!) but Citizen is a shorter, potent piece that acts as an important underpinning for understanding what we’re experiencing as a country right now. 

Citizen is called “An American Lyric”: “lyric” in this context meaning, “characterized by or expressing strong, spontaneous feeling”. In her book, Rankine addresses the ostensible spontaneity of black anger; of Serena Williams yelling a referee, of Zinedine Zidane headbutting a player during a game, of Rankine herself sharply asking a white person “what did you just say?” Out of context, these expressions seem to “come out of nowhere”. It seems like people are just short-tempered or out of control. However, as Rankine builds on these cases, there is much more to each outburst than meets the eye. They are cases of human beings bowing under the weight of an accumulation of attacks, slights, injustices, and terrors that seem to never end.

Right now, we need to remember that we are not only fighting for George Floyd. As a country, we are in a fight each and every individual who has been harmed by the police and other arms of systemic racism. For black people, we are in a fight for our lives. 

As a child of Nigerian immigrants I wasn’t raised with any passed-down knowledge or coping mechanisms for racism. I didn’t get “the talk”; My parents and I learned about racism together. From schools. From jobs. From funerals. Now that I’m an adult, I’ve been talking to my dad about how I should raise my future children. He’s been encouraging me to try and prevent them from inheriting my anger and fear. That’s much easier said than done.

There’s a saying I’m sure we’ve all heard before: “It take a village to raise a child.” I think a more accurate way of saying that is, “the village raises the child.” Whether we like it or not, we are raised by our country just as much as we are raised by our families. We shape our community, and thus we shape each other. I don’t want to relate to my children in the future. I wish them a society so changed that my experiences will sound bizarre.

It may seem naïve, but I really do think this can start with reading. We must be educated on our history and our present so we can shape the future. 

Happy reading.

Find more of Seyi’s reviews, writing, and character analyses at pocketpages.org!

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It’s “What are you reading?” Wednesday!

I’ve seen a lot of bookish memes and list ideas here on the book-blogging circuit, and I wish I could do all of them! One of my favorites has been a trend of bloggers posting their current reads on Wednesdays.

This week I’ll be taking inspiration from Taking On a World of Words, and trying out their “WWW Wednesday!”

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What I’m currently reading:

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Another Riley Sager book and I am knee-deep in it already. It is so good. Thrilling, exciting, confusing, but in the best way, Sager has never disappointed me. I’ve been anticipating this book since its announcement and it is so exciting to finally dive in! This is a haunted house story that isn’t about a haunted house, and so far I am in love with every creepy corner. Check this one out soon.

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad

If you’re not up to date on what’s currently happening in our world and our country, this is another good book to help open your eyes. I’m reading this book with a group of young, white women from my book club who are all hoping to become better allies and it has been an intense, eye-opening, and often soul-searching experience. All of us come from different backgrounds and places in the country, and so opinions differ, but we are all getting a lot out of this book. If you’re looking for more to read on this important topic, we posted a list to help get you started.

What I’ve recently finished:

Peace Talks by Jim Butcher

…I don’t even know what to say. I waited five years for this book and it was not a disappointment in the slightest. I can’t say enough how much I love this series and, yes, I know I’m biased because I’ve been reading it since Middle School. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files has only gotten better and better with each and every book, and Peace Talks cranked that up to eleven. Originally one large book, this works as part one of two books that Butcher will be releasing this year. Battle Ground, the next installment in the series, hits shelves this September. Look for Peace Talks in July!

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

I loved this! And I had high expectations, because this book is very well-beloved in the book reading community. I had this book recommended to me so many times that by the time I picked it up I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to the excitement, but it did. This YA coming of age, horror story is part fairy tale and part nightmare. It’s thrilling, fast, engrossing, and feminist AF. If you haven’t read this book, check it out.

What I think I’ll read next:

The Circle by Dave Eggers

I’ve wanted to read this one for a while and I just got it as a gift from a book group I’m in. This book is about a woman who takes a job at an exclusive internet company, only to find darker and darker secrets as she gets pulled further in. It’s been called thrilling, relevant to today, and has an almost cult-like love from critics and readers. When I worked at the bookstore, we sold a lot of this book, and I am excited to finally dig into it.

Wonderland by Zoje Stage

I JUST got approved to read this on Netgalley and I am SO Excited. We are big fans of Zoje Stage here at Story-eyed and I, personally, was aching to read her newest novel. Wonderland is a horror novel, which further excites me as I’ve been reading and loving a lot more of the genre in the last few years. Its been described as “If Shirley Jackson wrote The Shining,” and I for one am SO excited to find out exactly what happens in this book. Look for my review in a couple of weeks!

See you soon, friends! x

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Book Lists, Spotlight

5 Books You Should Read to Be a Better White Ally

I spent a lot of time this morning reading posts and stories about George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery: three human beings who are no longer alive today because of the continued racial injustice in this country. I don’t even know how to talk about how I feel today. I am furious. I am so angry and so sad, but saying that doesn’t feel like enough.

I mourn with the black community today. I mourn because we all should be mourning. “We belong to each other.” I firmly believe that, and when any of us is hurt, the rest of us should hurt too. I’ll never understand how anyone can justify the suffering and death of another human being, no matter how much I learn about ignorance and hate and the systemic racism riddled throughout America. I felt helpless and useless today, and so I wrote this list.

As a white ally, it is my job (and yours) to step up and support those who’s voices aren’t being heard. All of us allies have room for improvement and it’s past time to educate ourselves on how to do this job better, because we’ve been failing. We can be better allies. We can learn to listen and pass the mic. We can use our privilege and platforms to help black voices be heard. It is no one else’s job to hold our hands and do the work for us, especially not people of color. That’s what I’ve been thinking about today.

So if you’re angry and sad today, this list is for you. If you want to be a better white person, this list is for you. Hell, if you just want to be a better human, this list is for you too. It’s not much, but it’s a place to start the real conversations that all of us need to be having and to improve on the ones that we are. We have to all be in this together.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

If you’re an ally, you’ve probably already read this one. (You might have read a lot of these already.) But it’s still an excellent place to start. How to Be an Antiracist is equal parts guidebook and social education tool: it does a great job of illuminating and explaining the variety of struggles faced by people of color in this country and it also offers some suggestions, actions, things that we can do.

This book makes a distinction that I think is so important, especially today, that “not being a racist and being Antiracist are not the same thing.” It’s not enough to simply stop being a part of the problem, we have to actively take part in the solution and this book is a great primer on how to start doing that.

White Fragility: Why Its So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin Diangelo

If you’re looking to do some self-reflection, this is the book you need. I remember reading this book and thinking back to so many moments in my life, relating to the stories and struggles here. If you’re like me, you grew up in a home that taught tolerance but that also didn’t talk about race very often either. A lot of us grew up in places where conversations about race were hushed or ignored, not invested in, or even judged. Especially if you were “making others uncomfortable.” But its way past time to say “f*ck that attitude.” White Fragility is about that struggle, to unlearn what so many of us have been taught. The “wokest” among us still need to soul search in these spots, and I encourage everyone to read this book.

As allies, we have to be willing and comfortable with being uncomfortable, and if we don’t know how then we need to learn. Reading a book like this, that will hopefully challenge the way you think and feel, is a great place to start.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

If you don’t think we have a problem with race and mass incarceration in this country, then…well, honestly I’m surprised you’re even reading this list, but I’m so glad you’re here. You need to read The New Jim Crow.

This book will change the way you think about “color-blindness” and the way our justice system treats people of color in this country. From the police, to education, to the prison system, this book covers it all, smartly weaving in and out of seemingly disparate topics that all have one central truth: our system is broken, and in very specific and intentional ways. We need change. Now. This book offers some suggestions, but mostly it will open your eyes. Read this, and then recommend it to all of your friends.

White Rage by Carol Anderson

If you’re looking for something historical, factual, and driven by years of research, White Rage will be right up your alley. In this book, Anderson takes an unflinching approach to analyzing the structural and institutionalized racism that has been a part of America for hundreds of years. This book is a history, essentially, of white anger and aggression toward black America and how it effects all of us, even today. Spanning more than a hundred years, White Rage uses key moments in history and first-hand accounts to expose and discuss how the narrative around race has formed in this country.

Never more relevant than today.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

This book is both primer and all-around catch-all, in my opinion. Written with brilliant insight and authenticity, So You Want to Talk About Race is a book that every white person in America should read, especially those engaging in social, political, or economic conversations today.

This book has a bit of everything, it touches on so many important topics. The author writes from a place of experience and truth and the helpful facts and suggestions in this book are the perfect place for anyone to start trying to learn more. Oluo does a wonderful job of taking on the emotional labor of explaining these difficult topics to her readers so that other people of color don’t have to, and she created an incredible handbook in the process. If you only read one of the books on this list, start here. It’s basic, clear, educational, and full of opportunities to be better.

Love and courage, friends. Stay safe. Stay healthy. xo

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ARC Reviews, Reviews

The Lucky One

From the acclaimed author of Under A Dark Sky comes an unforgettable, chilling novel about a young woman who recognizes the man who kidnapped her as a child, setting off a search for justice, and into danger.

As a child, Alice was stolen from her backyard in a tiny Indiana community, but against the odds, her policeman father tracked her down within twenty-four hours and rescued her from harm. In the aftermath of the crime, her family decided to move to Chicago and close the door on that horrible day.

Yet Alice hasn’t forgotten. She devotes her spare time volunteering for a website called The Doe Pages scrolling through pages upon pages of unidentified people, searching for clues that could help reunite families with their missing loved ones. When a face appears on Alice’s screen that she recognizes, she’s stunned to realize it’s the same man who kidnapped her decades ago. The post is deleted as quickly as it appeared, leaving Alice with more questions than answers.

Embarking on a search for the truth, she enlists the help of friends from The Doe Pages to connect the dots and find her kidnapper before he hurts someone else. Then Alice crosses paths with Merrily Cruz, another woman who’s been hunting for answers of her own. Together, they begin to unravel a dark, painful web of lies that will change what they thought they knew—and could cost them everything.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

I’m a sucker for a good kidnapping tale.  But this was the first book I’ve tackled where the kidnapping is all in the past.  Everything is about what happens years and years after the fact.  We meet our victim as an adult, still struggling with the trauma of an event that she can barely remember.  Alice is flawed and complex, which I found made her a more believable character that readers truly care about. You *want* to know what happened to her, you *feel* her pain and heartbreak.  It’s so easy to take her side and see everything in the black-and-white that she does. That is, until we meet our second main character, Merrily.  Even though Merrily and Alice live in the same city, they are a world apart.  Merrily’s traumas are more relatable to the average reader- stressing about an overbearing mother and struggling to pay the bills. The bottom begins to fall out of her world, and everything she thought she knew slowly changes. There isn’t some big reveal that sends her life spiraling; instead it slowly falls away piece by piece, lie by lie. Like Alice, Merrily is a character that is imperfect and accessible, bringing the reader to truly care about everything happening to and around her.

I liked the way the author tackled the dual-narrative as a plot device.  Something that I found worked really well is that Alice and Merrily don’t really interact with each other much.  We see two very different versions of a story that are moving along two different timelines.  They interact with different secondary characters very differently, learn information in varying times and in completely different ways.  I really like the experience this created for me as I was trying to solve the various mysteries along with the characters (and no, I wasn’t even close!)

All that being said, the pacing was a little off for me.  It made it hard to sit and devour the book all at once as I prefer to do.  The plot felt very hot and cold, moving quickly at some places then stuttering to a crawl for several chapters.  Some clues are delicately crafted, while others are just suddenly dumped on the reader with little explanation.  There were a few places where I felt like I needed to back up and reread paragraphs looking for something I thought that I missed.

Overall, I am really glad I finished The Lucky One.  It’s a tense, dark mystery whose twists and turns will keep you guessing all the way to the final pages.  And it will be up to you to decide- is the titular lucky one really so lucky after all?

See you all at the weekend!

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The Sea of Lost Girls

TW: sexual abuse

Tess has worked hard to keep her past buried, where it belongs. Now she’s the wife to a respected professor at an elite boarding school, where she also teaches. Her seventeen-year-old son, Rudy, whose dark moods and complicated behavior she’s long worried about, seems to be thriving: he has a lead role in the school play and a smart and ambitious girlfriend. Tess tries not to think about the mistakes she made eighteen years ago, and mostly, she succeeds.

And then one more morning she gets a text at 2:50 AM: it’s Rudy, asking for help. When Tess picks him up she finds him drenched and shivering, with a dark stain on his sweatshirt. Four hours later, Tess gets a phone call from the Haywood school headmistress: Lila Zeller, Rudy’s girlfriend, has been found dead on the beach, not far from where Tess found Rudy just hours before.

As the investigation into Lila’s death escalates, Tess finds her family attacked on all sides. What first seemed like a tragic accidental death is turning into something far more sinister, and not only is Tess’s son a suspect but her husband is a person of interest too. But Lila’s death isn’t the first blemish on Haywood’s record, and the more Tess learns about Haywood’s fabled history, the more she realizes that not all skeletons will stay safely locked in the closet.

The Sea of Lost Girls is a tale of secrets, lies, and local legends.  Any mystery lover will be a huge fan of this novel by Carol Goodman. We are treated to a story that incorporates multiple mysteries that unravel at varying speeds over the course of the novel.  Without giving anything away, the book has plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your toes with a suspenseful atmosphere throughout.  Even the most seasoned mystery reader will struggle to predict the ending.

Our narrator is Tess, an English teacher at a boarding school in coastal Maine. We know little about Tess when we first meet her, but suspect that she is an ordinary woman living an ordinary life.  Tess, it turns out, is a deceitful woman.  She is living a life shrouded in mystery and half-truths, a life that threatens to unravel after the death of her son’s girlfriend.  Her son Rudy has issues of his own, causing him to be a social outcast in the tight-knit community they find themselves in.  When Rudy’s girlfriend is discovered dead on the beach, the first mystery begins as the community tries to unravel whether her death was a tragic accident or an act of malice.  

This mystery triggers others as the secrets surrounding Tess begin to slowly reveal themselves.  Tess is frantic to keep her secrets from spilling out all while dealing with the death that has so rattled her community.  Her secrets reveal themselves slowly, mainly through a sequence of flashbacks.  And as Tess does everything she can to keep her past in the past, she manages to unveil yet a third mystery – the truth behind the local legend of The Maiden Stone and a string missing persons cases, all involving young women who seem to vanish into thin air.

Our opinion of Tess as a narrator definitely changes throughout the novel – if she is lying to everyone she holds dear, how can we expect her to be truthful to us? This adds to the suspenseful feeling that only becomes more frantic as the story unfolds and more lies are uncovered.  I found myself staying up way too late just to see if my predictions were right (they were way off base).

I enjoyed this book a lot.  I read through it super quickly and found myself completely engaged in the plot. The way it is written keeps readers completely engrossed, waiting for the next secret to be revealed and the next clue to fall.  The Sea of Lost Girls is a complex thriller that is the perfect combination of complicated characters, multi-layered subplots, and unpredictable twists. You will be on edge until the final page, and the resolution will stay with you even after you close the cover. 

Hope you enjoy it! Talk to you soon!

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