My Year of Diverse Reading Part 2

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There were so many things I wanted to say in my post yesterday (My Year of Diverse Reading), but it was getting pretty long and I had to cut it short. So I’ll try to address a few of them here, though my thoughts are a little scattered, so I hope this has some coherent structure, but I promise nothing.

First, when I started my reading year, I hadn’t made any kind of choice for this to be a year of diverse reading. I’d been trying for years (albeit not as hard as I should have been) to broaden my reading horizons. But I didn’t have any plans for this to be the year it all changed.

But I was writing characters with diverse identities, and had plans for more, so it only made sense to add more books to my reading list that reflected more than cis-het, white, abled, and Christian. I’d already done countless hours of research online reading blogs and articles, watching Own Voices movies and TV shows, and of course reading diverse YA, but the percentage in comparison to non-diverse YA was small.

And let’s talk for a second about “diverse” and “non-diverse” or privileged. I’m not a fan of the current label of “diverse”, though I use it in default of anything else. It’s so normative. If you are LGBTQ+, disabled, non-Christian, or a person of color,  you’re “diverse” as in “not normal” as in normal = white, straight, able, cis gender, and Christian. Why does an identity that differs from the “expected norm” have to be called something like “diverse”? Why is there a norm? Why is anyone “different” if we are all essentially different from each other in some way?

I don’t have an answer, so I’ll use the terminology for now, but I look forward to the day when we no longer have to have these conversations. I’m doubtful it will happen in my life time.

Next, I want to talk about why I wrote the post about my reading last year. It wasn’t for “ally cookies” or recognition. I don’t deserve accolades for doing something we should all be doing anyway. I wrote the post in the hopes that maybe even one reader (hopefully more) would be inspired to increase how many diverse and Own Voices books they read in the next year. I listed some of my favorites from 2016 (not all diverse) to give some examples of what books maybe they could pick up in the future. And I wrote the post to normalize the idea of reading diversely.

We talk about “normalizing” a lot on Twitter. Mostly in the context of “Don’t normalize Trump/White Supremist hateful views and behaviors.” But there’s a flip side to that too. We have the opportunity to normalize diverse reading, empathy, intellect, kindness, etc. I know this alone isn’t going to defeat what has happened to our country both in the election and the dredging of dormant views of white supremacy, but it’s a start. Providing all kids with books that reflect themselves as well as the diversity around us will only increase empathy and understanding. It will hopefully lay the groundwork for better discourse in the future and more empathetic individuals to lead this country.

I mentioned a term in yesterday’s post that I’d like to talk more about: monetary voice. It’s the voice that speaks when I spend money. Often it’s the most powerful voice we have. (Which is completely sad, but sometimes you have to work within the system you have.) Purchasing diverse and Own Voices books speaks volumes to a publisher. The more we spend on these books, the more publishers will realize that they are a valuable market. Publishers will then acquire more, put more money in advances for diverse authors, and put more money toward marketing those books, which will then increase their sales and exposure.

You see, right now we have a situation where diverse and Own Voices books don’t sell particularly well (there are exceptions, I’m speaking in general terms). So publishers pay small advances, print fewer copies, and put very little money (if any) toward marketing those books. The books are not readily available, haven’t been advertised, have little buzz, and aren’t prominently displayed on a B&N bookshelf. In case you missed it, that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. You know the old addage: If you believe you’re going to fail, you will. Well, if a publisher believes a book won’t sell, guess what . . .

We need publishers to start taking more chances on diverse books through not only buying them, but aggressively marketing them as well. But that’s not under our control. So what can we do? Buy more diverse and especially Own Voices books. Publishers will see dollar signs rise, and put more effort into acquiring and marketing those books.

But what else can we do to increase the sales of diverse and Own Voices books? Well, let’s go back to normalizing the reading of these books. First, read them, whether you buy them or get them from a library, you are telling someone that these books are in demand. Second, review the books. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads are all prominent places where readers look to find out about books they might want to read. Even just giving it a star value on some of the sites will help, though a written review is more likely to sway a reader deciding if they are interested. Third, use your social media to spread the word. Share your reviews or just talk about the book online. The more people see you reading these books, the more they will normalize it as an option for them.

Though all of the above mentioned points are valid reasons to increase the reading of diverse and Own Voices books, there’s another great, basic reason: THEY ARE AMAZING BOOKS! I have been blown away this past year by the beauty, the grace, the poetry of some of the books I have read. For me, they are windows into a world I could never really know about any other way. For many others they are mirrors and there are far too few mirrors for marginalized youth in this country. There were heartbreaks and up lifiting moments, adventure and beauty, love and revenge. I cried tears of sorrow at soul-crushing endings and sighed with contentment at HEA’s. These books will produce all the feels, OTP’s, and ships you can possibly come up with. And I promise you, if you make room in your TBR for diverse and Own Voices books, you will NOT feel like you are missing out on other books. They are just as good (often better) than some of the novels publishers push as The Next Big Thing.

I’ve run out of things to say right now, though I’m guessing about midnight when I’m trying to sleep, some other thoughts will pop into my head. That’s how it always works. For now, please consider some of the above ways you can help increase the exposure of diverse and Own Voices books, and how reading about all kinds of characters can help our kids grow to be better people.

And now, I have a lot of reviews to write . . .

My Year of Diverse Reading

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Last year I read 129 books. That’s a record for me. I mean, I think it is. I’ve only been keeping track for the last three years, but I’m pretty certain I have never read this many in my life. 2015 came out at 86 books, while 2014 was a whopping 52. So there’s been a lot of improvement in the numbers.

But total numbers isn’t the only improvement. I’ll admit, until recent years I never made much effort to broaden my reading horizons. I read what was available. Or if I was writing something I might try to read everything available that was similar, but for the most part my reading tastes veered toward whatever appeared on a B&N end cap.

And to be honest, I was always okay with that. I was a white cis-het girl living in a white cis-het world, and it didn’t even occur to me that that was a problem.

But it is a problem. A big one. I was doing what millions of teen readers do: read what is available, as well as read what I see. I see white people . . .

So what made me change? Well, getting more involved in book communities both on Absolute Write and on Twitter opened my eyes just a crack to the huge disparity in children’s literature that is available. And even more than that, the fact that ALL kids need to see themselves reflected in literature, but also that white, straight, middle America needs to see ALL kinds of people in literature too.

So I started reading more diverse books. It wasn’t easy. Living in a mostly white community in rural Michigan where almost everyone is Christian, straight, and cis means that books that reflect other walks off life are few and far between. So I had to start ordering titles on line just to get a few, but my book buying budget is limited. A Kindle helped, especially when I’d wait for books to be on sale. But what really saved me was Inter Library Loan!

The librarians began to tell me I didn’t need to request 20 books at a time. They’d still be there when I wanted them, but no! I needed to have them now! Beautiful little books lined up on my desk just begging to be read! It was like the candy dish you can’t stop eating from because it’s there!

Anyway, reading more diversely was a priority for me not only because I wanted to read and promote diverse books and authors, but also because I wanted to learn and do better so that when I wrote characters unlike myself I could do a better job at it. Nothing can replace the value of Own Voices stories, but writing responsibly is the least privileged authors can do.

But despite my “purpose” in reading diverse books, I discovered something very quickly: I couldn’t get enough of them. There were so many quality books out there that I hadn’t encountered before. I had been missing out! And so are all the readers like me who are settling for whatever YA series the publishing industry has decided will be The Next Big Thing!

Okay, so to the stats: (I don’t feel like making a graphic, so I hope the numbers will be fine.)

  • Total Books: 129
  • Non-Fiction: 9 (6.9%)
  • Books Featuring LGBTQ+ Characters (MC or important Side Character): 41 (31.7%)
    • Non-binary Characters: 8 (6.2%)
  • Books Featuring Characters of Color (MC or important Side Character): 65 (50.4%)
  • Books Featuring a Disabled MC: 9 (6.9%)
  • Books Featuring a Female MC: 98 (75.9%)
  • LGBTQ+ Identifying Authors: 13 (10.1%)
    • Trans Authors: 2 (1.6%)
  • Authors of Color: 47 (36.4%)
  • Authors w/ a Disability: 3 (2.3%)
  • Female Authors: 95 (73.6%)

Some books were counted in more than one category for obvious reasons. And for others that weren’t so obvious, a trans author is counted under LGBTQ+ Identifying, Trans, and possibly Female if that is how they identify. Same with Female MC. Female Identifying and Female are the same in my opinion, so that’s how I counted them.

So looking at the stats, I need to read more authors with a disability and stories with disabled characters. In my defense, I searched pretty hard for these stories and they are not easy to find. I can also improve on LGBTQ+ Identifying authors and stories, and luckily there are a lot of great examples (not as many as there should be) but definitely a variety.

One problem I encountered is that so many books written by or about people with marginalized identities are “issue” books. It’s like the publishing industry doesn’t want to publish anything that doesn’t involve people with marginalized identities suffering for those identities. We need lesbian space princesses saving an alien race, and brown kids bringing down a dystopian government, and disabled characters riding dragons to fight a horde of trolls. And most importantly, the marginalized part of their identity is not the point of the book!

*sigh* I know I’m not telling any of my fellow writers things they don’t already know. We’ve been talking about these issues in publishing for years. But as a reader, I’m going to make more of an effort to read diverse books, and diverse authors. Not only because I need to use my monetary voice to make my wishes heard in the industry, but because they’re just damn good books!

Edit: Realized i forgot to include numbers for:

  • Own Voices stories: 51 (39.5%)
  • Muslim MC (Own Voices): 3 (2.3%)

Looks like I can do better on reading stories with Muslim characters and by Muslim authors.

*****

So here are my Favorite Reads of 2016 in no particular order. And yes, there’s a lot of them. Fight me. I can’t pick a favorite child anymore than I could pick a favorite book. They’re all beautiful and special!

  • A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC & A GATHERING OF SHADOWS by V.E. Schwab
  • PROMISE OF SHADOWS by Justina Ireland
  • SINCE YOU ASKED by Maurene Goo
  • THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp
  • THE LESSER BLESSED by Richard Van Camp
  • BLACKBIRD FLY by Erin Entrada Kelly
  • AN INFINITE NUMBER OF PARALLEL UNIVERSES by Randy Ribay
  • PANTOMIME & SHADOWPLAY by Laura Lam
  • BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray
  • A HISTORY OF GLITTER AND BLOOD by Hannah Moskowitz
  • THE WALLS AROUND US by Nova Ren Suma
  • SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN by Jeff Garvin
  • THE RAVEN KING by Maggie Stiefvater
  • THE WINNER’S TRILOGY by Marie Rutkoski
  • IF I WAS YOUR GIRL by Meredith Russo
  • GOOD KINGS, BAD KINGS by Susan Nussbaum
  • JULIET TAKES A BREATH by Gabrielle Rivera
  • THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE by Heidi Heilig
  • THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN by Roshani Chokshi

Check out My Year of Diverse Reading Part 2 for more thoughts on my 2016 reading.

TUNED INTO YOU Cover Reveal!

Hi there readers! Today I’m hosting Cindy Dorminy for the cover reveal of her young adult romance Tuned Into You! Stay tuned for your chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

Here’s a little bit about Cindy herself:

About the Author

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Cindy Dorminy grew up on a steady diet of popcorn (the kind you pop in a sauce pan), Tab (pre-Diet Coke), and movies for teenagers. She can’t let a day go by without quoting a line from one of her favorite films, so quirky dialogue is a must in her stories. When she’s not at her research coordinator day job, Cindy is writing funny love stories, walking her dog, or slinging iron the old-fashioned way. She shares her house with her musician husband, her awesome daughter, and a cool, four-footed child that would eat all the cheese if she could figure out how to open the refrigerator. Cindy is a member of Romance Writers of America and Music City Romance Writers. She resides in Nashville, TN where live music can be heard everywhere, even at the grocery store.

Find her online!

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/CindyD-Writes-870161859757429/

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/48430676

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/cindydorminy

Website:

www.cindydwrites.com

About Tuned Into You

A summer party is the last place Lydia Flowers wants to be. Beer pong? Stupid, foot-wrecking shoes? Random hookups? No thanks. Lydia would rather be in her cleats practicing her bat handling skills.

Enter Abe Fischer, the Nashville Teen Idol superstar. He’s a lip-syncing party animal with a short fuse; or at least that’s what the tabloids say. Except, Abe turns out to be nothing like the guy Lydia’s read about online. He’s sweet, and the way he talks to his horse…sigh.

Then life throws Lydia and Abe a curveball. They are wrongfully arrested for destruction of property. Their choices? Either work on the Fischer Farm for the summer earning nothing more than blisters and a sunburn, or have the arrest go on their records, which would ruin Lydia’s shot at a softball scholarship. It’s a no-brainer. Lydia picks up a pitchfork, pulls out the SPF 40, and prepares for the worst two months of her life.

When the press gets wind of a big secret Abe’s family has been keeping, things become even more complicated. Now Lydia has another choice to make: stick around for Abe’s messed-up life in the spotlight, or go for the scholarship of her dreams.

Add Tuned Into You to your Goodreads TBR list!

And now…


The Cover!

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Isn’t it gorgeous? Anita at Race-point did the artwork, and she’s one of the best in the business!

Preorder Your Copy Today!

Giveaway

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Book Review: Origins by Jessica Khoury


Buy Origin on Amazon.com
Add on Goodreads

Title: Origin
Author: Jessica Khoury
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Razorbill; First Edition edition (September 4, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595145958
ISBN-13: 978-1595145956
Amazon Review: 4.2/5 stars

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

The jungle hides a girl who cannot die.

 

An electrifying action-romance that’s as thoughtful as it is tragic.

 

Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home–and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

 

Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia’s origin–a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

So, as usual, I’ll talk about the writing first. It wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t bad either. It was pretty much unnoticeable, which was fine by me. Fantastic writing that sings is admirable and I thoroughly enjoy it, but sometimes I just want to get lost in a story. Khoury allowed me to read the story with interesting prose, but not be distracted by trying to write the next classic. Most YAs will never achieve such a goal, especially a Sci-Fi or Fantasy, so let me enjoy the tale. Khoury did just that.

I really liked this book, though I only gave it a 3. I guess I just didn’t love it. And if you want a 4 or 5 from me I’m going to have to love it. But the story was engaging and there were no love triangles, which will make some readers very happy. It was a little bit predictable in some cases, but that’s okay. There was enough suspense to move you through the book, still guessing about what might happen, even though you suspected what it would be. The characters were believable and Pia’s struggle between wanting to be a scientist and being true to herself was excellent. The idea that she was raised to think analytically and forget emotion, warring with her morality and the inciting love she feels for Eio was beautifully written.

I loved the ideas brought up in the book about morality, science, its purpose, immortality. They plagued me through out the text and I wanted a resolution. It seemed like there were ideas never mentioned on the subject, but Khoury does a nice job of summing things up without getting preachy. The ending was perfect and left me feeling entirely satisfied.

So, like I said, it gets a 3. The writing was good, but not stellar. I was a little annoyed at some of the names because I didn’t know how to pronounce them and had to think about it every time I read them, and it was slightly predictable. Still, entertaining and I look forward to the second book in the series, though Khoury wrapped it up so nicely I can’t imagine what it will be. Of course, I thought the same thing about Mindy McGinnis’ Not a Drop to Drink, and now I’ anxiously awaiting In a Handful of Dust.

My Review: 3/5 stars

Real Heroes Read!

Real Heroes Summer reading 2

Those are swords, by the way. No idea why they insisted on holding them there.

Recently attended an author visit at my local library with Minion #3 as part of the library’s summer reading program. The visiting authors were David Anthony and Charles David Clasman of three children’s series Mystery Underground, Heros A2Z, and Knightscares.

David and Charles are full of energy and humor and my son and I enjoyed their visit. They were funny and entertaining and genuinely piqued my interest in reading their series to my son, though I was exhausted by the end of their act. Teachers and children’s entertainers always have that effect on me! And this was an act. They had everything down pat with tie-ins to their stories like the knighting of two audience members.

Real Heroes Summer reading 3

We saw juggling, a horn of heroes, knighting ceremony and David and Charlie even read from one of their books with one “reading” and the other doing sound effects and dialogue. The kids seemed to love it, though they got a bit restless toward the end, but that might have been in part to the awful acoustics. Every little noise (like rubbing balloon swords) was amplified. Also, I think they are geared more toward ages 5 and up and we had several babies and toddlers making distracting noise.

Real Heroes Summer reading 1

David and Charlie promote reading, no matter what you like to read, and encourage kids to not give up if they don’t like a book, but find something else they do like. Through their stories of their books and their childhoods they demonstrate how they became readers, how reading was a positive influence in their life, and how it inspired them to be writers themselves.

Overall it was a fun hour of talking about reading and writing. Minion #3 won a balloon sword and a free book as well as purchasing a second. I’d recommend Charlie and David if you live in Michigan and would like some enthusiastic writers to promote reading in your school. The theme of their program is Real Heroes Read! and their stories are all about kid heroes. Check them out on Amazon or their website.

Real Heroes Summer reading 4


Buy Heroes A2Z #1: Alien Ice Cream (Superhero Series, Heroes A to Z) on Amazon.com


Buy Cauldron Cooker’s Night (Knightscares Book 1, An Epic Fantasy Adventure Series) on Amazon.com


Buy Mystery Underground #1: Michigan Monsters (13 Terrifying Tales, A Collection of Spooky Short Stories) on Amazon.com

Book review – Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor


Buy Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Book 1) on Amazon.com
Add on Goodreads

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (June 5, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 031613399X
ISBN-13: 978-0316133999
Amazon Review: 4.5/5 stars

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

 

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

 

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

 

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

 

When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

I borrowed this book from my local library

All right, this is going to be short and sweet. Maybe. I loved this book. I’m giving it a solid 4. It would get a 5, but I don’t actually read a lot of Fantasy, so it’s not entirely my thing, and there was one minor problem I had that I’ll get to later. Still, a 4 from me is high praise.

Sometimes you come across a book where the writing is so good you want to jot down all the nice little lines you find and share them with your blog readers. That was not this book. There were so many lines I couldn’t write them all down. I couldn’t take the time to analyze why Taylor is a good writer because I was so caught up in the beautiful prose and the amazing story that to dissect writing style would have been blasphemous. I had to just keep reading. Someday I may go back and read more critically, but this is the sort of book that makes me ecstatic I’m a book worm, and makes me want to keep at this writing thing. I was lost in the story, and that’s the way it should be.

I was a little concerned about the angel angle. I’ve read a few “angel books”, and I know there are a few hundred more out there because I pin them to my YA Books board on Pinterest all the time. So I’m a little sick of seeing them. Though I haven’t read them all, I felt like this was a somewhat fresh take on that angle. Now, I’m still a little tired of angels, but I’ll let it slide for this series. Bring them on!

My only problem was that sometimes there was too much to remember, imagine, understand. But that is more me than Taylor’s writing. Like I said, I don’t read a lot of Fantasy, though that may change, so my imagination muscles need to flex in this arena a bit more. The characters were so strange and fantastical it was sometimes difficult to fully realize them in my own mind. That’s on me, not Taylor, because she gave me the tools to work with, but I was just to caught up in the story. When I read it again, I’ll be able to take the time to draw a mental picture more thoroughly.

So basically, if you like Fantasy READ THIS! If you are on the fence about Fantasy, read it anyway, because it’s still grounded in reality. If you don’t like Fantasy, well, read it anyway. This might change your mind. I can’t wait to read the next books in the series, though I may force myself to wait since I have so many others stacked up. Or maybe not. We’ll see! :)-

My Review: 4/5 stars

Latest haul

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It’s bag day at the library sale. $7 for all the books you can squeeze in a bag and the bag too! I won ‘t list them all, but the stack on the left is another pile of biographies and history for my daughter, the big stack is a variety for myself, though mostly sci-fi, and that lonely book in front is one for my hubby about Jimmy Buffet. There’s something so satisfying and right about owning stacks of books!

Book Review – To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han


Buy To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before on Amazon.com
Add on Goodreads

Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (April 15, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1442426705
ISBN-13: 978-1442426702
Amazon Review: 4.4/5 stars

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

The truth is I’m not a big fan of Contemporary. Why would I want to read about the same old stuff that I went through as a teen, or my daughter is going through, or other kids go through. I want epic. I want adventure. I want to be transported to another world. So when I saw this on the New Reads shelf at my library, my hand hesitated ever so slightly before picking it up. Once I read the blurb, I was mildly intrigued, though I would have preferred she had to save the world too. 🙂

Sans world saving, at least give me something to care about, and for the most part Han did that. Lara Jean is a likable and interesting character, though I hated the name. I don’t know why. I like Lara. I like Jean. Put ’em together and I was annoyed. The little sister is precocious and entertaining, which younger kids in books like this usually are, and big sis was a reasonable addition, if not very deep. Dad was barely-there, which I found annoying, but at least he wasn’t a dead-beat or abusive. Mom is dead, which is a big part of the story, but really it wasn’t. The story could have happened mostly the same if Mom had been present. I’m not entirely sure I how I feel about this, since I like it when characters have an “issue”, but the issue isn’t the book. But still, it felt like a not particularly important aspect of the book, though it was made important. I guess the side issue of Mom’s death made everything more complicated and dramatic, but it felt like a device to make everything more complicated and dramatic. Which I find unnecessary.

So even though I felt the missing-mom aspect was a device, I was still invested in the characters. I understood why Margot felt like she had to mother everyone. I felt for Lara Jean in her angst over the boys she crushed on finding out. And I was really hoping Kitty would get that puppy, though there are no dogs allowed in my house.

And of course the writing was pretty good. I’ll share a few of my favorites. These are favorites because they say some pretty typical things in a creative way, which is hard to do:

Kitty answers back lightning fast . . .

***

I feel a pinch in my heart.

***

My scalp tingles with gratitude.

So I’ll get the things I didn’t like out of the way. First, the idea that these two young girls, especially the oldest, takes it upon themselves to become mommy of the family when their own mom passes away was a bit of a stretch for me. Maybe it has something to do with their Korean heritage, and I’ll admit I know next to nothing about Korean-Americans, but I think we have to consider that their exposure to the Korean side of their family was portrayed as minor. If the heritage would dictate that pre-teen girls become the women of the house and do the cooking, cleaning, organizing, shopping and scheduling for the family, okay I guess, but where was the influence? Dad is white American. I can’t see my white American husband expecting my kids to take care of each other so he can work long hours. And they never question or complain about it either. Once again it felt like a vehicle to get us from Point A to Point B. Even Korean-American kids raised in this culture would be a little angsty over having to bake cupcakes for their little sister’s PTA event and make sure she gets places on time and know when her field trips are and pack her lunch every day. That’s dad’s job and I was actually appalled at the portrayal of this family as if all of this is completely normal. If it would have been highlighted that this was different (“Hey, Lara Jean! You sure take on a lot of responsibility I don’t have. Glad my mom’s not dead.”) then maybe I could have bought it, but if you think you’re going to make the average American teen feel guilty because they don’t have this load, well, trust me, I’ve tried it. No luck.

And I was less than impressed with that age old trope let’s-pretend-we’re-in-love-so-I-can-make-my-girlfriend/boyfriend-jealous. Yes, I actually have some fake love in my current MS, so it’s a little hypocritical, but this came out of left field for me and I didn’t like it. Okay, so the novel might not have progressed properly if Han didn’t use it, but I would have been more impressed if she found a way to pull it off. Especially when the whole thing starts off because Lara Jean wants to make Josh think she doesn’t like him. Here’s an idea: Tell him you don’t like him. It usually works. Seriously.

Now I’m going to share another few lines from the book I enjoyed, and take you on a tangent. Lara Jean is talking to a gay friend and I love his response:

“I just let people believe what they please. I don’t feel like it’s my responsibility to quantify myself for them. I mean, you get what I’m talking about. As a biracial person, I’m sure people are always asking you what race you are, right?”

I haven’t thought of it that way before, but yes yes yes! Lucas just gets it. “Exactly. It’s like, why do you need to know?”

I hate the term “coming out”, though I have used it. And I use it in my current MS. Still, I don’t like the idea that anyone has to “quantify” themselves. Why can’t we just be people and not be defined by our sexual orientation? I won’t rant too long about that, at least not in this post, but I wanted to share that little bit. Also, in regards to heritage and race, I understand that people might find those questions annoying, but do consider if you are biracial or bicultural, that people’s interest may not be in the realm of trying to categorize you. It might be (in the case of my own interest) an effort to understand where you are coming from culturally, and to admire how amazing we humans are when we embrace and share our own cultural experiences. I will never truly know anyone’s cultural experience but my own, yet I want to know as much as I can about other’s experiences so I can learn and grow from that as well.

Moving on. Not withstanding the previously mentioned flaws, I liked this book. It was a heart warming story about a teen girl who grows in her love for her family and learns a bit about herself and what she wants from the love of a boy as well. It is well-written and kept me turning the pages to find out if Lara Jean would develop her unrequited love for Josh, break her sister’s heart, discover something in Peter beside his pretty-boy image or basically screw everything up. I won’t tell you, of course, but I will say I felt the ending to be unsatisfactory. I guess you could say the important things were wrapped up, so I wasn’t horribly disappointed, but I wanted more. And I’ll just leave it at that.

All in all, it was a cute read that wasn’t too sappy and annoying. I was really afraid I would have to read some novel about every day teen problems that aren’t really problems and end up throwing the book against the wall. I guess if there hadn’t been the missing-mom issue, it would have been that kind of book, so I can take that part back. 🙂 Anyway, if you’re looking for a light entertaining read that isn’t total fluff, I’d highly recommend this.

My review: 3/5 stars (Come on! She didn’t even slay dragons or anything!)

Trials and tribulations of a bookworm . . .

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Finished Daughter of Smoke and Bone last night. Stayed up late to do it. I just couldn’t put it down! Book review coming soon. Couldn’t wait for morning so I could hop over to the library and snag the sequel before we headed to Detroit again. 4 hours in the car = lots of reading time! But when I moved some things on the counter, I found another book! Since it’s from the library, I have to read it first. It’s the bookworm code. You never keep a library book longer than you have to! So I guess I’ll be reading Origins first. Maybe I’ll get to that stack of books I own eventually too!

Book Review – The Here and Now by Ann Brashares


Buy The Here and Now on Amazon.com
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Title: The Here and Now
Author: Ann Brashares
Print Length: 258 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385736800
Publisher: Delacorte Press (April 8, 2014)
Sold by: Random House LLC
Language: English
ASIN: B00ERTDJKS
Amazon Review: 3.6/5 stars

I borrowed this book from my local library

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

This book started as a solid 4 stars for me. I loved the premise. The characters were intriguing. And the writing was good. I liked some lines so much, I’m going to share them, though maybe they won’t make sense out of context, but the way the words mix together sang to me, so here goes:

The gap between what we say and what we feel is so big and dark that sometimes I think I’ll fall into it and just keep falling.

***

Already he is the drip, drip of water that carves a canyon right through the middle of me.

***

“If it was okay for me to kiss you,” he whispers, “would you want me to?”

I know I should lie. I should make this easier on both of us. But I’ve begun to tell the truth, and I am drunk on it. “The most of anything,” I whisper into the seat.

***

I am getting the hang of this, spending my questions like a millionaire.

***

Ethan claims he is some kind of supergenius expert at Gin, so when I beat him in our second game, he is so beset by rage and disbelief that he makes us play three more times, and writhes in psychological pain as I beat him every time.

***

Down goes the bucket again, into the long-abandoned memory well. I surprise myself with what comes up.

Okay, that’s all. But I loved those lines enough to write them down verbatim in a notebook and type them again for this post. I feel I do enough ranting about “bad” writing, I should give some cred to good writing as well.

On to the book!

The beginning was enticing, doling out morsels for the reader to nibble on while they progressed through the beautiful prose. There were a lot of abstracts and half-truths and opinions meted out to keep you reading to find out the whole picture. And then there was the forbidden love story between Ethan and Preena (loved the name!) Their romance was believable and progressed naturally through years of knowing each other. You wanted them to be together, even while knowing it was impossible, and seeing that it really was impossible. The sexual and emotional tension was palpable.

But then we got into specifics. This is where time travels books usually fail. I really enjoyed this book from start to finish, but my analytical-brain just wasn’t buying it. If you’re going to write a time-travel novel, you better think it through, and most in my opinion don’t. I don’t want to ruin it for you, (I’ll do that in the spoiler at the bottom) but let’s just say if you follow the time line, or even the time circles, or whatever you want to call it, then the things that happen in this novel couldn’t happen. Changing one thing changes another which changes another which means the first thing wouldn’t have happened at all thereby not affecting the other things. See what I mean? And just to be clear, once you time travel, you’re stuck. No going back.

There were a couple of other minor, minor problems. Like the fact the book is set in 2014, and Preena comes from circa 2090, but in the future people don’t understand Christmas and they talk differently. I’m not sure 80 years is enough to change things that much.

And when Preena appears in 2014 for the first time she is naked, but other people brought boxes of belongings. That was never explained, like at all. Seemed like a big hole.

Oh, and I’m getting really tired of random teens with mad hacker-skills. Ethan comes through with some pretty amazing computer hacks to save the day, but I’m just done with teens that have whatever magic skill is needed to complete the task at hand.

And Preena sees Ethan’s obituary in the paper that is brought from the future, but it’s printed the day after he supposedly dies. Pretty sure obits aren’t printed the day after your teenage son is murdered.

And last, but certainly not least, Preena’s “people” came from the future to try to stop the plague that wipes out the world. So a thousand people travel through time, but get so comfortable in their current life they no longer want to save the billions of people who die in the future? Preena’s mom lost two sons and she’s willing to stand by and not work her ass off to save them? That was probably the hardest thing to swallow. There is no comfortable life possible for me that would stop me from trying to save my kids.

Really, I did like this book. I know I talk about the negatives a lot, and just wait for the spoiler at the bottom, but the prose was beautiful, the premise was interesting and the romance was pure and emotional. I liked the characters and rooted for them. Even the “bad guy” you kind of understood where he was coming from. So I would still recommend this book, because not everyone is as picky as me when it comes to plot. If you just want to be swept away by a story, then by all means read it, but if you want things to make sense at the end, well, maybe try something else.

My review: 3/5 stars (I’d have given it a 4 if it weren’t for plot holes)

And now for the spoiler!!!

***SPOILER*** So let’s just walk through this a little bit. If Preena changes the future and they stop or alter the plague that kills billions, then Preena will have no reason to come back in time and then she won’t change the future. Time travel novels always do this and it drives me insane. Why can’t they just mention, “Hey, when we get to the future we have to tell our future selves that we will be forced to give up our lives and time-travel or everyone dies.” Because, if some old woman showed up claiming to be me and told me that I’d jump right in the time travel device, right? But whatever. Say Preena is more gullible and noble than me, so she does. Supposedly when Baltos time-travels, he kills not only Mona so he can protect his family’s oil wealth, but also kills Ethan, who invented time travel. If Ethan dies, he can’t invent time travel, so how does Baltos time travel in order to kill him? Not to mention, if Baltos kills Mona, saves his family’s oil wealth, then he won’t have a reason to time travel either because he only did it to save his family’s business. Oh, and you can’t go back, so forget that. You’re stuck. And you can only travel back to 2010 for some reason, so Baltos hangs around for 4 years until he finally kills Mona? Why? This is where I think time-travel novels trip up. They place too much importance on the changing of time, thereby negating the believability of their premise to begin with. Limit what you change, and the reader will believe it. Alter too many things and you run into a hornets nest of possibilities. ***SPOILER OVER***