The Sunday Post | Weekly Wrap-Up #7

I’m linking up with The Sunday Post hosted by Kimberly @Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Hey y’all! I’ve skipped the last few of these, I know. I’m doing so well though, and I’m getting back in my routine!

I managed two reviews this week! (click on the picture to see the review):

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman, which is one of my favorite books of the year by far!

And Sunshine is Forever by Kyle T. Cowan, which I had mixed feelings about.

It was really interesting that I chose these two, because I’ve been struggling so much with my own mental health and that is a huge factor in both of these novels. Maybe I did it subconsciously, haha.

Starfish Novel Sunshine is Forever novel

I have all the ARCs. I never seem to get really into the ones I think I’m going to! I was so stoked for Mask of Shadows, and about 100 pages in and I’m still not enamored of it. But I have a bunch to choose from.

These Things I've Done by Rebecca Phillips

In really REALLY exciting news, I’m part of the blog tour for Rebecca Phillips’ These Things I’ve Done, which I reviewed here. So there will be a Q&A with Rebecca here on August Fourth! I hope you all come see. Her answers are as brilliant and insightful as I knew they would be!

I hope everyone is having an incredible week, and I can’t wait to read your posts!

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Starfish: You Have to Read It

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Published by Simon Pulse: scheduled for Sept. 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Pages: 320

OH MY GOD. I’m honestly still freaking out. I love this book so. Effing. Much. There are hardly words to describe how much it means to me, so let’s get started and I hope I can do it justice.

Starfish Novel

All the Wrong Chords Book

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.

The Characters

I could write an entire essay just on how much I love Kiko, our narrator. But let’s start with those around her.

For a little while, we get a really great female friendship between Kiko and her best friend, Emery. I love it for a lot of reasons, but especially because though Kiko has issues with her own appearance, she never takes it out on Emery. It’s so, SO rare that I see a book with two female characters where “I’m mad because she’s prettier than me” isn’t a main plot point. None of that here, though. Their friendship is so loving and beautiful.

Jamie, Kiko’s other best friend, is so wonderful. He’s such a perfect example of how a guy can be supportive and helpful and still incredibly sexy, no “boring nice guy” trope here.

Hiroshi, Kiko’s mentor, is AMAZING. I love his whole family. I love young girl – old man friendship, and I am obsessed with this one. They made me cry more than once.

And then there’s Kiko’s family. I cannot describe to you how happy it makes me when I thoroughly despise a character. There’s nothing I hate more than a lackluster antagonist. Kiko’s mom kills me, because she is so awful and so perfectly well-written that you can’t help but loathe her. I won’t ruin it, but I bawled my eyes out when I read the starfish metaphor, because EVERYONE HAS A FUCKING STARFISH IN THEIR LIFE. You will feel it so hard.

And then we have Kiko! I love Kiko. I love her so much. I love her art, I love her character. I even love her inability to stand up for herself because I completely get it. Kiko’s journey as an artist and a victim and a Japanese woman is so gorgeous. I cried so many times watching her grow, and that is the best compliment I could ever give. I can, occasionally, find timidity exhausting, but I understand and empathize with Kiko at every step though we couldn’t be more different.

The Writing

Is gorgeous! The pacing is on point, I was never bored for even a second. I love contemporary that keeps you going as easily as a suspense does. The tension is so palpable, and I had to know what would happen to Kiko. I had to keep reading.

I’m a painter, so I may be biased, but I LOVE the art in this! I’ve read stories about painters where we know the character is an artist but we don’t see or feel it. We feel Kiko’s art. We know exactly how she feels, we’re tuned into her drawings and paintings and I just adore that art is such a major part of this.

I don’t know Akemi, the author, but I’d be willing to bet she’s a feminist. And I love that. I love YA with feminist ideas peppered throughout; we need young people to see it.

So here’s what I thought about the representation in it:

We get this amazing story about a half-Japanese girl whose (white) mother seemingly hates the Asian parts of her. She doesn’t know a lot about her culture, she’s upset about not fitting in, not looking like the people around her, etc. I think this is beautiful, SO great for young Asian people to see the progression in Kiko, and any mixed-race people can, I believe, empathize. It is so hard to not feel like part of any culture.

Miss Akemi is on Twitter and you should most definitely follow her <3

Thanks to NetGalley for advanced access to this book in exchange for an honest review!



Sunshine is Forever novel

Sunshine is Forever is a Great Depiction of Depression

Sunshine is Forever by Kyle T Cowan

Published by Inkshares; scheduled for August, 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Pages: 270 (ebook)

So! I have a lot of feelings about this book. There’s a lot to love here and some things I definitely didn’t dig. So let’s get into it!

Sunshine is Forever novel

All the Wrong Chords Book

After a life-changing decision, Hunter decides that he can’t go on…

…which lands him in Camp Sunshine, a rehab center for depressed teens. Hunter is determined to keep everyone there out of his head, especially his therapist. But when he meets Corin, a beautiful, mysterious, and confident fellow camper, all Hunter wants to do is open up to her, despite the fact that he’s been warned Corin is bad news.

When Corin devises a plan for them to break out of the camp, Hunter is faced with the ultimate choice — will he run from the traumatic incident he’s tried so hard to escape, or will he learn that his mistakes have landed him right where he’s meant to be?

The Characters

I really liked the secondary characters! Quint, a boy at Camp Sunshine is completely amazing. The other kids at CS are really unique and easy to keep straight, and I really enjoyed them.

Hunter, our narrator, is so easy to empathize with. Especially if you’ve ever been depressed. His character isn’t always likable, but he’s very real and completely easy to connect to.

Corin, though, Hunter’s love interest, I had some real problems with. And we’re going to get to that.

The Writing

Makes this such an easy read. It’s so humorous, so sharp, filled just enough with sarcasm and sadness and I love it. The pacing is spot on, carrying you through really quickly.

It’s also one of the most accurate depictions of this level of depression that I’ve seen. It’s first person narrative, so we get to experience with Hunter how he feels. He doesn’t want to get better, he assumes his life will end in suicide, and it’s not pretty, but it’s real.

There are a fair amount of triggers here, so be aware of that. Self-harm, talk of former sexual abuse, suicide attempts. That’s kind of just the nature of the beast here.

Problematic attitudes about sex

So, I’d like to make clear that I have never been a sixteen year old boy, so I can’t say how realistic this is, but Hunter is pretty sure that sex will cure his depression. His “love” for Corin is really just lust, and their relationship is really bothersome for me.

I can’t stand when two people have almost no interaction, but decide they’re in love. I get that they’re teenagers, I get that people can be intoxicating and you can meet someone who feels like your everything very quickly. But I didn’t feel an “aww!” about Corin and Hunter, I felt “What? Why? How?” And because of this, I could never root for them.

I also just genuinely didn’t like Corin. She felt very trope-y to me. She’s the crazy girl that’s so exciting and mysterious and seductive! But also mean and hateful and kind of awful? I couldn’t stand it. In nearly every interaction, she’d call Hunter a girl, tell him to man up, tell him to grow a pair, the list could go on forever. All my least favorite phrases came out of her mouth. Hunter even said he hated the name calling, she made him feel like less of a man, and her controlling nature bothered him. So their “love” for me was mostly upsetting.

My final thought

Sunshine is Forever is good for what it is. I think it’s a great conversation around depression and all forms of mental illness, I think there is some great stuff about taking accountability for yourself and your actions. But I also think the relationship between Corin and Hunter being labelled as love is extremely problematic, and only made more so by its being a book for teens.

Thanks to NetGalley for advanced access to this book in exchange for an honest review!



 

Nyxia novel

Nyxia: I’m Conflicted

Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad #1) by Scott Reintgen

Published by Crown Books; scheduled for September 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Sci-fi

Pages: 384

I was super intrigued by the premise of Nyxia, and after a reading/blogging slump after a bad mental health week, I was so excited to jump into it! It met my expectations in some areas, missed in others, so here’s a pro/con list review for you! A little different from my usual format.

Nyxia by Scott Reingten

All the Wrong Chords Book

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden–a planet that Babel has kept hidden–where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human. 

Pro:

I thought this was a really cool concept, and I was intrigued right away. I love the space travel, the competition between kids who thought they were shoo-ins. The people who have recruited you maybe not being who they seem. I love it. And there is a lot to love about the way it was handled.

Con:

Now I want to start by saying I am in no way trying to insult anyone, at all, whatsoever. This isn’t even a con. It’s a con-ish. I immediately saw the bible references in the description, Eden, Babel, etc. I am not a religious person, and I’m not currently, particularly interested in reading biblical allegory. I asked on Goodreads, before reading, whether the story was religious, and the author answered me (which is so polite, so wonderful) and gave me a really awesome, full description saying that the story wasn’t necessarily an allegory.

There are some pretty heavy undertones, though. The story of Babel being turned upside down with the kids all coming together to speak the same language, as opposed to the opposite. Rest days being called the Sabbath. Some bible quotes. What threw me off is that this was never really explained? They’re a company called Babel, on a ship called Genesis, going to a planet called Eden, populated with people they’ve called the Adamites. That’s pretty explicit, right? But there’s no talk of why they’ve named anything the way they have. Is the Babel corporation trying to be/reach God? Idk. I’m only putting this out here in so much detail so you can see why it kind of threw me off, even though there’s nothing wrong with it.

All the Wrong Chords Book

Pro:

I love an ensemble cast, as I’ve spoken about before. I did enjoy the group, watching the dynamic between them twist and change throughout. I especially love that the kids are poor, or as one character describes them all, broken. They come from messed up situations, which is how Babel has convinced them to go on the mission in the first place.

 Con:

I don’t know if this is just the nature of the beast, because it’s first person from only Emmett, so we can only see through his eyes. But I didn’t get a great feel for the whole cast. It’s a decent amount of characters, but even halfway through I’d sometimes have to remind myself who one of them even was. I just didn’t care about a lot of them. With how closely Emmett interacted with them, I’d liked to have had a better feel for all of them. Especially since some of them will be returning in later books, and I know I won’t remember the characters when that time comes.

There is one point, huge spoiler so I won’t say too much, but there is a death on the ship. I should care, but I don’t. I don’t know how else to explain that. I really care about Emmett, and I care about his reactions to things, but I don’t care about the ensemble enough to care about such a huge moment, and that’s not the best.

 

All the Wrong Chords Book

Pro:

The writing is beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous. It’s first-person, present-tense, so you really get into Emmett’s head through the whole competition. His emotions come through, loud and clear. His issues with poverty are beautiful and realistic. His constant fight to grow and change while not turning into something ugly is gorgeous to watch.

Con:

I did have some issues with the pacing. I found myself occasionally getting bored, because I like my sci-fi (at least of this nature, with spaceships and crazy new substances and other planets) to be really sci-fi, and a lot of this was character driven. Which is great in its own right, and I definitely feel connected to Emmett, so there’s that. I just found the story to move too slowly in many areas.

 

Pro:

There are actually a few, but one big one right at the end had me yelling, which you know I love. I give props to any story that can make me make noise, and this definitely did.

 

Pro:

Is wonderful. The whole point is pulling kids from all different backgrounds together and forcing them to speak the same language and interact regardless of culture differences. We look at poverty/brokenness from all over the world, rather than just what that looks like in America.

 

Overall, I think there are tons of people that would/will really enjoy this book! For me, it had its hits and misses.


The Lost Causes novel

The Lost Causes: Not Cliche, Super-powered Teens

The Lost Causes by Jessica Koosed Etting & Alyssa Embree Schwartz

Published by Kids Can Press, expected September 2017

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller

Pages: 344

The Lost Causes has so many of my favorite tropes wrapped up in one book. I’m such a sucker for ensemble casts, like three or more main characters and I’m in. I love teen powers as long as it’s not “This one kid is the chosen one!” And I love friendship stories, especially unlikely friendships! This book doesn’t disappoint.

 

The Lost Causes Novel

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

They’re the kids that no one knows — or no one wants to know. The rich depressive, the OCD chick, the hypochondriac, the drug abuser, the athlete with anger management issues. All chosen for intensive group therapy because they’re out of other options. They’re lost causes, the therapist tells them. She promises this support group will help them heal. 

There’s only one problem. She’s not a therapist. And that water she offers? It contains a dangerous serum that gives each of the kids a psychic power. 

Suddenly, they can think clearly, speak to ghosts, see the past, even move objects with their mind. Their earlier problems have vanished, but their new freedom comes with a price. 
Sabrina, Gabby, Z, Justin and Andrew are to help the FBI solve the grisly murder that has rocked their small town. Their new powers will help them uncover clues and follow leads that have eluded the authorities. Their outsider status gives them the perfect cover. 

But the same traits that make them top investigators also make them vulnerable. As they close in on the murderer, they expose a much larger conspiracy that puts them directly in harm’s way and makes them wonder who — if anyone — they can trust.

The Lost Causes nvel

Are so fun! This to me has a Heroes vibe (before the show became unbearable), or even more accurately, Misfits (also before it became unbearable). I LOVED Misfits, and this is like a book version of that! So cute.

I also think the powers given to the kids are cool. I was surprised by one being able to see ghosts, for example. It seems almost out of place, even for a story about kids with powers. But I think it works really, really well here.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Are so great. I love them all. Each of the five self-titled “Lost Causes” has their own distinct background and reason for being a kid whose parents have given up on them.

I thought the kids would blend together, or become too much like set archetypes, but they all broke the mold pretty quickly! I knew their names/backstories/powers within the first few chapters, which for me says a lot because I have trouble keeping it straight with ensemble casts unless everyone is really different.

The teens feel so realistic. They often behave in annoying but so teenager-y ways and I love it.

I rooted for both romances in the story, even squealing out loud when one came to fruition.

I LOVE stories about friendship, and I especially adore stories about unlikely friendships. It’s my favorite thing about shows like Misfits, and it was what saved One Of Us Is Lying for me. Here, I really enjoyed watching the kids get to know each other. There isn’t cattiness or jealousy among the girls, because they’ve wanted a friend so badly and now they have each other. I love it.

Also worth noting, especially the farther we go along, we get a humanization of the villains, and I always find that so spectacular. I love having an antagonist I simultaneously hate and feel bad for.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

The pacing is spot on. I started the book this morning and finished this afternoon, taking breaks here and there to play with my dog and talk to my kiddo, but the book was never far away, and I would have been truly disappointed if I’d had to walk away from it for any prolonged time today. The kids really draw you in, and the plot unfolding holds interest.

I think the powers are written really well, especially the ghost scenes which are nice and creepy! I would have been freaked out if I’d been reading at night, and that’s really all I want from a ghost scene.

The end was tied up a little too neatly for me, but then the last few sentences are a cliffhanger so yay! I would love to read another in this series.

The Lost Causes novel

Is really cool, I didn’t see it coming. Really, it’s a series of twists and turns and it’s so delightfully unsettling. I love not knowing who to trust, and I love that for the last third or so of the book, I was totally out of my element with no idea what to expect!

And the cliffhanger especially, oh boy. I am so stoked for whatever is coming.

Is that considering I didn’t know what to expect (books like this can really, really go either way), I really enjoyed this! I read it more-or-less in one sitting.

Also, it’s not important to me, but it may be to you, this is a decently clean read for a YA about misfits. No cursing, no sex. There is some reference to drug use, but only very early on.

The Lost Causes novel

*Note: My reviews are full of opinions. I may love a book. May want to marry it like the kid in the commercial for Peanut Butter Crunch (1999 was a great year for cereal and commercials, look it up). I may say a book is the best thing to happen to me since I started shaving my big toe. None of these things mean it is objectively good. I recognize that. Many times throughout my life, I have given a book I swore to be a life-changer to a friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/balloon animal artist. Shaking, quietly weeping, I’d hand it (and my heart) over. Only to find out several weeks later that for them the book was good, maybe even great, but not the life-giving, soul-renewing magic I’d purported. You may not like a book I recommend. Sue me.

**Please don’t sue me, I just write here.