5 Bookish Things

Sometimes I have eleventy million ideas for blogs, and other times I have nothing to say. So here’s a random list of 5 book related things.

  1. Borrowing books from friends is awesome. I was recently at a friend’s house and borrowed Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury (I want to read it for Halloween), and The Arrivals, by Melissa Marr. I loved Graveminder, and I spotted that one first in his pile of books. He told me that he’d bought Graveminder because he loved The Arrivals.
  2. The Hate U Give is out in theaters. I was wowed by this book, by Angie Thomas, when I read it. I belong to Club: The Book Was Better, but I do have high hopes for this movie. It’s a concept that could either translate really well, or really terribly. Critics seem to like it, but that isn’t always a good indicator of what I’ll think of the book. But let’s all be hopeful on this one.
  3. I convinced a friend to read Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein series. It’s a 5 book series, and it does a great job of asking what would happen if Victor Frankenstein were alive today. I’m rereading it on audiobook while I travel.
  4. I was just at the Texas Teen Book Festival and now want to read everything Nic Stone has ever written. Books, blogs, grocery lists. She’s charismatic and funny. If her books are half as good as her public speaking, I’m going to be blown away. I bought Dear Martin (but have yet to read it). Her newest book, Odd One Out, just came out this month.
  5. The Dewey 24-hour Readathon is coming up on October 20! I took place in a mini-readathon earlier this year (the 25 in five), and it was fun. I feel like a 24-hour readathon would be even more fun, but I just don’t think I can make time on Saturday. As much as I’d love to. But I will be following along on social media while others participate.

And those are my five random bookish thoughts. Does anyone else have any bookish randomness to share?

I is for (Books About) Identity #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

Many YA books question the nature of identity. It goes along with being a teen. I remember talking about big philosophical questions and being so sure of who and what I was going to be. It’s an important part of the process of growing up. The following are some of my favorite books on this topic.

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas (YA contemporary): Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in a poor black neighborhood where crime is commonplace but goes to school with primarily rich white kids. One night, she’s out with a black male friend who’s shot by a white cop while reaching for a hairbrush. Her white friends’ reactions are very different from her black friends’ reactions to the shooting, and Starr isn’t sure how to navigate two different worlds.

I loved this book because it doesn’t provide any easy or definite answers. Starr questions the kids and adults around her, trying to make sense of what happened. Because of this, she starts questioning her own assumptions about race, as well as those of both groups of friends.

Every Day, by David Levithan (YA fantasy): A doesn’t think of him/herself as male or female since they wake up in a different body every day. A has always inhabited someone different every day, and has just accepted that’s the way it is until they fall in love with Rhiannon. Once that happens, A has to make their way to Rhiannon every day. This book questions the nature of love and identity. What is it that makes us who we are? It’s a fascinating, original book, and I loved every moment of it. It was recently made into a movie, but I haven’t seen it yet.

Still Alice, by Lisa Genova (contemporary): At 50, Alice is a linguistics professor. When she becomes increasingly forgetful, she goes to the doctor and ends up diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Who are we without our ability to remember? This book was heartwrenching but wonderful. (I like to have my heart wrenched.)

What books have you read about identity?


Should Fiction Be Safe?

In his book, Trigger Warning, Neil Gaiman asked the question, “Should fiction be safe?”


Now that trigger warnings have escaped the internet, he wondered if they’re going to move over into fiction. He talked about reading books he wasn’t ready for, how they scared him and made him think. But that as an adult, he’s glad he read them when he did.

It made me ponder that question he asked. Should fiction be a safe place?

First, what is the purpose of reading? Entertainment? To increase empathy? To broaden one’s mind? To travel to places and times the reader has never been?

Second, what would be the purpose of a trigger warning in a book? In my mind, it would be to shield the reader from material that could cause potential emotional distress.

My Experiences Growing Up Reading Everything

Before I address the first and second point, I’d like to say that my parents weren’t readers, and as such, never told me I couldn’t read anything. I read Watchers (which has some explicit sex scenes) at 12. I read all of Thomas Harris’s and many of Stephen King’s books when I was a young teenager. I also read romances and middle grade books and young adult books and science fiction books… basically, if it was fiction, I read it.


There were some books I wasn’t emotionally ready for. I skipped over sex scenes in books when I wasn’t interested. Some drug references went over my head. Violence in books sometimes made me afraid to go out at night. I remember reading a particularly graphic sex scene in a book about a serial killer. Though the violence was no problem, the sex grossed me out, and I abandoned the book.

I’m not a sex fiend or violent now. I’m an incurable optimist with a streak of dark humor. Nothing grosses me out, and very little bothers me. I have thick skin and lots of concern about the suffering of others.

Should I have been allowed to read anything? Well, my answer is yes. I like the way I turned out. 🙂 Maybe that permissive reading style isn’t right for everyone, but it worked for me.

I say all this so that when I talk about whether or not fiction should be safe, you understand my frame of reference. Everyone is going to have different experiences which shape them.

What is the Purpose of Reading?

To answer the first question, to me, fiction is all of those things. Sometimes I want a book purely for entertainment. When I do, I might look for a Nora Roberts/ JD Robb book. I might ask my friends for recommendations. I might go to Goodreads or just look on my ever-lengthening TBR or wishlist and look for something that seems light.

All books help to increase empathy and broaden one’s mind, but if I’m looking for something specific, I might go for something that explores a current issue from a fiction point of view, like The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, or something more classic, like Lord of the Flies, by William Golding.

When I’m looking to travel, the Outlander series is a wonderful way to go.

What I’ve Learned From Books

When I read something that’s difficult, like The Hate U Give, I’m pushed outside myself. I’m inside the head of a narrator and shown something different from the life I live. Those books are not “safe.” They test our empathy and proclaim, in no uncertain terms, “Bad things can happen to anyone.”

When I read a book like Watchers, by Dean Koontz it makes me consider what our moral responsibility is to the world around us, and what, as humans, is our place in this world.

When I read a book like You, by Caroline Kepnes, it makes me think about the information that I put on social media.

When I read a book like The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon, it makes me realize how privileged and lucky I really am. And how much little things I say and do can affect others in the world around me.

One of my best friends always says, “Everyone I come across has something to teach me. It’s my job to find the lesson.”

In the same way, every book I read has something to teach me. Am I paying attention?

Should Fiction Be Safe?

I would argue that it shouldn’t be.

There is no safe place. Not in the fiction world, not in the real world.

There is always going to be something that will scare me, but not someone else. Something that might not upset me, but might upset someone. I love books that distress me. That means that something resonated with me emotionally. Those are the books I think about and want to discuss. Even if I disagree. Maybe especially if I don’t agree.

Sometimes those books make me feel a little sick. Sometimes they creep into my dreams or make it hard to fall asleep. Sometimes they make the world seem like a scary place.

But they also make me feel fully alive.

All The Ugly and Wonderful Things, by Bryn Greenwood, got either 5 star ratings or 1 star ratings on Goodreads. Why? It’s a disturbing and belief-shaking book. It asks questions that aren’t okay in polite company.

I had absolutely no idea what the book was about going into it, and if I had, I probably wouldn’t have read it. Based on my beliefs, I would have said I wasn’t interested.

I am so thankful that I got a copy of the book without knowing anything about it ahead of time. It’s one of my all time favorite books. I love everything about it, but my favorite thing is that it made me question something I “knew” to be true. I had to re-evaluate my beliefs.

It is very easy to believe something. It’s not easy to evaluate those beliefs and allow for new information. That doesn’t mean you have to change your mind. But any belief worth having is worth critically thinking about all sides.

Really good books make that possible.

I never know ahead of time which books are going to shake my foundations. For me, that’s the fun of it.

So, my reader friend, I ask you: should fiction be safe?

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?