Tonight, I got to listen into an awesome book event between three authors hosted by Book People for Pride Month! The authors were Jason June presenting his book Out of the Blue, Brian D. Kennedy presenting A Little Bit Country (a debut), and Lyla Lee presenting her book Flip the Script.
The authors were dressed for pride! So that was cute! And the first question to them was how they like to spend Pride. Some of the answers were with parades, family, friends, and sunscreen!! Hahaha.
I thought it was interesting and so heart-warming how Brian D. Kennedy wrote his book set in the south, while making sure that he did not have the main character viewing the south as a bad place. He wanted to show how it can be different coming out in different places, especially someplace that is not as ready to accept it, but he wanted to show that there are ways to still live authentically even if you live in one of those places or come from one of those places.
Lyla Lee set her book in South Korea where there are no gay rights. Her book is set in a big city where it can be dangerous to be at Pride. She wanted to write two queer teens falling in love in that context because she needed that as a teen growing up, but she made sure she didn’t make it too idealistic.
In Jason June’s book, he had two settings, but in the Blue, everyone loves who they love and who they are. It is very intriguing how all their settings are so different from one another and was very interesting listening to them talk about it!
Jason June brought up the fact that in the books that Lee and Kennedy wrote, the main characters are public figures being watched as they are trying to explore their identity. Which would be so hard! That led into favorite queer and gay icons. Layla Lee’s favorites are Halsey and Lady Gaga.
It was really cool listening to Kennedy’s passion with this being his debut. His passion lies in country music. He talked about how he loved diving into country music and getting to nerd out about it while building his own world.
They all would love to see more diverse voices because they believe that people need that. When they were growing up, they NEEDED that to feel less alone and less confused. They would also love to see more queer rom-coms to bring about more fun and happy reads to queer books. I could not agree more!
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.
I got to listen in on a conversation between Aiden Thomas and Margaret Owen discussing Margaret Owen’s newest book Little Thieves! I had just recently finished Little Thieves last weekend and it turned into one of my favorite books, so it was so fun getting to hear a little about it behind the scenes. The live conversation was on TikTok so that was a fun new experience also!
One of the best things I learned in this conversation was that Margaret Owen’s main character was based off of a Dungeons & Dragons character that she had that she never got to really do much with. It was really cool to see how much Aiden Thomas loved all the gods in Owen’s story. They were one of my favorite parts in her book also, especially the goddess of fortune and death. I learned that apparently when you write anything pertaining to Germany you need a lot of sensitivity readers and need to do a lot of research. I also learned that this was written as a standalone, but while she was writing it, she found that she could do so much more with it and plans to in the future! There will be another book!
Two things that made this book really stand out was the main character and the art that is displayed throughout this book. The main character was very unique, smart, hilarious, rebellious, and was not comfortable in her own skin. The character not being ok in her own skin helped make that character very relatable, and the rest of her characteristics made her a character that I loved being in the point of view of. The art displayed throughout the book was brilliant. The author put the art there to help create a fairy tale vibe and to bring the reader back to the fact that they were reading a fairy tale throughout the book so the reader could stay in that frame of mind.
I highly enjoyed the conversation between Aiden Thomas and Margaret Owen. I hope that more conversations like this spring up in the future on platforms like TikTok. Thank you Aiden Thomas and thank you Fierce Reads.
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.
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!
The streaming for this event didn’t start until 6:06 pm!! Which was such a relief. I am thankful they waited until more people logged on, since I came running from dance lessons and gymnastics, so I didn’t miss a thing.
To start off this book launch event with Kew & Willow Books for the book Weird Kid by Greg van Eekhout, they had the author Greg van Eekhout talking to another middle grade author Matt Wallace. It was such a fun, comical, and witty conversation between the two authors that felt very comfortable to listen to, like I should have been sitting in a big comfy leather chair by a fireplace during this event.
One of the topics that they talked about was how self-care before a book launch is very important to do. Which is such a good reminder that through all the stress to make sure you are looking to take care of yourself. Also, as supportive authors do, they commented on the fact that their books should not be bought off Amazon, although they can be. Individual bookstores’ support is so important to authors but apparently even more important for middle grade authors. That I was not aware of since I do not normally buy or read middle grade books.
Weird Kid is Greg van Eekhout’s 9th published book overall. It is about a kid who is an alien and came to earth as a blob who can shapeshift, but in puberty the alien named Jake starts to lose his ability to control his shapeshifting. There is also an interesting sounding subplot about a certain hum in the town he can hear, sinkholes, and other strange things. The book focuses on difficult transitions, empathy, and friendships. The author commented that when he had been asked if the dog on the cover lives, his answer was “Yes, the dog lives. I’m not a monster.”
Another interesting topic that was explored in this conversation was theme and how sometimes without noticing authors tend to fall into certain reoccurring themes. A few other people attending the event pointed out some Greg van Eekhout’s regular themes, but a big one that was brought up which seems to be a central theme for many of his books is isolation. He explained that he believes it is because he feels it is important to explore personhood through dogs, aliens, robots, and things that are not humans, so people can learn to love and accept others even if they are different and so readers can question and figure out what it means to be a person exactly.
A question that was asked was how to make a book funny. Matt Wallace brought up that not everyone is funny in real life and how tiring it is to see dialogue all the time that goes back and forth trying to force comedy. Being authentic to the character is the most important. If you have forced dialogue or forced humor, it can take the reader out of the reality of the book.
A piece of advice from Greg van Eekhout was that every book is a journey and sometimes writing a particular book is harder than it was writing others, but that doesn’t mean that it is the writer’s fault. When writing is difficult, you have to be kind to yourself and know that if you make it through and finish it, it builds your confidence as a writer. He stated this because this particular book he was launching was hard for him to write.
Another echo of wisdom from Eekhout was that every writer’s process and brain is different. The important part is making sure as a writer you are having fun since most of a writer’s life is at the keyboard, so a writer needs to make sure they find a way to make it enjoyable. Also be consistent. Greg van Eekhout stated that what gets him through to the end of his books is his consistency.
As can be seen from the paragraphs above, this author cares about children, humanity, bookstores, and other writers. I highly enjoyed listening into this conversation and I am excited for his book to get shipped so I can read it.
So I messed up and regrettably had to miss this event that I was looking forward to. I had thought that California time was two hours ahead from my time and then found out instead that they are two hours behind. So instead of the event being at 5pm my time, like I had thought, the event was going to be at 9pm my time. Normally, I would have attended anyway and wanted to, but I have to wake up very early this next morning for an entire day long bachelorette party in another state. Knowing that book events get me hyped up, I knew that I would not have been able to fall asleep until hours later.
Instead, I had tried to have discussion/ questionnaire time with my husband about this book because I was sad that I couldn’t discuss it with anyone else because this has turned into one of my favorite books I have read. It had almost everything I could have wanted in a book thanks to the amazing worldbuilding and complexity. Upon trying to discuss it though, I realized that it is too complex of a book to try to explain and discuss the book it in detail with someone who had not read it and doesn’t normally read. So that was very frustrating.
I have decided to post down below my Goodreads review I had done for this book. I am hoping that this coming Tuesday I will get to go to my other event because I desperately need a to attend a book event for my soul.
Warning: There are spoilers below about the book.
I loved In the Ravenous Dark by A.M. Strickland. I felt like it gave me just about everything I needed in a book. It gave me a dark world that was trying to survive, an awesome magick system, some decent vivid scenes of theatric gore, a complex plot, awesome dynamics, a main character that was different and intriguing, and pansexual representation!!!! It also gave representation to other members of the lgbtq+ community which I appreciated fully!
The beginning started with a great opening. In the opening the author was able to show the readers some interesting world building, beliefs that circulated in the book, and the different stances that the characters took on things compared to society.
The world building was great! I enjoyed the magick system tied into it and how they both came together or in some areas were not able to come together. I loved how the dead were forced guardians that drained the lifeforce of the bloodmages. I loved how the author had Rovan’s weaving tie into her magick. I loved the way this world wasn’t bothered by anyone of different sexual orientation as long as it didn’t get in the way of the royal line and that all of them were not scared to just be who they were. And I loved that there was a whole other dead world. The veil to protect against the blight was cool also, especially with how it tied into the plot.
I loved the main character. I loved how unique she was. It was so refreshing reading something with someone who acted the way she did. I also loved just about all the characters, although my favorite was Japha. I loved how flawless I felt they all were woven in their flaws, and I appreciated how they were not ashamed of who they were.
The relationships were such a joyride. I could not get enough of the dynamic between Rovan and her ghost Ivrilos. I also loved Rovan and Japha’s relationship and then how they all came together at the end as a family with once again all different dynamics since so much had changed since the beginning. It left my imaginations running wild in delight at all the possibilities and I cannot express enough how much I appreciated the poly relationship and representation.
The LGBTQ+ representation in this book was heartwarming. All the gender diverse characters all felt natural and not forced at all. It made the world feel more real, made the royal scenes and dynamic of the family more complex and interesting like they normally are in real life. And once again I cannot stress enough how much I loved that they had no fear of being who they were. They accepted themselves, which I feel is very important to young readers to understand and have role models for.
The plotting I thought was complex and terrific. I did not know what to expect and was led into twists and turns layered in hints that I wasn’t able to catch until after the reveals.
The imagery was so satisfying, especially at the end. I loved the vividness of the heart getting pulled out and when Rovan sat on the throne and the walls were melting.
The tension was amazing and kept the pages turning.
Let’s not forget to include how cool adding the dark page in was.
The ending was very satisfying to my heart. I loved the new dynamic between all the characters. I felt like all the loose plot threads got tied up into beautiful bows. I loved how I found if I took a step back it was all a story inside a story. I’m happy that after 400 years Ivrilos got his revenge and happy ending.
The only things I did not care for in the book was how Rovan seemed to care for and love Bethea at the beginning and I felt they had such a strong relationship, but then Bethea was forgotten about for a big chunk of the book. I would have thought it was just in Rovan’s character, except that Rovan kept thinking about her mom. Her mom and Bethea were both brought into the palace at the same time, so I didn’t understand how she could think about one person but not the other. But by the end it didn’t bother me too much since Bethea ended up getting a happy ending. The other thing was that after the dark page, I felt like things were rushed and the pacing was incredibly different than a large part of the beginning of the book almost like the author was running out of space and time. Making it a duology might have fixed that issue, but with how the author tied up the ending, it didn’t bother me too much at all.
I loved this book, and even with the few issues I had with it, I thought the author made up for those issues. The prose were fantastic, I was excited to go from page to page with all the tension, and the plotting was complex enough to keep my interest. I needed this book to take a break from the tropes I have been reading lately. I will be picking up the other book A.M. Strickland has out and cannot wait to read it.
I got the opportunity to have another joyous time having a deep conversation, pulling apart, and diving into the book The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune with the Oxford Exchange Book Club. The main directors of the book club were excellent once again in directing the conversation. The first topic was about the cover and how it may or may not represent the book and how some of the readers used it as a reference. This particular cover was used by multiple of our readers. We also dove into the hard question of what exactly defines YA and what category this book falls into. It was nice because working together the majority had decided that although it is an adult fiction that reads as a middle grade book, it can fall into the category of YA because it is a book that can be read by everyone depending on a wide range of maturity.
It was very interesting to see how many people loved so many of the characters and had a hard time picking which ones were their favorites, which was a similar issue that I had. Secondary characters even came out as being favorites to some and characters that didn’t completely speak to me spoke the most to others. Discussing this is always one of my favorite parts about book clubs. I love being able to see and hear how different everyone is and the different things they had taken away from the book.
Going deeper, the OE had us look at what the book represented as a whole, what issues, and what groups it may have been trying to tackle in representation. I think the author would have been enthused at how talented many see him in being able to cover a wide range of topics and issues.
Another take away I got from this book event was the question on why the ending of the book or any book may be satisfying for some but not for others. Not just that, but should we always be satisfied with the ending of a book? When does full satisfaction take away from the world and from the message of the story? What truly needs to be addressed at the end of a story and what can be left out? The ending fully satisfied some, while it didn’t others. This is interesting because it brings forth one of the most interesting questions of when should an ending be judged on how it is received compared to what was right for the story.
Thank you so much to the Oxford Exchange Book Store for giving us another terrific event.
Last night I attended a virtual book launch event with Book People, which is a bookstore all the way out in Austin Texas, for Heather Walter the author of her debut novel Malice. Launching a book is always an exciting experience, but just being in the presence of this author even over a screen had my heart soaring for her with the excitement and passion I could tell she held for this day. Coming dressed in costume to represent her book, Heather Walter explained to us which parts of her outfit represented certain characters in her book. It was a great visual for readers who have not read her book yet! She had a book cake made that looked just like her book, and not only that, she talked about a playlist she had for the book, which opened up the world even more for her readers. One of the things that got me hooked, was that she talked about her book like it was a child of her own calling it a she. That made me love her even more as a person and an author. Then she led into discussing all the layers and reasons she had for writing the book. I could tell that Heather Walter really loves to dive into human emotions and how passionate she is for characters to have justice in the way of storytelling. She believes that it is hard for children when shows, media, and books confuse them on what true love really is and she wants to correct that. I personally love authors who want to put justice to old stories.
Book People did an amazing job hosting the event. It was very well organized with discussion and questions answered. They did an amazing job in helping us get to meet and know the author more.
My favorite part about this event was seeing Heather Walter’s passion. It was amazing to get to enjoy her excitement and to get to see this author’s heart and her goals. I found that it is a lot easier to get excited for someone when you get to see their personality and she proudly wore hers for all of us to see and experience. I have no doubt that she will end up being loved by many. I also believe that many will enjoy the plans she may have for the future, which she discussed. Meeting this author made me even more excited to read this book once it arrives in the mail. I am excited to follow this author and her work. I really hope the book is fantastic, but even if it isn’t, I want to see her grow. After this event I believe in more than just her work. I believe in her passion also.