In Which Records Are Broken

A while ago I told you all the story of how, following my reading Bridge to Terabithia, my elementary-school heart was brutally ripped out of my chest and then stomped into the ground by the boot of sorrow. I told you all about how no other book has ever made me out-and-out cry that way, and how thus Bridge has become a sort of icon in my literary career.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

It’s a strange thing to say this, but Bridge was no longer alone the night I finished that book (the fourth of October, I believe).

Certainly, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the first time (owing, I’m sure, to the years in between and my subsequent tendency to not have the reactions of an eleven-year-old anymore), but it happened. I’m not ashamed of it. I don’t think it’s something to be ashamed of, having an emotional reaction to a book. I’ve gone over all of this before, and it still holds true. It was real for me. And it’s real for anyone who’s ever truly enjoyed a book.

I guess I just wanted to mark down this little piece of personal history. I highly recommend you read The Book Thief. Most of it is actually rather light-hearted. It’s about a German girl living through World War II and all the things that go along with that, though I wouldn’t categorize it as a Holocaust book, because that’s not the focus at all. It’s about family and books and war and growing up.

Also there’s a very interesting choice of narrator, but if you haven’t read it yet I won’t spoil the fun for you.

Happy reading.

P.S. Bit of a side note – the irregular posting does not mean I’ve forgotten you.

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Plane Trips Are Fun

Recently I went on a college-visiting trip to Chicago. The trip itself was awesome, but I want to focus more on the journey there, if I may. (Reading back this post makes me realize it’s probably tremendously dull to other people, but this is my blog, and the experience was interesting to me, so I’m posting it anyway like the Internet rebel I am.)

Now, I don’t think I need to explain to you lovely readers what the phenomenon known as Fifty Shades of Grey is about. How it got to be the fastest-selling paperback book in history is beyond me, but I suppose today’s public no longer cares how explicitly erotic or terribly written their bestsellers are. What’s even further beyond me is how people expect it to be okay when they read it in public. It’s as if they think that nobody else knows what it’s about unless they’ve read it, too.

I have a message for those people: everyone knows what you’re reading. I’ve never read the book and never will. I know perfectly well what you’re doing as you sit on the beach or in the subway. You’ve got to be pretty gutsy, I’ll grant you, but it certainly makes me uncomfortable. Truth be told, seeing that kind of thing- and adapted from Twilight fanfiction, nonetheless- knocks my hope for humanity down a couple of points.

This leads me to the gate of our flight to Chicago, when the woman waiting in the seat across from us was thoroughly engrossed in her copy of Fifty Shades. Here I was with my giant paperback edition of the Hitchhiker’s Guide books, and there she sat with that black cover on top of her lap in a horribly fascinating example of what passes for reading these days.

Needless to say, it put me off a bit. I even considered moving seats so as not to have to be faced with the display, but eventually settled on sitting quietly on my side of the aisle and minding my own business. I figured it was only until we boarded the plane, anyway. And looking back on it, I suppose she wasn’t bothering me directly. But still, it was the principle of the thing.

Well, we get on our flight eventually. It’s just my mom and myself who are taking the trip, and the seats are three to a row, but there’s no one sitting in the seat next to me. We were pretty far back in line, so I’m hopeful that I won’t have to sit next to a stranger for the two-hour flight. I wouldn’t have to worry about them falling asleep on top of me. I could use the armrest and not have it just sitting there between us because each person is too polite to claim it from the other one.

Alas, I dreamed too big. No sooner am I taking my seat than I notice there’s a book lying in the seat next to mine. Surprise, surprise: it’s a black paperback. Instantly I recognized it (my fellow book nerds will attest that we have the ability to identify many books we’re familiar with from just a bit of the cover). Of course, I could have had any other person on that flight as a seatmate, but no. With my luck, I ended up spending two hours with the very person who had made me squirm at the gate.

The flight itself passed uneventfully, and I’m sure she was a very nice woman, but I will never in my life understand how it’s acceptable to read Fifty Shades of Grey openly in a public place.

Happy reading.

The Page-Tearing Monster of Infinite Destruction (Or, Why I Don’t Like People Borrowing My Books)

I’ve never particularly liked to let people borrow my books.

The pristine, unbent cover and clean pages of a new book have always been the height of a novel’s physical life for me, and so I generally try to preserve that. As evidenced by my post two weeks ago, this goes so far as to determine the types of bookmarks I use, and never have I dog-eared a page in recent memory. That, naturally, carried over to a suspicion of all people who wanted me to part with one of my beloved volumes, and a worry, once the book was off my shelf, that they would do some sort of irreparable damage to it.

However, there comes a time where it is necessary that I lend a book to someone, mostly one of my brothers. This is often done with much groaning on my part. My brothers, especially the older of the two, have never been great lovers of literature, and so they do not handle books with the care that I aim for. Still, they have never done anything that can be said to render the book unreadable, or to put it past all hope of ever reaching my shelf again. Sure, there have been worn corners and small tears, but I manage to get over those fairly quickly.

No, the real risk is run when people outside of my family and close friends borrow a book.

There are two particular instances I’d like to get off my digital chest. The first doesn’t really have to do with ruining the book, but it’s an important lesson nonetheless.

This was back in my Twilight phase when I had a copy of The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, Stephenie Meyer’s Eclipse-based novella. It’s a nice story, or at least it was back in my Twilight phase. Anyway, there was this woman in church who liked Twilight as well, and one day while talking with her about it I asked if she’d ever read the novella, and she said no, she hadn’t, but she’d like to.

So of course I gave it to her, making sure to first remove the dust jacket since most people take those off when reading anyway (though I personally don’t).

A few weeks went by. She still didn’t read it. Then a couple of months. I checked up on her. She had forgotten she even had it.

When we switched churches, I started getting a little worried. To this day I still don’t know the whereabouts of Bree Tanner. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get it back. The sad part was when the dust jacket was lying downstairs, just waiting to be reunited with its kin. Alas, that never happened, and eventually it was thrown away.

The second instance was a bit more dramatic. A few years ago, a neighbor across the street needed a copy of Hatchet for his summer reading. I happened to have a copy of that same novel, from when I was his age. After some debate, it was decided that I would lend it to him.

This turned out to be a mistake.

The upside was at least he returned the book to me. Unfortunately, he had apparently gone at it with all the destructive powers an eleven-year-old can manage. The cover was battered into oblivion, the pages wrinkled, the general book knocked down quite a few points on the mintness scale.

I’m not very good at controlling my emotional reactions to things, so I received the book with mouth open in shock. I wasn’t sure how something like this could happen. I certainly had never mistreated my books this way, and I would never, never allow someone else’s book to come to such harm while under my care. It’s kind of an unspoken rule of book lending that you take exceptional care of a book when borrowing it, and this rule had been broken.

I seem to recall actually being struck speechless.

“It got stuck somewhere,” was his vague and rather troubling explanation.

The moral of the story: be careful to whom you lend your books.

Happy reading.

The Only Time I Ever Cried

[I wrote this a long time ago, relatively, but have saved it as a kind of last resort. I figured since I didn’t have time to write last weekend, I would give it to you now.]

When I was in roundabouts sixth grade, I purchased a copy of the recently book-to-film’d children’s novel Bridge to Terabithia.

(Spoiler Warning: there will be HUGE spoilers for aforementioned children’s novel in this post.  Beware all ye who read here.)

The book looked good; it was about made-up monsters and a boy who liked to run and a girl with a bigger imagination than my own at the time (which is saying something).  Not to mention the film starred everyone’s future favorite boy-with-the-bread, Josh Hutcherson (seriously, though: when did he stop being the cute little boy from Bridge and start being this masculine manly man?).

And so I read the book.  When I finished it, it was at night on the couch in my living room.  I was laying down, perfectly at ease, when WHAM.

Leslie died.

It hit me like a physical blow.  This could not be happening.  No.  She was not dead.  Absolutely not.  She had her whole life ahead of her, she was supposed to go have adventures with Jesse and be happy and show him what it was to imagine things.

I managed to make it through the rest of the book, but only because I was in a state of shock and denial and blank horror.  She was dead.  This girl, this girl whom I had come to identify with and love and take for granted, was dead.  Dead and cremated and now Jesse was terrifyingly alone.

The book ended on a hopeful note, but I was crushed inside.  I put the book down, still not able to come to terms with the fact that the book was over and there was no sequel and she was not coming back.  Leslie was never coming back.

And this is how, a short while later, my mother found me curled up on the couch in the living room, drowning in a small ocean of my own tears.

She, of course, could not understand why I was sobbing in her living room.  As I have stated before, she is not a big reader and thus could not comprehend such a strong emotional reaction to a novel.  And so she, trying to help, stayed with me as I cried and assured me that it was okay, that everything was fine, that Leslie had not been real and that no real people had died.

But I could not tell her how wrong she was.  Leslie was real.  The author had made her real to me, had showed me just how real a fictional person can become.  Leslie was real and so when Leslie died, I felt that pain just as much as if it had happened to a friend.  But no, my mother had not read the book.  My mom could never know how real Leslie was to me.  And so I just went along with her attempts to make me feel better, knowing all the time that it wouldn’t change a thing.

Leslie was dead, and so I mourned her.

Years later, I still think about that book.  It sits on my shelf, quietly waiting for the day when I will work up the courage to take it out and read it again, to see if the pain is as fresh the second time around.  That day hasn’t come yet.  Maybe it never will.

A few months ago, my family rented the film.  I stayed for most of it, but when we got to That Part I retreated to the safety and silence of my bedroom.  Once upstairs, I thumbed through the book again, even reading a small bit where Jesse has just been told the news.

I had to quickly put the book back.

That was the first time I had opened the book since sixth grade.  Just now, while writing this, I opened it again.  I turned to a page farther along in the book, and so the pain was not as severe there.  Still, I did not read very far.  Even writing the story of my experience has made me feel a bit like I’m going to start crying again.

I don’t know why this book is so powerful for me.  I don’t know why I cared so much and cried so hard for Leslie.  Perhaps I had not read a book before with such a real character and such a tragic death.  Certainly I had read deaths before, but never like this.  Maybe Katherine Patterson just understands what it is like to be a child, and more than that, to be a child in grief.  Whatever she did, however she knew how to write this, she did it right.  Her book affected me in a way that perhaps no other book ever has.

Since then, I have read hundreds more books.  Many of them included tragic deaths or tearful happenings.  I can recognize when I am supposed to cry, when the author meant for the reader to feel these certain emotions.

The problem is, I’ve never cried.  Not once.  Not since Bridge to Terabithia.

A few times, I have been very close.  I have felt my eyes well up, but never have I actually shed tears over a character since I shed so many over this one.  Maybe Bridge has increased my tolerance, has made me numb to everything that I’ve read thereafter.  Maybe something inside me refuses to go back to those feelings for anything else.

Maybe I’m just waiting for another Leslie.

Readers, I know today’s post has been a bit of a downer, but I needed to share this.  I’ve only told a very few people about this, but never in such detail.  Thank you for listening.

Happy reading.

Details on Rowling’s New Book

So, I know this is a late post.  Sorry about that, I totally forgot.  It happens.  That being said, this is as good a time as any to announce that from now on I’ll only be doing one post per week.  It’ll go up on either Saturday or Sunday.  I feel like I’ve been spending too much time on the Internet and I want to change that.  So this is part of that mission.

Okay.  On to business.

This week, J.K. Rowling released the synopsis and title of her upcoming novel, which now has a tentative release date on September 27th.  You can also pre-order it.

The title is The Casual Vacancy.

Here’s the synopsis, taking directly from Rowling’s website:

Little, Brown announces details of J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.

Seemingly an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

It sounds awesome, and judging from the synopsis it will be just as beautifully layered and intricate as the Harry Potter series is.

What do you guys think?  Are you excited for The Casual Vacancy?  Or do you fear that it’ll be disappointing given the brilliance of her previous work?  As for me, I’m about as optimistic as you can get.  I can’t wait to have this on my bookshelf.

Happy reading.

LazyPost: John Green in Amsterdam

Readers, it is once again time to implement the LazyPost, in which I post something quick, easy, and not necessarily related to books because I’m busy with other things.

This is a video of John Green doing a talk-type-thingy in Amsterdam recently for The Fault in Our Stars.

Yes, I am still obsessed with the book.  Readers who have been with me for a while will know that I used to constantly nag them to read The Hunger Games if they didn’t already.  Well, now I’m nagging you to read TFiOS (which is what the title is often shortened to).

Please read TFiOS.

Okay, here’s the video, courtesy of Booksandquills on YouTube, who also did an awesome Dutch pronunciation guide video for the book.

WARNING: SPOILERS!

Happy Easter, and

Happy reading.

A First for Harry Potter

This Monday, J.K. Rowling and her publishers finally released the Harry Potter series as eBooks.  It’s been a long time coming for HP fans everywhere, and the question is, “Why now?”

I can understand why Rowling didn’t want to release them earlier.  She’s famously protective of her series, and putting them out as eBooks could have given way to piracy issues.  Even so, it’s great that she’s decided to go through with it.

It occurs to me that she and her publishers most likely wanted to have the eBooks out before Pottermore is released to the public in April (you’re going to love it, guys).  It only makes sense, then, to do it a week or two before the release.

So now they’re out there.  The eBooks are among us, and now you can download Harry Potter on your Kindle/Nook/iPad/et cetera anytime you like.  (Go here for the Web site where you can buy them.)  This, of course, opens up another kind of discussion: was Rowling right to withhold the possibility of eBooks for all these years?  Should she have released them online as soon as technology allowed it?  And what does this mean for other authors?  Should we all be just as cautious when considering online publication?

I, for one, respect her decision not to publish her books online until now.  In today’s world of piracy and copyright infringement, you really can’t be too careful (not that I’m in any way an expert on the matter).  And although it means fans had to buy the more expensive paper copies, as far as I’ve seen the majority of people didn’t really care.

Now, sure, Rowling could afford to do this because of the immense popularity of her books.  I’m certain for other authors the story is different.  But what do you think, readers?  Should eBooks be made available immediately with every book that comes out?  Or should the author be able to decide and possibly keep eBooks from happening?

In related news, OH MY GOODNESS J.K. ROWLING IS WRITING A NEW BOOK!!!  Not another Harry book, which is just fine with me (I’m not a fan of series running more than their due course), and it’s for adults this time, but OH MY GOODNESS CAPS LOCK DOES NOT FULLY EXPRESS MY FANGIRLY JOY!!!  I can’t even imagine what it will be about.  It will, in all likelihood, be something completely and wonderfully different than anything we’ve seen from her before.  I’m definitely going to be watching for more news of this.  Who’s with me?

Happy reading.