Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson
ZJ’s dad isn’t just ZJ’s hero, he’s everyone’s hero. As a professional football player, Zachariah Johnson is the star of the team, and at home, he’s the star of the neighborhood. ZJ and all of his friends love to hang out with Zachariah until one day, ZJ’s dad stops remembering things, like his own son’s name. He also becomes angry all the time and has headaches that keep him in bed all day. ZJ’s mom says his dad is sick because he hit his head so much playing football, but it is hard for ZJ to fully understand how his favorite sport, the one that made his dad so happy, could have caused this complete personality change.
Taking place in the early 2000’s when CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) was first acknowledged and researched, Before the Ever After shows the impacts of the professional football on the physical and mental health of a young black family. The story is told in verse and explores ZJ’s observations and feelings about how CTE has changed his family’s life. ZJ longs to go back to before his dad’s headaches, and creates several coping mechanisms to deal with his quasi-loss of a father. This book is heart-wrenching but beautiful as ZJ finds his new normal, relying on his friends that stick around even after his dad’s health declines.
I would recommend this book to all young readers and their parents. The book’s predominant theme is grief and coping, and may be a helpful tool for children experiencing a form of grief in their own lives. The story is filled with immeasurable love alongside the family’s hardships. Jacqueline Woodson was recently awarded the 2021 Coretta Scott King Book Award, and signed copies of Before the Ever After are currently in stock.
Special Thanks to Libro.fm for allowing me to listen to a free copy of Before the Ever After.
Follow Endya on Instagram and GoodReads to see more of what she is reading. If you'd like to read Before the Ever After and support Beausoleil Books, use the buttons below to purchase through the Bookshop.org and Libro.fm affiliate programs:
Blair and Endya's favorite books read in 2020. Despite the stress of this year, we read some pretty good books along the way.
Follow Blair and Endya on GoodReads to see more of what they are reading. If you’d like to read any of the books we listed and support Beausoleil Books, just click the photos to purchase through the Bookshop.org affiliate program. We are looking forward to a great 2021!
Owners Blair and Endya have been having so much fun at our monthly Book du Mois Club meetings, and we are excited to start announcing our book picks quarterly so all of us have a ton of time to read and plan around the Book du Mois club date! So here’s our Winter 2021 Lineup:
In January, we will explore a new thriller that has been topping the bestselling charts: When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole. In this book, Cole looks at gentrification and its racists roots and imagines this process at its extreme. This book has been described as “Get Out” meets “Rear Window” and we can’t wait to see how uncomfortable this psychological thriller can make us! January’s Book du Mois Club meeting will take place via Zoom on January 30 at 4pm. Use the buttons below to register and buy the book and/or audiobook, or stop by the store and pick up a copy!
In February, we will switch format to a novella/short story series that has been making waves: The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans. Evans has been applauded by many for her unique and insightful voice. In this novella series, she tells short stories in the lives of her characters that each speak to a greater historical, cultural, and racial issue. Although these stories are fiction, we expect Evans can provide an interesting perspective on American history this Black History Month. February’s Book du Mois Club meeting will be on February 27 at 4pm. We have not yet decided whether the event will be via Zoom or in person in The Whisper Room, so stay tuned for that announcement! Use the buttons below to buy the book and/or audiobook, or stop by the store and pick up a copy!
In March, we will venture into new sci-fi territory with Jeff Vandermeer’s acclaimed Annihilation. In this book, Area X has been cut-off from the rest of the world for decades, and with each planned expedition into the territory, stranger and stranger things are happening to the explorers. Vandermeer takes us on the latest expedition with an anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychologist, and our narrator, a biologist, to discover not only the strange things lurking in Area X, but also the strange secrets these explorers bring with them. March’s Book du Mois Club meeting will be on March 27 at 4pm. We have not yet decided whether the event will be via Zoom or in person in The Whisper Room, so stay tuned for that announcement! Use the buttons below to buy the book and/or audiobook, or stop by the store and pick up a copy!
Swimming Lessons by Lili Reinhart
Swimming Lessons, Reinhart’s first poetry collection, explores themes of heartache, depression, and belonging. Reinhart opens with an introduction explaining her inspiration to give words to feelings, in the hopes that people with similar feelings may feel less alone. Reinhart’s free verse style is unassuming. The poems are short and simple yet expressed complex emotions that are difficult to describe. The collection was quite literal and didn’t depend heavily on metaphor or imagery, making them accessible to those who may not enjoy classical styles of poetry. I was able to listen to the audio version, narrated by the author, and there was a sense of deep intimacy in the work as Reinhart smoothly transitioned from one poem to the next.The poems read as stream of consciousness journal entries, so fans of Rupi Kaur would enjoy this collection.
The poems reflect privileges that the author enjoys, thus topics regarding race and class are not present. I would recommend this collection to adult and teen readers that can handle descriptions of depression and anxiety, and are unbothered by less structured forms of poetry.
Special thanks to our friends at Libro.fm, who provided a copy of Swimming Lessons for me to listen to.
Follow Endya on Instagram and GoodReads to see more of what she is reading. If you’d like to read Swimming Lessons and support Beausoleil Books, use the buttons below to purchase through the Bookshop.org and Libro.fm affiliate programs:
This is My America by Kim Johnson
Seven years ago, Tracy Beaumont’s father was sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit. Each week, Tracy writes a letter to Innocence X pleading to their appeals department to review her father’s case. With only about 200 days left until her father’s scheduled execution, Tracy, her mother, her younger sister, and her older brother are losing hope that they can save their patriarch. Then, another person in their town is murdered, and Tracy’s brother, Jamal, is accused. Jamal did not kill Angela, but he has run away from home to escape arrest and attempt to find her actual killer. With two accused murderers in the family, the entire south Texas town begins to turn away from Tracy’s family to avoid being targeted by the local white nationalist groups. With the clock ticking on both her father and brother, Tracy is determined to prove their innocence and bring justice to her family and the families of the murder victims.
This is My America depicts the effects of police brutality and corrupt prosecution practices in America. Although there are similar Young Adult books tackling racism and police brutality, This is My America distinguishes itself by focusing on the emotional, physical, and financial impact of mass incarceration on the Black family. Johnson shows how the KKK is not a piece of history long-gone, but is an organization continuing to hunt down and torture Americans of color. Johnson explores generational trauma and the danger of being complicit mainly from the perspective of Tracy’s Black family, but also touches on the generational trauma of being a raised to be a racist and the danger of being complicit in that role. These parallel stories of the white and Black family are thought provoking, without centering the white narrative. Along with the personal struggles explored throughout the book, the plot includes a mystery element as Tracy investigates who the real murderers are.
I was able to listen to this book on Libro.fm, and it is narrated by Bahni Turpin, one of my favorite narrators! Turpin brings such life to each of the characters in her narrations, and this book was no different. I would recommend this book (especially the audiobook!) to young adults and adults that can handle content including police encounters, off the page murder, off the page lynching, racism, Black trauma, hate crimes, and police shooting.
Follow Endya on Instagram and GoodReads to see more of what she is reading. If you'd like to read This is My America and support Beausoleil Books, use the buttons below to purchase through the Bookshop.org and Libro.fm affiliate programs:
November’s Book du Mois was such a success! We are so happy with the response for The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. For December, we’re bringing you a holiday romance that will sweep you right off your feet! Released in October 2020, In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren is a mistletoe kiss on a wintry night.
The elevator pitch: “Mae is stuck in a time loop, repeating the same holiday week with the same wonderful people, and the same two brothers she’s known all her life. One she’s been in love with for thirteen years and one … she accidentally drunkenly made out with the night before she was stuck in the never-ending Groundhog Day loop. So, why? Why is Mae stuck? And how does she get out so she can spend forever with her true love?”
Our Book du Mois Club to discuss In a Holidaze will be on Friday, December 18, 2020 at 5:30-6:30 p.m. via Zoom. But that’s not all!!! The most exciting news of all: Authors, Christina and Lauren, will be joining via Zoom to discuss their novel with us! Our meeting begins and 5:30 and they will hop on at 6:00! Please, email us questions you have for the authors before the meeting to email@example.com. We are so excited!
Click the button below to register for the event (the event is FREE, but requires registration), and get your copy of In a Holidaze in store, online, via Bookshop, or via Libro.fm.
Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
First Son of the United States Alex Claremont-Diaz is the perfect everything: hard-working student, gorgeous young bachelor, and the future youngest-person-ever-to-be-voted-to-Congress. His seemingly only flaw? He can’t stand Prince Henry of Wales, basically his equally-perfect counterpart of British royalty. When Alex and Prince Henry come to blows in a news-worthy embarrassing photo-op, the White House and the royal family take quick steps to fix things. What begins as an international PR plan to cover up the bad blood between these rival golden boys quickly becomes something more real than either Alex or Henry could have imagined.
Red, White, & Royal Blue is the queer relationship comedy novel I never knew I wanted as a teenager. Heck, it’s the novel I didn’t even know I wanted as an adult! The enemies-to-friends plot induces a giddiness and a warmth that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. And, the narrative style and the plot itself is reminiscent of the young-adult books I read and loved so much when I was a kid; like The Princess Diaries or well...I mean anything Meg Cabot wrote, really. But, what is exceptionally stunning about McQuiston’s book is the characters. Alex and Henry are (on the shiny, media-friendly surface) the kinds of policy-making, world-changing twenty-somethings we all hope to be. But, as they get to know each other better, we learn that they’re actually just as anxious and self-conscious as we all are.
Though the general vibe of this book reminds me of a young-adult story, the slightly older age range of the characters makes this a book for, I think, a slightly older audience, or a young-adult audience that’s ready for some steamy moments. There’s definitely some sexy scenes in this novel, and they’re treated with respect for consent and open communication, so yay! In Red, White, & Royal Blue, McQuiston covers the more personal topics—like intimacy and coming out—in equal measure with the heavy hitters—like politics and international relations—all wrapped up in a page-turner that will have you wanting to re-read it as soon as you’ve finished.
Isabelle Lang has moved from the bayou to the dessert and back again, and holds a BA and MA from Mississippi State University, as well as an MFA in poetry from UNR. Her work has appeared in Beecher’s Magazine, The Meadow, and elsewhere. She currently teaches writing in West Baton Rouge.
If you'd like to read Red, White & Royal Blue and support Beausoleil Books, use the buttons below to purchase through the Bookshop.org and Libro.fm affiliate programs. Also get excited for Casey McQuiston's second book One Last Stop, coming out in June 2021!
As we move into November, the Beausoleil Books family is excited to begin our “Book du Mois” (Book of the Month) series! Each month we will select a book to honor with the “Book du Mois” title. It may be a new release. It may be a classic. It may be horror. It may be romance. There are no rules, and we look forward to hearing everyone’s suggestions for future books!
At the end of each month, Beausoleil Books will host a Book du Mois Club. During Covid-19, these events will be held on Zoom. This format allows us all to stay safe, and still participate in a fun book discussion. Once it is safe to meet in person, we look forward to hosting our book discussions in the Whisper Room (maybe alongside our Vin du Mois). During the Book du Mois Club, owners Blair and Endya will lead a discussion of the month’s book, and look forward to hearing what everyone thinks of the month’s selection.
We will be kicking off with our November Book du Mois pick: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab!! Released in October 2020, this book is a historical fantasy novel spanning Addie’s 300 year life. The Elevator Pitch: “A young woman makes a bargain with the devil to live forever, in exchange, everyone forgets her. Three hundred years later she meets a man in a bookstore who finally remembers her. How far will she go to leave her mark on the world?”
Our Book du Mois Club to discuss The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue will be on Saturday, November 21, 2-3 pm via Zoom. Click the button below to register for the event (the event is FREE, but requires registration), and get your copy of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue in store, online, via Bookshop, or via Libro.fm.
We look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts on one of our most anticipated releases this year! See you all on November 21!
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Intelligent, beautiful, talented Noemi adores her glamorous life in 1950s Mexico City, but misses her cousin, Catalina, who was quickly and scandalously married a few months ago. After Catalina’s marriage, she moved to the countryside to live in her new husband’s family home, High Place, and Noemi hasn’t heard from her since. When Noemi’s father receives a letter from a seemingly psychotic Catalina, he sends Noemi for a visit to check in on Catalina’s health. Although High Place and its residents appear unwelcoming and odd, Noemi is happy to be able to visit Catalina and try to understand why Catalina wanted to marry this mysterious husband. What begins as a simple visit quickly turns into a nightmare for Noemi and all the residents of High Place. Who can Noemi trust? What has made Catalina so ill? And can Noemi and Catalina escape High Place alive?
Although Mexican Gothic begins in an unassuming Gothic way, with a psychotic cousin and a haunted house, the book slowly turns until you are completely snatched from reality and cannot put the book down. Until the end, I couldn’t figure out which of the creepy characters were trustworthy or even which scenes were reality. The atmosphere and setting of this book were remarkably vibrant; I could picture High Place and each of its residents in full disgusting detail. While the book may begin slowly, and some readers may be tempted to put it down after the first 50 pages, this one was worth sticking it out for me and many others.
This is definitely a horror novel, and some readers may need content warnings for sexual assault, suicide, domestic abuse, incest, hallucinations, murder and gore, cannibalism, eugenics, death of a parent and other family members, miscarriages, and racism. It is difficult to provide a full review of this book without delving into spoilers, but it is certainly more than just a haunted house. Readers of fast-paced action-filled horror and readers of beautiful yet devastating prose will find something to enjoy in this story. Despite the plethora of content warnings, I would recommend this book to young adults as well as adults that enjoy horror.
P.S. Mexican Gothic will be adapted into a mini-series by Hulu. Special thanks to our friends at Libro.fm, who provided a copy of Mexican Gothic for me to listen to.
Follow Endya on Instagram to see more of what she is reading. If you'd like to read Mexican Gothic and you're in Lafayette, please come visit us! If you can't make it into the shop, use the buttons below to purchase through the Bookshop.org and Libro.fm affiliate programs:
Jefferson Street Journal is Beausoleil Books's online blog for book reviews, news, and more!