An Emotional and Powerful Read Like No Other

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The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas
Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.
I heard a lot of talk about this for months now, from bloggers to big name authors like John Green. It was actually John mentioning this book as a ‘modern classic’ that made me drop everything and add this book to my list to read this month for Black History month. And I’m so happy I did. Because this book has to be the most powerful book I’ve read in so long.
I’m not an emotional reader. But this book from the first chapter to the last made me put the book down and take deep breathes. My heart would race and I actually forgot more than once these characters aren’t real people, though based off some. I felt every blow, felt panic and sadness and pain for these characters. I know, I say often I felt for characters, that I miss them when I’m done reading about them, but this book took it to a new level.
The issues in this book are real and ones we have to face and talk about. Because despite protests and people rioting, it’s still happening. This book didn’t take sides exactly. It balanced and talked about the fact that no, not all cops are bad cops, they aren’t the issue, but until the bad cops stop killing innocent people. The most powerful quote in this book for me was about that. “And at the end of the day, you don’t kill someone for opening a car door. If you do, you shouldn’t be a cop”.  Why this is important? This comes from a cop character. This book shows both sides, those who are effected by the deaths, that are the ones mad and fighting it. It’s because of this its so important. Starr is a complicated character that we watch go through the stages of grief so visibly and what happens to her changes her life so much. It takes us inside this community and the minds of these people.
Not only all that, but the writing is beautiful. It’s addicting. I couldn’t for the life of me put it down until I reached parts I had to stop because I was shaking. So not only does it deal with complicated and tough issues, it does so well. A lot of writers try to take on big issues like this but their writing falls flat. Not this book. It’s so well written that you start to actually hear their voices when you read, not your voice. I feared that the ending would fall flat, that it wouldn’t hold up to the rest because the bigger parts were over. But that didn’t happen. Not only that, this book is one of the few that handles time passing with skipping well. Which is one of my pet-peeves in books. I was so happy that this book didn’t fall into that trap.
So yes. This book IS the most important book this year, maybe of our generation. I recommend it everyone that is 13 and over. Because it’s possible that this book can help people who don’t get the upset finally get it.
Rating: 5 stars. I would say more if it was possible.

Not so Lucky Boy

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Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

Lucky Boy is an emotional journey that will leave you certain of the redemptive beauty of this world. There are no bad guys in this story, no obvious hero. From rural Oaxaca to Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto to the dreamscapes of Silicon valley, author Shanthi Sekaran has taken real life and applied it to fiction; the results are moving and revelatory.

This was one of those books that are currently being noted due to the subject matter being important in a time where immigration is a hot subject. It’s a subject and area that I’ve been wanting to know more about simply because it’s one of those important issues of our generation and you can’t always trust what the media and news tells you about it – you gotta go to the source.

And yes, this book deals with it. It talks about a girl coming across the border for the hopes of a better life, only to find more trouble than good. She gets detained after a little over a year in the country, loses her one year old son to the state, and breaks out of prison to reclaim him.

It’s full of hard truths, about what people will do to come into the U.S. But I do warn that this book deals with the issue of rape. Without real reason. There’s nothing even to do with rape as a plot device which has become famous thanks to Game of Thrones on TV, much to the disgust to viewers. But in this book, it really doesn’t even do that. It just happens. Four. Times. The first three times, there’s trauma and she only seems to heal once she has her baby – the common theme of being saved by someone, normally a new lover, but this time her child. The other time, it just happens. Repeatedly. It almost made me put it down because it was just disgusting and frustrating, not to mention that the character was just there in the story, just barely. You could have continued the story without those details or even her in the book at that point and not miss it. I understand this is something that happens in life. It just happens. But in stories, it should mean something, not just happening just because.

This book starts out strong. You’re interested and you want to keep reading, but about half way through, it loses that spark. I felt like I had to push through it. Different parts of the story, the plot, didn’t get solved, just simply brushed aside. Many events within the book didn’t need to happen because it had zero effect on the story. Finishing this book, it was more of a ‘I need to finish because I want to understand why it’s being called so important’ than a want to finish it.

Rating: 2.5 stars

Diversity Bingo Reading Challenge!

So I love reading challenges. I recently just finished the #readthemargin reading challenge for all of December my friend Manda ran. So other tumblr users decided to make a reading challenge bingo board for all of 2017.

I’m posting this in part to share with all of you but also a way to keep track of this. I’ll be disappearing again with school, but this is what I’ll be trying to do this year. I want to read each of these squares. You’ll be seeing reviews when I can of these.

I hope you guys consider challenging yourself in your reading this year. If it’s just reading a number, reading a genre, or something like this. It can really help spice up any reading you might do.

My favourites I read in 2016

These are the books I gave 5 stars to on Goodreads. I read a lot of books I didn’t like, but I want to share the good with you guys and why.

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Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

If you don’t know, I’m a HUGE fan of Jenny after I read her first book. I follow her blog and love to community. But this book, this book helped me in a time I needed it most. I had relapsed into depression and I read this and cried because she wrote of depression in a way I’ve never felt so true before. It helped me figure out other options and it made me laugh and smile when I needed it most. I also got two copies of this from the amazing community members so I could always have it with me when I needed Jenny’s amazing voice to help me through the tough times or if I just need a laugh.

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Salt to The Sea by Ruta Sepetys

If you guys haven’t figured out yet, I’m a huge historical fiction fan and it’s why I love Ruta’s books so much. She writes events in history wonderfully and beautifully. I truly enjoyed this book and this story and the characters. It was interesting and about an event I hadn’t even known about at the time. If you like historical fiction, read this, even if you don’t like YA (not sure why your on my blog then. That’s most of the books I read and review, but hey, what floats your boat).

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To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

I was slow to up take of this book. I saw a lot of love for it, but I feared that I wouldn’t like it. Because yeah, I get burned a lot with it. And it’s romance. I’m not always a fan. But this book. It’s beautiful. It’s well written. I never pick up sequels right away after reading the first book, some times never because second books are huge disappointments more than not. But I did for this. And I loved that too, but it came to a 4-star rating in my opinion. Which never happens for second books for me.

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Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

I ordered this book from Book Depository because I couldn’t wait for it to come to the U.S. That and that lovely cover. I love Alice’s writing. Her books are unique and different and don’t focus on romance like is common in most YA books, even when they don’t fall into that category. This book was the first book that had a character that is Demisexual like myself and helped me along with other things realize that I was demi. This book does have abuse in it, but Alice does it in a way that it isn’t seen as ‘romantic’ to make a character learn to love themselves thanks to the love of others or whatever.

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Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

I love retellings and this book was one of the most unique and interesting retelling I’ve read yet. It was so beautifully written and fascinating. I honestly now want to read everything Helen has written because it’s so magical and yet so realistic and pointed to subjects that we still have to deal with today.

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Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe

Another book I was afraid to read for fear of disappointment. Because so many people LOVE this series. But I got it from a huge sale on comics and I got this as a full volume and I fell deeply in love with all of the characters. It reminds me of games I wanted to play growing up with strong women and books that I crave now. All of these characters I love and need more of. I’m so happy I finally picked up.

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

This was the first book I read by Schwab with either name she uses for her writing and it was pure magic. I did pick it up and put it down simply because I wasn’t in a fantasy mood. But once I was, the small sample I had wasn’t enough. I bought it and read it nonstop because I needed more, loved the characters and idea so much for how brilliant it was. I ended up buying the second book actually knowing I will read it, unlike so many other second books because I desperately need more.

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Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Yes, another fantasy book. I got this for Christmas last year and read it with a read-a-long a friend was doing online and I ended up starting and finishing it early because I couldn’t put it down. The magic and the story was just brilliant. I was so obsessed with it that I ended up drawing art based on it. Even now, this might be one of my all time favorite books and how it defied the typical expectations of fairy tales.

The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace

The Princess Save Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace

The author is a good friend of mine, so is this biased? Maybe. But probably not because I went into this book like it was any other book. And this book reminded me why I love poetry after reading so much modern poetry that was simply disappointing. But this book was far from. It was magical and so true I might have highlighted my whole ebook version of it because so much applied and related to my own life that I never felt so connected to someone before. It was like someone wrote events of my life into poetry. My most treasured item of all time? My personalized signed copy from her. I can’t wait to buy the mass market version of this. And gush to everyone I know the author and how I cry from how proud I am of her.

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Wonder Women by Sam Maggs

This is a popular book idea right now – lists of women who have changed the world. I’ve read and reviewed about three or four but this was my favourite one. First, the art is adorable, but this book covers women you might not have heard of for once instead of the same women again and again. But the most amazing part is this author didn’t erase these women’s sexuality like most do. They admit that some might be bi or gay or are for sure. The other books I’ve read for the most part did erase that or just didn’t mention it because they wanted to keep that erasure of sexuality.

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Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Another popularly known books of poetry that was actually really well done. I loved this book and loved the small drawings. It really was well done and another book that left like it touched my inner being a bit more. It was another book that reminded me of good poetry and love it a lot.

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Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton

I got this book as an ARC but for whatever reason, it was one of the few I put off. But then, I saw people loving this book. I saw posts about it constantly and I was suddenly terrified that it would suck. I put it off longer until just recently. And let me say, it did NOT suck. I loved it. I kept falling asleep while reading it into the early hours, unable to put it down. It was dark and mean girls like and well done. I’m craving the second book really bad. So look for that review coming soon because I know I’ll be reading it ASAP.

Our Own Private Universe

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Our Own Private Universe

by Robin Talley

“Fifteen-year-old Aki Hunter knows she’s bisexual, but up until now she’s only dated guys—and her best friend, Lori, is the only person she’s out to. When she and Lori set off on a four-week youth-group mission trip in a small Mexican town, it never crosses Aki’s mind that there might be anyone in the group she’d be interested in dating. But that all goes out the window when Aki meets Christa.”

Warning, Spoilers In Review!!!

Of Robin’s books, this is the one I would tell people to skip reading in favor for her other works. This book is a hot mess in a really, really, bad way.

First, there’s no plot. You think it will be about Aki learning to love music again or some sort of character growth of her finding out she is capable when she’s been told she isn’t. But that isn’t the case. There simply is no plot other than a relationship. And even then, it’s not even about the characters and growth, but about being a how-to for girl and girl sex and safe sex practices.

There is no character growth. Aki goes through the book doing things she knows she shouldn’t. She knows that Christa is seeing someone else but she goes with it. But when Lori says she’s doing the same, she’s utterly judgmental in a way that’s disgusting to read.

Both Christa and Aki are toxic with each other. Aki comes out to her family and thinks that Christa should too, despite being told multiple times that it’s dangerous for her to. Christa on the other hand is trying to force Aki back into the closet. Which is just as unhealthy and disgusting. And yet they keep doing this through the book.

The setting honestly doesn’t matter. The characters could be anywhere other than Mexico and nothing would change. It’s just a cheap way of making it seem ‘exotic’ despite not actually knowing anything about the place and how it would actually mean to be gay in Mexico. That, and the ‘chaperons’ are useless. The kids can go out and drink and have sex and they don’t bother to keep an eye on them. Trust me, that isn’t how these things work. And I’m sure a church group would be even more paranoid about keeping these things from happening.

This book felt a cheap tactic to make Churches look a safe haven for gay teens when in reality, churches can be dangerous and unaccepting. There are few churches that are okay with anyone that’s gay, let alone a rather large group of them that are happy to come out during this trip.

It simply didn’t feel like a story but a how to guide to being gay and having sex and trying to make churches feel safe and welcoming when it’s not something is luckily enough to happen at most. The thought of gay marriage is changing, but it’s slow and not as pretty as this book wants to make it seem. It was a completely frustrating read.

Rating: 2 stars

Read Women Review #1: Buffering to Better Mental Health.

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Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded

by Hannah Hart

By combing through the journals that Hannah has kept for much of her life, this collection of narrative essays deliver a fuller picture of her life, her experiences, and the things she’s figured out about family, faith, love, sexuality, self-worth, friendship and fame.

Revealing what makes Hannah tick, this sometimes cringe-worthy, poignant collection of stories is sure to deliver plenty of Hannah’s wit and wisdom, and hopefully encourage you to try your hand at her patented brand of reckless optimism.

 

This book was NOTHING like I expected it to be. And yet, it was exactly what I needed it to be. I’ve loved Hannah Hart for a while now. She’s a generally amazing person. So I jumped at the chance to read this book and have it my first review for this new feature I’m adding now that summer is done – to share women authors and reviews for them for their soon to be releases.

And I’m happy I chose Hannah’s book to start with. For starters, this book’s introduction thing is done by none other than Jenny Lawson, who is one of my favourite authors. Funny AND is a huge advocate to get awareness of mental illness out there. I didn’t get that connection at first. I just assumed they were friends for being funny ladies.

But Hannah starts this book out with a warning. And this is my warning – this book deals heavily with mental illness, neglect, self-harm, ect. Because that’s Hannah’s true story, the story she hasn’t told until now. It runs in her family and in her. Yes, it tells us the things we do know about Hannah – she’s gay, she’s awesome, she’s caring, she’s funny. But this book tells us why. It shows and shares her heart.

I don’t want to spoil things about this book. I think it’s better to go into this book without that, like I did. It leaves a bigger impression in my opinion. But I will say I found it well written and a bit addicting. Hannah’s book was the first time I saw my own mental illness actually acknowledged and left me crying. Although she wasn’t the one who shares it with me, the way she described it was dead on and left me feeling less alone. Her own struggles also hit home. I related to her more than I thought I ever could. She knows just how to write mental illness without it being harsh. It was a joy to read. And it made Hannah human, not just some Youtube star that seems nice enough, but who knows if she really is. If she’s like she is in her own book, I feel like I said bye to a good friend by the end of it.

Rating – 4.5 stars

June into July for a long read

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June

by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery’s vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?
So where have I been? Reading this book. Yes, life made getting through this book a bit harder, but even with a new job, I was struggling through this one and putting me into a bit of a reading slump. It wasn’t that this book was bad – It was good. The writing was good, the idea of it had me hooked instantly. I loved the idea of how this book started, from a perspective not from June, or Cassie, but the house. I was completely in love with this idea. However, that perspective was just a short lived idea. Soon we went to Cassie and June and the uniqueness fell away. And to me, it was like I was reading two different books. It was the same place, just years apart, but for some reason, I felt like they two should have been two different books due to being so disjointed from each other. The June’s in the story weren’t the same. Time changes people, yes, but it never really clicked, even when past met the present of the story.
This book had such great ideas, but they fell flat more often then not. For one thing, —(spoilers ahead. Ish.) —
Cassie when she meets Nick seems to be visited by spirits within the house when June and Jack are mentioned. However, this doesn’t happen again until half way through the book with Nick seeing them as well. It’s a supposed connection between them, but to me, it didn’t make sense. I felt that it should have been something that came up more. If there are spirits, I felt they should have had a bigger role in this. They show up in a dream as well, but it felt like something that was intended to have a bigger effect in the story but didn’t pan out as so. Same with having the house be almost alive and the focal point of the story. It did play a big part, but it quickly fell to the side when everyone came to Two Oaks. Cassie’s dreams (aka the parts from the past that she basically stopped seeing half way through and we kept reading it anyways) continued it for a bit, but it ended soon after Tate and others showed up. It would come up now and again, but it fell away. To me, if it had kept as the start of the book had been, it would have been one of the most original stories I’d read in ages.
The stories were interesting. I did want to know what happened. But it was never exciting. Nothing really climatic happened. It felt like a slow line in which nothing really changed. The romance fell flat, the characters though interesting, nothing really changed within them. It simply was. Cassie just suddenly had money. That was really the only change. You could guess the story and what would happen less than half way through and get it right (I did). It was simply a story I had high hopes for only to force my way through it, like it was a school book, and hope for a surprise that never came.
As for suggesting this story? I do know people who ate it up and loved it. I do think people will like this book, even if I didn’t. So yes, to some I would. But if they’re looking for something exciting, I probably wouldn’t.
Rating – 3 stars