2016: Reflections and Resolutions

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Disclaimer: Several existential crises about attaching meaning to arbitrary cycles of time occurred during the drafting of this post. 

Ahem, okay. 2016. Trashfire year, to say the least. However, there’s some good stuff once you wade through the garbage, and I’m taking the time to be grateful for the little things. 2016 is the year I joined the book community on the internet, and it still amazes me to know that there’s people out there that read, breathe, and revere books the way I do (and some even more). I made some fantastic friends, some of whom I got to know in real life, and all of whom have been absolute hearts (you know who you are). I discovered so many social justice warrior gems who inspire me everyday with their outspokenness and general badassery. I also discovered that my drug of choice is participating in readathons and reading challenges, regardless of how well I do in them. It is the year I started blogging about books, albeit sporadically, and also the year I realized the purpose of this blog. All of these things give me the warm fuzzies, and I’m taking this moment to be grateful for that. 

I’ve learnt several things about myself as a reader this year, and I’m choosing to use those things to shape my reading as we enter the next year. 2017 is going to come with a hell a lot of challenges as it is, and I’d like to make sure I keep chipping away at making my happy place a worthwhile place. 

In terms of numbers, this year has been a success. I’ll be ringing in the New Year with my 228th book, which is the most I’ve read any year ever (last year I read 53, I think). I’ll be setting a goal of 250 books next year, which I think is pretty doable. I’m woefully behind on updating my spreadsheets and the running list on my blog, but I have finally completed all my social obligations  so those should get done soon. 

I’ve talked before about wanting to read mindfully, and this is something I’d like to continue working on. While high numbers are an adrenaline rush, I’d like to be really absorb and sit with what I’m reading, and be able to look at my reading material critically.

As for reading challenges, I’m narrowing those down to a chosen few. I’ve learned that I prefer readathons, especially ones like Dewey’s where I can go full blown introvert and hole up with my books and the bookternet, so after having dabbled in a bunch of reading challenges this past year, in 2017 I will be doing the following: 

As mentioned earlier, I’m joining the wonderful Kerry in hosting Social Justice Book Club, and it’s been so great working on the behind-the-scenes stuff with her. We’re actively working on making this a meaningful experience for all our participants. We’re also working on selecting books that cover social justice intersectionally, which I’m super stoked about. The intention is to continue learning and using that knowledge to do good, and I’m working on these intentions being reflected in actual, actionable steps. 

I have several things I want to work on with blogging, and I’m trying to remember that I’m still brand new to this, so taking it slow is key. I do not want blogging to be an aversive experience, so I’m going to take a couple of things at a time and work on them. Manageable goals are less stressful, especially since there’s so many other uncertain variables in my personal life.  

I’d like to work on an actual posting schedule. It’ll help with accountability, generating content, and writing more reviews. It’ll also motivate me to chalk out time to work on these posts, rather than scramble in the wee hours of the morning in sweaty panic because that’s just unnecessary. 

Another thing I’ll be working on this year is to write better reviews. This means having something meaningful to say besides just gushing about books I love, because I think it’ll just generally help improve my writing, so two birds, one stone. I’m also going to use this as practice to critically analyze books- plot, writing style, character development, etc.- and generally have more nuanced content. 

Of course, as I’ve said earlier, the purpose of this blog is to support and promote marginalized voices. I think a part of this is also being able to discuss problematic rep. While I’ve been part of a fair number of these discussions on twitter, I think using the blog for this is equally crucial, especially since there’s very few POC/LGBTQIA+/disabled bloggers, and we need to keep having these conversations about inclusivity and representation if we hope to make a dent in publishing. 

I’d like to take this moment to thank you guys- friends, readers- for having stuck with me all through 2016. I don’t think there’s words that will adequately describe what this community means to me. It’s changed my life. I’m looking forward to all of the wonderful things you will be doing in 2017, and I will be cheering you on all the way.

Let’s kick 2017’s ass.

-J

 

 

#DAReadathon TBR

I have several issues with the lack of diversity in the world of Harry Potter, especially with the kind of crap JKR has been putting us through this year. But I think you’ve known me long enough to know I can’t resist a readathon, especially one that is focused on promoting diverse books. I’ve been mulling over my reading goals for 2017, and it only seems fitting to kick it off with a readathon highlighting diverse books, organized by an awesome blogger. The details are right here, and I’m excited to be repping team Slytherin!

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Aentee has given us eight awesome prompts, and I’ve picked one book each in order to rack up some sweet house points:

expectopatronum

everyheartdoorway

 

I haven’t read a lot of books repping ace characters, and it is totally for lack of trying. I’m making more of an effort and have found quite a few titles, so I’m reading one that has been recommended to me the most from all corners of the interwebz. 

 

 

expelliarmus

undertheudalatrees

 

It’s safe to say that I’ve discovered plenty of gaps in my reading, so many that I’m not actually sure I’ll get to all of them in my life, but I’ll be damned if I don’t keep trying. So for this category, I’ve picked this highly acclaimed title which hits both titles by Non-US/European authors and features lesbian characters. 

 

protego

lolitatehran 

 

This book has been sitting on my shelf for months; I only bought it because the premise sounded interesting. A quick scroll through Goodreads indicated that this is highly acclaimed, so I’m using this readathon as an excuse to crack this beauty open. 

 

 

reducto

hidden-figures

 

You guys, my body is so ready for this movie. I can’t explain what it means to see women of colour nerds on screen. It is going to be glorious, and you bet your bottom dollar I need to read the book before I go see it on screen. 

 

impedimenta

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I keep picking this book up and I’m never in the right mood to read it, but I’m thinking having a print copy will help me this time. I know it’s a slow burn and there’s a ton of world building, but I have mad respect for the author and I’d really like to finally be hooked along with the rest of you. 

dareadathon-stupefy

sunsstaryoon.jpg

 

It’s really simple, my library hold finally came through, and I need to read it because the holds list is a mile long. Also, I’ve heard so many good things and I’m having serious FOMO. THAT COVER IS EVERYTHING. *heart eyes for days*

 

dareadthon-lumos

leztalk.jpg

 

This book has been recommended to me by both Naz and Bina, which made it the perfect pick for this prompt. I’m knee deep in my need for intersectional feminist works, so this automatically made the list for that as well.

 

 

 

 

Right, those are my picks. Looking for more options? Allow me to direct you to Naz’s blog, where he gives us more than 60 awesome options for the readathon prompts. Excited to see everyone’s picks, and looking forward to start off the year reading fantastically inclusive books! 

-J

 

 

 

 

 

#DiversityDecBingo TBR

As I’d mentioned earlier this week, I’m participating  in #DiversityDecBingo, which starts tomorrow! I’d like to thank the awesome bookstagrammers/bloggers that are hosting this, because it such a great way to promote reading diversely. I’m being atypically realistic and not attempting to complete all the squares in the bingo card, mostly because I’m travelling for the next couple of weeks and won’t have a lot of time to read. Also, my TBR is out of control as it is, and I just requested a bunch of ARCs because I’m a masochist like that, so I need to reign it all in.

After a ton of hemming and hawing, my sister intervened and picked this column for me.  (I can’t decide anything to save my life.)

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TBR:

Chronic pain sufferers                    Non-Western setting                         PoC/Interracial M/M

farffromyou                    writteninthestars                      songofachilles.jpg

Pansexual MC                                                 Asexual/Aromantic MC

outongoodbx                                      we-awaken

The best part about these are that they’re all either ebooks I own or digital copies from the library, which means I can probably try and knock them out while I’m travelling. Five books in two weeks, I think I can handle it.

I’m also super excited to see what everyone else is reading, because I’d love to read more books in all of these categories. Meanwhile, if you have any suggestions for any of the categories on the bingo card, I’d love to hear about them!

-J

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 28th, 2016:It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme currently hosted by The Book Date. It’s a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week, and add to that ever-growing TBR stack.

You guys, I did it. I finished A Little Life, literally thirty seconds before I starting writing this post. Oh. My. God. I’m dead. I’m numb from the pain. I’m epicly hungover. I don’t even know, I don’t even know.

I also managed to read and review Lucky Boy, devoured The Weight of Feathers, and finished This Bridge Called My Back. So, basically, all I have are a (figurative) mountain of library books that I must read and return. These I’m saving for my trip in a few days- I’ll be travelling a bunch and using my kindle as a primary source of reading material is a pragmatic choice. 

In the next few days, these are a couple of books I’d like to finish:

Ooh also, I’m participating in #DiversityDecBingo which is being hosted by a bunch of bloggers/bookstagrammers that I interact with on twitter. If you choose to participate, you can follow the hashtag on twitter where there are a bunch of recs from various people. Join me!

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Got to dash to a thing now, more later. Drop me a line and let me know what you’re reading!

-J

 

 

ARC Review: Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

wp-1479113487650.jpgLucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

Pub. date: January 10th, 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Format: E-galley
ISBN: 9781101982242
Source: Netgalley

 

Thanks so much to G. P. Putnam’s Sons and Netgalley for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

 

Eighteen-year old Solimar Valdez undertakes an arduous journey to cross the US/Mexican border, during which she meets and falls in love with a young man. Weeks later, separated from due to a series of events, she arrives in Berkeley, California at her cousin’s house, impregnated and in love, both of which were not part of her plan. However, her cousin gets her a job, and teaches her to keep a low profile so as not to have her legality questioned, and she does just that. She gives birth to a lovely baby boy Ignacio, who becomes Soli’s most precious possession, one she guards with her life. Until one day, the unluckiest set of circumstances result in Soli taken to a detention center, separated from Ignacio. 

Kavya Reddy has a stable job, a stable marriage, and a complicated relationship with her mother. She’s looking for more in the fulfillment and happiness department, and is unexpectedly overwhelmed with a desire to become a mother. It becomes her sole focus. She and Rishi struggle with trying to get pregnant, and their marriage goes through the hoops of trying and failing IVF and such. The couple look into adoption, and this is where their lives collide with Soli’s- they end up fostering Ignacio. Kavya takes on the role of mother willingly, although it doesn’t come without its tribulations, and falls in love with this child that is not her own. 

There’s several beautiful things about this book. The writing, for starters, is gorgeous. It’ll capture you from the first few pages, the author using it to weave such an emotional story. Sekaran has also done such an excellent job of portraying two strong women, women who in their own rights care so deeply for this child, and will stop at nothing to try and keep him with them. A comparison of their determination and experiences is futile. This is not a story that has a clear winner at the end; but it portrays so many emotions vividly that it leaves you raw and aching.

The book also tackles the reality of the circumstances of undocumented people and immigrants. The sections of the book tackling the legal and judicial systems, the horrific realities of people thrown into detention centers and the terrible choices they are given, made me feel angry and helpless, all at the same time. As someone that has grown up with a lot of chatter of the American dream, the true nature of what that looks like left me disillusioned. Especially in the current political climate, it was very hard not to experience real fear and anxiety when reading Soli’s story. 

I can’t say that I wanted the book to end differently. I devoured this book in a couple of days, but I was unable to pick sides. Not that picking sides makes any damn difference in the world, because the entire situation is beyond fucked up and there’s no alternatives for a satisfactory of comforting conclusion. My guts were wrenched, and my heart was torn. I can’t recommend this enough. 

Exciting News!

sjbc

Hello, hello!

(Apologies if you’ve seen this on twitter already)

The Social Justice Book Club, started by Kerry back in April, is a bimonthly book club focused on reading and discussing books that fall under the giant umbrella of social justice. As with all other things, the club sprung from a twitter conversation, and is especially so relevant given the garbage fire that is 2016. The club has discussed three books so far, and Kerry has been amazing with book selections, coming up with a reading schedule, and incorporating suggestions of book club members who are notoriously terrible with sticking to any of the schedules (shameface). I did read all three books though, and I can’t thank Kerry enough for bringing these to my attention via said book club.

That being said, I’m very excited to let you guys know that I will be co-hosting the Social Justice Book Club along with Kerry, starting January 2017. A tiny part of me agreed for purely selfish reasons- I’d like to engage more with the discussion part of the book club and sticking with the schedule, and having the responsibility of co-hosting will definitely help with that. Also, Kerry is an awesome person, and I wanted to help her in any way I could to keep this book club going.

That being said, our next round begins in January 2017, and we will be reading Hope In The Dark by Rebecca Solnit. Given this past week, we felt this would be especially relevant. Plus, for the next FOURTEEN HOURSHaymarket Books is offering completely free, no strings attached downloads of the ebook. So feel free to download a free copy, or buy a print version, or borrow from the library to read with us starting January 1st- whatever floats your boat.

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Meanwhile, you can check out all of Kerry’s posts here in case you’re interested in joining the club. You can also follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Litsy (@kerry). We’ll have a space to sign up on our respective blogs when we announce our next selection. Got recommendations for the club to consider? We’ve got a form right here.

Kerry and I are working together to give all of you a meaningful book club experience, and we will announce sign-ups and future books closer to the end of 2016. Thanks once again for joining us!

 

 

 

 

September 19th, 2016: It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

bookdate.jpg

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme currently hosted by The Book Date. It’s a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week, and add to that ever-growing TBR stack.

Continue reading “September 19th, 2016: It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?”