Review- The Sun is Also a Star

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

287634855/5 stars

Natasha is very rational; she believes in science, facts, and objective things that can be measured. If it can’t be proven by a study, she doesn’t consider it the truth. Natasha is a few hours away from being deported from the United States, as her family came to the country illegally. The cops discovered their status because her dad was caught drunk driving, and she’s been racing around New York City trying to locate a lawyer who could help her family since then. Daniel, on the other hand, is a poet. He’s always been second best to his family, until his older brother flunked out of an Ivy League school. As he’s walking around NYC in preparation for a college interview, he spots Natasha. Natasha and Daniel are definitely more different than they are alike, but for some reason, the world seems to want them together.

This book was CUTE! I’ve been meaning to read more YA and this was the perfect book to start with. This book has a 4.19 star average on Goodreads, so I knew it was going to be good, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Natasha reminds me a lot of my younger self. I was very objective. I always relied on facts and never on my gut or emotions. I made all of my decisions with my brain, not my heart, and didn’t put a lot of value into feelings. This was a hard way to live because it didn’t leave much room for experiencing joy, excitement, or even sadness, because I always calculated everything that would happen beforehand. So, long story short, I could really relate to Natasha. Also, I knew that Daniel was the exact person that Natasha needed to open her mind to the subjective.

Daniel is the “touchy-feely” type. He’s perfect for showing Natasha the strength of emotions. Sometimes (if not a lot of the time), it’s important to use your heart to reach new personal feats, make decisions, and experience life events. Daniel writes poetry, which Natasha thinks is a waste of time, but it shows how in-tune he is with his feelings. He believes in fate, and that keeps him determined that he has a chance at keeping Natasha’s family in the US.

Suddenly, I’ve turned into a huge sucker for YA romancey novels. Prior to this, I read a lot of books that left me uneasy or talked about dark (or even horrifying) themes. The Sun is also A Star left me feeing good. I love that—putting a book down and feeling happy. I’m looking forward to reading more books that leave me feeling this way.

I gave this book 5 stars for a lot of reasons. The characters were very well written, the story was captivating and kept me glued to the pages, and the ending was very unique. I really think this should be available in school libraries to encourage young adults to read! I hope to get to Nicola Yoon’s other book, Everything, Everything, sometime soon.

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- The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach

 Rating: 4/5 stars

28221009 “’I think the monsters are already in you’.

‘How do I kill the monsters?’

‘I don’t think you need to kill them.’

‘Then what?’

‘I think you invite them. And let them stay. And learn to live with them. Then when you die, they stop being monsters.’”

 -I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review-

 Ivan is a 17 year old boy living in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children. He has lived there his whole life, as he does not know his mother’s name or even his own birthday. Ivan was born without legs and only one arm that bears two fingers and thumb. It is believed that this condition was a result of radiation from a nuclear reactor. Ivan does almost the same thing every day—eat three meals alone and use the TV three hours. He goes to bed at the same time and has a set routine for getting his clothes on in the morning. Ivan believes he has each patient figured out until a girl his age walks in into the hospital. This girl, Polina, has beautiful hair that will soon be gone due to chemotherapy, as she has leukemia and was sentenced to the hospital after both of her parents died. Ivan’s entire world is turned upside down and his daily routine is shattered as he tries to figure out Polina and learn what it’s like to have a real friend and possible love.

This book was great, but it was really, really depressing. The story reads as Ivan’s diary and the language is very raw. Ivan does not sugarcoat his life of a legless boy confined to a hospital full of other ill children. He shares in great detail what it’s like trapped in that building with nurses who don’t care and patients that don’t make any conversation.

I really enjoyed the first quarter of the book because it’s when we really get to know how things work around the hospital and the other characters through Ivan’s voice. He tells us about Dennis, the boy born without a soul. Dennis spends his days rocking in his bed at a steady pace, a pace so steady that Ivan can use it to count time. We also learn about the ginger twins. These twins don’t say a word to each other, or anyone else for that matter, but somehow communicate well enough to do everything at the same time.

Polina enters the story about a 1/3 way through the novel and, although it is a very interesting plot line, I was actually more curious to hear about daily hospital life. I did think that the growing relationship between Ivan and Polina was very cute, but it didn’t grab all of my attention like I was hoping. Still, I was definitely rooting for them and the inevitable end made me very sad (sadder than I already was reading this depressing diary).

From the reviews that I’ve read, I gather that The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko is very similar to The Fault in Our Stars. I haven’t read the latter novel, but I’d say if you enjoy John Green books you’d probably like this one as well. A big thank you to St. Martin’s Press for a copy of this wonderful book! I really enjoyed this read.

Review- Divergent

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Divergent by Veronica Roth

Rating: 5/5 stars

Yes, I finally gave into the hype that is the Divergent series. I randomly chose this book out of haste at my local library and took it home without thinking much about it. It has been a long, long time since I got wrapped up in a Young Adult novel, but Divergent definitely grabbed me.

Tris lives in a world that is divided into factions—each faction living off of different morals and specializing in different work. She was born into Abnegation, which honors selflessness and helping others, but feels like she does not share these same qualities with her family. At 16, Tris takes an aptitude test that is supposed to reveal which faction she truly belongs to and grants her eligibility to switch out of Abnegation. Her tests results come back as inconclusive, meaning she scored equally in more than one faction, and she is deemed DIVERGENT. Tris is told that this label is extremely dangerous and she should, under no circumstance, ever reveal her test results. When ceremony day approaches, Tris must decide if she will leave her family in Abnegation, a place where she does not truly belong, or switch into a faction that suits her better. Her heart battles between protecting her parents and staying true to herself.

I had no idea what to expect from this book, which worked to its advantage. I had not seen any of the Divergent movies or read any previous reviews of the series. Going into Divergent blindfolded was a wonderful experience and I truly got to form my own opinions on Roth’s novel.

I loved Tris, I thought she was a great protagonist with a lot of admirable qualities without pushing the “misunderstood teen” character too much. I can imagine teen girls reading Divergent and emulating the willpower and strength of Tris. I love imagining what it would have been like for my younger self to read YA books and predicting how they would have affected me. Divergent definitely would have been a positive influence in my teen years.

I liked the way that Roth incorporated the love interest in this book. The interactions between Tris and this young male were very organic and innocent. Tris learns what it’s really like to be attracted to someone and it takes her by surprise. Re-experiencing the feeling of having a first, major crush was very heartwarming and I think Tris’s emotions stayed very true to that of a real 16 year old girls.

I am so very pleased with this book and very happy that I decided to pick it up at the library. It was a quick, but very entertaining read. I plan on watching the movie sometime soon and (hopefully) moving on to the second book of the series.

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- The Star Side of Bird Hill

The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson

Release date: June 30th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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