This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: What is a contemporary book you think might become a classic? Or should become a classic? This is a difficult question for me because I don’t read a lot of literary fiction which is, in my experience, what is most likely to be taken seriously. Even within genre fiction I’m not super likely to read the critically acclaimed literature as much as I am to read the fun literature.
But perhaps I have a bit firmer of a grasp on what is going to be remembered in children’s literature and YA. While kids lit has a firm set of books that are by and large considerd “classics”, YA is so new that other than The Outsiders it doesn’t. But since there is so much content written for teens now, I think it’s inevitable that these lists start coming out.
When thinking about what would be included in a list of YA classics, it’s impossible to believe that the list would not include something by John Green. He has been consistently producing work that has received critical acclaim for long enough to be, well, influential. The only question would be, which book? Looking for Alaska is the most widely used in schools, while The Fault in Our Stars is easily the most popular of his books. In my opinion Paper Towns has the most to say about what it means to be human. I think ultimately Looking for Alaska’s consistent use by teachers and frequent bannings (which keep it on the librarians’ radar) will land this book in the YA cannon as that begins to develop.
So as I’m writing this I’m reading Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, which I was really excited to read and is objectively AMAZING. I mean, the writing is so readable but so intense. Would definitely compare to Gabrielle Zevin in that’s is “chick-lit” or “women’s fiction” that can easily be taken seriously as “literary”.
I’m not enjoying it. In fact, it’s stressing me out. Not because it isn’t amazing, but because I’m currently SOOOO stressed at work. We are attempting in-person school in the middle of a pandemic, and we’re not letting kids browse the books so I have to pull a hold (or two) for EVERY KID IN THE SCHOOL. Plus we’re going to try start giving books to distance kids, so that’s a lot to plan! Plus I’m finishing grad school this semester. I just have a lot going on, and I’m having stress dreams literally every night. So reading Queenie, who has anxiety and panic attacks, is really activating my own stressed, anxious feelings.
I think if I had read this book this summer, which was very laid back, I would have been much more appreciative of what Carty-Williams has very successfully achieved with this book. I really can’t downplay how GOOD this book is. If I wasn’t so stressed right now, would I feel differently?
Star at Star is All Book Up created this tag waaaay back when the folklore album first came out, and I saw her posting about it all over her Instagram but I was catching up on the tags that I was tagged in literally a year ago. So I’m only just now getting to it!
Full disclosure, I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about folklore. All of Taylor Swift’s albums sound so different, but post-rock isn’t my favorite style. Still, I said the same thing about both Reputation and Lover, so I’m sure I’ll come around. 🙂
a book you grew out of
I don’t usually grow out of books, I’m usually capable of reading a book from my past self’s perspective, especially my kids’ books. But I definitely don’t care for Eragon and the rest of the Inheritance Cycle as much as I did in my teen years. Part of it is because the last two books were so lackluster, but also I think because I’ve discovered SO MANY great books since then. Don’t get me wrong, I still like Eragon, just not as much as I used to.
This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: How did you interpret the ending of Lois Lowry’s The Giver? I think it’s only fair to say before I start that I read this book as a novel study with my fifth grade (?) class, and we discussed this at length with the teacher, so my answer might be her answer…
I should also state that I have not read ANY of the sequels, and I have no idea what happens in them or what they are about or who the characters are, and it’s definitely possible that reading those books would change my interpretation.
In case you’ve forgotten, at the end of The Giver the protagonist, Jonas, kidnaps his adopted brother, Gabe, in order to prevent him from being “released”. They travel for days and days, and eventually the weather gets cold. They go on into the snow until Jonas finds a sled at the top of the hill, and they sled into a Christmas village where someone is waiting for them.
At the beginning of the month or at the beginning of a new season I tend to see a lot of “Anticipated New Releases” posts. A lot of the time I’m not particularly anticipating the same books as everyone else (probably because I anticipate so few new books and don’t really keep up with book news). So at the beginning of this month looking at all these posts got me thinking, What DOES make me anticipate a new book?
If it’s written by an author I love?
Mmmmm, maybe. I won’t lie, that whenever I hear Naomi Novik has something new coming out I get pretty excited, but I don’t really do the auto-buy-author thing. If I love the author I’m more likely to be excited about a book, but I still have to be interested in the concept or story.
I don’t know about anyone else, but historical fantasy is one of my very favorite sub-genres. I love when authors can play with alternate histories, and imagine how things might be different if there were dragons, or magic. While I prefer when it’s England proper, many authors create English-inspired nations and worlds. I especially love when authors are able to capture the tone of literature from that era, but update it to be fun for the modern reader.
Because, in my opinion, fantasy should be fun in the end.
So for you’re pleasure I’ve created a list of recommendations for historical fantasy based on the different eras of British history.
The Tudor era is one of my favorite time periods to read about, but it’s not often adapted for fantasy. I don’t know why as it’s the perfect era for it. Sword-fighting, knights, dragons, they would fit in well here.
However, the second book of the All Souls Trilogy, titled Shadow of Night, involves time traveling to this very era! We even get to meet some of the giants of the time, including Kit Marlowe and Queen Elizabeth herself. I loved how it really submerged the reader into the culture and time period, and the details were so accurate. I’m also a huge sucker for time travel. While this wasn’t my favorite series (nice vampires again, snooze), I did really enjoy this book, and I think it’s worth reading if for no other reason than some good ol’ Tudor witches.
A little over a month ago Krisha from Krisha’s Cozy Corner tagged me in the This or That Book Tag. I’ve seen plenty of variations of this tag, and I *think* participated in one before (though I couldn’t find it). But I really like the prompts in this particular version, which are more interesting than “Paperback or Harback?” and “Bookmark or Dog-Ear”. Snooze. These are much more fun!
Okay, here we go!
Read on the bed or the couch?
Honestly, I do both of these. But reading on the bed isn’t my favorite because my pillow is AWFUL and doesn’t give my back enough support. So if given the choice I’ll *usually* choose the couch. It’s only once the sun goes down and our lighting gets bad that I’ll move to the bed.
This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: Recommend a diverse classic. I should start off by saying that I haven’t read enough of them. My classic niche is definitely 1800s England and France, which I think we can agree weren’t the most diverse places. And so many of the “diverse” classics assigned to us in school (To Kill a Mockingbird, Heart of Darkness, Siddhartha) were actually written by white folks. In fact, if I’m being honest, both books I want to recommend today were written in the 1980s, so I don’t know that I can even really call them classics. So if you want a good recommendation for classics by diverse authors, I might recommend this list from Bookriot.
In the end, though, I think I’m going to stick with my wheelhouse, 1800s England. It’s pretty common knowledge now that Oscar Wilde was gay, but at the time homosexuality was still illegal and Wilde actually went to prison as a result of a semi-public affair. And while queer themes are usually veiled in Wilde’s work, his exuberant personality makes them such a joy to read and watch.
Oscar Wilde was most famous for being a playwright, and I highly recommend the 2002 movie version of The Importance of Being Ernset starring Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, Reese Witherspoon, Judi Dench, and more. Wilde’s comedy is laugh out loud funny, and these actors really bring the larger than life characters to life.
But Wilde wrote a single novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, that is my recommendation today. It’s a haunting tale of young Dorian, a wealthy socialite so beautiful and self-absorbed that he wishes his portrait would age instead of him. When his wish is mysteriously granted, Dorian leads a life with no other purpose than to fulfill his every desire. As you can imagine, this leads to all kinds of tragedy for the people surrounding Dorian, and soon Dorian’s portrait is unrecognizable.
I’ll be honest, this post has been sitting in my drafts for a long time because I’m not exactly sure what to write. So much has been said about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl by people who know so much more about books and film then me, what more could I possibly have to add to the conversation? But ultimately I write my blog for myself, as writing and talking about ideas often helps me to process and understand them, so here we are.
For those of you who don’t know, the phrase “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” was coined by film critic (?) Nathan Rabin in response to Kurstin Dunst’s character in the movie Elizabethtown. He said the MPDG “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” She is adventurous, seductive, fun, probably hyperactive, and she has no story or purpose of her own, she exists solely to drive the hero’s character development.
In the years since Rabin’s article (geez, it’s been over a decade) the MPDG has started to be considered as a trope, often a negative one. Critics find her annoying, or sexist, or unrealistic. Well, of course she is sexist and unrealistic! That was Rubin’s point in writing the article, to draw attention to the superficial ways women are treated in film!
But I would like to take a moment to challenge the book community’s near unanimous rejection of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
Apparently 2020 is the year of black covers over here in Sci-Fi/Fantasy land. It wasn’t until after I was looking at my pre-order list that I realized just how many there are, but golly y’all, every book I’ve bought or pre-ordered this year except for one has had a black cover! I wonder if this is something that’s intentional marketing (maybe black books are selling better right now?) or whether it’s just a coincidence. It might say something about how darker books are more popular right now too.
Anyway, I’m not complaining because all of these book covers are just jaw-dropping. Some seriously awesome cover design.
These are in no particular order.
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
In this case I think the black cover is definitely meant to reflect the content of the book. I think there’s dark magic involved, and the school involved seems like it’s probably a pretty dark place in every meaning of the word. Anyway, this cover is sooooo cool looking. I love its simplicity and the way the gold pops against the black. A Deadly Education comes out in September.