Diversity Spotlight Thursday #1

Diversity Spotlight Thursday
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Finally, I’ve written a post Diversity Spotlight Thursday! 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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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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7 Books to Look Forward To in 2017

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The prompt for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday is “books I’m looking forward to in the first half of 2017.” I don’t go searching for books that haven’t yet been released. My TBR is long enough as it! A book usually makes it onto my list if it’s received positive buzz from a blogger whose tastes match mine, or if it’s an upcoming release from a favourite author. Turns out I have seven books from 2017 on my TBR. Coincidentally, they’ll all be released in the first half of the year. 🙂

Top 10 Tesday 2017 releases - cover images

  1. Minds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin (Feb. 4) – Historical fiction surrounding the emergence today of artifacts from Sir John Franklin’s 1845 voyage (the one where everyone died and the ship was lost until a couple years ago).
  2. A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab (Feb. 21) – Conclusion to the Shades of Magic trilogy. I can’t believe we’re already at the end!! Feels just like yesterday that I was enchanted by A Darker Shade of Magic.
  3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Feb. 28) – If you read about books online, you’ve probably heard of this one. YA own voices novel inspired by Black Lives Matter.
  4. Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan (Mar 14) – Middle grade own voices novel about a Pakistani-American Muslim.
  5. Triangle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (Mar. 28) – Picture book by one of my favourite author/illustrator teams.
  6. Borne by Jeff VanderMeer (May 2) – Scifi. Sounds like an excellent follow up to the Southern Reach trilogy.
  7. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee  (Jun. 20) – I love these kind of covers… Best to just copy the description for this one: “An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.” I’m not really a romance person but this sounds like fun.

Are any of these books on your TBR? What 2017 releases are you looking forward to?
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Top 10 Tuesday: Books I’d Purchase Now If I Had An Unlimited Giftcard

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  Books I’d Buy Right This Second If Someone Handed Me a Fully Loaded Gift Card

I amended today’s topic because I thought it was wee bit long for a post title 😛 My list today focuses on books related to Tolkien and his works. I don’t usually purchase books without reading them first, which means this list would probably be full of books I’ve already read…that’s no fun! However, that rule doesn’t apply to books from my Tolkien shelf. I usually buy a book from that shelf when I run into some extra cash for books.

  1. A Secret Vice by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins –  Currently reading a copy borrowed from the library. A must have for my own library.
  2. The Hobbit First Edition Facsimile by J.R.R. Tolkien – Including just this one preorder. I only heard of it yesterday and I must have it for my little collection! I often wondered if this would ever be published. 
  3. The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien – I think this is a staple for any Tolkien library…
  4. Aragorn: The Undervalued Hero by Angela P. Nichols – I’d like to read this book but it’s not in any of the libraries I have access to. I haven’t seen much commentary about it so I’m not sure how good it actually is. But, Aragorn is a fascinating character and I’d love to read an in-depth exploration of a Tolkien character.
  5. The Power of Tolkien’s Prose by Steven Walker – This one has been languishing on my wishlist for ages because it’s $120. I did a quick Google search to see if the price has gone down and I found the ebook for $25. Much better!
  6. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles IV: Cloaks and Daggers by Daniel Falconer – I have all the other Hobbit movie chronicles. Somehow I haven’t been able to get a hold of this one. Although there are things I dislike about the trilogy, I appreciate the creative work that went into everything. I love the seeing the designs develop and reading commentary from people who worked on the films. 
  7. The Keys of Middle-Earth: Discovering Medieval Literature Through the Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien by Stuart Lee and Elizabeth Solopova – Something I’d like to do down the road is explore the medieval texts that influenced Tolkien. This book looks like a good start.
  8. Tolkien and the Study of His Sources edited by Jason Fisher – Similar to above.
  9. Tolkien: The Forest and the City edited by Helen Conrad-O’Brian and Gerard Hynes – This collection tackles a unique topic that I’m not quite sure how to summarize here. Here’s the description:
    • Despite the popular and scholarly association of J.R.R. Tolkien with the natural world and literary world-building, Middle-earth as a landscape and a built environment has been relatively neglected as the background, the foreground, and the actor in his texts. This study presents new work by some of the finest scholars in Tolkien studies, as well as research from a number of emerging scholars, addressing this lacuna. The permeable interface between nature and culture, creation and sub-creation, within Tolkien’s world is of absolute importance to our understanding of Tolkien’s larger point in writing. From deforestation to the shape of a window, from Sam’s cooking gear to the origins of the party tree, this book surveys a world written to distill and intensify the realities of our own.
  10. The First World War by John Keegan – Bonus book from my Tolkien-secondary shelf. These are books that aren’t directly connected to Tolkien, but may provide useful context for his writing. I’m interested in learning about WWI to better understand its affect on Tolkien and influence on his writing. 

 What books would you buy this instant if money wasn’t a question?