I didn’t think cozy soft-magic romance was my thing…but this magical YA road trip romance/coming-of-age has me second-guessing that.
In Abe’s world the magic community exists in secret alongside the regular world. Ellie and Jack are former childhood best friends who grew up in their family’s magic-infused retail shops. Jack’s mother’s death pushed them apart and they’ve been making life hard for each other ever since. The last thing they want to do is embark on a road trip to a magical retailer convention together.
Did someone say enemies-to-lover second chance romance with the only one-bed trope ?
I enjoyed the simple mythology of magic in this world. Magic is a resource that the magic-aware can use to create small charms or enhance a food item. Magic does little things like boost confidence or fix a cracked phone case. Abe goes out of her way to make sure the magical system has rules and she even crafts a bit of magical history.
This book is called The Charmed List because Ellie also has this list of things she wants to do to make herself less of a wallflower. I’ll admit I’m getting a wee bit tired of the female main character who always feels ignored and has to learn to shine.
Jack and Ellie’s adventures down the California coast was the best part of this book. I felt like the ‘charmed list’ plot point didn’t really gel with the story and could have been left out.
This was an ideal blend of contemporary and fantasy!
I am the last person who should be reading Michel K. Williams’s memoir. I have never seen an episode of The Wire. I only know him from his 3 episode stint on Community. In Season 3 episode 1 he says the line “I know who Sean Penn is! I seen Milk!” and I think about the way he delivered this line all the time.
I also remember how, back in the day, The Wire got so much press because they hired actors with the same lived experiences as the show. Notably, Williams was not from Baltimore and the New York projects he grew up and lived in were culturally different from the Baltimore projects…though I’m sure the producers didn’t get that nuance. 🙄
The memoir is a fascinating dive into Williams’ journey to fame and how he used his fame to become a juvenile incarceration reform advocate.
Williams was a queer Black man living in New York City during the 80’s–part of his early young adulthood was spent in the underground ballroom scene. He spent much of his life balancing his queer and Black identity. I will say–it did sort of stand out to me that there was very little about his romantic relationships or his thoughts on having his own family.
William is brutally honest about his failures and mistakes. Despite becoming a pop culture icon and renowned actor–Williams struggled to support himself and manage money well into his 40s. He found renewed purpose later in life and became an advocate for reforming juvenile incarceration.
Williams struggled with addiction his entire life which ultimately lead to his passing before this book could be completed. Williams’ addiction was often triggered after performing violent street roles that mirrored his real-life trauma. I can’t help but think that if there were more diverse roles for dark-skinned Black actors– Williams could have had a chance to expand his range and side-step his addiction.
I probably won’t watch The Wire (BTW this book spoils the show so …*20 year spoiler alert* ??) but I do want to check out his Vice show Black Market and the documentary he made about juvenile incarceration.
If you want a cliff notes version of this book check out Vanity Fair’s Michael K. Williams Breaks Down His Career video on YouTube. I think they used this interview to help flesh out the book.
I had an AMAZING summer reading season but the minute fall came around I hit a major slump! I couldn’t focus on any of the novels I started and entered into my nonfiction era.
Making a Scene by Constance Wu
In this intimate, emotionally complex, and enthralling memoir Constance Wu, best known for the television show Fresh of The Boat, recounts the people and places that shaped her understanding of life. Wu comes off as a passionate extroverted theater kid who feels everything deeply and makes a compelling narrator of her own life. I find some memoirs to be very rote and enjoyed how this book jumped around to different points her life and isn’t in chronological order.
The headline from this book is Wu’s sexual assault from a producer of Fresh of The Boat. I thought it was brave the way she called out the men of the production for forcing her to hide it. She also details a date rape she experienced and it’s probably one of the toughest reads of this book.
I think it’s interesting that Wu and Eddie Huang, whose life her show is based on, are the same age and had vastly different experiences growing up Asian in the white suburbs. Wu’s life didn’t follow the narrative that the TV show sets out and I sensed there was some tension between her and Huang over it. I read and enjoyed Huang’s books and I’m glad we are seeing a diverse range of Asian American stories and there isn’t just one.
When I picked this book up I had forgotten that Wu was raised in the neighborhood where I currently live and it was a TRIP seeing so many places I’ve experienced being referenced. She has a great chapter about lessons she learned while making bread at a local bakery and the way I’m headed over there.
Cultish: The Language of Fantacism by Amanda Montell
In Cultish, a portmanteau of cult and English, Amanda Montell sets out to look at the language of cults and how it’s used in modern culty groups like Crossfit, Multi-Level Marketing and internet wellness influencer circles.
This book has some extremely polarizing reviews on Goodreads and I think it’s because this book sounds like it will be an academically researched look into linguistics–when it’s really more of a pop-y read. This is my first time reading non-narrative nonfiction and I found Montell’s style to be accessible and digestible. While I was familiar with much of the cult and MLM information (each topic she mention has at least one podcast and 2-3 documentaries), the chapters around cult fitness studios were new to me.
True crime fans will find a lot to like in here. While I’m not sure I am on board with everything the author posits this has got me side-eyeing every group activity with its own insider language.
Love Radio and Zyla and Kai both feature teen girls who are excited for their future careers but hesitant about love. That is until they meet their heroes, who are true believers in romance and all the hope it offers.…
Contemporary YA | Holiday House | Published : 02/08/2022
17-year-old Kat Sanchez is a photographer and free spirit. She loves herself and her plus-sized body but can’t help but to obsess over the low engagement her photography gets on Instagram. On a whim, she uses photos of her beautiful blonde co-worker and creates “Max”– a fake social media influencer who becomes an instant success.
I know it’s old hat to say this– but this book is a solid read-a-like for Sarah Dessen fans. It has a strong sense of place (Bakersfield, California) and a warm eclectic group of friends who balance out the protagonist’s complicated familial relationships. These are things I find to be staples in Dessen’s books.
This book gets messy and Maldonado rose to the challenge of making me both sympathetic and ambivalent towards Kat as she falls deeper and deeper into this fake personality. There is a lot going on and Maldonado nailed the ending.
Kat’s parents had her when she was a teenager. This made me realize we are now getting to the point where we will see more millennial parents in YA books. Guys ? We’re kind of cringe.
Lol, Kat’s millennial parents (who I guess are near my age 🙄) have a three-bedroom single-family two-story house and I was like HOW ??!