It’s Monday and I read 50 books last year

January 2, 2023

Therefore, I have decided to set my Goodreads goal for next year at 52 books. We’ll see how it goes. Also, watch this space for the traditional end of year book survey.

I hope everyone’s new year is off to a stellar start. Mine is not so much because I had an opportunity to swim with the manatees but skipped it because of ~lady problems~ and later had regrets and then I found out that I didn’t get accepted into the Everglades fellowship I wanted, which is a total bummer. Also, I think my daughter is mad at me.

That said, I had a great New Year’s Eve and Day as we took it totally easy. My daughter was able to spend the time with us because she didn’t have to work and because my friend’s mom is here, we partook of some Brazilian NYE traditions like making wishes on grapes, wearing white, and some other stuff I can’t remember right now. We also went and got cookies from Insomnia Cookies (new FL fave? Maybe). And then yesterday we watched My Cousin Vinny, which is always a good time.

So I guess technically my year is off to a good start, but today was a mixed bag.

Onto the weekly wrap-up.

Last week, I posted:

A Month of Faves was still a thing, so I got some posts in.

Last week two weeks, I read:

Apparently, the last IMWAYR post I did was way back on Dec. 12, so here’s what I’ve read since then.

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, #1)The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is part Knives Out (without the murder), part The Westing Game, and–okay, fine–I’ll cop to part Veronica Mars. The only reason it gets the VM nod is that one character basically says, “I’ve got a secret–a big one” just like Lilly Kane, and the main character thinks about it over and over and over again.

Part of the reason this book is compulsively readable is that Barnes employs the Sidney Sheldon trick of short vignettes. It is v. effective at getting a person to keep reading because, you know, you’re basically at the end of that section as soon as you start.

I did not care for the love triangle because I thought it pulled focus and also because I didn’t get what she saw in either boy except hot and rich. I am also annoyed that (a) Avery didn’t have any friends–except for her MIA long distance bestie–or connect/interact with anyone at all besides the boys and sometimes Thea, (b) that Avery didn’t force her sister into therapy or vice versa, and (c) that it ended on a cliffhanger that didn’t completely solve the mystery of this particular book. I mean, I knew it was part one of a trilogy, but still.

Anyway, I’m about to read the next one so take that as you will.

3.5 stars, rounding down

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WhiteoutWhiteout by Dhonielle Clayton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Teen me would have loved this. It’s set in a predominately Black metropolitan area, and there are nerds as well as too cool for school kids. There are also quite a lot of LGBTQ+ characters. Overall, it was nice to see so many different kinds of Blackness represented as it shows the richness, complexity, and various ways of being a Black teen.

This is billed as a novel, but it’s still told through a collection of short stories, written by the various authors. There’s a throughline with all of the friends in each section trying to help their friend Stevie win back her girlfriend with a huge romantic gesture but getting waylaid by the snowstorm. Each friend has been tasked with contributing something to the apology, so each section reveals what the thing is, their relationship to Stevie/Sola, and how being caught in the storm impacted them.

Like any short story collection, there are some stories that are stronger than others and this was no exception. There’s a key at the back of the book to try to help you figure out who wrote each story, and the only ones I’m sure of are E.R. (Nic Stone, clue: “the only Atlanta native”) and Jordyn (Angie Thomas, clue: “the rapper”). I think Ava and Mason was written by Nicola Yoon since she typically writes romance (clue: “kiss scene that lasted four pages”); Stevie and Sola might have been Dhonielle Clayton (clue: “love grump”–basing this on a panel I saw with all the women). I haven’t read enough of Ashley Woodfolk to know if her books always include music, but the one book I read by her did, so I’m guessing she did Jimi, which leaves Tiffany D. Jackson (clue: “Christmas queen”) as the one who wrote Kaz’s part.

Stevie/Sola – Stevie is the through line narrator, though Sola does get her own story. I deeply (*deeply*) appreciated Sola’s flair for the dramatic and also that Stevie did do something that warranted a grand apology. Stevie was a difficult character for me to connect with which actually makes sense given her characterization, so I would have to say that was successful. I wasn’t exactly rooting for them to get back together, though, so take that as you will. 3/5

Kaz – I completely forgot about Kaz’s story until I reread some reviews. Part of that may be that I started the book on audio and I had to quit because I did not like the way Kaz’s narrator did Porsha’s voice, so that had already kind of soured me on it. The best part of this story was the parking lot interaction K & P had with the driver of another car and the look at Eid traditions. 2/5

Evan Rose – This was a thoughtful exploration of bisexuality, and the ending was fine, if not a little predictable. I honestly thought it was going to end with them (view spoiler), which I would have 100% been behind. 3/5

Jordyn – It’s hard for me not to like a story about a girl dealing seriously with an absentee parent and unrequited love, so I was into it. 3/5

Jimi – Jimi is Jordyn’s sister so also dealing with their absentee parent and unrequited love, so I was also into that. She’s also super driven and focused to the point of irritating the people around her, which I also like in a character. Bonus points for an Afro-Brazilian character in this section. I would read an entire book about this character and her love interest. 4/5

Ava & Mason – This was probably my favorite story, though I did feel like the ending was a little rushed. I would also read an entire book about these two. 4/5

I will say that I liked the book overall. The adult in me kept rolling my eyes that all of the love stories seemed to focus on the romance being a forever/for life romance, but I recognize that is how teenagers think 99% of the time so I tried to keep that from impacting how I reviewed each story. It’s not teenagers’ fault that I am old and bitterwizened.

3.5 stars, rounding up

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XX by Ilyasah Shabazz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is stellar.

I have read The Autobiography of Malcolm X and seen Spike Lee’s movie so was already familiar with a lot of the information in this story. What Shabazz and Magoon do so well in this book are (a) make such a larger than life figure accessible to teens, (b) do so without ever dumbing down or sanitizing his life, and (c) show the different small, daily decisions that led to him becoming a thief and a hustler and then turning his life around. This was also such a clear example of how one (or many) Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) can impact the mental and physical well-being of a child.

The final message of the book is powerful, and it makes me want to send one to every incarcerated individual I know. For teachers (and parents!), I would say it’s an important read for teen boys, especially “at risk” youth (and aren’t all teen boys at risk???) and should be made available in classroom libraries for independent reading.

The backmatter of the book is also stellar. There’s a note from Ilyasah Shabazz about why this is a novel and not a nonfiction account (instructors, please do not let your students call this a “nonfiction novel,” I beg of you) as well as an explanation of why she chose to tell the story of his life in this way. There’s a timeline of major societal events to provide historical context; a family tree; and a list of further reading about Malcolm X, about Black history, and of other historical fiction. The further reading list is for a mix of reading levels, which makes this an excellent reference book for teens, caregivers, and educators as it can be used as a springboard for further research and discussion.

Last but not least: Perfect cover is perfect. It matches the book so, so well.

Honestly, everything about this book is just so well done.

Some quotes:

The precious minutes I can write become a golden escape.


It’s no wonder I can’t win a fistfight. When I was six years old, I took the biggest punch of my life and I haven’t figured out how to get up yet.


It does not matter who you think you have been up until now.


“Read a book,” he tells me. “You’ll find all the words you ever wanted.”


Reading requires stillness.


There is nothing, nothing, to distract me…It’s the most maddening kind of nothing, the everything of my head.

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Spirit and Dust (Goodnight Family #2)Spirit and Dust by Rosemary Clement-Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My favorite thing about this book is that it’s already part of a fully realized and fleshed out world. Daisy already works with the FBI, she already has a relationship with her point person, and she’s fully comfortable in and with her powers. So often these types of books are about a teen getting or discovering she has powers and the adjustment that comes with that. Instead, Daisy KNOWS her power, she KNOWS her worth, and it’s really all about navigating this new situation. And I think, ultimately, that’s why I liked this one a little bit more than Texas Gothic. In that one, Amy had to accept what she could do but, in this one, Daisy is just like, “Let’s get ‘er done.”
I also appreciate that, in this book, magic is an accepted part of the world, and Daisy doesn’t have to overcome skeptics (except for her FBI guy’s new partner) or prove what she does. While I’m doing comparisons, though, let me say thatI did, however, appreciate the smaller stakes of the previous book.

Given that, I do think the romance is believable even if I don’t know that I ship it. I liked the unfolding mystery, and Daisy is a really fun narrator. All in all, this was a fun ride and great escapism.

I am really bummed that it looks like we won’t be getting a Phin book because I am really interested in how different her voice would be from Amy and Daisy’s–not to mention that it would be fun to see her brand of magic. Sigh.

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Gotham HighGotham High by Melissa de la Cruz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It is not the book’s fault that I initially thought based on the cover that this was about Bruce, Clark, and Diana all going to the same school when it most definitely is not that. I don’t even know. I guess that’s what I wanted it to be about.

This was fine. It imagines Bruce, Selina (Catwoman), and Jack (The Joker) as kids in high school together with Barbie Gordon (Principal Gordon’s daughter). There are little allusions to who they become–although I’m not sure if in this world they actually grow up to be those counterparts, especially since the school mascot is bats and Gordon is the principal. Anyway, there is an attempt to play to the tropes but I think the biggest miss is having Bruce investigate something but not in any way that showed off his real detective skills. It honestly felt like a cute little quirk and not the lead up to him being the world’s greatest detective. Nancy Drew would like a word is what I’m saying.

I liked the artwork, but the story felt a little muddled. All in all, though, it was a fun read.

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MPLS SoundMPLS Sound by Joe Illidge
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wanted to like this more than I did. The artwork is awesome, and I love the setup and the main characters. However, I don’t feel like I really learned anything about the world beyond that. I don’t get a good sense of the reception of the band or how they get along (except for two instances that are played out very quickly). On top of that, a major relationship happens completely off-page and is rammed into a two-page spread at the very end of the book as a flashback. I felt cheated, especially since that relationship drives what ultimately happens to the band.

I liked that the story went against established (and, honestly, realistic) tropes for this kind of narrative. I loved the brief–and sometimes extended–cameos of the artists from Minneapolis, but ultimately I was dissatisfied with the overall story. What was there I liked, but I wanted more of it.

2 1/2 stars, rounding up

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They Called Us EnemyThey Called Us Enemy by George Takei
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“I had to learn about the internment from my father, during our after-dinner conversations. That remains part of the problem–that we don’t know the unpleasant aspects of American history and therefore we don’t learn the lesson those chapters have to teach us. So we repeat them over and over again.”

This book perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to live in and love a country that frequently dehumanizes and devalues people just because of their race.

This book is stellar. It’s written at a level that is accessible for young readers but includes so much historical detail that adults of all ages would (should) also find it engaging. I appreciate that the reader get a child’s eye view of the internment camps while Takei also includes his adult understanding after the fact. Again, this choice makes it appropriate for younger and older readers alike. At the end, Takei also provides examples of how the actions of the past (Japanese internment) continues to impact current events. I would like to see more WWII books like this that go beyond the war effort in Europe to show how different groups were impacted.

This book is an excellent resource for students and teachers alike and should be read by anyone interested in American history.

View all my reviews

I love winter break for reading. Surprising no one I read the most books (6!) this past month. Also, They Called Us Enemy was my first book of 2023.

imwayr 2015 logo

Happy New Year, everyone!


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