Sunday, February 19, 2017

No More Free Diversity Education On This Blog | Blog News

Because of repeated harassment and lack of allyship, both on my social media and my blog, I have decided to no longer provide free education in terms of diversity in fiction. 

I have about six posts left in my queue that I will still publish because it would be a waste of my time and energy not to. But not right now. I am pushing them to the end of my queue to be published godknowswhenever because I frankly do not think that this community has earned free education. I don't think allies have. 

I do not intend to write any more free posts to help allies understand. 

I do not intend to make any educational posts anywhere besides maybe twitter and Patreon, because these communities are the only ones that have shown me even just a little bit of allyship.

I have received nothing but hatred and harassment for my educational posts and allies continue not to show up for me, despite me voicing my pain. I can deal with harassment. But I cannot deal with performative allyship and people ignoring me when I say I need you to be an ally right now.

My educational content will be exclusively on Patreon now.

This is what happens when allies don't show up.

I will still review problematic books, because I can't not do it. I don't understand how you cannot speak up. But I won't make any posts to help you understand anymore, maybe even take down the ones I've made. You'll have to fend for yourself now and google the educational posts yourself.

I'm not sorry. I'm disappointed in this community.

It'll take a miracle for me to change my mind. Support educators and black women online if you want me to change my mind. This not about me. This is about the lack of allyship towards all marginalized people, especially black women. 
Continue Reading...

White Authors Who Write about Slavery | YA Talk

If you've read any of my reviews in the past months, you already know what's coming. These days, it's virtually impossible to find a speculative fiction read by a white author that doesn't feature their take on slavery. 

I don't know why this is a thing, I don't want to know, but I just want it to stop.

To write about slavery in a nuanced way that is even remotely accurate and/or respectful requires an immense amount of compassion, research, and emotional energy. 

9.5 times out of ten white authors don't even understand that - you know how I know? Because of the amount of books with master/slave romances that I've seen on the market. You're going to find yourself looking for hours to find a single review by a white person that mentions that... maybe... this might be problematic. 

To clarify - I don't think all white people lack compassion. I don't think all white people are racist. I don't think all white authors who write about slavery are inherently bad people. I actually think there are people who like these books and who write them who mean well, but just aren't educated enough to know that what they're doing is harmful. It's not helping to see nobody call out white authors who happily keep on writing their master/slave romances and books about societies that engage in slavery. It's not helping to constantly see outspoken women of color on the internet get harassed every time they speak up about anything related to racism in books.

Some stories aren't yours to tell

There are a billion topics you could write about. People of color have been asking time and time again for white authors to step back, to stay in their lane. Racism isn't a topic any white person can ever understand in its entirety. Even if you're a scholar with multiple degrees. You'll never understand because you've never experienced it. And racism is obviously something you need to understand when talking about slavery. 

I'm especially referring to high fantasy books here. I'm not even talking about Non-Fiction or academic essays or anything - I'm talking about fictional books that were 100% thought up by the author. There is absolutely no reason for any white high fantasy author to include slavery, much less base their book around a society that has slaves. 

There are a billion other ideas you could write about. 

Nobody is holding a gun to your head and telling you to go write this now or else. You're doing this out of your free will, pretending that you're entitled to everything and anything and all topics are yours to write about, all stories are yours to tell. This is a mentality that I assume still stems from colonial times. If you see it, it's yours. If you read about it once, you can write about it. 

Definitely Not Ancient History

In conversations like these people often like to argue with me saying that slavery has been long over and it's history. According to them, history is fair game for anyone to write about. Especially when it's the history of people of color, I guess. Except, for us it's not really history. It's still happening. There are still slaves to this very day, a simple google search can tell you about modern-day slaves in Qatar, Pakistan, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan - the list goes on.

For me personally it's extremely hurtful to find out that a book that I'm reading features slavery. I hate to be surprised by that. I don't like reading about it. I don't seek out books about it. That's a me thing. Not all people of color feel like that. But even when I try to avoid these books I'm hit with a wall of ignorance. 

Recently I read NEMESIS by Anna Banks, which mentions servitude in the blurb, so I figured it would be safe. Well, it wasn't. The book wasn't about servitude. You see, this mere act of just altering the truth tells me that someone across the various stages of publishing this book thought maybe.... maybe... let's not, so they altered the word. This is a whole new level of ignorance and shocked and horrified me. 

White people don't take the feelings of people of color into consideration when they write about slavery. If they did, there would be no books with "surprise it's slavery" twists like in NEMESIS and books solely based on a white savior enabling her slave to revolt by buying them like  THE WINNER'S CURSE or books about whole societies of slaves like in GILDED CAGE.

People who write these books tell us clearly they don't care about anything if it's fictional. My hurt feelings, pain, and emotional trauma from frequently seeing these kinds of books praised and recommended certainly isn't fictional. But what do I know. My opinion doesn't matter as a POC.

I don't know you guys. I don't understand why anyone condones this. I don't understand why this is happening. 

Sometimes I really feel like it's the sole purpose of some people to stomp upon the feelings of people of color and to disrespect them as much as they can.

I look around and I see more books about slaves than not, I see tons of books by white authors writing about racism and writing nazi romances and I see nobody do a single thing about it.

I feel like I am utterly alone in thinking that this is wrong. Am I?

We need to do our part as readers to make this stop.
  • Don't support books like this
  • Don't read books like this
  • Give the publisher a piece of your mind via email
  • Confront the author.
  • Confront the publisher, the acquiring editor, everyone involved.
  • Give ratings.
  • Write reviews.
I'm tired of being stepped over and ignored in favor of white feelings and people screaming I can write about whatever I want!!! Censorship!!! 

I honestly don't want my future children to have to go through the same thing as I am right now. Nobody should. This is appalling. Speak up.

Have you read a book about slavery by a white author?

More on problematicness:
Should We Separate Authors from Their Problematic Work? 
Do We Owe it to Authors to Call Out Problematic Books Nicely?
What is POC rep to you? "Olive Skin", On the Page, and Non-#Ownvoices Authors 
All YA Talk posts

I don't want to hear about white authors who did it well or answer your question about your slavery book. Please listen. I'm trying to make you understand.

For personalized advice on writing diversely and recognizing problematicness, check my Patreon.
If you want to support The Bookavid and posts like this, feel free to buy me a virtual coffee via ko-fi.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Nobody Cares What You Read: "Censorship", "Bullying", and Problematic Books | Book Blogging Etiquette (#11)

If you've listened to the conversations regarding diverse books for... 

... more than 5 seconds, you're probably familiar with the obligatory person claiming censorship when told not to support a specific problematic book of choice.

I think we need to learn word definitions.

See, when allies and diversity advocates tell you, in some cases even unnecessarily nicely, that you please please pretty please with cherries on top need to watch what you promote, we're not saying DON'T READ THIS OR YOU'LL GET PHYSICALLY ASSAULTED OR THROWN IN PRISON OR WE'LL SHOW UP AT YOUR DOORSTEP AND BEAT YOU UP. That's what censorship means, by the way.

You can, even if it's a shock to you, still physically access these books that you're claiming we're censoring. You're not going to be in any danger or face any consequences whatsoever for reading them. These books are not prohibited by the government. You're not even prohibited from showing that you bought them online. Shocker! You can do whatever you want.

Let's dissect:

use superior strength or influence
The people who usually do the heavy lifting and call people out are in 99% of the time minorities. If you've been on the internet for more than five seconds and have paid attention to what I post for more than five seconds, you will also be aware that there is a significant lack of an equilibrium of power in the world. Both on bookish social media and in publishing, white cishet abled christian people rule. I'd even go as far as to say that chances are, there are more bigoted people in your presence at all times that agree with you than not. It's a thing. Look around you. 

No minority will ever be able to force you into doing anything. The majority of the people in power will physically manifest in a cloud of angry smoke and chant reverse racism if we even remotely attempted this. It's also a thing. Pay attention.

to intimidate (someone) to force them to do something
Nobody can force you not to be racist or homophobic or ableist or a rape apologist or a slavery enthusiast. We can't force you. Your decision. 

The "Agenda"

When allies and diversity advocates beg you to stop, we're doing that for one of these reasons
  1. we know someone who has been harmed by the book or are someone who has been harmed by the book
  2. we want to protect marginalized readers from getting harmed in the future
  3. we want to make sure no more books like this will be published, which is only possible if the bad sales make sure publishers understand that problematic books aren't profitable.
  4. we want to make sure that more great books by diverse people who know what they're talking about are taking the spots occupied by harmful books by non-diverse people.
That's it. 

Nobody cares, nobody has ever cared what you read in your free time. We couldn't physically care less. It doesn't matter. 

But what matters is that by buying or lending a book from a library you are actively facilitating and condoning the systematic oppression of minorities in publishing. If you can live with that, whatever. Do you. But don't get mad if minorities tell you "hey, I don't like that you're actively facilitating and condoning the systematic oppression of minorities in publishing." 

And for the people who still don't get it:

You: *is beating us with a stick*
We: "Please don't do this."
We: "if you must, beat us with this stick then, but this still hurts."
You: "CENSORSHIP!!!!! Wow. I can't believe we are shamed for stick beating. Everyone has the right to do whatever they want with their sticks! This is bullying! WE ARE THE VICTIMS!!"

If you're putting it this way, you're the ones trying to censor us, don't you think? Combined with the fact that everyone who speaks out frequently gets threats of physical assault and/or death threats, this sounds an awful lot like censorship, doesn't it? But what are word definitions when you have alternative facts. 

The problem is - we're kind of dying. 

You should also thin about the fact that harmful books perpetuate harmful stereotypes that in turn perpetuate hate crimes, aggressions, physical assault, murder, and more and more and more violence against marginalized people.
  • Remember Orlando?
  • Remember Quebec?
  • Remember Ferguson?
  • Remember Korryn Gaines, Philando Castile, Keith Lamont Scott, Terence Crutcher, Alton Sterling, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, and the roughly 250 more innocent black people who have been killed by police in America alone recently?
  • Remember this new fancy word to say nazi, alt-right?
I'm not even coming close to covering all the stuff that has happened recently, but you get the picture.

We're living in the global rise of fascism. You're kind of perpetuating and facilitating it. And with kind of, I mean totally. If being called racist/homophobic/ableist/otherwise problematic or being told not to read racist/homophobic/ableist/otherwise problematic books is the biggest of your problems, I'd like to point to the marginalized people that are dead and dying because of bigotry.

Cause as much as it hurts your feelings, you're a bigot. But you can work on it.

I've talked about it a billion times, but repetition is key to learning I guess.
You Can't Spot Problematicness. Yes, I'm mad
When You Have to Review a Problematic Book
I'm Dragging Racist Books in 2017 and You Need to, too - a Callout. 

Link this post every time someone claims censorship or bullying over being told not to support problematic books. Are you as tired as I am?

And more etiquette, cause we all need it:

For personalized advice on writing diversely and recognizing problematicness, check my Patreon.
If you want to support The Bookavid and posts like this, feel free to buy me a virtual coffee via ko-fi.

Continue Reading...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

[Review] Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel: Epidemics and the Apocalypse

In STATION ELEVEN, an epidemic outbreak changes the lives of different people forever. 

What intrigued me: I felt like reading some dystopian.

Very Literary

I tried my best with STATION ELEVEN, but we just weren't meant to be. This one of those extremely literary books that you have to have a taste for, and I think I'm just lacking that. 

STATION ELEVEN is written absolutely beautifully with multiple POVS that each unfold the lingering pandemic a little bit more. I was fascinated for a couple chapters, but quickly lost interest when I realized that this is an extremely quiet story. And what can I say - I like my dystopian books to be gritty, fast-paced, and action-filled. STATION ELEVEN is none of these things. It's a story about survival over the years that couldn't be more niche.

If you're looking for classic dystopian lit, this might end up disappointing you just as much as it did me - STATION ELEVEN demands your full attention at all times. So many protagonists, so many details to pay attention to, so many filler chapters. You really have to be invested in the story and the characters. 

It's Not You, It's Me

STATION ELEVEN is one of those epic reads that span decades, have dozens of protagonists, and are more about the world than the characters. Add a couple time jumps in and you know exactly what kind of book this is I personally cannot empathize this for the life of me. This is very much a hard case of It's Not You, It's Me syndrome. It's undoubtedly a skillfully and beautifully written book that just oozes talent and magnificent prose, but for me personally none of this matters when I find the story unengaging. Again, this is a by no means an objective judgment of the quality of this book, this is just me having peculiar taste.

Ultimately I think the thing that just made this unenjoyable for me is that STATION ELEVEN is more about the journey and the story as a whole than what is happening in the moment. Everything comes together in the big picture - but this technique personally never works for me because I'll lose interest on the way if the journey isn't filled with plot twists and secrets and adventure.




Overall: Do I Recommend?

STATION ELEVEN is a little too literary for me and absolutely not my cup of tea. I expected a regular dystopian story, but got an epic decade-spanning saga. You have to be in the mood for these kinds of books.

Additional Info

Published: September 14th 2015
Pages: 416
Publisher: piper
Genre: Adult / Dystopian
ISBN: 9783492060226

"One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Twenty years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten's arm is a line from Star Trek: "Because survival is insufficient." But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave."
(Source: Goodreads)

Do you like literary books?

Continue Reading...

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Difference Between Romanticized Mental Illness and Romance with Mental Illness | YA Talk

Today I've brought Leah from While Reading and Walking on the blog to talk a bit about mental illness romanticization. Enjoy!

As writers, readers, and reviewers, there is a lot of responsibility on our shoulders when it comes to the representation of mental illness. 

Bad representations of mental illness can do real damage. Teens especially in the midst of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and more, can be influenced by what they read in books that they believe are faithful representations of what mental illness looks like—and what healing can look like.

I’ll be talking specifically about the relationship between mental illness and romance in fiction. romanticizing mental illness can mean a lot of things. Here, I’m talking about the common trope where someone has a mental illness and then falls in love. 

I am a novelist and book blogger who has depression and anxiety. There is obviously a range of experiences when it comes to these issues, and there are many more forms of mental illness that I can’t personally speak to. I am a cis white woman who has a privileged life in many respects, and others who do not have those privileges might have a different experience.

The Example

You have a character. Let’s call her Leia. She has anxiety and is susceptible to panic attacks. She often obsesses all day about small things. Her anxiety can arise from real-life issues or from nothing at all. 

She meets a girl. That girl is cute and funny and makes her laugh. What next?

  • The Right Path:
There is a lot of truth to the idea that anxiety and depression are easier to get through when you have someone by your side who will make a conscious effort to support you, listen to you, and understand what you’re going through. 

If every time you have a panic attack, there is someone on the end of the phone who is ready at all times to talk to you and talk you through that attack, then anxiety becomes just that little bit less scary to face. The world gets a little more secure when you have someone you can depend on, who can ground you and remind you that they aren’t going anywhere. That's absolutely okay to reflect in your writing.

  • The Wrong Path:
The problem is that many novels seem to imply that mental illness can be fixed and healed by being in love. That if Leia just finds this girl, her anxiety will melt away and never come back. She’ll never have another panic attack. These YA novels make it sound like love makes everything sunshine and rainbows, and mental illness flees from relationships like opposite ends of a magnet.

But having someone in your life you love doesn’t mean that your mental illness goes away. Saying it does implies that anxiety and depression are not real illnesses. But they are. Mental illness is physical, and chemical, and while it can be triggered by things in the outside world—for example, the death of a loved one or a break-up can lead to depression if you’re susceptible—it’s still a genuine illness. This is the same reason why Leia could be the sunshine optimism of her friend group, have an amazing job, pets, supportive family, and a new beautiful girlfriend and still have panic attacks. 

The Impact

When a person with mental illness reads a novel that implies that their conditions would melt away if only they had someone who loved them, it can have serious implications on their psyche and emotions. 

They can think, 'I have a boyfriend. I'm in love. Am I not in love? Or is something just wrong me?' or they can get into a headset where they believe that chasing love is the only way they'll ever get better. Teaching young people that the right way to heal is to fall in love and then things will get better ignores the real causes of mental illness, and can make people think that things won’t get better after all. 

Like I said: A person who makes you laugh can help to make a day with depression less awful. A person who grounds you can remind you that you have a handle on things in the midst of your panic attack. A person who makes you laugh might be able to get you out of the house on a day when you can’t leave your bed. 

  • But having Leia fall in love and then her panic attacks never return sends the message that loneliness is what causes mental illness. 
  • It implies that you need a savior to get better, and that you have no control over your own healing. 
  • It implies that mental illness is a neatly solved problem if you would just fall in love.

So what do I do? 

Write well.
Call out novels that clearly romanticize mental illness.
Be reasonable, but be vigilant too.

A romance in which the character has mental illness is not “romanticizing mental illness,” but it is a huge problem in the book community where we conflate the classical tale of being lost and completing your life with the addition of another person who balances you (classic love story) with the idea that a mental illness can be 100% healed if you would just find your soulmate.

Continue Reading...

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Recommendation: The Seafarers Kiss - Julia Ember: Bisexuality and Mermaids

In THE SEAFARER'S KISS, mermaid Ersel falls in love with shieldmaiden Ragna and causes lots of trouble back home at the ice castle.

What intrigued me: I absolutely loved her debut UNICORN TRACKS.

Action-filled intricate world

I knew I'd love THE SEAFARER'S KISS after about five pages. Just like with her fantastic debut UNICORN TRACKS, Ember writes fast-paced and action-oriented - just what I like.

It's absolutely amazing how Ember painted this intricate world with its own customs and little sayings - THE SEAFARER'S KISS doesn't read like paranormal romance or mythology - it truly reads like a contemporary set in a mermaid kingdom. And you guys, this is the best.

I absolutely fell in love with the characters. Especially Ersel's best friend and now king's guard Havamal - the swoon is real. Even though this isn't really a book with a love triangle, I found myself rooting a bit for him and Ersel. You'll ship everyone while reading this book, that's the beauty of everyone being bisexual! The characters are all just so lovely, you'll find yourself wishing that they'd all just get along. It might also be relevant to your interests to know that Loki is genderfluid with they/them pronouns in this and that there is an amputee. The marginalized identities representation is fabulously refreshing and fun to read about. 

The Little Mermaid gone dark

THE SEAFARER'S KISS is a roller coaster of emotions. The first half of the book presents you with super cute contemporary romance fluff and all the feels, and towards the end it gets so dark that you'll find yourself wanting to turn the lights on. The two halves that THE SEAFARER'S KISS is divided into are without a doubt my favorite thing about this book - it manages to flawlessly combine a cute bisexual romance with an exciting fantasy adventure.

Filled with plot twists, THE SEAFARER'S KISS explores the moral shades of gray between good and evil while being an absolute page-turner. Ember managed to get me with every single twist. I saw none of them coming and am thoroughly impressed with the way she magnificently managed to make this The Little Mermaid retelling absolutely 100% her own.

THE SEAFARER'S KISS stuns with intricately developed character relationships, a fantastic world, and an action-filled plot that'll probably tempt you to binge-read this in one sitting.




Overall: Do I Recommend?

THE SEAFARER'S KISS is the bisexual Norse Little Mermaid retelling you've been waiting for. Trust me, you want this. I think I have a very strong contender for new favorite LGBT+ writer. Julia Ember's one to watch.

Additional Info

Published: May 4th 2017
Pages: 230
Publisher: Duet Books
Genre: YA / Mythology / Norse Mythology
ISBN: 9781945053207

"Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies."
(Source: Goodreads)

What's your favorite mermaid book?

Continue Reading...

Thursday, February 9, 2017

[Review] A Million Worlds With You (Firebird #3) - Claudia Gray: Parallel Universes and Evil Twins

In A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU, Marguerite's evil parallel universe self is hell-bent on killing every version of Marguerite in every single universe she can so she can't sabotage the plans of Home Office.

What intrigued me: The conclusion to my favorite series of all time. It hurts.

Chasing through universes

A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU picks off right where the sequel left off. And I gotta say - that premise didn't do it for me. While Firebird is and will always remain my favorite book series, I wish it had been a duology. See, this whole Evil Twin coming to destroy the world storyline does feel a little over the top in my opinion and I just didn't enjoy it as much as the other books and found myself wishing for the story to get wrapped up more quickly. This is absolutely subjective.

The universes Gray shows us this time around are interesting, but not explored nearly as much as they could have! But because the premise is so reliant on the chasing part I was a little sad to see Marguerite spend very few time with the individual Pauls or even just in the universes. Where is the fluff! I feel like sometimes along the complicated plot lines and the excellent world building, the romance fluff got lost. Sure, we had Russia. But that was it? 

Arguably the most interesting parts of  A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU are those when Marguerite returns to previously visited universes. I really loved that in TEN THOUSAND SKIES ABOVE YOU already and I just can't get enough of checking in with the other scientists.  But regardless, A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU feels like a wild goose chase, jumping from universe to universe so fast and filled with barely plausible plot conveniences, I didn't like this nearly as much as the other books in the series.

Still grieving my husband

I have a confession to make: I don't think I ship Paul and Marguerite. I don't think I ever did. The problem is that both the reader and Marguerite get to know Paul on a deep emotional level in the Russia!Verse, where he is the Grand Duchess' protector Lieutenant Markov. And I never got over him. 
See, Lieutenant Markov shows the tender side of Paul, the romantic side - and in "real life" he's this grumpy smart-aleck who's angry all the time. The swooniness and the magic all poofed away with Lieutenant Markov's passing. A moment of silence. Anyway. I'm complaining on a high level here and this might not even ring true for you because you probably really loved Paul. I'm just a sad widow because my book husband was taken from me. 

But I'm so happy that we got another cuddly version of Paul with the sweet Father Paul from the Rome!Verse who has to choose between letting himself love Marguerite or staying celibate. Be still my beating heart! I'll definitely go back to TEN THOUSAND SKIES ABOVE YOU and reread the Rome!Verse parts with him, he's such a gentle flower that must be protected and made up a bit for the chronic lack of calm romantic fluff in this series. 

The Firebird books are excellent and just like the predecessors A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU presents an interestesting journey through the universes. It would've wanted more action and a compelling narrative from this than it actually delivered - it very much feels like an unnecessary sequel with a very disappointing and too convenient ending. However, if you've read one, you gotta read them all. I'm sad to say goodbye.




Overall: Do I Recommend?

A few words to mourn the ending of this series: Despite A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU's lack of my favorite thing about this series, my darling Russia!Verse including my favorite Paul, I loved visiting these different worlds.

I surely wouldn't mind returning to the world of Firebird with a prequel about Conley and Josie's romance from the Home Office!Verse. So if Claudia's up for that, I'll be back.

The rest of the series reviewed

Note: A thing that seriously worries and confuses me is that out of ALL the worlds and universes we visit, there isn't a single one where Marguerite/Paul/Theo are lgbt. There is only one universe where one of them is disabled - deaf, actually - though the time spent there is so short that you can barely call this representation. (Well then there's one where a character loses a leg but they don't appear on-screen after that so that doesn't count either.)

While there is an explanation for this lack of marginalizations/diversity in the books ~wishy washy we're meant to be together fate yada yada~, I think it wouldn't have been that hard to even just add -one- universe where they're lgbt. Out of all the decisions they have to make to lead to Marguerite and Paul's epic love 90% of the time, you can't try to tell me that there isn't a single universe where Paul ended up with Theo, or Marguerite decided she liked neither and is a lesbian or is bi and ended up with a girl. [Totally seeing her and Romola. Yes.] What do you guys think?

Additional Info

Published: November 1st 2016
Pages: 419
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA / Sci-Fi / Parallel Worlds
ISBN: 9780062279026

"A million universes. A million dangers. One destiny.

The fate of the multiverse rests in Marguerite Caine’s hands. Marguerite has been at the center of a cross-dimensional feud since she first traveled to another universe using her parents’ invention, the Firebird. Only now has she learned the true plans of the evil Triad Corporation—and that those plans could spell doom for dozens or hundreds of universes, each facing total annihilation.

Paul Markov has always been at Marguerite’s side, but Triad’s last attack has left him a changed man—angry and shadowed by tragedy. He struggles to overcome the damage done to him, but despite Marguerite’s efforts to help, Paul may never be the same again.

So it’s up to Marguerite alone to stop the destruction of the multiverse. Billions of lives are at stake. The risks have never been higher. And Triad has unleashed its ultimate weapon: another dimension’s Marguerite—wicked, psychologically twisted, and always one step ahead."
(Source: Goodreads)

Have you read any books by Claudia Gray?

Continue Reading...

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Need A Sensitivity Reader or Some Editing? | Blog News

As you may or may not know, I do editing on the side. Until now, it's been more of a word of mouth kind of thing, I've never really publicly opened to editing before.

Maybe you've also seen the shiny new tab on my blog. 
Let me introduce you to all the things I'm offering.

Note that I have about 4 years of publishing experience, among them more than two years of literary agency experience writing reader reports and improving manuscripts, and am currently with Entangled publishing in the editing department.

If you'd like some more info on my credentials, feel free to email me and ask.


So, if you're not familiar with the concept, a sensitivity reader is a marginalized person that checks for problematic content in terms of representation in your manuscript.

Note that every sensitivity read is different, should you need me to check for all my areas of expertise, this will also affect the price. To determine how much you can expect exactly, I made a tentative list of prices.

Areas of expertise: 
  • bisexual/biromantic
  • biracial
  • black
  • disability+chronic illness
  • bi/multilingual
  • ace-spectrum
  • immigrants/immigration.
I'm also a native German speaker and live here, if you need someone to fact check your German characters, I'm your gal.
  • REGULAR (starting at $0.004 per word)
A regular sensitivity read includes a 1-3 page editorial letter detailing my general impression, suggestions, problem areas I'd advise you to edit, and possible revision ideas.
  • LINE EDIT (starting at $0.0075 per word)
A line edit includes the regular sensitivity read package with a 1-3 page editorial letter detailing my general impression, suggestions, problem areas, and possible revision ideas, plus me commenting through word track changes while I read so you know exactly what aspects I had issues with..


Note that this does not include any sensitivity reading. I will not comment on your maybe/maybe not problematic rep and strictly stick to commenting on craft issues.

Areas of expertise: Only YA.
  • REGULAR (starting at $0.004 per word)
A regular edit includes a 1-3 page editorial letter detailing my general impression, suggestions and possible revision ideas. I will also comment on grammar, plot, and characters.
  • LINE EDIT (starting at $0.007 per word)
A line edit includes the regular sensitivity read package with a 1-3 page editorial letter detailing my general impression, suggestions, and possible revision ideas, and comments on grammar, plot, and characters. I will also be commenting through word track changes while I read so you know exactly what aspects I had issues with and will be able to revise more easily.


SENSITIVITY+EDITING REGULAR: (starting $0.006 per word)
You're saving $100 on a 50k manuscript compared to booking separately. This includes the REGULAR sensitivity reading and editing packages combined.

SENSITIVITY+EDITING LINE EDIT: (starting $0.01 per word)
You're saving $225 on a 50k manuscript compared to booking separately. This includes the LINE EDIT sensitivity reading and editing packages combined.

+ SPEED BONUS (+20% of the regular package)
This can be booked with every package and will guarantee you a speed turnaround time. Your manuscript will be prioritized effect immediately and I'll drop everything else to get going. My speed turnaround time averages at about 10 days for 50k, so if you book with me today, you'll get your full report within 10 days. Note that this isn't always available, so hurry.


Send all inquiries to actualbookavid(at)gmail(dot)com.

Be sure to include all details about your project, possible deadlines, budget, and naming the package you'd like to book.

  • If you're marginalized or a student and very badly need a sensitivity reader or an editor, we can work something out. I'd be open to lowering the price a bit. Teens get extra special discounts, but I'll need proof.
  • Also? Patreon supporters (for 2+ months, to avoid people abusing this) get up to 35% off my editing services. So that's nice. 

Spread the word. Looking to book folks in right now, I've got space. :)

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

13 Upcoming 2017 YA Books About Boys Who Like Boys | #DiversityBoost

A couple fantastic releases about boys who like boys! 2017 is a good year for everyone who loves to read about queer boys. 

Do yourself a favor, diversify yours(h)elf and add all these fantastic releases to your TBR!

Griffin lives with OCD and develops feelings for his boyfriend's best friend while they try to deal with his boyfriend's death. (Jan 17th 2017, SoHo Teen) Goodreads

AT THE EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE - Shaun David Hutchinson
Ozzie's best friend Tommy gets erased from everybody's memory aside from his own. (Feb 7th 2017, Simon Pulse) Goodreads

SHADOW RUN - AdriAnne Strickland & Michael Miller
Firefly meets Dune. Now with gay boys. Yes. (Mar 21st 2017, Delacorte Press) Goodreads

MEG & LINUS - Hanna Nowinski
Two bisexual teens fall for each other despite crushing on other girls/boys first. (Apr 18th 2017, Swoon Reads) Goodreads

PERFECT TEN - L. Philips
Sam creates a love spell looking for a boy that has all the ten diserable traits he would like in a boyfriend. (June 6th 2017, Viking Books for Young Readers) Goodreads

Two best friends find a magical artefact that sends them to 18th century Venice to fight pirates and highwaymen. (June 20th 2017, Katherine Tegen Books) Goodreads

27 HOURS - Tristina Wright 
Five queer teens are fighting gargoyles in space. (Oct 3rd 2017, Entangled Teen) Goodreads

(covers not out yet but not any less exciting!)

In near-future New York two teens know the exact day they will die and decide to spend it together. (Sep 5th 2017, HarperCollins) Goodreads

CHAINBREAKER (Timekeeper #2) - Tara Sim
The sequel to TIMEKEEPER, a Victorian-era inspired historical fantasy set in a world controlled by clocks. (2017, Sky Pony Press) Goodreads

HOLD MY HAND (One Man Guy #2) - Michael Barakiva
In a companion to ONE MAN GUY two boys are in a perfect relationship until one of them cheats. (2017, Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Goodreads

BOOMERANG - Helen Dunbar
A teen that was assumed to have been kidnapped comes back to his home town for his ex-boyfriend but finds out that he changed a lot, and so has the town. (2017, Sky Pony Press) Goodreads

AUTOBOYOGRAPHY - Christina Lauren

Tanner signs up for a novel writing class and falls in love with an LDS boy who's questioning his mission because his novel is about to be published. (2017, Simon & Schuster) Goodreads

THE SIDEKICKS - Will Kostakis 
Three boys are brought closer together when their mutual best friend dies. (2017, Harlequin) Goodreads

Which one sounds the most interesting to you?

This is also the last #DiversityBoost you'll see on this blog. Due to lack of resources and submissions, I am no longer able to make any more posts like this, but thank you so much for sticking around until now!

For personalized advice on writing diversely and recognizing problematicness, check my Patreon.
If you want to support The Bookavid and posts like this, feel free to buy me a virtual coffee via ko-fi.

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

How to Recognize Ableism in Books: The Sufferer, Magical Disabilities, and Cures | Book Blogging Etiquette (#8)

Consider this post a follow-up to my post about recognizing racism in books. 

Here are some tips to help you recognize ableist narratives and hopefully make you more aware of these tropes when reading. 

Note that disabled people are not a monolith. I can't and won't speak for all disabled people out there. Make sure to read posts about topics like this by as many disabled people as you can to try to get an idea about the things you should avoid.

Wait, what is ableism? 
Ableism means discrimination against disabled people. It's basically racism for disabilities. There you go. As with the other post, I'll underline words that I think you should learn. If you don't know what they mean, google is your friend and savior.

Example 1: The Magical Cure

What it is: 
A disabled character gets cured either right at the start of a narrative or as a goal throughout the story or is on a quest to find a cure for their disability. 

Why it's harmful: 
Disabled readers pick up books about disabled characters because they want to feel represented. When you're reading a book about a disabled character that might have your exact disability, reading about them getting cured is extremely harmful. It also perpetuates the idea that disability is a burden and getting cured is a gift that all disabled people strive for, which really is an ableist statement in itself.

How to recognize it:
Books like MAGONIA for example are pitched with the disability and end up curing it. You can pretty much tell from the blurb in most cases and it's fairly easy to recognize. If the disability magically vanishes, gets healed through a wishing well/sorcerer/quest/whatever, or turns out to be actually the result of something paranormal/supernatural, it's ableism.

Example 2: The Faux-Disability

What it is: 
A disabled character that is just disabled on the page, but their portrayal provides no actual representation. Their disability is neither addressed nor is their experience realistic or relevant to the story. I like to call these characters faux-disabled. You could make the character able-bodied and nothing about the book would change.

Why it's harmful: 
Why add a disabled character to your story if you aren't aiming to represent? Usually these characters are just added to make the premise more interesting and sell the book. This fairly obviously isn't done with the intention of giving representation to disabled people. 

How to recognize it:
This is difficult if you're able-bodied and/or not familiar with the exact disability. Here are some good questions to ask

  • Does their disability limit them during the novel? Is any of their experience different than that of an able-bodied person?
  • Are there reflection passages where the character talks about their disability? Usually able-bodied authors with faux-disabled characters shy away from that because this would obviously show how little they know about disability. Not a bullet-proof way to tell, but it's something.
  • Is their disability a plot point? Is it necessary or convenient for them to be disabled just because of a specific plot point?
  • Is their disability cured/turns out not to be real? Think of books like EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING.

Example 3: The "well you're out then"

What it is: 
Writing a character out of the story or shifting them from a main character to a side character or a side character to off the page after they acquire a disability.

Why it's harmful: 
An easy cop out for an author who clearly does not care about disability. Just delete the character instead of representing. It's extremely disheartening to finally see a disabled character in your favorite book, but then they end up getting written out of the story. Disability is reduced to a shocking or dramatic plot point.

How to recognize it:
You'll surely notice when a disabled character disappears or gets degraded to a side character.

Example 4: The Magical Disability

What it is:
A magic ability as an attempt to make sense of disability. Blind characters who have visions, characters with schizophrenia that can hear the voices of dead people, things like that.

Why it's harmful: 
It's very important here to check whether the author draws a line. This magnificent post from Disability in Kidlit explains quite nicely that disabled characters can have magical abilities without making it an ableist narrative IF their disability is not invalidated. Their example is THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER, in which the protagonist has PTSD and magical abilities that aren't related.

In most cases books who utilize this don't necessarily want to represent the disability. Their magic ability, if it's tied to the disability, is often a way to say "hey, so that's why people have schizophrenia/are blind/have PTSD." This can easily come across as a way to try and make sense / justify the existence of disabled people, which is just horrific to think about. Do those disabled people who don't have magical abilities in real life then have no reason to exist? Authors who use this trope aren't aiming to give disabled readers characters to relate to but want to use it as a plot device, which again ventures into ableist territory.

How to recognize it:
If you ask yourself - could the disabled character with magical powers also be able-bodied? If the answer is no it's quite likely that it's an ableist story. Check whether it's a plot device.

Example 5: The "Sufferer"

What it is: 
A disabled character whose disability is a burden, it's just suffering with virtually no good aspects, their life is miserable and they hate it and are longing for a magical cure, maybe even actively pursuing finding one.

Note that not all disabled people think alike and this may actually ring true for some disabled people, but if the author of a book like that is able-bodied, they have no business telling a story like that. If we're talking #ownvoices, any disabled author can write about this. This is very much an issue of staying in your lane.

Why it's harmful: 
This is a classic example of suffer porn. Able-bodied people often are entertained by the suffering of disabled people. Look at books like ME BEFORE YOU. The limited representation we get in media will usually be centered around our suffering. Imagine how you'd feel if the only books about able-bodied people were about how much they wished they were disabled and how horrible their life is because they are able-bodied? Well, it's not quite the same, but you get the picture.

How to recognize it:
A book that centers around the suffering, while not being #ownvoices, and possibly also centering around finding a cure. It's quite easy to recognize if you're aware of this trope's existence.

I recognized one of these things in a book. What do I do now?

  • Rate and review. It's very important to prevent more marginalized readers from being harmed
  • Mention the harmful tropes you recognized in your review while also mentioning that you're able-bodied
  • Inform people who recommend the book of its ableism
  • Make sure to check if it's an #ownvoices book. Don't come for #ownvoices books by disabled authors if you're able-bodied. Stay in your lane.
  • Promote and link reviews of people who have the disability that is portrayed poorly and don't back down when someone tells you that it's just an opinion

More on problematicness:

HOLD UP if you plan on commenting: 

Please do not ask advice about specific books or examples in your own writing. I will not answer them. This post took an immense amount of emotional energy to write, so let's be respectful, okay? If you have detailed questions, feel free to submit them to my Patreon, nothing's off limits there. 

If you want to say thanks, consider buying me a virtual coffee through ko-fi here.  It's a nice gesture and will make this feel appreciated. Also will contribute to me taking the time to make more posts like this.

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Friday, February 3, 2017

[Review] The Winner's Curse (The Winner's #1) - Marie Rutkoski: In Which Slavery Isn't All That Bad

In THE WINNER'S CURSE, Kestrel buys a slave and gets mixed up in a revolution.

What intrigued me: Gorgeous cover mostly, but also the hype.

So... slavery is okay, I guess?

I didn't really know what I was getting myself into when I started THE WINNER'S CURSE. I had no idea that it would be about slaves, and I had even less of an idea about the romance being between the slave owner and the slave! What can I say, I just find this incredibly distasteful and strange, especially as a minority myself, I don't want to read about the romanticization of slave trade.

THE WINNER'S CURSE is a prime example of how to not approach a sensitive topic and exactly the reason why I shy away from books written by white people about topics that influence the lives of POC. People never do their research. Rutkoski uses slave trade as a mere plot device to showcase her white savior protagonist and didn't even bother to portray the lives of slaves accurately. I'm not asking for historical accuracy here, it's high fantasy after all, but could we not act like the life as a slave is actually quite okay and they're basically just well-off servants? Could we not act like slavery doesn't involve torture, robbing people of their identities, robbing them of their homes, and treating them like actual human trash?

THE WINNER'S CURSE doesn't even once show us how horribly slaves are treated. The Valorians, the conquerors, are never actually shown beating their slaves. From a novel that's about such a topic you'd expect some graphic scenes. You'd expect something beyond just trading people like cattle. I assume Rutkoski decided not to show this because this would lead to us not rooting for the Valorians, aka Kestrel.

This is not a fictional scenario, slave trade exists to this day (!!!!). Could we not invalidate the experiences of minorities all over the world and act like it isn't all that bad and that you just have to wait for your rich white person to save you and give you the opportunity to revolt?

If at least the prose was great...

My personal feelings about the romance and the whole slavery thing aside, THE WINNER'S CURSE is not a skillfully written book. The writing is very technical, very emotionless. Lots of short sentences, lots of factual descriptions, even worse with changes in POV! I struggled with it a lot in the beginning because it's just not what I'm used to. 

The premise isn't that bad, despite Rutkoski not really bothering with world building. What made me lose all faith in the book is the fact that her protagonist Kestrel is an absolutely horrible person. She doesn't care about the slaves, she buys one herself even, and at no point tries to actually help the slaves. It's absolutely despicable to read about someone that doesn't understand slavery is bad - until she actually forms a bond with a slave. Wtf?!

I am tired, so, so, so tired. I can't believe that nobody bothers to mention this in reviews. I can't believe that nobody even seems to bother to get upset about this. 

Why is this so popular?




Overall: Do I Recommend?

I find this book incredibly offensive. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone and it's beyond me how you can close your eyes to the problematicness of it all. Privilege I guess. Thumbs down from me.

Additional Info

Published: March 4th 2015
Pages: 355
Publisher: Farrar Strauss Giroux
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9780374384685

"Winning what you want may cost you everything you love... 

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. "(Source: Goodreads)

Have you read THE WINNER'S CURSE?

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