Rummanah Aasi

 During her freshman year at college, Anna Xu investigates the unsolved on-campus murder of her former babysitter, as she and an old rival have to team up to look into the hate crimes happening around campus.

Review: Katie Zhao's thriller The Lies We Tell tackles important and timely topics. I can definitely see what the vision of what this book was suppose to be, but the execution of the story fell flat for me. 
   Anna Xu is a sheltered Chinese American freshmen college student who has recently returned from a summer visit in Beijing and will be starting school at Brookings University, a liberal college known for its elite, affluent, white alma mater. It is also known in the Asian community as the place for a cold case in which Asian-cued Melissa Hong, Anna's babysitter, was murdered seven years ago.  Anna, hoping for answers and closure, resolves to covertly investigate. 
  I had difficulty in believing Anna was a college freshmen. Her voice and actions were too young. I can understand having difficulty in making friends in a new environment and adjusting to a new environment, but Anna does not to have any common sense or street smarts. I didn't think she was capable of taking on an investigation. When she finds a suspicious app in which she can meet and make friends, she trusts it right away and discloses way too much information about herself.
 I also had issues with an unnecessary romance that didn't do anything for the story. In the book we learn about the rivalry between Anna's and Chris's family restaurants. We spend more time on their relationship than we do learning about Melissa's case. The thriller aspect of the story doesn't really start happening until about 60 percent of the book and once it started it was too rushed. I'm not sure how many readers would stick with this book. Some reviewers mentioned that the book is fast paced, but it wasn't for me. I found the mystery underwhelming because I figured it out early in the book. I did, however, like the themes the book touched on such as Anti-Asian discrimination and sexual fetishization of Asian women, but they didn't land powerfully as they should. The Lies We Tell wanted to be like a hybrid between Ace of Spades and a thriller by Tiffany D. Jackson, but ultimately it fell flat.  

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, a racial slur is used, bullying, and racial stereotypes. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson, Ace of Spades by Faridah Abike-Iyimide
Rummanah Aasi
 Graduating into the long maw of an American recession, Sneha is one of the fortunate ones. She's moved to Milwaukee for an entry-level corporate job that, grueling as it may be, is the key that unlocks every door: she can pick up the tab at dinner with her new friend Tig, get her college buddy Thom hired alongside her, and send money to her parents back in India. She begins dating women--soon developing a burning crush on Marina, a beguiling and beautiful dancer who always seems just out of reach.
   But before long, trouble arrives. Painful secrets rear their heads; jobs go off the rails; evictions loom. Sneha struggles to be truly close and open with anybody, even as her friendships deepen, even as she throws herself headlong into a dizzying romance with Marina. It's then that Tig begins to draw up a radical solution to their problems, hoping to save them all.

Review: All This Could Be Different is a slice of life debut novel that fits into the category of "messy people, messy lives" or coming into adulthood. Sneha is a very internal character, some would say aloof, who takes stock in observations around her. She has created a defense mechanism in building walls around her and not disclosing personal information to anyone including her closest friends. She is in her twenties and is one of the very lucky few who has a decent job in Milwaukee working at an entry-level corporate job. We watch and follow her daily life as Sneha struggles to live her authentic life. 
  Alone in America, she is able to pursue her queer identity though she is still closeted to her conservative Indian parents. She is able to keep up the facade of being a dutiful daughter by sending money back home, but not disclosing to anyone that she has been sexually abused by her uncle or that her landlord is racist, refusing to turn on the heat and making appearances to her apartment without her consent. We watch as Sneha create and break fragile relationships. As her friend Tig advises, relationships of any kind are transactional, you give and take not just take, but how do you do that when you can't trust anyone?
  Matthews has beautifully captured the aimlessness and confusing years of being in your twenties when you know what the finish line looks like but you have no idea where you can find the starting line. There are many issues talked and discussed about the book such as the vulnerabilities of being an immigrant and a person of color- being afraid to speak up when injustice occurs in fears of being deported and/or losing your job- and how unresolved trauma seeps into your life and makes a lasting impact. This is a character driven novel that is more concerned with the big picture rather than the tiny details, which felt very realistic. I can't say that I liked Sneha per se, but I was drawn to her story and the community that she created. I did have a few questions that I wished were explored further, but overall I really enjoyed the writing of this book.  

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, sexual situations, mentions of drug addiction and alcohol abuse, a police traffic stop that doesn't end well, and allusions to sexual abuse by a family member. Recommended for adults only. 

If you like this book try: Luster by Raven Leilani, Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Rummanah Aasi
 While preparing for the last major dance competition before they graduate from eighth grade and go to separate high schools in NYC, Cory must balance the expectations of his parents, school, crew and his new friend as pressure mounts from all sides.

Review: Freestyle is an energetic and cheerful story about breaking dancing, meeting expectations, and yo-yo masters. The story is focused on our main protagonist Cory who is skilled at b-boying with his dance crew and less talented at school. While his crew, but more specifically his crew leader, aspires to win a dance competition, Cory has to work with his tutor to improve his grades if he wants to attend a good high school in Brooklyn. With his time commitments going in different directions, Cory has to figure out how to meet everyone's expectations. 
 I really like this graphic novel from its vibrant colors, the action filled panels, and its refreshingly big group of friends who share a similar interest in dancing but not drama. The story moves quickly as the characters begin to wrestle with what other people want for them versus what they actually want. Sometimes these notions collide and other times it dovetails quite beautifully. Unlike other graphic novels that take place in middle school, there is a romantic or a budding romantic story line, but I appreciated that the author focused on friendships instead, both new ones and existing ones. Cory and Sunna's rocky friendship made sense to me and I enjoyed watching them working out their issues as well as learn yo-yo tricks. The cast of characters are diverse without being a big deal, which is also nice to see. Overall a fun story about friendship, growth, and having the space to express big feelings without being heavy handed.  

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Invisible by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Eagle Rock series by Hope Larson
Rummanah Aasi
 When Harper Proulx and her newfound sibling travel to Hawaii to track down their sperm donor father, the man she discovers--a deep-sea diver obsessed with solving the mystery of a shipwreck--forces Harper to face some even bigger questions.

Review: I'm usually up for a solid realistic story about self growth and self discovery. The Epic Story of Every Living Thing had an enticing plot and was well reviewed, but unfortunately for me it fell very flat. I was ultimately so bored and frustrated with this novel that I stopped caring around the halfway mark. 
Harper Proulx's life revolves around her boyfriend Ezra, what ifs, Instagram, and comments from her driven single mother who likes to show her off as a 'well done' project. Like many teens obsessed with social media, Harper gets tiny boosts of confidence when she receives likes and comments on her Instagram posts. When she comes across a photo of Dario who shares similar physical features with her, she beings to wonder about MF--her Maybe Father. She reaches out to Dario, the two meet up, and she realizes that her mother has withheld information from her. Soon she is swept off to Hawaii with her other half siblings to find their sperm donor father.
  I had a lot of issues with this book, but the main one that stood out to me was Harper. I found Harper to be an exasperating and needy teen. For half of the book, Harper is fused to her phone. She treats her boyfriend Ezra like her Instagram lackey, transporting her equipment and chauffeuring her to locations that would guarantee her more likes and comments on her posts. She does not open up to her boyfriend nor tells him anything about her finding her half siblings even though she is very involved in his family. So when Ezra broke up with her, I actually cheered for him. I couldn't believe how Harper thought this breakup came out of nowhere.
  My other issue with this book is that the pacing is quite slow. The first half of the book is all about finding Harper's MF. The second half is supposedly Harper's epiphany, but it didn't feel earned. One minute her face is glued to her phone near the ocean, then her phone slips into the water, and then boom! her eyes open in wonder about the world around her. 
  I did, however, like her half siblings who all had different personalities. I didn't find her father nor her mother actually developed but they appeared more as caricatures. Her dad being a surfer boy who smokes pot and her neurotic mother who wants perfection because that's how she was raised.
  I did not care for the details of the shipwreck as it took way too long to make a connection to the story. I also wondered why Covid-19 wasn't stated in the book even though there are plenty of discussions about masks, quarantining, and vaccines. As far as I know the pandemic isn't trademarked? Also why was the book written in the weird third person narrative?
  I love stories about families, but this was an absolute swing and a miss for me. Looking back on it, I wondered why I even finished it. This should have been my first dnf (did not finish) book of the year. Your mileage with Harper may vary.
Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, mentions of drug use, and a fade to black sex scene. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Normal Family by Chrysta Bilton, The Other F-Word by Natasha Friend, Donorboy by Brendan Halpin, Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
Rummanah Aasi
 Traces the intense bond of three orphaned siblings who, after their parents die, are left to raise one another. The youngest, Kausar, grapples with the incomprehensible loss of their parents as she also charts out her own understanding of gender; Aisha, the middle sister, spars with her "crybaby" younger sibling as she desperately tries to hold on to her sense of family in an impossible situation; and Noreen, the eldest, does her best in the role of sister-mother while also trying to create a life for herself, on her own terms.
    As Kausar grows up, she must contend with the collision of her private and public worlds, and choose whether to remain in the life of love, sorrow, and codependency that she's known or carve out a new path for herself. When We Were Sisters tenderly examines the bonds and fractures of sisterhood, names the perils of being three Muslim American girls alone against the world, and ultimately illustrates how those who've lost everything might still make homes in one another.

Review: I am a fan of Fatimah Asghar's poetry and I was super excited to hear that they would be releasing a debut novel at the end of 2022. When We Were Sister is a deeply personal, lyrical, and heartbreaking read. Using vignettes and poetry, Asghar has created a story that follows three young orphaned Pakistani sisters who have to fend for themselves and group. 
    After their father is murdered, Noreen, Aisha, and Kausar are taken in by their Uncle, their mother's brother, who keeps them completely separate from his own family, an ex-wife and their two sons who live in a rather well off home. The girls are enticed by the promise of a "zoo", but it's really a run down one bedroom apartment that has a hallway of neglected animals and is infested by roaches and mice. Uncle forgets to supply their refrigerator with food and takes the girls' government checks and deposits them into his own account for stock and gambling investments. Since Uncle leaves for long periods of time, Noreen is defaulted as "sister-mother" and to the best of her ability takes care of her sisters. Aisha is the typical rebellious middle child and Kausar, our narrator, is the sensitive wide eyed sister who tries to appease everyone. Each sister does her best in navigating their own grief, either channeling it through their studies in hopes of leaving their grungy apartment in hopes of a new future, into their art, or into simmering anger that it threatening to spill out. 
   The fragmentary nature of the book may not appeal to some readers, but it worked for me. When I picked up the book, I found myself reading quickly and rereading lines that were full of haunting images and pulsing with heartache. Since Asghar's background is poetry, it's clearly evident that they were very conscious and precise with their wording. The spaces between the sentences and the silence between the sisters speak volumes. I actually would have liked the book to be a bit longer. It's conclusion has a time jump that seems added on. I would liked to have witnessed each sister's journey during their time apart and brought back together again, but still I did enjoy this very intimate story about grief, family, sisterhood, and coming of age.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, a scene of sexual assault, and guardian negligence and abuse. 

If you like this book try: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir
Rummanah Aasi
 Trapped in a rigid hierarchy where girls learn magic and boys train as knights, twelve-year-old nonbinary Callie, who dreams of becoming a knight, and their new friends find themselves embedded in an ancient war, but in order to defeat the threats outside the kingdom they must first defeat the bigotry within.

Review: Sir Callie and the Champions of Helston is a character driven fantasy that has lots to unpack. I have been familiar with stories in which female characters want to become a knight, but I have yet encountered a knight who is nonbinary until now and it is wonderful to see. 
 Callie dreams of becoming a knight for the court of Helston. Their father is a renowned retired knight and former champion to the Hestion king, who has mysteriously vanished, and is called upon to train the crown prince for an upcoming tournament and take his place as future ruler of Helston. After spending years at home and not seen for who they are, Callie joins their father in pursuit of adventure and achieving their dream.
  Helston is your typical fantasy kingdom where not falling within its strict gender norms and being different ostracizes members of its realm. In Helston magic-less knights are trained to fight and ladies are expected to be submissive, quiet, and use their magic for pretty, useless things. Callie quickly realizes that she is bound to make enemies and chaff against the rigid rules. Despite constantly misgendered, and confined to their chamber by the odious Lord Chancellor Peran, Callie secretly continues to train as a squire. She also makes friendls with the nervous Prince Willow and Peran's firey and defiant daughter Elowen.
  This debut novel succeeds in its exploration of identity in all aspects of the main cast of characters. I really loved how Callie continues to ask questions about why things are the way they are and how can people be so compliant and not do anything when there is clearly a problem. The plot, however, is slow paced and not much happens in the book. Younger readers who want action and adventure over character development may be disappointed. I was also a bit surprised on how dark the book gets with its discussion of abuse, which mainly takes place off the page, but is still very present. Nonetheless I really liked the characters and  the discussion of found family. I am looking forward to see what adventures Callie and their crew find in later books. I truly feel like the author is just getting started. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is misusing of the main character's pronouns and mentions of emotional and physical abuse. Recommended for Grades 5 and up. 

If you like this book try: Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag, Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce
Rummanah Aasi
 When their now famous ex-boyfriend asks them to participate in a teen reality show, two eighteen year old girls—one bent on revenge, the other open to rekindling romance—get tangled up in an unexpected twist.

Review: I am not a fan of reality tv dating shows. I have never seen nor do I have the desire to see a single episode of the Bachelor franchise, but I was drawn to the premise of this book because of the twist it promises. I am happy to say that this book is absolutely delightful and enjoyable.
  It has been two years since Maya was dumped by her posh, European royal boyfriend Jordy and she can't seem to get over that bump in her life. After Jordy's sister is married, Jordy is in the spotlight and declared Europe's most eligible bachelor.  He is in fact starring in a reality dating show called Second Chance Romance, which pits celebrity bachelors' ex-girlfriends against each other for a chance to win their ex's heart, and invites Maya to be on the show. After some moments of deliberation, Maya sees it as the perfect opportunity for revenge. She plans to publicly humiliate Jordy by dumping him on international TV--but she has to win first. When Maya gets to the fictional European country called Chalonne, Maya's plan goes awry when she alienates herself from the other Jordy exes, especially Skye, the girl whom Jordy cheated on Maya. 
    Gonzales's deconstruction of the reality tv show works beautifully. From the description of how each episode is created and edited for the audience to the large cast of strong female heroines who quickly understand the actual TV villains and refuse to give into the common tropes of backstabbing and sabotage usually associated with these shows. They actually form a tight knit support group. Jordy is insufferable with his antics, recycled dialogue that is meant to make contestant "special", his weird British accent, and his eye rolling body flexing for the camera. 
   Maya's reluctant friendship with Skye, which develops into something more has all the right beats to a romantic comedy. They are complete opposites, but they balance each other out. Maya is struggling with an inferiority complex, but at the same time she doesn't know what she wants to do with her life. Skye is a free spirit who loves to travel around the world, but has trust and abandonment issues. I liked that the author made both characters not only older (about eighteen and nineteen years old) but also bisexual who didn't have to worry about biphobia, though there is some discussion about biphobia in Maya's past before they get together. I couldn't help but root for them. I finished the book with a huge grin on my face. If you enjoy Casey McQuinston's books, then definitely check this one out. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language and a fade to black sex scene. Recommended for Grades 
9 and up.

If you like this book try: Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuinston (for similar romance vibes), All the Right Reasons by Bethany Mangle
Rummanah Aasi

 Every year there are several great books published. I have picked the top 23 titles that have caught my eye and wanted to share them with you. I am sure that I will keep adding to this list as the year goes on. I am thrilled to see a lot of diverse authors and topics. Fingers crossed that these reads do not disappoint us! I have organized the list according to the intended audience, release dates and will have a link to each title if you would like to add them to your Goodreads shelves. I already have a hold on a few of them from the library. Enjoy!


Geeta's no-good husband disappeared five years ago. She didn't kill him, but everyone thinks she did--no matter how much she protests.
But she soon discovers that being known as a "self-made" widow has some surprising perks. Now that Geeta's fearsome reputation has become a double-edged sword, she must decide how far to go to protect it, along with the life she's built. Because even the best-laid plans of would-be widows tend to go awry.

Release Date: January 3 / Add to Goodreads

Everyone in my family has killed someone. Some of us, the high achievers, have killed more than once. I'm not trying to be dramatic, but it is the truth. Some of us are good, others are bad, and some just unfortunate.

Release Date: January 17 / Add to Goodreads

They were eleven when they sent a killer to prison . . . They were heroes . . . but they were liars.

Release Date: January 17 / Add to Goodreads 

The acclaimed author of Love Lettering weaves a wise and witty new novel that echoes with timely questions about love, career, reconciling with the past, and finding your path while knowing your true worth.

Release Date: January 24 / Add to Goodreads

Smart, funny, and deeply affecting, Maame deals with the themes of our time with humor and poignancy: from familial duty and racism, to female pleasure, the complexity of love, and the life-saving power of friendship. Most important, it explores what it feels like to be torn between two homes and cultures―and it celebrates finally being able to find where you belong.

Release Date: January 31 / Add to Goodreads

A wildly imaginative and compulsively readable fantasia of adventure, history, Americana, feminism, and magic, VenCo is a novel only the supremely gifted Cherie Dimaline could write.

Release Date: February 7 / Add to Goodreads

A sumptuous, gothic-infused story about a marriage that is unraveled by dark secrets, a friendship cursed to end in tragedy, and the danger of believing in fairy tales.

Release Date: February 14 / Add to Goodreads

A new trilogy of magic and mayhem on the high seas in this tale of pirates and sorcerers, forbidden artifacts and ancient mysteries, in one woman’s determined quest to seize a final chance at glory—and write her own legend.

Release Date: March 2 / Add to Goodreads

A sparkling grumpy-meets-sunshine romance featuring two men's sweeping journey across the Western wilderness.

Release Date: March 7 /Add to Goodreads

A deeply powerful, raw debut novel that's "equal measures hilarious and haunting" (Crystal Hana Kim), of a Puerto Rican family in Staten Island who discovers their long‑missing sister is potentially alive and cast on a reality TV show, and they set out to bring her home.

Release Date: March 7 / Add to Goodreads

By turns suspenseful and enchanting, this breathtaking first novel weaves a story of love, family, history, and myth as seen through the eyes of one immortal woman.

Release Date: March 7 / Add to Goodreads

Sharp as a belted knife, this sly social commentary cuts straight to the bone, revealing the aftermath of the American plantation and what it means to be poor, Black, and a woman in the God fearing south.

Release Date: April 2 / Add to Goodreads

A thrillingly told queer space opera about the wreckage of war, the family you find, and who you must become when every choice is stripped from you, Some Desperate Glory is award-winning author Emily Tesh’s highly anticipated debut novel.

Release Date: April 11 / Add to Goodreads

New York Times bestselling author TJ Klune invites you deep into the heart of a peculiar forest and on the extraordinary journey of a family assembled from spare parts.

Release Date: April 25 / Add to Goodreads

A History of Burning is an unforgettable tour de force, an intimate family saga of complicity and resistance, about the stories we share, the ones that remain unspoken, and the eternal search for home.

Release Date: May 2 / Add to Goodreads

From bestselling, National Book Award-winning author Elizabeth Acevedo comes her first novel for adults, the story of one Dominican-American family told through the voices of its women as they await a gathering that will forever change their lives.

Release Date: August 1 / Add to Goodreads


From the New York Times bestselling author of the Brown Sisters trilogy, comes a laugh-out-loud story about a quirky content creator and a clean-cut athlete testing their abilities to survive the great outdoors--and each other.

Release Date: January 3  / Add to Goodreads

The first book in an epic fantasy series for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Hafsah Faizal and Elizabeth Lim, set in an Arabian-inspired land. Raised to protect her nation from the monsters lurking in the sands, seventeen-year-old Imani must fight to find her brother whose betrayal is now their greatest threat.

Release Date: January 24 / Add to Goodreads

Nova Albright was going to be the first Black homecoming queen at Lovett High--but now she's dead. Murdered on coronation night. Fans of One of Us Is Lying and The Other Black Girl will love this unputdownable thriller.

Release Date: January 31 / Add to Goodreads

A trans pianist makes a New Year's resolution on a frozen Wisconsin night to win regionals and win back his ex, but a new boy complicates things in Edward Underhill's heartfelt debut YA rom-dram, Always the Almost.

Release Date: February 14 / Add to Goodreads

A house with a terrifying appetite haunts a broken family in this atmospheric horror, perfect for fans of Mexican Gothic.

Release Date: February 28 / Add to Goodreads

For fans of Courtney Summers and Tiffany D. Jackson, Into the Light is a ripped-from-the-headlines story with Oshiro's signature mix of raw emotions and visceral prose—but with a startling twist you’ll have to read to believe.

Release Date: March 28 / Add to Goodreads

From the New York Times bestselling author of Firekeeper’s Daughter comes a thrilling YA mystery about a Native teen who must find a way to bring an ancestor home to her tribe.

Release Date: May 2 / Add to Goodreads
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Rummanah Aasi

 For 2023 I have the following reading goals in mind:

  • Don't set up TBR (to be read) lists for the month: I am terrible at sticking to TBR lists. I am very much a mood reader and the moment that I placed a book on a reading list, I'm suddenly not interested in it anymore. Why? Because it loses its new-ness and it becomes more like homework.
  • Continue to read and search out BIPOC and LGBTQ+ authors: Mainstay authors don't need help in promoting their books. I would rather put my focus on the marginalized authors that do need the spotlight.
  • Expand my reading tastes: In 2022, I dipped my toes into reading more thrillers, mysteries, and a little of horror. While there were quite a few misses, I did find books that I thoroughly enjoyed. I want to keep broadening my reading tastes and read diversely in terms of genres. I'd like to pick up historical fiction books that take place outside of the U.S. or Europe or if it does take place in the U.S. or Europe, it is shown through the eyes of a marginalized character. I would also like to read some science fiction titles too.

Blogging Goal for 2023:

    I need to get my blogging groove back and snap out of this blogging slump. Writing 4 blog posts a week takes a lot of time, energy, and commitment. I think 3 blog posts a week is a bit more manageable in order to rekindle my blogging passion. While I do miss blogging and the blogging community, it did at times feel like an extension of work and it felt draining. I created this blog as an outlet when I didn't have the opportunity to share my thoughts and recommendations with readers. Some how the creative outlet became a second or third job and with additional responsibilities and time commitments, I had to let it go but I am determined to get back on track. I hope you'll join me. 

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Rummanah Aasi
   2022 was my best year in terms of reading. I read 292 books, the highest ever since blogging and tracking down the number of books I read in a year, and most of them were actually published in 2022. 2022 was also my worst year of blogging. My blogging slump continued. Switching jobs, taking on more responsibilities at home, and feeling overwhelmed were just some of the reasons why I lacked motivation to blog. I hope to change the blogging slump in the new year. Though 2022 is in the rear-view mirror when this post goes live, I wanted to share my favorite books of 2022 with you.  

Adult Reads

The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas: I was completely mesmerized by this Gothic historical horror debut. With an homage to Daphne Du Maurier and Shirley Jackson, Cañas has written an enthralling, multilayered story that addresses the horrors of colonialism, racism, and socioeconomic classism along with different forms of power and privilege. The writing is exquisite and I still think about it long after finishing it.

True Biz by Sara Nović: An insightful, memorable, and moving coming-of-age story that discusses the discrimination against and within the Deaf community from multiple perspectives.

Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty: I was absolutely captivated by these twelve interconnected short stories that follow the challenges that a young Native American in contemporary America faces, such as drug addiction, mental illness, and economic insecurity. The stories range from humorous and tender to grim and heartbreaking.

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson:richly detailed family saga that stretches from the 1960's Caribbean to today's Southern California. Like the dessert, this story has many ingredients and layers as it uncovers the secrets and choices of a mother and their impact on her children and their identities.

Siren Queen by Nghi Vo: I was absolutely mesmerized by this historical fantasy which unveils the ugly side of the 1930's Hollywood golden years and is loosely based on the life of Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American actress. I loved the main protagonist, Luli, and witnessing her awakening to her own power.

A Caribbean Heiress in Paris by Adriana Herrera: I stayed up way too late finishing this delightful and steamy read. I'm so happy to see diverse historical romance (more please!). Luz Alana and Evan's chemistry sizzles and pops. I can't wait to read more from this series. Highly recommended for fans of Sarah Maclean.

More Than You'll Ever Know by Katie Guiterrez: I often find thrillers have the same cookie-cutter plot, but I was pleasantly surprised by this twisty, fast-paced psychological suspense novel that not only explores our fascination with true crime and the role of women in it, but also the complexities of marriage and motherhood.

Go Back to Where You Come From by Wajahat Ali: I really had a hard time putting down this passionate and insightful memoir that isn't afraid to tackle the tough topics of Islamophobia, racism, and xenophobia while also being hopeful and hilarious. Check it out if you enjoy the humor of Trevor Noah and Hasan Minhaj.

Finding Me by Viola Davis: A heart-wrenching, raw, candid, yet uplifting book about how Viola Davis found her voice and ultimately herself through the pain and the trauma of her childhood. The audiobook, read by Voila Davis, is excellent.

You Sound Like a White Girl by Julissa Arce: I was utterly captivated by Arce's personal essays that dismantle the myth of assimilation as a pathway to belonging and success for people of color, while arguing that people of color should embrace their culture without any restrictions.

YA Reads

The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson: Besides being an engaging retelling of Carrie, it addresses all common excuses for systemic racism and demonstrates how toxic tradition can be. I actually liked this retelling more than the original novel. I had a hard time putting this book down.

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir: Tahir's contemporary novel had my heart gripped in a vise with its complex emotions, messy characters, and the endless search for hope for the future. Memorable and heart-wrenching. Noor and Salahudin will stay with me for a very long time.

Lawless Spaces by Corey Ann Haydu: This novel in verse is candid, powerful, raw, and thought provoking. It takes a close look at toxic familial legacies and women’s experiences with stereotyping and internalizing their self-worth through the male gaze. I found the idea of writing letters and journals to themselves as a way to process their thoughts to be very interesting.

The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas: I love how being queer is normal in Thomas’s Mexican-inspired fantasy world. With captivating world building, earnest friendships, and electrifying adventure, this book had me completely hooked. This is a perfect choice for readers who love Percy Jackson, The Hunger Games, and My Hero Academia.

A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin: This is one of the best fantasy books that I've read this year. It's fast paced, has a really unique magic system based on tea and court intrigue, but is also infused with Chinese mythology. The central mystery had me turning the pages quickly.

Lulu and Milagro's Search for Clarity by Angela Velez: A funny, heartfelt story filled with unique and unforgettable characters, the strength of sisterhood and family, and a love for STEM and the arts. I love how both Lulu and Milagro go on their individual self-discovery journeys and explore their plans for life after high school.

Love Radio by Ebony LaDelle: A love letter to Detroit and a celebration of Black joy and love in many forms: self, platonic, family, romantic, and community. This book left me with a huge grin on my face and a warm heart in my chest. Prince and Dani are wonderful characters and a great couple to root for.

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé: An intense thriller that captivated me right from the first page. There are plenty of books out there that feature Black characters with a thriller/horror vibe that automatically get a comparison to Jordan Peele's debut film "Get Out". While the comparison often falls flat, Ace of Spades has legitimate "Get Out" vibes that are chilling, real, strong, and frankly disturbing.

Graphic Novels

Miss Quinces by Kat Fajardo: 
I loved how this middle grade graphic novel shows how to celebrate your culture and who you are without any shame. A must read for fans of Raina Telegeimer and Lucy Knisley.

Invisible by Christina Diaz Gonzalez: I love this reverse Breakfast Club middle grade graphic novel that it told both in Spanish and in English. The authors were able to show that rules aren't always right, teachers can make mistakes and stereotype kids, and kindness always wins!

Victory. Stand! by Dr. Tommie Smith: In this National Book Award finalist and stunning graphic memoir, Gold medalist Dr. Smith teams up with award-winning creators Barnes and Anyabwile to vividly recount his life and the road that led up to the memorable Olympic 1968 protest. This is a powerful celebration of activism and resistance.

M is for Monster by Talia Dutton: I thoroughly enjoyed this debut science fiction graphic novel, which is inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. While using the classic novel as its framework, it skillfully explores grief, sisterhood, and carving out an identity with an inclusive cast.

Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy: With possibly the greatest title ever, this hilarious, heartfelt graphic novel explores identity, self-awareness, and all of the complexities of wanting to belong in a way that is universal. An absolute delight.

Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas: A children's graphic novel. I love how Bree overcomes her fear of swimming, makes friends, and learns the importance of teamwork.

Castaways by Laura Pérez Granell: I really enjoyed this adult, slice-of-life graphic novel that chronicles the cycle of a romantic relationship set in Madrid, Spain. It is a quiet, poignant, and reflective graphic novel about loneliness, longing, and missed opportunities, told in two different timelines.

What's Home, Mum? by Sabba Khan: This is my favorite graphic memoir of this year. Khan creates an intimate, introspective story about her experiences, faith, and family in the South Asian diaspora community of East London. Her questions of belonging and claiming your home as an immigrant really hit home for me.

Himawari House by Harmony Becker: Himawari House is a slice-of-life graphic novel that I absolutely adored. If you love stories that are character-driven, about self-discovery and friendship, then I highly recommend picking up this wonderful graphic novel.

Heartstopper, Vol. 4 by Alice Oseman: I absolutely adore the Heartstopper series, but this volume is my favorite thus far. Nick and Charlie learn to communicate openly with each other, learn what it means to be an ally, and accept that seeking help does not make you less of a person.

Children/Middle Grade Reads

The Language of Seabirds by Will Taylor: I thought this book was a beautiful story of two boys who develop a friendship (and possibly more) and their own secret language of seabirds to describe their big feelings.

The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton: A rich and whimsical world building with a fascinating magic school with a slow burn plot. I really liked how this book addressed prejudice without being heavy handed. Hand this to anyone who wanted to be seen in the HP series. 

Nura and the Immortal Palace by M.T. Khan: I really enjoyed this action-packed fantasy that takes place in a fictional city in Pakistan. I really appreciated that it does not shy away from some serious real-life issues too.

Sofia Acosta Makes a Scene by Emma Otheguy: I could relate to Sofia on so many levels, and I empathized with her trying to meet her parents' expectations. I cheered when she was able to find her own path and her own voice, while learning how one person can make a big difference.

In the Beautiful Country by Jane Kuo: I love that this novel in verse gave me a lot to think about. Can something be beautiful and ugly at the same time?

Golden Girl by Reem Faruqi: I loved Aafiyah: even though she is not perfect and makes mistakes, she has good intentions. This is a story about family, friendship, change, and hope.

Dream, Annnie, Dream by Wakka T. Brown: I rooted for Annie right from the start. I loved how she navigated the highs and lows of middle school and friendship and never gave up on her dreams, despite other people's bigotry.

Sir Callie and the Champions of Helston by Esme Symes-Smith: I rooted for Callie and their friends who tried to fight back against the rigid gender binaries and roles in their kingdom. I can't wait to see what further adventures await!

Honorable Mentions

Adult Reads

Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman's Fight to End Ableism by Elsa Sjunneson

Last Summer on State Street by Toya Wolfe

Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho

The Matchmaker's Gift by Lynda Cohen Loigman
Mademoiselle Revolution by Zoe Sivak

Kamila Knows Best by Farah Heron

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by SanguMandanna

A Lady's Guide to Fortune-Hunting by Sophie Irwin

Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly

A Brush with Love by Mazey Eddings

Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Luck and Last Resorts by Sarah Grunder Ruiz

Sadie on a Plate by Amanda by Elliot

Solito: A Memoir by Javier Zamora

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn

The Verifiers by Jane Pek

Jackal by Erin E. Adams

Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

YA Reads

Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party's Promise to the Peopleby Kekla Magoon

One for All by Lillie Lainoff

This Woven Kingdom by Tahreh Mafi

Private Label by Kelly Yang

See You Yesterday by Rachel Lynn Solomon

The Do-Over by Lynn Painter

Azar on Fire by Olivia Abtahi

Ain't Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds

Flirting with Fate by Jennifer Cervantes

Never Getting Back Together by Sophia Gonzalez

I'm the Girl by Courntey Summers

As Long As the Lemon Tree Grows by Zoulfa Katouh 

Childrens/MG Reads

Shad Hadid and the Alchemists of Alexandria by George Jreije

One Wish by M.O. Yuksel

Wink by Rob Harrell

Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie

Graphic Novels

Frizzy by Claribel Ortega

Over My Dead Body by Sweeney Boo

The Tryout by Christina Soontornvat

Wingsbearer by Majorie Liu

Sort of Super by Eric Gapstur

Crumbs by Danie Stirling

Magical Boy Vol 1 by The Kao

Chef's Kiss by Jarrett Melendez

Squire by Nadia Shammas

The Devil's Music (Montague Twins #2) by Nathan Page
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