Once upon a time when the internet was young, I loved a blog called Faster Than Kudzu. It was funny. It was insightful. It belonged to Jocelyn Jackson, who is an author. I would follow along on her blog as she was writing her next book. She’d go on writing retreats. The book would be submitted. It would finally come out. I was excited. I watched this sweet little book being born.
Then I would read the book.
And I wouldn’t like it.
It happened over and over. Her books are much darker than her real life (or blog persona). I gave up trying to read her books when in one the main character shoots her dog by accident. She was aiming for her ex. I had to sit myself down and forceably remember that she loved her dog in real life and would never hurt him so I didn’t hate her forever. (Note that I was fine with the character shooting at her ex.) It was my first experience with loving the author but not loving the book.
Sadly, she shut down her blog a few years ago. I miss it. I haven’t picked up her latest books.
But she isn’t the only writer who I’ve watched birth books (and babies and lives) that I then didn’t enjoy reading. With social media it happens more and more often. I follow a bunch of authors on Twitter. There are several whose tweets I love that I’ve tried to read a few times but haven’t enjoyed the books. They would post times when their books were going on sale and I’d buy them. I figured I liked their writing/tweeting so I want to support them. I got maybe a chapter or two in and realized that it just wasn’t going to work for me. I’d be bored. Then I feel like a bad internet friend.
I’m not going to be naming names of the people I still follow and sometimes interact with but **whispers** I haven’t finished their books. I feel bad enough already.
Do you have those authors in your life or am I just the worst internet friend ever?
Over on my Twitter feed I’ve been making a list of books I’ve DNFed this year and why. I’ve realized that I have a whole subcategory of books I don’t finish reading that could be considered “This is a really well done book but I don’t care.”
I think recognizing this in your reading requires empathy and the realization that if it isn’t right for you that doesn’t mean that it is automatically bad. These are books that I would actually recommend in the right circumstances to someone else.
Everyone loves Children of Blood and Bone. They should love this book. It is imaginative. It is well written. I read about halfway through it and then realized that I totally did not care to find out what happened. This is something that I find myself thinking a lot in YA fantasy. For some reason, many of the stories don’t draw me in enough to get invested in the outcome. I happily put this book down and don’t wonder at all about the outcome. But, you should totally read this book if YA fantasy makes you happy. It is very, very, well done.
I like this author on Twitter. I knew from her feed that her books were more explicit than I generally enjoy. But Beyond Shame is the free first ebook in the series so I tried it. I was not a fan of the premise or the explicit sex so I quit about a quarter of the way through. Big surprise. However, the writing was very well done. I would recommend this one if someone liked gritty dystopian-ish naughty books. That person isn’t me. I could have predicted that and now I know for sure.
I tried to like Ninefox Gambit. I really did. People rave about it. They also say sometimes that you have to power through the math to get to the good parts. I figured I could do that. I was the person in school who won all the math awards. I was also the person who hated every minute I ever spent in a math class and can still remember the feeling of walking out of the last math class I would ever need to take in college. It is still the happiest day of my life. But I could do this. I read The Three-Body Problem and I think I understood it. I could understand Ninefox Gambit.
I got about a quarter of the way through before running away screaming. Battle formations described as mathematical formulas that change based on calendars that change based on something… Not for me. I can see how if you have a mind that actually enjoys math that this is creative and wonderful. I’m not that person.
What books have you DNFed but would still recommend?
I don’t like reading about rape in fiction. Recently though I found myself reading a few books almost back to back that had rape story lines. That got me wondering about the different ways this topic can be covered and if that changes the reading experience.
Gender of the author
I don’t think that I would be willing to read a female rape story line in a fiction book written by a man. Even if it was written from the point of view of a woman, there is still the fact that it was imagined in the mind of a potential perpetrator instead of a victim that adds a layer of disgust to it for me. It feels too voyeuristic even if that isn’t the intent.
Surprise or Anticipated
In the synopsis of The Hollow Girl it says that the main character is raped so you know going into the book that this is a major part of the plot and can decide whether or not that is a book for you.
In another series I read recently, it was not discussed in the synopsis so it felt like being blind sided by it.
There has been a lot written about “fridging”. That’s the trope of having something horrible, like rape or murder, happen to a secondary female character in order to inspire the main character(s) to do something heroic. But what if that rape happens to the main character?
In The Hollow Girl the main character is a Romani girl who is learning magic. She is attacked and raped and the boy who comes to her defense is murdered. In order to bring him back to life she needs to collect body parts. She decides to collect them from the boys who raped her and those whose inaction allowed the attack to happen. The rape here sets up a horror revenge fantasy.
I don’t like stories that use rape of a main character to humble or humilate a strong woman. That felt more like what happened in The Godkindred Saga series.
This is a fantasy series featuring a female general who is anticipating retirement but is instead sent to a newly captured territory to be its governor. She is a great character – complex, competent, just – but then along the way she is suddenly raped while confronting a horde of half-feral men. These men had been keeping women in fear in the area. The danger from them and need to subdue them was explained well in the book but having the main character raped seemed like an odd choice. It wasn’t absolutely necessary for the story.
As the story progresses there are other rapes of high ranking females in this Army. None of them seemed to serve any real purpose in the story but to belittle them.
I love this author but I do have an issue with her use of rape in her books. She writes beautiful pastoral books and then she writes books that feature a lot of violence and rape. There are series of hers that I won’t read because they are specifically labeled as featuring a lot of sexual violence. The attitude towards this in her books is basically, “Suck it up and deal. This is what women have had to deal with from the beginning of time.” It is off putting to me.
In Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, the main character is the offspring of military strategy of raping women. The attitude there is that she is going to make sure that this ends when she brings down the bad guy. It has the same kind of violence but somehow it is more hopeful (despite it being a much darker book) because they aren’t just putting up with it.
On page or Off
I have no interest in reading the details. In all these examples euphemisms are used and then the scene fades to black. In fact, in Flight of the Godkin Griffith, I didn’t realize that there had been a rape until the character references it later. I had to go back and look at the scene again to realize that was what that euphemism meant.
All of these examples I’m citing are fantasy.
I think for me that gives a distance that makes it a bit easier to accept these story lines. I find books like Stained, which is a contemporary story about a rape to be much harder.
I find nonfiction accounts easier to read. Some people may find that strange but to me it is an account of something that happened and needs to be faced. It is not something that someone sat down and imagined because they thought it would be entertaining.
Do you avoid rape plots in books? What standards do you have for what you will or won’t read?
After my first few experiences with tour companies, I avoided them for years. The books I was sent were horribly bad. I wanted to change my name and move away so I wasn’t under any obligation to finish the books. Now I work with a few companies and the experience is much better. What changed?
Be super picky about the books you accept
This is especially true for us mood readers. You are getting the book in exchange for promising to read it all the way through and review it. For me that means that the synopsis has to make me think, “Yes, I absolutely want to read this book!!” and not “Um, maybe that would be good.”
When I get approved for a book tour, I immediately go to my wordpress calendar and start a post on the correct day with the name of the book and the tour company it came from. That way I can see what is coming up and get the post published on the correct day – except for the time I put the post on the correct day in the wrong month. This also lets me see if I’m getting too many too close together. If so, I need to stop accepting requests to have time for other reading and posting. Nothing kills the fun like having to read for a deadline.
Choose the right tour companies
I found tour companies by seeing them mentioned on other blogger’s reviews of books that sounded interesting. Going back to being picky, I signed up to host for companies that consistently had books that I would be interested in. You can see what books they are currently touring on their webpage.
So how does this work?
When you sign up to be a host you aren’t obligated to read every book that the company is touring. You will be sent emails with books on offer. If you are interested in a book you respond to the email. Most books are sent as ebooks but some companies send paper books. The books may be ARCs before publication or may be part of the publicity package for a paperback release.
This is the company I use the most. They send out an email 3 or 4 times a year with a list of books that they will be having available. I generally am interested in most of them. I restrain myself and still end up with 1 or 2 most months. I get a lot of nonfiction from here but they also have a lot of fiction.
My only complaint is that the books come directly from the publishers and sometimes they get delayed. I’ve had books that I haven’t gotten until after I was scheduled to review or in the week before I was supposed to review. Rushed reading to review a book in a few days isn’t fun.
This is a fairly new company to me. They send out a separate email for each book on offer. I’ve been choosing to get mostly fluffy, fun books from here. I’m a sucker for books with pastel covers featuring British women reinventing their lives in a cafe or bookshop. This company sends ebooks so they are available immediately and you generally have a few months before your review is scheduled.
I don’t choose a lot of books from here. That’s mostly because my mood reading really kicks in with historical fiction. It is hard for me to plan ahead to read a book and then still want to read it when I get it. The books I have gotten from here have been good. I just got one recently that I’m planning on reading soon. Deadlines are about 1-2 months out.
I have a few other companies that I am on the mailing lists for but I hardly ever choose their books. It doesn’t hurt to look though! The same rule applies as on sites like NetGalley. Don’t overburden yourself with requests in your excitement for free books.
I was first introduced to historical romances through my grandmother’s vast collection of clean/sweet romances. We called them the Smut Books precisely because there was zero smut in them. People met, fell in love, got married, then maybe, but just maybe, they kissed – cut to epilogue where magically children have been obtained from somewhere.
That’s always been my preferred type of romance. I’m just not interested in anyone’s sex life in books, movies, or the real world. I was disappointed to find that clean romances were harder to find now that I’ve gotten back into historical romance. I like the stories so I’m marching on and now I have opinions about sex in romance books.
Can we be more realistic?
Here’s the storyline that makes me roll my eyes. A blushing English beauty who has never had a sexual thought in her brain meets a dashing Duke. (It is always a Duke. Apparently there are two of those for every non-Duke person in England.) They get married or if they are really racy they are planning to get married and then they have sex. It is always straight to the intercourse. Never any sessions of “Hey, I know you don’t have any idea what sexual activity is because we’ve got messed up ideas about keeping knowledge away from women, so why don’t we just kiss for a while until you feel more comfortable?”
Then, then, this woman has a mind-blowing orgasm purely through intercourse with no other stimulation at the same time as her partner because of course she does.
Look, I understand that this is female escapism but come on. About 70% of women never experience orgasm through vaginal intercourse alone. I’m willing to bet that number is near 100% for virgins who have been told to lay back and think of England. Given the sorry state of sexual education in the world I would guess that romance novels might be the main sex ed some people get. I hate to think that some people might think that that is what sex is supposed to be like every time and that they are somehow wrong if that isn’t how it is for them.
Here are some outlandish thoughts for other plot lines that could be interesting.
I love you but this sex stuff isn’t doing much for me. Maybe we could talk about it and figure something out.
Male virgins who learn from experienced ladies. Think man marries rich widow if you want to keep it between married folk.
Sometimes a sexual encounter doesn’t have to include intercourse. GASP!
That’s just off the top of my head while writing this post. I’m sure authors could come up with more ideas.
I have found some books with more realistic and open minded sexual story lines. The common denominator seems to be that they are stories about working-class people, especially people of color, instead of aristocracy. (Although I’m not even sure how they find each other with all the Dukes running around.)
How do you feel about sex in historical romances? Too much, not enough, too predictable? What would you like to see?
**Shout out for creativity to a book I picked up once that had a guy running a sex dungeon in his castle’s actual dungeon. It was one of the first books I picked up when coming back to the genre after 20 years. I was quite surprised how things had changed from my grandma’s books. I didn’t read the book or remember what it was called.
What authors did I love this year that I didn’t know about previously?
I’m not sure what came first – reading the books or following her on Twitter. I feel like I’ve known about her for a long time but I first read her books this year.
She’s a very prolific author with all different types of fantasy genres. I’ll write more about her next week when I discuss my most read authors of the year. I’ve read so many of her books this year that I can’t believe I only read her first in January. Here are just a few I loved.
Fae in Hollywood? How could I not love that?
Selina Siak Chin Yoke
Wonderfully detailed historical fiction and the first one counts as a Foodies Read book.
The hippo stories you didn’t know you needed and she gives wonderful Twitter too
Historical mysteries based on a female detective in London
Lydia San Andres
Historical romance in the Caribbean
Also one of my most read this year because I loved her paranormal Regency romances
I’m so excited for this series. This is a book series that I reread at least once a year. If you follow the author Deborah Harkness and/or @daemonsdomain on Instagram or Twitter you can see updates from the current filming of the TV series in Wales. Just the behind the scenes photos are beautiful so I think the TV show is going to look amazing. At this point the show doesn’t have a U.S. network that has contracted to air it, which needs to get fixed ASAP. I think it is scheduled to air in England sometime in 2018.
This is also a favorite reread. The miniseries currently shooting stars David Tennant who is my all time favorite so I’m all in on this one.
This is the book that turned me into a raging Nnedi Okorafor fan. Of her books, it is probably the last one I’d think about turning into a TV show but I’m excited anyways. This will be on HBO.
Shirtless men on book covers although I’m generally a fan of muscle-y shirtless men.
I’m sorry. I’m sure you are a lovely book.
Book jackets on hardcovers that slip down when you are reading
Whitewashing models on book covers when the characters are very clearly not white
2. Describe your perfect reading spot.
In bed. I like to be comfy.
3.Tell us three book confessions.
I don’t really care about owning books. I’d rather read them and then give them away (or have them go back to the library)
I don’t want to meet authors
I prefer ebooks to physical most of the time.
4. When was the last time you cried at a book?
I am a cold hearted hateful person who rarely cries about anything that doesn’t involve animals. I can read about mass slaughters of humans but if the killers kick a dog on the way out of town that book is dead to me. That being said, the ghosts of men who died in the early years of the AIDS crisis in Two Boys Kissing got me all teary.
Week 4: (Nov. 20 to 24) – Katie @ Doing Dewey: Nonfiction Favorites: We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.
Learn Something New with a Memorable Hook
Obviously we love nonfiction that teaches us about something that we didn’t know before. Books that open up a whole new world are great favorites.
Moby-Duck did that well. It introduced the effects of pollution in the Pacific Ocean and taught me a lot about plastic by following the stories of the bath toys that were spilled in the ocean. Since then I’ve read other books like Junk Raft to learn even more.
Seriously, look at that little ducky face. How could you not read his book?
Come for the cute little duck and stay for the learning.
Narrative is the Way to Go
I have an ongoing discussion with my husband about this. He thinks books are frivolous if they aren’t very, very serious with lots of citations and footnotes. He used to try to get snobby on me about fiction and even narrative nonfiction. He even tried to dismiss a book because he enjoyed reading it so it wasn’t serious. I reminded him of all he learned in the book. He had to admit that it was an impressive amount. So why shouldn’t you enjoy learning. Why should it have to be a slog to be considered serious?
The way I see it is that good writers can make any subject interesting. Boring books aren’t because of super serious subjects. That’s just boring writers.
I still read nonfiction books that aren’t narrative but I’m less and less tolerant of them if they seem to take themselves too seriously.
There is humor even in very serious subjects. I’ll remember your book more if you point out the lighter or ridiculous parts of the story.
I read a lot of memoirs. When reviewing them I find myself bringing up the same points over and over. Because I am so freaking helpful, I have decided to write a guide for How to Write A Memoir that Isn’t Going to Make Me Cranky. Just fill in your life details.
Who the heck are you?
Maybe it is just me but I find myself picking up a lot of memoirs by people I’ve never heard of. Does any one else do that? The issue is that I then sometimes find myself so far out of my depth that I feel like I have to research a person before I read their memoir.
Example, I picked up a book by the first Welsh rugby player to publically announce that he was gay. That sounded interesting. That’s a really macho subculture. I wondered how that went for him. I’m also of Welsh heritage and am interested in reading more books set there. But … I was lost from the beginning. I don’t know rugby. Things that Welsh rugby fans would know like famous matches and rivalries were written about like they were obvious and I had no clue. I know I wasn’t the target audience so that’s where my prologue comes in.
This is a primer on your life.
I am famous because of ……
Terms you need to know to understand my story are …..
Here’s some links to video, websites, etc. to get your bearings before you read on
If you know who the person is, you can skip the prologue. I’m currently reading/listening to two memoirs. Both authors are vague at first about who they are. I can mentally fill in the blanks with one because I’m familiar with her but I’m lost on the other.
Get to the Point
Chapter 1 – Talk about your highlight
I picked up your book. Now you have to convince me to keep reading. Show me something from the highlight reel.
Zach Anner did this well. He got famous through a contest to win a spot on a reality show. He led with this story. Then once you were invested in his life he went back and started talking about what it was like to grow up with cerebral palsy. That is so much better than slogging through chapters and chapters knowing that something interesting happens when he is 22 but now you’re 100 pages in and the author hasn’t started kindergarten yet. Ugh, DNF!
The memoir doesn’t have to be chronological. Just get to the point.
Your Childhood Isn’t Interesting
Chapter 2 is all you get for your childhood
Unless you were a child actor or a prodigy at something, your childhood was not as interesting as you think it is. I get it. You feel like where you grew up shaped you. Ok, here’s your chance to represent the old neighborhood and get it out of your system. You get one chapter. One short chapter. I don’t need to know all about your background and your parents’ backgrounds if this is never going to come up again in the story. Hit what is important and move on to the real story. For example, I love Eddie Izzard and am loathe to make him a poor example but he went on and on about being born in Yemen (yes, interesting) and then every place he lived after that and who he played with when he was five and then never saw again…. I would have run away screaming if I wasn’t really a big fan. Seriously, I listened on audio and it took HOURS to get to when he became a performer.
Why Are You Writing This?
Chapters 3 through Infinity – Tell your story
Obviously, I like it when people tell me their stories. I also like memoirs that aren’t necessarily about the facts of a person’s life but about issues they believe in. Whatever type of memoir you write, just remember what you want to convey. Own it. Don’t get halfway through and then totally change the focus of the story or start wandering off on tangents that don’t lead anywhere so you have to course correct later. I just finished a memoir that according to the cover blurb is about a court case. That’s why I picked it up. It is briefly mentioned in a few spots in the book. Apparently it was famous in the country where this took place so the author assumes we all are so tired of hearing the details. I’m not from that country. I’m done with the book and couldn’t really tell you what happened except she won. Yay! I guess? I spent the whole book thinking, “Ok, this is your life but what about this court case that is supposed to be such a big deal?”
If you love reading memoirs, what are your pet peeves?
Week 3: (Nov. 13 to 17) – Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness: Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).
I want to talk about books I read written by or about people who had to leave their homes.
“Prize-winning journalist and the co-author of smash New York Times bestseller I Am Malala, Christina Lamb, now tells the inspiring true story of another remarkable young hero: Nujeen Mustafa, a teenager born with cerebral palsy, whose harrowing journey from war-ravaged Syria to Germany in a wheelchair is a breathtaking tale of fortitude, grit, and hope that lends a face to the greatest humanitarian issue of our time, the Syrian refugee crisis.
For millions around the globe, sixteen-year-old Nujeen Mustafa embodies the best of the human spirit. Confined to a wheelchair because of her cerebral palsy and denied formal schooling in Syria because of her illness, Nujeen taught herself English by watching American soap operas. When her small town became the epicenter of the brutal fight between ISIS militants and US-backed Kurdish troops in 2014, she and her family were forced to flee.
Despite her physical limitations, Nujeen embarked on the arduous trek to safety and a new life. The grueling sixteen-month odyssey by foot, boat, and bus took her across Turkey and the Mediterranean to Greece, through Macedonia to Serbia and Hungary, and finally, to Germany.”
This is a book that I want everyone to read. It is a story that makes you realize that political unrest could happen anywhere. It shows you that even if there is fighting in one part of a country that people will think it won’t affect them because they live in a civilized city, like Aleppo.
“Sandra was just ten years old when she found herself with a gun pointed at her head. She had watched as rebels gunned down her mother and six-year-old sister in a refugee camp. Remarkably, the rebel didn’t pull the trigger, and Sandra escaped.
Thus began a new life for her and her surviving family members. With no home and no money, they struggled to stay alive. Eventually, through a United Nations refugee program, they moved to America, only to face yet another ethnic disconnect. Sandra may have crossed an ocean, but there was now a much wider divide she had to overcome. And it started with middle school in New York.
In this memoir, Sandra tells the story of her survival, of finding her place in a new country, of her hope for the future, and how she found a way to give voice to her people.”
I like the fact that this book doesn’t end with Sandra and her family getting to America. It deals with the PTSD she is living with as a result of her trauma that didn’t manifest until her physical safety was ensured. It gives hope for the future but not a false Happily Every After.
“The Jon Stewart of the Arabic World”—the creator of The Program, the most popular television show in Egypt’s history—chronicles his transformation from heart surgeon to political satirist, and offers crucial insight into the Arab Spring, the Egyptian Revolution, and the turmoil roiling the modern Middle East.
Bassem Youssef’s incendiary satirical news program, Al-Bernameg (The Program), chronicled the events of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, and the rise of Mubarak’s successor, Mohamed Morsi. Youssef not only captured his nation’s dissent but stamped it with his own brand of humorous political criticism, in which the Egyptian government became the prime laughing stock.
So potent were Youssef’s skits, jokes, and commentary, the authoritarian government accused him of insulting the Egyptian presidency and Islam. After a six-hour long police interrogation, Youssef was released. While his case was eventually dismissed, his television show was terminated, and Youssef, fearful for his safety, fled his homeland.”
This book is different than the first two. He was wealthy enough to fly out of Egypt and not have to live out the worst experiences of other refugees but he still fled on short notice. This book is funny and daring and inspiring.
“London, 1947. He was the heir to an African kingdom. She was a white English insurance clerk. When they met and fell in love, it would change the world.
This is the inspiring true story of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams, whose marriage sent shockwaves through the establishment, defied an empire – and, finally, triumphed over the prejudices of their age.”
This book has a happier ending than the others. Seretse and Ruth Khama were eventually allowed to return to his country which became Botswana. The racism of the British Empire is on full, detailed display in this book.
Week 2: (Nov. 6 to 10) – Sarah’s Book Shelves: Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.
Two of my favorite fiction books of the year had similar themes.
Both are YA novels about the effects of police brutality on African-American teenagers. In The Hate U Give, Starr is the only witness to her friend’s murder by a policeman. She watches her community get torn apart while she decides whether or not to go public as the witness. In Dear Martin an honor student is the victim of racial profiling. In response he starts to write letters to Martin Luther King, Jr. wondering if the ideas of nonviolence hold up in a society that still isn’t living up to MLK’s dream.
I decided to pair up these books with some nonfiction books about the role of race in society and especially in criminal justice. I’m only choosing books that I have read.
Writings on the Wall
“Since retiring from professional basketball as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, six-time MVP, and Hall of Fame inductee, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has become a lauded observer of culture and society, a New York Times bestselling author, and a regular contributor to The Washington Post, TIME magazine and TIME.com.
He now brings that keen insight to the fore in Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White, his most incisive and important work of non-fiction in years. He uses his unique blend of erudition, street smarts and authentic experience in essays on the country’s seemingly irreconcilable partisan divide – both racial and political, parenthood, and his own experiences as an athlete, African-American, and a Muslim. The book is not just a collection of expositions; he also offers keen assessments of and solutions to problems such as racism in sports while speaking candidly about his experiences on the court and off.”
Beyond the Messy Truth
“Van Jones burst into the American consciousness during the 2016 presidential campaign with an unscripted, truth-telling style and an already established history ofbridge-building across party lines. His election night commentary became a viral sensation. A longtime progressive activist with deep roots in the conservative South, Jones has made it his mission to challenge voters and viewers to stand in one another’s shoes and disagree constructively.
Now, in Beyond the Messy Truth, Jones offers a blueprint for transforming our collective anxiety into meaningful change. Tough on Donald Trump but showing respect and empathy for his supporters, Jones takes aim at the failures of both parties before and after Trump’s victory. Heurges both sides to abandon the politics of accusation and focus on real solutions. Calling us to a deeper patriotism, he shows us how to get down to the vital business of solving, together, some of our toughest problems.”
This is my current audiobook. It does talk about bipartisan initiatives to help with our booming prison population.
“Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.“
Many of you have probably read this one. If you haven’t, I absolutely recommend it. It is soul changing.
Devil in the Grove
“In 1949, Florida’s orange industry was booming, and citrus barons got rich on the backs of cheap Jim Crow labor. To maintain order and profits, they turned to Willis V. McCall, a violent sheriff who ruled Lake County with murderous resolve. When a white seventeen-year-old Groveland girl cried rape, McCall was fast on the trail of four young blacks who dared to envision a future for themselves beyond the citrus groves. By day’s end, the Ku Klux Klan had rolled into town, burning the homes of blacks to the ground and chasing hundreds into the swamps, hell-bent on lynching the young men who came to be known as “the Groveland Boys.”
And so began the chain of events that would bring Thurgood Marshall, the man known as “Mr. Civil Rights,” into the deadly fray. Associates thought it was suicidal for him to wade into the “Florida Terror” at a time when he was irreplaceable to the burgeoning civil rights movement, but the lawyer would not shrink from the fight—not after the Klan had murdered one of Marshall’s NAACP associates involved with the case and Marshall had endured continual threats that he would be next.”
I always manage to work this one in during Nonfiction November. This is one that I would recommend to people who think that they don’t like nonfiction. If you saw the movie “Marshall”, this is what came next in his life.
I don’t watch many booktube videos but I do like Francina Simone’s videos. I tend to share her viewpoints more than I identify with other YA-focused booktubers I’ve seen. I feel a little differently than her about this subject though.
Her premise is that there is a new genre of YA/New Adult/Something Else developing to fit the sensibilities of all the adults reading YA. It is focused on action packed plots but not necessarily about 15-17 year olds like traditional YA.
I was confused. It seemed like she was describing most urban fantasy/mystery/sci-fi books that are considered adult fiction. Why is that considered new?
Here’s the comment I wrote on that video.
“What I’m getting from the comments here is that most people think adult books equals literary fiction by white authors. Yeah, that bores me too but there is so much more out there if you do some research. People get so upset when others reject reading YA out of hand but they are doing the same generalization and dismissal of adult books. I recommend looking at genre novels and books by POC authors for some great reads with the same type of feel as what you are looking for. Terry Pratchett, Nnedi Okorafor, Daniel Jose Older, etc all wrote both YA and adult books that are radically different. If you like the YA they wrote try the adult books, I find they are so much deeper and more complex.”
I have never understood why some book people are so radically opposed to reading adult fiction. Maybe this is the issue. If you think adult fiction is all white ladies sitting home and brooding over their sad marriages, I’m not surprised that you’d avoid it.
People also get really mad when you point out that YA tends to be simplistic. Understand that simplistic isn’t necessarily bad. But when you read authors who have written for a YA audience and an adult audience you can see what I mean by that.
I love both of these books but there is a world of difference in the writing style and detail between the YA Akata Witch and the adult Lagoon.
Want action, excitement, and an overall great story written for adult audiences?
“Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, begging sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.”
This book is fun. The prostitutes are a diverse bunch who aren’t going to stand for one of their own being terrorized.
“Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night… The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity—and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she’d rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren’t for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family’s old enemies, the Covenant of St. George.”
“A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.
For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court.”
When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The patched-up ship has seen better days, but it offers her everything she could possibly want: a spot to call home, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and some distance from her past.
And nothing could be further from what she’s known than the crew of the Wayfarer.
From Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the chatty engineers who keep the ship running, to the noble captain Ashby, life aboard is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. That is until the crew is offered the job of a lifetime tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet. Sure, they’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years, but risking her life wasn’t part of the job description.
Do the books you read tend to be popular or unpopular?
I never thought about this until I found out how to check how many ratings a book had on Goodreads. Then I realized how truly obscure my reading choices were.
Here’s how you can look at your Goodreads account. Choose Settings at the top right of your Read page. Select “num ratings.”
The “Num Ratings” column will show up between Average Ratings and Date Published. Click on it to get your books arranged by rating numbers. Click on it again to get it starting with the lowest number.
I learned about this for a Top Ten Tuesday that wanted us to see what books we had read with less than 2000 ratings? 2000? I have close to 50 books under 100 ratings.
So why should you care?
These can be the undiscovered gems that are so much fun to promote. If you inspire one person to read and rate a book it can make a huge difference to the author.
There are some really great books here too. I’ve realized that some of my absolute favorite authors are in this low number of ratings categories. I thought they were famous because their books are so good.
Here are some favorites I’ve read recently and their way too low numbers of ratings.
Lydia San Andres – 15 and 16 ratings
These are historical romances that take place in the early 1900s on an imaginary Caribbean island.
A Summer for Scandal – “When Emilia Cruz agreed to accompany her sister to a boating party, she had no idea that the darling of the literary world would be in assistance—or that he would take such pleasure in disparaging the deliciously sinful serial she writes under a pseudonym. No one save her sister knows she’s the author and to be found out would mean certain scandal.“
The Infamous Miss Rodriguez – “Graciela Rodriguez is determined to break her engagement to Ciudad Real’s most eligible bachelor—even if it means ruining her reputation. Vicente Aguirre has been hired by Graciela’s aunt to keep her wayward niece from damaging the family name along with her future. When her charms prove irresistible, will he fall for the infamous Miss Rodriguez?“
“Famed Broadway producer Milo Short may be eighty-eight but that doesn’t stop him from going to the office every day. So when he steps out of his Upper West Side brownstone on one exceptionally hot morning, he’s not expecting to see the impossible: a woman from his life sixty years ago, cherry red lips, bright red hat, winking at him on a New York sidewalk, looking just as beautiful as she did back in 1934.
The sight causes him to suffer a stroke. And when he comes to, the renowned lyricist discovers he has lost the ability to communicate. Milo believes he must unravel his complicated history with Vivian Adair in order to win back his words. But he needs help—in the form of his granddaughter Eleanor—failed journalist and family misfit.”
Only 89 ratings? This book deserves more than that.
“Taylor Cipriano had everything figured out, back when she lived with her single mother in Miami. Now, she’s moved upstate for her junior year to live with her mom’s boyfriend and her soon-to-be-stepsister and is trying to figure out who she is out of the shadow of her best friend. When she meets Theo—quirky, cute, sensitive Theo—he seems like a great match…except he has a girlfriend. Josey, icy and oh-so-intimidating.
But Theo and Josey aren’t like anyone Taylor’s met before; Josey grew up in a polyamorous family, and the two of them have a history of letting a third person in to their relationship. It’s nothing Taylor’s ever considered before…but she really likes Theo.”
132 ratings. This book was my first by this author and so far I’ve loved everything I’ve read of hers.
This series by M.C.A. Hogarth is so cute and sweet.
Mindtouch (252 ratings) – “Seersana University is worlds-renowned for its xenopsychology program, producing the Alliance’s finest therapists, psychiatric nurses and alien researchers. When Jahir, one of the rare and reclusive Eldritch espers, arrives on campus, he’s unprepared for the challenges of a vast and multicultural society… but fortunately, second-year student Vasiht’h is willing to take him under his wing. Will the two win past their troubles and doubts and see the potential for a once-in-a-lifetime partnership?“
Mindline (178 ratings) – “At the advice of Vasiht’h, his first and truest friend, Jahir Seni Galare has accepted one of the most coveted residencies in xenotherapy, even though doing so has severed him from all the relationships he’s fostered since leaving his cloistered homeworld. But not all the simulations at school have prepared him for the reality of being an esper in a hospital large enough to serve the winter capital of the entire Alliance, and it’s not long before he’s questioning the wisdom of having left the university for the tumult of one of the largest port cities in the known worlds.”
Dreamhearth (50 ratings) – “Jahir and Vasiht’h have earned their licenses as xenotherapists at last, and they have their hearts set on starting their practice in one of the Alliance’s most exciting and cosmopolitan destinations: a sector starbase. But dream therapy is a revolutionary treatment modality, and as esper practictioners they will have to work hard to win the trust of their community. Not only that, but they have a deadline: if they can’t prove themselves an asset to the starbase within six months, they’ll have to leave! “
This book is fairly new so hopefully it will get more than 22 ratings.
“News media brought the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”–the famous swirling gyre of plastic pollution in the ocean–into the public consciousness. But when Marcus Eriksen cofounded the 5 Gyres Institute with his wife, Anna Cummins, and set out to study the world’s oceans with hundreds of volunteers, they discovered a “plastic smog” of microscopic debris that permeates our oceans globally, defying simple clean-up efforts. What’s more, these microplastics and their toxic chemistry have seeped into the food chain, threatening marine life and humans alike.
Far from being a gloomy treatise on an environmental catastrophe, though, Junk Raft tells the exciting story of Eriksen and his team’s fight to solve the problem of plastic pollution. A scientist, activist, and inveterate adventurer, Eriksen is drawn to the sea by a desire to right an environmental injustice. Against long odds and common sense, he and his co-navigator, Joel Paschal, construct a “junk raft” made of plastic trash and set themselves adrift from Los Angeles to Hawaii, with no motor or support vessel, confronting perilous cyclones, food shortages, and a fast decaying raft.”
I looked at the books I have read so far this year. On the day I did my count, I had read 156 books so far. Of those books:
34 were published in 2017
10 were published in 2016 and less than a year before I read them
That’s only 28% of the books I read being new this year. Honestly, that’s more than I would have thought.
Of those 44 recently published books:
11 were nonfiction – I guess I like my facts fresh.
10 were new books in series I like so I was looking for them
I’m always amazed at people who can write lists like “Top Books I’m Looking Forward To This Fall.” I never have any idea what books are coming out. There are still thousands in the library I haven’t read.
Reasons Why You Should Read More Backlist Books
Who wants to read the 42nd review of the newest hyped book?
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” –Haruki Murakami
2. Let people know what amazing books are already out there
“My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.” –Abraham Lincoln
They may have missed it when it came out. This is especially true in the vast worlds of adult and genre fiction where most of the time there isn’t the hype that seems to exist in YA.
3. Save money, go to the library!
Did you see the 156 books by September stat above? There is no way I can afford to buy all those books. I wouldn’t want to anyway. Where would I keep them? I’m a library person.
What is the oldest non-classic book that you have read this year?
I’ve also read some great books from 1994 and 1992.
I used to have a problem reading books that were written as contemporary novels years before I read them. If the technology or geopolitical references were out of date, I got frustrated. Then I realized that I could just think of them as very realistic historical fiction novels!
You may find this over-dramatic but occasionally I think sadly back to the time when it was announced that Terry Gilliam was going to direct a movie version of this Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaiman book. The plot revolves around the angel and demon left in charge of Earth who decide to work together to prevent the rise of the Antichrist because Earth is a cushy job and they don’t want to lose it. Jonny Depp and Robin Williams were going to be the leads. I think of this as the biggest missed opportunity ever.
But now, now, it has been announced that there will be a TV adaptation with David Tennant playing Crowley the demon. I wanted to squeal when I heard but I couldn’t because other people were sleeping.
I reread this series a lot. It is comfort food for me. That makes me a little nervous about the adaptation that is in the works at Bad Wolf studios in Wales. Don’t screw it up. The author, Deborah Harkness, is very involved so hopefully it will be ok. The first book takes place in Oxford so it should be pretty.
This is a world of witches, daemons, and vampires. A medieval scholar who has suppressed her witch heritage is drawn into conflict when the library gives her access to a book that has been hidden for centuries.
Anyone who has been around here a while knows that I love me some Nnedi Okorafor and that Who Fears Death was my first book of hers. I love it but I don’t know if this was the one I’d have chosen to adapt. She has others that seem more TV-friendly.
This is a post-apocalyptic story about racism and sexism in a brutal world in the African desert. There are magical battles but also a lot of rape and violence.
I am looking forward to depiction of the tribe that lives in the middle of the sandstorm. I love them! good omens
I actually have mixed feelings about this one. I feel like I totally missed the takeaway of Octavia Butler’s series. What I got from it was that humans are horrible and probably need to be exterminated. Apparently she meant it as a ode to humans triumphing over slavery. Pretty big difference of opinion there.
Because of that I feel like this adaptation will probably just frustrate me as the humans go around being absolutely hateful and we are supposed to root for them. Am I the only person who read this series that feels this way?
“When Clarence comes upon a series of letters from her family’s past, she starts to piece together the story of her father’s travels with his brother, and she becomes curious about her origins. Sifting through the clues and assembling the narrative, Clarence embarks on a journey to the exotic African isle of Fernando Poo, where the 2 brothers, Jacobo and Kilian, landed after fleeing their conventional, safe lives in the Spanish Pyrenees.”
“When Lupita witnesses the murder of a local politician whom she greatly admires, the ghosts of her past resurface as she tries to cope with the present. She quickly falls back into her old self-destructive habits and becomes a target of Mexico’s corrupt political machine. As the powers that be kick into high gear to ensure the truth remains hidden, Lupita finds solace in the purity of indigenous traditions. While she learns how to live simply, like her ancestors, she comes to understand herself and rediscovers light within a dark life. And if there is hope for Lupita’s redemption, perhaps there is hope for Mexico.”
A history of 18th Century slavery in Suriname (1765-1779) … “a frank expose of life in the Dutch slave colony when sugar ruled as kind – and the tragic toll it took on the lives of colonists and slaves alike.”
“As the daughter of one of Turkey’s last Ottoman pashas, Selva could win the heart of any man in Ankara. Yet the spirited young beauty only has eyes for Rafael Alfandari, the handsome Jewish son of an esteemed court physician. In defiance of their families, they marry, fleeing to Paris to build a new life.
But when the Nazis invade France, the exiled lovers will learn that nothing—not war, not politics, not even religion—can break the bonds of family. For after they learn that Selva is but one of their fellow citizens trapped in France, a handful of brave Turkish diplomats hatch a plan to spirit the Alfandaris and hundreds of innocents, many of whom are Jewish, to safety.”
“In the fourteenth century, opportunities for women are limited to the home. But spirited young Madlen finds her calling as assistant to the city’s trusted midwife, Clara. Working alongside Clara, Madlen develops a surprisingly soothing technique and quickly becomes a talented healer.
After Clara’s tragic death, Madlen alone rushes to assist the birth of a local nobleman’s child. But rather than the joy of birth, Madlen walks into an accusation of murder and witchcraft because of her extraordinary gifts.”
“The author was nineteen years old and living in Warsaw when her mother told her the truth—that she was Jewish—and began to tell her stories of the family’s secret past in Poland. Tuszyńska, who grew up in a country beset by anti-Semitism, rarely hearing the word “Jew” (only from her Polish Catholic father, and then, always in derision), was unhinged, ashamed, and humiliated. The author writes of how she skillfully erased the truth within herself, refusing to admit the existence of her other half.”
And then I figured graphic novels would be a good, fast way to read some more since I know I won’t get all the books I have listed read. I might have gone a bit overboard with my library requests but I was impressed by how many they had. I’m sure they have a lot more but this is a start.
“Ivory Coast, 1978. It’s a golden time, and the nation, too—an oasis of affluence and stability in West Africa—seems fueled by something wondrous. Aya is loosely based upon Marguerite Abouet’s youth in Yop City. It is the story of the studious and clear-sighted nineteen-year-old Aya, her easygoing friends Adjoua and Bintou, and their meddling relatives and neighbors. It’s a wryly funny, breezy account of the simple pleasures and private troubles of everyday life in Yop City.”
“Clementine is a junior in high school who seems average enough: she has friends, family, and the romantic attention of the boys in her school. When her openly gay best friend takes her out on the town, she wanders into a lesbian bar where she encounters Emma: a punkish, confident girl with blue hair. Their attraction is instant and electric, and Clementine find herself in a relationship that will test her friends, parents, and her own ideas about herself and her identity.”
“When Soah’s impoverished, desperate village decides to sacrifice her to the Water God Habaek to end a long drought, they believe that drowning one beautiful girl will save their entire community and bring much-needed rain. Not only is Soah surprised to be rescued by the Water God — instead of killed — she never imagined she’d be a welcomed guest in Habaek’s magical kingdom, where an exciting new life awaits her!”
“Tohru Honda was an orphan with no place to go until the mysterious Sohma family offered her a place to call home. Now her ordinary high school life is turned upside down as she’s introduced to the Sohma’s world of magical curses and family secrets.”
“Acclaimed creator Kaoru Mori (Emma, Shirley) brings the nineteenth-century Silk Road to lavish life, chronicling the story of Amir Halgal, a young woman from a nomadic tribe betrothed to a twelve-year-old boy eight years her junior. Coping with cultural differences, blossoming feelings for her new husband, and expectations from both her adoptive and birth families, Amir strives to find her role as she settles into a new life and a new home in a society quick to define that role for her.”
Now we all know that I can’t follow a TBR to save my life, so stay tuned to see which of these I manage to read!