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Reading updates, TFIOS…..and a book giveaway!

I’ve been on a major reading kick lately. I know some of you still think that I read nonstop all the time like I used to but nope, that’s not true at all. I’ll do that thing where I read voraciously for a week and then I don’t want to read anything for two. I’m still trying to make my goal of 225 books for 2014 but I’ve only read 66 so I’m starting to think I might not make it.

I fully realize that reading is not about numbers or merely trying to get your TBR stack down. I’m reading books I actually do want to read. So right now that means a lot of Christian fiction, young adult fiction, and contemporary women’s fiction. I never feel the need anymore to defend what I read. I used to. Especially when I was book blogging because sometimes I felt like I wasn’t reading more heavy stuff like other bloggers. But I’ve since learned that it’s perfectly fine to read whatever I want to read. I’m still learning from my books and I don’t feel the need to try to impress anyone anymore. Not everyone will have my tastes and you know what? That’s perfectly ok. You can throw me all the dubious looks you want.

Speaking of young adult fiction, I saw The Fault In Our Stars last night at an advanced showing. I haven’t read the book but I sorta knew what was going to happen. I know shocking right? Normally, I never see a movie without reading the book first but I’ve actually never even read a single John Green book before either. *ducks from all the flying tomatoes*

I’m not going to spoil anything for those who haven’t read the book or still want to see the movie but I sobbed like a baby. If you’ve seen the trailer or even just the poster, I mean it’s story about teenagers in love and there’s cancer involved. I want to go back and read the book now because I thought the movie was really well done. It felt authentic and not trying to force feelings on you. Throughout the theater you kept hearing the sniffles. I do enjoy a good movie cry and this one was a good stupid cry. That is once I got over the fact that it wasn’t Tris and Caleb being incestuous with each other. Also, Shailene Woodley’s hair is incredible; when my hair was that short, it NEVER looked that good.

If you’ve read down this far, then congrats and you’re about to be rewarded with…. a book giveaway!

Do you like beach-y fiction? Do you like contemporary women’s fiction? Do you need a vacation read?

Thanks to the author, I’m able to giveaway an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of The House on Mermaid Point by Wendy Wax. (Berkely Trade, July 2014)

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Book synopsis: In this new novel from the author of Ten Beach Road and Ocean Beach, three unlikely friends who were thrown together by disaster get a do-over on life, love, and happiness . . .

Maddie, Avery, and Nikki first got to know one another—perhaps all too well—while desperately restoring a beachfront mansion to its former grandeur. Now they’re putting that experience to professional use. But their latest project has presented some challenges they couldn’t have dreamed up in their wildest fantasies—although the house does belong to a man who actually was Maddie’s wildest fantasy once . . .

Rock-and-roll legend “William the Wild” Hightower may be past his prime, estranged from his family, and creatively blocked, but he’s still worshiped by fans—which is why he guards his privacy on his own island in the Florida Keys. He’s not thrilled about letting this crew turn his piece of paradise into a bed-and-breakfast for a reality show . . . though he is intrigued by Maddie. Hard as that is for her to believe as a newly single woman who can barely manage a dog paddle in the dating pool.

But whether it’s an unexpected flirtation with a bona fide rock star, a strained mother-daughter relationship, or a sudden tragedy, these women are in it together. The only thing that might drive them apart is being trapped on a houseboat with one bathroom . . .

I’ve read all of Wendy’s books before and each one I’ve really enjoyed. They are perfect summertime reads!

To enter, fill out this form below and I’ll choose and email the winner next Friday. Good luck!

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The Girl on Fire

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Unless you live under a rock or just frankly don’t care, there’s a movie that comes out today that is insanely popular. The second movie in The Hunger Games series, Catching Fire has arrived. I, personally, will be seeing it very soon. And yes, I HAVE read the books.

I actually didn’t become a fan of the books until after Catching Fire came out. I wasn’t into dystopian stories at the time and I will admit that the book probably flew under my radar because of the cover. Yes, I totally did judge a book by its cover but in my defense, again I wasn’t reading the genre nor does the cover of the book tell you anything about the story. But thanks to book bloggers who had been talking the book up a storm, I finally gave in and loved it. The first person narrative totally had me wrapped in the storyline.

Why do I like these stories so much? Maybe there have been other strong young female heroines before her, but I really loved Katniss. The way Suzanne Collins wrote her made me connect with her right from the start. She’s strong and independent but not so much that she rejects help all together. It was very easy in the beginning to compare these books to the Twilight series, especially with the love triangle thing going. I personally find these books to be so on the complete opposite side of spectrum. Katniss > Bella like whoa. Also after this series came out, there were so many copycats, some good, some bad, but this one is still tops.

Are the books violent? Sure, I guess. *shrugs* I personally don’t find them extremely violent. Same goes with the movies. I don’t know what that says about me. But I don’t find them disturbing. And had I read these when I was a teenager, I doubt I would have been horrified by what I read.

Jennifer Lawrence has done a wonderful job at bringing Katniss to life in the movies. I really love her performance (well I love her in general) and even though she wasn’t originally my first pick, she’s been magnificent. In case anyone is wondering my original choices for the trio was Hailee Steinfeld as Katniss, Hunter Parrish as Peeta and Josh Hutcherson as Gale (is it bad that I had thought he was taller than what he really is?). I can’t say yet if Catching Fire will be as good as the book, but the first movie was one of the more faithful movie adaptations that I’ve seen though I wasn’t a big fan of the changes in the muttation scene. So I’m looking forward to seeing it and the goal is to see it in IMAX because a lot of scenes were shot with IMAX cameras. And we all SHOULD know that seeing a movie shot with IMAX characters in an actual IMAX theater is the best way to see a movie.

And in case you’re wondering about the picture in this post? Yes that’s me cosplaying as Katniss. Last year I went to Dragon Con and I wanted to cosplay. As it was my first con and I didn’t want to go all out, I was having trouble coming up with a character until it was finally suggested that I go as Katniss. And I did. It’s not entirely authentic (there are some excellent and authentic Katniss’s out there) but I felt I did a pretty good job. I ordered a bow (which I later spray painted black to give it a more camouflage feel), arrows, quiver, shooting gloves (which I wore incorrectly in this pic so you can’t see it), and a Mockingjay pin. I bought boots that looked somewhat like Katniss’s, borrowed the jacket from a friend, dressed somewhat similar to the opening woods scene, and then did my hair in a braid as best as I could. Obviously as I am Asian, wore glasses, and had braces at the time, I’m not entirely authentic but you know what? I had a ton of fun. Many people knew who I was, called me Katniss, and wanted to take my picture. And there were a lot of young girls who were big fans of my costume. To this day, I loved that costume and among my friends, I may refer to myself as Katniss in third person (you’re judging, I know it).

Oh and for the record, I don’t actually know how to use the bow and arrows. One day, hopefully. As promised.

If you haven’t already seen it by the time you read this post, to get you in the mood for Catching Fire is a wonderful parody:

May the odds be ever in your favor.

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What Deborah Likes to Read

I read a lot. Like an insane amount a lot. And I’m not bragging or being presumptuous when I say that I have read more books this year alone than most of you have in your life by choice. (Unless of course you are a book blogger, then you can understand)

On a normal given day, if you ask me what I’m reading, there is a good probability that I will respond with the title of a young adult fiction book.  I get asked this a lot: “You’re 30, why are you reading teen books? Aren’t you too old for them?” I find that the majority of people who ask me this don’t really read that much to begin with or they haven’t actually read much YA fiction. This seems to be a common theme when you don’t really understand why someone does it but you still feel the need to question and judge.  

So what’s the simple answer to those questions? Because I enjoy them.

Long answer:  Like any subject or genre of anything, you have your good and bad, you have your preferences.  As I said, I like reading a lot. And while I read a large amount of books, I’m rather picky about what I read. There are many duds out there. And there have been books where I feel that money is more of a factor than a quality story.  But there have also been some fantastic books out there.

There are many definitions of what young adult fiction is. My personal definition is a story where the characters are 12-18 and is primarily marketed for that age group. Yep that’s it. Doesn’t mean that the story is juvenile or any less quality because of the age range. I think sometimes that some adults either have forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager or they are really out of touch with what teens go through these days. Anyone can enjoy it regardless of the age of the reader.  I started reading YA fiction when I was in elementary school and as long as there are good stories, I’ll be reading it until I die.

I lean more towards stories that are contemporary, historical, mystery, and dystopian. I’m not really into paranormal or fantasy, that the market is heavily skewed towards. To me the mark of a good book is when after the first few pages, I am already lost in the story.  I know almost immediately whether or not this is going to be a book that I will put down or not. I’ve read a lot of fluff books and a lot of books where I am trudging through them to just get to the end of the story. I feel this way sometimes with a lot of trilogies that have been popping up lately. The first two books are SO good. And then the third one feels like the author got rushed or just stopped caring.

That being said, there is some nostalgia I feel while reading these stories. I remember what it was like to be a teenage girl and sometimes it’s fun to relive those moments, and sometimes it’s painful. I’m glad I don’t have to actually relieve those moments but seeing how characters get in and out of their situations makes me realize how much I’ve learned throughout the years. I also wish that I could be some of these characters. I wish I could be like Katniss and Tris and take care of myself and be strong in those types of situations. I have really appreciated how in the past few years, there have been several strong female lead characters in these books.

I have no problems reading what I like to read.  If I ever decided to go back and get a second master’s degree, it would be to get a library science degree so I could become a young adult librarian. Until then, I’ll just continue to enjoy immersing myself into stories.

Recommendations:

Dystopian  – Across the Universe series by Beth Revis

Contemporary – anything by Elizabeth Eulberg, Janet Gurtler, Jen Calonita, Beth Kephart

Historical – Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Mystery- The Mary Quinn Mystery series by Y.S. Lee

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Closing a 21 year chapter in my life

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When I was in fourth grade, I was loaned a book from a friend.  This was nothing new. As a voracious reader, I borrowed books from my friends all the time.  The book given to me was a new author and it was the third book in the series.  Even back then I was a big stickler of reading things in order but as I had no access to the other books at the time, I gave in.  That book was Reluctantly Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and it introduced me to the world of Alice McKinley which I never left after that. Twenty one years later, I find myself three weeks away awaiting the publication of the last book in the series, Now I’ll Tell You Everything.

This is the longest series I have ever read in my life. The series actually started with the first book, The Agony of Alice, in 1985. I joined the fan club in 1992.  For the past 21 years, I have eagerly awaited the release of an Alice book.  I have literally grown up with her.  As Alice has grown from a 3rd grade to her senior year of high school, I’ve followed her every step of the way.  One time because I couldn’t afford to buy the book and the library didn’t own it, I would spent a month going into the bookstore every week to read a few chapters of Patiently Alice.  I’ve reread the series several times over the course of those 21 years but just this year, with the release of the last book, I decided one more time to reread the entire series.  That meant reading 27 books, which I did from the end of June until just this past week.  So many memories came rushing back as I read all the books.  Literally my life from age 9 to age 30 came back as I read.  A list of all the books can be found here.

Even though I grew older than Alice, I still felt like I could relate to her. I still remember all those awkward moments of growing up, going through puberty, reliving high school, and of course relationships with guys.  Even with this last reread of the entire series,  there were times when I would put the book down because I couldn’t believe that a 16-year-old girl was experiencing the same things as a 30-year-old.  To this day, when Alice experiences heartbreak, it still makes me simultaneously ache as well. One thing I love is that the books are set in Montgomery County, Maryland which is right near me! Growing up as I didn’t live in the area, most of the places meant nothing to me.  But now as an adult, as I live close by, it was awesome to recognize street names, buildings, and other locations.  I did get really excited when Alice was considering going to my alma mater, George Mason University, but alas it was not meant to be.

I feel a bit baffled though, that even though this series is very popular (I mean if it’s still going strong after 28 years, someone must be buying them right?), I actually haven’t found that many other fans of the books in real life or while I was book blogging. So therefore these books have been my secret for the past 21 years.  I haven’t really been able to share my love of them or basically be able to geek out with anyone about them.  Interestingly though, these books are always on the Banned/Challenged books list from school libraries because of their talk about sex.  Honestly, what’s in these books is what kids/teens talk about in schools, so it’s not like it’s creating new ideas for them and it’s actually quite tame compared to what actually goes on in real life.

Yes I’m sad to see the series end.  I feel like a chapter in my life is now finally closed and I have nothing to look forward to regarding these books anymore.  I do hope though that one day, I’ll have a daughter that I can introduce these books to.  And it’ll be fun to be able to reread and reminisce with her.  I’m so grateful to the author for creating this wonderful series and allowing me to be able to spend my childhood, adolescence and young adult years with a character and her world that I dearly love.  Alice McKinley will always be a part of me.