One of my profs sent this to us and I thought I should do everyone a favor and share. What happens when a Monk is introduced to the high technological gadgetry that books are.
I didn’t get to read as much in March as I usually do because school, you know, started being annoying and I had to spend a lot of time doing school stuff. Boo. Anyway, here is what I did read.
- My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece – Annabel Pitcher
- Revived – Cat Patrick
- A Sword in her Hand – Jean Claude van Rijckeghem
- Dreamhouse – Alison Habens
- Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo
- my name on his tongue – Laila Halaby
- Unspoken – Sarah Rees Brennen
- Big Fish – Daniel Wallace
- Black Heart – Holly Black
- Dragonswood – Janet Lee Carey
- Storybound – Marissa Burt
- The Stubborn Dead – Natasha Hoar
- Like Water for Chocolate – Laura Esquivel
- The Bone Doll’s Twin – Lynn Flewelling
- The Book of Ballads – Charles Vess
- Dracula – Gary Reed
- Flora Segunda – Ysabeau S. Wilce
- Raven Calls – C. E. Murphy
- Foiled – Jane Yolen
- Mr. Muo’s Traveling Couch – Dai Sijie
- The Night She Disappeared – April Henry
- Fleas, Flies and Friars – Nicholas Orme
- Magic Under Stone – Jaclyn Dolamore
- Katniss the Cattail – Valerie Estelle Frankel
- Paul’s Case – Lynn Crosbie
- The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka
- The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
I look forward to having a good reading month in April. While I don’t think I’ll get much reading done, three finals plus moving, the potential is there. So yeah. How was your reading month?
And ladies and gentlemen, what an epic month it was. Since it was my birthday in February, I got books that all arrived in March (but of course!). Anyway, here is what I got.
- Out of Oz – Greogory MaGuire (gifted)
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick (gifted)
- The Fault in Our Stars – John Green (for review. Thanks Penguin Canada!)
- Katniss the Cattail – Valerie Estelle Frankel (for review)
- The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath (Gifted. Thanks Jane!)
- Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World – Haruki Murakami (gifted. Thanks again, Jane!)
My friend, Rossi, gave me a very special gift, this birthday. She made me a book filled with all my original writing! And since it’s a gorgeous, gorgeous piece of work, I must show you pictures!
- A Perfect Blood – Kim Harrison (purchased)
- Graceling – Kristin Cashore (purchased)
- Fire – Kristin Cashore (purchased)
- Graffiti Moon – Cath Crowley (purchased)
- Much Ado About Nothing – Shakespeare (gifted, thanks Rossi!)
- Twelfth Night – Shakespeare (gifted, again, you are awesome Rossi but you know that already.)
- Hollow Pike – James Dawson (for review, thanks Hachette UK)
- Wake – Amanda Hocking (for review, not my thing so I’m passing it on.)
- The Hunt – Andrew Fukuda (review, thanks Caitlin and Crystle from Raincoast Books)
- Fated – Alyson Novel (review, see above.)
- Out – Natsuo Kirino (purchased)
- Grotesque – Natsuo Kirino (purchased)
- Circle of Cranes – Annette LeBox (for review, thanks Penguin Canada)
- The Boy Recession – Flynn Meaney
- A Midsummer’s Nightmare – Kody Keplinger
- Revived – Cat Patrick
- My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece – Anne Pitcher
All these are from Hachette Canada for review. Thank you!
- A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers – Xiaolu Guo (purchased)
- Arafat’s Elephant – Jonathan Tel (purchased)
- Storybound – Marissa Burt (for review. Thanks Shannon!)
- Freud’s Alphabet – Jonathan Tel (purchased)
- The Perfumed Garden – Translated by Sir Richard Burton (purchased)
- Cherie – Colette (purchased)
- Skip Beat vol 1-3 – Yoshiki Nakamura (purchased)
- The False Prince – Jennifer A. Nielson (review copy, thanks Scholastic Canada)
- Hidden Warrior – Lynn Flewelling (purchased)
- The Oracle’s Queen – Lynn Flewelling (purchased)
Wheww! That was a LOT. My hands, they ache but it’s not over yet. I also got an ebook from Smashwords called Adventures in Funeral Chasing by Milda Harris. It sounds quirky enough that I had to get it. What was in your mailbox?
I am a huge fan of World Lit so today I have some translated novels that have recently caught my eyes because of their awesomeness. And others that just sound really good. Heavy on the good story part and light on the YA side. For once.
- The Secrets of Jin-Shei – Alma Alexander
This book has friendship, love, elements of the supernatural and lots of action. It is also one of my close friend’s favourite books so that’s recommendation enough. It has been on my shelf for a while now and I need to read it!
- The Girl with the Glass Feet – Ali Shaw
So I’m not going to lie. All it took for me to be interested in the book was the title. Luckily enough it sounds simply amazing. There are winged magical creatures and a girl named Ida who is slowly turning into glass. Seriously!
- Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction: An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories – Holly Thompson (editor?)
Okay, so this book sounds amazing. I am always curious about young adult literature in other languages. Have they seen the same surge in their numbers and importance as the genre in North America? What do they sound like? How do they read? And this book, an enchanting mixture of magic and reality (or so the synopsis implies), promises to show me a glimpse of Japanese YA.
- Be With You – Takuji Ichikawa
So the tag line for this one “Can you experience first love for the second time?” The synopsis states that a man’s wife comes back from the grave (not as a zombie, I hope) and he has to deal with the effects of falling in love with her again. This sounds really interesting (unless she’s a zombie…then no.)
- The Restaurant of Love Regained – Ito Ogawa
Okay, this one has food, people. It talks about a restaurant where every night one couple is served dinner according to their wishes. I see really poignant, heartfelt vignettes. I hope I’m right.
- The Falconer – Elizabeth May
A strong, kickass heroine. And maybe dragons. There really is nothing more I could ask for. No, I also want some sexytimes. I hope Ms. May obliges.
I don’t know if you have had the fabulous luck of seeing the “column” written by someone I had never heard of prior to this article and probably never will again once the furor dies down. But, for your personal edification (and some chuckles), I shall point you in the direction of this article.
The title of this absolutely amazing article?
“Adults Should Read Adult Books.”
Before I continue, I have read comments that insist that Joel Stein is writing a comedic article and by no means did he mean the ridiculous words populating his article but I dare say he is not a very good humourist because I really cannot see the humour in his article. Therefore I am going to treat it as though he wrote what he wrote and meant it.
Now let’s look at that title. “Adults should only read Adult Books” would sound much better because that is what he means. When I first saw that, I immediately thought of those age old rules, you know, like:
“Children should be Seen and Not Heard.”
“A Woman’s Place is in the Kitchen.”
“Good Kids Colour Within the Lines.”
Stuff like that. I know.It boggled my mind also. So now let’s do a deconstruction of his article because I’m a geek and I love doing stuff like this.
Ready? Take a deep breath!
The only thing more embarrassing than catching a guy on the plane looking at pornography on his computer is seeing a guy on the plane reading “The Hunger Games.” Or a Twilight book. Or Harry Potter. The only time I’m O.K. with an adult holding a children’s book is if he’s moving his mouth as he reads.
No, I swear I did not make this up. He actually wrote that. He equated reading with watching porn. And porn came out on top. Somewhere in Porn Kingdom, Porn Stars are celebrating. (That’s where it’s Cleavage Day today.)
I’m sure all those books are well written. So is “Horton Hatches the Egg.” But Horton doesn’t have the depth of language and character as literature written for people who have stopped physically growing.
Um. So Mr. Stein is saying that people who are physically growing are devoting so much energy and time to growing that they can’t be bothered to read good stuff and read only crappy books which are not even books – they are giggles in book form! Okay. Got it.
Let’s have the decency to let tween girls have their own little world of vampires and child wizards and games you play when hungry. Let’s not pump Justin Bieber in our Saabs and get engaged at Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland. Because it’s embarrassing. You can’t take an adult seriously when he’s debating you over why Twilight vampires are O.K. with sunlight. If my parents had read “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” at the same time as I did, I would have looked into boarding school.
So the consistent thing about this article is Stein’s genderizing (gender-ifying? whatever) of reading taste. Men can’t read Harry Potter (on the plane) but it might be (relatively) okay if they were watching/looking at porn. I wonder what he would think if it was a woman reading Harry Potter? And now, I like how he says “tween girls.” What about tween boys? What if THEY want vampires and child wizards and…whut? Games you play when hungry?
Seriously? Who edited this column?
There’s a reason why creativity is one of the most sought after skills in businesses all around the world. Hell, not just businesses but everywhere you go – thinking OUTSIDE THE FREAKING BOX. Why does anyone have to conform to society’s norms and definitions of what is adult and what is not? Why do you have to stick to “adult like activities and reading materials” simply because you are at an age where people think becoming old and staid is the best option.
And why can’t adults debate over why Twilight vampires sparkle in the sun? What’s wrong with that? Do you think Steve Jobs came up with what he did because he thought “like an adult?” Oh yes, 3000 years worth of fiction for adult. Right. Why should people read contemporary materials that are pertinent to them in this century? I mean, when you can read books written by privileged white males who knew life and represented life in the way they had lived it? Why not read stuff that is pertinent to you, written by people who look like you and act like you and who seem to understand and reflect what it is to live in modern times and grapple with the issues you are grappling with in the here and now?
Right. I am getting really annoyed here so it’s time to wrap this up. At the end, the cynical person in me says that Joel Stein wrote what he did and got it published as he did because this, ladies and gentlemen, is a ploy. Mr. Stein has a new book coming out in May and what better way to garner publicity for his epic work than to ruffle some feathers and get people talking about him…and his new book. More people will be wanting to check out his new book. I, however, won’t be one of them.
In the land of Story, children go to school to learn to be characters: a perfect Hero, a trusty Sidekick, even the most dastardly Villain. They take classes on Outdoor Experiential Questing and Backstory, while adults search for full-time character work in stories written just for them.
In our world, twelve-year-old Una Fairchild has always felt invisible. But all that changes when she stumbles upon a mysterious book buried deep in the basement of her school library, opens the cover, and suddenly finds herself transported to the magical land of Story.
But Story is not a perfect fairy tale. Una’s new friend Peter warns her about the grave danger she could face if anyone discovers her true identity. The devious Tale Keeper watches her every move. And there are whispers of a deadly secret that seems to revolve around Una herself….
With the timeless appeal of books like A Wrinkle in Time and the breathtaking action of Inkheart, Storybound has all the makings of a new classic. Brimming with fantastical creatures, magical adventure, and heart-stopping twists, Storybound will leave readers wishing they too could jump through the pages into this enchanting fairy-tale world.
I’ve heard people comparing Storybound to books like the Inkheart series by Cornelia Funke and I think it’s an apt comparison because like Inkheart, Storybound, too, crosses several boundaries and blurs several lines between fiction and reality. However, unlike the Inkheart series, I found that, as a matter of personal taste, Storybound seems more relatable and accessible. But that’s not really the point. The objective here is to tell you that Storybound is an exciting middlegrade debut by an author with an extremely creative streak.
I immediately found myself drawn to Una, like, from the very sentence. She is a foster child with all the issues and feelings that comes with being a child seemingly alone in a world where other children are snug in the middle of families they belong to. Her unplanned sojourn to Storybound, a land where story book characters live, is the impetus to the adventure she has spent her whole like yearning for. The book takes you on a ride, it tosses you in the air and forgets to catch you and then as you flail, it plucks you out of the air and places you on the ground and then you lurch and the ride begins again. What I’m trying to say is that the novel is not predictable. Not in its characters, not in its twists and turns and certainly not in its plot. I liked how Burt keeps me guessing.
The world building is off to a great start. Burt knows how to keep the balance between imagery and action – something that is necessary for the younger readers, I believe – and I think she’ll easily keep younger readers’ attentions as Una meets her new friends and goes on an adventure of a lifetime. I also liked the characterization. There is a lot of spunk in Una and Peter is well created too. I especially like Snow because though, initially, I was scared there was going to be an emergence of the Mean Girls, Burt proves me wrong and shows me a complicated character who can exist beyond the pages of the universe she has created.
This would make a fantastic movie. I hope Disney is listening. Hee. The mythology is intriguing and I cannot wait to see what other morsels the next book gives us. I also was surprised by the big reveal near the ending. I had not expected it and its existence makes the book and the themes in it interestingly complicated. There are heavy questions asked about being the person you are and how much of the person you are is determined by who you are and the things you do and how much of it depends on who sires you. And as you all know, I love questions like these popping up unexpectedly in books that seem, on the surface, relatively simple.
The book ends on the verge of a cliffhanger. Not a cliffhanger but almost a cliffhanger and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series. Now, what I am saying with this overly long review is that you need to put this on your reading list – either buy it as a gift for the middle schooler in your family or buy it for your own self if you like younger characters who kick ass despite their age, adventure and an interesting story.
I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a long while but never gotten around to it. So now when I am on the verge of passing out due to exhaustion, my brain decides it has to write this piece or die. So while, as always, I shall try to make some sense, if I don’t, please blame my brain. Now on to my thoughts.
Literature: What is it?
The widely accepted definition is (thanks Wiki) that Literature is “the art of the written word, not confined to published sources.” I am going to take it one step further and say that literature is narration which can (and, indeed, does so frequently) include pieces which may have begun and completed several cycles as strictly performed oral traditions.
The beauty of literature is that every culture, no matter race, ethnicity or location, has their own literature, in vernacular or the official language.
Debates are still raging whether literature can be seen as an accurate reflection (and representation) of culture.
In the context of this blog, let me reword this.
Say a person 500 years from now found a book, (God forbid), Twilight and after reading it, decided that it was an accurate representation of males and females and, hell, society of the past.
What would you say to that?
Apart from “OH HELL NO!,” I mean.
Therein lies the dilemma. While I don’t think literature can wholly be seen to reflect society, I think what it does do is reflect the tastes of the society and the culture in which it was written.
To put it in a contemporary context, looking at the dystopian novels flooding the market right now, it would not be inaccurate to assume that North American society at the moment loves dystopian novels – to go deeper into this and explore why dystopian novels are so popular, one must understand the economics and the instability contemporary people are struggling with at the moment. To take it even further, dystopian novels offer contemporary people not just escape from difficult lives but a peek at solutions should the worst come to pass.
Stuff like that.
Today in one of my classes we were talking about the nature of the novel and the role of the author in a novel. The book we were discussing is “Paul’s Case” by Lynn Crosbie which talks about the serial murderers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.
What I found profound about the discussion was the gradual realization I had that writing a book really is not so simple as picking up a pen and some paper or opening up a new page on Word. Writing, personaly, is the continual recreation of selves.
When writing a book, you cannot simply use YOUR voice to write a character and present it as Character A. You have to create Character A, give her Voice A that is distinct from your own voice in not just the way she expresses herself but also in the opinions that she expressions. And then you have to create Characters B, C, D, E, F and so on and give them their own voices etc. This is complicated stuff, you guys.
And then, as was the case in Crosbie’s novel, comes the case of appropriation of a voice that does not belong to you.
Now things are going to get the slightest bit technical because I have to drag in some post-colonial theory.
Okay, for example, you have Draco Malfoy and Dobby. What if one day Draco decided to write a book as Dobby? Write down Dobby’s experiences as though he knew exactly what Dobby went through?
You would scoff at the idea that Draco could, in any way, understand and correctly express the trials and tribulations of Dobby’s life, yeah? What is more likely is that he will project what HE thinks Dobby went through and thought onto Dobby who doesn’t have a voice.
So that’s the theory behind “the appropriation of voice.” When people write from the perspective of other people who are unfamiliar to them or who do not have a venue of their own in which to speak.
In Crosbie’s case, she appropriated the voice of a rape/murder victim. She projected her own thoughts about what the victim might have gone through, thought and felt and wrote it as though the words belonged to the victim.
And she pissed off many, many people by doing so.
I am always very wary when I see North American white authors (yes, I might as well go out and say it) writing from the perspective of people outside their culture. Can an American, Caucasian author really represent an African American or an Indian or Mexican or whatever? Should they even try?
Personally, I am rather skeptical when I see authors trying to do so. It is not that previous authors haven’t successfully done so but that took ages and ages of research and a carefully constructed understanding of not just the foreign culture but also the motivations that may be very different from the author’s originating society and culture. One author spent 20 years living among a tribe of First Nations people before she wrote a slim volume called “I Heard the Owl Call My Name” and her experience, her understanding of the people she wrote about is very apparent in the novel. However, if you are going to write about a different culture and your research is limited to “travelogues,” well then.
I often feel that Children’s Literature, being a new genre, is often passed over in talks of “serious literature.” I feel that most scholars do not give much credence to the kind of stories that populate the crowded bookshelves in the YA genre. I think that’s a mistake. I think that to find the true meaning of literature, one should not look at obscure literary texts that are read once in a blue moon but at popular novels that give dreams, hope and entertainment to vast numbers of people. I think understanding culture, society and people is a natural result of studying the literature popular with the culture, society and people.
And next September when I start my Master’s degree (iA), I intend to do just that.