Showing posts with label Life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Life. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Pros and Cons of Audiobooks

Within the last year, I've gotten into listening to audiobooks, especially when I'm working out. I started with an Audible subscription, but since I've been listening to the Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) audiobooks, which are SO LONG, I've put my subscription on hold.

I tried listening to audiobooks when I was in high school, but I found that they moved too slowly for me at the time. It was most likely because I was trying to read along, which I do not recommend if you're a fast reader like me. While I was living in Chicago, I decided to try out some audiobooks, and I've been hooked since then!

Like with all formats of reading, there are pros and cons of listening to books instead of reading them. It all depends on preference!

There are many positives to listening to audiobooks, like:

  • The ability to multitask while reading
  • At times, it's faster than reading the book
  • The audiobook can be cheaper than a physical book
  • They don't take up space (which can be a deterrent if you like have elaborate bookshelves, like me)

But there are also negatives to audiobook listening:

  • It's not as easy to share them with other people
  • You have to have the right technology to listen
  • It's harder to keep track of favorite quotes

All in all, I think the pros outweigh the cons. Having books in your pocket to listen to at a moment's notice is ideal for any bookworm, and definitely ideal for travelling. If you've got a good narrator, then you can be set for hours!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Young Adult Books for Your Summer Reading List

Since it's June, I thought it would be fitting to create a summer reading list featuring some of my favorite young adult books! With adventure, whirlwind romances, and quirky characters, these books include anything you're looking for in a perfect summer read. Check them out the next time you're looking for a fantastic beach read!

1. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Who doesn't like a book with magical adventures and a heart-melting romance? Rainbow Rowell is accomplished at both, presenting us with Simon and Baz, enemies turned lovers (my favorite kind of romance). While you're at it, you better check out her other books, Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, as well!

2. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Allbertalli

Leah's voice is the reason to pick up this book. She pretends like she doesn't care what anyone else thinks, but her inner monologue is one everyone feels at one point in their lives. Throw in adorable high school crushes and romance, and you'll devour this one at the beach.

3. Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Though it has its funny moments, Goodbye Days might not be the light-hearted book you're looking for. But, it's a fantastic summer read all the same! Filled with lots of emotion and budding friendships, you'll want to jump in and help save Carver from the guilt he feels.

4. Scythe by Neal Shusterman

It wouldn't be a summer reading list without any kind of dystopian fiction book on the list. Scythe is probably my most recent favorite dystopia, though I still need to pick up the second book. Shusterman never disappoints when it comes to interesting futuristic societies.

5. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Definitely not the light-hearted summer romance you're looking for, but a fantastic book all the same. Despite the pretty depressing premise, Silvera is able to weave in incredible amounts of hope, hope that the characters really will make it in the end. Spoiler alert (though it's in the title): they don't.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Confessions of a Bookseller

As a bookseller, I'm always just as excited when I help you find a new book to read. I'm also excited when you come back into the store and tell me just how much you loved the book--sharing the love of reading is the best part of the job. But as with any retail job, being a bookseller comes with its annoyances, especially when it comes to the expectations of the customer. After all, I should know every single book we have in the store, right?

And here we have one of the most annoying assumptions of all times. Yes, I work in a bookstore. Yes, I read a lot in my spare time and on my breaks. No, I haven't read every single thing in our store. If you ask for recommendations in a genre I don't typically read in, I'll probably point you to one of the tables on the subject or pawn you off on another bookseller. But if you ask for recommendations in my area of expertise, be ready to be showered in my happiness. I'll share all the things with you!

If I haven't read all the books in the store, you can be sure I also don't know what every book in the store looks like. So when you come into the store looking for "the red book that was on the front table three months ago," I can pull out some books with red covers, but it's going to be really difficult to find the specific book without a genre, author, or some part of the title. I'm happy to research books for you, but the more information you have, the more I'll be able to help you.

Finally, when I bring you to the book you're looking for and ask if there's anything else I could help you with, this isn't an opening for you to launch into another life story and keep me there for another 15 to 20 minutes. Especially if you can see there's a line of other customers needing help and I appear to be the only bookseller on the floor. I'm happy to converse with you about books, but please remember that this is my job and I have other customers to assist, books to put away, and phones to answer.

All in all, working as a bookseller can be extremely rewarding because I'm able to share my passion of reading with people daily. Little quirks and annoyances come with any retail job, and as long as you're aware that I'm human too, we'll get along just fine.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Books for Campus Pride Month

Though Pride isn't officially until June, April is when a lot of college campuses celebrate Pride--mostly due to the fact the majority of students aren't there in June. With the popularity of Love, Simon, there have been lots of lists floating around on books to read after you see the movie, and many of these lists feature LGBTQ characters. The movie opened up a visibility online (though, I admit, I'm in a lot of book communities on social media) that is hopeful, showing that hopefully change is happening.

Admittedly, I've read a lot of the books that are circulating on the internet--and they're all wonderful, you should read them! You can find some of these lists here, here, and here. As someone who's done a lot of academic research in this area, I thought I'd chime in with some of my favorite books that represent the LGBTQ community.

1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Ari and Dante don't really have anything in common, at least when they first meet at a swimming pool over the summer. But as they start hanging out, they realize they're more alike than they could have ever imagined and their friendship blossoms into something more. Set in Texas in the 1980s, Ari and Dante struggle with stereotypes around the gay community, and as Ari is Mexican American, his culture is brought to the forefront as well. An emotional examination of a coming-of-age story.

2. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Death-Cast calls people on the day they're going to die--but it doesn't tell them when or how. Matteo and Rufus both receive this call on the same day and end up connecting via a friendship app for those on their last day. Rufus is able to help Matteo to come out of his shell and experience life, while Matteo is able to help Rufus deal with the death of his family. Silvera's stories are always incredibly emotional, and this one is no different.

3. The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

Quinn's sister, Annabeth, was killed in a car accident, and now Quinn has lost his desire and motivation in writing his movie script. Geoff, Quinn's best friend, is finally able to pull Quinn out of his isolation by bringing him to a party, where Quinn meets and falls in love for the first time. A mixture of humor and grief, Federle's style feels similar to Beck Albertalli's. You'll fall in love with Quinn right from the beginning.

4. Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Riley is genderfluid, meaning sometimes Riley identifies as a girl and sometimes as a boy. But not being out is putting a strain on Riley's emotions and anxiety, especially being in the spotlight during their dad's campaign. Not only should Garvin be commended for never gendering his protagonist one way or another (which is incredibly difficult!), but the emotions and anxiety throughout the text feel very real. Riley's predicament is one that many teens will relate to.

5. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

The only fantasy book on this list, Carry On follows the story of Simon and Baz at the Watford School of Magicks, something that was referenced in her book Fangirl. As with any of Rowell's books, Simon and Baz's relationship is the reason to read this book. The tension is built up and built up until you're like: just kiss already! I plowed through this book so quickly, it might be time to go back and revisit it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Representation Matters

The movie Love, Simon was released this past weekend, to an overwhelmingly positive reception. Not only did it receive 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, people took to Twitter, exclaiming how much they loved the movie. I was definitely one of these people--I read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda awhile ago, and this movie definitely did it justice (from what I can remember. A re-read of the book is now a must).

While there have been high school coming out movies made before, Love, Simon made headlines because it was released from a major movie studio. Mostly, these movies were released by independent companies, meaning that they weren't seen by a large audience. Released by Fox 2000, and featuring well-known actors, Love, Simon got more attraction and advertising than many of the movies mentioned in the list I linked above.

The importance of this is tenfold, and this is something you can see just through searching the tag #LoveSimon on Twitter. Both adults and teens alike can't stop talking about how much they loved this movie--the adults wishing that this was a movie that they had when they were teenagers. As a first major studio gay teen rom-com (that made $11.5 million in its first weekend!), it's on par with the profit of John Green movies in the theater. And that's amazing, for a lot of people.

Jeff Zentner, another fantastic YA author, put it best after seeing the movie:

"We just saw Love, Simon, and it was beyond perfect. I loved everything about it. The performances were pitch perfect, so deeply sympathetic and hilarious. The movie was perfectly cast (1/5).

The musical cues were amazing. The comic beats killed me. The romantic beats killed me. Imagine the best of John Hughes and then turn everything up two or three clicks. Go see this movie!! And read the book!! It's just as delightful (2/5)!!

I forgot to mention how deeply moving it is. It's cliche to say something will make you laugh and cry, but it really will (3/5).

One more thing that kept running through my head while watching it: evil people can win political elections and hold power. But while they do... (4/5).

our country's center of gravity is going to keep shifting out from under them, because good people are better at telling good stories. And stories shift our culture (5/5)."

Featuring these kinds of stories in such a prominent way shows that our culture is shifting in a positive way, despite all the negativity spewed by this administration. Books are important. Movies are important. Stories are important. As a creator myself, I'm going to continue to support endeavors that let oppressed populations be heard. Especially when they're as well done as Love, Simon was. With memorable characters, humor, well-crafted romance, and a fantastic soundtrack, it hit all the right notes. There's probably something for almost anyone in this movie.

The shift toward giving voices to oppressed populations is easily seen within one of my favorite things--young adult literature. Love, Simon has shown that it's possible for these stories to make it to the big screen and be successful. Go see Love, Simon--and then buy the book. And while you're reading the book, listen to the playlist I made for Simon! Maybe download the soundtrack for the movie too, because it also doesn't disappoint.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January Wrap-up

The end of January is upon us already, can you believe it? The first month of 2018 has been a pretty uneventful one for me, except I did just get notification that my paper got accepted into the ChLA conference (woo!). Hopefully I'll be going to Texas this June!

Anyway, I've finished 11 books this month, putting me 11 books into my reading goal of 75 books for 2018. One of my other reading goals is to read at least 10 nonfiction books this year, which I didn't put a dent in yet this month. But, there's still time! If you have recommendations, I'd love to hear them.

Another goal I have for this year is to keep up on my reviews, which I've done pretty well with so far! I only missed one book this month, not counting the books I have to review for Booklist. Better than I've done previously, though!

Without further ado, here are the books I finished in January:

1. Nemesis by Brendan Reichs ✫✫✫
2. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater ✫✫✫✫✫
3. Before Now by Norah Olson (Booklist review) ✫✫✫
4. Sex Criminals Vol. 1 by Matt Fraction ✫✫✫✫
5. Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young (Booklist review) ✫✫✫✫
6. American Street by Ibi Zoboi ✫✫✫✫✫
7. UnWholly by Neal Shusterman ✫✫✫
8. UnSouled by Neal Shusterman ✫✫✫✫
9. UnDivided by Neal Shusterman ✫✫✫✫
10. Rewind by Carolyn O'Doherty (Booklist review) ✫✫✫✫
11. Bound to You by Alyssa Brandon (Booklist review) ✫✫✫

I've got a stack of library books to finish up before moving onto anything else, so I'll definitely be doing that in the next week or two! In the meantime, happy reading!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

5 YA Books to Add to Your 2018 TBR

Young adult literature, as an industry, had a fantastic year last year. New authors debuted remarkable texts, like Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give, and well-established authors came out with new work, like John Green's Turtles All the Way Down. I read a lot of fantastic books last year (you can check them out here!), and there are so many books that I'm looking forward to this year as well.

Many authors I follow on social media are working on new books, which has me super excited (Adam Silvera, I'm looking at you). There are lots of books I'm looking forward to reading this year, but here are 5 that you should definitely add to your TBR list.

1. Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Release date: January 9

Shusterman's sequel to Scythe is sure to satiate fans of young adult dystopia. Set in a future where we have cured all diseases and put an end to death, Scythes must work to control the population. Rowan and Citra have taken different sides on the morality of Scythes, so what does this mean for their future? I've been anticipating this book ever since I read Scythe last fall, and I can't wait to get my hands on this one.

2. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Release date: May 1

The highly anticipated second novel from Angie Thomas will return readers to Garden Heights, this time following the story of an aspiring rapper. Thomas's voice as a person of color becomes increasingly important as these stories are actively silenced by the current administration. Her second book is sure to be as good as the first.

3. Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau

Release date: March 13

Charbonneau's most known for the Testing trilogy, a Hunger Games-esque dystopian trilogy focused on critiquing America's higher education system. This standalone novel follows a group of students trapped in a school being threatened by a bomber--a bomber known to be someone inside the school. They must rely on each other in order to make it out alive.

4. Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

Release date: February 27

Inspired by the story of Anastasia, seventeen-year-old Ana was found adrift in space as a child in an android called D09. D09, however, is the last of a rare metal, and now that he's glitching, Ana must find a way to save him. I've been seeing this book on a couple of different platforms, and the premise sounds absolutely intriguing. I'll definitely be looking for this one once it's released.

5. And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness

Release date: September 4

Ever since seeing him speak last fall, Patrick Ness has skyrocketed to the top of my authors list. When he announced that he'd be releasing a new illustrated text, this immediately went on my to-watch list. A Monster Calls is one of the most beautiful books I've read, and this one is sure to not disappoint.

There are obviously many more fantastic books being released this year, these are just books that I'm personally excited about. What about you? What books are you looking forward to reading this year?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017: A Year in Review

2017 was an interesting year for me. I moved to Chicago for an internship, traveled to England, read a lot, went to a children's literature conference, and finally made a definitive decision in what career path I want to choose. It was a year of a lot of ups and downs, but I'm finally sure of the path I have chosen for myself.

By the end of this year, I definitely slacked on writing reviews for the books I finished, something I hope to get better at in the coming year. I'm trying bullet journaling, which I hope will help to keep me motivated to keep up the posts on here a little bit more regularly. Despite the fact that I didn't quite get to reviewing all the books, I'll make a list of everything I read last year, much like I did for 2016. I read a total of 100 books this year, so narrowing down favorites is going to be difficult, but I'll try my best!

Books Read

1. This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab (YA, thriller)
2. The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle (YA)
3. Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven (YA)
4. Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton (YA)
5. At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson (YA)
6. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (YA)
7. In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody (YA)
8. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (Fiction)
9. The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (YA)
10. Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner (YA)
11. The Victoria in My Head by Janelle Milanes (YA)
12. History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera (YA)
13. The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey (Science-fiction)
14. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis (YA)
15. 100 Days by Nicole McInnes
16. True Letters from a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan (YA)
17. We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun
18. Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik (YA)
19. When She Woke by Hillary Jordan (Dystopia)
20. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (Nonfiction essays)
21. Loved by P.C. Cast (YA, fantasy)
22. Expelled by James Patterson (YA)
23. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Science-fiction)
24. The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron (YA, dystopia)
25. Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski (YA dystopia)
26. Kaleidoscope Song by Sarah Benwell (YA)
27. Kiss Me in New York by Catherine Rider (YA, romance)
28. Here, There, Everywhere by Julia Durango (YA, romance)
29. One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus (YA, thriller)
30. More Than This by Patrick Ness (YA, dystopia)
31. Now Is Everything by Amy Giles (YA)
32. The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket (Children's)
33. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Fiction)
34. The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket (Children's)
35. The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket (Children's)
36. The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket (Children's)
37. The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket (Children's)
38. The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket (Children's)
39. The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin (YA, fantasy)
40. The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket (Children's)
41. The Hostile Hospital by Lemony Snicket (Children's)
42. The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket (Children's)
43. The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket (Children's)
44. The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket (Children's)
45. The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket (Children's)
46. The End by Lemony Snicket (Children's)
47. Our Dark Duet by V.E. Schwab (YA, thriller)
48. Scythe by Neal Shusterman (YA, dystopia)
49. Never Alone #1 by J. Manoa (YA, fantasy)
50. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (YA)
51. Everless by Sara Holland (YA, fantasy)
52. Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow (YA)
53. Losing Brave by Bailee Madison (YA)
54. Release by Patrick Ness (YA)
55. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (YA, dystopia)
56. All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis (YA, dystopia)
57. Wildman by J.C. Geiger (YA)
58. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour (YA)
59. Warcross by Marie Lu (YA, dystopia)
60. Poison's Cage by Breeana Shields (YA, fantasy)
61. Where Futures End by Parker Peevyhouse (YA, dystopia)
62. The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (YA, fantasy)
63. Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork (YA)
64. You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour (YA)
65. Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart (YA, thriller)
66. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (YA, fantasy)
67. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (YA)
68. Harry Potter and the Curse Child (Play)
69. La Belle Sauvage by Phillip Pullman (YA, fantasy)
70. Zarox by Louis Smith (Middle-grade, fantasy)
71. Someday, Somewhere by Lindsay Champion (YA)
72. Little Monsters by Kara Thomas (YA, thriller)
73. The Secrets We Bury by Stacie Ramey (YA)
74. Y: The Last Man vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughn (Comic)
75. Y: The Last Man vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughn (Comic)
76. Y: The Last Man vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughn (Comic)
77. Y: The Last Man vol. 4 by Brian K. Vaughn (Comic)
78. Runaways by Christopher Golden (YA)
79. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (YA)
80. There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins (YA, thriller)
81. The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller (YA)
82. A Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor (YA)
83. All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater (YA)
84. The Knowing by Sharon Cameron (YA, fantasy)
85. Y: The Last Man vol. 5 by Brian K. Vaughn (Comic)
86. Y: The Last Man vol. 6 by Brian K. Vaughn (Comic)
87. Y: The Last Man vol. 7 by Brian K. Vaughn (Comic)
88. Y: The Last Man vol. 8 by Brian K. Vaughn (Comic)
89. Y: The Last Man vol. 9 by Brian K. Vaughn (Comic)
90. Y: The Last Man vol. 10 by Brian K. Vaughn (Comic)
91. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (YA, fantasy)
92. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay (Short Stories)
93. When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors (Nonfiction)
94. Missing at 17 by Christine Conradt (YA, romance)
95. Mercy Rule by Tom Leveen (YA)
96. Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds (YA)
97. My Favorite Thing is Monsters, vol 1 by Emil Ferris (Graphic novel)
98. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (YA, fantasy)
99. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (YA, fantasy)
100. Unwind by Neal Shusterman (YA, dystopia)

Last year I just did a top five of the year, but this year I think I'm going to do ten, because I've read almost double the amount of books. These aren't in any particular order, because it was hard enough to select a favorite.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
More Than This by Patrick Ness
Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
Now is Everything by Amy Giles
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Scythe by Neal Shusterman

One of my main reading goals this year is to read more outside of my comfort zone, so that means things outside of YA (which is basically all of this list). I'd really like to read more nonfiction, so I'm going to do my best!

My goal for next year is 75 books, aiming a little higher even though I'll be starting school (hopefully) in the fall. I can't wait to see what reading adventures await for the coming year. I have a good feeling about it.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Depression Awareness Month: A Book List

Mental illness is still something that is widely stigmatized by society, especially in the United States. People often trivialize mental illness as something that can easily be gotten over with some exercise, proper sleep, and a good dose of nature (like this widely used meme). While these ideas are generally used for all mental illnesses, one of the ones most often considered to be "cured" by these is depression. Most people understand depression as just an inherent sadness all the time, but it is really much more than that.

Depression, or major depressive disorder, at its core causes feelings of sadness and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable. It can lead to changes in appetite, troubles sleeping or sleeping too much, increased fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty thinking or concentrating, and even thoughts of suicide or death. Novels that accurately portray these feelings, instead of just feelings of sadness, create mirrors and windows for those to understand the true effects of depression.

Since October is considered Depression Awareness Month, I came up with a list of books that I think have some of the most realistic portrayals of depression. Realistic portrayals in literature help to combat the negative stigma that is presented in the media, and also helps to show readers that they aren't alone.

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Vizzini nails what it's like to be checked in to a mental hospital in this novel, not to mention he gives readers a positive portrayal of someone taking action in order to save their own life. Vizzini himself struggled with depression, and though his story didn't end happily, his works exist to hopefully inspire others and show them that they are not alone.
Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This book deals with a variety of real-life issues, depression just being one of them. Charlie, and his fellow cast of characters, deal with their problems in a realistic way, and eventually end up getting help. This book will always hold a special place in my heart, and I think it's inspiring for a lot of people.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

This book features two teens that are struggling with suicidal thoughts, using each other to pull themselves out of their darkness. The characters in this book are what make it so successful, pulling the reader's quickly into their stories and showing that reaching out to someone might just save your life.

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Told in letters much like Perks of Being a Wallflower, Laurel deals with her issues through writing letters to famous people. Her act of writing is somewhat therapeutic for her, showing readers that there are many different ways to work through their emotions.

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron

This book features James going into therapy to help work through his depression, something not really depicted in the books listed here (except for It's Kind of a Funny Story). Through his therapy sessions, we are able to learn more about his life and what finally drove him to get help.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to realistic portrayals of depression in young adult literature; for more resources, I would check out this list from Buzzfeed and this list from Goodreads. I do think we're at a period of time where young adult literature is becoming stronger than ever, and I'm so happy to be able to read all of these fantastic books are being created.

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, seek out these resources and know that you are never alone.

The Trevor Project
Suicide Hotline
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Monday, October 2, 2017

Character Playlist: Writing Edition

Sunset Writing Quote

I've been in a bit of a creative rut lately, because I've been working a lot and don't feel like I have a lot of time to just sit and create. Today, that comes in the form of choosing a character to create a playlist for, so today I'm going to dedicate my playlist to some of my favorite music to listen to while writing. Most of it is movie soundtracks, which are beautiful and wonderful to write to.

Here are ten songs that I like to listen to while writing!

"Obliviate" by John Williams
From the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows soundtrack--can you really go wrong with John Williams?

"Cloud Atlas Finale" by Tom Tykwer
If you haven't seen Cloud Atlas, go and watch it. And then listen to the soundtrack on repeat.

"Time" by Hans Zimmer
From the Inception soundtrack, another favorite and constant go-to.

"Rue's Farewell" by James Newton Howard
Emotional, moving, great inspiration for writing. From The Hunger Games movie.

"Harry's Wondrous World" by John Williams
I listen to the Harry Potter soundtracks a lot while writing, admittedly.

"Interstellar Main Theme" by Hans Zimmer
The organ in this soundtrack is absolutely gorgeous.

"Woman Woman Theme" by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL
I loved this in the movie, and it feels empowering when writing.

"Mother of Dragons" by Ramin Djawadi
Daenerys' themes in the Game of Thrones are the best, in my opinion.

"Mischief Managed!" by John Williams
The third movie has such fun, jumping music.

"The Hanging Tree" by James Newton Howard
This is the only song with words, but because this song creates such a strong theme in the movie and it always gives me chills!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Series of Unfortunate Re-reads: Part 3

The Vile Village Cover
The books are starting to get longer as I get further into the series, and they're taking me a little longer than the beginning! This week, I finished books 7 through 9 (The Vile Village, The Hostile Hospital, and The Carnivorous Carnival). I think I'll still be able to finish all of the books by next weekend, though. At least, that's my goal! To finish all of the books by labor day.

I'm finding as I get further into the series that I've forgotten a lot of what's happened in the later books. That could partially be attributed to the Netflix series, because the books that they covered were fresh in my memory, which definitely helped. I had forgotten how much Snicket factors into the story line, especially after the Baudelaires discover one page of the Snicket file in The Hostile Hospital. But, I can't remember where it leads after this. Some of the events I remember once I start the book, but most of it I've forgotten since I read the books about 10 years ago.

While reading, I've also forgotten how much I like Lemony Snicket's (or should I say Daniel Handler's?) writing style. When I read the books the first time, I liked that he defined long words that I might not have understood and other terms that I may not have been familiar with. One of my favorites is when he defines deja vu. In order to explain the term, he repeats a page in The Hostile Hospital. It amused me when I was younger, and it still amuses me now. It's a clever way to help children learn different words and literary terms while they're reading an entertaining (yet unfortunate) story.

I remember that these last books have taken a turn from the beginning, especially since the Baudelaires are pretty much acting on their own, since Mr. Poe hasn't been seen in at least the last two books. The Baudelaries have been accused of murder, and they've had to figure out most things on their own. We've left them in the clutches of Count Olaf, with little hope of being able to escape.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Series of Unfortunate Re-Reads: Part 2

The Miserable Mill
I am absolutely flying through these books! While this isn't particularly surprising, as I'm a fast reader and these books aren't super long, I'll probably slow down a bit as the books get longer towards the end (like most children's series). My goal is to hopefully finish my complete re-read of the series by the end of the month.

The Austere AcademyThis week, I finished books 4-6, The Miserable Mill, The Austere Academy, and The Ersatz Elevator. I think these definitely mark a turn in the series, as this is when the V.F.D is introduced, as well as the Quagmire triplets, which are both important elements later in the series. Not to mention that the Quagmire triplets are the first children that we get to see the Baudelaire orphans interact with (besides Mr. Poe's children). Most of the time, we just see how they interact with the horrible adults in their lives, and their friendship with the Quagmires is a moment of happiness and hope that is well deserved. It doesn't last long--we are repeatedly warned that the Baudelaires' story is not a happy one--but the moment of happiness allows the Baudelaires to grow as characters.

Throughout this re-read, I'm also picking up on things that I didn't notice the first time them, as one does when re-reading books from childhood. For instance, I'm noticing more connections between Lemony Snicket and the Baudelaires, especially in the book I just finished,The Ersatz Elevator. Esme, the Baudelaires most recent horrible guardian who ends up being in cahoots with Count Olaf, mentions something about Beatrice, Snicket's tragic love interest. If I recall correctly, I think this gets made more prominent as we go on, and I think I'll be able to make more connections as I go forward. Plus, I think this gray area is what they played with in the Netflix series, as we get glimpses of what happens to the Baudelaire parents. I'm excited for the next season, especially since the series will now be fresh in my mind! Plus, my re-read has shown that they follow the books almost to a tee, which is an even better plus!

I'll be taking a brief pause from these books as I read something I was assigned for Booklist, but I'll be back to it shortly! And I hope to have another 3 books finished by next weekend.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Series of Unfortunate Re-reads: Part 1

Imagine this: 9-year-old Amanda, going to the library in 4th grade and picking out books. Stumbling upon the Series of Unfortunate Events and becoming curious--what kind of book openly deters you from reading it? Tells you to avoid its unfortunate misery? Cracking open the book. Following the series until the last book is published, and finishing it in her 6th grade English class. That was my introduction to Lemony Snicket's positively entertaining book series. And now, I'm revisiting the books for the first time since finishing the series in 6th grade.

After watching the Netflix show this past winter, I felt the desire to re-read these books that I loved so much in elementary school to see how they line up with the show, and if they stand the test of time. So, I headed on over to the library to check out this thirteen book series, thus embarking on an unfortunate re-reading adventure!

First thoughts, after finishing the first three books: I'm a much faster reader than I was before (to no surprise. I've read a lot more books since then). I picked up the first book on my way downtown one day, and basically finished it on the bus ride back (for perspective, the bus ride takes about 20-25 minutes). I still enjoy Lemony Snicket's writing as much as I did back when I first read the books. It's refreshing and amusing, and I found myself smiling at much of his writing.

Another factor that I noted while reading is that the Netflix show basically follows the books almost to a tee. The extra story line about the Baudelaire's parents is just an added bonus, in my opinion. It rounds out the Baudelaire's story, and I'm excited to see where they take it.

Re-reading the books, I can see why some people might be turned off by Snicket's writing style. The entire series is him breaking the fourth wall, which bothers some people, and sometimes becomes a bit repetitive in warning readers against the unfortunate events that befall the Baudelaires. I, however, find it an excellent device to keep readers going. If the events of this book were so terrible, how could their lives possibly get any worse? And there lies the plot device to get you to keep reading--and keep reading I shall!

Friday, August 4, 2017

My Anticipated YA August Releases

It seems like 2017 has been killing it so far in the young adult department, with releases like The Hate U Give, History is All You Left Me, and Goodbye Days, and by the looks of it, it's just going to keep getting better. Not only do we have a new John Green novel coming this October (woo!), we'll also get new books by Kristin Cashore and Adam Silvera.

While there's a lot to look forward to this fall, there are also a lot of books coming out this August that should definitely be on your TBR list before school starts back up in September. Here are 5 of my most anticipated books for the month of August.

1. A Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor

Sisters Emma and Henri had always been best friends--until an accident strands them on a desert island, with a companion (Alex) who has just as many secrets as they do. As Emma and Alex spark a relationship, Henri and Emma's relationship falls apart. 

I remember getting this book while cataloging books at Booklist, and I'm super excited to get to read it!

2. This Is Not the End by Chandler Baker

Lake Devereaux lost the two people she loved most in a car crash--her best friend and her boyfriend. However, new technology has granted people one resurrection to be used or given up by their 18th birthday. Lake has to make an impossible choice, one complicated by the fact that she already promised her resurrection to someone who isn't even dead yet.

This book also came in while I was interning at Booklist, and the premise sounds so intriguing.

3. Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Olive and her best friend Rose suddenly begin to lose things one night. It begins with small items, but it quickly becomes apparent that Rose has lost something bigger, something she doesn't want to talk about. After discovering an ancient spellbook that will help to bring back lost things, they think that this can set things right. But it might also bring out secrets that would have been best left alone.

Moira Fowley-Doyle also wrote The Accident Season, which I absolutely loved. This one sounds just as creepy and magic infused.

4. All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

In the future, once you turn 15, you must pay for everything you say. Even every gesture, every scream, costs money. And falling into debt has dire consequences. Instead of adding to her family's debt, Speth decides to take an oath of silence at her 15th birthday; one that sends the world into a frenzy. 

If you know me, you know I'm all about dystopias, and this one sounds different and awesome. I hope it lives up to its unique premise!

5. The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby

After a car crash, Olivia wakes up in a hospital bed thinking she just lost her memory of the past few weeks. But as she begins to recover, she quickly realizes she's lost years of memories, making it difficult to navigate as her friends and family try to fill in the gaps. The only person that seems to help is Walker--but as she grows closer to him, tensions grow between her friends and her family.

Memory loss tends to be a popular topic in young adult lit, but this one sounds promising! 

I hope to get my hands on these sometime in August, but at least sometime in the future. What August releases are you looking forward to?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I'm Back!

It's been a while since I made a post, simply because I was travelling everywhere in June and life has gotten pretty busy in July. But--now that things are starting to calm down a bit, I've decided to pick back up again. I've got quite a few books I haven't reviewed, so I'll get caught up on that, and hopefully some new playlists and other posts. Stay tuned! More content is coming. :)

Friday, May 12, 2017

'The Handmaid's Tale': Too Close for Comfort

*Minor spoilers ahead*

I eagerly anticipated the released of The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu for months; it is probably one of my favorite books, it provided a basis for my thesis on dystopia, and the trailers that were being released were spin-chilling. So far, it hasn't disappointed (except for the fact that it's not being released all at one. Thanks, Hulu), especially in the ways that it reflects current events in society. The Handmaid's Tale shows that despite what we may think, gender equality isn't where is should be. And the oppression of women depicted in The Handmaid's Tale hits a little too close to home.

Political Relevancy

It's no secret that in the United States, since the presidential election, women and minorities fear for the way their lives and rights will be impacted by a leader severely unqualified for the job. One of the best examples of this is the bill that was passed in the House of Representatives last week: repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act and drastically raising premiums for pretty much everyone. For example, under the new plan, people with cancer would pay 35 times more for health insurance, and raise insurance costs for pregnancy by 425%. Though the change doesn't only target women, a lot of it directly affects women in their coverage of health insurance. It's unclear how health insurance works in Gilead (it most likely doesn't exist for handmaids), but the discrimination against the vulnerable reflects what happens in The Handmaid's Tale.

Women are also directly disadvantaged in the workforce. John Green debunks the myth that the pay gap doesn't exist in this video, showing that women work in careers with generally lower salaries and are less likely to be hired if they have children. Additionally, when men are in traditionally female dominated careers, like libraries or nursing, they are more likely to be promoted than women. These disparities in the work force and salaries for women are directly reflected in The Handmaid's Tale when all bank accounts for women are frozen and they are forced to leave their jobs. Though this is a more drastic version of the inequality in the work force, it's not far off to imagine that this could happen in the near future.

Sexual Assault

A lot of what happens in The Handmaid's Tale is nightmarish and harrowing, but perhaps none more than the way that rape and sexual assault is normalized in Gilead. We see this in the first episode, when Offred is in the facility being trained as a handmaid. All of the handmaids are sitting in a circle, with one in the middle, being verbally abused for confessing she was raped in the past. The entire group is forced to point and chant "her fault," an incredibly chilling image given the way that sexual assault and rape is dealt with in the media.

Victim blaming has long been a problem with the way sexual assault is dealt with, and why only 310 assaults are reported to police out of every 1,000 rape cases, and of those reported only 6 will actually be incarcerated, according to RAINN. The Brock Turner case from last summer also exhibits this, as he was given a shorter jail time because the longer jail time (he was originally on trial for 14 years) would have a "severe impact" on him and his ability to one day make it to the Olympics.

This is all made scarily real in a world where rape is a regulated ceremony that happens each week, as the handmaids are forced into sexual slavery. In the most recent episode, Offred is forced to have sex with Nick by Serena Joy, in the hopes to conceive a baby. Women have absolutely no freedom, and are blamed for the sins of the past. It is permissible to degrade women in Gilead, and sometimes it feels the same in today's society (we elected a president who constantly degrades women, for goodness sake).

The Takeaway

Nightmarish and difficult to watch at times, I think that's the purpose of The Handmaid's Tale. It's about opening your eyes and seeing what's going on around you--and acting before it's too late. As Offred says at the beginning of the series: "I was asleep before. That's how we let it happen. When they slaughtered Congress, we didn't wake up. When they blamed terrorists, we suspended the constitution. We didn't wake up then either. Now, I'm awake."

We need to wake up.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

50 Best YA Books

As some (or most) of you may know, I am interning at Booklist in Chicago until the the end of May. In trying not to think about what's going to happen when that internship is over, I've been back at the blogging, trying to up my content on other social media sites and create more posts on here that aren't just book reviews. At Booklist currently, we are creating things that celebrate 50 years of young adult literature, as it has been 50 years since The Outsiders was published.

Booklist has created their own list of the 50 Best YA Books of All Time, including one on their Twitter everyday (you can follow them @BooklistYA). While I didn't help create the list, I've been doing little tasks throughout the course of my internship in order to help with the publication of the list. In doing so, I couldn't help but think that there were books that I would have included on the list that weren't there--so, I'm creating my own list! It, perhaps, will be skewed more to my own tastes as a reader, but many of these are books that I could read again and again. 

Here are, what I think, are 50 of the best young adult books to have been published, in no particular order. Because, let's face it, it's difficult to rank what books are your absolute favorite.

1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (1997)*
2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008)
3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999)
4. The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)*
5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005)
6. Looking for Alaska by John Green (2005)
7. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013)
8. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (1967)
9. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (1995)
10. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951)*
11. Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)*
12. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (1974)
13. Feed by M.T. Anderson (2002)
14. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (1999)
15. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (2011)
16. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson) by Rick Riordan (2005)
17. Every Day by David Levithan (2012)
18. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (2011)
19. Going Bovine by Libba Bray (2009)
20. Blankets by Craig Thompson (2003)
21. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (2006)
22. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (2016)
23. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017)
24. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (2007)*
25. Deadline by Chris Crutcher (2007)
26. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (2007)
27. Graceling by Kristin Cashore (2008)
28. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin (1968)
29. Forever by Judy Blume (1975)
30. It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (2006)
31. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (2002)
32. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (2005)
33. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (2012)
34. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (2014)
35. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (2016)
36. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (2010)
37. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2016)
38. Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin (2016)
39. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012)
40. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
41. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (2014)
42. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (2015)
43. Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King (2011)
44. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937)*
45. Postcards from No Man's Land by Aidan Chambers (1999)
46. Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger (2007)
47. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (2011)
48. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2008)*
49. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (1987)
50. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (2000)

*These are not traditionally classified as YA, but are often read by young adults. 

There's a pretty decent mix of older and newer books in here, but there's definitely been a surge of really good YA books published recently. We are in the second golden age of young adult literature, after all. What would you include in your top 50 YA books?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The 2017 Reading Challenge

While perusing Pinterest today, trying to figure out ways to promote my latest review, I came across the POPSUGAR 2017 Reading Challenge. Yes, I realize we are already a quarter of the way through 2017. But some of the books I've read check off some of the things on this list, and I thought it would be fun to try to read some things outside of what I usually read. They even have a Goodreads group for the challenge, which you can join here.

Some of the books I've read so far in 2017 fit into categories on the list, so I'll mention them here! I will continue to periodically update every few books I finish that fit into categories on the list, and then do a big post once I completely finish.

A book by a person of color: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I just reviewed this one yesterday, make sure to check it out!

A book that's published in 2017: Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton
I actually wrote a review for this for Booklist, more when the review is officially published!

A book with career advice: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
I just finished this book the other day, review coming soon.

The first book in a series you haven't read before: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
It still counts if the series isn't completely published yet, right?

It may seem that I'm not very far on the list (I'm not), but I still have plenty of time in 2017! What are your reading goals for this year?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

5 Dystopias to Read During Trump's Presidency

Dystopian Book covers
Lately, it's definitely felt like we've been living in a dystopian world; Trump's lack of experience in the field of politics has created a wave of chaos in the first month of him being president. In fact, many of the news stories that pop up nowadays almost don't feel or seem like they're real--as long as it's not one of the many fake news stories that have been circulating the internet. From Trump silencing the EPA and other scientists to the blatant lies that his press is circulating, it's more important now than ever to stay well-read and informed.

This is where dystopian novels come in. Yes, they are fictionalized accounts of the future, however many of them have an eerie similarity to what the world has become. Reading these fictionalized accounts of dangerously oppressive governments can help us to try to stay one step ahead of the chaos that is unfolding around us. Literature can provide us with the knowledge and hope necessary to make it through the dystopic conditions we have found ourselves in.

Here are five books that you should put on your to-read list to stay ahead of the Trump administration:

1. 1984 by George Orwell

I actually wrote a post about the similarities between 1984 and Trump's presidency for the Radical Notion. The similarities are...terrifying. But they can make use more aware of the way Trump is using language to make the population more compliant.

2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Published before 1984, Brave New World depicts a different kind of society where people desire conformity and stability more than emotion or individual freedom. Brave New World depicts a society that has crumbled because of ignorance,  dominant technology, and an abundance of entertainment and material goods. Sound familiar?

3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Though Trump hasn't quite gotten to burning books (yet) he has engaged in censoring acts; he's silenced the National Parks, made multiple webpages disappear from the White House website (like the LGBTQ page, climate change, civil rights, etc.), and silenced anyone who speaks out against him. Perhaps he isn't burning books--but he's getting rid of knowledge just the same.

4. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's book depicts a society where women are mere vessels for reproduction, only wanted or needed for their bodies. Though Trump's presidency is not quite as severe as the one depicted in Gilead, many of Trump's comments show his inherent misogyny and reflect the misogyny shown in The Handmaid's Tale.  

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Okay, this one might be a little bit of a stretch; after all, Trump hasn't made a spectacle of children killing each other like President Snow does in Panem. In fact, Trump's administration announced a victory tour after his election win, because he loves nothing more than his thousands of adoring fans. Much like citizens of the Capitol in Panem.

While these books might depict a bleak future under Trump, reading them also show a core of resistance in humanity. By staying up to date and making our voices heard, we can be the resistance to Trump's dystopian tendencies. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Life: Changes

Chicago skyline at night
Since I've been absent on the blogging front the last couple of weeks, I thought I'd update on some pretty big changes that have been happening in my life. I accepted an internship with Booklist magazine, which I began last week. So, I've moved to Chicago with my cat, in a tiny studio apartment a little north of downtown. It's taken some getting used to, but I'm learning the ropes.

The internship has been excellent so far, though! I've only learned a couple of things and opened the mail, but I should get to start some other fun projects this week. But, the plus of working at the American Library Association, which is where Booklist is located--so many galleys. On Thursday, we cleaned out the old 2016 books that were reviewed, and basically they're free for the taking. How cool is that? I'll have to see if I can snag some good ones when I go back on Tuesday.

Hopefully now that I've transitioned smoothly, I'll be able to get reading again, making playlists, etc. I'm starting to settle into a schedule, so I'll be able to schedule posts more regularly, and update when cool things are happening. I'm hoping to be able to finish The Great American Whatever this week, which has been fantastic so far! I'll give a more full review in the next week or so.

Until then, I'm going to keep being immersed in all of the fantastic children's and young adult books that can be found at Booklist.