July Reads and an Update – Bookish

Now that July has come to a close, I thought I would share with you what I read in July. Overall, I read 13 books, including 4 audiobooks, 3 children’s books, 3 young adult books, 3 eARCs, and 3 nonfiction books. Overall, I’m satisfied with this month of reading. (Be sure to scroll all the way to the end for an update!)

dreadnoughtThe first book I finished in July was Dreadnought, which I rated 4/ 5 stars. If you read my reflection, you’ll know that I requested the eARC of its sequel Sovereign before having read Dreadnought. It was a bit of a mad dash to read Dreadnought and Sovereign before Sovereign’s release date, but I’m so glad I took on the challenge!

 

tom sawyer coverI also finished The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in July and it was a 4/ 5 stars for me. It turns out that while I had read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a child, I had not read Tom Sawyer. Audible channels, which are free for Audible or Prime members, had an audiobook version of Tom Sawyer narrated by Nick Offerman and I knew I had to listen to it. Offerman’s performance was great and I’m so glad I let him read me this classic. The review will not be published on this blog, but you can find it on my other social media sites, namely Facebook, Goodreads, or find the Goodreads link on Twitter. If you want to see ALL of my reviews for all the books I read, I very much recommend you follow me on Facebook, Goodreads, or both!

year of yes coverNext I started and finished Year of Yes in July and it was a 5 star read and made my favorites list, a pretty exclusive list for me. It will be reviewed on this blog at some point in the near future (see below for information on that). I borrowed the audiobook version from the library and Shonda Rhimes narrates it. Her narration is incredible and really made the book stick with me. This is a book I plan to reread and when I do, I will do so through audio again. I think it’s the only way to read this book.

the hour of daydreamsI then finished the eARC The Hour of Daydreams, a 4 star read whose review will publish next Monday. I also hope to have an author interview with Renee Rutledge about her book to post on Friday. This book was a wonderful read and I’m so grateful I was given a review copy. I hope you will check out my posts around this book next week!

 

the gifts of imperfection coverIt was time to switch it up with a bit of nonfiction. I read I Thought it was Just Me and it was the first Brene Brown book I did not rate 5 stars. I eventually settled on 4 stars, though I initially gave it 3 stars. But after realizing I was partly downgrading the book because it forced me to look at myself in a way I was not thrilled about, I decided to not take it out on the book. It is a good book, but I did have real criticisms about it. It was essentially her first book and I’m glad to see that her follow-up books have been excellent reads. This book will not be reviewed on this site, but you can see my review for it on Facebook, Goodreads, or find the Goodreads link on Twitter.

echo coverI came across Echo in a sale Audible was having on its children’s books and saw that it had won an Audie. I very much wanted to read it, so I borrowed the audiobook from the library and was not disappointed with the quality of the audiobook. It was great how each story within the larger novel was narrated by a difference actor. In addition, the music the book referenced was played in the audiobook, which made it a much richer experience. I am glad I choose the audiobook over the print version. This was a 4 star read for me and its review will post on this blog soon (again, see below for more detail).

monkey mind coverThen came my first bad read, Monkey Mind. I had first rated it 2 stars, but upon further reflection, one particular scene greatly bothered me and I had to downgrade it to a 1 star rating. It’s not a book I recommend for anyone. If you want to see the review of it, check out Facebook, Goodreads, or find the Goodreads link on Twitter.

 

sovereignThankfully, my next read, which was an eARC, was great! As you already know, Sovereign was a 4 star read for me. While it started out slow for me, by the end, I was just as hooked as I was with Dreadnought and was just as happy with the overall quality. This is a great series and I hope it continues to deliver.

 

 

the lord of the fliesEvery month, my library does a theme and displays books around that theme near the front of the library. For several months now, I have read a selection from each month. I’m not sure why I started doing this, but I really enjoy doing it. This month’s selection was The Lord of the Flies based on their lakeside theme. I think the connection to the theme was a bit of a stretch, but I knew I needed a short read and was happy to pick up this classic. Overall, I gave it a 3 star review, but I would like to read it again at some point. I was not in the headspace to read a book with such heavy symbolism and I would like to read it again when I can devote more energy to the symbolism and see if I gain anything from such a thorough reread. It may move up to a 4 star read if I do. If you are interested in the review, check out Facebook or Goodreads or find the Goodreads link on Twitter.

the other einstein coverThen I read a book I’m still on the fence about its rating. The Other Einstein was a book that drew me in because it was about Albert Einstein’s first wife, who was also a physicist. The book claims there is much controversy around whether or not Mrs. Einstein played a significant role in some of Einstein’s most famous early work. After reading the book, I did some research and there is greater consensus about the lack of her contributions than the book blurb implied. I still debate whether I should rate the book at 2 stars or 3 stars as I solidly rated it at 2.5 stars. Some days, I think the great liberties the book takes with a historical figure are serious enough to push the review to 2 stars and other days, I remember that I could not put the book down and read it in a day and end up keeping it at 3 stars. I suspect I will never feel completely comfortable with my rating on Goodreads, unless they decide to allow readers to give half stars. If you’d like to see the review, check out Facebook, Goodreads, or find the Goodreads link on Twitter.

the little queen coverI then read an eARC of an adorable children’s book entitled, The Little Queen. It was a fun, whimsical story that had sage advice for adults. The review will post on this blog in a few weeks and I hope you will check it out!

 

 

the underground railroad coverNext, I read The Underground Railroad which was a 4 star read for me as the detached narration pulled me a bit too much out of the story. But the writing was fantastic and hope to read more of Colson Whitehead in the future. This review will post on this blog in the near future (see below for further details).

 

the hate u give coverLastly, I read all but 15, maybe 20 pages of The Hate U Give in July. For a book which is almost 450 pages, I devoured it in record time. Whenever I put it down, my mind was constantly drawn back to the book and I found myself picking it up as soon as possible. This was a 5 star read for me and landed on my favorites list, which is a hard list to make. The review for this book will post on this blog in the near future (see below for more details).

Lastly, an update:

As you can see, I have been reading more books than I can review with only doing one review a week. Thus, I have decided to move to two reviews and reflections a week, with reviews on Mondays and Wednesdays and their respective reflections on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays will stay bookish days. The reviews on Monday will be ARCs or eARCs, typically reviewed around their date of release. The reviews on Wednesdays will be of older books either from my personal collection of books or from the library. Of course, since I cannot control how often I am approved for ARCs or eARCs, reviews on Monday may sometimes not be ARCs or eARCs, but since I have ARC and eARC reviews planned through the end of October, I suspect this will not be an issue anytime soon. I hope to make the change next week, but currently, the biggest impediment is my health which has not be great lately. While I keep up with reviews for the most part, the reflections can be much for challenging and demanding and thus are not always something I can tackle in poor health. I will make an announcement this weekend if I feel sufficiently ahead of the game to start posting two reviews and reflections a week. Thank you all for your support! If there wasn’t so much interest in this blog, I wouldn’t be upping my reviews and reflections. I am grateful to each and everyone of my followers!

Sovereign (Nemesis #2) – Reflection: Anger

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Photo credit: 2 : 😡 | Amy McTigue | CC 2.0

In Dreadnought, Danny had a decent amount of anger and talked about how she enjoyed being a superhero, but it isn’t until Sovereign that we see how much she relishes beating people up. It also becomes clear she has serious anger issues, which are now amplified since she has substantial powers. We gain a lot of insight into Danny in Sovereign and I really struggled with these internal monologues about loving violence. They unsettled me. They still do. Of course I could talk about whether a person with superpowers is a superhero if they love the violence, but that’s not really what unsettled me. What unsettled me was questions about how accurate of a depiction this is of humanity, particularly for people with anger issues.

We all know that there is a certain kind of person that relishes violence; those people are sadists. But Danny is not a sadist or at least I do not get that impression. Instead, Danny is depicted as someone who has trouble reigning in her rage and anger once she unleashes it. She regularly taps into that rage in order to win in battle, but it comes at a cost. It costs Danny her compassion and empathy. She is unable to see situations from the other person’s side and thus misses opportunities to resolve issues without violence. Unfortunately, for most of the book, Danny is okay with this as she fails to see how her anger impacts those around her.

All this left me wondering how accurate a depiction this is. There was a time in my life when I struggled with anger issues. Would I have relished power if I had been given it? Would I have relished violence if I was strong enough to bring it? Was my anger blinding me to compassion and empathy for others? How much did I miss out on when I was a ball of anger?

I do not quite understand why Danny’s discussions of how she deals with her ball of rage bothered me so much. It has greatly delayed the writing of this reflection because I just do not understand why that thread impacted me so much. What is it about Danny’s honesty about her anger that troubles me so? I am pretty sure I am just not ready to explore that yet. If I would relish power, I do not want to know that. If I would enjoy the violence a bit too much, I don’t want to face what that means about who I am.

But I suspect my hesitation to explore what Sovereign raised in me has more to do with where that anger comes from than whether I would follow in Danny’s footsteps. Reading the scene where she uses less force against a villain so she can battle him longer really did not sit well with me and I am confident I would not engage in the same behavior. For me, it is simply unacceptable to beat up someone with less defenses for as long as possible. This is partly why I dislike the whole superhero genre because I abhor violence. I am turned off by it and for that reason, do not enjoy many sports. In the end, I feel comfortable saying that if I became a superhero, I would use violence sparingly. But still, tapping into that rage is dangerous. It does blind one to much of the world around oneself. I am no stranger to tapping into that rage in order to power through; in order to pull myself up the ladder of success. It was not until I read Sovereign that I saw more clearly the cost of tapping into that rage. I do not like what I saw and it means I need to change, but I am not sure I am ready. Though are we ever?

Both Dreadnought and Sovereign have forced me to look at myself in ways I was not ready to. Both books have shown me the folly of my life choices and both have made it hard to continue down my current path. That is an incredible feat for any book, but for it to have come from a YA superhero novel, I am floored. This series has inspired me to continue to read outside my typical genre as it is clear to me that there are many life-changing books out there hiding in genres I tend to avoid. And that’s a lesson from this series I’m ready to embrace right now.

Dreadnought – Reflection: The Sequel

sovereignAs I mentioned in my review on Monday, the magic of Dreadnought is how well it dives into how Danny and society cope with her becoming a superhero and transforming into an anatomical female. For me, that’s what made the story great as I love being transported into other people’s lives and gaining new perspectives. But can a sequel keep readers like me engaged; readers who love depth and introspection, but don’t care for superheroes? Is it possible to move the series forward without reducing Danny to a transgender superhero, especially while trying to keep readers like me engaged?

This is a pertinent question as yesterday, July 25th, Sovereign (Nemesis #2) by April Daniels was released. I have been excited for this sequel for quite awhile now – so much so that I requested, and received, the ARC and then read Dreadnought. Yes, you read that correctly – I read the description of Sovereign and decided the story sounded amazing enough for me to read the first in the series to then be able to read the second before its release. I’ve never done that before, and it’s probably not the smartest way to go about deciding what to read next, but I am happy I did because I read Dreadnought and it was wonderful.

Back to the question at hand; how does a book that focuses so much on how the protagonist comes to terms with drastic changes keep engaged the readers who are excited for the sequel solely because of that focus? I’m not a writer and I’m glad I do not have to answer that question. As for how it plays out in this series, I haven’t finished the reading the sequel at the time of writing this (though I will have by the time it posts) so I cannot fully comment, but I will say that so far, I do not think this will be a series I will stick with.

Which is unfortunate as there are other deep topics that could be covered. To be fair, in the sequel, there is discussion around challenging topics such as transgender superhero visibility. Unfortunately, most of the book has focused on a superhero challenge around the nemesis, which will likely make superhero fans happy, but has left me mostly uninterested. I very much hope that changes as I want this series to succeed and I fear it will not if it only resonates with superhero fans, but I respectfully imagine the challenges faced in writing a sequel. This sequel is faced with the great enormity of coming after such a vulnerable #ownvoices story where the author likely bared her soul and quite justifiably might not want the entire series to be focused on hard, vulnerable, and challenging stories. After all, Danny is more than a transgender superhero and the series needs to be about more than just that one aspect of her. It’s just that for readers who are not superhero fans, it maybe hard for us to stay engaged if it isn’t, which bothers me. As a lesbian, I am constantly frustrated by stories that focus exclusively on the character(s) sexuality as if that’s all there is to someone who is attracted to the same sex. Danny deserves to be more than a transgender superhero, but in some ways, that is all I want her to be. I want to justify that by saying, oh, but I do not like the superhero genre so that’s why I want to focus on transgender issues and intersectionality. While there is truth in that statement, there is a piece of me that is just not yet able to go beyond that. Which is a me problem and not a problem with the sequel. While it is hard to face, this series has shown me I still have growth to do around transgender identity. For that, I am grateful.

Dreadnought (Nemisis #1) – Review

Dreadnought CoverDreadnought (Nemisis #1) by April Daniels – 4/ 5 stars

April Daniels’s debut novel transports the reader into the life of a transgender teenager with incredible depth and humanity. If you have ever wondered what it is like to be a transgender teen, you need to read this book.

Danny (aka Daniel/ Danielle) is a transgender teen hiding her identity when a superhero dies right in front of her. As he is dying, he, Dreadnought, hands over his powers to Danny. When she receives the powers, she is transformed from an anatomical male to a female. Suffice it to say that this transformation causes all sorts of issues and the rest of the book is spent trying to address these issues.

The heart of this book is how Danny deals with her body transformation as well has how others react to her. There are some reactions that are hard to stomach, but very true to life. Here is where I really gained the insight into what it is to live in a transgender body and interact with the world. It is a constant challenge and struggle. But there are other struggles as well, like sexism and adjusting to powers. Watching Danny deal with these challenges are what made this book so hard for me to put down.

Which leads to an important point – I normally dislike the superhero genre. I was not excited by the superhero battles nor am I a fan girl, though Danny is. I deeply enjoyed this book because it was about so much more than superheroes. It is about the struggles of finding oneself and overcoming challenging circumstances. The superhero idea is simply a vehicle to share that experience and I loved every minute of it.

Well, maybe not every minute because there are some challenging topics in this book. Trigger warnings are necessary for verbal and emotional abuse (by others and towards herself), hate speech, and violence. For a book about a transgender person, there is little mention of body dysmorphia, which is likely because Danny is only in the male body for the first several pages, thus no trigger warning. There are other brief teenage situations which could be triggering, such as around eating disorders. But for the most part, the hardest part of this book to read is the abuse and hate speech and it is entirely because those moments are so authentic. This is an #ownvoices story and those moments are not sugar-coated, which is exactly how they need to be presented.

Overall, this was a fantastic book I recommend to superhero lovers as well as people who love to be transported into someone else’s life. But please do heed the trigger warnings as those moments can be pretty intense. I appreciated that other characters, including superheros were diverse, though race was a minor theme of the book. My biggest complaint with the book was the ending. It seemed like a typical superhero ending with several unbelievable moments. It wraps up well enough that it can stand alone without having to read the next in the series. But I will read the next book as I am curious to see how Danny comes into her own.

Considering reading it? Check out a free Kindle preview! Please note that Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through Amazon.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

Juliet Takes a Breath – Review: ARC

Juliet Takes a Breath CoverJuliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera – 4/ 5 stars 
An intersectional debut novel about a queer Puerto Rican woman living in the Bronx who travels to Portland for an internship with a white Lesbian author for the summer. This book is part coming of age story and part navigating intersectionality and part coping with life. It covers difficult and challenging topics with a light touch, making them a part of everyday conversation. It is this light and gentle touch that makes this book so powerful and why everyone needs to read it right now.

Juliet reads a book by a white Lesbian feminist which feels as though it lacks intersectionality. The book is a bit #solidarityisforwhitewomen. So Juliet writes a letter to the author and asks for an internship to address this gap. She is offered the internship, so Juliet comes out to her family, then immediately boards a plane, and leaves the Bronx for Portland. Thus starts the novel, Juliet Takes a Breath. This book has a bit of it all from the very beginning.

Juliet is confronted with challenging topics from page one. From how to make feminism more inclusive to safe spaces for people of color and the queer community to traditional family values to Latina and specifically Puerto Rican history to letting others speak for you, this book moves fluidly from one issue to another, never diving too deep into one nor proclaiming to know all the answers. This is the genius of Juliet Takes a Breath. Most books are too heavy handed when addressing these topics and thus shut down the discussion and/ or reflection before it can happen. But instead, all the characters are flawed in some way and need others around them to have open, honest, and vulnerable conversations about these flaws. It is these conversations that allow the reader to honestly reflect on themselves and see whether any of these topics ring true for them. I know they did for me.

This is the type of coming of age story everyone needs, not just queer Latinas, because it addresses so many various topics while also being accessible to people of all different backgrounds. The concepts are discussed and defined for readers who may be less familiar with the vocabulary. Then relevant and current issues are discussed in ways which do not shame but instead allow for honest reflection on not only the role of others but also our role. It is more and more challenging to navigate the world as there is more awareness around diversity and many of us do not know how to negotiate these conversations or situations. We need more stories like this to help us start those challenging conversations and move closer to an inclusive society. We all need a Juliet in our lives.

This was one of the hardest books I have reviewed because it was so different from anything else I have come across. Over and over, I was finding moments I could relate to – very vulnerable moments, some of which I have not fully healed from. I needed this book, even now, as a grown woman who does not feel like she is coming of age. So, I want to do it justice. I need to do it justice. But I simply do not know how to do it justice. I do not have the language nor other works of fiction I can point to. This book is brilliantly unique and it is that because it is an #ownvoices story. Yet, there is absolutely something relatable in this story, even if you do not feel you fit into any of the categories – queer, Latina, etc. – and it is absolutely accessible, and a quick, easy read, so it needs to move to the top of your to-be-read list now!

While the story was fantastic, I would have liked to see stronger editing as the copy I received had some grammatical errors and was sometimes too vocab heavy. I also would have liked to see a bit more literary depth, though it is more challenging for first person narratives to be more descriptive and literary over direct. I also would have liked just a bit more discussion on some of these topics. Most of them are not discussed in quite enough detail to provide meaningful growth for the reader, but there is a delicate balance between saying too much and not enough. Overall, this is an excellent novel and I am excited to see what Gabby Rivera writes next!

Considering reading it? Check out a free Kindle preview! Please note that Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through Amazon.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

*I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review