I’m still around, I promise.

Life has been super busy, you guys. In January, my husband and I and our cat and parrot moved about 600 miles away from the county where I had lived since I was in preschool. We got a gorgeous new apartment, I started working a crazy-but-amazing new job, my husband got a new job, and we adopted a dog. All within the span of two months. Things are just settling down now to the point where I’m making myself take some time to read.

(Oh, and did I mention that I’ve been pretty much constantly sick since we moved? My lungs do not agree with the new climate, even though it’s not THAT much different from where I used to live. Cough drops, cough medicine, my inhaler, tissues, Vicks VapoRub and Sudafed have become my best friends.)

Anyway, so I am getting back into reading. Slowly. Very slowly. So I’m still around, I’ll still be posting (hopefully a little less intermittently!), and I will do my best to read the books I have lined up to review! You know who you are. ūüôā

One of the perks of moving from a rural area to a much more urban area is that the library here is amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the small town library where the librarians knew who I was… but I am much more pleased with the collection of (physical) books that the library here has! Also, they have a reading room with comfy chairs and big windows. I don’t think there are words to describe how happy this makes me! I love being able to go there on a weekend and curl up with a big stack of books with my iPod playing, and just lose myself in a world that someone else has created. It’s one of the most soothing things I can do.

Another interesting “change” since we moved is that I’ve become more interested in nonfiction. I’ve started reading various humor authors – from Dave Barry (I like him but he is a bit repetitive) to Joan Rivers (don’t like her, too offensive on all levels) – as well as true crime (not right before bed though) and just various other books (for example, right now I’m reading Unmentionable: A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners – it’s pretty interesting! although I already knew some of the things written about in it). I’m also reading a variety of fiction – on my Kindle app on my phone, I’m STILL working toward finishing¬†Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (I didn’t like¬†Gone Girl – I think because I took too long to finish it so I lost threads of the plot – but I decided to give Flynn another shot). From the library, I’m reading¬†Let’s Get Lost by Ali Alsaid,¬†Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume (classic! I’d never read any Judy Blume prior to earlier this year, when I finished¬†Forever…), and¬†Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake. And here at home, I have¬†Fahreinheit 451¬†by Ray Bradbury waiting for me as well as¬†The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, which I’m buddy-reading with my mom. ūüôā

So all is (fairly) well here. I’m happy to be posting an update; I’ve missed being more active on here.

xx April.

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Another absence.

Hey y’all. I’m still here!

I figured I’d post and say that no, I haven’t forgotten about this blog. For those of you who are authors and have commented and received a reply from me, I have not forgotten about your books, and for those of you who have commented and have not yet received a reply – I have not forgotten about you, either. I promise!

Life has just been really busy. The time I set aside for reading took a tumble in March this year, when my partner at work quit. It’s been 25 and a half weeks that I’ve been on my own, working about 200% of what my job is supposed to require (I have gotten some help from my supervisor as well as an intern that was with me for about 10 weeks). They are currently going through the hiring process now for a new partner for me, so I hope that soon I’ll be back to reading more.

I’ve been reading a lot of different books (and of course, not finishing [m]any) – from¬†Crank by Ellen Hopkins to¬†Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks to¬†Fat Tuesday by Sandra Brown. And many others also.

It’s already late August 2016. Where did this year go…?

Your Voice is All I Hear – Leah Scheier.

Many thanks to Sourcebooks Fire via Netgalley for an opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

5/5 stars.

Okay, I’m just gonna put this disclaimer right out here at the start of my review. Mental illness is one of my favorite topics to read about — both fiction and nonfiction. I’m fairly knowledgeable about mental illnesses, thanks to three things: getting my Bachelor’s in psychology, my Master’s in social work, and (perhaps most importantly) personal experience.

Because of this, I can tell when there is misinformation in books about mental illness and that is the #1 thing that will make me either stop reading the book entirely and/or give it a poor rating.

However, Your Voice is All I Hear was an absolute joy to read.

Don’t get me wrong — this book was very hard to read at some points. This is a novel that deals with some very tough topics, from coping with bullying, to homophobia, to grappling with mortality. And of course, how “swiftly” a mental illness can strike, and how much of a devastating impact it can have on families and friends. As kind of a side plot, there was also some family of origin struggles. So yes — many “big” topics were tackled, and they were all carried off with grace and clarity.

Ms. Scheier did an utterly amazing job, though, portraying what life is like for people who have schizophrenia. I do not personally have schizophrenia, but I have friends who do, and what Ms. Scheier wrote about Jonah experiencing was pretty much exactly what my friends with schizophrenia have shared. Additionally, the psych ward that Jonah was taken to was portrayed very fairly, in my opinion. Psych wards are not necessarily the terrifying places that films make them out to be. But they are definitely one of a kind places, and I feel like that was captured in this novel.

Another aspect of Jonah’s descent into madness — so to speak — that was realistic and well-written was how April described the loss of who Jonah was. He turned into an entirely different person. Not dangerous (except to himself), but very, very different from the sweet, artistic, yet intense boy that she fell in love with.
And another aspect that I know to be very honest and realistic is how people — even his parents — viewed Jonah after seeing him at his worst. They thought he was dangerous, a lunatic, not safe around his younger sister, etc. This is something that mass media tends to pick up on — as with all of the tragedies that have happened in recent years (from school shootings to airplane crashes), people who suffer with mental illness are portrayed as deranged killers. No matter what their diagnosis actually is. No matter if they’re more of a danger to themselves than they would ever be to anyone else.

I really felt bad at the end of the book regarding Jonah’s decision, but I think also that although I would’ve loved a happy ending, Jonah’s decision was really very mature and wise. I really did like the fact that April ended the novel on a hopeful note though.

Definitely recommend this one to pretty much anyone with any interest in contemporary YA and mental illness and related “tough” topics. It’s a fast read and it’s engaging. I’m also going to be keeping Ms. Scheier on my radar for future books

The Tyrant’s Daughter – J.C. Carleson.

5/5 stars.

The Tyrant’s Daughter¬†is, I think, a very timely novel. Here in the States, in the Land of Plenty, we are usually so very far removed from what war-torn countries go through each and every day. This novel brings all of this closer to home, through the eyes of Laila, a dictator’s 15-year-old daughter who immigrated to the US from an unnamed country with her mother and younger brother, after her father was killed.

The webs of deceit and treachery that weave themselves throughout the novel are not far off from the truth of what happens in countries like Iraq. The images painted in¬†The Tyrant’s Daughter¬†are amazingly worded and very, very haunting. This is a book that will stay with me for some time, I believe, and I will also not hesitate to reread it. I do not reread many books, simply because I have so many to read, but this novel was so well-written, so engrossing, and so haunting that it is worth rereading many times.

Although it is a YA novel, I believe that adults could learn much from reading this as well. It describes what the US is like for an immigrant – and right now, when immigrants, legal or illegal, are more common than ever, this is something important for Americans to understand. Laila struggles with fitting in at her high school for the brief time that she is in the States – she cannot fathom the lives of her classmates, so fanciful, so wealthy. Even though she is of “royal” blood, the wealthy in her country have next to nothing compared to the wealthy in the States.

I feel as though I learned a lot, too, from reading Ms. Carleson’s words. I cannot say it enough – this is a very, very timely novel, in today’s world where international violence is so common. I feel lucky to have been able to read it.

Many thanks to Random House Children’s, through NetGalley, for an opportunity to read and review this book.

Streaks of Blue – Jack Chaucer

4/5 stars.

This book was excellently written, and I really enjoyed the story arc. The characters were¬†mostly¬†believable, although I have to admit that the protagonist, Nicole, seemed a little too good to be true. The times that she got in trouble with Adam seemed very awkwardly written, but that’s really the only problem I have with the characters or the writing.
The idea behind the book seems a little far-fetched, and I have to admit that the importance of some of the descriptions in the book that were commented on a lot – like how Nikki had blue streaks in her hair – were lost to me. I also never understood where “14th & Stardust” turned out to be, even though that was a key thing in how Nikki knew that a school shooting was going to be happening at her school.

However, despite having a couple of problems with the book, overall, I truly enjoyed it. I’d almost be hoping for a sequel to follow up with this story, just to see where Nikki and her kind-of boyfriend, Derek, end up, and if she saves any more lives with the dreams she has. The interactions she had with her English teacher, Mr. Richardson, were perhaps my favorite part of the book, because it was then that Nikki seemed the most herself.

Many thanks to John Cullen, via NetGalley, for the opportunity to read and review this book.

4 to 16 Characters – Kelly Hourihan.

5/5 stars.

I really enjoyed 4 to 16 Characters. The protagonist, Jane Shilling, is a very likable 15 year old girl who has lost her mom to a car crash in the past year. At the time the novel starts, she is living with an alcoholic dad and going to an alternative high school since she has a learning disability (about which we never learn very much).

I think since because I spend a lot of time at my computer, this book just really pulled me in with its storyline – Jane writes fanfics under what she calls an “alter” (technically this is the term used for another personality in people with Dissociative Identity Disorder, which she does not have, but she does make up different personalities online). She also has other “alters” to talk about things she doesn’t feel comfortable talking about as Jane. The story is told in the medium of journal entries, IM conversations, Tumblr-like reblogs, and emails. Overall, it was a very clever way for Ms. Hourihan to get the story flowing, and once you’re used to the format, it really pulls you in.

As a social worker to-be, I just want to throw out there that I loved Jane’s descriptions of her different therapists, as well as her interactions with Nora Acton. I felt like cheering Nora on for being such a flexible, wonderful therapist for Jane as the book went on. And while we’re on character love, I wanted to say that Gary, who at the end of the book is dating Jane,¬†is a freaking amazing character as well as Jane. I was rooting for him the entirety of the book.

I will definitely be keeping Ms. Hourihan on my radar. Well done, I say, for an exciting and fun book that doesn’t shy away from some of the more difficult problems that today’s teens face.

Many thanks to Lemon Sherbet Press, via NetGalley, for letting me read and review this book.

Soon – Charlotte Grimshaw.

3/5 stars.

While I think that this book may appeal to some readers, it was a little too political for me to really enjoy. The characters were well drawn in that I could imagine them easily, the dialogue believable (for the most part), but I just couldn’t relate to the characters. I can’t really explain why I couldn’t relate to them – I think it had something to do with the difference between countries as well as just the huge difference between the lives of the opulently rich, as in the book, and me.

I don’t believe that this book is suited for younger adults (as in, 18-22ish, new adult I guess – not YA). It would more suit those who have dealt more with politics, who have been in the working world for awhile, and who can relate, perhaps, to the more sordid details of adult lives. Or, perhaps, this book would be good for those who don’t mind reading about affairs and messy relationships, messy beyond the norm.

Many thanks to Random House UK, Vintage Publishing, through NetGalley, for an opportunity to read and review this book.