Book Event

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.

Book Event

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.

Book Event

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.

Book Event

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.

Book Event

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.

Book Event

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.

Book Event

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.

Book Event

All The White Spaces by Ally Wilkes was a book to have an interesting conversation about.

The vibe everyone got from the book was gothic-ship/ gothic-Antarctica because there was such emotional trauma and desperation coming from those places displayed atmospherically.

Most of the people in the book club loved the book, but a lot of Goodreads reviews were not a fan of what everyone in discussion loved about it.

Below, when I say “others” I am mainly talking about reviewers and the smallest amount of people in the book club.

Some found it not slow-paced at all, while others found it too technical and too slow. Some found it didn’t present the LGBTQIA+ community enough because of the technicalities being in some areas while not in others, while others thought that the emotional social aspects of the story and the journey did. Some found it scary, others didn’t. Some liked the balance of suspenseful events, others wanted more.

Definitely conflicting opinions with this one. I think after listening in depth to readers it comes down to whether a reader likes a character-driven-slow-burn book or not.

Book Event

Tonight, I got to listen to a panel between June Hur, Kristin Dwyer, and Axie Oh to celebrate Susan Lee’s debut Seoulmates.

It was cute how all four of them gushed over K-dramas. It was also funny that Susan Lee admitted that how she writes stories is by following the beats of K-dramas and if she gets stuck, going back to the episodic beats. She said because of that she feels like she is writing fan fic.

It was interesting to hear Susan Lee and the others talk about how most times they get too much in their heads with worry about if what they are writing is too risky and unrealistic, but then they remember that they are writing K-dramas.

When they asked Susan Lee what K-Drama she wished she had written, she said What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim because it is a great example of being formulaic.

Something I learned from this was that K-dramas were usually formulaic, but now are staring to lose their way because episodes will be added as they film after they see how popular they are and what they need to add or not. So, because of that, it takes away from the formulaic feeing that used to let watchers know what they were getting. Now a lot of it feels added on or stitched together.

Book Event

Got to attend an event hosted by Oxford Exchange Bookstore discussing Elektra by Jennifer Saint.

What was really cool about this group tonight was that we had some more persistent readers of Greek stories who knew a lot of the character and we had some that did not. I am one of the people who does not know that much about the past stories, so I learned a lot of interesting things during this discussion. Like how Greek stories revolve around tragedy, death, and unfairness all the time. What left me feeling unsatisfied and hollow in parts when it came to what I saw as unnecessary deaths, the others that were more versed saw that those deaths fit the theme in different ways.

As someone who does not know much, it was cool following the story as a story and experiencing new things. It was also fun talking about why we sympathized or did not with some of the characters. It was also interesting that not many were fans of the first-person-point of view for the three different characters and felt a little distant from the story.

We all decided though that this was not a feminist book, just in the point of view of three women. We discussed a couple tweaks that would have made it a feminist book, which was one of the most fun discussions of the night.

I loved and appreciated everyone’s different view coming from different paths of reading when talking about this book.