Hello, everyone! Today, I'm sharing my 2020 video bookshelf tour, as an update on my last 2017 tour. It begins with a little clip of Spartacus, so don't be confused by that, LOL. The Goodreads pages for any new books on my shelf are linked below.
I put together a bookshelf tour video for this week's post, but right now, it doesn't feel right to post it. Across the past few days, through social media, I've seen a fervor erupt in the U.S. like I've never seen before. This is largely inspired by the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by police in Minneapolis. However, there are a lot of larger factors at play: decades of police violence, the current coronavirus pandemic, an ever-widening wealth gap in the midst of yet another economic downtown, and all of this being borne most severely by marginalized groups and particularly Black people. It's not hard for me to understand why there have been such intense protests in so many cities across the country. Black people have had enough, and frankly, it is way past time for change.
I've always been most fascinated by humans; all our weird contradictory complexities, and yet history shows us that humans don't do a lot of changing. There is always a lot of violence and prejudice and horror being perpetrated by people, especially those in power. There is always a lot of resistance to any social movement. There is always a lot of selfishness. But some things do change, in bursts here and there, and I hope this might be one of those times. It's not easy to live amid chaos, but it's also not easy to live amid an accepted status quo where people are suffering. In both these cases, privilege protects a lot of people, including me. It's quiet where I live, in my life, almost all the time, and sometimes, that makes me forget how much societal and political terror so many others are living with. But social media provides me a broader view by giving me access to other people. It shows me the suffering that people like me, white people, need to recognize and accept responsibility for changing, and it helps me be understanding about behavior that might seem extreme if I didn't know how much injustice and death and pain has been happening.
As a speculative fiction writer, reader, and viewer, I have immersed myself in so many stories about morality, injustice, and revolution. I am not in any way alone there. Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and other popular phenomena all include these themes. But I think too many of us see this as being limited to fiction, to the past, or to other countries. We fail to recognize the way they're affecting our own societies, especially those of us who are people of privilege living quiet lives. We have problems, yes, many of them deeply painful, but we aren't being hurt by society in such a consistent and structural way. So it's easy for us to turn away or condemn others and not realize that we're ignoring the very heroes that we cheered for when we saw them in a different setting. Protests and riots are a part of so many important pieces of progress that have been made in the world.
In the past, I've analyzed the selection of books that I was required to read in school, and I've expressed my frustrations with it--primarily with the lack of diversity in both the authors and the main characters. That led me to write this post, where I shared some classics I enjoyed that are by non-White-and-male authors.
Since then, I've had the chance to read many more classics on my own. So today, I thought I'd create my ideal list of classics for students to read while in school. The main rule for this list is that I'm not allowed to include any author more than once (not even Shakespeare!), because the lack of diversity in English literature curriculum is even worse when you consider how many of the authors are repeats. Books that I was required to read anytime from elementary school through my English BA are marked with an asterisk.
Let's get into it!
1) Hamlet by William Shakespeare.* This is my Shakespearean pick: a historical tragedy written in 1603 about an indecisive Danish prince who is told by his father's ghost that the uncle who married his mother and became the new king is, in fact, his father's murderer. This story's downward spiral into chaos and death fascinates me. (If I was allowed to also include a Shakespearean comedy, I'd pick Much Ado About Nothing, but that's against the rules, so. 🤷🏻♀️ )
2) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.* I've enjoyed every Jane Austen book I've read, but this one is the most famous: a regency romance published in 1813 that tells the hate-to-love story of an intelligent and independent young woman and a rich, awkward, and aloof young man who each have pride and prejudice that adds strife to their relationship. Jane Austen's famous wit and feminist social commentary are well-displayed in this novel!
2019 is coming to a close, which means it's time for my end-of-year lists! First, today, I'm sharing my picks for the best YA books of 2019. Naturally, I have not read every YA book that was released in 2019, but these are my favorites from the ones I have read. If Goodreads had a half-star system, these books would be rated 4.5 stars or more! So please check them out, and enjoy.
Hey, everyone! Recently I wrote a post listing middle grade novels that I recommend. As I was writing this post, it occurred to me that I could also offer some good picks for younger YA readers. Young teens, around the thirteen/fourteen age, are often overlooked in the publishing world, but it is super important for them to have good books to read as they transition from middle grade to young adult literature.
For me, this transition was a really big deal. I wasn't ready for older teen books that had sexual content or that delved into darker issues, so I struggled at first. I'm really grateful for all the softer/younger books that helped me get into reading YA lit. Without them, I may have never had the chance to fall in love with the category!
With that in mind, I present to you my picks for transitioning young YA readers. Don't forget to also check out that middle grade post! I included a few book series there that transition from middle grade to YA as the story progresses, and they would also be good picks for this age group.
1) The Giver by Lois Lowry. People don't really seem to be sure whether this one is MG or YA, which makes it a good pick for this post. It does star an MG-aged character, but it also addresses many serious topics that may push it towards YA. As the series progresses, it quickly moves into definitive YA territory. Wherever you choose to categorize it, this sci-fi/fantasy series about a a broken, multi-dystopian future is both thought-provoking and beautiful. I've loved it for years and years, and I absolutely recommend it for young teens.
2) Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz. As a young teen, I was a big fan of Anthony Horowitz's work. I first discovered him through the Alex Rider series, a YA thriller about a fourteen-year-old boy who becomes a spy for the UK after his uncle's suspicious death. It's an intelligent and fascinating series--I even wrote a post here about similar books that fans might like. I also loved Horowitz for The Gatekeepers, a YA fantasy series about five gifted teens who have to take on a horde of ancient, eldritch monsters to save the world. Though these books have some intense and violent parts, they're well-suited to a young YA audience.
As I promised in my post about books I like that came from outside my comfort zone, today's post is going to list my recommendations for middle grade novels! For those who don't know, middle grade is the age category that comes before young adult. MG stories are for preteen kids, mostly between the ages of 9 and 12.
I don't read as much middle grade as I do YA, but I do have some favorites from when I was that age. In fact, my most favorite series (Harry Potter, a classic) starts out middle grade! I also continue to read new MG books that catch my eye today.
Here are the ones I like the best! (Skipping Harry Potter, because that's obvious.)
1) The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis. The Chronicles of Narnia is a classic MG fantasy series that, like Harry Potter, transitions into YA towards the end. It presents a Christian allegory full of meaning and magic. The Magician's Nephew is the first in the series (though C.S. Lewis wrote it sixth out of the seven books), and it's terribly underrated in my opinion. Kick off your reading of the series here, and explore the incredible world of Narnia!
2) The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. If you're a fan of language and/or philosophy in search of a fun and clever read, this MG fantasy novel might satisfy your craving! It follows a grumpy boy into a wild land full of puns and metaphors, where he goes on a quest to save a magical kingdom. My second grade teacher read it to my class, and I enjoy it as much now as I did then.
I did a post like this back at the very beginning of this blog, but today, inspired by Top Ten Tuesday, I'm going to list some more books that were outside my comfort zone, that I didn't expect to like, but that I now recommend. A lot of them will probably feature these book turn-offs. Check them out!
1) Munmun by Jesse Andrews. The premise for this YA dystopian novel sounds pretty ridiculous and more like something from a children's book than YA, but upon reading it, I discovered it to be a brilliant and harsh allegory for class in our society. It's worthy of Jonathan Gulliver, who has an epigraph at the beginning. It definitely affected my perspective on poverty and wealth. The book tells the story of an impoverished teen boy living in a U.S. where your physical size is proportional to your wealth.
2) Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. Unlike the majority of YA readers, I didn't like Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Strange the Dreamer is a YA fantasy that takes place in the same universe (multiverse?), so I held off for a while, but once I read it, I fell head over heels. I plan to reread Daughter of Smoke and Bone just because of how much I loved this duology! It follows a young librarian on an adventure he's always dreamed of and a half-goddess in hiding above a city full of traumatized humans who slaughtered the gods when she was just a baby.
3) Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King. A.S. King is another author I'd read before and not really liked--in this case, I'd read multiple books by her, and their incredible strangeness was what held me off. With this YA magical realism novel, though, I felt that the oddity only strengthened the narrative. It follows a depressed teen girl with a very unhealthy family situation who keeps seeing different versions of herself all over the place. It's a powerful read.
As y'all know, I share roundups of my favorite (YA) books of the year each December. Today, in a challenge inspired by Top Ten Tuesday, I'm going to try to narrow these down and pick a single favorite for each year from 2010-2019. It's a good way to close out the decade, but certainly an extremely hard task! We'll see how it turns out.
1) 2010: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. Like, dude. The only way you could beat this is if you were a Harry Potter book. For anyone living under a rock, Mockingjay is the final book in a YA sci-fi dystopian trilogy about a girl who takes her sister's place fighting to the death in an arena full of teens. (Taken from Best YA Books of 2010.)
2) 2011: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. This is another book/series that I commonly cite as being one of my most favorites, so it makes sense that it'd be on this list! It's a YA fantasy, the first in a trilogy, about an awkward, self-conscious girl with a great, unknown destiny who gets kidnapped after entering an arranged marriage with a king. (Taken from Best YA Books of 2011.)
3) 2012: Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Oof! This is a hard year to narrow down, but it seems fitting that I choose the book that I've mentioned on this blog the most often. Cinder is the first book in a YA sci-fi fairytale retelling series, featuring an Asian Cinderella with a prosthetic foot. (Taken from Top Ten Tuesday: Best YA Books of 2012.)
I reorganize my bookshelf by color again! Apologies for the watermark; I was not aware that Filmora's free version requires it.
Music: "Delicate" by Taylor Swift
Links mentioned in video:
As promised last week, today I'll be sharing a Top Ten Tuesday-inspired list of standalone books that I would love to see sequels to!
1) The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer. This brilliant YA sci-fi follows an orphan who joins a group of kids who can see, and therefore fight, deadly parasitic creatures. It's really well-done, and I've long been confused about why it's a standalone and not a series.
2) Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst. This diverse YA fantasy tells the story of a desert girl who is abandoned by her tribe after she fails to become the vessel for a goddess, but who then discovers that five of the gods are missing and need her help. As with The Supernaturalist, I think this one would make a wonderful series.
3) Soundless by Richelle Mead. Though it's not terribly popular, I found this YA fantasy based in Chinese folklore to be fascinating, original, and beautiful. It's about a girl who lives in an isolated mountain town where there is no sound. When her people start going blind and supplies stop coming, she goes on a journey to save them. I enjoyed it, and I think this story deserves a sequel.
4) Breaker by Kat Ellis. This YA thriller about the son of a serial killer and the sister of one of the killer's victims teaming up to stop a copycat killer makes an impact with its unique characters, scary moments, and great twist. It has a lot of potential for a sequel, and I'd love to read that.
Last month, I listed twenty-five YA books that are lesser-known (with fewer than 2000 ratings on Goodreads) but that I recommend. I wasn't able to share all of the lesser-known books I'd like to, so today I'm continuing that post! I'll start with a couple of books that I've read since I published that post, and then I'll pick up where I left off, with books published in mid-2015. Remember, these books are in reverse order by publication, so the most recently published are first!
1) The Birds, The Bees, and You and Me by Olivia Hinebaugh. This YA contemporary follows a girl whose feminist upbringing allows her to become a source of knowledge for her fellow students when their abstinence-only sex education program fails them. The book takes on an important issue and is full of fantastic characters. It does, of course, have a fair amount of sexual content, but that content is primarily educational in nature.
2) The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby. This quiet YA contemporary is about a girl who loses her memory in the wake of a car crash. The story follows her as she struggles to piece together her old life and regain her past self. It's a soft, sad story, but a lovely one, too, with a lot of resonance.
3) Vanguard by Ann Aguirre. This YA sci-fi is a standalone addition to Aguirre's Razorland trilogy. It follows a side character from the original series on a romance-filled exploration as the world adjusts to the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse/war. The romance in this story is just my style, and I really enjoyed it!
I'm taking this topic from the Top Ten Tuesday prompts!
There are a lot of good books out there that are "quieter," i.e. they aren't all that well-known. Today, I'm going to list some of my favorite YA books that have fewer than 2000 ratings on Goodreads. These are in reverse order by date, so those that were published the most recently are at the top.
1) Toxic by Lydia Kang. This YA sci-fi features a living bio-ship that's in the process of dying and two unusual teens who seem doomed to die with it--especially once the murders start. It's full of sad and broken people I really felt for, and it also has a lovely romance.
2) For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig. This creative, vibrant, and brutal YA fantasy, told through a nontraditional format, follows a bipolar girl with an illegal ability to turn ghosts into puppets. She journeys across a land ravaged by colonialism, trying to find safety for herself and her family, even as she gets pulled into the rebellion.
3) The Good Demon by Jimmy Cajoleas. This YA horror novel is a wonderful oddity about a girl who's furious that her demon was taken from her in an exorcism. The book follows her journey through the occult underside of her town as she tries to gain back her longtime companion, and it addresses issues like addiction and the complexity of good and evil, both in religion and relationships.
It's time for this year's speedlinking post, where I share a bunch of cool stuff I found on the Internet for you to check out! Here we go.
Here are some awesome things that various libraries let you check out! And here are some more great ideas that librarians have come up with. Similarly, here are some fantastic ideas from various schools.
I recently got into podcasts, though I mostly read the transcripts, since I have a much better comprehension level with text. This list from Buzzfeed about spooky podcasts, and the comments on the list, started me out. I had them Halloween feels! I'm also looking into these true crime podcast recommendations.
Turning now to social justice, this article talks about bias in the healthcare industry, especially against women. For those who want to know more, I highly recommend the book Doing Harm by Maya Dusenbery. This comic talks about the problem with women being the "managers" of household tasks and always taking on the "mental load." Meanwhile, these comics look at the ridiculous behavior expectations for women in the workplace. This article talks about how stereotyping women as "complicated" causes problems.
Author Laurie Halse Anderson is well-known for her phenomenal novel Speak, a YA contemporary about sexual assault. In this article, she discusses her experiences with teenage boys who don't understand the concept of consent. It is so important that we educate everyone about sex, consent, boundaries, and respect for others!
This post talks about racial bias in the news media, and this one looks at how racial "colorblindness" doesn't help things.
Continuing from Wednesday with my best of 2018 lists, today I'm sharing my picks for the best YA books released this year! As always, please note that I haven't read all the YA releases from this year and that this list is a matter of personal opinion. So don't feel bad if your favorite book isn't on here--but definitely give these reads a try!
Recently, I've been listing my top ten choices for best YA books in the years before I started this blog. Today, I figured I'd round off these flashback posts with one final list, completing the decade at 2010! So here are my ten most favorite YA books published in 2010.
1) Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. This, the final book in the blockbuster YA dystopian trilogy The Hunger Games, is a stunner in so many ways. Brilliant writing, plenty of plot twists, fantastic characterization--just a beautiful conclusion to a phenomenal series. For those who don't know (who art thou?), The Hunger Games tells the story of a girl in a future dystopia who volunteers in her sister's place to compete in a broadcasted competition where the only way you win is by being the last one alive.
2) Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien. This is the first in a YA dystopian trilogy about a young midwife living outside of the privileged Enclave who faithfully hands over a quota of new babies to the government each year. When her parents are arrested, she enters the Enclave to try and rescue them and, in the process, learns a lot more about the world she lives in.
3) Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John. My surprise favorite of the year, this YA contemporary novel tells the story of a deaf girl who winds up the manager of a band. It's thought-provoking, full of heart, and just really well-done all around.
Back when I first started this blog, I posted a handful of times about my writing idols. Since then, my list of writing idols has grown a good bit. Honestly, there are so many fantastic writers out there in the world, and there's so much I admire about and want to learn from them. I know I'll never be able to achieve what many of these writers have--sometimes you just have natural talent in some areas and natural ineptitude in others--but in recognizing them and their skill, I take the first step towards improving my own writing. So today I thought I'd post an updated list of my writing idols and what it is that I admire most about them.
1) J.K. Rowling. Forever and always, I will look up to the author of Harry Potter and the ongoing Cormoran Strike series (as Robert Galbraith). She's fantastic in so many different ways. Most of all, I admire her charitable work, her clean and relatable characterization, and her thorough worldbuilding.
2) Hans Christian Andersen. I have a lot in common with this guy, and after reading the full collection of his fairytales, I came to admire not only the beauty and magic of his stories, but also the way he brought deeper meaning, often religious in nature, into them.
3) Neal Shusterman. This author is another one whose worldbuilding I look up to. It's complex and thoughtful and makes me see the world differently. I also admire his creativity in coming up with strange and unique premises for all his books, which include the Unwind Dystology, Challenger Deep, and the ongoing Arc of a Scythe trilogy.
All right! So, as you know, at the end of each year, I post a list of the best YA books of the year. I don't limit the number I choose for those, and there's usually quite a few of various genres! But for a Top Ten Tuesday I did a while back, they had us do a "flashback," and I decided to go back and list the best YA books of the years I wasn't blogging during. Per the nature of that series, I chose ten books from 2012 to share (which was incredibly difficult). Today, even though I'm no longer doing Top Ten Tuesdays, I'd like to do the next installment and share with you the ten best YA books from 2011 (in my opinion). Here we go!
1) The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. Y'all know this YA fantasy trilogy, about a young woman in an arranged marriage trying to figure out her path as a Chosen One, is one of my favorite book series. The first book in it was indeed published in 2011.
2) Across the Universe by Beth Revis. Beth Revis is a delight, and so is her debut YA sci-fi trilogy about a couple of teens on a generational spaceship travelling to a new home planet who uncover a murderous political scheme. This is the first book in that series.
3) Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. This is the first in yet another series that I often recommend, an emotional YA dystopian with unusual style/formatting about a girl who, after being imprisoned for years because of her deadly touch, falls in love for the first time.
2017 is almost over, and that means it's time to round up the best YA books of the year! Here are my selections. As always, please note that I have not read every YA book released in 2017--that would be impossible even for me, haha--and that this is all a matter of opinion. I will see you again in 2018. Tell me in the comments what your favorite books of 2017 are!
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