Category Archives: feminist
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the bloggers over at the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers from all around create lists based on the chosen topics, and post links to the host blog to share our love of books. This week we are looking at topics that grab our attention. We all have them. It might genres, settings, themes, but we have our bookish tendencies.
Top Ten Words/Topics That Will Make Me Pick Up A Book
[I'm so easy.]
Which words and topics grab your attention?
Last weekend, the Durham Public Library held ComicFest 2013. One of my favorite graphic novelist, Raina Telgemeier, just so happened to be one of the main events. So, of course, I dropped all of my studying for the afternoon to watch Raina speak and draw. I also got my copies of Smile and Drama signed.
Raina’s presentation was awesome, and it really shed some light on the process of creating a graphic novel. I was aware that they are far more labor intensive than text novels (something we as librarians struggle with — these books are lost more often, but cost more to buy). She said she spent five years on Smile and two and half years on Drama!
I love Raina’s work. More importantly, my students loved her work. I did not discover her on my own! It was the intense demand for Smile at a 2010 book fair the put her on my radar. I think I had to buy eight copies to meet the demand in my school. There are not many graphic novels geared toward readers of realistic, contemporary fiction.
It was so nice to meet Raina, and to see the enthusiasm from girls and boys alike in the audience. I was especially impressed by the number of dads and daughters! Of course, I also geeked out about Raina’s other books (the graphic adaptations of The Babysitter’s Club, which were my FAVORITE books as a child) and her love for particular comic strips that I also read as a kid (For Better or For Worse and Calvin and Hobbes). All in all, I’d say it was a good day.
Interested in Raina’s books? You can start with my review of Drama from this past summer. It was the ONLY BOOK on the 2013 ALA youth media award winner list that I had read before the award announcements at ALA midwinter. You should also check out Smile, since Raina’s childhood dental dramas are incredibly relatable.
I’ve read some scholarly stuff on gender in children’s cartoon novels, but nothing on Raina’s graphic novels. Future paper topic?
Have you read any of Telgemeier’s books? Any other favorite graphic novels you want to share?
Author: David Levithan and Andrea Cremer
Release Date: 5/7/2013
Length: 358 pages
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Source: Review copy from publisher via Edelweiss
Challenge: Feminist Reads Challenge
Stephen was born invisible. Not even his own mother could see him, and he’s never interacted with the outside world. His father sends money, but Stephen is basically alone after his mother’s death. Until one day, unexpectedly, he is seen by his new neighbor. Elizabeth not only sees Stephen, but they become friends…and more. Of course, the fact that Elizabeth can see Stephen when no one else can brings up questions, question Stephen has never had answers for. Until now. Together, they learn of the mysterious world of cursecasters and spellseekers as they embark on the quest to cure Stephen from his curse for good.
Though it doesn’t really affect my overall feelings about Invisibility, this would be a case where I didn’t read the book blurb very well. Based on my previous experience with David Levithan (Every Day and Will Grayson, Will Grayson) and my lack of experience with Andrea Cremer, I thought this would be more contemporary romance-with-a-twist. Nope. Definitely goes in the paranormal romance category. The keywords here would be “cursecaster” and “spellseeker” in the description. Duh, Tara. Anyways, the romance in the novel happens early on and the main conflict is over how to make Stephen un-invisible (aka…visible). I wasn’t expecting that, but it ended up being okay. I was along for the ride. And I have to say, it was a pretty fun ride. I ended up really enjoying the book.
After reading the book, I did some looking into Andrea Cremer. From what I found, it appears that she is notoriously anti-feminist. Her other books must feature weak or stereotypical female characters or something. But I found that very interesting, as I was trying to decide if Invisibility is a feminist novel or not. I appreciated that Elizabeth and Stephen are equals: she’s strong, he’s strong, and both help each other. In a lot of ways, Elizabeth saves Stephen. So I found it very interesting that Cremer’s previous books have been criticized for the opposite. That being said, one criticism of the novel is that neither character felt fully “real.” They both lacked that spark that makes a good character come to life on the page. My guess is that there was just too much going on in the story, between the invisibility, the romance, the paranormal stuff, the action, the dual narration, and the back story to focus on character development.
And the ending! I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending. It wasn’t terrible, and it didn’t ruin the book, but I just…I can’t. I don’t know what to do with it. Is it just me or has it become trendy to end novels in questionable ways? Is it supposed to make us talk about the book more? Beg for a sequel? I’m not sure.
FINAL GRADE: B Overall, Invisibility was an exciting, fast-paced read. If you’d asked me at the 90% mark, I would have given it an A. It loses points for underdeveloped characters and the ending, but don’t let that deter you from giving it a go. Remember, a B is still really good! David Levithan never disappoints. It even earns the LGBT tag for having an awesome gay supporting character (Elizabeth’s brother, who plays a big part in the story…in fact, he’s the best, most developed character in the book). Fans of Levithan’s work will also be pleasantly surprised to see a direct Will Grayson, Will Grayson reference in the story, which was pretty cool.
Required Reading: Required for Levithan fans and fans of the paranormal genre. Also good for anyone looking for a quick read that’s a little different.
Library Recommendation: Appropriate for a middle or high school library. There is some scary violence (the cursecasting stuff is a little frightening) and kissing, but it’s PG-13 at the most. For parents, the main characters specifically state that they are not going to sleep together because they aren’t ready…and they don’t.
Two questions for this book: 1.) If you read the book, did you catch the Will Grayson reference? And 2.) What would you do if you were invisible for day?
Title: The Elite
Author: Kiera Cass
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: 4/23/2013
Length: 336 pages
Series?: The Selection #2
Genre: YA Dystopian
Source: ARC from from publisher
Challenge: Feminist Reads Challenge
Last year I read The Selection, and I wrote the following in my review: “The second book in this trilogy will really tell us where it’s all going, because we don’t even really know yet…I’m hoping to see America become a little more kick-ass and I have a lady in mind that I hope Aspen can fall for so he’s not sad about losing America.” Did the second book make the grade?
Look, I’m not going to give you a summary of The Elite. It’s kind of unnecessary, as this is just a continuation of the story in The Selection. Dresses, TV, random attacks, and hoping to not get cut from The Selection.
Like many books in dystopian trilogies, The Elite suffers significantly from the dreaded second book syndrome. The shiny newness of The Selection has worn off, some political intrigue is introduced. But basically there’s questions left unanswered while new ones are posed. American manages to come into possession of a journal full of secrets. She sees the king’s true colors. She learns about the history of her country. She participates in some very reality tv-esque challenges against her fellow contestants.
She sneaks around with Maxon.
She sneaks around with Aspen.
Because, darn it guys, America still hasn’t made up her darn mind. I’m Team Maxon, but only because I want America to live in the pretty, pretty palace with the pretty, pretty dresses and TAKE ILLEA BY THE REINS. Honestly, I don’t know who she’s going to pick. Which I guess means that Kiera Cass is doing her job well. However, this also means I got kind of fed up with America in the story. Seriously, of all the characters in this trilogy, I like her the least.
BUT. I like where this is going. The Elite was far more dystopian-y than The Selection. Yes, this is dystopian. Or, rather, a sub genre of dystopian known as dystopian romance. Or maybe we should call it romantic dystopian. Look, either way — the focus is on the love-y bits, but there is definitive revolution happening in the background. If Kiera Cass doesn’t get these fools overthrowing some governments in book 3, I’ll eat my hat. Because I’m pretty sure that’s where she’s going.
FINAL GRADE: B Ehh. What the heck. I’LL GIVE IT A B. I like it. Dystopian always earns extra points. Again, the true verdict for the trilogy lies in the third book. I will be buying it. I’ll let you know how it goes. Is this my favorite dystopian trilogy? No. That honor still goes to The Hunger Games, surprisingly. But this is fun. You should read it.
Required Reading: Required for anyone who has read The Selection. The Selection is required for anyone who likes Ally Condie’s Matched series.
Library Recommendation: Buy it for high school or middle school, but make sure you also have The Selection! The cover alone will sell the book. Parental warnings for violence (including deaths), heart-pounding moments, generally rebellious behavior, and sex.
Alright, Selection fans…Team Maxon or Team Aspen?
Title: Grave Mercy
Author: Robin LaFevers
Publisher/Year: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Recorded Books, 2012
Length: 14 hrs and 14 mins, 549 pages
Series?: His Fair Assassin #1
Genre: YA Historical/Paranormal
Format: Audio Book
Source: Purchased from Audible
Challenge: Feminist Reads Challenge
You heard me right.
The year is 1588. The location, Brittany. Seventeen-year-old Ismae has been rescued from the life of an arrange marriage to an awful man, and is sent to the convent of St. Mortain. There she learns that she is the daughter of St. Mortain, the god of death, and she is trained to serve him. She discovers her great powers, hones her skills, and learns of a destiny she had never imagined. At the conclusion of her training, Ismae is offered an assignment: posing as a spy in the high court, killing anyone who bears the mark of St. Mortain and attempting to discover who in the court has been a traitor to Brittany.
Okay, so my summary isn’t that great. This is a very hard book for me to describe. Check out the reviews on Amazon or Goodreads if you need a better description. Just know this: there’s romance, bad ass-ery, and poison. Lots of poison.
I can’t say this was an escapist read for me in the traditional sense. I mean, c’mon. The 1500′s were kind of gross and plague-y. And I certainly do not feel like killing people. Granted, the story does a good job of justifying the process (a god has marked the targets — you can’t argue with the gods) (…or can you?), but I’d rather be the duchess. Anyway, I don’t want to BE Ismae. But I’ll be along for her story. The 549 pages here are full of mystery and intrigue, and even a sloooooooooow burn romance. I’ll take it.
But you know what? I’m having a hard time writing this review because I just didn’t LOVE it. I picked it up because of all the gushing 5-star reviews all over ALL THE THINGS, so maybe this was an issue of hype. There wasn’t really anything wrong with it. Ismae is probably one of the best protagonists in any story I’ve read. It’s different, it introduced me to a time period I knew very little about, and somehow, still, I just thought it was good. Worth the $10 I paid on Audible, sure. Maybe not worth buying a shelf copy for a re-read.
FINAL GRADE: B I’m an anomoly. Seriously. Everyone else gave it 5 stars, so I wouldn’t take this review too seriously. I’m going to chalk this up to the format (audio book) just not holding my interest as well as a print book. Sometimes that happens. In this case I think it was because of all the French names and unfamiliar words/places. I have pretty poor auditory processing skills, so I had a hard time following who was who and where they were going and why in the beginning of the story. I’ll probably read the second book in print. Yes, this is a trilogy.
Required Reading: I’d require this to high school students and lovers of historical fiction. There is a paranormal element, but that’s not the focus of the novel.
Library Recommendations: Buy it for a high school library. I can think of about six of my more sophisticated middle school readers who would have LOVED this book, so I probably would have bought it for my library. But, honestly, I can’t see many of the under-14 set really enjoying this.
What did you think of Grave Mercy? If you loved it, inspire my readers in the comments! If you didn’t…leave me virtual fist bump of mutual understanding.
Spring break starts in just 42 hours (not like I’m counting), and I could really use a break to chill for a minute. Maybe read some books for funzies. However, I’ll also be writing papers like whoa. Hopefully I’ll be productive and churn out some draft-y goodness for all three of my final papers. I got a head start by heading to the library and grabbing a fabulous stack of books. I know y’all bookish folks love a good book haul, so here’s my contribution…though I don’t know if anyone will find this as exciting as I do.
Without further ado, this is what I’ll be up to over spring break and for the rest of the semester:
Oh, and stay tuned, because I think I’ll have some exciting news to share after spring break. Good things are happening in grad school land lately!
What nerdy books have excited you this month?
Title: The Holders
Author: Julianna Scott
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Release Date: 3/5/2013
Length: 368 pages
Series?: Holders #1
Genre: YA fantasy, paranormal
Source: ARC from author/publisher
[#71 in my 2012 75 book challenge]
Becca must keep a close eye on her ten-year-old brother, Ryland, because he’s different from the other kids. When a recruiter comes from a special boarding school in Ireland with the promise of helping Ryland fine-tune his special abilities, Becca’s not buying it — until she realizes how truly special her brother is. Becca accompanies Ryland to St. Brigid’s, where she learns about powerful abilities, family secrets, and a legend that may turn her life upside down. Along the way she meets the handsome Alex, her charming BFF Chloe, and a whole host of interesting teachers.
The Holders was a pleasant surprise! Fantasy usually isn’t my thing, but I couldn’t put this book down. Comparisons to Harry Potter oversimplify the story and the characters, but it is hard to avoid such comparisons. However, The Holders stands on its own two feet. The budding romance between Becca and Alex plays a huge part in this story (so romance fans, rejoice!) and the supernatural elements are less “magical” than in Harry’s world.
The most surprising part of the whole story was how well Julianna Scott crafts her protagonist. Becca is strong and independent without being annoying or perfect. At eighteen, she’s a little bit older than the average YA protagonist at the start of a series, which means she’s outgrown some of the more obnoxious teen girl behaviors. Becca even acknowledges that she refuses to be fixated on romance or boys over her own goals. Family is more important to Becca than anything, and she’s even a good friend to Chloe throughout the novel. Her constant bitterness toward her father, Jocelyn (yes. that’s his name), was a bit taxing at times. Otherwise, I liked Becca. I think I’ll keep reading when Scott releases the rest of the series so I can see how her character develops.
FINAL GRADE: B Not a top ten book of the year, but close! Any book I read this quickly has to be good. I’d recommend The Holders to fans of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, fantasy, and Twilight. I’d also recommend it to anyone who doesn’t normally like fantasy or paranormal romance. Like Harry Potter, it could either be “gateway fantasy” or fantasy that defies the genre and works on its own. I would feel very comfortable adding this book to a middle or high school library, as the content is PG-13.
How do you feel about fantasy novels? YA fantasy? Love it? Hate it?
Title: Etiquette & Espionage
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Little, Brown
Release Date: 2/05/2013
Length: 309 pages
Series?: Finishing School #1
Genre: YA Steampunk
Source: Review copy from publisher via Edelweiss
Challenge: Debut Author Challenge, Feminist Reads Challenge
You guys. YOU GUYS. This. Book. Is. Awesome.
I can’t tell you how fabulous it was to both reeeeeealllllyyy look forward to a book AND not be disappointed by the hype.
Etiquette & Espionage is the story of Sophronia, a mischieveous girl sent to finishing school, only to learn that “finishing” has two different definitions. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, the girls learn curtseys and proper dress, but they also hide simple objects in their petticoats to use as deadly weapons. Sophronia spends much of her time sneaking around the floating school, figuring out what her shady classmate, Monique, is up to while trying to stay out of trouble.
This book is lovely. Absolutely lovely. And different from what I typically read. So this review will be a little different, because I’m just going to highlight the things I loved:
This was my first experience with the genre. Though jarring at first, I was quickly enamored with the imagination involved in every detail! The Victorian technology made for fabulous mental images throughout the story. TAKE ME UP IN THE AIR SHIP, I’M SOLD!
A STEAMPOWERED MECHANICAL PET DOG, y’all. First, I want one. Second, it’s the most fun pet ever in a book. Sophronia feeds him coal and he burns it in his belly!
Soap is a boy who works in the boiler room of the airship, aka a “sootie.” He and Sophronia quickly become buddies, and their friendship is super cute. Soap was easily my favorite character in the whole book, wonderfully charming and helpful, with an adventurous streak. I can’t wait to get to know him better throughout the series.
The Feminist Slant
Loved seeing the strong women here. They are educated, polite, and ready to defend themselves at a moment’s notice. Sneaking around and curiosity are even encouraged. I love that these ladies not only put up a cunning fight against random attacks by flywaymen while traveling, but also see the flywaymen coming and calmly formulate a plan in their fancy dresses before the attack occurs.
Oh, Gail Carriger. It took me a few chapters to get used to the universe and the very formal tone. These ladies are proper ladies, and they speak like proper ladies. Delicious adjectives abound. However, the humorous, tongue-in-cheek moments are plentiful! Two of my favorite bits, which I think sum up the writing quite nicely:
“Below that was written a list of particular skills, which in Henrietta’s case appeared to be ‘Parasol manipulation, hairstyles for concealment, ballistics, quiet footsteps, fast waltz, and rice pudding.’”
“She was about to enter a ballroom certain to contain much in the way of distracting fashion and other tempting sparkly bits.”
No love triangles
In fact, romance isn’t even the focus. I have a hunch it might come into play later on, but for right now it’s about friendship and finishing. Refreshing! I don’t know how long the series is going to be, but it seems like Carriger is focused on romance in the long term, letting Sophronia have fun and just be fourteen right now.
FINAL GRADE: A I can’t wait for the sequels, I will be reading more. What a delightful, fun, imaginative, intelligent read! There’s not much more to say than that…just go read it!
Required Reading: Required for all of my 20-something friends looking for a fun YA recommendation from me. Also required for fans of steampunk and Gail Carriger’s adult series, The Parasol Protectorate (set in the same universe).
Library Recommendations: Put it in your high school library. I’m on the fence about the middle school library, since it is all very PG in nature…it wouldn’t hurt, but I think it’s geared more toward high school.
What are your thoughts on the steampunk genre? Love it? Hate it? Don’t understand it?
Title: Order of Darkness: Changeling
Author: Philippa Gregory
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: 3/24/2102
Length: 314 pages
Series?: Order of Darkness #1
Genre: YA historical/paranormal(ish)
Source: ARC from publisher
Challenges: Feminist Reads Challenge
When I first read the blurb for Changeling, I had a hard time figuring out what the story was actually going to be about. Now that I’ve read it, I’m going to give you the summary I would have wanted to have: Changeling is about the journey of a church detective, Luca, as he investigates strange occurrences across Italy in 1453. Luce investigates as a member of the Order of the Dragon, a secret sect commissioned by the Pope to question these strange occurrences in preparation for the end of days. But basically…he’s a church detective. His first case is a abbey where the nuns seem to be possessed by evil spirits. Lady Isolde happens to reside at the abbey, locked away when she refused to marry after her father’s death. All signs in Luca’s investigation point to Isolde’s involvement in the abbey’s unsettling events — but what’s really happening when the women go to sleep?
First off, I have to say that I have never read a Philippa Gregory book. So I am not coming at Philippa Gregory’s first stab at YA with any kind of expectations about her writing. I’ve seen some mixed reviews over this novel and, well…I don’t agree with them. I liked the book. It does feel like two different stories (the inquiry at the abbey and an inquiry about a werewolf), but I thought of it more as a detective novel. It seems like other people may have been expecting either A.) heaving bosoms and lustful glances, B.) swashbuckling action and adventure or C.) intrigue in the royal court. This is more episodic, traveling through the countryside to uncover lies and deception.
What I felt really made the book work was the characters. Luca is kind of dull (though I imagine he will develop over the series), but everyone else made for a good cast. Luca’s companion, Freize, offers some comic relief and unpredictable moments. Lady Isolde is smart and stands up for what she believes in. My favorite character by far was Ishraq, Lady Isolde’s companion and friend. Ishraq is such a fascinating character, and not just because she’s a Muslim surrounded by nuns. She definitely doesn’t follow the rules and she has a fiery side.
FINAL GRADE: B I love logic. And the use of logic. And using logic to prove that seemingly fantastic scenarios are not actually all that fantastic, a la an episode of Scooby Doo. So that’s why I enjoyed Changeling, and it’s why I know I’ll find myself reading the other books in the series. I recognize that this is a first book in a series, so I’m hoping there will be additional development of the characters, romance, and this whole “changeling” plot line (which is barely explained) over the later books. I’m also feeling like there’s some big-time stuff with the church that will come out later, too. I’m very glad I decided to try this book!
Required Reading: Required for fans of historical fiction for sure. Gregory knows what she’s doing in this genre. Also required for anyone who loves romance, since this is going to grow over the course of the series. And, as noted by the Feminist Reads Challenge note at the top, this is a good book if you love a good feminist read (but one realistic to the time period).
Library Recommendation: Appropriate for middle or high school. Be aware that there is an attempted rape early in the story, as well as a murder and a violent death. I’ve also had readers wonder how similar books portray Christianity, so I will say that the story does highlight corruption of individuals who are acting pious, but the overall goal is to reveal the corruption to save the church.
April @ Good Books and Good Wine reviewed the audiobook: “Gregory has this talent for bringing history to life and infusing it with a hefty dose of drama”
Zabet @ Reading Between Classes: “It really feels like two separate stories; one that features the nunnery and one a village with a werewolf. The stories felt disconnected, almost like two novellas that were strung together in an attempt to make a full book.”
Have you read any Philippa Gregory novels? What do you think of her writing style overall?
Title: The Madman’s Daughter
Author: Megan Shephard
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: 1/29/2013
Length: 432 pages
Series?: The Madman’s Daughter #1
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Gothic
Format: Print ARC
Source: ARC from HarperCollins
Challenge: Debut Author Challenge, Feminist Reads Challenge
If you’ve ever read The Island of Dr. Moreau by HG Wells or if you even know the plot, then you know the story. A madman (Dr. Moreau) has been banished from London for his criminal acts of surgical cruelty on animals, leaving his wife and daughter alone as he flees to an island off Australia. After her mother dies, Juliet finds herself cleaning rooms in the medical school and hoping to find her father again. Her search leads her to that isolated island, along with her childhood friend, a shipwreck victim, and a whole host of very strange-looking villagers and staff. Juliet learns that the isolation of the island is hiding as sinister secret, and she is forced to answer the one question that has haunted her for most of her life: is her father really a madman?
The Madman’s Daugher is a novel about opposing forces: good vs. evil, animal vs. human, wild vs. domestic, jungle vs. civilization, curious vs. mad, chaos vs. order, science vs. nature, and even a good ole fashioned love triangle of the Edward/Jacob variety. While Juliet watches these opposing forces play out on the island and in her romantic interests, she also must face the opposing sides within herself. Though Juliet struggles with this opposition, she also has the brains and strength to have a hand in her own fate. Juliet isn’t a perfect heroine, and isn’t always likable, but I respected and understood her.
For a 400+ page novel, this story moves along very quickly due to the mysteries revealed and the danger at hand. AND THE TWISTS! You guys, there’s a plot twist, and I knew there’d be a plot twist, and I love a good plot twist. I kind of saw the plot twist coming, but it was still a great moment. Not to mention the cliff hanger ending, since this is definitely a trilogy. I know, I know…a trilogy with a love triangle, how cliche. How much I’ve complained about such things, right? Well, I take it all back. If Megan Shepherd wants to entertain me with two more hefty love triangle-licious volumes, I’ll read ‘em.
FINAL GRADE: B Wow. I enjoyed this way more than I thought! It loses a few points for a few ridiculous moments related to the romance, and for being a little angsty , but it was a great read. I love when authors play around with classics and bring them into modern storytelling. In fact, I may have been inspired to read The Island of Dr. Moreau next. I actually had HG Wells’ The Time Machine already downloaded to my Audible account, ready to go, so it wouldn’t be a far stretch (plus I’ve already read The Time Machine once, so it can wait).
Assigned Reading: Assigned to fans of HG Wells and anyone who likes creepy, dark historical fiction. I guess the technical genre here is historical sci-fi, but it’s definitely no steampunk. Also recommended to anyone who wants to read a REAL love triangle novel.
Library Recommendations: This would be okay, content wise, for either a middle school or high school library. I think high school students would be quite drawn to the story if you can sell it right. If you are a middle school librarian on a strict, slim budget…skip it. Otherwise, give it a go!
What do you think about classics re-imagined? Is a fun idea, cheap trick, lack of creativity?