February 2017 Wrap-Up!

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January was a really big poetry month for me and February ended up being my graphic novel month. I think I poetry’d myself out…I can’t seem to find any more poetry books that grab my attention! Nevertheless, I found another genre that I love. This month, I read a lot of series that lead me to buying the 2nd and 3rd issues because I liked them all so much. A big theme for February was science fiction and women in science fiction. Cheers to new indie authors that graced my reading list this month! Here’s the 8-book breakdown:

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher (memoir) 5/5 stars- I meant to pick up this book for the longest time and then, as you probably know, Carrie Fisher died, so it got bumped to the top of my To Be Read. I am SO glad I finally read this. It was super informative and real, which is something I love to read about, especially when it has to do with mental health. Carrie Fisher had a lot on her plate– substance abuse, a mood disorder, and growing up in the spotlight. It was very interesting to hear what she had to say about these issues.

Where the words end and my body begins by Amber Dawn (poetry/LGBT) 2.5/5 stars- I didn’t like this poetry collection very much. I thought I would, because of the LGBTQ themes, but it just didn’t do it for me. I skipped a lot of lines and even full poems at some points. It’s possible that I just didn’t have a deep enough understanding of the topics at hand, but I did NOT get it.

Saga Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan (sci fi/graphic novel) 5/5 stars- This is the second issue in the Saga comic series that I grew to love in January! I’m trying to pace myself with these because they’re just that good. If you appreciate female narrated sci fi with kick-ass characters and a little bit of romance, Saga is the series for you. It’s no wonder that this series is so popular, because it’s absolutely amazing.

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzuchelli (graphic novel) 5/5 stars- I read this book during my 2nd year of college in 2014 and loved it. I had a feeling, though, that I didn’t quite understand it. So, I re-read it. That was a great choice because I definitely got more out of it this time around. In addition, it was a lot of references to The Odyssey which is fantastic (for me, at least).

Love is Love  by Marc Adreyko (graphic novel/LGBT) 2/5 stars- Wow. I really did not like this book. I had such high hopes for it, since the sales benefit the Orlando shooting victims. I mean, what an amazing cause to donate to. This book is catered for cisgender, heterosexual people FOR SURE. Most of the comics were about straight people trying to explain queerness to their kids or accepting LGBT people themselves. Less than half of the stories had a queer main character and only one comic featured a bisexual person. And, get this, bisexuality was explained as being straight, then gay, then straight again. Buy this book for the cause, please, not for the content

Husks: The First Book by Randall P. Fitzgerald (sci fi) 4/5 stars- YAY for the bimonthly bookbox I receive in the mail! It’s called Paper Street Books and you get a graphic novel, a sci fi book, and bookish goodies in each box. Most of the books are by indie authors, too. It’s AMAZING. So, this book was in a past box of theirs and I finally got around to starting it. The main character is totally a kick-ass female protagonist, something I live for. Ultimately, this was a great book by an indie author and I’m so glad it found its way to me.

Dept. H, Volume One by Matt Kindt (graphic novel/mystery) 4/5 stars- This was another book that I received from Paper Street Books. It was from the most recent box of theirs. As soon as I opened it, I knew I had to read this book. I ended up finishing it in a few hours! It is the perfect mystery…but under water!

Astrid: Cult of the Volcanic Moon by Kim W. Andersson (graphic novel/sci fi)- This was the third book from Paper Street Books that I read this month. It was from the same book box as Husks: The First Book. The theme was all about women in science fiction so, as you can probably guess, this graphic novel features a strong, independent female protagonist. What’s not to love? This is easily one of my favorite graphic novels I’ve ever read.

There you have it! I didn’t realize that 5 of the 8 books were graphic novels until just now and I’m pretty impressed with myself. I just started reading graphic novels a few months ago and I’m really happy with the style preference I’ve developed over that period of time. As of right now, March has been more of a fiction month for me. Maybe I comic’d myself out in February! If anyone is interested in the book box I mentioned, here is the website link: x. Thanks for tuning in and I’ll be sure to have another formal review up in a few days.

Review- The Sun is Also a Star

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

287634855/5 stars

Natasha is very rational; she believes in science, facts, and objective things that can be measured. If it can’t be proven by a study, she doesn’t consider it the truth. Natasha is a few hours away from being deported from the United States, as her family came to the country illegally. The cops discovered their status because her dad was caught drunk driving, and she’s been racing around New York City trying to locate a lawyer who could help her family since then. Daniel, on the other hand, is a poet. He’s always been second best to his family, until his older brother flunked out of an Ivy League school. As he’s walking around NYC in preparation for a college interview, he spots Natasha. Natasha and Daniel are definitely more different than they are alike, but for some reason, the world seems to want them together.

This book was CUTE! I’ve been meaning to read more YA and this was the perfect book to start with. This book has a 4.19 star average on Goodreads, so I knew it was going to be good, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Natasha reminds me a lot of my younger self. I was very objective. I always relied on facts and never on my gut or emotions. I made all of my decisions with my brain, not my heart, and didn’t put a lot of value into feelings. This was a hard way to live because it didn’t leave much room for experiencing joy, excitement, or even sadness, because I always calculated everything that would happen beforehand. So, long story short, I could really relate to Natasha. Also, I knew that Daniel was the exact person that Natasha needed to open her mind to the subjective.

Daniel is the “touchy-feely” type. He’s perfect for showing Natasha the strength of emotions. Sometimes (if not a lot of the time), it’s important to use your heart to reach new personal feats, make decisions, and experience life events. Daniel writes poetry, which Natasha thinks is a waste of time, but it shows how in-tune he is with his feelings. He believes in fate, and that keeps him determined that he has a chance at keeping Natasha’s family in the US.

Suddenly, I’ve turned into a huge sucker for YA romancey novels. Prior to this, I read a lot of books that left me uneasy or talked about dark (or even horrifying) themes. The Sun is also A Star left me feeing good. I love that—putting a book down and feeling happy. I’m looking forward to reading more books that leave me feeling this way.

I gave this book 5 stars for a lot of reasons. The characters were very well written, the story was captivating and kept me glued to the pages, and the ending was very unique. I really think this should be available in school libraries to encourage young adults to read! I hope to get to Nicola Yoon’s other book, Everything, Everything, sometime soon.

Review- Nexus

rn_rebrand_nexus_03-tiny-233x400Nexus by Ramez Naam

4/5 stars

Nexus is a drug that connects peoples’ minds together in low doses, and can allow people to alter the way their brains work in high doses. On the more extreme end, a few scientists have permanently put Nexus into their brain and used it to become almost super-human. These scientists are working to make Nexus a safer and practical drug, until they get caught illegally altering and administering the drug and are forced to give the blueprints up to the government. What happens when this potentially dangerous drug gets into the wrong hands? What happens if people all around the world are creating their own versions of Nexus, each with different purposes in mind? How far can one alter their brain until they become non-human altogether?

The concept of this book reminded me a lot of Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, which I loved, so I was really excited to start this book. Let me tell you, I was not disappointed. In my opinion, it’s very easy to write a book about the dangers of mind-altering drugs and fill it with fluffy, filler plot devices. Ramez did a great job of not doing this. The plot, characters, and dialogue were very constructive and really made me think of the pros and cons of developing mind tools.

I thought the most interesting parts of Nexus were the instances that you got to see how the drug affected the brains of the narrators. I can’t imagine what it feels like to have connected minds and experience other people’s memories, and I found reading about that fascinating. Also, the concept of treating your mind like a computer and uploading programs coded specifically to manage anxiety and stress is one of the coolest things I’ve ever read about. If that were possible today, would there be need for anxiety medications? Could there be a programs designed to help with other conditions or mental illnesses?

The negative thing I have to say about Nexus is that is dragged out a lot. I thought it should have ended 75 pages sooner, because I became bored in the last few chapters. I felt like there was a lot of extra plot and dialogue that wasn’t needed. I ended up skimming the last hundred pages or so. I hate doing this, but I was quickly losing interest and I really wanted to finish the book!

All around, great characters, great themes, great conversation starter. Like I said, this is a topic that can either be done really poorly or really well, and Nexus was definitely the latter. I love a good thought-provoking sci-fi novel, so I’m really pleased with this book.

Review- Wild Seed

Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler

51zwsfc2vpl4.5/5 stars

Doro is a special spirit, not quite a man, but still living from body to body. He spends his many lives, spanning over centuries, working to create his own population of “gifted” people. Some of these people can hear people’s thoughts; others can move objects with their minds. Although Doro breeds many types of individuals, he has yet to find someone who is capable of living as long as him. That is, until he meets Anyanwu. Anyanwu is a healer. She is unlike any person Doro has ever bred or met. He longs to tame her and mold her into one of his people, but she is a wild seed who acts on her own will. Doro coaxes Anyanwu into his tribe, but he can never predict how long until she tries to leave, and he is forced to kill her.

I love Octavia E. Butler. In 2015, I gave a 5 star review to her Xenogenesis series, which still remains one of my favorite science fiction series. I have a lot of respect for her, as the first influential female, African American science fiction author. I go through her works slowly, to savor them, and always end up loving every one I read. She’s written so many classics and I definitely recommend checking some of her stuff out if you’re looking for a good science fiction read.

Wild Seed is truly something I’ve never read before. Like Dawn, this book has themes that center around human breeding. It’s a bit horrific to read if you think about it too much, but so captivating that it gets you lost in the pages. It brushes upon the topic of human breeding lightly enough for it to be bearable, but makes you think about the issues around it. For example, it makes you ponder the consequences of having one leader, with special powers, who is worshipped by a community as having a god-like status. I’ve never read anything else that has made me think about topics such as this.

If you’ve followed my other reviews, you probably know that I LOVE books with strong, female protagonists. Anyanwu is one of the bravest, strong-willed, open-minded, toughest characters I’ve ever read. I loved getting into her head and seeing her thought process while she figured out how to solve problems and escape Doro. Many times, she had to choose between the lesser of two evils, and I hope I would have the same rationality as her if I were put in a similar dilemma.

Doro, on the other hand, was one of the most manipulative, ill-intentioned characters I’ve ever read. I was angered and saddened by so many of his decisions and motives, but I kept reading for Anyanwu. I was rooting for her the whole time. Wild Seed had me cheering for one of the best characters I’ve ever come across, which is a trait I love in good books.

As always with Octavia E. Butler’s books, I would recommend this to all sci-fi lovers. I preferred her Xenogenesis books a bit more, because I’m a sucker for books set on other planets, but Wild Seed is also a classic to me, now.

Review: Diary of an Oxygen Thief

Diary of an Oxygen Thief by Anonymous

15617034.5/5 stars

“I heard someone say somewhere that it’s possible to write the sickness out of yourself. And who knows, maybe someone will benefit.”

He hurts people, hurts women, to be more specific. He gets these women to fall in love with him and then finds joy in crushing their hearts and getting an emotional reaction out of them. Why does he do this? Well, to start with, he was hurt; he was hurt badly. People who have been hurt tend to hurt others in return. Secondly, he’s an alcoholic. Sometimes, when you’re in a relationship with alcohol, it doesn’t feel like your relationships with real people matter very much. Alcohol becomes your only friend. This is the story of recovery, karma, learning from mistakes, and getting a taste of one’s own medicine.

The back of Diary of an Oxygen Thief compares the narrator to Holden Caulfield. In the first chapter of the book, the resemblance to JD Salinger’s character is undeniable. The only thing missing is the word “phony” and the phrase “sore as hell”. After the first chapter, the resemblance disappears for the most part and the narrator becomes his own person. Still, if you’re looking for a narrator similar to Holden, this book is for you.

I think the most important part of Diary of an Oxygen Thief is the narrators struggle and then recovery with alcoholism. He begins a very real and raw account of the darkness of addiction and the toxic relationship alcoholics and addicts can be in with their substance of choice. The reader gets to witness the narrator’s lowest points and then see him attend AA meetings, become part of a sober community, and eventually get 5 years sober. This book is truly a tale of strength and conquer over some of the deadliest demons.

Yes, the reviews are right, the narrator is very self-centered and paranoid. But, A LOT of best selling novels, and even classics, have protagonists that annoy the crap out of me (Robert Langdon, to start with…). If you can see past all of this and only roll your eyes a few times while reading it, I think you’ll get the real point of the book. There’s a reason Diary of an Oxygen Thief is a best seller, trust me.

This was a very short, but worth it read. There’s not really a typical plot line, as the climax is nonexistent, but the story was enough for me. I’m glad that a book about alcoholism is a best seller right now and I hope it continues doing well. Lets face it, the stigma around addiction won’t be erased for a long time, but educating the public through writing is a good way to begin. Thank you to the anonymous author for putting this work out there.

Review- Milk and Honey

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

 

23513349“if you were born with
the weakness to fall
you were born with
the strength to rise”

 

5/5 stars

 

Self-worth, break-ups and make-ups, sexual assault, and a father’s absence are some of the many deep and emotional topics found in Milk and Honey. Rupi Kaur is very honest throughout the book and it truly shows in the quality of her work. Sometimes graphic, these poems articulate so many of the struggles that women and women of color can experience in only their first 21 years of life. The collection of works is split into four different parts: The Hurting, The Loving, The Breaking, and The Healing, and each is its own masterpiece.

I was afraid that this book was over-hyped because almost every bookworm I know absolutely LOVES Milk and Honey. I took it upon myself to go through the book’s tag (#milkandhoney) on Instagram and I found thousands of photographs of Rupi Kaur’s selected poems. As soon as I read a few of them, I knew I must get my hands on this book as soon as possible. The crazy thing is that it seems like everyone can relate to at least one poem in Milk and Honey. This collection speaks to so many different people who have gone through their own unique experiences. Rupi Kaur figured out how to unite hundreds of thousands of women around the world with her words.

Milk and Honey made me cry. Period. Many of the poems resonate so deeply with me that I know Rupi Kaur and I have felt the same way at certain points in our lives. It’s powerful to realize that another human being has been in the same emotional spot as you, even in times when you felt so utterly alone. The experiences that we have, as women, are not isolated events;  many of us go through similar things and can connect with one another through common feelings and reactions after them. It feels good to know that Rupi Kaur, myself, and so many other women are healing and growing together.

I’ve never liked poetry. It was always my least favorite unit in English class and I avoided poetry books at all costs. Now, I have 3 more poetry books on order at my local bookstore. I want to thank Rupi Kaur for reminding me that books and language can bring us together as readers and listeners. I hope she publishes more collections in the future; I’ll be the first in line to get a copy. Please, poetry fan or not, pick up a copy of this book.

Review- If I Was Your Girl

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

261569875/5 stars

“A dishonest life is a life half-lived, brothers and sisters, and it’s a life with one foot already in the Pit.”

Amanda is starting at a new high school and just trying to keep her head low—her goal is to graduate with good enough grades to get into NYU. Unfortunately, going under the radar is hard when you’re the new girl, especially when random boys seem very interested in you. Amanda quickly finds a group of friends who seem to really love her, but still keeps her past a secret from them. Amanda must make a decision: to tell her friends about her transition from a male to female and try to educate them OR continue hiding and have this secret eat her alive.

I am ecstatic that this book is doing so well; it always makes my heart soar when a book with an LGBTQ protagonist gets the recognition it deserves. What I love about this book is that it educates people about queer youth and mental illness. These are things that need to be talked about. We must start conversations about mental illness in LGBTQ youth, bottom line. Studies show that LGB youth are twice as likely to attempt suicide and 41% of trans or gender non-conforming individuals attempt suicide. Books like If I Was Your Girl begin these crucial conversations, and I’m so thankful that I came across it.

I like LGBTQ books that are realistic. You can tell when a book was marketed for heterosexual, cisgender people because the queer characters are just walking stereotypes. This is not one of those books. Amanda is a very dynamic protagonist and I loved getting to know her. Her somewhat awkward relationship with her dad after her transition and her mom hurting while coming to terms with her daughter’s identity felt very real to me. A big part of coming out is seeing your loved ones understand and accept at different paces and it was refreshing to see that in Amanda’s story.

I really liked the flashback portions of If I Was Your Girl. Yes, those are the uncomfortable parts in which the reader learns about the severity of Amanda’s mental illness and her past hospitalization, BUT those are the parts that are the most important. Young adults need to know that they can speak up about mental health issues and not be ashamed to seek help, and books are a great way to teach this to them. I truly wish every high school student could read this book because it has such an important message.

If I Was Your Girl has officially made it to my list of “must reads” for young adults. I’m going to recommend this book to every library I know because it’s just that crucial to spread awareness about mental health and LGBTQ issues to young people (and older people too!). Please, take the time to read this book.

(Sidenote: I read this book as a prompt for a diversity reading challenge on Instagram. You can check out what others are reading for this challenge in the tag #diversitydecbingo. My username is @hedgehogbooks if you want to keep up with my reading list!)