Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tell Me Tuesday #4 (In Which Elizabeth Checked Out The Entire Library)

Well this TMT is going to have a LOT of books since I went to the library yesterday to pick up a bunch of books to get me going on my self-imposed diversity challenge (and thank you all so much for the recommendations!)  I actually underestimated how many books I could fit into this GIANT duffle bag I took to the library...but maybe that's for the best.  One, because I've check out a ton of ebooks as well, and two, because I get the WEIRDEST looks when I check out more than like 3 books at the library.  Plus they have security so I have to unload all the books and have the guy check the receipt before I can load, so I feel like I get threefold the weird looks.  Anyway, here's what I'll be reading this month:

 Books I Own

Akata Witch (Akata Witch, #1)

I won Akata Witch in a giveaway from The Book Wars a couple months ago, so I'm really excited to get to this. One, because it keeps in my library ban (HA like I'm still doing that!) which makes me feel better, and two because it deals with an albino black girl who discovers she has magic and fights crime.  HOW AWESOME DOES THIS SOUND??

Legend (Legend, #1)

I also own the first book in Marie Lu's Legend trilogy, so I checked out the rest of the trilogy so I can just binge read it!

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

I also have owned this book for a year or so now. As you can see, I'm trying to make a priority of books that I own. Besides, I love Gabrielle Zevin and I honestly couldn't tell you why I haven't read this yet since it's one of the few books by her I haven't read yet. (Maybe that's why?)

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander, #2)

My family friend mailed me out the rest of the Outlander series which is seriously awesome because have you SEEN the size of these books?!?  They're GIANT! And turns out Gabaldon is Mexican-American and this could just be that extra push I needed to forge through this series! (Or at least one book since these are monsters even by my standards)

Other books I'll be reading that I've only just discovered I own: 
The Map of Love by Ahda Soueif
The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (I had originally meant to listen to this on audiobook, but it turns out I already own this! How did I not know this?? Oh suitcase full of books. You are why I don't know things.)
Empress Orchid by Anchee Min
The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim

Library Hardcopies

Unwind (Unwind, #1)

I have a friend who's been telling me for a solid year and a half (maybe longer) to read this series. I even promised I would (especially after I made him read The Newsflesh Trilogy), so if I am certain that I will get to ANY books on this list...it's these ones.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance, #1)
 Ok, someone please tell me why I had never heard of this trilogy until this challenge??  It sounds so up my alley!  OH and I'm feeling super accomplished because of it at the moment - two of the copies of the last book in this trilogy were lost, so the librarian was like...huh. That's weird. I'll put in an order for some new copies!! So I ACTUALLY just monetarily supported this author by having the library order more copies :D  Luckily they had a copy in the African-American department of the library.  (I live in a city that is majority black, so there's a REALLY nice African-American department. Or I'm assuming it is.  It looked pretty fancy)

Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)

So the library only has the first book in this series. I'm hoping that my checking this out will help nudge them to buy the next one? Especially since I'm pretty sure the third book is coming out soon...

It's Not Summer Without You (Summer, #2)

This will be my audiobook for the month (and if I finish it then the library has the third book on audio so I'm all set!).  And ok, confession - the audiobook is the ONE place I'm going to allow myself to cheat this month (ok excluding whatever books I'll be reading with the kids since they choose the books. I can guide it, but I doubt I can succesfully guide it THAT much).  I'm only a couple cd's into Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce that I waited for for MONTHS. So. I'm finishing it. No shame.

Other hardcopies
The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson
Song of the Water Saints by Nelly Rosario
In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

Library E-books
(Because it's always good to have a selection of books on your kindle in case you finish the one or two hard copies with you or they aren't working for you in the moment)

Every Tongue Got to Confess: Negro Folk-tales from the Gulf States

I remember being absolutely entranced by Zora Neale Hurston's writing in Their Eyes Were Watching God, so I'm a little disappointed in myself that I never sought out any of her other writing. I'm especially excited about this because I pride myself on being a bit of an aficionado when it comes to fairy tales and folk lore, and here's an entire collection (and I'm ashamed to say that outside of European/American fairy tales, I really don't know much folklore) by an author I really enjoy!

Good Enough

As someone who dates a Korean, I tend to relate to these stories in a second-hand sort of way.  Besides, it also features a musician! A CLASSICAL musician!!

Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky, #2)

I started this trilogy last month I think? So it's the perfect time to finish it!  Besides, I got a friend hooked on it, and she said the second book was way better than the first, so I'm feeling motivated :)

Additional ebooks I checked out

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende
The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

So it turns out maybe not checking out the 25 hard copy books I was planning on ended up being a good thing. (Plus it's SO hard to track down specific copies in this library I swear! Most of them end up not being on the shelf anyway *scowls*. And who would have known I had so many diverse authors hiding out on my shelves?)  The likelihood of me making it through all these books is pretty slim, and I'm a bit sad because there were definitely a bunch more I REALLY wanted.  (I'm also a little scared by the number of adult novels here. It could turn out really well and remind me that I actually DO like reading for that audience, but it could also remind me that it can be reaaaalllyyy dreary.)  It's also exciting that I have so many more I want to get to because it means if I want to extend this another month (and just make a Sarah J. Maas exception) or do this another month, it's going to be really easy to do because I have so many more on my list PLUS all the great suggestions I got after I'd already gone to the library!  Thank you guys so much again for helping me out with suggestions, I really appreciate it - you were a huge help whether you see the books you suggested on what I've got so far or not because they'll definitely be showing up next time I do this :)

Monday, March 30, 2015

I've Been Reading A Book With A Transgender MC And I Never Knew It: Or The Famous Five by Enid Blyton

Five on a Treasure Island (Famous Five, #1)

I can't even tell you how many times I read these books growing up. They were a huge part of my reading material - right up there with Redwall.  It's like Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys...but WAY BETTER. And it's interesting how my reading of the characters has changed as an adult.

When I was growing up, I was very much like George. In fact, in 3rd grade I made everyone call me George. I thought she was the coolest character I'd ever met, and we agreed on a lot of things (mostly on how being a girl sucked). Reading this as an adult is interesting. In some ways George being adamant about being a boy comes off as that boys seem more interesting/have more control/independence (certainly where my wish to be a boy came from). But it seems pretty clear to me upon reading this  that George is transgender, and I can't even tell you how incredible that is in a novel written in 1942. It just seems so clear when you get lines like this:

"So it is,' said her aunt. "But George hates being a girl, and we have to call her George, as if she were a boy."

"I'm George,' said the girl. 'I shall only answer if you call me George. I hate being a girl. I won't be."

George is the strongest character by far, and I don't think I was close to being alone in having her as a favourite. Apparently Enid Blyton based the character on herself, which might have a lot to do with it. I also think it brings up some interesting thoughts on Enid Blyton herself. I'm not certain how much was none about transgenders in the 40s, but I'd love to know if maybe Enid herself felt like George, because while other characters (particularly adults) don't approve of George's adamance that she is a boy, it doesn't reflect a disapproval of the character herself. Instead, she's by far the most interesting character of the lot.  Or perhaps she had someone in her life who was.  It just surprises me that something that even today is such a controversial subject that it would be approached with so much positivity in a book from the 1940's.  Or perhaps that's just me coming from a modern point of view and that's not at all what Enid intended (the general consensus around the interwebs after some searching when I first was struck by this thought). But I'm of the opinion that whether Enid Blyton intended it or not - George is clearly transgender.

On the flip side of things, Anne is painted in a bad light. As both a girl who likes girly things AND the youngest child, Anne is the most easily frightened and is the only one who likes things that are looked down upon by the others as being childish or girly. I remember growing up that I always thought Anne was a bit of a wet blanket and that she was terribly dull. I hated that her name was my middle name. And I think that's a shame, because the book paints only boyish things as interesting and worthwhile. (This may change in the later books, it's been so long I can't remember.) I almost wish that Dick had been the youngest instead of Anne because I think that Anne's characterization is actually pretty spot on when it comes to being the youngest child and a girl who likes girly things - it's just how she's framed by the other children that makes her interests and temperament dull. Or if she got to have a bit more of the discoveries (she does discover the entrance to the dungeons, but she discovers it by being tired and sitting down, so it takes away from her being the one who discovers it).

All of that being said, I loved the adventure just as much as I did when I read the books as a child. It made me just as excited, even though I knew how it ended, and I'm so excited to be rereading the series. I can't wait to introduce the kids to it, I'm hoping it's going to be a big hit!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Reading Diverse Authors - The One Month Challenge

Disclaimer: I am absolutely new at talking about race, so some of my language might not be the preferred terms. I absolutely welcome any corrections you have on how/what I say since I am clearly not an expert here!

I keep track of statistics about books I've read during the year (that aren't rereads or picture books, since the picture books I read are largely not ones I've chosen to begin with), and as I was updating my list, I noticed something.

(This is the largest I can get it in the post - if you click to open it in a new window you should be able to see it in a readable font)

 Take a look at the author's race (Column F). Are you seeing what I'm seeing?  Of the 30 different authors I've read in the year 2015, only two are definitively not white (race is complicated - I could be wrong about some of the authors who appear white.)  That's right - two.  6% of the authors I've read.

I was somehow surprised by this (you'd think I'd have learned by now that this is an entirely unsurprising fact), in part because I felt like I'd been reading books with more diverse characters. I then realized that my criteria for a book being diverse was simply to have at least ONE character who as not white, cis-, abled, or straight. And even then only half the books I've read include that, and I mean I'm talking even super background characters here. Of the books I've read that have diverse characters, only four series had a main character who fit that criteria (five if you count Magnus Bane as a main character, which I am inclined to do. Also I couldn't remember if Aria from Under the Never Sky was white or not). Surprisingly, all four (or five) of these authors are white (unless Aria is not white).  I'd like to give a big shout out to Michael Grant, because a huge portion of my diverse characters came from him.

Gone (Gone, #1)Hunger (Gone, #2)Lies (Gone, #3)
Plague (Gone, #4)Fear (Gone, #5)Light (Gone, #6)

Despite what these covers might imply, the main characters are a cast of all races, sexualities, and body shapes.  (There might not be a bi character so excluding that. And sadly no trans characters that I can remember, but it's still the most stunningly diverse cast of characters I've come across. And I read Tamora Pierce!).  And they are all ranges of good and evil and it's a TERRIFYING dystopia, and I basically just highly recommend you read this series.

As I was mulling all of this over, I stumbled across this article.  And it got me thinking...I already read primarily female authors (I think it's just part of the territory when it comes to YA books, which is AWESOME), but I've only made a priority of trying to find books with diverse characters. If I really want to help support these changes in the publishing industry, what I really need to do is seek out the authors of color.  I LOVE seeing any authors write diversity in books, but I think it's important to get more diverse voices in all genres of literature. (Although after going through my TBR pile for diverse authors, it looks like I may have been mistaken about them not existing in sci-fi/fantasy). So for the month of April, I'm challenging myself to read ONLY authors of color. Since I'm already not sticking to my no-buy no-library book ban, there isn't a good reason for me NOT to do this challenge. Here's some more thoughts behind this:

1. I'm choosing to focus solely on race this time around because
     A. I'd like to focus on only one thing because I'm going to get too distracted otherwise.
     B. Knowing an author's sexuality takes a bit more research in a lot of cases, and a good number of the               gay authors I know are white, cis, men, and that's where this all started.
     C. I don't actually know of any trans authors (at least ones who write fiction. I try my best when it comes           to nonfiction but....I know myself well enough to know that I'm more likely to just stop reading than to           read nonfiction. Sad, but true.)  But if you do definitely send them my way because regardless of this             challenge I WANT to read those authors!
2. I'm only doing this for a month instead of a year because I am TERRIBLE at challenges. I can't think of a single challenge I successfully did for more than a month.
3. As I was thinking upon this I realized it might be fun to open this up to do with other bloggers, but I of course have only had this revelation at the very, very end of the month so that doesn't leave much time.  But if anyone is interested, maybe we can do a twitter hashtag of sorts?  And there's a high chance that I'll do this again (or at least some form of diversity - maybe not only authors of color, it just depends).  It's also extremely likely another blogger is already doing this sort of challenge (if so let me know! I'd love to join in on something that requires 0 planning from me beyond what I've already planned!)
4. I could have waited until May to do above things, but...ok I'm only a little bit ashamed to say that Sarah J. Maas's A Court of Thorns and Roses comes out in May, and well.  She's white. And I REALLY NEED THAT BOOK.
5. The only exceptions to this challenge will be the books I have left to review. So assuming my faith in my own ability to post said reviews is not misplaced I should have those up soon. Ish. At least two of them anyway...
6.  I'm hoping I will be posting lots of reviews this upcoming month. After all, what's the point in trying to support diverse authors if I don't use my blogging powers for good?  So here's hoping I'm going to feel review inspired since I rarely do that anymore.

I've already gone through my TBR-for-reals shelf on goodreads (aka the shelf that is more selective than my 850 book TBR shelf haha) and came up with a surprising number of authors who aren't white, so here are the books I'll be choosing from this month.

Unwind (Unwind, #1)Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)Good EnoughLegend (Legend, #1)Akata Witch (Akata Witch, #1)In the Shadow of the BanyanMargarettownThe Darkangel (Darkangel Trilogy, #1)Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie GarciaShatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)The Angel's Game (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #2)The Lost Girl
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance, #1)Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)PointeLike Water for Chocolate
ThornReservation BluesGates of Thread and Stone (Gates of Thread and Stone #1)1Q84 (1Q84, #1-3)

Here's where you guys come in:  I would LOVE more recommendations.  Don't look at me like I'm crazy - I know I'm not going to get through 20 books in a month.  Or I'm probably not (but I'll definitely come close).  I'm not sure how many of these my library will have in AND I do better when I have a lot to choose from, because as I've said, if I'm feeling stuck with my book selections, I'm more likely to just not read than to power through. (Also the smaller likelihood I'll have to finish 1Q84 is greatly preferred).  So the more options I have, the better!  I prefer YA but I'm open to any audience recommendations.  I also prefer sci-fi fantasy, but I'm open to contemporary. Nonfiction is just likely not going to happen, but I may try some poetry while I'm at it!  I'm also specifically looking for more black and Native American authors since I think I have a grand total of 4 authors total between both of those races.  And you know what's even better about all these recommendations (I hope) I'll be getting?  Whatever I don't get to next month is just going to add from my percentage of diverse authors to choose from (because I only came up with 20 authors between two bookshelves with a grand total of over 200 books) when I go back to reading whatever I like!

So have at it! Let the recommendations flow!  (And I now only have a few days to finish Rae Carson's trilogy before it will be against the rules to do so. So excuse me while I go binge read that IMMEDIATELY.)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tough Traveling: Beloved Mounts


This week’s topic is BELOVED MOUNTS
A combination of suggestions from several people, as it seems many want to talk about the various animals that people in fantasyland ride. So be they horse, bear, or other let’s talk about favorite rides.

Iorek Byrnisson from His Dark Materials

Art by: Sidonie

First off, is there anything cooler than riding a polar bear? (Ok maybe a dragon).  And Iorek is one badass polar bear.  And aside from Pantalaimon, possibly my favourite character in this series.  Technically I suppose he's really more than a mount, but Lyra DOES right on his back for a large portion of the book, so I'm counting it.

Buckbeak from Harry Potter

Fierce and loyal, Buckbeak is basically the epitome of Gryffindorness.  

Art by: minuiko

Ahh, my favourite crotchety horse!  I think it's fitting that my favourite Tamora Pierce horse it matched with the Tamora Pierce heroine that I think is the most underrated.  I also think Peachblossom is very much like Kel is deep down underneath all that Yamani training - I'm betting she'd be a lot more openly cranky all the time if she hadn't been raised to be so calm.


Speaking of crotchety old horses, this list would not be complete without Talat.  He and Aerin are both misfits (She because of...everything, he because he's injured and can't be a warhorse anymore), and I think a huge portion of Aerin's character growth comes from helping Talat recuperate. She never would have gone on the whole adventure in the first place without him.

Art by: Dan Milligan

Obviously there had to be a dragon on this list. And as my first favourite dragon (who can also be considered a mount - after all I could hardly put Smaug on this list could I?), Ramoth is the obvious choice. 

Bree (Breehy-hinny-brinny-hoohy-hah) from The Horse and His Boy

Art by: Pauline Baynes

Since all the horses can't be crotchety, I think the silly, vain Bree is an excellent addition to this list!

Falada from The Goose Girl

I kind of think of Falada as Ani's soul mate. I wish soul mate didn't have romantic connotations (is there a better word for this?) - but it really was like they were linked through their souls.

 ...I didn't mean to end on a tragic note, but this is the order I thought of the characters so...here's an adorable baby turtle!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Six Books That Changed Drastically Upon a Reread

So I actually DO reread books from my childhood. Like all the time. Not to say that there aren't plenty I've been wanting to get to, but I thought it would be more fun to go this route.  This isn't really a top ten list, because some of the book improved, some definitely did not, and some just revealed some stuff that HOLY MOTHER how did I not notice that the first time around?!

Hana-Kimi by Hisaya Nakajo


This was actually one of my favourite mangas when I first started reading them.  I may have been unduly influenced by the gender bending, because my response to gender bending is always YAY GENDERBENDING!! It definitely didn't hold up on a reread.  Not to say that it was bad - it's one of the few mangas I can remember being pretty positive towards homosexuality and the lead character isn't too aggressive/rude/broody that just...UGH I get about a lot of lead interests (particularly in K-dramas and manga).  But it definitely felt heavy on the romance which surprised me because I remember loving the side cast so much that I guess I forgot how IN YOUR FACE IN LOVE it can be.

Deerskin by Robin McKinley


I won't talk too much about this one because I've already talked about this book (and this experience) before, but this was DEFINITELY a case of....dear god what did you think was happening here?!? Because it certainly didn't process in my brain the first time I read it!

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen


Despite the fact that this will always be in my list of absolute favourite books forever, I actually have a complicated relationship with this one. I read it every year, and every year I flip flop between swooning and LOVING it...and then the next year feeling like Elizabeth married Darcy for his money/lands or at the very least that Darcy loves Elizabeth a lot more than she loves him.  It comes with where her change of heart starts appearing, and there's a certain line towards the end of the book that I can't recall off the top of my head, but it definitely can be read as Elizabeth just going "Oh well, he's not so bad I guess I'll marry him."  (Or at least that's how my modern brain interprets it every other year). I've never had a book change EVERY TIME I READ IT. And not in a wow-you-see-more-layers-every-time way like Harry Potter.

Redwall by Brian Jacques


I originally had this book pegged as a great pick for the seven year-old (Mouse monk warriors! What's better than that?) because that's around how old my brother and I would have been when we found it and the seven year-old is super into enacting battle strategies.  Then I started to reread it just to be sure...and holy WOW is it violent! Like...I knew it had battles and the like...but I wasn't expecting it to be quite so...

"Skullface had time for just one agonized scream before he fell. The iron-shod cartwheels rolled over him. He lay in a red mist of death, the life ebbing from his broken body. The last thing he saw before darkness claimed him was the sneering visage of Cluny the Scourge roaring from the jolting back-board, 'Tell the devil Cluny sent you, Skullface!'"

And that's just on page 25, and probably the least nasty death hahahahaha. Yeah we're holding off on this one...


I loved The Chronicles of Narnia as a kid, and I can't even tell you how many times I reread it.  I will say that neither of these books were my favourites when I was young...but it wasn't til I was older that I saw just how problematic they are. Like holy cow is The Horse and His Boy racist and WHY is that a logical reason to exclude Susan in The Last Battle. Whyyyy????  (I know, I know, product of the times etc.)


The first time I read this I was SUPER not ok with it.  It felt like Rowling just shoved a ton of Ron/Hermione romance angst down your throat after not really having any romance at all in the previous books and that the horcruxes weren't set up at all.  Each time I've reread this (three times, to be exact) I've warmed up to this book. It's clear upon a reread, that I was just straight up wrong about the horcruxes.  And while this will never be my favourite of the series and I still don't love the angsty romance...well, isn't that more or less how teen romance goes?  That would be like me saying the 5th Harry Potter book is crap because the main character was acting like a 15 year old boy ACTUALLY WOULD ACT. (Let alone one who has just witnessed a schoolmate being murdered before his eyes. Among the many, many other things going on in his life.  Was it a fun time? No. Does that make it terrible? No.)