2016 Thanksgiving Reads

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I’m super excited about this week because:

  1. I only have to work three days because of the holiday
  2. I love Thanksgiving and all the fruits of that labor
  3. I have time to READ

And with that, I put together some Thanksgiving reads to enjoy while breaking bread with your family and friends. While some of these books you could probably read within the weekend, there are some that might take some time.

103575751Q84 by Haruki Murakami – So you might be thinking that it’s nuts to try and read this three-book series within the weekend. Well, I’ve got a little history with this book and trying to read it through Thanksgiving weekend. I couldn’t do it. In fact, it took me through the middle of January to finish this book because it’s so crazy. However, if you’ve been wanting to start this one and make it your commitment for the rest of the Holiday season, this might be the best one for you.

A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s — 1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.

2998The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – I love this book. I love this movie. And even though it’s not really the best time of season to read it, The Secret Garden will always have a place in my heart during the holidays.

I think it has something to do with taking the dead earth and bringing something of life to it. It really warms the heart and makes me happy to read time and time again.

When orphaned Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle’s great house on the Yorkshire Moors, she finds it full of secrets. The mansion has nearly one hundred rooms, and her uncle keeps himself locked up. And at night, she hears the sound of crying down one of the long corridors.

The gardens surrounding the large property are Mary’s only escape. Then, Mary discovers a secret garden, surrounded by walls and locked with a missing key. One day, with the help of two unexpected companions, she discovers a way in. Is everything in the garden dead, or can Mary bring it back to life?

10964Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – Yes, another big read but totally worth it. I don’t know why this is a favorite of mine for the Fall, but I think it has something to do with the cold months in Scotland wearing only a kilt and keeping warm by having sex. Or it might be because the first part of the story takes place in 1945 and for some reason I always correlate WWII with the Fall. If you’re interested in historical fiction and a little sexiness, then this will definitely keep you warm at night.

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

3Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling – Duh, nothing says the Fall and Thanksgiving like Harry Potter. While the books take place all year round, I think it’s because the movies were always released in the Fall and around Thanksgiving that it makes it a Fall read. This goes doubly for The Sorcerer’s Stone since it seems like the least wrought with anguish and pain (and that’s just something I don’t tolerate during the cold months). It’s a great re-read and a great time to also start up the novel if you’ve never read them before. I highly recommend.

Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

What are you reading this Thanksgiving?

NaNoWriMO 2016 Update – Decisions, decisions

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Challenges are always tough for me. It has something to do with my need to reach the end. Even in school while a deadline loomed over me, I struggled and stressed out by the fact that this paper needed to be X number of words or Y number of pages. Why couldn’t I say what I wanted to say without forcing myself to bullshit the rest?

I’ve come across NaNoWriMo challenges in the past and met them but not without a lot of strife and turmoil. Having a full time job and wanting to pursue a career as a writer are two halves to two very different puzzles.

During the eight hours I’m at work, I’m all business jargon and data crunching. But then I get home and I have to switch that off entirely so the creative side can come out. The imagination can finally play, but sometimes it feels tough when it stays dormant all day long. It’s like going to workout with cold muscles, it takes a while for your brain to wake up.

So I’ve decided to do something a little radical, yet true to the very nature of NaNoWriMo:

I’m going to pace myself.

Yup, that’s right. I’m going to take my slow ass time writing this book. Why? Because the reality of the world outside of NaNoWriMo is that books take more than 30 days to write. I want to spend my 30 days and even more writing this book, taking my time to develop these characters, research parts, and edit edit edit.

This isn’t an attempt to try and finagle my way out of writing this book. No, I just have a lot on my plate right now. Back when I was a kid, the only things I did all day was write Support emails and then come home. Now, I have to pay bills and buy groceries and go to the gym and basically be an adult.

I can’t do that with a challenge facing me…in the face. I need no boundaries. I only need the motivation to write this novel because it’s something that I want to write and hope people will appreciate.

There are no guarantees that this book will amount to anything aside from space on my hard drive, but I know I’ve got the motivation to write it and I know that it’ll be great even if the only person reading it is my therapist.

How are you getting along with your NaNoWriMo challenges?

 

October 2016 Library Book Haul

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I started loving books or going to the library, but I did. I don’t even think it had anything to do with the books, but the fact that there’s this public place you can come to and study, rent books, and escape from reality. Because the truth is that only a certain kind of person goes to the library and those people are the dreamers.

Scratch that, the truth is that homeless people go to the library because it’s warm and there’s a free bathroom.

But I go to the library or a bookstore or any place you can patron that has books because I’m just your typical book lover. I love to read books, be around books, and generally want to be a book.

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There’s a magic when you arrive. The air is musty from the older reference books and the temperature is cold to keep the publicly used computers nice and cool.

My childhood library was amazing. There were three stories of books all ranging from children’s to research and I remember spending my time from when I was really young (maybe 6-7) to when I graduated from high school there. I’d be a part of the reading program every summer and at one point wanted to work at the library. I ended up spending my lunch periods in high school helping out in the school library and putting books back on the shelf. I was that lame.

It took me a while to get back to the library mostly because there was a scene in the movie The Squid and the Whale where the young kid masturbates in the stacks and then wipes his semen on the spines of the books. That swore me off from those books for a few years. I didn’t want to touch nasty books especially when I live in the same city as the characters from that movie.

But I’ve managed to quell my OCD thoughts from what might be on those books and started to take advantage of the library system again.

All of this to say, I’ve got some great reads from the library and I’m sharing them with you now.

272461151. Siracusa by Delia Ephron – New Yorkers Michael, a famous writer, and Lizzie, a journalist, travel to Italy with their friends from Maine—Finn, his wife Taylor, and their daughter Snow. “From the beginning,” says Taylor, “it was a conspiracy for Lizzie and Finn to be together.” Told Rashomon-style in alternating points of view, the characters expose and stumble upon lies and infidelities past and present. Snow, ten years old and precociously drawn into a far more adult drama, becomes the catalyst for catastrophe as the novel explores collusion and betrayal in marriage. 

Ephron delivers a meditation on marriage, friendship, and the meaning of travel. Set on the sun-drenched coast of the Ionian Sea, Siracusa unfolds with the pacing of a psychological thriller and delivers an unexpected final act that none can see coming.

I was going to read this right after I finished Commonwealth, but I’m starting to see that maybe this one is a little too close to what I’m reading now. I might hold off while I get a palate cleanser in there.

268938192. The Girls by Emma Cline – Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

I’ve been going back and forth with this one. In fact, this is my second time borrowing this book from the library because I haven’t made up my mind if I should read it or not. It’s because I like stories about Charles Manson, but I don’t want to read about the horrendous acts he made those people do.

Coincidentally, my office decided to have a book discussion on this read in a few weeks, so I figured I’ll read it with the intention of going to this book discussion and see how I feel about it.

286868403. Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven – Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

Ugh, I can already tell by the looks of this novel that it’s going to thrash my soul. I love Jennifer Niven and I was a huge fan of All the Bright Lights. Jennifer Niven has a tendency to hit some serious issues as well (depression, suicidal thoughts), so hopefully this won’t throw me into a panic.

274144344. The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia – Seventeen-year-old Frankie Devereux would do anything to forget the past. Haunted by the memory of her boyfriend’s death, she lives her life by one dangerous rule: Nothing matters. At least, that’s what Frankie tells herself after a reckless mistake forces her to leave her privileged life in the Heights to move in with her dad—an undercover cop. She transfers to a public high school in the Downs, where fistfights don’t faze anyone and illegal street racing is more popular than football.

Marco Leone is the fastest street racer in the Downs. Tough, sexy, and hypnotic, he makes it impossible for Frankie to ignore him—and how he makes her feel. But the risks Marco takes for his family could have devastating consequences for them both. When Frankie discovers his secret, she has to make a choice. Will she let the pain of the past determine her future? Or will she risk what little she has left to follow her heart?

I think this one will be the book I read next since it’s a little bit more light-hearted (ish) and not too close to Commonwealth’s plot. I’m actually really excited because I loved Beautiful Creatures and sometimes I guiltily re-watch the movie.

What about you? Do you love the library?

2016 Banned Books Week and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

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I love Banned Books Week. If anything, it should be more awareness vs. passion for banned books, but maybe it’s the rebel in me that wants to read banned books because some group of people say that we need to protect our children from them.

As an adult and a lover of books, I can read whatever book I want. However, there are dozens of schools and libraries throughout the United States that feel the need to censor some books because of their themes and content. I don’t think there’s anything worse than hiding truth and knowledge from young people. Maybe cookies. If you were hiding cookies from young people, I’m pretty sure they should know about it.

This year’s theme is on diverse books. Funnily enough, I’ve been on a pretty big diverse reading kick lately and found the timing pretty serendipitous. For my book this year, I chose to read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.

I’ve only known some vague facts about this book, but I knew I loved Toni Morrison’s writing style. It’s almost like reading a surrealist painting. You can see she’s telling a story, but in the most artistic way possible. Every scene and every character is depicted to show you a more overarching themes and in the case of The Bluest Eye, beauty.

I think Toni Morrison takes the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” quite literally. The story follows a young black girl named Pecola Breedlove and her want to have the bluest of blue eyes. Everywhere she went and everything she saw in terms of beauty was that of a young white woman with blue eyes and blonde hair. She prays every day and wishes to have these blue eyes. However, everyone around her sees her as this ugly little girl with weird features. Even other black people found her to be unattractive.

This theme of fitting in and wanting to be adored is something I felt when I was younger. Being Asian American and growing up in a predominantly white town made it difficult for me to fit in with both Asian and non-Asian groups of friends. You’re interminably this puzzle piece that just doesn’t quite fit into the space. It’s a frustrating feeling and if I had known about a book like The Bluest Eye when I was a kid, then perhaps I would have seen things differently.

Books like this are impressionable because it tells you that you’re not alone. It tells you that there’s no point in trying to fit in because you’re beat yourself crazy trying to do so. Accept yourself for who you are and don’t let people make you think otherwise. Pecola Breedlove didn’t have that kind of support or understood that kind of thinking and I think eventually led to her downfall at the end of the story.

This book was banned and frequently challenged because of its rape and incest scenes. Yeah, I’ll admit that those scenes were a little challenging to read, but I think there was one and it was the catalyst to what happened to Pecola in the end. I think if Pecola had a better family who loved her for who she was rather than looking at her as somewhat flawed, she wouldn’t have ended up trying to model herself off of a depiction of the perfect life.

Aesthetics are difficult for everyone, let alone women. We see something on TV or online and we envy their adoration. We want their fame so that we can feel their love. We have something to be remembered by and it’s always difficult to pull yourself from that thinking and remember that you’re you and you belong in this world as much as that pretty person does.

If you’ve never read this book and have had moments where you wished you had smaller hips or a tiny butt or less weight, then you should read this book. The lesson is that you shouldn’t want something that will make you feel accepted or loved. You should love yourself and when you do that, maybe the marigolds will bloom for you.