Book Tour & Review: Waiting for Frank Ocean in Cairo by Hazem Fahmy

Waiting for Frank Ocean in Cairo by Hazem Fahmy

Poetry makes me believe that magic exists. It breathes new life to the stories and experiences that shape us, it reminds me of the power and weight of words, and leads me to look inwards and find my own words, too.

In his sophomore collection, Hazem Fahmy carefully weaves together the lyrics of Frank Ocean’s discography as a matter of accounting for the blending of two places separated by the ocean. He explores themes of family, gender, and identity (finding his place and meaning) through beautiful storytelling and prose.

This poetry collection is absolutely captivating and will make you think about how certain experiences (and even artists, albums, and songs) shape your life. I was easily captivated by Fahmy’s words, and the way he so seamlessly strings together memories and experiences with specific lyrics from songs found on Frank Ocean’s “Nostalgia, Ultra” mixtape and the albums “channel ORANGE”, “Endless, and “Blonde”.

We are all so shaped and influenced by what we see on TV and social media, what we listen to on the radio, and what we read. I, like Fahmy, connect with music on another level, and am drawn to the beauty and rhythm of delicate strings of words and lyrics. In one poem, Fahmy recounts a family argument at home in which he avoids by turning up the volume on a Frank Ocean song. Music can heal and drown out the pain and hurt in which we are exposed to, and even if only temporary, memories about music’s healing powers have the ability to stick with us for a lifetime.

I was most drawn to Fahmy’s poem “Frank Haunts Me Across A Decade”, as he writes: “I wanted the fleeing ecstasy only possible in the minutes of a Frank Ocean song.” Fahmy reminds us that music can heal, support, and mend us, but at the end of the day, it can only do so much. I think that no matter what we are going through, what journey we are on, or what we are seeking in life, we are all in search of a feeling — a feeling that comes from music that makes us feel most alive.

“Waiting for Frank Ocean in Cairo” is out on March 18! Thank you, Half Mystic Press, for the eARC!

XOXO,

Carly

About the Author

Hazem Fahmy is a writer and critic from Cairo. His debut chapbook Red//Jild//Prayer won the 2017 Diode Editions Contest. Half Mystic is an independent, internationally-acclaimed publishing house and literary journal dedicated to the celebration of music in all its forms.

Book Tour & Review: Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman by Kristen R. Lee

Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman by Kristen R. Lee

Synopsis

A striking debut novel about racism on elite college campuses. Fans of Dear White People will embrace this activist-centered contemporary novel about a college freshman grappling with the challenges of attending an elite university with a disturbing racist history–that may not be as distant as it seems.

Savannah Howard sacrificed her high school social life to make sure she got into a top college. Her sights were set on HBCU, but when she is accepted to the ivy-covered walls of Wooddale University on a full ride, how can she say no?

Wooddale is far from the perfectly manicured community it sells on its brochures, though. Savannah has barely unpacked before she comes face-to-face with microaggressions stemming from racism and elitism. Then, Clive Wilmington’s statue is vandalized with blackface. The prime suspect? Lucas Cunningham, Wooddale’s most popular student and son to a local prominent family. Soon, Savannah is unearthing the hidden secrets of Wooddale’s racist history. But what’s the price for standing up for what is right? And will telling the truth about Wooddale’s past cost Savannah her own future?

A stunning, challenging, and timely debut about racism and privilege on college campuses.

Review

Wow, wow, wow. I flew through “Required Reading” in the span of a day. This story is powerful and gripping, and will have you sucked in from page one. Although it is quick-paced, it is heavy and challenging at times, as the main character, Savannah, is attacked with racial slurs and actions throughout the book.

Although there are several compelling components to this book, I was most drawn to Savannah’s character. I admire her for her passion and ability to stay true to who she is, no matter her circumstance. She is strong and incredibly brave for speaking up and starting a movement in response to the racism she and other Wooddale students (past and present) have experienced for generations. She is determined to unearth what goes on behind closed doors at Wooddale, even if it means she has to sacrifice her full-ride scholarship to this Ivy League institution. 

I loved watching Savannah grow, find her voice, and prioritize her happiness by creating her own path. She learns that she does not have to change who she is in order to fit in. You too, will be rooting for her throughout the entire book. 

This book should be required in every school. It is hard-hitting and emotional for any reader, and can be extremely educational for those who have not experienced racism and/or elitism in the American educational system or in other areas of the real world. I recommend this book if you are looking for an educational, gripping YA contemporary read! 

Thank you to Kristen R. Lee, Crown Books for Young Readers, NetGalley, and Turn the Page Tours for the eARC!

Additional Book Information

  • TITLE: Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman
  • AUTHOR: Kristen R. Lee
  • PUBLISHER: Crown Books for Young Readers
  • RELEASE DATE: February 1st, 2022
  • GENRES: New Adult Fiction—Contemporary

About the Author

Kristen R. Lee is a native of Memphis, Tennessee. After graduating from college, she began to write her experiences attending a predominantly white institution, which led to the first draft of Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman. She’s worked as a mentor for foster youth and has interned in a school setting, where she counseled middle-school-aged children. Writing stories that reflect often-unheard voices is what she strives to do. Learn more about Kristen at kristenleebooks.com.

Giveaway Information

There are THREE (3) finished copies of Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman by Kristen R. Lee up for grabs. This giveaway will be open to US residents only, three separate winners will be chosen. This giveaway will run from January 30th to February 6th at 12 AM. To enter, click the link below!

GIVEAWAY LINK: HERE

Review: Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford

Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford

Let me begin by saying that Ashley C. Ford is a force to be reckoned with. Her name is one you should know. Her story is one that deserves to be heard around the world. 

I am in complete awe of her debut novel, “Somebody’s Daughter”. I didn’t know how I could possibly encourage someone to read this by writing a review, but once I sat down to do so, all of my thoughts and emotions tied to this book came pouring out on the page. 

I closed 2021 by devouring this book from cover to cover. I almost never reread books, but if I had to do so, this one would be it.

Ashley’s writing feels like a cozy embrace after a long bout of loneliness. It emulates the warmth of a fire, a hot cocoa with a million mini marshmallows, a home-cooked meal. It feels like coming home.

I want to take this book everywhere with me, recommend it to all the people I know, and write a thousand glowing reviews about how deeply it touched me and how it will stay with me forever. 

However, none of that will do this book justice. The only way to know how beautiful it is is by reading or listening to it yourself. It will not disappoint. 

Ashley seamlessly tells her story of her upbringing in Fort Wayne, Ind., her tumultuous relationship with her mother, and her father’s imprisonment. Those are the main topics she describes; however, this book is so. much. more.

It is resoundingly authentic and intricately written; it is a constant push and pull of love and pain, and what that means, and how to love yourself and all you have no matter what life brings your way. 

I am so sad it is over, but I am happy to have read this. I have been living under a rock, and have not yet heard of Ashley until I saw this as a Book of the Month choice. I was originally drawn to the fact that her story takes place in Fort Wayne, but after reading it, that is the least compelling fact about this book. She has podcasts or other writings from Buzzfeed, The Guardian, and The New York Times, to list a few. I am now going to inhale every other piece of work she has out there in the world. 

We can all learn something from Ashley and her story. Her overwhelming strength and poise is so impressive and beautiful. I hope she continues to write more about her life because I will continue to read it. 

XOXO,

Carly

Review: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

If you’re looking for a book that will absolutely rip your heart into a million pieces and occupy your mind long after finishing it, look no further. 

Michelle Zauner recounts her experiences growing up Korean-American, the death of her mother, and the uncertainties she faced while paving her own path in this world. She masterfully centers the memoir around food, which was not only her mother’s love language, but also something that bonds her to her mother and culture. 

Her prose is like a warm hug. It is tender, brave, and parts of it read like pages of her diary - almost too intrusive and too personal for a stranger to be reading. Zauner’s writing is universal and will touch you deeply, almost in a way you aren’t expecting, even if you have not experienced a major loss in your life.

The writing is so personal, it as if we as readers are right there with her as she packs up her life on the East Coast and moves back to her childhood home to take care of her mother. She chronicles this excruciating time in her life so beautifully, as she reclaims her identity and heritage through music and food. 

I was drawn to this story for a myriad of reasons, but was initially pulled in by the dynamic between Michelle and her mother. Their relationship was complicated and complex (as are many relationships children have with their mothers), and I loved reading about it. 

I’m so glad I was able to buddy read and discuss this book weekly with my best friend, as this memoir was particularly heavy, emotional, and evocative. Reading a few chapters at a time and talking through the book each week made it easier to process the emotions that came with each section of it. 

This is an absolutely exceptionally written memoir and one I would certainly recommend to others. Please check the content warnings before reading.

XOXO,

Carly

Review: The Collective by Alison Gaylin

The Collective by Alison Gaylin

What would you do if someone close to you was murdered and justice was not served? You are grieving and angry while the murderer gets to continue their life as a free person. How far would you be willing to go to get them to pay for their actions? What if you were presented with the opportunity to take the matter into your own hands? Would you do it? If the thought of this scenario playing out in your own life made you feel angry, this book is for you.

Camille wants nothing more than for her daughter’s murderer to pay. However, she should be careful what she wishes for because her wish soon becomes a reality when she is invited to join a group called the Collective. It is a group made up of vengeful mothers who take matters into their own hands to bring their form of “justice” to those who have wronged them.

The Collective is a book unlike any other and will hold your attention until the very last page. What you think will be a simple morality tale ends up to be a much more complex web of grief, hatred, punishment, and darkness.

There is graphic language of death and violence, so be sure to check the content warnings before reading.

If you are looking for a quick read before the end of the year, be sure to pick it up soon!

XOXO,

Carly

Review: Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow

If you are looking for a powerful book to read next, this is the one for you.

This is a story we have all probably heard before. You may know the name Harvey Weinstein. You may remember victims coming forward. You may have even watched news coverage of this story being broken by Ronan Farrow himself. However, you probably have never heard this story in this much detail.

Catch and Kill not only uncovers the findings from Farrow’s meticulous investigation into Weinstein’s numerous sexual assault allegations, but also the intricate and delicate web of predator-shielding and story-suppression in journalism that takes place to protect wealthy and powerful men.

Although this is a true story, Farrow’s book reads like a crime thriller. Each chapter is shocking, terrifying, and absolutely infuriating. It was chilling to read about the details of countless sexual assaults that took place over decades and the culture that silenced women and worked to cover it up for so long.

This book is so important, and I am glad it exists because it gives voices to the women who were able to find enough strength to speak up about the worst moments in their lives.

It is a heavy and devastating read. At times, I even felt defeated. Farrow faced repercussions for continuing to report on this story, but persisted because the story matters. It deserves to be heard. I applaud the bravery of each and every woman that was able to bring justice against Weinstein.

Please read the trigger warnings before picking this one up.

XOXO,

Carly

Review: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

This week I finally completed my first book for Nonfiction November!

I first heard of “Hillbilly Elegy” about a year ago when it popped up on my Netflix “What to Watch Next”. At that time, I had no idea that it was based on a true story and that it was an adaptation of a memoir. I found the movie to be compelling and unlike anything else I have ever seen before, so when I found this book in a Little Free Library a few months ago, I decided to give it a shot.

Although I was already familiar with the storyline and some details of J.D.’s life and upbringing, I was unaware of the politics around this book until I started reading it and researching more about it.

J.D. shares his family’s story of moving north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Middletown, Ohio, in hopes of a better life. Although J.D. was able to successfully put Middletown behind him, join the Marines, and later graduate from Yale Law School, it was not until further in his adult life that he realized the constant, profound struggle his family endured when trying to meet the demands of their new middle-class lifestyle.

His personal experiences are intertwined with statistics to support his viewpoints and opinions (which are controversial, so I advise you take this book with a grain of salt).

That being said, I can appreciate this book for what it is: an autobiographical account of Vance growing up in poverty, his family structure, and life lessons learned along the way.

XOXO,

Carly

Review: Big Boned by Jo Watson

Big Boned by Jo Watson

Meet Lori Palmer, the newest addition to Bay Water High in Capetown, where all of the students radiate Lori’s idea of what it means to be beautiful: athletic, shiny hair and thin. She is an artist and is able to find beauty in everything around her – except herself. Lori has always struggled with accepting her body and loving the skin she’s in. After being maliciously bullied, Lori suffers from panic attacks and attends therapy to heal from the trauma her bullies have instilled in her.

She misses her life back in Johannesburg where everything seemed easier. She was in her element at art school when she had daily adventures with her two best friends and her parents were still together.

Now, her life has been turned upside down and nothing is the same. While her mother is too busy building a realty empire and reinventing herself, Lori is fulfilling the motherly role for her nine-year-old autistic brother, Zac. While picking him up from school one day, she meets Jake Jones-Evans, the water polo star athlete at BWH all the girls drool over. Their friendship slowly develops over playdates for Zac and Jake’s younger sister, Lisa. Through a series of miscommunicated text messages, nights spent at together at parties, and stargazing, their connection grows into something Lori never thought she deserved (or thought was possible).

As she begins to find her footing in her new town, Lori begins finding her voice as well. She starts a movement through her artwork, which gains the attention of the media, her community, and her mother. Lori grows into who she was meant to be all along.

“Big Boned” is an incredible journey we all go through at one point or another: learning to love who we are, finding our voices, embracing our hobbies, and learning to stand up for ourselves.

Watson gracefully represents neurodivergence, mental health, sexual orientation, race, and body diversity with a meaningful, yet not overwhelming approach.

Thank you to NetGalley and Wattpad Books for this ARC!

TWs: alcoholism, anxiety, panic attacks, bullying, divorce, fat shaming, infidelity, mental health, neurodivergence, underage drinking

XOXO,

Carly

Challenging Myself to Participate in “Nonfiction November”

A variety of options to choose from for Nonfiction November 2021. From left to right: Girl in the Woods: A Memoir, The Miracle and Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets, Bossypants, Hollywood Park, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Crying in H Mart, Catch and Kill, My Own Words, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot, The Vagina Monologues, and No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference.

There are reading trends and challenges specific to each month of the year that seek to inspire readers to broaden their bookshelves and diversify their reads. “Nonfiction November” is one of them, and it is exactly what it sounds like: it is an initiative that encourages booklovers to read nonfiction during the month of November.

If you were to ask me what I like to read, I would say thrillers, contemporary fiction, and literary fiction. ALL fiction. I am a fiction fanatic through and through: I find it easier to digest, more imaginative, and quicker to read. However, I am challenging myself to read nonfiction this month because although we can learn so much from fictional stories, it is also just as important to read true stories to build knowledge on various people, ideas, and the world around us.

Over the past few months, I’ve acquired a variety of nonfiction from indie bookstores, Little Free Libraries, and Goodwill. I now have a great assortment of nonfiction to choose from including celebrity memoirs, investigative journalism pieces, biographies, autobiographies, an episodic play, and more.

Which one should I read first?

XOXO,

Carly

Review: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

“The Turn of the Key” by Ruth Ware

When Rowan is hired as the Elincourt’s new live-in nanny at the Heatherbrae House, she begins caring round the clock for a baby, two young children, and a teenager. Everything seems absolutely perfect at first: a technologically-advanced smart home, a generous salary, a luxury car to drive the children to and from school, and a beautiful, loving family to look after. But as we all know, nothing is ever as it seems.

It isn’t until her first night in her new room that she hears creaks from above (although her bedroom happens to be on the top floor of the house), begins losing sleep, and has trouble deciphering the differences between fantasy and reality. Over the course of Rowan’s time at Heatherbrae, the lights are switched on and off, music blares over the house-wide speaker system, and other software malfunctions begin to haunt her in the middle of the night. With a lack of sleep, answers, and patience for the children, Rowan is determined to find the underlying cause of the hauntings at Heatherbrae and who or what is behind the taunting behavior.

Written in a letter-format to her lawyer from prison, Rowan gets into the details of what really happened and her real motives for accepting the position….and neither are what you might suspect.

“The Turn of the Key” was the first Ruth Ware thriller I have read, and although I had no idea what to expect, she did not disappoint.

I do most of my reading at night, so it wasn’t unusual for me to be reading this as I laid in bed. However, this was the first book I’ve ever read that gave me chills and actually scared me. Her words had me looking into the shadows of the night and pause to make sure I didn’t hear any creaky footsteps of my own. Each of Ware’s twists were unpredictable (although I thought I was catching on…she had me fooled).

Read this if you are looking for a book that will keep you hooked through and through, but I do not recommend this if you spook easily.

XOXO,

Carly