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SOS! Reader’s Block!

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Earlier in the year, I told you guys how I was having reader’s misfortune in that, I was just unimpressed with the books I had been reading. My fortune changed and I have now read a few books I liked but now I have encountered the worst of the worst – Reader’s block!

There’s two months left in the year and I have no desire to read anything anymore. I am bogged down with reader’s fatigue (I could be misdiagnosing myself). On a regular schedule, I am usually reading a book and listening to an audio book. Now, every time I pick up a book, I want to drop it and read a magazine instead and when I hit play on an audio book, I’d rather be listening to music or one of my many podcasts.

I have gone through this in the past and honestly there has not been any quick fire cure to it. I just stop reading till I feel like reading again. I think the difference this time is the blog. I feel like it adds a level of guilt like I should be reading more to have more inspiration for material.

Usually when you mention a block to people, they automatically assume the cause is the current material and finding the right book will solve the issue. I know the cause of my block has been life and its interference and it is more of a mental thing especially since I actually like the book I had started when I got struck.

My Goodreads challenge number isn’t even high but as it stands I am 4 books behind – wah! That being said, the year is not over and 2 months is a long time so all hope is not lost yet! Do you ever face reader’s block? How do you get past the hump?

Taynement

 

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately : 4 Quick Fire Reviews.

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I have officially completed my goodreads challenge! Woohoo!! 70 books!! Anyway, instead of giving you just one book review, I decided to do a quick fire review of the last 4 books I have read, that way you have 4 more books to decide to put on your TBR or to decide that you definitely won’t be reading.

1. Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hodd

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“Very little worth knowing is taught by fear.” 

This is the first book in the Farseer’s trilogy. This book follows the story of Fitz, the king-in-waiting’s bastard who his mother drops off when he was 6 in the care of the king’s man, Burrich. Immediately the king- in- waiting hears that he has a bastard son, he abdicates the throne to his younger brother and exiles himself completely from the kingdom leaving Fitz alone in the palace with all the royal politics and treachery. Hobb is a fantastic fantasy writer and i’m appalled that it has taken me so long to get into her books. Also, she’s that rare woman in the fantasy world that writes straight fantasy without much regard to romance which I love. If you’re looking for a book filled with action that starts off with a bang, this is not the book for you but if you’re looking for a slow burn and character development and have the patience to wait it out then give this one a try, you wont regret it. This book was published in 1995 so i’m definitely late on the Hodd train but i’m not getting off anytime soon. Gave this one 4 stars on my goodreads.

2. Strange the Dreamer by Taylor Laini 

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“On the second Sabbat of Twelfthmoon, in the city of Weep, a girl fell from the sky. Her skin was blue, her blood was red.”

This is the first book in the Stranger the Dreamer duology (the second book just came out a couple of days ago). Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has been obsessed with the lost city of Weep since he was 5 years old. He has scoured the entire library looking for even a whiff of this city’s existence until one day he is given a chance to embark on a journey to the very city he has dreamt about all these years with the “godslayer” and his band of warriors. Once he is in Weep he starts dreaming about a blue beautiful girl who talks to him in his dream and who he starts falling in love with. If all the gods are dead, who is this blue girl in his dream who looks exactly like one of the slain gods in the pictures Lazlo has seen in Weep. I think the premise of this book is fantastic, and Laini is a talented writer. I’m rarely ever invested in romance in fantasy novels so I really skimmed a lot of the romance between Lazlo and his blue girl but this is one of those books that you know the sequel will be so much better  and I already put that on hold at my library. I gave this book three stars on my goodreads.

3. Heartburn by Nora Ephron 

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“I married him against all evidence. I married him believing that marriage doesn’t work, that love dies, that passion fades, and in so doing I became the kind of romantic only a cynic is truly capable of being.” 

In real life, Nora Ephron’s second marriage ended because her husband cheated on her with someone she knew while she was 7 months pregnant, so what better way to get over a breakup and make money off of your misery by writing this exact story in a barely disguised fictionalized form? Ephron’s Heartburn tells the story of the breakdown of a marriage. Honestly, I think I only got through this book because I did it on audio and MERYL FREAKING STREEP reads it. This is just a fabulous audiobook. This book is only 179 pages so I probably would have still finished it if I had done this on paperback but there would have been a ridiculous amount of skimming. Apart from the synopsis I have given you, nothing else happens in the book. Honestly. There is a reason this book is just 179 pages long. There is no depth, no complexity, there is even barely a plot. I have been on a Nora Ephron kick lately, I read all her memoirs which I quite enjoyed and because I love “When Harry Met Sally” the movie, I decided to give one of her novels a shot. I think I enjoyed the listening experience more than I enjoyed the book. Also, this book was published in 1996. I’m really hitting those backlist titles! Gave this two stars on my goodreads.

4. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a J. K. Rowling)

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“I think marriage is nearly always an unfathomable entity, even to the people inside it.”

This is the fourth book in the Cormoran strike series, this just came out a couple of weeks ago. This book begins right where the old one stops with the wedding ceremony of Robin and the most arsehole, gaslighting boyfriend ever, Matt. Fast forward to a year after the wedding and this young mentally ill boy, Billy, comes into Strike’s office with a story of a strangling he witnessed when he was young. He’s not even sure if it really happened and wants to know if this is just part of his hallucinating. Strike is further intrigued when he gets a call from a politician who he discovers has ties to Billy asking him to take a private detective job in the house of commons. From here the plot gets more an more complicated, involving politics, blackmail, upper class dynamics and murder. I love whodunnit it mysteries, i’m so tired of “this could be the next gone girl” books. So i dived straight into this one once it came out and I was not disappointed. Galbraith writes the crap out of these books and they always keep me guessing. My qualms with this book is that they’re way too long for what it is, and I hope the next ones aren’t this long. Also, I do not want Strike and Robin to get together, I hate Matt and I want her to move on and find love or not but I do not want her to be with Strike. Why can’t men and women just have a good working relationship? Also, Galbraith is terrible at writing romance. Gave this one four stars on my good reads.

Leggy

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Books Touching On Loss [But Aren’t Quite About Loss]

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Don’t leave yet!

I know when people hear the word “loss” in relation to a book, they will immediately think that it’ll be a post full of self help books dealing with grief and loads of sadness but that isn’t always the case and isn’t the case here.

The truth is that life is full of losses that come in many different forms besides death. Loss of a job, loss of youth, loss of a love and so on and so forth and as negative a topic as it may seem, it’s one of those things that is a part of life like breathing.

With this post, I decided to list a couple of books I have read, that touched on loss (in the death form) in some way,  BUT isn’t necessarily the whole focal point of the book, just more of a…landscape. I felt like these selections were true to life in that, while it happens, there are still other sides to life that meld with it and sometimes sprout from it. All books touching on loss aren’t necessarily depressing!

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The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes: Best known for her novel, Me Before You, this was a novel I read some time ago right after I read the aforementioned (and promptly decided to take a break from Jojo Moyes haha). The novel centers on two couples. One in the time of WWII, Sophie and Edouard and in modern times, Liv and Paul. Liv is a recent widow (the loss) and is still trying to navigate life as one. When she starts dating, she meets Paul who recognizes a painting given to her as a gift from her late husband. This leads to a court case and as part of finding proof it belongs to her, Liv goes way back to the past and to 1916 where Sophie and Edouard exist.

The book was okay but I found the story of Sophie and Edouard more compelling than Liv. Although, now that I think about it, that may have been the intent. I think it is a good addition to a TBR list but not necessarily a must read.

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LaRose by Louise Erdrich: It’s summer 1999 in North Dakota within a Native America tribe and Landreaux Iron just realized that he has accidentally shot his neighbor’s 5 year old son, Dusty (the loss). Dusty also happens to be his son’s best friend, LaRose. Following an ancient tradition, he and his wife decide to give LaRose to the grieving parents as retribution. The book shows how LaRose blends into his new “family” especially his new mom, who has a heavy darkness within her.

This book was a great example of words woven beautifully. There were so many components and many points of views that gave a whole picture of how a lot of the characters were feeling and also gave good lessons on Native American culture. That being said, this book wasn’t for me. I can’t pin point any particular reason why and I also don’t have any strong criticisms and it simply could be a case of reading it at the wrong time but I will admit it is a unique premise and would recommend reading to see if it is for you.

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The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs: Nina was 37 and a mother of two boys when she was diagnosed with cancer (this was while she was caring for her mom who was also battling cancer and she had a grandfather who had breast cancer). Not long after, she found out it was terminal and decided to journal about her experiences.

I’ve been dying to read When Breath Becomes Air but I just can’t bring myself to, so it’s a bit surprising that I picked this up. But I did because the book was sold as being helpful and having tools in dealing with death but it absolutely wasn’t about that. Nina had such a great demeanor for someone dealing with terminal cancer. She lived life as usual and was funny in many parts and truly enjoyed her last days on earth. Hmm, maybe that was the point of the book? To appreciate life in all its glory.

Fun Fact: Nina’s husband finished her book when she died as did the wife of When Breath Becomes Air and last I checked those two were dating.

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The Blessings by Elise Juska: I don’t know how I stumbled on this book but I loved this book a lot. The Blessings are a close knit Catholic family and the death of John Blessing (the loss) rocks the family and we see the aftermath of who they become after his death from cancer. Each chapter focuses on a different family member in a different time period as they grow older. I loved this book for how it depicted a family who is as messy as any real life family. The stories were very compelling and there was something for everyone in terms of relatable issues.

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Love, Loss and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi: Best known as the pretty faced host of Top Chef, Padma writes a memoir that chronicles her life from India to where she is today with all the messy in betweens. Padma is pretty honest about her life in this book and also her love for cooking and passion for ingredients. She talks about her daddy issues which explains her love for older men romantically, her battle with endometriosis. How it affected her marriage and was a contributing factor to their divorce. She also talks about how she was told she would never have children and ended up getting pregnant and not knowing who the father was.

She was hoping the person she was romantically involved with at the time was the dad. He ended up being diagnosed with cancer and she chronicles the downward spiral of his sickness to his death (the loss) and how it affected her and her daughter. This was a pretty quick and easy read and I think the way she sprinkled in illustrated recipes in between pages was a nice touch.

Well, those are my “loss” picks. Are there any that intrigue you? Let me know in the comments!

Taynement

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Review : Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi

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This book encompasses the saying “do not judge a book by its cover”. The cover is gorgeous but unfortunately, the contents were not. I heard about this book from a trusted book person, who described this book as fun. I love fun, fluffy books especially as a palette cleanser when I’ve just read something really hard and deep, so I decided to pick it up. I don’t even know where to begin with this review. I hate writing reviews for books I did not like and can’t find any redeeming qualities for.

The main character, Penny Lee, has just graduated high school and is headed to Austin for college. She is very excited to get away from home and from her mum. She’s off to college to learn how to be a real writer. Sam works in a cafe and is Penny’s roommate’s step brother. He is going through a very hard time in his life, is broke, just dropped out of college and is an alcoholic. And this is the hero the writer has built for us and her 18 year old heroine. They meet, they swap numbers, and their romance play out via text messaging so yeah, the stereotypical millennial love story.

I hated the main character. She was super judgmental and uppity. She thought every single thing was beneath her. She doesn’t like being reduced to a stereotype because she’s asian (very valid point and I love how she calls out people on casual racism) but then she does the same to other people. She assumes for a second that Sam is gay simply because he is holding an espresso cup (With the comically small espresso cup in his thin hands, Penny wondered for a second if he was gay), stereotype much? She looks down on her roommate for being into makeup and being girly. She thinks the fact that she’s not into make up, girly things, boys and partying makes her more mature.

She judges girls who show cleavage and thinks it’s a cry for help. I got so tired of looking up at her riding that high horse with her nose in the air. She hates that her mum is a MILF and that she flirts with men, she constantly judges her mum so harshly even though this woman has raised her singlehandedly for 18 years and provided for her and loved her intensely. I got so tired of her constantly judging her mum and wanting her to live a less full life just because she’s a mother.

The love interest, Sam should not be a love interest for an 18 year old girl. He has way too much baggage to even be looking for a relationship. He is an alcoholic, technically homeless, has mummy issues, dropped out of college and is just hoping for a miracle in order to finance the movies he wants to make. Oh and he is also obsessed with his ex girlfriend. Seriously? This is the man i’m supposed to swoon for and think is a heartthrob? An 18 year old girl who is a freshman in college should not be trying to fix anybody or trying to help this boy deal with his issues when she should be focused on being a kid and having fun!

The romance was blehh. It seemed super forced, the text messages had no real chemistry in them. In fact, the love story was virtually non existent and consisted entirely of Penny telling us how hot Sam is and lusting after him. The author wrote those messages very stereotypically, like what she imagines teenage millennials sound like these days. It was slow paced, uninteresting, I skimmed a lot of it and I rarely skim books.

The writing was terrible. Examples:

Penny never had a cigarette in her life, and if they did smoke together Penny would probably have a coughing fit that lasted forever and ended on an audible fart.

Plus you’d enjoy it. Sam was a dynamite maker-outer.

His right knee brushed Penny’s left and she almost passed out. 

She was smitten mitten kittens.

WHICH TEENAGER THINKS LIKE THIS? It’s very obvious the writer wrote these characters exactly like how adults think teenagers are.

The other characters were not fleshed out. Jude, Penny’s roommate, was the only remotely like-able character in this book. Jude’s best friend, Mallory, on the other hand was a racist and classist bitch so maybe that says more about Jude’s character for having such a person as a friend?

I gave this book one star on goodreads and would not recommend. The cover is pretty though.

Leggy.

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Book Review: All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

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The location is Nashville and the focus is on two very different families residing in two different sides of the track, so to speak.

Nina Browning is from a small town but is currently married to Kirk Browning, one of the richest men in town especially after a recent business deal. They have a son named, Finch (she loves Atticus Finch that much) and he is the typical wealthy family child who attends the town’s elite private school and has just received admission into Princeton. Nina seems uncomfortable with all the wealth and has recently started questioning who she has become amidst all this wealth.

Then there’s Tom Volpe, the overprotective single dad who is a carpenter living paycheck to paycheck and devotes most of his time to his daughter, Lyla who also attends the private school on financial aid. A party happens, compromising pictures are taken and spread around and suddenly everyone mentioned above is intertwined in some form while dealing with the repercussions of this infamous picture.

Emily Giffin is a chick-lit queen and is almost guaranteed for a quick, easy light-hearted read so that was my intent in picking this up. Also, I find the cover to be mesmerizing. It’s just a captivating blue that’s screaming “pick me up and read!”. But, I forget we live in a time where everyone is having a social issue awakening and as such, this book was no easy, breezy chick-lit. It had substance and a moral compass in it.

I liked how fully fleshed out the main characters were. The book is told from the pov’s of Nina, Tom and Lyla. Giffin goes back into each of their histories and provides enough material for us to know why these characters are the way they are and how they react to the incident, in present time.

Giffin also does a good job of portraying the teenage mind in the way she tells Lyla’s point of view. Any adult reading can expect Tom and Nina’s actions but I can see some head scratching when it comes to Lyla’s till you remember that she is still just 16 and really doesn’t know much yet.

I audio’d this and thought the narrators did a good job with this, although if you hate southern accents then you might want to skip that. I know I said this book was meatier than her usuals but it was still written with the light hearted vibe of her romantic novels. You don’t feel this heavy weight in your heart due to this writing style. But as a trigger warning, it does address various levels of sexual violation. A character is raped but the details are not mentioned at all; you just know that sex was had without the woman’s consent.

I enjoyed the book and would recommend it. Has anyone read it? Leave a comment!

Fiction

Book Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

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This is my first Kristin Hannah book. She’s the writer of the super popular WW2 book, The Nightingale but I was so tired of the many WW2 books on the market, that I just decided to give that a pass. 13 year old Leni Allbright and her family move to Alaska and go off the grid as a possible cure for her father, Ernt’s illness. He just came back from Vietnam and is suffering from PTSD. He is extremely paranoid and volatile. At first, they do well in Alaska, they moved to Alaska during the summer so extremely longer days and shorter nights. Their neighbors are super welcoming and pitch in to prepare them for the winter coming. Winter shows up bringing with it a lot of darkness and snow, Ernt’s mental state starts deteriorating all over again and the family starts falling apart. Leni and her mother have to tiptoe around his violent rages and soon, they realize that they are alone in a city with 18 hours of night and nobody to hear them or save them from Ernt.

Hannah really takes her time laying the foundation to the Allbright family and showing us the tedious work it took to survive in Alaska in the ’70s. Spending every summer preparing for the winter – canning, smoking every animal and fish in sight, hunting- and then buckling down every winter just trying to get through the harsh temperatures and snow. I really appreciated this part of the book, the slow burn, getting to know your characters and their environment. I think this is where Hannah is a genius, she weaves these tales so well that you can actually see this place that you have never been to in your mind.

I enjoyed the first 70% of this book (this book is about 440 pages), I thought it was so well written and I was already itching to give out my second 5 stars this year on Goodreads to a literary fiction novel butI think this book fell apart in its last 100 pages. First of all, I did not like how the author described love. It was like some kind of compulsion that you can’t help or get away from. The love she described in the book was outright abusive and I couldn’t understand how she didn’t see it. Cora Allbright, Leni’s mother, stays with her abusive husband because she loves him so much and she constantly tells Leni that this is what love is and how she doesn’t think she can live without Ernt so she keeps her and her daughter in this violent home.

Leni falls in love with her next door neighbor, Matthew, and tells us how she finally understands what her mother has been describing all these years. When she uttered those words, my red flags went off so much and suddenly the love story between Leni and Matthew that Hannah is trying to sell me fell apart. If Hannah really wanted to sell us the love story between Leni and Matthew she should have set it up as the exact opposite of whatever Cora’s idea of love is not parallel to it.

I also just did not feel the chemistry between Matthew and Leni, I wasn’t rooting for them. I just wanted Leni to leave such a terrible home and go off to college and find herself. I was glad that she found a friend in Matthew who she could confide in and be herself with and I wish Hannah could have left it at that. Almost every woman in this book is weak and under some kind of patriarchy influence, except of course the stereotypical strong, black woman who is big and tall and is called Large Marge.

I was holding my breath the first 70% of the book waiting for Ernt’s paranoid doomsday prepping  to come to a head but the ending left me very unsatisfied and it needed an editor to clean it up. Hannah goes from literary slow burn to soap opera real quick towards the end and I couldn’t catch my breath going from one extreme to the next.

I know this is definitely going to be an unpopular opinion, as this book has a lot of good reviews. And don’t get me wrong, save for the gripes mentioned above, I can see why it has the positive reviews it received. Kristin Hannah is a fantastic writer and knows how to weave a tale but this was not the book for me. I ended up giving this book 3 stars because of the issues I had with it. I will definitely check out some of her other popular works and give her another try.

Have you read this book? Did you enjoy it? Have you read any Kristin Hannah? Let us know in the comments!!

 

Leggy.

Non-Fiction, We Chit Chat

My Day At The 2018 National Book Festival

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Warning: Lengthy and photo heavy post

I am not from the area so I had never heard of this awesome event. A friend mentioned it to me two days before and I knew I had to make my way to it. It had an impressive and robust line up and best of all, it was free!

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It is basically a day long event, held every year in DC, from 8am – 7.30pm that’s all about books. It’s broken out into many different sections by genre such as Teens, Fiction, Science Fiction, Poetry and many more. There are different authors lined up to speak in sessions where they talk about themselves, their book, read excerpts and answer questions from the audience.

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The convention center is so huge that getting from one end to the other was a job in itself. The event does have a substantial number of volunteers who were very helpful in navigating me around. I also downloaded the event app to get alerts on any changes (which happened as Amy Tan subbed for Madeline Albright and I got the alert too late and didn’t make it in to see her) but maps were on hand and signs everywhere.

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My first stop was to see Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage (you can read our review here) and she was hands down the best person I saw that day. The event made me realize that just because you are a writer does not mean you are an eloquent speaker but this does not apply to Jones. She was fantastic and captivated the room and even people who had not read the book were eager to. She shared her struggles in finding an audience and how her life legit changed within a year.

I went up to ask a question and asked if she thought Celestial and Roy would have made it in marriage if he had never gone to jail, she said “who knows? But I think so” but I think she misunderstood my question as she went on to answer how it’s much harder to succeed at any thing being black so having the stigma of a jail sentence would probably have made it harder. I wasn’t going to be the one to correct her in a room full of hundreds.

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Next, I went into the Understanding Our World section as I knew no author in that area. I wandered into Sujatha Gidla’s session. She spoke on her book which is based on the caste system in India and living life as an “Untouchable”. It was an underwhelming session. Her excerpt was so long and she isn’t the best reader and kept stumbling over words. Overall, I left the room with no interest in reading her book, even though it was an interesting subject.

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Roxane Gay looks very uninterested but she was actually a bit funny. Can I also mention every session had an ALS rep signing for people hard of hearing. So cool.

I don’t think I have ever read a graphic novel or comic in my life but I headed over to that section as Roxane Gay was in session and it was about her Black Panther strip. Roxane was herself and as expected an outspoken advocate for black people, women, non size zero and worked that into most of her answers. I was however interested in a comic she said she is working on that features 3 generations of women who become thieves.

I then wandered around to the kids sections and there was a cool parade of states where states had their own booths and kids were given a map and they could go from booth to booth to get their maps stamped.

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View from the top for the passport of states
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I thought New Mexico had a cool aesthetic

 

If you have been reading this blog you know that I do not buy books as mentioned here so I had no business being at the book signings but I snuck in to take some pics.

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Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko
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Amy Tan best known for Joyluck Club

I was really looking forward to seeing Celeste Ng as I have just read Little Fires Everywhere which I absolutely loved (here). The room was packed so I didn’t get a good seat like the other ones and she seemed nice but she wasn’t a really captivating speaker. My friend wasn’t convinced to read her book.

Her session was moderated by Rumaan Alam, author of Rich and Pretty (which I didn’t think was a very good book, seemed like a man imagining how women operate) and although her book centered around race and was expected it took over a huge portion of the conversation which was good and bad because Alam did say he didn’t want to make her reductive to just race but proceeded to do just that. I did like a line she said where she said if there is anything she is an advocate of, she is an advocate of empathy.

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Overall, although long, I think it was well worth it. I like how inclusive the event was and when I say inclusive, I mean in all ways. It warmed my heart to see kids and their parents, just happy to be around books and an event for them to do with their parents. There were a lot of diversity with authors of color and women fully represented. There was even a booth that shared info on the National Library for The Blind and Handicapped.

It’s a cool way to also learn things and expand your mind on things you have never thought about. Seeing authors beyond the characters they put on paper is also an experience. So basically, if this ever rolls around in your area I’d recommend you attending and experiencing it for yourself.

Let me know if you have any questions and in the mean time…more pictures!

 

Taynement

 

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One of the lines
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One of the kid authors
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PBS was on hand doing interviews
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Snuck a pic of Madeleine Albright as she waited for her interview. She had just come from John McCain’s funeral.