Review- A Closed and Common Orbit

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

4.5/5 stars

Binding: Hardcover
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: October 20th, 2016
Page count: 365

29475447Lovelace is learning to navigate to her body kit, something that she doesn’t consider part of her ‘self”, since she is really a program running inside of it. She is getting used to her new home with Pepper and Blue and they are getting used to having her, as they’ve had to make many changes to keep her comfortable. Lovelace doesn’t understand why Pepper is so adamant that she can survive in a kit; She feels like it’s not possible due to the way she was programmed specifically for a ship. She has no idea how Pepper grew up and what AI’s were in her life from a young age. Slowly, Lovelace learns to function in her new world and Pepper opens up about her dark upbringing.

I’ve loved Becky Chambers since I got through the first 10 pages of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet last year. The way she creates and describes alien cultures is so real. Honestly, it makes you feel like these species have been around your whole life, not that you’re just learning about them now.

In her last book, I loved the way Becky Chambers played around with gender. Some of the alien creatures she describes change genders throughout different periods of their lives. This also means that their pronouns change many times in the book. A Closed and Common Orbit was no different. Tak, one of Lovelace’s friends, changes from female to male. No one questions it or struggles with the pronoun change. Tak just is Tak and everyone adjusts to the way their identity changes. I think Chambers does an amazing job showing that gender is a social construct and, also, that it is completely different from sex. In addition, everyone is assigned gender-neutral pronouns until they indicate their gender or pronoun preferences. This kind of trans-inclusive language is key for transgender folx to feel safe and respected, and it really makes the reader think about the preconceptions we hold about people before getting to know them in our own society.

Becky Chambers completely has the sci-fi formula down pat. She includes everything you need in a well written, page turning, science fiction novel. Some of these ingredients include a system of unique planets that house different species, space travel, artificial intelligence, alien cultures, and alien relationships. I have yet to come across another author who completes their sci-fi formula so efficiently. I swear, I could give A Closed and Common Orbit to anyone, even those who don’t enjoy classic science fiction novels, and they’d enjoy it. She really knows what she’s doing.

Lastly, I want to point out the way Lovelace is treated– as a character. Yes, she’s a spaceship program loaded into a body kit. Yes, she’s not considered a full human in her world and is technically committing a crime by merely existing. Despite all this, Chambers treats her like a ‘real’ person and gives her the same existence as everyone else in the book. I know AI’s aren’t really part of diverse reading, but it was comparable, in my mind. Giving someone, who society considers a less-than, the same opportunities in a story as the rest of the characters is what queer characters, characters of color, and characters suffering from chronic illnesses want to see in literature. I know it’s not the same, but I felt really good reading A Closed and Common Orbit for this reason (and many others outlined in this review!).

Just as I expected, I absolutely loved this book. It’s definitely different from her first book, considering most of the plot takes place on a planet and not space, but that’s not a bad thing in the slightest. I will continue to support Becky Chambers throughout all of her works, as I recognize the importance of the way she treats gender, in addition to the extraordinary way she describes alien species and their behaviors. If you’re looking for an outstanding science fiction novel, this is it.

Review- I Must Have You

I Must Have You by JoAnna Novak

33253060._UY400_SS400_3/5 stars

Elliot is 13 years old and has suffered from anorexia for a long time. The illness has consumed her so much that she is now a diet coach for other girls at her school. Of course, her dieting techniques are all based on eating disorder thought processes and the girls are getting trained in unhealthy behaviors. Elliot’s best friend, Lisa, who she has very deep feelings for, recently got out of an inpatient hospital program for eating disorders and wants nothing to do with her anymore. On top of that, Elliot’s mom suffers from bulimia, herself. Elliot wants Lisa back, she wants her mom to be happy, and she wants ‘her girls’ to succeed in weight loss.

Eating disorders are not written about very often in literature and, when they are, it’s usually in young adult books. I Must Have You is definitely an adult book, with very adult content, so I was really excited to pick up this book. The way eating disorders were presented was great, so I’m going to start my review with that.

Elliot very clearly has extremely distorted thoughts involving food and body image. She spends her lunch making copies of her dieting magazine, which she hands out as motivation to her ‘clients’. JoAnna Novak’s way of portraying Elliot’s illness is so detailed that she includes a scene where Elliot is looking at photos of emaciated people in the library stacks for inspiration. JoAnna Novak also consistently includes descriptions of the tiny exercises that Elliot performs while doing every day activities, like working her calves as the microwave warms her low calorie meal. Almost everything Elliot says has something to do with food, exercising, dieting tips, or her friend Lisa.

Lisa, on the other hand, is trying so hard to get Elliot’s ‘tips’ out of her brain. She has just gotten out of inpatient hospitalization and is constantly battling with eating disorder behaviors in her brain. Many times, she identifies when she is thinking in an unhealthy thought pattern and switches her brain into recovery mode. Novak did an amazing job researching what happens to adolescents after they are discharged from programs like that. It is common for individuals to be set up with therapists who do exactly that, teach them how to change their unhealthy thoughts into healthy ones.

The way eating disorders were written about in I Must Have You was brilliant, but the writing was lacking. In the first few pages of the book, I had to go back and read passages multiple times because I couldn’t figure out who was who. The book was introducing so many new characters in the same 4 paragraphs and it was really confusing. I actually had to look at some reviews on GoodReads, which explained all the friendships and families, to get all the characters straight. Unfortunately, the writing still continued to jump around all over the place as the book went on. I found myself confused by the erratic sentences more times than I would have liked.

Lastly, I wish the ending wrapped up with a major takeaway. Conclusions are so important in literature, especially when a book is about a stigmatized topic, like mental illness. JoAnna Novak could have blown her readers away with the final pages showing that eating disorders are illnesses that need to be properly treated and recognized as such. Imagine, a book that features 3 main characters with eating disorders, and it wraps up with a message about the severity and validity of their illnesses. I’m not quite sure what my dream ending for this book is, but I know I’m not satisfied with what I read.

I Must Have You was just okay. I usually don’t write full reviews for books that I didn’t really like, but I’m making an exception because the themes of this book are so important. I’m really impressed with the research JoAnna Novak put into the minds and habits of her characters, but I’m disappointed with her writing style and conclusion. I hope to soon see adult books that feature protagonists with mental illnesses, such as eating disorders, make their way to the bestseller list.

April 2017 Wrap-Up

April 2017 Wrap-Up

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Hello everyone! If you didn’t notice, I totally forgot to do a March Wrap-Up. I’ve decided to skip it because I didn’t read that much in March. I’d rather just jump ahead to April because….. I got through 11 books this month! I’m so happy with my reading progress over the past 30 days. I read a lot of books that had been on my to-be-read since the fall. Before I do a breakdown, I want to give a quick update on my blog:

  1. I’m trying to post reviews more frequently now, since I’m reading a lot more than February/March. I’m aiming to publish one every 3 days or so.
  2. I want to focus my reviews on books that involve topics that I think should be normalized in literature. These topics include people of color, mental illnesses, LGBTQ people, chronic illnesses, and strong female protagonists. Of course, I’m going to read books that don’t focus on these themes, so if that’s not your thing, don’t worry.
  3. I currently receive one bimonthly book subscription box, Paper Street Books, and will be posting full unboxing reviews every time I get a box from them. So far, I’ve gotten 4 of their boxes and I haven’t been disappointed yet. I just got a box about a week ago so I’ll be posting a review of that shortly!

Now, on to the breakdown!

 

Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi (science fiction,) 5/5 stars

This book absolutely blew me away. The main character is a queer woman of color with chronic pain. I’ve never read a book about someone who struggles with an invisible physical illness before Ascension, so this book really makes the top of my ‘favorites of 2017’ list. I actually ended up contacting Jacqueline Koyanagi and telling her how much her book touched me. She was extremely nice and I hope she publishes more work soon. If you want to see my full review, click here: x.

  

Strange Medicine by Mike Russell (fantasy/short stories), 4.5/5 stars

I am so honored that I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, because I really enjoyed it. I’ve never been a fan of short stories, but I got into this collection very easily and couldn’t put it down. I just received another one of Mike Russell’s books and I can’t wait to start it in the next few days! If you want to see my full review, click here: x.

  

Burned by Ellen Hopkins (fiction), 3/5 stars 

This is the second Ellen Hopkins book I’ve read, and I was really disappointed with it. After Crank, I had such high expectations for Ellen Hopkins. Her verse style of storytelling is so unique and makes for a fast-paced page turner. Burned was not like this. The story is very interesting– a girl raised in a religious family with an abusive father, who is sent away for the summer– but is told in a very boring way. I definitely will be giving Ellen Hopkins another chance sometime soon.

  

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (young adult fiction), 4.5/5 stars

I read an ARC of this book, so I’m not sure how much it differs from the final publication. That being said, this was a great first YA read for me in April! It is unconventional, as the two main characters are different genders but they do not have any romance between them. Alice Oseman wrote their relationship perfectly and it made for a very feel-good novel. I also like how she included a lot about internet culture. I can tell she really did her research into ‘fandom’ communities and networks. This book reminded me about why I love YA lit!

  

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (fiction), 4.5/5 stars

Reading Crank last month inspired me to pick up this book in April. I was looking into more books that educate people about addiction, especially in young people, and this was at the top of many lists. I’m not going to say much in this blurb because I don’t think I can type anything without it turning into a rant about how addiction is a disease and needs to be treated as one. If you want my full review, please click here: x.

  

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz (young adult fiction), 4/5 stars

Yay! I spent all of last year waiting for Benjamin Alire Saenz to release a new book after Aristotle and Dante. I think he is a master at developing wholesome relationships between friends, but especially between parents and their children. This book doesn’t have much of a plot, but it is still so worth it. If you liked Benjamin Alire Saenz’s writing style from his previous publications, then you’ll absolutely love this book. If you want to see my full review, click here: x.

  

Such Small Hands by Barba Andres (fiction), 2/5 stars

This was the only book I read in April that I truly didn’t like. I found this book on the New Release Index on Book Riot Insiders, which often has books that I wouldn’t hear of otherwise, and it seemed really interesting. It ended up being a creepy novella about girls taking turns dressing up as a doll every night and performing rituals on said doll. Maybe, if the book had been longer, I would have liked it more.

  

Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately by Alicia Cook (poetry), 3.4/5 stars

This is another book that I found thanks to Book Riot Insiders! I picked up this book because I read that it was written for anyone who has struggled with addiction or loved someone who struggles with addiction, which is something I’ve recently been striving to read more about. I thought, maybe, it would include poems from the perspective of the addict, but they were mostly written for people who have a loved one who is an addict. To me, this made it a lot less interesting. I was hoping it would give more education about the disease, but the poems were too vague to teach the readers much. I did find a few that I liked a lot, though.

 

One Year Left by J.C. Robinson (romance), 3/5 stars

I’m so grateful that I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. This was my first romance of the year and it was a great start! The characters were both extremely likable, although predictable, and were a match made in heaven. I do wish there had been more depth to their character development, but, overall, they were very fun to read about. If you want to see my full review, click here: x.

 

Colorblind by Siera Maley (LGBTA, young adult), 5/5 stars

This was the only young adult book I read in April with a lesbian protagonist. Of course, with me being me, I LOVED it. It was so cute that I needed to put the book down a few times to just take it all in. Reading F/F young adult books is so refreshing because it reminds you that there are authors out there who want to normalize lesbian characters (especially teens!) and relationships. If you’re looking for an queer YA book, this is it. I’m excited to write a full review for this soon, so keep an eye out!

  

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (science fiction), 5/5 stars

If you’ve been following my blog since I read The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet (review: x), then you know how much I adore Becky Chambers. I was so pumped for this book, that I ordered the UK edition, because I’d have it sooner than my fellow US readers. Rationally, I NEEDED the hardcover in order to survive, so I did what I had to. I’m mad at myself for putting this book off for so long because it was the perfect sci-fi book to finish the month off. This is a companion novel to Becky Chamber’s previously mentioned book, so you don’t necessarily need to read the first one before A Closed and Common Orbit. There are some references to the Wayfarer crew, so I think at least reading up on the first book is important. Becky Chambers will remain one of my favorite science fiction writers for a very, very long time. I plan on writing a full review for this book soon!

  

And there you have it! I’m looking forward to reaching my reading goal of 40 books this year (I’m already at 36) and I’m excited to be sharing some of my favorites with all of you. I’m working on making big changes to my blog this summer, as I stated at the beginning of this post, so bear with me. Thank you for your continuous support, I really appreciate the people who read my blog.

 

Review- One Year Left

One Year Left by J.C. Robinson

34743713._UY1000_SS1000_Rating: 3/5 stars

Will has one year left to live. His last wish is to move to a new city, Portland, and spend his time working on a food truck with his close friend. Will doesn’t put much research into his new house, neighborhood, or, most importantly, roommate. She introduces herself as Kristen and captures his attention from the moment he meets her. At the time, Kristen is in a failing relationship with a guy who doesn’t listen to her and heavily buys into the gender stereotype of women being the people who cook dinner. Will knows that he cannot pursue Kristen when she’s taken, but the possibility of her becoming single appears, and he might have a shot at making things work after all.

I want to thank the author of One Year Left, J.C. Robinson, for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I’m honored that you chose me to read your work!

I have a lot of mixed thoughts on this book. I want to start by saying that the story kept me glued to the pages. The plot was very smooth and the conversations flowed easily. There wasn’t too much dialogue or too little plot development. J.C. Robinson did an excellent job balancing all the dynamics of the book and making it easy to follow and fun to read. In addition, there was a clear beginning, climax, and resolution track. A lot of romances don’t have an actual plot, so that was refreshing to read.

I am not very fond of the way Will and Kristen were written. They feel very shallow to me, almost like they rely on a lot of tropes from romance movies. Will is the good, semi-awkward guy who never got the girls in high school and Kristen is the girl who always ends up with the wrong guys who treat her badly. This makes them absolutely perfect for each other, but also creates a boring and predictable storyline. I understand that romances are supposed to be predictable, because the main character and their love interest usually end up together, but this was too stereotypical for me.

In addition, I wish the ending wrapped up more plot and showed the reader how it affected the ‘big picture’. I felt pretty empty handed during the last few pages of One Year Left and wanted to see more final character development within Will. He doesn’t evolve much from the person he is in the first chapter of the book. I love getting a sense of clarity about the takeaways of a book when I finish it, and I didn’t get that from this. I am sad because Will and Kristen were written with such great chemistry and I was rooting for them! I wish the last 10 pages had as much thought put into them as the rest of the book.

Overall, I both liked and disliked a lot of things about One Year Left. The way the book read, as a whole, was perfect. I couldn’t put it down and wanted to get to the ending as quickly as possible. On the other hand, Will and Kirsten were not very dimensional; you can see other characters just like them in many popular romantic comedies. Unfortunately, this led to little character development and a sub-par conclusion that left me wanting more. This book is a very quick read, because of its length and fast-paced plot, so I’d recommend it to someone looking for an easy romance. It’s very feel-good, so it’s a great read to put you in a good mood. Again, a big thank you to J.C. Robinson for giving me a copy of his work. I really enjoyed reviewing it!

Review- Strange Medicine

Strange Medicine by Mike Russell

strangemedicine-coverforwebsite4.5/5 stars

“Sometimes the suffering of one individual is so great that it renders unjustifiable any purpose that the universe could possibly have.”

A little boy who talks to a rock, a headless fish who grows from living skin, a bridge that randomly generates, and a man who cradles a large box nearly every minute of every day. These are some of the interesting things that happen within the 8 short stories of Strange Medicine. Some of the stories make you laugh, some make you think, some have good morals, and others just don’t make any sense. If you want to teleport into a few weird, fantastical stories, try Strange Medicine and see where it takes you.

Strange Books was extremely generous and sent me a copy of Strange Medicine in return for an honest book review. I’m very honored that they chose to contact me and I’m grateful that I got the opportunity to read this book because I ended up liking so much!

This is a short book—141 pages. But, these are 141 pages of fun, horror, humor, and thoughtfulness. I had no idea where this book would take me (and I’m still not quite sure where it took me) but I’m so happy with the journey I found myself on. Every story was witty, in its own unique way, and kept me racing through the pages to find the catch at the end of each chapter.

Mike Russell has an extensive imagination. I’ve never read a short story collection with such a wide variety of characters who, truly, were each their own concoction of weirdness. Most stories have one or two unique characters who are a little bit out there, but Strange Medicine was full of them. I applaud Mike Russell for having the dedication to fill all 8 stories with unforgettable characters who will remain in my forethoughts for a long time.

I also want to add that Mike Russell’s writing style is something that is not seen very often in short stories. I sometimes have a hard time with short stories because I can’t keep up with the rapid plot and character developments and get a bit confused halfway through a story. Strange Medicine was not like that for me, at all. The writing style was extremely easy to follow and understand, even with the short length of chapters. If you are convinced that short stories are not for you, I urge you to try this book; it’s very different from anything else I’ve read.

If you can’t tell, Strange Medicine blew me away. I wasn’t even really a short story person, that is, until I read this book. I loved so many things about this collection as a whole and as individual stories, but I don’t want to spoil any of the plot. Again, a huge thank you to Strange Books for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I hope to read more of their stuff in the future because I loved Strange Medicine!

Review: Crank

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

“Life was good
before I
met
the monster.
After,
life
was great
At least
for a little while” 

5/5 stars

51Q0w0XnijL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Kristina is the poster child for model kids; she has good grades, solid friends, and has a great relationship with her mom and step dad. Everything is going smoothly until she visits her biological father, across the country, the summer before she turns 16. There, her life changes. Kristina falls in love, she sees her dad for who he really is, she experiences someone she knows attempt suicide, and she meets the monster. The monster is crank and it quickly takes control of her life. Kristina becomes someone new when she’s high, someone more confident and daring: Bree. Unfortunately, Bree doesn’t go away when Kristina returns to her mother’s home and begins school. How can she balance her perfect life and the monster?

This book grabbed me from the first page. This is the first Ellen Hopkins book I’ve read and it did not let down. A lot of my friends read and loved Impulse in high school, so I already had high hopes. The way that Hopkins uses verse to keep the pages turning and the reader engaged is brilliant. I couldn’t put Crank down!

Kristina’s story is one that readers of all ages can learn from. When Kristina returns home from her dad’s, her addiction has only just begun. She goes for weeks without crank until she finds herself craving it again. After that, Kristina constantly puts herself in risky situations with no care for the consequences, as long as they result in crank. Readers get to see how quickly Kristina’s life falls apart as she starts using crank more frequently and hanging around people (mostly men) who hurt and use her.

Crank not only shows what drug addiction does to an individual, but also how it affects family and friends. Readers really get to see how Kristina’s addiction hurts her parents and siblings. Her mother and stepfather see the warning signs as Kristina spends more time alone and acts extremely agitated by blowing up at seemingly minor problems and they immediately start to worry. There are a few instances when they talk to Kristina separately to check on her and the reader really understands how much they’re hurting. Even when Kristina won’t tell them what is going on, knowing that they’re daughter is hiding something big from them tears them apart.

The thing that really makes Crank something special is that is based off of Hopkins’ daughter and her struggles with addiction. There is a bonus chapter at the end of the book that explains how much of the book is true to her daughter’s story and what is made up. She does a phenomenal wrap up by highlighting the dangers of addiction and how it changed her and her daughter’s lives. Hopkins’ is very open about her daughter’s constant battles; it’s absolutely heartbreaking.

I loved this book. The writing style was A+, the story and takeaways were A+, and the conversation with Hopkins at the end was A+. I hope this book educates teens and adults on how real and life-threatening addiction can be for people, including teens. In my opinion, everyone should read this book at some point in their lives. I want to thank Ellen Hopkins for sharing her story and her pain and using it as a way for people to learn. I can’t imagine anyone giving this book anything less than 5/5 stars.

 

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.