Featured Review Post: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Dear Martin

Dear Martin by Nic Stone 

October 17, 2017 – Crown Books for Young Readers

Purpose: Review, Black Writers Matter

Source: Publisher, by request

I was given a copy of this, free, in exchange for my honest opinion. 

2 Stars 

Goodreads Summary 

I have a lot of feelings about this book, I requested it because I knew that this was going to be an important book. I still believe that this book is an important book and I would still recommend that people read this, be a part of the conversation. was

Initially, when I finished reading this book my instinct was to separate my feelings from the review of the book. At that point, my rating was 4 stars.  I wanted to do this because I felt that my reaction to the book was not being fair to the intent of the book. I wrote out a review that stood in contrast to my reaction. A small part of this is simply because I felt bad, and uncomfortable. After the warm welcoming of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas,  Dear Martin will either be rolled into this avalanche of praise or it will be rejected as a knock off.  I’ve already seen positive reviews of this book, and I can understand it. But, in truth, I think this book is very one-sided and slanted which makes it very dangerous.

I know and believe that the author has every right to write the book any way that she wants to, especially since it is a work of fiction.  I think it is dangerous because of the times we are living in today. The racial climate is tense, divisive at best and simmering at worst.  Now that I have made all of those disclaimers, on to the review. (I am going to bypass talking about what the book is about, if you don’t know you can click the Goodreads link.)

Justyce is the main character, and he is someone who doesn’t fit in completely at school or in his neighborhood. In his neighborhood, he is rejected because of the school that he attends- a private school usually reserved for the well off. In fact he lives on campus and occasionally comes home. He doesn’t fit in at school, because he is one of the few black students in a predominately white school, and I believe that he is there on scholarship.

There is a lot of discussion about race, thanks to the socio-something class that they are in, the only class that they attend since they never seem to go anywhere else.  There is also the fact that friendships are also racially charged, and up until the ending you’re convinced that most of them were for social reasons.  I think that it’s great that the book is dripping with all of the racial discussions; how race plays into friendships, how race plays into the police interactions, how race affects education etc….  All of these things are important and worthy to be discussed. My issue with the discussion is that they are one-sided. Even the opinions and thoughts that were supposed to come from the white characters sounded as if it was what a black person thinks a white person would say.

Friendships in this book came in all varieties. Some got more attention than others. Some were better developed than others. As someone who grew up being the only black person in groups of white people, almost everywhere I went, I have a problem with the friendship between Manny and Jared.  See, being one in minority in a group it is easy to know who is your real friend and who isn’t. You learn the ins and outs of that person and where you stand with them. It seems that Manny and Jared were friends for a long time, long enough for Manny to know that Jared was or wasn’t the real deal. I get that we weren’t supposed to know that in the beginning. But, it appears that even Manny doesn’t know it. He was easily persuaded by Jus, when in reality Jus is an outsider to Manny and Jared’s friendship.

I wanted to like the relationship between Jus an SJ, I really do. But in truth, this is a relationship that is filled with issues that should have been worked out beforehand for it to be successful. I was optimistic about it, until a comment SJ made at the end.

These are the most glaring issues that I have with this book. The rest are mine and can be summarized with me saying that I wanted more.  There wasn’t enough to fully flesh out the discussions or the relationships. Everything stayed just around the surface, and I wished that Stone had dug just a bit deeper.

While this book is excellent as a conversation -starter, it shouldn’t be the only book read for this purpose. This book is like trying to build a bridge. Instead of both sides working together, it’s one side building on one side and then running to other side to work on it. That’s a lot of work for one side to do, and it’s not fair. This book is dismissing those from the other side who is willing to together to build the bridge. The racial issues may have begun from the wrongs of one side, but it continues and perpetuated by both sides.

And before someone comments about how I just don’t understand- I am black and I am in an interracial relationship. I get it. Jus’s story highlights issues that are way too common and is a story that is hauntingly familiar. It is one that hits too close to home, one that must be told.  But this is not the overall black experience, and cannot be viewed as such.  But it is also a story that can’t be dismissed. While I am not sure of the author’s intent and I would not dare say that she was attempting to reveal what’s behind the curtain of the black experience. I will say that this is a great way to begin discussing issues and thoughts. I think it’s a great tool to use to be reflective of our own ideals and beliefs.

Honestly, I am not sure if I was clear with all of my thoughts. I enjoyed this book, I think being inside of Jus’s head gave the story a unique perspective with its own set of challenges and limitations. But, even so I found that it wasn’t an original story and it left me wanting more – so much more. But it also made me feel a lot of different things while reading it and that shouldn’t be discounted.  I think in the moment, people are going to feel a lot and that may cloud their judgment of the book in both positive and negative ways. But we can’t stay there in those moments. It’s not healthy or productive. I know that the feelings that stayed with me were the strongest feelings that I had while reading. I had issues, but I also enjoyed the story. Maybe it was because of the seeking, or the desire of Jus’s to understand and to grow.  Whether you agree or disagree, like this book or hate it. I hope you see how important  this book is.

Always Shine!


Featured Post: Supplemental Materials

I was hoping to have actual trade books read to recommend this month,, but that did not happen.  So for this post, I want to talk about a couple of items that I’ve had a chance to look at and will be using in my homeschooling adventures.


The Scary States of America

The Scarey States of America by Michael Teitelbaum 

July 24, 2007 – Delacorte Books for Young Readers

I found this at the annual clearance sale that Half Price Books puts on.  I picked this up because I came up with a great way to use this to teach local geography. There’s a story about something weird or scary for every state in the US. Instead of using  only a map to learn the US geography, I thought that learning a local tale would make learning the states a little more interesting. While I haven’t read all of the stories, I have an idea for a game. (When that is finalized, I’ll be glad to share it. )


Discovery Kids Travel Through the Amazing World of Wild Animals: Discover the Facts! Do the Activities!

Discovery Kids Travel Through the Amazing World of Wild Animals: Discover the Facts! Do the Activities!

This is just one of the many books on many different topics that Discovery Kids has available. There’s a factivity book for Dinosaurs, Space  and loads of other topics.  For this particular book, the pictures are fun and engaging. The activities are simple but relevant and fun.  I do plan on getting more of these books, I found this one at Ollie’s, a local bargain store.


Do you have any supplemental materials that you have come to love or have unexpectedly encountered?

Always Shine!




Top 5 Reasons to Read The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

In case you didn’t know, The Epic  Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee is August’s Featured Book for this blog.  One of the main reasons I selected this was because I liked it way more than I expected to.  There are so many reasons to enjoy this book, and you can check out my review if you want the majority of my thoughts. But today, I have my top 5 reasons why I think you should read it.

epic crush



  1. This book is hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud a lot.
  2. Genie Lo is a well-developed, likable character.
  3. This is not just your average superhero story, it is much more than that.
  4. It’s so much fun to watch (or read) Quentin Sun and Genie Lo interact awkwardly with each other.
  5. Genie Lo and Yunie’s friendship. It is not the snippy frenemy relationship that seems to be rampant in YA. It’s the real deal, the kind of friendship that everyone should have, but especially if you just discovered you’re supposed to save your whole city and you have superpowers.

There are a whole slew of other reasons why you should read. But you shouldn’t just take my word for it. This is what Macky has to say about it: “I mean, my knowledge of Chinese legends is sparse, to say the least, but The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is to said legends the way Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series is to Greek mythology.”


Always Shine!

Featured Post: Top 5 Superpowers I’d want if I Was a Superhero

epic crushThis post was inspired by The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee, the featured book for August.

1. Super Strength

2. The ability to manipulate time

3. The ability to move the earth

4. Invisibility

5. Shapeshifting

Have you read The Epic Crush of Genie Lo yet? What are you waiting for!

Always Shine!

Featured Book Review: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

Featured Book of the Month: Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

August 8, 2017 – Amulet Books

Purpose: Review

Source: Publisher, Netgalley

 5 stars

Goodreads Summary

I was given a digital copy of this title, free, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Genie Lo is your typical seventeen-year high school student. She studies extremely hard and is doing everything that she can to ensure that she can go to a top-tier school and get herself out of the Bay area. Then she meets, Quentin, a very strange new student who has set his eyes on her.  And the multitudes of demons that are trying to overtake her town. Quentin than begins to clue her in that there is more to her than meets the eye.

Okay, so the premise of a teen suddenly discovering that they have powers and are expected to become the savior of the world is not all that original. Do not let that deter you. Because this book is so much more than that. This book had me laughing out loud while reading this. Even if I was in public. Genie Lo is, by far, one of my favorite characters this year.  Her biting humor pulled me into her orbit, making me wish that she was a real person. Then there is Quentin, the monkey king has returned to Earth because of the increase of demon activity in the Bay Area and because he recognizes Genie Lo’s aura. This story is steeped in Chinese folklore and culture. Sometimes discussing the culture, or the stereotypes of the culture with humor.  Genie Lo bumbles around destroying demons as she re-discovers her powers. Quentin is awkward initially, but we soon see it’s just a ruse.  Genie’s interactions with Quentin were hilarious and warm, like joking around with a long -time friend. He’s an awful teacher, but a pretty decent friend. Even if he is a bit stalker-ish and creepy at times. It’s okay because it’s Quentin, and as you get to know him, this explanation makes sense.

In this story, the side characters had their own distinct personalities and added their own bits of humor.  They flow in and out of the story the same way that they flow in and out of Genie’s life. But they are no less important. They make this book, Genie’s purpose, a little more grounded.

This is one of the few books that impressed me and made me want to read it over immediately.  I wish that I had so many copies of this books so that I can hand it out to everyone I encounter. I am looking forward to this release so that I can add it to my own collection.

Since this is August’s featured book, there will be other posts inspired by and related to Genie Lo. So stay tuned for those.

Always Shine!

Editor’s Pick of the Month: July

I thought that I would be picking anthologies to read for the next few months. But, after last month’s pick I changed my mind. For this month I am going with something tried and true.

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games #1 

I have wanted to reread this for a long time now. But, there are so many books that I want to read for the first time, so it just seems to get pushed back and back. This way I can read it slowly without it taking a reading spot from a new book. Since I will be rereading the entire trilogy it won’t matter how slowly or quickly I get through each book.

If you  have not read this, I do recommend. If you have a young one that doesn’t like to read or are picky about what they read, I recommend this for them as well.

Always Shine!