Dear Mr. Hemingway Logo

read what you love • love what you read

Guest Writer

Guest writer Sol Kelly

Sol Kelly

Bookstagram Bonanza Edition

Guest Writer Graphic for Sol Kelly

October 2, 2020

Dear Book Lovers,

I am so very happy to introduce you to today’s Guest Writer. Sol Kelly lives in Houston, Texas. She is the creator of the gorgeous book blog, The Sol Reader, and the popular Bookstagram (Instagram for book lovers) page, @thesolreader. Sol is an absolute free-spirit who loves to travel and explore new bookstores while learning new cultures and languages along the way. She is currently working on becoming quadrilingual in English, Spanish, French, and Japanese 😮! Sol is a mood reader whose favorite genres include literary and contemporary fiction, social science, gender + sexuality, and poetry. Sunny beaches, cold beer, and good reads give this ray of sunshine life. I hope you enjoy her letter to Mr. H. and follow her around on all of her bookish adventures. I can assure you…this gem will brighten your day ☀️☀️☀️.




P.S. Sol told me she hails from the city where people second-line and throw a party for everything. Can you say New Orleans 🍺🎭🎉!!!


Dear Mr. H., 

While 2020 seems to have been written by a fantasy and thriller author who gets a laugh out of that whole “it’s one thing after another” stunt, the one thing they did get right is the amount of amazing books that are coming out this year. I’m not sure how many books you now have on your TBR (to be read) list, but if it is anywhere close to mine, a number we shall not speak of, then I hope All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson is somewhere on there. If it is not, you need to add it as soon as possible because this book is a gem and the author is an incredible creative. 

I believe that knowing more about the author helps to elevate the reading experience. There’s something about getting to know them beyond their pages. With George M. Johnson, the more you learn about them, the more you fall in love with their authenticity, creativity, vulnerability, and innovation. I literally fangirl every time I see Johnson on my timeline, and if you’ve checked out their Instagram you will see why. They never disappoint..and I mean NEVER. George M. Johnson is an award winning writer and Bestselling author of All Boys Aren’t Blue who recently invited us in on identifying as nonbinary (pronouns: they/them) and queer. They are constantly and continuously demonstrating the importance of having agency over our lives. 

All Boys Aren’t Blue is an LGBTQIA+ Young Adult read (with a stunning cover for all my cover lovers like myself) that has an overarching theme of agency – being able to control our narrative. Johnson does an incredible job of showing what this has looked like in their life throughout every chapter from discussing their upbringing to their relationship with their family to their college experience in regard to becoming a member of a fraternity to exploring their identity and sexuality. We get a taste of it all, which I know with confidence will not only help younger readers see themselves in these pages, but everyone who cracks open the book, especially those of us who longed for books that gave us the words and convictions to navigate our own identities and sexuality in our respective worlds growing up and even now. Johnson words it perfectly on page 85 when they say, “You sometimes don’t know you exist until you realize someone like you existed before.” Have you ever read a book that made you feel understood and considered, Mr. H.? Maybe your works do that for others. 

The book is categorized as a memoir-manifesto with an outstanding amount of vulnerability expressed in every story that is admirable and is home to so much beauty. We are seeing a Black, queer, nonbinary author be an open book (pun intended lol) and give us stories we need – the stories that get buried in headlines, in graves, and in family secrets. Stories that never get told but should. Stories that challenge the gender binary and the heteronormative systems in society. Stories that speak to unconditional love and acceptance, and that give us permission to be our most genuine, authentic, bold, brave, and queer selves.

You should be adding All Boys Aren’t Blue to your cart…right…about…NOW!

Shine Brightly, 


P.S. Click on the book pic below to purchase this amazing read from an incredible bookstore!

Sol Kelly's bookstack

**Photo credit~Sol Kelly

Paint Me Into Your Life

Luster, a novel, cover

Luster by Raven Leilani (Farrar Straus & Giroux)

“For most of my life, I have not had to tell anyone where I planned to be.  I could walk the length of Broadway without a face.  I could perish in a fire and have no one realize until a firefighter came across my teeth in the ash.”

July 3, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

You once said, “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life”. Loneliness oftentimes yields individual efforts that beg to be explored.  I can only presume you know it well.  This palpable feeling of loneliness exists on the pages of some of your finest writing. You touch upon this solitude in Cat in the Rain and The Old Man and the Sea. Moving forward now to 21st-century writing, Luster, by Raven Leilani is a sharply written story that takes on this complex emotion and state of being with a modern flare.  In her debut novel, Leilani offers a powerful take on the lengths one will go to validate their existence. Her captivating story is an eye-opening experience that examines race, sexual exploration and the internal craving to be acknowledged. Luster is a contemporary triumph ideal for 2020. Let’s take a look.

“He is the most obvious thing that has ever happened to me, and all around the city it is happening to other silly, half-formed women excited by men who’ve simply met the prerequisite of living a little more life, a terribly unspecial thing that is just what happens when you keep on getting up and brushing your teeth and going to work and ignoring the whisper that comes to you at night and tells you it would be easier to be dead.”

Edie is a young Black woman in her 20’s trying to make sense of her life.  As an aspiring artist, she scrutinizes the people around her with her paintbrush. Through her poor choices and actions, Edie seeks out the universe to just notice her. Not only does her inappropriate behaviors at work lead her to unemployment, but she meets Eric (an older white man) on an online dating app and begins a relationship with him.  Their time together is anything but typical.  Edie’s and Eric’s affair swells to more than just cyber sex when she discovers that he is married and in an open marriage with his wife.  Edie’s perspective on life changes when she finds herself living at Eric’s house with his wife and adopted a Black daughter.  While bunking in a spare bedroom, she continues to paint those around her on anything that resembles a blank canvas. As relationships evolve under the same roof, the discomfort of their circumstances continues to widen.

“A way is always made to document how we manage to survive, or in some cases, how we don’t.  So I’ve tried to reproduce an inscrutable thing.  I’ve made my own hunger into a practice, made everyone who passes through my life subject to a close and inappropriate reading that occasionally finds its way, often insufficiently, into paint.”

After reading Luster, I had to sit with my thoughts to make sense of what I read.  The plot of this story appears straightforward, but the depth of Leilani’s writing has no boundaries. I enjoyed the clever way she intertwined Edie’s need for painting with her constant self-reflection.  I immediately fell into Edie’s world filled with tons of baggage, messy characters, and clouds of sadness.  I was particularly intrigued by her surprise relationship with Eric’s wife and adopted a Black daughter. The co-mingling of Edie and Eric’s family added a layer of despair I would never have known.   I love how Leilani made me feel uncomfortable under Eric’s roof.  There is a bizarreness to their codependency that fascinated me and a dolefulness to her characters that I desperately wanted to remedy. It was crazy how my feelings of intrigue and frustration could exist all at the same time. The unconventional dynamics and issues of race provided much clarity on these dimly lit characters that I so desired.   While there are a few splashes of dark humor throughout Leilani’s story, her book was more of a provocative wonder that implores to be talked about. The visible feeling of loneliness is widespread in this book. If you are in the market for a relevant and meaty read, Luster sparks conversation…….read this with your bookish friends.  

Until next time my friend!

Your Biggest Fan


P.S.  Thank you to Farrar Straus & Giroux and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Click on the pic below to preorder. Luster hits bookstores on August 4, 2020.

Join my mailing list!

and never miss a blog post