So how did I do with this year’s challenge. Pretty good, I think. I read a few books that I normally wouldn’t have read and other books I would have because I love the authors. I didn’t complete the challenge though and I’m sad about that. Will have to do better in 2018.
A Book with a Trans Narrator: Eddie Izzard in Believe Meby Eddie Izzard
According to GoodReads.com I read 20,948 pages from 57 books. So you can imagine how hard it was to narrow down to only 10 for the best books I’ve read this year. There were so many good ones! I think I ultimately went with these 10 was because while I may have liked some of the other books more or given other’s better reviews or more stars, these 10 books stuck with me longer after finishing reading them. I would like to think that our Diverse Lives, Diverse Stacks: Diverse Narrators reading challenge is working for me because half of the books were written by Women of Color and they contain protagonists from very diverse backgrounds. That’s exciting to me but enough of this, let’s get on to the list.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas– This book was as heartbreaking as it was realistic. Starr is caught between two worlds but doesn’t really how different they are or how truly different she acts to accommodate both parts of her life until her friend is killed by a police officer during a routine traffic stop and she is the only witness. This really should be a must read in all schools for generations to come and I’m excited that it will also be a movie coming out next year.
Pyromantic by Lish McBride– It’s funny, it’s sarcastic, it’s action packed but mostly it is just plain fun. I really hope that Lish returns to these characters because there is just so much weirdness she can do with them.
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor-This is such a lush story with great imagery and original concept. There really isn’t another novel out there right now. The ending was such a surprise that I have no idea what to expect in the sequel.
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon-Just like The Hate U Give, this is another heartbreaking but all too realistic look at today’s youth. To strangers, meet and share a life changing day as Natasha fights to stop her family from being deported and Daniel fights the expectations of being a child of immigrants.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin-How do you describe this book? It has so much going on and it’s not certain how they all interweave but you know they must somehow. It’s truly a powerful book it’s no wonder it’s won so many awards.
Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray-The third book in The Diviners series takes place in the 1920’s but with it’s themes of race, gender equality and science it’s more relevant than you would think. Evie, Sam, Memphis, Jericho, Theta, Ling Henry and Isiah have to overcome the coming darkness but also the social limits society places on those in the minority.
All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater-People come from far and wide to seek miracles from the Saints of Bicho Raro but even saints themselves need miracles and sometimes those miracles can’t be achieved on their own, sometimes they need a little help from others. That’s the lesson from this one, it’s great to self sufficient but don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake-It’s dark and mysterious but also cool to read of world where women rule and men play supportive roles. That women are just as complicated and conflicted and are able to be both and still show strength and vulnerability. Here we get three young women who all of those things and more.
WarCross by Marie Lu-This was fun and exciting thrill of a book. Full of mystery and kind of a spy novel in a way. Emika a down on her luck, hacker/bounty hunter gets a chance to play in the biggest game ever in hopes of finding another hacker trying to sabotage the game. It’s full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing.
So these are my favorite books of 2017. What are yours?
So what do you do when you have the soul of the enemy of death even though you have no memory of his past life and now everyone else knows it and blames you for the death of your best friend but your innocent? For Call it means you get thrown in jail, broken out and then kidnapped by the very people who’ve been trying to avoid the last three years. Call’s luck is almost none existent. Call is also full of self doubt and guilt. He wasn’t the one to kill Aaron, that was Alex but he still feels responsible for it. If Tamara had chosen to save Aaron instead of Call it would have been Call who died and not Aaron. Does Tamara regret that choice? Call had always assume that Tamara liked Aaron more than him and like most people tolerated him because Aaron did. Now that Tamara, Jasper and Call are kidnapped by Master Joseph and his crew things get a little hazy. Call is not Constantine despite having his soul but he’s been having trouble convincing others of this. He may not be him but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t share some of his ambitions. Without Aaron, Call feels a little lost and maybe all would be forgiven and go back to what they were if Aaron was alive again. Master Joseph gives him the chance. Raise Aaron back from the dead and you can decide whether you want to stay or not. The Enemy of Death was called that because his obsession with defeating death. I’m not sure I buy that if Call is able to bring Aaron back that all would be forgiven and that all of a sudden there would be so much support for his cause but we need to find the conflict. Of course Call is able to bring back Aaron by doing the one thing that Constantine was never willing to do, give apart of himself to do so but you can never go back. Aaron is not as he was because he was dead and should be dead. Call’s plan to bring Aaron back and things go back the way they were goes sideways immediately and battle ensues. If I didn’t know that there is one more book left in the series, I would almost think that this was finale because there was a lot of loose ends tied up. I’m not sure where they go from here but there is still one bad guy still out there.
This is part of my Diverse Narrator challenge. Call is disabled with a bad leg from when he was an infant. While his lifelong injury played more of a roll in previous books it is still a big part of who the character is. His bad leg has always made him think that he was less capable then those with two good legs and he’s felt this way because of most of his life that’s what people have told him. Throughout the series, Call has persevered despite being slow to run or walk. He’s been able to use his other skills and wit to get in and out of trouble and prove he is just as capable. May that be a lesson for us all.
As of yesterday, I had finished my Goodreads.com reading challenge by finishing my 50th book this year. I decided to look at my own challenge to read more Diverse Narrators and see where I am in it and sadly, I’m not any further along then my last update. I have books picked out for some categories but I still haven’t read them and I still don’t know about the others. So dear friends of the internet, help me out with some book recommendations. What should I read to for the following.
A Book with a Trans Narrator I thought about using Alex Fierro from Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead but the story is only from Magnus point of view so that’s out. I’ve read good reviews for If I was your Girl by Meredith Russo. So I’ll think I’ll try that one but do you know of any other good book with a Trans Narrator?
A Book with an African Narrator I’ve settled on Born a Crime by Trevor Noah because everyone I know who has read it has loved it and I do love him on the Daily Show. Of course, Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor I’m also interested in too.
A Book with an Asian Narrator I thought about using Warcross by Marie Lu but Emika Chen is Asian American and I already have two books for that one and Hideo Tanaka who is British Japanese is not the narrator of the story, only Emika. A friend recommended Pachinko by Mi Jin Lee but I’m not sure.
A Book with a Native American Narrator Sadly, I’m not sure. Sherman Alexie’s books? Has anyone read Alyson Noel’s Soul Seekers series?
A Book with an Indigenous Mexican Narrator I’m even more loss on this one. I thought for a second about All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater but by the beginning of the story, the Soria’s have lived in Colorado for over a century and the story is more about the family now then their pasts. So any suggestions?
I’m open to anything. Fiction, Non-fiction, fantasy, contemporary, romance. Whatever you got I’m up for it. Leave your suggestions in the comments below or hit me up on our Twitter @StacksXLiveX and Facebook
The Hate U Give may be categorized as a fiction novel but make no mistake, there is nothing fictional about it. Yes, Starr, Khalil, Seven, Maya, Devante, Big Mav, Lisa and Kenya don’t actually exist but their story does. Starr is a sixteen year old girl who lives in the hood but goes to school in private school in the suburbs. Her worlds could not be different. Over Spring Break, her best friend Khalil gets shot and killed by a police office during a routine traffic stop and Starr is the only witness. Starr must reconcile her own feelings about what she witnessed and the realities that come with it while also coming to grips how it effects her two different worlds. It gets thrown into sharp relief how her family and neighbors think what happens versus what her friends at school do. Starr grapples with her own fears and find her own voice to stand up for what rights, stand up to the authorities and her own friends too. This book is heartbreaking because it’s a story that we have seen played out too many times in the last couple of years. Khalil was unarmed when he was killed. Yes, he did sell drugs and had involvement with gangs but none of those facts should be justification for what this officer did. You could replace Khalil’s name with Michael, Philandro, Tamir, Tayvon or any other young black men unjustly killed by law enforcement and you would go through the same emotions. Angie Thomas does a brilliant job of outlining all the many view points about this issue. From Starr’s father, a former gang member and ex-con who is far to aware of how the justice system works to Hailey, Starr’s rich white friend who is willing to protest only because it got her out of class for a day. As the reader, we see what happened and how it happened at the beginning of the book. We know it was unjust but since the other characters weren’t there, we get to see how they process it through how they relate to Starr. They accept or deny it depends mostly on their own socioeconomic background and yes race plays apart of it too. Starr’s family of course understand immediately that Khalil did nothing wrong and that Starr did nothing wrong. They also know that because of the neighborhood that they live in it could be dangerous for Starr to speak out even if can help bring him justice. Whatever her decision, they always have her back. The first thing that really struck me was when Starr and Khalil were pulled over, Starr goes over in her head how she is supposed to act when interacting with cops. She says when she was 12 her father told her to do as the officer says, don’t talk unless spoken to and keep your hands visible. She was told this at twelve. Meaning that her parents thought, even as young as twelve years old she could be in danger. I tried to think if my parents and I ever had a talk about what to do if I got pulled over and I don’t think we ever did. Why would we? We are white, there is no reason for cops to look at me or my sister and assume we were up to no good. That we were criminals. That we could be dangerous but Starr’s parents and many black parents have to worry about that for their kids. That is truly heartbreaking. Two of the most interesting characters, okay maybe not the most interesting are Chris and Hailey. Chris and Hailey are both white, privileged and rich. Chris is Starr’s boyfriend. They share a love for sneakers, basketball and Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He at times is completely oblivious to their differences. He doesn’t notice or bother him that people stare at them when they walk down the hallway. He wouldn’t say he was racists and most people would agree with him but because of his own privilege, without even realizing it he sometimes falls into the insensitive thinking. He doesn’t understand why Starr is so upset with him or just in general but when she tells him he does try to understand. He wants to be supportive to Starr and that means challenging his own misconceptions and that’s what makes a good ally. Hailey also wouldn’t call herself a racist either. She would be one of those people who says, “I’m not a racists have a black and Asian friend.” Throughout the book she makes insensitive comments and try to pass them off as jokes. When she gets called out on she gets defensive. “It was a joke” “I didn’t mean anything by it” “I can’t believe you would think I’m a racist” Even demands for Starr to apologize to her. She makes absolutely no effort to see Starr’s point of view or acknowledge that what she said hurt her feelings. When she does apologize, it isn’t because she sees what she did or said was wrong it’s that she wants things to go back to what they were before. Since I assume there are going to be a lot of young white readers of this book, Chris and Hailey are important because they may not be able to relate with Starr and her family but they probably can relate to either Chris or Hailey, whether they want to admit it or not. I hope they take a hard and close look at both of those characters and ask themselves some uncomfortable questions. Are they more like Chris or like Hailey? This novel really should be required school reading. Not just because it was well written but also because it does outline all the point of views and how much it should be it’s not just black and white but shades of gray. Only be listening and understanding what people of color and marginalized communities are saying and owning up to our prejudices will we able to end this. So one day, we won’t have to teach our children how to act in police presence and police won’t make snap judgments about civilians based on skin color.
We are now halfway through June so I can accurately say we are halfway through the year. It’s time to check in and see how we are doing with our reading challenges. This year we decided to split up our Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives Reading challenge into two different. One for authors and one for narrators. I’m doing the Narrators and I have to say, I’m doing pretty well. Now, I think there may be a few arguments over some of my books but who doesn’t love a good debate? Going off my list of the books I’ve read, I discovered that there were a few things we should have discussed before setting the challenge out. For instance, can you use the same book for different categories if they have more then one Narrator? I’m going to go with yes because you are getting different perspectives from different characters. So here we go.
Book with a Queer Narrator: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan. Narrator: Apollo. Ok, so this maybe a stretch because as Kate asked me Can we apply modern categories of sexuality to ancient Gods? Well I don’t know, but in The Dark Prophecy, Apollo is currently exiled to Earth as a mortal and while being on Earth has shown equal interest in both Men and Women. So, in the context of the book, I’m counting it.
Book with a African American Narrator: March Vols. 1-3 by Congressman John Lewis. Narrator: John Lewis
Book with characters from various socio-economic backgroundsSilver Stars by Michael Grant. Narrators: Frangie, Rainey and Rio
Books with Asian American Narrator: Always and Forever, Lara Jeanby Jenny Han and The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. Narrators: Lara Jean and Daniel. I decided to count both since they are both Asian Americans but they have very different perspectives on growing up in America. Lara Jean is definitely your more typical middle class teenage girl who grew up in the suburbs. She’s also mixed because of her Dad is white so she straddles both sides. Daniel grew up in New York City and is the son of two immigrant parents. (I thought about using Natasha from The Sun is also a Star as my African American Narrator but technically speaking she’s not American as her family was living in the US illegally)
Book with a Narrator who has survived abuse: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas. Narrator : Feyre. I really could have picked any character in this book but since it’s all from Feyre’s point of view she gets the top billing.
A Book with a Mexican Narrator: Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare. Narrator: Cristina. I admit I maybe stretching it a little thin with this one. Cristina is one of six narrators in Lord of Shadows and not one of the two main characters but she is an important to the story as a whole so for now I’m counting it but it might change before the year is out.
This series was meant to only be a duology and I thought it worked pretty well as just To All the boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You. So I was a little hesitant but excited when I found out that Jenny Han had decided to write one more book. On the one hand, I felt that Lara Jean’s story wrapped up nicely. Yes, it had an open ended ending but there was a sense that Lara Jean had finally started to find her Identity. And on the other hand, there was some unanswered questions, like were her and Peter really going to make it? What about their senior year? Would Kitty continue to be awesome? The answer is to that last questions is of course. Reading through this book and getting back to Lara Jean’s world of baking and arts and crafts, I was little disappointed to find that Lara Jean’s new found identity pretty much was all Peter. Her new friends were all his friends. Their plans mostly seemed to revolve around his schedule of Lacrosse games. To be fair, she did build friendships on her own with Lucas and Pammy but she wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for Peter. This became more apparent when they started to talk about college. Peter had already been accepted into UVA on a Lacrosse scholarship and Lara Jean had always wanted to go there. It’s a good school and only 15 minutes away so she could stay close to her family. Well, when she doesn’t get into UVA, there is a panic because now they have to deal with a long distance relationship. So she makes a plan to go to William and Mary for one year and transfer to UVA so they can be together. Things get even more complicated when Lara Jean who gets accepted into UNC after originally being wait listed. After a quick drive to Chapel Hill, Lara Jean is in love and it’s clear this is where she is meant to be. Now she will be 3 and half hours away instead of only 2. All this talk of college and what school would is the best, I can’t remember of any talk about what she wants to study. We know that she loves to bake and loves to crafting but what else in her life? Is she going to be an English major? biology? French? We have absolutely no idea who she is outside of her family and Peter but I could say the same thing about Peter too. As frustrating as Lara Jean’s behavior I started to realize that Peter’s identity is just as dependent if not more so on Lara Jean’s. He is very much the perfect boyfriend. He’s polite and good looking, athletic and charming. He organizes her father’s bachelor’s party to not only get on his good side but make her happy. He is also afraid of losing Lara Jean. Thanks for a moment of true honesty they seem to have finally found each other and where they want to go. They are going to try to make it work and I hope they do but where does it leave them. I sort of feel like we are left in the same place as were with the last book. They both are still growing and finding themselves as they should be at 18 and they are still together and going to fight to make their relationship work despite the distance but their future is still up and the air. I think it’s a very good development for Lara Jean to spread her wings and live on her own for once. Her life has always been about her family and then Peter. Finally in college she will be able to truly find her identity without them around and I think it will only make her stronger. It will make her relationships stronger and if her and Peter do work out them both stronger. Now, I hope in a couple of years, we come back to Virginia for Kitty, the high school years because I think that would be the most amazing story of all time.