Review- I Hate Everyone But You

Hi, everyone! I’m sorry it’s been a little over a week since my last post. I came down with a bad cold and was bed ridden for a couple days. I couldn’t even read! It was so frustrating. Hopefully, I can catch back up on my reading goal and power through a few books in the remainder of January. Thanks for sticking with me!

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I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

51HmRkrR+4L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Genre: YA fiction
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Page count 352
Star rating: 2.5/5

Ava and Gen are best friends who go their separate ways for their freshman year of college. They still communicate constantly via text and email, and the book is written in these electronic formats. The 2 girls couldn’t be anymore different and sometimes these differences cause small fights. Long distance friendship is hard, but Ava and Gen have a chance to make it work. As Gen experiments with drugs and girls, Ava battles social anxiety and her first college parties. Maybe, their differences can actually make their unique friendship thrive.

I’m so disappointed that I didn’t like this book. It is a quick read, yet it took me almost a week to finish it, because I kept putting it off. I wanted to like it (or love it) so badly! I’ve had such bad luck with young adult books with LGBTQ themes lately…I need a redemption soon!

The main reason that I didn’t enjoy I Hate Everyone But You is because it relied WAY too much on tropes and clichés. Ava is the classic ‘good’ girl who has never been to a party before and Gen is the classic bisexual girl who experiments with girls and drugs. I have been both these people—I am a queer girl who struggles with many forms of anxiety and mental health issues—and it is absolutely not this cut and dry. I found myself rolling my eyes whenever Ava or Gen said something too stereotypical, which happened more than a few times. Queerness and social anxiety have so much more to them than this book talk about, which I’m sure the authors know. As someone who knows what it’s like to spend time figuring out her own sexuality, I had high hopes for Gen’s character. Unfortunately, she was stuck with too many of the ‘bad’ girl clichés and became cringey.

Among all the negative things I’ve said about this title, there were a couple of good lessons hidden in the book. Ava continuously says non-politically correct statements, which Gen, annoyed, corrects. The way that Gen educates Ava about LGBTQ issues is very well articulated and inclusive to all demographics included under the queer umbrella. I’ve had some of these key conversations with friends and family members (who, like Ava, only meant well), and the way that Gen explains queer struggles is very on-point.

I was extremely excited for this book and was, ultimately, let down. More than anything, I’m just sad that this title fell flat because it features both a girl who comes to terms with her sexuality AND a girl who faces her mental illnesses. If the two authors of this title ever released another book, I would love to read it because there is a lot of room for growth to fix these things and make a powerful novel. I’m sorry that I had to post another negative review on here, but I felt inclined to share my thoughts on I Hate Everyone But You because of how pumped I was for this book and how well the themes of the title fit my blog.

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Best Books of 2017

Happy New Year to everyone reading my blog! Thanks for sticking by me as I discover new genres, authors, and titles that continuously blow me away. I’m thankful to be able to do this in my free time and even get books sent to me from publishers in exchange for honest reviews. I love sharing my thoughts (both positive and negative) with whoever is willing to listen and I hope my reviews encourage people to pick up books that I enjoyed. I decided to make a ‘Best Books of 2017’ list, so here it is! I read 69 books in 2017 and I narrowed it down to my top 9 favorite titles. I couldn’t decide on a particular order, so they’re just in the order I read them.

  1. The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace (read 1/4/17)

My 2017 started with a huge poetry kick. After finishing Milk and Honey in December of 2016, I began searching for poetry written by empowered women. The Princess Saves Herself in This One continues to be my favorite poetry collection I’ve ever gotten my hands on. Many of the poems are about mental illness and/or feminism and they were exactly what I was looking for. I truly think this is a must-read for young women. If I’m remembering correctly, Amanda Lovelace has another collection coming out early this year, so I’ll be sure to snatch that up as soon as it’s released!

  1. Crank by Ellen Hopkins (read 3/8/17)

I find it so amusing that I picked up my first Ellen Hopkins book in 2017. Almost all of my friends read her books back in middle and high school, but I thought I was ‘too cool’ to read titles that everyone else was reading. I’m actually glad that I waited so long to read Crank, because I don’t think I would have gotten as much out of it back in 2008. I’m a big advocate for education about addiction and the effects that the disease has on an individual. Crank is one of the many books I’ve read about addiction and it is my very favorite. Ellen Hopkins wrote about addiction in an educational way that didn’t trivialize the experiences of addicts. I’m very glad this book exists for young adults to access.

  1. Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi (read 4/7/17)

This book made it to my top 5 books of ALL TIME. I loved this title so much that I sent my review of it to the author, explaining how much it meant to me. The protagonist in this book is a queer, chronically ill, female of color–just like me. We both suffer from chronic pain and I truly identified with her struggles. I don’t think I’ve ever related to a character as much as I related to Alana. In addition, I loved that the book worked to combat the stigma around taking medication. I’ve recommended this book to other people who deal with fibromyalgia, because my guess is that they’ll love it too.

  1. A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (read 4/29/17)

Another one of my all-time favorite books is The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. I was so excited for this second book of hers that I bought the UK edition because it was released first. Becky Chambers definitely did not let me down with this novel. It didn’t make it to my “best books in the whole world” list, like her first, but A Closed and Common Orbit was still an amazing installment to the Wayfarer adventures. 2017 was the year of great sci-fi for me! I know there is a third standalone in the works and I’m just as hyped about it as I was for this one.

  1. Rosie Colored Glasses by Briann Wolfson (read 7/3/17)

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I went to BookCon last June. You also might know that I left with 27 books. One of them was an ARC of Rosie Colored Glasses, given to me by Harlequin. The title isn’t coming out until February of this year, but you need to have it on your radars right now. This is an adult book that talks about mental health, addiction, and divorce. It is an extremely important title to me because it serves as education about these topics. This book quickly made it to my “books that changed my life” shelf on Goodreads, which says a lot. I can’t wait for Rosie Colored Glasses to be released so everyone can get enjoy it as much as I did.

  1. Idlewild by Jude Sierra (read 7/11/17)

This is another title that I took home from BookCon! During my time at the convention, I quickly found my way to Interlude Press, a publisher that focuses on LGBTQ titles. I was so excited to find people that prioritize queer authors and characters. Idlewild blew me away; it’s the perfect gay, male love story. I hadn’t read a M/M book in a while, as I had been focusing more on lesbian romances, but Idlewild reminded me of how much I love reading about two men falling in love. I can’t wait to get to more Interlude Press books in the future!

  1. Earth Girl by Janet Edwards (11/9/17)

Can you tell that I was getting through my BookCon haul? I got Earth Girl from the Prometheus Books booth and ended up absolutely loving the story. This title touches on themes of racism, a topic not often talked about in sci-fi literature. It is a great book with planet/space traveling and different species of humans– classic sci-fi ideas. I’m very glad that the person from Prometheus Books handed me this book because it really changed the way I look at sci-fi. Science fiction has the absolute capability of tackling topics like racism and discrimination, just like Earth Girl did. I’m really looking forward to reading the other books in this series!

  1. I Know Your Kind: Poems by William Brewer (read 11/19/17)

I had extremely high hopes for this collection of poetry, as it’s about the opioid epidemic in the US. Prior to reading this, I had read one poetry collection about the same topic and it completely fell short. I was reluctant to start another in fear that it would also disappoint me. I quickly got over this fear when I saw that Milkweed Editions was releasing I Know Your Kind. This is such a touching collection and I urge all my followers looking to learn more about addiction to check this book out. I’m so grateful that this collection made its way to me and it will remain on my ‘favorites’ list for a very long time.

  1. Where Women Are Kings by Christie Watson (read 11/12/17)

This book is truly something special. Where Women Are Kings was sent to me in a package from Other Press and it was the first one I picked up from that bunch. I feel so lucky that I happened to choose to start with it because it blew me away. This is the only book I’ve ever read that made me cry twice. I seldom cry while reading, so crying twice is probably a once in ten years type of thing. For anyone searching for a book that gives you feelings, like real, genuine feelings, this is the title for you. I have already recommended this book to many personal friends and I will continue doing so in 2018. I’m very thankful for this title.

Review- Like Water

Like Water by Rebecca Podos

31556136Genre: YA fiction
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: October 17, 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Page count: 320
Star rating: 2/5

Savannah Espinoza has a big plan to leave her small town in New Mexico. She wants to be one of the only people to successfully go off to college and not get stuck in the confinement of her hometown. This plan is going well until her father is diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. Suddenly, her future does not include moving far away and college is not an option. Savannah completely isolates herself from her high school friends to keep herself from getting hurt. That is, until she meets Leigh. Leigh changes her world and makes her question her identity in very deep ways. She definitely is something extremely special and Savannah wants nothing but to become closer to the girl who makes her feel at home.

This book was a miss for me, which is really disappointing. It had so much potential to be great representation of a queer woman of color, but it missed the mark. After deciding between 2 and 3 stars on Goodreads, I settled on 2 stars. I rarely give books with LGBT characters anything less than 3 stars, but it just had to be done.

There is one scene in the book that was a huge red flag for me. Savannah and Leigh steal Leigh’s brother’s car and drive off to spend time alone. After they pull over and find a nice spot, the two begin drinking alcohol. I’m well aware that many young adult books show minors drinking, so this is not the issue for me. The problem is that the two drive back home, drunk, with no real consequences. Besides Leigh getting yelled at by her brother and drifting over the double yellow line once, nothing bad happens to them. I think this is an irresponsible lesson to put in a book catered to young adults. Drinking and driving is incredibly dangerous and needs to be talked about in literature in a way that reflects how serious it can be. This scene left me with a terrible feeling inside.

One thing that got me super interested in this title was a review that commented on Rebecca Podos’ use of diversity. The review complained that it seemed like the author just threw in as many marginalized groups of people as possible just to win diversity points. To me, these kinds of reviewers seem like old men shaking their fists at the clouds, but I wanted to see if this one had any merit to it. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I specialize in books about diverse topics because I believe representation and education about them are crucial. Despite this, I sort of agree with this other reviewer. Sometimes, I think including too many minorities in a book, just for the sake of including them, can have the opposite effect on a title than the author is (probably) aiming for. The final straw for me was the very end of the book, which I don’t want to spoil. It felt like Rebecca Podos was adding a marginalized demographic just so the book could check off another box. This final addition to the story had no character development leading up to it; it was just kind of…there. If an author wants to add something surprising to the end of a title, it should make sense and connect to the rest of the book. The ending of Like Water just seemed tacked on.

I’m really disappointed that I didn’t like this book as much as I could have. The characters felt very flat to me and I wasn’t a fan of the story in general. I’m glad I gave Like Water a try because I had my eye on it for a while, but I want to warn my followers that the book is not worth your Holiday money. I rarely do completely negative reviews, but it is time for me to step out of my comfort zone. Thanks for tuning in!

Book Haul #2 (Barnes and Noble Edition)

Bookhaul #2

Hey everyone! I finally got the chance to go to a Barnes and Noble while my family visited for Thanksgiving. I was so pumped to set foot in a nice, huge bookstore for the first time in months. I have been careful about money recently, but treated myself to 3 new, HARDCOVER books. I absolutely love the feel of new books; used books just aren’t the same (especially because I’ve been buying a lot of ex-library books for super cheap). I got 1 adult book and 2 young adult books. I used to read almost all adult books, but I’ve been venturing out into a younger age range just to see if I like it. Here’s a quick breakdown of my haul:

Processed with VSCO with t1 preset

Future Home of The Living God by Louise Erdich

Evolution is going backwards in this sci-fi/dystopian novel. All pregnant women are sentenced to live in jail like conditions to monitor their babies and check for evolutionary reverses. Cedar Songmaker, the protagonist, is pregnant and hiding from authorities, a crime with a terrible punishment. She and the father of her baby live in the confinement of their home, forcing themselves to refrain from all human contact. While the world is going to pieces, Cedar is left in the darkness and has no idea what is going on in the world around her. Hopefully, she can carry the child to term without authorities finding her. That is, if society doesn’t fall to madness before then.


Like Water by Rebecca Podos

Savannah Espinoza has a big plan to leave her small town in New Mexico. She wants to be one of the only people to successfully go off to college and not get stuck in the confinement of her hometown. This plan is going well until her father is diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. Suddenly, her future does not include moving far away and college is not an option. Savannah completely isolates herself from her high school friends to keep herself from getting hurt. That is, until she meets Leigh. Leigh changes Savannah’s world and makes her question her identity in very deep ways. She definitely is something extremely special and Savannah wants nothing but to become closer to the girl who makes her feel at home.

I actually have already finished this book and surprisingly did not like it very much. I want to get a review of this title out as quickly as possible to explain the issues I encountered while reading it. I ended up giving it a 2/5 stars on GoodReads, which is something unusual for me!


I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

Ava and Gen are best friends who go their separate ways for their freshman year of college. They still communicate constantly via text and email, and the book is written in these electronic formats. The 2 girls couldn’t be anymore different and sometimes these differences cause small fights. Long distance friendship is hard, but Ava and Gen have a chance to make it work. As Gen experiments with drugs and girls, Ava battles social anxiety and her first college parties. Maybe, their differences can actually make their unique friendship thrive.

I’m halfway through this book and having many problems with the way the characters develop. I’ll do a review shortly after I finish it, which should be later this week, as I’m on holiday break from college right now.

Overall, I’m slightly disappointed with my choices. I’m glad I gave them a shot, because these books fit my blog focus well, but I’m not enjoying most of them. I hope to do reviews of all three within the next few weeks during my school break. Be on the lookout for some critical reviews of titles that had a lot of potential to be outstanding! Thanks for reading about my book haul and I’ll see you in a few days with my review of Like Water!

Review- Where Women Are Kings

Where Women Are Kings by Christie Watson

Processed with VSCO with t1 presetGenre: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Publication date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Other Press
Page count: 256
Star rating: 5/5

“She felt fiercely protective of him, with his slight frame and huge eyes. She realized that she loved him already, within days, that she’d kill anyone who hurt him.”

7 year old Elijah is looking for an adoptive family. In his short life, he’s been moved around quite a bit, as a result of being hard to work with and violent at some times. Finally, Elijah has found a couple who wants to permanently adopt him. Nikki and Obi make it their mission to provide the best home for Elijah as possible. Slowly, Elijah’s family history comes to light as his biological mother writes letters addressed to him. As more is learned about his birth and experiences as a baby, perhaps Elijah’s actions can be better understood. Nikki and Obi will no doubt try their best, and hopefully that’s enough for Elijah to prosper.

This is the first book in a long time that I finished in less than 24 hours. I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down. Books don’t usually make me cry, but Where Women Are Kings made me cry TWICE. Christie Watson really knows how to play with your heart. This was an all around amazing title. I wish I could give it more than 5 stars.

Where Women Are Kings has a unique format. It’s written in 2 styles. About half of it is in the view of Elijah or his parents. The other half is in a letter format from Elijah’s birth mother. I loved slowly figuring out Elijah’s story and piecing together why he might act out or behave the way he does. Elijah is so delicate and innocent; I wanted to fight for him because he has such a big heart, despite invisible struggles he faces every day. Obi and Nikki care about him so much and it was heartwarming to see their love for him grow and grow. The character development was so beautiful in this book.

I initially picked up Where Women Are Kings because reviews say it touches on racism and mental illness. Both of these themes were very prevalent in the book, so I was not let down. Elijah is Nigerian and Nikki is white. I enjoyed reading the racial and cultural sensitivity that Elijah’s case workers, therapist, and adoptive family give him. A white mother adopting a child of color is something that is so rare in literature, at least in books that I’ve read. It was refreshing to read a title that talked about the thought that goes into adopting child with different colored skin as oneself. In addition, the way Christie Watson wrote about serious mental illnesses was respectful and factual. I don’t want to give away too much, so that’s all I’ll say.

I want to give a big ‘thank you’ to Other Press for sending me a copy of this title for review. I’ve officially added this book to my ‘favorites’ shelf on Goodreads, which says a lot. I’m extremely thankful that such a wonderful and moving book found its way to me. I honestly want to give out copies of Where Women Are Kings to my friends for the holidays. I finished this book about 2 weeks ago and I’m still continuously blown away.

Review- Moxie

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

IMG_7575Genre: Young adult fiction
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: September 19, 2017
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Page count: 336
Star rating: 5/5

Vivian is tired of the sexism she sees in her fellow classmates and her high school’s administration. Boys are constantly telling girls to ‘make them a sandwich’ or wearing shirts with misogynistic slogans. Even worse, the principal feeds into this rhetoric by doing random dress code checks, which don’t have any set rules, so girls are forced to change for arbitrary reasons that teachers decide on the spot. Vivian decides to follow in her feminist mother’s footsteps and create a zine, called Moxie, to secretly put in the girls bathrooms. Vivian is scared, as she could get suspended if she’s caught, but it’s kind of empowering at the same time. Who knows what the reaction will be from the girls at her school. Maybe, despite the fact that a group of sexist football players rule her school, Vivian can turn Moxie into something great.

It’s like I’m living in a feminist fantasy…But it can’t be a complete fantasy because Roxane Gay isn’t here.”

I loved Moxie, especially how all of the examples of sexist behavior in Vivian’s school are very real and happen all the time in the US today. I actually had to put the book down a few times because it got too real for me. I could completely put myself in Vivian’s shoes and feel how frustrated and small she felt because of the actions of her principal and his football star son. It’s a horrible feeling to not have your ideas, your opinions, your gender heard or appreciated and be unable to do anything about it. I commend all the girls at Vivian’s school for staying determined in an environment that doesn’t appreciate them.

I also want to highlight a subject that I believe is so important for books about feminism to include. As many girls know, it’s common for ‘good’ guys to say, “not all men do…” and “not all men are like …” and it feels almost dismissive. Jennifer Mathieu really hit the nail on the head the way she explained the problems with statements like these.

“I know all guys aren’t dicks…I get it. But the thing is, when there are so many dickish dudes around you, it gets hard to remember that, you know?”…”And you telling me not all guys are like that doesn’t really help me feel better. Because some guys are like that. A lot of them, actually.”

It was awesome to read about a girl telling a guy, whom she likes a lot, why it’s wrong to use “not all men” statements. At first, I wasn’t sure if Vivian was going to address them when her love interest said these things, but I was pleasantly surprised when she spoke up.

I enjoyed Moxie very much. I think it’s an excellent book to keep in a library accessible to young adults. This title is empowering and educational for females, especially. I’m excited to share Moxie with all the young adults I know who are looking for a great book on feminism and fighting misogyny in general. Thanks for writing such a great read, Jennifer Mathieu!

Review- I Know Your Kind

I Know Your Kind: Poems by William Brewer

Processed with VSCO with t1 presetGenre: Poetry
Format: Paperback
Publication date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Page count: 96
Star rating: 5/5

This is a selection of poetry about the opioid epidemic, focusing on Oceana, West Virginia (sometimes called Oxyana). The poems’ subjects range from detox,  halfway houses, withdrawal, to Naloxone. I Know Your Kind is told in the voice of a someone, first hand, struggling with addiction.

I wish I could add more to my brief summary of this collection, as it’s far beyond merely a selection of poems told in the voice of an opioid addict. These poems have so much substance to them; they’re very powerful. They are powerful for two reasons– they can teach readers about the realities of addiction and they can make other addicts feel less alone in their struggles. I was extremely pleased with how touching, emotional, and human the voice in the poems read. I truly think this is an amazing work.

I want to highlight some lines that really blew me away.

“Who can stand another night

stealing fistfuls of pills

from our cancer-sick neighbors?”

 

“We were so hungry; Tom’s hand

on the table looked like it was warm bread.

I crushed it with a hammer”

Going back and reading all of the places I marked in this book (there were a lot of sticky tabs!)  prove how raw and honest William Brewer’s words are. I’ve never read a work that outlines these particular aspects of addiction: stealing pills from sick individuals and purposely harming oneself or friends to get a prescription for pain medication. These are topics not touched upon in many books about addiction, at least out of the handful that I’ve read. I loved the articulation and authenticity that went into the experiences that William Brewer chose to write about.

I want to tell everyone I know about I Know Your Kind. I think it has the power to educate those who have loved ones that struggle with addiction. I also think this work has the power to unite those struggling with addiction, whether they’re in recovery or not. These two reasons make this collection of poetry one of my favorites that I’ve read not only this year, but in the entire time I’ve run my book review website. I Know Your Kind really hit the mark. I’m so thankful that honest, real poems about the opioid epidemic exist and are accessible for anyone to read and learn from.

I want to give a big ‘thank you’ to Milkweed Editions for agreeing to send me a copy of this work in exchange for an honest review. I wish I had William Brewer’s personal email so I could tell him, myself, how touched I was by his words. I wish I had 20 copies to give out to friends and family to share this collection of bravery and power. I very much look forward to reading more works from Milkweed Editions in the future, as I Know Your Kind was an excellent addition to my blog and my bookshelf of ‘favorites’.