The Truth about Diverse Books I Read in 2016

diverse-books-2016

Hello, fellow book junkies! See that collage of books up there? Those are the diverse books I read in 2016. As I reflect on this topic, two key things come to mind:

#1 What exactly is a diverse book?
My friend Naz @ Read Diverse Books explores this topic well in his post here, where he defines diverse books as those which “represent the variety of voices traditionally marginalized and underrepresented in the (Western) publishing industry.” Elsewhere on the ‘net I ran across a definition of diverse books as including books written by authors from minority backgrounds.

#2 I must read more diverse books!
During the course of the past year, I thought I had read many more diverse books, but as I reviewed the list, I was surprised that only 12% of them qualified as books written by minority authors and/or representing marginalized voices. I love fiction that explores new cultures and alternate ways of perceiving the world. Expanding awareness is one of my favorite things, so toward that end, I will make a concerted effort to read more diverse books in 2017.

Without further adieu, here are the diverse books I read in 2016.

Books written by authors from minority backgrounds:

Angelfall by Susan Ee (Korean-American author)

The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (African-American woman and the queen of modern poetry)

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi (Filipina/Indian-American author, Indian mythology)

Legend & Prodigy by Marie Lu (Chinese-American author)

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Afghan author, story set partly in Afghanistan)

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Mexican-Canadian author, story set in Mexico)

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh (Scottish/Korean-American author, Middle Eastern setting)

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older (Latino author, Afro-Latina main character)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Indigenous American author)

Books representing marginalized or underrepresented voices:

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (fat main character)

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson (transgender main character)

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Asperger’s main character)

Timekeeper by Tara Sim (gay main character)

Wonder by R. J. Palacio (main character born with facial deformity)

I am especially interested in reading more books that feature bisexual female characters. If you have any to recommend, I’d love to hear about them.

–Eve Messenger

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It’s Raining Books, Hallelujah!

Hi, fellow book junkies! What a great feeling it is when a bunch of great books suddenly come raining in. By mail, library, and Netgalley, all of the following books arrived this week, and I’m like a kid in a candy store gazing gleefully at the pretty stack they make on my nightstand.  😀

The Reader by Traci Chee –Lushly told YA fantasy about a girl living in a world where reading is forbidden. Read an excerpt here.

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Timekeeper by Tara Sim Netgalley ARC – Gay clocktower mechanic boy. Magic clock mysteriously missing 2 o’clock. I’ve had my eye on this book since hearing about it almost a year ago, and I’m so grateful to have been approved for the ARC.

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My Lady Jane by Hand, Ashton, & Meadows –This lighthearted historical YA novel apparently gets a bit experimental (or maybe just plain cheeky?) The authors occasional break the fourth wall and have their Victorian characters lapse into 21st century slang. I’m intrigued.

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The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge – Blogger friends tell me the writing in this is so good. Then when Cover2Cover Mom mentioned The Lie Tree also has a dark edge, I ran right out and got it. Oh, and then the librarian told me it won some kind of award. Bonus.

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Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu – Legend was such a fun read that I had to find out what Day and June get up to in the next book, Prodigy. A prodigal investigator vs. a prodigal criminal–June and Day’s dynamic is incredible.

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Currently reading:

Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle. Eloquent prose–check. Pleasant Irish setting–check. Intriguing plot idea–check. However, the story doesn’t really catch fire until around page 160. I hear there’s a good plot twist, so I’m hanging in there.

Last but not least. . .

Dear book-loving friend, for taking the time to read all the way down to the end of this post, here is a little treat for you. (Remember to replace the word “men” with “books.”)  XOXO Eve Messenger

Happy & Confused April Reading #amreading

April 2016 Reads

This month I got to go all over the place in books. Just looking at the graphic of the ten books I read in April makes happy and maybe just a bit confused. While there was definitely a YA fantasy slant to my reading selections (no big surprise there), I think this month each book ended up being from a different genre.

Consider by Kristy Acevedo-I kicked off April with a bit of YA sci-fi. Intriguing concept, shocker ending.

What We Need to Survive by Elena Johansen – My writer-blogger friend Elena published an adult post-apocalyptic romance that I just had to read. Her writing is flawless.

The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter – This YA contemporary blew me away with its beautiful writing and All. Of. The. Feels. I posted a review of it here.

Captain Marvel Further, Faster, More vol. 1-6 Higher by DeConnick & Lopez-Another recommendation from Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories that I adored, this (graphic novel? comic book?) series predominantly features females in the lead roles, including of course Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel. Excellent writing by DeConnick and beautiful artwork by David Lopez. Now I’m off to read Ms. Marvel. . .

The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou-At last I sat down and read a collection of poetry by the modern goddess of poetry herself, Maya Angelou. She wrote deep, musical, personal poetry that does what poetry should–makes us see the world as very big and very small all at the same time and makes us think.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor-An outstanding YA urban fantasy. I liked the dark, imaginative story and the atmospheric Prague setting. From all the things I’d heard about it,  I expected the writing to be transcendent, which finally started happening on page 174. This story went to a place that, well–no spoilers–but what an ending.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld – I finally got around to reading this hugely famous book and had a fun time. Mixing things up with a bit of  YA dystopia every once in a while is a good thing.

The Uninvited by Cat Winters – YA paranormal. I’m always up for a story about ghosts, and I liked the historical setting of WW-I , flu-epidemic era small-town America, but this turned into a romance right away, which is not my favorite genre.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Adult urban fantasy. I read this as an audio book and, as someone who swore long ago never, ever to commute to work again, listening to it during my short ride to work and during errands took an excruciatingly long time. Five weeks, to be exact. I finally broke down, found a PDF of Neverwhere online, read the last 30 pages (with my eyes, not my ears), and enjoyed the book so much more. Also, an interesting thing happens when I read Neil Gaiman’s writing–it almost instantly makes me a better writer. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But it’s really true!

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi- Yay, this highly anticipated YA Indian fantasy finally arrived! Thanks to Amazon, I received it on the release date, April 26, and read it in two days.Gorgeous imagery, poetic prose.

Happy reading! Did you have a crazy, mixed-up genre of a reading month, too?

–Eve Messenger

Poor, neglected blog. Time to check in.

I wish I were hoverboarding right now above the river, the wilderness, and the Rusty Ruins just like Tally, the protagonist in Uglies, which I am currently reading (my first Scott Westerfeld novel).

Sometimes life gets so crazy busy that even things that are important to me, like blogging, have to get shoved to the side for a while. There are so many things I want to do in life. Unfortunately, a day job is one of them. I like being a teacher, but I’m in a place right now where I truly, honestly feel that writing full-time is what I need to be doing. But tell that to my bank account. 

The good news is I continue to grow and learn as a writer. I’m still mastering the art of completing a polished novel, but with every novel I write I get better and closer to proving to myself (and hopefully to the world) that I have what it takes to make it as a professional writer. I’ve made friends in the writing community, people so far removed from my daily life it’s kind of funny, like I have an alternate life. Which I guess I kind of do. To the rest of the world I’m mom, wife, teacher, friend, errand runner, whatever. But then there’s this inner world apart from all that in which I’m the chick who’s busting her tail to become a successful published author. There are lots of dues to pay.

I try to squeeze in writing 500-100 words however I can each weekday and then several thousand more on Saturdays and Sundays. A full-time teaching schedule, then a part-time job after school (teaching at a private school and Southern California’s cost of living do not see eye to eye), then tending to family and home doesn’t leave time for hobbies, except for reading, which of course is like calling breathing a hobby.

TV? What’s TV?

One of the only TV shows I have time for is Broad City, which is an effing hilarious show. Genuinely funny women being bawdy and crude makes me happy.

My husband also recently turned me on to a show on Netflix called River, which is pretty great.

All the characters in the series look like real people–a television trend I adore, and it has an intriguing paranormal theme, too. Detective River talks to ghosts who help him solve crimes, kind of like a darker, much more British (it’s set in London, yay!) Medium (remember that show with Patricia Arquette?) The acting is excellent. The writing is, too. In fact, one scene brought tears to my eyes, when River, the downtrodden, ghost-seeing, expert detective says:

“I’m a good officer. But, in this world, that’s not enough. In this world you have to be able to nod and smile and drink a pint, and say, “How was your day?” In this world, no one can be different or strange.  Or damaged. Or they lock you up.” [River (2015), season 1, episode 2]

What was it about this line that got me so choked up? Of course, there was something about what he said that I related to, as in we have things about ourselves that we know are smart or clever or special, but people don’t always see them. The charming people who walk with the most confidence seem to get a lot. People like me who bust our tails don’t necessarily get recognition unless we also know how to play politics. That exhausts me.

Give me writing, reading, and talking to people who love those things, too. And a hoverboard.

–Eve Messenger

Reading While Writing – Is it a Bad Thing?

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There’s this YA dystopian thriller I’ve been dying to read.  Very hyped, mentioned in lots of blogs, highly ranked on Goodreads. I won’t mention the title because — call me superstitious, or maybe respectful or polite — I won’t publicly write negative things about another writer’s published work. Who knows, maybe you’ll guess it from the references I’m about to make. Anyway, I was excited to read this book, but I stopped myself.  I stopped myself from reading any fiction.  Why? Because I’ve heard from other writers that reading while you write can be detrimental.

But reading is the shizzle!

So two days ago I picked up this hyped novel-that-shall-not-be-named (henceforth known as NTSNBN), and I began to read.   Even though I’m working on my own novel.

And it’s been really helpful!  Possibly because NTSNBN is in a different enough genre from my own YA fantasy adventure. Or maybe because it’s a good book but not so brilliant that I’m utterly intimidated. Or maybe (and probably most significantly) because the plot and characters of my own novel are well-formed enough that reading someone else’s novel — both as a positive and negative example — gives me ideas on how to enhance what I already have.

Back when I was tapping and scribbling out the nucleus of a plot in coffee houses, libraries, and all the other free places writers and homeless people hang out, reading someone else’s novel might have been detrimental to my process. Consciously or subconsciously, another writer’s plots and characters could have crept their way into my own writing.   (Though I probably will take the chance and try it while writing the next novel.)

After two days of reading NTSNBN — while working on the 2nd/3rd major revision of my own — here’s how reading someone else’s novel has been beneficial. Throughout the narrative, NTSNBN gives a very clear sense of the main character’s emotional state. It contains too much a lot of internal self-talk. With a keener awareness of this, the next time I sat down to work on my own book, my characters started spilling their emotional guts a lot more.

I like that.

The author of NTSNBN also employs several quirky stylistic devices, such as replacing number words with the alphanumeric, as in ‘2’ instead of ‘two.’  Also, there are long passages that deliberately avoid commas. Thirdly, there is a lot lot lot of  too much  striking out of lines and words, which signify the MC censoring his/her own thoughts.   Though I probably won’t use those devices in my own writing, the stylistic experiments definitely inspire me to try new things.

Lastly, NTSNBN reads really fast. All the chapters flow really well, each with its own grabber that takes you right into the heart of the scene and an ending that propels you further into the story. All wonderful things to keep in mind while revising and polishing my own work.

E.B.M.