Diamond City by Francesca Flores

Diamond City by Francesca Flores is a book about a girl named Aina Solis who was orphaned as a child and was trained into a skilled assassin. Flores does an amazing job describing the characters and their personalities; one could instantly tell what the characters’ relation to Aina was and how Aina felt about them. There was the perfect amount of detail, not too much not too little, which was a very big highlight as every detail was needed and it made the book much more fascinating.

I love how the plot had an interesting climax which many readers may not have expected and it is at the forefront of the story. I adore how this book made Aina’s motives and traits match up with her actions, it enhanced the story and made sense for her character to make certain decisions in contrast to certain events. While I do enjoy love interests and a romantic story-line, I feel that the theme of romance not being at the forefront of the story made the story not only more interesting but also very fascinating for this storyline and I’m glad that the book focused more on the main climax rather then hopping around to different subjects or thoughts which could have been done easily and could have made the book less enjoyable. 

While the theme of romance wasn’t prominent, the book still has great LGBTQ+ representation with the main character Aina being bisexual. It was done incredibly and the reader was aware of this due to spectacular moments in the book which were done very subtly but left a very big impact on the reader.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it’s very promising. I would definitely recommend this book as it is written extraordinarily and is so intriguing.

Recommended For You by Laura Silverman

Recommended For You by Laura Silverman makes for a light, easy read that is difficult to put down. I found myself devouring the book from start to finish in a mere matter of hours. Silverman’s plot, characters, and descriptive dialogue all make for an exciting and humorous ride.

Shoshanna Greenberg has always found peace and solace working at her favorite bookstore, Once Upon, but she finds her world disrupted with the hire of a cute, but aggravating new employee: Jake Kaplan. They find themselves pitted against each other in a war to sell the most books and receive the holiday bonus. However, with the potential closure of Once Upon, coupled with troubles in Shoshanna’s personal life, Jake may be the only person who understands. Who knew a bookstore could be so exciting?

The story itself is original and fun, with new twists around every corner. The characters as well I can’t help but fall in love with. Each has their own quirky and unique personality such as Geraldine’s dream of becoming a beauty youtuber, or Jake’s love for baking. With witty commentary, lots of fluff, and descriptive imagery, this book is definitely “recommended for you”.

For me, this book served as a reminder that reading doesn’t always have to be complex and thought provoking. Sometimes all we need is a book that makes us smile, which this definitely did. Take a break from required textbook reading or English literary books and just read for fun! I highly recommend for anyone who wants a quick read, guaranteed to lift your spirits and make you smile.

When the World Was Ours by Liz Kessler

When the World Was Ours by Liz Kessler is a book filled with opposites; grief is coupled with hope, sadness with joy, and exhaustion with resilience. Based on a real story, this book causes you to feel and reflect upon a deeper level of the history of our worldand how we continue to move forward. 

Set during the Holocaust, three young friends are faced with the challenges of growing up in a time where acceptance is hard to come by. A single photograph reminds them of one perfect day spent together before Elsa is ripped from her family and sent to Auschwitz, Leo struggling to escape Vienna and the Nazis, and Max turning into a monster that values praise and reverence before the moral conscious of his mind. Separated through distance and life experiences, each must find their own way through the dark times of Nazi Germany. 

Liz Kessler paints a haunting story. It inspires anger, disgust, and immense sorrow for the painful blotch the Holocaust left on our history. Her images and language are powerful, heightened by the truth behind the words. This book is filled with shadows, but even so we see small glimmers of hope and perseverance in the family ties of our characters. The love they share is stronger than all the hate of those who participated in the monstrous acts of the Holocaust.

This book may not be an easy read, or necessarily a fun read, but I believe it is an important read to share the stories of the survivors in such a dark time. The writing itself is well done and the story important. I recommend for anyone seeking a more serious and thought provoking story.

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

To some, this might be just another book about racism, but that’s just not true. Every one of the stories in these brutal and sad books tells a different story, and each one is meaningful and heartbreaking in their own ways. This particular story tells of the experiences of Ashley, a Black highschooler in a mostly white private school, during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. It’s a melody of racial confusion, from the point of view of someone confused as to where they belong. Part love story, part drama, this book is for anyone who enjoyed The Hate U Give and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Overall, a lovely book.Oliver W.

Your Heart, My Sky by Margarita Engle

Liana and Amado are two teens living in Cuba during the el perìdo especial en tiempos de paz (the special period in times of peace) in the 1990s. Their story is told by Margarita Engle in her poetry book, Your Heart, My Sky. During this time period in Cuba, many citizen’s basic freedoms were withheld by the government. Cuban natives, like Liana and Amado had very little food. Liana and Amado fall in love while trying to find creative ways to feed themselves, their families, and Liana’s special companion, her dog. Many of their acquaintances choose to attempt a treacherous and extremely dangerous escape to Florida by boat. Liana and Amado must decide whether they should risk it all for a better life or continue to starve and live off of each other’s love and faded dreams. 

I thought the descriptive phrases and figurative language that Engle used in this book made the story more engaging. It also helped me to better imagine what living in Cuba would be like during this tumultuous period. Usually I find poetry books to be slow and not worthwhile. Fortunately, this was not the case with this particular work. The story was conveyed in a way that was both descriptive yet appropriately paced. 

This book was incredibly moving. It made me very grateful for the life that I live and the food that I eat. I would recommend this book to any poetry lovers. 

Wings of Ebony by J. Elle

Wings of Ebony by J. Elle is a relatively short fantasy novel that centers on the protagonist Rue. After the death of her mother, Rue discovers her godly ancestry and is taken to a place called Ghizon where her powers are unlocked. She meets her father in the process who impacts Rue’s development throughout the story. When her sister back in the real world is endangered, Rue does everything she can to save her, except there’s one problem—Rue can’t touch humans anymore because it is not allowed due to its consequences.

One thing I adored about the book was the POC representation. J. Elle did a good job of making themes in this book align to present day problems, like cultural appropriation and racism. Additionally, the fact that the protagonist was a strong female was empowering. 

I am typically a person who likes to read fast-paced novels, which made Wings of Ebony hard to get into in the beginning. J. Elle went thoroughly in depth with details, which results in good world building. However, in some parts of the novel, the overindulgence of details took away from the plot. 

While details were not always my favorite part of this book, the details about Rue’s connection with her sister were my favorite parts of the novel. As a person with a sister, I could relate to a lot of Rue’s motivations when it came to protecting her sister. Also, I am not a person who tends to gravitate towards romance in novels, so seeing the connection between sisters rather than a love-interest was refreshing. With this being said, there was still romance in the novel, but it was never overbearing and instead complemented the plot nicely. 

Overall, I enjoyed Wings of Ebony and it was a nice book, but it may not have been for me. Nonetheless, it is still a book I would recommend to others to pick up because of its POC representation, applicable themes, and the heartwarming sisterhood. 

Indivisible by Daniel Aleman

Indivisible by Daniel Aleman is a novel with moving themes of strength and family. Mateo Garcia is a Mexican-American living in New York City. He enjoys acting and hanging out with his friends and works at the store his family owns. His life is turned upside down one day when ICE agents arrest his parents because they traveled to the United States without correct registration. Suddenly he must single-handedly care for his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, while he lives in a two-bedroom apartment with his uncle, aunt, and cousin. At the same time, he is managing the family store, keeping his grades up, and navigating his first relationship. Most importantly, he is trying to get his family together again, as his mother is in a detention center and his father is in jail. Will the Garcia family ever reunite?
I thought this was book was very good. It was incredibly moving and heartbreaking that a child would have to go through so much. Mateo had a relatable voice and the plot kept me glued to the book’s pages the entire time. 
I would recommend this book to anyone. It is very relevant to events occurring right now. It gives an inside look into what many teens’ lives in this country look like, which is important. 

Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson

The book “Sing Me Forgotten” by Jessica S. Olson is a heart wrenching, gender swapped story based on “The Phantom of the Opera”. I am not familiar with “The Phantom of the Opera” myself so I don’t know how they compare, but I really enjoyed this book. It is about a girl, Isda, who is a gravior who lives in the dungeons of an opera house. Her mother tried to kill Idsa when she was born because graviors are believed to be dangerous due to their powers. When a person sings, Idsa can look into their memories and manipulate their emotions. The only reason Isda is still alive is because of Cyril who saved her from the well when her mother tried to kill her. Cyril is the owner of the opera house and lets Idsa live there since she can change how people feel about the performance which assures that the opera house stays in business. Isda is okay living in the opera house and experiencing the outside world through the memories of other people until she meets Emeric, who dreams of becoming a singer. When Emeric and Isda accidentally meet one night, Idsa offers to give him vocal lessons secretly. Isda sees this as a chance to look into Emeric’s past and learn new ways to use her powers, and to ensure that he stays at the opera house forever. The forbidden friendship between them quickly becomes more as together they discover the pure hatred society shoves toward things they fear. 
I really liked Isda’s character development throughout the story. She starts out as an outcast who’s too afraid to stand up for herself because she’s afraid she will become a monster. After she meets Emeric and starts giving him lessons, she starts to grow out of that fear and is more bold when talking to Cyril. When she finds out about Emeric’s sister she is brave enough to sneak into Cyril’s office and steal his book about graviors, which allows her to learn more about her powers. During the masquerade ball when her mask is taken off and her true identity is revealed she fights for her life and starts to care less about becoming a monster. At the end of the book when she saves Emeric from Cyril, she stops caring about trying to prove that graviors aren’t monsters and becomes one herself. I just like how she goes from actively making a point to not become what society thinks she is, to then realising that her only option is to do just that. For that reason, my favorite character is probably Isda, however I also really liked Emeric. He’s really sweet and cares a lot about Isda and his sister and just is an all-around nice person. I would recommend this book to any fan of “The Phantom of the Opera” since this book is based on that. I would also recommend this book to anyone who likes romance or slow-burn stories. 

Hello, Cruel Heart by Maureen Johnson

Cruel Heart by Maureen Johnson is an original take on the villain Cruella De Vil that is set in London. Johnson does an incredible job making the reader interested and intrigued by the character and what happens to her along the way as well as how people treat her makes the reader feel empathy for the main character.

Something Johnson did extremely well was flashbacks, as she made sure there was no confusion when the rader was supposed to be reading a flashback as it was marked by a simple symbol that marked both the start and the end of a flashback or when something different was happening than what was previously stated.

As someone who typically doesn’t enjoy ending with open interpretation and Johnson added just enough freedom for the reader to visualize what may happen in the while still providing enough closure for the reader to feel as if that is the end of the book and feel as if the book has a closed ending while still leaving room for speculation.

Once Upon a Quinceañera by Monica Gomez-Hira

“Once upon a time, there was a sign.

Three, actually. Too bad Mami missed them all.”

Talk about grabbing attention from the get go. This book was extremely difficult to put down from start to finish. An emotional rollercoaster in the best way possible, it had me alternating between laughter and tears (and alternatively, excitement and anger) practically every chapter. What stuck out to me most, however, was the bare honesty of the protagonist; the story felt achingly real and vivid. And, of course, the author’s use of humorous dialogue and witty sarcasm was wonderfully entertaining.  

The book follows the story of an (almost) graduated high school senior who attempts to complete her last graduation requirement with a summer work-study. Somehow in the process she becomes entrenched in years-old family and romantic drama, all circulating around a sequence of disastrous quinceñeras. I would (and am planning on) reading it again.