October Book Discussion: The Knife of Never Letting Go

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Happy Halloween! Let’s jump right into it, shall we? Without further ado, the October book discussion for The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. (It starts off a little awkward, like I’ve never done this before, haha.)

I think this one has the potential to be fairly divisive, and I am really interested to hear what you guys thought about it. Don’t forget to check the box that will send you an email when other people post here, so that we can respond to each other!

Also, remember that November’s book is Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. Do you have your copy yet?

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October Book Discussion: The Knife of Never Letting Go

Two Book Selections and an Announcement

Announcement

As some of you know, I am currently pregnant with my first child. I am due December 21, and as such, am expecting a very busy Christmas season. For that reason, I have decided to make the last two book selections of the year myself, so that I can be as prepared as possible with discussion posts for each before I have my baby and my world gets turned upside down and inside out. ūüôā As well, I am going to be including a list of books that sound interesting that you may want to look into for the first few months of next year; I don’t know when I will be coming back with the book club. I am hoping for April, but I make no promises! As always, feel free to share your book recommendations with each other and I hope that you guys enjoy our last three selections of 2016!

book selections

Reminder, October’s book is The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. Added bonus of announcing November and December’s books rather than voting on them means that I can take a little bit of extra time to read Knife. Confession: I haven’t even picked it up yet. Whoops. It has been a busy month!

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November’s book will be Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, which completely enchanted me with this summary on the Barnes & Noble blog:

Bone Gap is a dense, weird, magical realistic fairy tale about a girl whose beauty makes her a target, and a boy whose sight works differently from everyone else’s. It’s about the dangers and delights of seeing and being seen. It alternates between the contemporary small town where teenaged Finn has been raised by his stoic older brother, Sean, since their mom skipped town, and the enchanted hinterland where Sean’s girlfriend, Roza, is being held by a terrifying figure out of fairy tales. Enigmatic Roza washed up on the boys’ property after some mysterious trauma, and both fell in love with her in their own way. When she’s kidnapped by the man she was running from, Finn is the only witness, and his inability to save her haunts him. With the help of a bee-eyed girl and his slow discovery of his own strengths, he sets out to bring Rosa home.

I mean, come on. They had me at “dense, weird, magical realistic fairy tale.”

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December’s book is If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, which tackles some thorny and deeply relevant issues.

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she‚Äôs ever met‚ÄĒopen, honest, kind‚ÄĒand Amanda can‚Äôt help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself‚Ķincluding her past. But she‚Äôs terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

hiatus recommendations

As for books that you might want to check out during the hiatus, I have ten here for you. It was very hard to keep it at ten. But my psychology education tells me that more choices is bad and leads to decision paralysis and less enjoyment when a decision is made, so ten it is.

  1. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
  2. The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
  3. American Girls by Alison Umminger
  4. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (This is the first book in the Raven Cycle series and this series is my favorite series EVER and I am therefore terrified to recommend it to you guys. Basically, if you don’t like it,¬†I don’t want to know.)
  5. I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
  6. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
  7. The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore
  8. And I Darken by Kiersten White
  9. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  10. The Diviners by Libba Bray

BONUS: If you want to start a really great series, I recommend the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor.

Happy reading!

Two Book Selections and an Announcement

July Book Discussion: Nimona

Yay, this is the first time that we are going to try out the new format! Be gentle, I don’t have much (haha, any) experience with this kind of thing, so forgive the weird long pauses (I was trying really hard not to say “um” and “er” a whole lot!). I would love to hear what you think about the new format (love it? hate it? ambivalent about it?), if you have any suggestions for making it better, or if you want to scrap it completely. And of course, most importantly, what did you think of Nimona?! Comment below! <3

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Summary of points covered in audio discussion:

  • A simplistic concept with on-the-nose character names (Goldenloin and¬†Blackheart, seriously?) led to a surprisingly layered story about morality.
  • Blackheart’s morality is generally reserved for heroes like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Clark Kent; our first hint that he was going to be our actual hero, not Goldenloin or the Institute and in contrast to Nimona’s¬†apparent love of destruction.
  • In my opinion, Nimona wasn’t just a monster. She wouldn’t have loved Blackheart if she was. She was being the monster that she had been made into.
  • Class issues were brought up several times in the story but it felt heavy-handed and unnecessary to me because it never really went anywhere.
  • Gloreth = girl power, rah rah!
  • I find fight scenes in comics so hard to follow. ūüôĀ
  • Goldenloin and Blackheart just set aside their years of fighting and were totally fine? Hmm.
  • OH! And I forgot to mention one thing completely! Thoughts on whether or not the girl at the end was ACTUALLY Nimona or if Blackheart just¬†wanted¬†it to be?

See the rest of the Young Adulters Book Club posts here.

Vote for August’s book selection here.

July Book Discussion: Nimona

January Book Discussion: Life in Outer Space

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This was such a sweet book, and a fun, quick read. Set in Australia (it actually took me a little while to realize this…anyone else?)! I love trying to hear accents in my head, haha.

A few quick thoughts:

  • 150 bonus points for mentioning the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, which I think I have seen about 100 times and can probably still quote beginning to end.
  • I love that Sam watches horror movies with his mom. I thought their relationship was very sweet and I would have liked to have seen more of it, though I recognize that that was not really what this book was about.
  • Camilla was an interesting character who could have been a cliche but felt very fleshed out and real. I think all of the main characters were, actually. At first, I thought Allison was going to be kind of a cardboard cut out character, but she ended up having some depth and layers, too. I liked that Mike was gay but that it wasn’t “a thing.” He wasn’t “the gay character.” He was just a character.
  • What are your thoughts on what the title means? I didn’t notice any specific references to life in outer space (though I will admit that I read quite quickly and have a tendency of skipping over paragraphs that don’t look like they contain pertinent information. Yes, this does occasionally/frequently bite me in the ass). I think perhaps it is referring to the idea of becoming untethered from our normal way of thinking about things and being catapulted into a different perspective, but I don’t know. I’d love to know your theories!
  • I like that Sam was a writer. His obsessions were a nice framework and provided a good through-line that helped guide the book. It wasn’t just “my character will be a writer and this will have no relevance whatsoever.” The ideas of creation and creativity and genuine love for something are a major theme (Sam’s writing, Camilla’s music, Mike’s karate). It was a nice touch to have his writing tie in with his eventual realization of Camilla’s reciprocal love for him.

Okay, guys. Your turn. Thoughts in the comments!

PS. Pick the book for next month here. 

January Book Discussion: Life in Outer Space

my own personal reading challenge

Every year, Goodreads has a reading challenge. It is pretty basic: “how many books do you want to read this year?”¬†I have done it for the past three or four years, and while it is a good motivator to read more, reading more is not my issue. Last year, I read 153 books. My issue, reading so much, is that I find myself forgetting a lot of what I have read. Seeing a book he knows I have read, Bryan will ask me a question about it, but a lot of the time, I will only be able to shrug noncommittally rather than reply. I move on so quickly from one thing that I barely have time to digest what I have read before I am diving headlong into the next. That is one of the reasons I started the Young Adulters book club; I knew that it would force me to slow down, to really engage with what I was reading, in order to facilitate discussion. I also started a reading journal, where I write down quotes that grab me, thoughts on the characters and plot, questions I need addressed, etc. It has helped me, as well, but it is also easy to forget about it.

So this year, instead of choosing another high number of books to read, I chose a relatively low one, and I am focusing, instead, on going deeper. On choosing to read books that really resonate with me, or challenge me. I was going to do the PopSugar reading challenge, but I quickly realized that that was more of the same: forcing myself into a box not of my own choosing. Instead, I’m building my own box. Or rather, a map out of my box, where I have snuggled up with the things that make me comfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to read the things that I love, but I am also going to go out of my way to search out new reading experiences that are a little bit outside my realm of experience, outside my comfort zone. That is where life is supposed to start, right?

I have nine personal reading goals for 2016. They are as follows:

  1. Read 1 book per month by a non-white, non-Canadian/American/British writer. I used this resource to come up with a list of possibilities.
  2. Read 5 classic novels.
  3. Read 1 book from a political viewpoint that I disagree with. (Ann Coulter, maybe?)
  4. Read 1 biography.
  5. Read 3 books of poetry.
  6. Read 5 plays not written by Shakespeare.
  7. Read 1 history book.
  8. Read 1 book on finance or business.
  9. Read 1 book that is more than 800 pages.

If I think of any more, I will add them at a later date! I also plan on posting about my literary adventures, so be sure to follow along. For now, tell me: what do you plan on reading in 2016?

my own personal reading challenge

December Discussion: My Heart and Other Black Holes

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Happy December 21! I hope everyone is having a great holiday season. Pull up a chair, wrap your mitts around a warm beverage, and let’s chat about our book. Also, make sure you click the link at the bottom of the post to vote for next month’s book club selection!

Third time’s the charm, I guess, because I really,¬†really¬†liked this book, you guys. I wish that all young adult books – scratch that, all books – dealt with depression and suicide in such a real way.

My thoughts to get the discussion going, but I seriously cannot wait to hear what you guys have to say:

  • Like I mentioned above, I appreciated the¬†realness¬†of Aysel’s depression. I recognized gigantic chunks of myself and my own depressive behavior in her thoughts and actions, and the ways in which her mental illness affected all of those around her. We may think that we don’t matter and that nobody cares about what we are going through and no one would understand, but we are wrong. When her sister, Georgia, says, “I just wish you weren’t so sad all the time,” I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. It is like Aysel says when Roman comes to her house: “Sometimes it takes watching someone else observe how you live to realize how you live.” Real talk, y’all. Real talk.
  • That being said, I was also frustrated by the fact that¬†both¬†Aysel and Roman had these huge, traumatic events that happened to them that were the impetus for their depression. While traumatic events such as a sibling dying or a parent being incarcerated can,¬†of course, be precipitating factors in the development of mental illness, they don’t have to be, and I wish that Jasmine Warga had chosen to give a huge event like that to only one of them, so that we could also see that depression affects “normal” people, too, whose father never murdered anyone and who didn’t leave their sister to die in a bathtub, which is, honestly, much more often the case. But I did like the fact that Roman was popular and handsome and, from all appearances, not someone that Aysel expected to want to die. Depression doesn’t give a shit how many friends you have or if you are great at basketball.
  • I was, to be honest, a bit disappointed that their relationship took a romantic turn. I can’t say I didn’t see it coming, and I absolutely agree that love and acceptance are the best antidotes to the cruelty and isolation of the depressed mind, but it would have been so nice to see a¬†friendship¬†do the saving, instead of a romantic relationship.
  • It was interesting to see, as Aysel rediscovered her will to live, how she had to watch everything she said and did in order to keep it from Roman because she didn’t want to disappoint him, and she knew that he would be upset if he found out. He proved that on several occasions, with his emotional reactions to any tiny indication that she might be turning into “a flake.” He wanted to keep her depressed so that he wasn’t alone; he wanted to keep her depressed so that he still had someone who understood him. And Aysel wanted that, too, she just couldn’t stay that way. When he says to her, during their camping trip, “I can’t make you happy. We can’t let each other make each other happy,” he is really saying, ‘We need to cling to our sadness and shun any possibility of hope. Our sadness is what makes us who we are.’ Seeing his shift in perspective at the end was a little bit too much of an about-face for me, but I also felt like it didn’t really stretch credibility. Having found someone who loves him and accepts him for every dark piece of him, I truly believe that he may have had second thoughts about wanting to die. And his proclamation that living is going to be hard as hell? Bang on.
  • The use of physics as a through-line was really cool. I liked that Aysel was a science nerd, and physics was the perfect companion for all the death and depression going on. Alternate universes, string theory, the theory of relativity… Thematically appropriate, yes?

Now. NOW! To the comments, my pretties, so I can hear what you thought!

(Psst. Click here for the January book selection poll.)

December Discussion: My Heart and Other Black Holes

November Discussion: Throne of Glass

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Housekeeping Note:¬†I am getting rid of the forums. They aren’t being used, and I think they only serve to generate confusion as to where people should post. To solve that problem, I am going the easy route: everyone will simply post on the blog post itself. No need to create a profile, everyone can access it, and everyone’s comments will all be together. Bing bang boom. Sorry for making you create profiles for nothing. ūüôĀ First failed experiment, haha. Onward and upward, and onto the book discussion!¬†

To be honest, guys, I didn’t love this book either. D: I liked the plot well enough, and I thought Celaena’s character had real potential (a young woman who is not only a bloodthirsty killer but loves books and clothes? count me in!), but the writing really dragged the whole thing down for me. It felt so forced, so … juvenile, almost. I don’t know how many more times I could have heard about her smile/grin (vicious or otherwise) before I would have just thrown the book against the wall in utter exasperation. And can I just say:¬†I am sick to death of love triangles.¬†They are boring.¬†

I’m really hoping for a book I can enjoy for next month!

Anyway! I’m excited to hear what you guys thought. Did you love it? Hate it? Want to marry it? Tear it to pieces? Did it make you laugh? Cry? Swoon? Make you want to become an assassin? Here are some of my thoughts to kick it off:

  • I love how female-centric this story is, with Celaena, Nehemia, and Kaltain at its center. All three are complex characters with complicated agendas and desires, and that, in my opinion, is enough to make this book worthwhile, even if there wasn’t a whole lot else about it that I liked.
  • The whole thing with Celaena keeping her identity secret seems ludicrous to me. Did people really not know who she was? They weren’t even careful about not mentioning her real name! She sent a note to the Crown Prince¬†and signed it Celaena Sardothien, for God’s sake. One of the guards addresses her as Miss Sardothien on her way to the masked ball. I understand that there is some tactical advantage to concealing her identity; as Chaol tells her, since the other Champions don’t know who she really is, they don’t pay any attention to her and don’t consider her a threat. Advantage. What baffles me is that Celaena can’t seem to see this. She complains about it all the time. She doesn’t strike me as a stupid girl and this isn’t exactly military genius levels of subterfuge here, so what’s the problem? Not only does she complain about it, though, she actively blows her advantage by doing things like flinging herself off of buildings to save other Champions. I don’t blame her for her altruistic impulse, but then why bother continuing to conceal her identity? The tactical advantage was kind of lost after that point. And I felt this way about many things that happened in the book: they seemed to merely serve a quick plot purpose and then cease to have any meaning at all.
  • I felt like there were no stakes! The competition was basically background noise that we revisited every few chapters for a page or two. Oh, I’m sorry, I thought Celaena was in a battle for her life and liberty here, or was I mistaken?!¬†I barely cared about Celaena’s fate as it was (because we learn NOTHING about her as a person, her entire past is some shadowy secret that we only ever encounter obliquely), but with the competition seeming like such an after thought, and the murders of champions that we didn’t even know or care about anyway, and the fact that I just did not, for even one second, believe that Celaena was capable of being a deadly assassin…well. No stakes.
  • We are taken into a dream where this big huge thing happens (Queen Elena visits her) and yet, the full impact of that scene is lost because¬†we have no idea who Queen Elena is until after the fact.¬†If she had been mentioned before, even in passing, perhaps there would have been more punch to this scene, but as is, it fell completely flat because it was yet another thing that was just thrown into the story without any build up.
  • Anyone else think that Kaltain was the monster going around murdering Champions willy nilly? I think that would have been more interesting than the truth, which was, if you think about it, the obvious choice.
  • I want to know more about what happened to magic! It seems to be this really big, important thing that happened in their world, and yet we barely skim the surface of it.¬†Why¬†is the King of Adarlan so against magic?¬†Why¬†has he chosen to outlaw it? And why did him outlawing it make it magically (haha) disappear? Also, sidebar, the whole Yulemas religious ceremony sounded like a whole lot of references to magic to me, yeah? I want to know¬†more!
  • Overall, I think this book had so much potential that was squandered on pointless exchanges between Celaena and two love interests that, frankly,¬†she has zero chemistry with, and skimming over plot points that could have been huge deals! I felt like so many things were introduced and then never fully explored. The whole experience left me feeling like I’d just eaten a cookie that was only half-baked. And not in a good way.

I really hope that I like next month’s book more than I liked these first two. And I really hope that you guys enjoyed this one more than I did! I can’t wait to read your thoughts. Maybe you’ll have me revisiting my opinions. ūüėÄ

(PS. Make sure you vote on next month’s book selection here!)

November Discussion: Throne of Glass

Young Adult Book Club

I love young adult books. I don’t think that anyone will be surprised to hear this. I find that many of the most compelling and well-drawn stories are to be found in the pages of these books. Many of my favorite books of all time are young adult: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Even my all-time favorite, The Outsiders, would be considered young adult. (Also, fun fact, those are all female authors. Girl power, yo.)

Do you share my passion for young adult literature? Would you like to have a place where you can interact with other adults who think like you?

Welcome to the Young Adult Book Club! (A better name is tbd, if you think of one, please please please let me know!) Here is an online space where you can come to express your love for YA literature. We will read one book per month, announced a week before the first, with discussion questions posted mid-month. I hope that you are all as excited about this as I am! No sign-up is required, simply mosey on over to this corner of the internet when you have read the book – or when you have thoughts that you just must share with someone else! – and comment away.

I can’t wait to get started!

Now, our selection for October is obviously going to be a little bit late, since it is already nearly the end of September (wait, what?!). So, without further ado, our first poll:

customer survey

I will announce the selection on October 1.

Young Adult Book Club

Book of the Month: How to Grow Up

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Michelle Tea is like the no-bullshit older sister I never had, telling me the straight facts about life, pulling no punches, but with a soft hopefulness that makes it all easier to bear. This is why I love her.

I came across Michelle the first time almost two years ago on xojane.com, where she was writing about the process of becoming pregnant through fertility treatments. This immediately became my favorite series to read, and I would check back obsessively for new instalments. It was not a fun or easy process for her and her partner, Dashiell, and I appreciated how honest and raw she was about the whole experience. When I found out that she had a new book coming out, I was over the moon. On our recent trip to Vancouver, I took it with me, and savored the essays contained therein over several days. It is one of those books that you want to rip through as fast as you can because it is so amazing, but you also want to take as long as possible with, lingering over lovely sentences and chunks of jaded, shining wisdom.

Tea never shies away from the gritty truths of her life; she never glosses over her problems with addiction, or the less than adult decisions she has made. Her essays shine with honesty and openness, and I think that is why I gobbled them up so voraciously. From examinations of how her propensity for strange fashion affected her childhood to ruminations on why she lived, by choice, in actual squalor for some eight years of her life, Michelle Tea’s words are heartfelt and often very funny as she takes us through the many different places she has found herself in on her journey to adulthood.

That journey to adulthood is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. It has been on my mind a lot for a long time, actually. Though I am 26 years old (certainly not a geezer, but far from my bright-eyed, naive teenage self), I hardly ever feel like an adult. I feel like a child impersonating an adult. I bump up against struggles pretty much on a daily basis that force me to define how I am going to live my life, what kind of adult I am going to be, and the growing pains are sometimes pretty hard to bear. While reading How to Grow Up, I found myself writing down whole paragraphs as inspiration, so many rang so true for me. Despite the fact that our lives have been very different, I still found myself nodding my head in agreement on every page. Through her own experience, Michelle Tea has managed to hit on the fundamental aspects of our humanity.

And she’s just a damn entertaining writer.

Highly recommend. One of my favorites from this year, for sure.

(PS. Find the rest of my book recommendations here.)

 

Book of the Month: How to Grow Up

Book of the Month – Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets

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Last year, I read a book called Difficult Men, which was all about the men (sigh, because it’s always men) behind some of the best TV shows, the ones that brought on a new wave of television (ex. The Sopranos, The Wire, and Mad Men). This book talked about The Wire and its creator, David Simon, extensively. In the midst of that discussion, a book Simon wrote, entitled Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, was mentioned.¬†It sounded interesting, so I added it to my list of future reads.

Well.

This book is like nothing I have read before. The premise is this: In the late 1980s, David Simon, a reporter, gained no-holds-barred access to the Baltimore homicide squad for a full year. He followed them around on their cases, hung out with them, got into their brains, and then he wrote this book.

It is captivating, on so many levels. It is a fascinating look at the city of Baltimore, a place that has long been besieged by violent crime (it still is). It is an illuminating examination of the police force and how it functions, both as an independent entity and within the city of Baltimore. It is a searing and heartfelt portrayal of the men (because it is almost entirely men) who dealt, on a daily basis, with the most brutal atrocities that human beings can commit against one another. Not only how they dealt with the violence on a professional level, but, more importantly, and more interestingly, on a personal level.

Simon really gets under these guys’s skin. He gets into their heads. He understands them and the system that they work in in a way that is probably completely unprecedented. I was often appalled reading this book, many times disgusted and disgruntled and disillusioned. But I couldn’t put it down. (It is the reason I have started bringing a book to the gym, so I can read while I ride the stationary bike.) When it was over, I missed those detectives with a fierceness that surprised me.

I haven’t read very many books like this. It is, on occasion, very dense. But it is an extremely worthwhile read, whether you like a good murder mystery, or whether you are interested in psychology, or whether you’d just like some insight into police work in the 1980s. Do be warned, though: Simon does not pull punches when it comes to the gruesome and brutal nature of what the cops encounter. I can’t recommend this book enough, and I can’t wait to get my hands on his other book, which, ironically and, perhaps, inevitably, is about the year he spent on the other side of the law, getting in good with Baltimore’s drug culture.

Find other books I have recommended here. 

Book of the Month – Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets