The One Lovely Blog Award, Take #2

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Thanks for tagging me for this Rachel! This couldn’t have come at a better time. I was supposed to do today’s Top 5 Tuesday but I got super lazy. Then I came close to doing a Tumblr meme I swiped but it turned oddly personal so I decided not to. I guess I can share some facts from that meme, though!

The Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog.
  • Add the One Lovely Blog Award logo to your post.
  • Share 7 things about yourself.
  • Pass this on to as many people as you like (max 15).
  • Include this set of rules.
  • Inform your nominees.

7 Facts About Me

1) I live in New York City, and I would give my left pinky toe to leave (okay, maybe not any of my actual extremities, but you get the idea).  I hate that’s it’s so ridiculously expensive to rent closet-sized apartments, I hate the noise and the crowds, I hate that there’s no nature, and I hate how dirty it is all the time.  Just this morning as I was walking to work holding my breath, I thought, “God, what would it be like to walk outside without having to inhale the scent of piss!” Anyway, it’s nothing personal against NYC in particular (which definitely has a ton of upsides!), I’m just not a city person.

2) I don’t really have a “bucket list” but one thing I really want to do before I die is see the Northern Lights in person. A few years ago I charted a trip to Abisko, Sweden and even found a lodge I could stay in and everything.

3) My fashion sense is very casual/cozy/comfy while still trying to maintain some semblance of professionalism.  Basically, I dress like Clara Oswald, so lots of dresses over tights/leggings with boots/booties.  I even have a leather jacket.  But yeah, comfort is my top priority.  I haven’t worn jeans in nearly a year.

4) I really want to get an MFA (Masters in Creative Writing) at some point soon in my life. I’ve looked up various programs that are fully funded and I’ve got a good idea of where I would like to go.  I’m not sure when I’ll do this, but I’ll probably start looking towards the ~next step~ in my life as soon as I get my MLS (Masters in Library Science), which I’m working on at the moment.

5) As much as it pains me to admit it, I’m a terribly messy, unorganized person. I really want to be organized and every now and then I’ll make an effort to be less of a mess of a person, but inevitably it all comes crashing down around me.  I’m a bit flaky and absentminded to go along with it, so I’m always misplacing things and forgetting things. I really admire people who are super organized and color coordinate everything and whatnot, but I never seem to be able to achieve that #aesthetic.

6) I am not musically inclined at all.  I really wish I could sing, but according to everyone in my family I have a horrible singing voice and can’t carry a tune to save my life.  I took that “Tone Deaf Test” and I’m not actually tone-deaf at all, but I’ve never had any musical training and I know exactly zero about music.  I wish I could play an instrument but only in that abstract way where I don’t have to put any effort into it.  Singing, though, I wouldn’t mind putting effort to become better at; I really admire people who can sing.

7) I’m a really nostalgic and obsessive person and I have trouble letting go of things.  It could be a website or a fandom or a place or even a mood; I have a tendency to find a comfort zone and want to stay there forever. Needless to say, I struggle with change.

Tagging:

She Reads at Past Midnight
Paperback & Flick Chick
Perspective of a Writer

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TV Corner: Peaky Blinders, Fridging, and Men Who Can’t Write Women

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MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD

Before starting Peaky Blinders, I had heard many great things about it, mostly through cultural osmosis.  I didn’t know too much about what it was actually about – in fact the only aspect of it that drew me was that Cillian Murphy stars in it.  I was hesitant about watching a show about a crime gang, because I suspected it would revolve entirely around men and convoluted illegal activities that would surely bore me to death.  But I do adore Cillian Murphy, so on a whim I decided to start Peaky Blinders, and I immediately loved it.

First of all, Cillian Murphy is fantastic as Tommy Shelby, kind of like a grown-up AU Kaz Brekker without the cane and aversion to touch.  The first season also assuaged my fears of not being able to follow along; the plot was fairly straightforward and engaging.  I hadn’t expected to see women in leading roles, but we had two (or three, depending on how you look at it) who were all pretty cool. I had some criticisms, of course (I always do), but overall, I was really enjoying the show.  Then seasons two and three happened and everything went downhill.

I do have some general issues with plot and characterization.  The plot became too convoluted and expansive, moving from small-town crime gang stuff to being blackmailed by Winston Churchill, which made me lose interest.  One of the antagonists literally turned into a mustache twirling villain of ridiculous proportions and then was killed.  But I’m going to focus this post on my main problem with this show, mainly, the treatment of the three main female characters: Polly Shelby, Ada Shelby, and Grace Burgess.

Before I get into their character arcs separately, I want to start by saying that every one of these female characters have been sexually assaulted on the show.  Every. One.  Polly was forced into sex with the aforementioned mustache-twirling douche in exchange for freeing her son from prison, Ada was nearly gang-raped, and Grace was nearly raped.  There’s also Lizzie, a minor character, prostitute-turned-secretary, who was assaulted and raped.  Just putting that out there.

 

POLLY SHELBY

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Things start out promisingly with Polly, played by the fabulous Helen McCrory.  She’s the boys’ aunt, the Peaky Blinders’ treasurer, and Tommy, trusts her more than anyone else. She’s shown to be competent, blunt, and no-nonsense.  Soon enough she shows vulnerability when she reveals to Ada that she had an abortion in her youth, for practical reasons.  Fine, fine – then came season two.

Suddenly, Polly, smart, competent, wise Polly, is going to charlatan fortune-tellers to try to find out what happened to her children, who were taken from her by the police when they were toddlers.  She’s emotional and erratic all the time.  Her entire plotline revolves around finding her children.  Finally, Tommy discovers that her daughter had died of an illness, but her son Michael is still alive.  Michael joins the Peaky Blinders and the show seems to be grooming him to be the next Tommy.

Like, how boring, to be honest.  First of all, Polly’s character is sacrificed to build up Michael, who’s your standard run-of-the-mill angsty teen.  Second, what a missed opportunity for an interesting female character! Imagine if it had been Polly’s daughter who had survived, and she had wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps within the Peaky Blinders? Trying to assert her authority as a woman in a male-dominated field?

When Michael is arrested, Polly is humiliated and forced into sex in order to free him. When he is released and realizes what she did, he shows zero gratitude and acts like an entitled ass.  Polly then tries to get him to leave town for his safety.  Then she shoots the dude who raped her.  Like, okay, first off, I’m really damn sick of this idea that it’s totally fine to have your female character be sexually assaulted in the worst way as long as she gets revenge after.  Like. No. Stop.  Rape isn’t the only trauma a woman can suffer and it is not the only way to make her interesting or show that she’s strong.

ADA SHELBY

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Ada Shelby is Tommy’s younger sister. In the first season, her story mostly revolves around her love interest, Freddie, a communist who used to be Tommy’s best friend. Tommy is against their relationship but when Ada is pregnant, Freddie marries her.

Ada is actually a pretty cool gal, which you would expect from someone who has grown up with a street gang.  She’s tough and and stubborn and takes no shit. One of her most defining moments comes in the season one finale, when the Peaky Blinders are about to face off against another gang in a shoot-out.  Ada walks right in the middle of this impending disaster with her baby in his stroller and basically shouts the men into standing down, thereby preventing a total bloodbath.  It’s incredible.

In the second season, for some inexplicable reason, Freddie has died of some illness. I’m not sure why their relationship was such a huge part of season one only to kill Freddie off-screen, but okay.  In this season, Ada is mostly used as leverage against Tommy by rival gangs. In one harrowing episode, as Tommy is beaten nearly to death, Ada is kidnapped by a group of men and nearly gang-raped, only to be rescued at the last minute by Peaky Blinders.  She’s tough about it and it doesn’t seem to affect her much, but like, why? Why was this necessary? We had just witnessed this gang literally carve Tommy’s tooth out of his mouth, did we really need this to show how ~vicious~ they are?

Though Ada does not feature as much as I would like her to, she is shown to be a budding communist with ties to the Soviets and some pretty interesting views on civil society. Honestly, I’d watch a spin-off with her as the main character. She is ten times more interesting than Arthur and John (her brothers, who feature ten times as much), and I’m frustrated that the show doesn’t know how to use her.

GRACE BURGESS

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Oh, Grace. Rarely have I seen a female character done such a disservice.

Things started off well – they started off fantastic, in fact! In the first season, Grace is first introduced as a young Irish immigrant seeking employment as a barmaid.  Soon enough, though, she is revealed to be a spy, working to infiltrate the Peaky Blinders and seeking revenge for her father’s murder. She’s kind of like the female Tommy; their similar personalities are uncanny and probably why they are immediately drawn to each other. They are both stoic, reserved, and tightly-wound, on the verge of exploding, which we see them both do.  She is unfortunately nearly raped by a gross gang boss because of a situation Tommy places her in, but he ends up rescuing her from the very mess he created.

Predictably, Grace ends up switching sides after falling in love with Tommy, though she does fulfill her mission.  She exits the season in a pretty  badass way, though, boarding a train to London after shooting the mustache-twirling villain as he tried to shoot her (for turning down his marriage proposal and sleeping with Tommy).

In the second season, Grace shows up in one or two episodes  She’s married to a banker from Poughkeepsie and they are having infertility problems. She has sex with Tommy and lo and behold, she’s pregnant.  Aside from how insulting it is that this is her only plotline this season, this is awful, rushed writing. Next, Grace has a weird territorial conversation with another woman Tommy is sleeping with that is frankly demeaning to both women’s intelligence. That’s it for Grace in season two.

And then the coup de grace: in the season three premiere, Grace and Tommy get married. Grace suddenly transforms from competent spy to worried, nagging, clingy, insecure wife. Then, in the second episode, she’s shot with a bullet meant for Tommy and dies.

I didn’t believe it at first.  When she was shot I rolled by eyes and thought, “Here we go, she’s gonna spend the next couple of episodes in a bed while Tommy sits next to her and weeps tears of manpain.” But then the next episode opened with the aftermath of her funeral and I had to pause the episode and simply sit there utterly flabbergasted.

First of all, what a complete waste of a brilliant character! Grace is smart and ruthless; she would have been incredible as Tommy’s wife and business partner. Second, I cannot believe that in this day and age a showrunner would bring back a female character only to fridge her for a male character’s manpain. Like, there was no reason for her to die except to create drama for Tommy. They didn’t even have the decency to have someone important kill her; she’s murdered by some two-bit rival gang that gets taken care of in the next episode.

What the hell happened? I’m angry and frustrated, but I’m mostly just tired.  I’m exhausted by how often I get my hopes up only to be let down by writers who clearly have no idea how to write women.  The writers of Peaky Blinders are basically telling us that they cannot fathom a woman whose life doesn’t revolve around either a man or her children and they have no interest in learning, seeing as there aren’t any female writers on the team.  I’m tired.  This is boring and amateur and I’m so exhausted by shows that do the bare minimum with female characters getting massive praise heaped on them.

I’ve put Peaky Blinders on pause for now.  I’m only on the third episode of the third season, but I highly doubt I’m going to pick it up again.

Has anyone watched Peaky Blinders? What are your thoughts?

Book Review: Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

25062038Title: LITTLE & LION
Author: Brandy Colbert
Release Date: 2017
Pages: 336
Publisher: Little, Brown
My Rating: ★★★★☆(4/5)
Review on Goodreads

Little & Lion is a sweet but hard-hitting story about a young black, Jewish girl coming to terms with her bisexuality while also struggling to do the right thing regarding her brother’s mental illness.

Suzette is back home from boarding school for the summer, after her parents sent her away in the wake of her brother Lionel’s diagnosis of bipolar disorder. She wants desperately to integrate herself back into her brother’s life, for things to be the way they were before, but Lionel is struggling to – he’s still adjusting to his mental illness and being on medication. Suzette is also fresh of a messy break-up at boarding school, and the guilt of it plagues her.

While this seems like your run-of-the-mill book on the surface, I thought it was a really powerful and emotional exploration of mental health, sexuality, racism, microagressions, and sibling relationships. But the best thing is that while the book does delve into all of these heavy subjects it never feels heavy-handed, like it’s preaching or trying to teach me something. It never feels artificial. It’s just this group of teens trying to deal with some very real issues while living their lives.

Brandy Colbert’s writing is lovely – too often in contemporary YA authors will rely on the plot itself to carry the book through, but it is clear Colbert has put careful consideration into her writing. Her words fly fast, and the book is engaging, but it’s not simplistic or juvenile. The many characters are all given ample room for self-expression; Suzette in particular feels so very real, a young girl trying her best to do the right thing while fighting off the way the world sees her. I also appreciated that her love interests were so different from each other – Rafaela in particular felt very realistic and actually inspired feelings of dislike in me. Not that she was a bad person, but her personality clashed with my own, which I enjoyed! I love it when characters make me feel something, even if it’s dislike; it means they’re well-fleshed out.

Something else that greatly affected me is the setting. The book takes place in Los Angeles, and perhaps this is this is the romantic in me (I…idolize California in a weird way though I’ve never been), but I thought Colbert did a spectacular job capturing the vibe of living in LA. The weather, the mountainous setting, the strip malls with their neon signs, the lazy summer nights. This book is hella atmospheric, and it made me feel like I was right alongside the characters in LA.

Creating atmosphere like that is difficult to do in general, but it’s especially difficult to capture in a huge, thriving city like LA. The way Colbert framed this story it was almost as though it were taking place in a separate, intimate pocket of reality, and that made me feel like I was a part of the story.

The End of the Year Book Tag

Saw this on Rachel‘s blog!

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?

Well…not this year, but there is a book that I started one or two (or three) years ago that I still need to finish.  It’s The World Since 1945 by T.E. Vadney and it’s a really, really good historical overview of world events with a focus on the Third World.  I read like half of it and really enjoyed it but it’s also straight-up history so it does get a little dry.

Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?

I don’t usually do this seasonal reading thing, but this year I thought I might read Rebecca for the month of October! Since it’s supposed to be ~atmospheric~ and all. But I also need to read The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin before the end of October because I’m going to the Sirens Conference in Colorado and she’s the keynote speaker! Not that I think she’ll spoil her book, but I’m sure there will be people in attendance keen to discuss it.  All  this, of course, is if I finish reading War and Peace, Little and Lion, and The Library of Fates by the end of September.

Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?

What am I not waiting for, honestly? There are so many great books coming out. I’m especially looking forward to Madeline Miller’s Circe, Fonda Lee’s Jade City, Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, and Julie C. Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns.  There’s way, way more, but those are the ones that stick out.  (A couple of these come out next year, but alas.)

What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?

So I mentioned Rebecca, there’s that.  Oddly enough, I also really want to read Wuthering Heights.  Maybe that can be one of my November books.  I’ve also heard great things about Amanda Foody’s Daughter of the Burning City so I want to get my hands on that.

Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favorite book of the year?

I have read so many great books this year, from Saints and Misfits to The City of Brass that I think it will be difficult for another book to top them, but we’ll see!

Have you already started making reading plans for 2018?

Nope! I don’t really plan out my reading schedule far in advance.  At most I have a sense of the next 3-4 books I want to read, but otherwise I just generally go by my mood.  The only thing I know is that I want to continue expanding my horizons.  Reading War and Peace was something I never thought I would do in my lifetime, and yet here I am, 60% of the way through and on my way to finishing! It was certainly not as daunting as I thought.  So I want to read more classic literature, mainly by women.  There are also some authors I keep seeing that I hope to get into, like Aliette de Bodard and Kate Elliot.

Go for this, y’all! Pingback to me if you do this.

Stage Corner: War Paint

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Yesterday I entered the War Paint lottery on a whim, since I was entering a bunch of other lotteries, and I didn’t really expect to win. I didn’t even know what the show was about when I put my name in. I think I had some vague notions of an actual war, but that is not what this show is about at all.  It is in fact using “war paint” as a euphemism for makeup to tell the story of rivals Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein.

Historically speaking, this was an intriguing story.  I had no idea Arden had had any kind of rivalry with anyone, and I’d never even heard of Rubinstein (apparently what was left of her company ended up being owned by L’Oreal).  According to the Playbill, the show tried to be as historically accurate as possible, with the exception of a condensed timeline, and so it was fascinating to witness the rise and fall of these two giants of industry.

What was not fascinating was the musical itself.  The music carried certain hints and flavors of 40s tunes that I like, but otherwise it was forgettable and uninspired.  I don’t think there’s a single song that has stuck with me (I mean, maybe Fire and Ice?).  Staging was quite basic as well.

Christine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden did fine, though she didn’t wow me.  I did very much enjoy Patti Lupone as Helena Rubinstein, however.  She was given most of the comedic lines, which she delivered fantastically.  I actually found myself much more invested in the spoken dialogue than in any of the music.  John Dossett and Douglas Sills as Tommy Lewis and Harry Fleming were practically indistinguishable, though perhaps that was intentional.  The rest of this small cast didn’t have very much to do, so there were no particular standouts.

And, not to go into some heavy discourse here, but the hodgepodge mix of varying feminisms was somewhat jarring.  Makeup was praised “war paint” and talked about as if it was the one thing that could raise a woman up.  “There are no ugly women, only lazy ones,” Helena Rubinstein famously said.  In the show Rubinstein also muses on her own unusual beauty: her dark hair, her Slavic nose, and insists this is what makes her unique. In one touching moment, she reads a letter from a girl who wonders why she is still ugly after using makeup.  Arden and Rubinstein also frequently muse on their roles as women in a man’s world.  Through it all runs the thread of makeup as empowering and improving lives.

Then, at the very end of the show, when Arden and Rubinstein finally talk to each other, Arden wonders, “Did we free [women] or enslave them?” Yet this throwaway line, sung somewhat abruptly in the final song, feels like an afterthought, tossed in just to satisfy those who might raise issue with the portrayal of makeup.  It is certainly never given appropriate weight, or even appropriate time.  One the one hand I understand this decision given that the story is, after all, about two women who pioneered the makeup industry.  On the other hand, if that line about enslaving women was going to be included, I would have liked to have seen some more foreshadowing of it throughout the rest of the show.

Overall, I didn’t love this, but I didn’t dislike it either.  I certainly enjoyed the show as a learning experience and Patti Lupone is a master at delivering comedic beats.  But would I recommend it? Not really.

Top 5 Tuesday: Books for Non-Readers

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bionic Bookworm.

I actually know a lot of non-readers in my life, chief among them my brother, but someone like him is an adamant non-reader.  He simply refuses to pick up books. So I took this tag to be more about casual readers, less “I’ll only read if you pay me” and more “I’m looking for something really really specific and captivating”.

For the “I want fantasy and adventure” crowd:

21414439Truthwitch by Susan Dennard: Truthwitch walks the fine line between YA fantasy and adult fantasy.  It’s about two young women, best friends, who find themselves caught in political machinations beyond their control.  From the first page Dennard sucks you into a harrowing crisis, and from then on the fun never stops.  Dennard is fantastic at writing action scenes; she draws you in and doesn’t ever let go.  The characters are all super-well developed and the world-building is rich and detailed.

For the “I prefer romcoms” crowd:

28458598When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon: This book is hilarious and so much fun.  It’s about two Indian kids whose parents decide to set them up – only one of them is unaware she is being set up.  It’s such a sweet story about falling in love and family and cultural expectations.  It’s super light-hearted and ends happily in perfect romcom fashion.


For the “I need a mystery” crowd:

29276588Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia: Attempting to solve the mystery of a teenage girl’s murder in a small town, this book is your classic murder mystery/small town with secrets book.  I literally could not put it down. I think I stayed up until like 3AM reading it because I just could not stop and had to know who the killer was. The end was not shocking, but satisfying because it made sense.

For the “I need pictures and visuals” crowd:

29396738Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu: I’m not generally a graphic novel reader, but I’d heard such good things about Monstress that I had to check it out.  This is a whirlwind of a graphic novel, pulling in from so many different genres – horror, steampunk, high fantasy, science fiction – all blending seamlessly together in a matriarchal world filled with diversity of all kinds.  It’s definitely a lot to take in, but it’s really worth the investment, and it will keep you hooked. From the intricate story to the beautiful artwork, you will not be able to put this down.

For the “I only read non-fiction” crowd: 

8462352Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States by Joey L. Mogul, Andrea K. Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock: I’m a frequent non-fiction reader myself, so I had to recommend something in this category.  I actually read this book a few years back for a class in college, and I didn’t expect to like it so much.  It’s rare to come across a non-fiction book that is legitimately a page turner! This book details the treatment of LGBT people from when they are unjustly arrested and profiled to their treatment in the court and prison system.  It focuses heavily on intersections of race and class and is an absolutely eye-opening read for anyone with a rosy view of the US prison system.

I Dare You Book Tag

This weekend, I was supposed to finish off a book at home, considering War and Peace is taking up all of my subway reading time. Unfortunately, I instead got caught up watching Peaky Blinders (maybe I’ll post about that at some point).  So, instead, I figured I would do a book tag I saw floating around! Not sure where it originated from, so let me know if you know, so I can pingback to them.

RULES:
You must be honest
You must answer all the questions
You must tag at least 4 people

1. What book has been on your shelf the longest?

Yikes. I’m seriously guilty of buying books and telling myself I’ll read them but never getting around to them.  Maybe…The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe? I bought it way back in high school when I was seriously emo.  I realized too late that I wasn’t actually all that into Poe.

2. What is your current read, your last read, and the book you’ll read next?

I am currently reading War and Peace, a beast of a novel, which is why I haven’t been posting reviews lately. My last reads were The History of White People and This Savage Song. As for what I’ll read next, it will likely be either Little & Lion or The Library of Fates.

3. What book did everyone like, but you hated?

I think I just talked about this in the last book tag I did, but I didn’t really hate The Wrath and the Dawn. A book I did hate is Marie Lu’s Legend.  I thought it was awful on just about every level, which is strange because I really loved her other series, The Young Elites.  Maybe I’m just not into dystopia.

4. What book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read, but you probably won’t?

Oh man. A whole bunch of classic/literary books, probably.  I’ve had The Odyssey on my bookshelf for years and keep telling myself I’ll read it, but…who am I kidding.

5. What book are you saving for retirement?

Well, perhaps not retirement, but I really want to have a lot of time and mental energy on hand when I start Steve Erickson’s Malazan series.  It’s such a dense, gigantic series with so many characters and so much rich world-building that I want to be certain I have enough time to devote to it.

6. Last page: read it first, or wait ’til the end?

Oh my goodness, I avoid this like the plague.  Even if I’m gonna check for a glossary or to see how many pages there are in a book, I will literally cover up the rest of the page. You see, I was scarred as a youngster. When Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince came out, I accidentally read a page towards the end and was spoiled for Dumbledore’s death. It was traumatic. Now I am always extra careful when flipping through a book.

7. Acknowledgement: waste of paper and ink, or interesting aside?

I loooooooove reading acknowledgments; I legit look forward to them.  As an aspiring writer, I really enjoy seeing how authors sum up their work and the effort that went into it. And some authors can be quite witty in their acknowledgements.  It’s also very useful to see authors thank their agents, because when you start querying you might want to go find those agents and/or their literary agencies!

8. Which book character would you switch places with?

Probably Morgan Rowlands from Cate Tiernan’s Sweep series. Like, that series was absolutely formative for me as a teenager. I loved seeing Morgan go from shy high school teenager to powerful and respected witch.  Tiernan captured the beauty of Wicca and magick so effortlessly that I couldn’t help but want to be immersed in all that.

9. Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life? (Place, time, person?)

Well, I do have a copy of The Stone Sky signed by N.K. Jemisin. I didn’t meet her or talk to her, but I did attend the book launching event for the book, where pre-signed copies were on sale. It was an awesome event; it felt so cool to be in the same room as so many Jemisin fans!

10. Name a book that you acquired in an interesting way.

An ARC of The City of Brass! I was just browsing in and around the author’s Twitter when I saw the publisher had tweeted asking if anyone wanted an ARC! They DM’ed me for my address and a couple of weeks later I had the book!

11. Have you ever given a book away for a special reason to a special person?

Not a special reason, but I’ve given away some books that I know I won’t be reading again.  Mainly old Jodi Picoult books (I was obsessed with her books for a long time).

12. Which book has been with you most places?

Harry Potter, though not the same copies.  I’ve lost HP copies to flood and travel throughout the years, so in 2014 I bought a brand new set. But HP, particularly Sorcerer’s Stone, tended to come along with me if I was embarking on any brand new part of my life. So my first day of middle school in Egypt, my first day of junior year back in New York, my first day of college, my first day of work…it brings me comfort. It’s like having a friend with me.

13. Any “required reading” you hated in high school that wasn’t so bad two years later?

Hmm, I actually didn’t hate most of my required reading in high school! I remember liking The Great Gatsby, The Color Purple, The Bell Jar, Pride and Prejudice, and Ethan Frome.  What I did loathe was The Scarlett Letter and a whole bunch of short stories.

14. Used or brand new?

Both! I absolutely love used bookstores, wandering the aisles and discovering a steal! But I really enjoy new books as well; I love the smell of brand new books.

15. Have you ever read a Dan Brown book?

Oh, man. He was another one I was obsessed with when I was younger.  I was really into The Da Vinci Code. Like, to an unhealthy extent.  This was my conspiracy phase, so I got really obsessed with all the history and secret groups mentioned in the books, as well as cryptography.

16. Have you ever seen a movie you liked more than the book?

Twilight, oddly enough. I’m also reasonably sure that I’ll like the movie IT better than the novel. I mean, I’ve never read the novel, but that’s only because I really struggle to get into anything by Stephen King.

17. Have you ever read a book that’s made you hungry, cookbooks included?

Hmm…probably Game of Thrones! GRRM is so descriptive when it comes to food! I know some people are annoyed by that, but I enjoy it.

18. Who is the person whose book advice you’ll always take?

My friend Rachel @ pace amore libri because I think she really gets my likes and dislikes, and Chelsea @ Spotlight on Stories because we like a lot of the same things!

19. Is there a book out of your comfort zone (e.g., outside your usual reading genre) that you ended up loving?

Well, I’m about halfway through War and Peace now, and that is definitely miles out of my comfort zone, but I wouldn’t say I love it. I like it well enough to continue reading it, but…I definitely have a lot of frustrations with it too.  I guess a better answer would probably be Sister of my Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.  It’s very literary fiction of a cultural bent, a coming of age story, about two girls growing up side by side in India.  Not something I would ordinarily pick up, but the fact that it was about India specifically drew me to it, since India tends to share a lot of cultural similarities with the Middle East, which is where I’m from. I ended up absolutely loving it mainly because of the bond between the two main characters. I’m a sucker for intense, sisterly female friendships (particularly ones that evolve into more than that, although that doesn’t happen here), and this book delivers.  Unfortunately I thought the sequel was terrible and unnecessary, but one day I will go back and read this book, since I read it for the first time way back in 2013.

I’m actually gonna tag some folks, hurray!

I tag:

Pace amore libri
Spotlight on Stories
Lost Purple Quill 
Perspective of a Writer
Words With Bri

The Unpopular Opinions Book Tag

I’ve been wanting to do a tag like this for a long time, so thanks Rachel @ pace amore libri for tagging me!

1.) A popular book or book series that you didn’t like. 

18798983First one that comes to mind is The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh.  I didn’t absolutely hate this (I gave it a three-star rating, but it was definitely on the lower end of the spectrum, more like 2.5).  I thought it suffered from flat characters, meandering plot, terribly written romance, and a protagonist who keeps being referred to as super special.  I liked the book enough to finish it quickly, but I remember rolling my eyes a lot and not being the least bit interested in picking up the sequel.

Also, shout out to Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds and Marie Lu’s Legend.

2.) A popular book or book series that everyone else seems to hate but you love. 

6296885I don’t think people hate The Necromancer Chronicles, but I definitely think that they don’t get the love they deserve (and more criticism than I think they should).  I love these books.  I’m not saying they’re without some technical problems, particularly in terms of pacing and characterization.  However, I think they feature some of the best fantasy worldbuilding I’ve ever seen.  The world of the Necromancer Chronicles is essentially gender-neutral, with women on equal footing as men, and it was a beautiful thing to read.  The magic system is unique.  The cities and countries described are based on real countries (and you can guess which) but they’re well-developed and atmospheric. The writing is lush and lyrical and lovely (though some may find it too purple, but I’m known to like that).  The second book is the apex of the series, featuring excellent romance, a trans character, polyamory, and political intrigue.

3.) An otp that you don’t like.

18006496Aelin/Rowan.  So, Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series always seemed like it would be right up my alley, and indeed, I loved the first and second books, despite their many problems.  However, by the time the third book came along, the books dipped noticeably in quality, and started to lag. Eventually I quit the series.  And I think a big part of the reason for that is Rowan and his relationship with Aelin.  Maybe it’s because I liked her better with Chaol (a relationship that was so slow burn and then ended like a week after it began), maybe it’s because Rowan’s a territorial weirdo, but I just really dislike them together. I think they bring out the worst in each other and they’re boring, frankly.

4.) A popular book genre that you hardly reach for.

Romance.  I’ve never been a huge fan, personally.  I tend to dislike it even in my other genre fiction, but I don’t think that’s the fault of romance itself.  I really like romance if it’s well-written and well-incorporated into a novel (see: The Shadowed Sun by N.K. Jemisin) but normally romances are terribly written.  And romance as a genre tends to be very standardized: there’s a particular formula publishers know will sell, and so the plot keeps recycling itself.  I’m not fond of that formula.

5.) A popular/beloved character that you do not like.

I started thinking about characters I don’t like, and I realized there is a very particular type of character I tend to dislike: male YA love interests.  So Noah Shaw (Unbecoming of Mara Dyer), Po (Graceling), Dorian (Throne of Glass), Mal (Shadow and Bone), and I could probably keep listing them.  Most of them tend to be bland and forgettable, an amalgamation of ideal male traits made to cater to our heroine’s needs and desires. A nice fantasy, to be sure, but it means we end up with an archetype rather than an actual character.

6.) A popular author that you can’t seem to get into.

618241Terry Goodkind.  See, I really loved the TV show Legend of the Seeker, so I thought I’d read the high fantasy series it was based on, Sword of Truth.  As it turns out, the TV series has little in common with the books and the books are <i>the worst</i>.  Not only do they suffer from comically terrible writing and dialogue, they’re also full of misogyny so horrifically terrible it’s almost satirical – only it’s not.  Unsurprisingly, his books are popular with high fantasy fans, as they’re that sort of old school white farmboy misogynistic fantasy that used to be popular.  But it’s mediocre bullshit.

7.) A popular book trope that you’re tired of seeing.

YA is full of  tropes that I can’t stand.  I think the one that takes the cake is when you have a heroine who is established as super special and better than other girls, who are obviously beneath her. I don’t know why this is so popular considering YA is a genre mostly written by women (haha just kidding I totally know why), but so many YA fantasy novels fall into this trap of isolating their heroines from other women.  Not only is it misogynistic, it’s also unrealistic considering most of these fantasy novels take place in psuedo-medieval times when relationships between women were varied, complex, and important! No, instead these books would rather give the heroine a pasty cardboard dude to fall in love with while all other girls are evil/shallow/vain/insipid.  From what I’ve been seeing, though, YA writers seem to be taking steps away from this!

8.) A popular series that you have no interest in reading. 

13455782Shatter Me by Tahera Mafi.  People seem to love this, but I’m really not interested.  Aside from my general disinterest in YA dystopia, the weird writing format is really throwing me off (random sentences are crossed out) and I know I won’t be able to get into it. Plus the summary sounds suuuuuuuper generic.  (I am purposely using the paperback cover here because the hardcover version is…Y I K E S.)

And shout out to anything Cassandra Clare has written.  I actually really enjoy the TV show Shadowhunters based on her work, but I would never read it.

9.) The saying goes “the book is always better than the movie,” but what movie or tv show adaptation do you prefer more than the book? 

This is probably a weird answer, but I’ve always kinda liked the Twilight films? I read the first book when I was a teenager and didn’t like it, but when I watched the film I remember enjoying it. Probably because I didn’t have to suffer through the writing.  This is a terrible answer but I can’t think of anything else! The book really is always better than the movie!

 

I’ll tag:  Anne Reads Them, Perspective of a Writer, and She Reads at Past Midnight!

What do y’all think of my answers? Agree, disagree? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter

6919721Title: THE HISTORY OF WHITE PEOPLE
Author: Nell Irvin Painter
Release Date: 2010
Pages: 396
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
My Rating: ★★★☆☆(3/5)
Review on Goodreads

This is a difficult book for me to accurately assess, since I am trying to be objective regarding the book’s content while also expressing my disappointed expectations.

Objectively speaking, this book is a powerful scholarly work, a history of whiteness as determined by White Europeans. Painter delves into obscure European anthropological and sociological tomes on racial classification. This is part of why my interest started to wander; Painter spends way too much time on these European scholars and their works. In excruciating detail, she chronicles the lives of these European racists (I use this term more as a shorthand than anything), their relationships with each other, the circles they ran in, and the impact of their work. It results in a very rich historical tome, but not exactly what I was looking for.

To give you an example of what I mean by this laborious detail, Painter spends three chapters on Ralph Waldo Emerson. These chapters certainly touch on the development of racial theory at this time, but the bulk of them is devoted to Emerson’s life, his impact, and the memory of him in American society. To me it read like a rather lengthy tangent that could have been adequately summed up in a single chapter.

One of the major strengths of this book is how well it elucidates just how much of racial “science” was actually pseudoscience – complete bullshit, in other words. Painter pulls direct quotes from these racial “scientists” that indicate that they had no understanding whatsoever of the scientific method, and their science was utterly flawed and nonsensical. Essentially, Painter is building up to an important face: race is not biological, and it never was. Race is, and always has been, a social construct. That is the crux of this book, the point it is trying to make by painstakingly detailing the work of European racial thinkers.

I was disappointed that European racial thinkers take up the majority of this book. I had been hoping to see, as a contrast, scholars from outside of Europe and how they thought of race and “whiteness.” And yet, this is hardly touched upon. There were other significant issues I thought should have been discussed in greater detail. For example, there is no mention at all of the pivotal trial of Bhagat Singh Thind, where an Indian man was declared racially ineligible for US citizenship. There is no mention at all of similar trials that followed, of Syrians and other Middle Easterners, whose classification at the time depended sometimes on their skin color, sometimes on their religion, and sometimes on the political classification of their origins. In other words, it was a complete mess that illustrates the fallacy of racial classification quite well.

Middle Easterners and North Africans are hardly mentioned, which I think is a serious detriment to the argument of the book. As a group, MENA are legally classified as Caucasians, but there is so much confusion regarding this classification that it is essentially worthless. MENA folks occupy a vague racial category that can sparks fierce conversations on the meaning of race and ethnicity, and yet that is never mentioned in this book. Painter spends more time talking about racial divisions among white people (or those that are today considered white, such as Slavs, Irish, Italians) than the racial categories we know today.

Again, I want to say that I am trying to balance what this book actually is versus my personal expectations. Objectively, it is an excellent, impressive work of scholarship that details centuries of European racial thinking. I just found it disappointing in its hyper focus on European thinkers and the details of their lives. I ended up skimming many of these parts, as I had no interest whatsoever where this particular European racist went to school or what he accomplished in his life.

In sum, this is an important, significant work of scholarship that needs to exist, certainly, but I probably should have adjusted my expectations of it sooner.

Guilty Reader Book Tag

Since I’m currently working my way through War and Peace, and have decided to DNF American War (my first DNF of the year!), I thought I’d spend some time doing a book tag.  My friend Rachel @ pace, amore, libri did this and I thought it looked like fun!

1. Have You Ever Regifted A Book That You’ve Been Given?

Well, I don’t know if this counts, but I’ve donated a book that I was gifted. Someone got me The Da Vinci Code back when I was obsessed with it, but as my tastes changed I wanted to clear up some space on my bookshelf, so it went off to the library. (Also, why is this the only question that has all the words capitalized?)

2. Have you ever said you’ve read a book when you haven’t?

Not really? Like, I’ll be specific about what I mean.  If I DNFed a book, I’ll say I DNFed it. If I read thorough reviews with screenshots (a la The Continent or The Black Witch), I’ll also say that. If I’m familiar with the story through cultural osmosis or SparkNotes, I’ll also say that.

3. Have you ever borrowed a book and not returned it?

I’ve actually never borrowed a book from another person.  My childhood friends were not big on reading, so usually they were the ones borrowing from me, if reading at all.  My best friend definitely still has some of my books at her house.

4. Have you ever read a series out of order?

Actually, yes! Harry Potter! So, here’s the story: after a lot of convincing, my mom basically forced me read The Sorcerer’s Stone. I liked it waaaaay more than I thought I would, so I headed over to the library to borrow Chamber of Secrets. Unfortunately, the copies were all checked out.  I loved the series so much, though, that I just couldn’t wait, and so I checked out the next available book in the series: Prisoner of Azkaban.  Then, once I was done, Chamber of Secrets was back, so I read it, and then I continued in order.  Back then, we didn’t have much money, so buying books when the library was right there was out of the question, and so all I could do was wait!

5. Have you ever spoiled a book for someone?

I loathe spoilers, so I’m very careful about only spoiling if someone explicitly asks me to spoil it for them.

6. Have you ever doggy eared a book?

I used to do this often, because, believe it or not, I didn’t realize bookmarks were a thing.

7. Have you ever told someone you don’t own a book when you do?

No?  Why would I do that?  /Rachel

8. Have you ever told someone you haven’t read a book when you have?

I repeat: why would I do that?  I guess this means for books that it’s ’embarrassing’ to have read like Twilight or something?  I read Twilight when I was 15 and I hated it so I didn’t read the rest of the series.  I don’t mind admitting to that.  /Rachel

9. Have you every skipped a chapter or a section of a book?

Not skipped, but I will sometimes skim portions if a book is particularly dull and I’m close to finishing it.  Or with something like War and Peace, where I’m currently slogging through the Battle of Austerlitz and skimming various paragraphs that are all about flanks and cavalry and vanguards.  Like, if I wanted to read about battles in excruciating detail, I’d pick up a textbook on military history.

10. Have you ever bad mouthed a book you actually liked?

Nope! I’m actually really particular about this, as nothing annoys me so much as literary snobbery.  This happens a lot to YA readers, as we’re often told YA books are not “real” books or they’re automatically worse in quality or something.

 

Like Rachel I won’t tag anyone since I wasn’t tagged, but do pingback to me if you do this so I can read your answers!