This is a small post about the event I attended with Oxford Exchange Bookstore for The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo. Since the book is a novella, I thought a small post would do.
For me personally, this book wasn’t for me, but I was very busy at the time to be able to go into the metaphoric writing that this had. So, I wanted to listen in and get the other side of things.
What I learned was that this book is for people who love puzzles and deciphering things. A whole other brand of brilliant minds that do not link up to my own. I was told that this book was about “remembering the small moments and how sorrows, tragedies, and anger can fuel people.” For many, this novella was very subtle and refreshing. For others, they wanted more from it and felt like it glossed over too many things. It was an interesting book that was short and sweet. So, it was nice because I did not feel like I had wasted my time when I tried reading it.
I was able to attend an event with Writer’s League of Texas discussing Black Chameleon: Memory, Womanhood, and Myth by Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton.
Black Chameleon is Deborah’s first memoir. She expressed how for so long she lived in stanzas and lines being a poet first. With this memoir, she was trying to figure out how to hold integrity on the page. She realized in her life that things don’t translate to a page and so she wanted to see where poetry enters and exits in prose.
She explained how she had started collecting stories of her life for almost a year but found that something wasn’t working. She began thinking about the mythology of Black American women and questioning what her origin would be. She expressed how she felt African mythology didn’t explain her and how the American context didn’t feel right. So, diving into and creating mythology was a space for her to explain, give context, and figure out how she and her family became who they are. After she wrote her first myth, she finally felt seen.
She tapped into culture and reframed it into herself, which brought her joy. She gave what her people needed, mythology for themselves, to explain why they are who they are, while implementing Black and South culture.
It was very interesting and insightful to hear her explain how she wanted to feel intentional with her existence, instead of a byproduct of someone stealing her from her home and bringing her people to new lands.
Her goal was to immortalize herself in a tale. Create stories that never die. Give herself over to a tradition that will never be forgotten since she knows her people always feel like a forgotten people. She needed a space of belonging to work side by side with her memories. A new understanding of who she was in this world. And so, she created it.
This evening I was able to attend an event with Oxford Exchange Bookstore discussing The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean.
Everyone liked how the main character was a very real person who had flaws, especially when it came to her being a mom and trying her best. One of the best and cutest parts people found about the book was the motherhood parts. Even the readers who don’t normally care for books revolving around motherhood. They loved how and where she gave birth to her son. The remarks and things said between her and her son. And how the main character, as a mother, was represented in a very human way.
Everyone loved how the story was structured, with the past and present meeting at the perfect place and clippings of real-world and fantasy-world quotes and articles at the beginning of the chapters. They felt it helped enhance the story and blend the world.
One of the biggest discussions was how in this book, they didn’t just talk about books. They also talked about video games, which brought a nice familiar aspect that lent coziness to the story.
A character everyone loved was Jarrow. They also loved how his asexuality was presented and actually recognized. It was amazing how the brother believed his sexuality compared to a lot of media and tropes where asexuality is unbelieved.
This book seemed like such a great book for bibliophiles and booksellers with all the descriptions on how certain books taste. It led us to discuss what kind of books we would eat and what they may taste like. We were thinking for horror, a thick, inky taste like blood.
This book and author both seem to have gone through many challenges. It sounds highly frustrating that so many parts of the book had to be taken out, including how it was supposed to be set in different countries. Also, how it was supposed to be a series but got condensed into one. Because of this, it left some parts feeling unfinished to some readers, while others found it fine. But I feel that the author is inspirational for tearing this book apart and still telling a decent, well-characterized story.
I joined Brookline Booksmith last night to discuss Fonda Lee’s newest book Untethered Sky.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Fonda Lee is known for her The Green Bone Saga series. She said that with this newest book, which is a novella, she had to use different brain muscles since she decided to take a step back from an epic world and story and dive into something else. She did this because she realized that trying to live up to what she did before was paralyzing.
In this newest book, she focuses on a single person instead of a large cast. She also made it pre-modern, added animals, and made it smaller in length to give her a clean break into something new.
Come to find out, this book started as a novel but then turned into a novella because someone asked her if she would be interested in writing a novella. Taking it into novella form helped her put pieces together that weren’t working as a novel. Then the story came to life.
During this process, she learned that a novella isn’t less in terms of worldbuilding work. She built an entire world for this small story and expressed how the temptation to write more stories in the world is there, but she only envisioned this world as the one story and doesn’t have another to tell.
What she found most challenging when writing this story was writing it in first-person instead of third-person. She wrote the first chapter from both points of view and then sent it out for validation to see which was better. She then went into length about how writing in first-person is different. How she could only know the character as well as they knew themselves and how it was a different kind of intimacy compared to having multiple povs and being in third-person, where she could flesh out a character more with interactions and dynamics between other characters.
Another struggle for her was the story’s pacing being a personal journey versus an epic.
Last fun fact, Lee has been obsessed with falconry for the longest time. She knew it was something she would never be able to do, so she decided to write about it but add mythic possibilities to the sport. This is what makes up a core piece of this newest book.
I had the chance to attend an enlightening book event with Oxford Exchange discussing When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill.
The reason why this event was so enlightening was because we had readers from many generations attend. It was great to hear their point of view and experiences that shaped how they viewed and read this book. This discussion got so personal and deep that I found myself wanting to sit in front of a fire with a coffee to continue talking through the night.
What was incredibly interesting was the fact that some readers liked the beginning of the book better than the end and some liked the end better than the beginning. There were also some who enjoyed the beginning and the end. The ones who liked the beginning liked that the women were angry. The ones who liked the end liked how the women had chilled out and became ok with who they were. A reader who lived in the 1950s, where this book was placed, said that she did not relate to the beginning because when she was living in that time period, the women she knew displayed their anger through depression. It was when those women started protesting that they found empowerment.
What I took away from this discussion that amazed me was what each reader lingered on in the story and how what they lingered on had them interpreting the story. You had some hold onto the anger. Some look for hope and see hope throughout. And some that saw rising to a challenge. There were also others that saw all of those areas and were able to take it all in.
When it came to the transitioning of the book and how the dragons went from what some readers viewed as fierce to then dragons with lipstick, purses, and other things, there were some who disliked that and others who loved it. The ones who loved it thought it was cute and saw it in a way that the women could pick up their femininity again they were throwing away and be them. The ones who weren’t a fan felt that it took them as readers out of the story making them unable to grasp what exactly the dragons looked like.
Everyone loved so many quotes from this book. Everyone also loved how well the author did in holding the headspace of a child for so long. The articles of the alternate history throughout were also a favorite for most of the readers.
This was a great book that held great protentional when it came to discussing issues through the generations.
I got to attend an event hosted by Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore for a discussion about Flowerheart by Catherine Bakewell, between Catherine and Allison Saft.
Catherine Bakewell was the sweetest! Her and Allison have been friends for about six years. It was cute to see that Allison was so excited to share this moment with her friend. They apparently met over a pitching event. Catherine contacted Allison because she thought her pitch was awesome and then they became query buddies. They announced that they decided the main character in Flowerheart and one of the characters in one of Allison Saft’s books are cousins. Haha.
The host showed some awesome character art that Catherine’s friends made. One piece of art was made by her friend when her friend read her manuscript four years ago. She had called her up and was like, “Now is the time!”
Catherine’s book is a cottagecore YA Fantasy Romance. Cottage core is light-hearted, summery, and takes place in country side. It is a cozy fantasy. In her book, her main character Clara makes flowers grow because of her emotions. She accidently curses her father, making flowers grow in his lungs. She then has to team up with her best friend who is hiding secrets and they have to make a hard bargain. It is apparently full of feelings.
In the book she uses concepts of flowers that she learned from Nancy Drew computer games that stuck in her mind. The name Xavier is also from Nancy Drew!
Catherine started the book in 2017 and wanted to make it a fun and bright world. It is different from the first version of the book drastically, but she still kept it fun and lovely. Some of the things that had changed from the beginning was the age of the characters. When she started, she considered the book adult and had the characters 22-years-old. But then she was told it was YA, so she made them 18, then 17, and then the editor had her make them 16. Also, the two main characters Clara and Xavier didn’t know each other at first. To solve the problem of them falling in love in 9 days, she made them childhood best friends.
I loved when she talked about her listening to her audio book version. She said it was like watching a movie in her head that she has watched at one minute increments for many years. She said it is like listening to her children. She loves being able to go on the journey with her characters again in a cinematic form.
She considers this a very therapeutic book. It has lessons she had learned from therapy in the book that the characters puts into practice.
What a great discussion about Deep by Rivers Solomon with Oxford Exchange Bookstore.
At the beginning, everyone agreed they felt a little lost but that the book was most likely made that way to fit the story. Everyone also agreed that the world was beautiful, immersive, and enticing enough that even though confusing, they wanted to stay and keep going. They also wanted to follow the main character’s stakes because they were personal enough to cling to and care about.
It was interesting to hear that many reviewers thought that Yetu seemed whiny. Everyone jumped to defend her in the group, believing that she wasn’t whiny and that, even if she was, she had excellent reason to be. She was being tortured in a very real sense by how she had to live.
Everyone discussed the bits and pieces that described how the mermaids looked and then went further into how they might have sounded. There were so many favorite quotes, moments, and scenes in this book that everyone stated. So many wished that the book could have gone on longer.
On the discussion with it lasting longer, it was brought up that maybe the book was the short length it was with nonreaders in mind so that they would have an easier time digesting the topic, and so it would welcome them into the reading world. I thought that was an excellent take.
Everyone loved this book and thought it had a great premise when it came to giving back to the lives that were stolen and giving people that were killed a history by becoming something else that was everlasting.
I got to attend a book event with Brookline Booksmith for the new book coming out TheAdventure Zone: The Eleventh Hour which is the fifth graphic novel to release in the series. Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, and Carey Pietsch discussed it with a few special guests.
If you are wondering, they are mostly all a family. Three brothers, a dad, and Carey the cartoonist. For some of them, it was the first time they met the cartoonist, so it was cute to see them so excited to meet her. And even cuter that the dad was dressed in a chainmail cosplay.
They asked her which picture the cartoonist drew where she really blew it haha. She said something about a time-loop page.
They discussed how they really started taking it seriously with this book and put a lot of work into it and that it’s their best one yet.
They had special guests who said there were tons of cosplayers from Monty Python and the Holy Grail everywhere during release day at their bookstore. All of them, including the special guests, did a reading for each character. The colors and pictures of the graphic novel were brilliant. It was cute and funny with cuss words haha.
They also had their editor on to discuss things too.
This was a dynamic team with funny reactions and conversations between everyone. They definitely all have fun.
Carey showed them pictures of her trying out Blender 3D. The beginning pictures were hilarious from when she started the system, then later turned very magical. Seriously, it was amazing how she made interiors of buildings, settings, and references for drawings because, how she described it, she doesn’t have a lot of RAM space in her mind. The best part was seeing Carey’s sketches and everyone trying to guess which panel they were from.
What an amazing team, all of them. And the fact that they all got together to talk about the process was amazing. Like seriously! Wow!
What a delightful book event with Oxford Exchange Bookstore about Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young.
It was interesting how such a simple book could bring about so many different layers of conversations. One of the layers we went into was the authenticity of a towns and how the author captured that in many areas. Some of the areas she captured that were when it came to tourists, the orchard, relationships, meetings, and the want for things to stay the same.
One of the ways that things in the real world may stay the same when it comes to small towns, like it did in this book, is when someone is around the people they grew up with and then fall back into that mindset. Which may be a younger aged mindset. Then comes the question of if you grow up with those people all around you, do you still fall into that mindset sometimes, do you ever really grow up, or do you need space in order for nostalgia to grasp you and turn you young again?
Everyone agreed that this book was a dark cozy mystery, like a campfire story. And everyone loved the vibes. Many expected more magic and kept trying to find it within the pages, while others enjoyed the light magic and undercurrent of it, saying that it felt more real that way.
I feel like the most interesting conversation that was had was about how to differentiate YA versus Adult fiction. Many agreed that this book felt like a YA read, but it was a YA author’s first Adult novel. Was the YA-like-feel in the way the book was plotted out and in how the author held the hands of the readers through the mystery? Or was it because it was in the minds of characters who were reliving the past, a period when they were teens? Or was it because of the pacing, the themes or lack thereof, the topics, or the relationships? What makes an adult read an adult read, besides the main character in the present timeline’s age?
All very interesting questions worth hours long of conversation.
Books are Magic hosted an event with Camryn Garrett about her book Friday I’m in Love.
The author came dressed in a dress similar to the main character on the book cover! So that was cool! Friday I’m in Love is about a girl who decides to have a coming out party to announce her queerness to her friends and family. Friday I’m in Love is Camryn’s third novel, but first rom-com. She grew up writing lots of ghost stories and wrote this book in high school when she was eighteen. According to the interviewer, she really captured the teenager spirit in this book and it only took the interviewer under 24 hours to finish the book because she loved it so much.
The idea came to Camryn Garrett when she thought about how her friends would have thrown her a party if she had come out when she was younger. She wanted to express that you don’t need to know who you are at sixteen. She explained that parties during milestones like coming of age and sweet sixteen parties are important because it shows that the people who are there care for you, so she wishes there were coming out parties also.
They talked about the music mentioned in the book, social classes in real life and in books, also how different it is writing screenplays compared to books.
Here are some cute, fun, and funny facts from the interview. According to Camryn’s mom, all the characters in Friday I’m in Love are Camryn. Haha. One of Camryn’s favorite tropes is enemies to lovers, but with low stakes. No ‘you killed my brother or you tried to kill me’ “because that’s just wrong”. Haha. Her least favorite trope is second chance lovers because, most likely, if you didn’t work out the first time, you shouldn’t try again. Haha.
This interview was a fun, lighthearted, and uplifting. Thank you, Books are Magic for hosting it.