Something Borrowed + Something New: January 2016

Obsessed

Now, it’s called Something Borrowed + Something New because I’m an active book borrower and I occasionally buy bookish items. So each month what I’ll so is share either a bookish selfie or discuss something bookish that I’ve borrowed and bought! It won’t always be a book, it might be a cool bookmark I bought or a cheap little tote. I have more shots of books + my British travels on my Instagram.

Something Borrowed + Something New: January 2016

 IMG_20160123_110937 IMG_20160201_160848

Borrowed

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson  ★★★★☆

Oh I am so glad that I found this at my local library! I’d been meaning to check it out for some time but it never clicked to actually dig and find it. When I went looking for Nikki’s book club pick for February 2016 I stumbled on it and kept it. I read it in an hour and pretty much fell in love. I love the characters, every single one, the baddies, the goodies, the appear goodies but actually are baddies.

All in all I’d recommend that everyone give this graphic novel a chance. It’s well drawn, in comfortable non-perfectionist sort of way. The actual dialogue is also quite good, you really get to know the characters and develop real connections to them! This connection made me cry out at certain points and get really nervous when the tension built up. My only quip, and reason why I never gave it a 5 is because there were a few plot holes that I hope/wished would have been filled in. The hope part was mostly that there’d be a Nimona 2 but I really doubt that there will be one. Booo!

New

Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

So my new room- I’m so excited about it! So very excited. I’ve told myself that I can only purchase 1 book a month max and I got one for New Years, the full edition of the Lord of the Rings. While I am very excited to own this giant red book, it is 1,000 pages plus and super heavy lift up. What does this mean for me? Black eyes. It means many black eyes. I read laying down in bed without my glasses so while I’m holding this high, if something slips, oops it goes into my eye!

NameClaire

Posted in Book Reviews, Obsessed | 1 Comment

Review :: Josephine

A review of Patricia Hruby Powell’s Josephine

SUMMARY

Josephine“In exuberant verse and stirring pictures, Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson create an extraordinary portrait of the passionate performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker, the woman who worked her way from the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world. Meticulously researched by both author and artist, Josephine’s powerful story of struggle and triumph is an inspiration and a spectacle, just like the legend herself.

• • •

I like that this book touches on (if very, very lightly) Josephine’s many different adventures and not just her entertainment career. It might have been fun to have less words from the author about the journey of the book’s research and more illustrations and story about Josephine, but I did appreciate the author’s notes too. Baker seemed like such and interesting person andI’m glad that now kids at least have this basic introduction to her glitzy, troubled, passionate world. References of source material for the story and Josephine’s quotations are provided at the back of the book for those who want to dig a little deeper into Josephine’s life.

jo_spread
I read the ebook and I don’t think it was a particularly good copy. It was hard to see the effect of the beautiful illustrations which were formatted awkwardly (and smaller than seemed intentional) on the screen so I’d really love to get my hands on the hardcopy.
Addendum: I now own the hardcopy and it is indeed lovely. The illustrations are full sized so you can fully appreciate their simultaneous simplicity and lushness.

josephine2
That’s part of why I’m giving this 3 stars instead of 4 despite all its charm. But, more importantly, I felt like it was difficult figuring out who the audience was meant to be. And, actually, I still don’t really know. Young kids who have a parent read it to them (and explain everything)? Older kids who can read on their own? Adults? The subject matter seemed above young kids, but the simple language seemed like it might bore slightly older kids who would be able to fully appreciate the content. So then I thought it might actually be adults this is aimed at who can appreciate the meaning and the charm of the simplicity of Powell’s poetry.

josephine3

Notwithstanding this mild confusion of voice/audience, I really enjoyed this book. It is definitely the sort of thing you can look back through several times and it would make such a lovely gift. It doesn’t just tramp the same old ground reciting well-known facts and not much else. It touches on her big break, her time as a stunt pilot (which I knew absolutely nothing about!), her “Rainbow Tribe”, her generosity and lavish lifestyle which saw her fall into hard times and so on.

Christian Robinson’s illustrations are so lovely. They pay homage to illustration of an older time in and reimagine it in a more inclusive, sweeter way. He makes me want to pick up Gaston and Leo: A Ghost Story next just to see more of his work.


josephine4

 

rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5 stars)
genre: illustrated biography
publisher: Chronicle Books
source: Waterstones
date read: 13 October 2015
recommend for: those looking for an intro to Josephine Baker, illustration lovers
pros: fun, beautiful naive illustrations, light introduction/overview of her life
cons: uncertain voice/audience


 

Nikki

Posted in Book Reviews, NonFiction, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Claire x Nikki Review January 2016

BitchinRundownClaire x Nikki Mash Ups

Bitches Book Club Review: The Woman Warrior
Claire x Nikki Review December 2015
Bookish New Years Resolutions 2016
Bitches Book Club
Discussion: What does diversity mean to you?
Bitches Book Club Review: Lagoon

We were totally on FIRE this month! Woop woop!

Claire: Oh my goodness we were, HOW?

Divider

Nikki

Pinch! Punch! First of the month! (Well..first month of the year..whatever.)

OK! So I didn’t actually realise until I came to do this post, but this month was pretty freaking great for me with reading women. I’ve read 10 books (already pretty impressive for me) and ALL of them have been by women! Unheard of! And they’ve all been pretty different from each other and most have been pretty enjoyable.

Posts

Fiction in Non-Fiction
Physical TBR & Double Happiness Twins
Let’s try this again…

Books Read (let me know if you want a review of any of these!)

The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston ★★☆☆☆
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly: A Novel by Sun-mi Hwang ★★★☆☆
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson ★★★★☆
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Harry Potter #1) by JK Rowling ★★★☆☆
Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor ★★☆☆☆
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson ★★★★☆
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor ★★☆☆☆
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2) by JK Rowling ★★★☆☆
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 2: Generation Why by G Willow Wilson ★★★☆☆
The Moomins and the Great Flood (The Moomins, #1) by Tove Jansson ★★★★☆

Book of the Month

16169056

Miscellaneous Favourites:

Podcast:
Bitch Media’s feminist podcast POPAGANDA has been in my ears for the past few weeks and I just can’t get enough! I want to share every episode. I want the hosts to be my best friends. It’s just so so great. It is my PERFECT podcast. And I want to shout it from the rooftops. It eclipses all the other podcasts I listen to in its greatness and I don’t want to run out of episodes but I’ve gone so far into the archive, I’m in 2014 now!
Long story short: just give it a listen.

Music:
So Popaganda is introducing me to a lot of new content too and one of the new music artists I’ve come across are this duo (twins actually).

 

Divider

Claire

January was a crazy and almost hellish month for me, it really was. It’s just cause of work, I had a lot of work to do and a lot of stuff I need (but no ££ to get it all!). To paint a picture, I’d get to work for 8:30/9AM and leave earliest, 8PM every day. I spent Tuesday night working from home till 12:30AM so that day I worked a 15 hr shift. Yay! But I really do like the job so it was busy and I had a couple of breakdowns but I enjoyed it in the end. I gave my first client meeting and I didn’t suck! I stammered and shook but it went OK. I was so happy! But can we just talk about how many books Nikki read? Slow reader my butt!

IMG_20160104_213921 IMG_20160123_234628 IMG_20160127_220103 IMG_20160104_213818

In fun news, it took 2 whole darn months but my Harry Potter and Sailor Moon sweaters came! I’m also moving and that’s a shot of 3 bags just stuffed with books!

Posts

Bookish New Years Resolutions 2016
Claire’s 2015 In Review
8 SFF Releases I Can’t Wait For in 2016

Books Read

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins ★★☆☆☆
The Man in the High Castle by Philip Dick ★☆☆☆☆
Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor ★★☆☆☆
This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki ★★★★☆
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson ★★★★☆
The Just Bento Cookbook by Makiko Itoh ★★★★★
Throne of Jade (Temeraire #2) by Naomi Novik ★★★★☆

Book of the Month

Favies

IMG-20160125-WA0006

This widdle guy is getting a shout out! Long live Barney! He’s fine, don’t worry but I spent Christmas with him and when I feel lonely I just have to look at a picture of him and I’m fine.Divider

How was your January?

The Bitchin’ Book Club pick for February 2016 is from Nikki and she chose:

25074849Feel free to read along with us!

NameNikkixClaire

Posted in Bitchin' Rundown | Leave a comment

Bitches Book Club Review: Lagoon

The Book Club:

“At the end of May I was feeling sort of “meh” about the Goodreads book clubs I’m part of. No offence meant to them at all! I like them. But they’re just so BIG that the books I’m particularly interested in don’t often (read: ever?) get picked and there doesn’t feel like there’s enough incentive to take part sometimes. I wanted something that was smaller so, even if I’m not super jazzed about every single book, I feel motivated to read each one because I knew the other member(s) of the book club are reading too and because of the discussion that will ensue.

SO, of course, I voice messaged Claire about it and we decided on a book within the hour!

How it works is that one of us will pick the book one month and the other will pick the book for the next month.”

This month was Claire’s choice: Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

DividerBook: Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton, 2014
Genre: Science Fiction

Summary:When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself. Lagoon expertly juggles multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives with prose that is at once propulsive and poetic, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.
More Information: GoodReads

Nikki’s Thoughts & Rating:

Apparently this book was initially Okorafor’s (annoyed) response to District 9. I wish she had gone into more detail about that annoyance because I thought District 9 was a really great film and I don’t think Lagoon lives up to that standard. I inferred that her issue with District 9 was its failure to feature black people in a film set in Africa which I think is completely valid criticism. It’s a shame. Charlto Copley is a brilliant actor, but there was a missed opportunity for diversity there. Anyway, I digress…

So I’m glad I didn’t know that until the end of the book because the bar would have been set so high as to have been impossible to even see. I was unsure about the first chapter, but found its ‘reveal’ interesting. And the three chapters from animal perspectives were actually my favourite parts of the book and the parts that I felt were the most successful part of this book. If I could just read a short story collection of those where each of them was just a little bit longer, I would have been happy. To elaborate on them a little bit, one of the stories is from a bat’s perspective and the bat becomes ‘enlightened’ in a moment and is opened to a whole new world, just before her life is extinguished in an equally quick moment. The perpetrators of the fatal act are unwitting characters from our main story.

I also liked the inclusion of a cross-dressing character whose dilemma is straddling the two different worlds of his homophobic friends who don’t know that he likes to wear women’s clothing and his LGBT friends who are very flamboyant and who have a much more established feelings about their identities and activism. It was a shame, I thought, that this storyline seemed to amount to nothing and I felt it, too, could have been its own story with nothing to do with SFF at all.

Those little windows into unfinished stories were glimmers of real enjoyment and were the most interesting parts of the story to me. Sadly, the criticism I have far outweighed these lovely vignettes. I don’t think there was any part of the sci-fi elements that really worked for me here and the overall story just seemed to run away with itself. It certainly didn’t feel like a controlled unravelling of civilisation so much as sudden lose of control on what was going on. The writing felt very different—less solid—to me than what I’d read in her previous book, Akata Witch which was a really fun, middle-grade fantasy story (and one that I would recommend).

At times I found myself laughing at how silly it all was. And at other times, I found myself a bit unsure about what seemed like slut-shaming language. The characters were stiff and two-dimensional. There were the “good” ones and “bad” ones, there was the idiot, abusive husband and there were ones who could have been more complex but then weren’t. And they just all felt pretty simple to me even after I heard their backstories. Actually, maybe especially after I heard their backstories. I think the most interesting character was the cross-dressing boy and his relationship to his best friend since childhood could have been interesting had it been developed. The messages of environmentalism (which I care about) and accepting others who are different (which I care about) and the anti-religious sentiments (which I get) were really beating a dead horse…over and over and over. Overall, I’d describe the writing as heavy-handed and clunky.

I still believe Nnedi Okorafor is an author I’d like to keep an eye on because it still seems unusual to see African authors in the SFF game and I feel like there are so many cool things that could be done in that arena. I like her enthusiasm and little ideas that come up in her work. I’m still glad I read it, but this book did not hit the mark.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Nikki’s favourite line:

“At this moment, she is the only bat on earth seeing the stars in the sky. But she doesn’t know what those are either. Her echolocation will never reach that far.”

DividerClaire’s Thoughts & Rating:

I will preface this that Nikki is very annoyed with me. I’ve been slacking but to my defense, I had a major client project due today so I didn’t stand up to my blogging duties.

I will say this about Lagoon, I was a bit disappointed to be honest. I wanted to like this book from the start and I did with initial animal perspective (also my favorite parts of the book) but ultimately I was left feeling a bit underwhelmed. Believe me, it’s a good book but I think it just isn’t my thing, mostly because I’m not a big science fiction fan and less so a fan of reading about aliens. But this is my fault and part of my preferences and issues and does not reflect on the quality of the book itself.

I will say this, I loved that it was set in Nigeria and the cultural perspective was absolutely fascinating. My favorite quote for this book is spot on, because I also feel that is applicable to the Caribbean. It was so nuanced and the perspectives were fascinating! From the religious fear to personal upheaval, no part was untouched and really exams the different parts of the culture I think. I just wish it didn’t have to be with aliens, meh. I actually would recommend this book, especially for Sci-Fi fans that want a non-western perspective on the genre (one of my biggest gripes!) and I’m actually really motivated to read Akata Witch by the same author because it’s an African fantasy novel which is more my speed I believe. So, go, read this book! And let me know how you find it.

I think I’m just not able to choose good books for people because have we all not noticed that my choices are the meh choices?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Claire’s favourite line:

“Adaora was beginning to see why Ayodele’s people had chosen the city of Lagos. If they’d landed in New York, Tokyo or London, the governments of these places would have quickly swooped to hide, isolate and study the aliens. Here in Lagos, there was no such order.”

Divider

This month we have Anna from One More joining us in the book club! 

Anna’s Thoughts & Rating:

I… really wanted to like this book. A lot. The basic premise – first contact in Lagos by aliens with transformative powers – is a corker, and we see the immediate impact of their influence from the unexpected and delightful perspective of the local sea life. It’s intriguing and threatening (turns out fish hate us. Who would’ve guessed?) – and it’s wide open for interesting developments: anything is possible.

Our principal characters are great at first glance. The humans: Adaora, the marine biologist whose marriage is foundering since her husband became born-again and decided she was a witch; Agu, badly beaten for trying to stop fellow soldiers committing rape; and Anthony, the rapper whose empathy seems at odds with his manic celebrity.

And alien ambassador Ayodele is fabulous. Alongside the Bone Collector (a sentient, man-eating strip of tarmac), she’s probably my favourite person in the book. She can change shape, read minds and dispense wisdom like a better-spoken Yoda. She’s confrontational but cool-headed, so when she flips out over how badly humanity reacts to her presence and turns herself into a small animal to sulk for a while, I didn’t really know what to make of it. That said, she’s towers over the second half of the novel – I loved her story arc, and the lengths to which she was willing to go to achieve her aims.

Unfortunately, my love affair stopped there. As with Binti, I struggled with the prose, finding it sparse rather than elegant, and painfully explicit in spelling out what people were thinking and doing. I wondered at one point whether it would work better read aloud (I think so, but that’s not how I read), or whether it would work better for a younger audience (possibly). Regardless, I found it awkward and it kept me at arm’s length.

Unlike Binti, the story is much less focused, and ended up feeling like an unholy mess. The POV bounced (briefly) to a number of other characters around the city. This served to introduce new perspectives and themes – first contact galvanises a local LGBT group to come out of the closet; some youths plot to kidnap Ayodele in search of a quick buck; a sex worker has a religious epiphany; and, and, and (and that’s part of the problem. So many threads).

While the subplots had merit (or could have done – I’ll come back to this), I seem to be ranting a lot recently about how much this sort of POV-swapping annoys me, and it’s no exception here. I love that the book presented a cross-section of different (and perhaps unexpected) characters, but I’d have preferred to see it through fewer eyes – not least because most characters ending up feeling like one-dimensional archetypes. It wasn’t sufficient for a character to be unpleasant – they’re over the top. No room for nuance here.

Too many of these subplots evaporated, despite the characters being tightly interconnected. For example: Agu is beaten for trying to prevent a rape; one of the would-be kidnappers heads off with a machete to do Agu harm after he’s (mistakenly) recognised as ‘one of the soldiers who raped his cousin’… after which the kidnapper is never seen again. It’s almost as though the story is overwhelmed by all the details it takes on; having thrown everything in the kitchen sink, the cutlery gets lost in the suds. While the ending theoretically wraps it all up (in a non-specific ‘it’s all fixed now’ kind of way), there’s no explicit closure for most of them. This might be more realistic, but it doesn’t help the narrative. Worse, the constant distractions make the pace of the main thread uneven.

On another front, an out-of-the-blue attack of insta-love buzzed another of my least favourite tropes. Whilst one of the characters involved did show some immediate horror and regret – what am I doing? – by the end of the novel, their relationship seems to be a given. I tried hard to swallow this as one more way that the aliens were changing everything and everyone they came in contact with, but… I really hate this trope. I don’t like making excuses for it.

Ayodele aside, I also didn’t love the climax – the arc around superpowers didn’t really add anything beyond a convenient ‘get us out of dodge’ card in the face of rampaging sea monsters; and the President has to be the least Presidential fictional President since Gaius Baltar. Only with fewer interesting character defects.

So in the end, the book gets a measly 2 stars from me. It was nearly a DNF – I soldiered through because the ideas were intriguing and there were moments of grace.

For those who choose to read it: there’s a Pidgin glossary at the end, which you may find useful. I didn’t find it until I’d finished the novel, which made certain chapters practically incomprehensible.

Show Anna some love and visit One More!

Anna’s favourite line:

“She had experienced so much humanity in so little time.”

Divider

Have you read this book yet?

If you have, what did you think? If you haven’t, do you want to?

February’s Book Club choice is Nikki’s and she chose…

Feel free to read along with us! :)

NameNikkixClaire

Posted in Book Reviews, International, SFF | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Let’s try this again…

If you know me, you’ll know I don’t really reread anything. There are a few reasons for this and it’s not really about not having the time… Since deciding to tackle the Harry Potter series for a second time (with an aim to actually finishing it this time!), I started thinking even more about books I would be interested in giving a second shot and most of them are not to relive any previous enjoyment. Quite the opposite actually.


The Bloody Chamber

I read this a month or so after finishing uni and I really disliked it. It didn’t look like feminism to me ad the language was frustrating to wade through. My review was as follows:

49011I was actually very disappointed with this book. I expected so much more from the characters of a feminist writer. (And perhaps that expectation in itself is sexist for me to say?) I just found ALL of her female characters (save for maybe one minor character at the end of Bluebeard) seemed so silly and stupid and superficial. They seemed to be living up to the stereotype set for them rather than proving it wrong. I’m not saying they all needed to be strong, independent women but they ALL seemed to be twits.
My relationship with this book: It’s not you, it’s me. I’m probably going to have to try this one again some time…

And that’s exactly what I plan on doing: trying it again. It is so beloved and I can’t count how many times it has been mentioned as a feminist work to read. I know the flowery language and run-on (for 10 lines) sentences got on my nerves, but I’m willing to set a fresh pair of eyes and an open heart to it. It’s not as if my opinion on disliked works hasn’t changed in the past after all…


Heart of Darkness

Now this…! Hmm, well. My thoughts at the time were:

9410307I was reeeeally slow getting through this one. Despite it being such a tiny book, it was a bit of an uphill battle for me. The writing is beautiful and poetic to be sure, but I found myself drifting or just getting lost in all the enigmatic descriptions. There were times when reading I had to go back and reread carefully and pay close attention to what I was reading but I still don’t know if I could tell you exactly what happened in the middle… And I feel like I missed something when the narrator goes from being curious about and indifferent towards Kurtz but not understanding him to being one of his most loyal admirers with some shared special bond with him… But I enjoyed the imagery and quite liked the ending.
Still, analogous to the narrator: I feel as though, despite the confusion and struggles I went through in the middle, I may not have got everything but somehow I came out of it with a new understanding and a satisfaction about getting to the end of this journey (…probably).

I am ready to concede that this was a quietly powerful book and several things from it have stuck with me, but I don’t think I was able to fully appreciate it. The main reason I want to re-read this is to see if I can gain some added clarity. If I remember correctly, there is some controversy surrounding racial issues though…


Le Petit Prince

28865

I really enjoyed this book when I read it in English. However, when I started reading it in French, my French wasn’t good enough for it not to just be a bit of an annoying task. My French is a little better now and, though I imagine finishing this in French will still be a bit of a task, hopefully it will be an enjoyable one! Surprisingly, I actually found two (of the exact same) French editions in my house when I went home for Christmas so I brought one back to the UK with me.

 

 


The Hobbit

289870

This is a major maybe. I bought the book intending to reread it…but then never got past the first page because the rereading is difficult for this one. I loved the book the first time I read it and I’m sure I will enjoy it again but, of all my planned rereads, I’m not sure I’ll get around to it this year… We’ll see.

 

 

 


 

Do you ever give a second chance to books you weren’t really impressed with the first time around?

How often does your opinion on them change?

Posted in Lists, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Discussion: What does diversity mean to you?

‘Diversity’ shouldn’t just become a buzzword (though it may already be becoming one in some ways…). But one way to pull it back from the edge is to flesh it out: What does it mean? Why should it be considered? Etc. We’re trying to uncrack that nut.

Claire

I’m glad Nikki decided to start this topic because I was beginning to suspect that we had different and yet very similar ideas on what that word or train of thought means. For me it is all encompassing, from the characters in it to the authors that write about them. I don’t get “feelings” for books like Nikki, I just read whatever my hand or mind is drawn to at the time. I might feel like a genre or a specific trope, like my love of dragons and magic, but I rarely, rarely feel like reading a cultural sort of thing. When I have felt like that it’s mostly been for Caribbean books and I think that’s because it’s most familiar.

In my review of 2015 I noted the number of books that I read that had lead “diverse” characters or written by a “diverse” author and for me that category is one in the same. I’ll read a book with South Asian narrator or protagonist even if it’s written from a middle class white guy from the US. Authors and narrators/protagonists are on equal ground here for me.

Now to get into the awkward nitty gritty, um, I guess diversity for me is anything against the typical status quo. So a non diverse book, I’m purely guessing and writing in a stream of conciousness style now, would be one with an American/British/Western middle class/rich white guy narrator or author. Lev Grossman’s The Magician’s counts as a non-diverse book. I don’t want you to think that these books are bad, they are not, I think every book that I like is great and the ones I don’t like are great but to someone else.

They’re just not expanding my perspective on things, which is again fine. Just not all the time, we need to break things up, to learn, to explore and reach. That’s why it isn’t just about race, it’s about reading about people who think differently, who are differently abled, different sexualities or classes, from different countries or genders, it’s about challenging what you think of as normal and understanding that for others their normal is different. My normal as a biracial queer woman born and raised on a small Caribbean country is so very different from my friends in the UK and that is what makes life so amazing and full of flavor. That’s why I’ll read books by middle class American white guy authors but they wrote a really diverse character, I think that’s cool. Now how good the execution of that is or was, is a totally different topic which you read about below with Nikki (she’s such a good thinker, I love the way she thinks I really do).

On an aside, mostly because I tend to prefer female authors and protagonists, for me it’s hard to think of reading by gender (or nongender conformity) as being diverse but that’s my privilege as someone whose been able to command her gender and how people perceive of it and I know that, so I’m trying to work on that.

•••

Nikki

I tend to focus on diverse creators rather than just works with diverse characters in them. For example: if I were in the mood for a story set in asia or about asian culture, I am more likely to pick up something written by an asian (often one that is actually from Asia and not just Asian-American) than I am to pick up a book with an asian protagonist by a white American.

I know a lot of people are happy with just having diversity on the page/screen/facing the audience, and it’s great to see that too, but the way I choose to deal with this is to have a more diverse range of creators behind the page/screen/whatever because the work will naturally become more diverse and deal with a wider range of topics in an organic way that isn’t contrived or lacking in understanding and insights. It is also less likely to fall prey to tokenism or to run into the awkward problem of cultural appropriation.

There is nothing wrong with an able-bodied person writing about someone with a physical difference or a white person writing about black protagonists (as long as it’s well researched)! But sometimes we run into the danger of creators talking over the people they purport to want to elevate which is never good. Not to mention that readers should be aware that are not really getting an authentic view of that minority perspective…they’re getting a fabricated (but hopefully researched!) minority perspective from someone outside of that minority group which is worth bearing in mind.

I know I’m in the minority in thinking this, but I personally felt like this happened in the graphic novels Rat Queens and Sex Criminals in relation to straight, cis, white guys talking over women and talking over people of colour and talking over people who identify as LGBTQ+. It felt less ally and more tokenism, fetishism and stereotyping to me.

It’s a really delicate balance and I think you need both. You need marginalised people to be able to tell stories. All sorts of stories! It doesn’t need to be confined to just stories about being marginalised. If they want to tell sci-fi stories or historical fiction stories or high fantasy stories or memoirs or non-fiction or whatever, they should be able to do that and not feel like they’re not invited to the storytelling party. And you also need less-marginalised people (like those straight, cis, white guys we talked about earlier for example) to include a more diverse range of characters in their stories too. It reflects real life, it’s more inclusive, and it shows that it’s not just something for “them”, the marginalised people, to tackle. And it’s interesting! It helps us all (creators and readers) stop inadvertently ostracising ‘other’ voices and start understanding that they are all ‘our’ voices…and we all get new types of cool stories to read. Everybody wins!

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to read anything from the current ‘default’: able-bodied, straight, cis-gendered, white, usually male (but sometimes not…depending on the genre?), middle-class authors. Some of my favourite authors fit that category: John Steinbeck, George Orwell, P.G. Wodehouse, Andrew Kaufman, Jon Klassen, Garth Nix, Brian K. Vaughan, Agatha Christie, Kate Beaton… Trust me, I am in no danger of excluding those who belong to that demographic. But I want my favourites list to be less samey in its point of view.

So for me, although I appreciate works with diverse characters regardless of who the author is, creator diversity is what I tend to mean when I think about reading more diversely and I don’t think it has to mean the same old expected ‘other’ stories either.

NameNikkixClaire

Posted in Discussions | Tagged | 17 Comments

8 SFF Releases I Can’t Wait For in 2016

I ws over at The Book Stop reading about her top picks for SFF in 2016 (from a list she read at i09) and I thought, well why not? SFF is easily my favorite genre at the moment and it has been for at least a year or so now. My obsession with dragons has gotten so bad that they call me thebat work (I kid you not, you have one overly excited conversation about Toothless and you’re the dragon girl).

*Disclaimer: This list is based on the 40 that i09 compiled*

8 SFF Releases I Can’t Wait For in 2016

Burning Midnight, Will McIntosh, February 2nd

We’ve been excited for this book since it was first announced last year, because we reallylove Will McIntosh’s books. This one looks intriguing: Sully sells spheres in his store: nobody knows where they came from—they just appeared—but they make you just a little bit better at random things. When Sully meets Hunter, a girl who excels at finding Spheres, they discover a new one that’s colored Gold, and the fate of the world rests in their hands.

Well this sounds interesting. I wonder what Spheres are? Intriguing concept…

All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders, January 26th25372801

Enormous disclaimer up front: this is a book by the editor of io9, who was reluctant to let me include it in the first place. This list wouldn’t be complete without it. Having read the book (and under absolutely no pressure to say this), I’d say that it’s a phenomenal work of speculative fiction, and that you should read it, pronto.

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead parted ways during school. She is a magician, and he’s a scientist, and something is bringing them together to either save the world or destroy it.

Seems interesting, why not?

Arcadia, Iain Pears, February 9th

Arcadia tells the story of one Professor Henry Lytten, an Oxford professor who’s trying to follow in the footsteps of Tolkien and Lewis by writing his own fantasy novel. When he’s transported to a new world, things get strange. This novel was a storytelling experiment by Pears, and it looks like it’s a fantastic, complex read.

It’s set in Oxford, nuff said.

The Winged Histories, Sofia Samatar, March 15th

Sofia Samatar’s A Stranger in Olondria earned the British Fantasy Award, and its followup, The Winged Histories transports us back to the same world, following four women on various sides of a rebellion. This looks like an intriguing and engrossing book.

I haven’t read Olondria yet but this cover is totally sucking me in. I’d like to read it!

League of Dragons, Naomi Novik, May 10th

We love Naomi Novik’s Temeaire novels, and when Napoleon’s invasion of Russia fails, we’re about to get more of them. Captain William Laurence and Temeraire pursure the French emperor’s forces back home, but when he promises to provide dragons all over the world, he gains new allies, along with internal tensions that might tear everyone apart.

YES, YES and ALL THE YES. I am a big fan of the Temeraire series, like hardcore, die-hard Temeraire fan. I NEED a Temeraire, you can keep Laurence, I just want a dragon!

The Fireman, Joe Hill, May 17th

Joe Hill’s next novel has already sold the film rights, it’s that hot. A new plague, Dragonscale, is spreading like wildfire across the country. Victims get beautiful black and gold markings… before they spontaneously combust. Hill’s writing is outstanding, and we absolutely can’t wait to pick this one up.

I wasn’t a big fan of horns but this has the word dragon in it but also mentions markings? What couldn’t be better?

The City of Mirrors, Justin Cronin, May 24th

Justin Cronin made a huge splash a couple of years ago with The Passage, and now he’s bringing his trilogy to a conclusion with City of Mirrors. A century’s reign has ended, and the survivors are coming out from behind their walls, ready to rebuild. But, lingering in the shadows is Zero, and he’s biding his time to destroy Amy, humanity’s only hope.

I’ve been waiting for this for such a long time. I adored The Passage and I liked The Twelve a bit less so but this series is so brilllllliant.

Certain Dark Things, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, October 25th

From what we’ve heard about this book, it involves Vampires and Mexico City. After reading Moreno-Garcia’s debut, Signal to Noise, that’s all we need to know.

Oh you don’t say? Mexico? Fantasy? Vampires, and I need to wait till October 25th? Awwwwe man!

Is there anything here that you’d like to read?

NameClaire

Posted in Lists | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Physical TBR & Double Happiness Twins

Physical TBR; or Read Your Own Damn Books

I can’t remember where I heard about the whole Read Your Own Damn Books thing, but one of Rincey’s recent videos reminded me about it. It’s pretty rules-less: read more of the books you already actually physically own. Super!

It seemed like it might help (or maybe just be fun for dorks like me) to make a list! There has never actually been any order to my shelves but at some point last year I loosely split them into what I’ve already read and what I haven’t. And, because I seem to really like refining my Goodreads TBR(???), I write in the ‘notes’ section of the books on my Goodreads TBR list which books I have physical copies of and send those to the top of my list to remind myself to pick them up soon. I think I may only have about 30 or so unread books in my house.

This list still isn’t all the unread books in my house as I haven’t included reference books, but it’s a pretty comprehensive list of books I’m definitely going to read…at some point…possibly soon. They are in no real order, but I’ve numbered the list so I have an idea how many unreads I own. So here we go!

*ebooks
**audiobooks
Addendum: strikethrough means I’ve now read this book

  1. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
  2. A Vindication of the Rights of Women (Vintage Feminism Short Edition) by Mary Wollstonecraft
  3. The Odyssey by Homer
  4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  5. The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide*
  6. The Bees by Laline Paull
  7. Submarine by Joe Dunthorne
  8. A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C Clarke
  9. The Essence of Buddhism by Traleg Kyabgon†
  10. Psmith, Journalist (Psmith #3) by PG Wodehouse
  11. The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  12. Willow Weep For Me by Meri Nana-Ama Danquah
  13. A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes #1) by Arthur Conan Doyle
  14. The Coma by Alex Garland†
  15. Children of Men by PD James
  16. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Space Odyssey #1) by Arthur C Clarke
  17. Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
  18. Farewell to Reality by Jim Baggott
  19. Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton (comics collection)
  20. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  21. How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World by Francis Wheen
  22. Utopia by Thomas Moore*†
  23. Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
  24. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro*
  25. The Body Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson*
  26. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
  27. Shiver the Whole Night Through by Darragh McManus
  28. The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson
  29. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor**
  30. The Symposium by Plato
  31. The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C Clarke†
  32. The Welsh Fairy Book by W Jenkyn Thomas
  33. Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L Sayer
  34. Black Cats and Evil Eyes by Chloe Rhodes†
  35. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  36. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  37. The Amazing Screw-On Head & Other Curious Objects by Mike Mignola (graphic novel)
  38. Ms Marvel vol 2: Generation Why by G Willow Wilson (graphic novel)
  39. The Never-Ending Days of Being Dead by Marcus Chown†
  40. The Old Man of the Moon (Little Black Classics #60) by Shen Fu
  41. Traffic (Little Black Classics #06) John Ruskin
  42. How We Weep and Laugh at the Same Thing (Little Black Classics #29) by Michel de Montaigne

Books I’m going to read from my boyfriend’s collection are (1) 23 Thing They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang, (2) Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell, (3) Monsters: A Bestiary of the Bizarre by Christopher Dell, and (4) The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

OK! So it’s more like 46 books, not 30. To be fair that’s including four of my boyfriend’s books, five ebooks/audiobooks which I don’t think about when I glance at my shelves and guess what’s on them, four books scattered around not on my shelves, and the two books I bought today…

I still think it’s pretty modest compared to some shelves I’ve seen (especially considering how slim many of these are), but maybe I should probably combine Read Your Own Damn Books with that thing where you can’t buy a new book until you’ve read 5 or 10 of your own. I’d whittle this list down pretty quickly that way!

†This was actually a great exercise because while going through some of these books I realised I’m not super bothered about a few of them.

I could definitely get through this whole list if I made that a goal for this year…but it’s not high on my priority list so I’m not making any promises. ;)

How many unread books are on your shelves?

Do you ever ‘shop’ your shelves and re-discover a book you’re excited to read?

 

A cool thing:

In response to this old post on my (largely abandoned…) blog where I drew my own cover for the book Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen (see screenshot below)…

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 13.53.24

…the author Marilyn Chin left a comment on my illustration! :0

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 13.53.33

It seems legit…which I think is pretty dang cool! :)

 

 

Posted in Fun, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments