Book Review: Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi – Intense, Harrowing, and Critical; A SF Vision of the Future with an Anti-Gentrification Lens

Synopsis:

In the 2050s, Earth has begun to empty. Those with the means and the privilege have departed the great cities of the United States for the more comfortable confines of space colonies. Those left behind salvage what they can from the collapsing infrastructure. As they eke out an existence, their neighborhoods are being cannibalized. Brick by brick, their houses are sent to the colonies, what was once a home now a quaint reminder for the colonists of the world that they wrecked.

A primal biblical epic flung into the future, Goliath weaves together disparate narratives—a space-dweller looking at New Haven, Connecticut as a chance to reconnect with his spiraling lover; a group of laborers attempting to renew the promises of Earth’s crumbling cities; a journalist attempting to capture the violence of the streets; a marshal trying to solve a kidnapping—into a richly urgent mosaic about race, class, gentrification, and who is allowed to be the hero of any history.

I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

What does a future in which the wealthy have left Earth to colonise space look like? What are the stories of those who are left behind on Earth, now a desolate wasteland wrecked by climate change, radiation poisoning, pollution, and gentrification? Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi sets out to answer these questions, told and explored through a kaleidoscope of harrowing yet insightful perspectives and vignettes.

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Five Reasons to Read: Where the Rhythm Takes You by Sarah Dass – Set in Tobago, a Stunning YA Romance about Love, Second Chances, and Change

Where the Rhythm Takes You by Sarah Dass. Tagline: First Love. Second Chance. Reviewed by CW at The Quiet Pond.
Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Reyna has spent most of her life at her family’s gorgeous seaside resort in Tobago, the Plumeria. But what once seemed like paradise is starting to feel more like purgatory. It’s been two years since Reyna’s mother passed away, two years since Aiden – her childhood best friend, first kiss, first love, first everything – left the island to pursue his music dreams. Reyna’s friends are all planning their futures and heading abroad. Even Daddy seems to want to move on, leaving her to try to keep the Plumeria running.

And that’s when Aiden comes roaring back into her life – as a VIP guest at the resort.

Aiden is now one-third of DJ Bacchanal – the latest, hottest music group on the scene. While Reyna has stayed exactly where he left her, Aiden has returned to Tobago with his Grammy-nominated band and two gorgeous LA socialites. And he may (or may not be) dating one of them…

Where the Rhythm Takes You by Sarah Dass is the kind of book that feels like a love letter to Tobago, all the loves that we’ve lost and found, and also to teen girls who are scared of wanting something more for themselves. I loved this gorgeous novel; loved how the story transported me right to Reyna’s seaside resort, the Plumeria, where the story predominantly takes place.

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Book Review: Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis – Black Girl Magic, Poverty, and Raising the Dead Goes Terribly Wrong

Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis, reviewed by CW, The Quiet Pond
Synopsis:

Katrell doesn’t mind talking to the dead; she just wishes it made more money. Clients pay her to talk to their deceased loved ones, but it isn’t enough to support her unemployed mother and Mom’s deadbeat boyfriend-of-the-week. Things get worse, when a ghost warns her to stop the summonings or she’ll “burn everything down.” Katrell is willing to call them on their bluff, though. She has no choice. What do ghosts know about eating peanut butter for dinner?

However, when her next summoning accidentally raises someone from the dead, Katrell realizes that a live body is worth a lot more than a dead apparition. And, warning or not, she has no intention of letting this lucrative new business go.

But magic doesn’t come for free, and soon dark forces are closing in on Katrell. The further she goes, the more she risks the lives of not only herself, but those she loves. Katrell faces a choice: resign herself to poverty, or confront the darkness before it’s too late.

If you were living in poverty living with the constant anxiety of housing insecurity and you discovered that you not only could raise the dead but could sell your services for several thousand to bring someone’s loved one back, would you do it? This is a question that is asked again and again in Bad Witch Burning, Jessica Lewis’s dark and phenomenal debut. Bad Witch Burning may be the kind of story that pulls you right in and never lets you go, but it is also, unexpectedly emotionally-charged, heart-wrenching, and utterly devastating story that I loved.

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Book Review: You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen – Black Muslim Teens Find Their Voice and Power in this Empowering and Hopeful Contemporary

You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen. Reviewed by CW, The Quiet Pond.
Synopsis:

Sabriya has her whole summer planned out in color-coded glory, but those plans go out the window after a terrorist attack near her home. When the terrorist is assumed to be Muslim and Islamophobia grows, Sabriya turns to her online journal for comfort. You Truly Assumed was never meant to be anything more than an outlet, but the blog goes viral as fellow Muslim teens around the country flock to it and find solace and a sense of community.

Soon two more teens, Zakat and Farah, join Bri to run You Truly Assumed and the three quickly form a strong friendship. But as the blog’s popularity grows, so do the pushback and hateful comments. When one of them is threatened, the search to find out who is behind it all begins, and their friendship is put to the test when all three must decide whether to shut down the blog and lose what they’ve worked for…or take a stand and risk everything to make their voices heard.

I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

When I finished reading You Truly Assumed, I thought to myself: this is it; this is the book that is going to take the world by storm come 2022. And if you have been waiting for a story that explores the experiences of being Black, Muslim and teenage girls, that illuminates how the intersections of those identities can hold so much strength, difference and hope, then your wait ends with You Truly Assumed. This book is brilliance and power in book form, and I am so excited for everyone to read it come February 2022.  

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Book Review: When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk – A Heartbreaking Novel about the True Pain of Losing a Friend

Synopsis:

It’s been twenty-seven days since Cleo and Layla’s friendship imploded.

Nearly a month since Cleo realized they’ll never be besties again.

Now Cleo wants to erase every memory, good or bad, that tethers her to her ex-best friend. But pretending Layla doesn’t exist isn’t as easy as Cleo hoped, especially after she’s assigned to be Layla’s tutor. Despite budding friendships with other classmates–and a raging crush on a gorgeous boy named Dom–Cleo’s turbulent past with Layla comes back to haunt them both.

Alternating between time lines of Then and Now, When You Were Everything blends past and present into an emotional story about the beauty of self-forgiveness, the promise of new beginnings, and the courage it takes to remain open to love.

Cuddle's review:

I’ve read probably over a hundred books about romantic breakups, but only a small handful about friendship breakups. And it’s a damn shame, if you ask me. Some of the most messy, prolonged exits from my life have been from friends. There is something about the unspoken way that some endings are drawn out, and you can feel it happening, but can’t quite pinpoint how or why, and start questioning if you are just imagining it. 

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