Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Starfish [review]


Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Published by Simon Pulse on September 26, 2017
320 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
cw: 
sexual assault, racism, emotional abuse, victim blaming, portrayals of anxiety, suicide

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads IndieBound Author’s Website

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

This is a book I really wish my younger self could have read. There are so many deep, important subjects here that I feel are covered in a healthy, realistic way. Kiko is a biracial girl living in an overwhelmingly-white town who finds herself dealing with the intersection of several different issues: racism (both from her classmates and her white mother), abuse (both emotional and sexual), and mental illness (severe social anxiety).

I feel weird just standing there listening. Do other people do that? Move from circle to circle, socializing with everyone like they all know each other? It seems invasive. I don’t know the rules.

As a white woman who was raised in rural New England, I am constantly learning and growing when it comes to issues surrounding race. Because of this, I defer to own voices reviews when it comes to aspects of race in books. However, I can speak to some extent to the latter two topics mentioned above. I felt that Akemi’s portrayal of sexual assault and social anxiety were both spot-on. Of course, everyone’s experiences are different, but I really saw my own reflected here, which made me feel understood and validated. My one issue being that both Kiko and her friends tended to joke about and/or accuse her abusive mother of being bipolar or narcissistic. It was definitely a bummer to see an author attempt to destigmatize one form of mental illness while at the same time continuing to stigmatize others.

I paint three faceless people–one becomes the sky, one becomes the ocean, and one becomes the sun. They live apart for eternity because they don’t belong together.

I loved pretty much everything else about this book. I found myself hooked into the plot right from the beginning. I really felt like I was in Kiko’s head and her emotions became my own. I adored the focus on her art and the descriptions of her pieces (or lack thereof) at the end of each chapter. I thought it was just wonderful to have a romantic subplot that wasn’t the focus of everything, and it was wonderful to have a character whose emotional well-being was not tied to their romantic relationship. I think a lot of folx (myself included) struggle to find a balance in relationships where they are able to use their partner for support without using them as a crutch. I was so happy that Akemi was able to depict a protagonist who could do this, especially since it was depicted as something that involved conscientiousness and work to do.

He looks confused, and of course he is. Normal people don’t need to prepare for social interactions. Normal people don’t panic at the sight of strangers. Normal people don’t want to cry because the plan they’ve processed in their head is suddenly not the plan that’s going to happen.

In short, I loved this book and I cannot recommend it enough. I’m so glad that I got my hands on a copy and I really can’t wait to see what Akemi puts out next. Please let me know if you’ve read this and, if so, what your thoughts were! If you haven’t read it, do you plan to? Also, how beautiful is the cover??

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(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Raven Boys [review]


The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle #1)
Published by Scholastic Press on September 18, 2012
409 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
cw: 
domestic abuse, self-harm

Goodreads IndieBound Author’s Website

So I am finally jumping on the TRC train! I first read The Raven Boys in late 2013, I believe. I had gotten it as a gift and was on winter break from college–winter break is such a good time to get reading done and I miss it so much–and I just remember devouring it. Quite a while later, I picked up The Dream Thieves and I just… couldn’t get it into it. Mostly because it had been so long since I had read TRB that I could barely remember a thing! So I DNFed it and haven’t picked up any TRC books since.

For a while now, I’ve been thinking that the series deserved another shot from me. My bff Grace mentioned that she wanted to reread the series (she adores it), so I suggested a buddy read! And here we are. I’ve completed the first book, and it will probably be a couple more weeks until we move onto the second. In the meantime, here’s my review!

I can’t believe I forgot how wonderful this book is. Everything Steifvater does in it is incredible. The prose itself, the dialogue, the characters, the settings. It all just comes together to create this beautiful experience. I tore through the book in just a couple days and loved every second of it.

Even when they were quiet, people really were the noisiest animals.

Okay, y’all know I’m not usually one to gush, but I neeeed to gush about these boys. Adam is honestly perfect and I want to shrink him down and put him in my pocket and keep him safe from literally everything in this cruel world. Ronan is a Bad Boy and sulky and dark and loves his baby bird and is basically everything high school me would have loved. Gansey is living in his own world and somehow manages to offend everyone while also being a precious angel. And Noah is darling and cute and sad and I adore him. (Sidenote: There is NO WAY Adam does not know how to drive a stick shift and I refuse to believe that he doesn’t.)

Sometimes, Gansey felt like his live was made up of a dozen hours that he could never forget.

Of course Blue is the best character out of all of them. Part of me is like “you should try to be critical, is she a Mary Sue?” and the rest of me is like “who cares, she’s awesome and we deserve more female characters like her.” I want to say Blue reminds me of me, but she’s like a way cooler version of me, kind of. Anyway. Blue. She’s great.

Gansey looked up to them, and she saw in his face that he loved this place… She recognized the strange happiness that came from loving something without knowing why you did, that strange happiness that was sometimes so big it felt like sadness. It was the way she felt when she looked at the stars.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Stiefvater’s writing is just gorgeous and even if the story isn’t your thing, I think anyone can appreciate the talent she has. It’s worth a shot, anyway. To be honest, though, I didn’t love the ending. It was too abrupt and a little confusing to me–and I think I felt the same way the first time around. But I’ll see how it ties in to the rest of the series before I make a full judgment.

Okay, TRC fans: please let’s discuss. I am all about this book right now. And people who haven’t read TRC: read it so we can discuss, okay?

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #3


Paper Girls, Vol 1.

I think this graphic novel just moved a little too fast for me. I got really lost plot-wise and had no idea what was going on, so I found it difficult to enjoy. I plan on picking it up again around Halloween, as I’m sure I’ll enjoy it much more as a reread! I also plan on continuing the series, so I’ll make sure to get my hands on Volume 2 at some point. Definitely an interesting read, even if it is confusing!

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Six of Crows

There’s not much I can say about this that hasn’t already been said. I was worried I wouldn’t enjoy this as much as everyone else, but it truly lives up to the hype. Leigh Bardugo builds an incredible world and introduces us to a (mostly) lovable cast of characters. I have not felt this immersed in a book in ages. I cannot wait to read the sequel and you better believe I’m adding the rest of Bardugo’s books to my TBR.

Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Warcross

I went into this hoping it would be good, but not expecting a lot and it blew me away. This is one of those books that I couldn’t even stop to take notes during because I was so enthralled. I had to put it down a few times just to breathe. I adored this story every step of the way, but the end wrecked me. I had predicted half of the twist, but didn’t see the other half coming. I’m really intrigued to see how Lu continues this series!

Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thanks for reading! Have you read any of these books? If so, what were your thoughts?

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Wild Girls [review]


The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy
Published by Viking Juvenile on October 18, 2007
288 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
cw: 
alcoholism, domestic abuse

Goodreads IndieBound 

It is the early 1970s. Twelve-year-old Joan is sure that she is going to be miserable when her family moves from Connecticut to California. Then she meets a most unusual girl. Sarah prefers to be called Fox, and lives with her author dad in a rundown house in the middle of the woods. The two girls start writing their own stories together, and when one wins first place in a student contest, they find themselves recruited for a summer writing class taught by the equally unusual Verla Volante. The Wild Girls is about friendship, the power of story, and how coming of age means finding your own answers rather than simply taking adults on faith.

Wow, I cannot even begin to recommend this book enough. I don’t remember how it made its way onto my TBR list, but all I can say is that I’m glad it did and that I’m glad my Down the TBR Hole posts led me back to it! I’ll definitely be pushing this in the face of everyone who asks me for book recs for a while to come.

They were shocked. They were angry. They were afraid.

We were the wild girls who lived in the woods. We had won a contest, we had put on our war paint and nothing would ever be the same again. We were the wild girls, and they did not know what we might do.

The Wild Girls follows the blossoming relationship between two girls, Newt and Fox (or Joan and Sarah). Although neither of the girls were canonically queer, I definitely read them as such and saw a lot of myself in both of them. They spend their free time getting muddy in the woods and writing stories and see no point in fawning over boys or trying to fit in.

The book really teeters between middle grade and young adult. The writing is simple in some ways, but not boring by any means. Joan is surprisingly mature, but still childlike. The issues that come up are realistic and complex. In my opinion, readers of all ages will enjoy the story. I found myself captivated the entire time and finished it in just a couple sittings.

There is a solid plot running through the book, but the focus of the story is really on the relationships between characters. We see not only Newt and Fox, but also the people that Newt and Fox interact with on a regular basis. We get to see how they all fit together and how they grow to learn more about each other.

There were a couple things that did rub me the wrong way. The “not like other girls” trope was present for a bit at the beginning, but luckily faded away after that. There was a lot of mentions of “war paint” which felt like cultural appropriation, as did the brief talk of “spirit animals” by the college student who had studied a Hopi tribe–it wasn’t extensive, but it seemed a bit troublesome. Those were really the only issues I had with it, though.

Maybe the best part to me is that Murphy manages to create a happy story. Although some deep stuff goes down, the characters manage to make it through these events with the support of their friends and families. This was a soft, nourishing read–and I don’t know if I’ve ever described a book as nourishing before. I wanted to curl up with it and let it lull me to sleep. This is a book I wish I had been able to read years ago, when I was growing up feeling outcast and lonely and not knowing how to make it through life’s curves. It was beautiful.

I truly recommend this book to everyone, but particularly writers and particularly particularly young writers. Please read this book, y’all. It is wonderful.

Thank you for reading! Please let me know if you’ve read The Wild Girls and what your thoughts were on it. You can also find me on Twitter and Goodreads.
(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Juliet Takes a Breath [review]

**Note: I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion. This in no way impacted my review.

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Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Published by Riverdale Avenue Books on January 18, 2016
276 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
(cover from Goodreads)

Goodreads IndieBound | Author’s Website

This girl made me lose my train of thought. I wanted to watch her eat strawberries and make her a mixtape.

Wow! Wow! WOW!!!! Y’all this book is SO GOOD!!!! Juliet Takes a Breath reeled me right in and didn’t let me go. The representation is excellent: Juliet is a chubby Puerto Rican lesbian and the entire book is chock full of non-white characters and lgbtqia+ characters–often intersecting. We get to see a lot of different dynamics at play, which is really cool.

I fell asleep with that book in my arms because words protect hearts and I’ve got this ache in my chest that won’t go away.

I’m white and don’t want to take up a ton of space with a review when there are plenty of ownvoices reviews that y’all should look at instead, so I’ll just say a few things that came up for me when I was reading it.

I try to be intersectional, but the callout against White Feminism was a good reminder for me to work harder to be more inclusive and to actively fight for folx who might not be within my specific demographic. I love how casually polyamory was discussed and how it was normalized within the story. I love how much Juliet loves her body and how much she talks about loving her body.

Juliet Takes a Breath is a tremendous read that I would absolutely recommend to everyone out there. It’s well-written with great characters, and is super easy to get through! If you’ve read it, please give me your thoughts in the comments.

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Lost at Sea [review]


Lost at Sea by Brian Lee O’Malley
Published by Oni Press on July 24, 2012 (originally 2003)
160 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1-93266-416-4
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author Website

Raleigh doesn’t have a soul. A cat stole it — or at least that’s what she tells people — or at least that’s what she would tell people if she told people anything. But that would mean talking to people, and the mere thought of social interaction is terrifying. How did such a shy teenage girl end up in a car with three of her hooligan classmates on a cross-country road trip? Being forced to interact with kids her own age is a new and alarming proposition for Raleigh, but maybe it’s just what she needs — or maybe it can help her find what she needs — or maybe it can help her to realize that what she needs has been with her all along. 


Okay, so full disclosure: this book has been sitting on my shelf for I don’t even know how long. Maybe two years? Maybe more? I believe I got it as a Christmas gift and then never got around to it. I honestly haven’t read any Bryan Lee O’Malley except for a bit of Scott Pilgrim in high school (which I’ve been meaning to read in full at some point). I put Lost at Sea on my TBR for the Make Me Read readathon since it’s a relatively short book and a graphic novel to boot. And I am so, so glad I finally got around to reading it!

I get thoughts like:
I look in the mirror and I don’t belong there. I see myself and I look all wrong. Stephanie looks bold and bouncy and fresh and normal, and I look like something else. Too long, too stringy, too pasty, too squarish,
kind of inhuman.

Oh boy, this whole thing hit me right in the heart. Rileigh isn’t flat-out labeled as having depression, but I related a lot to the ways in which she acted and the thought patterns that she had and it felt very similar to my own experiences with depression. It was incredible reading this, feeling like O’Malley reached into my brain and plucked the words right out and put them in the pages of this book.


The illustrations were just gorgeous as well. Sometimes I get distracted while reading graphic novels if I don’t enjoy the art, but I thought this was just beautiful. The style was perfect and I felt things were conveyed very well. I think I posted about a thousand pictures to my Instragram story as I was reading. I can’t wait to read this again after letting in marinate in my mind a little. I definitely highly recommend this book to all and am so glad that I have my own copy, which is something that I don’t usually consider a necessity as far as books go anymore.


Anyway, thanks for reading! Please let me know in the comments what you thought of Lost at Sea or, if you haven’t read it, whether you’ll consider adding it to your TBR. You can also find me over on Twitter and Goodreads.

Book Reviews

Emma in the Night [review]

**Note: This book was given to me by St. Martin’s Press as part of a sweepstakes. This in no way impacts my review. Review was written in May of 2017.


Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
To be published by St. Martin’s Press on August 8, 2017
Advance Readers’ Edition, 305 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1-250-14143-9

I honestly do not know where to begin with this book. I entered the sweepstakes to win a copy of the ARC of Emma in the Night on a whim. The cover was enticing, the plot looked interesting. Hey, why not. I had not read anything else by Wendy Walker and I had not heard anything about this release yet. Boy, was that a good decision. This is an incredible read that could otherwise have slipped me by.

Emma in the Night is a story about a girl and her sister, who vanish without a trace. Three years later, the younger sister reappears. She seems willing to tell the authorities everything she knows about their disappearances. There’s a lot going on, however, that she isn’t willing to talk about. The story is told from the perspectives of Cass, one of the sisters, and Dr. Walker, an FBI agent who can see deeper than anyone else working the case.

At first, I found the disjointed storytelling to be confusing and frustrating. We were just getting bits and pieces of the story from Cass herself or secondhand from Dr. Walker’s recounted conversations with Cass. Right off the bat, the writing style made me feel really lost in the story. As things progressed, I realized how intentional (not to mention essential) this was. Cass is an unreliable narrator, and makes it clear that she only feels the need to reveal things that will help her cause: finding her sister.

The characters were fascinating, complex, and well-developed. The plot and the writing were phenomenal. I could not make myself put this book down. I loved watching the story unravel, seeing things make both more and less sense as we progressed until it all came together with an impressive flourish. I knew there were twists coming, but I truly had no idea what was in store for me.

Wendy Walker blew this out of the water. Her writing is immersive and carefully crafted. I cannot emphasize enough how much I enjoyed this book–and I’m sure it will be great as a re-read as well. I’d recommend it to all who enjoy a good plot twist, but particularly to fans of thrillers and crime novels.

 

Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

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Book Reviews

The Roses of May

**Note: This book was received through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.


The Roses of May by Dot Hutchinson
To be published by Thomas & Mercer on May 23, 2017
Advanced Reader’s Copy E-book Edition, 302 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1-503-93950-9

Right off the bat I’m going to give my trigger warnings for this book, although it isn’t necessarily a comprehensive list. I will not be discussing these triggers in my review. Content warning for The Roses of May for: eating disorders, stalking, and sexual assault.

I was STOKED when I saw this on NetGalley. I had just read The Butterfly Garden a month or two beforehand and couldn’t believe my luck in stumbling across an ARC of the sequel. I gave The Butterfly Garden five stars and was really looking forward to what Dot Hutchinson was up to next.

Let me just start off by saying that even though I hyped this book up in my mind, it completely lived up to it. I didn’t even read the plot summary because I was so sure that Dot would pull out another wonderful work. It was kind of nice to go in cold and without much in the way of expectations as far as plot goes, but I will briefly cover the story.

The Roses of May is definitely a sequel to The Butterfly Garden. I think I’ve seen a few folks say it could work as a standalone piece, but I really disagree. I mean, it’s certainly possible to read it without any context, but I just don’t think it’ll hold up as well. A lot of the characters carry over and their stories are so closely tied that I don’t think it would do the story justice not to have that background.

The Roses of May focuses on a young woman named Priya whose story is largely unrelated to The Butterfly Garden, save for the fact that the same group of FBI agents had worked a case close to her. Dot Hutchinson uses this connection to weave Priya’s story in with that of the Butterflies’. This book follows Priya’s life five years after the murder of her older sister. Naturally, the killer returns and the agents are on the case. It sounds a little cheesy, but it’s really well done in my opinion.

Dot Hutchinson’s writing is fantastic, per usual. I remembered being struck by her writing in The Butterfly Garden and was glad to experience it again so soon! The story was immersive, the characters were wonderful, and it was almost impossible for me to put down. It was also wonderful to read a book with women of color as the main characters! There are also two notable lgbt women, which I was super excited about! There are so many complex women in Dot Hutchinson’s books, I love it. It was also great to see a really nice mom-daughter relationship, which I feel like we don’t see enough of.

Overall, The Roses of May was a fantastic read that I would highly recommend to anyone interested, but would probably be best for lovers of thriller and crime. I can see why it wouldn’t work for some people, but I loved it!

Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

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