Just Read: Everything I Never Told You

If anything, do read Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. While narrative and perspective are often times jumbled between time, drifting precariously from the 1950s to the turbulent 70s, you can’t but help feel drawn to the conflicted nature of this debut novel.

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Ng’s debut centers around the death of middle sibling Lydia Lee and the black hole she leaves within the mixed race family. I found Lydia’s parents’ back story more compelling than the mystery surrounding Lydia’s death and in the end, when we are finally given the precise circumstances surrounding the unexpected tragedy, I found myself wanting more and slightly unsatisfied with the answers given…

Everything I Never Told You isn’t the best summer read I’ve devoured thus far, but it is an intriguing and oddly enjoyable one.

Recommend? Yes.

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Marie Lu: My Asian Author

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I am Asian. I try not to make a big deal out of it. Generally, I live my life in peace, hardly ever thinking about “the color of my skin. “ By that standard, I don’t usually decide to read books by the race or cultural background of the author either. Last year, I was looking on Goodreads at the books they suggested for me and saw Legend. Legend was the first book after I read Hunger Games that not only had a great concept but a flow and story that held my attention. Only later did I discover the author was Asian.

My thoughts about the Legend Trilogy:

All the books in the Legend series were phenomenal. The plot was well thought out and the world was detailed. The characters were love-able, hate-able and human. It never left me wanting. I was never disappointed. Marie Lu had not taken any shortcuts in creating the Legend experience. Most importantly the ending felt right. She did the tough real life thing with her characters and it fit the story.

Recently, I had the opportunity to pre-read her newest novel, The Young Elites. I have to say it lacks some of the maturity I found in Legend but it was equally as addicting, unpredictable and thoroughly enjoyable. I am excited to see this story progress. Marie Lu is definitely on my list of authors to watch. I hope to see her books gain even more popularity. The Legend series should have surpassed many books that have gained national notoriety, though I may be a little biased because it is nice to see someone with my similar background succeed.

Diversity for all and all for diversity.

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An Ode to Libraries

One of the aspects that I love and hate about living in New York is the constant challenge of space. Whereas when living in the midwest, I could buy books on a whim and add to my growing collection, here, in the city, I have to be super-selective when it comes to what tomes of literature may occupy my room. That’s where the library comes in.

I love the library.

After reading a review of a new book or snapping photos of book covers as I roam the aisles of independent bookstores, I can log online and put “holds” on all the books I wish to read. As my younger cousin once said, “It’s like Netflix for books.” He doesn’t get to the library very often ;D

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That being said, I just picked up four new adventures. One is for a book club (Quesadillas), the other my roommate recommended (Beautiful Ruins), the third is the last novel I need to read by Oyeyemi (Mr. Fox), and the fourth is on my summer reading list (Everything I Never Told You).

Here’s to the library!

Rereading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

One of my 2014 goals is to reread the Harry Potter series and it has become an unexpected challenge. Not only is my adult perspective clouding the childlike awe I once held for these characters (albeit not completely gone), but I’m also finding myself siding with the Hogwarts adults as well. Every other page I’m rolling my eyes at Harry and his foolhardy ways. “Do you want do die?!” I kept yelling in my head. It seems, reading it as an adult, he has a penchant for breaking the rules and as I child I just saw him as a kid wanting to have a little fun. Oh retrospect!

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Also to note, shit got dark in the third book. Between the beheadings, the graphic description of how Sirius Black supposedly murdered 12 people in London and betrayed his best friend to Professor Trelawney’s all-capped-out prophecy and the sucking out of souls, I can start to see why parents are bit hesitant to allow their 10-year-olds to read this series. However, I encourage the reading of Harry Potter to all children that fall under my preview. After all, Harry Potter was my childhood! I only hope children of today experience the same magical adventure of love, justice and acceptance that I was privy to.

But after reading Prisoner of Azkaban, another issue arose.

Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite film out of the entire series. Beautifully directed by Alfonso Cuarón and bringing in such heavy weights like Gary Oldman (Sirius Black) and Remus Lupin (David Thewlis), the third installment of the Harry Potter movies is just so damn good. Because of my love for Cuarón and his take on the world of Harry Potter, it was very difficult to dig back into Rowling’s sole vision. Anything that contradicted the film I had trouble with and while I enjoyed the details that were left out of the film (I forgot the Whomping Willow was planted for Lupin to hide during his transformations and that it was he who made the Shrieking Shack shriek!) I couldn’t help but love the film more.

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Marissa Meyer: The Future of Fairytales

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Fairy tales were my bread and butter as a child and as I grew up I still find myself drawn to all the reincarnations of the old standards. The latest iteration I have fallen in love with is an amalgamation of many fairy tales: The Lunar Chronicles By Marissa Meyer

Book 1 Cinder (Cinderella)

Book 2 Scarlet ( Little Red Riding Hood)

Book 3 Cress ( Rapunzel )

Book 4 Winter (Snow White)

In each book you meet a new character. The story continues through all four books and while Cinder’s story ignites the turn of events all the new characters and old are well featured.

While the fairy tale stories have been cut into pieces and reformed, you can easily see the nuances of the old tales showing through but in a new and modern light. The series is set in the future and really speaks to the side of me that loves science fiction. There are cyborgs, androids, hover cars and space ships. There is a race of people on the moon called Lunars who have evolved into having telepathic abilities. The countries of today have reformed and reinvented but retaining their distinctly recognizable details. All the featured characters are diverse, rich, unique and utterly charming.

If any of this intrigues you definitely give this series a shot!

 

Google brought me this image from here.

I Read YA (And Am Not Ashamed in the Slightest)

There’s an article that’s making its way around twitter and the blogosphere. If you’re a fan of YA, or literature in general, I’m sure you’ve at least heard of it. I won’t link to it*, because the author of the article clearly wrote it with a shock value in mind. She wants your clicks and I won’t be a part of sending you to her. A generalization of her article (because she is very fond of those) boils down to the fact that adults should be ashamed to read YA because it’s meant for children. In her opinion adults should give it up the moment they hit that tender age of (insert when adulthood begins), and leave those books for the teens they were “meant for”.

To that I kindly say, go frack yourself. If anyone wants a sure fire way to piss me off, it’s disparaging an entire genre and its readers just because you have some inane idea of what makes “good literature”. It might be because I am a librarian, and I am all for that freedom of information and the right to read whatever the heck strikes your fancy. It might be because I am a decent human and don’t want to impose my ideas on other people. Take your pick. Both apply here.

I’ve read my fair share of “adult” books. I put the quotation marks in there because some books labeled as adult could very easily move their way over into the YA section of the library. I went through my Jane Austen phase, grabbed a little Hemingway on the go, and have a love/hate relationship with Miss Jane Eyre. When new adult books come out, I will always browse them and see if any strike my fancy. I don’t avoid anything labeled “adult” like it’s the plague, but I am drawn more to the YA section. Guess What? Not embarrassed at all.

In fact, I would go as far to say that some of the YA being written right now would rival any of those books making their way up the New York Times Bestseller list. The prose of Laini Taylor is so heartbreakingly beautiful, that I would rival her with the greatest authors who’ve ever put pen to paper. Actually, let me go ahead and leave this here to simmer for a second. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.

“It is a condition of monsters that they do not perceive themselves as such. The dragon, you know, hunkered in the village devouring maidens, heard the townsfolk cry ‘Monster!’ and looked behind him.” _ Laini Taylor; Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Jesus that was a great set of lines. When I got to that part in the book I had to put it down and give her a slow clap that I knew she couldn’t hear, but hoped she felt. Laini Taylor is a master, and she writes YA. Now I can’t talk about YA and awesome lines of literature without adding in my absolute favorite author Libba Bray. Let’s take a look at one of her many suburb lines:

“Some mornings, she’d wake and vow, Today, I will get it right. I won’t be such an awful mess of a girl. I won’t lose my temper or make unkind remarks. I won’t go too far with a joke and feel the room go quiet with disapproval. I’ll be good and kind and sensible and patient. The sort everyone loves. But by evening, her good intentions would have unraveled. She’d say the wrong thing or talk a little too loudly. She’d take a dare she shouldn’t, just to be noticed. Perhaps Mabel was right, and she was selfish. But what was the point of living so quietly you made no noise at all? “Oh, Evie, you’re too much,” people said, and it wasn’t complimentary. Yes, she was too much. She felt like too much inside all the time. So why wasn’t she ever enough?”
― Libba Bray, The Diviners.

I can go on and on. Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone series, which takes a bit of inspiration from George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (more on him in a second), is a complex novel set in an otherworld, that grossly boiled down, centers on a girl finding the strength within to trust herself and kick some major patriarchy ass. Is she a teenager? Yes. Does that make the story any “less” than a novel placed in the adult section? Nope.

In fact, there are plenty of novels that are structured around teens and children that are actually adult novels. George R.R. Martin’s series comes to mind. See I told you I’d come back to him. Let’s get the real ages of those awesome Stark kids we love to watch fail. Robb and Jon began the book as 15 year olds. Sansa was only 12. Ayra was 9, Bran was 8, and poor little forgotten Rickon Stark began the book as a 3 year old. Every other major player in the series is of comparable age. I believe Dany was 14 years old at the beginning of her reign, and Joffrey was only 14 as well.

I use this series as an example because of its immense popularity. The television show aged them up only because it would be deemed inappropriate (and illegal) to have children getting naked with each other and killing (or being killed) in really horrific fashions. HBO was not ready for that kind of drama.

Back to my point though, this is a series set around teenagers and their reactions to the many changes in their lives. They act like stupid spoiled teenagers and have hilariously unrealistic interactions/experiences. If George RR Martin took out all the sex and toned down the violence, I could realistically expect to see this book in our Fantasy YA section. Don’t tell me it’s too complex and the reading level too high to get thrown in there with YA.

Like I said, Leigh Bardugo’s series is right up there with A Song of Ice and Fire, it just doesn’t have Alina taking her clothes off whenever the Darkling comes around, or savagely killing him whenever she finally gets the chance.

I love both of those series of books, and I don’t see in anyway how one is more qualified for adult readership than the other. I seriously doubt that when these authors, of the fabulous YA genre, are sitting at their keyboards, downing their fifth coffee that morning, they are thinking “wow this book is so amazing for teens. I hope no adults try and read it!”

I can’t help but wonder, if YA is so demonized because it is a predominantly female written genre. There are a lot of great books in YA written by men, but my absolute favorites all have female writers. I didn’t intend for that to happen, it just did. The author never makes the point that it is a female driven genre, but that thought still lingers in my head. Would it have more value if more men wrote YA? That whole John Green is saving YA crap is another topic I could write pages about, but I’ll save you the rant. YA isn’t a genre that needs saving, and that’s all I’ll say about that subject.

Going back to the article that shall not be named, the author points out that YA Fiction focuses on unrealistic teenage experiences that are uncritical and have uniformly satisfying endings. I’m paraphrasing a bit here, but holy hell has this person even read any recent YA? I mean sure, there are some unrealistic teenage experiences in some YA books. Just like there is no way in hell the events that transpire in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (adult book) would have ever happened in real life. This is a criticism that can honestly be applied to any book in any genre, regardless of the intended audience.

As for those satisfying endings? Has this person ever read a Maggie Stiefvater book? Let me tell you right now, she is an amazing author, but I would never call an ending to her book satisfying with all loose ends tied up. She ends her books at the end of her character’s arc, even if that means some questions go unanswered, and the reader doesn’t have a smile plastered on their face when it closes.

I went to an author talk with awesome YA author Tessa Gratton recently and she said something that has really stuck with me. She said, “I don’t write for teens. I write about them.” Obviously in YA, teens can be pulled more to some of the stories and experiences than adults. However, that doesn’t mean that adults can’t enjoy the story just as much as a teen.

When I’m not working, I’m writing. I’ll give you three guesses what genre I write. Ok fine I’ll just tell you. It’s YA. I love reading YA and I love writing YA. When I sit down and get over my anxieties about writing, I let that story flow through me and don’t look back. Are my characters teenagers? Yes. Do I think teens will like my book? I sure hope so. Do I want adults to like my book? Hells to the yes.

Honestly, I could go on all day on this topic. I find it so discouraging that people who have a platform use their voice to try and make people feel bad about what they like. Adults that read YA aren’t hurting anyone. They are enriching their minds and losing themselves in a story. I am all for reading what you want. If you want to read one of those .99 Kindle Erotica novels, go on with your bad self. I applaud you and your love of any kind of literature. If you don’t like YA, don’t read it! I don’t read certain genres because they don’t appeal to me. That doesn’t mean I’m going to scream at you and tell you that what you read is worthless. I’ll just nod my head and smile while you describe your favorite book, and hey, maybe even pick it up because you are so enthusiastic and love it.

Let’s just stop trying to make people feel bad about what they’re reading ok? Now I’m going to pop an aspirin and read some nice YA to calm down. Maybe even learn a new thing or two in the process.

Are you interested in YA? Here are some of my favorite authors (that I haven’t already mentioned) and books you should check out!

Authors You Should Check Out:
Marissa Meyer
Kendare Blake
Holly Black
Maureen Johnson
Gennifer Albin
Kiera Cass
Beth Revis
Richelle Mead

Books You Should Check Out:
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Landry Park by Bethany Hagen
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Legend by Marie Lu
Angelfall by Susan Ee
Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker (October 2014)

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Beth Revis

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Veronica Roth

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Richelle Mead

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Laini Taylor

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Kiera Cass

*This article is in response to “Against YA” by Ruth Graham, which appears in Slate’s Book Review.

BookCon

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BookCon, was in a word, interesting. I went into the experience not knowing really what to expect but super excited for the opportunity to see Amy Poehler talk about her upcoming book, Yes Please, due out in October.

The first observation I noted was, during my 8AM standing in line escapade with only four hours of sleep, my age and normalcy. I was surrounded by gushing teenagers donning The Fault in Our Stars T-Shirts, black banded goths who needed a healthy dose of vitamin D, and grey haired 40-somethings who never seemed to have matured into adulthood.

I did my best to keep to myself, ear buds in, trying to act too cool for school, but one young woman in line (I had a hard time guessing her age) just had to tell me about how awesome Veronica Roth is and her unrelenting excitedness to finally meet her.

Once inside, with a handful of hours to kill before Amy Poehler’s event, I attended the “We Need Diverse Books,” panel. The long and slightly narrow room filled to capacity quickly, and even an NPR reporter made an appearance. WNDB, it turns out, is a grass roots campaign aiming to bring forth change in a white-washed industry. Multiple authors of varying and diverse backgrounds came to speak and I was left inspired.

Finally, it was time for Amy Poehler. While we weren’t allowed to stand in line more than an hour prior to an event, no one really followed that rule. The security guards became upset at our non-line-line and out of spite caused chaos when the official line was allowed to form. In the end, I was adopted by two sisters, the trio of us linking arms to make our way into the new line and we stayed connected until we found our seats.

Amy Poehler’s event was what I hoped it to be. Equal parts hilarious and heartfelt, it seemed that she gave an honest interview – Martin Short moderated – and got the crowd even more anxious over the realese of Yes Please.

After Amy, I headed up to the exhibit floor to check out the Chronicle Books booth but found it roped off. Apparently Grumpy Cat was making an appearance and no one was allowed into the booth. I waited nearly an hour for Grump Cat to leave, and when he did, us non-Grumpy Cat fans were only allowed minutes inside the booth. After perhaps three minutes of Chronicle Books time, the employees herded us, telling us that they were shutting down. By this point I was quite frustrated and became belligerent because, in my eyes, an internet meme cat took precedence over the books. This was, after all, BookCon not CatCon.

On my way out, I ran into one of the WNDB authors and she gave me an advance copy of her forthcoming novel. I can’t wait to read Aisha Saeed’s Written in the Stars and if anything, I can do my part to foster change as well.

In the end, I’m not sure I’d attend BookCon again. Perhaps next year I’ll buy a BEA pass instead.