Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

When John Green announced that he was finally releasing his next novel, I didn’t really care. The title was revealed and I thought it was weird, the cover was revealed and I didn’t quite care for the single orange spiral. As a teenager, I loved TFiOS and Paper Towns but wasn’t particularly impressed by his other works. However, as I grow further away from the age when I first read his books, the less I like them. Therefore, I felt pretty disinterested in Turtles All the Way Down’s release date grew closer.

But then I heard it was about a girl with OCD, a very specific anxiety disorder riddled with false stereotypes, which both John Green and I have, and I was finally intrigued. I received the novel through Book of the Month’s ambassador program which I am a part of, so I already had it laying around in my stacks once I decided I might take a look. Green has talked about his experiences with mental illness as a teenager and now as an adult a lot on his YouTube Channel VlogBrothers, though I haven’t watched a video of his in some years. My OCD is a pretty mild case; it doesn’t control my life, but it is one hell of an inconvenience. I am lucky enough to be past the worst of my mental illnesses (I hope) and am in the stage of regularly taking medication and occasionally meeting with a counselor. I still struggle, but not as much as I used to. The main character of Turtles, Aza, is, unfortunately, going through the thick of it.

Green focuses on the invasive thoughts that Aza experiences through her OCD, which I thought was really important in trying to diverge the universal understanding of this disorder away from people who like things neat and orderly and organized. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is different for everyone and definitely does not just make people clean a lot. The way in which Green wrote Aza’s OCD made it easy to see the process from obsessive and invasive thoughts to compulsive actions based on those thoughts. And, as someone who has had similar experiences, I found the way he wrote Aza’s struggles to be very genuine and honest. I had a few moments where Aza was having a thought-spiral or had a friend tell her how burdensome she was and I had to put the book down because those were so close to things I have experienced and I could feel panic rise in my chest. This sounds like a bad thing—I don’t think it is. I knew when to put the book down and remind myself that these are someone else’s feelings and not mine. It just goes to show how well Green can convey emotion and convey panic-inducing situations.

One problem that I have had with his writing in the past is how contrived and over-generalized it has felt, almost as if he was writing purely for empty, fake-deep quotes to later be used in Instagram bios and Tumblr graphics. To be completely honest, he still does this in Turtles, but to a lesser extent and even then, his to-be-quoted lines felt a bit more real this time around. I think that his writing has really matured since his last novel (was that TFiOS?), though it is still incredibly explanatory and strives to have these specific quotes to be pulled out and used over and over. It seems to me that he focused more on the character development and their storylines rather than the quote-able-ness of his writing, but I think he could push this farther still. Good writing doesn’t strive to be repeated and quoted, but strives to make the reader think and feel. Or, at least, that’s what I believe. With all that said, I really do think that the 6 years of work he put into this novel really shows and paid off.

I don’t believe I am properly conveying how much this novel made me feel. I had an ache in my chest while reading the entire thing, a both light-and-tight feeling in the depths of my heart that I only get when I’m reading a book that really means something to me. And while I will criticize this novel (because, honestly, you are doing the author a disservice if you are not critical of what they put out into the world), that doesn’t mean that it didn’t impact me emotionally. Because it really, really did. Aza panics every time she kisses a boy—physical and emotional intimacy give me panic attacks, which is why I have yet to be in a romantic relationship. She thinks a lot about how she’s not a normal person and how she can’t just do normal things like a normal person—a thought process I have every time I have to leave a situation due to anxiety overtaking me. The way she talked about falling into spirals and not being able to get out would make my chest feel tight and I’d have to remind myself that I was reading about her panic, not experiencing my own. Reading about someone whose experiences so closely relate to your own is so special and something that will never get old.

Green brought a lot to this novel that I really appreciated, besides just his depiction of anxiety and OCD. I really loved how Aza talked about the limits of language and how pain could only be talked about in metaphors—the many ways in which language fails us is very prevalent in literary theory and college literature courses, and I liked how Green brought that to a YA novel. That being said, a few times the we-are-limited-by-language bits went into quotable over-kill, but I appreciated the sentiment nonetheless. The point he made about pain only being explained through metaphors I found to be really interesting and I’m sure that’s something I’m sure I will be thinking about a lot. There was an emphasis on medication and therapy which I thought was good and healthy to include in a novel surrounding mental illness. Aza’s relationship with her best friend was very nice and very personally heartbreaking to read, but it’s a kind of relationship that a lot of people with mental illness can relate to. There’s also a bit of a mystery plot with a missing billionaire and a $100,000 reward, but personally it felt very subtle and in-the-background to me with Aza’s personal struggles up front. I liked how there was this background plot that slowly nudged the storyline along while the main plot was much more character driven.

TL;DR: This book made me feel something—or, rather, a lot of things—and that’s all I can ask for in a good book, really. I felt very connected to the main character and her experiences and it will never be less-than-comforting to read about someone who is similar to yourself. John Green’s writing has definitely matured, and even while he continues old writing habits I don’t love, I think he is a very good storyteller and I hope he continues to publish novels so that we can see him grow even more as a writer and a story-sharer. And, after finishing Turtles, I now have a special place in my heart for that stupid single orange spiral.

Time to Write: NaNoWriMo 2016

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A couple of days ago, I made a decision I was not expecting myself to make: I’m doing NaNoWriMo 2016. For those who don’t know, November is National Novel Writing Month and NaNoWriMo is 1) an abbreviation of that and 2) a program/event/thing that thousands of people partake in during November in which they try to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. And I’m going to be doing that. Sort of.

I have always loved writing, but I haven’t always consistently written; not since middle school, at least. I barely wrote for fun at all in high school, though I never dreaded writing papers. During my first semester of college freshman year (so, one year ago), I took an intro to creative writing class and I loved it. I wrote poems and I never thought I would write poems; I wrote two short stories, and I had never finished writing short stories before; I wrote a piece of flash fiction, which I loved the most of anything I wrote in those nine weeks. In the last year, I meant to write more “flash” pieces (between 300-500 words) but I just….haven’t. Until now. Hopefully.

My goal during NaNoWriMo is not to write a novel nor is it to write 50,000 words–I just want to write. My personal goal is to write 10 flash fiction pieces (or just flash pieces since most of my ideas are of nonfiction) and anything else I get the inspiration to write. I hope to make update posts here, at least once a week, to see if I’m actually writing anything (I bought a new Moleskine notebook just for NaNoWriMo, so I’m pretty serious about this). Honestly, if I write one piece this month, I’ll be happy because that’s more than I’ve written in a year.

To those who are taking on the challenge of writing a whole novel: I admire you and I wish you the best of luck. To those who just want to write something this month: I believe in us.

 

x, emily

my NaNoWriMo profile

Nah, I’ll Pass: YA Tropes I Can’t Stand

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(the topic of this post has nothing to do with these books, hehe)

When people ask me my favorite genre or type of book to read, I’m generally at a loss. That probably seems weird since I’m such an avid reader; I should know my reading taste by now, but it’s actually really fluid and hard to predict. I call myself a mood reader, meaning I have to be in certain moods to enjoy certain books. Now, I may have to be in the right mood to enjoy a genre, but there are certain tropes found in YA books that I am always in the mood to hate. You know, those little elements and phrases you read on the back of a book that make you immediately throw it back on the shelf. So basically what I’m saying is I don’t always know what I like, but I always know what I hate. Is that normal? Oh well.

memory loss

This might be my most hated trope. If I read this on the back of a book, I’m not even going to finish the synopsis; the book is immediately out of my hands. Memory loss is just too easy. Having your 16-year-old main character lose her memory and try to figure out her past so you can spend the whole book trying to figure out what her past is, too, is just too convenient. It’s like an ex-machina but for the beginning of a book. It’s too easy to construct a plot from missing time; it’s not creative, it’s lazy. It’s what authors do when they don’t know what to do with their characters or when they don’t know anything about them. It’s not interesting to read about when half of YA contemporaries are about memory loss. I’ll pass.

missing persons

This really follows all of the same reasons I hate the memory loss trope. There are only so many things that could have happened to a missing person. They ran away, they were captured, they’re dead. That’s kind of it. Again, it’s lazy and too convenient to write in a missing character. The main character will spend the whole book trying to find them. I can only read that same storyline so many times before I go crazy. Pass.

straight romances

This really isn’t a trope, but I’m honestly so sick of straight romances in YA in general that I had to include it. I’ve read enough “boy meets girl” contemporaries for a lifetime. If I’m going to read a straight romance in YA, I want it to be new and creative and exciting and have the characters to actually have chemistry with each other. I want the romance to have purpose in the story, rather than it just be there because that’s what the author thinks needs to happen in a YA book. I have read countless stories where the central conflict is interesting enough without a romance, especially a forbidden one, especially a forbidden one between two straight kids. Give me actually good chemistry between two straight characters, or give me literally any LGBTQ romance.

love triangles

This has been discussed so much in the YA community, I don’t know if I really need to talk about it for long. It’s been far overdone. It’s a lazy way to create conflict because you don’t know how to create interesting conflict within storyline you have already started. I don’t think this is as much of a problem in the YA/publishing community as it was around four years ago, but still. If a love triangle is hinted at in the synopsis of a book, it’s going back on the shelf. Pass.

the chosen one

Recently, I’ve been a big fan of group efforts (see: The Raven Boys by Maggie Steivfater). Having one character as the only one who can save the world from whatever bad thing is happening just feels, again, too easy. It’s been done and it’s been done a lot. When I’m looking for a good read, I’m looking for characters with interesting motives, with central conflicts that feel new and exciting. Saying that your main character is the only one who can do what they’re doing just feels lazy; try digging a little deeper, or I’ll pass.

I’m realizing that a lot of my complaints and turn-offs are from feeling that the author is being lazy and not trying hard enough to stand out among the hundreds of YA books out there. I understand that books in the YA world go through trends; certain things are extremely popular during different periods of time. But what can be cool about these trends are authors who take the common trope and twist it into something familiar but also something very new and innovative. Reading a book where an author just takes a common trope and throws it into their story, doing nothing to make it distinctive from the last ‘chosen one’ release, can be boring but also disappointing. I want to read books by authors who are ambitious, who want to be different, who give us stories we have never seen before, who give us stories that feel both familiar and foreign.

What tropes in YA can you not stand? What phrases found in synopses will make you not read a book? Let me know in the comments!

xx, emily

I’m An American: A Review of Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes

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Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes has to be one of the best books I have read this year. I just finished it about 10 minutes ago and I’m sitting at my computer, watching the curser flash, taking deep breathes and thinking about how I can possibly write about this book. You know when you read a book that is so incredible and means so much that your chest both hurts and feels warm at the same time? That’s how I feel about Towers Falling.

This story follows ten-year-old Déja who just recently moved into a homeless shelter with her parents and two younger siblings. Her mother works as a waitress and her father is incapable of holding down a job between his asthma attacks and inability to get out of bed most days. Déja doesn’t entirely understand her father’s situation, but she accepts her life the way it is. Until she starts at a new school, that is, and starts learning about how other people live and things about the world she had never heard of before, namely 9/11.

There is so much packed into these 225 pages. One of the incredible things about Towers Falling is how serious the subject matter is. I’m referring not only to 9/11, but also how Déja’s family is poor and homeless, how one of Déja’s best friends is Muslim and gets scared around September, what it means to be a family and an American. There are so many important conversations happening in this story and it all works so well because it is a children’s book (the back says “ages 8-12”) so it’s all explained in very basic and simple terms. Déja is also learning about all of this throughout the book, so it’s really nice to see her learning and thought process. I think the fact that Déja is learning throughout the book will be very beneficial for children reading this who are also learning about 9/11. Although, this book doesn’t have to be read by just 8-12 year olds; I thought it was fascinating to read about 9/11 through the eyes of a child who wasn’t even alive when it happened (I was only 5, but I remember the day).

Towers Falling doesn’t hold back, though. While it’s written for younger children, it doesn’t censor itself. Twice during the book, Déja watches video footage of the Twin Towers falling and she describes the plane hit, the fire and smoke, the people jumping out of the buildings. Her father tells her of his experience being in the building on the day and doesn’t leave out the more gruesome details.

While the inclusion of 9/11 is very prominent and well written, my favorite conversation in Towers Falling is what it means to be an American. This element really touched me and I think it’s very important in the context of our country at this moment with the presidential election and certain things one candidate says about who should or shouldn’t be an American. Déja is black and her mother is from Jamaica; her friend Ben was born in the U.S. and his grandmother immigrated from Mexico; Sabeen is a Turkish Muslim born in the states with her parents from Turkey. They all talk about their heritage and how it’s a big part of their identity. Sabeen and her family get harassed for the terrorist attacks, but she also shares baklava and Turkish delights with friends. I think it’s so important that this book shows not only the racism these kids sometimes receive, but also celebrates their respective identities and cultures. The lessons that they are taught in the classroom focus more on what everyone has in common rather what makes them all different. They all live in Brooklyn, most were born in New York, they are all Americans. There is an emphasis on the fact that the majority of kids’ families immigrated to America at one point in history, that a true image of Americans is a group of people of different ethnicities and skin colors and religions and social classes, not a bunch of white guys. This is a pretty sophisticated conversation, but written in the context of learning in a classroom, it becomes simple and easy to understand. It’s such an important conversation to have in a book for younger children. We want the kids in our country to grow up seeing Americans as diverse groups of people living together with the same values rather than a homogenous group of white people.

I only have one question against this book. Are ten year olds really this smart? These kids are really smart. I don’t remember being this smart when I was in 5th grade.

Towers Falling is an incredibly thoughtful and poignant love letter to America written through the eyes of a curious, caring ten-year-old and I don’t think I would have wanted to read about our country any other way.

Towers Falling can be purchased through Barnes & Noble, or at your local indie.

 

xx, emily

4 Books, 1 Week: Biannual Bibliothon 2016 TBR

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This week from July 3rd to 9th is the 2016 Biannual Bibliothon hosted by quite a few BookTubers. I’ve never participated in this readathon before, but since I have nothing else to do this week I thought I would join!

The goal of this readathon is to read as much as you can in one week while also completing 7 challenges set up by the hosts. You can have one book knock out two challenges, but only two. Today I’m going to share my TBR for the next week!

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

This is for the group book challenge, so everyone participating will read this book together this week. I love Morgan Matson and have read all of her other books, so I’m excited to finally get to this.

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

I’m reading this one for the “read a book with your favorite mythical creature” challenge (witches!!) and the “author I’ve never read from before” challenge. It’s also one of my review books for this month, so I’m taking advantage of this readathon to get this read.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

This completes “book I’ve been putting off” and “book in a different format than your norm”; I bought this last summer and still haven’t read it + this is written in verse. I’ve read a couple books like this before, but not often or recently.

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

This one takes care of the “wild card” challenge where I could pick any book I wanted. I bought this back during spring break and have been wanting to read it for a while now.

There is one more challenge, to read a book recommended by one of the hosts, but after checking the rec list I realized I either 1) read the book or 2) didn’t own it, and I didn’t want to read a book I didn’t own for this readathon. So, if I manage to actually read all of these, I’ll complete 6 of the 7 challenges! I will post a wrap up on the 10th to let you know how the readathon went. I have a bad track record with readathons, so we’ll see what happens.

Are you participating in the Bibliothon? What is your TBR?

 

xx, emily

Monster Mayhem: Review of This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

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Before I start this review, let me just preface it by saying I love Victoria Schwab. I love what I’ve read of hers in the past, Vicious and the Darker Shade of Magic series, and not only do I love her writing but I really admire her as a person. I have followed her on Twitter for a while and she is pretty honest about what her writing experience is like. She’s very ambitious and hardworking and I’ve always admired her.

That being said, this book didn’t really excite me…at all. I have very weird feelings about This Savage Song. I did have kind of high expectations but I didn’t think they were misplaced–everything I’ve read of hers I have really enjoyed. Not that I didn’t enjoy this, I just thought I would enjoy it way more.

This Savage Song takes place in the future of the United States–I don’t remember how far in the future–where the states no longer exist and in their places are territories. These territories are heavily guarded and it’s hard to travel between them because there are monsters in this future world. Three types of monsters exist: Malchai, Corsai, and Sunai. One of the main characters, August, is a Sunai living in the Verity territory. His (human) father is the leader one half of the capital city of Verity. The other MC  is Kate (human), the daughter of Callum Harker, leader of the other half of the capital who keeps monsters as pets. Chaos ensues when the treaty between the two parts of the city begins to break.

I liked the monsters in this story. The three different types looked and killed differently, all playing different parts in this depressing, broken society. Callum Harker owns a lot of Malchai and Corsai which start going rogue and attacking people in the city, including August and Kate. All of the fight scenes were really well written–exciting and graphic while still being easy to follow. I also really liked that the monsters are each born of different levels of sin (I thought the use of the words “sin” and “sinner” was really interesting, very affiliated with certain religions…). Monsters don’t breed but manifest after different types of horrible events; Malchai from the lessser ones and Sunai from the worst (things like bombings or mass shootings). I thought that was a really clever way to explain their existence.

While I really liked the monsters in This Savage Song, the book as a whole didn’t completely do it for me. I think the biggest thing is that nothing really surprised me. In her other books, I really valued her ability to write stories that are, for the most part, unpredictable. I keep thinking back to her Darker Shade of Magic series–those books are so exciting and I feel like I’m on the edge of my seat the whole time, never sure of her next move. In This Savage Song, I felt like I generally knew where the story was going the whole time. Not completely, but more than I would have liked. The world building was also just okay. It took a long time for me to really grasp the situation with Verity and how it fit–or didn’t fit–into the United States. I am still not entirely sure, honestly. There was some event in the past that lead the US to become this collection of territories, but it’s never explained what that event was. I’m not sure if there are monsters in all territories or just Verity, if there have always been monsters or they just suddenly appeared in this future.

My general feeling while reading this book could be diagrammed on a graph and look like a straight line. I liked it, but I liked it a lost less than I thought I would. The characters were alright; I didn’t feel any particular connection to any of them. It’s nice that This Savage Song is a YA dystopian/sci-fi that doesn’t have The Chosen One and a love triangle (actually, there is no romance at all in this, which I liked; just friendship) but it still didn’t wow me like I wanted it to. I guess a lot of this comes down to expectations not being met, but I really didn’t think that was going to be a problem.

This is the first in a duology and I will be reading the second one to see how the story wraps up. There is a bit at the end which suggests that an evil character we thought was killed may still be alive, which is meant to create tension but really just feels like a cheap trick to keep people interested, if I’m totally honest. This book wasn’t bad by any means, it just didn’t wow me at all. I prefer Schwab’s writing when it comes to her general/adult fiction rather than her YA. If it’s your first Victoria Schwab read, you’ll probably love it, but I can’t help but see how it’s not entirely up to par with her other works (in my opinion).

This Savage Song comes out on July 5th and you can buy it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local indie.

Once you read This Savage Song, let me know what you thought in the comments (or on Twitter)!! So far, I’m one of the very few who haven’t given it 5 stars and I’m interested what the public opinion will be once it’s released.

xx, emily

Summer Readin’: Recent Reads #2

Almost the entirety of both May and June have been summer for me (thank god for long college breaks) and in that time I’ve been able to not only catch up on my Goodreads goal, but get ahead by 7 books (this could be because I’ve been reading a lot of comics….whatever, it counts). I’ve decided to only write full reviews for books that were sent to me for review, so doing another ‘Recent Reads’ installment is perfect for sharing my thoughts on some non-review books I’ve read in the past month or so! Let’s do this.

BOOKS

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1) The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Okay, so I spoke too soon about that review books policy thing. I got sent Upside from HarperCollins because they want to put a blurb from me on the book cover. They want to put words that I wrote on Becky Albertalli’s next book. This was such a cool opportunity and I’m so happy about it and with the blurb that I gave HarperCollins. But the book doesn’t come out until April of 2017 so it’s waaaay too early for a full review which is…why I didn’t write a full review. BUT I can say that Upside is everything you could want and more from her sophomore novel. I cannot wait for everyone else to read it because it’s really something special.

2) Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler

Under the Lights is the second in Dahlia Adler’s Daylight Falls series. I haven’t read the first book (oops) but they’re more of companions so it didn’t really matter. Under the Lights follows the dual POV of two teenagers, Josh Chester and Vanessa Park, who are famous actors in Hollywood. Josh is dealing with the fact that maybe he likes the famous lifestyle more than he likes the acting work while Vanessa worries about her future in Hollywood as a Korean-American actress. I thought this was fun–the drama that comes with their jobs and lifestyles is a very different kind than in other YA contemporaries that I’ve read. Although I liked both MC’s, I was definitely more invested in Vanessa’s POV than Josh’s because it was honestly just more interesting, especially since she was also figuring out her sexuality throughout the book. I really, really liked Vanessa’s coming out story because she just starts thinking about her sexuality when she’s 18, rather than having known she was gay her whole life which is the norm of YA coming out stories. It’s always bothered me that that’s the norm in YA because in reality it’s not like that for everyone, so I really appreciated how Vanessa’s coming out differed in that way. I also liked how Vanessa’s race and sexuality brought up really important conversations about intersections of one’s identity which is something not usually discussed in YA. Just lot’s of good stuff in this one.

3) Shrill by Lindy West

Each month I collaborate with the Book of the Month Club to share their selections and this month one of the books they sent me was Shrill, writer Lindy West’s memoir. I absolutely LOVED this. At the end of 2015, I really got into reading memoirs both as novels and graphic novels, but this is the first time in 2016 that I’ve read a memoir and, man, do I love them. Lindy West is just so incredibly smart and insightful. I really enjoyed reading her comments on some issues I’ve given a lot of thought to and some issues I’ve never thought about before. She discusses what it was like for her growing up fat, what it’s like being fat as an adult and how much that has all affected her life. She talks about her abortion and her history with her dating and her husband, but my favorite part was when she discussed being a woman in comedy and how misogynistic comedy still is. My family is really into SNL and watching stand up together and late night talk shows, so comedy always has been very prevalent in my home life and I’ve thought a lot about certain things Lindy brought up in her book about comedy and women. She talks about her own experience being a comedy writer and all the online abuse she has gotten throughout the years due to the blatant misogyny in comedy. My favorite story she told was about how a lot of male comedians tell jokes about rape in all the wrong ways and how she fought to teach people the right way to tell those kinds of jokes, if that makes sense. Lindy West is just so brilliant and wise and anyone who is interested in feminism and interesting people should read Shrill.

4) Doctor Who: Death Riders by Justin Richards

So, in high school I was a really big Doctor Who fan and I loved the Eleventh Doctor and the Pond Era more than anything. After The Doctor regenerated into Twelve, I tried to keep watching but I just missed Eleven too much (actually, I still haven’t see the episode where Eleven regenerates, it’s just too painful). Recently I’ve discovered the glory of Doctor Who books and graphic novels that star Eleven and Amy and Rory. Now I can still experience their adventures together, just in a different format and I’m loving it. Doctor Who: Death Riders was a DW book I found for $9 in Barnes and Noble so I grabbed it, but it’s not the best DW book out there. I found the characterization of Eleven and Amy to be off at times and the story was lacking the emotion and meaning that I loved about Eleven episodes. Everything really meant something to him, every planet and person they saw and saved had real emotion behind it and I didn’t feel that at all in this, which was really disappointing. It was a fun story, I suppose, but really not the best. I will continue my quest of finding Doctor Who stories that are great and just add this to the list of ones that aren’t.

COMIC BOOKS/GRAPHIC NOVELS

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1) Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

This lil work of magical realism was super cute and fun. It takes the whole idea of ‘second chances’ and plays with it. MC Katie has a restaurant called Seconds that she is no longer totally happy with so she decides to build a new one. While living on the second floor of her original restaurant, she encounters a house spirit who has magical mushrooms one can use to fix a mistake. Katie goes a little crazy using the mushrooms to fix things in her life, at first living like her actions have no consequences to becoming obsessed with making her life as perfect as possible, but nothing really satisfies her. It was a really nice story about second chances and how you’re life will never be perfect, especially if you try to make it that way. The art was wonderful, as usual; Bryan Lee O’Malley has a very distinct style that’s very cartoonish and bubbly that I really enjoy. It was also pretty funny. Katie is the main character but there is also a disembodied narrator who Katie can hear and interacts with at times, which I just loved. I don’t know if you would call that breaking the fourth wall? Anyway, it was breaking some rule where the characters can’t hear the narrator and I thought it was a nice touch. Just a really nice story, I always like what I read of Brian Lee O’Malley.

2) Giant Days, volumes 1 & 2

Giant Days is a comic book series that takes place in England and might also be originally published there. It follows three girls–Susan, Esther, and Daisy–during their first year of university (or college, if you’re a US-ian). That….that is pretty much it. There isn’t a bigger, over arching plot besides friends figuring out this new part of their lives together. When it comes to narrative/prose novels, I prefer character growth and development or character driven plots more than but flashy storylines. But when it comes to comics and graphic novels, while the characters are still important, I really just want a good visual story. This series is much more just focused on the characters. I liked the first volume, but it was mostly about character establishment. I enjoyed the second volume more because I already knew the characters and liked seeing them live their lives. Usually I would prefer a bigger storyline, but by the second volume I just enjoyed watching the girls go through uni. I actually just finished my first year of uni/college, so I liked seeing how their first years compared to mine and I saw some similarities, which was nice. It is a really enjoyable and funny series, even if it’s pretty lowkey. I’ll definitely be continuing with the series, even if I’m not running to the store the second volume three comes out.

3) Doctor Who: After Life (volume 1)

Told you I’ve been diggin’ these Doctor Who stories. This is the first volume of an Eleven series that I got from the library. I got 3 volumes of this series out, but only read this first one before I had to return them, whoops. I…liked it. The story was good (better than Death Riders) but not amazing. I think the Eleven’s writing was better than in Death Riders. It was fun to read about Eleven again, blah blah blah, but apparently not good enough to continue with the series. Or at least to remember to. Hm. Maybe I’ll get the rest out of the library again some time but it’s not a top priority. It was just a fun thing to read for nostalgic reasons, I guess.

4) Saga, volumes 1 & 2

OKAY, SO. I talked a lot about Saga in my last post so I’ll try to keep this short and sweet. Saga is amazing and everyone should read it (unless you don’t like super graphic stuff because….this is super graphic). I’m making my way through volumes 1-5 because volume 6 comes out soon (next week, maybe??) and I’m having so much fun reliving this incredible series. The story follows Alana, from planet Landfall, and Marko, from Landfall’s moon called Wreath. Landfall and Wreath have been in war with each other for years, but Alana and Marko fall in love, run away, and have a baby together. The rest of the galaxy thinks this is disgusting (because Landfallians and Wreaths are supposed to hate each other) and numerous planets, kingdoms, governments, and Freelancers want to kill them and their baby. Violent shenanigans ensue. It’s amazing and I love it. The world building is flawless, the characters are so great, it discusses real social justice issues we have on Earth without even being about Earth and I’m just ????? love it so much ???? ahem. Sorry, I just reverted into my fangirl state, I’ll try to keep that under control. Saga is just incredible, please read it.

And that’s it!! There are so many more books I want to read this summer, I have to fit a lot of reading into July and August. Once I get back to going to classes, fun reading time will be limited. But before then, lot’s of reading will happen and I’ll continue to update you on how it’s going!!

Tell me: have you read any of these? What are your most recent reads?

xx, emily

Emily, Where Have You Been?!: A Life Update

I sincerely hope at least one of you read that in the inflection of Mrs. Weasley at the beginning of The Chamber of Secrets movie.

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So, where have I been?….right here, in the same place as usual. N0thing really extraordinary has happened, I haven’t been working or on a vacation or anything to keep me from blogging or  making videos. I just…haven’t. I’ve been in a bit of a slump, recently. Not a reading slump; I’ve actually gotten pretty ahead on my reading challenge. I just haven’t felt like doing anything, really. I’ve read a bit but I haven’t felt the motivation to do anything truly productive. So this morning I got some coffee, bought a few new notebooks for planning (and buying notebooks just makes me feel productive, even if I don’t end up writing in them) (but I payed a lot for these Moleskine notebooks and will be actually writing in them), and decided to get back into blogging!

But really, what have I been doing in my many week absence? First of all, I finally got my driver’s license. Yes, I am 19 years old and I just got my license. But I tricked the system that you all fell for; since I’m an adult, I don’t have to go to hours of classes and just had to take the final test so HA! Ahem. Excuse me. Anyway. I’ve been enjoying the freedom of being able to go to Starbucks every morning (I’m addicted to their new cold brew with vanilla sweet cream–I’m literally drinking it right now) and I’ve gone to Target far too many times and spent far too much money each time–really, I need a chaperone when I go to Target. If no one is watching me, I will buy the whole store. I’m going to start looking for nice places I can drive to and write; I really think that will help with my productivity. If I’m home all day, I’m going to lay on the floor all day. That’s just how it works, I guess.

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I’ve also become addicted to a new tv show, which I haven’t done in a super long time. In case you didn’t know, my favorite show is Parks and Rec and usually I just watch seasons 2-6 on repeat. Once I finish 6, I start 2 and watched through to 6 and it’s just a giant circle of bureaucrat comedy. I finally weened myself off of the Parks path and started Brooklyn Nine Nine. I’ve always vaguely wanted to watch Brooklyn Nine Nine because I’ve always vaguely liked Andy Samberg, but once I went and saw Popstar I wanted to see anything and everything Andy Samberg has done in his lifetime. Because first of all, Popstar is genuinely hilarious and I cried laughing at least three times; it’s genius. Soon after that religious experience, I bought Hulu just for Brooklyn Nine Nine and it was so worth it. The whole cast dynamic is amazing and it’s so well written. It’s definitely in the same realm as 20 Rock and Parks and The Office. I love Samberg’s character, Jake Peralta, so much that my name on Twitter is literally “emily peralta !!” right now. It’s a problem. I only have about 15 available episodes left and I’m already in mourning.

Oh, I’ve also started using my tumblr more if you’re interested. It’s called Emily Loves Things because I love a lot of things and post about those things that I love. It’s really called that because someone stole the “blueeyedbiblio.tumblr.com” url which kind of sucks, but oh well. I like Emily Loves Things. Just a warning, though, it’s more Captain America stuff.

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What else, what else….oh yeah, reading. That’s mainly why you guys are here anyway, right? The past couple days I’ve been rereading the Saga series, which is a comic book series that is so so incredible. It’s written by Brian K. Vaughn, the mastermind himself, and it’s about a war in space between a planet and it’s moon. The race on the planet and the race on the moon have been fighting for years, but the physical battles have been outsourced to locations throughout the galaxy, so the entire universe is involved. A woman from the planet, Landfall, falls in love with a man from the moon, Wreath, and they have a baby. Higher officials on certain planets find out about the couple and the baby and want them all dead. Oh, and the whole thing is narrated by the baby, Hazel. Technically, her narration is from her in the future, but still genius. And that’s where the story begins. And it’s fantastic. Honestly one of the best stories I have ever read. There are currently 5 volumes out and volume 6 comes out really soon (which is why I’m doing the reread), and even with it being so long the story continues to be incredibly engaging and still developing in really interesting ways. I’ll talk more about it when I finish my reread and read volume 6 and keep telling you why you 100% need to read Saga.

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I’m also currently reading an ARC of The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick, which is literary fiction with a little magical realism thrown in. It jumps around in time, following two families and their relationship with each other and their relationships with comets. I’m really enjoying it and taking my time reading while annotating, but also kind of taking a break because as much as I’m enjoying it, it’s really slow. I am more of in the mood for something fast paced, which is why I’m having so much fun rereading Saga because it’s a action packed sci-fi that I can read a volume of in a day. I was thinking about starting This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab later today. I love everything Schwab has written, especially her Darker Shade of Magic series, and I’ve been eyeing This Savage Song for so long it’s a wonder I haven’t started it yet. Everything I’ve heard about it has been fantastic and it hasn’t even been released yet (but will be on July 5th). It’s about a futuristic, militaristic America with monsters disguised as humans and it sounds like the perfect fast paced something to satisfy my tiny slump.

So, that’s really what I’ve been up to. A little reading, a lot of tv watching and driving just because I can. What have you been up to these last few weeks? Read some really great books? Any (funny) tv shows you think I should watch? Let me know in the comments!

xx, emily

Thrilling in Theory: Review of The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Waas

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I grew up in a Catholic family. Some family members are pretty religious, others are not so much. It was more of a casual thing than something that dictated our lives. What I’m saying is, my family is nothing like the one in The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Waas. In this YA self-proclaimed-thriller, Castella and her five siblings live under the harsh hand of their Father, who receives messages from God and controls their lives accordingly. They live in the woods, they don’t have electricity, they dress like they’re from the 1800’s, and they’re not allowed to interact with people who aren’t part of their immediate family. The Cresswell’s exceed “religious” and move into cult-like territory. Just before Castella turns 18, Father receives a message that it’s time for them all to return to their place beside God in heaven, just as Castella starts to wonder if the outside world is better than the one they’re living in.

I found the storyline of this book really interesting. It’s such a different perspective to read from; I’ve never been super religious nor was I ever forced to be, and Castella’s experience completely exceeds that. Whenever Castella made the decision to disobey her Father’s word and do something for herself, she went through agonizing thought process “Is this a sin? Will God tell Father? Will I still be able to go to heaven if I do this?”. I cannot even imagine living a life like this which is why I’m grateful for books like these, books that give you a new perspectives on the world.

That being said, this wasn’t my favorite book. I enjoyed it, but towards the end I just wanted it to be over which is never the *best* sign. I think there was a disconnect between the storyline, the characters, and the writing. There wasn’t that extra something that pulled all three together to create a great book. For me, I need really strong and distinct and vivid characters to love a book. I talked in a recent YouTube video about how much I love character driven books and how even in books that are more plot driven, I need those strong characters to enjoy the book as a whole. I thought that the characters in The Cresswell Plot fell kind of flat. I think this could be partially due to the writing style, which I found very basic and almost boring. There was nothing special about how she wrote, she used the most basic word and techniques to get the story on the page. In my opinion, there are very few times that this works well, but this wasn’t one of them. I think that the writing style is what didn’t bring the characters to life very well. I had a vague interest in what happened to these kids, but I didn’t feel concerned or worried for them at all. There was also one character whose personality completely changed in a way that made no sense, which made me question Waas’s writing abilities a little bit (not an ex machina, but reminiscent of one).

I also personally wouldn’t call this a thriller, like it says on the Goodreads synopsis. That’s probably, again, due to the disconnect I felt between the writing and the storyline. I think a more talented writer could have made this much more exciting and fast paced, but Waas’s writing just didn’t do that for me.  I felt like I was an observer rather than I was immersed in the story. I think Waas did a really good job constructing an interesting and unique storyline because, no, I’ve never read anything like this before, it just wasn’t brought to it’s complete potential due to her lacking writing style (in this particular book; I know that she’s a freelance writer and she’s probably more talented writing for other publications than writing for a YA audience).

Overall, I don’t regret reading this book. I wish I didn’t take so long to read it, but I don’t regret it. It was an interesting story, just not one that I felt particularly connected to. I think that if you already want to read it, you should pick it up and see how it goes for you, but it’s not something I would necessarily recommend.

The Cresswell Plot comes out on June 7th and you can buy in on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local indie.

 

xx, emily