Chabon & Childhood


Michael Chabon keeps popping up in my feeds. First it was random mentions on Twitter (I didn’t pay much attention to those). Then it was the much-lauded essay about attending Paris Fashion Week with his son, Abe. I eventually read and loved the piece, but didn’t do any further research. Today it was a Buzzfeed piece by Doree Shafrir. I read it in fascination, slowly falling in love with this funny, thoughtful, geeky author.

Each time I saw his name, a memory niggled. I can very clearly see a thick, brightly-colored book on the shelf in my local library. My memory thinks that it is called Summerland. My memory also thinks that Michael Chabon wrote it. But each time that I read about him, I am less sure. There’s no mention of this book in the Twitter posts, the essay, the profile. The more I know—about his literary connections, about his current work—the less he seems like a man who would have written the middle grade book, which, if my memory serves me correctly, was about baseball. I start to wonder if I’m remembering the wrong author’s name. At one point, I even think I might be confusing the title with Ally Condie’s haunting middle-grade, Summerlost.

Finally, I resort to Wikipedia to confirm my very specific but now doubtful memory. The world’s free encyclopedia confirms that I’m right: Michael Chabon is the author of Summerland. It’s about a magical quest and baseball plays a big role.

I click through the references to see what reviewers of the time thought about Summerland. They’re not complimentary.

And these discoveries, while they reassure me that my memory for books is exactly as good as I expect it to be, trouble me. Figuring out why requires a bit of a journey. Continue reading

Top Ten TBR Books from SEYA Fest 2017


This weekend, I attended the free community day of Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival in Murfreesboro, TN. I attended the inaugural festival last year and was so delighted to go back this year! I talked to nearly all of the authors, who were all very kind. Here are the books that I’ve now added to my TBR! [Note: I’m not counting the authors I already follow–the new Adam Silvera & Becky Albertalli books have been on my TBR for ages. :D]

In no particular order:

 How to be Brave & The Best Possible Answer by E. Katherine Kottaras

Bravery felt like a bit of a theme at this festival. Both of these books address how teenage girls handle difficult circumstances–a mother’s death and a nude photo scandal. Both ideas are very real-to-life and I’m curious to see how Kottaras handles them.

Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake

What happens if the children of parents who are unfaithful together fall in love? (Ashley did a better job explaining that idea…) Supposedly this is sort of a Romeo/Juliet type tale, but I’m most interested in watching two teenagers navigate the effects of infidelity together.

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd

It’s about horses and all of the authors keep gushing about how sweet and beautiful it is, so I definitely want to read this soon. 🙂

None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio

I’ve heard great things about this book for a long time, but I never paid much attention. I’ll admit, as Ilene complained at SE-YA, that like most people I had no idea what intersex was and assumed Continue reading

Reading Recap: January 2017


January is over! How did you do with your goals? I love the chance to start the year really well. Here are the goals I set for this year:

  • Total: 150
  • Pages: 60,000
  • 40 non-fiction
  • 10 classics
  • 10 translations
  • 22 books from my TBR list (my current list is at 52, and that’s a pretty limited list)
  • 50 book reviews

(see this post for more details)

Here’s how January went:

  • Total: 13
  • Pages: 4952
  • 3 non-fiction

I feel good about that start to the year! I focused a lot on using the ebooks available from my library and also requesting books on NetGalley, both of which have given me a wider variety of options.

Highlights!

I really enjoyed trying new authors this month.

Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies — J.B. West

Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner — Judy Melinek & TJ Mitchell

When Nobody Was Watching — Carli Lloyd

Sarah Maclean (read several of her books)

What about you?

Did you set reading goals? What did you read this month? I’d love to hear!

 

2016 Reading Recap & 2017 Goals


Here’s the final update on my 2016 reading goals! Then I set 2017 goals.

2016 Reading Goals

  • 150 books total.
  • 50,000 pages.
  • 40 non-fiction.
  • 10 classics.
  • 10 books translated into English (excluding those on my “classics” list).
  • 15 books outside my comfort zone.
  • 22 books off my TBR list.

Results

Continue reading

Book Review: Take the Key and Lock Her Up


511-hbczuwl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Title: Take the Key and Lock Her Up

Series: Embassy Row #3

Author: Ally Carter

See my reviews of Book 1 & Book 2

I’ve long been an Ally Carter fan, but I struggled more with this trilogy than any of her other books. As I documented in my previous reviews, I think that had a lot to do with growing out of her target age range.

Thankfully, Take the Key and Lock Her Up was a really good conclusion to the trilogy.

NOTE: Spoilers for the first two books will start immediately. Read at your own risk. Please keep the comments a safe section. I’m available via Twitter or email for spoilery discussions.

Plot Summary

Grace Blakely just discovered that she is the descendant of a long-lost princess. Now she, her brother, a hot Russian, and the Scarred Man are on the run. People are trying to kill her and she doesn’t know who to trust. Also, she might be crazy. Continue reading

October Reading Recap


Whew. I haven’t written a recap since May! I was pretty busy this summer and slacked on tracking my reading. But I recently updated my list, so here’s an overview!

First, my goals for the year:

  • 150 books total.
  • 50,000 pages.
  • 40 non-fiction.
  • 10 classics.
  • 10 books translated into English (excluding those on my “classics” list).
  • 15 books outside my comfort zone.
  • 22 books off my TBR list.

If you look back to May, I read 30 books that month. I haven’t come anywhere close to the number again, but I’ve made good progress.  Continue reading

Book Review: Everything, Everything


cover of book everything, everythingWhat I Knew Going In

Nothing, nothing. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon has been pretty hyped. It was promoted a lot & loads of bookish people were talking about it & it was a very popular debut novel. I somehow managed to tune out most of the hype and literally only knew the title and author’s name. It was an e-book deal for $1.99, so I grabbed it, knowing that a better deal would never come along.

What It’s About

Madeline Whittier (Maddy) has SCID, a genetic disorder that means she basically has no immune system. Because of that, she lives in a completely sterile environment with just her mother and nurse. She reads a lot, plays silly games with her mom, and studies online. It’s a pretty happy life until a family with a teenage son moves in next door.

What I Thought

I was hooked really early in this book. Because I didn’t know anything about the plot, I had a lot of fun learning about Maddy’s disease and life. From a purely intellectual standpoint, I found the premise fascinating. I don’t see many YA books about something like SCID. And Maddy is a reader! The book is full of literary references, funny charts and drawings, and philosophical musings.

I think that Everything, Everything aspires to be the next TFIOS. It’s a beautifully tragic love story about a really sick girl, full of metaphor and smart conversations and really hard stuff.

But this book is not TFIOS. Continue reading

Discussion Post: Readers & Fitness


Ok, let’s talk about a thing that bothers me. (because what else is a blog for??)

You know this idea that readers/bookworms/writers are secluded nerds with no athletic ability or physical fitness?

[If you don’t know, it’s totally a thing. See pictures.]

Logically, this stereotype sorta makes sense. It’s not very easy to read while exercising (although the prevalence of ebooks & audiobooks has made it lots easier!). So when we grow up, we have to choose between reading or playing sports. And most people choose one and mostly ignore the other. It’s a real thing. Bookworms like their tea/coffee & blankets. Inside. Not exercising.

hermioneBut I have a lots of problems with this stereotype. Not because I don’t like blankets or coziness. (I don’t drink tea or coffee. I knooooow, it’s weird! You can stop throwing things.) Also, not because I think jocks/athletic people can’t be bookish (they definitely can be).

I’ve been very systematically observing bookworms for a few months now (maybe a year? what is time???) and I’ve reached a conclusion.

Ready?

Lots of readers and writers love moving and being outdoors. Like, really love it.

Writers talk/write/post often about how physical activity helps them sort through plotting/writing issues. They walk. They run marathons. They do yoga (or aerial yoga–looking at you, Gwenda Bond!). And I’m sure many of them are active but don’t post about it.

 

Readers are the same. I play soccer. I run. Have played sports basically my entire life. Readers carry huge stacks of books. Readers play with their dogs. Readers stand in long lines to meet authors.

But here’s the most irritating thing about this stereotype.

We–the readers, the writers, the lovers of books–perpetuate it. We embrace it. 

I’m far more likely to share a funny book meme than something about running. I’m more likely to post a picture of my book than a post-workout selfie. It’s time for that to change.

Can we make bookstagram/booktube/book blogs/etc. encompass all our interests? Can we stop pretending that we all live in book burritos all day?bookburrito

Can we ditch this idea that readers avoid outdoors and activity at all costs? We’re strong enough to imagine others complexly. (h/t to the Green brothers, obviously)

Discussion: Reading the Wrong Way


Is there a wrong way to read? 

A few weeks ago, I bristled at a conversation I saw play out on Twitter. I’m about to quote the authors (and disagree with them), but this isn’t really an issue about the exact names attached. Here’s the exchange:

twitter-convo

I am this person. 

At least, I am a person who loves suspense in a story. I seldom reread (except for select favorites) and I don’t watch a lot of movie adaptations.

I think (maybe I’m wrong) that I’m not a bad reader–a person who ignores nuance and demands my truth. But the possibility–maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m a bad reader–has lingered in my mind. So let’s explore.

How I Read

I read breathlessly, devouring books in single sittings, in ridiculous numbers. I immerse completely and at one time. I avoid summaries, excerpts, book trailers, hype (when I can, topic for another post). I’m obsessed with the experience of diving into a brand new universe with no prep. It precludes my analytical brain, my tendency to predict, to be bored. I do not skim, but I also do not take my time. I do not agonize over meaning or nuance. I turn pages rapidly, pursuing the thread of plot or character development (often as/more important than plot!) to the end. Hard stop.

Does that make me a bad reader?

Demanding truth

Do I demand my own truth from books? I am white. I’m middle class. I’m straight (am I supposed to say cisgendered too/instead? I don’t even know). My version of truth is pretty common.

Except.

I’m also from a very conservative Christian family. And my religion and values are not represented (not well) in most literature.

So I’ve read lots of books that do not speak to my truth. Some of them I like. Some of them I don’t. I don’t think I demand my truth from a story, but how would I know?

Conclusion (Not)

I think I’m a good reader. I think it’s a personal preference that I read quickly, obsessively, with a lot of emphasis on newness, on suspense.

But now I don’t know. Am I ignoring depth that I should hunt for? Should my books be dogeared, marked through the margins with notes from extended rereads? Does not doing that make me a shallow person?

I try not to use this blog for a diary (this type of self-analysis and dithering is very diary-like!), but I’m throwing this one out because I hope other readers have struggled with feeling like bad readers and can give advice! And maybe some of you are going through this with me. Let me know in the comments!

An additional comment on Shannon Hale & Mette Ivie Harrison: I’ve read several books by both of these remarkable authors. I have incredible respect for their attention to tough topics and representation in the book world. This post is in no way an attack on them, just an issue brought to the fore through their conversation. 

Writing Advice from Read Up Greenville


As a career writer and aspiring fiction author, I really enjoy the writing advice that successful authors offer at conferences. It’s equal parts discouraging reality (12 years to publish??) and encouraging normality (they’re real humans like me!).

I don’t want to recreate all of the keynotes/panels, but I jotted down a few interesting points.

Jay Asher

It takes years for the ideas to come together. Several authors have mentioned this concept–basically, the idea for a story starts many, many years before they’re finally able to write it. In some ways, that gives me hope, but Continue reading