Book Review: How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian

In “How to Build a Heart’, Maria Padian offers a tale of youth that is interesting and, at times, heartbreaking. Told from the first person perspective of Izzy (Isabella Crawford) this story portrays the struggles of a teenage girl trying to reconcile her need to be friends with everyone against her future life. Her mother, a fierce Puerto Rican woman, is hard working and wise and continuously encourages Izzy to be better than the circumstances that she (and their family) are in. Izzy’s best friend, Roz, is a character we have seen in many other teen stories, but with a few added twists that you don’t see coming, particularly in the last 2 chapters.

At times, “How to Build a Heart” reminded me of the movie “Pretty in Pink” so vividly that it was difficult for me to fully concentrate on Izzy as my mind would wander to Andi and Duckie, but that story is merely the bones of a more interesting and contemporary plot laid out by Padian. Here, we see a young girl that is trying to navigate school, work, friends, and family, while also following her heart when it takes her in new directions. There are moments of chaos in Izzy’s life and Padian does a good job of depicting the irrational way in which Izzy reacts to these moments of difficulty.

There are multiple ways in which Izzy grapples with her Puerto Rican identity and her realizations about her paternal grandmother (White, Southern, Racist) that are moving, but I was hoping for even more discussion on race, and specifically being multi-ethnic, than what the author offers to the reader. The characters often dance around their feelings on race in a way that feels realistic, though, reinforcing what most readers already see in their day to day interactions. The book tries to show some of that struggle through Izzy’s interactions with her family and through flashbacks, but it could have gone farther when dealing with present day interactions.

Overall, “How to Build a Heart” was a quick and satisfying read and I recommend it for anyone that is interested in YA stories about growing up today and the ways in which teens navigate their worlds in order to become whole adults.

Book Review: Moving Forward by Karine Jean-Pierre

As my first review on Net Galley, I am feeling a great deal of pressure to get this right, but Karine Jean-Pierre has made my job much less difficult with her lovely memoir. Moving Forward focuses on her childhood in Queens and the daily work that is required of the eldest child of an immigrant couple, her own journey to naturalized citizenship, and her subsequent lively political and media career.

Sharing the same birth year I felt at one with Jean-Pierre as she traced her youth and early adulthood in the 1980s and 90s. She has a wonderful way with words and although our experiences are vastly different I was quite drawn in by the narrative. Her writing style helped me feel closer to her and the people in her universe. This is exactly what a good memoir should do.

Jean-Pierre’s retelling of aspects of her time in government, on various political campaigns and, ultimately, in the White House on the staff of President Obama, offers a clear and concise window into both the inner-workings of a campaign and the funny, sad, heart-wrenching, and joyous things that can happen along the way. It is by no means a comprehensive look at any one campaign, but the details she provided gave me just enough information to hold my continued interest.

I also greatly appreciated the additional information she provided on media awareness and specific news sources, pundits, and reporters that she feels are worthy of a readers time. Jean-Pierre has written this book to be used as somewhat of a manual for future politicos, explaining how she navigated that space through a successful career, but it is still quite a wonderful read for those of us that want to be involved at a more local level or just participate through our votes.

If you are looking for an interesting political memoir, Moving Forward is most definitely the book for you.

July Reading Update


Happy July!

Book club

This month I skipped my book club meeting because I had 3 books in progress and zero new books (since the last meeting) completed. The great thing about the book club I am a member of, besides the fact that we meet at a brewery, is that we don’t all read the same book. I know that many people like that style of club, but it is not for me. I like the social aspect of the club more than the reading discussion, so The Book Report is more my speed. Since I skipped the July meeting, and I am currently on track to complete 3 books, August should give me a lot to discuss.

Book challenges

This week (22-28 July) is The Reading Rush! Formerly booktubeathon, this book challenge week has been going on each July for several years. The old challenge was simpy to read 7 books in 7days (RIGHT!), but this year they have added some individual book and social media challenges. Each member can earn badges for books read and challenges completed. I have chosen 5 books to use for the week, but I’ll be happy if I can just complete 3 of the 5. That would be huge for me considering I am struggling with the 2 per month challenge I set for myself at the beginning of 2019.

TBR list for the reading rush week:

1984 by George Orwell (aka Eric Blair)
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston
This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins
Cinder by Mariss Meyer

Books completed since my last update with ratings and Read Harder Challenge results:

12. The Universe Has Your BackTransform Fear to Faith by Gabrielle Bernstein
Rating = ***
Book Riot Read Harder Challenge = n/a

13. Paper Girls, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
Rating = ****
Book Riot Read Harder Challenge = n/a

14. The Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philipps
Rating = ****
Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: n/a

I am slightly disappointed in myself at this point in the year since I have only met 2 of the Read Harder Challenges, but I have also been really enjoying what I’m reading, so there is something to be said for that! And in case you are not familiar with the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, here is my initial post (this year) on it, which includes the list and here is the official post on the Book Riot site!

What I am feeling really GOOD about is the fact that I have completed 14 books and we are in the 7th month. And, in fact, I believe that I will be AHEAD by the end of July. If the reading rush pushes me a month ahead, numbers-wise, it will have been worth it. 

I hope that your month of reading is going as wonderfully as mine is! Reading is power!

Peace and happy learning,

Chantale (aka hippiegrrl)

Currently Reading…

Living a Feminist Life
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
The Artist's Way

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