Book Event

Got to have an amazing conversation with Oxford Exchange Bookstore’s Book Club about Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune. The wonderful hosts started off the club with a question about what tea would be served for everyone at the particular tea shop in the book. Some interesting answers were jasmine-green tea, orange tea, and mint-lemongrass. It was cute to hear the explanations of why those teas would be chosen and it led into even funnier topcs!

The best part about this discussion was learning how this book worked for different people just like how the book highlights how everyone is different so everyone needs different care and everyone will have a different path after death. The book also did amazing when it came to grief and being honest about it, especially how grief is soft and tender but also hard and harsh at times.

It seemed like out of all the characters many of the group’s favorite was Nelson, although a very interesting things was brought up on how a favorite character could not be chosen because all the characters felt like one unit. Another thing that was discussed about characters was how Klune did a terrific job in using the fear of the unknown when it came to the manager.

For my own personal take, I just want to make sure that I state that my favorite lesson in this book was the fact that your death is yours and no one else’s. I love that because it helps readers grasp control of their fear of the after-death.

Book Event

Oxford Exchange Book Club with the Oxford Exchange Bookstore gave us a great discussion on a very popular and well-known book, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas.

The club started out asking who everyone’s favorite character was. The top character who came in first was Rhysand and the second favorite was Lucien. It was very interesting and cool to hear that Amarantha was someone’s favorite character and why (because she was well established)! It was also really cool to hear how much everyone loved the masks that were worn throughout this book and that some did not want them to be taken off at all.

It sounded like a winning-majority’s favorite scene in this book was the giant worm scene because of the obstacles, how it had been developed, and how the task had not come easy to the character at all. That was a hot topic in the club on how important it is for readers to not feel like things come too easy for the characters and how readers want things earned. Although this is a fairy tale retelling, some found that certain parts in the book were too easily defeated or accomplished.

Many liked how the main character was illiterate and how she was challenged in that way. It was also interestingly pointed out how cool it was to see Feyre being the illiterate one instead of Tamlin when it comes from being a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

As for the ending, some loved how it gave the character more depth, some found it too easy and unbelievable, and some found it clever. It was very interesting to discuss preferences for readers, but even more interesting how in the end, everyone still found it entertaining and enjoyed it.

One of my favorite discussions was about the tv series coming out in the future for this series and how we hope they will go about capturing the beauty of this book and its imagery. My second was how differently everyone reads. For Sarah J. Maas’s books, I find myself unable to read them fast, my mind will linger on the images and the beauty of the words keeping me still, whereas some find it so compulsively good that they find themselves reading it fast and for hours nonstop until their eyes are strained. But adding to that discussion and the coolest part was how different everyone pictures characters in general. How some readers don’t picture images in their minds at all, how some feel more than see the characters like they are a type of energy or aurora, and how some do both or picture only a blur with a key feature.

I love these deep conversations with these great people and readers. Thank you, Oxford Exchange.

Book Event

I got to listen V.E. Schwab talk with Melissa Albert about her newest book Gallant hosted by Kepler’s Literary Foundation! It was such an interesting conversation to listen to because V.E. Schwab is such an interesting person who is very self-aware.

A few really cool things about the book Gallant before getting into V.E. Schwab is that it apparently has Coraline vibes according to Melissa Albert. The main character is nonverbal. It is also partly told in illustrations that we were shown during the interview also, which look very interesting! The chat was very active during this interview and someone had said that when the purpose behind the illustrations become clear that it gives the reader goosebumps. Also, the book is for younger children, teens, and adults. Meaning it can be experienced in a variety of different ways depending on the reader’s age! She wanted to write an ageless book where each age can come away with something different. But this book did take her five years to write because she could not figure out what was beyond the wall in the novel.

This amazing person, meaning V.E. Schwab, gave us a look into her life. When writing novels, she has so many ideas, but they need time to seep. Some of her books have taken 10-15 years to seep in her mind while she slowly adds ideas to them throughout the years. When she writes, the first character she makes is usually the setting.

Interestingly, the reason why she is so obsessed with death is because she is an only child who was so scared to lose her parents because her dad was diabetic. It made her feel powerless toward death and become overwhelmingly aware of it. Since she still scares easily, she likes to write scary stories because she is the god of those worlds and won’t be caught unaware of what will happen or what is going on.

Also, although she is very well known and has found success in many areas now, it was not like that at first. She published her first novel in 2011 called The Near Witch but it went out of print 18 months later. It wasn’t until 6 years after that, that it was brought back out again and became a bestseller. So, she was not an instant best seller. She had many small successes and many down times at the beginning, but then worked her way up.

Thank you so much Kepler’s Literary Foundation for this insightful event!

Book Event

Hosted on Facebook Live by Murder By The Book bookstore in Texas, Deanna Raybourn was interviewed about her newest book An Impossible Impostor from the Veronica Speedwell Mystery series coming in at book number seven.

Deanna Raybourn was such a great speaker! She didn’t seem nervous at all and was so welcoming. I loved how she brought up how great virtual events are because readers who can’t travel and who do not know about certain bookstores can join in. How many (like myself) may never have found out about how awesome Murder By The Book is. Tonight, there was a worldwide audience viewing all the way from other countries like New England and Australia.

Raybourn talked about how she loves to write in first person and why. It goes all the way back to when she was growing up. The books she read were first person and she fell in love with that style, especially reading Sherlock Holmes.

Interestingly in the first book she wrote in this series she had displayed a lot of one of her character’s past, but her editor told her that her doing that was for her and not for the reader so that she needed to take it out and lay it out throughout the series, which she thought was genius, so she was so happy that she did that.

The main character Veronica sounds like such an interesting character to write in the author’s point of view. She said that Veronica is not good with vulnerability even with the readers, so over the book series Veronica slowly reveals herself to the readers by being more and more honest with her past.

Awesomely, a viewer asked what the two main characters Veronica and Stoker’s astrological signs were, and the author said that she always knows the signs for each of her characters. Apparently, Stoker is a Taurus and Veronica is a Cancer, but it was really hard for her to pinpoint those for them.

Raybourn’s two characters Stoker and Veronica are very smart, and Veronica knows a lot about butterflies as a butterfly hunter. Raybourn said when asked that it is easier for her to do the research she needs to do because the books are set in the Victorian Era. If there is not a butterfly that had been named before that time, she cannot use it. She has created some butterflies for her books though, and she knows a decent amount about butterflies because she used to raise them. Interestingly butterflies apparently smell horrible when they are hatching from their cocoons! Ha-ha. But she still gets nervous when she gets calls from people who have butterfly collections but feels at ease when they tell her that she got it right.

It was so great getting to listen to and know Deanna Raybourn who was so fun and upbeat. She is on contract for nine books in this series. Thank you Murder By The Book for hosting this event!

Book Event

We were joined by a big group to discuss This Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno with the Oxford Exchange Book Club today!! With the book being left up to interpretation, it was really cool getting to hear everyone’s different opinions on how they thought the book truly ended.

The beginning was interestingly in different taste for everyone. For myself, I loved how real the grief was at the beginning. I loved all the different aspects visited when it came to grief in the physical world and when it came to outsiders of the person who had died’s life. It sounded like everyone agreed, but because it was so real and so well done, some did not like the beginning because it hit too close to home and they did not want to be reminded of all the realness that compacts grief.

Another great discussion this book brought up was what happens after death! So many in the group believe that nothing happens after death. I was surprised by this since I have a hard time comprehending nothing happening. But many others believe in energy, in afterlife, in rebirth, and even in conjoining souls. It was cool to hear the concept of energies from the people in the group and how to some the author using ‘you’ throughout the entire book showed that his wife’s spirit was still active. Also, that if we thought about the book in an energy-given aspect how a certain kind of bad energy could have possessed him.

What was really fun about this discussion was getting to go down the different roads of interpretation. We went down the road of an entity, of energies, and even of self-possession of a mind going mad with grief and anger. I liked the clues someone pointed out about the cook and how he had to have been not physically real since he was off the beaten path so to speak. I loved how everyone had assumed this book was going to be a tech horror that turned into something vastly different. It was cool how many people loved the mother-in-law and son-in-law dynamic because it was so “weird” and different which made it cool. It was also really cool to learn how the most random things stick out the most for many people when it comes to horror books.

This book definitely brought many great conversations and topics to the table. I would recommend it for a discussion group. It was so great to have such a big group today with so many people with different backgrounds and demographics to hear all their thoughts on the afterlife, on possession, and on grieving in general.

Book Event

I got to listen to an author that I am finding interest in, Nnedi Okorafor, as she was interviewed by Wanuri Kahiu during a virtual event hosted by Powell’s Books. I had chosen to listen into this event because I thought her new upcoming book Akata Woman sounded very intriguing, but after having listened to her conversation, I now want to buy all of her books just because she was such a cool person to listen to with the coolest experiences!

Nnedi Okorafor has apparently written lots of books and even a graphic novel. Her book Akata Witch was named in the list of The Top 100 Fantasy Books of All Time. She is a Nigerian-Amercian writer who writes fantasy and science fiction for children and adults. Okorafor expressed during this interview her never ending gratitude to her cover artist and designer Greg Ruth. It was really cool to listen to how they work together to design her covers. She said how she believes that each cover he does gets better and better because the process to design them becomes so much more in-depth when discussing her characters with him.

Her newest book Akata Woman is the third book about a girl named Sunny. Okorafor explained how in each book she has written Sunny continues to become more intriguing to her in her growth and independence, so much so that she feels like the books are starting to write themselves. In the third book with Sunny Akata Woman, which Okorafor said will not be the last, something she did not even expect to happen happened when all the pieces started falling together. Just listening to her talk about writing in general, you could hear the passion for the craft in her voice and you could tell how much she cares for and loves her characters. Well, except for Phoenix in one of her other books. Although that may be a favorite character to some, like Wanuri Kahiu, Okorafor said that Phoenix always felt very mean to her and that Phoenix would even be in her dreams when she was writing her book telling her to get up because she wasn’t done talking yet.

Nnedi Okorafor apparently writes the books that she writes because of the experiences that she had in Nigeria growing up. I loved hearing her stories and how fun and full of wonder her childhood was! Apparently, she started going to Nigeria when she was seven-years-old and during her trips she would have to take in things as they were without any context. For example, the masquerades who she had and has become obsessed with, would chase her in the dark throughout the streets sometimes and she didn’t know what was going on. She would listen into the meetings that the village had to try to hear the drama and gossip. She even caught a painted grasshopper that she thought was something out of a fantasy, although it may have been common to her people there. It is so amazing that she got to experience true wonderment.

The fact that Okorafor’s childhood comes out in her books and the things that she writes, is more than enough to make me want to read her books. I personally cannot wait to read one of them to get to experience the same kind of astonishment mixed with admiration that she had through her characters!

Book Event

One of the best conversations tonight with Oxford Exchange Book Club discussing She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan! Everyone absolutely loved this book. For some it became their absolute favorite and for others it really helped affirm certain characteristics they had or certain feelings that they had in their own journeys.

Everyone agreed that this author was incredibly crafty and after looking it up during book club, everyone was beyond surprised at how well this book was done when it is the author’s debut! So many in the book club felt that they didn’t just have a want to read it again but a need to revisit it again and even meditate on certain parts.

There were two things that I didn’t even think about that were brought up about this book. One was the fact that the main character’s name in this book was never stated and how that shows how powerful it is to choose your own name and also correlates to having a deadname and the respect of not needing to know it. The other thing was the lesson that if someone didn’t have the certain challenges that you had, that they will have a harder time understanding you and where you came or come from, which is a very great thing to keep in mind when it comes to someone accidently hurting you through not understanding you when you know that they still care for you.

The relationship in this book between Ma and Zhu everyone agrees was outstanding. It was pure romance that really built each of the characters up and blossomed them into accepting who they really were. Also, it was fun to discuss how the relationship between Zhu and Ouyang acted like a mirror and how they were great foils to each other.

It seemed that everyone had come to the same thoughts and conclusions with this book. Everyone hopes for more ghosts in the next one and everyone thought about Mulan and Avatar a little while reading this book.

This book was golden with complexity and a deep understanding of humanity. I loved discussing it with the group and I loved that everyone absolutely loved it. I am so thankful for the deep and meaningful conversations that this book brought us. It is definitely a book to help others understand and grow.

Book Event

Had a meeting last night with Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore discussing Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao. The setup was very interesting and one I hadn’t done before. I was on zoom with one other person while the meeting was in person in the bookstore. The attendees in the bookstore had masks, so sometimes it was hard to see who was talking and it was also hard to wait for cues to speak up and know when to make a comment, but it was a good experience and very friendly. I was very happy with the experience since there isn’t many bookstores around where I live just like the other person on the zoom who lives states away had said about her location. It was a very accepting and kind group and open enough that someone was allowed to even bring a baby!

The meeting opened with the question ‘what is your useless talent’, which was a nice ice breaker. The meeting then went right into talking about how murderous the book was, which was a topic that the discussion kept going back to. It was interesting to hear everyone’s different opinions on that subject and how it ties in with the book.

Something that everyone loved that got everyone hooked right away in the book was when they had thought the book was going to be an enemies to lovers kind of book, but then the author tied up the revenge plot in the first fifty pages and there was still so much of the book left. People wanted to know, what now? Then were pleasantly surprised with all the other shocking turns the book took.

In the meeting everyone formed an inside joke together about the triangle, making a triangle with their fingers to represent the awesomeness of the polyamorous relationship in the book. That was fun and cute and brought joyous laughter whenever it was used.

We discussed how badly everyone wants the book to make it onto TV. The interesting part was the differences in opinions on what it should be rated, either R or MA, and how it should be displayed, a series or a movie. The biggest want from everyone is to see the unique fighting on screen. One of the attendees even had a very interesting want for the series to be made in Mandarin so that it would be more impactful and certain elements could carry more weight.

Lastly, we discussed what we want or expect from the duology. In my opinion, I thought that the second book needs to be just as extreme as the first one to fit in well, since the first book was so extreme. A few others are worried that since most of the time in duologies they don’t like the second book as much as the first, that they won’t like this second one. A real big fan of the book mentioned that the author is worried about writing the second book because they don’t want to let people down, especially since some of their fans have gotten tattoos and this is only their debut. Needless to say, everyone sounded excited to see what will be coming next. Maybe we will even get a whole different perspective.

Book Event

Attended an event this evening with Oxford Exchange Bookstore to tackle in discussion the book The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henerson. It was such a great night to talk about this book which sounded like it definitely left us all unsatisfied and needing some real creepiness to talk about around Christmas. It was fun at the end to try to figure out a creepy winter book to read for December.

I am so thankful for this group of people we had tonight in the book club. It is hard when you read a book and you wonder if it is only you who saw certain things wrong with the book you read, but when a group of people come together who have the same issues with the same book, it gives you a certain satisfaction to know that your mind isn’t entirely broken.

One of the many things that we agreed on was how the book felt rushed. Absolutely everyone wanted more. We all felt like there was not enough world building, that the consequences for people were not enough, and that the book was too soft when it promised to be stimulating and moving in some way. Also, everyone wanted and needed to know and learn more about the witches.

No one liked the ending. It had confused everyone when it came to tying up the plot the way it had because the book had not led the reader in that direction at all. We all felt that things needed to be clearer throughout the story to make a more impactful ending and that the author needed to take the next step and dive deeper into things on multiple occasions. The book was set up with the opportunity to unpack so much, but instead broke away from things before they were thought into.

It was interesting though how this book tackled witches compared to many other witch books. This was brought up in conversation and it was something that I hadn’t even realized. This book was a nice break and gave us a view of someone looking at witches instead of looking into them. What I mean by that is that it had the main character getting affected by witches instead of really interacting with them. So that was a cool way to approach the witch trend.

I love to see differences in readers. Some of the differences in our opinions were about the romance in the book. I was not a fan along with a few others, but some mentioned that the romance kept them going and kept them wanting to read the book. What everyone agreed on though is that no one likes romances that go from zero to one-hundred within a few pages, which had happened in this book. Another difference was that although no one liked the explanation of the main character’s mom, they didn’t like that scene for two opposite reasons because they each viewed that scene in two completely different ways.

Lastly, I think it is amazing when everyone thinks that a certain scene was the most impactful one. The second labor scene was a favorite of everyone’s. It is always so incredibly fascinating how so many people can have different opinions about scenes or parts in books, but then other times everyone can come together to agree that a certain thing was their favorite part and they all thought and felt the same way. This is why I love reading and discussing!

During this event it sounded like we were all pretty much on the same page when it came to this book, which was fun to dive into and really just vent about how frustrating we were about not being satisfied after reading it. Thank you so much for the fun night Oxford Exchange!