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Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackon {Babies Die and So Does My Heart}

Thursday, January 19, 2017


The characters are real
The characters' talk and mannerisms look like real people in urban communities. I'm a teacher in an urban school district (with a predominantly Hispanic and black population), and it was refreshing to read about teenagers who look and act like my students.

It feels weird to be happy about having real characters. I wish that we had more minority authors and more books with real minority characters whose lives reflect those of living, breathing minorities.

Mary has big dreams
There's a stereotype nowadays that you can't have a baby and pursue your dreams. Mary is pregnant, wants to keep her baby (and take care of him eventually), and she hasn't given up on her dreams of going to college. #rolemodel #respect

It talks about real issues
There are issues on top of issues on top of issues, some of which I've listed in the content section at the end of this review (so no spoilers right now). This novel gets into the heart of urban life, and unfortunately when you have one issue, there's bound to be more. I love how Jackson isn't afraid to get real with us.

It stabs you in the heart while you're down ...and then some
This novel doesn't pull any punches. It packs quite the emotional punch, and it will keep stabbing you in your bleeding heart. You will feel for Mary as the whole universe seems to turn against her. Or you'll hate her too and wonder why the world is such a terrible place. Either way, your world will be shaken.

Welcome to Planet Earth.

There are good people in this world
Allegedly might remind us that the world is a terrible place, but it remembers that there are (a few) good people out there. And that we should fight for the better good for the sake of our children.

(Seeing Mary fight so hard for her baby really made me attached to the little bean.)

What's up with that ending?
After everything this novel put me thought . . . that ending was really crazy and messed up. Mentally (because I don't scream at fictional characters in real life), I was screaming no no no no no nononoononononono). How can you do that to us???

At the same time, I respect—to a certain extent—Jackson's decision to end the novel this way. Because real life doesn't wrap our stories perfectly or top it with a pretty ribbon. In real life, Prince Charming isn't there to sweep us off our feet and carry us away on a white horse (...okay, that's just kidnapping now). Our mothers won't know exactly who to call to give us a happily ever after (except maybe treat us to a girl's day out, but that's a temporary fix).

Therefore, I can be okay with the ending even if I wasn't really happy with it.


Cuss words go off like fireworks
I know I know. I said that I like how the characters talk and act like real people. I'm still not comfortable with the language (and I know for a fact that my students kindly watch their language around me).

Cuss words go off like fireworks in this novel, and they don't stop. If you're not comfortable with a few d**ns, s**ts, and b***hes, then you might want to seriously reconsider this novel because it gets much worse.

This world is filled with terrible people
We learn that there are a few good people (albeit with their own agendas). We also learn that there are many, many more terrible people. It left a bad feeling in my gut. (Really? Really?)

This novel is important because it pulls off the blinds and doesn't put up pretty lace curtains to make us feel better. I still wish that we had a more conclusive outcome in which good could prevail, but it does leave food for thought . . . perhaps there isn't an answer yet, and we're being challenged to go out there and make one.

Fake religion is the new face mask
It's becoming increasingly popular to beat on religion. Not going to lie, it's getting pretty tiring to see stereotypical Bible beaters who act all goody two shoes in front of authority figures but act a different way in private. Some of the best people I know are devout Christians who live out biblical truths.

Note: I recognize that this is a stereotype for a reason, that there really are people like the Bible beater in this novel. It doesn't mean that I agree with it.

What's up with that ending?
The novel introduces us the mystery of what really happened that night and draws us closer and closer to it . . . only to bring us an ending that is questionably an ending.

Mary makes some decisions that unravels everything I thought I knew about her (which might have been the point?) and leaves me wondering what's going to happen to everyone else. It feels like most everyone was set up to fall and that Mary is the only one who's going to be happy with the "final" outcome, whatever it may be.

(And, no, there won't be a sequel; this is a standalone.)


Allegedly brings much-need diversity to the YA book market. I appreciate how Jackson isn't afraid to tackle heavy topics. That said, this isn't a novel to read if you're seeking character growth. The supporting characters end up falling through (or being kicked out of the picture by the MC, who doesn't seem to have any use for anyone who doesn't follow her agenda). The mature content is also a turn-off because of its pervasive, unavoidable nature.



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 church-going 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?


 — Click to read reviews —


What is a book that made you feel like you were reading about yourself (or someone who looks like you)? Do you feel more at home with contemporary or fantasy books?

Publication Info
  • Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
  • Published by Katherine Teagan Books 
  • On January 20, 2017
  • Genres: ContemporaryMystery
  • Pages: 400 Pages
  • Format: Hardcover
  • N/A
  • Lots and lots of cussing & language flying around
  • Abortion (mentioned)
  • Domestic abuse & violence
  • Gore
  • Group home
  • Mental illness
  • Murder
  • Psychotic roomies
  • Sex & Sexual Favors
  • Teen pregnancy
  • ...I'm probably missing out on some content. You get the picture.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. All thoughts expressed are my personal honest opinions.

The Goblin's Puzzle by Andrew S. Chilton {Delightfully Clever and Family Friendly}

Thursday, January 12, 2017
The Goblin's Puzzle by Andrew S. Chilton
Published by Knopf on January 19, 2016
Genres: FantasyMiddle Grade
Pages: 279 Pages
Format: Hardcover
Rating: ★★★★★

THE BOY is a nameless slave on a mission to uncover his true destiny.
THE GOBLIN holds all the answers, but he’s too tricky to be trusted.
PLAIN ALICE is a bookish peasant girl carried off by a confused dragon.
And PRINCESS ALICE is the lucky girl who wasn’t kidnapped.

All four are tangled up in a sinister plot to take over the kingdom, and together they must face kind monsters, a cruel magician, and dozens of deathly boring palace bureaucrats. They’re a ragtag bunch, but with strength, courage, and plenty of deductive reasoning, they just might outwit the villains and crack the goblin’s puzzle.


The Goblin's Puzzle is a delightfully clever read that breaks away from traditional fairy tales to encourage young readers to consider logical questions, fate, slavery, and gender roles. Appropriately, the Afterward teaches young readers about some basic logical concepts that are used in the story (and explains them in light of the story). Yet, it is far from a heavy read. It's funny, light-hearted, and memorable. While it made me think (especially trying to figure out the goblin's puzzle), it was in a way that is appropriate for younger readers as well. I can easily see older readers engaging in this book alongside younger readers through read-a-louds and discussions about the story.

The characters are all engaging and memorable in their own rights. The story alternates between various points of view as appropriate, and there's always a gem waiting to be found and chuckled over in each character's story. There are too many funny lines for me to share, but I hope the first line gives you a taste of what this book has in store for you:

“Bread, left untended, will steal itself, or so people liked to say. But the boy found that sometimes it needed help.”

What I love best about this story, is the wittiness of it all. While there is adventure, dragons, ogres, goblins, a king, a princess, sorcery, to name a few, this isn't your traditional medieval fantasy. In order to survive, a protagonist must outwit the villain before them. Sheer brawn will not slay the dragon. Many of the characters are two-dimensional, but I'm willing to let this because we do have more fleshed out characters in The Goblin's Puzzle.

The boy and Plain Alice rise to the stage as the main protagonists. Many readers will find themselves drawn to Plain Alice and her cleverness, which saves herself and others on multiple occasions. While she wants to be a sage, the council is prejudiced against female sages, and she relentlessly fights this discrimination with impressive determination. (She's also really pretty, going against the stereotype of nerdy, glasses-wearing smart girls). My personal favorite is the boy. Having been raised as a slave, he's hopelessly naive, but he has big hopes and dreams that he hasn't let himself contemplate in the past. His search for answers will make young readers really think about fate and free will, slavery, and justice.

In the end, the goblin's puzzle teaches us that, while our stories may bear similarities to old tales, we must take the initiative in our stories and forge our own paths. As the goblin says, "The past is written in stone, but the future is written in water." The future will come to pass, but our lives still influence its flow.

I very much enjoyed this read and will be saving my copy to share with younger readers.

  • N/A
  • One character is murdered in front of the MC early on (he closes his eyes); towards the end, the MC is indirectly responsible for another character's death. The deaths aren't explicit.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel for review in return for my honest opinion.

Movie Monday: Doctor Strange

Monday, January 9, 2017

Doctor Strange

Directed by Scott Derrickson
Genre: Superhero
Running time: 115 minutes
Released: 2016
Produced by Marvel Studios

After his career is destroyed, a brilliant but arrogant surgeon gets a new lease on life when a sorcerer takes him under his wing and trains him to defend the world against evil.

Once again, Marvel has managed to deliver a solid superhero film. While it certainly had its own charm, however, Doctor Strange lacks the distinct Marvel charm that I’ve grown to love in their other films.

Review: The Crown by Kiera Cass

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Crown
Kiera Cass

Series: The Selection #5
Genre: YA DystopianRomance
Hardback: 279 Pages
Publication: May 3, 2016
by Harper Teen

When Eadlyn became the first princess of IllĂ©a to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.

Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined.


My favorite part about The Selection series is that I can count on the books for a light, fluffy read that doesn't require much thinking. (That said, it's also my least favorite part about the series because of the lost potential to develop the politics, culture, and history of the world.) As a teacher, sometimes I just want to kick back after work with a light read; in fact, many of us know how to appreciate a light read for different reasons (such as a beach read as opposed to a de-stressor). The Selection provides just that.

Getting Out of That Reading Slump: The 2017 Reading Challenge

Friday, December 30, 2016
You'll have noticed that I haven't blogged much for the past year. I started book blogging because I love books and wanted to share the love. As my blog got bigger and I started receiving more books for review, I found that I was getting trapped inside of a genre. Part of it is my bad. I love young adult, and that was what I shared on my blog. Reading book after book in the same genre forced me into a rut, however, as I became increasingly critical of books that tried to catch fire on the latest trend but failed to deliver in quality of writing or execution of plot.

I found joy as a child in browsing the library shelves, where I picked up books that taught me new things. In my early years (elementary to middle school), I didn't restrict myself to the kids section. I read across many genres, including pure nonfiction.

The purpose of this reading challenge is to branch out from my usual reads and revive my childhood joy of reading for the sake of learning new things. This list captures a wide variety of books: there are old books and newer books, books I hadn't heard of before making this list, books of different genres (including ones I don't usually broach), books that seek diversity, and books that I've always wanted to read but never touched.

Credit: The categories for this list come from the Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2017 reading challenge.

Following are the cover images for the books that I plan to read in 2017. Click on them to view the synopsis on Amazon. Below them, I have described the books and my reasons for selecting them in more detail.

Movie Monday: Hell or High Water

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hell or High Water

Directed by David Mackenzie
Genre: Heist, Crime
Running time: 102 minutes
Released: 2016
Produced by Sidney Kimmel Entertainment

Toby is a divorced father who's trying to make a better life for his son. His brother Tanner is an ex-convict with a short temper and a loose trigger finger. Together, they plan a series of heists against the bank that's about to foreclose on their family ranch. Standing in their way is Marcus, a Texas Ranger who's only weeks away from retirement. As the siblings plot their final robbery, they must also prepare for a showdown with a crafty lawman who's not ready to ride off into the sunset.

Hell or High Water is the best Western film I have seen all year. The film is almost perfectly made. Not overly ambitious, it knows exactly what it should do without overreaching.