My Top 4 YA Urban Fantasy Novels

I love urban fantasy. It is defined as a book set in the real world (eg. not a fictional fantasy land) but with fantastical or supernatural elements weaved in. It’s the type of world I love writing in, and covet books who do a plum job of urban fantasy.

Once again, I bizarrely struggle to make lists of five, and so I have decided to only list four.

 

  1. Among Others by Jo Walton

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This book not only features a character with a disability, and fairies, but also reads like a love letter to science fiction. It’s like all of my favourite things in one. A very unique read.

2. Adaptation series by Malinda Lo

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Queer characters! Aliens! Government conspiracies! What more could you ask for in a YA novel? Malinda Lo is on of my favourite YA authors for how unique and flexible her range is.

3. The Diviners series by Libba Bray

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This spooky supernatural series set in the 1920’s  is perfection. The first book in this series actually reminded me a little of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, what with the religious-themed murders. If you love historical novels with an edge, you’ll love Libba Bray’s series.

4. Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan

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This book series is very mainstream, unlike the other books on this list. It still holds a place in my teacher heart because it is very easy to read for teenagers with reading difficulties, while still being engaging for the teenage age group. Having a main character with dyslexia and ADHD is pretty rad, too.

What amazing urban fantasy books have I missed? Write below in the comments!

~ Emma

Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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Image from http://www.harrypottertheplay.com

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child: Parts I & II marks my 18th book read this year as part of my Goodreads Reading Challenge – which is to read 50 books in 2016. I finally have many thoughts about Harry Potter and The Cursed Child: Parts I & II that I’d like to share.

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Spoilers abound! 

  •  I like the Trolley Witch hulking out.
  • The new spells didn’t always have that Latin feel.
  • Having time time-travel with where everything is put right at the end irks me. There are too many tiny variables that can go wrong and it relied on the characters having a perfect knowledge of past events.
  • I understand the sentiment behind having Al and Scorpius solve riddles like the trio did. I cannot believe Hermione would leave riddles to be solved in lieu of hiding something important. She’d just lock that stuff away.
  • I dislike Albus and Scorpius not recieving major legal punishment for breaking so many laws. Bias…in the dungeon!
  • I 100% wish Albus and Scorpius were boyfriends and I feel like this could have been JKR’s chance to redeem the retconned, offscreen sexuality of Dumbledore and add some visibility.
  • Disturbed by Voldemort and Bellatrix having a child, if what Delphi believes is true. I wish there were more hints to this in the book so it didn’t feel like retcon.
  •  I like the Augury tattoo but the prophecy and time-turner plot points both leave more questions than answers.
  • I wish we had seen more characters – for example, finally seeing Teddy Lupin ‘onscreen’ – but I understand perhaps that was difficult considering it’s a play.

What did you think?

~ Emma

Spoonie Characters and Why We Need Them in YA

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I am writing this as I am stoned to high heaven – legally – during an in-hospital pain treatment. It seemed an apt mindset in which to write this post. Excuse any errors on the ketamine, dear readers.

It’s not hyperbole to say that we have very few characters in young adult fiction who are a ‘spoonie’. For those of you who don’t know, the term spoonie is an umbrella term for an ever increasing large group of people who live with chronic illness and/or disability or difficulty that is largely invisible to society. If you want to know more about the theory, mosey on over to this great post at But You Don’t Look Sick.

The most recent spoonie character I have read in recent memory is Hazel Lancaster in John Green’s best-selling sob fest The Fault In Our Stars. It’s an excellent book with a realistic portrayal of someone with a terminal disease. I don’t want to take away from the group of spoonies who can identify with that book; however, it does follow the trope of people with disabilities who die in fiction and generally live sad lives (with hints of happiness). Don’t even get me started on the trope of people with disabilities who want to die in fiction because their disabilities are too much to bear. (I’m looking at you, Me Before You.) I’m not even here to talk about the absurd characters whose disabilities get magically healed in fiction or just make them “quirky” or “inspiration porn”.

People like me are not represented in fiction – and the way I see it, it’s down to two reasons.

Reason #1 – We’re Unicorns

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I am writing this, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, while I am in hospital for a treatment for my pain. I am surrounded by women in their 50’s and then mostly elderly people. Young spoonies are living with conditions every day that often are more likely to afflict older people. So we’re a minority. Right now, I am a violet-haired unicorn in a sea of purple-rinsed elderly people. Medical professionals and random people I meet are always concerned and confused that someone as young as me (for reference: I’m in my early twenties) is so ill. And like, I know! I’m concerned too. I’ve got 60+ years of dealing with this stuff and the odds are not in my favour.

So if we’re rare majestic unicorns in real life, it makes sense that we are yet to become unicorns in books too. From what I see in the young spoonie community on tumblr, pinterest and goodreads, I am confident that writers like myself will slowly begin to create and publish our stories with characters like us in the future.

Reason #2 – We’re Saaaaaaaaaad

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A couple of months ago a friend said to me, in all seriousness, “I don’t know how you haven’t killed yourself.” And more recently I have had two friends say to me sometimes they feel so sad and helpless for me because they can’t help me when I am ill or in pain.

I completely understand these sentiments. Living with daily illness and pain is depressing in the truest sense. Some days, it is hard to get out bed or feel hopeful for the future. It’s frustrating when nothing works or when there is no one to blame.

But it doesn’t mean that a story about living with chronic illness, or a story featuring a character who just happens to be a spoonie (option B would be the optimal one, potential authors out there!!) has to be a Nicholas Sparks movie.

I am very lucky in my life in that I am still functional. I work full time, I have friends, I have hobbies, I exercise, and I attempt to have some kind of love life. Being this functional is exhausting and there are definitely days where I flop on my bed or eat cereal for dinner because life is too much to handle.

Being chronically ill hasn’t dulled my sarcastic tongue, or made me lose my sense of humour. It hasn’t robbed me of friends – although it has made me realise who my true friends are. I, like many spoonies are out there, have tried my hardest to make sure my illness does not stop my life or give it a soundtrack consisting of Mad World on an eternal melancholy loop.

So guess what? That means your character doesn’t have to have a depressing, bleak life too. Their illness may be your characters’ main struggle, but it doesn’t have to be the fatal blow in your dystopian YA love triangle novel. Young spoonie characters, just like young spoonie people, can have lives that fit around their illness.

So why do we need spoonie characters?

Because everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in art and in society, plain and simple.

I want to put a mission out to any YA authors wanting to write a spoonie into their story. Your challenge is to create a complex, engaging character that reflects the lives of real spoonies out there. They might have pelvic pain, but they might also love reading fantasy books. They might be a pastel goth. They might run an etsy store. They might be studying to be a doctor. They might love the beach. They might foster rescue kittens.

They might actually be a human.

Write us and we will read.

~ Emma

 

Queer YA recommendations

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Good literature with queer (LGBTIIQAA+) characters is hard to find. There might be a lot out there, but it also might not be that great.

(See: books written because queerness is edgy or flavour of the month. Also see: books written by straight authors with no idea.)

That makes good young adult literature with queer main characters trickier to find than the end of a rainbow!

Here are my faves, with a teensy blurb about them.

Adaptation by Malinda Lo
Aliens, government conspiracies and intergalactic dating.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Young love set against the bleak backdrop of World War Two.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Two young girls struggling with their queer identity.

Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez
The first queer YA I ever read. Gay teens and coming out.

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The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The difficult intricacies of being in the closet in high school.

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
Classic hollywood and queer romance. Crushing on this book!

Clancy of the Undertow by Christopher Christie
Heck yeah for Aussie queer reads. A angsty fare.

Happy bookworming!

~ Emma

AWW 2016

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I have made it no secret that I don’t have a huge love of blogging about my personal life, and so most of what you’ll find here is creative writing or advocacy related stuff. That’s why I’ve decided to bump my blog post numbers up by participating in The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016!

From their website:

The Australian Women Writers Challenge was set up to help overcome gender bias in the reviewing of books by Australian women. The challenge encourages avid readers and book bloggers, male and female, living in or outside Australia, to read and review books by Australian women throughout the year. You don’t have to be a writer to sign up. You can choose to read and review, or read only. (Suggestions for what makes a good review can be found here.)
The challenge will run from Jan 1 – Dec 31, 2016. You can sign up throughout the year till the end of November.

What a great initiative! I’ll be posting my reviews throughout the year.

You too can sign up to the challenge here.

Do you have any suggestions for great authors who are non-cis gendered males to read?

~ Emma

Poetry

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I don’t want to flood my website with my poetry, so I’m just leaving a link to the poetry tag at my tumblr here.

My fave spoken word poetry
In the meantime, here are links to some of my favourite slam poetry, spoken word and rap artists. Grab a box of tissues – I like my poetry angsty and gut wrenching.

~ Emma

Goodreads Challenge: 50 Books in 52 Weeks (1 Year)

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This year I decided to take part in the Goodreads Challenge. Namely, reading 50 books in one year. As a friend pointed out to me, that’s just more than one book per week.

This realisation filled me with trepidation. I am a full time teacher, and so my life is filled with school during the week….then marking and planning most weekends. Add a social life, exercise and managing a chronic illness to that…. how was I going to manage?

The first thing I did when taking part in this challenge was vow not to beat myself up if I don’t reach the 50 books goal. Last year, I read 17. But regardless, whatever number I reach at the finish line will be a job well done.

Secondly, I decided I would listen to audiobooks. This was because after work, my eyes are way too tired to focus on a book or screen. Being able to flop on my bed and listen to a story is paradise. This also means I can clock in more ‘reading’ time by listening to an audiobook on the commute to work.

So far, I’ve had a few hits and misses with the books I’ve read for this challenge. I like to read a broad range. My faves so far have been Ellyn Saks’ memoir of living with schizophrenia, The Centre Cannot Hold and Philip K Dick’s alternate WW2 universe The Man In The High Castle. I have to say that Stars Over Sunset Boulevard deeply disappointed me, but that’s no one’s fault but mine as I miatakenly read too much into the blurb and thought it was a lesbian romance. Spoiler: it was not!

You can follow my challenge reading progress here.

Have you given yourself a reading challenge? How are you going?

~ Emma