Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Required Reading in Schools: WTF

Hello once again, everyone! I come to you bearing the gift of a bookish discussion :-)

Even when I was little, I was a bookworm. My parents made a point to buy me books, read me bedtime stories, and fill our house with reading material. I read faster than anyone I knew, devouring story after story and filling my head with characters and adventures that have stayed with me until this day. I read everything I could get my hands on.

(Check out those 90s fashions!)

However, I'm not going to lie - I almost always hated the books that I had to read for school. The Catcher in the Rye, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, and David Copperfield are a couple of the books I read during my time at school. Along with quite a lot of Shakespeare. I think it wasn't until my last year at high school that I read anything by a person of colour. And even then, it was only selected poems by Langston Hughes.

Obviously, a lot of my dislike for these books has to do with the fact that I had to read them, and I was examined on them. I think I would have got around to Dickens in my own time, and I recently saw a production of Lord of the Flies and found it fascinating. But torturously breaking down the metaphors in Animal Farm and then regurgitating them to my teacher was never my cup of tea. 

Also, looking back on it, there was a real lack of diversity, and books that would actually appeal to the class. I went to school in Bermuda - but we still only read books about old English people, or angsty American teenagers. (Which were, of course, almost always written by white men.) I really do wonder how the class would have reacted if the teachers rejected The Canon and chose a book that explored cultures more similar to our own. 

I understand that at a certain age, teachers have to focus on books that will allow their students to pass their exams. (I could rant about that too, but perhaps another time.) But before GCSEs or SATs, or other exams, why can't we have a little more diversity - and perhaps with it, a little more fun?

What did you read in school? I'd be really interested in hearing about your experiences!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Diverse March Releases

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - 2017 is an absolutely fantastic year for diverse releases. I had planned on talking about diverse releases in March, April, and May, but I soon realised that there were way too many important books that I would miss out!

Here are just a couple that I am personally excited about (and you should be too!)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: #ownvoices black woman, inspired by Black Lives Matter (released Feb 28th, but I had to have it on here)

Stranger than Fanfiction by Chris Colfer: #ownvoices gay MC, trans MC, POC MC

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco: Middle Eastern/Asian fantasy

Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen: MC with prosthetic arm, MC with anxiety


The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz: LGBT+

The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pachio: Latinx MC

The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig: #ownvoice mixed race MC, #ownvoice bipolar character (sequel to The Girl from Everywhere)

You're Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner: deaf MC, Indian MC, LGBT+

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton: based on Middle Eastern mythology (sequel to Rebel of the Sands)

Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg: LGBT+ MC (sequel to Openly Straight)

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See: Akha ethnic-minority MC

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid: POC MCs

Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik: autistic character, LGBT+ MC

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi: #ownvoice POC MC (sequel to The Star-Touched Queen)

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman: bisexual MC, biracial MC, demi character

White Tears by Hari Kunzru: this one is being difficult! It definitely talks about white privilege and forgotten black blues singers

Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly: deaf MC

The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace: mental health rep

The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi: #ownvoice POCs, hijabi Bangladeshi MC

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde: #ownvoices bisexual MC, #ownvoices anxiety rep, autistic MC, biracial MC

Amina's Voice by Hena Khan: Pakistani-American MC, #ownvoice Muslim MC

Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry: MC with Tourettes

Dead Little Mean Girl by Eva Darrows: #ownvoice bi characters

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner: anxiety and panic attack representation

Aaaaaand that's all for today! I'm sure I've missed out loads of fantastic diverse books being released in March - if you know of any more, or have any further information about any of these books, leave a comment! I want to read them all!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Boy Called Cin Review

On the search for a cup of coffee before the guest lecture he's giving, Tom spies a tired, half-frozen young man who looks even more need of coffee than him. On impulse, he buys the man a cup—but an attempt to strike up conversation ends in the young man walking off, seemingly put off by Tom Walford—the tabloids’ favourite billionaire—buying him coffee. But when he reappears in Tom's lecture, all Tom knows is that he doesn't want the man slipping away a second time.
Agreeing to dinner with a man he only knows from internet gossip columns isn't the wisest decision Cin's ever made, but he wants to like the infamous Tom Walford and he can't do that if he doesn't give the man a fair chance to be likeable. Which he is, almost frustratingly so, to the point Cin wishes maybe he hadn't been so fair because he never had any intention of getting attached to Tom, who seems to come from a world far too different from his own for anything between them to last. Little does Cin know, they’ve got a lot more in common than he imagines—including their shared discomfort with their assigned genders, and all the complications that go with it.
(Summary from goodreads)

A Boy Called Cin is a sweet trans romance by Cecil Wilde (an #ownvoices author).

Please note, I am cis. Here is a review by Inked Rainbow Reads - if you know of any other reviews by trans readers, please leave a comment, and I will include it here.

I thoroughly enjoyed A Boy Called Cin. It is definitely a romance before anything else. It almost feels like a fairytale - there is instant attraction between the two MCs, one of whom is a billionaire. Their banter soon turns into a summer together in a beautiful house, and then love. In short: this is definitely not the book to pick up if you want some gritty realism! If you're in the mood for fluffy romance, though, it is perfect.

It is more diverse than it seems - Cin is trans, Tom is bisexual and genderqueer, and Tom's sister Poppy is trans as well. This inclusive cast led to really good discussions of body dysmorphia, being genderqueer, and various trans experiences. The book also focuses a lot on the intimate side of Cin and Tom's relationship, and their search for body positivity, especially in the bedroom. I'll admit, I've not read many books that talk about this side of being trans, but I really enjoyed the focus on making sure that they both were comfortable and happy with the sex they were having.

The one potential issue I could see is that Tom funds Cin's transition. Because of the age difference between them (Tom is around 40, Cin is under 21), there could have easily been a problematic power dynamic within their relationship. However, I personally think that Wilde went about this in a really good way, as Tom makes it clear that he was helping Cin with his transition out of love, rather than any ulterior motive. Also, given their personalities - Cin is quite sarcastic and has no problems standing up for himself, while Tom is a tiny lovely marshmallow - this really didn't become an issue.

There are trigger warnings for Cin's family, who are transphobic. However, they do not play a large part in the story.

In all, I would definitely recommend A Boy Called Cin if you're interested in fluffy, LGBT+ romance!

Wilde has written quite a few other books, including a short story in Geek Out: A Collection of Trans and Genderqueer Romance, Tea and Werewolves, and Defying Convention. I'm going to check them out, how about you?

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Queens of Geek Review

When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.
Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Jason Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.
While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.
Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.
(Summary from goodreads).

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of Queens of Geek from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. These thoughts are all my own.

Simply put, Queens of Geek would have changed my life if I had read it at 14. It is intensely nerdy and funny and real. It so consciously talks about topics that affect young people everywhere. In this rather short book, Wilde manages to talk about slut-shaming, body consciousness, racism, sex, and a whole myriad of other topics. Internet fame and the sexism that is often part and parcel of being in a famous relationship are also heavily commented on.

The two protagonists, Charlie and Taylor, are magnificent. Charlie is Chinese-Australian and bisexual, and Taylor is fat and has anxiety and autism. I cannot comment on all of these representations, but I thought that the depictions of bisexuality and anxiety were magnificent. Taylor's anxiety was particularly well done. There's a great exploration into panic attacks and social anxiety, and how she uses fandom and her Tumblr account to help combat them. Anxiety is a central part of her experience of the world without becoming a part of her. I loved that.

I don't think I have ever read a book where I connected so closely to both of the main characters. The narration is split between the two, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed both strands of the story equally. I normally hate it when authors decide to have multiple narrators, so this was a really big thing for me! Their voices are distinct and their understanding of themselves and the world around them is complex - I can only give props to Wilde for her characters, as they really were the highlight of the book for me.

My one critique is that there is a bit of insta-love - if the book had been longer, this wouldn't have been a problem. However, my enjoyment of the book and the complexity of the characters were in no way affected by that. In all, I am so incredibly glad that I was given an opportunity to read this book. I will definitely be recommending it to YA fans of all ages.

Queens of Geek will be released on the 14th March 2017.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

World Book Day 2017

Hello everyone! I have very exciting news: World Book day is tomorrow! 

What is World Book Day? According to their website
Thanks to the generosity of National Book Tokens Ltd, publishers and booksellers, we can send millions of book vouchers to children and young people (some 15 million, in fact: that’s one for nearly every child aged under eighteen in the country). They can take their voucher to a local bookseller and can use it to pick one of TEN (exclusive, new and completely free) books. Or, if they’d rather, they can use it to get £1 off any book or audio book costing over £2.99 at a participating bookshop or book club (terms and conditions apply).
There are all sorts of ways to celebrate World Book Day: many schools allow children to dress up as their favourite book characters, and there are special events at libraries and bookshops. (I have very fond memories of dressing up as Enid Blyton's Naughtiest Girl in School!) You can look up if your local bookshop is celebrating by going here. Even more excitingly, this is the 20th anniversary of World Book Day! Here are the 2017 choices for the £1 books: 

I'm going to specifically talk about the middle grade and YA books (the last four).

Butterfly Beach by Jacqueline Wilson: this is a story specifically written for World Book Day, using the characters from The Butterfly Club. This looks kinda interesting, as it involves triplets.

Blob by David Walliams: A boy named Bob meets a blobfish called Blob. A classic David Walliams.

Island by David Almond: A coming-of-age story about a girl called Louise and a Syrian boy called Hassan. Finally, some diversity!

Dead of Night by Michael Grant: An alternative WW2 story, an American soldier is visited by the ghosts of wars past, present and future.

In terms of diversity, these books aren't much better than last year. It is also a bit of a pet peeve of mine that the authors are all well-known. I can understand why these authors were chosen - they will definitely sell - but it is such a shame that children aren't being exposed to lesser-known authors. Even a collaboration between well-known illustrators and lesser-known author would be better!

What do you think of the World Book Night choices? Are you doing anything to celebrate? Let me know!