Review- The Star Side of Bird Hill

The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson

Release date: June 30th, 2015

Rating: 5/5 starsScreen Shot 2015-05-10 at 9.52.37 AM

-I was given an Advance Review Copy of this book by the Penguin Press-

Dionne and Phaedra are two adolescent sisters living with their mom, Avril, in Brooklyn. After deciding that the girls need to get more in touch with their extended family, Avril sends the girls to Barbados for the summer. Dionne and Phaedra spend those hot months living with their grandmother and attending Catholic Summer School–which is very different from the way they were living in New York. Phone calls and letters from Avril become scarce, and the girls become closer to their grandmother and community in Barbados. Both Dionne and Phaedra use this summer to grow and learn more about the family their mother left behind.

This is such a beautiful coming of age novel for two girls. Dionne and Phaedra are, by far, different characters but they both come to a point of realization and mental/emotional growth by the end of the novel. They share the narration of the story equally and the reader comfortably gets to know both characters and understand how their brains work.

I loved this book, I loved the writing, and I loved the characters. Jackson did such a phenomenal job with character development, even for the somewhat minor ones. I feel like I really got to know the grandmother, the neighbors, and the classmates that interacted with the girls every day. Since I am closer to Dionne’s age, I connected with her the most. Jackson definitely made her struggles genuine. They are struggles that I’ve dealt with myself. Seeing Dionne grow into a confident young woman made me feel proud for her and I definitely saw aspects of my own life and decisions in her’s. There was definitely a big smile on my face when I was reading the ending of the novel.

I’m going to categorize this book in both the young adult and adult section of my blog. I truly think that all women and girls should read this book at some point so PLEASE put this on your “to buy/read” list for next month! I’m grateful that I got to read it in advance!

April Wrap-Up!

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Another great reading month for me! I know I don’t have reviews up for all of these yet–I’m planning on spreading them out so my blog doesn’t spam your dashboards/email accounts. This month was 7 physical books and 3 e-books! Here’s the breakdown:

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (graphic novel) – 5/5 stars

1984 by George Orwell (adult dystopian) – 5/5 stars

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link (fiction) – 2/5 stars

Voice of Innocence by Lindsey Detwiler (YA contemporary)- 5/5 stars

Adulthood Rites by Octavia E. Butler (sci-fi) – 4/5 stars

In the Blood of the Greeks by Mary D. Books (YA LGBTQ) – 5/5 stars

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams (sci-fi) – 4/5 stars

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (fiction) – 4.5/5 stars

Hand to Mouth by Linda Tirado (nonfiction) – 5/5 stars

Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat (LGBTQ/Erotica) – 4/5 stars

Review- Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

51VhFX0pD6L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Rating: 4.5/5 stars

I picked this book up from the Barnes and Noble “must reads” sections. It was stacked next to 1984A Clockwork Orange, and Beloved. Therefore, I expected a high-quality story from Ishiguro; and that is what I got.

Before I read books, I usually go through the top reviews on Goodreads so I know what I’m getting myself into. For Never Let Me go, all of the reviews say that it’s better to start this book without knowing any plot background or spoilers. This was a little irritating, especially because the story begins without explaining anything to the reader. Now, I’m very glad I had no idea what this book was about because it probably would have ruined it for me.

Therefore, I am not going to give this novel a full review. I gave it 4.5/5 stars and really enjoyed it. The book is quite short and makes for an easy read that can even be finished in about 2 sittings. I understand why this book was put in a section with “classics” and am happy to have it on my shelf at home.

Review- Voice of Innocence

Voice of Innocence by Lindsay Detwiler

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Rating: 5/5 stars

“Life, as I’ve learned, fails to be a concrete, concise package that can easily be wrapped up and contained. Life is full of messy, unpredictable circumstances that test not only our characters, but the people around us as well.”

I was given an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Corbin and Emma meet on the first day of their sophomore year art class. Emma stumbles with her words and is embarrassingly uncreative, while Corbin dreams of attending an art school after graduation. The two are seemingly opposites, but soon find themselves completing each other. Corbin brings out the fun in Emma–he takes her out sledding on snow days and adventures in the woods. Emma helps Corbin heal and overcome the hardships in his life. They are a perfect couple, but their world gets torn apart with Corbin is convicted of murder. Corbin is innocent, but is sentenced to a life behind bars. 28 years later, evidence of the real killer arises and Corbin is set free. Where does that leave him and Emma?

This book tore me apart. I was so excited for Emma and Corbin’s journey through their first love. I enjoyed the innocent passion they felt for each other. Every step in their relationship made me smile. Somehow, at the same time, this book ripped my heart out and crushed it.

It’s so hard to think of a life that could have been, but was unjustly stopped short. No one can say who had it worse– Corbin behind bars or Emma having to give up on the life planned out ahead of her. I was sad for both of them and was in a bad mood for half of my time spent reading this book. I wondered why I was feeling so upset a few days ago, and realized it was because Corbin and Emma were in a fight. Lindsay Detwiler certainly has a way of capturing the reader and pulling them into her world.

This was a quick read, but a great one. It’s full of angst and I loved it!

Review- Persepolis

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

persepolisRating: 5/5 stars

This illustrated autobiography follows the childhood of Marjane Satrapi, a girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. At age 10, she’s already decided that she wants to become the next prophet when she grows up. She has nightly chats with God and diligently researches political theory. Marjane lives in a time when her relatives are put in jail for protesting and friends abruptly move to the USA. Marjane sees political heroes all around her and strives to become one too.

This memoir/graphic novel is fantastic. It’s the first book I’ve read in a while that invoked emotion inside of me. I wanted to cry when it was over. There are many ways to tell the story of the Islamic Revolution, but through the eyes of a child is very unique. Marjane is definitely a bias narrator, but it’s interesting to see what the chaos was like for a 10-14 year old girl during that time.

Marjane finds comfort in religion and political theory, which makes up a good portion of the memoir. The ideas of Marx, Ghandi, and other political leaders are discussed (and some in depth). I found this really educational; It’s amazing that Marjane developed an interest in these studies at such a young age.

Overall, this was a very quick but phenomenal read. I think I have to go back and re-read it, as I didn’t take the time to appreciate the illustrations. I look forward to reading the sequel which, I believe, takes place in Marjane’s adulthood.

Review- The Glittering World

The Glittering World by Robert Levy

22609606Rating: 3.5/5 stars

A group of 4 friends- Blue (Michael), Gabe, Elisa, and Jason- venture out to Canada to visit the home of Blue’s deceased grandma in hopes of selling it. They arrive at “The Cove”, a place with magical vibes that almost make you feel high 24/7. While checking on his grandmother’s house, Blue finds newspaper clippings about a boy named Michael who disappeared with a friend into the cove when he was 6, and emerged from the woods 2 weeks later with no recollection of what had happened. As the four try to sort out Blue’s past, Blue and Elisa go missing without a trace. History seems to be repeating itself and it looks like no one will be leaving the cove anytime soon.

This book was alright. I understand what Robert Levy was trying to do but the execution was a little off. A found myself confused a couple times and had to go back and re-read a few pages. Even after that, I still have major plot questions. This certainly was a very interesting book; Good paranormal adult novels are hard to come by. I think that Levy aimed to have this novel resemble a Neil Gaiman fantasy, but it fell a little short.

That being said, I did like the layout of the book. It’s divided into four sections- each of the four protagonists gets a turn to narrate what’s going on from their points of view. This gave it an interesting twist and was a lot more fun to read than a 3rd person omniscient book.

The Glittering World was a quick, but interesting read. I think it is a great debut novel with a good writing style and I will definitely read another Robert Levy book in the future.

March Wrap-Up!

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March was a slow reading month for me. I got sick a few times and couldn’t get myself to sit up, much less read a book. Still, I got through 7 books– 2 e-books and 5 physical books. I wasn’t expecting to finish The Glittering World until April, but I got it done last night. Here’s the breakdown:

Landline by Rainbow Rowell (Adult Fiction)- 3/5 stars

The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker (Nonfiction)- 4/5 stars

The Glittering World by Robert Levy (Fantasy)- 3.5/5 stars

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (Fantasy) – 4/5 stars

The Girl in 6E by Alessandra Torre (Erotica Thriller)- 5/5 stars

Tiger Tail Soupby Nicki Chen (YA Historical Fiction)- 3.5/5 stars

Awoken by Sarah Noffke (YA Fantasy)- 5/5 stars

Review- Trigger Warning

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

225228084/5 stars

This is a collection of Gaiman’s recent short stories, which he calls “short fictions and disturbances”. This epithet matches well with the content of some of these stories. Trigger Warning contains over 20 short pieces of writing, ranging from poems to short fairy tales.

There are simply too many pieces to write a synopsis of each one. In addition, the stories are not related in any way (character wise or even genre wise). Each of these stories is it’s own world, a unique way of putting together a collection of fictions. Before this, I had never read a book of short stories that didn’t have anything in common. That being said, most of the stories were a bit disturbing. I would even categorize a few of them as “horror”; but most of them fall into the category of “fantasy” or “science fiction”.  For Doctor Who fans– Gaiman even includes a short story about the Doctor with a bow tie and Amy Pond.

Neil Gaiman certainly has a way of imagining other worlds and dimensions filled with made-up creatures and complex characters. Admittedly, I did get bored with a few of his stories, but most of them kept my attention and were easy to follow. I’m very proud to be the owner of a signed first edition of this book. I went to my local bookstore on it’s release date last month and was one of the first to get a copy!

Review- Redefining Realness

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock

51-XJGTaccL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Rating: 5/5 stars

“We all fulfill our quota of misfortune at some point on our life. This is what I believed when I was a ten year old. It was a belief system of my own creation, part of a silent theory based on fairness and balance.”

This book truly opened up my eyes. I pride myself on knowing a lot about LGBT culture and understanding the oppression put on those who identify as such. But, wow, did I learn a lot through this book. Through her words and heartbreaking childhood events, Janet Mock shows the reader what it’s really like growing up as a TWoC.

The first several chapters of this book are extremely hard to get through. I felt sick to my stomach after reading about Mock’s childhood. I appreciate that she was honest in her writing and that it must have been extremely, extremely difficult to share intimate details with the world. That’s not to say that the rest of the book was cheerful, it just took me a few chapters to get used to the rawness.

I think that, often, trans and LGBT folks in general are misrepresented in the media. Yes, there are a few gay and lesbian characters on TV now, but they are primarily white and upper middle class. This is not the reality of life for most LGBT people. It’s almost as if the non-white, disabled, and poor LGBT people simply do not exist to the media. I’m so happy that Janet Mock wrote this book because it gives us a glimpse at some of these windows that are otherwise closed to viewers.

Nonfiction is not a genre I usually pick. I am so glad that I prioritized Janet Mock’s book because it has certainly had a great impact on me.

Sunday Book Recommendation 2/22

Inferno by Dan Brown

Inferno-coverIt’s inevitable that one of my recommendations is going to be a Dan Brown book. Like all of his Robert Langdon books, this one is a bit formulaic (if you’ve read any of Brown’s books you’ll know what I mean). Still, this was a fantastic story with a great connection to Dante’s Inferno if you’re interested in the classics like I am.

I read this book about 2 years ago and I honestly can’t remember exactly the plot line, except that it involves Robert Langdon (yet again!) confused and caught in the middle of a deadly plan. It is incredibly fast-paced and definitely grabs the reader’s attention from the very beginning.

Out of the few Brown books that I’ve read, this one is my favorite. I’m minoring in the classics at my university and, consequentially, have great respect for Dante’s work. Dan Brown does a great job working text and illusions from Dante’s original Inferno into his book. If you’re craving a thriller that’ll have you reading until 3am, this is it.