2016 in Review(s)

2016, if you go by my Goodreads Reading Challenge (currently at 32/50), was a year of thrillers and non-fiction. Along the way I read a lot of lackluster crime novels and many biographical gems. The following are my favourites reads for 2016. These are items I read in 2016, but were not necessarily were published in 2016.

My Fave…

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Image: Goodreads

Author: Sierra DeMulder
It’s great to see one of my favourite poets come out with another published collection. She sings to my heart with her rumination on life as a modern, flawed woman.

 

 

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Fiction: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
A fast-paced and complex thriller showing how insidious criminals can be. The two main female protagonists were dimensional and captivating. I listened to this on Audible and the voice actors really made it.

 

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Non-Fiction: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
An event that cross-generational consequences which should be a seminal part of our history. This book and the Lacks’ family’s story floored me.

 

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Graphic Novel: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
This built on the insight and comedy of Brosh’s blog. An enjoyable read.

 

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Poetry Collection: Today Means Amen by Sierra DeMulder
My favourite poems in particular are ‘The Seven Layers of Hell’ and ‘Exodus 33:20’. The poems on dementia and eating disorders were touching, and her reflections on her romantic relationships engaging. DeMulder is my favourite modern poet.

 

What were your favourite literary finds of 2016?

~ Emma

The Best and Worst of My Goodreads Challenge So Far

It’s nearly the end of September. I’ve read 21 of 50 books. I’m vaguely reading 3 at once. I don’t know whether I’ll make it to 50 – so here’s the best and worst of the books I have read so far in 2016 for my Goodreads Reading Challenge.

The Worst

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling
Verdict: Fanfiction

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner
Verdict: I thought this was a lesbian romance novel….it was not

The Widow by Fiona Barton
Verdict: Good journalist character, unsympathetic wife character

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Verdict: It tried at angst and failed

The Best

The Man In The High Castle by Philip K Dick
Verdict: A scifi classic worthy of adoration

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
Verdict: Thrilling and captivating with all of its twists

Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry’s Greatest Generation by Daisy Hay
Verdict: Rich and romantic…poor Mary Shelley

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Verdict: Life-changing

What’s the best and worst of books you’ve read in 2016?

~ 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

My Top 4 Young Adult Books

Hi there! Thanks for stumbling upon this post. Maybe you were directed here from my Whitewashing Katniss Everdeen post, or are a kind friend who decided to peruse my site in a fit of boredom. Irregardless of intent, it’s a pleasure to have you.

You only have to know me for five minutes to know I am a huge young adult (YA) fangirl. Even though I am no longer in my teens, there is something inside of my that connects deeply with the messy, dark and twisty internal monologue of teenage YA protagonists.

And so, I thought I’d share my top 4 favourite contemporary young adult books. I actually found this list hard to create without making every book one by Laurie Halse Anderson, who is my ultimate author bae – which is why there are only four listed, and not five.

4. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Straight up, this book should come with a massive trigger or content warning. It explores the reality of relapsing from an eating disorder in graphic detail, as well as exploring suicide and psychosis. Wintergirls is a startling study in using formatting to deepen the story, and is one that will haunt you long after you read it.

 

 

 

3. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

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Those of you outside of Australia will probably know Marchetta as the author of Looking for Alibrandi. Saving Francesca is a novel about a young woman dealing with the breakdown of her family due to her mother’s apparently sudden onset of depression. It has a cast of colourful characters and remains one of my favourite home grown novels today.

 

 

 

 

2. The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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This infamous, small novel perfectly encapsulates what it is like to be a person who is different and to feel that difference deep in your soul.  Chbosky’s observations on identity show that Perks is a seminal YA text – one that writers can learn from.

1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Melinda Sordino is my spirit animal. The sarcastic, biting narration mixed with tree imagery makes this novel a true YA classic. The fact Speak shares a common yet often invisible story of a very young woman being sexually assaulted makes Halse Anderson’s book a utterly important read.

I’ll be posting lists of my favourite urban fantasy YA novels soon.

What are your fave contemporary YA books?