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.

Review: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

51zzix78yrl5/5 stars

Rosemary must escape her human life on Mars, for reasons she keeps to herself, and discovers that working on a traveling spaceship is the perfect opportunity to get away. She finds herself aboard The Wayfarer, a multi-species ship with a human captain. The Wayfarer’s crew is trained in tunneling wormholes through the fabric of space and welcomes Rosemary with open arms. They embark on a journey to a small planet in need of a wormhole and, thus, the adventures begin.

I didn’t realize I needed this book until I was 25 pages into it. I’m so glad The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet found its way to me.

To begin with, this is the best science fiction book I’ve read all year (and I read A LOT of science fiction). If you’re a fan of Star Wars or Star Trek, I’m positive that you’ll fall in love with this book just as I did. Becky Chambers truly does the genre justice; she lays out a universe in which humans travel through space alongside other species from neighboring planets. What more could you want?

To answer my own question, what I want to see in science fiction books is not only different species getting along, but different species setting up a dialogue for ideas that reflect on humanity today. Becky Chambers did just that. Rosemary and The Wayfarer‘s crew don’t just interact, as that’s the bare minimum for science fiction, they have deep conversations that create an environment for readers to reflect on themselves and their own society. To me, this is true science fiction.

I read an interview with Becky Chambers that included a discussion about her identity and how it affects the way she writes. She talked about being gay and wanting to write a world in which she, as a queer person, would be welcome. This is possibly my favorite thing that an author has ever said. The way Becky Chambers included queer individuals and relationships in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was not just to check the minority box off of her list, like many writers do, it was to include them in fiction because they are normal in real life. If you can’t tell, this book means a lot to me.

I am so blown away with this book and I want to share it with the world. I want to thank Becky Chambers for such an amazing science fiction read that reminded me why I love this genre so much. Please, read this book and put its sequel on your wishlist for next year.

Review- High Couch of Silistra by Janet Morris

High Couch of Silistra by Janet Morris

imgresRating: 4/5 stars

-I would like to give a big thank you to Perseid Press for the paperback copy of this book!-

The men and women living on Silistra are governed by a hierarchy of sexual desire and fertility. Infertility is a widespread issue that allows the most sexually appealing women the greatest power. Estri is among the most powerful in the land—she holds the position of the high couch of Silistra. Estri’s mother died during childbirth and she has yet to know much about her father. She is sent on a quest to find her father and discover the secrets that his kind may hold.

In my opinion, this should be a classic science fiction book, especially for those who love female protagonists. Estri is a strong woman who leads with her body and her wit. She was really fun to join on this adventure across strange lands. I thought she was by far the most interesting character in the book, so I naturally paid a lot of attention to her and was left wanting more. I love strong-minded (and, in this case, bodied) women who don’t take any bs from men to whom they don’t owe anything. Go Estri!

I also thought it was cool to hear about the customs of these different societies that Morris so brilliantly created. Estri visits a few places that each have their own customs. I’m not sure how Morris made them so unique, but she found a way to make them all intriguing.

When I got to some of the first sexual scenes, I was a bit confused. I was thinking that Estri was submitting to men as a way of giving up. I soon realized that I was thinking in the mind of someone from our world, not Silistra’s. In actuality, Estri was pleasing these men as an act of power and domination. Switching into this mindset was very freeing.

I was searching for a good science fiction read, and I definitely found it. High Couch of Silistra is full of new cultures and creatures to study. I can’t stop thinking about how I really want to meet a hulion, a big cat with wings and a mane. I definitely want to read more of The Silistra quartet and follow Estri on more adventures. If you’re a science fiction lover (especially with a passion for female protagonists), you’ll love this book.

Review- How to Talk to Girls at Parties

How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman

26372 Rating: 5/5 stars

 Let me start off by saying this is the best book I’ve read in September 2016 and the best graphic novel I’ve ever gotten my hands on. I already knew that Gaiman was a genius, but this still blew me away. I am making this my October staff pick at the book store I work at, as I want to share it with everyone who will possibly listen.

Enn is a teenage boy still learning what life is like after puberty. His friend, Vic, is the same age as him, but does not struggle with this awkward stage nearly as badly as Enn. The duo decides to attend a party (that they weren’t really invited to) and Vic is immediately away from Enn’s side and talking to the prettiest girl in the room. Enn envies Vic, but doesn’t have the same courage to really say anything of substance to a girl—he can barely get a few words out. As Enn wanders from room to room in this giant house, he discovers that not everyone at the party is very…normal.

This graphic novel is very short, but in my opinion it was the perfect length to get the story across without over explaining anything. The writing is absolutely beautiful and the illustration is breathtaking. There are a lot of otherworldly girls in this novel, and the illustrators depicted them as true goddesses. I wish these feminine creatures were real solely so I could see actual photographs of them. I think that means this is truly well done artwork.

Neil Gaiman certainly has a creative mind. I have read 5 of his books and each one is brilliant in its own way. I don’t think I’ve heard of anything quite like How to Talk to Girl at Parties and I don’t think I want to read anything like it ever again; it wouldn’t measure up. I wish I could follow Enn on more adventures, but perhaps being left wanting more is better.

I would recommend this book to any adult looking for shorter read. You don’t need to be a graphic novel enthusiast to fall in love with this book. It definitely is a cover grab too, as the illustrations on the hard cover will make anyone want to get their hands on it. I can’t wait to read more Gaiman graphic novels (I’m looking at Sandman Vol. 1 next).

Review- Edenborn

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“No one ever proved to me why we’re so fucking great. Why should we be at the top of the food chain? If we die out, some other animal just takes our place. That’s as it should be. Maybe it was our turn to go. But we didn’t. Maybe our existence ruined Nature’s plan.”

3/5 stars

Pandora, Haji, Penny, and their families all live on Earth after a disease called Black Ep killed the last generation of pure humans. Now, everyone left on Earth is formed through cloning or artificial wombs. Many of the adults spend their time researching a cure for Black Ep that may make the planet habitable for natural life forms in the future. These individuals tell their children that they are always only one mutation away from being infected by the disease. What if that one mutation is already in the works? How can the population survive in a world where a plague is one amino acid combination away from killing all of them?

As I try to summarize this book, I’m realizing that I’m not quite sure what it was really about. There were a lot of storylines going on and the book wasn’t long enough to let them properly intertwine and piece together. On the other hand, if it had been much longer, I probably would have just put it down. It wasn’t interesting enough to be more than 350 pages.

Maybe my problem with Edenborn is that I haven’t read it’s prequel, Idlewild. I say maybe because every review I checked before picking up this novel told me that I didn’t have to read the first in the series to know what was happening. I guess I’m just making excuses for a mediocre book.

I don’t have much to say about Edenborn. I was hoping for a great science fiction read with a hint of feminist rhetoric and ended up with a story with great potential that fell short of the mark. A+ idea, C- execution.

 

 

Review- Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready_Player_One_coverRating: 4.5/5 stars

“You were born at a pretty crappy time in history. And it looks like things are only gonna get worse from here on out.”

Wade Watts is born in the year 2044, when the Earth is in shambles and most people live in trailers stacked on top of each other. The only thing that keeps humanity going is an online world called OASIS. In OASIS you can choose the features of your avatar and tone of your voice. All you need to do is put on a pair of video glasses and you’re transported into an online world where kids attend virtual school and everyone spends their free time completing quests and exploring the endless game worlds. OASIS is threatened to be taken over by a large corporation looking to make money off of the free virtual reality. That is, unless Wade can become the best OASIS player and beat them to the finish line.

This was such a fantastic dystopian novel! I loved Wade as a protagonist–he had a very complex brain that held thousands of facts about pop culture of the past decades. His friend and love interest, Art3mis, was a great secondary character and definitely a strong female role. Their dynamic was very fun and put a smile on my face.

Many dystopian novels these days are repetitive but I’ve never read or heard of anything quite like Ready Player One before. Pop culture from the 1970’s-1990’s is such a prominent theme in this novel and multiple facts about classic video games are thrown into each chapter. I feel like I learned a lot about old movies, songs, and games while reading this book. That was a great twist to the storyline.

Even though I finished this book in only a few sittings, I still feel very attached to Wade and the future Earth he lives on. It’s interesting to think what our lives would be like if people spent all day in a virtual reality. It’s no wonder that Wades world became trashed and abandoned by humanity. Long story short, this is a great read that can fall into both the young adult and adult science fiction categories. Please pick up this book!

Review- A New Orchid Myth

A New Orchid Myth by Helene Pilibosian

Orchid-Myth-cover-200px_jpeg1Rating: 4.5/5 stars

-I was provided a copy of this book thanks to the author of this title-

This is a sci-fi story told through verse–so I’m unsure if I should categorize it as poetry or science fiction. This work tells the tale of a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Everydream, who have traveled to Earth from another planet. Throughout the many poems, these two learn what it’s like to live all over the USA. They paint the flowing waters of the Hudson River, see the movie production in Hollywood, and spend time exploring the streets of New York. Mrs. Everydream gives birth to a daughter named Taralee and relatives from their home planet are out to steal the child. Mr. and Mrs. Everydream must communicate with their home planet to keep their daughter safe.

This story is only 95 pages, so it’s hard to summarize it without giving too much plot away. My synopsis cannot do the intricate plot justice, and I hope Helene Pilibosian can forgive me. That being said, this is such a phenomenal work of literature. I never would have expected myself to pick up a science fiction story told through verse; I haven’t read a poetry book in ages. I’m so glad that I gave this one a try because it’s beautifully written. Pilibosian truly has a way to make the reader think about what she’s describing and really paints a picture for the audience.

A New Orchid Myth exceeded all of my expectations for such a unique genre and I’d recommend it to all poetry lovers. As I said, it’s very short and easy to read in one sitting. I hope to read more from Helene Pilibosian in the future! A big thank you to her for sending me a physical copy as well!

Review- Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

Dirk-GentlyRating: 4/5 stars

I have no idea how to start a plot summary for this book. If you’ve read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, then you know how unique Adam’s train of thought is. Unlike his other series, this book does actually have a continuous plot that was fairly easy to follow. The main storyline follows a man named Robert, who the police believe murdered his boss. Robert finds himself asking Dirk Gently and his “holistic detective agency” for help to prove him innocent. Dirk, while trying to help Robert, believes there is much more to this case than a simple misunderstanding. He’s set off to find the answer to life. Also, there is an electric monk stranded in the desert and I have no idea why his tangent storyline was included in the book…

I didn’t enjoy this book for the plot. I found it boring and easy to skim. What I did like was trying to understand how Douglas Adams’ brain works. He has the most unconventional ways of describing things and his sentences sometimes seem like the plugged a bunch of words into a “random sentence generator” and pressed enter.

It’s hard for me to compare anything to The HItchhiker’s Guide, because it is my all-time favorite series. Like I said, this book certainly has a more tangible plot than the other, but I don’t think it was as fun to read for that very reason. None of the characters are particularly likable, which adds to my mere 4 star rating. I do own the second book in this series and may give it a try next month. Both of my Dirk Gently books are vintage edition which, for some reason, makes me more inclined to read them.

Review- Adulthood Rites

Adulthood Rites by Octavia Butler (Xenogenesis book #2)

511WNcxTO8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Rating: 4/5 stars

“The Human Contradiction again. The Contradiction, it was more often called among Oankali. Intelligence and hierarchical behavior. It was fascinating, seductive, and lethal. It had brought Humans to their final war”

Earth was nearly destroyed in a war until the Oankali came to save the planet and inhabit it themselves. Slowly, they are unfreezing humans to live and breed among the alien species. Lilith gives birth to the first male human/Oankali construct, whose name is Akin. Before Akin can even learn to walk, he is snatched by human “resisters”–humans that refuse to be treated and bred like animals by the Oankali. He grows up in a strictly human village and stripped of his contact with his Oankali family and friends. There Akin learns that the humans yearn to be able to raise families made up of only human DNA. Akin must choose between staying true to his Oankali genes, or fighting for a life for the human race.

Although this book is a sequel to Dawn, it can almost be read by itself if the reader is given a little background information. Dawn it told in Lilith’s point of view while Adulthood Rites is narrated by Akin.

I don’t want to spoil the first book for anyone, so this review will contain more opinions than plot critique. I wish I had liked this book more. Dawn, in my opinion, is one of the best sci-fi novels I’ve ever read. I was so excited for the sequel to live up to it; but maybe my expectations were set too high. It was interesting to read this book from a child’s point of view, knowing that he is a biased narrator yet believing everything he says. Butler does a great job painting the conflict that Akin feels between his split human and alien DNA.

I find it amusing that this series is categorized as “horror”. I almost didn’t start it because I was scared it would be too disturbing/horrific. “Post apocalyptic” is definitely a better genre, but it is irking to read about humans used as gene material and treated like animals by alien beings who have tentacles growing out of their bodies.

If you’re looking for a good adult sci-fi read, I definitely recommend trying this trilogy out. I look forward to (hopefully) reading the third book this month. I have a habit of putting off the last books of series and end up never finishing them.