2017 goals: Diversity Bingo, Book Hauls and more!

Top Five Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainey and is now hosted by Thoughts on Tomes ! Visit the Goodreads group if you’re interested in joining! This week’s topic is:

January 4th: 2017 Goals
These do not need to be reading goals specifically, they can be any goals you want to talk about. Reading goals, blog/channel/instagram goals, personal goals…anything!

I was planning on doing this topic anyway, so this is great! Every year, I have some new plans (such as book buying bans) and I often fail miserably. This year, I am set to graduate and I will have to go job-hunting. So I have no idea what 2017 is going to bring and how that is going to affect my reading. That’s why my goals are going to be pretty safe and manageable. Anyway, let’s get started!


Goodreads Reading Challenge

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Last year, I lowered my reading challenge twice. I planned on reading 70 books, but only managed to read 50. Which is odd, since I read more in 2015 though I only started reading often that summer.

Because I don’t want to set myself up for another disaster, I plan on reading 52 books in 2017. That’s one book a week and though I know I won’t be able to do that (because I plan on reading big books such as A Dance with Dragons as well), I hope to read more during the summer than in 2016.


Diversity Bingo 2017

As I have mentioned a few times before, I want to read more diverse books. I already tried in 2016, but I especially need to do more effort to pick up own voices. So, I thought it might be a good idea to join Diversity Bingo 2017, which was created by a bunch of awesome people on Twitter (who you should definitely follow!).

I already know, however, that I will never be able to complete the entire square. Thirty-six books is a lot! I also plan on re-reading the entire Harry Potter series and The Raven Cycle again and have other books on my TBR which don’t feature diversity. And that is very unfortunate. But I simply can’t afford to not read the books I already have on my shelves and get tons of new ones. However, I’m not talking about books that include harmful rep though, such as Carve the Mark or The Continent. I will never read those. I will continue to use my voice to aim for more diversity and hope it becomes the norm, even when I don’t read diverse books all the time.

Having said that, instead of reading 36 books in order to succeed in Diversity Bingo 2017, I plan on buying those books instead and I will read them whenever I want to. Just because I don’t read them in 2017, doesn’t mean I don’t want to support those authors.

Another reason why I won’t pressure myself too much, is because I am a mood reader. The majority of those books are contemporaries and I’m not the biggest fan of that genre anymore. I’m not saying there isn’t any diversity in other genres, but of the research I’ve done so far, the majority were contemporaries.

Anyway, I hope this doesn’t sound as if I am coming up with excuses not to do Diversity Bingo 2017. I really want to join and I urge you to check it out as well. I just know that whenever I feel pressured to read something (even when it’s a book I’m excited for!), I tend to enjoy it less. I can’t really explain it, but it’s the reason why I couldn’t enjoy mandatory reads in college either.

Yikes, I hate how I sound right now. All I want to say is that I am going to do Diversity Bingo, but I know I won’t be able to complete the entire challenge, due to the books I already have on my shelves which lack diversity.

P.S. I have zero spare time at the moment due to my exams, so I haven’t been able to do much research yet to decide which books I’m getting for Diversity Bingo 😦


Book Hauls

As I’ve already mentioned, I’m graduating this year. I’m currently living at home, but when I have a job, I’d like to move out on my own. Therefore, I think it might be wise to keep track of my spendings, more specifically the amount of money I spend on books.

In the past, I’ve tried to limit my book hauls plenty of times. I tried ‘read one, buy one’ and ‘only x amount of books a month’ but that hasn’t worked for me.

So I need a new system to limit my spendings. If you have any recommendations, please let me know!

Though I’ll try to keep track of the money I spend on books and merchandise each month, I doubt I’ll be able to do that for a long time. I can already predict it is going to be through the roof and I am going to give up on it because it is too depressing. Still, I want to try.


2017 TBR

I never post TBRs. I’m a mood reader, so I never know what I am going to read next. I’m not going to post a list of the books I want to read in 2017 either. Sure, there are plenty of books I plan on reading, but who knows whether I will actually get to them.


WordPress

I created this blog in July 2016 and I plan on doing it for a very long time! I really enjoy expressing my opinions this way (and feel much more comfortable doing this than Booktube). I will continue to post regularly – you can have a look at my posting schedule here – and if you have any feedback for me, that is always welcome!

So please, if there are posts you’d like to see more or less of, or you have any other kind of feedback, don’t be afraid to share it with me πŸ˜€


β˜† You can also find me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and Goodreads! β˜†

book chat: triggers and sexual content (in Young Adult fiction)

I’m back with another (perhaps controversial) book chat. Just like my previous two book chats, this is a reaction to some of the things I have seen in the book community. I’m just expressing my own opinions here and don’t want to convince anyone that I’m right. This is just my take on sexual content and triggers. Because I mostly read Young Adult literature, I am going to focus on that genre.


1. sexual content

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a tweet by Jay Kristoff (author of Nevernight, co-author of The Illuminae Files), in which he said something about sexual content in Young Adult and how it was okay. I’ve been looking for this tweet for about half an hour now, but I can’t find it anymore! So don’t quote me on this, I don’t remember exactly what he said. Anyway, I agreed with what he said. Teenagers have sex, so why not include it in books?

But then I started thinking how younger people read YA as well. Young Adult is a proposed age range, from 12 to 18. There are no strict rules. I’m 21 years old and I read YA, so there are plenty of children who read the genre as well. And I don’t think they should have to read explicit sex scenes.

Let’s talk about the Throne of Glass series for example. I haven’t continued this series myself, but I know there is explicit sexual content (in the fifth book?). When I say explicit, I mean graphic sexual scenes, describing male genitalia. And you know who does marketing for Empire of Storms? Bloomsbury Children! Granted they do say it contains mature content somewhere on their website, but they still advertise it on their Twitter, without any warning:

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So yes, if you specifically go looking for information, you will be informed that it contains mature content. But if you go to the book store, order the book online… you don’t know that. And as far as I know, there is no warning on the book either.

When this series started, it didn’t feature any mature content (as far as I can remember). But now, it does. So young readers who start this, suddenly have to stop in the middle of the series because it is not appropriate for them anymore, whereas the first books were.

Imagine if an author started a series about twelve year olds. Each year, the author publishes a new book and the characters are one year older. By e.g. the fifth book, the characters start having sex and the content because more mature. Just because the characters age, doesn’t mean the readers do. Just because it takes five years for a series to be finished, doesn’t mean it takes five years for readers to finish it. So writers can’t except their readers to mature alongside their books.

Look, I’m not opposed to sexual content in books. I actually hate it when authors are very vague about it and I don’t know whether or not the characters actually did something. But I know there are some people who don’t like reading such graphic scenes and I don’t think it’s appropriate for young readers either.

Therefore, I think there should be a warning on the book that says more about its content. Years ago, I bought The Naughty Girl’s Book Club. As you can tell by the not-so-subtle title, this was an erotica (very, very mild though, I have to say after reading). On the back of the book, there was an ‘erotic reading guide’, which indicated how much trills, drama, love and sex there was in the book:

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Wouldn’t it be useful if Young Adult novels had guides like these as well? Obviously not describing the book’s trill levels, but indicating the amount of violence, sexual content…

I’m currently writing my thesis on diversity in YA. So for me, it would be useful if I knew beforehand whether or not a book is classroom appropriate. Yes, if I do plenty of research I might find some information on it, but I still think guides like these could do a lot of good.

When doing research on Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, I discovered a website for parents where others write reviews on what they should know before they allow their child to read a book. And to my surprise, the fact that two boys hold hands and kiss was mentioned in the same sentence as bullying, blackmailing… I can’t believe this has to be said, but LGBTQ representation and characters are not mature content!!! Parents would never make others aware that two straight people hold hands in a book, so it is not okay to mention that when talking about two boys. I was absolutely disgusted by that parent’s review, so I had to mention this here as well.


2. triggers

A couple of weeks ago, an author (I don’t know who, but I can guess) said trigger warnings could be spoilers. The reading community was outraged, and rightfully so. Sometimes, sexual abuse is used as a plot twist in New Adult. But some people get triggered by that. If someone has been raped, of course they might not want to read about that, so they should be warned beforehand! Obviously, there are other triggers besides sexual abuse as well.

By no means I am implying that sexual content and triggers are the same. But I just proposed the guide for sexual content and I think the same kind of system could be used when talking about triggers. I doesn’t have to be a ‘guide’, but I do think triggers should be mentioned on the back of a book (or in the summary you find on e.g. Goodreads).


I’m certainly not implying that books shouldn’t feature sexual content or topics that could be triggering to some. However, I do think readers should be warned beforehand. If one does a lot of research, they might find out on themselves, but I don’t think that should be the case. Mentioning it in the blurb or putting it on the back of a book might be enough.

What’s your opinion on this?

Book chat: Should we keep negative opinions to ourselves?

Today, I want to discuss whether people can express their negative opinions. In my very first book chat, I discuss whether fans are allowed to be critical. So this book chat really stems from that, but I will focus on people who clearly dislike – or even hate – a book (series).

Example 1: A Court of Thorns and Roses and Throne of Glass

Anyone who is active on social media, will have noticed all the drama surrounding the Empire of Storms release. Some people received an early copy and weren’t happy at all with what they read.

People who express their negative opinions, have been called ‘petty’, ‘problematic’ … and ‘should just read what makes them happy and shut up about what they hate’. Don’t they realise that some people put a lot of time and money into that series? If they don’t like it, they have the right to be disappointed and express their opinions. Just because you like it, doesn’t mean everyone else will. That is literally impossible.

I understand why people don’t like seeing negative reviews on their favourite books and series. I have been there. I have de-friended people on Goodreads because they hated my favourite books and I really disagreed with them. But, I still allow them to express their opinion. I would never write a comment on their review saying they are wrong, they don’t appreciate good writing… Whenever people say that to me, I will probably only dislike the book more. I don’t think anyone has ever read those comments and thought: “Oh, you know what, they are right. I love the book now”. I actually consider writing comments like that petty, not disliking a book and being vocal about it.

There are actually readers who have cancelled their pre-orders because of the spoilers they have read. I think it is completely okay to dislike something you have not read yourself. Spoilers can give you an idea of whether or not you will like it. Readers shouldn’t ‘suffer’ reading through something they know they won’t like, just to please others.

And that is exactly the reason why I won’t continue Sarah J. Maas’ series. I have only read the first books in both series and The Assassin’s Blade. But, based on what I have heard, I will not like how it continues. I don’t like the idea of an author completely destroying one character in order for readers to fall in love with another. I think that’s a cheap thing to do. To be clear, I based my opinion on what fans have said as well, not only haters.

The book community should not be all moonlight and roses. I think it can learn a lot from those negative opinions. Even if you love Sarah J. Maas’ work, you have to admit that they are filled with straight white people. So it’s a very good thing people are vocal about this. While I don’t like shipping drama, people should be honest about their pairings and admit it is problematic or even abusive if that’s the case. Actually, whenever people talk about her series, they only talk about the romance. And because I am tired of reading about straight couples, I’m not planning on continuing her series.

So yes, I think it’s okay to dislike something you have not actually read yourself. However, don’t rate before you read! Don’t give a book one star because you know you’ll hate it. But also, don’t rate a book five stars because you know you’ll love it! Even if I have read 75% of a book, I don’t rate it when I DNF it.

I actually wrote a ‘review‘ on A Court of Mist and Fury, explaining why I wouldn’t read it. And I received lots of hateful reactions. So, yes, people who love something, can be very nasty as well. Let’s not pretend as if it’s a one way street.

It is clear that I am advocate of expressing your opinions, both positive and negative. However, I do not think it is okay to attack others, to disagree with others on their own post/social media, to threaten the author… And I can’t believe that even has to be said.


example 2: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was the very first book I gave a one star rating. I am a huge Harry Potter fan, but that script completely butchered all of the characters and the plot was all over the place. It was actually hilariously awful: I couldn’t take it seriously, even though the play was obviously trying to be.

I won’t go into detail, but you can read why I hated it here. In my first book chat, I came to the conclusion that people can critique their favourite books and still be as much as a fan as others. I still consider myself a Harry Potter fan, even though I hated Cursed Child. As usual when someone expresses a negative opinion, I received hateful messages. Saying I am not a true fan because I didn’t rate something written by J.K. Rowling five stars (newsflash: it wasn’t even written by her), I shouldn’t judge the script without watching the play… Reactions like these are the reason why people are afraid to be honest. Right now, I don’t really care anymore when people say I am not a ‘real’ fan, because I know that’s not true. But a couple of months ago, it would have hurt my feelings.


Example 3: shadybooktweets

Shadybooktweets is a Twitter account where people can anonymously share their opinions on books. I know quite a few people who have blocked that page because they think people should stop wasting their energy on negativity. I follow @shadybooktweets and while I am not going to pretend all confessions are acceptable, a lot mention diversity (POC, LGBT…) and I obviously support that, because books still lack this.

However, as usual, there is some shipping drama, back and forth arguments… And that’s definitely its downside. But I cannot help supporting a platform that also allows people to be honest that books, even their favourites, lack diversity. And maybe the people who blocked the Twitter page don’t want to admit that.

Just to be clear: I do not agree with every confession posted there. Some are quite nasty (e.g. attacking certain booktubers) and I do not condone that. But I like the idea of a place where people can express their (negative) opinions. And since people are afraid of expressing them openly – out of fear of being attack – they have to turn to that account. For the record: I have never posted a confession there and I don’t plan to. I just like to read them, even though I strongly disagree with some.


So, should we keep our negative opinions to ourselves?

No, we shouldn’t! If people are allowed to constantly praise books, people should be allowed to dislike it as well. Negativity does not necessarily have to be a bad thing.

Nevertheless, people should still be civil (though I could say the same to people who love something) and not attack others or the author.

What is your opinion on this? I am curious to read your thoughts because there are so many different opinions when it comes to this topic. Please know that this is my own opinion and I am not attacking anyone.

 

Book Chat: Can a true fan be critical?

I have been asking myself that question lately, and wanted to discuss it with you. If you rate a book only four instead of five stars on Goodreads, can you truly say you love it? If you don’t like the author of your favourite book, can you truly appreciate their work?

My answer is yes. I’m aware that I am a critical person. And me being a feminist and a member of the LGBT community and caring about equality and basic human rights have something to do with that. I care about these topics, so it will obviously bother me more than those who don’t care about it, when things aren’t portrayed well.

Since my childhood, I have been a huge fan of everything that’s even remotely related to Harry Potter. Lately, however, I have been more and more critical of the author who created my favourite universe in the world: J.K Rowling. I’m not very vocal about my critiques, since so many people think she can do no wrong. And that’s not right. I shouldn’t be afraid to express my opinion, as long as I don’t insult or hurt anyone else.

Example 1: Is Dumbledore really gay?

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I don’t think J.K. Rowling deserves any praise about that, no. Just because she says so, doesn’t make it true. It’s not in the books. Of course, if you really, really pay attention to it, you might say “Oh yeah, I see it now”, but she didn’t dare to give us actual represenation of an LGBT character. She played it safe. And I don’t appreciate that. It’s queer baiting. Her excuse is that it didn’t matter to Harry’s story. I call bullshit. We do find out about other, of course heterosexual, pairings.

Obviously I’m not denying that Dumbledore is gay, but I’m angry that J.K. Rowling didn’t include it in her series. It’s easy to say it afterwards, when it won’t affect the sales of your books.

Example 2: Is Hermione a POC?

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So, if we look at the books, Hermione’s skin colour is never specified. In the films, her skin is white. In the play, however, Hermione is portrayed by a black woman. I think it’s great they finally added some diversity to the Harry Potter series. I don’t agree with those who dislike the idea of Hermione being a POC, let’s make that very clear. I, however, dislike the fact that, once again, J.K. Rowling didn’t add the diversity in the series herself. Yes, if she didn’t specify Hermione’s skin colour, everyone could have related to her. But how much more meaningful would it have been if one of the main characters in this series was canonly a POC?


Now, you might think I don’t have any problems with my favourite books, but only with the author. While that is partially true, I will never say the Harry Potter series is 100% perfect. While my sister was reading the books, she told me how sexist they could be; like the way Harry treated Cho or how only the girls treated Fleur badly. Still, it’s my favourite series in the entire world and each time I read it, it feels like coming home.


Another series I love and adore is The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I especially love the characters. When The Raven King was released in April, I immediately read it. It was very emotional; I cried about a hundred times. Still, I felt disappointed afterwards. Even though I got what I wanted, I had still expected something more.

So, can I truly say I love this series, while whenever I think about the final instalment, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth? Are you only a ‘real’ fan if you gave every book five stars and can’t say anything badly about it?


Let me know in the comments what you think! I’m very interested to hear your thoughts! I think the answer is yes; being a fan doesn’t mean you have to approve everything.