So you guys know that last year (2014) was a crummy year for me personally for more than a few reasons. What little reading (well, 160 some books is not little but, you guys know how much and how fast I read) I did last year compared to my usual was a comfort in the midst of a lot of crummy things happening. And I'm glad I had a chance to share what books I read with you guys whether I loved them, disliked them, or was the far measure between.
It's funny that Amy Spalding just so happened to be the person who crafted that BINGO card because in the past several weeks, here's what happened:
I read "Ink is Thicker Than Water" during a mini-book marathon I had earlier last month. I liked the book, it was a 3.5 star read for me, and I'll admit, it had caveats. But I haven't even had a chance to mark it as read in my book catalog because of being swamped with day job and family stuff, still in spells of grief mode from life events of the past year, and focusing more on reading ARCs than writing reviews (though I'm actively trying to do more of the latter.) Each time I went on Goodreads to mark it, I kept forgetting because I was busy reading other books. I feel guilty because I've had it on my ARC stack for a while, and it just so happened to be one of the ones that I chose out of my TBR jar at the time I read it.
I got an ARC approval of "Kissing Ted Callihan" not even a week ago. And I was looking forward to reading that, too. I even said these very words (verbatim) when I gave feedback on the NetGalley Buzz Books compilation that Spaulding's work was featured in.
Some of the complaints I had with "Ink is Thicker Than Water" were on that BINGO card. I haven't even had a chance to think about, let alone write the review yet. How do you react when someone mocks your potential commentary on a portrayal that's possibly problematic before you even have the chance to say anything? Even if it IS a common complaint in the community? How do you not feel offended when your potential words or things that you find to be problematic are mocked relentlessly by someone who claims they love readers and reviews of all walks, but yet if you are not a certain "appropriate" age to them or have a certain perspective that agrees with the creator of the work, your opinion is deemed irrelevant and worthy to mock?
Following this incident, mind you, I feel very little motivation to write reviews for either one of these works. It's killing me on the inside right now because I want to write them, but I emotionally can't do it. I'm beyond offended; it's freaking past that point. I'm being very serious here - not overdramatic, not even emotional, just point blank - probably to the point where I'm just numb at the repetition. I feel like someone just told me that I should just shut up and read and have nothing to say about the reading experience unless it's praise or commentary meant for the author herself. Forget my personal experiences. Forget what I was taught to do in terms of voicing things that I might have a problem with - speak up.
*sighs* Look my end thoughts are going to be this - I'll find time to write these reviews eventually, but they won't be right now. Not for a little while. My love for reading is much stronger than any author's self-inflated ego who won't make room for multiple dimensions of commentary or who won't embrace the many and varied audiences that are out there that peruse said author's work. To me, the BINGO card was a mess of inflated ego musings, prejudicial attitudes towards many different audiences, and arguments meant to "bait" just to get an emotional reaction from the mention. And to me, that's not funny. That will NEVER be funny to me.
I still don't understand the laughter or humor to be had out of this. I really don't. I have an open sense of humor, and I will concede there are some humored events that go right over my head. Some may even not be my cuppa. That's fine, everyone's different and I accept that.
But why is it that so many of you laughing about don't see what's wrong with this picture, or at least the willingness to see why it's problematic?
Nonetheless, I still have my love for reading. At least I have that to hold onto, and the measure that at least someone out there, even if it may not be the author, may appreciate my reflections for what they are worth.
Voltaire said famously (paraphrased) "I may not like what you say, but I'll defend to my death your right to say it."
And true, even Spalding has the right to have her opinions and voice them the way she wants. But that doesn't mean I don't have the right to disagree, nor does it make me wrong to say I've lost a hell of a lot of respect for her.
Two cents, and none further.
Read more YA reviews and find great giveaways on my blog, YA Romantics!
More Than This has a lot of elements that I dread in a book: a character with memory loss, a (possible) afterlife setting, and a WTF-is-going-on-here plot. But I think that More Than This is proof that in reading, as in life, you must keep an open mind. I loved this book! More Than This is a thought-provoking, heart-wrenching book about the power of small acts of bravery and human connection. Part of my enjoyment of this book was trying to figure everything out, so I will keep my review spoiler-free.
More Than This begins with the death of the main character, Seth. Then …. Seth is conscious again. He's not sure where he is, except that he thinks that he's back in the English town where his family used to live. The town his family moved away from after a terrible loss. He's also completely alone. Like a post-apocalyptic survivor, Seth roams around his new environment, looking for answers. And so is the reader. Is he alive again? In some kind of afterlife? Hallucinating?More than This masterfully weaves together three different timelines. First, there's Seth's lonely existence in this afterlife/new life/whereever-the-heck-this-is. Then, bit by bit, we learn about Seth's life immediately prior to his death. Also, bit by bit, we learn about the event that prompted Seth's family to move from England to America, and the part that Seth played in that.
"I don't like this." "Don't like what?" "Not knowing stuff." She gives him a look. "We just found out there's new stuff not to know."
I'm not fond of not knowing stuff. Of being confused when I read. Therefore, I'm deeply suspicious of amnesia plots and all sorts of attempts to mess with my mind. I was loving every minute of it here. Patrick Ness does a masterful job of doling out crumbs of information, connecting dots, raising questions… amazing!I really don't want to say too much about the plot, because the best part of this book is watching all the pieces fall into place. But I do think that More Than This has something for just about every reader. Do you love eerie, post-apocalyptic-like landscapes? Check. Are you into scary, faceless villains and nail-biting suspense? Check. Are you more of a contemporary fan, someone who needs to have a deep emotional connection to a book's characters? Check. Are you the kind of reader who likes books that shock and surprise you? Check. The kind of books that make you really think? Check. Seriously, how is this possible? "But then I knew you were there. And I knew.. I guess I just knew that someone remembered who I was…" I read More Than This right before Rose Under Fire and maybe that's why I saw some parallels between the two. Both books celebrate the strength and resiliency of the human spirit and our wish that our lives and experiences matter, in large ways or small.
Find this review, and my other YA reviews and giveaways on YA Romantics!
Code Name Verity was one of my favorite YA titles of 2012, and I was both excited and apprehensive to read Rose Under Fire. I'd call Rose a companion book to Code Name Verity. It also features women who piloted planes during World War II, uses a similar narrative technique and has one crossover character from Code Name Verity. But you don't need to have read Code Name Verity to enjoy and appreciate Rose Under Fire. And I thought the two books are also quite different, each powerful and heartbreaking in a unique way.
Code Name Verity was a story about the bonds of love and friendship, a more closely-focused look at two characters and their relationship in the context of war. Rose Under Fire takes a more wide-angled approach, looking at the incredible suffering endured by Rose in a concentration camp, but also giving the reader insight into what millions of others in other camps endured. In piloting terms (and I'm not a pilot, so bear with my metaphor here) Code Name Verity was an aerobatic book -- daring and dramatic, with a plot that took my breath away. Rose Under Fire was like a flight over a devastated landscape, a trip with more of a solemn and resolute feel.
Each book's title is also telling; Code Name Verity was a book about truth and lies, while Rose Under Fire is a book about a stubborn, thorny plant that survives adverse conditions to bloom again. Both books are technically epistolary stories. If you're a regular blog reader, you may remember that epistolary stories are not my favorite. However, in these two books I think the technique works beautifully. Using fictionalized "documents"to create a work of historical fiction adds to its authenticity and authority. Rose begins her story in work reports, then (and I don't think this is really a spoiler because it's revealed on page 70) Rose is presumably unable to write while she's a prisoner, and we read the rest of her story after the fact through journal entries and poems. This does reduce the suspense the book was able to create, but it's also more believable, given the circumstances. In her afterword and bibliography, Wein explains that Rose Under Fire is based on a real concentration camp and talks a little about her visit there.
Rose Under Fire is a story that touches on the very best and worst of humanity. One of the most moving things to me about Rose Under Fire was the way it highlighted our innate need for connection, our desire to be remembered, our belief in the power of storytelling. It's a story about hopelessness, but also about hope.