Sunday, September 28, 2014

Rainbow Rowell in Indianapolis for Banned Books Week

(If you came today expecting the final installment of my An American reading the British Editions blog series, I’m sorry but it’s been bumped to next week. For reasons.)

So this happened:

Last Tuesday, Rainbow Rowell  was in Indianapolis to discuss her experience when Eleanor & Park was challenged during Banned Books Week 2013. She also talked writing for teens versus adults, writing the Eleanor & Park screenplay and the awkward blow kiss she had with John Green just hours before.

There was a lot of Eleanor & Park talk, some Fangirl talk, a smattering of Attachments talk and a few mentions of Rowell’s newest, Landline. I’ve read all of her current books in publication (I can’t say this for very many authors) and now that I know her current work-in-progress is fantasy, I can’t wait for its release!

Eleanor & Park is a NYT bestseller, Printz Honor Book and Rainbow's working on the screenplay, as the movie version is in the works! However, this isn't why Rainbow talked so much about it. A year ago, Eleanor & Park was challenged in a Minnesota school district. After the book was selected by the librarians for an optional summer reading program, a few parents objected to the selection, saying it was “vile profanity” due largely to the language and sexually explicit scenes. It made national news, and Rainbow was uninvited from a planned visit.

As Rainbow told the audience (which brought the auditorium, with room for 300, to near capacity) the story, she admits that she was initially horrified that Eleanor & Park was challenged because she felt the book was fundamentally misunderstood by those who challenged it. At that same time, she began receiving congratulations, as many great authors have had their books challenged or banned and she is now among their company. But for Rainbow, this wasn’t a pleasant experience.
“As the book gets more popular, it’s taken apart more. You can get this book to say anything you want if you pick the right part.” -Rainbow Rowell
As more people read the book (and with the challenge reaching national news and vaulting the book back to the bestseller lists, a lot more people would be reading the book), there’s more of a chance that they could misinterpret the message. Rainbow concluded that even though this challenge to Eleanor & Park, the book she’s most protective of, was a setback, the experience might make her braver in the long run.

My Thoughts
It’s been a year and a half since I read Eleanor & Park. It was right around its February 2013 release, and at the time I didn’t know who Rainbow Rowell was or that she’d already published an adult novel called Attachments (which I would read a couple months later), but what grabbed me about Eleanor & Park was the realness. The story has a certain grittiness to it, an essence of reality that not all fiction books have (because—let’s face it—they’re fiction). It felt as though I was reading about real people, and maybe that feeling stemmed from the fact that Eleanor isn’t model-thin or maybe it was the language or the setting or the situation. Maybe it was the perfect combination of all of them at once that made it seem so real to me. When reading it, I didn’t question the language or violence because it seemed necessary to understand what Eleanor and Park were experiencing.

The same goes for other challenged and banned books I’ve read. During my high school years, I read To Kill a Mockingbird and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry in school and I read Judy Blume, Lois Lowry and JK Rowling in my free time. Those books and authors are frequently challenged and unfortunately banned. (Luckily, my parents didn’t feel the need to limit my selections. Actually, I was talking to my mom about this post, and when I told her that the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey was at the top of the challenge list for 2012 and 2013, she was shocked. Later she texted me that the series got one of my brothers back into reading when, in second grade, he claimed that he'd read all the good books already.)

Books are learning experiences. Through reading, I get to travel the world, do magic spells, dive into history and sometimes I can even fly. Reading isn’t just about experiencing the joys of life, but experiencing the imperfections too. Through books, I can experience violence, racism, war, government suppression and so many more things that I will hopefully never experience in real life. The stories I read give me a small sense of what other situations, ones I’m unfamiliar with, might feel like, and therefore, I gain compassion and empathy for others.
“Reading fiction not only develops our imagination and creativity… it gives us the ability to feel empathy for people we've never met, living lives we couldn't possibly experience for ourselves, because the book puts us inside the character's skin.” -Ann Patchett
If I only read books about white, Midwestern, suburban girls who grew up in happy, safe homes and had good high school experiences with her handful of friends, I’d learn nothing about life. If I deprived myself of all books that contained racism, violence, language, sex and all those other “reasons” that appear on the challenged and banned books list, I’d be missing out on many facets of the human experience.

So read banned books. Read books. Read.

For further details about the challenge to Eleanor & Park, I read these articles:

Disclaimer: This post is an unofficial account of the event with Rainbow Rowell on September 23, 2014 at the Indianapolis Public Library in Indianapolis, IN. The views that I present in the first part of this post are my interpretations of the event, and they do not necessarily represent the opinions of Rainbow Rowell, her publisher or any affiliates. The views I present in the second part of the post are my own.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Most Anticipated Teen Releases: Fall 2014

It’s almost fall, which means it’s time to grab a pumpkin spice latte, dive into a leaf pile (or you know, a normal couch) and curl up with a good book! Here are the newest additions to my slightly overwhelming, YA-filled TBR pile!   

September 23

Afterworlds—Scott Westerfeld
What it’s about: Darcy Patel has put college on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. With a contract in hand, she arrives in New York City with no apartment, no friends, and all the wrong clothes. But lucky for Darcy, she's taken under the wings of other writers who help her navigate the city and the world of publishing. Woven into Darcy's personal story is her novel, Afterworlds, a suspenseful thriller about a teen who slips into the “Afterworld” to survive a terrorist attack. The Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead, and where many unsolved—and terrifying—stories need to be reconciled. Like Darcy, Lizzie too falls in love…until a new threat resurfaces, and her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she cares about most.

Why I’m excited: Because of THIS VIDEO. Oh, and I’ve read it (TY, Edelweiss) and loved it! Afterworlds is a mix of YA contemporary and paranormal, which proves Westerfeld can write anything.

September 30

Love Is the Drug—Alaya Dawn Johnson
What it’s about: Emily Bird was raised not to ask questions. She has perfect hair, the perfect boyfriend, and a perfect Ivy-League future. But a chance meeting with Roosevelt David, a homeland security agent, at a party for Washington DC's elite leads to Bird waking up in a hospital, days later, with no memory of the end of the night. Meanwhile, the world has fallen apart: A deadly flu virus is sweeping the nation, forcing quarantines, curfews, even martial law. And Roosevelt is certain that Bird knows something about the virus--something about her parents' top secret scientific work--something she shouldn't know. The only one Bird can trust is Coffee, a quiet, outsider genius who deals drugs to their classmates and is a firm believer in conspiracy theories. And he believes in Bird. But as Bird and Coffee dig deeper into what really happened that night, Bird finds that what she knows could unleash the biggest government scandal in US history.

Why I’m excited: Because I just read The Summer Prince and I want more of Johnson’s intricate, free-thinking characters. Also, because of “biggest government scandal in US history” and other key words like: homeland security agent, genius, Roosevelt, virus, conspiracy.


October 7

The Young Elites—Marie Lu
What it’s about: Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. She’s believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and her and the other survivors have come to be called the Young Elites. Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen. Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle.

Why I’m excited: Because I finished the Legend trilogy a couple months ago and have required more Marie Lu ever since! The Young Elites promises to be a twisting dark tale and I’m thrilled that I now have the ARC in my possession! I can’t wait to dive in!


October 9

Althea and Oliver—Cristina Moracho
What it’s about: Althea Carter and Oliver McKinley have been best friends since they were six; she’s the fist-fighting instigator to his peacemaker, the artist whose vision balances his scientific bent. Now, as their junior year of high school comes to a close, Althea has begun to want something more than just best-friendship. Oliver, for his part, simply wants life to go back to normal, but when he wakes up one morning with no memory of the past three weeks, he can’t deny any longer that something is seriously wrong with him. And then Althea makes the worst bad decision ever, and her relationship with Oliver is shattered. He leaves town for a clinical study in New York, resolving to repair whatever is broken in his brain, while she gets into her battered Camry and drives up the coast after him, determined to make up for what she’s done.

Why I’m excited: Because the reviews are coming in for this debut author and they look promising! I’m intrigued by the friends since forever aspect and the mid-90s setting. The title reminds me of Eleanor & Park and Zac and Mia, other tales about the interwoven lives of two teens.


October 14

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future—A.S. King
What it’s about: Graduating from high school is a time of limitless possibilities—but not for Glory, who has no plan for what's next. Her mother committed suicide when Glory was only four years old, and she's never stopped wondering if she will eventually go the same way...until a transformative night when she begins to experience an astonishing new power to see a person's infinite past and future. From ancient ancestors to many generations forward, Glory is bombarded with visions—and what she sees ahead of her is terrifying: A tyrannical new leader raises an army. Women's rights disappear. A violent second civil war breaks out. And young girls vanish daily, sold off or interned in camps. Glory makes it her mission to record everything she sees, hoping her notes will somehow make a difference. She may not see a future for herself, but she'll do anything to make sure this one doesn't come to pass.

Why I’m excited: Because I’ve heard great things about Ask the Passengers and it’s near the top of my TBR list. Plus, the vision of the future that Glory has with a tyrannical leader and no women’s rights sounds so terrifying that I simply must know what happens.


My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories—ed. Stephanie Perkins
What it’s about: If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you're going to fall in love with My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers (Holly Black, Ally Carter, Matt de La Peña, Gayle Forman, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Rainbow Rowell, Stephanie Perkins, Laini Tayler and Kiersten White), edited by the international bestselling Stephanie Perkins.  Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or Kwanzaa, there's something here for everyone.  So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy.  You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love. 



November 4
A Thousand Pieces of You—Claudia Gray
What it’s about: Marguerite Caine grew up surrounded by cutting-edge scientific theories, thanks to her brilliant physicist parents. Yet nothing is more astounding than her mother's latest invention—a device called the Firebird, which allows people to leap into alternate dimensions. When Marguerite's father is murdered, all the evidence points to one person—Paul, her parents' enigmatic star student. Before the law can touch him, Paul escapes into another dimension, having committed what seems like the perfect crime. With the help of another physics student, Theo, Marguerite chases Paul through various dimensions. In each new world Marguerite leaps to, she meets another version of Paul that has her doubting his guilt and questioning her heart. As Marguerite races through these wildly different lives—a grand duchess in a Tsarist Russia, a club-hopping orphan in a futuristic London, a refugee from worldwide flooding on a station in the heart of the ocean—she is swept into an epic love affair as dangerous as it is irresistible.

Why I’m excited: Because when the cover was released, I KNEW this book was something I’d love before I even read the description. (But of course reading the description secured my interest.) Traveling through time and space would be my ideal superpower (particularly if Matt Smith was along for the ride) and this sounds like the perfect book manifestation of that power!

What books are you excited to read this fall?

*Book descriptions were adapted from those on 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

On Buffy, Playlists and Not Giving Up

What do Sarah J. Maas and Emery Lord have in common?

For starters they’re both YA authors. Maas writes the NYT bestselling Throne of Glass series. Heir of Fire, the third in the fantasy series, was released September 2. Emery Lord is the YA contemporary fiction author of Open Road Summer and upcoming ­­­­The Start of Me and You.

Also, they’re both with Bloomsbury. They’ve both read each other’s books. They’re both fangirls of one another. Oh, and they both appeared at the Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Crestview Hills, KY last Tuesday!
They talked Celeana, Reagan and Buffy. They talked Chaol and Matt Finch. They talked about being anti-outlining, method writers and mutual fangirls of one another. Here are some of the highlights:

“It’s nice to see a character who makes bad decisions with backbone and sass.”
Emery Lord said this of Celeana, the main character in Maas’ Throne of Glass series. Celeana is strong but flawed. She’s vain and stubborn. She loves food and her dog, Fleetfoot and she has a fierce loyalty for her friends, especially her best friend, Nehemia. Maas was inspired and empowered by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who's a fierce warrior but also a girly girl. And that’s the great thing about both Buffy and Celeana—they don’t have to be one of the other. They can be both! Maas also loves Reagan, the main character of Lord’s Open Road Summer, because she isn’t perfect. In my opinion, the fact that these characters are imperfect is what makes them all—Celeana, Reagan and Buffy—relatable.


“Music is my outline.”
Maas doesn’t like outlining. Instead she uses playlists. By the end of a draft, she’ll have hundreds of songs and segments of songs in a playlist that matches that draft. Lord also attaches songs to chapters, so that when she revisits a chapter, she can listen to the song and get right back into the mindset. Maas is a method writer. She keeps a mirror behind her desk and acts out each scene before writing it. This helps her get into her character’s mind so she can feel what they feel, no matter the emotion. This is one of my biggest takeaways from the event—method writing. To write a character’s thoughts and emotions accurately, one should delve deep into their mindset, so much so that it should affect your own emotions.


“The only person who can get you to stop writing is you.”
Sarah J. Maas never let anyone stop her from writing. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. The commonality between all published writers is that they didn’t give up. As a writer, you need to finish what you start and she highly suggests getting a critique partner. Her best friend, Susan Dennard, is her critique partner and their strong friendship is evident all over Twitter. Maas also directed us to Susan’s website for writerly information, and whoa, I can't wait to dive into the articles and links!


 “When you write what you love, it’s not always work.”
Last Tuesday was my first Emery Lord Experience. She’s spunky, nerdy and highly quotable. I admit I attended this event because I adore Maas’ Throne of Glass series, but Lord was a pleasant surprise! I haven’t read Open Road Summer, but it’s now high on my TBR list as I'll be seeing her again soon at Cincinnati's Books by the Banks! Funny yet inspiring, here are a few more Emery Lord quotes:

  • “We collect your tears and use them as fuel.”
  • “If you want to spend time with your characters, it probably means that others want to spend time with them too.”
  • “Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is refill your well by being inspired by something else.”
  • “I nerd a lot.”

 I’ve never heard “nerd” used as a verb, but I’m a fan. Also a fan of this:


 Thanks to Sarah J. Maas and Emery Lord for being awesome!

Disclaimer: This post is an unofficial account of the event with Sarah J. Maas and Emery Lord on September 9, 2014 at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Crestview Hills, KY. The views that I present in this article are my interpretations of the event. They do not necessarily represent the opinions of these authors or their publisher.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Why I Love Anna, Lola and Isla

Okay people, it’s time for some book love! A few weeks ago, I finished Isla and the Happily Ever After, the last in the companion series by Stephanie Perkins. I indulged in Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door last November and I LOVED them. And I LOVED Isla even more (probably because she’s a redhead)! Here are the top five reasons I love Anna, Lola and Isla (in descending order):

5. Location, Location, Location
Paris, San Francisco, NYC and Paris again. For a Midwestern girl, traveling to these awesome cities is, well, awesome. I’m not a stuck-in-the-Midwest girl as I’ve been to Paris and NYC, so Anna and Isla's surroundings were easier for me to picture. And I love Lola because she re-introduced me to San Fran. (I say 're-' because I was introduced to San Francisco by Full House. Wasn’t that the case for every girl of my generation?)

4. Harry Potter references
Everyone loves a well-done reference to the Boy Who Lived.


3. Relatability
I relate to these girls. They drew me in and even though I relate the most to Isla (red hair, y'all), there was a strong connection to Anna and Lola as well (even though I’m not a movie-lover or designer).

Also, the BEST thing I’ve read about what redheads experience appears in Isla, when she's talking to Josh...

“And when a redhead hits puberty? You become this magnet for gross men. A month doesn’t pass without one telling me that I must be good in bed because all redheads are sex fiends, or I must be a bitch because all redheads have fiery tempers. Or they’ll tell me that they only date redheads, or that they never date redheads, because we’re all ugly… At least a dozen men have asked if ‘my carpet matches my drapes.’ And now there’s the ginger insult—thank you, England—and some cultures think we’re unlucky, and ohmygod, you know what the French say about redheads, right? They think we smell.” (page 133)

I know blondes have a bad rap and each and every woman is unfortunately a magnet for gross men in some way or another, but I’ve never heard it put this succinctly for redheads. To be honest, my experience hasn't been to the same extent as Isla, probably because I grew up in Indiana and she lives in NYC, but I still related. I RELATED SO MUCH. SO MUCH IT REQUIRES A LOT OF CAPS. Yeah.

2. Characters are people too
Anna, Lola and Isla are people to me. So are Etienne, Cricket and Josh. They are real. They are fleshed out and have unique interests and personalities. Also, CAMEOS ARE THE BEST. Anna and Etienne are in both Lola and Isla and Lola and Cricket are in Isla. There are conversations and updates and snark and even one MAJOR DEVELOPMENT. (You’ll find no spoilers here, though.)

1. Swoon-worthy romances that make you cringe and cry and cheer
Teens in love sometimes take a while to get it right. There are obstacles and misunderstandings and shyness and general fear and more misunderstandings. The romance between Anna and Etienne, Lola and Cricket and Isla and Josh are each wonderful in their own right. They made me cringe in the oh-my-gosh-I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened way. They made me cheer in a yes-you-go-girl kind of way. And they made me cry (though usually that came before the cheering). Real tears too, not just the sniffles.

Also, I need just a moment to swoon over these book boyfriends of mine. Etienne, Cricket and Josh. (Once again, I relate to Isla as my boyfriend’s name is—get this—Josh!) I mean, my toes are curling just thinking about them. *sigh* Book boyfriends...

Anna, Lola and Isla are one-sitting books. They are make-actual-facial-expressions/ make-actual-noises/ shout-at-the-characters books. They are yes-I’m-crying-but-I’m-going-to-grab-a-tissue-without-looking-because-I-must-keep-reading books.
Need a binge-read? Want a realistic YA romance? Want to travel? Want ALL THE FEELS?
Read Anna, Lola and Isla.