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- 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!)

Review- In the Blood of the Greeks

In the Blood of the Greeks by Mary D. Brooks

in-the-blood-of-the-greeks-by-mary-d-brooksRating: 5/5 stars

*I was approved to review this book on NetGalley and received an e-book copy*

“Am I going to Hell?”

“For what? Breaking a promise that you couldn’t possibly be able to keep? You can’t control your heart, Eva…I also don’t believe in Hell.”

Zoe is growing up in Greece during World War II while her town of Larissa is taken over by the Nazis. Her hatred for the Germans grows daily, as she has lost family and friends to the war. Eva, a German girl in her early 20’s, moves into Larissa with her father, a powerful Nazi leader. Zoe reluctantly becomes Eva’s maid in hopes of taking down the Germans from the inside. Zoe and Eva, despite their differences, develop a unique friendship and eventually growing feelings for each other. Already been through conversion therapy once, Eva is reluctant to begin another relationship with a female. Still, the two find it hard to deny their mutual attraction.

Yes, yes, yes!! This is one of the best LGBT young adult books I’ve ever read. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this novel to any young girl (or woman) trying to explore her feelings and sexuality. This book put such a positive spin on coming out as gay and self-acceptance that many lesbians struggle with. Books like this give me hope that F/F relationships will become more mainstream in YA fiction.

I really loved both main characters and found that switching between their POVs was helpful in understanding their thought processes. Zoe is 14, the appropriate age for women to marry in Greece, but still very much a child. She is naive in the best ways, seeing nothing wrong with her feelings towards Eva and embracing herself. As a result of losing so many loved ones and experiencing death everywhere around her, Zoe grows into a fearless young adult. She was such a pleasure to get to know.

Eva, on the other hand, broke my heart. I read her narration as someone suffering from PTSD (due to past trauma and conversion therapy). Her inward struggles display themselves physically and mentally and it was so sad to see that through her words. Eva starts off as a shell of a person who once played against the rules and develops into a character who is learning to love again (with Zoe’s help). Although Eva’s mental conversation was less exciting than Zoe’s, I enjoyed reading her’s a little bit more.

I’m so thankful that I was approved to receive and review a copy of this book. I look forward to reading the next few books in the series!

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.

Review- Fingersmith

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

6401660Rating: 5/5 stars

“When I feel his mouth upon my wrist, I flinch. ‘Now, now’ he says. ‘Be good for a moment. Excuse my whiskers. Imagine my mouth hers.'”

Sue is an orphan living in the home of Mrs. Sucksby, a petty thief of watches, purses, and children. Although Mrs. Sucksby treats her well, Sue gets sent off to be a maid to the lady Miss Lilly. She becomes part of an elaborate scheme of the orphanage with a plan to steal Miss Lilly’s fortune. As Sue becomes more comfortable serving, bathing, and feeding Miss Lilly, the two young women find themselves struggling to be truthful with one another.

To be honest, I prioritized this book on my TBR because one Goodreads review said “lesbian Dickens!”. I wish I had coined the phrase first because it certainly fits this book. This was such a lovely and captivating story and the writing is absolutely beautiful. Sarah Waters leaves out no detail when describing Miss Lilly’s extravagant mansion, but does so without boring the reader.

I felt like I was slowly becoming one of Sue’s close friends throughout this book. I was angry when she was wronged and was giddy when she was fighting her oppressors. Throughout my time as a reader I have yet to come across another character like Sue (and doubt I’ll find one soon). Although the book was not told entirely from her POV, her character development had the most depth and thus she became easy to love.

I’m looking forward to reading more books by Sarah Waters (perhaps Tipping the Velvet next?).

Review- Annie on My Mind

Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

AnnieOnMyMindRating: 5/5 stars

“I tried so hard to think– but there was only one word on my mind and that word was ‘Annie'”

Liza Winthrop is a high school senior busy with student council, college applications, and attending an extremely Catholic school. While visiting a museum, she runs into a girl, Annie, who completely turns her life around. Annie shares her world, a low-income town and a room full of flowers, while Liza shares hers, a love for architecture and a caring younger brother. These two girls become inseparable and somewhere along the way find themselves with deeper feelings for each other.

I cannot express how important this book is. This is the book to read for adolescent girls trying to discover their sexualities. The story of Liza and Annie is so touching and real that it can really speak to young adults experiencing the same feelings, questions, and confusion. Every time I hear of a girl struggling to come to terms with her sexuality, I just want to shove this book in her face and say “it’s okay! Stop beating yourself up for something you have no control over”.

Not only is this an important LGBT novel, but it’s such a cute story. It’s a story about two people discovering what it means to love someone and seeing how powerful that emotion can be. Annie on My Mind may be about two girls, but has nothing to do with the fact that it’s like every other novel written about teenagers falling in love. I loved everything about this book and found myself in a good mood every time I picked it up.

Review- Rubyfruit Jungle

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

165395“Why would people get upset over something that feels so good? Me being a queer can’t hurt anyone, why should it be such a terrible thing?”

cw: suicide mention, homophobia, transphobia

This book is about coming out, I mean really coming out, in a world against anything different, or “queer”. Queer is such an inclusive term now, it encompasses so many forms of oppression (eg sexuality, race, class, gender identity, etc) and really shows how they all intertwine in a system of institutional biases. But for the main character of this book, Molly, it’s a derogatory term for people who are attracted to the same gender as themselves.

**spoiler ahead**
Molly discovers that she likes women during her early middle school years, but continues seeing men well into her adult life. The thing I love about Molly is that she simply doesn’t care what other people think and tries to not put a permanent label on herself. Towards the end of the book, she does call herself a lesbian, but it takes her many sexual experiences to get to that point. I admire her for staying true to herself the entire novel
**end spoiler**
What I really love about this book is that its a real coming out novel. Molly faces homophobia from everyone around her– her parents, counselors, and friends. I really felt for Molly and experienced the pain of rejection along with her. Molly was so determined to never let other people get to her, and that made me proud to be feeling these emotions with her.

Although this novel is set in the middle 1900’s, LGBT youth and adults still face these problems today. This really opened up my eyes to how much things haven’t changed in the past 50 years. Yes, lesbians are not constantly called “dykes” and “queers” in a derogatory way, but homophobia and transphobia still exist in the everyday world. LGBT youth are 7 times more likely to attempt suicide that straight youth because of this very reason. Although I can absolutely admit that we have come far in the gay movement, there is still a lot of work to be done. I praise Rita Mae Brown for writing such a powerful novel about the struggles of coming out in this world and hope to read more books like this one.