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.

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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’.

Review- Zodiac Starforce #1

Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra by Kavin Panetta and Paulina Ganucheau

Processed with VSCO with t1 presetGenre: Superhero graphic novel
Format: Hardcover library binding
Publication date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Page count: 136
Star rating: 2.5/5

Zodiac Starforce is a group of girls who fight monsters and evil, in general. They each have a different zodiac sign and come with their own, unique powers. In this episode, Diana, the popular girl at school, tries to get the Zodiac Starforce leader to join her team of evil. The other girls must try and save their friend before she is too far gone. There is also a bit of romance on the side too, because what’s a superhero girl gang without a bit of queer girl love?

I have been on the hunt for graphic novels about groups of female superheroes for a while. I found a few, but Zodiac Starforce was the only one that my university library already had on its shelves. The rest are on their way to me! One of my favorite things about this book is the color scheme. Often, women superheroes are assigned blue and red colors. This is great, but I wish pink were also depicted as a strong, powerful color. Primary colors are not the only colors allowed to stand for superheroes! Pink is brave! The artwork in Zodiac Starforce was so bubbly, colorful, and pink. I absolutely loved looking at it.

I, unfortunately, wasn’t as impressed with the storyline. I felt like there were a lot of jumps in plot that made the book hard to follow. Sometimes, I thought a scene hadn’t been completed, but then it cut to a new location or something 2 weeks later. I understand that this first installment in Zodiac Starforce is short, but I wish there had been more continuity. I hate feeling confused while I’m reading. I had to try very hard not to get parts mixed up while reading this and I still ended up feeling like I was missing something a few times.

I noticed that one of the girls has bigger thighs than the others, but she’s still pretty slim. I would like to see more diversity in body size and shape in a feminist comic like this. Unfortunately, many books and companies that are beginning to incorporate women with thicker bodies are only using women with flat stomachs. It think Zodiac Starforce should incorporate more curvy women and body types readers may not normally see in graphic novels. I see the attempt that the creators made, but they could have taken it further.

I loved the artwork for this book, but it wasn’t the feminist, girl gang graphic novel I was searching for. I feel like I didn’t see much in this comic that I hadn’t seen before. For that reason, I will continue my search for a graphic novel featuring empowered women of color fighting evil. I hope future graphic novels I pick up feature pink and purple like Zodiac Starforce did.

Review- Earth Girl

Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

Processed with VSCO with t1 presetGenre: YA Science Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: March 5, 2013
Publisher: Pyr (Fantasy imprint of Prometheus Books)
Page count: 350
Star rating: 5/5

Jarra is Handicapped, or an ‘ape’ (although, she’s not supposed to call herself that derogatory name), and she wants to prove everyone wrong about her limitations. Unlike all the normal people in the galaxy, or all the ‘exos’, Jarra is forced to live on Earth with the other Handicapped humans. Being Handicapped means that you lack the gene that allows you to portal to other planets. Jarra has lived her whole life surrounded by other Handicapped students, because exos are often scared or disgusted with them. This is silly, because you can’t ‘catch’ this lack of gene, and exos certainly are no different than humans sentenced to live on Earth. Jarra has a dream of attending a university for exos, but in order to achieve this dream, she has to go in undercover. More than anything, Jarra wants to become a successful historian and she wants to go to a university that isn’t specifically for Handicapped people. What happens when she gets to a university and is faced with exos? Will she blend in or will they discover her secret right away? Can Jarra show them that she’s the same as every other human who can visit other planets?

YES. YES. YES. This is the first book I’ve read in a long time that I couldn’t stop thinking about. Whether I was in class, at the gym, or falling asleep, I couldn’t keep Earth Girl off my mind. I was genuinely excited to wake up in the morning because it meant that I could read again that day. I’ve read a lot of really great titles in the past few months, especially sci-fi ones, but this book really had me on the edge of my seat. For that reason, I can’t give this book anything less than 5 stars.

I originally bought Earth Girl at BookCon this past June. I told someone working the Prometheus Books booth about Hedgehog Book Reviews and what types of books I focus on. He recommended this title because it reflects on ideas involving racism. When I read the back of the book, I didn’t quite believe him. Jarra’s story seemed interesting, but I didn’t get the connection. Well, I was very, very wrong. The way Jarra is treated by exos is essentially how people of color are treated by white people. Some exos even see Handicapped people as less than human and less deserving of rights than themselves. This is extremely sad to read because Handicapped people are literally no different from exos, except that they lack the one gene. This is exactly how PoC are treated, still, in modern day society. I read the entire book as a comparison to the systematic oppression that PoC face and it made it a very powerful title.

Earth Girl is classic sci-fi. Janet Edwards builds an entire futuristic world complete with civilized planets and portals that can send people through space. This book was so creative that I wish the author could release a novella that just describes this world a bit further. I want to know more! I usually am a sucker for sci-fi books that have cool alien species, but Earth Girl was still amazing despite it only being about humans.

I’m so glad I picked up this book at BookCon. I’m only halfway through (maybe not even?) all the titles I got, but I feel lucky that I randomly decided to start this one. I hope to read more Prometheus/Pyr books in the future. Thank you to Janet Edwards for writing such a great sci-fi novel with a cool, strong female character. I think Earth Girl is very powerful in the sense that it touches on themes of racism.

Bookmail Unboxing and Book Haul #1

Bookmail Unboxing and Book Haul #1!

Hey everyone! I’m so excited to start a new category on my blog: bookmail and bookhauls. I won’t have a set day to get these done; I’ll just publish them as I receive things in the mail. These posts will be broken into two sections (pretty self-explanatory). Maybe someday I’ll even film a video of me unboxing something? We’ll see! If this is the kind of thing you want to see more of, just let me know!


BOOKMAIL UNBOXING!

Since my review of Guapa a few months ago, I’ve been in contact with Other Press. On their website, Other Press says, “We publish novels, short stories, poetry, and essays from America and around the world that represent literature at its best”. I was super excited that they responded to my review and liked what I had to say! They generously offered to send me two more titles for review, so that’s all I expected. Today, I was surprised to hear the doorbell ring our weird Christmas jingle (don’t ask me why we have it set to this) and the mailman handed me this huge envelope! It was way heavier and bigger than just the two books I was supposed to get. You can imagine the excitement I had while taking this photo seconds before opening the package!

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So, it’s nothing special. It’s just a large envelope with my name and address on it. But, still, I was wondering what could be inside this mystery package that was much bigger than 2 books. Here’s what I got:

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7 books! I was (and still am) so astounded at the generosity of Other Press. I am very thankful for publishers who believe in me and my website. Here are some quick notes on the books I got:

Incarceration Nations by Baz Dreisinger—this is a nonfiction book about the author, who travels around the world to examine the prison systems in several countries. I have a feeling this title will reveal a lot about the history and future of justice, which is something that I believe needs to be talked about more.

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giollito – this book focuses on an 18-year-old girl who is charged for the involvement of a shooting at her school. She is a popular student and the public is waiting to hear how she became a “cold-blooded killer”. I can tell this is going to be an ‘at the edge of your seat’ kind of book!

The Faithful Scribe by Shahan Mufti – This is a nonfiction title about the first Islamic democracy. The author uses stories from his relatives about Islamic civilization in Pakistan. I haven’t read a book like this before, so I’m very eager to start this!

The Diamond Setter by Moshe Sakal – This book is about an Israeli man who gets swept up in the gay scene and protest movement. It features a love triangle between three men. Reading queer stories that take place in countries other than the US is a goal for me, so this is my perfect book.

For Two Thousand Years by Mihail Sebastian – This story, originally published in 1934, is about a Jewish student living in Romania during the years before World War II. It explores anti-Semitism and Zionism. I have yet to review a book that touches on anti-Semitism and I’m very excited to start this one.

Where Women Are Kings by Christie Watson – Seven-year-old Elijah has a history of disruptive behavior, but his adoptive parents believe they can help him succeed. The book talks about racism, as Elijah is black and his adoptive mother is not. This really sounds like my kind of book that I tend to gravitate towards.

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist – This is a dystopian novel about a world in which men and women over the age of sixty, who are not married and do not have children, are sent to a retirement home. There, they are forced to donate their organs until their final donation. This book sounds so COOL and almost scary!

So, those are the 7 titles I got from Other Press. I can’t even say which one I’m the most excited for! THANK YOU SO MUCH, OTHER PRESS!


MINI BOOKHAUL

I’ve been on a book-buying ban for a while. I haven’t spent money on books in two months! I decided it was time to break this ban and splurged on two titles. I got them used (which saved me some money) and only one has arrived so far. Here it is:

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This is Skim by Mariko Tamaki. It’s a graphic novel about a girl nicknamed Skim, who’s in high school, and it explores topics of suicide, depression, and LGBT themes. Skim is a witch, which is super cool, and I related to her character. Yes, I already finished it! Hopefully, I’ll be able to get a review posted for this title soon. I gave it 4/5 stars on Goodreads.


 

Thanks for tuning in! I want to post more unboxings and bookhauls on here. I had a lot of fun writing this one! I’m supposed to get more bookmail later this week, so maybe I’ll write another one soon? The mailman must hate me at this point. Let me know if you enjoyed this or if it bored you!

Review- Our Own Private Universe

Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

Processed with VSCO with t1 presetGenre: YA fiction
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Page count: 384
Star rating: 3.5/5

Aki knows she’s bisexual, but she’s never actually had a girlfriend. Still, she knows that she likes girls. The only person who knows is her best friend Lori, as she’s afraid to come out to her religious parents. Aki and Lori spend their summer away at a mission trip in Mexico, held by their church. There, Aki meets Christa and they immediately click. The two girls are a great match, but the constrictions of their religious group force them to lie, hide, and cover up their feelings. Aki and Christa could have something extraordinary, but are they willing to make that sacrifice for each other?

I had some mixed feeling about Our Own Private Universe, but, ultimately, the positives outweighed the negatives. One extremely important topic this book highlights is safe sex. I haven’t read another F/F book, young adult or adult, that touches on safe sex. Aki goes out of her way to find female condoms, which I thought was so cool. I bet the teen and early twenty’s audience that Robin Talley is aiming for might be a bit uninformed about safe sex, the importance of condoms, and protection against STDs in queer female relationships. I was pleasantly surprised when Aki started thinking about how she would obtain dental dams. For this reason, I would 100% recommend this book to queer females who are looking to see themselves represented in literature.

Another awesome thing about Own Our Private Universe is that it features two women who are both interested in men and women. Aki is bisexual and not confused. The stereotype that bisexual people are merely confused is harmful because it erases their identities and invalidates their feelings. In addition, sometimes books about marginalized demographics are harmful for individuals who are part of those demographics to read (they’re triggering, disrespectful, or just not factual). This is definitely a book with bisexual representation that is safe, considerate, and realistic of bi struggles. Often, books that trivialize LGBT lives are written by straight, cisgender authors. It was awesome to read a book written by a queer author.

After I finished Our Own Private Universe, I skimmed a few reviews. I found one that pointed out something that unsettled me in the novel and I think it is worth mentioning. Although Aki is not white, her church’s mission trip sent a message of a white savior complex. Wikipedia defines this as, “a white person who acts to help non-white people, with the help in some contexts perceived to be self-serving”. I believe that Robin Talley should have tried to educate her readers about the harm these self-serving intentions can cause. I felt a little disappointed in this aspect of the book.

Overall, I think Own Our Private Universe was a realistic, healthy, respectful way of looking at a bisexual girl discovering herself. The cast was diverse, but I believe some of the racial implications of the mission trip could have been clarified. I will recommend this book to young, queer women who are looking for literature that features characters like themselves. Our Own Private Universe introduced many topics that other LGBTQ YA books neglect, which was exciting. I just found out Robin Talley is supposed to have a novel coming out in 2018 and I can hardly wait!