Review- The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

23447923The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz

4/5 stars

Sal has a very comfortable life with his adoptive gay father and their dog; just the three of them, no drama and no changes. During Sal’s senior year of high school, he begins to experiences changes within his body that he cannot quite name. He starts acting out by throwing punches at guys who call him and his father slurs. He also finds himself wondering about his biological father and which genes could have been passed down from that mystery man. Sal has always been the one with his emotions under control, especially compared to his best friend, Sam, who seems to be all over the place feeling-wise. Suddenly, Sal is not quite sure what’s going on with himself and he questions his place in life and family.

This book is so cute. I’m going to reiterate something that I read in a few Goodread’s reviews and mention that it doesn’t really have a plot. Although there’s not a climax or much of a resolution, it’s still a great story with lovable characters and beautiful family dynamics.

Family and relationship dynamics seem to be Bejamin Alire Saenz’s specialty. His best selling book, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, is full of families and budding relationships that make your heart happy. He’s a pro at showing readers the different ways a curious son and a father, two different gender best friends, and a distant mother and daughter can love each other. The Inexplicable Logic of my Life really emphasizes that love can be shown in different, unconventional ways that the recipient may not be able to see. Everybody needs someone to point out the ways they’re being loved at some point in their life. I’m glad that Sal was able to narrate that to me in his own, 17-year-old voice. It was really refreshing to hear it from someone learning to recognize the ways his friends and family showed their feelings, even if they were hidden.

I really like the way Saenz incorporated gay characters into this book. Sal and Sammy, the two most prominent characters, are both heterosexual and actively talk about liking the opposite sex. Sal’s father is gay, but that is not his primary identifier. Sal thinks of him as his dad, not a gay man. This is an important way to write about LGBT secondary characters because it normalizes queerness. It is a great way for LGBT readers to see themselves in literature and a great way for them to be REPRESENTED. Queer people want to see themselves in books, even when a gay relationship is not the center of the storyline. This is mostly because LGBT people exist everywhere, everyday, so of course it would be normal to have them in every book. Everyone, take notes from Saenz: Just because a book does not center around a queer relationship doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have queer characters.

I also want to comment on Sal, as a character. He was extremely likable and multidimensional, which is often not well executed. I’ve read a lot of books where the characters were filled with crowd-pleaser personality traits but had zero depth. This was not one of those books. Sal had many, many things that I admired about him but he also had a lot of thought go into his emotional complexion. In the first few pages, I thought Sal would fit into the typical “good boy” trope, but soon learned that he has a lot more to him and his thought patterns. Getting to know him was an honor.

The only negative critique I have about The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is the lack of plot. I do wish there had been a climax and true resolution at the end. I had to motivate myself to pick up the book a few times and an ongoing plot line would have helped me push through it. Other than that, this book was the perfect feel-good read. I’m glad that I got to meet Sal and I hope to read more of Saenz’s work in the near future.

Review- Go Ask Alice

Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks (Anonymous)

5/5 stars

41hYMaMVw+LThe Anonymous “Alice” is a 15 year old girl who gets caught up in the world of drugs after unknowingly trying a drink laced with LSD at a party. After that one drink, she can’t stop thinking about that initial high and seeks out other drugs. This quickly spirals into tranquilizers, sleeping pills, weed, and heroin. Alice runs away multiple times, sometimes living with friends and other times living on the street. She never really finds the proper treatment, despite her parents trying their best. Ultimately, even though Alice seems to be doing well at the end of the diary, drugs take her life in an overdose.

I’m surprised at all of the negative reviews of Go Ask Alice on Goodreads. I know this book is a bit cheesy and unbelievable, since almost every cliche in the drug world happens to Alice, but it really is an important read. This book is so educational for parents and teens. Although a bit unrealistic, it shows the dangers of experimenting with even just one drug and how that easily can lead to more substances.

Go Ask Alice is a wake-up call to loved ones of children, teens and adults alike. Understanding the signs of drug abuse, social withdrawal, acting out, changing of friends, and lying, is SO critical. The red flags before addiction takes someone’s life is important for loved ones to insure someone’s safety. In addition, making sure someone has the proper treatment after dealing with substance abuse is just as crucial. As a society, we need to stop teaching people that addiction is the addict’s fault and that they choose that road for themselves. Recovery programs tell patients that addiction is a disease and treatable with proper medication and therapy. I would argue that education for family members and loved ones of addicts is just as important as the actual treatment for the individual. Please, stop spreading self-blaming messages that tell addicts that their addiction is their fault.

Character and plot wise, Go Ask Alice is nothing special. It is told in diary format that’s very easy to read, at the level of a middle schooler. This makes it suitable for a variety of ages. The plot progresses very quickly, as the diary sometimes jumps ahead weeks at at time between entries. Alice is not very good at writing consistently, so there are many plot holes. Besides Alice, most of the characters are pretty undeveloped. I suppose that is the nature of a diary.

Naturally, the big question is if the book is fiction or not. To me, that doesn’t matter so much. In my opinion, the book was “written” to educate people on the reality of addiction and the importance of proper treatment. Alice may not have really existed, but she very well could have. Addiction discriminates against no one, so who is to say that “Alice” could not really exist somewhere?

I gave this book 5 stars not for the writing but for the take-aways. This is a crucial book for our society to read. I wish this had been a community read at my high school when I attended because it would have spread awareness about addiction around my community and started conversations about treatment and care. Please, please, read this book.

Review: Ascension

Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi

177512745/5 stars 

“Pain is just the world wanting us to pay attention to it because we’re so damned beautiful it can’t stand being ignored.”

Alana Quick is stuck; she repairs spaceship engines for a living and doesn’t make enough to pay for the advanced medication she needs for her chronic pain. Her and her aunt Lai both suffer from a disease, Mel’s, that puts their bodies under enormous stress and pain when they don’t take medication. Alana dreams of being able to afford treatments for her and Lai someday, and the only thing she needs is a steady job. The opportunity finally arises when Alana gets a visit from a spaceship captain in search of her sister. Alana makes the gut decision to stow away on the ship in hopes that, once they are far enough away, the crew will be forced to keep her on board for the remainder of their current mission. This is Alana’s only chance at making a better life for her and her aunt, maybe the crew of this ship can understand that and take her onboard as an engineer.

WOW. This book has a mix of everything I’ve ever wanted. It has a space ship, a crew of multi-alien-cultures, a main character of color with a disability, and many queer characters whose plot lines don’t revolve around being queer. If this sounds like something you’d love, like it does for me, read on!

Sidenote: This book is VERY comparable to A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. I loved both books and would recommend them to basically anyone who likes science fiction.

Ascension is full of diversity. One of my favorite parts about science fiction is getting to read about new, unique alien cultures and species, and Jacqueline Koyanagi really incorporated that into this book. Really, all of the characters ware anthropomorphic (mostly,,,), but all of them are from different cultures and go through life with unique things in mind. The author really does an amazing job portraying that they all have their own sets of values and beliefs about how the world works. Often, it’s hard to give each character their own personhood, especially when there are many individuals in a regular length novel, but Jacqueline does it very well.

This is the first adult book I’ve read that really puts chronic illness and pain in the spotlight. It’s a very easy thing to get wrong, by trivializing it or romanticizing it, but when it’s done right, it is done RIGHT. Alana is an independent woman with a strong work ethic and heart full of determination. In addition, she also suffers from a chronic illness. This disease, Mel’s, acts up unexpectedly. Alana has some good days and some not so good days, just like a real person with chronic pain. When Alana has flare-ups, she takes her medication as prescribed and works through it. Seeing her push through the horrible pain and tremors is heartbreaking because real people suffering with real invisible illnesses experience this all the time. I think it’s very important to normalize books that have main characters with disabilities because actual people like that are EVERYWHERE.

I also want to mention the representation of people of color in Ascension. Many books introduce characters by giving a physical description—hair color, skin tone, and clothing style. Ascension does this by mentioning that Alana pulls her “locs” back out of her face and the dark complexion of her skin. The thing that this book does that most others don’t is that it doesn’t let the reader forget that Alana is a person of color. Her locs, the texture of her hair, and the color of her skin are all mentioned multiple times. Jacqueline did not write Alana and just add on the fact that she’s a person of color, she wrote Alana AS a person of color. This is so important for representation.

Everything about this book was an A+ for me– The characters, the storylines, the writing, and the takeaways. It’s everything you could ever want from a sci fi book. This book made me happy in so many ways but there are two I want to highlight: Ascension does an amazing job portraying what it’s like to live with a chronic illness and it successfully uses minorities (sexuality and race wise) as more than just plot devices. Thank you, Jacqueline Koyanagi, for this brilliant book.

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.

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.