Refreshingly Gay: Review of You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour

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After much deliberation and time spent staring at stacks upon stacks of books, I decided that You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour would be my first read out of all the books I got this past week from BEA (book haul video coming soon).

You Know Me Well was a really refreshing gay YA book. Taking place in San Fransisco, teens Mark and Kate came out long before this book started, and are totally secure and comfortable in their sexualities. This is not something that I, personally, have come across in the LGBT+ YA that I’ve read. When it comes to gay teens, their stories have always been coming out stories, about how hard that is and what being in the closet has done to them and their process of telling people or just hiding the gay away. Those can be important stories, but it’s not all their stories can be. You Know Me Well provides this wonderful take on gay teens where they have, you know, normal teenage problems because they are normal teenagers. They have fights with friends, doubts about college and their futures, problems with their romantic interests who just happen to be of the same gender. I just think the fact that this story exists, showing how there is an After once you come out and it can be good no matter what may have happened during the process of, is amazing and wonderful.

I think everything I mentioned in the previous paragraph heightens my opinion of this book. If this was about average straight kids (like the majority of YA is), I don’t know if I would have liked it as much. The relationship between Mark and Kate was really nice; they became friends really quickly, but truly cared for each other right away and I loved seeing such a strong platonic friendship between two kids of the opposite gender (another thing that doesn’t happen often because they’re usually both straight and fall in love at some point). I could really, really see myself in Kate a lot of the time (especially in terms of how she reacted to certain situations and the way her thoughts spiraled downward a lot). It always means something extra when you can see parts of yourself in a character in a book you’re reading. It’s comforting.

But some of this book was a little unrealistic. I think it’s perfectly believable that Mark and Kate could become friends so quickly, but some of the things they did together and experience in one night and they way that certain events come from that night is pretty unrealistic. The thing is, I don’t know if that bothers me or not. I don’t know if every single contemporary YA has to be 100% believable and practical all of the time. I think the events that occur in this story just add to this magical feeling I had while reading it, and I think that that’s okay. There was also a bit of instalove which I’m usually not a fan of, but in this context it did not bother me very much. Again, it could be because everything I mentioned in the previous paragraph just heightened my opinion of every aspect of this book.

There’s something just kind of really special and glowing about this book to me, I think that might be something really personal and that everyone might not feel, but You Know Me Well is still definitely a very refreshing and positive take on the gay teen experience that I feel is lacking in the YA world. Also, David Levithan and Nina LaCour are just as fabulous and wonderful as usual.

You Know Me Well comes out on June 7th, 2016 and you can buy it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local indie.

 

xx, emily

I Want To Go Back: BEA day 3 and BookCon

I am now home, sitting on my bed with my fairy lights on, wearing my cozy Big Honcho Media hoodie and sipping tea. All of that is very nice, but I miss Chicago and the wonder that is BEA and the totally different craziness of BookCon and Uber rides with my Bookstagram friends.

The last two days that I was in Chicago were super busy and, at this point, a giant blur. I met so many more amazing people and got so many good looking ARC’s and talked to cool authors. Here I go again, missing this last week and wishing I could relive it.

 

On Friday, my friends and I joined forces with a couple other bloggers to get the most out of ARC grabbing. In the process, I got 19 books and met 6 authors of those books, all of which were very nice. Some of the authors include Alexandra Bracken, David Arnold, and Kami Garcia who already knew who I was through my Instagram, which was cool.

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After the BEA day was over, the lot of us went downtown to the Barnes & Noble and when a group of book bloggers go book shopping together, damage is done. This means I bought 3 books even though I got so many for free this week. I know, I’m both ashamed and amazed, too. Afterward we walked through the freezing rain to Chick-Fil-A, which was obviously worth it. I figured Germany didn’t have Chick-Fil-A, so it was Mara’s first time there, but Canada doesn’t either? Amazing. You guys are missing out.

The fourth day of BEA wasn’t really BEA anymore, it was BookCon, which is a one-day book convention open to the general public (BEA is not). BookCon is a whole other beast than BEA. The vibe is totally different since the crowd is full of different types of people. A lot of book bloggers don’t go to BookCon, it seems, since it is basically the same stuff as BEA, just less of that stuff (if that makes sense). There aren’t ARC drops, but there are giveaways you can enter and books you can buy, but mostly it’s miles upon miles of lines to meet the biggest YA authors. Which is cool when those authors haven’t been at BEA with you all week.

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I had four main reasons for going to BookCon. 1) My friends were still there and I wanted to spend as much time with them as I could, of course; 2) A recent grad from my university (Denison, also in Ohio, literally never leaving this place) was running a booth during BookCon and I wanted to meet her in person. Krista was super cool and fun to talk to since she is starting to emerge in the publishing world and also went to the school I am at now; we had a lot to talk about. In case you didn’t know, I would love to work in publishing when I graduate from school and Krista is currently getting into the publishing world so having Krista as a contact will hopefully be really helpful in the future (also, I just really like her); 3) Margot Wood, who we all know from EpicReads, was running the EpicReads lounge. We’ve talked before and she’s also from Ohio and working in publishing (obviously) so I had to go finally meet her in person. Guys, she’s just as great as she is in her EpicReads YouTube videos. When I walked up to say hi, she was eating a donut which was very in character. We talked for a bit about the world and books and other possible things that could happen in the future…;-). Anyway, I was really happy to meet those two in person and to have them as people I already know as I try to start my future career in publishing.

OH YEAH. Number 3. How could I possibly forget. If you follow me on Twitter (actually, Instagram, too), you already know how much I love Hannah Hart. You also already know that I met Hannah Hart at BookCon. Which was amazing. Like, so amazing I can’t even tell you how amazing. She was there to talk about and promote her upcoming book Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded. She gave a talk about the book later in the day, which I went to and loved. I am so excited about this book. In 2014, I believe, I read Yes, Please, Amy Poehler’s memoir and it was great and made me love and respect her even more, and I’m expecting Hannah’s book to be along the same lines. Also, Hannah showed us the official cover of Buffering, which isn’t actually being revealed till next week, and it is beautiful. After the talk, there was a meet-and-great you had to win tickets to and miraculously I did and I met her and talked to her for maybe 15 seconds and I was barely able to get the words out because I was so nervous but she understood what I was saying and finished my sentence for me and we took a picture and she told me to take care and it was all just wonderful. So thanks, BookCon, for giving me that experience.

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And thanks to everyone I met this weekend, from my friends I loved spending time with and already miss so much to people who said hi because they know me from my Instagram, you are all the reasons why I love the Bookternet so much and why I will stick around here for a long, long time.

 

xx, Emily

 

Lines, Authors, and More Lines: BEA Day 2

My back and joints hurt from carrying books around all day and I feel like an old man. I told my friends today that I think BEA is the one time of the year that bookworms work out.

This second day of BEA (or the first day of the *actual* conference) was much different from yesterday/the Blogger’s Conference. It seemed like there was more open on the floor and there were definitely more people, but the biggest difference was authors and lines. There were a ton of authors having signing and there were even more lines. In the morning when I woke up I made a whole schedule on my list of all the authors I wanted to meet and books I wanted to grab at drops and, miraculously, I didn’t miss a single thing I wanted. As a BEA baby, I’m very impressed with myself. I had a little more restrain than yesterday and got less than 20 books and more than half of them are signed.

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Today I met Lauren Oliver (again) (we waited an hour and 20 minutes for her and she tweeted a selfie she took with us), David Levithan (twice), Sam Maggs (should have taken a selfie with her..), and Adam Silvera (HE’S SO NICE AND COOL) and they were all so wonderful. Like honestly, book people are the best. Above are a few of the books I got and I have no idea what I’m going to do with myself when I get home. What the heck am I going to read first?! How am I going to prioritize these!?! Again, it’s a good problem to have.

I did a lot better with networking and handing out my business cards today, which I’m happy about. I talked to some people at smaller presses and cute small businesses but I also gave my business card to someone at DISNEY, so, who knows what will come of that but it was awesome.

Later at night Mara, Adam, Alex and I went to an ~exclusive~ party at The James hotel hosted by the wonderful people of Head Honcho Media. This was super fun and I got to do a bit more networking and generally just met the best people. I am so happy I get to do such cool things like this and meet such genuinely awesome people. We’re going to have an expanded squad to tackle the main floor tomorrow, so come at us BEA day 3.

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xx, Emily

Free Books, Internet Friends, and Fog: BEA Day 1

As you probably know (especially if you follow me on literally any form of social media) I am currently in Chicago for BEA 2016! This is third time in the city and my first time ever at BEA. I’ve been aware of the convention for years and I’ve always wanted to go but never had a reason (i.e. a blog) until now. I was incredibly nervous before I got into the city, because everything about this is completely uncharted territory for me: a giant convention, meeting professionals, seeing Internet bookish friends for the first time. But now that the first day is over, I can safely say that 1) I had literally nothing to worry about and 2) today I had more fun than I have in a long, long time.

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Today technically wasn’t the first day of BEA but of the BEA Bloggers Conference, which I was invited to to speak on a panel with Jesse (theReader), Ursula Uriarte, and Tiffany. Ursula and I represented the Bookstagram community, Ursula also spoke for the bloggers along with Tiffany, and Jesse for the BookTubers. We discussed how we each talk about books on our respective platforms, the different ways we utilize our different platforms, how each community interacts one another within the community and with others. I thought it went really well, I was pretty happy with my answers (I think I got one laugh out of the audience) (I talked about my bed comforter) and I think we had an interesting discussion about the ‘Bookternet’ and how it’s an ever growing and changing beast. But like, a nice and happy and passionate beast with a good taste in books.

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After my panel, my Bookstagram friends Mara, Alex, and Adam, and I went to lunch and at 1:00 the main floor opened for the day. This was what I was really looking forward to: all of the publishers gathered in one giant airplane-hanger-sized room with books and goodies and the opportunity to speak with them and network. We all just wandered around for a while, soaking it all in. It was pretty surreal for all of us to be there because we’re all BEA newbies. It’s something we’ve always heard of and always wanted to go to. You’re probably part of this reading community, you understand how big of a deal BEA is.

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I spoke to a few women who worked at different publishing houses and handed out some business cards, which was pretty cool to do for the first time. I even had some people walk up to me, knowing who I am, and asked for my card. So cool.

Like I said before, we weren’t entirely sure what to expect on the floor so we just drifted around for a while. Then, we found out publishers started giving out ARC’s today. We went a liiiittle crazy (okay, I did) with getting advanced copies. Sometimes there are huge ARC drops, like the EpicReads and Fierce Reads ones were a really big deal with super long lines, but sometimes when you pass a booth someone will just thrust a book into your face and you feel like you have to take it (okay, I felt like I had to take them). There are a few I got that I’m really excited about, like The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon and Blood For Blood by Ryan Graudin. There are going to be a lot more ARC drops and author signings tomorrow, so I need to make sure I’m prepared for all of that.

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The Blogger’s Conference badge came with a really nice private room for us with a little after party hosted by Penguin Random House with special games with ARC prizes, giveaways, and Jennifer Niven signed ARC’s of her upcoming release Holding Up the Universe. I also got a couple more ARC’s at that little event, so thanks to Penguin Random House for hosting!

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After the day ended at 5:00, I went back to my hotel room to drop off my books and I met my friends back in the lobby to head to the Bean (or Cloud Gate in Millennium Park) for the Bookternet meet up. We got there a little late and I forgot to take pictures there (whoops) but it was nice to meet other bookish Internet people outside of the conference where it was far less hectic. I was reunited with my fave Whitney from WittyNovels. Then us four Bookstagrammers decided to walk to Navy Pier because Mara wanted to see the ferris wheel for Divergent reasons. The walk there was supposed to be 1.4 miles, but I’m pretty sure we accidentally made it a lot longer. It was pretty amazing getting closer to the Pier because it has been reeeeaaally foggy this week in the city and the ferris wheel was totally covered up except for a little bit showing at the bottom. It was very dystopian-looking, which was fitting.

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The walk there might have been the most fun I had all day. Really, guys, meeting your Internet friends in real life is better than you probably think it is. I’m really shy and introverted and I haven’t known these people (irl) for 48 hours but they’re already some of my favorite people and we have a great little group going and I love us so much.

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SO. First day here in Chicago was a huge success. I can’t wait to spend the next 3 days here with my friends in the city. I’m definitely going to make sure I talk to more professionals and people at publisher’s booths. Gotta hand out as many business cards as possible. I’ll report back tomorrow to let you know how day 2 goes (probably great). Until then, have a nice Thursday whether you’re in Chicago or elsewhere.

 

xx, Emily

Emily in Real Life: Where You Can Find Me This Summer (NTTBF + BEA)

Hello!! I am going to pull myself away from the glowing screen and will be out and about in the world this summer, and you can come, too!

If you would rather hear me speak actual words about this, you can watch my newest YouTube video:

If you would rather read words that I type, keep reading.

The first event, and event coming up really soon, is the North Texas Teen Book Fest on April 23rd in Irving, Texas. This is a free book festivals full of amazing YA authors like E. Lockhart, Adam Silvera, and Gayle Forman. There will be tons of signings PLUS a BookTube panel, which I will be on!! A real panel, talking in front of real people! Wow, I’m exited and also very scared but mostly excited. Other BookTubers on the panel include Whitney from WhittyNovels, Naya from NayaReadsAndSmiles, and Alberto from AbriendoLibros. If you’re planning on coming to the NTTBF, come out to the panel at 1:00PM and stick around after for a meet up! Let me know if you’re coming (in either the comments here or on my video) because I’m really excited to meet some of you!

The other event I’m going to which I am so excited for ohmygod is Book Expo America, or BEA! I will also be on the United: Bloggers, Youtubers, and Instagrammers panel at the BEA Blogger’s Conference on May 11th at 11:00. This year, BEA is in Chicago and a lot of YouTubers and bloggers and Bookstagrammers that I know are going and I cannot wait! I have no idea what to expect since this will be my first year, and I’m also pretty nervous about this too because I’ll be navigating the space on my own, but I really can’t be more excited about it. If you’re planning on going to BEA and we’ve talked before and you want to meet up, shoot me an email (blueeyedbiblio at gmail), and if you’re going to be at the panel or BookCon (which I’m also going to, too!!) let me know in the comments! I am going to ask around about any Internet People meet ups and let you guys know if there will be any other chance to meet me because I really want to meet you!

Follow my Twitter and Instagram for more information as the events come closer. I’ll be tweeting and posting about my experiences, so follow if you don’t want to miss those. I will also  probably be making a post for each event on here, so make sure you subscribe!

Let me know if I’ll be seeing you this summer!

xx, Em

I’m Worth Twelve of You, Malfoy: Why I’m Neville Longbottom

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As Harry Potter crazed kids, when we were asked who are favorite character was or who we related to most our answer was most likely one of the Golden Trio. Harry, because he’s the lead and the star. Hermione, because she has the brains and the talent. Ron, because he’s funny and loyal and has the best family. Not to completely discount our responses back then, but we did not yet fully comprehend the deeper characteristics and traits of the characters in Harry Potter, nor did we fully know who we were yet. As we grow older, our answers change with us. Luna, because she may say an odd thing or two but her heart is always in the right place and she’s incredibly passionate and protective of the ones she loves. Ginny, because she feels pushed to the side most of her life and steps up to be a very powerful witch and does not apologize for it.

For me, it’s Neville Longbottom.

As a kid, no one wants to be Neville. He’s chubby, he’s weird, he didn’t know he had powers for way too long (basically, a late bloomer). He fell off of everything, he tripped over everything, he blew up potions in Snape’s class and “Ten points from Gryffindor!“. He was bullied relentlessly by Malfoy for no reason other than he didn’t have everything together and he was easy to embarrass.

I am Neville Longbottom.

As a 19 year old who has read the Sorcerer’s Stone at least 3 times before, I am rereading it once more for my study in children’s lit class for university. I have had this small theory that I’m Neville for a while, but as I am reading through this book again I keep finding more and more evidence that my theory is true. The way I came about this idea needs a little explaining, so here’s some backstory:

Most people know I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. Not necessarily in the way that I talk about Harry Potter all the time, but in the way that I know everything about the story and the universe and it’s hard to find a fact that I don’t know. I have an entire shelf on my bookcase dedicated to Harry Potter stuff, and not all of it even fits. I will definitely cry if I hear Hedwig’s Theme. This is common knowledge, and if it’s not, people find out soon enough. Then comes the inevitable question: What house are you in? Now, see, there’s a variance of how seriously certain types of fans take Hogwarts houses. Casual fans see the houses as the brave one, the smart one, the evil one, and the one that takes the losers. Fans that probably care too much about the book series know that these are just harmful house stereotypes. Me, being one of these fans, thinks much deeper about Hogwarts houses and, taking this into account, I am a Gryffindor.

So, when people ask “What house are you in?” and I respond with “I’m in Gryffindor”, a lot of the time they respond with a look of confusion and doubt. “Really? You’re a Gryffindor?” Yes, I am. Let me explain.

Hogwarts students are sorted into houses when they are 11 years old. When I was 11, I believed that I was a Gryffindor. I wasn’t shy at school, I talked in class, I introduced myself to new people, I was incredibly accident prone and had a high pain tolerance so all falls and scrapes and bruises were not a big deal. To an 11-year-old, this was being brave. Being brave meant doing big things you weren’t scared of or not even being scared of anything. That was being brave as a kid. As you grow, what’s considered bravery shifts and changes just like you shift and change.

Middle school and high school were different. I became very self conscious in middle school because of body image issues and I wasn’t very outgoing. In high school, body image wasn’t so much of a big deal as my newfound nervousness and anxiety. I went to a new school for high school, one that was small and where most people already knew each other. Making friends was hard, really hard, and I didn’t feel like I had real friends until senior year. I was afraid of doing things, like going to dances and football games or even eating in the dining hall. The nervousness turned into anxiety and I would have panic attacks if I tried to do those things. Most of freshman and sophomore year I spent all my free time tucked in the library. I still have anxiety issues today and though they manifest themselves a little differently, they are still there.

This is not bravery, is it?

Actually, to me, yeah, it is. Junior year of high school I had to give a speech in front of the whole school as a graduation requirement. I was beyond nervous. I actually tried to transfer schools to avoid giving the speech, but my parents wouldn’t let me (thanks, guys). I started panicking about my November speech during the June before. The week before my speech, the anxiety was real and bad. Surprisingly, when I woke up on the morning of my speech day, I thought “I’m excited”. Now, I wasn’t actually excited, but I knew I had to give the speech, so I told myself all day “I’m excited, I’m excited”. Once I got to school, when people asked me how I was feeling I responded by saying “I’m excited!”. By the time I was behind the stage waiting to walk out, the nerves weren’t bad nerves but excited ones. I had convinced myself and my body that I was actually looking forward to giving the speech. I don’t remember when I was on stage and talking, it was such a blur, but I do remember sitting down afterwards, being so incredibly proud of myself. I did it. I did the scariest thing in the world for me at the time, I conquered it, and that is what bravery is.

To me, being a Gryffindor means being brave when I have to be, in the moments where it matters the most, no matter how much I don’t want to. Bravery is standing up to someone else, standing up for yourself, for the first time ever even after panicking about it the night before. Bravery is moving to a dorm at your university even though you would rather live at home and commute because you know the experience will be good for you. Bravery is also living from home and commuting every once and a while because sometimes doing what is best for you and not what everyone else is doing demands a sort of courage.

This is why I’m Neville Longbottom.

In the Harry Potter books, no one thinks that Neville should be in Gryffindor. In the Sorcerer’s Stone, chapter 13, Neville was unfairly jinxed by Malfoy. This scene follows the incident:

“You’ve got to stand up to him, Neville!” said Ron. “He’s used to walking all over people, but that’s no reason to lie down in front of him and make it easier.”

“There’s no need to tell me I’m not brave enough to be in Gryffindor, Malfoy’s already done that,” Neville chocked out.

“You’re worth twelve of Malfoy,” Harry said. “The Sorting Hat chose you for Gryffindor, didn’t it? And where’s Malfoy? In stinking Slytherin.”

In the early years, not only did Neville not think that he was supposed to be in Gryffindor, but others also told him so. Fortunately, he had Ron and Harry who were willing to say nice things and be kind to him. Later in the chapter, during a Quidditch match, a miraculous thing happens.

“…Longbottom, you’ve got no brains.”

Neville went bright red but turned in his seat to Malfoy.

“I’m worth twelve of you, Malfoy,” he stammered.

This is a big deal for Neville. It’s the end of their first year and he had been kicked around and bullied by Malfoy for months. This is the first time that Neville ever does anything about it. Malfoy is unfazed, of course, a comment like that doesn’t stop a bully from being a bully. But it’s a step. Neville “went red but turned in his seat” to confront Malfoy; he was hurt and embarrassed and probably didn’t want to do it but he remembered what Ron and Harry had said the night before and decided to be brave.

That’s the thing, I think. Bravery, a lot of the time, is a concious decision. Sure, there are probably people who are naturally brave and do whatever they want; those are the reckless Gryffindor stereotypes who don’t have a regard for their own life that we all hear rumors about (*ahem* the Weasley twins). What I find interesting is that Neville is the only example of this type of Gryffindor, the one who is scared and nervous and blundering around most of the time and needs to make that conscious decision of bravery. There aren’t any other Gryffindor students that I can think of that felt like they did not fit into their house. Through not feeling like a true Gryffindor, Neville represents that kid who is not sure of themselves until they’re a bit older; a late bloomer. But they were always there, showing true moments of themselves through the mess that is growing up.

So, I think for a lot of people, or for maybe just a few, bravery is a decision we make. We’re not always sure of ourselves, it took us a while to figure out where we belong, and maybe we’re not brave all of the time, but we’re brave when it matters the most. And that’s what makes Neville and I Gryffindors.

 

xx, Em

 

 

Grab a Pen, Let’s Get Reading: Annotating My Books

Hello. How has almost a month already passed since my last post?! Let’s not let that happen again, shall we? Back to posting once a week it is.

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Rereading the Sorcerer’s Stone for the 300th time

It’s 9AM on a Wednesday morning. I’m still trying to rub last night’s sleep out of my eyes as I settle into a quiet, private booth in a corner of the student union at my university. Time to get homework done that’s due in an hour and a half. I lean back, take out the book I have to read for class, and grab a pen. Wait, what? Grab a pen..? That’s not normal. And that was the first time I realized that it’s not normal for me. It’s something I do now, it’s new, but in terms of my entire life long reading experience, picking up a pen before I start reading is not normal.

I annotate my books now.

Okay, hang on, before you get all “OMG monster!! Satan!!!! I bet you dog ear your pages, too!!!”, let’s take a deep breath and calm down before I proceed (but, yes, I do dog ear the pages, too).

Let me explain.

My copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that I first read when I was little is battered and torn and ripped and taped and loved and I don’t let anyone touch it. It’s this symbol for the start of something huge in my life and it’s mine and it’s special. If someone ever took it and lost it or just straight up stole it I would die. But it is not perfect and flawless. My copy of I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, one of my favorite books from 2015, on the other hand, is perfect and clean. There are no blemishes and if there are, I promise you I complained about them and demanded to know how they got there. At some point in my life, I went from treating a book like a book to treating it like something too precious to be carried around willy-nilly.

When did that shift happen? And am I shifting again?

To answer the first question: in this wonderful online bookish community, especially on the YA side, books are sacred. They are these precious, beautiful story vessels that we must protect with our lives. They give us so much, so we must protect them and keep them clean and perfect. Before I joined this online community, I was not so paranoid about my books. I respected them because I respect stories, but I treated them like the bound stacks of paper they are. But after I became involved in this community, a lot of my reading habits changed. I started buying way more books than I could read, both because I was exposed to this whole new world of books I hadn’t seen before and it was what everyone else was doing. Now I have a TBR so big that it could avalanche and kill me, but that’s a problem for another day. I also stopped dog earing the pages of my books and started using bookmarks. I never wanted a pen or pencil to touch the pages, I didn’t want my paperbacks to bend, I didn’t want anything to get on the flawless hardcovers. It got to the point where I would feel nervous putting books in my backpack and would have to carry them so I knew what was happening to them, I would make sure tables were totally clean before I set them down, and if something did happen to my books I would actually get mad.

Now that I think about it, it’s all a little extreme.

I love books, and I have fun when I read, but it’s not fun being so paranoid about my books not being perfect that I get nervous bringing them places. I keep thinking back to my first copy of the Sorcerer’s Stone (yes, first copy, I can’t tell you how many I have now…) and how much I love it. And it’s completely destroyed. A chunk of the bottom right corner of the cover is literally missing. It’s covered in tape. The pages are yellowed and the book has been opened so many times it has permanently expanded. Every time I read that book, everywhere I brought it, has been engrained in the book itself. And I love that. And I want that for all the books I read.

Okay, no, I don’t want all my books to look like the Sorcerer’s Stone. But I don’t want to be so cautious with them that it gets…well…weird. And I do want my experience of reading the book be apparent, to be engrained in the book. So that’s why I annotate my books now.

I get in a comfortable position, pick up my favorite black pen, and starting reading. There are a wide range of markings I make on the pages and they’re all for different reasons. I’ll underline whole sentences and paragraphs that I particularly like, maybe for the significance to the story or because it was an especially beautiful sentence. I literally write “LOL” if something made me laugh. Anything I love, I draw boxes around. Sometimes I underline one word in a sentence just to keep track of where I am. I draw brackets around whole paragraphs that I love or think will be relevant later. And I write comments in the margines of my thoughts and reactions to what I’m reading, which is my favorite part. That way, I can look back and see what I had thought the first time I read something. I can go back and see how I first experienced the story and I just think that is so cool and I really wish I have been doing this for years. If only I could go back and see my thoughts and reactions to the first time I read The Hunger Games or I’ll Give You the Sun right there on their pages.

Annotating and dog earing and not caring about the state of my books too much (like, I even crack the spines on paperbacks now) adds to this whole new experience of engaging with the text. It kind of makes me feel like I’m actually a part of this story, like I’m experiencing it. When it pushes at me, I push back.

This whole new way of reading was completely inspired by one of wonderful Booktuber Ariel Bissett’s videos. She made a video called ‘Annotating Your Books‘ almost a year ago (for some reason I only saw it in the last couple months) and she talks about how she wants to engage with the story more and not care so much about keeping them in pristine condition. Give it a watch if you’re really interesting in this whole ~annotating books~ thing.

I think this shift in how I engage with my books has to do with my reading existential crisis that I talked about a few blog posts ago. I’m getting older, I’m maturing, I’m looking at the world in different and new ways. This has all been reflected in the way that I choose books to read now. And I guess it has also been reflected in the way that I treat my books and engage with the stories I read, which is something I did not realize until just now while writing this.

I find all these changes in my reading habits recently very interesting (I hope you do, too) and I will continue to report back on the changes I’ve noticed and how they’re affecting my reading life.

Now, I am going to pick my newest copy of Harry Potter back up (I’m rereading the Sorcerer’s Stone for a class…I am so lucky), grab my pen, and get writing.

xx, Emily

Emily, In Real Life: New YouTube Video

SO. In case you didn’t know, in addition to my Instagram and blog and Twitter I also have a YouTube channel. Now, you probably haven’t heard of it since I haven’t posted in 7 months….until now. I’m currently on spring break, and my channel still has over 4,100 subscribers even though I have been completely inactive and I thought that I should reward those 4,100 people with a video for sticking around for so long. So I did. It’s just a little book haul (and when I say little, I mean over 18 minutes…) with the books I have received so far in 2016 (although, once I finished editing I realized I still missed about 5 even with the haul being over 18 minutes. damn. I have a problem). Without further ado, you can watch the video here (and even subscribe, if you feel so inclined):

 

xx, Emily

2016…So Far: Recent Reads #1

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March: the 3rd month of the year, the start of a new season, the month of spring break. I thought this would be the perfect time to do my first Recent Reads on the blog. Recent Reads is a series/feature/whatever-you-want-to-call-it that I did on my YouTube channel a few times, when I actually still made videos. I also thought this would be a great time to talk about the last few books I’ve read because I just read my….6th book of the year. Now, some of you may have missed the disappointment in that last line. In 2 months and a week, all I have read is 6 books. That’s pretty bad for me, especially since I was off of school for 2 of those weeks. I started 2016 with a pretty bad reading slump, which I just recently got out of. So this first Recent Reads features all my reads of 2016 so far. I really wish I had been able to read more than six books at this point in the year, but alas, here we are.

1.) Carol by Patricia Highsmith

Both a good thing and a bad thing: I’m pretty sure Carol will be my favorite book of the year. Okay, maybe I can’t say my #1 favorite yet because I have a lot more to read this year but it will definitely be in the top. Carol is a piece of lesbian fiction from the 1950’s that is so progressive it’s amazing. It follows young Terese who falls in love with Carol while working in a department store. The novel follows their undulating relationship and it’s just incredible. Not only is Highsmith’s writing to die for, but the way she writes their relationship is amazing. I can’t really express how much and on what level I loved and appreciated this novel. Absolutely, very highly recommend.

2.) Drinking at the Movies by Julia Wertz

So, I find it hard to make people laugh through writing. Well, okay, maybe it’s just me who doesn’t laugh a lot while reading. I’ll recognize something that’s funny, maybe blow a little more air out my nose than usual, but Drinking at the Movies actually made me legitimately laugh. This graphic memoir (because for some reason I only read *graphic* memoirs?) follows Julie Wertz’s experience of moving from San Fransisco to New York City. Told through one page snapshots of her normal life, this novel showed the horrors and thrills of living in NYC in a way that made everything hilarious. Wertz knows how to laugh at herself as well as take herself seriously at times, which I really appreciated. I did not want to put this down because I knew that the more I read the more I would laugh and just generally enjoy my time. This memoir was funny while also having a lot of substance, something that I find other graphic memoirs I have read have lacked. If you are planning on reading any graphic memoir in the future, it should be Drinking at the Movies.

3.) A Year Without Mom by Dasha Tolstikova

Remember when I mentioned that some graphic memoirs I’ve read haven’t had a lot of substance? Well…. A Year Without Mom is about Dasha’s experience of having her mother leave Russia to study in a U.S college for a year. The art in this novel is absolutely beautiful. There’s this gorgeous theme of black and white with highlights of read in a very sophisticated juvenile style that I loved. The story was interesting, but there wasn’t a lot to connect to. The telling of the events seemed to go by quickly without very much emotion or thought. It seemed to just happen. I don’t know how this novel is being marketed or labeled, but to me it feels like a graphic novel for middle grade readers. It was a very beautiful read, but not something that was very thoughtful.

4.) Free Love and Other Stories by Ali Smith

This was my first experience with Ali Smith, who I have heard a lot about from Jen Campbell on YouTube, and I was very happy with it. This is a collection of short stories and I just loved it. I had quite the reading slump between A Year Without Mom and Free Love, and it did just the trick. This was the second collection of short stories I have ever read and I really enjoyed them. Smith has a very calm and thoughtful style. One thing she does that I love is not always disclosing the gender of the narrators/main characters. I think that’s a really nice, deliberate decision. I have never done this before (for a book I read for fun), but I started annotating while reading this collection and I don’t think I’m ever going back. I read so many lines that I loved, I figured I should just underline them and now I carry a pen with me to mark up my books. It’s been a really cool experience, and it’s really interesting because it’s something I would not have done a couple months ago. So, thanks, Free Love and Other Stories for inspiring this in me.

5.) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

This semester, I’m taking a study in children’s literature class in university and I read the Wonderful Wizard of Oz for it. I didn’t think that I had read this before, but I recognized details in this that weren’t in the movie so I actually may have. Anyway, the Wizard of Oz is a good story. I find the book to be a lot more interesting than the movie, with the land of china dolls and how everyone in the city wears green goggles. It’s not my favorite classic children’s book, but it’s a good one.

6.) Talk by Linda Rosencrantz

Now this might be the most interesting and experimental book I’ve ever read. Talk is told entirely in dialogue, and real dialogue at that. During one summer in the 60’s, Rosencrantz carried around her tape recorder and recorded the majority of the conversations she heard. At the end of the summer, she wrote up the transcripts, read through them, and decided that the conversations between her three friends Marsha, Emily, and Vincent were the most compelling. She then picked out the dialogue she liked the most and compiled them into a book. The novel has no prose, only text, and is only contextualized by the chapter titles. It thought this was so interesting. The fact that I was reading actual dialogue that actual people had said in the past was so cool. There are all these little colloquialisms that people actually say, witty comebacks and mistakes one makes while talking that authors never write into fictional dialogue. There’s certain chemistry you could feel between these friends that is, again, something that I have never seen in a fiction piece. Yes, I’ve read books with characters that had great chemistry, but not like this because the chemistry was very much real. This novel gave me so much to think about and really acted like a window looking into 1960’s America. Highly recommend this one.

Even though I have not read that many books so far this year, I would say that I have still been pretty successful so far. But here’s to hopefully more reading in the next few months!! (I’ve never lost my Goodreads challenge and I’m not trying to do that now..)

Let’s talk: what books have you read so far this year? What has been your favorite? Tell me in the comments!

 

xx, Emily

Reading In Your Sleep: How to Read More While in School

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We’ve all been through this. Whether you’re currently in high school or taking classes at university, you have definitely been in a situation where all your work takes up your reading time. I mean, ideally reading time would be all the time, but occasionally work does need to be done and sometimes that means losing space for reading during the day. Boo.

This is only my 2nd semester of university, but I can already tell that I got more reading done in high school. It’s not even that I have more school work to do now than I did last year–honestly, I have about the same amount. It’s more due to the new environment that I’m in and still learning how to live here on campus. There’s always so much going on that, even if I’m dying to go somewhere quiet and stick my nose in a book, I end up doing so much in a day that when I get back to my room I fall right asleep. Unfortunately, reading in your sleep is not a thing. Boo again.

All we want is to just to raed all the time, right? Sadly, that can’t happen, so here are my tips on how to get more reading done during a week day.

1.) Read Between Classes

This is assuming you’ve done all your homework for that next class and you’re not cramming to do it in the 40 minutes between Spanish and Writing 101 (this is a fictitious example, not one from my real life that I do 3 times a week, of course not). If you’re a smart (and responsible..) cookie who has completed all the work due for your next class, find a nice place to relax for 30 minutes and read! Instead, sometimes during these tiny free periods I just take out my laptop and do nothing on the Internet for half an hour when I could be tearing through the pages of my current read, which is not a good use of my time at all. Which leads me to my next tip…

2.) Put Your Phone Away!!!!

Okay, I am totally guilty of this. When I have a little bit of free time, like I just mentioned, I usually spend it doing literally nothing on the Internet. I’ll scroll through Twitter for a ridiculous amount of time or go on an Instagram liking spree. These things are okay to do once or twice a day but if it’s your fourth time checking Hannah Hart’s Instagram to see if she posted anything new, you have a problem. Put. The. Phone. Down. Really, these small pockets of time are precious and wouldn’t you rather spend it enjoying yourself by settling down with your book? So, keep your phone and your laptop in your backpack, open your book, and let yourself be transported away (you won’t even be thinking about Twitter while you’re traveling between the pages, I promise).

3.) Use Reading as a Reward for Studying

This I have used before and it can be effective if done correctly. Say you set a timer to study for an hour. Once the timer goes off and you were actually productive during that hour, pick up the novel you’re reading for fun and relax for 20-30 minutes. Nice job, me. After all that verb conjugating, I deserve a break. But not too long of a break; when your ‘relax’ timer goes off, make sure you actually stop and go back to work. Don’t ignore the timer and end up reading for longer than you did homework (…this I have also done).

4.) Have a Lunch Date with Your Book

Don’t have anyone to eat lunch with? Read your book while eating! Have friends to eat with but would rather be reading? Read your book while eating by yourself! One very important thing to realize is that it is okay to eat lunch by yourself. What??! Some weird, normalized social rule we learned in middle school is actually wrong?! Yes, eating lunch by yourself does not make you a loser. It’s not weird. If your friends aren’t available or you just don’t feel like socializing, go ahead and sit by yourself and pull out your current read. No one is going to care what you’re doing, and you’re going to be making time for something you love so who’s the real winner here, huh?

5.) Take a Night Off and Relax in Your Room; Yeah, It’s Okay to Do That

This one is a little more directed at those who go to residential schools, but really it can apply to anyone. When I first got to uni, I didn’t read for fun until the second month of classes because I was always doing things with my friends. I was meeting new people and getting to know them which was great, but let’s be real here; I’m one of the most introverted people I know. I lose a lot of energy from spending time with large amounts of people for a long time, especially of those people are high energy. I really need my alone time. I still struggle with this sometimes; I feel like since my friends and I all live on campus together I have the obligation to hang out with them all the time, which is not true at all. If I want to stay in my room and read even if my friends invite me somewhere, that’s okay. I don’t have to be with my friends all day and neither do you, my fellow introverts (and whoever else just gets tired of people sometimes). Don’t feel obligated to do something just because you’re invited. If you would just rather hang out with your book than your friends, then curl up in your bed and read the night away and don’t feel guilty for having some ‘you’ time.

Hopefully following my own advice will help me because I have read so little this month and want to up my reading game in March. Oh, by the way, Happy March! Month of the Irish and of spring; two things I love very much. Good luck to those who try out these tips; let me know if they work out for you. Also, if you have any tips on how to get more reading done in a busy day let me know in the comments! Happy reading!

xx, Emily