Monthly Archives: January 2017

Rywka’s Diary: The Writings of a Jewish Girl from the Lodz Ghetto Book Reveiw

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It hurts so much (for them we are not humans, just machines). Oh, pain! But I’m glad that I can “feel” that it hurts because as long as it hurts, I’m a human being. I can feel- otherwise it would be very bad. God! Thank You for your kindness toward us! Thank You, God!

Rywka’s Diary: The Writings of a Jewish Girl from the Lodz Ghetto includes a diary written by Rywka Lipszyc. It was translated by Malgorzata Markoff, annotated by Ewa Wiatr, has a preface by Judy Janec, has contributions by  Alexandra Zapruder, Fred Rosenbaum, Hadassa Halamish, Esther Burstein, Zinaida Berezovskaya, and is edited by Anita Friedman.

Rywka Lipszyc was a fourteen year old girl who lived in the Lodz Ghetto. She details seven months of her life in her diary before she stops writing mid sentence. She talks about her faith in God, her wish to write better, her yearning for a better education, and her grief for her mother, her father, and her two younger siblings that died before she started writing.

The book includes facts about how the diary was found, and how it was then translated and later published. It also includes a little history about the ghetto she lived in, and the events she describes in the book which I found very helpful. It also includes pictures of the places she lived and worked at, and scans of her registration cards. Two members of her surviving family writes little essays at the end, and there is also the research they found about what happened after she stopped writing.

It’s a very moving story. One that I think everyone should read. History needs to be kept alive, and books like this one helps to do that.

A List of Diverse Books We’ve Read in the Past

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This list is not perfect. We combined all of the books we’ve read with diverse themes before this year, separately and together. If something was mislabeled, we apologize. Unfortunately, plenty of these books are not Own Voices, especially many M/M Romances, but we’ll definitely work on that. We hope to add a lot more to this list!

Cherry by Lindsey Rosin

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In this honest, frank, and funny debut novel, four best friends make a pact during their senior year of high school to lose their virginities—and end up finding friendship, love, and self-discovery along the way.

To be honest, the sex pact wasn’t always part of the plan.

Layla started it. She announced it super casually to the rest of the girls between bites of frozen yogurt, as if it was just simply another addition to her massive, ever-evolving To Do List. She is determined to have sex for the first time before the end of high school. Initially, the rest of the crew is scandalized, but, once they all admit to wanting to lose their v-cards too, they embark on a quest to do the deed together… separately.

Layla’s got it in the bag. Her serious boyfriend, Logan, has been asking for months.

Alex has already done it. Or so she says.

Emma doesn’t know what the fuss is all about, but sure, she’ll give it a shot.

And Zoe, well, Zoe can’t even say the o word without bursting into giggles.

Will everything go according to plan? Probably not. But at least the girls have each other every hilarious, heart-warming, cringe-inducing step of the way.

(F/F romance, Sex positive)

Walk With Me by Cardeno C.

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When Eli Block steps into his parents’ living room and sees his childhood crush sitting on the couch, he starts a shameless campaign to seduce the young rabbi. Unfortunately, Seth Cohen barely remembers Eli and he resolutely shuts down all his advances. As a tenuous and then binding friendship forms between the two men, Eli must find a way to move past his unrequited love while still keeping his best friend in his life. Not an easy feat when the same person occupies both roles.

Professional, proper Seth is shocked by Eli’s brashness, overt sexuality, and easy defiance of societal norms. But he’s also drawn to the happy, funny, light-filled man. As their friendship deepens over the years, Seth watches Eli mature into a man he admires and respects. When Seth finds himself longing for what Eli had so easily offered, he has to decide whether he’s willing to veer from his safe life-plan to build a future with Eli.

(M/M romance, Jewish MC, Bisexual MC)

In Perfect Light by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

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In Perfect Light is the story of two strong-willed people who are forever altered by a single tragedy. After Andés Segovia’s parents are killed in a car accident when he is still a young boy, his older brother decides to steal the family away to Juárez, Mexico. That decision, made with the best intentions, sets into motion the unraveling of an American family.

Years later, his family destroyed, Andés is left to make sense of the chaos — but he is ill-equipped to make sense of his life. He begins a dark journey toward self-destruction, his talent and brilliance brought down by the weight of a burden too frightening and maddening to bear alone. The manifestation of this frustration is a singular rage that finds an outlet in a dark and seedy El Paso bar — leading him improbably to Grace Delgado.

Recently confronted with her own sense of isolation and mortality, Grace is an unlikely angel, a therapist who agrees to treat Andés after he is arrested in the United States. The two are suspicious of each other, yet they slowly arrive at a tentative working relationship that allows each of them to examine his and her own fragile and damaged past. Andés begins to confront what lies behind his own violence, and Grace begins to understand how she has contributed to her own self-exile and isolation. What begins as an intriguing favor to a friend becomes Grace’s lifeline — even as secrets surrounding the death of Andés’ parents threaten to strain the connection irreparably.

(Own voices, M/M romance, POC main characters)

Point Pleasant by Jen Archer 

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Ben Wisehart grew up in the idyllic town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. An early encounter with the supernatural shaped his worldview and served as the catalyst for his career as a bestselling horror writer.

Ben left Point Pleasant at the age of twenty. Thirteen years after abandoning his home, he returns to the town to investigate the apparent reemergence of the terrifying creature responsible for his childhood nightmares.

In Point Pleasant, Ben is confronted not only by the town’s resident monster, the Mothman, but also by Nicholas Nolan, Ben’s former best friend. Together, with Bill Tucker—the old recluse who lives on the edge of town—Ben and Nicholas uncover the mystery of the monster in the woods and discover that the ghosts that haunt us are sometimes made of flesh and blood. And sometimes, they lead us home.

(M/M romance, POC characters)

Gives Light Series by Rose Christo

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“Skylar is my name, tragically.”

Sixteen-year-old Skylar is witty, empathetic, sensitive–and mute. Skylar hasn’t uttered a single word since his mother died eleven years ago, a senseless tragedy he’s grateful he doesn’t have to talk about.

When Skylar’s father mysteriously vanishes one summer afternoon, Skylar is placed in the temporary custody of his only remaining relative, an estranged grandmother living on an Indian reservation in the middle of arid Arizona.

Adapting to a brand new culture is the least of Skylar’s qualms. Because Skylar’s mother did not die a peaceful death. Skylar’s mother was murdered eleven years ago on the Nettlebush Reserve. And her murderer left behind a son.

And he is like nothing Skylar has ever known.

(Own voices, POC main characters, M/M romance, Disability)

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At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson – Book Review

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So, this book rocked my world. My first favorite of 2017.

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I have no words to explain the level of awesome in this book, but I will try.

First of all, I’m so thankful to Jellybooks for giving me an advanced electronic copy to read. Last year I read We Are the Ants and it became one of my favorite books of 2016. I was eager to read anything else by Shaun David Hutchinson. I’ll be buying a physical copy of this beautiful book as soon as it’s released.

I have so much love for this book. It follows Ozzie, a boy who exists in a universe where every trace of his boyfriend, Tommy, has been erased from the universe. Nobody remembers Tommy’s existence, not even his own mother. Throughout the story, Ozzie theorizes on the reasons why this happened, as well as trying to figure out why the universe keeps shrinking in size. On top of adoring Ozzie, I fell hard for all of his friends and family. Ozzie’s best friend, Lua especially stole my heart, my lovely gender-fluid rockstar. And Dustin, who I’m pretty sure was ace, also stole my heart. And Ozzie’s brother, Renny. I mean, even Calvin was a small cinnamon roll, and I loved them all.

So aside from the characters, there were strong friendships and relationships that constantly shifted, and it all made sense, even though it shouldn’t have. As the universe shrunk, Ozzie’s world kept changing. It was frustrating, but also so relatable. I felt the same when I read We Are the Ants. It’s one of those stories where you’re aware something is off with the metaphysical world, but it makes perfect sense with the way you’ve felt mentally. It’s hard to explain, but the author does beautiful things with his stories.

I don’t think there’s much of a plot to this book, which added so much more depth. It’s a story about relationships, romantic and platonic. It’s a story about love, loss, growth, courage, and moving on. It’s about opening your eyes to the people in front of you, and showing them compassion and love. It’s about life and death and the nothingness at the edge of the shrinking universe. As Ozzie lost traces of the life he’d always known, I mourned my own personal losses. When you lose a loved one, sometimes it feels as if the universe swallowed them whole.

I’m sad to have finished this book simply because I wanted to continue living in Ozzie’s universe, as scary as it sometimes was. I wanted the story to go on. I’m looking forward to revisiting this book many times in the future. I think that’s a trend with all of Hutchinson’s books, actually. I think he’s now one of my favorite authors.

I definitely recommend this to everyone. I would understand if other people didn’t feel as strongly about this book. It resonated with me, but I don’t expect it will with everyone. It’s a very unique type of book. I’m glad I found it.

(Also, just have to mention the amazing, totally unexpected cameo of a certain pair from We Are in the Ants. It was a nice touch. It had me smiling like an idiot.)

Why I Wanted to Give Up Writing This Time

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According to Nicole, I give up on writing periodically. It’s a vicious cycle. Something happens that sets me back, and I see no way out of it, so I tell anyone who’ll listen that I, Isis, am no longer a writer. I give up on all of my writing projects for a while, until I finally return to them. Then I realize I was wrong in giving up writing and start off once again with a positive outlook.

So, I wanted to really get to the bottom of this issue. Right now, I’m in the middle of my “Giving Up Writing” period. It’s the toughest one I’ve faced yet, and I want to talk about it.

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This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab – Book Review

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“It doesn’t matter if you’re monster or human. Living hurts.”

This is one of the most complex, unique books I’ve ever read. This Savage Song is set in a world where violent acts and crimes breed monsters. There are Malchai, Corsai, and Sunai. Each a very different type of monster. Verity is split in two, with one side being protected by Harker, a ruthless leader controlling the monsters and promising safety to people for a price. And Flynn, a man who urges everyone to fight the monsters in order to feel safe.

This story, however, is not about the leaders. Instead, the book follows August, Flynn’s son, and Kate, Harker’s daughter. The pitch line is that August is a monster who wants to be human, and Kate is a human who wants to be monstrous. I didn’t really get that from the book, but maybe I didn’t read closely enough. What I definitely did enjoy was the unlikely friendship formed between August and Kate. And no, this is not a love story. (Although, I was rooting for August and Colin–anyone else?)

I really enjoyed the world building, and the slow progression at the beginning. Honestly, I appreciate slow-paced books. I like stepping into a story and grasping at details until I get the full picture midway through. But for some reason, I did not enjoy the second half of the book as much as I’d hoped. Yes, it picked up the pace, but it felt endless. I didn’t really get the point of the journey the characters embarked on. It felt forced. There was never really a destination, and it made me lose interest. I couldn’t root for the characters as much as I liked them.

This is not to say that I didn’t like this book. It took me by surprise many times. The characters were great and interesting. The relationships strong and believable. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel simply because of the characters.

Our 2017 Reading Plans

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Happy New Year, everyone! Another year has gone by, but I’m sure nobody is sad to leave 2016 behind. So, here’s to a wonderful 2017, filled with books, books, and more books.

Nicole and I are excited to share our reading plans for this year. Last year, there were many rich, and often one-sided, discussions about diversity in literature. These discussions have been heated, and particularly painful for me because I’m Mexican, and it’s disheartening seeing so many oppositions to something as important as diversity. Due to this, Nicole and I decided to start off 2017 on a positive note by reading only diverse books!

We’re opening this up not only to #ownvoices books, but also to books written by marginalized authors, even if said books are not about diverse characters. We’re also going to read more books by women authors. So, there will be a lot to choose from. We’re hoping that we can both widen our perspectives about different cultures, sexuality, and everything in between.

You can join us on this if you want. Nicole and I will try to tweet about our reading over on our blog’s Twitter account. Go follow us there and feel free to tweet us your favorite diverse books! Later on, we’ll make an update of the books we’ve been reading and recommend our favorites.

Let’s make 2017 a better year!