Traces by Sophie Johannis


Traces is a phenomenal debut. It is poignant, beautiful, and compelling. Aiden and Cole play off each other really well, and I felt their relationship was both heartwarming and the perfect amount of awkward.

Without giving too much away, Traces is a novel about Aiden, a girl who’s just learned she’s an empath. If you like YA fiction with a dash of magical realism and psychological fiction, I highly recommend it.

I’ll definitely be picking up Below, the second novel in the Traces trilogy., once I’ve worked through my current TBR.

Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman


Call Us What We Carry is a poetry collection with emphases on the pandemic and BLM movement. I enjoyed a great deal of the poems and appreciated the historical facts and statistics. My only criticism is that the collection went on far too long. After a while, the pieces repeated themselves with little to no added value. I would have preferred this much more if it had been half the length.

Here are my two favorite quotes:

"We mourn the past more than we miss it." - from "In the Deep"

"What endures isn't always what escapes/& what is withered can still withstand." - from "Cordage, or Atonement"

A New Calling by Sylvian Breker


*I received a copy in exchange for an honest review.*

A New Calling is a phenomenal paranormal debut. The main character, Alyssa, is frequently difficult to sympathize with but feels real and raw in a way that complements the subject matter. Though she’s often dislikable, her actions and feelings toward the world around her are realistic given her age and past experiences.

I also appreciated how the paranormal aspects were sprinkled into the story instead of taking center stage. As the first novel in a series, I enjoyed the character-driven plot and world-building. By the end, there were plenty of questions left unanswered, providing the perfect transition into the second book.

Breker’s prose reeled me in and left me wanting more.

If you enjoy adult paranormal fiction, I recommend giving this a shot. It doesn’t hurt if you, like the author, also enjoyed the Twilight series growing up. If A New Calling had been published when I was in high school, it would have ticked all the boxes.

Potential triggers: sexual assault, self-harm, and suicidal tendencies

The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green


I’ve been a fan of John Green since 2014 when a fellow undergrad mentioned Looking for Alaska. I fell in love with Green’s writing like Hazel Grace falls for Augustus—slowly and then all at once. Ever since that first taste, I’ve read everything he’s published. So, when The Anthropocene Reviewed hit stores, I was the first person at my local Barnes & Noble to receive a copy. They literally had to open a box so I could purchase the book.

I realize John Green has discussed similar things in a podcast of the same name but, as of this post, I haven’t listened to an episode. I went in with nothing but the notion I would learn more about one of my favorite authors and finished with exactly what I expected. Though there’s nothing novel about John’s rating format, I enjoyed his ramblings and heavily sourced material. I learned about many things I would have never stumbled across myself, and for that I am grateful.

Though I don’t usually offer my favorite quote from books, I believe I’ll start doing so because it offers a snippet of me that you might otherwise never see. For reasons I’ll leave up to your imagination, this one stood out among the many other gems: “One of the strange things about adulthood is that you are your current self, but you are also all the selves you used to be, the ones you grew out of but can’t ever quite get rid of.”

I give The Anthropocene Reviewed five stars.

Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn


Flowers for the Sea reminded me of the Binti series in many ways. The prose had a similar tone, the protagonist was "chosen", and each tale took place on a ship.

Though I enjoyed this short book, it felt like an introduction and left me wanting more. I also would have preferred a longer book, to flesh out the characters and world a bit more. Nevertheless, it was a decent debut and I intend to read future books in the series.

Finna by Nate Marshall


After seeing Finna on what I'll call the "spotlight rack" at the library, I decided to borrow a copy. I had never heard of Nate Marshall and hadn't seen this poetry collection anywhere else. I went in completely blind.

I loved the usage of Black vernacular English. It felt raw and honest, something I feel most contemporary poetry lacks. If you're looking for a poetry collection that hits differently than most, I recommend finding a copy and settling in for a quick yet poignant read.

PS. For those who'd like to know, my favorite poem was "which art? what art?".

Before and After the Book Deal by Courtney Maum


Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer's Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book is a fantastic book that lays out everything an emerging author needs to know about the publishing industry. Though I'm still in the querying phase of my debut novel, I found the "After" section extremely helpful. I thought I knew the ins and out of the publishing process, and how postpublication worked, but it turned out there was a lot I wasn't privy to.

Whether you're an aspiring writer or already have a publication or two under your belt, you need to read this book! It's full of resources and information and provides words of wisdom from numerous authors who have been through what you're feeling.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli


Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a light-hearted novel about a teenage boy's online relationship with a mysterious boy from his school. I enjoyed the ambiguous nature of their budding romance and loved Simon attempting to piece together the clues "Blue" left for him.

Though the blackmail aspect grew tiring, I was happy Martin didn't turn out to be the love interest.

If this had been published when I was in high school, I believe I would have enjoyed it more. As a 28-year-old mother of two writing a YA romance, this didn't live up to my expectations--especially after all the hype the book and movie received.

Nevertheless, I'd recommend the novel to younger LGBTQ+ readers looking to see themselves in print.

The Yellow Oak by Victor Vahl


If you're looking for something weird and dreamy with a fair amount of body and psychological horror sprinkled in, The Yellow Oak might be the book for you.

Victor Vahl crafted an intriguing story about two men who get lost in a forest run by living, cannibalistic trees. Though the premise is decent, and much of the visuals are fantastic, I was hoping for more atmosphere. I would have appreciated a slower pace to build up the tension and flesh out the characters. My favorite thing about psychological horror, and what really makes House of Leaves phenomenal, is the slow build toward the climax. Not everything is thrown at you at once, meaning there's a ton of detail and hints at the full picture before the terror is revealed. In The Yellow Oak, things happen to Rye and Spencer too early. Due to the near-immediate dive into the horror, I didn't care about what happened to the characters. Backstory came too late; I already felt detached from the main cast when the story reached its peak.

From the editorial side of things (and how could I not touch on it given my background in copy editing), the diction was occasionally problematic. There were plenty of words that took me out of the narrative. It felt like the author had a thesaurus handy and ended up choosing words that were technically synonymous with the obvious word but that didn't fit within the text. This is where I'd have to side with Stephen King's advice; the first word you choose/write is likely the one you should use. Don't worry so much about how sophisticated your prose sounds. The point is to tell a great story and you hinder your reader's enjoyment if they have to weed through odd words and/or phrases. When in doubt, keep it simple.

Overall, the book was interesting and I had no idea where it was going the majority of the time. Though not everything worked for me, I'm sure it will appease much of the horror/thriller fan base.

Misfits by Michaela Coel


I love Michaela Coel. After watching Chewing Gum and I May Destroy You, she became one of my favorite writers/directors. Her storytelling, particularly in I May Destroy You, was so brilliant that I had a difficult time not rewatching the limited series as soon as I was finished. Coel has a knack for character development that I admire and aspire toward.

When I heard about Misfits, I immediately placed it on my TBR. Though not as gripping as her TV dramas, I found Coel's message inspiring and thought-provoking. I'm sure her words will find the "misfits" and provide wisdom and light to those needing encouragement.

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