On Rating Books Without Reading Them

A common issue within the book community is the question of whether it is appropriate to rate a book without having read it. Some readers say that it’s never okay, which I think is lacking in nuance. There are bad reasons for rating a book without reading it first, but there are also good reasons to do so.

Basically, I think it’s all contingent on how much you actually know about a book and your motivations for giving it the rating you did. If you’re just giving a book five stars because your favourite author wrote it, that’s kind of ridiculous but doesn’t really hurt anyone.The reason I mention it at all is because, often, these ratings are ignored when the issue of rating books without having read them comes up in discussion. People complaining about ratings of unread books are typically referring to low ratings and fail to see that, really, if you’re categorically slamming low ratings, you should probably at least pay some lip service to the high ratings as well. Isn’t that the whole principle you’re trying to convey? That books should never be rated unless you’ve read the things? Talking about one and not the other when making that kind of blanket statement shows a huge hole in one’s argument.

Besides, there are good reasons to downrate a book you haven’t read. Namely, if other readers have provided enough evidence to prove that the book is a huge mess of bigoted misrepresentation. Often low ratings in this case are provided to try and attract the publisher’s attention so they’ll do something about it. Maybe delay release and revise the book or, if that’s not possible for whatever reason, at the very least stop acquiring books like it.

A book that has been at the centre of this to rate or not to rate furore is THE BLACK WITCH. A reviewer live-tweeted the issues they had while reading the book and later wrote an 8.7k review detailing, with textual evidence, the sheer volume of problems with the book. The book is racist, sexist, homophobic and ableist. Many readers who, for whatever fucking reason, actually like the book try to claim it’s about a bigoted character learning to not be bigoted, but Shauna’s review clearly points out this does not succeed. The fact such a book is being held up as some great anti-racist story, which it isn’t, instead of promoting authors of colour writing their experiences is pretty damn shitty in itself. The community has been downrating this book to hopefully get some kind of action from the publisher, but the publisher didn’t really give a shit and were even caught shifting the blurb on Goodreads around to put praise for the book at the top, before it was readjusted by Goodreads librarians.

But, hey, the book hasn’t really been heard from since publication so we must’ve done something right. Yeah, I was one of the one-star raters. Because the book damn well deserved it and we had more than enough evidence to figure that out without having to read the damn thing cover to cover.

I think that’s the kicker: is there enough evidence out there to rate the book without having to read the whole thing? In THE BLACK WITCH’s case, yes, there was. Shauna didn’t write a fucking 8.7k word review for fun. She wrote it to inform the rest of us so we wouldn’t have to put up with that shit.

A book where this wasn’t the case is RAMONA BLUE, where biphobes decided the concept of a lesbian character realising her sexuality is more fluid than she first thought was somehow lesbophobic. Like, to be clear, this wasn’t a lesbian being turned straight by a dude, but that’s how many people took it based on a blurb. The blurb has since been changed to more accurately reflect the book, but the whole downrating in this case was uncalled for. It was as if entire swathes of the world’s population collectively forgot bisexuality exists. Or maybe they never acknowledged its existence in the first place. If you read the blurb now, it is blatantly obvious the character isn’t turning straight because of a dude. She still likes girls and she’s still fucking queer.

There are books that take supposedly queer characters and then go “teehee the character was straight the whole time,” such as LOOK BOTH WAYS, but apparently readers would rather focus on a book like RAMONA BLUE that doesn’t even come close to that level of bullshit. I guess LOOK BOTH WAYS, being blatantly biphobic, doesn’t offend them or something. Who the fuck knows. I’m over it. Someone actually tried that “read it before deciding” shit on LOOK BOTH WAYS but I’m fucking bisexual and don’t need that bullshit in my life. Actually, the tweet exchange was so goddamn incredible I’m gonna post it here because you need to read this. I’m not hiding any twitter handles because the person in the wrong doesn’t deserve it and Tasha, whose review I linked above, is awesome and deserves all the follows.

and then she blocked me 1

She blocked me after I pointed out her fuckup. It was amazing. Not wholly relevant to my post, but I’m still gobsmacked by the exchange and wanted to share it. It does hit on an important point while talking about book reviews, though. There’s been a strange pattern of actual book reviewers saying reviews shouldn’t actually make you decide whether or not to read a book, which is the most hilarious accidental self-deprecation I have seen in my life. Amazing the mental gymnastics people will engage in to excuse supporting bigoted books.

It also hits on a reason book reviews are important: not just to demand action on the publisher’s part, but to warn people when books might hurt them. I had LOOK BOTH WAYS on my Goodreads TBR. If Tasha hadn’t warned me, I could’ve spent money on that book only to find it blatantly disrespected who I am as a person. Book reviews are important for this reason, among many others.

Back to the point of this post: the question of rating a book before reading it is more complex than blanket statements make it seem. It needs to be taken on a case-by-case basis. THE BLACK WITCH was the first book I downrated without reading and I was a little nervous about doing it at first, but the book community was trying to make a point that they won’t tolerate books about bigotry that a) centre privileged perspectives and b) end up being bigoted messes because the author has no idea what they’re doing. We don’t need that shit. Just read THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas instead. It’s better-written anyway.

Book reviews and ratings are an important tool. Sometimes, you’ve got to go for the nuclear option to just make publishers notice something isn’t right. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s important that we try. We’re trying to sculpt a fairer, more diverse industry here. Change doesn’t happen by being nice. While focusing on positive rep is also greatly important, you’ve got to criticise the assholes, too.

 

 

Review: The Traitor’s Tunnel by C.M. Spivey

34031351Witch-blooded robber Bridget has made a reputation for herself in the capital city, but she’s not interested in the attention of the Thieves’ Guild–and she’s not bothered by the rumors of urchin kidnappings, either. With winter coming, she’s looking out for herself and no one else.

Until she picks the wrong pocket, and recognizes her estranged brother Teddy.

Young craftsman Theodor arrives in the capital ready to take the final step toward his dream career as Lord Engineer of Arido. His apprenticeship with a renowned city engineer comes with new rules and challenges, but it’s worth it for the exposure to the Imperial Council.

While spying on her brother, Bridget overhears a secret meeting that reveals a cruel plot. After more than a decade apart, Theodor and Bridget must reunite to stop a traitor whose plan threatens not only their city, but the whole empire.

Set seven years before the events of From Under the Mountain, The Traitor’s Tunnel is the story of two young people presented with a choice–to protect themselves, or to protect others–the consequences of which will change their lives forever.

I was fortunate to be on Twitter when C.M. Spivey offered to give out free advance copies, so naturally I jumped on that. Everything about this book sounded incredible, including it being ownvoices for asexuality, and it did not disappoint.

Estranged siblings Bridget and Theodor are the protagonists, and they’re both queer. Theodor is asexual and in a long-term M/M relationship with Leander. Bridget is currently in an F/F relationship with Keaton, and has had relationships with men in the past. There are also a few characters with brown skin, including both love interests and Bridget’s former partner, Micah. Children’s genders are not assigned at birth but decided by the children once they reach a certain age. Until then, “ze” pronouns are used. There is a passing reference from a female character about an ex-wife, which also provides the clue that same-gender marriages are normal. Asking for consent before initiating romantic contact is also completely normalised. This whole story world is a bloody breath of fresh air.

Theodor and Bridget are compelling protagonists from wildly different worlds, being that Bridget has been thieving for years while Theodor was raised in a more sheltered environment. Bridget tends to be more action-oriented while Theodor, even though he is ambitious, is more anxious and cautious. His relationship with Leander has the expected familiarity of a long-term relationship, the both of them knowing each other so well that they sometimes don’t even need to speak in order to communicate. There was something really comforting in that. The author really did a great job making all the inter-character relationships fit together as wonderfully as they did. I just really love these characters, okay?

I did initially fear the plot would drag a bit, but my fears were soon thrown out the window. All that setup is absolutely necessary for anything in the plot to make sense and it’s all fascinating stuff anyway. There are multiple villains and the one most prominent in the story is that mind-bending kind where you’re not exactly sure they’re a villain for quite a long time. There is a huge disconnect between the way both protagonists perceive this character which only adds to the mystery.

THE TRAITOR’S TUNNEL is a great little book with refreshing worldbuilding and utterly compelling characters. I’m really glad I read it and, quite frankly, the whole thing has refreshed me after this weird reading slump I’ve been in.

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

28458598A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

I received an e-ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI is a cute romantic comedy with Indian-American protagonists. I loved both Dimple and Rishi for different reasons. Dimple is such a little ball of spitting flames and Rishi is very much the kind of soft male protagonist that I like. If I’m gonna read m/f, there better be a soft boy involved. None of that toxic masculinity nonsense. These two are exactly the kind of characters I love to read about.

The book is very well-written in a way that tickles the senses and is endlessly relateable. The alternating POV was confusing at times, but much of that is owed to formatting issues with my e-ARC that I’m sure will be cleared up in the published version. I did actually like the headhopping between Dimple and Rishi’s POVs. It was fascinating to see how their minds worked differently, and the contrast between their perceptions of what the other was thinking and their actual thoughts. There is a huge disconnect between Dimple’s body image and Rishi’s view of her, particularly early on. It was also great watching these two characters slowly melt out of their set archetypes and even surprise themselves by doing so.

I also really feel for Rishi’s internal conflict regarding following his dreams vs fulfilling the expectations placed upon him. And Dimple’s conflict regarding the fact she despises being lumped into traditionalist boxes, and yet the boy her parents picked out for her turns out to be a good match. After the worst possible first meeting is dealt with, of course.

The best thing about Rishi, to be honest, is the fact he can go from horrendously awkward to ridiculously suave in 0.2 seconds. Like, I don’t know how this wordsmith is the same kid who greeted Dimple with the worst opening line known to man, but here we are and I totally believe it. And I love that Dimple is into coding and is so determined to get what she wants out of life, even if that determination sometimes causes a few bumps in the road for her. These two kids… I just love them to pieces. Let me hug them. But I’d definitely need to announce myself or Dimple will probably throw something at me.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of casually ableist language in this book. TW FOR CENSORED SLURS: The text is peppered with “cr*zy” and “ins*ne” and similar variants. TW OVER. I’m also not entirely comfortable with the way the bisexual character is portrayed in some respects. The one f/f relationship she’s had in the past “wasn’t serious” and is the one character who sleeps with multiple people around the same time, both of which play into some rather unpleasant stereotypes about bisexuals: bi women are actually straight, and bisexuals are inherently promiscuous. There’s also no actual use of the word bisexual, but the implication is pretty clear. I can’t speak for the ableism, but while these hints of biphobia annoyed me, I was able to enjoy the book anyway so I still think it’s worth reading. Just… non-bisexual authors. Please. Stop doing this.

Overall, WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI is a fun romantic comedy and a great addition to the YA category. If you like slow-burn romances, girls who code, and oddly suave teenage boys, this is definitely a great read.

On Creative Self-Doubt

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.

Last month, I got up on stage and performed a twenty-five minute cabaret set. I picked all the songs and wrote the monologues myself. It was the first time I had ever done something like that, but all the components were things I had done individually before. I’ve been singing for over a decade and have been writing stories for even longer. I was proud of my performance, even though I made a few mistakes. It was my first time doing that sort of thing, after all.

My performance was professionally filmed and I recently worked up the nerve to watch the recording. I didn’t like it. I stuttered a lot and my singing was much pitchier than I thought it was. My vocal tone was way worse than I realised and I made a lot of weird facial expressions that made the whole thing hard to watch. I had hoped to use some parts of the video if I ever put together an audition showreel, but that’s unlikely to happen now.

I hate watching videos of my performances. I am incapable of sitting back and enjoying my achievements. There’s always something new to nitpick, some minor imperfection to make me cringe.

I feel much the same way about my writing at least 50% of the time. At any given moment, it’s anyone’s guess whether I’m going to love what I’m writing or want to print it out specifically to burn it. It seems I am constantly swinging between the two extremes in any creative pursuit. I don’t have this issue quite as much with dancing, because I only started like two years ago and no one expects me to be amazing anyway. So in a way, having spent so much of my life singing and writing means I have piled expectations upon myself. I’ve been doing this so long. I should be good at it. Why am I not good at it?

Keeping the self-doubt at bay is an ongoing battle. I’m very much a brute-force kind of person when it comes to internalised adversity. That Sylvia Plath quote pretty much sums up my approach. It takes guts to fight it and keep going. I kick it in the face and force my way through until I feel less like shit. It’s relatively effective.

It was my first time tackling a twenty-five-minute self-devised performance. My voice rarely records well on video and I’m never going to have an accurate sense of what I actually sound like anyway. The audience loved it. They didn’t give a shit what my face was doing. I bounced off their energy and their remarks. We had fun together. So what if it wasn’t perfect? What are the odds of me needing a showreel when I don’t even have that vocal degree I want yet anyway?

My writing doesn’t have to be perfect right now. That’s what editing is for. I have all the time in the world to get things right. People love my concepts when I talk about them. I have days when I love everything that comes out of my brain. It’s okay to be shy about sharing my writing sometimes and it’s completely unrealistic to expect to make bread when I haven’t even finished growing the wheat yet.

I am naturally an insecure person, but I’m definitely not alone in that. Even in my manner of speech, I tend to soften my language and it can be very difficult for me to assert myself, depending on the company I’m keeping at the time. I walk a fine line in writing. Sometimes I can be assertive as all hell and scare people, but other times I can’t help but add little pieces of qualifying language, the maybes and I thinks and sometimeses. Is that even a word? It is now!

Fuck the doubt. It doesn’t even pay rent for the space it takes up in my head. I will keep writing and keep singing and keep fighting for what I want out of life. I am good at things. I don’t need to be the best. I just need to be me. That’s all any of us need to be.

How do you tackle self-doubt? Not only that, tell me something you’re proud of. Big or small. Let’s kick self-doubt in the face together.

#AsianLitBingo TBR

Because I clearly didn’t have enough on my reading and writing plate already, I’ve decided to participate in the Asian Lit Bingo, created by Shenwei @ READING (AS)(I)AN (AM)ERICA.

It’s a similar concept to the Diversity Bingo I’m also taking part in, though the aim here is just to read at least a full row of five–either vertically, horizontally or diagonally–rather than necessarily completing the whole board. Some people are aiming to be overachievers, but I don’t think I am capable of such a feat at this point in my reading life.

Here are the rules, as written by Shenwei themself on their announcement post.

Eligible Books:

  • Fiction books should have an Asian main character (can be one of several main characters) and be by an Asian author to qualify. It does not have to be #ownvoices, but reading #ownvoices books is strongly encouraged!

  • Nonfiction books should be by an Asian author with a focus on Asian people, whether it’s a[n] [auto]biography, history book, essay collection, etc. A nonfiction book can count for prompts other than the nonfiction square provided that it that focuses on a person/group that corresponds to that prompt (e.g. an autobiography of a Asian trans woman could count for either the nonfiction category or the LGBTQIAP+ Asian MC category).

  • The free space is for any book with an Asian main character by an Asian author.

And here’s the board:

AsianLitBingo clean board.png

Because of financial constraints, I’m doing the diagonal from the top left corner to the bottom right, plus a couple extra squares for fun and profit. I’m able to find books on this diagonal that I already own, can get from the library, or get as cheap/free ebooks or e-ARCs.

Now, onto my TBR:

blog announcement

I’ll try to include what additional categories these books are eligible for, but I will very likely miss some. Apologies in advance.

East Asian MC: Flowers of Luna by Jennifer Linsky (which also fits a few other categories such as SFF with Asian MC, LGBQIAP+ Asian MC, Queer Romance with Asian MC, Multiracial/Multiethnic Asian MC, and Romance with POC/Indigenous Love Interest. I think it might fit other categories but I’m not sure.)

West Asian MC: Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah (also fits Asian Muslim MC, Religious Asian MC, Contemporary with Asian MC)

Free Space:  Fire Boy by Sami Shah (also fits South Asian MC, SFF with Asian MC, possibly Asian Muslim MC). AT THIS TIME OF WRITING, THE KINDLE VERSION OF THIS BOOK IS FREE ON MANY VERSIONS OF AMAZON.

Central Asian MC: Jamilia by Chingiz Aimatrov (also fits Historical Fiction with Asian MC, Translated Work by an Asian Author)

South Asian MC: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (also fits Contemporary with Asian MC, Romance with POC/Indigenous Love Interest)

Bonus:

South-east Asian MC: Another Word for Happy by Agay Llanera (also fits Queer Romance with Asian MC, Contemporary with Asian MC, Romance with POC/Indigenous Love Interest)

SFF with Asian MC (If I get approved for the ARC)The Epic Crush of Genie Lo (also fits East Asian MC)


There are also prizes to be won as part of Asian Lit Bingo. I’ll paste Shenwei’s information below:

Contest 1 – Equal Opportunity/Participation Contest

Every person who participates in the reading challenge and reads at least 3 books for the challenge will have one entry each for this contest. The winner will be randomly drawn. If somehow the winner drawn is the same as the winner of the second contest, I will draw a different winner.

Prize: Your choice of one 2017 release by an Asian author. Open to international.

Contest 2 – Extra Credit/Merit-Based Contest

For the more competitive folks, the competition for the prizes is based on the number and type of books you read and review for the challenge. The person who accumulates the most points wins. Here is the point system:

  • 1 point per book read
  • 1 extra points per #ownvoices (ethnicity-wise) book (so 2 points total for an #ownvoices book)
  • 1 point per review for qualifying books

Prize: Your choice of one 2017 release by an Asian author, plus a custom-designed mug with a book quote of your choice by Aentee @ Read At Midnight. Open to international.

Safe to say I will not win the extra credit contest, but I’ll be posting at least a few reviews over the course of the month anyway and I’m under the impression all the books I’m reading are OwnVoices.

Shenwei’s masterpost also links to a document listing a whole lot of suggestions of what to read for the month, so if you’re struggling you can take a look at that.

Happy reading!

Review: History is All You Left Me

30626556>You’re still alive in alternate universes, Theo, but I live in the real world where this morning you’re having an open casket funeral. I know you’re out there, listening. And you should know I’m really pissed because you swore you would never die and yet here we are. It hurts even more because this isn’t the first promise you’ve broken.

OCD-afflicted seventeen-year-old, Griffin, has just lost his first love – his best friend, ex-boyfriend and the boy he believed to be his ultimate life partner – in a drowning accident. In a desperate attempt to hold onto every last piece of the past, a broken Griffin forges a friendship with Theo’s new college boyfriend, Jackson. And Griffin will stop at nothing to learn every detail of Theo’s new college life, and ultimate death. But as the grieving pair grows closer, readers will question Griffin’s own version of the truth – both in terms of what he’s willing to hide, and what true love ultimately means…

Reviewing this book is difficult because I have a lot of conflicting feelings about it. Overall, I liked it and it’s definitely a good story, but there were a few things here and there that didn’t sit quite right for me.

It took me a while to get into the story and become fully invested in what happens to the characters. That was partially my fault, since I’m in a bit of a reading slump, but it is also incredibly difficult to get readers to care about a character’s death right at the outset. That said, though, by the time I was halfway through the book, I was fully committed. Adam Silvera made me care. A lot.

If I hadn’t been in a house full of sleeping people at the time, I probably would’ve screamed a little bit around the 3/4 mark because oh my god what the HELL. As it is, I had to take a moment to flail around and became the actual personification of that gritted teeth emoji. My Goodreads status updates for that section include: “Oh lordy,” “GRIFFIN NO” and “OH MY GOD.” It takes some real talent to piss me off that much without making me hate the book itself. So kudos to Adam for that.

However, I had some issues with biphobia in the text. The first time was right after the gay MC found out a character was bi and said some ignorant stuff about it, which annoyed me but I got over it and moved on. The second notable occasion happened near the end of the book when another character who was possibly bi got into that “no labels” stuff that is really frustrating to read because it’s so easy for authors to learn not to do that. That same character was later assumed to be gay by someone else even though it was never confirmed whether he preferred gay or bi or any label at all. It didn’t ruin the book for me, but it was annoying and soured my temperament towards it a little.

On the upside, it’s nice to see a mentally ill character ultimately receive the treatment he needs. I also really liked Jackson and got a strong feel for Theo through the nonlinear narrative. It’s not my favourite take on this kind of posthumous characterisation (that honour goes to FAR FROM YOU), but it’s certainly effective. The whole thing with Wade could’ve been better developed but Griffin was being an unreliable narrator at that point so I can understand why that part was shown the way it was. The last part of the book felt rushed, like it could have benefited from a little extra development, but the ending itself certainly packed the emotional punch I was hoping for.

Overall, HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME is a solid read, with a few issues that will hopefully not appear again in Adam Silvera’s writing. Even if he’s not exactly an auto-buy author for me, I certainly haven’t been turned off reading his other works. But, by God, I hope he refrains from writing biphobia into his books in the future because I really want to like his writing.

#CampNaNoWriMo and #WIPjoy Roundup Part 2

Hello again. Ready for another epic-length blog post? See Part 1 here.

To recap: I wrote 18.1k for Camp NaNoWriMo, surpassing my goal of 15k.

My novel is an f/f Snow White/Sleeping Beauty retelling where Snow White (Eira) is a princess of thieves and Sleeping Beauty (Tesana) is an actual princess living a hundred years prior, right before the collapse of her kingdom. I posted an excerpt from one of the protagonists, Eira, and posted through to day 15 of WIPjoy responses, plus a few additions that weren’t initially possible with Twitter’s 140 character limit.

So let’s get cracking, with a reminder of the #WIPjoy prompts.

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#CampNaNoWriMo and #WIPjoy Roundup Part 1

camp-2017-winner-twitter-header

So I finished Camp NaNoWriMo with a wordcount of 18.1k, which is higher than my set goal of 15k. So I won! Yay!! I wrote five full chapters of my Snow White/Sleeping Beauty retelling and have a better idea of where I’m going with this. I’m hoping to keep writing at least 15k per month until I’ve got the draft finished. I’m guessing it’ll take me roughly six months at that rate, given I’m hoping it won’t be much longer than 90k. But, then again, the first novel I ever drafted came in at 147k so there’s always a possibility I’ll create another monster. I honestly hope not, though. One of those was enough, at least for now.

I’ll share an excerpt at the end, since the next thing I’m talking about will cover the basic information about my WIP again anyway, so we may as well get that out of the way first.

I also participated in the 30-day hashtag game #WIPjoy, hosted by Bethany A. Jennings (@simmeringmind) on Twitter. This went hand-in-hand with Camp NaNoWriMo since it’s all about celebrating what we and other people are writing.

The basic idea of #WIPjoy is that you respond to a daily prompt to talk about your writing. I’ll post the gorgeous graphic Bethany made below and then I’ll start posting my responses, along with links to my original tweets. In some cases, I will go into more detail than Twitter’s 140-character limit would allow at the time.

I’m going to put the rest of this post under a cut since it’s about to get long, folks. Because it’s so long, I’m actually going to split it into two parts. So I’ll do up to day 15 of WIPjoy (inclusive) and post an excerpt. Then I’ll do another post with the second half of WIPjoy and another excerpt.

Anyway, moving on:

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Diversity Spotlight Thursday (May 4)

Sorry this one is a little late (for my time zone anyway). I’m a little tired, so apologies if that translates into my writing here.

Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly meme created by Aimal at Bookshelves and Paperbacks that focuses on highlighting diverse books. The rules are simple. You need to pick three books to post about, one for each of the below categories, in Aimal’s words:

  1. A diverse book you have read and enjoyed
  2. A diverse book that has already been released but you have not read
  3. A diverse book that has not yet been released

So without further ado: diverse-spotlight1

Diverse Book I’ve Read

6363322I read this as part of Julia Ember’s retelling challenge in December 2016. I have the worst memory right now but I wrote a review about it when I read it here. It’s a really good take on the Cinderella fairytale, with f/f!

In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love—and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.

Diverse Book on my TBR

22521951I’m reading this one for my contemporary arranged marriage square in the Diversity Bingo. It’s been on my TBR since forever ago. In order to balance things out and have a positive arranged marriage story as well, I’m also reading WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI for the Indian MC square.

This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny?

Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.

Diverse Book Releasing Soon

31123249We need more novels with hijabi MCs. If I’d known about this one earlier in the year, I would’ve added it to my bingo from the outset. As it is, I’ve rejigged my bingo TBR to put it on since I had to rearrange things anyway to account for my many mistakes. Oops. On the upside, I get to read this! Check out the excerpt here.

Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?