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.

January 2017 Wrap-Up!

January Wrap-Up!

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January was a great reading month for me. I read 13 books! Most of them were poetry books, so they were quick reads, but they definitely still count. For some reason, after reading Milk and Honey last month, I cannot stop reading poetry. If anyone has poetry recommendations, please send them my way. Anyway, here’s the breakdown:

Diary of an Oxygen Thief by Anonymous (fiction). I did a full review on this book! I thought it was a great, fast read that brought a lot of the struggles of addicts/alcoholics to light. I am really happy to see a book that breaks down the stigma around addiction on the best seller list! Here is my full review: x. 4/5 stars

The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace (poetry). This was a book full of strong, feminist poems. I commend Amanda for writing about her struggles with eating disorders. Personal demons, such as that, are difficult to write about but make for very moving poetry. 4/5 stars

Sapiens by Yuval Harari (science nonfiction). I’m a biological anthropology major and this book was right up my alley. Harari writes about how Homo Sapiens outlived the other Homo species and the cultural revolution that occurred within our own species. I’d recommend this book to anyone looking to learn more about the cultural parts of human evolution. 4/5 stars

Eighteen Years by Madisen Kuhn (poetry). I wasn’t a big fan of this collection of poetry. I am guessing that I didn’t enjoy this book much because a lot of the poems were about bad breakups, which is not very relatable to me. I’m sure that if the topics of writing had resonated with me more, I would have given it a better rating. 3/5 stars.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (YA fiction). This book has the highest of praise in the young adult community, so I was very excited to get my hands on it. I was not disappointed. I could not put this book down! It had the perfect amount of romance to make it cute and all-around happy. I’m looking forward to reading Nicola’s other book, Everything Everything! 5/5 stars

Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan (science fiction graphic novel). I can’t believe I only read one graphic novel this month! I am such a graphic novel enthusiast, but I guess this month was full of poetry books. Still, I am SO glad I picked up a copy of this because it was amazing. I just purchased Volume 2, and I’m so ready to start it. This book is for all science fiction lovers. 5/5 stars

The Chaos of Longing by K. Y., Robinson (poetry). This collection had a few poems that absolutely hit home for me, like the author was writing from inside my head. The book is split into 4 parts, but I only related to about 2 sections. Still, the half that did resonate with me were breathtaking. 4/5 stars

Bitter Sweet Love by Michael Faudet (poetry). Generally, I’m not a big fan of poetry written by men. I have no idea why, but I enjoy poems a lot more when they’re written by women. Perhaps it’s because I relate more to the struggles of women in today’s society. Still, this was a great collection. The thing is, I don’t remember it very much because I liked Michael’s other book (that will be later on this list) way more. Still, I gave it 4 stars so…I must have thought it was well worth the read! 4/5 stars

I Wrote This For For You by pleasefindthis aka Iain S. Thomas (poetry). This collection of poetry was very unique because it included photographs, taken by Jon Ellis, specifically for this book. Looking at the pictures and piecing together how they related to the words was very fun and interesting. 4/5 stars

Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler (science fiction). I LOVE Octavia Butler. She writes the coolest, creepiest science fiction out there. Plus, she was one of the first female, African American sci-fi authors. This book was a little horrific, due to the topics it touched upon, but not gory or gross in any sense. If you haven’t read any of Octavia’s books and you’re a sci-fi fan, please pick this one or Dawn up! Here is my full review: x. 5/5 stars

Dirty Pretty Things by Michael Faudet (poetry). This was a fantastic collection of poetry that has stuck with me since I finished it 2 weeks ago. I’m going to warn you that a lot of the poems are erotic, in case that makes or breaks a book for you. This was one of the two poetry books that I absolutely loved this month. 5/5 stars

Nexus by Ramez Naam (science fiction). January was a good sci-fi month for me. This was an excellent book about the dangers of developing powerful drugs that could be used for the wrong purposes. It was very fast-paced and almost like a thriller with all of its ups and downs. My only complaint is that it was a bit too long, I felt like the ending was very dragged out and I got bored in the last 40 pages or so. 4/5 stars

Pansy by Andrea Gibson (LGBT poetry). This was an amazing collection of poetry written by a queer author about queer topics. I don’t think there was a single poem that I didn’t like. This book inspired me to find more LGBT poetry books that I’ll be reading in February, so be on the look out! This was the second out of the two 5 star poetry books that I read in January. 5/5 stars

So, that’s it! Thirteen books in January 2017! What a great way to start the new year. February has started kind of slow for me, but I’m hoping to speed up my reading pace. I’m trying to decide which books from this list are deserving of full reviews. If there’s a certain title you’d like to know more about, please shoot me an email! Cheers to a book-filled 2017!

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.

Favorite Books of 2016!

I thought I would compile a list of my favorite reads of 2016. I feel like I read so many books that I absolutely loved, so it was really hard to narrow it down. I tried a lot of new genres this year and I’m proud that this list contains a variety of titles. I posted full reviews of a lot of these and linked them accordingly. Who knows, maybe you’ll see some books that you read this year too. Here we go!

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles– This was the best historical fiction book I read in 2016. I really needed a good novel to wrap me up in its pages, and this was exactly what I was looking for. I think I found a piece of me in A Gentleman in Moscow and I’m so grateful. When someone comes into the bookstore asking for a recommendation, I always hand them this. (click here to see my full review)

Mischling by Affinity Konar– This was a close second for my favorite historical fiction book of the year. I’m truly not usually a fan of historical fiction, but this book sucked me in. Sometimes, you need a book to break your heart a little, and Mischling did that for me. Affinity Konar doesn’t have a lot of books out at the time, so I’m really hoping she releases something in 2017. I love her writing style so much. (click here to see my full review)

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell– 2016 was the year that I got back into young adult fiction. A few years ago, I struggled to find YA lit that attracted me, but this past year I found a lot of authors that I ended up loving. I consider Eleanor and Park a classic contemporary that all young adults (and others) should read. It’s very cute with extremely likable characters and relatable personalities. I’m hoping to read Carry On by Rainbow Rowell this month!

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers– This was possibly the best science fiction novel I’ve ever read. Becky Chambers created a universe with multiple different species and alien cultures that I’m dying to learn more about. I want to meet all of these creatures and study their habits, religions, and relationships. It makes me sad when I realize I’ll never get the chance to know them. There is a companion novel to this book, A Closed and Common Orbit, coming out in March and I’m SO EXCITED. (click here to see my full review)

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo– This was my favorite young adult read of the year. It is the first big YA novel featuring a transgender protagonist that I’ve come across. Not only is it a BIG DEAL in LGBTQ literature, it is written phenomenally well. It makes me so happy to see this book in the front facing section in large chain bookstores. I hope this novel continues doing well in 2017! (click here to see my full review)

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur– 2016 also was the year that I got into poetry. That’s right, me, the person who hated the poetry unit in school, found out that she actually loves the genre. Milk and Honey is basically the first poetry book that I’ve ever read “for fun” and now I’ve already finished 3 other poetry books in 2017. This collection of poems honestly changed my life and I think every woman, especially women of color, should read it. (click here to see my full review)

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick (graphic novel adaptation)- Who knew that such an amazing sci-fi classic could also be an extraordinary graphic novel? As much as I loved the original book, I think this illustrated version was even better. Philip K. Dick has the most unique brain that comes up with the strangest storylines and characters that exist in science fiction. I hope I can read more of his works in 2017, as I’m sure they’re all just as great.

2016 was a phenomenal reading year for me and I can’t wait to see what 2017 holds! I’ve already read 4 books in January, so be prepared for a lot of reviews! If anyone has any recommendations, please email them to be at hedgehogbookreviews@gmail.com :). I hope that you’ll all stick around with me this year and I look forward to sharing more of my thoughts with you.

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!)