Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Middle Grade Double Review

Today I'm reviewing two middle grade novels I read in June. I liked the first one but I didn't love it. However, I absolutely ADORED the second! (Also, I thought I had a mini review for the one below and I guess not. :p)

*****

Title: The Scourge
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: August 30th, 2016!

From Goodreads...
As a lethal plague sweeps through the land, Ani Mells is shocked when she is unexpectedly captured by the governor's wardens and forced to submit to a test for the deadly Scourge. She is even more surprised when the test results come back positive, and she is sent to Attic Island, a former prison turned refuge -- and quarantine colony -- for the ill. The Scourge's victims, Ani now among them, can only expect to live out short, painful lives there. However, Ani quickly discovers that she doesn't know the whole truth about the Scourge or the Colony. She's been caught in a devious plot, and, with the help of her best friend, Weevil, Ani means to uncover just what is actually going on.

But will she and Weevil survive long enough to do so?


 My Review!
I liked this one! It was highly predictable and didn't have a whole lot of world-building, but it had some good questions about sacrifice and doing things for the greater good even if it's hard and you're not sure of yourself. And I loved the main character, Ani. She was so feisty! I liked a few of the other characters as well. It was definitely an intriguing story but it's also one that I wouldn't have minded skipping out on.

RATING:

*****

Title: Furthermore
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 30th, 2016!

From Goodreads...
The bestselling author of the Shatter Me series takes readers beyond the limits of their imagination in this captivating new middle grade adventure where color is currency, adventure is inevitable, and friendship is found in the most unexpected places.

There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn't miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it's been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she's about to embark on one to find the other.

But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she'll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is a boy named Oliver whose own magical ability is based in lies and deceit--and with a liar by her side in a land where nothing is as it seems, it will take all of Alice's wits (and every limb she's got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself--and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.


My Review!
This was an utter delight to read, even with some intense moments throughout. It was funny, and weird, and magical, with a healthy dose of friendship and bravery. Alice and Oliver were both great characters, who stumbled and fought and fell, but who kept going with a strength that not many would possess in the strange world of Furthermore. Their friendship was beautiful to watch develop, especially after they both despised each other so in the beginning. It was built on a rocky foundation, as Oliver kept some secrets, and Furthermore really tested their teamwork. But through everything, they helped each other, and knew they needed to work together if they were to survive this dangerous world. I loved the nods to Alice in Wonderland, whether they were intentional or not (really hoping they were intentional, but if they weren't, I still saw them [and let's not forget that the the main character's name IS actually Alice, SO]). And the storytelling reminded me so much of Lemony Snicket, and A Series of Unfortunate Events. It made the book that much more fun to read. It was so very whimsical, which is not normally my cuppa tea, but it worked so well for this book. The ending was a bit too tied-together-in-a-neat-little-bow, and came up quicker than I expected, but I didn't so much care. (I should have expected that ending bc of Ignite Me, but I didn't. Haha). This was super different from Tahereh's Shatter Me series, but I loved it all the same.

RATING:

Monday, August 29, 2016

Shattering Stigmas Event Recap

Guys, I'm honestly pretty sad to be writing this wrap-up post. Last year's event was SO GREAT, and I was honored that Shannon asked me to be one of the co-hosts for Part 2. As I mentioned in the kickoff post, mental health is personal and important to me. And helping shatter the stigmas attached to it is also incredibly personal and important to me. And it is so, so needed. I'm glad there are books out there now that people can reach for and find pieces of themselves in. I'm glad there are books that can reach those who don't know, those who do and don't know what to do, and those who just need that extra push to ask for help or talk about their problems. I'm especially glad that teenagers have these books. I wish I'd had some of these books as a teen. I think they've helped get rid of the negative stigmas attached to mental illness, but my one hope is that someday MI won't have ANY stigmas attached. So that it'll become easier for people to ask for help.

I thought about getting personal this year. I thought about going deep and un-burying parts of my past and trudging some things up that would give you a clearer picture of exactly why I think this event is so amazing and how honored I am to have been a host this year. I thought about explaining more of what shattering the stigmas means to me. I thought about sharing what life has been like growing up with a family member who has bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder. I thought about sharing how grief can become something more that can quietly sneak up on you without your knowledge. I thought about sharing why I think books that are therapy and medication-positive are needed more than books that don't talk about them at all. I thought about sharing my fears of what it means to have a degree in psychology without a clue what I'm going to do with it after the last few years of my life have gotten clearer for me. I thought about it.

I'm not there yet. I'm generally not afraid to get personal on the blog, but there are some parts that seem too deep and too painful. I mean, writing that poem about my dad and sharing it took a lot of guts and a lot of time of contemplation and "should I or shouldn't I?" Emotional pain has always been so hard for me to share; I can't even stand crying in front of others because of it. It's SO difficult for me, and words have failed me time and time again. And I haven't found the courage in myself to open up. I think I am still hung-up on a few of the negative stigmas (the ones that are the reason for this event and why we need it) attached to mental illness. And I'm aware of that, but it hasn't made it any easier, and I honestly wish I was as brave as some of you. Your posts have given me a lot of courage and strength, and I found myself relating to so many of them and it was inspiring to read them. And because of them, I will one day be able to share my own story.

But instead, I'm just going to say THANK YOU! Thank you to every single person who has read or shared or commented on these posts. Your support has meant SO much to me and to the other hosts. And thank you to my fabulous co-hosts, Inge, Erica, and Topaz, and especially Shannon for inviting to be part of this. I can't even put into words how much it meant to me, friend. Thank you to all of those who wrote posts for this, whether it was on my blog or someone else's. Thank you to Val, Krista & Becca Ritchie, Samantha, Lynette, Taylor, Sarah, Claire Legrand, Zoey, S. Usher Evans, Grace, and Michelle Smith. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for not only wanting to participate in this event, but for sharing such amazing posts. Thank you for for sharing your stories with us. You are all brave and kind and thoughtful, and I'm so grateful for y'all filling up my blog schedule. Thank you for helping us make this event's second year so special, and for helping us try to shatter the stigmas attached to mental health. THANK YOU!

*****

I have fallen so behind on reading/commenting on the posts, so I will continue to do so this weekend when I'm off work. I hope you've all enjoyed this event and all the posts people shared on our blogs. But even though it's over, you can still enter the giveaway! :)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Dear You

For the last guest post of Shattering Stigmas (omg this makes me sad to even be typing), I've got Michelle Smith on the blog! Michelle is the author of one of my all-time FAVORITES. I love Play On something fierce, and Game On (which came out on the 16th) is just as good and wonderful. So of course I wanted to ask her if she'd like to participate again this year, as the mental health aspect of PO is still one of the best portrayals I've read in a book. Aaaaand maybe I should stop now lest you all get tired of me talking about this book yet. :p I'm gonna hand this over to Michelle!

This is a letter I wrote to myself a few months ago, right before the 4-year anniversary of when depression almost won. Hopefully it resonates with anyone else who may be struggling.<3

*****

Open When: You Need to Remember That You’ve Made It

Dear You,
It’s been four years. Four years since you sat on a cold bathroom floor, alone. Four years since you cried out for help that never seemed to come. Four years since you felt more abandoned than ever. Until a small voice, as clear as someone sitting right beside you, told you to “stop.” In that moment of clarity, you were utterly confused, but you did stop – stopped depression from having the final word. And the moment you stood from that floor and walked out of the room, you started a new chapter of your life.
That night wasn’t a period; it was simply a semi-colon. Your story could have ended there, but it didn’t. Let’s talk about what’s happened since then.
You’ve learned a lot in four years. You’ve learned that life is full of sentences that turn into scenes, and that those scenes fit together to form chapters. Some chapters seem to go on forever, almost unnecessarily so. Some end abruptly, right when the story’s getting good. And some chapters are so beautifully woven together that they effortlessly blend into the next.
You’ve learned that strength is in the standing. That you can fall flat on your butt, you can try things and fail miserably, you can screw up and be forever humbled, but if you keep standing, that is a victory worth celebrating.
You’ve learned that depression isn’t a one-and-done fight. That it can appear on a sunny day when everything is going right. But you’ve also learned to keep showing up to fight. And that, my dear, can never be taken away from you.
You’ve learned that it gets better. Holy crap, does it get better. Now you know that you can look at little things, like the leaves falling and the stars twinkling and the birds flying, and remember it’s okay to smile. It’s okay to just be still. And you know that you’re worthy of those tiny moments, because those tiny moments will one day be the big ones.
Those are the moments that show you’re alive.
And last, but possibly the most important, you’ve learned that you cannot do life without one key factor: People. For so long, you were terrified to show yourself to people. You perfected that mask, the “I’m fines” and “It’s okays.” But now you know there’s beauty in the authenticity, magic in showing the real you to others. We’re not meant to do this life alone. The same people you laugh with on Monday morning can be the same people you cry with at 2am on Wednesday.
So I want you to listen to me closely:
You are breathing. You are here. You’re still here. And no matter what happens, this world is full of surprises and possibilities and new chapters.
So hang in there, girl. Your life is only beginning.

*****

Thanks for sharing this absolutely gorgeous letter with us, Michelle! And thank you for wanting to participate again. It was so lovely having you back on the blog. <3

And y'all don't forget to enter the event-wide giveaway and be sure to check out Inge'sShannon'sTopaz's, and Erica's blogs for more Shattering Stigmas posts! :)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Book Recommendations from Grace

Today I've got Grace from Mint Novels on the blog with a little discussion on mental health in books and some book recommendations for everyone. So please give her a warm welcome, guys!


Mental health/illness is a tricky thing to discuss. I don't personally have an illness, so I can't speak from experience. But I think it's worth acknowledging the huge benefit of reading and learning about it, especially through YA and NA fiction.

When you think about it, mental illness is steadily becoming a big issue. We have trigger warnings, graphics warnings, and all sorts of treatments for those diagnosed with illnesses. For those of us who haven't been diagnosed, it can seem overwhelming and scary. Even to me, it still is a massive thing to try and understand and comprehend.

But, thankfully, YA and NA authors have quickly risen to match this need by churning out book after book about mental health and illnesses, the way those diagnosed with illnesses combat them and interact with others, and the struggle it brings to our society. Which is brilliant! I would be absolutely lost without these books. They've helped me understand mental illnesses, learn about them, and brought me into the world of psychology, which is absolutely fascinating.

Now, I know not everyone has my obsession with this genre of books. But they should. It's overflowing with choices of books, and each one has a unique and creative way of bringing the subject of mental illnesses to the table. Which is why I've compiled six of my favorite mental health books. These are funny, sad, sensitive, and all-around amazing, and definitely worth a read.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella's one of my all-time favorite authors anyway, but this fairly recent YA novel of hers focuses on a teen girl named Audrey, who's suffering from PTSD. The marvelous thing about the book is that while Audrey is the main character, her odd & lovable family are many times the center of attention, from Audrey's mum battling her gamer brother to her adorable little brother Felix and his attempts at yoga. It also gives you a keen, but not in-your-face look at how PTSD affects people, and what recovery really means for most of them.

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Craig Gilner's life seems perfect: he gets into a great school, he has amazing grades, and he's got a supportive family as well. But once his high-pressure student life becomes too much to bear, he checks himself into a mental hospital after almost committing suicide. The young adult ward, however, is closed, so he's got a week-long stay in the adult wing. Full of lively characters, an adorable romance, and a great main character, this book is the perfect mix of sweet & sad, and will keep you thinking.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Okay, this one's definitely not as serious as the other two. Allie Brosh is a hilarious blogger, and her simple web comics gained her millions of followers at her website Hyperbole and a Half before she decided to publish this book. Compiled with web comics, new comics, and the odd story, it's a treasure trove of honesty and giggles. I literally spit out my cereal reading this, I was laughing so hard.

The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell
Sora, a Japanese teenager, is diagnosed with ALS. Suicidal and depressed, he turns to the internet for support, and makes some interesting friends while he's at it. This book's definitely worthy of a tissue box (or two), but the sleek writing and compassionate tone make it a great read all the same.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
I literally had no idea what autism was like before reading this book. I was completely in the dark, but this book took a flashlight and wove it in my face. Christopher is an autistic teen who finds his neighbor's dog murdered in her front yard. Cautioned by his father to leave it alone and suspected as the culprit, Christopher determinedly weaves his way into a mystery years deep. This book shocks, twists, and turns at the most unexpected places. And as an added bonus, Christopher is an adorable main character, with human traits and an intriguing love for math.

The Beautiful Miscellaneous by Dominic Smith

Nathan is expected to be a genius since the day he's born. But with an average mind and above-average parents, he finds life stressful and unwelcome. When a car crash means he might have permanent brain damage, his parents are worried, but he turns out having a new and profound look on the world. He's sent to a university for neurological misfits, where he meets a boy who only has to listen to a piece of music once to be able to play it perfectly, and a girl who can diagnose illnesses over long-distance phone calls. Haunting and superbly written, this little peek into the minds of geniuses gives raw and fresh perspective on what it's like to be really, really gifted. A blessing, or a curse?


What are some of your favorite mental health books? Do you like the genre? Do you agree that it's making an impact on our viewpoint of mental illnesses? Let me know! And make sure to visit my blog for more discussions, reviews, and raves at Mint Novels.

Thanks for sharing with us, lovely! And y'all don't forget to enter the event-wide giveaway and be sure to check out Inge'sShannon'sTopaz's, and Erica's blogs for more Shattering Stigmas posts! :)