CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE READER: THE INEVITABLE HIATUS

It finally hit me. The disease that threatened the greats and plagued the minds of students everywhere. The disease that seeps its way into library walls and wraps its cloudy hands among computer screens and lined paper and destroys the works of many.

Writer’s block.

I struggled with it for a while. The better part of last semester I trudged through posts and reviews and just felt drained every time I opened my laptop. The disease worked its way into my mind and destroyed all of my discipline. And not only that, it found its way into other parts of my life. If I had no will to write, I read less, I slacked on my quotes, I let my room be taken over by books and clothes and trash.

Then I decided the only way to curb said disease would be to withdrawal myself from blogging. I still wrote for myself and I read (though not as much as I would like to say), but I figured that taking a blogging hiatus would be good for me. I didn’t have a plan for how long, and I felt guilty for the amount of books I have stacked in my “to review” pile.

So then yesterday I cleaned my room. Mostly. And I updated Goodreads. And I reshelved all my miscellaneous books and tallied my bookmark collection. And today felt like the day to start blogging again because despite my loss of will, I missed it. I feel so detached now because not only did I stop blogging, I stopped tweeting and reading blogs and withdrew from the general bookish fanbase.

Today rolled around. And I knew it was time. The sky was overcast, everyone was out of the house, and my laptop called to me. My writer’s block may take a little work to shake off, and I’ll have to be on overdrive to catch up with everything, but I can handle it. I think.

So here it is. My obligatory sorry-I-left-but-I’m-back-now post. I’m not going to give myself any real goals, yet, and I think I’ll just let myself drift back into things. I figure it’s not a big deal if I’m not completely involved all the time. It’ll be okay.

But I think I am going to give myself a little bit of an out.

As I previously noted, I have a stack of books to review. A literal stack. It makes me cringe just thinking about it, and I always want to curl up and put a book over my head and pretend they aren’t there. But they are. And I want to review them, I just don’t want to write the reviews. Which is not possible.

So here’s my out.

I think for the summer I’ll do a series of  mini reviews. I’ll have my book review on Monday, Top Ten Tuesday on Tuesday, (maybe) a discussion post on Friday, and a mini review that’s plopped into any day I have time to do it. It’ll probably just be a paragraph or two about the things that really stuck out at me about the book (considering I haven’t read them in a while), which will allow me to review them without going through the lengthy review process.

It’s a win win. Right?

Well, hopefully. So that’s my plan of action. After posting this, I’m going to update my quote jar and plan a couple weeks of posts. And write some of them. And maybe get on Twitter if I have enough energy after that. We’ll see. But I’m definitely ready to start blogging again. I’ve missed it!

CRABBY CONVERSATIONS: SPONTANEOUS ROAD TRIP!

I have a grand idea. Let’s jump into a snazzy little clunker and rev the engine into the distance. Let’s follow the sunset with a can of money and a drawstring bag of clothes. Pack light because things will work out on the way. Let’s not plan anything and focus on the objective. Let’s see the Northern Lights, let’s visit our long-lost lover, let’s just seek adventure and because we’re on a road trip we’ll find it. See a hitchhiker? Pick him up. See a road sign for the biggest block of cheese in the Western Hemisphere? Pull off. This is a road trip and we have all summer and our phones are nowhere to be found because those sedentary people are just holding us back.

Sounds implausible, reckless, and a generally awful idea, right? Wrong. Because this is fiction and we can do whatever the heck we want and nothing too terrible will happen unless we want it to.

Road trip books absolutely baffle me because they’re considered contemporary fiction. Realistic. I think I would categorize them as fantasy, because how does everything work out perfectly? How does adventure just kick you in the face? How is the road trip not just sleepy hours in a car with disgruntled occupants?

And I have one question, just one– where are your parents? If they know about your trip, how are they okay with it? If they don’t, how did you possibly deceive them of something this big? (alright that was more than one question)

But, seriously. I wish my parents caved to my reckless whims and allowed for my craving for adventure be satisfied by a road trip.

The thing is, despite the absolute absurdity of these trips and the complete unrealisticness of this niche, I love this books. I love them so much.

I think it’s my wistfulness. I would adore going on a road trip. The more spontaneous, the more fun. I’ve always wanted to have interesting things and interesting people fall into my life, and I’ve dreamed of breaking out of suburbia and into something real. Yet this books aren’t real… But they are what I wish was real. If that makes any sense.

So, yes. Road trip books are unrealistic. Completely fantasy. But somehow the valiant road-trippers find love and fulfillment and excitement and sorrow and everything in between. It’s the classic Hero’s Journey, but in contemporary terms.

But here’s the thing.

I hate the classic Hero’s Journey of trumping through woods and fighting evil with swords and magical powers and gaining alliances.

Yet I love the contemporary Hero’s Journey of driving down the highway of escaping sticky situations with wit and luck and meeting people from the forgotten folds of the world.

MONTHLY WRAP UPS: APRIL

Read: 4 novels

  1. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  2. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  3. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  4. Takeoff: Looking Beyond the Clouds by Austin Jackson

Reviewed: 3 books

  1. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  2. There’s No Place like Oz by Danielle Paige
  3. Killer Cruise by Jennifer Shaw

Discussed:

  • Crabby Conversations: Just Don’t Read It

Book Haul:

  1. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  2. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  3. Mosquitoland by David Arnold
  4. Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

     

    How could I resist this beautiful cover? (Plus it was only $6)

  5. Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer
  6. Off the Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer
  7. Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult
  8. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
  9. Catch-22 by Joesph Heller

Wow, I actually got quite a bit of books this month! The haul has only been around 1-3 lately.

Bookish Excitement:

  • 972 Bookmarks
  • Author Event: Little Shop Launch Party
  • 8 books behind on Goodreads Challenge

Non-bookish Excitement:

  • Death Cab for Cutie concert!
  • Dogwood Festival
  • Tybee day trip #SB2k15
  • Standardized testing and exams! My favorite!

Monthly Favorites:

  • Read: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • Reviewed: There’s No Place like Oz by Danielle Paige
  • Discussed: Just Don’t Read It
  • Haul: Off the Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer– Alright, so there’s a reason that this is my favorite out of my uncharacteristically large haul. Random House sent me an ARC of this book with the cutest little presentation, and (unlike some of the bigger bloggers) I’m not rolling in ARCs and publisher-sent books, so needless to say I was pretty pumped.
  • Bookish Excitement: Little Shop Launch Party
  • Nonbookish Excitement: Death Cab for Cutie concert

AUTHOR EVENT: LITTLE SHOP LAUNCH PARTY

I did something out of the ordinary over the weekend. I went to an author event (which isn’t the crazy part)….

I went to an author event without reading the book first.

*cue the shame*

In my defense, it was a launch party, so the book only came out like three or so days before the event. I know the more hardcore readers would have already read and reviewed the book, but I just decided that I would buy the book once I got there. Plus I had to buy a book to get one signed, so it worked out.

Basically, we did the usual routine with a bit more flexibility since it was on a Saturday instead of a random Monday night. My parents and I went to the Dogwood Festival in the afternoon and went over to Decatur of dinner before the event. I bought the first (two) books of the launch party, just sayin’.

It was actually quite an adorable event. Usually we head upstairs and listen to the author talk about whatever he/she wants to talk about, then we go downstairs to a signing line and jump back into our cars. This time, we stayed downstairs and they had Oreo cookies and milk and alcohol-soaked stacks of more Oreo cookies. And wine. Don’t forget the wine.

Can you guess the book? Published in April, revolves around chocolate cookies with creme filling…

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Plus it had a gorgeous display.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the event. My friend met me there, and we stood in the back surrounded by all Becky’s friends who came out to support her book release. You could tell that she was a first-time author and didn’t have the whole author-event thing down just yet, but I liked that about her. It was interesting to see how surreal the whole process was for her, and I felt like seeing a debut author gives young writers more confidence and makes their goal to write a novel more realistic.

Also, let’s talk about how she said it took her all of 6 months to write, edit, and sign her book. Oh my gosh! It took me 6 months just to think of a blog title and actually start writing book reviews!

She did a question/ answer session and signed books, and you could just tell how excited she was about her book being published. The complete opposite of a snobby writer. She thanked her friends and family a million times in the beginning, and I loved seeing her whole support system. It also made me feel a bit like I was intruding, but, hey, when she’s the next John Green I can boast about being at her first launch party. And she’s writing another book now, so I could totally see that happening. 

As I said earlier, I usually don’t go to bookish events if I haven’t read the spotlighted book or author. It always feels fake to me, like I’m pretending to be a fan of something I haven’t even read yet. But I had been seeing Simon on pretty much every platform that has anything to do with young adult literature, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. How could I resist a launch party!?

I had already read reviews and searched her author blog and watched a Tea Time episode that interviewed her literary agent, so I would say that I did know a bit of Simon and Becky trivia before going. Which sounds creepy, now that I think about it. But it’ll be okay.

Point being, the excitement I had for this book was unreal. I cannot tell you guys enough how much I appreciate The Little Shop of Stories, because they do the cutest events, and the Decatur Book Festival used to be the bookish event that became my lifeline to hold me over until next year. And now they’re doing all sorts of different events, and I’m currently making it my job to go to as many as I possibly can. I may or may not pull up their events page just about as often as I check Twitter. You know, just to chill, see what’s up in Decatur… make sure I’m not missing any authors.

Speaking of, in addition to meeting the lovely Becky Albertalli, her friend David Arnold, author of Mosquitoland also popped in to support her. I cannot even tell you how many times I’ve walked across the beautiful cover of Mosquitoland and had to pick it up just to see what it felt like to hold a work of art in my hands. I haven’t done quite the extensive research on his book as I did Simon, but it still had a nice glowing spot on my TBR list. I didn’t really think I would be reading it anytime soon (I’m cheap, I don’t buy hardbacks… or full-priced paperbacks… Basically I will not buy a book over $6 unless it’s signed). So needless to say I was pumped to get the extra little gift of Mosquitoland in addition to Simon and meeting both authors who are wonderful down-to-earth people.

So please, if you don’t go to author events or festivals or anything, find yourself an adorable bookstore and get involved in this community! Everyone is always so nice and it’s really a lot of fun. Writers are awesome, but readers are the life of the party!:)

And a little sidnote: I just finished Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and it is all the adorableness rolled into a cute modern narrator, rounded friends, and a meaningful plot. More on the book with the review!

MONTHLY WRAP UP: MARCH

Alright, so I’m beginning to fall behind again with discussion posts and my Goodreads challenge. It seems like every time I come on here I’m complaining about the posts piling up! Oh, well. It’ll get better. Let’s focus on the positive.

Read: 6 novels

  1. 10 Little Indians by Agatha Christie
  2. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
  3. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
  4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  5. Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
  6. The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

Reviewed: 4 novels

  1. Fairest: Queen Levana’s Story by Marissa Meyer
  2. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
  3. Ashes to Ashes by Jenny Han and Vivian Siobhan
  4. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Discussed:

  • It’s sad because I didn’t discuss anything. Three next month to make up for it? *crosses fingers*

Book Haul:

  • The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

Bookish Excitement:

  • 968
  • Author talk: Andrew Smith
  • 4 books behind my Goodreads challenge
  • I’m absolutely in love with the Little Shop of Stories in Decatur right now because they’re having a ton of author events! YES!!

Nonbookish Excitement:

  • I’m a Junior Marshal so I have to help with graduation (ugh), but I get to skip all my exams!
  • …my life is boring…

Monthly Favorites:

  • Read: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • Reviewed: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
  • Haul: The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith
  • Bookish: Author talk!!

AUTHOR EVENT: ANDREW SMITH

Once again, Little Shop of Stories has shown me that it’s the best book store that could possibly be near me. Another Californian author found themselves on the east coast folded between a Starbucks and a Decatur boutique. Luckily, more and more book tours are happening and Little Shop of Stories seems to have found itself a little niche in the bookish world. Now I don’t have to wait until the Decatur Book Festival or the Yallfest to meet authors.

Back in January, Marissa Meyer made an appearance with the release of Fairest: Queen Levana’s Story. This past Monday, Andrew Smith moseyed down to highlight the release of The Alex Crow and to remind us to “Keep YA Weird” with Penguin’s marketing team.

So we hitched up and headed out on a Monday night to drive the trek (an hour) to Decatur. Where else would be popping on a Monday if not an author signing?

I even called in at work. I was *cough cough* feeling pretty sick… but anyway.

It’s funny how I complain the store’s so far away when I’m fortunate to even have a book store like that within a moderate distance that hosts author signings and book festivals. Either way, I’m not satisfied unless I’m in walking distance, or work there. Or both.

At the Meyer signing, the upstairs was packed to the railing and down the staircase with mostly girls from tweens to adults eagerly holding their collections of the Lunar Chronicles and holding their phones up to take pictures of Meyer as she talked. The place sweltered with bodies and my view was more or less the back of someone’s head.

We cruised in at 6:30ish on Monday night to a book store with a few drowsy customers and my immediate thoughts were that we had the wrong day. I assumed there would be less people, but I didn’t realize the change would be so drastic. They weren’t accepting people upstairs yet, but even so, I expected the book store to be filling up. After wandering the streets to kill some time, we peeked into the store again and the numbers hadn’t grown much. We strolled upstairs without a problem and didn’t have to face the mass bottle-necking of bodies stampeding to the seats.

This time we even got seats because there may have been all of 15 people in there, which I completely loved. This was probably the first author signing I’d been to where I felt like I wasn’t just another audience listening to a lecture; rather, I could hear without a microphone and see Smith without the obstruction of fangirls. A high school kid also interviewed Smith before 7 p.m., and I’m still curious as to how he scored that job.

So while I was disappointed more people didn’t show up for his talk, I selfishly enjoyed having a two minute signing line and feeling like I was in a closer setting than usual.

He read a little bit from his new book and explained how he formulated the premise of the plot. It’s interesting because he said that he doesn’t draft like most authors; rather, he writes all the way through but just makes sure everything is perfect while he goes. He said that’s he’s a disciplines writer and has been writing his entire life. He works as a high school teacher in California, and some of his ideas are spurred from his students. In Grasshopper Jungle, he explained that the only thing he knew going into it was the first scene and an idea that tied in the end of the world with adolescence. I’m still not sure how giant grasshoppers got involved….

I would say he’s been one of my favorite authors to listen to. He didn’t just talk about his book or just about writing. He gave an overview on how he got his ideas and inspirations, how he uses Google to help form his thoughts, and how he underwent the publishing process. I also loved hearing about his editor because I hope to become an editor. I figure I’m not creative enough to become an author, so I can just get my name in small print toward the back and be perfectly happy with helping out with great books.

Plus, as a side note, I only read Grasshopper Jungle about a week ago, and my water bottle broke open in my school bag and spilled over everything. I doctored my book as best as possible with a whole roll of paper towels in accordance with Epic Read’s guidelines, but the beginning pages still stayed a little wavy (I don’t know if you can tell in the picture). I confessed the the damage and worried that I’d be labeled as a book-abuser, but all he said was that Grasshopper Jungle is a moist book, so it’s fitting.:)

Otherwise, I felt like he was super personable and easy to listen to. His talk kept me completely engaged and I loved his reasoning for his books and ideas. I recommend going to hear him even if you haven’t read any of his books, but I know the experience was better for me because I loved his books so much!

CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE READER: INK-STAINED HANDS

An idea sparked in my mind, promoted, of course, by a novel. This idea sparked and fizzled away for a while, until I read another novel. And I sat there, and I read a sentence over and over and over. And I needed that quote. And I wanted to remember that quote. And I wrote that quote on my hand, and I looked down at it periodically until it faded into my skin.

And that, my friends, is how my hands became perpetually ink-stained.

Ironically, I can’t remember the quote that made me stop and temporarily tattoo it into my hands. I do remember the book that started it all: We were Liars by E. Lockhart. For some reason, when Cady and her romantic interest (I can’t remember his name…) wrote words on their hands, I loved it. It was romantic. They wrote part of the sentence on the left and part on the right. Always something that would connect together.

So, I read this fantastic quote and I thought, wow, I should write this on my hand.

Let’s back track. Some time ago, I watched this peculiar indie film called A Love Song for Bobby Long. I liked it well enough; it made me minimally uncomfortable, but it was okay. I think about that movie periodically, and for some reason, it’s been pretty influential. Bobby Long was a lost soul who used to be a college professor, and he dramatized everything and could quote long passages from famous writers without hesitation, and I’ve always aspired to be able to quote off the cusp.

And thus the quote jar was born. But I never took the time to find paper, write the quote, and stash it in the jar. I let it sit, collecting dust instead of words, for a year or so.

Flashforward again. Writing on my hands. Somehow, from this movie, the quote jar, and We were Liars, I realized that my arms and hands were perfect mediums to write on and be able to look at each day. For at least a day I’d be able to look down and read and reread these quotes as many times as I wanted. They’re comforting. A little piece of my novel when I can’t read. A snippet of gorgeous words to inspire or evoke emotion. I wish I started this habit when I was in the midst of We were Liars because that book is full of beautiful quotes.

Longer quotes I put on the inside of my forearm because a. that doesn’t wash off as easily as on my hands and b. I, unfortunately, am not ambidextrous, so it’s quite a feat when I write on my right hand. Usually the quotes that I write on both my hands are very short and cute and probably wouldn’t make sense if you hadn’t read the book. It’s like my own little inside jokes. Right now I have “(left) When I found (right) everything romantic” from The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. I like the way the quotes are broken in places that should flow. I think it adds to the effect.

Now I’ve been doing this for a good many books, maybe ten or so. Then I got those little bookmarks that are arrows that point to the exact line you stop at. And I had an idea. I’d use those arrows and bookmark the good quotes and write said quote on my hand. Once the book is finished, I’ll pick the best bookmarked quote (maybe a couple, depending on the book) and write it on a more permanent material (like paper) and put it in the dusty quote jar.

Eureka! I now had a system. A tedious, somewhat complicated system that, if attempted to be explained to non-readers or non-romantics they’d ask me the universal question of why? Why would I spend all this time on these words? Why do I want to stain my hands with a never-ending cycle of quotes? What’s so special about them?

Well, my dears, I’ll tell you why. I want to win an argument by quoting a famous writer. I want to look at a piece of artwork in some high-class museum and say to my comrades, “this reminds me of a quote by… ‘…’” In short, I want to have all the tools to be completely pretentious. If I decide to use this power, it’s up to me. But the fact that I can is all that matters.

And I guess in a practical sense I can use it on exams and such in school. But who cares about that?

Anyway, in all seriousness, I just really like words. And, no, it doesn’t completely work. I don’t remember all the quotes I write, and some I do remember aren’t that significant. Here are a couple:

  • “Us fight” –Alice Walker, The Color Purple (this is a quote in dire need of context)
  • “We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life.” –Marina Keegan, The Opposite of Loneliness
  • “You can find ways to be okay with dying, but you can’t fake your way through living.” –John Corey Whaley, Noggin

And my personal favorite,

  • “The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world and never forget about the drops of oil on the spoon.” –Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

The Alchemist was loaded with beautiful words and gorgeous quotes, but this is the only one I can recall instantly. I recommend the book, by the way.

I’ve decided, just now, that this can qualify as a hobby, and I adore it immensely. Sometimes I transcribe words that mean specific things to me, or cornerstones in the plot of the novel, or pieces of wisdom, or a beautiful line. I hope I’m not the only one who loves stealing these words.

Do any of you guys have an obsession with quotes? What’s your favorite bookish quote?

WAITING ON WEDNESDAY: THE ART OF LAINEY BY PAULA STROKES

Goodreads Summary:

Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they’re sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few “dates”, it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.

What’s a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you’re meant to be with, if you’re still figuring out the person you’re meant to be?

Sometimes, a girl just wants a nice, fluffy contemporary novel to curl up in, and this one looks especially unique. I’m interested in The Art of War reference, and I wonder how Strokes will add that element in without getting confusing. All the reviews have been fabulous, and I can’t wait to read it!

WAITING ON WEDNESDAY: DOROTHY MUST DIE BY DANIELLE PAGE

Goodreads Summary:

I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still the yellow brick road, though—but even that’s crumbling.

What happened?
Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I’m the other girl from Kansas.
I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I’ve been trained to fight.
And I have a mission:
Remove the Tin Woodman’s heart.
Steal the Scarecrow’s brain.
Take the Lion’s courage.
Then and only then—Dorothy must die!

On April 1, 2014 we’ll get to see the aftermath of Dorothy’s trip to Oz. I’m in love with all things Wizard of Oz, I must have read the original at least three times, and now a perfect and different Young Adult spin-off has made it into the world!

The cover, first of all, is amazing. The premise is super interesting. How can you not want to know how Dorothy became corrupted?! The first three chapters were available on EpicReads, but I didn’t want to spoil anything for myself before I’m able to read the whole thing!

Everything about this book screams perfection, and I can’t wait until it comes out!