Month: December 2017

Nina’s Top Five Favourites of 2017

So, this is it. 2017 has come to an end. To be frank, I’m not sad to see it go. This year has thrown so many obstacles my way, and as if that wasn’t enough, I found the quality of the books I read to be quite lacking as well. There were a couple of gems among my reads I’d like to talk about, but first, let me give you a quick overview of my 2017 in general.

Life in 2017. I could write an essay about the things that made me feel sad, angry, or helpless this year. But I do not wish to dwell on the negative experiences I had this year. Instead, I’d like to mention a few things that brought me joy or made me proud: I made new friends in and across fields of study at my university. I worked hard and reaped the reward in form of very good grades. I took a class to improve my Spanish. I went skiing a lot last winter, so I spent a lot of time doing a sport I love with people I love. I travelled to several cities and countries in Europe I’d never been to – including Valencia, Edinburgh, London, and the Cyclades (Greece) – and got to visit my co-blogger Chantal in the UK for the first time since she’d moved there to pursue her studies. I also experienced one positive thing related to the painful cards 2017 has dealt me: The unwavering support of family and friends.

Books in 2017. In terms of books, I’ve read more diversely this year, but not necessarily because I picked more diverse genres. At least half of the books I read were of the fantasy genre, which means that diversity is not something that is reserved for contemporaries anymore. It makes me so happy that we now encounter diverse individuals across genres. This is a step forward in the battle for realistic representation in literature. I ended up reaching my goal of reading 50 books but it was close! I read 22 books featuring people of ethnicities other than Caucasian as their main characters and half of those were people of colour. I read 17 books featuring LGBTQ+ characters. I read books by 21 authors who identify as members of minority groups. I read at least 7 books featuring mental health issues or disabilities, and 3 books with disfigured characters. I read 3 short stories, two comic books, and a poetry collection. To draw a conclusion to my reading of 2017, I’d like to present and talk about the five books that impressed me or stuck with me most this year. The books are ordered alphabetically and clicking on the titles will lead you to my reviews of the respective books.

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Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Dear Martin by Nic StoneDear Martin by Nic Stone
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on October 17th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary

Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack.

3.5 Stars

“You ever consider that maybe you not supposed to ‘fit’? People who make history rarely do.”

Dear Martin is the third book I’ve read this year on discrimination against black American teens. I feel like this topic has gained an increasing amount of attention in YA literature, and this makes me extremely happy, for it is an issue in dire need of recognition and action. As a white person, I recognise my privilege and cannot fully comprehend the issues POC face, but each book I read and POC I talk to brings me closer to understanding.

In spite of being short, Dear Martin packs a punch by addressing police violence against black American individuals and being torn between two worlds through the eyes of a young man writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King. And this is where my unpopular opinion comes in: Though I enjoyed this book, I had expected more from the story as a whole. 

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Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Morning Star by Pierce BrownMorning Star by Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising Saga #3
on February 9th, 2016
Pages: 524

Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.

Finally, the time has come.

But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied—and too glorious to surrender.

5 Stars

We will howl and fight till our last breath, not just in the mines of Mars, but on the shores of Venus, on the dunes of Io’s sulfur seas, in the glacial valleys of Pluto. We will fight in the towers of Ganymede and the ghettos of Luna and the storm-stricken oceans of Europa. And if we fall, others will take our place, because we are the tide. And we are rising.

My review for Morning Star was a tough one to write – not due to the amount of criticism but perhaps the lack of it. When I started this series roughly a year ago, I’d have never thought that this whole Red Rising business was going to be so bloodydamn epic. This series took me completely by surprise, and I’m happy to share my praise of Pierce Brown’s work with you – even knowing that my word vomit can never truly do this incredible book justice (and yes, it took me over half a year to type up this semi-coherent review).

Morning Star was a real peach of a final instalment. I think I’ve already said this about the sequel but Morning Star was darker, grittier, and bloodier than the previous instalments. Ever the master of character dynamics, politics, battles, and heart-stopping plot twists, Brown brought his finely atuned concert to a crescendo in Morning Star, and I will gladly send him the medical bills for all the heart attacks I suffered during this series but specifically reading the final instalment.

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Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

Piecing Me Together by Renée WatsonPiecing Me Together by Renée Watson
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on February 8th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 272

Jade believes she must get out of her poor neighborhood if she's ever going to succeed. Her mother tells her to take advantage of every opportunity that comes her way. And Jade has: every day she rides the bus away from her friends and to the private school where she feels like an outsider, but where she has plenty of opportunities. But some opportunities she doesn't really welcome, like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for "at-risk" girls. Just because her mentor is black and graduated from the same high school doesn't mean she understands where Jade is coming from. She's tired of being singled out as someone who needs help, someone people want to fix. Jade wants to speak, to create, to express her joys and sorrows, her pain and her hope. Maybe there are some things she could show other women about understanding the world and finding ways to be real, to make a difference.

4 Stars

Sometimes I just want to be comfortable in this skin, this body. Want to cock my head back and laugh loud and free, all my teeth showing, and not be told I’m too rowdy, too ghetto.

It’s a shame that one book release on a certain topic – such as The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – can create such a buzz, whereas others focusing on similar, if not the same, topics are easily overlooked. Both of these books focus on race, injustice, and inequality, but go about addressing these themes in a very different manner.

While The Hate U Give addresses blunt police violence against black individuals, Piecing Me Together zooms in on a more subtle form of aggression, namely micro aggressions. It is a quiet, slow, and character-driven book about self-love, dreams, friendship, and the power of art. This book talks about what it means to be a black, to be a woman, and that having the same skin colour does not necessarily result in mutual understanding.

Though contemporary is not my go-to genre, I find myself enjoying it so much when I feel like a book is expanding my knowledge on issues I cannot relate to and teaching me something about life. Piecing Me Together is that kind of book. I found myself writing down quotes every other page. Though I consider myself a person who is aware of many struggles POC experience in their daily lives, this book has opened my eyes to a great deal more.

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Anticipated Releases of Winter 2017/2018

Hello fellow book enthusiasts! So, this time of the year we’d usually be posting a massive list of upcoming anticipated releases of ours, but as it turns out, the list is rather short this time around. Have a snoop in the selection of books we’re looking forward to, or at least mildly curious about, in the coming winter of 2017/2018 (winter being December, January, and February where we live). The books are ordered by release date and clicking on the titles will lead you to the respective Goodreads pages or to our review (if there is one). Should you find this list lacking one of your anticipated books to be published in the coming months, please direct our attention to said release(s) in the comments! Since we have an unhealthy obsession with adding books to our TBR, as do most of you, we always welcome recommendations 🙂

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