Book Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Publication Year: 2017
Publisher: Katharine Tegen Books
Page Count: 390
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5 stars!!

Blurb (From GoodReads):

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary? 

This book has officially made Tiffany D. Jackson my new favorite author. And considering the fact this was her debut novel? Absolutely stunning!

Tiffany D. Jackson’s debut novel, Allegedly, follows Mary, a Black teenager who at age nine was “allegedly” accused of killing a white infant. After weeks of questioning and interviews, detectives could not get any information out of Mary, leaving the media to assume that she was guilty, and soon a jury followed suit. Now, Mary is 16 years old, and finds herself pregnant. Knowing she will never be allowed to keep her baby while she is convicted of murdering an infant, she ensues on a journey to prove her innocence. It is also worth noting this story is based on a real murder case that took place in Maine, where a 10 year old was charged with manslaughter after an infant she was babysitting died in her care.

This book will capture its reader from the very first page, using different mediums including interviews, articles, police reports, and book excerpts to tell this story. Tiffany D. Jackson jumps right into the action, by opening up with an “Excerpt from Babies Killing Babies: Profiles of Preteen and Teen Murderers.” Using this multi-media approach in this novel, the reader is able to see Mary’s cases from two perspectives: her own, and the media. The media portrays her as being “born bad, plain and simple,” with protestors claiming she “deserves to rot in jail for the rest of her life.” However, Mary opens up to the reader claiming her innocence. This gives the reader a well-rounded understanding of the case, and everything that Mary has been through in just a short 16 years. The reader longs to believe Mary’s story, because they grow to care about her throughout the course of the novel, even if the facts point otherwise.

While the media portrays Mary as a dangerous baby murderer, Tiffany D. Jackson does a fantastic job of developing her beyond this, showing the reader that Mary just longs to be a normal teenager. While passing a group of high schoolers playing basketball, she thinks about the fact that “There are no social workers hating them, roommates trying to kill them, or parole officers looking for any excuse to throw them back into baby jail. And they don’t have to worry about having a baby at sixteen.” This helps the reader see a deeper part of Mary that outsiders can’t see. Even though she has a tough exterior, she longs for normalcy, something she will never have because she has become infamous in her town. 

While Mary is a very complex character, her relationship with her mother is even more complicated. After Mary’s arrest, her mother puts up a facade of a perfect church-goer, trying to protect her image. Mary is aware of this, telling the reader that “”Momma is all about appearances.” Mary’s mother visits her every other Sunday, and everyone tells her that she should be thankful, since she doesn’t deserve parental love. Yet even so, something about the relationship just feels so off, and it becomes more and more evident as the novel goes on. Along with that, Tiffany D. Jackson uses Mary’s mother to show readers what affects mental health can have on people and their loved ones. Throughout the novel, Mary often mentions that her mother takes many “pills,” and that if she doesn’t she has “a day.” On these days, the author describes what are known to most as panic/anxiety attacks, which ultimately has a major effect on both Mary, her mother, and both of their futures.

Tiffany D. Jackson also uses this novel to explore race relations in America, and how Black Americans are treated much differently than white Americans in the media. While describing a protest demanding justice to the deceased newborn, passerbys state “ There would never be this type of outcry if the baby was black. Period. You’ve never seen white families storming the steps of city hall demanding justice for a little black baby. They’re pushing the death penalty and don’t even realize executing this little girl is no different than murdering that baby.” Tiffany D. Jackson is explaining to readers that the media often tends to criminalize Black Americans, while not giving Black victims the justice they deserve. This goes hand-in-hand with cases in the media today, such as the Breonna Taylor and George Floyd cases, where the white police officers are constantly being defended or excused despite the fact they have taken an innocent life. The author uses this book to take a character who the readers have learned to care about, and inserts this commentary in a way that everyone can understand.

To sum up, this book is perfect for readers who love fast paced mystery thrillers, fictional stories with political commentary, and well developed characters. Tiffany D. Jackson is a master at storytelling, fictionalizing this real case and adding to the stakes, creating a page turner of a novel. 

Reading Wrap Up: March 2021 (Four 5-Star Books!)

I’m not sure why, but March seemed to go by even faster than February? Which is fine by me, because I am so ready for summer and for this semester to be over!

In other news, my one year anniversary of a blogger is coming up in the next few days! I can’t believe it’s been a year already, and I am so happy that I have an outlet where I can chat about books with new people. I have gotten such great recommendations from everyone, and hope I have given you all some good recommendations over the past year!

Anyways, I read 14 books in March, including a couple new favorites! I have really been trying to read books I think I will enjoy rather, which has been working out really well for me. Here’s a quick breakdown:

5 stars: 4 books
4.5 stars: 2 books
4 stars: 2 books
3.5 stars: 4 books
3 stars: 2 books

So, I am very excited to gush about some new favorites! As always, I will include a link to a full review if I have one published.

In the order I read the books:

Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price

4 stars- I received this ARC from NetGalley, and had a lot of fun with it! I am not usually a huge fan of murder mysteries, but it was a lot of fun to read this author’s take on Pride and Prejudice. It was fast paced and exciting, and I would definitely read more from this author in the future.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

3.5 stars- While I definitely get the appeal for this book, it wasn’t my personal favorite (it also could be because I haven’t been in the mood for contemporary lately). I found the enemies to lovers to be a bit unrealistic and couldn’t figure out where the hate was stemming from. But it was still fun and cute, and I loved the chronic illness and anxiety representation in this.

Sweet and Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley

3.5 stars- This book has been everywhere lately! This is another ARC I received via NetGalley, and really enjoyed it! I didn’t find the romance to be quite believable, but it was cute nonetheless. If you like witches and fantasy standalones, this is a good one to try!

My full review is here.

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

5 stars- Honestly, I think this is going to end up on my top 10 books of the year! Tiffany D. Jackson is definitely one of my new favorite authors after this read. This thriller had me on my toes the whole time. I read it in 2 sittings because I could not get enough of it. I would highly recommend this!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

5 stars- This book was just so wholesome and I loved it so much. This was a great escape from my classes and all my schoolwork. Even though I know the author is trash, I can’t help but love this world and all the characters in it!

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

5 stars- This is another book that I am positive will end up on my top 10 books of the year list. It’s been weeks and I still don’t have the proper words to adequately describe this. I loved the world, loved the characters, loved the themes, everything was just amazing!

My full review is here.

So This is Love by Elizabeth Lim

3 stars- I think this will probably be the last Twisted Tales book I pick up, unless I hear excellent things about the Tangled one coming out. But these books are just a tad too juvenile for my liking. This has been my favorite out of all I have read, but still wasn’t super memorable or swoon-worthy!

My full review is here.

How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black

3.5 stars- I am happy I finally got around to reading this, and must say it made me love Cardan even more! The illustrations were also so stunning! However, I couldn’t quite tell if this was a narrative story or a book of short stories, and it really through me off. I would have loved to see more of Cardan’s perspective during the original trilogy, but it mostly focused on before and after instead.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

5 stars- I must say, I was very skeptical going into this. I didn’t want to read it, and only did for class. But it ended up becoming one of my new favorite memoirs! This book was the perfect blend of heart-breaking and heart-warming, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I also loved the South African culture interspersed and learned so much while reading it!

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

3.5 stars- Even though I loved the first book, I unfortunately wasn’t as enthralled with book two. Even though it was still fun to learn more about the world and the characters, I was a tad bit bored. Nonetheless, I will definitely be continuing this series!

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

4.5 stars- Okay, y’all. I understand the hype! After DNF’ing Circe last year, I put off reading this for so long because I didn’t think I would like it. And honestly, I didn’t at first. But after the 150-175 page mark, the writing just became so much more readable and I just loved it. And like everyone else, the ending had me sobbing. I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if this was also a favorite for the year!

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

4.5 stars- I have never read a pirate story before and didn’t think I would like it as much as I did! This was so fun and fast, I think I read it in 2 days! It was just such a page turner and an overall good time. I can’t wait to get to the sequel ASAP!

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

3.5 stars- I am happy I finally got to this, because I have been wanting to read it for months! This is another fantasy standalone, and I enjoyed it for the most part. I loved the world and the Persian mythology throughout the story! However, the plot and characterization was a bit lacking for me, so it unfortunately wasn’t a new favorite like I had hoped it would be.

Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin

3 stars- A disclaimer: I probably should have re-read Serpent & Dove before reading this, but I just didn’t have the time. I did look up a re-cap online, but it wasn’t quite the same. Because of that, it took me longer than it probably should have to get into this story. But the plot just felt a bit dry to me, and Lou and Reid have some serious issues they need to work out, so I had a hard time rooting for them as a couple. Nonetheless, I am still hoping to read book 3 when it comes out in July!

Let me know your favorite books of the month, and if we had any repeats! Happy reading!

Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

“Hate is loud, but I think you’ll learn it’s because it’s only a few people shouting, desperate to be heard. You might not ever be able to change their minds, but so long as your remember you’re not alone, you will overcome.”

TJ Klune, The House in the Cerulean Sea

Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Year: 2020
Page Count: 393
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 5 stars!!!

Rep: m/m romance

Listen, I will never. ever. stop crying over this book! It has very quickly made its way up to one of my favorite books of all time.

If you’re like me and you’re skeptical about hyped books, let me tell you there is nothing to be skeptical about with this one. It is worth every ounce of praise it receives and it will leave you with the biggest book hangover.

This book follows Linus Baker, who lives a perfectly ordinary life. He works for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, and has for many years. Even though he’s been with this company for a long time, he feels like he hasn’t really made an impact on anyone. So, when Extremely Upper Management asks Linus to perform a classified task, he doesn’t refuse. Now, Linus finds himself on an island with 6 dangerous magical children, and a charming caregiver.

From the first page, you cannot help but love Linus. His voice is a great one to tell this story. He lives his life by following all the rules, being extra careful never to make a scene or stand out. He is not extraordinary by any means, until he reaches his full potential at this island. Here, he discovers what life is all about and what family really is.

Although Linus was a great characters, my favorite characters without a doubt were the children. The author did such a spectacular job at capturing the absurdity of these children, yet showing us how precious and misunderstood they are. They are hilarious, sweet, and just overall charming. My favorites in this group were definitely Talia and Lucy. Talia is just so blunt, and made me laugh out loud on multiple occasions. She is passionate about gardening, and has the best one that Linus has ever seen. Lucy is the son of Lucifer, and the supposed Anti-Christ who will bring an end to all life on Earth. However, the author still writes in a magical way that makes the reader see him as a child, first and foremost. He is also hilarious, and I can so vividly picture what this child is like.

And of course, we have Arthur, the most precious being I have ever read about. From the moment we met Arthur, I already knew I was going to love him. He cares about these children with his whole heart, and doesn’t treat them any differently than regular children. He is funny, and such a great father figure to read about. He is selfless, caring, and kind.

I also really loved the fact that this was not a romance. I was expecting it to be, going into it. But rather, it is a story of family, friendship, and love. Linus finds an unexpected family on this island, and sees these children in ways the world refuses to. They are not monsters, they are children, and they are loved.

This is probably the worst review I’ve ever written, because I am honestly just struggling to come up with coherent thoughts about this book. It is one that will stick with me forever, and I am already so excited for the day I get to reread it. This is definitely one of the greatest books I have had the pleasure of reading!

7 Books That Are Worth The Hype- Part 2!

A few weeks ago I created a post about books that I think are worth the hype they receive, and I really enjoyed it! So, I decided to create a part 2!

For my original post, click here.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Literally, if I could have every person in the world read 1 book, it would be THUG. This book is so important, following our main character Starr after she watches her innocent best friend get shot by a police officer. I reread this a few months ago in the light of the George Floyd murder, and it was even more impactful than the first time. For my full review, click here. And for a master doc containing BLM resources, click here!

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

This is definitely one of my favorite books of all time! This is book follows Natasha, a high school student who is a day away from being deported back to Jamaica, and Daniel, an aspiring poet who is determined to make Natasha believe in love. This one day romance is the only story I’ve read with Instalove I can get behind. It is just so much fun but will also make you cry.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This is so basic that I’m not even going to go into detail what it’s about. But I reread the original Hunger Games trilogy last year and I am happy to say that it held up for me! So, if you have been putting off reading it for years, this is a sign that you should try it! Also, a disclaimer: I am not including a Ballad of Songbirds in Snakes, just the original trilogy! 🙂

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I literally love this book with all my heart. The Night Circus is definitely one of my favorite reads ever, following a whimsical, mysterious circus that only appears at night. After it closes, it disappears and relocates to a new town with no warning. I can understand why this book wouldn’t be for everyone, as it is a bit like a puzzle to put together everything. But I absolutely adored it and can’t wait to read Erin’s other book soon.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

If you are at all interested in romance novels, I know you have definitely heard of this book! It is an enemies to lovers story with fake dating (the greatest tropes- agh!) that follows Olive and Ethan. After a disastrous wedding that left the bride and groom sick, Olive and Ethan are offered the chance to take their nonrefundable honeymoon to Hawaii. The only catch: they have to pretend like they are madly in love in order to fool the resort staff that they are newlyweds. This was such a cute, tropical romance perfect for summer!

Turtles All the Way DOwn by John Green

John Green is an author who you either love or hate. I have read 3 of his books, but this is the only one I absolutely loved. This follows Aza, a character who struggles with OCD. This is an OwnVoices story, so I feel like I learned a lot about OCD and how it effects people in their day to day lives. If you are wanting to try a John Green book, this is one that I would highly recommend!

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

This is actually a book I just finished recently, and I am literally obsessed. This book follows Linus Baker as he completes a classified mission for the Department in Charge of Magical Beings. He is sent to an island that houses magical children, including a talking gnome, a green blob, The Anti-Christ, and more. This book had some of the greatest character development I have ever seen and will leave your heart feeling so warm and happy. This is definitely one of the greatest books I have ever read.

Let me know what you think about these books! Were they worth the hype for you?

Review: Parachutes by Kelly Yang

Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Publication Year: 2020
Page Count: 496
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 5 stars!!!!

Rep: Chinese MC, Filipino American MC, queer side characters, single mom
TW: Rape, sexual assault

Blurb (From Goodreads):

They’re called parachutes: teenagers dropped off to live in private homes and study in the US while their wealthy parents remain in Asia. Claire Wang never thought she’d be one of them, until her parents pluck her from her privileged life in Shanghai and enroll her at a high school in California. Suddenly she finds herself living in a stranger’s house, with no one to tell her what to do for the first time in her life. She soon embraces her newfound freedom, especially when the hottest and most eligible parachute, Jay, asks her out.

Dani De La Cruz, Claire’s new host sister, couldn’t be less thrilled that her mom rented out a room to Claire. An academic and debate-team star, Dani is determined to earn her way into Yale, even if it means competing with privileged kids who are buying their way to the top. When her debate coach starts working with her privately, Dani’s game plan veers unexpectedly off course.

Desperately trying to avoid each other under the same roof, Dani and Claire find themselves on a collision course, intertwining in deeper and more complicated ways, as they grapple with life-altering experiences. Award-winning author Kelly Yang weaves together an unforgettable modern immigrant story about love, trauma, family, corruption, and the power of speaking out.

Oh goodness, I don’t even know where to begin with this one, other than the fact that this might have been the best book I have read all year, possibly ever. It was the perfect mix of high school drama, friendship, romance, and serious topics. I thought this was going to be a mindless, fun YA contemporary resembling Crazy Rich Asians in high school, but I was wrong in the best way possible.

This book is in duel perspective, following Claire and Dani. Claire is a “parachute,” a Chinese student sent to live in America by their parents to attend an American school. Claire’s parents are still in China, and so she moves in with a host family, which is made up of Dani and her mom. Dani and her mom have struggled with finances since the passing of her dad. When she has a chance to compete in a debate competition to earn a scholarship to an Ivy League School, she pours her heart and soul into practices, and seeks council from her debate coach Mr. Connelly. Although the two girls come from completely separate worlds, by the end of the book they realize they have more in common than they think.

I definitely related to a Claire a bit more than Dani. Claire was just an overall super fun character to read about. From the outside, it would appear she had a perfect life, yet when we get to know her we see the toxic relationship she has with her father, and eventually her boyfriend, Jay (literal piece of scum). Claire is hard working, and her character certainly develops during the course of this novel when she is forced to grow up and make life changing decisions. We watch her grow from a spoiled, rich high school student to a sympathetic, caring friend to Dani.

Meanwhile, Dani was just as memorable as Claire. She is on of the poorer kids at her prestigious high school, and tries to blend in with the crowd. The only place she is able to really shine is when she performs on the debate team. This was a super interesting hobby to read about, because my high school didn’t have a debate team so it was a super unique perspective to read from.

Both characters had a distinct voice, and I never struggled separating the two from each other. The two girls don’t interact much throughout the book, despite them living together. It isn’t until towards the end where we really see their friendship blossom, despite their obvious differences.

The characters definitely stood out to me, but the plot was also fast paced and very emotional. The author discusses heartbreak, friendship, racism, and sexual assault. You can tell these are topics very near and dear to the author’s heart. She even goes into detail in the author’s note about how her story is quite similar to Claire’s, and she wrote this story to show the world that schools need to be held accountable for the sexual assault that many students face, whether the attackers be fellow students or teachers. By the end, I was actually crying (which isn’t something many books make me do). This book will make you angry, and it will make you sad. But by the end, I was feeling hopeful at the same time.

I could literally gush about this book for hours, and I’m sad it isn’t getting as much buzz as it deserves. So, just a fair warning you will be seeing a lot about this book on my blog from now on! I could not recommend it enough, and I know it is a story that will stick with me forever. Dani and Claire’s stories were so touching, and I am so thankful the author wrote this novel to speak out about these heavy topics.

Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Page count: 457
Publication year: 2015
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5 stars

Blurb from GoodReads:

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Lately, I had been seeing this book everywhere. I was hesitant to pick it up because I am generally weary of hyped books, but this was the group book for my Disney-A-Thon team (which I failed at oops) so I decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did!

I feel like lately in fantasies I have been seeing a lot of characters who don’t actually do much in the story but are rather “the chosen ones,” so it was refreshing to not see that trope in here! Laia watches The Empire murder her entire family and arrest her brother for treason. From here, she vows to do whatever she can to save her only remaining family member, and teams up with The Resistance. Laia’s character development is so incredible as we watch her grow from a scared, broken teenage girl to a strong, defiant one. Furthermore, she makes things happen for herself. She doesn’t sit around wishing things were different, but rather goes out and tries to change the course of her and her brother’s life.

Okay, now of course I must gush over Elias. I loved Laia so much, but Elias was definitely just as compelling, if not more so. Elias is a soldier at The Empire’s greatest military academy and has just graduated. However, he is different from his peers in the sense that he isn’t sure if they are really fighting for the greater good. In the course of this book, we watch Elias on this emotional journey trying to decide who he wants to fight for. While his conscious is telling him The Empire is not as great as it seems, his peers and family are putting pressure on him to remember who he swore his loyalty to. The entire time, I couldn’t tell whether Elias was good or evil, and I loved it.

And of course, I can’t write a review without mentioning the action scenes! These kept me on my toes with all the amazing twists. I could never quite tell the direction the book was going. I especially loved reading the trials that Elias endured. They were so interesting and definitely furthered the character development. Through these, Elias’s greatest fears were revealed as well as how far he would go for power. The action made me fly through this book. Although it was over 450 pages, I read it in 3 days.

Overall, this is probably one of my favorite books of the year. I would highly recommend it and can’t wait to read the rest of the series soon!

Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

5 stars

“If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others.”

Michelle Obama, Becoming

Let me just start off by saying I understand the hype.

I never planned on reading this. I have often steered clear of non-fiction because I like to use reading to escape discover worlds different from our reality, not to be sucked back into real life. Furthermore, I was never really fascinated with the Obama’s or politics in general, so I didn’t think Michelle’s book would have a lasting impact on me.

I was so wrong.

This is not a story about politics, or a debate between the right and the left. Rather, this is a story of the first African-American first lady as she and her husband passionately tried to do what was best for the American people, all while raising a family and trying to stay true to their roots. Michelle writes in a way that makes you feel as if you are listening to a close friend tell a story. There isn’t a barrier between the reader and the author, and it is raw and authentic. Michelle was just an average girl, born in the south side of Chicago to a family of blue collar workers. Through this biography, she recalls how she has gotten to where she is, and it is fascinating.

This biography really humanizes the Obama’s and made me realize how their life was completely turned up-side-down. Suddenly, their every move was being recorded by the media. Michelle had to get permission to cut her hair, walk her dog, or even take her kids to school. These are aspects I don’t think about when I think about the first family, and really put everything into perspective. Not only that, she and Barack had the pressure of raising children in the White House, making sure they had as normal of a childhood as possible despite them always having social security with them. Reading about Sasha and Malia was definitely a highlight of this biography for me. It was interesting to read about how their life was similar to that of a normal teenager, but so different at the same time. But in reality, these girls had first boyfriends, senior proms, and college tours, just like other American teenagers.

This book also has difficult discussions about race and gender, leaving these issues on the forefront of people’s minds. At the same time, Michelle discusses these topics in a non-controversial way, just stating truth. Women deserve education. Children shouldn’t have to worry about being shot at school. African American families are not always broken. Americans should have access to fresh produce. People shouldn’t have to hear their president brag about assaulting women.

All in all, I really don’t have the words to properly describe the reading experience this book gave me. If available, I highly recommend the audiobook, as it is narrated by Michelle herself! This is definitely a book I believe everyone should read in their lifetime, whether you supported Barack Obama or not. This book is discusses matters of human decency, not politics. It has definitely made it on my list of my favorite books of all time.