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.
Astoria Bookshop hosted a launch interview for Adrienne Tooley’s newest book Sofi and the Bone Song. This book is about a girl named Sofi who has trained very hard and is ready to inherit the title of music like her father has. In this world only certain people can play music and through years of training, Sofi found love in it and has made it a part of her identity, until she loses the title to a girl who had never played before.
Tooley said that the idea came to her from her want to know what it would be like in the life of a bard mixed with her life, since Tooley is big into music. Tooley even used to write music and music is how she met her wife.
Apparently, according to the interviewer Allison Saft, there are many really cool magick systems in this book. Tooley explained how one of the magick systems were created just to make Sofi angry. Sofi is a perfectionist much like the author who after writing the first draft of this book and sending it to her editor, didn’t like how many questions the editor had, so she started it all over and wrote it again.
It was cute hearing how this book is a rivals to lovers book between Sofi and the girl who took her title, and it was interesting to hear the author talk about why she chose to stay in one point of view for this book. The reasoning was because she wanted to focus on Sofi’s story and she thought that having the other girl’s point of view also would be too much of a distraction from what she was wanting to get across.
It was easy to tell in this interview how much work that Adrienne Tooley puts into her books. I hope that this book is enjoyed world-wide.
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.
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!
*There will be spoilers for Near the Bone by Christina Henry in this post.
I got to have yet another amazing conversation with Oxford Exchange Bookstore’s Book Club about Near the Bone by Christina Henry! What a great pick for a spooky December, which was exactly what we were looking for. All of us could agree that we appreciated Henry’s style of writing and that not being able to predict what the monster looked like really added to the story. It was fun trying to describe what we all pictured the monster being. This book was great for a discussion in that aspect and in the aspect of what real monsters are and how you can make monsters scary in a story.
Most of us wanted a more gruesome death for the scarier monster in the story. We talked in detail about what would have been more satisfying of an ending for this character and step by step of what we would have rather have happened. One of my favorite discussions pertaining to this book was when we all began naming off a few things in the book that were awkward and did not fit well into the story. It was nice to know I was not alone in feeling the way I had about the drugs and about one of the character’s arms being swiped off.
Something that was brought up in the conversation that I hadn’t noticed and after hearing fixed the ending for me, was how the two monsters mirrored each other and how the ending reflected that. At the end the monster-monster was easiest to reason with, where as the man-monster could not be reasoned with at all. So that brought the story into an interesting take that the man was more of the monster than the monster itself.
Another interesting view that was brought up was how important it was for C.P. to survive against all the others. That happening showed how Samantha was starting to heal when it came to men in her life.
Lastly, before the conversation got too off topic, we discussed how interesting it is that some people cannot picture things in their head. For myself, when I read a book, it plays out like a movie! I cannot imagine that not happening. One person in our group cannot picture things in her head, so it was really cool to hear her point of view and how she sees and views stories. One of the funniest things that she had said was that when someone is like, “Why don’t you like this character, he is hot?” she thinks, “You can’t see him. How is his name hotter than the other name?” What a fun and interesting thing to discuss!
Little feet sleepwalk on the hardwood floor between worlds creating a whisper of a wisp as they run. Childhood laughter hides in every corner haunting me. How I would die to see them again. How I would give my soul to see them whole.
Oxford Exchange Bookstore hosted yet another amazing book club event featuring The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab. Tonight’s book conversation with these amazing people turned into my favorite book conversation I have gotten to have so far with a group of readers.
Everyone in the book club LOVED the book, so that helped us all get to open up and gush about the writing, the author, the cleverness, the characters, and really dive down deep into the structure and plotting.
Here are some things I have said about this book in a Goodreads review before I dive into a little bit of the conversation we had and interesting things I had learned.
“-pieces of her writing and words shoved me through the page until I was there and had to blink away the vision, shocked that words could grab me so. Not talent, no. But the ability to craft a reader to a writer’s soul.”
“Addie, I found was a strong character! To never give in, to always push back, and to see the manipulation she was under until she started wearing thin. I also found she developed a lot by the end.”
“It then became more than just a deal. It became manipulation and displayed what a true narcissist is. It started with taking everything from her and giving her bits of him at a time. Starting with more until he worked to give her less. He made sure he was the only one who could give her what she needed. To hear her name. To have someone remember her. To make her feel a sense of real and self. Then he came less, making her crave him until she withered down and felt like she truly needed him and might have loved him. Slowly over many years he puts thoughts and words in her mind and mouth.”
In my honest opinion this book is a must read and must discuss book for young adults and new adults because it is a perfect example of showing what a toxic relationship is and how to see through all the manipulation. It really shows the difference between when someone actually loves someone and when someone only loves the possession or control of that certain someone instead.
Now going into our discussion tonight using my last point as a base, one of the topics we discussed was the narcissism. It was cool to see how the other members of the group were able to point out some things that I missed when it came to how he worked his manipulation. One of the things was how he used her own name against her and another was how he made himself her only touchstone to her past to make sure he was needed.
As always one of the most interesting things to me is everyone’s differing opinions to relationships in a story, the characters, and the plot. It seemed like everyone viewed Addie in such a different way and her relationship with Luc in such a different way also. Some saw it as love, some as lust, some as manipulation, and some as a game. It makes you wonder where each members’ opinions come from in their own past. The way I saw the relationship was a toxic one and personally I wanted her to destroy him, whereas others wanted them to end up together and for him to change for the better. But at least everyone could agree that the ending was absolutely perfect. Everyone also agreed that they were in a panic until the very end because they were worried the author was going to take this perfect book and end it in a less than perfect way.
Another interesting difference between the members was that most of the members did not like the character Henry, except one. I was one of those members that did not like him, but one of the members was extremely blown away by this character. What caught her attention and heart was how relatable he was to her. It really showed me that relatability is really important and can help people love certain characters and grab their hearts. It was so amazing to see this member vouching, standing up, and talking about this character with such a full heart for him.
There were a few other things that were brought up that I had never considered to think on until our collaboration. I will name two. One was that there was a shift in Addie from her looking to her past to instead looking to her future. That was an important and subtle change that was worked into the arc and an important observation that I will need to look out for in other books. The second one was how far Luc’s manipulation went by matching Addie with Henry and working his curse. Luc knew that no one really liked who Henry was before his curse and that Addie wouldn’t have either. He knew the same would have been for Henry when it came to Addie. By placing them together, Luc made it to where really, they only cared for each other because of their curses and because they could give each other the only thing they were needing at the moment because of him. Luc knew it would never be real love and he used that. That observation cut my heart deep.
This book was amazing and OE Book Club was just as amazing for giving us a night to discuss it. V.E. Schwab must be doing something right when everyone was absolutely in love with her book and no one had a single bad thing to say about it. We all even joked about ordering a special edition and reading it again for next year. I know I would.
Another great conversation with Oxford Exchange Bookstore and this time about The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna. The things we talked about were all across the board. There were so many amazing things about this book and a complexity to it that was a joy to be able to take apart and discuss. One of the topics that was discussed was why the impurity of the girls in the society was such a touching topic to many of us readers. We took the time to equate it to the life we live in now and how maybe in some aspects it hit a little close to home. We also discussed some plot holes that we found that were maybe only placed for convenience of the plot, and along those lines, we talked bout how the ending felt a little rushed and confusing. It is always nice to have an opinion but then to see that others were having the same problem. There are many things that we were trying to figure out, but we knew collectively that many of the questions may be answered in the next two books, since this book is the first of three. Although there were some parts that we were confused about in the book, everyone seemed to love the book and said they would pick up the next one. Which shows their trust for the author and the entertainment they received.
A very interesting thing that was discussed was how everyone pictured the shrieks. No one pictured them the same way! One pictured them looking like giant walking cockroaches, some like birds, one a tetradactyl, and a few like monsters that they had read or seen in other pieces of art. It is amazing what the mind can come up with when given only key points of description and how different everyone’s minds are.
Two of the most helpful things I had learned during this meeting was how readers sometimes seek comfort from books in a knowing what will happen way and how important to some it is to display the main character in a certain way so there isn’t a disconnect. I rarely read for comfort, so I was unaware that the reason why many love to read romance is for the familiarity and the comfort in knowing that everything will turn out to be happy and ok. As for the disconnecting, I had realized that I didn’t feel connected to the main character of this book at the beginning, until I experienced with her some of the trauma that she went through, but I didn’t really think into it why that may have been. One of the girls had brought it up and suggested that if we would have known more of her story beforehand that disconnection could have been avoided and we may have cared more and felt more emotion watching what the main character went through at the beginning. It was also brought up that too much focus was on the main character which also brought a disconnect. The main character to some felt too special. Rarely does the reader feel like the special one in life, so it is harder for the reader to be able to relate to a character in some ways when that happens. Also making the main character extra special takes a little away from the other characters making them seem like they don’t matter as much to the plot of the story.
I love discussing books and the best part is when a discussion is with good people and when it is with others who also love the book. Personally, I cannot wait to see what else Namina Forna will and can do. She may turn into one of my favorite authors. I appreciated this book and this event and loved how everyone seemed to love it also.
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.
Only let yourself settle when you know you are for sure alone. You never know what is hidden in the dark and the in-between spaces. Yes, there are some things only a witch can see, but you can always trust your own shuddering breath.