Friday, March 24, 2017

[Review] The Kiss of Deception (Remnant Chronicles #1) - Mary E. Pearson: Runaway Princesses and Assassins

In THE KISS OF DECEPTION, princess Lia runs away from home on the day she is supposed to get married to the prince of a nearby kingdom.

What intrigued me: I don't know. I guess I wanted a decent high fantasy read.

Romance and Love Triangles

Ebony Dark'ness Dem- ... um I meant Arabella Celestine Idris Jezelia is your typtical runaway princess with special powers who falls herself torn between the prince she was supposed to marry and the assassin sent to kill her for fleeing the wedding.

It doesn't sound very original and really doesn't read that way either. THE KISS OF DECEPTION really reads like a very lengthy set up for a boring love triangle in a world that isn't interesting or original either. If you're generally a romance reither, you may like this, but since I was looking for fantastic world building and epic high fantasy, THE KISS OF DECEPTION fell more than just flat for me. There is just too much plot convenience and instant love to make all that even remotely interesting. THE KISS OF DECEPTION really is just a read for hardcore romance fans. The rest of the story is filled out with aimlessly wandering around, reminiscing, and of course the obligatory run-ins with the evil peoples of the surrounding kingdoms. 

Very uncreative world building

What instantly irked me about THE KISS OF DECEPTION is the world building. The protagonist's home kingdom is surrounded by other kingdoms whose inhabitants are described as vicious barbarians that dance around fires and bite heads off, and dangerous vagabonds (often called g*psies). It's quite obvious that both of these peoples are very clear allusions to the very common savage aggressor trope and of course a questionable portrayal of Romani people. Generally, I just wish authors would stop inlcuding that in their books. I'm done reading about it. If it's not #ownvoices or historical fiction, can we stop basing our fantasy races on real people or disgusting stereotypes of them? It's not 1930 anymore. It's fantasy - make something up instead of halfheartedly writing down maybe/maybe not offensive portrayals of real peoples.

THE KISS OF DECEPTION generally severely lacks creativity when it comes to the world and the plot. Nothing happens for the majority of the narrative and blank spots are filled with ramblings and passive narration. Considering that this book is more than 490+ pages long (550 in my translated version!), this is a tough read.


Rating:

★☆☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

THE KISS OF DECEPTION really is just your average not-so-special high fantasy read with a love triangle. The lack of plot and questionable world building made me raise eyebrows more than actually get me invested.

[If there are any Romani reviewers who read this - let me know, I'd be happy to link your review here.]

Additional Info

Published: Henry Holt & Co.
Pages: 489
Publisher: 
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9780805099232

Synopsis:
"A princess must find her place in a reborn world.

She flees on her wedding day.

She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor's secret collection.

She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father.

She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan.

The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can't abide. Like having to marry someone she's never met to secure a political alliance.

Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love."
(Source: Goodreads)



What's your favorite high fantasy read?

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Recommendation: How to Make a Wish - Ashley Herring Blake: Bisexuality and Sadness

In HOW TO MAKE A WISH, Grace's mom makes her move in with her ex-boyfriend's dad and meets Eva, who is struggling with her mother's death.

What intrigued me: Biracial and bisexual characters?! YES

Snarky Teen and Sad Vibes

HOW TO MAKE A WISH is one of those very quiet reads that you definitely have to have a thing for and have to be in the right mood for. Blake tells Grace's story with the authentic snark that I would've adored reading about as a teen. The thing Is - HOW TO MAKE A WISH is so character-driven and so quiet that I just didn't feel as enthusiastic about it as I would've liked. 

This is a me thing. This has nothing to do with the book. It's skillfully written with a killer voice and with heart. Also #ownvoices by a bisexual author, which clearly, obviously shows in the nuanced way Blake writes her characters. It reads somewhere inbetween books like those by Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han. If you enjoy works by these authors, you'll surely adore this one. 

HOW TO MAKE A WISH will surely hit close to home for many people out there, not only because of the fabulous narration but because it features a bisexual protagonist and a biracial love interest.


Representation goddamn matters.

I've got a confession to make here. This is first time that I've read about a biracial character portrayed so accurately that it freaks me out. I'm biracial and usually the representation we get hardly ever is stated on the page, and if it is there is probably a lot other thing wrong with the book. HOW TO MAKE A WISH presents biracial love interest Eva in a way that hit so close to home to me that I'm genuinely wondering if this was written about me. Is this me? Is this what representation feels like? 

Despite HOW TO MAKE A WISH missing the mark for me personally because of totally arbitrary and highly subjective reasons that stand in no relation to the quality of this book, this is an extraordinary book that I wish a lot of success. I refuse to give this any less than five stars and I urge you to be lenient with this book when rating and reviewing it as well. There is virtually no representation for people like me and we need to cheer those authors on that bother to do it right.

I would've needed this book at 14,15,16 - hell, I still need it now. I really don't know how to handle this. It's weird being represented, but it's also nice. Do me a favor and shove this book into the hands of any black biracials you know, okay? It'll mean the world to them.


Rating:

★★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

So, HOW TO MAKE A WISH apparently is the first book written for people like me. And it feels damn good, you guys. Representation matters. Gift this to your biracial friends.



Additional Info

Published: May 2nd 2017
Pages: 336
Publisher: HMH Kids
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9780544815193

Synopsis:
"All seventeen year-old Grace Glasser wants is her own life. A normal life in which she sleeps in the same bed for longer than three months and doesn't have to scrounge for spare change to make sure the electric bill is paid. Emotionally trapped by her unreliable mother, Maggie, and the tiny cape on which she lives, she focuses on her best friend, her upcoming audition for a top music school in New York, and surviving Maggie’s latest boyfriend—who happens to be Grace’s own ex-boyfriend’s father.

Her attempts to lay low until she graduates are disrupted when she meets Eva, a girl with her own share of ghosts she’s trying to outrun. Grief-stricken and lonely, Eva pulls Grace into midnight adventures and feelings Grace never planned on. When Eva tells Grace she likes girls, both of their worlds open up. But, united by loss, Eva also shares a connection with Maggie. As Grace's mother spirals downward, both girls must figure out how to love and how to move on."
(Source: Goodreads)



What was the first book that made you feel represented as a marginalized person?

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Top 10 Books I Read in One Sitting feat. Labyrinth Lost, Alienated & more





This hardly ever happens. When I read a book in one sitting, it has to be monumental, fantastic, phenomenal. So here are some books that absolutely earn these words:




THE DEVIL'S INTERN - Donna Hosie
Hello, have you heard of this fantabulous story about an intern in hell? This series is so hilarious! (2015, Holiday House) Goodreads

GIRL OUT OF WATER - Laura Silverman
This is the swoony, adorable summery contemporary of your dreams. (May 2nd 2017, Sourcebooks Fire) Goodreads

IF I WAS YOUR GIRL - Meredith Russo
#Ownvoices trans representation and such a sweet love story. You're going to like this one. (May 3rd 2016, Flatiron) Goodreads



GEEKERELLA - Ashley Poston
A compulsively readable and super fun love letter to all fandom people out there. (April 4th 2017, Quirk) Goodreads

THE WOMEN IN THE WALLSAmy Lukavics
This list could never be complete without my favorite creepy haunted house horror extravaganza. (September 27th 2016, Harlequin Teen) Goodreads

UNICORN TRACKS - Julia Ember
In all my swoon about her newest release THE SEAFARER'S KISS, let's not forget how awesome her african-inspired lesbian high fantasy debut is. Because very. (April 21st 2016, Harmony Ink) Goodreads



OBSIDIAN - Jennifer L. Armentrout
I would be such a liar if I didn't put this up here. It's been almost three years since the unreitarated(!), legendary obsession streak in which I read all five books in this series about a snarky alien boy falling in love with a blogger within, like, a week. Boy, I was obsessed. (May 8th 2012, Entangled Teen) Goodreads

ABANDON - Meg Cabot
Oh, ABANDON, how you sucked me in. This is a classic urban fantasy Hades/Persephone retelling with a Latina protagonist and I looooooved the first book. So fun. (September 1st 2011, Macmillan) Goodreads

LABYRINTH LOST - Zoraida Córdova
How long has it been since I reminded you that you need to read more books about bisexual Latinx brujas? More than a week? Okay, this is your reminder. (September 6th 2016, Sourcebooks Fire) Goodreads



ALIENATED - Melissa Landers
My taste is so predictable. As a known OBSIDIAN stan, it was kind of obvious that I also devoured this book about another (this time very confused by social norms) alien boy falling for a human girl. (Februrary 4th 2014, Disney Hyperion) Goodreads


What are your favorite one-sitting reads?


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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Review-Only Book Blogs and Why They Almost Never Work Out | Book Blogging Tips (#52)




Many bloggers I know started their blogs because they only wanted to share their reviews with other people, myself included. But is that actually a good idea?

My blog first and foremost was born because I wanted to share my reviews. But I had to learn the hard way that review-only blogs are not a thing and very likely never will be.



So why do review-only blogs not work?

  • People don't read reviews!
Seriously. Any and every blogger will tell you that their reviews get the least views out of all their posts. People don't read book blogs for the reviews only and if they do, you have to write extremely good reviews. Once you've established a significant following and people know who you are and care for your opinion, this might change. But to get there with a review only blog is a thing that I'm yet so see in the blogging world. 
  • Reviewing is a skill that you can't build in a year or less!
Everyone's early reviews are a mess. This is just a fact. Writing reviews on a blog is completely different from any other platform. Even if you've been writing reviews on tumblr or Goodreads or booklikes or wherever for YEARS, this doesn't count. 

Trust me, you still won't be up to book blog standard and you will go back and cringe at all these reviews. It will be even harder to attract readers with a review-only blog when your reviews clearly display all the signs of a blogging newbie.

A lot of bloggers who start up review-only blogs probably still make newbie mistakes and probably will for a long time. It took me at least a year of reviewing to write halfway decent reviews. No formatting, way too long reviews, repeating the plot instead of giving your opinion - basic stuff like that. That's something you can't immediately change when you notice you're doing it. You'll learn how to review through writing bad reviews at first, that's how it goes for everyone.

  • You have to make a name for yourself before people care about your opinion!
It's true that you can maybe fake your way to the top with a crappy blog if you advertise a lot and comment on 3280932893 blogs per day, but who has the time? Also you won't get any long-time readers from this, only follow-backs.

The thing is, nobody will listen to your rambles if you're the new kid on the block. You have to earn readers for your reviews. You have to post other super interesting things to get people interested in what you have to say, and you can only do that by posting something else than reviews.

  • Post-consistency is a thing for all blogs!
And if you only post reviews, you'll have to read a lot. I usually unsubscribe from blogs that don't post at LEAST weekly, I do prefer blogs that post 2 or 3 times a week in general. Unless you can't commit to read and write a review for at least one book per week, you're screwed.

...


Sure, at the end of the day, it's your blog and you can do whatever you want, but I can already tell you, either a year from now your blog will be gone. Sometimes listening to experienced bloggers is the best thing you can do, we've all learned from our mistakes, you don't need to repeat them and go through the same thing, do you? Trying to start a review-only blog is the hardest way to start out and it just never works out.

Did you start out as review-only?



More advice for newbie bloggers in my Book Blogging Tips series:

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Friday, March 17, 2017

[Review] Optimists Die First - Susin Nielsen: Anxiety and Amputees

In OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST, Petula meets and falls in love with a disabled boy whom she meets in therapy.

What intrigued me: I always enjoy reading about neurodiverse and disabled characters!

Juvenile and strange narration

Welp. OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST is a classic it's not you, it's me pick when it comes to the writing.

I really enjoyed the whimsical narration at first, but very much did struggle with the extremely juvenile writing. And with juvenile I mean that it doesn't read like YA, but like Middle Grade. I'm not a MG reader, so this was extremely exhausting for me and severely impacted my reading experience, considering that Nielsen writes in very short repetitive sentences that do not complement the story or POV in any way.

Petula is a quite interesting main character, but unfortunately the voice is absolutely unable to reflect that and just makes this read weirdly staccato-like, throwing you out of the story all the time.


Problematic Disability Rep

Beyond that, I had issues with the disability rep in this one. I neither have anxiety nor am an amputee, though I do have a disability, so take this with a grain of salt. 

Petula's anxiety is very much portrayed as this quirky thing that she can turn off and on whenever she wants, which is in itself very problematic. The problematicness gets doubled knowing that her relationship with love interest Jacob is the thing that enables her to do things she couldn't do before and basically turn off her anxiety. 

This is a "love cures all" kind of story, that I think has no business in the hands of marginalized readers or people who aren't versed in disability discourse, because it provides dangerous misinformation. This is bound to do immense harm. Beyond that, neither the story, the writing, or the characters are even remotely intriguing enough to warrant me giving this one a star more. OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST is one of those stories about anxiety that make it seem quirky and cool and capitalize on disabled characters instead of actually representing.


Rating:

☆☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST could've been great with a fabulous premise and anxious and disabled characters, but at the end of the day very much ventures into romanticizing territory and strikes me as having pretty harmful representation. Be careful with this one.



Additional Info

Published: March 2nd 2017
Pages: 272
Publisher: Andersen
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781783445073

Synopsis:
"Petula has avoided friendship and happiness ever since tragedy struck her family and took her beloved younger sister Maxine. Worse, Petula blames herself. If only she'd kept an eye on her sister, if only she'd sewn the button Maxine choked on better, if only... 
Now her anxiety is getting out of control, she is forced to attend the world’s most hopeless art therapy class. But one day, in walks the Bionic Man: a charming, amazingly tall newcomer called Jacob, who is also an amputee. Petula's ready to freeze him out, just like she did with her former best friend, but when she’s paired with Jacob for a class project, there’s no denying they have brilliant ideas together – ideas like remaking Wuthering Heights with cats.
But Petula and Jacob each have desperately painful secrets in their pasts – and when the truth comes out, there’s no way Petula is ready for it."
(Source: Goodreads)



Have you read books with great disability rep?

Continue Reading...

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Unsolicited Review Copies: Reviewing Them, Ignoring Them, What To Do With Them | Book Blogging Tips (#51)




If you're receiving unsolicited review copies, you're probably already an established blogger and at least know somewhat what you're doing.

While it's a fantastic thing to receive the newest releases in the mail, it can get pretty overwhelming very easily.






Do you have to review them?

There are bloggers who get unsolicited copies sent to them every month, from many different publishers. If you're one of those people, it's virtually impossible to read all these books, even if you don't have a day job.

Personally, I think every single review copy you receive, whether unsolicited or not, is a privilege.

You have to consider that these copies cost more money to print than regular copies and are sent out to publishing professionals. If you've made it to that circle of people, you better act like a professional!

Meaning
  1. no selling
  2. no hoarding
  3. no requesting more ARCs when you're already drowning in them. 
Disagree if you want, but also know that misbehavior does not go unnoticed. Again, these books are a privilege that not every blogger has.

I don't believe that unsolicited copies all have to be reviewed. If you didn't request it, you don't have to review it in my opinion, though giving even just a little back in terms of maybe posting a picture of it or talking about it on social media is simply common courtesy.

If you don't want to read a review copy for what reason ever or don't have the time to read it-

Here are some alternatives:

  • Give the book to another blogger. Some review copies that I have received actually say on them that they are meant to be given to other bloggers. That way the publisher still gets "something" in return, even if it's only the exposure from being featured on another blog.
  • Contact the publicist. If you're receiving an overwhelming amount of books that's absolutely impossible to review, the smartest way to go about this is to contact the publicist responsible and just tell them you appreciate it, but don't have the time to review these books.
  • Host giveaways. While review copies are NEVER under no circumstances allowed to be sold (you can actually get sued for this), giveaways are a-okay. Check back with the publisher if you're unsure, some publishers don't want any ARCs circulating before the release date. 
  • Post pictures. If you're not able to post a review, just featuring the review copies you've received in a meme, (In My Mailbox, Stacking the Shelves etc.), or posting pictures on instagram or tumblr does the job. You'd still aim for managing to read them, since that's the reason why you got them in the first place.

What do you do with your unsolicited review copies?


More on review copies in my Book Blogging Tips Series



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Monday, March 13, 2017

Top 10 Books On My Spring 2017 TBR feat. Ashley Poston, Hannah Moskowitz, Roshani Chokshi & more





Here are the 10 books I am most definitely planning to read next! All of these are super exciting picks that you should definitely check out if you haven't already.




ANY BOY BUT YOU - Julie Hammerle
I love Julie's debut THE SOUND OF US and this will absolutely be my next read when I'm feeling like m/f contemporary. This is apparently You've Got Mail in Stars Hollow. Hells yeah. (February 13th 2017, Entangled Crush) Goodreads

DREAMOLOGY - Lucy Keating
It's definitely time for some more magical realism for me and it's also been a while since I've read something related to dreams. Dreaming a boyfriend into life sounds exactly like my jam. (April 12th 2017, HarperTeen) Goodreads

OF FIRE AND STARS - Audrey Coulthurst
My next high fantasy read will definitely be sapphic. You can never say no to princesses who like girls. (November 22nd 2016, Balzer + Bray) Goodreads 



WHY I LOATHE STERLING LANE - Ingrid Paulson
I'm waiting for the perfect mood for this. Pranks and douchey love interests, this is bound to be one hell of a reading experience. (June 6th 2017, Entangled: Teen) Goodreads

WAKING GODS (The Themis Files #2) - Sylvain Neuvel
This finally, finaaaally comes out in April and I cannot wait to find out what the ancient alien robots are up to next. This was a major obsession of mine in 2016 and my body is 100% ready for the sequel. (April 4th 2017, Del Rey) Goodreads

GEEKERELLA - Ashley Poston
Somebody pinch me, that request was pending for months on Netgalley, I never thought I'd get this one. I love books about fangirls. Yes please. (April 4th 2017, Quirk Books) Goodreads



A HISTORY OF GLITTER AND BLOOD - Hannah Moskowitz
I don't even care what this is about, the cover is gorgeous and I know that everyone in this is bisexual. Sold. (August 18th 2015, Chronicle Books) Goodreads

LEGEND - Marie Lu
Oh, I'm feeling another dystopian phase coming up. I really liked the writing in THE YOUNG ELITES, even though the book ultimately wasn't my thing. Maybe this time! (November 29th 2011, Putnam Juvenile) Goodreads

GOODBYE DAYS - Jeff Zentner
Can't believe I got a review copy of this either, I'm feeling super embarassed that I didn't read this before it actually comes out. This was probably in like 3 other TBR/looking forward posts. Oops. (March 7th 2017, Crown Books) Goodreads

THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN - Roshani Chokshi
This year I will. Seriously. I've never really been in the mood to read the whole thing, which is 100% on me. I'm a mood reader. Next flowery read will be this! (April 26th 2016, St. Martin's Griffin) Goodreads

What are you planning to read this spring?


More list posts:
Six 2016 releases I'm buying the SECOND they come out`
Most Anticipated 2nd Half of 2016 Releases
10 Most Disappointing Hyped Books I Read in 2016 feat. Red Queen, Soundless, Cinder & more 
Top 10 Books Released in 2016 that I Loved feat. Louise Gornall, Tara Sim & more
10 Things that Make Bookworms Happy
10 Bookish Things I'm Thankful For
6 Popular YA Books That I'm Scared Of
7 Popular Books I Really Didn't Expect to Like

Continue Reading...

Saturday, March 11, 2017

[Review] Letters to the Lost - Brigid Kemmerer: Grief and Photography

In LETTERS TO THE LOST, Declan finds the letter Juliet writes to her late mom at the cemetery and they become unlikely pen pals.

What intrigued me: I've been in the mood for more mixed format books.

Super sad and depressing

LETTERS TO THE LOST is a very heartbreaking book. Kemmerer showcases her advanced skills through giving this book a so, so, so, so depressingly sad tone. This wasn't really my thing - I don't like books that deal majorly with grief, but that doesn't mean LETTERS TO THE LOST is a bad book and you shouldn't pick it up. Kemmerer is an extremely talented writer, this story flows beautifully, if very slowly paced, and the prose is breathtaking. The dual POV is executed wonderfully with the protagonists Declan and Juliet having two very distinct voices.

The back story, however? I struggled, I gotta admit. LETTERS TO THE LOST is too over the top for me, full of cliches, domestic abuse, melodrama, and I just don't like these types of books. Both Declan and Juliet do nothing but indulge in their sadness and it's not varied enough to make for a compelling narrative for me. I couldn't swoon over their relationship or find any joy in following their stories because there's just nothing but dealing with grief in this. Again, very, very subjective.

Wildly Inappropriate Refugee Comparisons

LETTERS TO THE LOST starts every chapter with a letter from either Declan or Juliet. Very frequently Juliet describes pictures her photographer mom took to him, usually of suffering or starving children in the Middle East and comparing herself to them, saying she understands their pain because her mom died. And I just - no. It's even worse considering that these are pretty much the only relevant characters of color in the story. There's a black family that's mentioned in passing, but the only non-white representation in this comes in the form of starving refugee children. This is so wildly inappropriate and offensive that I'm honestly speechless. You'd have her describe a picture of a little brown girl that's on the brink of starvation and has a vulture circling around her, and Juliet will say, yes, I relate to this. Oh my god.

I... I don't even. It's not like these are integral to the plot, this is absolutely redundant and very much cheapens this story. I usually would've given this book three stars, despite it not being my thing at all, it's well-written and will entertain and delight a lot of people - but this specific aspect made me sick to my stomach. I've informed the publisher and will be adding the missing star and revising my review if this is changed in the final version.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

LETTERS TO THE LOST is a very You've Got Mail kind of story mixed with grief and sadness. If you're looking for a love story like I was, you might not enjoy this. The extremely inappropriate comparisons to refugee children left a bitter taste in my mouth that severely impacted my reading experience as well.

Trigger warning: blood, (domestic) violence, abuse, guns, war



Additional Info

Published: April 6th 2017
Pages: 400
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781408883525

Synopsis:
"Juliet Young has always written letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope. 

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past. 

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither of them knows that they're not actually strangers. When real life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart. This emotional, compulsively-readable romance will sweep everyone off their feet. "
(Source: Goodreads)



What's your favorite mixed format book?

Continue Reading...

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Books I Avoid, Books I Really Should've Read & more | Bookish Questions TAG




Y'all know I love a good tag. So here's another one I discovered, in which you learn quite a lot about my habits and my weird taste.


1. What book is on your nightstand now?
IF I WAS YOUR GIRL by Meredith Russo.





2. What was the last truly great book you read?
THE SEAFARER'S KISS by Julia Ember, you guys know how much I love this fabulous bisexual mermaid story.

3. If you could meet any writer—dead or alive—who would it be? What would you want to know?
Honestly I would just want to meet Oscar Wilde. He seems like a swell dude and I think we could be friends. I'd just want to hang with him.

4. What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
Probably the flat out ridiculous amount of Goosebumps and Fear Street and The Three Investigators books. I love them, they were my childhood. I've got about forty, I think.

5. How do you organize your personal library?
I switch it up. Sometimes it's by color, sometimes I poorly attempt to do them by author, but usually it's just by convenience. I don't have enough space for everything, so I basically just organize them by whatever fits.

6. What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrassed never to have read?
  • AMERICAN STREET by Ibi Zoboi
  • THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas
  • AKATA WITCH by Nnedi Okorafor
  • ALUTA by Adwoa Badoe
  • INTO WHITE by Randi Pink
I don't feel embarrassed about not reading anything! One book at a time.

7. What book did you feel you were supposed to like but didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab was definitely a huge letdown for me. I'm almost mad that I didn't like it, mainly because I lovelovelove books that feature parallel worlds.

There haven't been any memorable DNFs lately, fortunately!

8. What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?

A book can only become a potential new favorite and five star if it has:
  • fantastic world building that makes me forget where I even am
  • decent, not overly flowery prose
  • a memorable voice
  • is so thrilling that I don't want to put it down and/or finish it in one sitting
I avoid books that have:
  • only white, straight characters
  • follow book tropes and a specific unoriginal formula with no spin on it
  • have special snowflake protagonists that are the chosen ones

9. If you could require the president to read one particular book, what would it be?
I really don't care about patronizing/policing what other people read. I would decline that opportunity.




10. What do you plan to read next?
Oh, I don't know. Maybe 27 HOURS. Possibly 27 HOURS. It's so long until release date but I don't think I can wait much longer.


Consider yourself tagged!
Feel free to leave your link in the comments!


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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Do You Watch Movie Adaptations of Books You Didn't Like? | YA Talk

So this has happened quite a lot lately. I've seen many books that I've read and not necessarily liked get movie deals. 

While I'm super happy for the authors, I always end up with the question: Do I watch the movie?

See, I really love seeing fictional characters come to life. It's one of the most fantastic things that can happen to a reader, to see the people you imagined on the big screen. I love that, even if it's with characters that I didn't like or books that I didn't Granted this hypothetical movie adaptation I'm talking about isn't a problematic adaptation of an also non-problematic book, should I go watch it just for that effect alone? Or should I support movies and adaptations of books I know I'm much more inclined to enjoy instead?

That One Time It Worked Out

I actually have an example for you guys where doing just that lead to something wonderful. If you've been on my blog for a while you know that I've been trying to work my way through the The Mortal Instruments series and the entire Shadowhunters universe by Cassandra Clare quite reluctantly. Yes, before you mention it, I'm aware of all the drama and schebang surrounding her. If you aren't - google.

I did watch the first movie adaptation long before I read the books and found it quite intriguing, but when I actually read them? Yikes. I hated them. Like, really deeply found them problematic and unenjoyable. But then the TV adaptation came along. Shadowhunters, race-bending (if you can even call it that) major characters into people of color, giving more love and attention to the single gay couple in the series that the author ever did in their books. Also very attractive actors. 

And boy, I grew obsessed with that series. It's mediocre at best but the diversity really hooked me because TV shows are just -so white- these days. It's also a plus that I've heard rumors that the author receives minimal profit from the series because of some rights issues.

If It's Diverse I'm In

In that case it worked out great. I found something super worth my time and great to support by giving books I really dislike another chance. I'm not sure if I would do this again, it really would probably depend on the book series and if there is anything in them that I deeply dislike or not. But what I'm trying to say is - it really depends on who's adapting it. There are so many failed book adaptations out there, and there are so many ridiculously white adaptations out there, and just as many that do their damn best to white-wash anything and everything in the books even if there was great representation in the first place. 

If I see a diverse adaptation of a book I didn't like, I'm definitely more inclined to supporting it. See, I didn't care much for THE DARKEST MINDS by Alexandra Bracken but when I heard that they cast a black girl as the lead role for a character that's white in the books (or, not specified, which usually means white in our world), I made a mental note to go watch these books. Because representation matters. 


Is this a one in a million thing? Has this happened to you before? 


Let's talk YA.


More:
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 
Once You Go Diverse... Diverse Books are Better Than Non-Diverse Books


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Sunday, March 5, 2017

[Review] Soundless - Richelle Mead: Ableism and Cultural Appropriation





In SOUNDLESS, Fei, who grew up in a village of Deaf people who are slowly also losing their eyesight, suddenly is able to hear when her village is in danger.
What intrigued me: I really liked her Vampire Academy series.

How to offend disabled people: the book

You have to be very, very, very, very careful when writing about disability. Especially when you're not disabled yourself. SOUNDLESS is the story of a girl that lives in a village of Deaf people and suddenly starts hearing.  Mistake 1: Don't "cure" disabilities for plot. 

I was hoping for a book that celebrates disability and portrays it as the absolutely normal thing it is - but nah. Disabled people in Mead's fantasy world are the losers of this story because they can't hear unlike special snowflake protagonist Fei who was magically cured. This book certainly would've dearly benefited from a sensitivity reader, anyone with a disability would have whipped out their pitchfork when coming across this book.

SOUNDLESS is proof that you shouldn't write about marginalized people if you have no experience whatsoever with the things they go through and aren't willing to put the research and resources in to make sure that the portrayal accurate.

Who needs world building?

My bitterness aside - I signed up for the typical fantastic Mead writing with a great voice and I got it. The writing truly is exceptional. Mead's storytelling is flawlessly effortless. It's very descriptive, but I personally like this, because it adds to the calm and withdrawn atmosphere of the book. The world building may be easy to understand, but that's because it doesn't exist. Nothing in this book makes sense and we just have to deal with it. 

The signed conversations between Deaf people are a little difficult to read and get used to because there is no indication that's dialogue.

Mead put an equal amount of research into the Chinese folklore part as she put into the disability part. Exactly zilch. The only thing that's sort-of-Asian is the nature surrounding them, their names, and their clothes. Here and here are some reviews by Chinese reviewers who went into more detail on this.

Still, as much as I admire the writing, SOUNDLESS is just an epic fail overall because of how Mead handles disability and the Chinese characters, and a massive disappointment. 


Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

If you have a disability or are very educated and passionate about disability issues, do yourself a favor and don't read this. It will only lead to high blood pressure. SOUNDLESS may be the most ableist book I've ever read, but let's not jinx it.



Additional Info

Published: November 10th 2015
Pages:  266
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9781595147639

Synopsis:
"In a village without sound…

For as long as Fei can remember, no one in her village has been able to hear. Rocky terrain and frequent avalanches make it impossible to leave the village, so Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink. Many go hungry. Fei and all the people she loves are plunged into crisis, with nothing to look forward to but darkness and starvation.

One girl hears a call to action…

Until one night, Fei is awoken by a searing noise. Sound becomes her weapon.

She sets out to uncover what’s happened to her and to fight the dangers threatening her village. A handsome miner with a revolutionary spirit accompanies Fei on her quest, bringing with him new risks and the possibility of romance. They embark on a majestic journey from the peak of their jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiguo, where a startling truth will change their lives forever…

And unlocks a power that will save her people.
 "(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read books about deaf characters?

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Friday, March 3, 2017

How to Improve Your Feedback Ratio Quickly: #NetGalley Advice | Book Blogging Tips (#50)


It's recommended that you keep up a ratio of 80%, meaning that you have provided reviews for 80% of the titles you've been approved for. 


At first this may sound high and very unattainable but I have developed a fool-proof way to improve it.

When you just signed up for NetGalley it's super hard to even get approved for books. How do you get experience reviewing books when in order to get a track record you have to show a track record?

Easy: Read Now

Read Now is a section that I personally consider a gift from God. There are many books that are instantly accessible to anyone and everyone. You'd think that these are all terrible books that are poorly written, but no.These are all books that people want reviews for desperately and you'll even encounter the occasional well-known already published book there. CARRY ON by Rainbow Rowell was in that section a while ago.

If you shy away from the vast amount of indie books that are offered there - my personal advice is to head over to the graphic novels and comic section.

But why???? I don't even like graphic novels, I'm an adult sci-fi blog, what even

Here's the thing. You can read a graphic novel or comic within an hour tops, write up a review, and you're done. You can get your approval numbers up super quickly with those read now comics and nobody cares whether you usually review a different genre.

Another pro tip would be to start reviewing picture books. They're typically 250 words maximum, you go figure how quickly you can read and review these.

See, you're not really in the position yet to be picky. You just started. You gotta take what you can get.

Ughh, how long will it take until I can start requesting books I actually want to read? Do I have to read picture books for the rest of my life?

Fear not, gentle reader. I started requesting books from major publishers at about 25 approvals. You may start earlier but I guarantee you, the big five won't even touch you if you haven't reviewed and read more than 20 books.

MORE TIPS:
  • Books are "archived" after a certain time, meaning you can't download them anymore then. Typically you're expected to at least send over the feedback/review before the archive date. It's no harm if you do so after it's been archived, but people won't cheer on you if you do this either.
  • You can DNF a book. If you just don't like it, send over a note via the feedback option explaining why you don't want to read the book. Don't do this too often though and have valid reasons.
  • For the love of all that is holy, don't request more than 20 books at once. What if you get approved for all of them and they end up being due next week? Yikes!


If you have any more questions, feel free to ask!!

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Recommendation: Noteworthy - Riley Redgate: A Cappella and Crossdressing

In NOTEWORTHY, Jordan struggles with getting accepted in the musical theatre world because she's an Alto 2, and then applies to the male a cappella octet.

What intrigued me: I just heard bisexual. I'm ready.

Quiet and Melancholic

NOTEWORTHY is that kind of quiet bittersweet story that you have to have a sweet spot for. Looking at the cover I was expecting a loud, joke-y book full of puns and fanfares but this is actually quite the opposite. NOTEWORTHY does have its funny moments but at heart this story is very much a coming-of-age contemporary that doesn't sugarcoat anything about growing up.

A lot of the themes are very melancholic in nature, I especially loved reading about Jordan's past relationship and her feelings for her ex-boyfriend. There is so much heart's blood poured into this story that it figuratively drips with authenticity. NOTEWORTHY is one of those books that you have to put down sometimes because it got too real.

I think it's also worth mentioning that this an #ownvoices book about a Chinese girl written by a Chinese author. In general I was very positively surprised by the amount of non-white characters and especially by the depth and care that went into creating them.

A Love Letter to A Cappella

NOTEWORTHY especially impressed me with its nuanced discussion of gender, sexuality, and disability. I certainly didn't expect to find this in this book, but it's absolutely necessary considering that crossdressing is a huge part of the plot, but not necessarily in a trans or drag context. I'm glad that Redgate included a passage about this because this initially worried me when I heard about the book for the first time. Crossdressing is a tricky thing to write about.

I initially picked this up solely for the bisexual representation and was a little disappointed to see that NOTEWORTHY doesn't really discuss Jordan's sexuality a lot.  This is neither a romance nor a story about Jordan and her growing up, in my opinion it's a love letter to a cappella. NOTEWORTHY is set at college and you definitely don't get a break from that while reading this - this is a specific type of book that you need to be prepared for in order not to be caught off guard. While it is very unique, I think NOTEWORTHY absolutely delivers. This is the book for you if you're a singer, if you like a cappella, if you like stories set at college. NOTEWORTHY definitely stands out positively in the world of books about music.





Rating:

★★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

NOTEWORTHY reads like a love letter to a cappella and is a fairly quiet and calm type of Contemporary. If you enjoy these kinds of books, I urge you to read this one. With the nuanced discourse of sexuality, gender, and disability, this book is one of a kind.



Additional Info

Published: May 2nd 2017
Pages: 336
Publisher: Amulet Books
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781419723735

Synopsis:
"It’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theatre world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight.

Then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped ... revered ... all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for."
(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite Contemporary?

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Monday, February 27, 2017

[Review] A Darker Shade of Magic (#1) - V.E. Schwab: 19th Century London and Parallel Universes





In A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC, Kell is one of the blood magicians who are gifted with the ability to wander between parallel worlds.

What intrigued me: Recommended by literally everyone.

Textbook writing and too many info dumps

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC certainly has a great base frame, but absolutely can't hide the fact that it doesn't quite know what to do with all that world building. Protagonist Kell is a smuggler, an adopted royal, a blood magician, and handles the correspondence between the four different Londons. To get that all inside your head, you'll already need a moment. The biggest problem is that there is so much about this world and so many specific rules, quirks, and things to know, that there is no way you'll have a good time reading this for the first time. Paired with incredibly factual and emotionless writing, it reads like a textbook. I was often torn between utter disinterest and sort-of fascination. 

I grew insanely frustrated the more I read because I simply didn't understand what was happening and why it was happening, and who the bazillion side characters are. A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC plays in this sort-of 19th century-inspired historical-ish world that has kings and queens and (sometimes?) magic. Ish. I say Ish because even after having read this I still don't get it. Usually you'd expect a novel to lay out the basics within the first 100 pages, but in A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC, you'll still be wrestling with exposition on page 350 of 400. 

Clearly the idea is there and Schwab really tried to set up an original world, but half of it neither makes sense nor is comprehensible to the average first time reader. This is not the type of fantasy I enjoy - throwing words in made-up languages around and introducing so many different parallel worlds that you're constantly confusing everyone. 

One dimensional characters and predictability

Because Schwab so heavily puts the focus on the world building, the characters are absolutely suffering. Everyone in A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC is one-dimensional, not even the protagonist Kell has an ounce of a personality. It's a shame because you can tell that a lot of effort went into this. At the end of the day, I think this book is impossible to enjoy if you prefer your high fantasy to make sense and to form a connection with the fictional characters you're reading about. 

On top of all that - the plot is just very predictable and anti-climactic. Of course protagonist Kell must face the only other rare special snowflake blood magician in the book aside from him because of some barely-plausible plot convenience; and of course there is a mystery about his birth parents that we only get to solve if we buy the next two books. 


Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC wasn't for me. From a predictable plot to confusing world building, to writing that I just don't like, this one is a clear miss for me personally.



Additional Info

Published: 24th February 2015
Pages: 400
Publisher: Tor
Genre: Adult / Sci-Fi / Parallel Worlds
ISBN: 9780765376459

Synopsis:
"Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.

Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to take her with him for her proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save both his London and the others, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — a feat trickier than they hoped."(Source: Goodreads)

 Have you read A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC?

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Meet My Book Boyfriends feat. The Seafarer's Kiss, Starflight & more


Meet the reason why I stuck with most of these book series. 

Sometimes cute boys are 100% a reason to keep on reading and swooning!








Magnus from BOYS THAT BITE by Mari Mancusi
One of my first book boyfriends ever! Magnus is the most awkward vampire you'd ever meet and I love him to death. He's so weird.

This series is awfully underrated in general, if you like humor and vampires, this is such a fabulous pick.


Lieutenant Paul Markov from A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU by Claudia Gray
If you know me, you know that he's e v e r y t h i n g.

Lieutenant Paul is the shy royal guard of Duchess Marguerite in the Russia!verse and I love him more than anything in the world. Cute boys who love science are the best. Don't let this pretty white boy fancast fool you into thinking this is a book you should pick up though, make sure to read my linked review because this book features dubious consent.

Pyotr from VINEGAR GIRL by Anne Tyler
Another Eastern European scientist for the win! Pyotr is a sassy little dork. He's hilarious, with a smokin' bod and sometimes a little shy. I love him.





Dimitri Belikov from VAMPIRE ACADEMY by Richelle Mead
By now you've probably noticed that I tend to have a type.

Dorky Eastern European dudes are always at risk of joining this list. Dimitri is one half of the biggest OTP I have - him and Rose make the perfect badass fighting vampire couple and calm
and collected Dimitri is the perfect match for hot-headed Rose.





Doran Spaulding from STARFLIGHT by Melissa Landers
This one's a first. I usually don't like the rich arrogant billionaire type but something about dear old Doran really got me. I'll tell you once I manage to pinpoint it.



Havamal from THE SEAFARER'S KISS by Julia Ember
I'm actually so embarrassed by this because the book has a sapphic main couple. And of course, problematic me is swooning all over the dude. Havamal is an aspiring king's guard and an absolutely ripped merman with a heart of gold. I mean, come on. How was I supposed to resist. Christ.




Who are your book boyfriends?

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