Saturday, December 3, 2016

[Review] Other Systems (#1) - Elizabeth Guizzetti: Aliens and Human Colonies | #ReadIndie





In OTHER SYSTEMS, future humans are coming back to Earth because their colonies can't survive without human DNA much longer.

What intrigued me: I love everything related to aliens!

What's happening?

The initial idea is absolutely brilliant, I was very excited about reading this. However, OTHER SYSTEMS really, really lacks in execution. 
The story is told from the POV of Abby, a girl that is taken to Kipos, the future human colony's home planet, and Cole, a space traveler. I especially struggled with Cole's POV because just didn't understand what was going on. 

There are so many specific terms in this that are hardly explained, it took me too long to even understand what the different kinds of humans are and what happened to Earth. I can safely say that I spent the first 150 pages being absolutely confused and not really knowing what was happening. You'll definitely need to be invested and/or don't mind about not really understanding all details to finish this. I feel like there are different stories in this, three books tried to be told in a single volume. Resulting from this, OTHER SYSTEMS seems very chaotic and difficult to read.

Fascinating idea, but too very complicated

Even though it is difficult to read, the idea is just too fascinating to toss OTHER SYSTEMS aside and give up. I absolutely love novels about humans going to space, even more so when everything has already taken place and the humans are going back! The world building truly is impeccable and there is a lot to explore. I would have liked this a lot more, had I been given the opportunity to actually have those elements all explained instead of just getting bombarded with information.

Generally, OTHER SYSTEMS really would have benefited from being told from one person's POV. Abby's chapters are significantly easier to read and it does feel like you're actually reading a YA novel. With Cole's POV thrown in, the book just gains a strange dynamic, again, it's just multiple stories fused into one. 


Rating:

★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

OTHER SYSTEMS displays a magnificently built, fascinating world, but simply makes the mistake to leave out explanations. It portrays an interesting possible human future that is truly fun to explore.



What's #ReadIndie?



Additional Info

Published: 10th April 2013
Pages: 532
Publisher: 48Fourteen
Genre: YA / Sci-Fi / Space & Other Planets
ISBN: 9781937546144

Synopsis:
"Without an influx of human DNA, the utopian colony on Kipos has eleven generations before it reaches failure. Earth is over ninety light years away. Time is short. 

On the over-crowded Earth, many see opportunity in Kipos's need. After medical, intelligence, and physiological testing, Abby and her younger siblings, Jin and Orchid, are offered transportation. Along with 750,000 other strong immigrants, they leave the safety of their family with the expectation of good jobs and the opportunity for higher education. 
While the Earthlings travel to the new planet in stasis, the Kiposi, terrified the savages will taint their paradise, pass a series of indenture and adoption laws in order to assimilate them. When Abby wakes up on Kipos, Jin cannot be found. Orchid is ripped from her arms as Abby is sold to a dull-eyed man with a sterilized wife. Indentured to breed, she is drugged and systematically coerced. 

To survive, Abby learns the differences in culture and language using the only thing that is truly hers on this new world: her analytical mind. In order to escape her captors, she joins a planetary survey team where she will discover yet another way of life.(Source: Goodreads)

What's your favorite book about aliens?

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Friday, December 2, 2016

I'll ONLY Review Indie + Self-Published Books This December! | #ReadIndie

I know there are quite a couple of great self-published and indie books out there and I have enjoyed a lot of them. 

So I decided to dedicate one month reading time ONLY to reading those books and I'm joining Tracy & Christina's #ReadIndie challenge.




What does this mean?
  • You won't be finding ANY reviews of traditionally published books on my social media this month
  • That there will be more reviews than usual. Every second post will now be a review and will have the label #ReadIndie on it, so you know from the get go that it's an indie book!
Description of #ReadIndie from Cornerfolds:
So what is #ReadIndie all about? This isn't necessarily a read-a-thon. Instead, the challenge is simply to post indie reviews for two weeks in place of the reviews you would normally post. However, each review you post and link up will gain you an extra entry into an indie book giveaway! This is ALL about spreading the word about incredible authors who don't necessarily get the hype that they deserve.

Why?

To dedicate one whole month to only reviewing indie books because there still seems to be a stigma around them that's very much undeserved. Hopefully you'll find a couple books that sound intriguing to you this month and I manage to maybe inspire you to read more indie books or even join the challenge yourself.

What this doesn't mean:
  • That I'll give better ratings to indie books than they deserve. I'll still publish honest reviews, I'm not going to gift a good to rating to anyone. 
  • That I won't publish any other posts. There'll still be discussions and memes, and the usual stuff you're used to seeing on my blog. If you don't care for indie books, just skip the reviews!
  • That this is the only time I'll be reading indie books (I'll still continue accepting review requests for indie books and I'll still continue to write reviews for them)

Giveaways

  • Amazon gift cards
  • Signed copies of Never Never by Brianna R. Shrum
  • Physical copies & eBooks of The Bound Series by Stormy Smith
  • Physical copies & eBooks of Recoil by Joanne Macgregor
  • Physical copies of The Outlaw Series books 1 & 2 by Alan Janney
  • Physical copies & eBooks of Just a Few Inches by Tara St. Pierre

... and apparently there are going to be a lot more!

So sign up for #ReadIndie over at Cornerfolds and join us!


Have you read any good indie books lately? 

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

16 Fantastic 2016/17 YA Books by Disabled Authors | #DiversityBoost


This month's #DiversityBoost focuses on disabled authors and their fantastic upcoming or recent releases.

Do yourself a favor, diversify your shelf, and add all those fantastic books to your TBR on Goodreads.







2016


THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS - Marieke Nijkamp
An intense contemporary about a school shooting. (Jan 2016, Sourcebooks Fire) Goodreads

ON THE EDGE OF GONE - Corinne Duyvis
An exciting sci-fi about humanity having to colonize a new planet after a comet hits Earth. (Mar 2016, Amulet Books) Goodreads



GENA/FINN - Hannah Moskowitz & Kat Helgeson
Told in blog posts, texts, and chats, two girls bond over message boards and fan fiction. (May 16th 2016, Chronicle) Goodreads


RUN - Kody Keplinger
A delightfully queer contemporary about friendship that you don't want to miss. (Jun 2016, Scholastic Press) Goodreads

2017


LOVE AND FIRST SIGHT - Josh Sundquist
A contemporary with a blind protagonist whose eyesight gets restored but has been told lies about his crush's looks. (Jan 2017, Little, Brown Books) Goodreads

UNFOLDING - Jonathan Friesen
A mystery with a protagonist that has frequent seizures. (Jan 2017, Blink) Goodreads



UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES - Louise Gornall
A house-bound agoraphobic girl falls in love with her cute next-door neighbour. (Jan 2017, Clarion) Goodreads

QUEENS OF GEEK - Jen Wilde
A queer contemporary set at comic con. (Mar 2017, Swoon Reads) Goodreads




THE SHIP BEYOND TIME - Heidi Heilig
The sequel to THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE, a fantastically diverse time travel high fantasy with pirates! (Mar 2017, Greenwillow Books) Goodreads

GIRL OUT OF WATER - Laura Silverman
A coming-of-age novel in the wake of a tragedy. Very excited for this one (May 2017, Sourcebooks Fire) Goodreads



WONDER WOMAN: WARBRINGER - Leigh Bardugo
More adventures from Wonder Woman, this time YA style! We all need this in our lives. (Aug 2017, Random House) Goodreads







(other covers yet to be revealed but not any less exciting)

THE STATE OF GRACE - Rachael Lucas
This one features a teen with Asperger's. Uh. Exciting! (April 2017, Macmillan Children's Books) Goodreads

27 HOURS - Tristina Wright
A queer sci-fi set in space. (Oct 2017, Entangled: Teen) Goodreads

GRAY WOLF ISLAND - Tracey Neithercott
Five teens are looking for a treasure on an island. I love a good adventure novel! (2017, Knopf Books for Young Readers) Goodreads

THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON - Katherine Locke
Time travel and magic in 1988 East Berlin. (2017, Albert Whitman) Goodreads

FLOWERS OF LUNA - Jennifer Linsky
A sapphic sci-fi romance involving mining ships in space. (2017, KDP) Goodreads




Special shoutout to Corinne Duyvis, author of OTHERBOUND, ON THE EDGE OF GONE and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: COLLECT THEM ALL, who is super lovely and nice and helped me a lot with this list! Give her a follow on twitter. 


#DiversityBoost is a monthly feature on my blog where I boost and highlight upcoming and recent diverse books or books by diverse authors. 

If you're a diverse author/ have written a diverse book and would like to be in one of my posts, follow my twitter to never miss a submission call!

Previously: 18 Upcoming 2016/17 Books by Latinx Authors
All posts here.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

[Review] The Blazing Star - Imani Josey: Time-Travel and Ancient Egypt

In THE BLAZING STAR, Portia touches a scarab and accidentally time-travels to ancient Egypt.

What intrigued me: Black girl on the cover! <3

Slow Start, but Killer Setting

THE BLAZING STAR is a hard one. It takes an immense amount of time until the premise kicks in. The first 60ish pages are spent introducing characters and bantering and simply filler. I almost lost interest completely because the premise of time-travel and ancient Egypt just isn't delivering from the get-go. Especially because this is only 239 pages that's a little disappointing. But I'm glad I stuck around. 

When protagonist Portia is finally transported to Egypt, Josey packs a punch and shows what she's capable of. THE BLAZING STAR is written beautifully, with lush imagery and such an ease that it's a pleasure to fly through the story. I'm fascinated with the time travel aspect and it's one of my favorite favorite things to read about. Josey definitely didn't disappoint, she amazed. 

I just love love love Josey's rendition of ancient Egypt. I had the images right before my eyes and felt like a lot of research went into creating this. Culturally sensitive and lovely, I just love how Josey doesn't play into stereotypes and strives for authenticity instead. All my love for seeing writers strive for that.

Diversity and Charming Egyptians

Because of the slow beginning in the high school there's a lot of time to be spent with Portia and the side characters, but the characters I grew to love the most are actually -all- Egyptians. Her world building and characters are just so much stronger in this part of the book and I wish wish wish that there had been more. Because the characters and the world are that great. 

I think it's obvious that this is an extremely diverse book starring a Black protagonist (I mean look at the gorgeous cover), but I'm still going to spell it out. This book mostly takes place in ancient Egypt and of course everyone is Black. Extremely diverse and extremely great.

Go read THE BLAZING STAR.


Rating:

★★★½☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

If you can look over the structural issues, THE BLAZING STAR is definitely a book you shouldn't skip if you love fantasy, diversity, and time-travel. Portia's journey through ancient Egypt is mesmerizing and so is Imani Josey's writing.


// review copy provided by Rich in Variety Tours //


Additional Info

Published: December 6th 2016
Pages: 239
Publisher: Wise Ink
Genre: YA / Historical Fantasy
ISBN: 9781945769160

Synopsis:
"Sixteen-year-old Portia White is used to being overlooked—after all, her twin sister Alex is a literal genius.

But when Portia holds an Egyptian scarab beetle during history class, she takes center stage in a way she never expected: she faints. Upon waking, she is stronger, faster, and braver than before. And when she accidentally touches the scarab again?

She wakes up in ancient Egypt—her sister and an unwitting freshman in tow.

Great.

Mysterious and beautiful, Egypt is more than they could have ever imagined from their days in the classroom. History comes alive as the three teens realize that getting back to the present will be the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. Stalked by vicious monsters called Scorpions, every step in the right direction means a step closer to danger.

As Portia and the girls discover that they’re linked to the past by more than just chance, they have to decide what it truly means to be yourself, to love your sister, and to find your way home."(Source: Goodreads)



What's your favorite time-travel read?

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Once You Go Diverse... Diverse books are better than Non-Diverse books. | YA Talk




Recently I've noticed that I'm really struggling with reading non-diverse books. As in, I can't physically read them. It's so painfully obvious to me every single time I encounter books with white-people only that I just can't read the book. I can't do it. 

There are so many stories out there by people of color waiting to be told and being told that I just can't be bothered by reading stories that completely exclude people of color. And yes, there are plenty of books who do that. The majority actually.

Diverse books are -still- not easy to find

If I wouldn't go out of my way to accept only diverse books for review and try to read mostly diverse books in my free time, I'd have a hard time finding diverse books at all. This is why it's so problematic when people say "hey I don't care what race the author is and what they write about, if the book sounds nice, I'll read it." It's not a coincidence that the majority of the books you'll "accidentally" come across are penned by white authors and about white people. 

It's not a secret that the publishing industry has a diversity problem.

...but at the end of the day diverse books are better. Yes. I just said that.

For months now I have been reading only diverse books. With diverse I mean books that are written by diverse authors and/or feature at least one non-white/non-straight/non-christian/non-able-bodied character, preferably more. And let me tell you - these books are better. 

There is no shame in writing a book with a majorly white cast, don't get me wrong - but an all-white cast is neither "realistic" nor "historically accurate" or whatever excuse people use these days.  Non-diverse books can have a fantastic plot, writing, characters whatever - but at the end of the day they're just not realistic. And also not entertaining for me personally. I'm not white. Why would I want to read about a world in which people like me don't exist?

The identification and representation thing

I'm not white or straight or christian and yes, I cannot identify with characters who are just that. All that people want is to identify with characters in books. And in addition to that, I want to read about diverse people that I don't see in the media. 

I want to read about gay couples, 
transgender heroes, 
muslim witches, 
indian fangirls, 
wheelchair-using superheroes,
black werewolves, 
asian princesses 
lesbian assassins, 
autistic thieves,
- I want it all. 

Diverse books bring another very underrated thing to YA - new persepectives, settings, and stories that books about white people cannot tell without approriating culture and being extremely racist.
  • And I am s p o i l e d now. 
  • I have glimpsed into the glorious light of those fantastic books and stories that are yet to come and I don't want to go back. I will  n e v e r go back.
  • I don't want to read non-diverse books. 

It's not only an issue of me wanting to support diversity and diverse books, it's also about my personal entertainment. Internalized racism and queerphobia and whatnot are so easily to decipher once you've started reading diversely. And I'm not wasting my time with books like that or supporting authors who think like that by buying their books. I'm not  supporting authors who think the world is just white and white. Because it isn't. Write about diverse characters and get diverse beta readers. It's really not that hard. This is the one time there's a price to pay for privilege.

There is no excuse for having a completely non-diverse cast in your books.

I'm not going to spend any time with non-diverse books when there are so many fabulous diverse and way more entertaining stories out there to tell.

Will you?


More YA Talk:
Are Diverse Characters and Representation Unnecessary?
More on diversity:
Don’t Fear the Diversity! On Writing What You Don’t Know 

Continue Reading...

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Recommendation: Another Day (Every Day #2) - David Levithan: Totally Works as a Standalone





In ANOTHER DAY, Rhiannon meets A, who takes over a new stranger's body every day, when they take over her boyfriend Justin's body and spend a magical day with her.

What intrigued me: EVERY DAY (the first) is my favorite book.

More companion than sequel

I was very skeptical when I heard that my favorite book was getting a companion novel. I'm never a fan of those and I think they're usually just quickly written ways to cash in on an exhausted concept. But ANOTHER DAY surely doesn't do that. 

As with all companion novels, you don't have to read the preceding one to understand and fully enjoy this. I'd even recommend that you start with this one if you've never heard of the series, because it easily trumps EVERY DAY.

Rhiannon's narration is poetic, beautiful, and just impeccable. Levithan is without a doubt my favorite YA writer ever, simply because every single one of the sentences he writes effortlessly holds so much meaning that you sometimes just have to put the book down and think. If you've read EVERY DAY, you do not have to expect getting the exact same scenes, just flip side. 

Truly a magical, gut-wrenching romance story 

Levithan manages to charmingly tell the same story, but different. It's hard to explain, Rhiannon's narrative voice is nothing like A's and the story has a completely different tone. It reads like a regular contemporary novel about a girl in an abusive relationship, with almost magical realism - like elements, in form of A coming into her life, always in a different body. ANOTHER DAY truly reads like a modern day fairy tale, a magical story with A being Rhiannon's guardian angel. 

It's absolutely fascinating to get the feeling like it completes the first novel, finding out about the other perspective. I never really understood Rhiannon and cared for her as much as A, and in a sense, ANOTHER DAY is packed with emotional scenes and gut-wrenchingly adorable romance where is EVERY DAY still stuck explaining the concept of A's special ability.
Just trust me, it's worth it.

Rating:

★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

ANOTHER DAY is just a fantastic story. From the immaculate voice to the magic of A's and Rhiannon's dynamic, fans of EVERY DAY won't disappointed. It's without a doubt the best contemporary I've encountered so far.



Additional Info

Published: August 25th 2015
Pages: 327
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9780385756204
Sequel to: EVERY DAY 

Synopsis:
"Every day is the same for Rhiannon. She has accepted her life, convinced herself that she deserves her distant, temperamental boyfriend, Justin, even established guidelines by which to live: Don’t be too needy. Avoid upsetting him. Never get your hopes up.

Until the morning everything changes. Justin seems to see her, to want to be with her for the first time, and they share a perfect day—a perfect day Justin doesn’t remember the next morning. Confused, depressed, and desperate for another day as great as that one, Rhiannon starts questioning everything. Then, one day, a stranger tells her that the Justin she spent that day with, the one who made her feel like a real person…wasn’t Justin at all."(Source: Goodreads)

Do you like David Levithan's books?

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Monday, November 21, 2016

[Review] Trollhunters (#1) - Daniel Kraus & Guillermo del Toro: Trolls and Abduction

In TROLLHUNTERS, children are disappearing and supposedly abducted by trolls.

What intrigued me: I love del Toro's movies and was hoping for some creepy vibes.

Middle Grade Horror - Not YA

I think I went into this with the wrong expectations. TROLLHUNTERS is a story intended for a Middle Grade audience even though it seems to be marketed as YA. The writing reminds me a lot of the FEAR STREET books maybe with a side of Stranger Things and definitely comes across as Middle Grade horror. Protagonist Jim doesn't quite read like a fifteen-year-old, I feel like everything about TROLLHUNTERS just screams Middle Grade and it's quite irritating that it poses to be something else.

Del Toro and Kraus absolutely manage to capture this unique feeling of uneasiness that I enjoy a lot when reading books in this genre. However, even though the feeling is spot on, the world builing fantastic, it just wasn't my thing. I wasn't looking to read Middle Grade horror, but if you're specifically looking for that this will be an excellent and fun read. 

Great world building

The highlight of TROLLHUNTERS is a combination of the brilliant black and grey illustrations and the fantastic world building. I absolutely believed Del Toro and Kraus that this is something that could've happened - TROLLHUNTERS threads a fine line between horror and what I would probably most accurately describe as paranormal magical realism (totally just invented this). The trolls are such a fantastically eerie element of the story that absolutely feels organic and terrifying. TROLLHUNTERS makes for a terrifying bedtime story for badass kids. 

The world of TROLLHUNTERS is fantastic, spell-binding, and the trolls are nothing short from terrifying and unsettling. For a younger audience this definitely is a must-read if you enjoy stories on the spookier, creepier side. I wish TROLLHUNTERS had been published when I was in the Middle Grade reading age!


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

TROLLHUNTERS is the book I wish I would've come across when I was eleven or twelve. The perfect horror read for Middle Grade readers, but because this isn't what I was looking for or expected, it didn't really impresss me.



Additional Info

Published: October 31st 2016
Pages: 416
Publisher: Heyne Fliegt
Genre: YA / Horror
ISBN: 978-3-453-27049-7

Synopsis:
"In San Bernardino, California, children are going missing. 

The townspeople don't believe the rumours of trolls, but fifteen-year-old Jim Jnr knows that they're a very real threat. At night, is anyone safe? 

TROLLHUNTERS is a funny, gruesome and undeniably del Toro-esque adventure perfect for teen readers and fans of Pan's Labyrinth."
(Source: Goodreads)



Do you like reading Middle Grade?

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Annoying Things People Say to Readers #BloggerConfessions





Sometimes you just gotta be real with everyone and just tell 'em.

Sorry to you guys who have to keep up with this! 






#9
"I don't have time to read. I don't know how you can read so many books."
Well, but you do have time to keep up with all Game of Thrones episodes. Strange.
If you like doing something and have limited time, make time for the thing.

#8
"Omg, that book is huge! I could never read a book that long. Isn't that getting boring?"
The more book, the more fun.That's because you're weak.

#7
"Don't you think you already have enough books?"
No. There is no such thing as enough books. I'll stop when my whole apartment just consists of books. I'll make furniture out of my books. Watch me.

#6
"Why don't you watch the movie instead?"
???????????
Why don't YOU read the book instead?

#5
"Hey, so, you gave me this book to read and I may or may not have thrown it into the fire/got it catastrophically wet/ cut out pages I didn't like" *acts like it's no big deal*
...aaaand you're going on my never-giving-you-anything-ever list. Respect other people's property.

#4
"Haha, why are you crying , it's just a book!"
Hold on... let me just drop this on your head and then say "it's just a book" and "no big deal".

#3
"What are you reading?"
*shows cover* *mumbles something*
"Okay but what is it about! :)"
*looks into the camera*
#get a hint 2k16



#2
"Have you read this insanely popular book where *SPOILER* does *SPOILER* and they all *SPOILER*"
Well, I haven't. But now I don't have to. Thank you.

#1
"*thinks I know all books ever because I read a lot* *gets upset when I haven't read their favorite book*"
I'm flattered that you think I am all-knowing. If you'd like to worship me as your god and savior, please build a shrine and leave offerings on every full moon.


What annoying things have people said to you before?

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

[Review] Aurora - Kim Stanley Robinson: Colonization and New Planets





In AURORA, a giant spaceship full of colonists is approaching the end of its 159-year-long journey to a new planet.

What intrigued me: I love reading about alien planets.

Extremely technical and difficult read

I picked up AURORA hoping for something in the vein of Scott Sigler's Generations trilogy, but was bitterly disappointed. AURORA is hard sci-fi, space opera even, that reads very clunky, difficult and facts-centric. The really interesting premise is pretty much negated through the way it's written. 

I especially struggled with the strange character voice that borders on extremely juvenile in a condecending way as the story begins being told through 12-year-old Freya's eyes. Mixed with terms and concepts that are impossible to understand if you don't have a degree in quantum physics. From detailed paragraphs and paragraphs about how the spaceship works to rambling passive narration, AURORA does everything it possibly can to derive from the plot. 

If you care about the mechanics of spaceships and their logistics, this will be a treat for you. For me, who's just looking for some fun space travel, this is a very clear miss. This story absolutely has no business at all being 500+ pages long. It drags, it's difficult to read and understand, and really just doesn't get to the point. It took me a ridiculous amount of time to even understand that the ship has a conscience and it's not just some more rambling directed at no one in particular. 

So, so, so much filler

AURORA is separated into seven parts that chronic a specific stage of the journey, centered on a handful of characters, but yet somehow written in omniscient perspective. It takes a ridiculous amount of time until the actual plot takes off. You could basically skip about 200 pages and have a great reading experience - AURORA has so much filler, so many unnecessary scenes, and so much rambling that you really really don't have to bother reading the whole thing. 

This is just a story that revels in the authors storytelling - this isn't about the characters who are mediocre cardboard cutouts at most, it's about the author showcasing their knowledge about space travel. Enhanced by off-screen comments from the sentient spaceship it's quite obvious that AURORA isn't about the characters. That's essentially what made it so hard for me to connect with this narrative and stay focused and interested in the story. AURORA really just is a pick for die-hard space opera fans.

Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

AURORA is a hard miss for me. Strange writing paired with lots of filler and mechanics and logistics-centric narration is absolutely not what I was looking for. If you enjoy hard sci-fi and space opera, and love yourself some technical reads about spaceship mechanics and physics, this is your perfect pick.



Additional Info

Published: November 14th 2016
Pages: 560
Publisher: Heyne
Genre: Adult / Space & Other Planets
ISBN: 9783453317246

Synopsis:
"A major new novel from one of science fiction's most powerful voices, AURORA tells the incredible story of our first voyage beyond the solar system. 

Brilliantly imagined and beautifully told, it is the work of a writer at the height of his powers. 

Our voyage from Earth began generations ago.

Now, we approach our new home.

AURORA.
"(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like hard Sci-Fi?

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What is POC representation to you? "Olive Skin", On The Page, and Non-#Ownvoices Authors | YA Talk




I've recently read a novel that was recommended to me by lots of people because of its cast of exclusively people of color. 

After actually reading it, I was surprised and confused because the only  thing that would hint towards anyone in this high fantasy novel being POC would be descriptions of "olive skin".

For me as a POC this left a bitter taste in my mouth and I was wondering how you guys feel about this. Where does POC rep start? Can you say your characters have olive skin and call it a day? When do you think a book can claim having POC representation (especially when it's told in a setting different to our world)?

Honestly, when I pick up books that are explicitly marketed as starring diverse characters and/or have a fandom that praises them for their diversity - I want on the page rep. I expect and demand it. Sure, in a high fantasy novel this might get a little difficult - you can't just say somebody looks African or Asian in a world where these continents don't exist. But when we're talking about any novel in a contemporary setting there is no excuse for cookie cutter representation, is there?


Identification and POC costumes

Beyond that, to me the whole reason WHY I as a person of color want to read more about characters of color is because I want to identify with them. Even if you do say this characters is X - that's not necessarily good representation to me. See, I want to see myself in a character's experiences not in their outer appearance. 

A thing that I do see a lot is characters that are describes as diverse but are essentially wearing a POC-costume. With that I mean characters who are actually white and just get physically described as POC. If you're a POC I'm sure you've seen that before. It's quite easy to recognize when someone is literally just writing a character of color in their novel to be able to say hey it's diverse. 

The reason why we need diverse books is because we want representation - everybody wants that.

But I'm not going to identify with a character that shares my ethnicity because of a single sentence in a book that states that the character is of my ethnicity. There is so much more to being a POC than just outward appearance. There are little things in daily life that you couldn't know about unless you -are- of the ethnicity you're writing about. This is where #ownvoices books, books by people who write about their own experiences, come into play. They are vital in my opinion and have pretty much become a go-to for me, because I can count on these books to never write in cookie cutter diversity and "POC" in POC-costumes.

Should we settle for less?

It's a fairly new concept to get sensitivity readers, have people factcheck if you got their ethnicity right, and not all authors know about it. I don't blame authors for not knowing and accidentally getting it wrong - stuff like that happens. Do better next time. But should we even settle for less?

Should we read books that aren't #ownvoices? It has definitely lead to heartache and anger on my part before. There are definitely enough authors out there who are diverse and write about diverse characters. Authors who are not diverse and writing poor diverse characters are only making it harder for #ownvoices writers to emerge and become popular. Why support them then? So you can say, hey they write diversely, at least they're trying? 

Either way, whichever opinion you have - I think supporting diverse authors is a great way to get things going. To make sure we'll have some stellar representation out there that is guaranteed to get it right the first try.


Continue Reading...

Sunday, November 13, 2016

[Review] Furiously Happy - Jenny Lawson: Mental Illness and Life-Affirmation

In FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny Lawson tells anecdotes of her life. In the center of it all stands her life motto of being furiously, aggressively happy no matter what life throws at you.

What intrigued me: Felt like reading some Non-Fiction.

Loud and Eccentric

FURIOUSLY HAPPY is such a loud book that you're probably in danger of going deaf when reading it. It's quirky, eccentric and voice-y and definitely a book that will catch your attention and stay in your memory for quite a whilte. Lawson's narrative voice is sometimes off-trail, mostly shouting, and absolutely unique. And it's just too much for me personally.

It reads like some sort of strange diary without any sense of structure of coherence. Even after reading it I still don't know what this book is about, really.

You have to be in the mood for this type of writing, a type of train-of-thought esque narration.

Offensive humor?

The message of the book and the only thing that sort-of connects the very random chapters to each other is that they're all a mixture of anecdoctes that showcase the author's "crazy" (her words, not mine) behavior because of the multitude of mental illnesses she lives with. And I just don't like that. 

I can't get behind these self-degrading characterizations and as someone who has had experience with mental illness it actually quite offends me. I get that it's a memoir, at no point Lawson ever tries to make judgements about other people who live with mental illness. But at the end of the day it just rubs me the wrong way when she describes the way she reacts to anxiety-inducing situations as overreacting and ridiculous and calls herself insane.

That's just the humor of this book, this is all that FURIOUSLY HAPPY is about - making fun of your own illness to make peace with it. This isn't a negative thing, it's just soemthing that you have to get, that you have to understand and agree with. I don't. I didn't find FURIOUSLY HAPPY life-affirming in any way. I found it disregarding and quite ignorant, which again, is just my personal takeaway and not the author's fault or in any way an objective judgement of the book. You have to see for yourself if that type of humor resonates with you. 


Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

FURIOUSLY HAPPY isn't my kind of book. Random chapters, train-of-thought narration, belittling mental illness - it's not my thing. It felt quite pointless and absolutely not funny to me.



Additional Info

Published: 17th October 2016
Pages: 320
Publisher: Kailash
Genre: Adult / Non-Fiction / Biographies & Memoirs
ISBN: 978-3-424-63130-2

Synopsis:
"In LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, Jenny Lawson baffled readers with stories about growing up the daughter of a taxidermist. In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

According to Jenny: "Some people might think that being 'furiously happy' is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he's never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos."

"Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you'd never guess because we've learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, 'We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.' Except go back and cross out the word 'hiding.'""(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite Non-Fiction read?

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Friday, November 11, 2016

More Generous Ratings For Indie Books? | Book Blogging Tips (#46)





I've noticed recently that I tend to give indie books better ratings than traditionally published ones. 

I wish I could say it wasn't intentional, but I think it is. Here's why I rate indie books more generously.


First, let me slam-dunk your prejudices in the trash. 
  • Quality is absolutely not an issue. If you think indie books are low quality, sorry, you just probably don't have a qualified opinion here. Of course, with EVERYONE being able to publish books these days, there's a fair share of bad writers. It's logical. But condemning everyone because of a handful of bad books you read is a little... narrow-minded. That's like saying I don't read Hachette books anymore because I didn't like the only 3 of their books that I've read. 
  • Because you don't hear about them, they're bad? Especially if you sign with a small publishing house or are self-published, there is near to no way to get the word out about your book the same way you'd be able to if you were published under the Big Five. 

TL; DR - here's why I rate indie books more generously than traditionally published books:

#5: Indie publishing is hard, competitive, and authors rely on reviews and ratings. 
A Big Five author won't give a rat's ass about my one star review, but bad reviews can crush indie authors' sales. Don't be unnecessarily mean. When in doubt, give one star more than fewer.

#4: Indie authors do their publicity themselves. 
Every review copy sent out goes out of their own pocket. Especially when you received a physical copy, that's the author straight up taking their own money, relying on your review. Writing a fair critique is the LEAST you can do.

#3: Collaboration with indie authors is more personal. 

Often the authors themselves reach out to me, asking me to review their book. If I'm going to write a bad review, I BETTER know what I'm talking about. I better have reasons for every single negative thing I say, because guess what - the author's at the other end of the receiving line and they sure as hell will realize when I'm being a dick for no reason.

Yeah, I have to admit, sometimes I'm a little hard on traditionally published authors and nitpicking a lot. Among other things, a reason for this is probably that I'm not face to face with the author.

#2: There are people who refuse reading indie books. 

A few bloggers I (used to) admire actually support this. Oddly enough, none of them has ever dared to state why. Let's prove em wrong.

#1: People think indie books are all shit. 

And honestly, if the one thing I can do to help ERASE this stupid, ignorant stigma, I'll do it via good reviews. I would never rate a book that's bad, positive just because it's indie, don't get me wrong - but I'll do my darn best to promote the crap out of every wonderful indie book I encounter.


Are you more generous with your indie ratings?

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

How to Enjoy A Problematic Book and Not Be a Jerk About It | Book Blogging Etiquette (#6)

Calling things out on being problematic is a hugely popular thing on the internet. 

I absolutely support being aware of the problematicness of things, but what I absolutely don't support are people who automatically deduce that liking a problematic thing also makes you a problematic person. 

So here are my tips on how to enjoy a problematic book and how to not be a dick about it!

Acknowledge the problematicness

This doesn't necessarily mean you have to voice it and talk about how ~terrible~ your new favorite is all the time or at all. If you choose pleasure over problematicness while being aware of it and not supporting it, that doesn't make you a bad person. You just have to know, for yourself, that what you're reading is problematic. 

Don't romanticize

With romanticization I mean 
  • swooning about abusive characters
  • posting/liking headcanons that "justify" immoral/abusive actions
  • "they're just misunderstood"
  • reblogging fan art of abusive relationships/illegal/immoral relationships
Stuff like that indirectly condones it in a way that's incredibly damaging. See, the problem with stuff like this isn't that people will attack you, the bigger issue is that the internet is free to everyone - if you romanticize abuse/immoral actions/white washing, whatever reason people may have for calling a book problematic, you indirectly saying "hey, it ain't that bad, haha!". 

For most adults that are aware of the problematicness and just enjoy a book for the entertainment value this may be all common sense - but consider that especially when we're talking YA, our actions don't go without consequences. Many actual teenagers read YA, are active in the fandoms, and we have a responsibility towards them. Romanticization is not a joke and can seriously mess somebody up when people around you tell you early on that problematic behavior is okay.

Don't justify

When you publicly state that you like something problematic, you WILL attract a lot of negative attention. And if you didn't know how problematic your new favorite is and just found out via someone attacking you - don't try to talk against it. In 95% of the cases it's justified. Don't try to speak over people who are feeling attacked/misrepresented/offended by a book for valid reasons. 

Instead of justifying the book and denying it, simply because you still like the book, how about you just say "Yes, it's problematic. But I still find it entertaining." There is no shame in that. Don't be afraid to say that.

Educate

With education I mean -not- posting that flailing five star review of your problematic favorite. Don't misunderstand me saying "don't be afraid to like" as this. If you choose to publically support - yes, leaving a 3+ star review counts as support, you are morally obliged to say something. To add a note about the problematic elements.

If you do not, there is no difference between you and someone who supports unaware of the problematic elements or in favor of them.

Yes, it is YOUR JOB as a book blogger and/or reviewer to educate. This is why you're here. Don't wait for other people to do it. Take action.

Have you ever liked a problematic book? How do you deal with that?




Want more Book Blogging Etiquette?

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Monday, November 7, 2016

[Review] Unnatural Deeds - Cyn Balog: Secrets and Murder Told in Retrospective





In UNNATURAL DEEDS, Victoria meets drop-dead gorgeous Z, who is too cool and beautiful to be interested in her - but he is. The problem is that Victoria has a boyfriend. 

What intrigued me: I've liked other books by Cyn Balog and the cover is insanely beautiful.

Unique concept

UNNATURAL DEEDS is the illegitimate child of DON'T LOOK BACK and WINK POPPY MIDNIGHT. It's just as dreamy and keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times. UNNATURAL DEEDS is a story about obsession and love, and the fine line between the two.

Told in retrospective and with little interview snippets and coroner reports, it's based on an undoubtedly very creative idea. The writing is unique as well, and might not be for everyone. 

Balog tells the story in second person singular, Victoria narrates it to her boyfriend Andrew, whom she feels she betrays by befriending Z. I'm not a fan of second person in general and feared that this would ruin the experience for me. I struggled with the first couple of chapters but quickly got the hang of it. Balog is an incredibly gifted writer, she effortlessly pulls it off, which I salute her for, that really isn't easy.

The Charmer vs. The ... what's his name again?

The main conflict of UNNATURAL DEEDS is the love triangle. And I have to say, I really did like it. I fell absolutely and utterly for the love interest Z, a charming snake with tons of secrets whom you can't help but be fascinated with. Their romance is absolutely epic, twisted, and fascinating. Memorable.

Boyfriend Andrew on the other hand remains rather bleak, I felt like their relationship wasn't explored sufficiently to even give the reader the opportunity to have an opinion about them. Balog does tell the story to him, but most of the information we're given is via telling, not showing, which I'm personally not a fan of.

UNNATURAL DEEDS is built upon mountains of secrets and it's so, so fun. I love trying to figure out the story as I go along and I have to say, I didn't expect that ending. It's certainly a strange twist that nobody will see coming, but I wasn't really satisfied. I found it too easy of a solution concept-wise because the rest of the story really doesn't make sense anymore after that ending. With a different ending, this would have been a solid five star read, because I genuinely frantically turned pages and didn't want to stop reading.

I'm a firm believer in giving the reader an opportunity to guess the ending, a hint, anything, even if it's very small. Balog really just did a 360 and left me confused and upset. If you like a drastic plot twist, this is absolutely, positively a book you don't want to skip.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

The ending really spoiled this book for me. I was expecting more, a more satisfying conclusion. Yet this in no way negates the fact that I had a lot of fun reading this and enjoyed trying to unravel the mystery. It's surely worth the read if you like guessing games.



Additional Info

Published: November 1st 2016
Pages: 288
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: YA / Thriller
ISBN: 9781492635796

Synopsis:
"Secrets. Obsession. Murder. Victoria is about to discover just how dangerous it can be to lose yourself.

Victoria Zell doesn’t fit in, but she’s okay with that. All she needs is the company of her equally oddball boyfriend, Andrew. She doesn’t care what anyone else thinks…until magnetic, charming, mysterious Z comes into her life, and she starts lying to everyone she knows in an effort to unravel his secrets.

And then something terrible happens. Someone is dead and it’s time for Victoria to come clean. Interspersed with news clippings and police interviews, Victoria tells her story to Andrew, revealing her dark, horrible secrets…secrets that have finally come back to haunt her."

(Source: Goodreads)



Do you like books told in retrospective?

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