Diversity Spotlight Thursday #2

Diversity Spotlight Thursday
Hosted by Aimal @ Bookshelves and Paperbacks

Read and Enjoyed: Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

Star-Crossed by Barbara DeeMattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.

Goodreads | Whoohoo,  I finally get to review this book! I had it on hold at the library for sometime before it was released March 14. I felt like I had to wait agggeeees for it to come in. I would have bought it at Chapters but they didn’t have it in store. Anyway. I was able to enjoy the entire book last Sunday while I was out at the lake.

What I love most about Star-Crossed is that it doesn’t complicate Mattie’s feeling. Mattie recently had a crush on a boy, and now she has a crush on a girl. Some of her friends try to comment on that (Can you like boys and girls? Is she gay now?) but Mattie avoids any attempt to label herself. She’s only in grade eight, and all she knows for now is that she has a crush on a girl (and that doesn’t mean she can’t have a crush on a boy). I imagine at that age, when you’re just figuring things out, it’s not necessary to come away with a concrete definition of your sexual or romantic identity.

Mattie does fret a little about what her classmates may think of her. She wonders that while hypothetically her classmates aren’t homophobic, how would they react around a real girl who likes another real girl? The overall arc of the story is less about Mattie coming to terms with her feelings (she likes girls and boys, she knows that) and more about Mattie making her own decisions. The people she comes out to don’t make a big deal about it and are supportive. I cheered for Mattie at the end, which I thought was a perfect conclusion.

The story also feels very realistic and grounded in how Mattie’s crush develops and how she interacts with her friends and classmates. I thought the development of her crush on Gemma in particular was very cute. I recognize myself going through similar motions when I was in middle school!

How Dee incorporated Shakespeare both through the class play and classroom lessons also really impressed me. I actually just saw a production of Romeo and Juliet a few weeks ago, so the play was fresh in my mind. I remember studying the play in high school. My classmates had many similar reactions as Mattie’s classmates. Dee makes Shakespeare intriguing and fun, showing that his work doesn’t have to be indecipherable for young people.

Further reading: Review by Danika @ The Lesbrary | “Please Don’t Talk About Your LGBTQ+ Book”: Barbara Dee on “Star-Crossed” and Her Recent School Visit Experience (interview @ SLJ)

 Released but Not Yet Read: The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu

The People of Forever ARe Not AfraidYael, Avishag, and Lea grow up together in a tiny, dusty Israeli village, attending a high school made up of caravan classrooms, passing notes to each other to alleviate the universal boredom of teenage life. When they are conscripted into the army, their lives change in unpredictable ways, influencing the women they become and the friendship that they struggle to sustain. Yael trains marksmen and flirts with boys. Avishag stands guard, watching refugees throw themselves at barbed-wire fences. Lea, posted at a checkpoint, imagines the stories behind the familiar faces that pass by her day after day. They gossip about boys and whisper of an ever more violent world just beyond view. They drill, constantly, for a moment that may never come. They live inside that single, intense second just before danger erupts.

Goodreads | This book has been on my TBR for a veery long time (#78 out of 718). I don’t think I’ve read any novels set in Israel. This own voices book sounds like an intense read.

Not Yet Released: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Girls Made of Snow and GlassAt sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

Goodreads | This one popped up in my GoodReads feed just the other day. Sounds like a retelling I can get behind! It’s not clear from the description, but reviewers have been mentioning a relationship between two girls. Look for it on September 5.

What books would you select for Diversity Spotlight Thursday? Leave a link in the comment if you’ve already written about it!
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Read Diverse 2017
This post counts towards the Read Diverse 2017 reviewing challenge!

Top 10 Tuesday: Recent Middle Grade Fantasy/ Speculative Fiction TBRs

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Middle grade fantasy is supposedly one of my favourite genres, yet it’s one I don’t seem to get around to reading very often! That genre’s the theme of this list, though I’ve decided to add the term ‘speculative fiction’ here so I include a few books that aren’t quite traditional fantasy. (Last summer I wrote a blog on my understanding of the term spec fic.) Links to GoodReads, followed by a brief note on what about the book appeals to me.

Bone Jack A Single Stone The Painting Prisoner of ice and Snow In Darkling Wood

  1. The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste – Caribbean folklore
  2. The Whipser in the Stone by Kamilla Benko – unicorns
  3. In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll – a wood with secrets
  4. Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren – “fantasy that’s equal parts Prison Break and Frozen” (via GoodReads)
  5. The Painting by Charis Cotter – ghosts and friendship
  6. A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay – mountain mines with a sinister backstory
  7. Bone Jack by Sara Crowe – dark Celtic myths (via Charlotte’s Library)
  8. The Doll’s Eye by Marina Cohen – creepy house and spooky dolls
  9. The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente – Valente wrote it
  10. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis – dragon loves chocolate

The Whisper in the Stone The Jumbies The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart The doll's Eye The Glass Town Game

From which genre have you added the most books to your TBR lately? Are any of these books on your list?

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Diversity Spotlight Thursday #1

Diversity Spotlight Thursday
Hosted by Aimal @ Bookshelves and Paperbacks

Finally, I’ve written a Diversity Spotlight Thursday post! The purpose of this meme is to share three diverse books: One you’ve read and enjoyed, one release that you haven’t yet read, and one that hasn’t yet been released. I actually enjoy reading this meme on other blogs. It’s a great way to promote diverse books and find new ones to add to the TBR. (I haven’t seen many posts about this lately so I’m not sure it’s a still a thing?? I like the idea anyway, haha.)

Read and Enjoyed: Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Amina's Voice

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.

Goodreads | I’m also participating in the 2017 Diverse Reads Challenge, which has a theme for each month. I somehow mixed up April and May’s themes, which meant I read Amina’s Voice in April. (I had selected it to keep with May’s themes of ‘religious diversity’.)

I’m going to talk about this book from my personal perspective, a White girl who attended church as a kid. (I think this book would be a great read for Pakistani-American kids, but that’s not really my case to make.) Many of my friends also attended Sunday school. I didn’t know anyone who was particularly zealous about it. For most of us, it was just something we did. In Amina’s Voice, going to a mosque, participating in a religious community, etc. are everyday activities – ones that won’t seem so ‘foreign’ for church going kids.

Some of Amina’s problems come from those activities (she has to participate in a Qu’ran recitation competition but she has severe stage fright), but she worries about her friendships as much as you would except a middle grader to. The relationships Amina has with her friends and family felt very realistic. Her parents are positive figures in her life. In particular, I appreciated the missteps and assumptions she made about her friendships with Soojin and Emily. There is a lot for readers to connect with in this book, whether in the joys and trials Amina finds in her religion or in her relationships with friends and family.

The book that I should have read in April (mental health) but am going to read this month instead is…

Released but Not Yet Read: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.

Goodreads | More Happy Than NotTwitter brought Adam Silvera to my attention. I decided to give him a go for the Diverse Reads challenge, as I likely wouldn’t pick up his books otherwise (I’m not big on contemporary YA). I have heard a lot about his new release, History is All You Left Me, but MHTN’s premise appeals to me more. I always forget about that little scifi bit at the end – I’m definitely curious as to how it plays out.

Not Yet Released: the Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

The Library of FatesNo one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.

The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Goodreads | That gorgeous cover and library reference in the title convinced me to add this to my TBR without even knowing what it is about. Look for it on July 18.

This post focuses all on 2017 releases. I hope to highlight more backlist diverse books in future posts. What books would you select for Diversity Spotlight Thursday? Leave a link in the comment if you’ve already written about it!
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Read Diverse 2017
This post counts towards the Read Diverse 2017 reviewing challenge!

Top 10 Tuesday: 2016 Releases I Didn’t Get To

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I have historically been slow to read ‘new’ releases. I find there can anywhere from one to three years between me adding a yet-to-be-published book to my TBR, and actually getting around to reading it. One of my general priorities this year is to read more front list titles. 2016 gave us a lot of great releases that I have heard so much about, but still haven’t read. Here are 10 2016 releases I want to catch up on this year (links to Goodreads).

If I Was Your GirlEvery Heart a DoorwayThe Charmed Children of Rookskill CastleThe Girl From Everywhere

  1. The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert (5 Jan)
  2. The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (16 Feb)
  3. The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox (15 Mar)
  4. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan Mcguire (5 Apr)
  5. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (3 May)
  6. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (31 May) – currently borrowing from the library
  7. The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville (9 Aug)
  8. The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman (13 Sept) – currently borrowing from the library
  9. When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (4 Oct) – won a copy from Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf
  10. When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin (4 Oct) – currently borrowing from the library

When the Sea Turned to SilverWhen the Moon Was OursThe Evil Wizard Smallbonethe last days of new parisBefore the Fall

Have you read any of these books? What books from 2016 do you still want to read?

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End of Year Book Survey

2016 End of Year Book SurveyHosted by Jamie @ Perpetual Page Turner, I like how this survey delves into the specifics of books read. I did remove some of the questions that don’t apply to me, so be sure to visit the original post if you’d like to complete the survey. My annual overview will go live on January 2nd as I want to wait until the Cybils shortlist is announced.

2016 Reading Stats

    • Number of books read – 114. I smashed through my goal of 84 (largely due to my role as Cybils round one panelist). I’ve also never read 100+ books in a year. So proud of myself~
    • Number of re-reads – 5 (White is for Witching, A Darker Shade of Magic, Charlotte’s Web, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, The Lost Flower Children)
    • Genre you read the most from – I don’t keep track by genre, so here’s the middle grade/young adult/adult/non-fiction split: 56 (49%) MG, 12 (11%) young adult, 27 (24%) adult, 19 (17%) non-fiction. I read more non-fiction than I thought, and less ‘adult’ than I had initially planned.

Best in Books

    • Best books read in 2016 – Last year I broke this down by genre. This year I’m just going to pick a bunch 😛
      1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik (fantasy)
      2. The Witches of New York by Ami McKay (magical realism/historical fiction)
      3. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (middle grade fantasy)
      4. George by Alex Gino (middle grade contemporary)
      5. What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi (short stories)
      6. Solving the Procrastination Puzzle by Timothy Pychyl (non-fiction)
      7. The North Water by Ian McGuire (historical fiction)
      8. The Ice Master by Jennifer Niven (non-fiction)
    • Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t – The Shadow of the Wind. Totally fell flat for me. Wasn’t really what I was expecting/hoping for.
    • Most surprising book read –  I enjoyed Allie, First at Last, a lot more than I expected (nominee for the Cybils middle grade fiction).
    • Favourite author discoveredKelly Barnhill. Looking forward to more of her middle grade fantasy!
    • Best book from a genre you don’t typically readThe North Water
      is from a genre that I sometimes enjoy (historical fiction) but it was hyper-masculine, which is not something I typically look for in my books.
    • Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable bookScythe is the newest release from Neal Shusterman, one of my favourite authors. There’s something about his prose that makes me want to blaze through his work.
    • Most likely to reread next yearUprooted by Naomi Novik
    • Favourite cover – I read a lot of books with great covers this year. My instinct answers The North Water, The Witches of New York, and Two Naomis.
      Cover of The Witches of New YorkCover of Two Naomis
    • Most memorable character – Eleanor St. Clair from The Witches of New York. I love all the ladies in this book, but Eleanor struck me as someone I would connect with.
    • Most beautifully written – I can actually think of a few different books that could be described as beautifully written this year. The girl Who Drank the Moon probably tops the list.
    • Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read – I started The Silmarillion…
    • Shortest bookFantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl (96 pages)
    • Longest bookThe LotR aside, A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab (509 pages)
    • Most shocking bookThe North Water for its graphic descriptions
    • OTP of the year (you will go down with this ship!) – Don’t really have one this year. Perhaps Adelaide and Dr. Brody in The Witches of New York.
    • Favourite non-romantic relationship – Also have to go with The Witches of New York for the camraderie between Adelaide, Eleanor, and Beatrice.
    • Favourite book read by an author you read previouslyWhat Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
    • Best book read based solely on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure –  The Girl Who Drank the Moon. I believe I read this after reading Briana’s review.
    • Newest fictional crush – Dr. Brody from The Witches of New York. What a gentleman! *-*
      Best 2016 debut  A Song to Take the World Apart by Zan Romanoff (I think it’s the only 2016 debut I read…)
    • Best world-buildingScythe. I always enjoy how Neal Shusterman works world-building into his novel, especially how he modifies language.
    • Most fun to read Insert Coin to Continue by John David Anderson. Boy wakes up one day to find his life now resembles a video game.
    • Book that made you cry – Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by, coincidentally, John David Anderson. That epilogue!!
    • Hidden gem – Based on a low number of Goodreads ratings (110), The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw

      Your Bookish Life

    • New favourite book blog discovered – I will pick the one that was mostly recently updated at the time of drafting this post and go with Les Reveries de Rowena.
    • Favourite review on your blogThe Evolution of Alice by David Robertson
    • Best event that you participated in (real or virtual) – Attending bookish panels at NerdCon: Stories, including one on mental health in YA literature.
    • Best moment of bookish/blogging life – How about meeting picture book illustrator/author Jon Klassen with my best friend of the same name? That was an excellent moment.

    • Most challenging thing about blogging/reading life – Maintaining a regular blogging schedule when the rest of my life doesn’t have a regular schedule.
    • Post you wished got a little more love6 Books on Dying in Modern Times
    • Completion of challenges/goals – Well. Nevermind that haha. (More on completion of goals in my January 2 post).

Looking Ahead

  • Book you are most anticipating (debut)The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Book you are most anticipating (sequel) A Conjuring of Light (ADSOM conclusion) by V.E. Schwab
  • One book you didn’t get to in 2016 but will make a priority in 2017 – Don’t want to break with tradition, so I have to say  Tolkien on Fairy Stories 
  • Book you are most anticipating (non-debut)Borne by Jeff Vandermeer
  • One goal for your reading/blogging life –I’ll post more about goals in a couple days, but I would love to read 100+ again next year.
  • 2017 release you’ve read and recommend – I have three ARCs of 2017 releases that I haven’t read yet…I’m most looking forward to Minds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin.

And that’s a wrap on 2016! I finished off the reading year with White is for Witching, my favourite book. Now I’m off to a New Year’s Eve dinner and party. See you all on the other side 🙂

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