WWW Wednesday 6/21/2017

What are you currently reading?

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine

For Study:  The Collected Works of Oscar Wilde

For Study:  The Norton Anthology of American Literature by Nina Baym

 

What did you just finish reading? (As always, click on the link below to see what I thought!)

Footsteps by The New York Times

Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice

Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

 

What do you think you’ll read next? 

First Women by Kate Andersen Brower

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Lost Boy by Christina Henry

Rosalyn Eves: Blood Rose Rebellion

The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

I’ve been waiting for a series to spark my interest for sometime and finally Rosalyn Eves has come along to capture it. She blends historical fiction with magical fantasy and brings a revolution I’d never heard of to life.

At first, I thought I was going to have to put this book down, or at least do a hate read. I was side-eying it SO hard because she was using the derogatory term “Gypsy” over and over again. However, that turned out to be the point, and it was challenged multiple times later on–especially by the main character, after she was corrected and informed on it’s nasty connotation by her Romani friend.

Blood Rose Rebellion turned out to not only be a book about the Hungarian Rebellion in the 1800s, but also an outstanding look at privilege and the difference in hiding behind it, or using it to help those who do not have it. Anna took her Luminate privilege and made hard choices to fight for the rights of others to have a level playing field, instead of taking the easier path.

“I could not ignore the external factors–the threats to me and to those I loved. But stripped of those externals, the question was a simple one:  should every individual (man, woman, creature) be free to decide their own course?”

Ok, enough serious stuff–I fell IN LOVE with so many people in this book. The characters were so well fleshed out, I just couldn’t help it. I related to Anna quite a bit:  she didn’t fit in with her family because of differences in herself she could not change; she had an advocate’s heart and wanted to help people but didn’t always seem to know where to start–but once she got going, it was impossible to stop her or change her mind; and Anna felt deeply things that she felt she had an effect on–intentionally or unintentionally.

One of my favorite things about the story is the interesting relationship Anna has with the men. There is a whole fleet of ships:  Freddy, Gábor, Mátyás…even a character named Hunger is around for awhile. I can’t go into them because, spoilers. But jealousy never enters the picture, and it never feels like a love triangle situation.

The world building is also very strong. I fell right into the magical world of the Luminates. It almost feels Steampunkish to me–maybe it was just the time period, but that’s what I was imagining.

I need to stop going on and on and just let you read this book. And you should read it. The reviews on Goodreads haven’t been stellar, which makes me sad. I almost didn’t request it because of them. But give this a shot, seriously. I cannot wait for the second installment. I tend to go against popular opinion on big series, and this is just one of those–I loved it.

Blogging for Books and Alfred A Knopf provided a copy of this book for unbiased review.

BUY HERE:

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Kristin Hannah: True Colors

True Colors is New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah’s most provocative, compelling, and heart-wrenching story yet. With the luminous writing and unforgettable characters that are her trademarks, she tells the story of three sisters whose once-solid world is broken apart by jealousy, betrayal, and the kind of passion that rarely comes along.

The Grey sisters have always been close. After their mother’s death, the girls banded together, becoming best friends. Their stern, disapproving father cares less about his children than about his reputation. To Henry Grey, appearances are everything, and years later, he still demands that his daughters reflect his standing in the community. 

Winona, the oldest, needs her father’s approval most of all. An overweight bookworm who never felt at home on the sprawling horse ranch that has been in her family for three generations, she knows that she doesn’t have the qualities her father values. But as the best lawyer in town, she’s determined to someday find a way to prove her worth to him.

Aurora, the middle sister, is the family peacemaker. She brokers every dispute and tries to keep them all happy, even as she hides her own secret pain.

Vivi Ann is the undisputed star of the family. A stunningly beautiful dreamer with a heart as big as the ocean in front of her house, she is adored by all who know her. Everything comes easily for Vivi Ann, until a stranger comes to town. . . .

In a matter of moments, everything will change. The Grey sisters will be pitted against one another in ways that none could have imagined. Loyalties will be tested and secrets revealed, and a terrible, shocking crime will shatter both their family and their beloved town.

With breathtaking pace and penetrating emotional insight, True Colors is an unforgettable novel about sisters, rivalry, forgiveness, redemption–and ultimately, what it means to be a family.

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Kristin Hannah’s books have become quite popular in recent years. I’ve only read a couple of them, but they are generally interesting women’s fiction novels that I have found to be enjoyable. I won True Colors in a Goodreads giveaway and was pumped when I saw how pretty the new paperback cover was for this 2012 novel.

Unfortunately, pretty much from the start, it was just all wrong. Sibling rivalry isn’t abnormal in fiction, but Hannah pits woman against woman in her story of three sisters, and the fights get pretty nasty. There’s also quite a bit of self-deprecation and fat shaming in one of the sisters–Winona is very much the “poor fat girl who can never love herself and is passed over by every man” trope.

But then enter Dallas Raintree, the half Native American ranch hand. The racism begins the moment he steps into our field of vision–or rather, Winona’s. She projects her father’s assumed racism onto him, trying to mask her own, and hires him “out of civic duty” and to piss off her dad. From then on, it only just gets worse. The book is a mess of stereotypes–temper, drinking, drugs, riding bareback.

It’s true that this is a book about the injustice of the Justice System for Native Americans. But yet again, we have a book about racial prejudice told from the wrong side of the bias. The title True Colors blazes across the sunset cover and only serves to highlight how truly harmful this book is. Even though I finished it, it only gets 1 book dragon, and this book will go on my Shame List.

I won a copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press in a Goodreads Giveaway.

BUY HERE:

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This post contains affiliate links.

WWW Wednesday 4/19/2017

 

What are you currently reading?

Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally

For Study:  Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

For Study:  The Norton Anthology of American Literature by Nina Baym

 

What did you just finish reading? (As always, click on the link below to see what I thought!)

Prince Charles by Sally Bedell Smith

Dune by Frank Herbert

Prince Charles by Sally Bedell Smith

 

What do you think you’ll read next? 

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Unforgettables by GL Thomas
Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman

Melissa Febos: Abandon Me

In her critically acclaimed memoir, Whip Smart, Melissa Febos laid bare the intimate world of the professional dominatrix, turning an honest examination of her life into a lyrical study of power, desire, and fulfillment.

In her dazzling Abandon Me, Febos captures the intense bonds of love and the need for connection — with family, lovers, and oneself. First, her birth father, who left her with only an inheritance of addiction and Native American blood, its meaning a mystery. As Febos tentatively reconnects, she sees how both these lineages manifest in her own life, marked by compulsion and an instinct for self-erasure. Meanwhile, she remains closely tied to the sea captain who raised her, his parenting ardent but intermittent as his work took him away for months at a time. Woven throughout is the hypnotic story of an all-consuming, long-distance love affair with a woman, marked equally by worship and withdrawal. In visceral, erotic prose, Febos captures their mutual abandonment to passion and obsession — and the terror and exhilaration of losing herself in another.

At once a fearlessly vulnerable memoir and an incisive investigation of art, love, and identity, Abandon Me draws on childhood stories, religion, psychology, mythology, popular culture, and the intimacies of one writer’s life to reveal intellectual and emotional truths that feel startlingly universal.

How do I know a book deserves an automatic five-star rating? When I have eight pages of quotes in my journal. EIGHT.

I could have copied this whole book down and still needed to go back and copy it all again. Melissa Febos’ prose is FLAWLESS. God. It’s so beautiful that I can not find a single thing to criticize.

It is also DRIPPING with sex.

In fact, most of the negative reviews on Goodreads say something like “Why does this book have to be so sexual?” Um, guys, you picked a book by dominatrix…did you expect something G rated?

This isn’t so much about her time as a sex worker–that’s another book–but about every other loaded section of her life. As she puts it:

“I am Puerto Rican, but not really. Indian, but not really. Gay, but not really. Adopted, but not really.”

The memoir’s story follows her abusive relationship with a married woman and her constant struggle to escape it. She details her addiction to self-harm, then alcohol, then drugs, and then love–all in an effort to gain control over her own body. We get to know, some along with her, the heartbreakingly damaged people in her life.

But the most important point of this book is how she teaches us of the incredible psychological trauma of the Indigenous Peoples of America. At one point, she has a conversation with her agent about how no one wants to read about Native Americans, that she should write something more akin to her dominatrix book, something about her–urban and edgy. So she does just that with this book–writing her love story, but still managing to weave in Native American history in every stop that is made, and let us know just how that genocide and erasure has affected the people we have tried so hard to push down.

Prove that agent wrong. Order this book immediately, guys. It’s sexy, it’s beautiful, it’s IMPORTANT. There are LGBTQIA+ and Native and POC people everywhere in this. And you know, that agent is right about one thing–we don’t see too many Native American authors–but that shouldn’t mean a lack of wanting them published. We need more stories like this, and we can start with Melissa Fabos. GO ORDER THIS BOOK, YA’LL.

NetGalley and Bloomsbury provided this ARC for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

BUY HERE:

WWW Wednesday 2/15/2017

 

I have a new Support the Blog Page! Go check it out if you are so inclined!

 

What are you currently reading?

Salt to the Sea by Ruth Sepetys

For Study:  The Norton Anthology of American Literature by Nina Baym

 

What did you just finish reading? (As always, click on the link below to see what I thought!)

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

The Nearness of You by Amanda Eyre Ward

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X

 

What do you think you’ll read next? 

Good Behavior by Blake Crouch
The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

 

WWW Wednesday 2/1/2017

What are you currently reading?

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi

For Study:  The Norton Anthology of American Literature by Nina Baym

 

What did you just finish reading? (As always, click on the link below to see what I thought!)

Bright Minds Empty Souls by Jennae Cecelia

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

 

What do you think you’ll read next? 

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

The Chillbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran

Veronica Roth, Chronic Pain is Not a Gift

I do a lot of reviews here. I give you my straight opinion on books I have read. Ya’ll know I am always honest when it comes to what I think about that.

But I’ve never told you not to read a book that I HAVEN’T read. In general, I don’t think that is my place. Not on this website. I will often share things on twitter other people have said, and take place in discussions there. But this is a place for book reviews.

I know it is. But this can’t stand.

We’ve known for awhile that Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth was going to be problematic. The blurbs sounded bad. Then those who had ARCs started pulling things out and we all realized just how racist this book was.

If you haven’t been paying attention, Carve the Mark is a sort of Romeo and Juliet story, where one family is light and peaceful and the other is violent and dark-skinned. Yes, it is THAT kind of trope. The Shotet have kinky hair, while the Thuve have straight hair. The Shotet carve actual marks in their arms when they kill people, and are seen as barbaric. (For more information, see Justina Ireland’s excellent analysis of The Continent and Carve the Mark. She writes so much more eloquently on this subject than I can.)

All of that was reason enough to not read this book, or so you’d think. Still, we continued to see tons of promotion for it, and bloggers excited to read it. Instagram is filled with pictures of the cover–which, I agree, at first is stunning, but now just cuts every time I see it.

We didn’t think it could get worse, but last night an interview surfaced from VR on NPR. Here is a screenshot.

So not only is this book extremely racist, but it is ableist too! Horribly so. And STILL this book is being promoted. Money over People every damn day.

If you have never felt the pain of a chronic illness, I want you to listen closely to what I describe next. And then I want you to go to your Goodreads and take this horrid book off of your TBRs. Or put it on your DO NOT READ list. Stop putting this wretched book on your Instagram and your Twitter and Snapchat and Booktube. The POC and Spoonies don’t want to see it. We don’t want to read it. And the more marketing we give books like this, the more encouragement we give the publishing houses to continue to put out toxic work, instead of diverse, Own Voices stories that encourage and lift and properly represent.

So Veronica Roth, please, tell me how my chronic, debilitating migraines are a gift. Explain to me how I should be grateful for pain so bad it blinds me.

It’s pain so bad I cannot sleep or handle any light at all. All I want to do is scream but I can’t do that either because NOISE IS FORBIDDEN

It’s pure panic because OH MY GOD I AM GOING TO DIE MY HEAD IS LITERALLY GOING TO EXPLODE THIS TIME OH MY GOD PLEASE JUST MAKE IT STOP.

And then, OH AND THEN, when you try to explain it to some one they say “Oh, yeah, I get headaches a lot too. Just take an advil.”

So no. Being a Spoonie isn’t a GIFT. I don’t consider myself blessed to have chronic migraines.

I am, however, blessed to have good medical insurance, and a great support system. Many spoonies aren’t that lucky, and it’s about to get much much worse.

So you can go to hell with your book.

Fellow Spoonies, our pain is not a gift. But, WE ARE A GIFT. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU IS A GIFT. I love every single one of you.

 

I want to update this, since VR did an interview after last night’s criticisms came out. She spoke a bit, clarifying that her MC isn’t always strong, that she does rely on certain medical care and support systems in the book. However, she also blamed the interviewer and did not take full responsibility for what she said. If she truly has a chronic illness, then I am sorry that it came out when she didn’t want it to–but it feels a little defensive.

Either way, the interview does not resolve the problematic nature of the book. It is still harmful to those who suffer chronic pain and illness. And she did not address the racism at all, and that is a very real issue that many people are overlooking today. No matter how you slice it, Carve the Mark is an incredibly harmful book that should never have made it through publishing, no matter who the author is. Authors can write both good books and bad books. This one is a BAD BOOK, and people need to understand why. We cannot just follow authors blindly–they are not gods, they are mortal. Unless we have discussions like this, unless we take them off their pedestal, issues like racism and ableism will never be resolved.

 

For further reading:  Check out the #NotAGift hashtag on twitter. There are amazing people sharing amazing stories there. Please listen to them. Share them. We are going back to a healthcare system where Spoonies are going to lose their medical coverage. This is #NotAGift.

Week of Booklr: 2016 Wrap Up

Taylor is hosting an End of 2016 Week of Booklr, so I’ll be posting some fun “extra” blogs this week in addition to the two reviews I have scheduled!

I was going to wait until the very last day of the year to do this 2016 wrap up, so there will be more books added on to the Goodreads numbers and such, but it’s been a good year overall. I never would have predicted how 2016 could have gone. Really my only goals were to read more books on the Boxall list (I had read up to 100 at the beginning of the year, I’ve finished 18 more now. But more on that later this week), and to read 215 books on Goodreads.

I accomplished both of those goals with no problems, but what I did not expect was that my goals would change SO MUCH over the year. I no longer was paying attention to the number of books but WHAT I was reading. I started paying attention to the diversity of the characters in the books, and then the diversity of the authors. I’m also reading a lot more nonfiction too, I think in an effort to understand both my mental illnesses and the constantly changing world around me. I’ve taken on a brand new community and I’ve learned so much so quickly from my online neighbors.

2017 promises to be a completely new experience for my reading career. I’m both excited and nervous to get started. How different will the beginning be from the end?

For now, here is how the end of the year shook out, as of today:

Number Of Books You Read: 226
Number Of Pages Read: 74,068
Average Length: 335 pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.1

How was your 2016?

 

Lindsey Lee Johnson: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

A captivating debut novel for readers of Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You and Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth unleashes an unforgettable cast of characters into a realm known for its cruelty and peril: the American high school.

In an idyllic community of wealthy California families, new teacher Molly Nicoll becomes intrigued by the hidden lives of her privileged students. Unknown to Molly, a middle school tragedy in which they were all complicit continues to reverberate for her kids: Nick, the brilliant scam artist; Emma, the gifted dancer and party girl; Dave, the B student who strives to meet his parents expectations; Calista, the hippie outcast who hides her intelligence for reasons of her own. Theirs is a world in which every action may become public postable, shareable, indelible. With the rare talent that transforms teenage dramas into compelling and urgent fiction, Lindsey Lee Johnson makes vivid a modern adolescence lived in the gleam of the virtual, but rich with the sorrow, passion, and beauty of life in any time, and at any age.

I’ve had this book since September, sitting in my ARC queue. That’s a long time for me to have an ARC. So it’s been staring me in the face for awhile, but the publishing date was so far out, I had other priorities. I actually mistakenly scheduled 3 ARCs all for January 3rd…oops.

Hopefully, the other two only have the publishing date in common with The Most Dangerous Place on Earth.

I am assuming that the title refers to the nature of high school. Sometimes it can certainly seem like the most dangerous place on earth while you are there. However, the REAL most dangerous place on earth is simply the pages of this book.

Guys, this book is SO PROBLEMATIC that the only reason I finished it was so that I could warn you away from it. How problematic is it? Oh, just let me tell you (this is pretty gross, so skip if you’d prefer).

  1. The ONLY black person in the entire book is a sub-sub-sub character–Lance, the rehab counselor. He gets maybe two or three pages as in the background.
  2. Almost everyone is blonde. Not even kidding. I’m not even sure there are any redheads or brunettes in the whole book, because blondes are just THAT BEAUTIFUL. This is further solidified when the single (Dare I say token? It certainly seems that way.) POC MC, a Chinese boy is described as having “heavy lidded, almond eyes, sparse brows, and nose whose broadness made him a little less than beautiful.” Oh, and that scene gets worse because the description goes on to say “He was unremarkable. He had no diagnoses. No dyslexia or numerophobia or even ADHD, which at least would have earned him time-and-a-half on the SAT.” Yes, you read that correctly. HE WAS UPSET FOR NOT HAVING A LEARNING DISORDER TO GAIN CREDIT ON HIS SATs. 
  3. An English teacher apparently doesn’t like the students to use “they” pronouns because of vagueness, and so a student is trying to verify for his writing “How do you know whether to use ‘he’ or ‘she’?” The teacher’s response is: “Just look for the Adam’s apple.” Not only is this completely disgusting and harmful, it doesn’t even answer the question the student was asking. I almost put the book down here because I was so grossed out. But I made the decision to keep going so I could write up the full problematic review. I was afraid it would get worse. It did.
  4. At one point, we sing the latest OAR song while watching a father gaslight his son into fighting him–then faking injury and laughing when the boy is concerned.
  5. There’s an entire blog post devoted to slut shaming a passed out drunk girl–saying someone should rape her while she’s passed out, and that she deserves everything she gets.
  6. Lastly, there are too many weird adult/child sexual and/or romantic situations to count in this book. Some are explicit, some are just uncomfortable. 

I almost feel like the author tried to put as many problematic things in this book as possible to prove a point. Except the lack of diversity–I think that was just ignorance or obliviousness, or just something else entirely.

There are going to be a lot of people who like this book–in fact, there are already several positive reviews for it on Goodreads. The core story is interesting and the multi-POV structure would normally have been fun to read. Too bad it’s all just so gross.

Super problematic, guys. Put this on your shame list.

NetGalley and Random House provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Publish Date January 10.