Links from around the web: 1-14-2016

The very sad news that is currently preoccupying my entire Twitter timeline is the passing of Alan Rickman. Hypable has a wonderful/sob-inducing round-up of reactions from people he worked with. (I started crying at the desk when I read Emma Thompson’s, so consider yourself warned.) As I said on Twitter, he’s always been Col. Brandon for me, that quiet, kind man.

On a happier note, PW did a great interview with NEWBERY WINNER Matt de la Peña, which also made me tear up, but in a good way.

Misty Copeland dancing on a rooftop is so beautiful.

Kelly Jensen at Stacked Books did an amazing round-up of female-driven YA books. I can’t wait to dive into the list and try the ones I haven’t already read and loved.

BB-8 cross-stitch is so cool!

How to sneak your cat into work is a very thorough explanation of how to sneak your cat into work. Which I promptly shared with my boss, so possibly my cover is blown?

 

That’s all for today because I have to go back to crying.

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A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

a thousand nightsA Thousand Nights is a loose-ish retelling of the Scheherazade story. It’s E.K. Johnston’s third book, and it’s firmly cemented her as a go-to author for me. I got the ARC for this one just before the Cybils started, so I set it aside until now. And while I’m sorry I had to wait this long, I’m happy that I had a chance to really savor this lovely book.

First, I think it’s worth stating upfront that Johnston is really thoughtful about how she changes the Scheherazade story. She resists romance here, which I appreciated. This is not the story of a girl falling in love with her captor, and it so easily could be.

The narrator of A Thousand Nights is never given a name–in fact, many of the characters aren’t. They’re defined in relationship to the narrator, or to the each other, which gives the story an immediacy and intimacy that I think works really well here. In fact, I felt that the narrator’s voice throughout the story, and the authorial choices that Johnston makes in terms of the way language is used, are one of the major strengths of the book.

Despite the fact that she’s not given a name, I found the narrator’s character–the way she experiences the world–worked in a really powerful way. This story is about some big themes and ideas, but it’s driven by the narrator and her choices.

One of the things I most appreciated about the book is the way it centers the relationships between the women in the story. The narrator is motivated by  her love for her sister, and she has strong, important connections with her mother, her sister’s mother, and Lo-Melkhiin’s mother. Even more so, the story explicitly honors and talks about women’s stories, women’s secrets, and women’s lives in a way that I found really refreshing. The place of handcrafts and traditional women’s work in the story is also really great; they’re shown with respect for the work and knowledge that goes into them and shown to have power, even if that power is often overlooked or misunderstood by men.

Moreover, the women in the story are not set in competition with each other. The narrator and her sister love each other, and their mothers are dear friends. Even Lo-Melkhiin’s mother and the servants in the qasr are shown to have relationships with each other and with the narrator that are supportive and nurturing, rather than competitive.

There’s also a great exploration of pride in who you are and where you come from. Many of the narrator’s images and similes grow out of her life in the desert, and she’s shown to draw much of her sense of self and her sense of strength from that identity. In the end, the story makes that a bittersweet thing, and yet I found that it really grounded the narrator and gave her a sense of purpose and the readers a sense of who she is. I had a sense of tradition and culture that’s very deep, even if we don’t see all of it.

Finally, this is a book that’s all about choices. The narrator faces hard choices again and again, and she has to choose rightly and see clearly in order to keep herself alive and to keep her family and country safe. The narrative deals really well with this, making it seem natural, while at the same time drawing attention to this theme and to the narrator’s sense of being on a knife’s edge.

In case it’s not clear, I really loved this book–I found it a joy to read and I was consistently surprised and convinced by Johnston’s choices, and by the narrator and her story. It combines a sense of being rooted in a sense of family and history and self, with a strength and purpose that’s shown to be how the narrator saves herself in the end.

Book source: ARC passed on from Brandy

Book information: 2015, Hyperion; YA historical fantasy

Other reviews: Brandy, Kirkus, Kaye, you?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Reading and blogging resolutions

top-ten-tuesday
This is a post for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by Broke and Bookish. You can find out more and participate here

  1. Continue reading and boosting books by and about marginalized voices.
  2.  Write reviews for advanced copies of books right after I read them, instead of three months later
  3. Read books that I want to read, not books I feel like I’m supposed to read
  4. Don’t finish books if I don’t want to; it’s not the end of the world
  5. Find ways and places to talk about things that interest me, even if they’re not strictly book-related
  6. Give myself permission to re-read favorite books
  7. Keep doing my reading notes series, which gives me a chance to write really satisfying longer posts
  8. Keep finding my own voice
  9. At the same time, listen to and support other voices
  10. Read widely and with enthusiasm

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January 2016 releases

I haven’t quite gotten into gear with collecting 2016 releases yet, but here are a few I’m looking forward to reading. What are you exited about this month?

worlds of ink and shadowimpostor queento catch a cheatdragon tombassassins masque

  • Worlds of Ink and Shadows by Lena Coakley
  • The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine
  • To Catch a Cheat by Varian Johnson
  • Secrets of the Dragon Tomb by Patrick Samphire
  • Assassin’s Masque by Sarah Zettel

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December 2015 round-up

I decided that I’m not going to do mini-reviews this month! I’m feeling a bit worded out in terms of talking about books, especially Cybils books (which most of these were). Mini-reviews should return next month & if you want to know what I thought of a particular book, please do ask!

Also, I’m starting a podcast about YA, with the first episode out in January! I’m planning this project to run through the end of the year and then I’ll assess whether I want to keep going.
Books I’ve already talked about

Beastly Bones by William Ritter
Duplicity by N.K. Travers
Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill
An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet
Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols

Other books

Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack

The Dogs by Allan Stratton

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between by Jennifer E Smith

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodges

The Unquiet Past by Kelley Armstrong

The Remedy by Suzanne Young

Another Day by David Levithan

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

The Six by Michael Alpert

The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace

Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

A Deadly Measure of Brimstone by Catriona McPherson

Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobia

Lumberjanes: Friendship to the Max

Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan

Other posts

Links: 12-9

Links: 12-21

Ten favorite new to me authors

Ten 2016 books I’m anticipating

Star Wars spoiler post (password is skywalker)

2015 favorites: blog posts and series

2015 favorites: TV, movies, and music

2015 favorites: non-fiction

2015 favorites: adult fiction

2015 favorites: middle grade

2015 favorites: YA SFF

2015 favorites: YA realistic fiction

 

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2015: Summing up

This year I read either 274 or 276 books, depending on whether you’re going by my digital or paper reading logs. I’m going with paper (276) because I updated it in real time, which I did not with the digital reading log. (The reason this post is so late.) That does mean that my stats below will not be entirely accurate, but I am not going to go through and try to figure out which books I missed at this point. If I do percentages, it will be out of the recorded 274 in the digital reading log, if that makes sense.

I did set some goals for myself in terms of reading for 2015:

* The middle school in the district where I work has been doing the 40 book challenge with their kids and I’m using it as an opportunity to bulk up my upper elementary RA skills. Yep! Finished and started this years

* Finish a couple of read-throughs, namely CJ Cherryh, Gillian Bradshaw, and Elizabeth Bear. I did finish most of Cherryh and Bradshaw, but not nearly all.

* Read at least 12 non-fiction books. I read 16

* Read at least 12 ILL books. I didn’t track these, but I definitely at least asked for 12 and read them or took them off my TBR

* Read at least 20 diverse books. I didn’t do a great job of defining diversity here, but I definitely reached my goal. More on that in a minute.

* Re-read and write up posts for Ellis Peters’s Felse books and Patricia McKillip. No, but I did a number of reading notes series, which are sort of the same if you squint at it.

* Read Django Wexler’s books. JUST DO IT ALREADY. Well, I tried. It turns out I didn’t like them!

* Read at least 12 books that have been languishing on my TBR for 3 years or more. I just went through and marked them off. I also did not track this well and I don’t think I reached my goal, but I’m going to try again this year.

Stats

I used a Google Docs spreadsheet I got from Kelly Jensen (maybe last year?) to track my reading. I did fiddle with the columns a bit, I think, but overall it worked well for what I wanted to track. I should also note that I may not be aware of all marginalized groups an author is part of; if they’ve disclosed that information and I knew of it, I tracked it. I have very complicated feelings about expecting that people disclose identities, and therefore have not tended to try to figure it out if it’s not obvious or they’ve already disclosed that.

  • Author Gender: 28 books by men (10%), 3 with mixed authors, and 243 by women (89%)
  • LGBTQIA: 10 where I wasn’t sure, 2 implied but not stated, and 45 yes (16%)–note that I didn’t track #ownvoices authors here
  • Author is a person of color: 1 anthology where I wasn’t sure, 28 yes (10%)–better than last year, but I still have work to do.
  • Main character is a person of color: 9 yes, but in a fantasy setting, 60 yes (22%)
  • Disability: several where I wasn’t sure, 2 secondary characters, 23 yes (8%)
  • Other diversity: 27 secondary characters (10%), 11 where I wasn’t sure, 21 yes (8%)
  • Audience: 119 adult (43%), 3 juvenile, 40 middle grade (15%), 109 teen (40%)
  • Genre: 33 contemporary/realistic fiction (12%), 72 fantasy (26%), 17 graphic novels, 25 historical fantasy (9%), 5 historical fantasy mystery, 13 historical fiction, 8 historical mystery, 2 horror, 17 mystery, 16 non-fiction, 2 poetry, 15 romance, 37 science fiction (14%), 4 steampunk

In the coming year, I intend to set myself some goals, but also probably keep them to myself. I know that I’m going to try to focus on boosting my #ownvoices reading, and also to read books that I want to read. I’ve been into historical mysteries and historical fantasies with a mystery aspect recent, and I want to give myself the freedom to read where I want to.

2015 was a pretty good year reading-wise–I feel like both teen & adult fantasy really impressed me this year, and I found several books that I know I’ll be reading and re-reading for years.

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