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- 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: 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.

 

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.