Tuesday, 7 October 2014

We Need Diverse Books Display

A levels come with crazy amounts of work. So, I'm going to make it clear that I am not going to be stopping blogging any time soon (hopefully). It just can't be the priority of my life. I am still always going to enjoy books and reading though!

Proof I still love books: I got permission from my school librarian to make this display, and Sarah, Rebecca and I did. In one of the main corridors. There’s also a display inside the library, with bookstands of the books we have in stock (photos to follow).

These books I have either read and enjoyed, or I know many people who read and enjoyed them.

This list is in no way complete, I just chose the books that were either in the library or were likely to be in major bookshops in the UK and that would be suitable for people 11-18 years old.

I'm really proud of this display. For one, it was hard to decide which of my favourite books would be appreciated by many others, and find some other books (there are very few books with middle eastern and muslim characters that I know of).
Then there was the decisions on how to arrange it. We were thinking of intersectionals in the middle, then groups around the side by what kind of characters each book had (queer characters, Asian characters, disabled characters etc.) We decided against it because composition was more important than information for this display, as we have a list organised by type printed. Then we just started arranging with major intersectionals in the middle and by colour around the outside and by chance the symmetry and colour worked out really well. Also, Sarah really likes the centre of Hollow Pike and The Night Itself and and that they're facing in opposite directions.

The empty space is for people to come into the library, and fill out a heart with recommendations of their own on. What else would you add?

Close ups and list of books under the cut.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Book Review-Adaptation by Malinda Lo

Title: Adaptation
 Author: Malinda Lo
Series:   Adaptation #1
Published:  April 3 2014 by Hodder
Length: 432 pages
Source: publisher
Other info: Malinda Lo has also written Huntress, Ash (review here), and Inheritance.
Summary: Flocks of birds are hurling themselves at aeroplanes across America. Thousands of people die. Millions are stranded. Everyone knows the world will never be the same.
On Reese's long drive home, along a stretch of empty highway at night, a bird flies into their headlights. The car flips over. When they wake up in a military hospital, the doctor won't tell them what happened.
For Reese, though, this is just the start. She can't remember anything from the time between her accident and the day she woke up almost a month later. She only knows one thing: she's different now. Torn between longtime crush David and new girl Amber, the real question is: who can she trust?

Review: It all starts when  Reese Holloway is waiting for a plane back from debating and  birds fall out of the sky. Stranded, she and the debate team decide to head home in a rented car, and things change even more. With no idea of the events after a crash, nor the later happenings or procedures, Reese finds some anwers that will change her life, and humanity, forever.
Huntress, I didn't enjoy especially, but Ash was one of my favourite books due to the writing style and the new take on an old story. Adaptation leaves the fantasy route and goes down the scifi men-in-black route, and it does this really well.
I love the characters. Amber's probably my favourite, because she's adorable and funny and I fell in love with her. I also liked that you had to constantly question her and her loyalties. David- CHINESE MC HECK YEAH (I get excited by chinese main characters) was also really adorable and smart. Reese isn't one of my favourite characters, she seemed a bit ordinary compared to a cast full of scientists and government agents and conspiracy theory website runners and things which I want to say but that's kind of spoilery, but I did like the fact that she constantly questioned things. Oh, and love to Reese's mum. See the lawyering badass love for her daughter and reaction to her coming out as bisexual. 
Nowhere in this book is a good place to stop reading-most certainly not the end.. Every point in Adaptation was either too intriguing or too exciting or too adorable to let you even think about putting it down, and I've had the must-never-stop-reading-this-feeling for very few books before.

Overall:  Strength 5 tea to a book I recommend to everyone, especially mystery, scifi, thriller, romance fans.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Book Review- We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Title: We Were Liars
 Author: E. Lockhart
Series: N/A  
Published:   13 May 2014 by Hot Key Books
Length: 240 pages
Source: library
Summary : A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
Review: Cady is one of the Liars, the younger end of a family that meets every summer to spend the holiday at the summer home. At some point, she loses her memories.  Two years later, she wants to find out what happened.
I was really looking forwards to this and everyone really enjoyed it and watching somep ople's reactions during the liveread made me think it was going to be amazing. Sadly for me it wasn't.
I think I missed something at the start but I really don't get why everyone loves this. It's slow. The writing, while stripped back in places, seems boring too. The story doesn't seem to go very fast, and the forbidden love aspect is not my favourite as a trope anyway and this book didn't change my mind on it.
I didn't connect or like any of the characters. They seemed too detached from me and I didn't really care what happened to them. Cady is a bit whiny and the rich WASP background comes through and she comes off as pretentious in places, something I'd had enough of with Leo from The Go Between which I read at the same time.
I really enjoyed Gat's comments on race and racism, being Indian and surrounded by white people. The repeated retellings of fairy tales were also really good.
I also think that the style, full of metaphors and winding around, is the kind of thing that could be praised in a literary sense. It just wasn't my kind of thing.
The ending is good, I suppose. It didn't seem like a huge thing to me though, and when it was revealed, I just shrugged and read on. I think it's because I disconnected with the whole story so I didn't really care.
Overall:   Strength 2 tea to a book I didn’t get into at the start which meant I didn’t enjoy the whole thing.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Book Review-This Book is Gay by James Dawson

Title: This Book Is Gay
 Author:  James Dawson
Series:  N/A
Published:  4 September 2014 by Hot Key Books
Length: 271 pages
Source: publisher
Other info: James Dawson has written many things. 
Summary : Former PSHCE teacher and acclaimed YA author James Dawson gives an uncensored look at what it's like to grow up as LGBT. Including testimonials from people 'across the spectrum', this inclusive book explores everything anyone who ever dared to wonder wants to know - from sex to politics, how to pull, stereotypes, how to come-out and more. Spike Gerrell's hilarious illustrations combined with funny and factual text make this a must-have read.

Review: I don't normally review nonfiction, but this is a hugely anticipated book by a brilliant author and a topic I have an interest in. There’s so many things that make this book wonderful.
First, there’s the fact that this book exists, with a bright rainbow cover and direct information and not hiding.  I can only think of one other sex-ed book that addresses queer people as well as cishet people, and that's Scarleteen's book, which I read  once in a library but it later disappeared. The fact  there's a book that speaks directly to a group of people ignored by almost every school when it comes to sex-ed, is brilliant, and I hope this book finds its way into the hands of everyone who needs it.
Then here's the breadth of topics covered; labels and common definitions, biological theories, stereotypes, coming out, dating, sex, marriage, and children, as well as more serious, less happy topics, such as religious opposition, homophobia, transphobia, HIV/AIDS.
James gives clear advice that hopefully will be hopeful to people of all genders and sexualities about how to combat homo&transphobia, coming out,  and many other things.
I love the range of voices from the online survey, especially the longer studies, that talk about experiences such as living with HIV, transitioning, and having children via surrogate mothers. They give a snapshot into many different lives, and, after reading about things like this in fiction, it's fascinating to see real-life perspectives.
My favourite thing is James's voice tying it all together. I read the book straight after James did a reading from this book, and it's so easy to imagine him reading it aloud. There's a lot of laughs in appropriate places, highlights including "a very bad lady-let's...call her Maggie....some years later [there was] a slightly less evil man let's call him Tony",    "what I felt for Dean Cain (whose name I did not change for this book- I mean, I think it's time he knew of my love", and (in the first edition) bullet points 2 and 3 on page 45.
Now, this is going to sound really picky, but I did notice that it sometimes reinforces the gender binary (yes, I'm aware one of my contributions does too, and I apologise for younger, less informed me and cis-centric language) and uses ciscentric language when talking about sex (e.g. a label of a  woman being accompanied by a diagram of a female-bodied person, or the words "gay women get turned on by vaginas" (here not taking into account e.g. gay women with preop transwomen). I do get that it is impossible to cover the full range of identities in one book, and my noticing this is probably a result of me getting used to sites where gender and sex are strictly separated, and this book is wonderful in its existence, but still, a couple of word changes here and there could make this book absolutely perfect.


Overall:  Strength  5, tea to a book that needs to be everywhere.


Thursday, 28 August 2014

Blog Tour Book Review- A Dark Inheritance by Chris D'Lacey

Title: A Dark Inheritance


 Author:  Chris D’Lacey
Series:   UNICORNE Files #1
Published:  7 August 2014 by Chicken House
Length:270 pages
Source: blog tour
Other info: Chris D’Lacey has also written the Last Dragon Chronicles.
Summary : When Michael Malone discovers his supernatural ability to alter reality, he is recruited by an organization dedicated to investigating strange and paranormal phenomena. He joins in hopes of finding his father, who mysteriously vanished three years earlier. Michael's first task is to solve the mystery of a dog he rescued from a precarious clifftop -- a mystery that leads him to a strange and sickly classmate and a young girl who was killed in a devastating accident. Stakes are high as Michael learns to harness his newfound ability and uncover the deadly truth about his father's disappearance.
A bold and thrilling tale of alternate realities, paranormal mystery, and extraordinary adventure.
Review:  Michael’s going to school via a non-normal route when he senses the thoughts of a suicidal dog, and somehow manages to stop her going over a cliff. This brings him to the attention of UNICORNE, who say they can tell him what happened to his father, who disappeared. They set him on the task of finding out what the dog was doing on the cliff, and this leads him to a mystery involving a classmate, a dead girl, and his newly discovered powers.
I’ve heard great things about Chris D’Lacey’s other work (which I have never read) so I was hoping this would be good. The blurbed concept isn’t particularly original, but I really liked the idea of cellular memory and the way it played out in the book.
There’s science-fiction elements, fantasy elements, and some thrillery elements too. It could have been a good mix, but in parts it goes so quickly that things don’t get explored as much as they could have been.
I like the characters, especially Josie, Michael’s ten year old sister, Chantelle, a UNICORNE agent, and Freya, Michael’s sick classmate.
The plot twists and turns, sometimes well, and sometimes in convenient places. I like the mix of more normal things that Michael has to deal with, in between the paranormal. I think the start of it was stronger than the way the setup played out though; it started with a strong hook, but then got a bit confusing. The main mystery did get played through well looking back on it, but with side elements being created due to Michael’s powers, it is harder to follow than it needed to be.
Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a genremixing thriller.
Blog tour!

26th August - Book Zone For Boys
8th August - Death, Books, and Tea
29th August - Fiction Fascination
1st September - Booktrust
2nd September - Teen Librarian
3rd September - Book Angel Booktopia


Sunday, 24 August 2014

Does YA Challenge or Reinforce Gender Stereotypes?

You may have remembered a few months ago, I begged for responses to a long thing about gender and stereotypes and then a few weeks later I begged for responses to a shorter one. HUGE THANKS TO ALL OF YOU FOR GIVING ME RECS OF WHAT TO READ AND THINK ABOUT AND/OR DATA TO QUOTE HERE! 
This was for a level two project, also known as a higher project qualification or HPQ. We got to choose anything to research and come up with a 2000 word essay on it. It was finished in February 2014, and came back with an A* :)
 Anyway, I chose to write about YA and how heavily gender stereotypes feature in it. A googledoc of this essay can be found here; the essay is uncut here, but there you can find the whole bibliography, and results of the shorter surveys. What do you think? Does YA challenge or reinforce gendered stereotypes, or is it changing? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Does Young Adult Fiction challenge or reinforce gender stereotypes?

Introduction
Gender stereotypes invade every aspect of life. From the moment a child is born and pronounced a boy or a girl, they will have the trappings of gender thrust upon them.  However, by the time they are teenagers, they will have started questioning these, and many other things about the world around them.   Literature written for teenagers, also known as Young Adult literature (YA), addresses many issues such as grief, bullying, drugs, suicide and rape. However, in my years reading a wide range of books on the market, I have not found many books that prominently challenge gender stereotypes, unless it is one of the few with a main character on the transgender spectrum. I have also often thought about the more general representation of gender throughout YA-the characteristics, traits and ideas attached to characters of different genders. In my time as a book blogger, I have also grown to know the methods of marketing YA literature, and I am going to analyse these, and if and how gender plays a part in these.  Gender stereotypes are rife throughout all forms of media, not just young adult literature. But as teens question and explore life, and are influenced by the media they consume, the books they read challenging or reinforcing gender stereotypes will help form their ideas that will stick with them throughout their lives.