Fix by J. Albert Mann

There’s no better word for this story than addictive. Fix by J. Albert Mann tells the story of Eve, a girl who’s had her body, quite literally, ripped apart and then stapled shut again. She’s suffered with sever scoliosis all her life, her spine slowly curving, until one day she decides to have the surgery that will correct her spine and allow her to stand up tall. Months later, as she struggles with physical and emotional pain, she can’t help but wonder if she made the wrong decision. The only thing that allows her some peace of mind is her Roxy, an opioid drug originally prescribed to manage her pain. Her growing reliance on Roxy leads to more pain and suffering as she struggles with mind over matter.

Fixed is a story about addiction, broken friendship, regret, and hope. Told in a mixture of verse and prose, Mann paints a chilling picture of the physical and mental torment Eve experiences after surgery. From start to finish I couldn’t put it down. Mann holds a perfect balance of dark, depressing subjects with light, supportive characters. Throughout the book you follow Eve’s rollercoaster, feeing the grief and loss over her best friend, but also the joy and excitement over the boy next door. Mann uses descriptive, strategic language to connect reader to character. 

The only complaint I have about this book is the seemingly sudden ending. Unlike most novels, Mann doesn’t tie up any ends, only faintly implying that Eve is willing to fight her drug addiction. We’re left forever wondering what happened to Eve and her fractured relationships, hoping she found a way to fix them, and herself. 

All around I’d recommend Fix to anyone looking for a good, quick read. While the subject matter can be a little dark, Mann does a great job of switching gears before anything too heavy. The writing is great, and the storyline intriguing, I highly recommend.

Bruised by Tanya Boteju

Bruised by Tanya Boteju is above all a story about growth. DayaWijesinghe is a teenager who bottles up her emotions and screws the cap on tight. After losing both her parents in a tragic car accident, bruises are the only way she feels in control. And roller-derby, well, that’s a whole lot of bruising. After joining the team she feels her walls begin to crack as she forms deep connections and relationships with figures on and off the rink. Roller-derby evolves from simply being a pain-fest, to becoming something much more. Throughout the book Daya experiences dramatic change in acceptance, love, and healing. 

While the book itself doesn’t necessarily stand out as a clear winner, with the writing being average and the plot not especially intriguing, I’m pleased with the amount of representation from LGBTQ+ characters. Too often our literature excludes characters like this from novels, or reduces them to nothing more than their sexual orientation or gender identity. Boteju includes a wide range of LGBTQ+ characters that have more traits and personality than simply being “gay.” Although Daya becomes romantically involved with Shanti, their relationship does not supersede all aspects of Daya’s personality and thoughts. 

I didn’t find this book to be a fan favorite, but I recommend Bruisedto anyone seeking more LGBTQ+ representation in novels, or interested in roller-derby!

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

 Namina Forna has created an intriguing and captivating world in her novel The Gilded Ones. A world in which women are subjugated to men, and monstrous deathshrieks roam the land. When Deka is revealed to have the cursed gold blood, marking her as a demon, her only choice is to join the emperor’s army and be trained as a soldier to fight the deathshrieks. However, what she learns there changes her world forever. Maybe the deathshrieks aren’t the monsters she was taught to believe?

I give props to Namina Forna for creating an original, and exciting storyline. While areas of the story and characters may have been underdeveloped, it’s impressive the amount of action and plot she managed to get through in 400 pages. I also enjoyed the strong female heroines, and sense of sisterhood Forna added to this novel. In a world dominated by men, she shows the strength, perseverance, and intelligence that only comes from bringing women together.

Throughout the book Namina held my attention, and while I don’t see myself rereading it, I enjoyed it. The Gilded Ones is a fun, light read for those obsessed with fantasy, adventure, and discovering new worlds.

Atomic Women by Roseanne Montillo

It’s no secret that too often women are not given the credit they deserve. We see it over and over again, in politics, in literature, in business, and especially in math and science. There’s just something about chemical explosions and experimentation, which men like to think women are incapable of participating in. We like to blow things up too! Atomic Women by Roseanne Montillo finally gives these women a voice.

The book follows the timeline of the creation of the nuclear weapon, starting with Marie Curie, and ending with the many influential women involved in Los Alamos. Roseanne tells the story of these women and their lives work, showing candidly the struggle and difficulty they faced during a time when women in science were a rarity. It’s eye opening to see the amount of work these women contributed, without any recognition…until now.

Atomic Women is a book that should be read by all, in order to finally recognize and appreciate the great contributions of these women to science. I recommend for anyone wishing to become more educated about the creation of nuclear weapons, as well as their rightful creators.

This Is My Brain In Love by I.W. Gregorio

This Is My Brain in Love tells the story of a teenage girl, Jocelyn Wu, struggling to keep her family’s Chinese restaurant, A-Plus, afloat. We follow her along in her journey as she struggles with living up to expectations from her father, growing a dying business, having a boyfriend for the first time, and dealing with mental health issues.

At the same time, Will is an African-American teenager who is struggling with anxiety and social interaction. He wants to be a journalist, but when his editor tells him he has to start asking “the hard questions that make sources squirm,” he takes a job as a management intern for one A-Plus restaurant in hopes of getting real-life experience for a story. That is where our stories converge. Jocelyn and Will fall for each other at first sight, but teenage love isn’t as simple as it seems. With an overprotective father, anxiety issues, the stress of running a business, and jealousy, all playing their part, will the two lovebirds be able to survive?

Gregorio does a great job of bringing us into the world that Jocelyn and Will live in. Her descriptions of sizzling oil, fresh steamed rice, and the smell of homemade dumplings really sets the stage for discovering what these people go through day to day to run a Chinese restaurant. Her book is light and entertaining, but she touches on a lot of important subjects such as immigrants in America, mental health issues, and discrimination against different races. This book creates empathy. For as long as you read it you’re put in the shoes of an Asian-American family struggling to save their business, or a boy, growing up different in a society that wants everyone to be the same.

Although I can’t say that This Is My Brain in Love is a book that I’ll find myself reading over and over again, it definitely holds some gems. I recommend for anyone who is interested in a good love story that inspires dedication and perseverance.

When You Ask Me Where I’m Going by Jasmin Kaur

When You Ask Me Where I’m Going by Jasmin Kaur is a powerful novel that grasps our heart and doesn’t let go. Jasmin uses a mixture of prose, poetry, and illustrations to unravel what it means to be seen, as an immigrant woman in a world that does not want to. Throughout this novel I felt my heart ache, and my brow furrow through the struggles and pain of these women. This book strips away our hardened skin to show what we all are inside; vulnerable.

While the book doesn’t follow a plot in the traditional sense, we experience snippets of stories within the poems that give insight into a world different from our own. Jasmin covers heavy topics such as sexual assault, mental health, feminism and immigration. I admire Kaur’s courage to acknowledge and put words to the suffering and hardships of immigrant women, something that tends to be hidden away and swept aside. However this novel bares the truth, forcing us to confront the issues held at hand.

When You Ask Me Where I’m Going seems to be written as almost a stream of consciousness, flitting from one idea to the other with barely any transition or indication of separate thoughts. Her poems are essentially long run-on sentences with either no punctuation, or punctuation where it wouldn’t normally belong. While it may be confusing at times, in the end it adds to the strength of the piece as a whole. The constant flow of writing keeps our minds constantly engaged, and heightens the emotion and empathy we feel towards these women.

This book is not for the faint of heart. It addresses issues that some would rather not face. However I encourage all to read it as Jasmin’s message is one that everyone should hear told in a beautiful and mesmerizing way.

Minor Prophets by Jimmy Cajoleas

Some say the author’s greatest superpower is the reader’s curiosity, and Jimmy Cajoleas uses this full force in his novel Minor Prophets. In Minor Prophets there is always a new hook after every chapter that keeps you from putting it down, always another secret or surprise just around the corner, waiting to be discovered.

The story revolves around Lee, a teenage boy who just so happens to have mind-altering visions about the future. His mother scolds him for them and his sister ignores them, but when his mother dies in a car crash and his stepfather is a suspect he finds himself on the run along with his sister, to a place they had only heard of in stories: The Farm. The Farm is an enchanting place with a doting Grandma, a trusted mentor, and a community that adores and praises Lee for his visions, labeling him as their savior and leader. It’s too good to be true! Everything that Lee has ever wanted, he becomes enraptured with his newfound future and becomes blinded to reality. Is The Farm really all that it seems, or is there a dark secret lurking behind the scenes?

Jimmy Cajoleas does a great job keeping you on your toes, unleashing just enough information to ignite your curiosity, and keep the pages turning. Cajoleas blurs the line between right and wrong, good and bad, to a point where there is no clear hero or villain. He shows the human need for acceptance and love, and just how far we’re willing to go for it.

Although a little slow in the beginning, Minor Prophets is a great read that chills the skin with it’s twisted plot and shaded characters. Guaranteed to leave you bewildered as to what you just witnessed, Minor Prophets is for anyone who appreciates humanities crooked nature as well as the dark secrets it has to hide. -Kira Kaplan

Ink In The Blood by Kim Smejkal

If you ever need transporting to a different world and a different story, Ink In The Blood by Kim Smejkal is the book to do it. This book devoured me from start to finish, fully enveloping me with its whimsical details, strong story line and lovable characters. I couldn’t read fast enough, longing to get to the end but dreading it as well.

Set place in a world in which magical ink exists to channel the Divine’s will, there is only one truth; obey the ink. But what if that truth is based on lies? What if the ink isn’t a force for good and wisdom, but for pain and suffering? Two inklings, Celia and Anya, having experienced the hate the ink is built on, do something that has never been done before: escape. They join the Rabble Mob, a collection of circus like performers that enchant and mystify their audiences, but when one of the members starts acting strange, Celia realizes the Divine has followed them. There lies the greatest truth of all; you can’t escape the ink. Left with no choice, Celia and Anya draft a plot that will destroy the ink forever, but while in process, may destroy them as well.

Ink In The Blood is everything a fantasy novel should be. Kim includes enough explanation of the world and how things work to keep us grounded, while adding elements such as the Rabble Mob to keep an air of mystery and curiosity. Throughout this book I constantly felt wonder, which to me, is one of the most important emotions for a fantasy novel to evoke.

Ink In The Blood is for anybody who wants to be whisked away to another reality full of devils, angels, plague doctors, fire dancers, mimes, inklings, and magic. For anyone who wants to experience adventure and emotion so deep you’d think you were part of the story.

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson is a book in which one can quite literally, get lost in the stars. It unlocks the mystery of the universe with improved technology, aliens galore, and…slugs. What better way to spend an evening than immersed in the chaos and action of a fighter pilot’s story?

Humans are confined on a solitary planet, constantly in battle with the Krell, their jail wardens. Spensa’s always dreamed of becoming a pilot, and now, with her own ship she’s finally making that dream come true. Fighting the Krell is all she’s ever known, but when an opportunity arises to go undercover and infiltrate the very center of the galaxy, she can’t pass it up. Along with her loyal ship, Spensa travels to Starsight, meeting other pilots and allies along the way. She discovers everything she thought she knew (technology, the Krell, humanity) may not be what it seems.

An action-packed plot with a strong female lead, and a talking robot sidekick makes for a book that anyone would want to read. Full of suspense and plot twists, Starsight is made for anyone willing to defy gravity and look beyond the stars, to the true secrets of the galaxy.