Armchair BEA 2016: On Aesthetics

For a period of time back in the early 2000s (aka before the blog), I refused to read book jacket flaps or the back of the book because they always, always seemed to spoil a major plot point. I would go into a book thinking that the basic premise was whatever was written on the flap and then that thing that I thought would be part of the set up would happen three-fourths of the way through the book. Oh, it made me so angry.

So I stopped reading jacket flaps and plot synopses and started picking books based on the cover and title. So, a few of the books I encountered that way are:

covers

  • A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
  • Jason and Kyra by Dana Davidson
  • Luxe by Anna Godbersen
  • Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba (part of the Royal Diaries series)
  • Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You by Dorian Cirrone
  • Slam! by Walter Dean Myers

I didn’t 100% love them all, but they all matched my expectations–even if A Great and Terrible Beauty was more fantasy than the cover let on.

Now that I think about it, though, I was more likely to give books and genres I wasn’t into more of a chance when I went by the cover and title alone. Lately, I have been reading jacket flaps (usually only the first paragraph–just enough to get an idea of the basic premise. Unfortunately, spoilers still abound if I read beyond that) and ruling out lots of books because they’re not what I feel like reading. However, the best way to discover if I feel like reading something is to just read it. A lot of my favorite reads have been outside of my preferred genre.

So. I guess I learned something about myself today.

As for blog aesthetics, I kept thinking that I needed a knockout layout. You know, something that really said ME. And if I had that layout, I would be more apt to update my blog. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

My point then is that I have no real brand except for my content. However, I did redo my Top Ten Tuesday button to match my site. So I guess that’s something.

Armchair BEA 2016: On Diversity Fatigue and Rage

Okay, so I was initially going to be pretty glib in my response to the diversity questions because I have a bit of diversity discussion fatigue (but probably not for the reasons you think). I was just going to post a link to the Diversity on the Shelf challenge I host (which it’s still not too late to sign up for!) and let that be that.

But then this weekend someone called my daughter and her best friend the n-word when they were at the Dairy Queen, and I realized that I can’t afford to be glib.

 

angry Beyoncé

 

Here’s the thing: I am tired of talking about diversity because, for me, it is something that I have spent my whole life thinking about and being angry about. I AM TIRED OF TALKING ABOUT IT. I think it’s good for white people to get in on the action, though, but more importantly, it is time for white people in charge to STOP TALKING ABOUT AND AROUND IT and to start hiring and publishing people of color. Period. That’s it. I’m tired of the bullshit responses of “create your own” and “make your own” like people of color HAVEN’T BEEN DOING THAT. I’m tired of tokenism and I still cannot believe we are having this conversation in 2016 after the success of Lost and the dominance of Shondaland and the numbers at HGTV  and HAMILTON and yet somehow it is always a shock or lightning in a bottle that people crave diverse stories. I mean, seriously.

Daniel José Older has an excellent thread of tweets about diversity fatigue. You can read the whole thing here, but I just want to highlight these two tweets because they basically capture what I am getting at:

It is insane. And infuriating.

I have posted about this before. So you see what I mean? THE SAME CONVERSATION OVER AND OVER AND PEOPLE STILL DON’T GET IT.

Basically what it’s like for me to be a black woman living in America:

 

 

 

It is exhausting. I am tired.

Armchair BEA 2016 Intro

I’m Akilah, and I’ve been blogging here about books since 2009, though I did blog about books on my LiveJournal going back as far as 2002. So, yeah, I’m not new to the game. However, this is only the second time I’ve participated in Armchair BEA (the first was way back in 2013).

Now, onto the questions (I kept the original numbering. Clever or annoying? You make the call):

2.  What is your favorite genre and why? My usual answer to this would be contemporary realistic YA lit, but, well, see #8.

3.  If you could recommend one other book blogger, who would it be and why? I follow a lot of great bloggers, but today I’m going with Crystal @ Reading Through Life. She is a voracious reader who also helps run Rich in Color, a blog devoted to diversity in YA. Also, and more importantly, I discovered her blog during the last Armchair BEA, so it seems fitting.

5.  If you could create a playlist that reflects your bookshelf, what would be the first song you choose?

The chorus is “Back in the day / when I was young / I’m not a kid anymore/ but some days / I sit and wish I was a kid again.” My bookshelf is basically all old books and series I loved as a teenager.

8.  What is the most interesting thing that you have learned through your reading this year so far? I am finding that though I find myself drawn to YA and it still makes up the bulk of my reading, I am less and less interested in it and would much rather read either middle grade or novels with teen/YA protagonists written for adults. Still contemporary and still realistic, of course, but definitely a shift in my preferred target market.

 

ArmchairBEA 2016

 

I’m looking forward to participating in Armchair BEA and reading and encountering everyone’s blogs. Happy posting, everybody!

 

Reflections on Blogging from A to Z

Before I get into all of the really deep reflecting and whatnot, can I just say it felt really good to complete this challenge?

survivor

Overall, I really enjoyed Blogging from A to Z. It was a good exercise for me, especially since I plan to participate in Armchair BEA this week (which is much less intense–only five days!) and since I plan to do the Slice of Life challenge next March.

Anyway, here’s what I learned participating in this particular challenge:

1. By labeling this a book blog, I have boxed myself in when it comes to the types of posts I write. I used to be a pretty prolific writer back in my LiveJournal days and before I would overthink every single thing I write. I think the reasons for this are three-fold. (1) This blog is public and attached to my real (first) name and I don’t feel as comfortable sharing as freely. (2) I tend to post little snippets on Facebook, which definitely takes away from the desire to Sit Down and Write a Post.  (3) I have branded this as a book blog, so any time I branch out from posts that don’t attach to that label, I get weird about it. So establishing my theme as fannish pursuits gave me a reason and a way to break out of my usual posting habits. I may also need to reconsider my blog’s subtitle if it’s keeping me from posting the way I want.

2. I can write every day if I choose to–and make a public commitment to do so. So, I am an extremely competitive person who HATES losing, so rather than skip a day, I made sure to post–even if it was something short. Most of the really, really short posts I did were because the day was almost over and I didn’t want to miss a day. So I found a short video or picture and typed up one to two or three lines. BUT I STILL MADE THE POST. I didn’t want to break my streak once I got it going.

3. Pre-planning helped. I had most of my posts mapped out–by which I mean that I knew what pretty much every letter was going to cover–before the month started. So even on the days when I was short on time, I was able to bang out a post because I mostly knew where I was going.

4. Spontaneity is good, too. Facebook helped me pick the Usher topic, which may been one of my better posts, and that happened pretty close to the deadline for U. Of course, I was writing about Usher, so.

5. Visiting the five blogs under yours in the sign up linky each day is a noble, but unrealistic goal. At least it is for me. April is one of my busiest months at work (end of the semester)–not to mention I have other blogs I already follow that weren’t participating AND there are so many participants that finding people with shared interests was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I mean, I barely had time to write my posts, let alone read other people’s.

Most of the challenges I participate in request that you read/respond to three blogs, and I find that number much more reasonable. Also, it makes more sense for me to visit the blogs above mine rather than below. That is a personal preference, I know, but I just thought I would mention it.

Not to mention, some of the people who were in my suggested five were posting about topics I wasn’t particularly interested in. Which…it happens, and that’s fine. But it still felt like I was breaking some kind of rule if I didn’t visit those particular blogs.

The clear solution is that all the bloggers I already follow should participate in the challenge next time. Obviously.

6. So, if when I participate next time, I will:

  • use a theme (the structure helped)
  • write my posts way in advance (I’m talking probably starting MONTHS in advance, especially since I have found that I can only write 1-2 posts per day)
  • identify blogs w/shared interests early (so I can [hopefully] start following them BEFORE the challenge starts)

7. Okay, so the reflections post prompt asks specifically for suggestions, so here are mine:

  • The theme reveal link up should be open longer, especially for people like me who didn’t find out about the challenge or decide to participate in the challenge until after the March 21 deadline.
  • Rather than linking to someone’s overall blog, the theme link up should link to a reveal post, just like reflections post link up will point to the specific post. Again, some people may not discover the link up until after March 21, and the reveal post may be pushed to the bottom of the page or off the front page of the blog by the time that happens.
  • Instead of people putting their blog name in the link up list, they should put their planned theme, so people can see at a glance what someone’s theme may be and THEN click to go to the blog and find out if that’s a blog they want to follow (clicking on blog names just to discover someone’s theme–especially since there are SO MANY participants [500+ in this year’s theme reveal] takes a really long time. And I know and see the blog type codes, but even if someone puts the code for what type of blog they have, that doesn’t mean they’ll be posting on that topic.
  • Encourage people to visit three, not five blogs. That way, if they visit more, great! But three is reasonable and should take less than thirty minutes, especially if we’re expected to comment on the blogs as well. Five is a much more considerable investment. At least for me.
  • Suggest that people with Blogger blogs turn on anonymous commenting. For some reason, Blogger absolutely hates me and won’t let me sign in with any of my OpenID stuff and boots me any time I try to make a comment. It’s a real barrier to commenting because I’ll just give up. I did Tweet replies at a couple of people, but that takes way more work than it should. So. Allow anonymous commenting. The number of comments on your posts may go up.

a to z survivor 2016

And that’s it! I DID IT, YOU GUYS. I SURVIVED.

It’s Monday! What are you reading? (5/9/16)

This past week, I read:

Alex + Ada, Vol. 2Alex + Ada, Vol. 2 by Jonathan Luna
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Alex’s grandmother proves, once again, why grandmothers are better than almost everyone else.

Lots of good forward motion here with the plot. I’m interested to see how it all turns out.

View all my reviews

 

Princeless: Raven the Pirate Princess Book 1: Captain Raven and the All-Girl Pirate CrewPrinceless: Raven the Pirate Princess Book 1: Captain Raven and the All-Girl Pirate Crew by Jeremy Whitley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, yes, this was much much better than Raven’s introduction in Princeless, Vol. 3: The Pirate Princess since Raven kind of didn’t fit the tone there.

This book/series is definitely YA whereas Princeless could be classified as children’s, middle grade, or lower YA.

Anyway, I am a fan of groups of ladies being generally badass and am an ultrafan of POC women doing the same. Lots of good jokes in here (“not all men” and men’s rights makes an appearance) and a lot of fun. Also violence. And queer girls/women. And girls/women having varied interests (chemistry! cartography! dance! RPG! beating people up!).

Two thumbs up, fine holiday fun.

View all my reviews

 

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the TimeScrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Read this on the recommendation of a friend who said it transformed the way she thinks about running training. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how I would use it in my classes. Lots to think about here but really good stuff about the ownership of learning.

View all my reviews

 

As of today, I’m reading:

I don’t know what I’m reading. Wait, that’s a lie.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

I’m still making my way through Furiously Happy–very slowly. Lawson’s writing style is a bit, shall I say, relentless. So I’m finding it difficult to sit down and read large chunks at a time. However, if it were a blog I could drop in on from time to time…well. You see where I’m going with this, right? Anyway, I told my daughter I would finish it, so I shall. It may take me until the end of summer, but I’ll do it. That’s just how much I love her.

 

The Hidden Oracle by Rick RIordan

Also, I just this minute decided to start reading The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan even though I have a ton of other books in my stack ahead of it because I know it’ll make me happy. So, that’s I am: eschewing all of the should-reads and going with my want to read. Just the way the book and summer gods intended.

 

Hosted by Kathryn @ The Book Date. Children's lit version hosted by Jen Vincent @ Teach Mentor Texts & Kellee Moye @ Unleashing Readers.
Hosted by Kathryn @ The Book Date. Children’s lit version hosted by Jen Vincent @ Teach Mentor Texts & Kellee Moye @ Unleashing Readers.

Happy reading, everyone!

April 2016: Month in Review

This month, I finished seven books:

April 2016 books

 

  • A Tangle of Gold (The Colours of Madeleine #3) by Jaclyn Moriarty
  • The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  • Princeless, Vol. 3 by Jeremy Whitley
  • Princeless, Vol. 4 by Jeremy Whitley
  • Demigods & Magicians by Rick Riordan
  • Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud

I did way better reading toward Diversity on the Shelf this month. I’m at 47% of books read so far counting towards the challenge, which means I’m much closer to my 50% goal than I have been. Also, 5 out of 7 of the books I read this month count. I’m not counting Tangle of Gold, though I probably should. There’s a great commentary on Ko and her dad’s race/ethnicity in the book, and since she is a POV character and owns my heart, I really really should count it. My hesitation is just that it comes so late in the series. But still. I’ll have to give it a little more thought.

I was going to say I feel vaguely dissatisfied about my reading, but that’s not true. I think it’s just that I’m not excited about reading anything else yet. I have book club books lined up, which is both a plus and a minus because, usually, once the semester is over, I do not want to do ANY assigned reading of any sort, even if I had a hand in choosing the books. So we’ll see how that goes. But I have nothing that I’m super looking forward to reading. I should probably change that.

Most of my April books had a real touch of whimsy and fun to them, and I want to keep that going. I NEED FUN BOOKS. I need whimsy, darn it.

I also probably need a nap.

 

Armchair BEA

 

Looking ahead, I have signed up for this year’s Armchair BEA. If I learned nothing else from the A to Z Challenge, I now understand the importance of planning ahead, so I am going to start working on those posts this week. Right after I finish prepping for my summer course that starts next week (on Monday!). And writing my A to Z wrap-up/reflection post.

Diversity on the Shelf Link Up: May 2016

Link up your reviews below. If you don’t have a book blog, but have Goodreads or Library Thing, etc., you may use that to participate and post your links to your reviews. Get more details about the challenge here. It’s not too late to sign up!

Diversity on the Shelf 2016

May Reviews Link Up

[inlinkz_linkup id=629833 mode=1]