If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
“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!)
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Rosemary must escape her human life on Mars, for reasons she keeps to herself, and discovers that working on a traveling spaceship is the perfect opportunity to get away. She finds herself aboard The Wayfarer, a multi-species ship with a human captain. The Wayfarer’s crew is trained in tunneling wormholes through the fabric of space and welcomes Rosemary with open arms. They embark on a journey to a small planet in need of a wormhole and, thus, the adventures begin.
I didn’t realize I needed this book until I was 25 pages into it. I’m so glad The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet found its way to me.
To begin with, this is the best science fiction book I’ve read all year (and I read A LOT of science fiction). If you’re a fan of Star Wars or Star Trek, I’m positive that you’ll fall in love with this book just as I did. Becky Chambers truly does the genre justice; she lays out a universe in which humans travel through space alongside other species from neighboring planets. What more could you want?
To answer my own question, what I want to see in science fiction books is not only different species getting along, but different species setting up a dialogue for ideas that reflect on humanity today. Becky Chambers did just that. Rosemary and The Wayfarer‘s crew don’t just interact, as that’s the bare minimum for science fiction, they have deep conversations that create an environment for readers to reflect on themselves and their own society. To me, this is true science fiction.
I read an interview with Becky Chambers that included a discussion about her identity and how it affects the way she writes. She talked about being gay and wanting to write a world in which she, as a queer person, would be welcome. This is possibly my favorite thing that an author has ever said. The way Becky Chambers included queer individuals and relationships in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was not just to check the minority box off of her list, like many writers do, it was to include them in fiction because they are normal in real life. If you can’t tell, this book means a lot to me.
I am so blown away with this book and I want to share it with the world. I want to thank Becky Chambers for such an amazing science fiction read that reminded me why I love this genre so much. Please, read this book and put its sequel on your wishlist for next year.
Mischling by Affinity Konar
“We don’t always know ourselves, who we can become, what we may do, after evil has done what it likes with us.”
Pearl and Stasha are twins, connected by their minds and able to feel each other’s emotions. They are very similar, but Stasha constantly wishes that she was Pearl. She tries her best to be exactly like her sister in hopes that, one day, maybe she will just become Pearl herself. They both realize that one twin wouldn’t be herself without the other. Pearl and Stasha are taken away to Auschwitz and separated from their mother and grandfather. They are placed in special bunks filled with other pairs of twins and ‘anomalies’. The girls become part of an evil doctor’s experiment, one that tests their ability to stay connected even when they’re far apart. How much can one twin be altered in order for her to stay identical to her sister?
As soon as this book hit the NYT Best Sellers List, I knew I had to get myself a copy as soon as possible. I hadn’t read a book about the holocaust since I studied WW2 in high school a few years ago, so this felt like a very new subject. Affinity Konar absolutely blew me away. Pearl and Stasha were so naïve; it was painful to recognize the horrible situation they were in but not be able to tell them. “Do not trust this doctor that is trying to win you over! He is trying to hurt you!” I wish I could have screamed this to them through the pages of this book. I wish I could have done something instead of helplessly reading about a group of medical professionals lie, manipulate, and experiment on them. Reading Mischling broke my heart.
I will never forget how much love I read in the 338 pages of Mischling, despite all of the sadness and horror surrounding the twins. Pearl and Stasha survive off of their tremendous love for each other, their parents, and grandfather. It keeps them going. Pearl and Stasha tell each other that, as long as they can envision their mother’s paintings, she is still alive and rooting for them. It is beautiful to realize that children can find strength, even through the darkest times, in love.
I did a little bit of reading on Josef Mengele, the twins’ doctor, after I finished Mischling. I don’t even know how to voice my thoughts on such horrible actions this man performed on real, living people. I commend Affinity Konar for this phenomenal book on such a dark subject.
Mischling was amazing. I want to gift this book to a few people for the holidays because it’s just that good. Pearl and Stasha’s story may not be for the light of heart, but I do think everyone should read it at one point in their lives.
I know this is a little late, but I wanted to document my “TBR” for this month! It’s a little ambitious, considering I’m only ¾ way through my first novel of the month (The Nix). My concussion is still slowing me down reading-wise. I’m healing quickly so I hope to get back on track soon! This list contains 5 books that I would like to read in this moment. My priorities will probably change as the month goes on, so we’ll see how many of these I actually get through! Here’s the breakdown:
– The Nix by Nathan Hill. This book came out at the end of August and has been at the top of my reading list since I saw it under the Best Seller section at my local bookstore. Every time I walk into the store I see it staring back at me, week after week, so I knew I had to pick it up eventually. I’m currently ¾ done with it and it’s been great. I don’t think I could do justice to the plot with a short summary, so I encourage you to click the Goodreads link to learn more about it!
– Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. My dad and I like to read a book at the same time and this is next on our list. (He’s currently wrapping up A Gentleman in Moscow). I’m an anthropology major with a focus in paleoanthropology/archaeology; This means that I love to learn about pre-Homo Sapiens hominids. I’ve read a lot of anthropology textbooks in the past few years and I’m excited to see paleo information in a book setting. There are a lot of different ways to make the evolution of Homo a very interesting tale, so I have high hopes for this!
– The Golden Sword by Janet Morris. Last month, Perseid Press so generously gifted me a copy of High Couch of Silistra by Janet Morris. Janet Morris, herself, read my review and the publisher said she really enjoyed it. I am so honored that she devoted some of her time to my blog and am so excited to read the second book in her quartet! I love science fiction, especially when it has feminist themes and strong female protagonists. I know I’m going to love this next book.
– A Door Into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski. This book came out in 2000 and has been called “A ground-breaking work both of feminist SF and world-building hard SF”. Again, feminist science fiction…I can’t stop myself from binge buying books of this genre. This isn’t a very popular book among my book friends, but I hope that I’ll be able to recommend it to them after this month!
– Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger. I LOVE this book. The only problem is that I remember that I love this book, but I’m not sure why. In my mind, it’s one of my favorite books but I can’t quite remember what it’s about. I’m making it my mission to rediscover my feelings for Salinger’s less-known works. Catcher in the Rye is actually my all-time, #1 favorite book, so I have a very special place for Salinger in my heart.
I’m keeping my TBR pretty short for this month because I always end up reading books not on my monthly list. I somehow just ordered 4 more books online (I have no idea how this happened…) so we’ll see where November takes me! Please feel free to let me know what you’re reading as well!
The first 2 weeks of October were great for me– I finished 3 novels and was going strong. I was on my way to my goal of 8 books until I tripped and got a concussion in mid-October. I’m so clumsy, haha. The doctors told me to keep reading to a minimum so I was on a hiatus for about a week and a half. I slowly started reading again, but never quite made it to my goal. Still, I read 6 physical books and 1 eBook (not pictured). I’m pretty content with that! Here’s the breakdown:
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (fiction)- 5/5 stars
High Couch of Silistra by Janet Morris (science fiction)- 4/5 stars
Mischling by Affinity Konar (fiction)- 5/5 stars
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison (science fiction)- 4/5 stars
Suck Less: Where There’s a Willam, There’s a Way by Willam Belli (autobiography) -5/5 stars
Graveyard Quest by K.C. Green (graphic novel/fantasy)- 5/5 stars
Sex Criminals: Volume 1 by Matt Fraction (graphic novel/fantasy)- 5/5 stars
Wow, I just realized that I didn’t rate any books under 4 stars this month! I usually have one 2 or 3 star book, so I’m really happy with my decisions in October. In case you didn’t know, you can keep up with my reading progress on Goodreads. I don’t post blog reviews for every book that I read, in fear of spamming email addresses, so add me there if you want to follow along. Also, if you want to see artsy photos of my books and bookshelves, my instagram is @hedgehogbooks. I’m currently doing a November Book Challenge, so I post bookish photos daily. Check it out!
Thanks to my subscribers for tuning in this October, I’m excited to see what November holds for me!
Graveyard Quest by KC Green
I received my copy of Graveyard Quest through the Paper Street Books monthly subscription box! I highly recommend it, as my October/November box had so many awesome spooky gifts.
The protagonist of this graphic novel is a gravedigger—he’s the owner of a family business that his late father passed down to him. Unfortunately, the gravedigger’s father will not leave him alone, even in spirit form, and subjects him to frequent visits and negative speeches. The gravedigger’s only solace is his mother’s bones. He talks to her skeleton every day and finds comfort in telling her all about his thoughts and mishaps. One day, the bones are gone and the gravedigger knows he must journey into Hell to get them back from his father, a man who seemingly gets all of his pleasure from making his life miserable. The gravedigger meets a lot of interesting creatures in the underworld, some who want to stop him and some who depend on him. Those bones are the only things that the gravedigger truly cherishes in his gloomy life, so he knows he must retrieve them.
WOW, I loved this graphic novel. It was easy to get through, but full of hidden treasures. The gravedigger meets many different types of people, animals, demons (?) and many of them were really cute.The illustrations were so fun and made the story even more enjoyable. I especially loved the mole, who helps the gravedigger along the way with his extraordinary sense of smell. Now that I think about it, I actually would like a retelling of the story in the mole’s POV…
My favorite part of the graphic novel is a section that shows the gravedigger on a boat with a hooded tour guide. I have a condition where anytime someone is going across a body of water with another person giving directions, I HAVE to point out the Dante reference. This time, finally, I wasn’t being unrealistic. The Dante reference is clear, as the gravedigger is literally being lead across a river to Hell. If you can’t tell, I really, really like Dante’s Inferno.
The entire storyline of this graphic novel was amazing. The beginning was just enough information to create a mysterious journey and KC Green reveals a little bit more about the gravedigger with each page. I thought the plot was wholesome and the ending made me very happy. I’m a huge fan of the gravedigger and the mole (he’s so cute, I can’t get over it)! I wish there were more volumes of their adventures.
This was a perfect Halloween read. I’m so glad that this book found its way into my hands and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a cute but spooky themed adventure!