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What books qualify as “challenging”?


Saturday brought my first experience with the Texas Teen Book Festival, and with it came the myriad of overheard conversations when people stand all too close to you in line. My first “huh” experience of the conversations came when a family was discussing their reading habits: they all enjoyed YA literature the best. (Duh.) But as a passing remark a girl simply added to her admission that, although she loved YA, she never felt challenged by it.

Immediately I began critiquing this information. 1) Of course it’s not challenging — you’re in your twenties; 2) So what kind of books do you think you should be reading?; 3) WHY THE HECK do people consider it important to read challenging books?; 4)…but what the heck makes a book challenging?

Feel free to disagree; in fact, please do. (That’s what comments are for!) To me, when people use the word “challenging” to describe a book, they’re generally talking about classic literature and current literary fiction (i.e. Donna Tartt and Haruki Murakami, among others.) But what kinds of things can you find in literary fiction that you can’t in YA? Quality writing, some would argue. However, given the inclusion of Sarah Maas and John Green in YA, I think quality of writing in YA covers just as large a scope as current literary fiction. There are some pretty crummy adult writers out there. And then there’s the subject matter. Remember my review of Free to Fall by Lauren Miller? As long as you’re always reading with an open mind, your mind will spiral into what-if scenarios therefore challenging you to discover all the what-could-happen-ifs and think on how society today relates to your book.

How do you guys decide if a book is “challenging”? Do you like to be challenged while reading?

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WTF is “genre fiction”?

I’m not entirely sure where this particular topic idea came from, other than the question that came to me in some random shower musings: when people say “I don’t really enjoy genre fiction” in response to being asked whether or not they like reading science-fiction or fantasy books, how does that not exclude all fiction? Even when shopping the “Literature and Fiction” section, there are genres within that: historical fiction, contemporary fiction, classics, and isn’t “literary fiction” just as much a genre as some people consider “young adult” to be a genre? Uh…yes?

To put it in simpler words, I guess, all fiction has a genre. In that case, why have I seen/heard several different people use the phrase “genre fiction” as a condescending way to refer to science-fiction or fantasy when it really refers to all popular fiction (according to Google)? What are your opinions on the use of the phrase “genre fiction”?

NOTE: This question came about after one day at work I was talking about books with a coworker and I said I liked YA, sci-fi, fantasy, books like that, and she said, “I don’t really read genre fiction” in a derogatory tone.

A few updates and one October goal

Scrambling to find a literary or bookish internship to begin the new year has proved fruitless so far. For any of you in the publishing industry, is there anything specific to do when trying to work your way into the industry? I thought (maybe wrongly) that an internship in a city not quite as intense as NYC would be a good place to start, so I’ve been looking at literary magazines in Seattle, Portland, and Washington DC (so far). But it seems that not enough of the magazines even want an unpaid intern? I just want to do something I love — I’ll find pay at an additional job especially if it means I get to do something literary too!

Aside from my researching on my days off from retail, I’ve found my to-read shelves are piling up again. To clear them out just a little bit, I’ve come up with a short-ish list of books I’d like to read by the end of October….

  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
  • Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (re-read)
  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (re-read)
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (if I have time! If not, then November)

Hopefully of that list, I’ll be able to read the first 2 by next weekend, which is Texas Teen Book Festival…where Sarah J Maas will be appearing! I love meeting authors. I will definitely be taking my books to *hopefully* get signed and I’ll *hopefully* purchase Heir of Fire there. And the others… I just love The Raven Cycle so much and I want to re-read before BLLB comes out!

I’ve also got a list going for November, which is the seemingly widely celebrated Sci-Fi Month. I’m not officially signed up to participate, but I will be using the month to read as many of my to-read sci-fi books as possible!

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Details: 466pp, Bloomsbury hardcover
Series: The Bone Season, book 1
Rating: 9.5/10

Summary (from Goodreads): It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

The Bone Season introduces a compelling heroine—a young woman learning to harness her powers in a world where everything has been taken from her. It also introduces an extraordinary young writer, with huge ambition and a teeming imagination. Samantha Shannon has created a bold new reality in this riveting debut. Continue reading

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Banning “offensive” books? What about TV shows?

This is one discussion topic that I would love all of y’all’s input on because I don’t really know where the law draws the line.

With the recent passing of Banned Books Week, the discussions on favorite banned books and which books are banned the most in the United States and where have really made me think. When it comes to the legality behind banning different forms of media, how is it any different to ban books, and yet television shows that contain the same or similar forms of offensive content have never had an attempted banning? Doesn’t the Bill of Rights technically protect media?

One particular subject that springs up as a reason behind a banned book is teenage sex and rape. What about MTV’s Teen Mom, a television show that basically glorifies teenage pregnancy into fame? Or Law & Order: SVU, a show that deals in large part with rape victims and victims of sexual assualt? (I admit, I haven’t watched SVU in a while, but for several years I watched it religiously and it certainly seemed like more than half of the episodes per season dealt with sexual crimes.)

In no way am I saying I’d like TV shows to be banned; in fact, I’m saying the opposite. Freedom exists in television broadcasts and in printed journalism. What makes books any different?

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The month of September may have said goodbye, but the books I purchased are still keeping me company! I did not, unfortunately, keep track of the books I took out from the library, but these are my purchases for the month.

  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. MaasSept 2014 book haul
  • Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
  • Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi (thanks, Blue Willow!)
  • The Girl Who Never Was by Skylar Dorset (signed copy from Blue Willow Bookshop!)
  • The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
  • The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes (20% off at Target!)

Unless otherwise noted, I made use of my Barnes & Noble membership to get 10% off the cover price. Believe it or not, I actually haven’t gotten to any one of these beauties quite yet. I think The Mark of Athena will be after Amber House! [[Since my WWW Wednesday post yesterday, I finished Between the Spark and the Burn. (: ]]

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W…W…W…Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB.

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I recently finished reading… The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling. WOW. Maybe my love for Ms. Rowling’s style and execution blurs my view of her work (though The Casual Vacancy is an exception — I didn’t overly enjoy that book), but everything I read from her is so high quality. The Silkworm was even more gripping and intoxicating than I found The Cuckoo’s Calling. J.K. Rowling truly is the Queen of Fiction.

I am currently reading… Between the Spark and the Burn by April Genevieve Tucholke. I love her prose, but I wish the story was more cohesive than I’m finding it to be. Hopefully I will feel compelled to write a detailed review no matter what my final thoughts!

Next, I am planning to read… Amber House, borrowed from the library along with BtSatB. This is the first book in a series that I haven’t heard much about, but it’s October and I want more mysterious reads! The summary definitely fits that bill.