Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Problematic YA Books By (Mostly) Non-#Ownvoices Authors Masterlist | Book Blogging Tips (#48)




Remember: Marginalized people are not a monolith and not everyone considers the same things offensive and/or problematic. 

When in doubt, listen to marginalized people instead of those who aren't marginalized.



I'll use simply the names of the marginalizations that are portrayed badly in most of the cases. Not all examples listed are necessarily -phobic or -ist but cases of very inaccurate/offensive representation. I tried to reflect that through the way they're labeled, but feel free to correct me!

* for reviews by people who do not have the marginalization, everything else is reviewed by people with the marginalization rep they're critiquing.

Arnold, David - Mosquitoland (Native American: Cherokee)
Aslan, Austin - The Islands at the End of the World (epilepsy + seizures)
Banks, Anna - Nemesis (Egyptian*) 2*
Bardugo, Leigh - Shadow and Bone (Russian)
Barr, Emily - The One Memory of Flora Banks (memory-related chronic illness)
Bjorkman, Laura - My Invented Life (bisexual + biracial)
Blume, Judy - Deenie (scoliosis)
Bowman, Erin - Vengeance Road (Native American: Apache)
Brugman, Alyssa - Alex As Well (intersex)
Carson, Rae - Walk on Earth a Stranger (Native American: Cherokee)
Cast, P.C. - Moon Chosen (biracial + Native American + Black) 2 34* 5*
Cherry, Alison - Look Both Ways (biphobia23
Clark, Kristin Elizabeth - Freakboy (non-binary + trans)
Cozzo, Karole - How to Keep Rolling After a Fall (wheelchair user*)
Drake, Keira - The Continent (people of color)
Eve, Laure - The Graces (racial slurs + biphobia + homophobia ) 2 3
Fitzpatrick, Rebecca - Black Ice (abuse romanticization)
Golding, Julia - Young Knights of the Roundtable  (wheelchair user)
Grant, Michael - Gone (Native American: Chumash + Autism)
Green, John - An Abundance of Katherines (Muslim)
Green, John - The Fault in Our Stars (pediatric cancer)
Gregorio, I.W. - None of the Above (intersex*)
Hamilton, Alwyn - Rebel of the Sands (Middle Eastern + Muslim2 3 4
Harrison, Rory - Looking for Group (transphobia)
Hattrup, Karen - Frannie and Tru (depression*)
Henry, Emily - The Love That Split the World (Native American) 2
Hoover, Colleen - November 9 (OCD* + abuse romanticization + rape culture + homophobia*)
Houch, Colleen - Tiger's Curse (Hindu*)
Howard, A.G. - Splintered (Black*)
Jordan, Sophie - Reign of Shadows (blind*)
Kinsella, Sophie - Finding Audrey (social anxiety)
Kristoff, Jay - Nevernight (Maori)
Kristoff, Jay - Stormdancer (Japanese) 234567*
Landy, Derek - Desolation (homophobia*)
Larsen, Jen - Future Perfect (fatphobia)
Meyer, Marissa - Cinder (Asian)
Michaelis, Antonia - The Storyteller (abuse romanticization + rape romanticization) 2
Niven, Jennifer - All the Bright Places (depression)
Pacat, C.S. - Captive Prince (abuse + rape fetishization + homophobia*) 2 3
Rankin, Rutherford - Fighting Against Gravity (transphobia* + homophobia*)
Roth, Veronica - Carve the Mark (people of color + chronic pain3 4 56*
Rowell, Rainbow - Eleanor & Park (Korean)
Rowell, Rainbow - Fangirl (anxiety + bipolar disorder)
Schmidt, Tiffany - Hold Me Like a Breath (immune thrombocytopenia)
Shannon, Samantha - The Bone Season (romanticizing slavery)
Shields, Brenna - Poison Kiss (Indian)
Sutherland, Krystal - Our Chemical Hearts (posttraumatic stress disorder+ cane user + limping)
Skye, Evelyne - The Crown's Game (Russian)
Stirling, Tricia - When My Heart Was Wicked (Native American*: Maidu)
Stone, Tamara Ireland - Every Last Word (OCD)
Talley, Robin - As I Descended (biphobia* + Black* + Latinx*)
Talley, Robin - The Lies We Tell Ourselves (Black)
Talley, Robin - What We Left Behind (trans* + genderqueer + biphobia*) 2*
Thomas, Leah - Because You'll Never Meet Me (blind)
Tregay, Sarah - Fan Art (gay)
Tucholke, April Genevieve - Wink Poppy Midnight (racial slurs)
Watt, Erin - Paper Princess (abuse romanticization + slut shaming)
Yoon, Nicola - Everything, Everything (severe combined immunodeficiency* + chronic illness)
Young, Suzanne - The Program (depression)



Note:
Obviously this is a database and may contain different takes on these books. But when a marginalized person tells you (a non-marginalized person) that a book  that represents their identity is offensive - listen.

As always, marginalized people are not a monolith. When in doubt still listen to them unless you also have the same marginalization and may feel differently.

This list is far from complete, but I'd love for it to become a comprehensive resource. 

Feel free to comment with a link to a review of a book that you consider problematic (and that details why  the book is problematic) and I'll add it. Make sure to mention whether you have the marginalization if it also features bad rep!

More Book Blogging Tips:
Are You Awkward About Getting Review Requests from Authors?
8 Tips to Get Motivated to Write Blog Posts
More Generous Ratings for Indie Books?

More on problematicness:
Should We Separate Authors from Their Problematic Work? On False Representation and Whether Authors Deserve Call-Outs
Do We Owe It to Authors to Call Out Problematic Books "Nicely?"
How to Enjoy A Problematic Book and Not Be a Jerk About It
Emergency Help When You Have to Review a "Problematic Book"

Continue Reading...

Monday, January 16, 2017

[Review] The Graces (#1) - Laure Eve: Witches, Racism, and Biphobia

In THE GRACES, River is new to town and immediately grows obsessed with the town "celebrity" family Grace, who are said to be witches.

What intrigued me: Witches!

Carbon Copy of TWILIGHT

Many reviewers note that THE GRACES bears a lot of similarities to TWILIGHT. Which - well if you've been here for a while you know that I certainly wouldn't mind that. But it's very much a carbon copy of TWILIGHT, just interchanging vampires with witches. This is exactly the same reading experience, I don't even know what to say about the plot beyond that. 

The Grace family is exactly that brand of pretentious characters that speak in pseudo deep sentences that really makes you feel detached from the narration. None of the characters feel real, rather almost like a parody, because THE GRACES takes itself so, so seriously.
Eve has this poetic quite dreamy writing style that surely showcases her skills but it absolutely doesn't work in combination with that plot.

Beyond that we have our typical Mary Sue protagonist that's not like other girls and so special and different - can we just retire this already? There's nothing wrong with being exactly like all other girls. Girls are awesome.

Racism, Ableism, and Homophobia Galore 

THE GRACES is littered with slurs and insensitivity. So much so that I could basically educate you on what not to use just by using quotes from this book. Because it's just so much I'll use a list format.
I won't use any verbatim quotes here in the following in order not to clutter things up (and also because it's so much that going back and checking page numbers would take a century.)
  • Questionable POC/Asian rep. There is one non-white character in this book, mean girl Niral who engages in frequent homophobic comments and slut shaming. It's absolutely irresponsible to make your single POC (South-East Asian) character a despicable human being. It's even worse to include this in the first place if none of her horrible action are ever addressed and/or correct. This equals condoning her behavior.
  • Biphobia. THE GRACES uses bisexuality as a plot twist. If I tell you which character is bisexual, this would spoil the story. This is not how you represent LGBT* characters. Beyond that it's stigmatized and seen as disgusting and horrifying when the character is forcibly and violently outed. THE GRACES also features a hate crime on the basis of sexuality that is normalized and encouraged. 
  • Queerbaiting? Protagonist River has an obsession with Summer Grace that comes across more like a misguided crush. This book could've been so much more interesting if the romance was between two girls and not about running after a boy who doesn't really seem interested.
  • Homophobia. Mean girl Niral spreads rumors about a side character being a lesbian. I don't know in what world being a lesbian is a negative thing, but THE GRACES makes sure to portray it like that. Earlier on before the bisexual character is outed him being bullied by a boy is described as '[the bullied boy] seemed to enjoy [getting bullied] a little too much'. 
  • Casual racial slurs. You'll find g*psy and many more in this book as casual descriptors that are never addressed. Normalizing slurs is unacceptable. Racism isn't cool or quirky.
  • Casual ableism. The lovely line 'their parents divorce hung over them like lepracy' and calling a boy 'too strong to faint like that' are always quite lovely to read.
  • Straight-forward ableism. There's this lovely dialogue between two characters fairly early on where they talk about a supposedly mentally-ill character and say 'well you can't be friends with someone [...] with mental problems.'
...and this isn't even a complete list. At some point I just grew so emotionally exhausted that I just wanted to get this over with and stopped keeping tabs. Most of the things I mentioned can be found within the first 80 or so pages. 

It's extremely disappointing to not only see a racist homophobic and ableist book like that published, but also to see reviewers and bloggers recommend this happily. I was hurt by this book. And so many other marginalized readers in the future will be.

So yeah. That was THE GRACES. If you plan on reading this, be extremely careful.

Rating:

★☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

THE GRACES shocked me through the frequent insensitivity, homophobia, biphobia, and racial slurs. It's extremely horrifying that all of this ended up in the final version. Marginalized readers, please be very careful. Beyond that it's a typical Mary Sue moves to new town story that has so much in common with TWILIGHT that you can only call it fan fiction.

Trigger warning for: racial slurs, slut shaming, homophobia, biphobia, hate crimes (LGBT)


Additional Info

Published: September 1st 2016
Pages: 415
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Genre: YA / Paranormal / Witches & Wizards
ISBN: 9780571326808

Synopsis:
"Everyone said the Graces were witches.

They moved through the corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wake. Stares followed their backs and their hair.

They had friends, but they were just distractions. They were waiting for someone different.

All I had to do was show them that person was me.

Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on?"
(Source: Goodreads)



What's your favorite book about witches?

Continue Reading...

Saturday, January 14, 2017

8 Blogging Resolutions for 2017 - Things I Vow to Do, and You Should, Too | Book Blogging Tips (#47)

Resolutions are a tricky thing. I usually don't really care for them because they hardly ever are things that I think I can realistically achieve. 

But looking at the development my blog has gone through since launch in september 2014, I noticed that I very much am able to fulfill bookish ones - and that doing this absolutely changes my blog for the better.

Call this a blogging hacks post if you will, disguised as a new year's resolution.


#8: I vow to read more out of my comfort zone.
Doing that is sometimes hard, I get it. But by picking up books you normally wouldn't have, you can sometimes find gems. Would you believe that one of my favorite books ever, LIFE'S THAT WAY by Jim Beaver was one of these? I don't do Non-Fiction, usually. Makes me uncomfortable and I don't really care. But trust me, sometimes it's worth taking a chance on books you're skeptic about.

#7: I vow to read genres I usually dislike. 
If you've been following me for a long time you know that I don't like high fantasy. Never have. But looking at my blog statistics, it's the most reviewed genre. Why? I want to educate myself. Read stuff I don't usually read. Sometimes you can find new favorites like that. This year's genre is Historical Fiction + Historical Fantasy. I'm hoping to make it the most reviewed genre on my blog by 2018.

#6: I vow to give popular books a shot.
You know I'm a hipster when it comes to reading - I don't like reading what's popular and that's not really a desirable characteristic. I'll try to read more popular books in 2017 and push myself.

#5: I vow to read even more diverse books than non-diverse ones.
My reading habits changed for the better since I consciously picked up more diverse books. Just trust me on this one, especially if you have a marginalization, may that be a mental illness, disability, or being a person of color - reading about people like you makes your life better. And even if you aren't marginalized - expand your horizon. It's fun.

#4: I vow to not bother with books that I don't enjoy.
I DNF left and right and you should, too. Don't bother with books that are a chore to go through. Your time is too precious.

#3: I vow to boost the heck out of my reviews of problematic books.
This is a very important thing to do. I know, it feels scary to speak up sometimes, but know that you're protecting marginalized readers, especially teens, by doing that. Sharing is caring.

#2: I vow to stand with bloggers and reviewers who are getting attacked for speaking up.
This goes with the previous point - as much as it is important to speak up about problematic representation, it's also important to protect the people that are doing the talking. We need to have their back, no matter the cost.

#1: I vow to keep on improving, keep on changing.
I think that's the beauty of blogging. That you can look back at all your old content and smile because it reminds you of the person you were when you posted it. Blogging styles change and post formats and ideas and all that do, too. That's a beautiful thing. I hope I'll get some more of that blogging nostalgia looking back at this post a couple years from now.


What are your resolutions blogging-wise for 2017?




More Book Blogging Tips:

Dramatic Changes I Made that Ended Up Improving My Blog
No Comments on Book Reviews?
How Often Should You Post per Week?
Are You Awkward About Getting Review Requests from Authors?

8 Tips to Get Motivated to Write Blog Posts
More Generous Ratings for Indie Books?


Continue Reading...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

[Review] Nemesis (#1) - Anna Banks: Egyptians, Racism, and Slaves

In NEMESIS, element forger and princess Sepora flees from her home kingdom of Serubel only to end up enslaved to her nemesis Tarik, the new king of Theoria.

What intrigued me: Not the cover, that's for sure. I came solely for the enemies to lovers trope.



CAUTION: NEMESIS is a book about slavery. The fact that the blurb uses "servitude" instead of slavery (probably in an attempt to sugarcoat) is simply appalling. Google indentured servitude. There's a difference.

Cultural Appropriation and Whitewashing

NEMESIS is pretty much a "how not to" guide for white authors looking to write books inspired by a culture that is not their own. It's fairly obvious that Banks neither used sensitivity readers nor did any research that went deeper than surface level. Learn from her mistakes:

NEMESIS draws heavily from Egyptian and Jewish history and culture. And with "draws from", I mean appropriates. Complete with white savior protagonist Sepora, who starts out as a slave and easily works her way up to becoming a close advisor of the king, mostly because she's so beautiful and unique. This isn't an homage / rewrite / whatever you want to call it. There are no people of color in this book. And no, "olive skin" does not count as a stand-in for brown or black. Since this book so heavily draws from these peoples history, the least it can do is not whitewash them.

NEMESIS doesn't commit and doesn't have the guts to make this an unapologetically African or even African-inspired story and therefore can only be called cultural appropriation. You can't take the existing history of marginalized people, take the bits you like, make it all butterflies and unicorns, and paint it all white to top it off. I have major problems with the way Banks portrays the Theorians, who are very clearly fictionalized brown/black Egyptians. While Banks does not portray them bluntly like savages, thankfully, her portrayal is full of racist microaggressions. 

From calling their language, which very clearly is an allegory to East African languages, primitive, and generally making fun of their traditions, ridiculing pretty much every Egyptian-inspired and -coded tradition they have as redundant and ridiculous as seen through King Tarik's eyes - NEMESIS is incredibly offensive on so many levels. If King Tarik's POV represents how Banks sees people of color, I am absolutely speechless.  NEMESIS is not written for people of color. It really feels like an attack, as an African, to see an author draw very obvious inspiration from an African country but to dismiss pretty much every aspect of their culture that makes them what they are. I cannot speak for Banks' portrayal of the Serubel (faux-Jewish) people and I won't, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's just as bad.

It's not very flattering either that white Sepora's arch enemy is the "olive-skinned" (speak: faux black) Tarik, king of Theoria. It's absolutely not a good idea to insinuate brown/black vs. white conflict without committing to it. This isn't a book about race, so this allusion doesn't belong here. Banks has no business writing about this in the first place.

...and look at all that wasted potential.

I was immediately impressed with the winged serpents and element-forging protagonist in NEMESIS. And Banks also has these interesting two POVs that really complement each other. 

While I'm not necessarily a fan of the writing, which is a little to simple, info-dumpy, and clunky for my personal taste, protagonists Tarik and Sepora's alternate storylines are surely interesting. Sepora's story consists of a lot of wandering around and reckless info-dumps which easily and quickly annoyed me, and Tarik's story packs a punch from the start, beginning with his father dying of a mysterious illness. 

NEMESIS could have been SO good. Exceptional, unapologetic, and big. This book could've been huge if it was only starring a diverse cast and if Banks had bothered to hire sensitivity readers, which she c l e a r l y did not. I generally do not want to read anything about slavery in a book that doesn't tackle race.
  • And I don't know, I don't understand in what world it is okay to pretend that all of these people were white. 
  • And I also don't know in what world writing a romance between a master and a slave without even doing as much as just mentioning the word slavery, and not approaching this topic with the sensitvity and respect it deserves, is okay. 
  • And I also don't know why it seems to be so hard to have the basic decency to hire a sensitivity reader if you're going to write about a culture that isn't your own. 



Rating:

★☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

NEMESIS blatantly whitewashes and culturally appropriates the history of Egyptian and Jewish peoples in the form of a fantasy rivalry between the fictional kingdoms of Serubel and Theoria. This book is about slavery while whitewashing it and using it as a plot device, which for me is absolutely a no-go, especially coming from a white author. And of course this features an obligatory master/slave romance. Don't let the blurb fool you, nobody is a "servant" in this book. It's slavery.

  • Note - even more problems: 
I have a major problem with the cover. I understand that painting their skin is a thing that Sepora's people do. But it just awkwardly seems like one step removed from blackface to me. Maybe that's far-fetched, I'm well-aware that people of color didn't invent painting their skin and don't own this, but considering that this is a practice commonly associated with the indigenous peoples of some Pacific Islands, some African countries, or New Zealand, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. 

If Sepora was a person of color I wouldn't even have to mention this. I don't understand why she had to be white. I know many people who were put off by this cover -specifically- because it shows a white person with full body paint in one color and decided not to read this book or anything else by this author. Which I absolutely understand knowing that the content of the book matches the cover.

[HEY JEWISH OR EGYPTIAN REVIEWERS - have you reviewed this book? I'd be happy to link your reviews here, just shoot me an email or comment or whatever!]


Additional Info

Published: October 5th 2016
Pages: 368
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9781250070173

Synopsis:
"Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last Forger in all the five kingdoms. The spectorium she creates provides energy for all, but now her father has found a way to weaponize it, and his intentions to incite war force her to flee his grasp. She escapes across enemy lines into the kingdom of Theoria, but her plans to hide are thwarted when she is captured and placed in the young king’s servitude.

Tarik has just taken over rulership of Theoria, and must now face a new plague sweeping through his kingdom and killing his citizens. The last thing he needs is a troublesome servant vying for his attention. But Mistress Sepora will not be ignored. When the two finally meet face-to-face, they form an unlikely bond that complicates life in ways neither of them could have imagined.

Sepora's gift may be able to save Tarik’s kingdom. But should she risk exposing herself and her growing feelings for her nemesis?"
(Source: Goodreads)


So... that was exhausting. Tell me something nice? Maybe about an #ownvoices book that has good representation of people of color?

Continue Reading...

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

10 2016 YA Releases I Didn't Get to But Will Read Soon! | Top 10 Tuesday





I've read a lot of 2016 releases last year but nowhere near managed to read all the cool books I wanted to read! 
Here are some that I missed.




LADY MIDNIGHT - Cassandra Clare
I'm not done with the shadowhunters series and I will read a lot more of them. I've still not finished The Mortal Instruments but one day I will. Even though I genuinely didn't truly love a single one of these books I just love the TV show (Marc 8th 2016, Marget McElderry) Goodreads

SEVEN BLACK DIAMONDS - Melissa Marr
It's been years since I've read Melissa Marr! And another fairy book?! Yes! (Mar 1st 2016, HarperCollins) Goodreads

CONSIDER - Kristy Acevedo
A protagonist with anxiety and holograms! Bring it on! (Apr 19th 2016, Jolly Fish Press) Goodreads



THE SIREN - Kiera Cass
Sometimes I go through those phases where I'm absolutely obsessed with a specific paranormal creature. I haven't been on a mermaid craze this year so I skipped this one, but I hope I'll get obsessed in 2017. (Jan 26th 2016, Harper Teen) Goodreads

DEAD GIRLS SOCIETY - Michelle Krys
I didn't read the blurb, I just know there's a chronically ill protagonist and I'm sold. I assume it's one of preppy boarding schools ~with a secret society~ novels. (Nov 8th 2016, Delacore) Goodreads

FLAMECASTER - Cinda Williams China
I've been reading a lot of High Fantasy in 2016 but I unfortauntely didn't manage to read this one. I don't know anything at all about it aside from my friends loving it. (Apr 5th 2016, HarperCollins) Goodreads




TELL THE WIND AND FIRE - Sarah Rees Brennan
I've been longing for another book similar to PLUS ONE with people living in the daylight and the night and this is just what I'm looking for. Soon. (Apr 5th 2016, Clarion Books) Goodreads

KILL THE BOYBAND - Goldy Moldavsky 
Boybands and fandom obsessions! I'm sad I didn't buy a copy this year. (Feb 23rd 2016, Point) Goodreads

UNDERWATER - Marisa Reichardt
You can always catch me (get it? because the book's name is UNDERWATER. Nah?) with a good mental health read. (Jan 12th 2016, Farrar Straus & Giroux) Goodreads


THE ASSASSIN'S HEART - Sarah Ahiers
I don't think I actually ever truly loved an assassin book. Bring on the badassery! (Feb 2nd 2016, HarperTeen) Goodreads

What are some 2016 releases you wanted to read but didn't get to?

Continue Reading...

Sunday, January 8, 2017

[Review] The One Memory of Flora Banks - Emily Barr: No Short Term Memory and Romanticization

In THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS, Flora has no short term memory but when she kisses her best friend's boyfriend, the memory somehow seems to stick.

What intrigued me: I love the movie Memento.

Compelling story and interesting concept

THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS is unlike anything I've ever read. Barr uses the premise cleverly to establish a compelling story. In some parts it gets a little repetitive because Flora constantly needs to be reminded of basic info about herself. Paired with the writing that feels very Middle Grade, it's certainly not the right pick for everyone.

What I cherished the most about THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS is that each scene works as a standalone. You could basically start reading anywhere and still have no issue following the story. The unreliable narration aspect is surely the most enjoyable and unique thing about this novel.

But at the end of the day I just have tremendous problems with the story that I just cannot overlook. I would've loved THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS if it wouldn't venture into the dangerous territory of romanticization. Had the memory just been something else. Sigh.

Insensitive and romanticizing

As someone with a chronic illness that does affect their memory, I just have to make remarks about the problematicness of this narrative. The whole premise of Flora remembering nothing since the accident that left her without a short term memory but then suddenly falling in love with a boy and getting cured...? Oh hell no. 

Flora even says this herself that Drake's kiss "healed" her brain. This is exactly where THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS ventures into difficult and problematic territory. I stopped identifying with Flora's story the second it became about the boy. Barr deeply romanticizes her illness, suggesting that love is all she needs to be "normal". Being neurotypical is the desired goal here and THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS more than just once clearly states that Flora's illness is something that has to be overcome and a hinderance. While I understand that she thinks like this to some degree, Barr doesn't try to open a dialogue about this.

Flora is constantly portrayed as a weird outsider that has no chance of ever being like her peers. The antagonist of the story is Flora's illness. And this is just so damaging, so unnecessary. THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS uses her illness as a gimmick to tell an ~edgy~ story instead of even remotely considering that there are people out there who are affected with similar illnesses. It's insensitive. Very much unapologetically so and I just can't condone this, I just can't ignore all this and rate this based on the entertainment factor. Chronically ill people are not your gimmick. We are not your edgy premise.



Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS isn't a story for chronically-ill people or anyone who struggles with serious memory problems. At no point does it try to give representation to sick people - it only wants to give healthy people an edgy premise to be entertained by. I found it very insensitive and offensive as someone with serious memory problems due to chronic illness. Can we just stop pretending falling in love cures all illnesses?



Additional Info

Published: 12th January 2017
Pages: 320
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9780141368511

Synopsis:
"Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend's boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora's fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words "be brave" inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway—the land of the midnight sun—determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must "be brave" if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home."(Source: Goodreads)



Have you ever read books with unreliable narrators?

Continue Reading...

Friday, January 6, 2017

I'm Dragging Racist Books in 2017 and You Need to, too - a Callout. | YA Talk

I didn't plan to make this post, but then I noticed that I have an unusual amount of one star reviews scheduled for January. And the majority of these reviews isn't due to me personally not enjoying the book, but due to racism.

There is a RIDICULOUS amount of racist popular books on the market. 

You wouldn't necessarily know this if you don't belong to a marginalized group because reviewers are very shy to give bad ratings. I've been lurking in the book world for a very long time and actively blogging for over 2 years and I can count the genuine and social justice book bloggers on one hand. I can count the people that I can trust to protect me from accidentally stumbling upon racist content on. one. hand. 

It's just a bitter truth that there are two types of book bloggers:
  • those who are aware of the prominent racism in publishing and actively do something about it by giving negative reviews to racist books
  • and those who value entertainment over the feelings of marginalized people and yell bloody murder if you call their problematic favorite out
This is specifically about people of color, because they remain the one group that continuously gets effed over in popular books with Z E R O consequences. And I know, people love to get offended when being called racist - but that's racism. Not caring about people of color is literally the definition of racism. 

This is a callout post. If you belong to the latter group and value your entertainment over our feelings, genuinely think about why you're doing this. Think.  

Yes, I am aware, many micro aggressions and specific harmful tropes are hard to recognize if you're a cishet white person. I get it.

But that doesn't mean that you're magically unable to read blogs by marginalized people. 9/10 it's a marginalized blogger on Goodreads who's the only person out of 1,000 reviewers who'll leave a one star review on the problematicness of a book. And 10/10 times non-marginalized reviewers ignore this, dismiss this, don't care, and keep recommending.
  • I am t i r e d of books like THE WINNER'S CURSE or NEMESIS who use slavery as a way to showcase their white savior protagonist.
  • I am t i r e d of books like EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING and MAGONIA that make disabled characters a punchline to sell their edgy premise
  • And I am t i r e d of books like THE CONTINENT and CARVE THE MARK and NEVERNIGHT that make people of color the savage aggressors- can we stop? 
What is wrong with you people who recommend and enjoy these books? Seriously?

And you know what, it's not only on the racist authors that these books continue to sell. It's also on you guys. Every single one of you that decides to be silent when you come across a problematic book.

I don't want to hear any justifications. I don't care for them. There is no excuse. 

The most important and biggest book blogging tip I have for you for 2017 is to call out racism, homophobia, ableism, and any nasty stuff you see in a book. And you blast your review. You crosspost it everywhere until people listen. 

The reviews I'm publishing this month took me an immense amount of emotional energy to write. I hated writing them. I hated reading these books. It hurt me. It made me want to lose my faith in publishing, this community, and other bloggers. But it's necessary to voice that pain. We need to warn readers about the nasty problematic and racist books that continue to sell because so many people out there dismiss our feelings. 

You owe this to your readers if you're a blogger. Else you're not blogging right. This is not a discussion prompt. Don't you dare be afraid to call out racism. If you're feeling unsure, still write the review and link to one of a marginalized person. The sad truth is that people tend to value white and cishet and able bodied voices more. So your voice makes an immense difference as an ally. Use it.


What's the last nasty problematic book you read? Link your review in the comments.


More on problematicness:

Should We Separate Authors from Their Problematic Work? On False Representation and Whether Authors Deserve Call-Outs
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 

Continue Reading...

Thursday, January 5, 2017

[Review] Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) - Marissa Meyer: Cyborgs and Cultural Appropriation





In CINDER, cyborg Cinder gets mixed up in royal business and a conspiracy when her stepsister catches the Plague.


What intrigued me: I'm the last person on this planet that hasn't read this.

A horrific lack of... well, everything?

Bland is probably the most fitting word to describe the world of CINDER. What initially got me interested in this novel was the so highly-acclaimed and praised imaginative world. I was expecting top-notch world building and a lot of creativity. I was surprised to find neither in this novel. 

Meyer applies a very amateurish technique when it comes to establishing her world - throwing around words with no meaning and expecting the reader to buy this. Nod and smile. The Lunar people who are barely in this book yet make up a huge chunk of the blurb, aren't explained at all. Why are cyborgs outcasts? How do Lunars get their power? How did humanity colonize the Moon? CINDER fails at even establishing the most basic questions about this world.

Following this trend, the plot isn't even worth mentioning, neither are the characters. Instead of a retelling, I'd simply call this a reproduction of the original, throwing in the cyborg thing. It's predictable, and the characters have an astonishing lack of personality. The only character that I found remotely interesting is Queen Levana, who is basically the YA equivalent of a Disney villain that's evil for evil's sake. Yawn.

People of color are NOT your aesthetic

Aside from the sheer boringness of the plot the one thing that upsets me, offends me, and makes me quite sad that people don't talk about more is the fact that CINDER simply uses Chinese characters, imagery, and culture for aesthetics.

You can absolutely tell that there went no thought and no research into developing New Beijing, aside from creating a generic Chinese town. The characters have Chinese names, there are bits and bobs you've probably recognized from every Hollywood movie set in China ever, but not a hint of Chinese culture. The characters aren't Chinese, they are white people dressing up. Meyer's characters are wearing a POC costume, just for the sake of being able to say that this is a diverse book. This is not a diverse book. 

This is not the kind of representation people of color want, care for, or appreciate. This is cultural appropriation actually. Of course there are always people who'll say "hey, it's fiction, let her do what she wants", which I consider absolutely irrelevant to the point. Had Meyer bothered to add an ounce of actual Chinese customs and culture in this, even tried instead of just throwing Chinese names around thinking that's enough for world building, I wouldn't have been so harsh.



Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

CINDER is an absolute disappointment. The blatant use of a "foreign" culture for aesthetics is simply appalling, only surpassed by the boring characters and lack of world building.

Link to a review by an Asian reviewer who basically said the same thing.


Additional Info

Published: January 3rd 2012
Pages: 390
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: YA / Dystopian
ISBN: 9780312641894

Synopsis:
"Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
 "(Source: Goodreads)

Have you read CINDER?

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Top 10 2017 YA Debuts I'm the Most Excited For feat. Angie Thomas, Rebecca Barrow & more | Top 10 Tuesday





This was the hardest blog post I ever made. There are about 40 books in my 2017-releases shelf on Goodreads in this very moment and I could think of at least 10 more. It was awful to have to choose. A-W-F-U-L




THE GALLERY OF UNFINISHED GIRLS - Lauren Karcz
This blurb very much sounds like magical realism, painting, and queerness and I am very much ready for that. Goodreads

ONE OF US IS LYING by Karen McManus
Honestly I cannot get enough of books with unreliable narrators. Bathe me in them. Goodreads

ALLEGEDLY by Tiffany D. Jackson 
I've been lusting after this for months now. The premise of the protagonist having murdered a child is the most interesting thing and I just want to read it! That combined with fantastic reviews from author friends who have been able to get an early copy.... *hisses* I want it. Goodreads




THE LOVE INTEREST by Cale Dietrich
Okay but this book you guys. Two guys compete for one girl and end up falling in love with each other. I ache for this. I need this in my life. Goodreads

THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas
With an almost instant movie deal this book is probably going to be one of the most important releases of 2017. It's inspired by Black Lives Matter and tackles police brutality. Goodreads

WICKED LIKE A WILDFIRE by Lana Popovic
This is about girls who can manipulate beauty through magic and the second this blurb went live, my body was ready for this. Omg. Goodreads

GIRL OUT OF WATER by Laura Silverman
A one-armed swoony love interest. From that blurb I can already tell that I'm going to fall for this guy. Goodreads

YOU DON'T KNOW ME BUT I KNOW YOU by Rebecca Barrow
I love reading about accidental pregnancies. This one also features adoption and I'm just like ????? give this book to me now?? Goodreads

THE ELEMENTALIST by V.V. Mont
Oh how I long for more books about elemental magic! Let's bring those back I love this so much, so excited to read it. Goodreads

LIKE WATER - Rebecca Podos
This bisexual performing mermaid had me lurking the second I read the blurb. I can't wait!!! Goodreads

Which 2017 debuts are you most excited for?

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Favorite Covers, Surprising Books, Excitement | 2016 End of Year Book Survey

I can't believe 2016 is over already. This really didn't feel like a whole year. Let's hope 2017 brings everyone of us some good things. Buckle up, this one's a long one.

This tag was created by Jamie from The Perpetual Page Turner.





1. Best Book You Read In 2016?
Mh. I think I'll have to go with A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU by Claudia Gray. That book totally took over my blog and social media this year.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
Several! LIFE AS WE KNEW IT really disappointed me, because I love disaster books. WITHER, RED QUEEN, and SIX OF CROWS were also massive disappointments.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
Probably BUMPED by Megan McCafferty. I totally didn't expect this to be about over-the-top religious teens. Mixed with a world where teens are eager to get pregnant, I was very disturbed.


 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?
Omg that's totally LABYRINTH LOST by Zoraida Córdova. I was -so- annoying about this book, but it's so good, y'all. Bisexual latinx witches. C'mon.

 5. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?
Best series: Firbird by Claudia Gray.
Best sequel: TEN THOUSAND SKIES ABOVE YOU by Claudia Gray
Best series ender: Firebird by Claudia Gray.

You know why? Because I never finish book series! This is the one series that I even picked up the sequels for this year.



6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?
Sarah Crossan joined the glorious ranks of my new contemporary favorites. I welcome her into my blog, y'all will see her around.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
Probably SOMETHING WICKED by Debi Chestnut. I don't read a lot of Non-Fiction, but books about ghosts and the paranormal always pique my interest. This one scared the @'#!+ out of me.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
UNNATURAL DEEDS by Cyn Balog. One sitting wonder, read completely while I was in the waiting room for a doctor's appointment. Totally hooked me on reading more of her books.

9. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
I'm not a rereader. If at all probably A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU by Claudia Gray because I've got a book boyfriend in there that I already dearly miss.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?
I need to stop answering with A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU .... I did the exact same thing with READY PLAYER ONE last year, where is my self-control... ehhh... WINK POPPY MIDNIGHT by April Genevieve Tucholke is quite pretty.

11. Most memorable character of 2016?
I don't know, these are getting so difficult. Maybe Pyotr from VINEGAR GIRL by Anne Tyler? I really liked him.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?
THE ACCIDENT SEASON by Moira Fowley-Doyle maybe. I like her style a lot and even though her book didn't really quite line up with my personal taste, I'll be checking out more by her for sure.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?
UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES by Louise Gornall, no contest. The first book with a chronically-ill character and great representation that I've read and forever cherished.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read? 
I'm really ashamed of reading WITHER by Lauren DeStefano so late. That book came out ages ago, I feel like I totally missed the 2010 dystopian craze. Super embarrassing to be so late to the party.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016?
*clutches heart*

“Everything he’s done, everything he gave up and risked for me: Paul did all that without the slightest idea of being loved in return.”

― Claudia Gray, A Thousand Pieces of You


16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2016?
Oh lord. I don't know how I did this the last time, the longest seems to be LAST SACRIFICE by Richelle Mead with a whopping 608 pages apparently. Don't know about the shortest one.

17. Book That Shocked You The Most
I guess this one's going to BUMPED by Megan McCafferty again for the weirdness factor.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)
GRAND DUCHESS MARGUERITE AND LIEUTENANT PAUL MARKOV FROM THE FIREBIRD SERIES BY CLAUDIA GRAY OKAY NO CONTEST DON'T EVEN

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
I don't think I have one this year.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
Previously this year? Or previously before 2016? Because I totally don't have one for the latter, I refuse to put any books that were less than three stars in this category. Another blank then.

21. Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:
This one might be POISON STUDY by Maria V. Snyder. It was solid, but I don't really have a desire to read the rest of the series, totally didn't care for the magical elements.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016?
Oh I guess if we have to go with Pyotr from VINEGAR GIRL by Anne Tyler then. Eastern European scientists are my jam.

23. Best 2016 debut you read?
SLEEPING GIANTS by Sylvain Neuvel, that one messed me up. Space robots, yessir

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
Mhhh, difficult. I remember being very impressed with Tara Sim's debut TIMEKEEPER. Steampunk world where time is controlled by clock towers. Super imaginative and fun.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
Again, VINEGAR GIRL by Anne Tyler. The Taming of the Shrew is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays and a retelling of that is always super fun to read for me.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?
Ho boy, ONE by Sarah Crossan is a tearjerker deluxe. Poetry about conjoined twins. You always know what'll happen to fictional conjoined twins before even reading the book, so you can imagine.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
UNICORN TRACKS by Julia Ember. Give me more African lesbians please!

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES again, I was Advanced Crushed™.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2015?
WINK POPPY MIDNIGHT again. Nobody has a magical mind quite  like April Genevieve Tucholke.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
Probably RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard. I just don't get it, it's so many books fused into one. I'm not even mad about the book I'm mad at the friends who thought I'd like this, haha.



Feel free to leave the link to your tag in the comments so I can look!



 Last year: Best and Worst Books of 2015 | End of Year Book Survey

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

[Review] Soulmated (Joining of Souls #1) - Shaila Patel: Soulmates and Empaths

In SOULMATED, royal empath Liam is looking for his soulmate and finds them in Indian-American Laxshmi "Lucky" who has to choose between an arrange marriage with someone else or going to medical school.

What intrigued me: I love reading about soulmates.

World Building Issues

Part of why SOULMATED didn't work for me is probably that I had the wrong expectations. I was looking for something à la THE SELECTION, set in a fantasy world. SOULMATED is an Urban Fantasy book that doesn't read any differently than the average Contemporary. 

The fantasy elements aren't nearly as explored as I personally like my Urban Fantasy to be - Liam's empathy isn't explained in detail or even just introduced. You're just thrown into the cold water when it comes to him and that massively impacted how much I enjoyed the story. This is subjective, but I do like my fantasy to be laid out, explained, and properly introduced. Especially the empathy remains hardly explained and I'm still not sure if I understand how it works. In general there is very little mythology and world building behind all this to make it more captivating. It almost reads somewhat Magical Realist minus the world building necessary to qualify as such. 

Fantastic #Ownvoices POV

SOULMATED is told from a dual POV, one being Liam's and the other being Lucky's. This is #ownvoices book, meaning that it's written by an Indian American author - and oh boy, does that show. Lucky's POV is approximately a trillion times better executed and more fun than Liam's. I especially struggled with the way Patel tries to make him seem authentic through extremely aggressively Irish choice of words. It's really extremely heavy and does read very awkwardly. I can't say much for authenticity because I am not Irish - but it doesn't come as naturally and reads ... well, awkwardly. 

Lucky on the other hand is so much more interesting, her POVs flow seamlessly, the little nods to Indian culture, her complicated relationship with her mother who just wants her to become a doctor - ahhh. It's so good. I loved her and I loved following her storyline. In my opinion SOULMATED would have massively benefited from being told from a single POV and invested a little more in that world building. 

Together, Lucky and Liam are just adorable. I think that Patel definitely gets away with instant love in this case because this is literally the premise of SOULMATED and it does work pretty well! If you're generally a romance reader, SOULMATED is a treat for you.


Rating:

★★★½

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

SOULMATED is probably a must-read for you if you're Indian American, love romance, or are just looking for an Indian heroine. Because it's quite sparse on the world building and the dual POV couldn't convince me, it didn't impress me, but that doesn't mean that you won't like it.



Additional Info

Published: January 24th 2017
Pages: 300
Publisher: Month9Books
Genre: YA / Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 9781944816643

Synopsis:
"Two souls. One Fate. 

Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan, an Irish royal empath, has been searching for his elusive soulmate. The rare union will cement his family's standing in empath politics and afford the couple legendary powers, while also making them targets of those seeking to oust them.

Laxshmi Kapadia, an Indian-American high school student from a traditional family, faces her mother's ultimatum: Graduate early and go to medical school, or commit to an arranged marriage. 

When Liam moves next door to Laxshmi, he’s immediately and inexplicably drawn to her. In Liam, Laxshmi envisions a future with the freedom to follow her heart. 

Liam's father isn't convinced Laxshmi is "The One" and Laxshmi's mother won't even let her talk to their handsome new neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny? Or is the risk of choosing one's own fate too great a price for the soulmated? "
(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite read with an Indian heroine?

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