Betwixt the Books Discuss! Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

This happened a few days ago, but it DID happen! We got around Google Hangout and streaming issues to figure out how to stream from Skype. And then the audio wasn’t the best, but I swear the video IS interesting! It was quite a fun discussion, where we talk about fandom and fanfiction and why this book was set up to be disappointing. It was a nice bookend to our first discussion, about why Hermione may or may not be racebent in the books!

Betwixt the Books: Discussion – Does Hermione have to be White?

Hello all! I promised you more Betwixt the Books from me and Michaela from The Pied Piper Calls, and I’ve come through!

We took some time today to discuss the casting of an African Hermione, race in books, and to be generally annoyed by those who have unacknowledged white privilege enough to be annoyed by the casting. Michaela made a blog post about her individual feelings which is a very good read, and then the video is here!

Please leave comments with your own thoughts!

 

In Defense of YA: We Need a Rebellion of Our Own

I promised myself a while ago–like, when I started this blog ago–that I would never write a response blog post. I have never wanted to get caught up in any drama. Lord, the drama on the internet, am I right? But two things have happened in such quick succession that I am finally using this blog to say some things.

The first was during the episode of my book club, Bibliomancy for Beginners, that aired last Tuesday. Head over to this link and watch the last six minutes or so. Starting at about 1:04:00 I just … blow up. Seriously. I scare my co-Bibliomancers. Because enough of them have taken enough jabs at the YA genre over the three years that we’ve been doing this that I just broke. (Warning: I say some choice things about John Green. While I stand by my opinion, I recognize that this is my opinion and not some cosmic rule.) So I start shouting in defense of it. Enjoy.

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Perusing Poetics: End of the Poetics Journey

I started out this blog talking about the two different parts of me, and how they work together. I’m going to end it by talking about how they stand apart. Granted, I’m going to be focusing more on my Writing major, just because the Poetics is a Writing Department class, but trust me when I say that the point I’m about to make is applicable to my English major too.

Yes, this post is required as a final project. Yes, there are question guidelines. I’m about to do a very odd thing and copy them out for you (sorry Professor. I swear there’s a reason for this):

  1. What do you make and is it similar in any way to the art practices we’ve read and/or talked about in class?
  2. Why do you make it, and do you see your ideas aligning with or being similar to the “why” of anyone we have read and/or talked about in class?
  3. What is the relationship of language to what you make, and is this relationship in any way similar to anyone we have read and/or talked about in class?

Using your digital archive and ideas, address

  1. What are your influences and how have they influenced what you have made up to this point? Who or what do you admire in your field, and why? (Use videos, images, other archives, etc.)
  2. What do you aspire to create, and what have you learned or encountered in class (if anything) that may affect your processes going forward? (Note: this can be a negative effect. That is, “Now that I’ve seen how horribly wrong thing XYZ can go, I want to avoid that route…)
  3. What was the most influential/important reading and/or concept to your own processes of making?

You know what I’m absolutely sick of? Realizing there are two ways I want to answer these questions. Then realizing that one of them is just another story I’m afraid to tell.

“What I mean is that within the University there could exist a relationship with word, language, thought, tradition, and power that might run counter to the relationship a poet might want to have with word, language, thought, tradition and power.” – Sarah Vap, End of The Sentimental Journey

Recently, in my Renaissance Literature class, the professor asked us what we were going to be reading over the summer. My answer would have been Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses. But I didn’t answer, because people starting saying “Milton” or “Absalom, Absalom.” My answer didn’t seem like it fit.

So, today, when I answer these questions, I’m not going to do any of us the disservice of lying or telling you half-truths. I’m going to tell you BOTH truths. I’m going to answer you from the

Academic

and from the

Personal

Bear with me.

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Perusing Poetics: 50 Shades of the Sublime and Other Stupid Trends

Before you freak out: yes, I’m going to be mentioning 50 Shades of Grey in this post. No, it’s not because I like it. Get ready.

BUT FIRST, time for my poetical entrance into this topic. This week, one of the readings was from On the Sublime by this Greek guy named Longinus. (This is hopefully the last Greek guy I will be blogging about.) What he actually means about the definition of the sublime is something I’m still not 100% clear on (I’m like somewhere between 70-80) but where I am up to speed is what is NOT sublime. Specifically, this quote:

“All these ugly and parasitical growths arise in literature from a single cause, that pursuit of novelty in the expression of ideas which may be regarded as the fashionable craze of the day.”*

Ugly and parasitical growths coming from stupid, crazy trends? Of course I’m thinking 50 Shades of Grey.

To be fair, I’ve never read these. I’ve read sections online. I’ve watched the movie trailer. I’ve read the criticism. I’m on Tumblr. I’m not sad that I’ve never read these, and I never plan to. I DO know, however, that the author got her original idea from Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series and this is actually a really bad riff off that.

I hate to agree with Plato, but this kind of imitation is really annoying. What’s ever worse is that it’s something that I, as a reader of primarily YA, have to deal with ALL THE TIME. One of my most popular blog posts was actually on this, specifically about the amount of love triangles that popped up after Twilight (otherwise apparently known as the root of all evil).

Okay, that last parenthetical statement is a lie. Twilight did cause a lot of crap to come out onto the market, but it’s hardly the only one. How many wizarding school books followed Harry Potter? Did you, like me, get hellishly sick of dystopians after The Hunger Games? And yes, of course, there were all those vampire books that erupted after Twilight. More than any other genre, YA is full to the brim of trends that produce a handful of good gems around a bunch of hastily and/or badly filler.

Where I have to disagree with Longinus, though, is his use of the phrase “a single cause.” For him, I admit, this was probably true: writers followed the examples of other popular texts because they, too, wanted to be popular and “fashionable.” These days, the attempt to be “fashionable” is a side note. After all, if we wanted our literature to be “fashionable,” 50 Shades of Grey wouldn’t exist.

The push towards trends in YA has nothing to be with anything else but money. Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight–they’ve made a lot of people very rich. These books have ranged the spectrum to books written exceedingly well to flat and dead inside (I’m looking at you, Twilight). There literally isn’t one particular thing that has worked as a formula to create the huge fan bases around these books, so the book world is constantly scrambling. Trends you see on the shelves now were decided months or even a year ago by publishers trying to create the next big cash cow.

Again, I’m not going to say that everything inside a trend is terrible. Some of them are really, really good books that deserve to be published on their own merit, and there are books being published against the trends. (I even wrote a post about love triangles done right for those curious.) This is a large, generalized observation that is, unfortunately, true more often than not. (And I haven’t even touched the trends of book covers. “Girl in dress” or “half close up of girl’s face” anyone?)

I guess the reason it makes me so angry is because I feel like there are certain books that have love triangles shoehorned in or otherwise being forced into a “trendy” mold that actually does their book a disservice. There are also books I’ve read where I wish the editors had taken a bit more time with them, at least, instead of shoving them out while the subject matter is hot. Also, as a writer of YA, I want to feel like my book(s) could be published someday because they are good, not because I magically managed to line up with tomorrow’s trend.

50 Shades of Grey just makes me angry because it exists.

Have you noticed the latest trend in YA literature? Or has “trending” created a certain kind of book or trope you can’t read anymore? Let me know!

A Tourist Gotta Do What a Tourist Gotta Do

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In Scotland, Madison perfected the tourist look.

Honestly, I think me and my friends have been pretty good about not being THAT American. You know, those people wearing American flag pants or backpacks talking loudly on the tube. Actually, we’ve done really well at not being THAT tourist, wandering around wearing I LOVE LONDON sweaters or something.

Sometimes, though, you just have to cave in. You have to do THAT TOURIST THING because at the end of the day, we are overseas for four months and we are tourists. That’s just it.

In my attempt to be all chill about living in London, it IMG_1055actually took me a month to see Big Ben. I KNOW, right? Silly me. But honestly it’s just a clock, guys. And not as big as I thought.

10444678_10204876772298356_4421531040499595570_nAnother touristy moment of mine was heading out to Kew Gardens. These Royal Botanical Gardens are one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen – and SO BIG. In just one greenhouse, they showcase every kind of environment from deserts to rain forests that plants can be found in. And then there are rolling lawns for days. I call this a touristy moment because the second I walked in there, I lost my mind. I didn’t realize I’d been missing green so much, because I just started dancing and running around and generally being laughed at by everyone I was there with. Absolutely no shame.

I think there’s no question about my touristy moment at the Royal Observatory in IMG_1082Greenwich. We climbed the hill and paid the money to go stand in two hemispheres at once and take the requisite picture. In a way, what was cooler was that the museum that they have there had been taken over by steampunk artists, so the history was littered with steampunk garb and art by a bunch of different people. Completely worth it!

IMG_1140I also feel compelled to add in here the trip I just came back from, which was an overnight ostensibly to Stratford-Upon-Avon. On our way there, we stopped at Warwick Castle, which is a gorgeous bit of architecture that entertains you all day long with activities presented by people who really seem to love their job. We saw a trebuchet launch, a bird’s of prey show and an archery demonstration. Total tourist trap, but totally worth it.

While in Stratford itself, we saw a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Love’s IMG_1156Labour’s Lost, which was simply fantastic. The set alone was a marvel to behold. I still don’t like reading Shakespeare, but watching it performed has grown on me a great deal. We also wandered our way out to Shakespeare’s grave, of course, and paid to stare at that. Again, total tourist thing you just HAVE to do if you’re out there. Why not, right?

IMG_1169On the way back, we stopped in Oxford and basically just wandered around. We were all a bit tired by that point. Still, we went and stared at the church where they filmed the Great Hall scenes in Harry Potter and wandered around the college streets.

I’m sure there will be many more moments when I have to suck it up and strap my camera to my belt, map in hand, and I’m not going to regret them. We’re abroad to do those things that you do in a foreign country. Tourist traps are one of them. You just absolutely have to do some of these things. Otherwise, it’s just an opportunity missed that might not ever come around again. No shame from me!

Top Ten Best/Worst Book to Movie Adaptations

toptentuesday

This is a late post, but I’m gonna do it! No preamble, here we go!

BEST

The Hunger Games – This one snuck up on me. I really didn’t think I’d like it, because I didn’t like the books. But wow this movie. I enjoyed it a lot.

The Harry Potter Movies – Okay, some of them. Certainly not all of them. But a lot of them. Some of them depend on my mood.

The Da Vinci Code – I just enjoy the National Treasure esque feel it gives. But, you know, for adults. 😛

Pride and Prejudice – Only seen the Keira version, but wowza. I enjoyed that one.

P.S. I Love you – ALL OF THE TEARS.

MIDDLE OF THE ROAD

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief – I never read the book, but I heard some fans were unhappy about it. I enjoy it solely as a movie my brothers and I laugh at together.

WORST

Twilight – Nuff said.

The Host – Best part of this movie was ripping it up with Michaela from The Pied Piper Calls.

Nancy Drew – Hopefully, you don’t remember the Emma Roberts version of this. If you do, I feel your pain.

Avalon High – Just. No. And no.

Top Ten Books/Authors I’m Thankful For

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

So, this topic could just roll into one of my typical squealings about the same amazing books, but I want to make this one a little bit more serious. Like, actually books and authors that had an impact rather than books I just read and loved. So here we go!

1. Nancy Drew series

I cannot remember a lot of the books I read as a kid. Still, I remember these with clarity. I couldn’t stop until I rented out each book one by one from the library and finished the entire series. I guess you can say this is when I became a serial reader.

2. Tamora Pierce

A few years ago, she would have made this list just for inspiring me to become a writer and how much I love these books. Now that I’ve spent some time with her–two summers in a row!–I can also say that I am thankful she’s an awesome person and I’m so glad for all the things she’s taught me.

3. Christopher Paolini

Though I eventually grew out of his books–I never even read Brisingr–I have a lot to thank this guy for. I was 12 when I heard his story, and it was at that moment that I actually believed that I, at 12 years old, could write a novel myself. Eragon was also the book that got my brother into reading, FINALLY, and gave me someone to share my reading passions with.

4. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

There are few books that drive me to tears. This is one of them. I’m very thankful that a book as powerful as this exists.

5. The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

This is the first major book I ever requested and received, even if it was only from NetGalley. I’m ever so thankful for that opportunity and the ones that followed.

6. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

There are few books that can make me laugh and cry every single time I read them. This one tops that list. It not only makes me fall in love with it every time I read it, but it also reaffirmed my faith in contemporary YA romance as a genre.

7. Cassandra Clare

I am thankful that Cassie is a wonderful person who is awesome and makes me laugh. I am thankful that she writes amazing, amazing books. I am thankful that even my brother likes these books, so we can share them and have quote-wars over the best quotes from the series.

8. The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

No book of Sparks’s has ever hit me the way this one did. It reminded me of how much I love my little brother, and the cancer storyline hit way too close to home. I am thankful that I have a book so close to my heart.

9. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

Not for the reasons you might think! Yes, I grew up with them, but they weren’t the books that defined my childhood. Instead, they gave me close moments with my brother, before he could read, where I would sit and read to him. There is nothing like having a cute child in single digits run up to you with a book and ask if now is reading time.

10. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

For giving me faith that if she can be published, so can I.

Top Ten Books Written In The Past 10 Years That I Hope People Are Still Reading In 30 Years

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This one is a hard one! Let’s see if I can get to 10, shall we? (Any links go to my reviews.)

1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

OHMYGOD GUYS. If you haven’t read this yet, what in the world is wroooong with you? Just plan on it sometime. 😛 This, as Rae Carson said over Twitter, is rather “as YA as my coffee table” beside the fact that it has teenage narrators, but it is just so amazing. I laughed. I cried. I cried some more. And loved it so much.

2. The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

Not one of his books has touched me in such a way as this one. I was literally bawling my eyes out towards the end, but I COULDN’T STOP READING. I just had so much love for this story.

3. Annie John by Jamaica Kinkaid

This is one of the few classics I have ever really liked, and the only one from my readings for school this year that I think should have been kept in the cirriculum. The teenage angst in this book is almost picture perfect, pulsing off the page. (Like my alliteration? Yeah, I’m using big words!)

4. Countess Below Stars by Eva Ibbotson

Another classic I enjoy for being a classic. I love Eva Ibbotson books in general, but this one has always been my favorite.

5. The Divergent series by Veronica Roth

Few dystopians feel, to me, like classics. This would be numero uno. Plus, they are just freaking amazing, and that alone should require much reading in the next 30 years.

6. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

Yeah, yeah, I know, this is probably on EVERY list you’ve stopped by today. I don’t care, because that’s how true it is!

7. Any and all books by Cassandra Clare

What? If, 30 years from now, they don’t know how to have fun, then they are really screwed up. No set of books makes me laugh as hard as EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE.

8. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

If someone can manage to capture falling in love, being in love, the troubles of love, etc, so perfectly, they should at least be honored with a really long shelf life for their work!

9. Nefertiti and The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran

Classic historical fiction right here, which really takes a new view into the lives of two of the most memorable queens in Egyptian history. Any lover of historical fiction at any time should read these.

10. Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

What? I’m a Sparks fanatic. You can’t tell me this isn’t a powerful novel in its own right about a very real thing in American culture. So READ IT, FUTURE.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books to Read in a Day

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish.

Alright, now, total disclaimer here: books that I can read in a day are … everything. Seriously. I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in one day. I am a speed-reader like nobody’s business. I’m going to try to slow it down here as best I can and not add something like War and Peace to this list. 😛 (All title links go to Goodreads)

1. The First Test by Tamora Pierce

Now, seriously, I’ll let you in on something. When I read this one (the first book in Pierce’s Protector of the Small series) or, say, the first book in her Song of the Lioness series or – erm, really, any of her books up til the Beka Cooper series, I just read the entire series in one shot. As I see it, I own them all – why not? Every single one is a funny, exciting ride that brings back so many memories for me, so that’s just kind of become a tradition with me.

2. A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson

Yet another blast from the past, I know, but a book I just adore. Don’t ask me WHY I own so many Ibbotson books, because after a while they all look very much the same, but A Countess Below Stairs has always been my favorite. Eva Ibbotson is classic and this book is cute. Enough said.

3. The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran

My favorite of all Moran’s books (so far) is also, sadly, the shortest. Still, rereads happen FREQUENTLY. Nefertari is a very active character I wish was my best friend, and the genuine love story that develops between her and Rameses never gets old. This is also by far my favorite overall cast of characters when up against Nefertiti and Cleopatra’s Daughter.

4. Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton

If you’ve read my review of this book, then you know I squealed in it (and have squealed multiple times since) that this book and it’s predecessor Angelfire read like rapid fire shot guns. It’s AMAZING. These books ARE big, but you just HAVE to read them in a day because EVERYTHING just keeps HAPPENING. It kept me up til wee hours of the morning because there is just no way I could put it down.

5. Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

The next two books in this series might have been a lot like repeats of this one, but there is a reason for that: this book was pretty good! It’s one of my guilty pleasure books when I’m in the mood for YA romance.

6. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

As much as I try, I don’t think I will ever make any kind of favorites list without mentioning this book. I’m really sorry, guys, but again: HAVE YOU SEEN MY REVIEW? There is more CAPS than I ever care to write with. I just adore this book til the moon and back, and I just can’t seem to stop rereading it. Ever. It still makes me laugh so hard I cry. Speaking of which…

7. Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins

Again, I believe we’ve been over this too. Several times. But GUYS. The ENTIRE Hex Hall series. (No matter what I said about Spell Bound!) I love these books. I want Sophie to be my best friend. I want Archer to be my boyfriend. (SHH, don’t tell my real boyfriend!) I want Jenna to be my best friend. I LOVE THESE BOOKS.

8. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

I think it’s bad that I live for the end of this book. Nothing gives me more glee than to watch this love triangle set up, knowing what’s coming. I think that’s a sign that I need to either stop reading books with love triangles in them or get therapy. Or, you know, both. But seriously. Check out my book review! And read this if you want a fresh take on a love triangle!

9. Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

TIME FOR MORE CAPS. Why? Because why not! I adore this book and I’m not ashamed to say it! (Seriously, have you SEEN my book review?) Anyways. This book is for people who want a fresh new world to explore, people who want to see some interesting characters AND people who want some real romance. It’s like you can’t lose!

10. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Seriously? Did you think you could get out of one of my lists without a Cassandra Clare book? Because you can’t. Ever. READ THESE BOOKS. Okay, so, her Infernal Devices series is said to be better than this Mortal Instruments series, but these were the first ones I read and therefore closest to my heart.