The Athlete Student: Freshman Year By: Eugene Holloman | Book Review & Scholarship Opportunity!??

Title:The Athlete Student: Freshman Year
Genre: Sports, Student-life, Fiction
Rating: 3.5
Release Date: February 1st 2018
Synopsis:
High school senior Michael “Tootie” Mayberry has a dream of becoming a professional football player—but he faces one obstacle, COLLEGE.  Over 480,000 student-athletes like Michael “Tootie” Mayberry want to play professionally, but less than 3.5% will. They train hard, planting and watering the mental seed that tells them they will reach the pinnacle of their sport. In the process, they often pick the easiest major available, and after graduation, they pay for it.

HOW DO STUDENT-ATHLETES GET TO THIS POINT?

Join “Tootie” Mayberry as he embarks on his college career, balances the stresses of high-level performances on the field and in the classroom, and fights through other challenges student-athletes face.

 

BOOK REVIEW:

My first impression of this book was that it read like a novella because it was not an extremely long story and that it was passable for as an upper-middle school appropriate book for the most part. However, the author was able to touch on a lot of different scenarios as to how life as an athlete in school can be a huge challenge and a bit of a burden.

Such as the pressure to be good, to stand out, to stick to your guns and your passion; on top of the pressure from the media can affect you when aspects of your life start to unravel. With all that being said, I would have liked it if there were better pacing and resting periods in between each issue/obstacle that Tootie faced in this story. The reason for that is because it began to feel like everything was happening all at once the closer I got to the end and it made processing it all (and Tootie’s reactions) a bit difficult.

I think I should also mention that I am NOT a sports person by any means. Which is why I really liked the insight this book gave me about the high school to college football experience; from picking the perfect school or what might feel like the perfect school possibly feels like for athletes. As well as just how much they are pushed, both physically and mentally, in school with having such a rigorous schedule separate from the academic side of college.

Just from my personal experience, I knew and felt the pressure of the projects, test, papers, and studying. So, this book was really an eye-opener. It was also great to see the way Tootie’s s character instantly knew what college was right for him based on his personal aspirations for the future contrasted to the different ideas and expectations from nearly everyone else in his life perceived for the future. Tootie seemed to see those options as “safe” and “basic” schools, which I could really respect because he had something to prove, but at the same time, it gives Tootie a tough and maturing life lesson to learn and experience all on his own.

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Drapetomania By: John R. Gordon | Book Review w/ Author Q&A

Drapetomania; or The Narrative of Cyrus Tyler & Abednego Tyler
By: John R. Gordon
Genre: History, LGBT, M/M, Slavery, Fiction, Literature
Rating: 5 stars
Publisher: Team Angelica
Release Date: May 17, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon| B&N

Synopsis: When house-servant Abednego is sold away south, his heartbroken field-hand lover Cyrus snaps and flees the estate on which he has lived his entire life. Leaving everything he knows behind him, evading dogs and patrollers as he heads north, in the midst of a dismal swamp Cyrus receives the revelation that Abednego is his true North Star, and, impossible though it seems, he determines to find and rescue his lost lover from slavery.

Ten years in the writing, Drapetomania, Or The Narrative of Cyrus Tyler & Abednego Tyler, lovers, is an epic tale of black freedom, uprising, and a radical representation of romantic love between black men in slavery times.

A riveting, masterful work. Set against the brutalizing, material captivity meant to break the soul, that came to define the chattel enslavement of Africans in the American south, Drapetomania tells the compelling story of two men whose love for each other reimagines the erotic contours of what was possible under the whip and scrutiny of catastrophic bondage. Here is a story of love so powerful, so achingly present, it dares to consider not just the past but the future, as vital to freedom; and in doing so, defies any notion of the black enslaved body as an ugly, unpalatable thing, unworthy of the sweetness of love. Gordon’s novel enters the company of such classic works as Edward P. Jones’s The Known World, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Barry Unsworth’s Sacred Hunger. We will be reading and talking about this extraordinary novel for years to come.

 

Book Review:

Reading this book was such an experience for me. Each chapter, character action, the accuracy in the details, the pacing; all of it reads like an epic.  I went through several stages of what felt like a symbolic, yet temporal, metamorphosis, both emotionally and consciously, by the lives illustrated by some of the enslaved characters in this book. So, I will try to keep my notes and thoughts on the story linear with this post.

Drapetomania is broken up into three books in this novel and told in a third person perspective that alternates between the lives and experiences of the two main characters, Cyrus and Abednego. Set in the late 19th century, where bristling talk and whispered rumors of a war between the Southern plantations faction of the United States, against the industrializing, forward-thinking North. However, unaware of the truth behind the rumors of a Civil War on the horizon, Cyrus, and Abednego, two enslaved men who live and work on the same plantation, have fallen in love.

I already knew a lot about the horrible treatment, abuse and dehumanizing conditions that enslaved Africans & African-Americans lived in, but to be placed in the middle it while reading this book took a whole other form and meaning.

During my Q&A with John, (the full interview is below) I asked about certain story themes and relative messages that he placed in the narrative. And one of those was the appalling suffering of enslaved African women, which I found one of the toughest aspects of this book I found to get through. Which is why I felt the practically spiritual connection and love between Cyrus and Abednego truly represented not only the light of this book but also the feeling of hope that pulled me through the story.

In book one, we follow Cyrus, a field-hand, as he runs away from the Tyler estate several months after Abednego has been sold away. He sets out for freedom and follows the North Star while being hunted until he realizes that he is running for a sense of freedom that he has only ever felt when with his lover, Abednego. Once Cyrus understands what he is truly missing, his character is driven by that singular desire of feeling whole once more—with Bed.

The journey we watch Cyrus go on to try to track down his lover’s potential whereabouts is anything but easy, clear or hopeful, but his compulsive need to try really resonated with me. I know it will with other readers as well.

And while I felt I was kind of on pins and needles reading this book with the tension engulfing Cyrus’ situation, I enjoyed the emotional connection I gain toward his character’s personal growth from one daring escape—each more intense than the last—to the other of the many hold-your-breath peril moments he encountered.

Cyrus’ shift from relying solely on his physical abilities, to quick thinking and blending in with other enslaved individuals really brought his character to life. In book two, the perspective shifted to Abednego and I love, love, loved that I was able to see Abednego’s point of view first-hand as all the information we have up until this point was from Cyrus’ s point of view.

And while book two depicts his life after Tyler’s estate and several months before Cyrus’s escape, it brought a validation to their relationship, their love for each other and their story all at once. As at the heart of everything that unfolds in Drapetomania, it was a reminder that it is a love story of one heart beating within these two men.

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The Fox Hunt by: Mohammed Al Samawi | Book Review

The Fox Hunt
By: Mohammed Al Samawi
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir, Religion, War,  Politics, Non-Western
Rating: 4.5 stars
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Publisher: William Marrow
Synopsis:

A young man’s moving story of war, friendship, and hope in which he recounts his harrowing escape from a brutal civil war in Yemen with the help of a daring plan engineered on social media by a small group of interfaith activists in the West.

Born in the Old City of Sana’a, Yemen, to a pair of middle-class doctors, Mohammed Al Samawi was a devout Muslim raised to think of Christians and Jews as his enemy. But when Mohammed was twenty-three, he secretly received a copy of the Bible, and what he read cast doubt on everything he’d previously believed. After connecting with Jews and Christians on social media, and at various international interfaith conferences, Mohammed became an activist, making it his mission to promote dialogue and cooperation in Yemen.

Then came the death threats: first on Facebook, then through terrifying anonymous phone calls. To protect himself and his family, Mohammed fled to the southern port city of Aden. He had no way of knowing that Aden was about to become the heart of a north-south civil war, and the battleground for a well-funded proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. As gunfire and grenades exploded throughout the city, Mohammed hid in the bathroom of his apartment and desperately appealed to his contacts on Facebook.

Miraculously, a handful of people he barely knew responded. Over thirteen days, four ordinary young people with zero experience in diplomacy or military exfiltration worked across six technology platforms and ten time zones to save this innocent young man trapped between deadly forces— rebel fighters from the north and Al Qaeda operatives from the south.

The story of an improbable escape as riveting as the best page-turning thrillers, The Fox Hunt reminds us that goodness and decency can triumph in the darkest circumstances.

 

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I’ll Be Your Blue Sky By: Marisa De Los Santos | Book Review

I’ll Be Your Blue Sky
By: Marisa De Los Santos
Genre: Contemporary, General Fiction
Rating: 3.5 stars
Released: March 6, 2018

Synopsis: On the weekend of her wedding, Clare Hobbes meets an elderly woman named Edith Herron. During the course of a single conversation, Edith gives Clare the courage to do what she should have done months earlier: break off her engagement to her charming, yet overly possessive, fiancé. 

Three weeks later, Clare learns that Edith has died—and has given her another gift. Nestled in crepe myrtle and hydrangea and perched at the marshy edge of a bay in a small seaside town in Delaware, Blue Sky House now belongs to Clare. Though the former guest house has been empty for years, Clare feels a deep connection to Edith inside its walls, which are decorated with old photographs taken by Edith and her beloved husband, Joseph.

Exploring the house, Clare finds two mysterious ledgers hidden beneath the kitchen sink. Edith, it seems, was no ordinary woman—and Blue Sky House no ordinary place. With the help of her mother, Viviana, her surrogate mother, Cornelia Brown, and her former boyfriend and best friend, Dev Tremain, Clare begins to piece together the story of Blue Sky House—a decades-old mystery more complex and tangled than she could have imagined.

As she peels back the layers of Edith’s life, Clare discovers a story of dark secrets, passionate love, heartbreaking sacrifice, and incredible courage. She also makes startling discoveries about herself: where she’s come from, where she’s going, and what—and who—she loves.Shifting between the 1950s and the present and told in the alternating voices of Edith and Clare, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky is vintage Marisa de los Santos—an emotionally evocative novel that probes the deepest recesses of the human heart and illuminates the tender connections that bind our lives.

 

Book Review:

Without giving away too much, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky, in my opinion, was not overly dramatic or heart pounding with suspense or anything. Nonetheless, the whole story felt lighthearted, kind of whimsical and slightly reminded me of a Hallmark version of Sleepless in Seattle with a stronger family backdrop (but only for the first chapter or so.)

Although this story centered on Clare and Edith’s lives, while I was reading it the narrative felt universal to me. Clare’s quest to really find herself, parallel to Edith’s character who is so self-aware of who she is and the type of person she wasn’t, really resonated with me as I was reading this book.

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Love Unleashed: Tales of Inspiration and the Life-Changing Power of Dogs By: Rebecca Ascher-Walsh | Review

Love Unleashed: Tales of Inspiration and the Life-Changing Power of Dogs
By: Rebecca Asher-Walsh
Genre: Non-fiction, Pets, Animals, Dogs, Adoption
Rating: 5 stars
Publisher: National Geographic
Released: March 6, 2018

Synopsis: A book for dog lovers everywhere. Celebrating the amazing relationships shared with our four-legged friends, each story recounts the love of dogs and the powerful ways dogs impact our lives. In this heartwarming collection of stories, readers meet 38 incredible dogs who have gone above and beyond the job description of best friend.

Each uplifting story provides an inspiring look at the animals who change our lives. Meet rescue dogs who learn to serve others, working dogs who go beyond the call of duty, and underdogs who surmount extraordinary challenges on the road to finding their forever home. This treasury of man’s best friend features photographs and personal anecdotes from those who have been touched by the selfless love of a beloved pet.

 

Thoughts:

As a new-ish canine parent (two years this June) and a lifetime pet owner, I loved this book. Some of the stories in this book about the the dogs and their new families were sad and really hard to read because I personally feel it is impossible to not adore animals.

Moreover, ignore the unique personalities that they all have. I also loved this book for the insight Walsh gives on dogs who are given second chances. As well as for the peoples’ lives that are affected and enriched when they bond with them.

I understood how profoundly and deeply the lives of all the individuals who shared their stories in Love Unleashed felt because of the dogs (and cats too) that are in or have been in my life and how much caring for them and them carrying for me and my family has impacted our lives.

 

All of the stories in this book are wholeheartedly worth mentioning, but there were a few that really stood out for me.

Hooch, a French mastiff mix, who suffered severe abuse as a puppy which left him unable to eat or drink. Since his rescue, Hooch now works as a therapy dog for children.

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Lona Chang: A Superhero Detective Story by: AshleyRose Sullivan | Review

Lona Chang: A Superhero Detective Story
Genre: Mystery, Supernatural, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: (it was okay)
Release Date: September 8, 2017
Publisher: Seventh Star Press
Arc Received From Author In Exchange For An Honest Review.
Synopsis:
 When one of the world’s greatest superheroes dies in her arms, Lona Chang takes it upon herself to investigate his murder.  Armed only with a power she barely understands and a mysterious coded book, Lona begins a quest for answers that leads her down a dark rabbit hole of secrets—secrets the ancient organization known as the Guild is determined to keep hidden at all costs.

Meanwhile, when a new threat descends upon Arc City, Lona’s soulmate (and freshly minted superhero) Awesome Jones defies the Guild, dons the cape and cowl of his father and finds a group of unlikely allies. But can Awesome trust them—or himself? He’ll have to fight his own demons first if he has any hope of defending the town–and the people–he loves.

As tensions rise between the Guild, Lona, Awesome, his allies and Arc City’s criminal underground, Lona realizes that life, and the answers to its questions, are never as simple as they seem in comic books.

Book Review:

First Impression:

My first impressions about this book were that the story made me thinks about Superman and Lois Lane which and that Lona and Awesome, at first glance, seemed to be paired off pretty well. Likewise, I did like Lona’s overall character in the narrative. She’s very down to earth; if a bit too critical of herself for just being “ordinary” and a “normal” person especially because of her unique ability.

As her character is very perceptive, smart and a natural people-person. I also thought the big reveal regarding the Guild and Pythia’s secret operations under the guild’s noises. This gave the story a bit of dark theme to it which was a niche surprise in this book.

The Things I Struggled With The Most While Reading This Book:

After having read portions of the first book for a bit more context regarding Lona’s adoptive parents, and discovering the apparent instructions left behind by her birth father for his former butler and maid to adopt his daughter. It made it seem as though her adoptive parents didn’t have a choice in the matter. As if the two weren’t truly parenting her, but doing another form of service.

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Not Your Villain (Sidekick Squad #2) By: C.B. Lee | Review (+Giveaway)

Amazing cover!!!

Not Your Villain (Sidekick Squad #2)

Genre: LGBTQ+, YA, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-fi
Rating: 5 stars
Release Date: October 5 2017
Synopsis:

Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants, and if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most-wanted villain.

After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges. Everyone is in danger. Between college applications and crushing on his best friend, will Bells have time to take down a corrupt government?

Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.

Book Review:

I loved this book so much that I had trouble putting it down. I feel like I talked about how C.B. Lee gives the reader a conventional and non-conventional narrative atmosphere last time, but just in case I didn’t, I think readers of this book will love,  as I did, the way theme of love and friendship are blended into the story with this amazing amount of ease that you almost forget you are reading a story.

The main characters are just so relatable. I can usually tell when I’m reading a story even if I am really into a book, but not when it comes to the Sidekick Squad series. From start to finish, the narrative incorporates a consistent and present bubble of humor, honesty, progressive relatability, acceptance, love AND excitement!

Reading this book you get so swept up in the funny, cute and friendship “aww” moments that when the action starts you’re just as shook as the rest of the characters!

At least that is how I felt. I love when books keep surprising you because it gives you the opportunity to never be bored with surprises and adventures in every single chapter.

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Unforgivable Love By: Sophfronia Scott | Review

Unforgivable Love: A Retelling of Dangerous Liaisons
By: Sophfronia Scott
Rating: 4.5 stars
Genre: Historical Fiction, Retellings, Romance,
Release Date: September 26, 2017
Synopsis:

“A dazzlingly dark and engaging tale full of heartbreak, treachery, and surprise.” – Kirkus

In this vivid reimagining of the French classic Les Liaisons Dangereuses, it’s the summer when Jackie Robinson breaks Major League Baseball’s color barrier and a sweltering stretch has Harlem’s elite fleeing the city for Westchester County’s breezier climes, two predators stalk amidst the manicured gardens and fine old homes.

Heiress Mae Malveaux rules society with an angel’s smile and a heart of stone. She made up her mind long ago that nobody would decide her fate. To have the pleasure she craves, control is paramount, especially control of the men Mae attracts like moths to a flame.

Valiant Jackson always gets what he wants—and he’s wanted Mae for years. The door finally opens for him when Mae strikes a bargain: seduce her virginal young cousin, Cecily, who is engaged to Frank Washington. Frank values her innocence above all else. If successful, Val’s reward will be a night with Mae.

But Val secretly seeks another prize. Elizabeth Townsend is fiercely loyal to her church and her civil rights attorney husband. Certain there is something redeemable in Mr. Jackson. Little does she know that her worst mistake will be Val’s greatest triumph.

BOOK REVIEW:

Unforgivable Love is a retelling of the classic Les Liaisons Dangerous, but I’m not familiar with the original story. What I do know is that this book is filled with this laid-back, passionate and vibrant imagery elegance from start to finish. The love and details of music associated with Harlem and the rippling complexity of each of the characters draw a number of favorable points for this book.

Besides being set in one of my favorite eras, I found that the cockiness of the main characters was something that really kept me hooked almost right away because their confidence and self-assurance was not only entertaining but intriguing; almost daringly pulling the reader into their games with them. Likewise, the characters brought an infectious intensity, twists and at times bits of humor in the narrative.  Like others will, I’m sure,  I really loved the well laid out social intrigue between Mae and her inner circle.

Underneath Mae’s calculating motives and cool demeanor, there’s a girl so hungry for love that I couldn’t help but empathize with. It is clear that the loss of her closest and dearest friend, and first true love has turned Mae against the world and the core motivations behind her plan regarding her cousin comes from a place of pride, ego, rejection and old wounds that haven’t healed around her heart.