Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What Makes a Book Diverse?

In each of my monthly wrap-ups, I count the number of diverse books I read. Normally, that's pretty easy to do. Occasionally, however, it isn't as simple as I think it should be. I have to think a lot about whether a book is diverse or not. Which brings me to my question: what makes a book diverse?

~ Warning: The next couple of paragraphs contain minor spoilers for the books mentioned. ~

Since I don't think I've been quite clear, let's look at a few examples from books I've read in the past few months. First, there's The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle. In this book, we have Alice and Bea. Bea almost certainly likes girls. At one point, she kisses the female protagonist. Alice also probably likes girls. At one point, while discussing her romantic interests, she says something along the lines of there having been someone all along. It's implied that this person is Bea. One of them might even outright admit to liking the other at one point - I do remember that it's brought up. But they get no resolution, and neither of them is identified as lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or otherwise queer. On top of that, they're both supporting characters, and any romance is far from being a focus. Is The Accident Season diverse? I said yes in my wrap-up, but it's not a book that I'd suggest to someone explicitly looking for diverse books.

Another book that made me think about this was The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, which I read in school this month. This book has a mentally disabled character, a number of black characters, and two implied gay characters. Just with that list, I'd say that the novel is a lot more diverse than many of the books I read. But there's one more thing to consider: this book was published in 1929. Suddenly, the diversity isn't so nice anymore. The mentally disabled character is viewed as a burden and forcibly sterilized. The black characters are rarely respected and frequently referred to by the n-word. Even the implied homosexuality is condemned because it (among many, many other issues) makes the character miserable. There's also a major character who is outspokenly racist and anti-Semitic. Is this book diverse? Technically, yes, but it's not going on my monthly list.

~ End of spoilery section ~

So what constitutes diversity? What is representation? Is it just having a character who's from one or more marginalized groups? Does that aspect of their life have to be acknowledged? If so, how much? Does that character have to be treated well, or at the very least not treated badly because of their belonging to said marginalized group?

Maybe there are different tiers of diversity. I've been thinking in terms of "Is this book diverse? yes/no (circle one)," but maybe it's more complex than that. But then how does a book that's very diverse but doesn't treat those characters well compare to a book that isn't as diverse but has more positive representation?

I don't have answers to all of these questions, and I don't think there's one right answer for each of them. Personally, I like the different tiers of diversity idea, even if I haven't completely thought out the details. I just don't think that a book with all of its diversity belonging to one minor character should be in the same diversity category as a book where almost every major character is diverse in some way.

What makes a book diverse for you? Can you think of any books that fit into that weird possibly-diverse category? Do you have any ideas about categorizing how diverse books are? Tell me in the comments!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

6 Reasons I Inhaled The Wrath and the Dawn

Title: The Wrath and the Dawn
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1
Length: 395 pages
Published by: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication date: May 12th, 2015
Diversity: Fantasy setting inspired by the Middle East; almost all major characters are POC
Rating: ½

"'And how will you know when you've found this elusive someone?' Shahrzad retorted.
'I suspect she will be like air. Like knowing how to breathe.'"

This quote is about a person instead of a book, but describes exactly what The Wrath and the Dawn was to me. I couldn't put this book down! It feels like I was looking for this book without even knowing it. It was exciting and dragged me in so completely that inhaling is the best word I could think of for reading it. For a glorious day, it was my air. Here's the six main reasons I loved this book so much.

1) The stories. Of course, we have the main story about Shahrzad volunteering to be the king's bride, but there is so much more than that. There's the story of her handmaiden, the story of the love she left behind, the stories of her family and the king's family. And of course, the stories that Shahrzad tells nightly, beautiful and thought-provoking in their own right.

2) The characters. I'll readily admit that I was indifferent to a few characters, but my love for and attachment to all the rest vastly outshone that. Each major character is given their own struggle, and all of these are woven together to contribute to the main plot. And in many cases, each of these characters have scenes told from their point of view (though it's all in third person), so the reader has even more of a chance to like them.

3) The relationships. I'm not just talking about the romantic relationships, though those are great. There are so many interactions between characters, and each set of main characters has an interesting relationship. It just all felt so real.

4) The dialogue. If you're a fan of books with dialogue that you can imagine people realistically saying, you might get annoyed sometimes. Personally, I loved it. I can't even begin to count the times that a line of dialogue was so wonderful that I had to stop reading for a moment to let it sink in.
"'I am not not yours to do with as you will.'...
'How right you are. You are not mine...I am yours.'"
I realize this that quote is much more powerful after 200+ pages of emotional investment than it is out of context, but still...see what I mean?
5) The pace. This book never seemed to slow down. Some parts may have been slower than others, but I hardly noticed because it never felt as though things were being dragged out. I kept getting so engrossed in the book that I didn't even realize I was turning pages.

6) The mystery. A huge part of the main plot is a quest for information. Even though things are concealed so much that I couldn't even begin to guess at what would happen, just enough tantalizing hints were dropped that I never lost patience with the investigation.

Was this a perfect book? No. I'm pretty much over love triangles, I was significantly less invested in some plotlines than others, and the ending, while incredible, felt a tiny bit rushed. The main character sometimes infuriated me (but usually in a good way), and it would have been helpful if I'd known there was a glossary at the back of the book when I started it. But I was very pleased that this book lived up to, if not exceeded, my expectations based on the hype. And now the sequel, The Rose and the Dagger, is one of my most anticipated releases of the next few months! If you're looking for some fast-paced fantasy, I would highly recommend this!

Have you all read this book, or am I not really the last person in the world to do so? Have you ever read a book that you didn't know you were looking for? Tell me in the comments!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

10 Books I Love But Haven't Talked About Enough

There are so many books that I love, and not enough time to talk about them all. Luckily, this week's Top Ten Tuesday was all about books that you love but haven't talked about enough or recently. It was pretty difficult to choose just ten, but I think I made a good list.

Note: I did limit myself to standalones for this list, which should explain a few glaring omissions. 

1) Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley - This book grabbed me from the first page and never let me go. It has that special kind of emotional weight that comes from the combination of the fact that too many of these horrific circumstances were real and absolutely masterful writing. It's been a year and a half since I read it, and I don't think I've stopped thinking about it since. It really should have been in my Standalones I Want to Reread post.

2) I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson - This book has a very unique writing style that not everyone likes. Fortunately, it worked for me. The story itself is not always very exceptional, but the way it's told and put together makes it extraordinary. The two points of view told from two different points in time make it seem as though it might be difficult to follow, but (at least for me) it flowed so well that it wasn't any trouble at all.

3) Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen - If any YA book perfectly captures the balance between a fun contemporary and a deeply profound novel, this is it. I had a lot of fun with this book, but at the same time, it taught me so much. I read it long ago enough that the details are fuzzy, but I remember the impact it had on me.

4) A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis - This book shocked me in so many amazing ways. I flew through it. It wasn't really what I was expecting it to be, but that didn't make me like it any less. It's also one of the only books in which EVERY plot twist was a complete surprise.

5) We Were Liars by E. Lockhart -  I did not go into this book with high expectations, and I certainly didn't go into this book expecting it to affect me so much. I also can't say anything about how I was so wrong because everything involves spoilers.

6) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein -  Okay, so this one's a lie. I talk about this book a lot. I've made nearly everyone I know read it. But I'm pretty sure I've only mentioned it once on this blog, which absolutely falls under the category of not talking about it enough. After all, it's quite possibly my favorite book ever, so I can't talk about it too much. (And I may have cheated a little bit with my standalones-only rule, but Rose Under Fire is a companion novel, not a sequel.)

7) Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick - I was so completely drawn into this book that I devoured it in a day. That wasn't as difficult as it might seem, since the book is half pictures, but I loved that aspect of the book, too. It's one of the most unique books I've ever read.

8) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - I don't talk about this book a lot because it seems like everyone else is talking about it already. Don't mistake my silence for indifference, though. I loved reading this book, and it has some of my favorite writing ever. This is another one for which a reread is LONG overdue.

9) Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli - This book made me so happy. It STILL makes me really happy whenever I think about it. This book is incredibly diverse, it tackled real issues, and it kept me smiling. A rare but amazing combination. If you're ever sad, this book is the cure.

10) Looking for Alaska by John Green - I might be being really repetitive by now, but this is another book that really affected me. it made me think differently about interacting with people and going through life, and it's a book I think about a lot when I'm just contemplating life. This is also the absolute best example of an ambiguous but satisfying ending. 

Which books do you not talk about enough? Are there books that you can't talk about too much? Tell me in the comments!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

25 Bookish Facts About Me

First confession: this took a surprisingly long time to do. I thought that coming up with 25 bookish facts about myself would be easy! I was wrong. Very wrong.

Second confession: nobody tagged me to do this, but I'm doing it anyway because I like the idea. Maybe this defeats the purpose of it being a tag, but...*shrugs* I don't care all that much.

And without further ado, here's 25 bookish facts about me! 

1. I get almost all of my books from the library. In middle school, I stopped going to the library for some reason, and I didn't read nearly as much. When I started going back, I read three times as many books. And even if I had all the money in the world, I'd STILL go to the library.

2. I don't bring a book everywhere I go, but I always consider it. I'm not going to bring a book if I'm just going down to the grocery store for 20 minutes and don't feel like bringing a bag, but there are also days when I bring about four books to school.

3. My personal record is finishing 6 books in a day. I was doing Cram-a-thon and the #24in48 readathon over the same weekend, so I finished two novels that I'd started earlier, read a children's book, read two graphic novels, read a book in verse, and started another novel.

4. I don't know the exact longest time it's taken me to read a book without actually deciding to put it down and pick it up later, but it was at least three years. I started The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn before I got my Goodreads in 2012, and only finished it last May. I have NO IDEA why it took me that long - I love Mark Twain! And I loved the book when I finally, finally finished it! But it took me FOREVER.

5. I reread books a lot more often in elementary school than I do now. I know I read Little Women, The Secret Garden, Through the Looking-Glass, and Samantha Saves the Day about half a dozen times each. And then, for some reason, I got rid of all of my copies of those because I thought I was sick of them. What was I THINKING?

6. If I know that a book has diversity, it roughly doubles the chances I'm going to read it. I can't even count the number of times that diversity or a lack thereof has decided whether or not I'm going to read a book that I'm unsure about.

7. I almost never DNF books. And even when I do DNF, it's because I haven't finished by the time that I have to return it to the library or to a friend, and I just don't care enough to seek it out again. I know that over the past 2 years of reading, I've only decided to DNF one book (Dash & Lily's Book of Dares). I tried to push through, but I just couldn't do it anymore.

8. I've been slowly reading the Discworld series for four and a half years now because my mom and I read them together. I discovered the Tiffany Aching subseries before I knew about Discworld as a whole, but by the time I did, both my mom and I liked Terry Pratchett so much that we didn't want to get ahead of each other. I'm a bit worried, because I'm going away to college this fall and we still have eight and a half books to go, but I think we'll get through.

9. I haven't actually seen a lot of book-to-movie adaptations. I keep meaning to see the movies of the books I read, but I just never get around to it. I only saw the first Hunger Games movies, and I didn't see If I Stay, any of the Divergent movies, The Maze Runner, or City of Bones. There's probably even more that I can't think of right now.

10. I don't even notice when I'm in a reading slump. Normally, I just start bringing my knitting to school and knitting during the time that I would be reading. I think if I did notice the reading slumps, they'd take over my life for as long as they lasted.

11. It usually takes me a long time to read books that people have recommended to me. I have a friend who absolutely loved Gone With the Wind in eighth grade and made me promise to read it...and I still haven't. That's a bit of an extreme example, but if someone's recommending a book that I've never heard of, it takes me a while to get to it. (If you're one of those people - I'm sorry! I'll read it eventually!) The exception is when someone recommends it and lets me borrow a copy. Then I'll devour it IMMEDIATELY.

12. At the end of every year, I spend a day or two going through the anticipated releases lists on Goodreads for the next year and adding everything that sounds interesting. That's usually how my to-read list gets a bit out of control. At the end of last year, I added over a hundred books, and that's pretty typical. That's probably the main thing keeping me from ever making that list smaller. But speaking of making it smaller...

13. Every once in a while, I spontaneously decide to go through every book on my to-read list and get rid of a bunch of them. And it actually works! I've gone from 1200+ to 700+ to 400+ (and then back up all the time because of #12). I know my list is really large as it is, but at least I'm not at 1200 anymore! I think it might be time for one of these soon, though.

14. I've never been to any book signing events. There's always this thing that happens where the author I want to see comes to a place that's close enough to me that I get hopeful but far enough away that there's no way I can get there. And it's almost always in the middle of the week, too. I think the only bookish event I've been to is the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows release party at my local Borders. Remember when Borders was a thing? I miss Borders.

15. When I was little, I despised dustjackets. I don't know what it was, but for some reason, I hated them so much that I put all of the dustjackets of my books on a separate shelf so that I wouldn't have to deal with them.

16. I LOVE picking out my favorite quotes from books. I make note of quotes that I like whenever I'm reading, and I also go through the quotes section on Goodreads for every book I read. Currently, my Goodreads quote count is 1,206.

17. I'm okay with beat-up paperbacks and pretty okay with beat-up hardcovers, but not with beat-up dustjackets. I don't mind a bit of wear and tear on my books, because I know I'm not always gentle with them. But for some reason, if a dustjacket gets bent or torn, it bothers me SO MUCH. That's why when I let friends borrow hardcovers, I always take off the dustjacket first.

18. It usually takes me at least twice as long to read nonfiction as it does to read fiction. I have absolutely no idea why. I'm trying to read more nonfiction, but this keeps getting me discouraged.

19. I'm usually horrible at keeping track of character names. I can remember names of major characters pretty well, but it's a struggle to even remember minor characters' names for the whole book unless I particularly like one of them (or it's a series, in which case I probably don't remember their names until book 3). This sometimes leads to problems when a minor character becomes more important later.

20. I find it very difficult to read when people are talking. Strangely enough, though, I can read without a problem in the middle of a crowd. It's much easier for me to tune everyone out than just one or two conversations.

21. I'm never going to read a classic book just because I feel like I should. I used to feel obligated to read certain classics. Then, in my literature class this year, we read a lot of books that bored me to tears. These included books that had been on my must-read-eventually-because-classic list, and it really inspired me to not read classics unless I'm genuinely interested in them. So far, this has been going pretty well.

 22. My favorite genre is probably historical fiction. I regularly enjoy books from other genres, especially since historical books aren't exactly the most common in YA, but I get very excited about historical fiction, especially American historical fiction. I'm also just interested in American history, which probably explains a lot of that.

23. I'm usually pretty indifferent about book covers. There are covers I like more than others, but usually, book covers don't get a huge reaction out of me.

24. My ideal book length is around 400 pages. This depends a lot on the genre and whether it's a series and such, but 400 pages seems like a good length. Things don't feel like they're cut short, but also don't usually have time to drag.

25. I LOVE reading books in a day. If I start a book and really like it, I will try to finish it as soon as I can. Occasionally, I try to savor these books, but usually, I just want to devour them. I've also found that I don't normally like the books that it takes me longer to read, though I'm not sure which of those facts causes the other.

I'm going to tag... Liz @ Out of Coffee, Out of Mind and Sky @ Sky's Reading Corner.

What are some interesting bookish facts about you? Do you share any of mine? What's your favorite quote from something you've read? Tell me in the comments!