January 18, 2017

The Book that almost broke me | We Are the Ants Review

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
Published by Simon Pulse on January 19th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 455
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads

There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.
Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.
What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.
But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.
The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.

My Review

I didn’t know what I was going to get when I started We Are the Ants. I knew what had been talked about but I did not know how much this book was going to affect me. Boy – did it. I hope that my review makes sense because I DID love this book so much.

I will say that for those who like trigger warnings this book includes: verbal/physical bullying, abuse, suicide (out of book), depression, and sexual assault.

Besides the fact that Henry was a boy and gay, his situation in the beginning of the story was one that I knew. I lost best friend growing up to suicide and I grappled a lot with that loss the same way both Henry and Audrey did in this story.

With this being said, Henry is a character that you can’t help but love – but also feel yourself hating at the same time. I feel that he is ultimately a realistic representation of the abuse and how someone who is depressed mentality is. But the parts of Henry that I hate are pieces of myself that I hated looking back at myself as a teenager suffering from depression and at some points of my life emotional/physical abuse. Henry is not a reliable narrator. One particular moment struck me in his unreliability.

“I think that most people would have pressed the button the moment they realized the stakes. Most people are motivated by their own self-interest, and pushing the button would ensure their survival. But I’m not most people. Maybe that’s why the sluggers chose me”

In this particular part two sides of me warred – my adult side and my teenage side. I remember having some of these same thoughts (not in the context of aliens but you get the point) as a teenager. But I wish that there was someone in Henry’s life that would be there to help him, talk to him, and just love him but also to smack some sense into him. Again – I understand this. I know Henry’s pain from his best friend, and boyfriend, committing suicide. His pain is mine and for that I think while reading I was a bit harsher on him then most characters.

I will say this, as the story went on the more I empathized with Henry and less wanted to throttle him. What he went through is horrible. The constant stream of abuse he suffers at the hands of pretty much everyone he is around – some of which are supposed to care for him (some even SAY they do all the while abusing him). My heart burned for him and I just wanted him to be happy.

One thing Hutchinson did was he created not only a main character you loved but secondary characters that you did as well. Audrey, Diego, and Henry’s older brother Carlie are all characters that at the end of the story I loved way more than I did at the beginning of the story.

I still believe that Henry would fall under the unreliable narrator and if you plan on reading this book you should go into the story with that in mind. This fact did not stop my enjoyment of the book in the slightest and I can see why it is the favorite of so many people.

December 31, 2016

It’s A Twisty Carnival Ride Tour | Freeks by Amanda Hockings ARC Review

It’s A Twisty Carnival Ride Tour | Freeks by Amanda Hockings ARC Review

Freeks by Amanda Hocking
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on January 3rd 2017
Pages: 400
Goodreads

Welcome to Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, where necromancy, magical visions, and pyrokinesis are more than just part of the act…
Mara has always longed for a normal life in a normal town where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future. Instead, she roams from place to place, cleaning the tiger cage while her friends perform supernatural feats every night.
When the struggling sideshow is miraculously offered the money they need if they set up camp in Caudry, Louisiana, Mara meets local-boy Gabe…and a normal life has never been more appealing.
But before long, performers begin disappearing and bodes are found mauled by an invisible beast. Mara realizes that there’s a sinister presence lurking in the town with its sights set on getting rid of the sideshow freeks. In order to unravel the truth before the attacker kills everyone Mara holds dear, she has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she was capable of—one that could change her future forever.
Bestselling author Amanda Hocking draws readers inside the dark and mysterious world of Freeks.

One of the first things that comes to mind after reading Freeks is how unique and intriguing novel. The aspects of the book that drew me to it and why I was completely intrigued and agreed to participate in the blog tour. However with that being said, I felt that this book was okay. There were aspects that I loved but there were many things that I felt myself shaking my head about.

I don’t normally like mysteries but the one that the author weaved into the plot was one of the things that kept me reading the book. It was addictive but again, I don’t normally read mysteries. For those who do, I feel that there would be parts that seemed predictable at times. I feel like at some points there were aspects of the writing that overshadowed the characters for aspects of nostalgia towards the 80’s, but overall this did not overwhelm the characters just for those of you who have read Ready Player One it can get a bit like “I get it, we’re in the 80’s”.

Character wise I believe that the author did an awesome job describing the characteristics that made the people in the story unique. Mara was a solid character for the most part. The one thing that I didn’t like was her relationship with Gabe. Both of these characters were likable but together, despite the fact that they worked well together, were pretty insta-love. Pretty much instantly after meeting they were making out. I completely understand that this is a realistic aspect of being a teenager but it always has made me feel a little off when it comes to weither or not I think a relationship will last.  Sue me – I love a slow burning romance.

All in all, I think that Freeks is a unique and pretty quick read. Anyone that loves the 80’s, carnivals, and mysteries.

December 29, 2016

2017 Full Year Challenges: Part Uno

 

The first challenge I am going to participate in is the Beat the Backlist challenge created by Austine over at Novel Knight. I try and vary my back list/TBR challenges each year and this year I found this one and I’m SO excited to join. I have a confession: the more hyped a book is the more likely I am going to have put it aside to read something else. That and there are just so many good books that you can’t possibly have time to read them all when they’re newer so they get hidden and backlist challenges are the best excuse to pull them out!

Instead of including a long list of books on this post (that could get long for you to scroll through and me to make) I made a special Goodreads shelf for this challenge with books that I plan to read and hopefully will read during 2017. Some of them are re-reads because I am planning on reading them before the other in the series. Here is where you can find my bookshelf for this challenge.I plan on making my goal to read 100 books in 2017.

I hope to at least read 50 back list titles.

There are about 50 books represented but some of these I only included the first book in a series but I plan on re-reading before starting on a more current release. I have also included some backlist series with only the first book represented (for example with Poison Study). So there should be more than enough to reach this goal!

I also am going to participate in the Hogwarts Mini Challenge that is also going on this year and hope to represent my team and help them dominate. My team will be….

HUFFLEPUFF!


 

Another challenge that I am going to participate in is Flight of Fantasy by Alexa over at Alexa Loves Books and Rachel from Hello, Chelly!

This challenge is going to be pretty easy for me to do because fantasy is my favorite, and most read genre.My issue in this challenge (and pretty much every challenge) is keeping track of and recording my progress in a timely manner.

I want to challenge myself to read 30-50 fantasy books this year. I am giving myself some wiggle room but I want to challenge myself this year to read!

 

December 20, 2016

Oh Yeah Dumbledore’s Army Readathon Time

I am back! This last few months have been hectic and with finishing my first semester of graduate school I have had little time for reading or blogging. But with this last week I have officially finished my finals and now I have time to do both. As you can see by the title with my time there have been a few read-a-thons that I really want to participate and in the next few days I am going to the obligatory posts to show you their information. This first one is going to be my introduction/TBR for the Dumbledore’s Army Read-a-Thon hosted by Aentee at Read at Midnight. I would attempt to explain what this whole read-a-thon is all about but I will leave it to the master who started this all. You can find her introduction post here! But simply put this read-a-thon runs from January 1st to the 15th of 2017 and deals with reading books that are more diverse.

When I was sorted at Pottermore I was sorted into Hufflepuff and so for that I will use that house instead of my self-proclaimed hybrid Ravenpuff or if you care Huffleclaw.

 

A love letter to the craft and romance of film and fate in front of—and behind—the camera from the award-winning author of Hold Still.

A wunderkind young set designer, Emi has already started to find her way in the competitive Hollywood film world.

Emi is a film buff and a true romantic, but her real-life relationships are a mess. She has desperately gone back to the same girl too many times to mention. But then a mysterious letter from a silver screen legend leads Emi to Ava. Ava is unlike anyone Emi has ever met. She has a tumultuous, not-so-glamorous past, and lives an unconventional life. She’s enigmatic…. She’s beautiful. And she is about to expand Emi’s understanding of family, acceptance, and true romance.

This was sent to me by my OTSP Secret Sister last round and I haven’t had the time to pick it up. Okay, I have just been putting it off because I have been finding other newer books and it kind of gets just shoved aside. But now, I am going to read it!

From Sami Shah comes Fire Boy, the first of a two-part urban fantasy set in modern-day Pakistan, where djinns roam the street alongside corrupt cops, hustling beggars, and creatures from the darkest corners of Islamic mythology.

Growing up in Karachi isn’t easy. Wahid has a lot on his mind: the girl he likes, mostly, but also choosing a good university and finding time to play Dungeons and Dragons. Oh, and the fact that he can see djinns, other-worldly creatures made of a smokeless and scorching fire. After a horrific car accident kills his best friend and djinns steal his girlfriend’s soul, Wahid vows to find out why. Fortunately, he has help in finding the djinns that tried to kill him. Unfortunately, that help is from the darkest of all spirits, the Devil himself …

Fire Boy is filled with supernatural entities and high-paced action, but it also gives the reader a vivid insight into life in Pakistan.

 

I don’t normally read books with Middle Eastern main character but more than that I haven’t read any books based in Pakistan. In 2017 I am planning on reading more Middle Eastern main character/own voices books and I feel like this would be the best place to start.

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice. Movie rights have been sold to Fox, with Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) to star.

 

I have been anticipating this book since it was announced and I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to read what I think is going to be a classic for years to come.

 

A powerful collection of essays on feminism, geek culture, and a writer’s journey, from one of the most important new voices in genre.

The Geek Feminist Revolution is a collection of essays by double Hugo Award-winning essayist and science fiction and fantasy novelist Kameron Hurley.

The book collects dozens of Hurley’s essays on feminism, geek culture, and her experiences and insights as a genre writer, including “We Have Always Fought,” which won the 2014 Hugo for Best Related Work. The Geek Feminist Revolution will also feature several entirely new essays written specifically for this volume.

Unapologetically outspoken, Hurley has contributed essays to The Atlantic, Locus, Tor.com, and elsewhere on the rise of women in genre, her passion for SF/F, and the diversification of publishing.

I have been wanting to read this book for awhile and so I thought that this would be the time to read it. I think that this one might be the only section were the choice might change but I really believe that it’s important to see feminism from all different aspects and one that is near to dear to my heart is gaming and literature. The other choice I have is We All Should Be Feminists by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie and I think is just as important (if not more in some aspects).

What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-viewed TEDx talk of the same name—by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun.

With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike.

Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether

I love superheroes and combined that with a Asian protagonist I am in. It wasn’t until a little while after this book came onto my radar that I found out that along with the diverse main character it was actually a LGBTQ+ novel with lesbian love interest.

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Pretty much anything Nicola Yoon has blown up. I mean both her books are going to be movies! How many authors can say that?

Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

I’m cheating here a bit because no one specifically recommended this book to me but everyone that I know that has read this book and the first book The Star Touched Queen recommend it. I was given the chance to read it before it is released and I am going to use this opportunity to do so!

 

November 6, 2016

Ignoring is as good as acceptance | The Continent Review + Rant + Feelings

30075733The Continent (The Continent, #1) by Keira Drake
Published by Harlequin Teen on January 3rd 2017
Pages: 320
Goodreads

For her sixteenth birthday, Vaela Sun receives the most coveted gift in all the Spire—a trip to the Continent. It seems an unlikely destination for a holiday: a cold, desolate land where two “uncivilized” nations remain perpetually at war. Most citizens tour the Continent to see the spectacle and violence of battle—a thing long vanished in the Spire. For Vaela—a smart and talented apprentice cartographer—it is an opportunity to improve upon the maps she’s drawn of this vast, frozen land.
But an idyllic aerial exploration is not to be had: the realities of war are made clear in a bloody battle seen from the heli-plane during the tour, leaving Vaela forever changed. And when a tragic accident leaves her stranded on the Continent, she has no illusions about the true nature of the danger she faces. Starving, alone, and lost in the middle of a war zone, Vaela must try to find a way home—but first, she must survive.

 

Oh boy – I’m not sure how I’m going to write this review. I’m staring at the white space and all I can come up with how I can articulate my thoughts in a way that is not only constructive to the writers but more importantly constructive to those who have had their identities, feelings, and beliefs attacked by not only this book but by people in the book blogging/author community.  So at the end of the day, do I agree with them?

Well, first off, it isn’t for me to disagree or agree. It is my job to listen and learn.

But to answer the question; yes I agree with them. Have I read the book? Yes. While I believe that being as professional as possible there are times when I think that I will have a hard time with this. Bare with me please while I attempt at civility. I started this book not like I have many controversial books – to prove or not prove my opinion differed from those who do not like it. I started this book to educate myself to a book that WILL be published no matter the outrage, no matter the pain, and will be in the hands of teens in January. I tried to be an unemotional critic. But I guess that in some cases I failed. I failed to distance myself because all I could see where the teens that became confused after reading this. Confused because there was ‘something’ that didn’t set well but they couldn’t voice it. They don’t know that they CAN say something and so remain silent, hurt, but not understanding why because nothing was ‘directly’ mentioned. I could not stay unemotional and for this I am unapologetic.

When I first started reading this book I believe that I understood that Vaela was in fact a naive girl who as a narrator was going to be unreliable and problematic. I naturally have a hard time with naive characters but for the most part I can put this aside because at a point I was naïve and like me this character could grow out of it. At the end of the book – I still felt like she is naïve but for a different reason.

I have attempted to rack my brain with a positive things to say about this book – but honestly it is difficult. Why? Everything, from the plot to even the characters are ripe with stereotypical, and to many people of that race culturally and racially offensive. As much as I would love to turn my head to this I can’t. Take Noro – the love interest. He is a part of the Aven’ei tribe, which is described perfectly to fit the Japanese culture. I would be okay with this if Noro didn’t encompass all of the typical Japanese ninja qualities – cold, deadly, and handsome in this order. Another character that I couldn’t get over the stereotypical aspect was Shoshi – the typical grumpy but wise Aven’ei elder. It bodes for almost all Japanese stereotypes. The stereotypes are so ingrained into the plot of the book that there was no way I could separate myself.

Now this could have been done unintentionally but it is hard pressed to actually see that. But there are too many similarities between the two cultures depicted and two of our cultures. It would be like if I made a fantastical land filled with short, extremely pale, men with green eyes and red hair that had a fascination with gold and they made rainbows. What would that make you think of?

As for the two groups, the Aven’ei represents the more “civilized” of the indigenous people of the Continent. You could even go as far as to make them white and you have the story of the indigenous people of America and the people that came over from Britain and Spain.  This next part will be a spoiler for an important part of the story but I will hide it for those who do not want to know, but it makes my point clearer. View Spoiler »

Now we come to the crux of the matter. The term “savage”. Not only using the the word savage behavior but attaching it to to the representation of an entire culture that do not get the option or time to defend themselves. While I understand completely that it is a word that is used to describe something that is not civilized I can’t ignore the fact that it is a word that this words has a meaning, a painful history that should not be ignored. The time in our history that has used the word to describe an entire race it was used as propaganda to create a cultural genocide of the indigenous people of America, to “save” the savages, and to eventually give those who wanted to steal their land the reason to do so.  In the 1800’s the word “savage” was used to describe the need to civilize the “savages”. It was used as propaganda along with visual images of the indigenous people roasting women and children alive, who were depicted as murderous killing demons. The young generation of the indigenous people were then taken and were taught to be “civilized” in what was referred to as “Indian schools”.

So before you say a word is only a word, think. Words come from somewhere and they mean something to someone.

Today those things are still going on. The Dakota Access Pipeline and the Standing Rock tribe are only one example. Using Indians as mascots and signs like this being the result is another. The Trail of Tears was the eviction of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of indigenous people from their own lands. It is called the Trail of Tears because 4,000+ died from either the travels, refusing, or other various horrible reasons.

It would have only taken a group of people stopping these girls. An adult. A fellow student. A good can of paint!

trailoftears_1477747350263_48865485_ver1-0_640_480

I wish that I could say that I loved this book but I can’t. The book relies so much on stereotypes, telling instead of showing, and romance that I can’t like it. This book takes pieces of two cultures and picks and uses them as puzzle pieces to try and tell an entertaining story, not teach about these cultures, or respect them enough to fully round out the cultures with research and acceptance of that is what was being used. That does not make a very fantastic plot in my opinion.

Dear reader of this, you might believe that words are just words and that books are books, but I am here to tell you they are not. Books and words are one of the most influential cornerstones of our entire society. As a child that grew up with the constricting and almost crippling paranoia of the one parental figure, I had I know how powerful and influential books can be especially to young people. Books are not influential to just young people but to all of the marginalized authors that put their hearts, souls, and authentic struggles into their book.  To see a book that uses their struggles and history as a tool for entertainment. Not to teach. Not to really have any benefit. They have to look at this book and say “This book got picked over mine” or even “this book deserves more promotional time then mine?” or “Why should I write my book. It won’t be liked if this is what people like?” Subject matter and stereotypes in books that are highly promoted have the ability to stop and silence voices that would otherwise thrive and be loved by the community under depression and a sense of utter hopelessness that their voice won’t be heard. Why would their voices in their books be heard when they can’t even critique a book that hurts them without the attempt to be silenced?

That is the saddest part of this entire debacle and why I cannot in good conscious recommend this book to this community nor to my students. I can’t say that if people could look past the stereotypical and culturally offensive nature of this book that they would like it – it is not a strong enough of story without these elements in my opinion. The culturally offensive nature of this book should not be ignored and should not be looked past.

Unfortunately, this book will be published, put into libraries, and teens WILL read it – even on the premise of the cool cover art.  I read this as an educator/future librarian to educate myself on the feelings of those who were affected by this book and on the real possibly of the future feelings of the teens of marginalized cultures that will be effected by this as well.

It is my job to hear what these hurt, angry, and frustrated people are saying. I need to know how I will discuss this book with teens that will read this book, give them specifics, and with that how to teach them to think critically of what their reading and how words DO matter. It might not matter to you, but it DOES matter to someone else. I do not believe in censoring and so I need to prepare myself for these discussions as best as I can and to combat the cultural insensitivity with the book itself.