The Hate U Give- A Review

IMG_9837I didn’t really have any expectations about The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas going into it. I’d heard good things about it, but then I often hear good things about books I end up hating.

My Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) YA book club picked this book for October, so when I couldn’t get it from the library (I was #63 on both the audiobook and print edition), I decided to just buy it from Amazon.

I loved it. I freaking loved it.

It’s a hard book to read at times. Starr is 16, living in a poor neighborhood with other black kids, where crime is common. Her parents sent her to a predominantly white school so that she can have a better education. Because of this, Starr straddles two worlds. One where she talks slang and gives attitude, and one where she pronounces her words properly and doesn’t raise her voice so no one thinks she’s the “angry black girl.”

When Starr’s friend Khalil is shot and killed in front of her during a routine traffic stop, Starr has to figure out how to make her voice heard and navigate her anger with the police, and by extension, all white people who make assumptions about what happened.

Starr’s uncle is a cop, and her feelings about police officers become confused. On one hand, she’s afraid of what could happen to her or her other friends. On the other hand, she loves her uncle, who says that the cop who shot her friend is an “okay guy.”

This is a book that could have been preachy, but it wasn’t. Though Ms. Thomas clearly has a statement to make about police shootings of young black men, it’s presented as Starr trying to make sense of her feelings and understand both points of view.

I read a lot of articles by people expressing anger over police shootings, but I don’t think I fully understood their point of view. This book helped me get inside of it and see the despair, fear, and anger that people feel in reaction to these shootings.

No issue is black and white, and anytime I can more fully understand the shades of gray, I appreciate it.

If you haven’t read this book, definitely check it out.

Have you read it? What did you think?

 

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Backwards Bookshelves… Why??

Have you heard about the latest trend? Backwards bookshelves. It’s where you take your lovely books and turn them around so the spine doesn’t show.

Some proponents of the idea say it’s “simple” and “clean” and “beautiful.”

I say it doesn’t make sense.

I’m a practical person. I like using items for the purpose for which they were intended. I sit in chairs. I eat with forks. And I read books.

I’m not saying these items can never be used in a decorative or interesting way. But turning books backwards seems to relegate them solely to a decorative purpose. And that makes my heart sad.

The whole reason I love my bookshelves is so that my books are displayed and I can find what I want. When I’m not sure what I want to read, I browse the shelves, looking at the interesting spines with their multitude of shapes, colors, and the continuum of wear.

Turning them the other way washes out their individuality. Each book could be the same as the one beside it.

Decorator trends are best left in magazines.

I’m going to keep my books right side out.

Would you ever do this?

My Crazy, Bookish Adventure Weekend

Some people are going to read this post and be like, “Book stuff isn’t an adventure.” If you’re one of those people, this post might not be for you.

For those of you who are like, “Books? Tell me more!” read on.

Always Raining Here

My bookish weekend started on Friday when I finally got my copies of Always Raining Here.

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It’s a webcomic that ran from 2012- 2016, a story about two teenage boys’ quest for love. (Okay, it didn’t start out as a quest for love… but they’re teenage boys!) I’ve been waiting for these books for awhile, so it was a nice surprise to finally get them.

The Texas Teen Book Festival

Saturday was the Texas Teen Book Festival with a few authors I’d heard of, and many more who were new to me. The authors sat on panels such as “You + Me = Fate” and talked about themes in their books, writing process, the importance of diversity in books, and other interesting topics.

Though I could have bought these books cheaper elsewhere, I bought a bunch at the festival for a few reasons.

  1. It’s important to support other authors. One day I hope to make a living from people buying my books.
  2. They’re signed! Signed books are always better!
  3. If I don’t buy them immediately, I put them on a list and forget that I really wanted to read them.

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(I’ve already read When Dimple Met Rishi, and it was lovely.)

The Library Sale!

I love the sale at my local library. Not only are books cheap, but I love used books. Part of it is that I just love owning things that other people owned, that have wear marks and maybe writing in them. The other part of it is that I’m conscious about waste, so when I can buy used, I feel good about my purchasing decisions.

I went for the YA/ children’s books first, and was immediately perplexed. Instead of stacking the books so the titles could be read, they looked like this:

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My apologies for the blurry picture. Please don’t tell my husband… he’d be appalled.

Why would you stack books so that you can’t see the spine?? It’s incomprehensible to me, and reminds me of that weird backwards bookshelf trend (which will be the subject of Friday’s blog… stay tuned).

From there, I moved into the main room with all the other books. I was briefly distracted by a copy of The Annotated Alice, an annotated version of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland from 1960. I actually own the exact book that was being sold, but I don’t have much willpower when it comes to Alice in Wonderland. I want to own multiple copies of every version of this book ever made.

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Yeah, I don’t understand it either. Moving on.

I acquired some great finds, including an old Stephen King anthology with “Rage,” a rare short story that King himself asked to be pulled off the shelves.

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The leather-bound book is a copy of Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore. Now, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have bought this book, except that someone had put it with the religion books. I know volunteers run library sales, and someone just put it there because it looked like it belonged, but it made me laugh, so I had to buy it.

I bought Girl On A Train because it sounded better than The Girl On the Train, which I disliked, though everyone else seemed to think it was great.

There was also a book I spotted called, “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.” This raised so many questions for me. Is there also a “Manly Art of Breastfeeding”? Is the implication that someone isn’t womanly if they don’t breastfeed? What if I don’t have children? Should I breastfeed other people’s children in order to be more womanly?

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I didn’t buy that one though. I figured someone else needed tips on being womanly more than I did.

Did you have any bookish adventures this weekend?

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All the Ugly and Wonderful Things Released in Paperback Today!

Version 2With Banned Books Week taking place last week, it feels like perfect timing to have the paperback version of All The Ugly and Wonderful Things released today.

There aren’t many books I own in both paperback and hardback, but this is one of them.

I adore this book. It’s a book that presents a polarizing topic in a way I hadn’t thought of before. I love books that make me see reality in a new and different way. I don’t necessarily have to agree with the point of view; it just needs to be well thought out and show me something different.

As I said last week, literary fiction “analyzes the nature of reality.” I don’t always love literary fiction because it’s hard to tell an entertaining story with vibrant characters and still analyze reality.

But this book does that. It’s told in multiple points of view; I’m not even sure how many there are. But the point of the multiple points of view is to show different perspectives about what’s happening during the story.

What’s most interesting to me in this book is the things that are implied but left unsaid.

I know I’m being deliberately vague about what the book’s about, but I think that for anyone who hadn’t read it, it’s an experience best left to unfold. Because while I could tell you what the book is about, what it’s about on the surface isn’t really what the book is about.

If you’ve heard about it and have been putting off reading it, this week is a great time to start! Grab your paperback copy today!

And if you end up being a superfan like me, if you subscribe to her newsletter, Bryn Greenwood has released all the “deleted scenes” from the book. I’m hoping that one day she releases a book with all of them back in there, where they belong.

 

10 Best Books for Fall

Today is the first day of fall. And let me tell you… I’m ready for it.

Fall is my favorite season. After the unrelenting heat of summer, it’s nice to go outside and not instantly be sweaty and overheated. (I’d rather be cold than hot.)

Fall is such a pretty time of year too, with the leaves turning colors and the smell of woodsmoke in the air. Plus, fall has Halloween, which is the best holiday ever.

I used to look forward to the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks, but since I’ve started eating healthier, all I taste is chemicals. 😦 I’ve tried a few recipes at home, and some other coffee shops, but I haven’t found anything I like as much as I remember. (If you have an awesome recipe for PSL, please let me know… I will be forever in your debt.)

I always hear about summer beach reads. I think autumn hammock reads and autumn forest reads should be a thing. My list is largely horror, but I did throw in a couple that aren’t. Think camping, falling leaves, colder days, ghosts, vampires, and monsters.

  1. And the Trees Crept In, by Dawn Kurtagich This is a wonderfully creepy YA book. Silla and Nori flee an abusive situation and go live with their aunt. But the house their aunt lives in is haunted. And the trees get closer every day. This would be a fantastic one to sit and read in the woods. And then wonder if that whispering through the tree branches is actually them getting… a… little… closer.
  2. Dracula, by Bram Stoker Count Dracula is evil; no sparkles here. If you’ve never read it, there’s no time like the present.
  3. ‘Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King This is an underrated book of King’s, not one that gets talked about often. It’s the story of what happens when bad vampires take over a town.
  4. Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein This is a 5 book series. Of course, Mary Shelley’s original is wonderful, and everyone should read it. But this series is interesting, starting in modern day. Detectives Carson O’Connor and Michael Maddison begin investigating a series of strange murders. In the course of their investigation, they find that Victor Frankenstein didn’t learn anything the first time around, and that his monster has become more human than the man. Like most Dean Koontz books, they’ve got it all: fantasy, science fiction, horror, romance, exploration of the nature of what it means to be human.
  5. The Night Circus, by Erin Morganstern When I think of fall, I think of camping, haunted hayrides, music festivals– basically anything involving woodsmoke, apples, marshmallows, and that special crisp scent in the air. The Night Circus evokes those feelings. Bonus points if you actually read it while sitting outside by the campfire.
  6. Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake Cas Lowood kills the dead. For him, it’s not that big of a deal. But when he comes against Anna, it all gets more complicated. Because Anna’s ghost is not ready to stop killing. This is a two book YA series, with Girl of Nightmares following the first.
  7. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black Vampires are real and confined to Coldtowns so they don’t infect humans. Still, humans don’t go out at night, because vampires don’t always follow rules. When Tana wakes up one morning after a party, she finds that all her friends have been slaughtered, and her ex-boyfriend has been bitten. A delirious vampire is chained up next to him. The vampires who did it are in the basement, asleep. For reasons even Tana doesn’t understand, she takes them both out of the house, intending to drive them both to the closest Coldtown.
  8. House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski This book is long and complicated, and so worth it. It puts a spin on the idea of a haunted house. Johnny works in a tattoo parlor, and finds a book in the apartment of a dead man. It’s called “The Navidson Record,” and it details the story of a family who bought a house that grows and shrinks, with hallways going places they shouldn’t, and creatures living in the dark. Though it’s presented as fact, Johnny can’t find any evidence that the Navidson Record is real. His obsession with the record drives him crazy. The book is told in an experimental fashion, with pages you have to turn sideways (or upside down) to read, notes scrawled in the margins, sketches, different colored text, and different languages.
  9. A Long Fatal Love Chase, by Louisa May Alcott Rosamond lives with her bitter old grandfather and wants more from life. She declares, “I often feel that I’d sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom.” Not long after, a mysterious man (Phillip Tempest) arrives and romances her. She agrees to go away with him, if he marries her. He does, and they have a year of happiness. But when she finds out they were never really married, she flees, and Phillip pursues her, vowing never to let her go.
  10. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed Following a divorce and the death of her mother, with no real camping or hiking experience, Cheryl Strayed impulsively decided to hike 1000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail alone. She traveled from California, through Oregon, into Washington, meeting new people and learning about herself. I have no idea if the movie did it justice, but this was a fantastic memoir about one woman’s journey to self-discovery.

Are there any on my list you agree or disagree with? Any fall reads you’d add?

Remembering What I Read

img_7738One of the people in one of my book clubs commented that she usually doesn’t remember many details from what she reads. It surprised me, because I assumed that everyone was like me and remembered details from the stories. I remember names, places, plots, etc. if I like the book. If I don’t like it, I don’t remember it as well.

Getting perspectives on how other people read is always interesting for me. To me, part of the fun of reading is going back and thinking over parts I loved, thinking about the characters as if they were real people I met for coffee, and maybe flipping through to find sections I loved.

It’s not unusual for me to think about a book, and read an “abridged” version of it, skimming and flipping through to only revisit my favorite parts.

For people who don’t remember details, it seems to be more about the experience of reading. They enjoy going on that journey, and whether they remember every bit of it is irrelevant. They had fun, and that’s all that matters.

For me, it’s not like that. If I can’t remember details from a book I liked, it will frustrate me, and I’ll have to go back and reread. I’ve actually done that when I know someone else is reading a book I like. I’ll reread the book in hopes that we can have a detailed and interesting discussion about it.

Do you remember details of books (or movies) you liked, or do you just remember generalities?

10 Reasons Books Are Better Than People

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    This is an actual T-shirt I own (and love!)

    If a book is boring or irritating, I can just close it. If it were bad enough, I could burn it. Not that I’d ever do that (I’d just give it to Goodwill or Half-Price Books), but I could.

  2. A book will never let their annoying children run in front of my cart at Costco, as I try to navigate the overcrowded aisles with 150 pounds of cat litter in my cart. ‘Nuff said.
  3. Books don’t take it personally if I don’t like them or don’t feel like answering their calls that day. Seriously, it’s not you; it’s me.
  4. Books make me smarter. Some people make me feel dumber after spending 10 minutes with them.
  5. Books are quiet. The world is filled with noise. It’s nice when I don’t have to worry about it.
  6. Books don’t get insulted about my opinions of them. Authors might. But I can say whatever I want to a book, and it won’t get all huffy. If I trash a book to other people, I don’t get accused of gossiping.
  7. If I want to know what a book’s going to be like, I can read the cover copy, read reviews, or even read the first page before committing. There’s no way to tell, when I first meet a person, if they’re going to be someone I can really talk to, or if time talking to them would make me dumber. (See #4) Some people disguise it well, at first.
  8. I can reread my favorite parts. I can’t rewind my favorite moments with people. Sometimes when I’m hanging out with my favorite people, I forget to pause and enjoy the moment. But with a book, that moment will always be there.
  9. I never have to figure out social cues. When is it time to leave? Where’s a good point to stop the conversation? Am I boring that person? Do they know they’re boring me? Should I tell them about the food stuck in their teeth? None of that. I close the book, and the characters will wait until I return.
  10. I can read about anything I want, and no one gets their feelings hurt. In real life, some people are offended when talking about controversial topics. It can be difficult to have discussions with some people without them becoming heated. But not with books. Nope. I can read opinions I agree with, ones I disagree with, or even balanced information on a topic to develop an opinion, and no one gets all huffy about it.

Do you agree with my list? Is there anything you’d add to this list? Anything you disagree with?